ADULTING IS THE SOUP AND I’M THE FORK: LESSON FIVE (A LETTER)

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.

Anyway.

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.

Love always,
Your older, much wiser, a little stranger, more laid back, also a little taller but still the same kid
at heart self,

TICHI❤️

(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.)

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ADULTING IS THE SOUP AND I’M THE FORK: LESSON FOUR (A CONVERSATION)

Rain. Blessed rain.

It’s been a sweltering couple of months and this feels like heaven! I climb out of the uber and
pull the black hood over my head. The rain is soft. Droplets of water spit on my face and on my
hands making my skin taut. Some of them gather in my eyelashes while the rest bequeath
themselves unto the cooling air and quench the soils from sandy hues to a thick dark chocolaty
appearance. The coffee house I’m to meet Cindy at is a few meters away. I saunter there,
smelling the aroma of the rain as it splatters on dry tarmac and sand. I almost want to shove a
handful in my mouth as I used to do when I was a child, oh what a curse it is to grow up and
learn biology; I know way too much now and wouldn’t dare. A gusting wind blows and turns the
gentle diagonal sheets to crazy chaotic drops. I rush in.

I find a corner booth and settle down. My form is a bit saturated and the cold begins to bite. I
pull my sleeves over my hands and blow warm breath into them. I haven’t seen Cindy in six
years and I don’t know how it’s going to feel seeing her after all this while. Although we have
kept in touch via social media, it’s usually a whole different feeling seeing someone in person.

“Laurah! Classic! Do you ever not have your nose stuck in a book?” Cindy’s familiar voice
questions. It’s just as I remember it, authoritative and fun at the same time.

“Ha-ha you know what they say ‘never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them’.”

“What?! Who says that?”

“For someone who also always has their nose stuck in a book, you should know!”

“If I did…” it goes without say, she wouldn’t be asking. She is in a mustard body cone dress and
cute white Adidas sneakers. Golden hoop earrings hang loosely above her clavicles. Her afro and
“natural” make up look highlight her best features and at this point I’m beginning to feel
underdressed. Her ensemble is completed by a black biker jacket and her greatest accessory; the
Colgate smile. We embrace and she takes the seat opposite mine. She orders a Cuban macchiato
and I get a hot chocolate. It feels like the first day of the term all over again. Time has cast away
familiarity and replaced it with warm confusion.

“So besides Sandra Brown’s White hot, what have you been up to?” she breaks the silence.

“Well, the same things everyone our age is up to…finishing school, graduating, boys, keeping up
with the Kardashians…”

“People still keep up with the Kardashians? Y’all don’t know what entertainment is! Love and
Hip-hop is the isht!”

“There are way too many reality shows nowadays, I can’t even tell them apart. Is it the one you
posted on your WhatsApp status yesterday?”

“No…” A muscle twitches involuntarily at the corner of her right eye and she shifts her gaze to
the slithering beads of rain slicing down the window. We both do.

“See! Can’t tell,” I sigh in defeat. “What about you? What’s been going on the past six years?”

“Finishing school as well, sort of. Campus has been military but at least, one down one to go.”

“Tell me about it. I wish people knew, mehn I wish I knew. University is the military we don’t
need. We’re just spoon-fed bullshit; of fear, of validation. I’ve been out six months and I can
testify; you get your honors, put that piece of paper aside and hustle like a dropout. What
students need to do is find mentors to work with, for, under, whatever. Someone to teach them
their ways and inspire them. But no one tells you this until you’re out and you see for
yourself…”

“You don’t mince words! It’s really that bad?” her left eyebrow shoots up

“Not as I make it seem but the journey is different for everyone. Bottom-line is unemployment is
real and to whom much was given, much is still expected!”

A moment passes in silence. To be a graduate is bitter-sweet. On one hand you’re probably
enlightened but on the other, there’s a lot of pressure. Your parents have clearly invested in your
education and want to see the ROI. The people who look up to you expect to see you living the
fairy tale that we’re told ‘work hard in school and you’ll graduate and land a well-paying job’.
Most of this pressure is self-inflicted however and trusting the process is underrated.

We are knocked out of our torpor when the waitress arrives with our orders. The taste of hot
chocolate instantly warms me up.

“Remember when we joined? Young, naïve little girls…”

“I wouldn’t say little ha-ha but yeah there have been lots of lessons along the way. Emotional
ones especially…”

I shake my head and say “Boys! Men!” as if it is a bad thing. There’s a twitch of a smile on my
face. It’s as if their exuberance settles on my now less taut skin and reminds me of what it was
like to be young and naïve. “We’re still young though, just not naïve”

“I know I share my experiences and lessons on my blog and I have been talking about glass
houses…”

“Wait, you still write you blog? I haven’t seen a post in a while…” I interrupt.

