Some of you have been sending me compliments for upgrading the aesthetics of this patio. You say that the new curtains have given it a more modern feeling. Truer words have never been spoken.
Speaking of modern, my attention has been drawn to a historical artifact, this souvenir wall unit, that some people, and I am not naming names, but Biko, have refused to let go of. I mean, what is this? 1963?
By the power vested in me by the honorable comments section, I hereby declare the wall unit auction open. To the lowest bidder go the spoils.
As I begin the gradual descent into my late twenties, suddenly life is coming at you fast. Teetering between expectations and reality, it has been a fairly good ride. In Amerka, there is a popular myth: the ‘27 Club’, where rich, successful musicians famously die at age 27. Google it. I am not rich (yet), nor a musician (successful or otherwise). For me, it has been a windy path of epiphanies, with local classics such as: “Family Meetings,” “Stuck In A Day Job,” and “Could Be More In Tune With His Luhya Traditions.” My name is Eddie Ashioya, and these here are the highlights of my 20s showreel. If all goes to plan, I’ll make it past 27.
Life after college is weird. I am grappling with adulting responsibilities, including feeding myself. While I cherish my freedom, I abhor the responsibilities it comes with. I have to wash my own clothes? And do the dishes? Wait…I have to pay bills? And tax? I am getting taxed because I am doing a good job? WT Fun..? Adulting is not for me. Regret is my only regret. My younger self was a dude with an unabashed craving for ice cream and an unholy alliance with maziwa mala.
Being 20-something in Kenya is basically standing at the edge of the universe. This is our last gasp of freedom, on the cusp of adulthood, our childhood quickly fading into the horizon. We oscillate between having the world at our feet and feeling its weight on our shoulders.
We are often accused of being snowflakes, and in a bid not to sound too zeitgeist-y, I won’t turn this into an us-vs-them situation. As I smell the fading roses of my youth, these are the epithets I have picked up in this angst-ridden period of my life.
You owe the economy. There are some unpaid internships waiting for you. They are brutal. Attachments where they don’t want you to get too attached. There’s mid-level management who want to go for pissing contests and give you a glimpse into their future post- promotion personas by bellowing orders at you like you are a third-tier citizen. There’s also the seductive secretary, of the serpentine guile, who does not like the way you look at her while she’s ogling you. Oh, and there’s HELB to be repaid. Remember when you used to eat well on the government’s bill? They have come to collect. Speaking of the government, there is KRA, VAT, PAYE, NHIF, NSSF, OCS, OCD, and a litany of small loans you took here and there to rivet the days together. Your tall uncle in the city who said he’d place you somewhere suddenly has a network problem. You will, and this happened to me, please don’t laugh, one day buy a packet of njugu in a white paper. The njugu will taste eerily familiar. Only when you open the njugu packet will you find out that the wrapper is actually your CV. You will bite- your lips- not your njugus, and you will learn to be frugal, surviving under the much publicised dollar a day. You will invest in good tough leather shoes that can withstand tough Nairobi terrain. You will tarmac this Nairobi like a Jehovah’s Witness on a fact-finding mission. I recommend a pair of black original Toughees with a Ksh 30 brush. But I’ll leave it at that lest you think I carry some tarot cards in my pockets.
Never cheat on your barber. You can cheat on your football team but never your barber. He will notice those edges are not his. He will know that fade is too sharp. There will be an awkward silence that looms over you like a harbinger of doom. The guilt will choke you until you confess what he suspects – that you have been entertaining the scissors of another man where only his scissors trode before. Barbers sit atop the food chain in a man’s life (well, if you have hair). In the Bro bible, cheating on your barber is lower than blackmail. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure it’s against the law to see two barbers at the same time. Hirsute bigamy of the highest order.
Life is short. Cheat on your barber. See someone else. He who does not travel thinks his mother is the greatest cook. There is nothing wrong with entertaining the scissors of another man on your dome. To your barber, you’re just another name on his shaving schedule, and when he sees you, he doesn’t light up with joy; it’s business as usual. Even if he knows your cut by heart.
Please don’t cry when she leaves you. I know you feel like you will never love anyone else again but trust me you will. You feel like your heart has been shattered into millions of pieces but come on. Wacha kiherehere. The heart is for pumping blood. Besides, you support Arsenal. You are literally held together by your mother’s prayers.
Don’t send her fare. Send her a Bible verse. Something sweet and thoughtful like Proverbs 31:6.
