The Courage to be Happy.

You might need to take notes for this one.

For a bit there, I mulled over telling you, “Welcome to Womanly“, because I am here at 22, having a private party, learning to love me and the woman I am becoming. But nothing here is really more about being a woman than is more about becoming an adult and a human being. It’s a daunting, exciting, but also teary process at life’s grand theatre. Sometimes you are at the top of the world, with life running through your veins, and at times you are on a hamster’s wheel where push comes to shove. Nonetheless, it’s a good life, and here are a few lessons that I am learning.

  1. Ask specific questions

I am learning to ask specific questions. Are we dating? Are we friends? Do you need my help?

I am learning how to ask specific questions because uncertainty is inherently unsustainable. Eventually, everything either is or isn’t.

  1. Consistency over quality, any day

Writing, especially creative writing, is one of those crafts that you can’t call for a meeting and create KPIs. You sometimes just sit for days and wait for it. You write a paragraph and wait for it to marinate. On good days it will take you a few hours, or days…on bad days months. But through all these, the only way out is to never stop writing. Somehow, I manage to get about 15 pages of writing done every week, whether through work, my undergrad degree, or my hobby(which includes this blog, a weekly newsletter, and a medium account).  Unnerving as that sounds, here is a three-pointer case I always make for writing and managing to get work done:

i). Finish the work, because it means you have kept a promise to yourself.

ii). Finish because you can only fix what exists.

iii). Finish because it will make you respect the process. I started writing the article for the Igby Prize Essay for Kalahari Review, which I featured in January 2018. Every month, I looked at the prompt, wrote a paragraph, and couldn’t write anymore. I only managed to get a story in November 2019, which surprisingly took me a few hours to write. Struggling through this one feature made me value writing, authors, and the work they put in.

So battle the imposter and write the bad stuff, write the boring stuff, write the no-one-is-going-to-read-this stuff…but just write. This advice applies to all crafts.

  1. Twitter is not ruthless; people are…

And so is the rest of social media and the internet. There is a fallacy around the fact that the internet has made people bad; we famously dub it under “The disadvantages of the internet or technology.” By so doing, we refuse to call out bad actions, and we sanitize the terrible people. But the internet does not make people bad; it just exposes how bad people are. Knowing this will help you understand that bullies are just cowards hiding behind a screen.

  1. May books be with you.

In the days when writing emails was fancy, a close friend of mine would send me books to read. He made every effort for me to open those emails and read them, including giving them the subject Teddy Bear… but I didn’t till 2018 when I discovered the wonder of books. Because discovering the joy of reading just happens when you get there. No one can get you at that bus stop…and no one will also understand how books help you to meet yourself. But here is the wish I long to leave with anyone that crosses my path is ‘May books be with you.’

Here is a list of books I wish to be with you-

(In no particular order)

  1. When Becomes Air-Paul Kalanithi
  2. Purple Hibiscus- Chimamanda Ngozi
  3. Lean In-Sheryl Sandberg
  4. Americannah-Chimamanda Ngozi
  5. The Year of Yes-Shonda Rhimes
  6. How To Save A life-Sara Zarr
  7. Eat Pray Love-Elizabeth Gilbert
  8. The Book Thief-Markus Zusak
  9. The Courage To Be Disliked-Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga
  10.  Children of Blood and Bone- Tomi Adeyemi
  11. The Dictator’s Handbook-Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith,
  12. Art of War- Sun Tzu
  1. Permanence is an illusion.

Understanding that everything is temporary in this world has allowed me to embrace life’s outcomes, whatever they are. People like things are temporary and bearing in mind that everything that exists is already fraying and in transition makes the ultimate process of fragmentation and separation easier. One of our main frustrations in life is the apparent attachment we create on people and things-money, property, parents, friends, but most especially our partners. We create an illusion that they will be our forever, which makes us live in the constant fear of losing them to someone else. It’s important to realize that it’s nice to have all these things and all these people, but it’s not a requirement for you to be happy.

  1. In or out.

Hell yeah or heck no for every decision.

And when in doubt, be yourself.

  1. Men (and other stories)

Relationships

How to save a life.

Mandy in Sara Zarr’s How To Save A Life says, “A lot of times when I look at the world and everyone in it, I feel like they all know something I don’t. I’m not dumb; I can see how it works. But it’s like Double Dutch jump rope. In grade school, I would watch the ropes fly and see girl after girl jump in and either get it right or get tangled in the ropes and laugh. I’d stand there with my hands ready and my body going back and forth, trying to get the rhythm and the right moment, and Ms. Trimble, the PE teacher, would say, “Come on, Mandy, everyone’s waiting,” and I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t figure out how to get in. That’s how life feels to me. Everyone is doing it; everyone knows how. To live and be who they are, and find a place, find a moment. I’m still waiting.”

Like Mandy, when it comes to relationships, I am still waiting to learn how to love, and I am still waiting to be loved. I feel like the rest of you know the way, yet I know no one truly does. However, through the heartbreaks, I have picked up a few lessons.  The first is that loving truly and deeply is the only way I can be at peace with myself at all times. And the second is that healing and the process of relearning, like any treatment likely to treat a patient; -is also likely to cause discomfort.