“No I don’t, I stopped. I realized I give the men in my life too much breath. Way too much.”

“Oh…”

“As I was saying, I have been talking about glass houses, not because I moved back into one just
to end up eating up my own puke over and over again but because I get where people come
from.”

“And where is that exactly?” I ask confused.

“Would you just listen? We all want the Dwayne Wades and the Will Smiths, we all also want
the post lemonade Jay-Zs but no one, none of us wants to be the Gab Union that marries a man
she can’t walk down the aisle to but forces herself because they spent all this money and by they, I mean she…We all want to be Jay and Bey but no one wants their Jay to cheat on them for
eleven years…”

“Jay cheated for eleven years?! I have been keeping up with the wrong family. And Bey stayed
knowing this?”

“Do you know love Lau? Relationships are complicated…”

“Some say love is blind, others say it’s retarded. But it’s really black and white for me; you’re
either into each other or you’re not. There are no in-betweens” I remark

“Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t…”

“It has to be either or Cindy, because that kind of emotional indifference always leads to bad
places.”

“Well let’s say you’re right. What does being into someone mean? Because it is not just about
their laugh, or how they smile or how they look at you. It’s more of sitting yourself down and
realizing that you still want to go home to them despite all their annoying traits. Sometimes you
can’t take it and you walk away…”

“Yes I agree with the part where love is about choosing that person over and over. We women
are born when we’re already in a relationship because of the nature in which God created us, in a
relationship with man, to be the helper. That is why we seek for constant friends throughout life.
But then I believe it’s the duality that really seals the deal, a mutual feeling from both sides,
right?”

“Right.” She affirms.

“Being into each other is sharing the feeling of deep care and compassion for one another…”

“But loving someone genuinely lifts you up. I think it’s why people are quick to want you when
you’re happy. Suddenly all these niggas are all over and you stay off social media because your
DM always has a ‘can we make plans this weekend?’”

“Ha-ha! That’s just when they don’t know how to keep off!”

“They cannot! There’s an aura that comes with genuinely loving a person, something
unexplainable; you look at someone and want nothing but them.”

I wave at the waitress and order another mug of hot chocolate. Outside the dusk is ebbing its
gradual way into night. The neon lights from a club across the street highlight the rain showers as
the rest of the world passes in a blur of red and white lights. The hiss of the tyres over the wet
smooth tarmac road can be heard as more cars come and leave the parking lot on the other side.

“Also each heartbreak takes away something, some innocence. You learn something you were
better off not knowing,” Cindy adds as she stirs another sugar into her second mug of Cuban
macchiato. “But it’s the losing the innocence part that’s really hard.”

“Really? How so?” I interrogate

“Instead of crying for a month, it goes down to two weeks, then its two days, then it’s just a day
and you’re done.”

“I thought that’s a beautiful thing, learning to quickly cut your losses and move on.”

“There’s nothing beautiful about getting used to a heartbreak,” she swallows a sip. “Also starting
over is a motherfucker. Remember when we used to fall for guys because they were tall dark and
handsome? Then we started looking at if they had a vision board, then we advanced to if the
vision board ended up in something we’d want to come home to?”

“Yeah, we really have complicated things but it’s probably worth it.”

“Now we’re wondering if, if we were to die, would they ensure the children are okay? Do they
respect women? Can they help raise a child that knows the world is equal? We all want Russell
but is it so bad not to want to have a son with a Future before meeting your own Russell?”

“I guess not,” I retort.

“It’s innocence gone! Remember when you cried for a month because you didn’t know if you’d
ever get a man as tall or as dark or as handsome? Just to end up dating a medium height
chocolate skin because he loved you just enough to want to talk to you all the time? Just to cry
over that and stop because there’s a dark one who loved you and still gave you your space?”

“You mean ‘you’ in a general sense right? ‘Because I don’t remember doing none of that.”
“Yes, in a general sense. People assume that when they tell you that going back to an ex is bad for you, you’re too blinded to listen…”

“Sometimes that’s the case…” I chip in.

“It’s not love. Well it is love but its hope that blinds us. That you don’t have to unlearn
something, hoping that the little innocence remains. Hope that it is better to try solving the one or
two flaws you couldn’t bring yourself to love than give yourself time to unlearn something and
be changed entirely.”

“That’s deep!” I’m impressed by Cindy’s fountain of wisdom.

