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Home / Lady Speak

I found true joy when I learnt not to lose myself in my marriage

 Vinita Otieno-Wanjohi. The co-founder and general manager of Smart Gyms (Courtesy)

Vinita Otieno-Wanjohi is the co-founder and general manager of Smart Gyms:

I usually wake up at 3am and start my day with meditation followed by Bible studies, after which I check on my children, three daughters aged 13, 11, and 7. Then I work out.

I’ve been exercising at home since the start of the pandemic. At the office, after checking my mail and meeting with my managers, I get to my clients for personal training.

Later, I pick up my children from school, help them with homework, enjoy family time, do a bit of reading and go to bed at 9pm. The last book I read was ‚The Naked Leader Experience by David Taylor.

I always say you cannot outrun your purpose. There will always be circumstances and opportunities to take a leap of faith and pursue.

My passion has always been to transform people from the inside out. From an early age, I made note that wellness dictates everything one does and wellness isn’t just about how you look but also about how you feel mentally.

I also realised that walking, running and other forms of exercise leave you feeling better and more energised.

All these realisations led me to a career in health and wellness. I studied law because people told me I talk a lot and reason well and therefore would make a great lawyer.

Now, I always tell younger people not to get into a career to fulfil other people’s wishes or because you think it is what you’re supposed to do.

But I don’t regret my education. It taught me how to think and I met some of my best friends today at the university. Another advice I always give younger people is how valuable their education is.

And if you’re privileged like me to learn from a very early age what your passion is, go for it. Within your purpose is an opportunity to still earn as you do what you’re passionate about.

What I know now that I wish I knew when I started my career is that it is okay to reach for your dreams.

As a young girl, most of the messages you get is to act, talk and be a certain way, as well as timelines on when you should get married and have children.

All the messages are about settling. Now, as a mother of daughters, I tell my children the opposite.

I encourage them to speak up. Also, I wish people would have been more honest when I was about to get married and told me to look at my husband more like a friend.

I spent the first two years of my marriage trying to force him to fit into a box of who I thought he should be. True joy only came when I released him from that box, allowed him to be and accepted that we can grow apart and grow back to each other.

When I was getting married, it was made to seem that now we were one, our goals would be one, and everything we did henceforth would be one, and that is not the case. When I attend bridal showers, I am honest about my experiences.

Getting married means you still get to be two individuals and that’s why you have conversations – because you’re different. And you’re both allowed to pursue your dreams.

I’m a very self-aware person and I credit my upbringing and love for reading in helping me define myself. I started escaping into books from a young age. My dad took us shopping for books every Sunday. I was curious and thirsty for knowledge and learning.

Also, my parents were big on discussing how we were feeling. This self-knowledge, I think, is the reason I don’t struggle with self-care or crafting time just for me. From when I met my husband, it was very clear that I needed time to take care of me. I’d leave him with our little one to go to a coffee shop and read.

The first time I did this she was four- days-old. I didn’t find it selfish. I just learnt at an early age who I am and what I need to stay sane and not crash. Similarly, my daughters have also come to understand this.

When I pick them from school, we talk about our day on the way home and once we get there, they go off to have their showers and they know mummy needs to spend at least an hour by herself before we spend some time together again. I tell them it makes me a better parent and better engaged with them, otherwise I’d be dismissive of them because my mind would be elsewhere.

Self-care to me means being intentional about what I read and surround myself with. It is a reminder that if I don’t take care of myself, I cannot fulfil my purpose; and if I am not okay, this can also affect the people I interact with.

Outside work, I love spending time with my family and friends, checking out new restaurants because I love food, and entertaining at home.

Covid-19 interfered with all this. I also picked up running since the pandemic and it is so hard. I started with three kilometres, then five, then 10. I have now done 21 kilometres and before the year ends, I will have done 42 kilometres. And it has not gotten any easier.

I don’t wake up excited for it. Every time I wake up my mind tells me to sleep in. It is a constant battle and what I love about it is every time I triumph; it is a reminder that I can do anything I set out to achieve.

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