  1. This

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”

Richard P. Feynman.
  1. To an unknown God

Funny enough, the arguments on whether God exists didn’t begin with modern-day atheism and agnosticism. In Athens, during Paul’s missionary excursions throughout modern-day Asia, he found Athenians and foreigners who were epicureans and stoics. Athens was filled with all kinds of idols, altars, and the liberty to worship any god that anyone subscribed to. One of those altars read, To an unknown God. It’s quite easy to discount the existence of God and think that religion is superfluous in a world obsessed with colonizing Mars, and how the next new iPhone will look like. But if you ask me, there is and has always been a place for God in an increasing geopolitical battled world that is striken by a pandemic, a world that craves social connection and validation and individuals who are in constant need of justice, grace, and mercy.

  1. Also this ⬇

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked.”

Steve Jobs
  1. Feminism

Equal rights for women has never meant fewer rights for men. It’s not a pie.

  1. Fish Love

Sweet analogy. You know the way people ask you what’s your favorite food and you casually chuckle,

“I love fish.” Well, you don’t. You just love eating fish. Most friendships and relationships are like this. People are your friends because they have something to gain, and vice versa. And that is not entirely a bad thing if you really think about it, but it’s an open cue to learn to guard your heart.

  1. Press pause

Because you are human and you burn out.

“Now and then, it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

  1. Fine things take time.

In my first section of accounting, our lecturer would often say that our generation’s problem is that we want a mansion today and a car yesterday. I still want both of those things in that time frame three years later. But realizing that fine things take time has taught me how to trust the process, and to blossom here with the things 22 has to offer.

The Matatu Terminus.

There are two types of people you will find at Githurai 45 matatu terminus; those with crisp suits and awesome shoes and those without. However, do not judge either of them. Those without suits might be owning a matatu fleet for Ngumo line sacco but choose to live in the cheap outskirts of the city. Those with suits may just be counter boys at Nairobi chemists or ill-paid bankers. Again do not judge by gender. The women who wrap their heads with old scarves have probably educated two sons and a daughter with profits from their lingerie business at Gikomba market. The slay queens, well, might just be university girls like me with dented pockets and seriously not bothered by life-we are here to impress.

The goal is one, we are here to get to the city center where the money is ‘minted’, where the world-class university is situated, where the politicians hang out. We are on our way to search for a better life. You’ll see some of us looking frustrated. Actually, all of us are frustrated, we just have different elasticity points when it comes to venting out frustrations. Today, it is muddy at the terminus and there is a slight shower pouring over us, caring less about those of us who are too poor to afford umbrellas. However, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. It’s especially a profitable day for the matatu touts who have hiked the fare to a hundred shillings. A hundred shillings just to get to the city! I will tell you what you can do with a hundred shillings, you can buy tomatoes, sukuma wiki, onions, half a kg of maize flour and a quarter liter of salad oil. Yes! You can have a meal from a hundred shillings, the money they want us to spend on bus fare.

Staged at the terminal’s entrance are shoeshine boys. They call you from miles away, “Sister, ng’ara na ashuu” (Sister get your shoes clean for just ten shillings). Sometimes they will catcall you and when you refuse to respond to their calls they will insult you. But you do nothing and say nothing because we sort of live in a society that draws a thin line between a compliment and an insult. The most impressive thing about Githurai, nonetheless, is the warmth of the people around you, so as you stand waiting for the touts to lower the fare prices, you will most likely make a friend. The best of those are old men-they know how to hit off conversations. Before you know it an hour is gone and you have had an entire debate on politics, the education system and of course, why don’t millennials have any respect for the older generation.

Let me get you back to the frustrations. You can see a few people making calls. Do not be fooled that they like giving morning pleasantries to their forlorn loved ones. They are trying to apologize to their bosses for being late to work. They are trying to ask their classmates to put a signature against their name on the class register. They are trying to get their clients to stick around for a little longer, “Boss, niko hapa Muthaiga, nakuja- itisha chai ntalipa” (Boss, I am at Muthaiga, I am almost there, order for a cup of tea. I will pay.) As if not enough, the matatus at Githurai play loud music. It’s hard to tell if this is a marketing gimmick or a mockery to their soon-to-be passengers (to remind them, they are not the cool guys).

However, when you are about to give up and get back home, one old matatu will appear and the tout will shout, “Tao 60 bob! Tao 60 bob!” And now, I have to run for this lifetime deal!

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Letter to Jenks.(Hacks to Campus Life)

 

Dear Jenks,

I know I do not say it as often as I should- but I am proud of you. I am proud of the little and great journeys that you have taken. Do you remember when I did that motivational talk at Lily Academy when you were in class seven? You came to me crying, scared of what life held, yet you made it. You made it to attend one of the best schools in this country and you have now made it to another stage of life.

I know you asked me to guide you on how to deal with the next journey in University. I am afraid that it was too big an ask, but I scribbled a few hacks that could help. I know these hacks herein seem too hard to follow but that is why they are hacks not rules. They are just guidelines and tips that should help along the way. They are not exclusive. You do not even have to follow them if you feel that they are too many or too strict.

But do discover your own hacks and rules. There is no perfect way to live this life.Here you go:

  1. Eat at Fritaz and Sanford(and eat chapo smokie at Klabu)

Nevertheless, save enough for Fogo Gaucho*

Campus may make you feel that you need to keep it classy. You don’t. Buy fries from the cheapest joints in town-they serve more than KFC. Take your supper from Klabu* (I will be happy to take you round the joint.) If possible, shut your ears from the noise that the food at the student’s cafeteria is horrible-it is honestly very much edible. Remember, HELB is a loan that you will have to pay back, so use it well if you decide to take it.

However, save up and try good eat-outs in town; they will blow your mind away.

Diet if you want to-if you feel that your body needs it but Milano’s* still has the best ice cream in town.