Don’t forget to tell your mum you love her. The boys will call it cheesy. But she’s the only woman who will stand with you when life throws you juggernauts.
If you want to know the government works, just break the law.
You don’t have to fight the bouncer to prove you are a man.
Life is for the living. Use the fine china. Growing up in Kakamega, I stood out like a Rastaman in a monastery. Which is funny because I was a Rastaman. I lived life well. I used the fine china. We were told to wear our Sunday Best only on Sundays! I wore my Sunday best on Mondays. And Tuesdays. And Wednesdays. Wear those Gucci flip-flops to the lavatory. Wash your hair with that expensive shampoo. Serve yourself some trifecta of ugali omena avocado on that ‘sahani ya wageni’. But don’t let your mother know.
Breathe: You know I am very quick to react. I wear my emotions on my face with a permanent mannequin smile that oscillates between frowns and apathy. There is no cure for a bad word. I should know because I grew up in an environment surrounded by words. It is okay to say you don’t know, to not have an opinion, to learn from the humility of ignorance. You don’t always have to have the last word.
Read more. To cope with life’s curveballs, I immersed myself in books. Raised on every Kenyan parent’s mantra, “Soma kwa bidii ukuwe mtu mkubwa maishani,” I drowned myself in books, finding them helpful and inspirational. It helps because my father was a reader, and I’d hog his newspapers, consuming everything from Ted Malanda to Ainea Bolingo to Ernest Bazanye. I am one of those old school peeps whose reading experience can only be complete when I feel the weight of a physical book in my hands. Filled bookshelves are hallowed ground to me. Granted, this is not good for my carbon footprint, but I love the way the stories within those pages reach out, their literary tentacles snuffing out any signs of boredom. I am yet to buy a TV because I wouldn’t know what to do with it. Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t have space. But my hacienda is as adorned with books as one wears clothes. My cabinet buckles under the weight of my collection of tomes, and not just because it is made of cheap plywood. In school I’d place novels between my textbooks, my face would light up and I’d gobble them up in emphatic fashion: Njamba Nene & The Flying Bus, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Moses & The Penpal, Moses In Trouble, The Soldier’s Wife (which I can write verbatim) Truphena Student Nurse, Truphena City Nurse, you name it, I probably read it. I always despised motivational books. I still do. I love books where the author clearly took the time to form words, artfully putting pen to paper, shaping a story that cuts clean into my bones impelling me to shout: “That’s me! That’s me!” That’s me.
Call your dad more often than not. Soon, you will understand he was just fighting his own demons. Realising that your blessed parents are just in fact, regular flawed humans, is an essential part of growth. And before you know it, you have turned into him, and you have a teenage son who is challenging your authority.
Some things do not make sense. Crime does not pay. Yet lawyers are paid by criminals.
Cut down on the whole loaf of bread and soda thing. You are not in high school anymore. It is okay to eat ngwaci for breakfast. But it is not okay to walk around with a water bottle, sipping intermittent gulps like this is the hallowed Chalbi Desert. It makes you look ridiculous.
Going to work with a hangover is only cool in the movies. Out here it feels like an SDA choir has moved into your head and is having a choir practice session with percussion and cymbals.
It’s important to wear briefs. Anything can happen. And not just any briefs. Professional briefs. You need to outgrow the SpongeBob and Teletubbies thing you got going on.
Your beard will never grow. This is your curse. Some men are born with foreheads, Biko comes to mind. See what I did? Others are born with a high-pitched voice, all Kao men please feel called out. Yet others will not read this blog but will be the first to type ‘first to comment.’ You? You are an emoji. Your beard, like good hip-hop, is underground. But we are all God’s children.
You will lose some friends. Some will die. Others will ghost you. You will stop talking to several. You will stop being so tight. You will miss the moments that turned into memories. But no matter how hard you try it will never be the same again. That chapter is closed. You are not enemies, you are just not friends anymore. There are others you will spend an evening with and you will love every moment of it. Your spirit will dampen under the hangover of their departed aura, wishing to have one more day with them. But they live in Uzbekistan, and you will never see them again.
When your girlfriend asks you if you have plans, she is asking if you have plans for the TWO of you. If you say no and she says ‘fine’, then you are fine. Because we are rational adults.
If you believe the above statement, you are not fit to be in a relationship.
