What have I been up to lately?
“Rehearse them in your mind – exile, torture, war, shipwreck: all the terms of our human lot should be before our eyes.”- Seneca
No one, myself included, hopes to be broke or be assailed by tough economic times. If anything, one of the global goals of our modern world is to eradicate poverty. Unfortunately, unless you were born into a super-rich family, or you are Bill Gates daughter, harsh economic times will assail you at one time or another. Therefore, instead of letting such a moment find you unawares and your savings unattended, like Stoics, it is best to prepare long before the moment comes. So that when the moment comes, you are not getting into debt left right and centre trying to survive.
So how do you prepare?
Working in the construction industry in Kenya, (East Africa region) is quite turbulent. There are months where the cash flow is excellent, and the works get done according to the programme and the workflow is exhilarating. Then there are months where things take a nosedive- masses of casual labourers are sent home, banks refuse to give credit, there are speculations of mismanagement of funds, and things come to a quick halt. Job security is highly dependent on the cash flow, and without it, there is no business.
Interesting things have happened in my life after reading this book.
I got in on the secret of what every body is saying.
So, what is every body saying?
Eight years ago, at the height of my teenage years – I was eighteen and fresh out of high school – one hot afternoon I made my way to the house of a new friend of mine. Her name is Beatrice, but we like to call her Soni, a nickname that bounces off her second maiden name “Muthoni” – which is a Kikuyu name which means a “shining star”. Soni and I met in Church during those long and lazy youth meetings held in the afternoon after Mass, and we picked a friendship almost spontaneously. One cold Saturday morning in July, five years later, I would be bequeathed the responsibility of being the Godmother to her months’ old daughter – a responsibility, I am afraid, I am not sure I know well how to fulfil. But all the same, this is love, and this is how it grows and refines itself – in the slow beat of time.
So on that afternoon, after we had caught up and had a quick lunch, of beans rice and eggs, we sat down to watch the television that had been running all through – the heat I had escaped outside still hounded me through the corrugated iron sheets that crackled under the afternoon heat. So we could not watch much, instead, we ended up flipping through the movies she had in her flash disk. And there you were, in the film for Colored Girls, you in your regal beauty so well hidden that at first glance one would think this was just another film. We did not watch it together, but she said – “This is a nice one, you need to watch it, especially since you love arts, and poems, and stuff like that…”, and so I carried it home with me that evening, unaware that I was about to fall in love.
I am sure you have had in your lifetime, moments when you sat down to watch something, oblivious to the fact that by the time the film runtime is done, your life will have changed to some degree. There are many films that are utter nonsense, a cheap thrill to kill time and loose the mind of its preoccupations, and there are others – like the film adaptation of your book that grip the heart and tear it open, and make one think, really think about the state of their life, about the state of the lives around them, about what it means to be alive.
When I sat down to watch it, like with all films and pieces of art, I did not know what to expect. But I was curious, I have always been curious – perhaps too curious for my own good. Regardless, I have always held the notion that the more one knows, the more aware they are of what is around them, and the more one is aware of what is around them, the more their life blossoms and bursts forth into entrancing myriad of colours like a kaleidoscope.
Needless to say, the following weeks and month, after watching Tyler Perry’s film adaptation of your book, I was neck deep in the internet scavenging for your work. Back then, I had a small Nokia that I had bought myself with prize giving money for scoring an A of 81 points from the provincial public high school I had attended.
I used to scroll up and down that tiny screen, read your work and then write mine – and this is no particular order. I had been writing poems for more than four years by then – and the mere fact that you were there, with your work, making me aware that I could also write, and come into my own being, made a world of a difference.
Now that I think about how I sought to imitate, and how well I thought I hid that, I chuckle and laugh at myself – a tender laugh, for it was not until five years later that I wrote something I actually felt spoke my truth.
It’s funny, really, how even in the naivety of my teenage years, I could still see some aspects of myself in your work. I could see my younger self who had learnt that not all flowers grow, and those that grow, not all bloom; my younger self who had learnt to turn what at first glance seems like rejection, to a chance for self-love and care. And that’s why, when I saw, Juanita recite her monologue, with her potted plants – saying “it was an experiment to see…how selfish I could be’ I could relate.
I am African, born and raised in Kenya, Africa, the shade of my skin is what they call brown chocolate, and being in my own country, I could say that what you wrote for your African American women applies to me as well – and I think, regardless of colour.
I have often found myself laughing at myself when I aspire too high, and reality wakes me up; it is then that I see myself “in the melodious-less-ness ” of my song and it is falling off my shoulder, draping my being, my body, but oh, how far I have come from back then, and how much more relatable your work has become in these years.
All those women are women I have been or women I have known – abused women who face or were brought up in homes with domestic violence, women who have suffered sexual assault, betrayal, left alone when the world turned its back, known death and grief, known what it means to hope, to despair and then to hope again, to long for love from others and to discover that love must first come from within, and who have slowly found ways to heal and to begin again.