  1. Love truly and deeply

Fall in love truly. Do not rush love because you are finally in campus and you can do what you want. Only date when it feels right and if it is right. When you say, “I love you”, look deep in his eyes and mean it. Let the love you find flourish. You will not find perfect love-it does not exist. But the other night, my friend told me, you will have to learn to take each other with all your flaws.  However, be wary, know when too much is too much. Know how far is too far. In so many words, I am saying you need to know when to walk away (or run) and leave.

Break up with him if he does not make you happy. When you break up, unfollow him on Face book if it makes you sleep and keep the no-contact rule if you need to. Scratch that;Keep the no contact rule until you heal.

Oh and before I forget, Public Display of Affection is an offense in Kenya, at least in Nairobi. However, if you need to display it, please walk around with 2000 bob in your M-Pesa.

  1. The most important sex organ is your brain.

Lotsa boys seemingly always translate to lotsa sex for most people. I think you know by now that most of the hostels and washrooms in campus come pre-installed with condoms. This is largely to say that schools are aware that the campus population is sexually active. I will not nanny you on the right or wrong thing to do about virginity or having sex. It is entirely a personal decision. Refrain from thinking of it as a moral or religious rule that you need to adhere to (Prof. Gakuru taught us this semester, that this world is neither moral nor religious-it is real). I have heard arguments that border on this, “you need to know if he is the right fit”. Refrain from such thinking. Make the rules for yourself and choose yourself first-not your boyfriend.

Learn how to get rid of campus bullies; they are the easiest to lick.  They are characteristically always huge, they are campus goons-you will know them when you see them. They force you to hug them, grind on them in parties and date them. They are not many, but they exist.

  1. Question your assumptions

Question who you are as a person, question what you stand for. Question whatever your parents and teachers have taught you over the years. Question whether feminism is valid. Question the country politics and public policy measures that you hear on the news. Question what famous people say.  Question the impact of religion and doctrine. Lucky enough, you will be exposed to learning theories in some of the units in campus. Analyze and critic them beyond the classroom. Whenever, you are asking questions in class or having conversations, argue from a point of facts, not emotions or feelings…or quotes.

  1. Read

Read everything. I recently found a 1923 Kenyan Report by the British colonialists in the library. It made me aware of how easy it was to colonize us. They documented our behaviors, our attitudes, our culture and even created the stereotypes for us. They colonized us because they had the knowledge about us. So read to liberate yourself. Your friends will taunt you for reading too much. They will tell you, ‘degree ni harambee’ but do it because when all is said and done, we all die alone.

The truth is that you might even not find the time to even read-create it.

Subscribe to blogs that speak to you. Read magazines to pamper yourself and read journals to enlighten you. Read the constitution; and do not only read the Bible because you are Christian-read the Quran. Get a favorite sitting spot at the library and read books by Malcolm Gladwell-they will make you rethink life. Read books by feminists: – Gabrielle Union, Chimamanda Ngozi, Sherly Sandberg and Elizabeth Gilbert-they will make you understand why feminists stay true to their course. Read Grisham’s novels, Ngugi wa Thiong’o books and read comics.-Just read.

  1. It is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.

I will give you a free pass on this one. The easiest thing to do in campus is to cheat during exams. There are many tactics as you will learn and most of them are amusing. But remember the easiest person to be is yourself. Attend classes, read for your exams and do them diligently. Set targets for yourself and stretch yourself to beat them. Then reward yourself. Pass exams for yourself not for your parents. I will beg you, if I have to, that you do not cheat.  The other flimsy argument that I have heard concerning cheating in exams is, “we will all have to go through graduate training when we get employed after all.” This country does not need such crappy argument. Learning concepts without copying them will teach you how to retain content, how to reason, how to solve problems in new angles. So fail those exams if you have to but do not cheat.

“To thine own self be true and then it must follow as the night is as the day, that thou can’t be false to any man.” William Shakespeare.

  1. Learn and create.

Forget BOMA but remember you are a bomerian. Remembering you were in The Kenya High School will give you the false assumption that you are learned-you are not. Keep the values they taught you but relearn everything afresh. Learn and fail. Learn how to learn. Watch ted talks: listen to podcasts: listen to Steve Jobs’ commencement ceremony speech at Stanford. Stay up late with guys from architecture school when you are free. It is fascinating to watch them make models late into the night and I promise they are hot.

Apply to and join fellowships. Save up and travel. Take a foreign language class- Chinese at The University of Nairobi is free. Learn how to play a musical instrument. Learn code and build beautiful websites and apps. Simply create. Volunteer during the holidays, PACE* is a great place to start.

  1. Friends will disappoint you.

Nevertheless, do not let small mistakes ruin friendship. Learn how to save the most important friendships and do not be scared about watching the rest trip and fall. Let people go. Remember your friends’ birthdays and buy them gifts. I once bought a friend a shaver for his beards and it felt perfect, yet it cost me less than a 100 bob. When you admire something in someone else, tell him or her. Lift others up and hug your girlfriends when they are sad. Be authentic about friendships. Never pretend that you like someone if you don’t-it will only hurt you. It will make you anxious around them. Avoid loud and aggressive people too-they are a vexation to the spirit.

  1. Party if you are type that parties.

However, have pleasure with a conscience…because the opposite is a social sin. Alternatively, if like me, you are not as loud, take night walks with a friend to clear your head. Have deep conversations late into the night. But do not kiss. The night has a way of making people vulnerable just like alcohol. Know your boundaries because once you cross that line there is no going back.