“Fitzgerald once said that the best thing a girl can be in this world is a beautiful little fool. I think
being wise in love is tragic. I miss the days when I could date a guy because he smelled nice,
days that I could cry over a guy for six months…” she nods in disbelief.

“I think it’s amazing now that we have these lessons. We can strive to make healthy choices.
Imagine a guy who thinks you’d leave your house on a weekend to go have coffee, wouldn’t it
feel empowering to say ‘I’m sorry you sound like a mistake I made…NO!’” I say excitedly.

“It sucks having to let go of your innocence in the name of lesson learnt. That a new hot guy
comes along and says hi and you see it will never work out because his self-esteem is low or he
is too materialistic or his family seems like one you wouldn’t want your children visiting on
Christmas.”

As she says all this she is looking into the distant as though she is reading it from somewhere.
Her face keeps changing expressions from a frown, to a blank, to a smile and sometimes it’s just
indecipherable. The waitress brings us our bill, smiles and dashes off. The café is now engulfed
in a tincture of calmness, groups and pairs hurdled at individual tables are lost in their inaudible
mutters.

“But let people be in their glass houses, it never ends well. Since we are nothing without hope
maybe some of them can be so lucky to Steph and Ayesha Curry…”

“Girl, you know way too many Hollywood people. I can’t keep up. Steph and who now?” I
exasperate.

“Never mind,” she waves me off. “For the rest of us, Aye, shit happens. Plus we’re only twenty three so it sucks but in a good way having to choose from the wild wild singlehood forest…”

“And never making permanent decisions over temporary emotions!” I absent-mindedly add on.

“Yeah! Choosing guys based on their dreams, and how they talk to cleaners and beggars on the
streets. Not only because their eyes feel like the sun. It’s about looking at a man who would love
you more than anything and knowing from the way he ties his shoe that you’ll hate him when
you turn fifty, by looking at how he says ‘hae’ with his tallness and darkness and ten-ness and
knowing you can never go anywhere because he doesn’t know who Paulo Coelho is! Worse still,
he thinks Young Sheldon is stupid right in the middle of telling you a very funny joke…”

“That’s just sad! Sad! Speaking of, I think I’d be a better conversationalist if I was on an empty
bladder,” I excuse myself and head to the washrooms.

Not before long my throat begins to tighten and my eyes water involuntarily. I cough. Something
is stinging, and I can’t breathe properly. I attempt to draw more air into my lungs but it stings some more. I’m chocking. I cough again. Just then my phone beeps, I reach
for it from my purse.

“What’s happening?” I manage to shout into the phone. “Someone just walked by and threw a
tear gas canister into the café, we were all evacuated before I could find you. I however alerted
the staff and they’re coming for you,” Cindy explains.

ADULTING IS THE SOUP AND I’M THE FORK: LESSON THREE

YOU DON’T QUIT

Life will throw and throw and throw and throw. Life will attack you. Sometimes with the good, sometimes with the bad, the beautiful, the ugly, the unforgiving, the enjoyable, the not so enjoyable, the nice, the not so nice et cetera et cetera. And guess what you are allowed to quit, you really are, but you don’t!

In those times when life is doing its thing, you’ll be hit by the why’s and who’s.

Why am I still holding on?

Who am I doing this for?

Why can’t I just let it go?

Who is going to appreciate all this effort?

Until you can answer these vexing questions, it won’t matter if you hold on or not, it’ll be in vain.

And when you have the answers, no chance in hell can life break you. When you understand the purpose for your struggle, it doesn’t matter how hard it gets you know you’re going to make it because whatever gets thrown at you, doesn’t measure up to the strength you have for your purpose. And you live on. You get to fight another day. You get to win. You get to rejoice, you get to celebrate.

The best part of it is that you get to inspire somebody else. Someone who was marred and trampled on. If you can do it, they can too!

You can quit, but you don’t.

I might be…

I might be a horrible person
I might be the person you never want to see again
I might be the person that turned your world gray
Too dull to even accommodate black
I might be the person that took away your heavenly bodies
Leaving you with nothing to stare at
Neither during the day nor night
Absolutely nothing
I might have been your timely bomb
The one you never knew was strapped around you every time we hugged
Each second drawing you near to your demise
Exploding beside you
Shattering you into more than a million tiny pieces
And letting you fall like rain of blood
But still turning gray when you gather to form pools
I might have been the knife
You know the one they found stabbed in your back
I might have been the gun
The one whose bullet shot you in your temple
Leaving you lifeless
But my image glued in your iris
I might have been
I might be
I still may be
Because you choose to see me that way
To paint me that way
To describe me that way
To tell your tales
To them that listen to you and never me
But tell me
If I was that horrible
Inconsiderate
Loathing
Heartless monster
Wouldn’t I have destroyed myself in the process?
If I exploded, why am I still here?
I am broken too
I am lifeless as well
My world is pitch black
I’m struggling
But I have no voice
I lost it trying to tell my tales
And I lose to you
Again
I might be…

Strings.

