Ryan! So I’ve been trying to think of a really cool way to introduce you to this interview. I’ve been wondering whether I should plug in the fact that you run a really funny blog (www.ryanombara.blogspot.com) or I should mention the fact that you’re just about to graduate as a Mechanical Engineer or the fact that I was a better player at volleyball back in high school. I’m so spoilt for choice. I’ll settle for the fact that you had a growth spurt and clearly do not need heels to be taller than me! 😀 Now that we’ve gotten the intro out of the way, let’s jump into it! But first, the five most important questions that are either a make or break in pop culture.
1.Beyoncé or Rihanna?
Until Rihanna drops a massive album bila notice and breaks the internet all in one go, it’s Beyoncé for me.
2. Taylor Swift or Katy Perry?
Taylor Swift for days. (Hums along to Bad Blood).
3. Celine Dion or Mariah Carey?
Tough one. Celine…if only for that Titanic song (holds back tears).
4. Lady Gaga or Christina Aguilera?
Christina for vocals, but I much prefer Lady Gaga.
5. Fries or a burger?
This is a weak spot for me… fries win out though. #teamviazi
6. Now that we’ve gotten the questions that hold the key to world peace out of the way, tell us Ryan Ombara, how would you define yourself?
Hmmmmm… the funny thing is that I’ve never really taken the time out to define myself per se. I sort of just ‘exist’. But to answer the question, I’d say I’m a smart, sensitive, quasi-Type A personality.
7. I’m so curious to know what kind of kid you were. Nerdy perhaps or am I just stretching it?
You guessed right! I was a huge nerd, just bila glasses. Right through kindergarten, I just loved reading. That love stretched right through primo. I remember being in class 3 and having teachers randomly give me class 4 exams. Plus, in primo, it was either be number one or be deemed a failure… so I pushed myself to always be top of the class, and I invariably was. So I was definitely the class geek.
8. Growing up, how did you view adult life to be like?
I always thought that when I became an adult, I’d have my whole life sorted out and all I’d have to do was get money and enjoy the rest of my life. Fairly simplistic, I know, but I think every kid has looked at adulthood in that way.
9. Would you say your thoughts then and your reality now match up? In what way is it different?
Nope. And I’m glad they haven’t matched up. Thing is, adulthood isn’t this final state where your childhood/adolescence has set you up perfectly to cope with everything life will throw at you. I’ll define it using something I heard on Community: “You’re entering the next chapter of your life. Sadly, it’s the final chapter, but it’s also the longest, and if you play it right, the best.”
10. If you could write a letter to yourself when you were a child, what would you say?
Don’t lose your spark, kid. Don’t change for anyone, just be yourself (there’ll be people who love you for you). Oh, and growing a beard? Such a let-down.
11. How was the high school experience like for you?
Academically, a success. Life-wise, a bit of a wasted opportunity. I mean, I did make friends (some of whom I’ll have for life), but to be honest, I spent too much time trying to fit in. I know, it sounds cliché, but I lost sight of who I really was. So finishing high school, it was essentially a case of “I’ve got my A, but who am I? What do I stand for? What do I believe in?” I didn’t make full use of the support system available to me. And I also failed to get a proper grounding in my faith, which would have been so helpful when starting out in uni.
12. If you could go back to high school right now, what would you change or make different?
I would’ve tried out for more things: music, sport and hobbies. I would’ve left the comfort of my house and socialized more. I’d have cared less about how people perceived me, and I’d have been more honest with my mentor.
13. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt transitioning from the teen life to the young adult life?
The thing is, I thought my teens would last forever, but then *bang*! I’m staring 20 square in the face. I’ve learnt (the hard way) that if you’ve not cultivated yourself (principles, habits, beliefs) adequately, you’ll waste your young adult life essentially fire-fighting.