  1. Social Media

Social Media is really the revolution.  But learn early that it is a fallacy too; it brings out the vanity in us and if you get too hooked-you may become bitter. None of us has life put all together. We only post our lives highlights there. If you sit around my squad (Richard and Regina), they will tell you, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t live in that world, always comparing your life to the glitz and glam on Instagram. You are your own self and you are perfect.

We fail to admit it, but social media is addictive. Its apps are engineered that way. Likes and comments are delayed in a bid to make you log in again. So take selfies, post and forget about them.  But on the upside, steer meaningful conversations; find good human beings there and meet for coffee or mutura* and if you can; make money from it.

  1. Clothes, make-up and wigs

Thrift shop for clothes and shoes at Gikomba, Ngara and Githurai.  Buy make up and wigs on Dubois Street. Your life will be so much easier and cheaper. I hate the arc that girls make on their eyebrows: but by all means, carve yours to perfection. Wear red lipstick and forget what others say. Do not struggle with high heels when going to class but learn how to make an appearance: a statement when needed.

Wear wigs and weaves. There is nothing unafrican about them and delete contacts of boys who critic them-they cannot afford them or you for that matter. Better yet, grow your natural hair thick and long. I am willing to write you a hair regimen to follow if you need one. (Trust me, I am an A student in You Tube) but always remember-you are beautiful even without make up.

  1. Sponsors

God and this world need men and women who are true to themselves. Men and women who are not too lazy to work nor too proud to be poor. There is nothing wrong with coming from a poor or humble background. Are you broke? Sit with your brokenness! I know it is such a mean advice to give. But sit with yourself and listen to your old, boring sad music. If you are going to get a sponsor, get him because you are in love with him. Don’t stretch yourself thin paying for expensive photo shoots-your mum can take your pictures perfectly.

If you can, start a small business, sell clothes, sweets, charge to apply nail polish on nails. Watch the business fall and crumble. Only then will you realize the value of money and its vanity too.

  1. Keep your principles and know your God

Liberals will tune you to believe that there is no God. Now more than ever you will question God, you will question the Bible. But with time, learn to remind yourself of the relationship you have had with him. Write down your doubts about him and Google. I mean Google questions like, who is God. Why does God allow evil if he is all-powerful? Write down your prayers so that when they are answered you have proof that he exists.

Do not bend your principles for anyone. The last time we talked, I told you most of the people who are lost in campus don’t even know they are lost. Just don’t exist, live, see every day as an opportunity to seize.

  1. Find happiness.

Find your personal space and peace. Find moments to be alone, to think and to meditate. Catch up with old songs that get you. Make vision boards. Tear them, make new ones, and make them beautiful. Watch movies alone and cry. Watch How To Be Single. Sing in the shower. Hum while walking to school. Be positive and do not live in your head. Cry when you need to. Do not hold it back because one day it will either break you or turn you into a monster. Trust that life is good, love is powerful and the future is full of promise.

 

  1. Extras

-Find a mentor. They have been where you are before. They know better.

If possible, mentor someone too.

-Save or even better invest. I know friends who use their HELB loans to buy shares and trade in the stock market. Buy shares from small start-ups that look promising. However, do not be naïve or else you will be duped.

-Tolerate your roommates. I know in BOMA they taught you how to dress after taking a shower-in campus some of your roommates will strip.

-Say hi to security guards, cooks and lecturers when you meet them on the corridor-they are human.

-Make mistakes and forgive yourself. Apologize when you are wrong and truly mean it. But don’t fret when you are not forgiven. – forgive yourself and start all over.

-Make bold statements and change your mind tomorrow because every day is a learning experience.

I hope these will help.

Love,

Susan.

*Fogo Gaucho-Brazilian steak house in Nairobi

*Klabu– food joint on Mamlaka Road where university students eat.

*Milanos– An ice cream joint that everyone needs to try out. It’s on Kaunda Street I think.

*PACE International– Promoting Access to Community Education is a volunteer program run by Peggy Ochola. The program posts young people to volunteer as teaching assistants in underprivileged primary schools.

*degree ni harambee- Famous campus slogan that insinuates that attaining a degree requires collective efforts.

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Help Metrine.

Life is weird people; and what is more, is we all think it’s unfair. Even the Christian who believes in a just God is still faced with the dilemma of understanding why a merciful God would allow bad things to happen and especially to the good people and to people He claims to love. The atheist and scientist are thrown off guard in trying to prove theories and create solutions, but they never get to an ultimate point of gratification. Probably, this is the spice as well as the gall of life.

****

Imagine you are 19-years old but in class 8. You have lived more years backward. Does that make sense? Let me try to demystify it. You have lived for a decade doing nothing except fetching water, collecting firewood and doing house chores and then you have to start school, ten years later with kids who still have diapers on them. With kids who have to learn how to spell. It makes sense more to you than anyone else that time is an illusion; for so much has passed in its existence. You pass through life because that is what we all do; pass and then die; then people read our eulogies and say we passed away.

In this 10 years, you know only your father and your siblings. Your mother died long ago. You do not know how a mother cares for a child. The emotion doesn’t even ring in you; three, four years later when you have your first period; you handle it on your own. It’s not an exactly bad life as everyone in the village lie the same sought of life as you. It’s a small cocoon which you have managed to survive in. But then disaster strikes; and then you realize; misfortunes do not come singly but in a battalion.