Our lives are so crowded
Entangled by the strings we’ve created amongst us
Each of us pulling the other in our direction
Or maybe pushing
It’s hard to tell when there’s hardly any space between me and the next
And you
Yet a lot of it exists
We’ve worked so hard my love
To get this close
So near each other we are
Near might not be the word
No
Not in this context
Maybe into each other
No more strings between us
Because they’ve bound us together
Into one
Sometimes happy to have found each other
Escaping the extraction
Or maybe doing it together
Sometimes suffocating
Being stuck
Yearning to be alone
To just be an inch further
Away from each other
For just a second
To breathe
To rest
Recuperate
Revvy our engines
Then rebound back
But that can’t
Just can’t work
In a world where people posses penknives
Lighters
Saws
I can almost promise that we won’t find our way back
That we’ll be entangled
Again
Thick in between this labyrinth
Connecting and disconnecting
But never really having a connection
The one we can term as us

Happiness

I don’t know what your definition of happiness is. I don’t know his nor hers. I’m not even sure what it means to me either. Growing up my mom defined happiness as a feeling of satisfaction. Whenever you were satisfied either with food or your present life or your grades or your parents or the way you appeared or your friends or your spouse then you were happy. All my life until now I have always benchmarked happiness to my mother’s teachings on the same. Any time I’ve had a feeling of satisfaction deep within my soul then I’ve always considered myself happy.

Over the years however, this definition has been corrupted. Watching too many soap operas, reality shows, living around a society that defines happiness differently, I must confess has been very confusing. These days we say happiness comes from having more and more and more. Not necessarily yourself possessing all that, could be your partner; “sponsor”. If my satisfaction before was to have just Kshs.20million as my net worth, these days I gotta go above and beyond to be happy or rather so people see me as happy. Happiness has been defined by how lavish one lives, how much they spend, how glamorous their lifestyle is, how many Ferraris they own, how many condominiums they can rent out, how many vacations they have in a year and where and how expensive. Rich people are branded happy while the poor are considered sufferers. Ask someone; “heri ulie kwenye Range rover ama ucheke kwenye bodaboda? Ukose usingizi runda au ulale vema kijijini?” (Would you rather cry in a range rover or smile on a bike? Lack sleep at Runda or sleep well in the village?) They’d not choose the latter, at least not most of them. Because we’ve been living on the deception that links riches to happiness until it seems to be gospel truth. People would rather financial stability before what makes them truly happy, they’d rather an arduous job that they barely like as long as it pays more than go after their passion even if it pays way less, they’d rather battle with traffic and expenses in the city and make thousands than live on dimes where everything else is at reach in the village.

In a bid to fit in, most of us have found ourselves living completely misconstrued lives. By other people’s comprehension and not our own. Feeling out of place if we decided to live by what our parents and grandparents taught us, religiously. Not allowing ourselves to be different because it is accompanied by a fear that we won’t be happy being ourselves and not being over the top.

But would anyone be blamed for thinking this way? For believing this? Society has bent us. By now now we’re way out of shape. Hardly recognizable in our distorted forms and beliefs. A comfortable life that would bring about satisfaction is achieved by dint of money. A lot of it. Spoil yourself. Take selfies and post them on social media. Let those who don’t have as much squirm and feel belittled.

Whatever it is, always go by your own definition. Happiness is a basic need.

I know not.

When I have no need for you
Into dust you turn
Creeping into my every space
In my ears
Eyes
Hair
Nostrils
My ears itch
My eyes sour and red
Make me scratch them hard bursting My capillaries
You bug me
Let me have no sleep
Let me not know what I can be and do
Why won’t you just let me be!

And…

When I have need for you
Into an eagle you turn
Soar into great heights where you can’t be found
Places where we birds dare
That’s where you venture
Places my eyes can’t see
Horizons and horizons away
Not that I’m myopic
Then I’m deprived of sleep
Again!
Trying to attain your standards
To prove myself to you
To please you
Like those you surround yourself with
And then I know not what I can be and do
Why won’t I just let me be!

Are you my sine qua non?
Am I yours?
Are we?
Us?