It’s my birthday. I’ve turned twenty-seven today. Still young, but I’m oh-so-damn scared, because; by now I was supposed to have five books authored! (Laughs, and then drops head in palm). And a pretty girlfriend tickling me so we can let fly mindless little giggles, and have pillow wars. And a bank account swelling with money, even a safe deposit box with a bank where I keep my diamonds, and a master plan to change the world.
Books, I have only two. My girlfriend left. Called me baby-faced and saccharine but…not the one. An asshole, too, though she worded it differently.
“You’re way out of my league, and…serious with life sometimes…see, you need someone who is…is, you know, better than me.” C’mon, cut the bullshit and say it– I am leaving because you’re such a square!
Safe-deposit box? I have nary an idea how it feels to open one. I see them in movies, and mostly, someone's life is in danger because a dangerous cabal is out to get the contents of the deposit box.
Ideas, yes I have them, on how to change myself first by being a better version of myself, as that’s how we change the world, yeah?
I stink of mistakes, and mostly I feel like a dog’s breakfast. Many are the times I look in the mirror and go: Hey, son, a couple of serious fuck-ups, man. Where is the child in you who once dreamed big and believed? But any road, I F (eff) myself (forgive myself), ready to thumb on through the book that is me, write my story. There’s a super plot twist, I’m the character who must face barriers just so that when I finally overcome, the world will release a relieved sigh and go limp, saying, what a journey! That dude is a real come-back kid!
Okay, let me try to pack little pieces of my story in this little essay that I call, My Little Birthday Essay. And I hope the few lessons cut some ice for you.
Growing up, I had dreams. These huge dreams burned deep into my psyche. I wanted to be a great person, and here, great meant a great course at the university (one that made other parents lecture their kids to be like me), a great girlfriend, later a great career, and of course– money. What’s life without money, which comes with power? I’d ask myself.
These hard-wired dreams made me read a lot of personal development books and deliberately attend personal development seminars where I sat and, literally, soaked in every little thing that was said, like a dry sponge. That was great, as some of the lessons fuel me to date.
I even, at some point, put up on my wall cuttings of pictures. A man, happily married, leaning over a dining table, his head tipped to the side, planting a kiss on his woman’s cheek. A huge mansion captured from a distance, under a starry sky; you could see its magnificence as light emanated from various windows. A man laughing with two beautiful African kids; a boy, and a girl. And that was the life I wanted and worked for. In my head, I already had it, and twenty-seven was the age these should have started manifesting in my life. At twenty-seven, I was supposed to have five novels under my name. A bad-ass writer no one could ever ignore. But life, as they quip, is what happens when we are busy planning. I'm a good writer though, you'll agree (reveals teeth in a smile). Seeing that you have read up to this point.
Here I am, turning twenty-seven, and the narrative is different.
Do I have a girlfriend with whom I border the happily ever after walk to our sunset? No. For some reason, I’ve failed in my relationships. Do I have a career that pays me a lot of money? No. Okay, I had a cushy job that did just that, but I wrote a resignation and walked away to do something else that fulfils in me something more than money. I don’t tell this story much, because almost all the time, I get the response “What? Are you crazy? You worked so hard to get to that place and then you let it all go out the window like that?” “Seriously? What do you smoke? We are all about the money, why would you resign from that job?”. And so, I resolved to keep my cards close to my chest, tired of explaining myself. And my decisions.
As I turn twenty-seven, I take this opportunity to give back, this time through this simple article that strips part of my life naked. And I hope you can pick a lesson or two. If not you, I hope that someone else will get stirred up by some of the things I have learned throughout my not-so-long life (I’m still baby-faced, ha-ha). Someone…
Here are three big lessons I have learned:
- There’re times you must hit the restart button and circle back to the drawing board
- Self-discovery involves a serious self-searching
- What’s your landing space? (As taught to me by Steve Muthusi and Fred Mukiri)
Hitting the restart button
After high school, I held a conviction that I was meant to do a course in journalism or creative writing. And that was it. According to me, I was nothing if I didn’t end up pursuing one of these. But when it got to selecting courses, I knew that I must choose a course that the government could pay for me, because I needed to ease the burden of heavy school fees off my mum’s back. I had to select a course that was within the ‘range’ of my grades, acceptable by Kenya Universities and Colleges Central Placement Service (KUCCPS). With my grade B plain of 63 points, my dreams got torpedoed. Journalism, or any course related to creative writing, was beyond my reach unless I was willing to study in a town away from the city. Me, study outside Nairobi? I scoffed. Hell no! I’ll just pick another course and keep writing, after all, I know of great authors who didn’t go anywhere near a creative writing school.