14. The hard way? What happened? What experience prompted you to step back and reevaluate yourself?
*opens Pandora’s Box*
I think for me, it all started with that completely unnecessarily long after-KCSE holiday. In the midst of the “I’m done with school” euphoria, I really failed to take the time out to develop myself. And here I’m talking about the seemingly silly/simple (take driving lessons, for one) to failing to address more serious stuff (say addictions-to porn, for example). See, I lived a fairly sheltered life right through high school, and that period after had me thrust into the real world without so much as a user manual/point of reference. I basically underwent a crash course in life (relationships, independence, etc). That did create a bit of an overload for me, ’cause there I was experiencing life without knowing who the hell I was/what I believed in/what I stood for… Life will absolutely take you on some crazy roller-coaster if you’re not properly grounded. And I went through that.
I don’t want to overplay it, but this whole thing did leave me on the brink of a full-on depression.
I don’t want to say that something made me snap out of the funk I was in, but I’ll say I reached a point where I realized that I’d slip further down if I didn’t change my approach to life.
15. You talk about experiencing an overload which you were not prepared for. And in a sense I understand because we were in the same high school and that was a different sheltered reality. What are some of the harsh realities that you experienced at that point in your life?
I think the major reality I faced is that inasmuch as I had my support systems and guys around to help me, I couldn’t expect them to hold my hand through every little problem I was facing- ’cause everyone is facing their own battles.
16. What is the biggest lesson you learnt from this period of your life?
Accepting that sometimes I need to face my problems solo was a harsh, but necessary lesson.
17. How would you describe young adult life to be like?
Full of uncertainty. Which isn’t all a bad thing, but I realize now more than ever that every decision I make has repercussions (good and bad). So this is basically a time to learn and make mistakes, in preparation for full-on adult life.
18. What is the one thing you miss about being a kid?
The wide-eyed joie de vivre. The world was my playground, and I wanted to consume as much info about it as I could. I think it’s one of life’s great tragedies how we just suddenly lose that.
19. Do you think there’s anything such as failure? And how would you describe it?
Failure totally exists. Simply, I’d define failure as “not doing you” (so much for a meaningful definition, eh?). And by that, I mean we get so caught up in trying to live up to others’ expectations and trying to fit in that we forget the point of life is to find and live by our purpose and enjoy ourselves while at it.
We think success is defined by wealth and prestige. But on the contrary, wealth and prestige are forms of success. Success for me is being healthy, having healthy relationships, constantly growing in my faith, constantly striving to achieve my goals and at the end of it all leaving a positive impact on my society. If I make money along the way, even better. *cheeky smile*
20. What would you say is the biggest failure you’ve had thus far? And what did it teach you about yourself and life in general?
Okay, this isn’t ati some BIG failure, but I’ll say that I failed to accept how different I am from others soon enough. From about the end of primo right through high school, I didn’t take pride in my quirks and eccentricities. In fact I was ashamed of them. And I think that really damaged my self-esteem, but also really made me look like someone who was trying too hard to fit in without really succeeding at it either. I can count quite a number of friendships and relationships that never took off because I wasn’t being myself at all.
What has that taught me? To love and embrace myself (weirdness and all) and to focus more on those that accept me.
21. What has been the happiest moment of your life?
I can pick so many memories from my childhood; it was just amazing (but who doesn’t think that of their childhood?). But, I’d like to think my happiest moment is yet to come. I mean, I’m finally embracing my life according to my own rules and principles. It’s a process, and there are moments of despair occasionally, but in truth, I know that I’m on the road to self-actualization. However long it takes, I don’t really mind.
22. And what does the destination of self-actualization look like for you? What do you visualize? What do you see?
Okay, I don’t want to go all Robin Sharma on you… but for me self-actualization can be summarized in one word: balance. I want to be able to give my all to my family, career, hobbies, interests and not feel burnt out in the end. I don’t really have a five-year plan, so visualizing is a bit of a no-no. But I want to think that my SAS (self-actualized self- catchy, no?) is someone who’s found his niche in the world, has at least two (fiction) books out, hasn’t been arranged-married and is inspiring others by his example.