Sleep is for the dead. That is a myth. Please sleep. It will do wonders for your metabolism. And skin. So you can finally stop carrying water bottles in town.
Do not be seduced by the empty glamour and plastic wealth of the internet. Have you noticed that your bro’s success is now getting to his stomach? And, did you notice Carol’s new wig? Online profiles can border on fiction. It’s amazing how many things on the internet are fake. Like 70% of statistics are made up on the spot. That’s why I take time to research err stalk, 27 tabs deep. Avoid the pitfalls of quick judgment. The earth-shaking and resolute commitments we see in the hysteria of Zee World may make you dismantle what could be great for the illusion of what is unattainably perfect. Twitter, especially, is like reading all the world’s toilets online.
Your brother’s death will haunt you. You won’t know how to handle it. You still don’t. Not many people will know he died. But grief can be a rope. Sometimes it is a harness, and other times, a noose. A mystery for mystery’s sake. Your father will tell you that your brother is dead the same way they did when your grandmother died, and uncle…late. No one thinks you can handle death. So you have to learn to be strong and understand them.
Never be afraid to leave money on the table. Let me tell you a story. So, this one time Biko invites me for a client meeting. I am giddy with excitement. Because if he gets paid, then I get paid and we all get paid. Right? Right. The meeting starts at two. Of course, I get there at 2.03PM, well within the precincts of Nairobi time, because traffic. Biko, in a cheers-baba half-jacket, is not amused. Hat in hand, tail between my legs, I receive a thorough tongue lashing from him about the value of time (respecting mine and his), and a bulge forms in my throat. We make up after a few minutes. In the meeting, he throws me a spanner and I have to be creative. The client wants us to do a job which sounds good on paper but light on detail. Overeager, I draw up ideas and we promise to get back on my Maldives trip, I mean the project. But Biko is not impressed with the brief because it requires promoting a product that goes against his values. So he says we won’t do it. And therein lies the lesson. Never be afraid to leave money on the table. To survive in business, and in life, you need a moral code.
“My way or the highway” is for adolescents. Choose your path, but don’t demand that others share in your tastes.
It’s okay to be friends with your ex(es). For some reason, it is a cultural zeitgeist to hate on your exes. But, they were all winging it. I know Michelle wasn’t trying to drown me after adding the fourth jerry can of soup to our dinner. Neither was Sharon, when opening a clothing business with all my hoodies. Oh, how I miss those hoodies. Don’t be mean to Anna who texted you at 1.24AM on a Wednesday night telling you, ‘She’d like a break to assess her life’ a.k.a ‘date other men.’ Please don’t follow her new man on Instagram and like all their vacation pictures.
It’s O.K to not like HipHop.
People are always trying to shape how you view them. Perception is reality. There are no grownups. Some are just good at winging it. I see it when my father is with his boys and he’s like an emancipated teenager, laughing and screaming at run-of-the-mill 80s jokes while I roll my eyes so far back I can see the hole where my brain used to be.
Make your peace with God whatever you perceive Him to be. It’s already stressful enough to think that there is someone paid to watch you. To have another entity doing that and you can’t see Him/It/Her? You don’t have to decide whether this is true – depending on what you believe, or in most cases what you want to believe.
Never play Truth or Dare while intoxicated.
Never refuse any dish containing avocado.
Respect your work. Whether you are about to quit, or had a deeply revealing conversation with Satan over how much heat to turn on your boss – at one time this was all you wanted. Read your contract well.
The devil is not in the ocean but in the details. Your job is to make your boss look good.
On some days you’ll show up at work with puppy love disbelief over what you are paid to do. On other days, you’ll stare at the ants in the office kitchen as they scramble over breadcrumbs and beg to swap places.
Life is not about finding the best. It is about making the best out of what you’ve got. Don’t forget to make hay. Oh, and one more thing, never accept work where you are not learning.
The stuff in a bottle may allow you to unbottle your feelings, but you will not reach Nirvana trying to run away from your problems. Or yourself.
Men have to create their value. Women have to protect their value.
Our Capo, Don Biko will be back from next week. Resist the temptation to try and confess the meticulous upgrades we have made to the system. We are a gang. We are held together by a strict vow of silence. Omerta. Besides, and I mean no harm whatsoever, snitches…?
The Masterclass registration, sponsored by Safaricom, is still on. Two weeks left for registration. For more information, send an email to [email protected]
O.K., then. Time to start getting ready.