Play a bit of squash with life

A few days ago a friend of mine asked me a question that took me slightly aback. “If you wrote a book right now, what would it be about?” I’ve been asked a lot of interesting questions but this one really got me thinking. For once you put your thoughts on paper, and you’re lucky enough to have these thoughts published, they will live long after you’re dead and buried. So when I was asked what my literary legacy would be I thought about it long and hard. Although I did a smidgen of law a few years ago I wouldn’t ever call myself a expert in legal matters, so my area of academic study couldn’t possibly be something I wrote a book about. Ditto to politics, social affairs and environmental issues because, while I can write a few pages about any of those topics, I’m the proverbial ‘jack of all trades but master at none’. However, I’m a ‘master’ at one topic: my own existence.

If I had to write a book today it would be an authorized biography; it wouldn’t be simply a vanity project, although vanity might play a small part in the entire proceeding, I feel that I’ve lived a colorful enough life to dish out some lessons. So, dear esteemed Sunday Times reader, for the price of this paper you will enjoy my abridged biography, ‘The Human Squash Ball: The Life and Times of Sunny Ntayombya’.

The biggest lesson that I will dish out today is that ‘you can only play the cards that life has dealt you’. Some people are born into wealth and opulence. Or at least in some kind of stable familial background. I, like a lot of other Rwandans was born in exile. The first places that we called home were refugee camps. No one wanted to be born under a UNHCR plastic-sheeted tent but a lot of us were. I wouldn’t have minded being born close to Central Park, New York in the Trump Towers but I wasn’t. And that is, like the French say, la vie. But just because you weren’t raised with a silver spoon in your mouth doesn’t mean that you are cursed to failure. But the way you look at the world and the situation you’re in WILL affect your chances of living a happy and fulfilled life.

People often ask me how I got where I am today, despite the mistakes I made. Those that don’t know me think I’ve always been a reasonable young man. That would be the furthest thing from the truth; I was a bit of a hoodlum and a bad student to boot. What changed? I found my ‘fire’. Everyone has a certain fuel that drives them. For some its pride and for others its approval. For me it was, and always has been, the desire to prove my detractors wrong. So, whenever I was told my teachers that I would amount to nothing that fueled my fire. Whenever my folks looked at me in a disappointed manner that fueled my fire. Funnily enough, whenever I was talked ‘up’ I invariably ended up on my rear end. And that is perhaps why I actually enjoy receiving emails from irate readers of this column: these letters make me a better and more thoughtful writer.

So, I bet you’re asking why I call myself a ‘human squash ball’.  Well, the very nature of a tennis ball is that the harder you hit it, the faster it comes back at you. Well, when you discover and then fully maximize your fuel (no matter what it is), despite what life throws at you, you will be able bounce back and come back even harder.


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