Dear seventeen-year-old self,
A couple of things have transpired.
You know how everyone thinks we’ll be much closer to vision 2030 by 2019? That we would have made significant strides in the fight against corruption and will be enjoying the benefits of accomplished MDGs?
Ha-ha-ha! Well, I wouldn’t say we’re any closer to vision 2030, it’s still a vision. Corruption has us by the balls; it’s continued to bedevil us and it’s got us waking up at 4.30 to pay a Chinese debt that is lying somewhere in someone’s ‘offshore’ account. MDGs? What MDGs?! Ain’t nothing like that in existence.
Writing this letter to you isn’t fun, but it’s an opportunity to share some of the wisdom that being on this planet for an extra five years has given me. Before we get started, get those slices of pizza over here. This isn’t going to be plain advice, you’ll need to extract the flavors yourself.
Sorry for being harsh in advance. Oh wait, no, I’m not sorry. And since we don’t like long stories, I’ll keep it short and ‘sweet’.
Maybe it’s the hormones or the looks, but right now you are crazy smitten. You have only talked to this person briefly, twice, but have fallen intrigued even though he is an exquisite contradiction. The story of how you have met is one you think will draw ‘aww’ and ‘cute’ when you retell it. I mean, you were at the reception waiting to be assisted, you turn and he’s there. Smiling and waving. You had never seen him, he didn’t call you or make any signal of any sort but what are the odds that you turned at the exact same time he was leaving his oral exam? It’s like something out of a book. Its fun, some sort of teenage love, wanting to spend every minute of every day together.
Spoiler. Life will happen.
A few months into it (whatever it is you and him have), you’ll learn that he is a drug addict. His addiction is such that he cares for nothing else. Everything you think he holds dear will fall by the wayside, his family, his friends, his career, you. He’ll become someone else and it will bother you but you’ll ignore it at first. Then you’ll convince yourself that it’s his personal problem as long as you aren’t partaking. Soon enough you’ll make assumptions and excuses for him, blame it on his difficult course or his friends. Sometimes your brain will reassure you that it’s the addict you love and not the addiction.
The drugs will take him away a piece at a time. Six months down the line, he’ll be remote and you’ll chalk it up to stress. This will be your first grieving. His health will deteriorate. The drugs will decompose him like a walking corpse, meat on bones. You’ll feel like a sitter, every second with him will slow to a trickle and those sunny weeks will feel like an age. He’ll have blithe disregard for whatever feelings you have for him. You’ll have sleepless nights wondering what the underlying issue that drives him to them is, why his soul is arid that he cannot resist the chemical substitutes or why your love will not be enough to ward off the darkness. It’ll be in vain. It will seem unfair that no matter how much you strive to show him the importance of getting his life together, he just won’t want to. You’ll feel like the Khloe to a tormented Lamar. Asking. Pleading. Praying. Then enough will be enough.
You’re a smart girl. You’ll realize that you’ll no longer be in love with him but the memory of who you thought he was. In that moment, it’ll come to you how that will be the emptiest relationship ever having nothing to it but looks and drugs. The whole ‘love at first sight’ thing would have blurred everything for you forcing you to learn and get to know the person way too late into it.
For weeks grief will wash over you like the long slow waves on a shallow beach. Each wave icy cold, prolonged. You’ll wish to go back and trust your intuition. You’ll wish you never turned that day. You will analyze every action from every angle and writhe in the agony of paths untaken but it’ll be done and eventually you’ll accept that, after spending about a year getting over someone you had no business being in a relationship with. Don’t get me wrong, we are great friends but that’s just where you should have left it.
I’m not telling you this to weaken your spirit but to let you know that you’ll survive it. You don’t know this, but its long been an axiom of mine that the little things are ultimately the most important and I learnt this from that situation. The human spirit is tremendously resilient. It can withstand the most burdening and horrific of circumstances of any creation but it’s not these larger-than-life situations that can break us, it’s the little things. The ‘just smoking for fun’, the ‘it’s just one day that we didn’t spend together why are you making it such a big deal’, the ‘it’s nothing calm down’, such tiny little things are so damn unforgivable because they aren’t little things, they just seem that way. So be careful when you bend over or when you pretend to be okay with something you are not.
I have had tons of experience with relationships by now and I want you to know this; please date. It’s true what G. L. Lambert can’t stop maundering on about in ‘men don’t love women like you’ and ‘Solving single’. Date as much as you can before you make the decision to be in a relationship with anybody’s son. Even in 2019, girls and boys out here are meeting and three weeks later in a relationship. They’re not taking time to know each other properly. So go on a few dates, wait no, go on many dates! Create the time, the energy and the patience to meet new people, chitchat about the school you went to, the troubles you go into, the village you were born in, likes, dislikes, and other trivial things. Put effort into learning a person’s favorite color, current job, future
ambitions, pick up the nonverbal cues you know; how does he speak to street children, the waitresses at the kibandaski… but hey. this is no cheat sheet for dating–do this, do that, now do this, congratulations, get the man—you’ll be surprised.
Men will however be looking to cheat their way into the relationship. So when you get a sit down and he asks you what you’re looking for in him, among other things Just say; one who is attentive, one who is thoughtful, one who goes out of his way to make their partner feel special or one who is chivalrous. Why? Because you would have answered the question but will leave him with the task of HOW. HOW to be all that. And that’s when their true interpretation of things comes out.
That said, love, you’re about to embark on a journey that you will be talking about and remembering for probably the rest of your life, so spend the next years enjoying it. Even though you’ll have to go through the tough emotional redefining period, each experience is a small piece of the puzzle, a composition of the beautiful person you’ll become. Learn, grow, travel, challenge yourself, go for those forex classes, take that driving course, fail, succeed and from those experiences will come a lot of worth that will draw you to the person that is for you.
P.S. Go easy on yourself.
Your older, much wiser, a little stranger, more laid back, also a little taller but still the same kid
at heart self,
(In this article I write from Tichi’s POV to her younger self. The lessons we continue to learn in adulthood are insurmountable and we document them for whoever would like to learn a thing or two. Thank you Tichi for this incredible honor.)