One night after election results are announced, armed men hit your village. They are people you know; your neighbors. You play with their sisters, you fetch water at the river with their mothers, your father works at the same mine or construction site with them. But apparently today; you are no longer a community; today you are tribe A and tribe B. They harass you and torture you and then kidnap your father, and that is the last you see of him; it’s now almost ten years later and you do not know whether he is still dead or alive. Sometimes you think about him and it shivers you, your lips tremble and you get panic attacks…but you never cry; no you don’t cry…where do more tears come from after 10years? Post-election violence left you with nothing but bronchitis which worsened when you lived at the police station; the only place that was safe around you.

A small ray of light flickers when your aunt comes and picks you and your siblings and brings you to Nairobi, the big city. She seems kind, no, she is actually kind. We can just blame poverty at this point because finally, you have to sleep in a single room, which is a wooden shack with a mad flood and old roofs. It is not exactly the big city you have always perceived in your mind. The room is a six by six and you share it with your aunt and her family; a total of 18 and to sleep, you have to lay the mattress horizontally and you all have to sleep across it in order to fit. I will not reiterate that your aunt has his husband there. Yes, everything unfolds under your watch.

You start school at the nearby primary school and constantly you are position one. The teachers love you and you start thinking that probably one day you will get out of this poverty. You start crafting how you will be a doctor. You want to become a doctor because a while back they diagnosed you with polycystic kidney disease. It’s like two demons living in your body…one in your lungs and the other in your kidneys and they both have some collaboration to make your life miserable. Your life entails medicines and more medicines and you live with pain and nowadays you just consider it as that bad friend who is probably teaching you a lesson in life.

But there is still hope, a lot of hope, so you live and strive one day at a time; until someone decides to cut short that dream. Someone strips you off all your pride, dignity and everything that matters. Someone chooses to regard you not human but a sexual object; they rape you and defile you and threaten to end your life if you tell anyone. For days on end, you walk around wishing they actually killed you because you no longer understand life. So much has happened that life is not really worth living and now the doctor informs you that you have to live for two people; you and your expectant child.

*****

There are just things in life we cannot explain and I’m tempted to veer off right now and talk about how unfair this situation is. But this is not a hypothetical story. It’s a true story of a girl I taught at Mathari Primary School in Mathare slums, Metrine Tamnai. She was my best student, had the best handwriting in my class and her compositions were more than admirable. She was neat and when you see her you cannot tell she is 19; you cannot tell that she was older than me; her teacher. You cannot tell that she has a kid; a son. You cannot tell that she is sick or that she lives in a house that is impoverished. At times, I wish she could look desecrated and defeated, probably, it would earn her help; but not Metrine. She is a fighter. She is the strongest person I have known my entire life. She deserves this chance and it behooves us to give it to her. We could talk more, but I just think today I will tell you that at least life has given you the fair chance to control some things; for others, they have no absolute chance of doing it. They have been left with one strength in them; the will to fight on.

Metrine’s condition has worsened. The polycystic infection is eating up her kidneys even faster; she needs your help. She is due to start her dialysis urgently and her dialysis kit costs Ksh 30,000. I would literally beg if I could, for you to help her for you to sacrifice just a bit of your money for this girl. She needs to fight for herself and her son and the many people she will treat in the future. It behooves us to make that step.

Her youtube video is here https://youtu.be/bTW1kOruLZs

And to contribute to help Metrine:

Go to MPESA, Select Lipa na M-PESA,

Enter Paybill No. 891300 Account Number 10893

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When Harvard did not come.

When you fail once in your life, it destroys you. Doubt slowly sidles into your life, sluggishly, more like slithering, then nippily, thoughts race through your brain. You start questioning your whole life. You wonder if you are what you are or what people claim you to be. You suddenly have misgivings about whether you were smart, clever, beautiful, intelligent. You doubt whether your gait is right while walking or maybe it has a slight limp that no one ever told you about. You wonder whether your voice has the right cadence to make you sound like an archetypal of excellence. You question whether reading more books will make you sound brainier; then you sink deeper into questioning if Chimamanda Ngozi’s ideologies will help you live a more substantial life or perhaps, you should just stick to Daniel Steel or Grisham’s popular thrillers.

Then you suddenly start reading Harry Porter; because everyone who gets an Ivy League school has read Harry Porter and has watched Grey’s Anatomy and at one point imagined themselves as Shonda Rhimes. Then when you ultimately get down the path of self-validation, you affirm to yourself that you can actually beat all the odds and become the best, you gain confidence in yourself. That hope feels great; it feels like a tiny flickering candlelight in a dingy basement. It feels like the same joy you had when maybe five years ago you were the best in the country or you wrote the best composition in your class. It reminds you of the day your dad told you he believed in you. Words that he will probably never say again especially if he is African. So you clutch that little ray, of maybe I could do this. Then you start reading Allen Cheng’s blog prep scholar on hope to raise your SAT score by 240 points and for hours, days, weeks, you craft up a plan, you feel energized, pumped up and ready to face life.

And then there is always this by Ernest Henley,
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods’ maybe,
For my unconquerable soul,

In the clutch fell of circumstance,
I have not winced or cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance?
My head is bloody but not unbowed,

Beyond this place of wrath and tears,
Looms the horror of shade,
And yet the menace of the years,
Finds me and shall find me unafraid,

It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

Then you fail again. You lose that poetry competition you had viciously prepare for, you fail yet another exam, you get rejected by a small community college, it simply is not a big failure. So what you do next is you pick up your pieces, one by one, and trying putting them back together. Fortunate enough, this time around you have more strength. This time around your connections are more solid, you have Person A at Harvard who can throw in a peer recommendation, you have a Boss X who can throw in a good word for you. In fact, you believe you are 6 people away from the president. Unfortunate enough and also true, is that you put back the pieces of your broken heart together with super glue and forget that your heart is just a fist-sized muscular organ.