That’s how I ended up on campus doing a business course. I would later come to fall in love with Human Resources Management, which I majored in and excelled at. When I finished campus (or did campus finish me? Excellent debate for another day) I traipsed along the streets of Nairobi, dropping CVs with vim and vigour. That didn’t pan out. I handed out my CV more and more, seeking internship opportunities. I was nothing different from a relentless salesman beside a road that's choked with foot traffic, handing out flyers for a new product. A couple of times, I went to the post office because some government openings were so advanced with time-travelling machines that they took me back to the past, where to apply, I had to stick stamps and drop my documents at the postal office. That was me, defiantly blowing smoke down a hole, hoping that a huge catch would come out. If anything came out at all, it was heartbreak, and a dead-end that whispered, hey son, nothing is as you think it is, please circle back to the drawing board and start all over again.
I had to sweep up my broken pieces, regather myself and find out: Apart from how my degree, still fresh with ink, defines me, who am I, really, and what can I do? With hunger and unbridled motivation, I threw myself into the media industry. It then came to be, that my first job, an internship to be specific, led me into a newsroom. Without the papers, but passion, and a bad CV. (I later learned that my CV was dead, and my job-hunting techniques as good as a bar of bathing soap in a desert. I was spreading far and wide, but shallow.) And just like that, I hit the restart button and started to learn afresh.
I later found myself in a cushy full-time job that paid so well (well, for a bachelor like me, what I earned was enough to eat, dress, pay my bills, and throw a serious pick-me-up party for myself and my cronies, monthly). Was I in a space where I did what I loved, or was I there for payday? After being honest with myself, on a balmy Monday afternoon, I wrote my resignation letter and left. I however did this after successfully coming up with a plan B, a safe landing pad that wouldn’t turn me into a vagrant, out in the streets. This was the second instance where I pushed the restart button, this time to take a major pay-cut but pursue paths that would challenge my powers and creativity. And with time, make me money. It was hard to pull the pin, but I did, and said an orison to God, “If I fail, oh God, I lived. I took risks. I left money and sought challenges that expanded my thinking; grew me. Isn’t the purpose for existence growth? Help me make it, dear God.”
My greatest lesson after these instances became: that starting over is never easy, but it is possible, with the will and the determination. Am I a fool to have resigned to follow the heart; a master of deception? I don’t know. But generally, every day reveals to me that I am a fool to think that I know it all. I should empty myself and be ready to learn and relearn. Looks like life has surprise lessons lined up along my path. Above everything else, I have learned to trust the unchanging in the changing.
Another great lesson that I ruminate on as I turn twenty-seven is that I must be honest with myself. I’ve learned to sit down and lock out all other noises and be real with myself. In my relationships, as I discovered, it was always about me. What am I getting out of this? I was selfish. Through this attitude, I have dented genuine friendships. I have let go of people who sincerely loved me. After self-acceptance that I was assish with negative energies, I made a conscious decision to whittle the question into a different shape: What is in it for the other person, too? Wouldn’t it be beautiful if we were both benefitting from it? And since this mind shift, I’m finding great peace of mind every new day.
What’s your landing space?
I was with Fred Mukiri (whom I share a birthday with) and Steve Muthusi, and had interesting conversations about life. Fred is a metaphysics aficionado, a writer, and a painter among other things. Steve, a cognitive psychologist, also doubles up as a personal development author. As an author myself of fictional books (thrillers), I wouldn’t say that writing is the only common thing I have with these two gentlemen. We are each other’s landing spaces, and our friendship runs deep. The Cradle Queen, a painting hanging on my wall, was done by Fred. It arrests the attention of anyone who visits, with its masterstrokes to depict a Himba lady in the Namibian deserts, breastfeeding a child cradled in her arms. My first book titled Around the Campfire came because Steve kept pushing me, challenging me to challenge my limits. So did my second one, the thriller anthology Three Bolts from the Blue. Steve is a friend I can call when at my rock bottom; when on my knees and a broken twig hanging low, and he will be there for me. And oh, Happy Birthday Fred!
On having a landing space, these two gentlemen have taught me timeless lessons. That even eagles feed on the ground. In as much as they fly high, they must come down to feed. Aeroplanes are meant for the skies, but they must come down to fuel. What/who is your landing space? Fred asked me. Whom do you go to, to feed on new inspiration when life beats you down– and it will beat you down? On the same, Steve quipped, that more than a strong mobile network, we need a good network of people. People we can genuinely connect with, drop all our masks, be real. People who genuinely want us to become better versions of ourselves.
Hey, you, what/who is your landing space?
I trust the unchanging in the changing
As I turn twenty-seven, I accept and let go of past mistakes, but constantly learn from them. I am happy. I have a fierce self-drive, and I am grateful for who I am. I've had heartbreaks, one of the biggest being having two calling letters to two different universities in London for a Masters in Creative Writing, but falling short when it comes to school fees, and failing to clinch the prestigious Chevening Scholarships. Am I the greatest? Far from it, my journey is only getting started. I’m a fool (we all are, the difference is in the subject), and all I have is the hunger and tenacity to grow; I’m bringing back the hunger I had when I first started. And above all, I am trusting the unchanging in the changing: God.
Also read: My Search for Meaning