It was not until 2015, that I held your book in my hands. My cousin was studying up in Syracuse University, she’s a brilliant lady, and when her mother in law passed away, she brought her home to lay to rest, and along with her, she brought a copy of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.
I took that book with me everywhere that month, reading it and rereading it, memorising the poems, often surprised to find myself in a line of a poem.
When I scrolled through Facebook this Saturday and found out that you had taken the long journey all mankind must take, I sat down on my couch, and paused a moment, and was surprised really, that you were that well advanced in age. All along it had never occurred to me to check your age or to check up on you and find out what you have been up to. After I had sat a long while and caught my breath, I picked up my phone wrote to my cousin and said – This news could be of interest to you, sad news for me. She who for months now has as her Whatsapp status a quotation from your work- I found God in myself and loved her fiercely.
So I write to say thank you – thank you for being you, for writing those poems, for allowing yourself along with other women to sit still with their feelings, and emotions and drama of life and to ask themselves – but who am I? Thank you for the hope you instilled in me to continue writing, even though as the years go by I find I have less and less to say. Thank you, really, thank you and have a safe journey home.
Lessons you can’t learn from a class or read in a book.
These are some of the lessons that she learnt in her twenties that she shares on her youtube channel on a series called the Life Class, that have been valuable to her throughout her career. I like these lessons so much, so much so that every couple of months since she posted them, I come back to them and watch/listen so that they can stay fresh in my mind.
Trust Your Gut
Your gut has already figured out what your head has not figured out yet. The more you listen to your gut, the stronger it becomes; it is like a muscle.
Do Not Trust Success
Success is like youth, it is fleeting and fades away so quickly. Do not bask in your own glory. Success means different things to different people, and your definition will influence the way you will make certain decisions. For example, if success means to achieve a certain type of lifestyle, then you will get in debt trying to keep up with the expected standard. Define what success means to you, and stick to it, and do not hold onto other people’s praises and criticism unless they have earned it.
Love is Not Complicated
When you are young, love should make you glow – not just romantic relations, but even friendships and family relations. Do not remain fixated with a toxic relationship when you could otherwise be happier elsewhere or without it.
Think 15/10 Minutes Ahead
A lesson from Phil Matthews. Though the advice is for radio presenters so that they take their audience seriously and to deliver airtime that has value by preparing ahead, it still applies even at the workplace. She suggests always think about the effect of what you are doing, prepare for meetings, for interviews, etc. In short, prepare, prepare, – when you speak, have a proper point that you want to drive home. Do not just blabber about saying nothing. Prepare for work the night before, prepare for the interview as early as you can, prepare for meetings – always be ready as you can be. This improves your productivity and efficiency.
There is No Such as Thing as a Free Lunch
She learnt this from her former boss, Linda Halt at the age of 23. When you pay for your luxuries, lunches, meals during meetings, you have the liberty to turn down any compromising situations that could have otherwise risen. When you pay she says, you get bragging and bitching rights. You can brag about whatever luxury you enjoy since you actually could afford it, and you can bitch about it if the service offered was not of high quality. Most times, free means somebody will come calling, to get what they wanted when they were offering the free lunch. Do not trade the collateral of who you are on a meal or a luxury.
Do It Now
In your twenties, changing career paths, moving to a new city, leaving relationships etc are very viable options in our 20s is especially easy since you still do not have family responsibilities, committed circumstances, career growth etc tying you down. This is especially useful if you learn how to fail fast, and embrace the mindset of seeing failure as a gift that enables you to do things better, differently and well the next time you make an attempt.
Elevation Requires Separation
Life is not like high school where friends hurdled together and mirrored each other. Life requires you to leave the herd without losing contact with them. The people you surround yourself with no doubt influence the direction of life that you will take. Since life is about seasons, what got you here will not get you there. Eventually, you have to learn to love people from a distance especially those whose life direction is quite direct from yours.
Sometimes You Need to Move Horizontally to Move Vertically
Powerful class from Gerald Mahinda – when she was transitioning from Capital to Kiss100, she looked at her prospects at Capital vs what she was being offered at Kiss100, and she consulted Gerald Mahinda. He asked her if she could get the same opportunity to move ahead in her career at Capital compared to the offer she had received. Back then, the lead/ prime time show radio presenter for Capital was crafted to be a white male over thirty. And at that time she was female, black and under 30, and so she moved. This career move enabled her to craft a career that allowed her to have her prime-time show, the Big Breakfast. I really like this lesson, as it influences how I make decisions when I do not know where to go, and I think, what is the opportunity cost of letting go of one and embracing another.
Time and Energy, Do Not Waste It
Caroline says that when she was a programme controller at Kiss100, she would see interns leave the building at 5 as if the building was on fire. Instead, she recommends when you have no responsibilities such as family, you should take on extra work, and enrol in programs that you could help you advance your career. Then, when you are in your 30s and 40s you will have built up your career path to not work as hard as you should in your twenties.
Extra Bites: Check out her youtube playlist on the above lessons.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you are having an awesome day,
Here are 5 things on the internet that have caught my eye recently.
Thank you for reading!
May 2018. Let your intentions be transparent.