Probably, if this second failure happens you will be just fine. But the third, fourth, fifth…the tenth time, you are a mess, a wreck, who can’t cry because you are immune to pain. You don’t need people anymore because when you were a gang, hanging out with friends who shared a dream, you thought you were a team; but their lives seem to be going on perfectly and yours is not.

So when I opened my last rejection letter to Harvard University last Thursday, I had no tears in my eyes, I actually laughed and I was like, “Ooh okay, crap!” and then I walked out of the room and sat at the balcony, with a blank stare for fifteen minutes, not knowing what to think and I actually fell asleep. I in fact only woke up when a friend texted, “Should I call you a Crimsonite yet?”
I chuckled actually, and slid the phone right back into my pocket…and then I walked back to my room thinking, how do you forget a good dream? How do you whitewash or brainwash it? What do you call yourself again, a fighter or just a persistent fool who should settle down to what they have? Do you give up just yet? But you keep thinking of the eleventh failure that will come along or maybe the hundredth and you just do not have any more strength; only the will. At that moment, you realize that this Thomas Edison quote,” I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” is just mere cliché or by perchance a race that is really grim to run. You figure out that other people, your parents, your peers who were a step ahead gave up at this same point where you are at or probably earlier.

Essentially, you do not have another plan…and you gather your next move; is yours, devoid of influence, previous data or any hullabaloo quote you have ever read. You finally realize, that you are perpetually hitting a brick wall and you have two options, to either keep hitting that brick wall till one day it topples or to turn around and walk away. While at it, I think that is the hardest of decisions in life. But only you can make it for yourself.

A Binding Love Letter.

14Th February 2017,
To a confused soul out there,

 
Before anyone asks you out on a date today, your heart needs to know what it stands for. It must never worry you, that you can’t find the right love now. It should not even matter if it was torn into halves. It is fine not to know who it beats for. But, what you need and want; those you must know, for only then will you find yourself. For only then, will you fly with the aves.

 

Your heart will need to learn how to fall in love without losing itself. You will have to know that love is beyond feelings. That love is a two-pronged stick; it can either strengthen or stifle, expand or enfeeble, perfect or pauperize. That it is has nothing to do with the shooting stars nor a promised heaven, but knowing you hold a steady hand. It is not breathlessness, excitement nor the desire of waking up to finding the warmth of his breath on your neck. Love is a volcano that just sometimes erupts and at times subsides; and then you have to decide whether to stay or leave. At whiles, it is just a seamless piece of art and at the same time a fortunate accident.

 

So, you will have to learn, when you fall in love, how to kiss in a way that communicates perfectly what you would and would not like to happen next; how to wear a dress without being too skimpy or revealing nor too mind-numbing or lackluster; how to break up with a partner without ruining friendship; how to live alone even if you don’t like to. Your heart and mind will need to learn how to judge authenticity; how to sift truth from flatter and how to critic the two with a clear mind. You will have to teach yourself how to forget every crush you have and let go of every infatuation that keeps you up. Because only then can you love truly.

 
There are even tougher things to be learnt; that sometimes when you’ve done your best; you need to walk away. That you can never reverse mistakes when they happen and it is better forgiving yourself, however hard it may be. You need to know that you can’t change the width of your hips, the length of your calves or the shape of your lips. You need to understand that your past may not have been perfect, but it is past. You need to master who you can trust, who you can’t and why you should not take it personally. Remind yourself always, that trust is earned and so is respect for yourself and for others.

 

At one fell swoop too, you need to strike a perfect balance and never confuse assertiveness for rudeness, being a wannabe for being independent. I hope you will learn that though your heart is skeptical, there is no mistake in ever falling in love and telling it to the person. That seeming clingy, weird and obdurate are terms used by people who think love has specific theories; It doesn’t, love is supposed to drive you that wild and that mild in equal measure.

 

I know this is not all you need to know about love and life; but for today I hope you will find this satisfactory and remain
Yours truly,
Your Soul.

At 18, I hang on to dreams from my father.

The old chap should be hitting 60 next year. He has grown a bit frazzled. His big belly that I used tease when I was five is gone, his shoulders that he carried me on, are now haggard and his hair has gone all grey. I no longer run towards him when I spot him coming from work; sometimes I don’t even notice he is home. He often times calls me Susan; which is a bit scary because he has called me kamtu kadogo all my life. He spends his evenings sometimes worrying about his sick mum and his silence nowadays is a bit too loud.

I am at least glad that nowadays he can easily open his emails even though I have to help type in the whole reply. I was surprised the other day that he could actually blue-tooth my mum a song. Then last Friday, he sent me a Facebook friend request which I canceled; I did not think even rethink it twice.

His Dreams.
A few months ago, I arrived home from school. I noticed the house looked different, the old man had finally decided to build a perimeter fence around it. But the word ‘decided’ here is a bad word; because after 14 years of living in a house not fenced, 8 of those in the same house not plastered, 4 of those with walls that have gaping holes and 2 more with a muddy floor…you just don’t decide; you make it happen even if your pockets are dented. That evening some two 20 year-olds passed by and started laughing at how the wall was weak. He didn’t notice..but I noticed a tear form in his eyes.On Jamhuri day, the old man bought chicken. His body can no longer withstand red meat.He told me to get a knife…and then like a man in deep thought he said, “Unfortunately, God did not allow me to sire sons. But he gave me a daughter whose heart is stronger than most young men and I must teach you these little manly tasks.” So off, I had to chop the poor hen’s head.I did not sleep for three days.