23. What has been the lowest moment of your life? And how were you able to grow from it?
I’ve alluded to it above (Q14). It was a really frustrating period of my life, which slowly worsened from August-November 2014. Thing is, I kept it very much under-wraps, even from family. Plus I was living in hostels, so I could easily lock myself up, shut out the world during the week and then appear to people on weekends with a smile and a hallelujah. At my lowest, I kept having these intense bouts of frustration and helplessness. My relationships were going to shit, my grades were following suit, and basically my life lacked any sort of sense or purpose.
Again, I wouldn’t say my life magically changed, but I deeply believe I was saved from full-on depression.
In hindsight, I see its significance now. As contrived as it may possibly sound, that moment of despair helped me finally embrace and live by my faith.
24. Earlier on you mentioned faith, and how you failed to get a proper grounding which would have been helpful starting out in Uni. What role does faith play in your life right now and would you say it is an essential makeup of who you are today?
Simply put, faith is my starting point. It isn’t some coping device or magic pill that ‘got me out of despair’, but rather it’s the one thing that I’ve rebuilt my life around. When I say that I failed to get a proper grounding in it, I mean that it didn’t inform my life. And that’s the case for many “Christians”-we’re Christians in name only. But now, it is an essential part of who I am. My purpose is to live in a way that glorifies God (this is where atheists roll their eyes! Ha-ha!)
Can I be really honest? I really dislike those “Turning Point” testimonies that go “my life was sooo bad, then I got saved, now my life is A-Okay”. My life isn’t A-Okay by any means, and it’s a damn struggle trying to live by faith every day. I’d wager that I have more doubts and moments where I question my faith now than ever before. But I’ll say that when I look back, the decision to live by faith is the best decision I’ve ever made. (Did I sound too preachy there?)
25. In what way is faith informing your existence at this point in your life? (Non-believers can look away at this point!)
Initially, it started legalistically- “I have to do good or I won’t go to heaven”. But over time, my faith has become more and more of a guiding principle. So for me, it holds up an ideal (Christ) and urges me to strive for that ideal in everything I do. But at the same time, it grounds me in knowing that I’m human so I won’t ever be that ideal; and that acts twofold- it encourages me when I fall, and it stops me from developing a God complex (Kanye style). It’s hard, admittedly, ’cause I do swing between both extremes. But it’s incredibly rewarding.
26. If you could meet anyone in the world, living or dead (you can definitely choose me if you want!) who would it be, why and what would you ask them?
SO MANY PEOPLE. Let me answer that question by giving those ‘if I could have six people for dinner who’d they be?’ type-responses. My late grandfather. Malcolm X. Einstein/Newton (either would do). President Obama. JK Rowling.
My grandpa because he passed on before I could interact with him proper.
Malcolm X, Einstein and President Obama, if only to pick their minds for a while.
Newton, to give him a piece of my mind for making Uni hard for engineering students.
Miss Rowling, to thank her for capturing my imagination and helping to push me into writing.
Sorry, you just missed out on the guest list!
27. When all is said and done, how would you want to be remembered? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I’d love to be remembered as a man who was flawed, but who did his damn best at everything he did. I want to be remembered as someone who helped whoever he could in whatever way he could.
Legacy… I’ll put it this way. Leaving behind a legacy is no small task. Thing is we all want to be remembered forever for doing something great or whatever other reason. For me, it’s no different, but I would love a scenario where I’m associated with the traits/principles that I lived by. So ideally, 50+ years after I leave, it’d be great if someone said, “You’re a very (insert adjective) person. You remind me of Ryan Ombara.”
Plus, there’s my blog… that’s gonna hang around for a while. *shameless advertising* *coughcough*
28. Complete this sentence, “If I could be a super model I would be….”
Naomi Campbell: At the very top-end of her field, prone to bouts of craziness (she is PSYCHO!!!), stubborn and self-confident to the point of near-delusion but ultimately, fierce (as in ‘Sasha’ fierce…).