Earlier this year, on January 9th, he put on a suit with a white shirt and a red matching tie. His last daughter was reporting to campus and I suppose he wanted to show that he was proud.Throughout the journey, I noticed his hands trembling. At stops, he would shove back a misplaced hair strand on my head and continuously repeat that I have to work hard.

My My Life.

At 18, I am 40 years younger than my dad; yet his dreams are my dreams. I will probably be the one to finish building our house. The old man let me in also, a few years back that he would want to drive his own car again after almost 30 years; I will probably be the one to purchase this one.He insists that I should get a first class honors as well as become a fully certified public accountant in the next four years; In fact, he himself, tutored me on CPA section 1, he brags everywhere that I passed, even to lazy dullards who do not give a hoot. Though my law dreams are close to fading, the old man has insisted that I must become a lawyer. He never says it out loud though, but he buys conventional law books and makes a point of introducing me to a lawyer or two every now and then. He has a time limit too; a Ph.D. by 30.

At 18, the old man has ensured I know that there is a God who lives, who is to be feared. He is the same man who led me to the Lord when I was in class 2 and most importantly, he allowed me to know that there is such a thing as free will. That I can always leave religion when I want to and I can always turn to Christ when I realize He is the only one who remains true. I have grown to be a teacher like the old man. I explain scripture in depth to anyone who wills to listen.Sometimes I question my beliefs; then I remember the old man would refer me to Deuteronomy 30:11-14.

Well, friends, I have big tasks and shoes to fit in. It is for some of these reasons, I have no time for dunda on Fridays. It is for these same dreams, that I cannot have sex before marriage, after all, the much-hailed pleasure might just be 20 minutes of extreme work out and 10 seconds of seeing stars. It is for these reasons that I get chocked by the smell of weed, alcohol, and shisha…noo…there is just no need to smoke shisha. You wonder why I take months to post a single photo on Instagram, I just don’t find the joy of getting likes and a handful of DMs that I won’t respond to.

Of course, I am sure the winds may blow by. Someone will sweep me off my feet and for a month, I will not wake up to attend my 6:15 am morning classes since I will be way smitten. I am sure that a friend will drag me to a rave and the following day I will be nursing a bad headache. I am almost sure someone will offer me weed laced cookies or simsim..and I will spend the night laughing hysterically. I will tell you; these things scare me, they keep me awake on some nights.But at least I am aware of them.At least, I have dreams from my father to always bring me back to the light and to life; dreams that now, are my own dreams.

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Lost thoughts.

I am seated at Uhuru Park…
12:00 noon.

Across me stands Wangari Maathai’s famous board(Is it her who put it up really?) ‘Lest we forget.’

I am in a black official coat and clutching to a fat ass bag and I seem to mean business so I look a bit obscure to the many people here and most should be wondering what I am doing here.Behind me, is a wonderful preacher who I am keenly listening to and though I am, I can bet she is throwing hateful glances at me and a young guy here because we are deeply engrossed on our phones.Her curse is real and clear, ” you are peacocks of a lost generation”( pun not intended).

For those who haven’t been here, Uhuru park is large, too large but vast enough to perhaps hold everyone’s desperations and despondencies(does this word exist? Kokwaro nowadays you are throwing huge words around…mind helping?)

This place probably holds the most worries, tears and to be fair a couple of joys.
I have digressed enough..right?.. you think?…

No, on the contrary, today I will write to you my mixture of thoughts.I shall also pray that one of you will probably have the right answers to my myriad questions…
so take a sip of water and let’s proceed…

As far as my eyes can reach, I can count 40 people idle here at Uhuru Park(like I have literally counted).In fact, many of them are sleeping.No, they are not resting, they are not taking a breeze.No, I can see no beautiful couple, cuddling, holding hands or kissing. These people are trying to forget about their problems.

I stand corrected if I am judging but tell me in your sane mind.Imagine yourself with the stuff you claim to own so dearly at 18,19 or 20… an Infinix Hot Note, sorry,your Samsung phone which you so much treasure(Lewis my thoughts are with you as you mourn your phone loss btw) and your 500 bob which is your fare back home and lunch and then you arrive at Uhuru Park and sleep here so carelessly and even drool…not scared of theft…not scared of anything..and even worse at quarter past 12..this is the time to meet your girlfriend at GM first and then head for lunch..aint it?
Does it make sense? Does it?

That’s a no? (I am getting to the point…relax).

**** ****

So sometimes.. most times in our little cocoons we imagine life as a fairy tale when we are young.We live a life of hope and joy.There is really little to worry about anyway.You can only think about that girl who broke your heart jana or that movie you need to catch next week at IMAX..or whether you will go to Karaoke on Tuesday and whether you have enough money to game at Tric.

Your thoughts are swayed to the latest trends , series and hits( I hear Trey Songs is coming to Nairobi? eeeh..someone shed some light here?..anyone in need of my kidneys I shall sell you one.)..or how you will get money to buy those sneakers you really want(Deadbeat dad…rings a bell?)

but then in all this confusion, we lose the sight of reality, somewhere along the way we downplay our dreams and settle for mediocrity.We suddenly lose touch with the wisdom we held so dear from our parents and teachers and our minds become our new wisdom.

Missing that law class becomes such a norm now and you somehow forget how much you struggled to get in and how bad you felt when you fell short 1 point below the regular cut off.

Weed, alcohol, and sex are your three life pillars while at the same time you pledge to be driving a BMW x6 at 27.(Darling, that is the purest definition of the word fantasy).

Life will soon catch up..and I am sorry if it all crumbles on you with its heartaches and bitterness.

but who am I to prophesy about your life? Why should I anyway?

****    ****

So why am I also at Uhuru park?

I am here hopelessly trying to question life.My mind has drifted too far.It questions all my actions.It questions why I am not in class now.It questions whether I will achieve my dreams and goals.

It irks me that for me, my brain runs ahead of my age.It troubles me whether my applications to Harvard will ever go through or that admission officer will throw my essay crafted in the last 4 years without batting an eyelid.It troubles me whether I will ever get the hang of Financial Accounting and it angers me how my law lecturer teaches with so much enthusiasm about a course that I dreamt, ate, drank and talked of since I was five and now the dream is shattered.

It annoys me that at 18, I have had my heart broken a couple of times and I cannot talk to my mum about it because it is morally wrong.Unfortunately, this notion has made me cynical about love and its existence even if I know it exists.

My thoughts are swayed to the meaning of life…and how to live it before one dies.For one moment here, I pray that I shall grow to be like Steve Jobs and give an iconic speech about true living.

My thoughts finally shift to my grandfather who I lost a couple of weeks ago.The last time we were upcountry we came across a photo of him behind bars during the State of emergency.Next to the photo is of my grandma looking stunning and holding his hand.84 years down the line I wonder how he felt about his life that we all praise as well lived.

Was he scared of never gaining freedom from jail?Did he ever wonder who would sire his 10 children?

How do people live this life…

because I think I have lost its drift…

so let me sink back to my sleep here at Uhuru park..and hopefully, when I wake up, my problems will all be gone.
Isn’t that what we all are hoping here?.

yes…

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Your life is not pegged on a clothe line.

Last Sunday, I was having a chat with one of my high school best friends, Seshi (she is Luhya btw and yes, she loves chicken),is often bubbly, has always been crazy and the type to make your day, doting rather, and has had the same measure craze to wanting to pursue medicine for the four years I have known her.

Anyway fast forward to our conversation,

Having not spoken to her for a long time I wanted us to catch up. Seshi soon told me that she had been admitted to take a bachelor’s degree in environmental health. This is the point you faze down and wonder what to type next in your conversation, (mostly because I have never heard of the course) so I went offline for a couple of minutes just to think of the right question to ask her, should I ask what really environmental science is, should I ask her how it feels. I was totally lost but I prompted a slow reply,” Will you take it?”

Seshi’s reply came in quick, bold and convincing, “Yes, and I am grateful to God.”

The Clothe line.

Last week, KUCCPS released the admission results for KCSE Class of 2015.It came with its own share of joys for those who had been admitted to take “good courses” to “good universities” and a share of painful moments for the “rest”. These souls I hopefully wish I can talk to.

Your life, sweetheart is not pegged on what you think is a hopeless course. I know it is not medicine, it is not law, engineering or computer science. Yes, I know you dreamt of taking astronomy and I know your vision board had it that you would be touching the stars at 25.I know you have been called to that university that you are trying to find on google maps and it isn’t visible. I am aware that your parents are still ranting to you that your auntie’s brother’s daughter’s cousin, * Nderitu of akina Gachau wa mbari ya tata, has been admitted at University of Nairobi to take Medicine, while you are going to do optical nutrition.

I know your best friends in high school in have already been admitted to private universities and are having the time of their lives, (what am I saying here) I know some have been already flown out and you are sleeping there in your small double-decker bed which you share with your sister and the housemaid wondering what next. I know you dreamt and imagine that you would be taking selfies in a few months in the beautiful lawns of the universities that you saw on catalogs in high school. I am sure you had already planned that your Fridays would be spent at Debonairs and in the evening at Imax. Hun, I also know you are angry at God for not giving you that good grade to walk around with your chin up high with (But it’s okay, I am sure God can take it).

Your life.

But here is also what I know, you are special. Four years ago, you blew everyone’s mind by making it to high school, and four years down the line, you will be the best you can be. You will go to that campus holed down in the remote parts of this country and you will work. You won’t work because you are angry but because you know you can do this. I know your parents have no money, I know they feel disappointed but you are still their ray of hope. I know you feel discouraged and so here is my verse to you,

2nd Chronicles 20:12

“We neither know what to do but our eyes are open to you.” I know there is no justifiable reason to what is happening to you and neither do you think it is laced with any inherent specs of good. And I do agree, I really do agree, but I also do know that God’s will for you is for you to walk through these next four years with Him. He wants you to trust him, even when it is hard to trust.

My dear, it is okay to be at pain, but do take it, because pain is a gift, so allow yourself to take this gift of finding out more about yourself; to finding your hidden talents and abilities. Darling, take that microbiology and do surprise us by finding cures to the weariest diseases. Take that hospitality management and build us the best hotels and provide the coziest facilities. Take that tourism management and I promise to employ you as cabinet secretary of tourism one day when am president. Take that mediation and dialogue course and be that source of peace that Africa badly needs.

Be brave and take that first step. Trust yourself and know this, “Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is the result of living the result of other peoples thinking. Don’t let the noise of other opinions drown your own inner voice. And most important have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly know what you want to become. Everything else is secondary.”-Steve Jobs.

P.S. I am extremely proud of you Seshi and those who have already taken the bold step to rejoice on their courses.

For those who will be joining campus on parallel, I am proud of you and your parents for taking the bold step to focus and live your passions and destiny. Thank the Lord for this opportunity.

*Nderitu of akina Gacau wa mbari ya tata- Nderitu who belongs to the family of Gacau who is of the clan of our aunt’s place.

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