Club 27

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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156 Comments
  1. I read it all wirh a smile on my face! I can’t remember the last time I was 27, but it’s all totally relatable at …. never mind!

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  2. Eddy, thanks for sharing your lessons. I see what you did with Biko’s forehead.. that had me cracking.

    ”Oh, and one more thing, never accept work where you are not learning.” I won’t forget this.

    Biko must be so proud!!!!!!

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  3. Ah! You write well Eddie. Is Eddie your full first name?

    20’s are the 2020 of adult years – I guess. There is so much learning, unlearning, and just things that make it beautifully chaotic. I am almost done with the 2nd floor but I feel like I have had enough of it and its lessons already while still clinging to its good tidings.

    I could barely add to these lessons you have but I will just squeeze in a cliche one; love God and love people. Love, while it being deceitful and illusionary at times, does run the world.

    I hope we will keeping reading more from you? Yes?

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    1. I have not been on this platform for a while. Months? A year? Two? Who knows. But there’s something about coming back and stumbling upon your comment after a few scrolls Peter Wesh that has made me feel some type of reassurance. It’s like going back to a city you visited a long time ago and serendipitously walking into a familiar landmark. You breath out air you were not aware you were holding in. Relief floods your lungs and you laugh joyously. You have found your bearing. You can navigate with a little ease now.

      God knows that this comment is completely out of character. It may be my first and last.

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    2. I’ve not been here for a while either. But seeing your comment still gives an exciting feeling. Thank you for been a familiar handle Wesh.

      This is a beautiful read Eddie. Can’t wait to be officially back!

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  4. This is amazing…. Every bit makes insane sense. I should definitely call my dad more, he doesn’t talk much but i will try.
    Keep at it.
    You didn’t mention nothing about children, at 27 you should have….seriously.

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  5. I thought I liked you Eddie Ashioya, until you said we can’t walk around town with water bottles. Excuse me. Why? You should see me with mine that is almost taller than me.( I’m a really short girl) But most times it’s in my bag. So I’m okay right? No? Okay.

    When Don Biko said he was going to be away, I was a little sad. (Okay, I was very sad, I love Biko. Wacha nisidanganye). However, I really enjoyed having you here. You are blessed and lucky to have Biko as your mentor.
    As a 24-year-old trying to figure out life after campus, a lot of what you said resonated with me(except the water bottle part). The part on losing friends especially. Sigh.
    Thank you for this brilliant piece.

    PS: Where can we read more of your work?

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  6. Eddy, you have wisdom beyond your years!
    You have definitely washed your hands, you are free to dine with the elders!
    Since I am no longer on the 2nd floor, this was nostalgic. Many times, I wish I was younger…..I tell myself that if I still were, I would do much more! If only science fiction was true and time machines really existed, I would try one and take a trip down “Past Lane”. If it were, in those circumstances, possible to carry back the experiences and life lessons one has picked up along the way, I suspect they might help one navigate youth more assured!
    I am in agreement on most of your observations.
    You couldn’t be more right, the last person you want to offend is your mother! But on that calling your dad more often, let me sleep on it!
    Thankfully, I don’t support Arsenal….. I could go on and on!
    Anyways, good stuff. Good read!
    PS: You really don’t have to vacate, even if the big man returns, do you? Hasn’t he a seat in the room for you? And no, I won’t snitch on you! I cross my heart and hope to die…..

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  7. A lovely piece ..worth life lessons Eddy .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.

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  8. Hey, 20 somethings, give yourself grace, there is no deadline for success, Toni Morrison wrote her first novel at 39 Years.

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  9. Eddie Ashioya! You have done well by “writers laws”. You guy my guy! You and your rosy fading youth, maziwa mala impropriety and am assuming hallowed living room with no tv‍♀️. You might not particularly be a jehova witness favorite given your sentiments, but I agree with you on Twitter, avocados and the devils position. Tell Don Biko to read John 14: 16, its how we feel about you; it’s the Zeitgeist when he is away. Ask him to take another sabbatical, it’s on us

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  10. It is okay not to be okay.
    Finally after the system makeover,we will not have the ‘baba while you were away?’
    Come on Eddie atleast allow the last borns of the gang to speak .

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  11. Eddy you write EXTREMELY well. EXTREMELY.
    That just goes to show I don’t idolize Biko Zulu for nothing. That man…
    And you are now joining my list of favorites.

    Thank you for keeping us company for two weeks. It was a scream having you here and I cant wait to have you back.

    And as a 28 turning 29 year old, this is relatable.

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    1. Also, Eddy, on reading your being late, I just remembered that this is not the fist time you’ve been late and Biko wasn’t amused. you remember the day you took him his favorite drink to his house, and you were to arrive at eleven but you came in later? Then i thought to myself, ni kama Eddy amezoea..

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  12. If you believe the above statement, you are not fit to be in a relationship.

    Men have to create their value. Women have to protect their value.

    Oh, and one more thing, never read articles where you are not learning.

    Nî hayo tu…

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  13. Another one Eddie with an I!!
    I felt like you were speaking to me, a lot of what you have mentioned is exactly my struggle for this ‘second floor category’ , I certainly look forward to getting past it all…
    Muzzle tov Eddie!! I hope to read more from you even as the Capo of the ship comes back.

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  14. Whoa, I have laughed and laughed, every paragraph has a punchline and a lesson, Eddie you made my day!! Love & Light❤️

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  15. Started off thinking Eddy is a few years older than my son and may not know [email protected]#t about nothing. Thought i would just rush through but had to do a double take and start all over. Slowly. Respectfully. You have indeed made your bones Eddy. Molto bene

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  16. You’ve definitely touched a lot about my life and it’s all so accurate. The way you play with words is just so fantastic & funny

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  17. “Because snitches, get stiches!”
    Brick by brick, we build a wall that no one can fall.God bless you for blessing our Tuesdays.

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  18. You’ve learnt from the best Eddy. Great piece, with great lessons that i mostly agree with. Its hard to believe you are 24, or is it 27? My bad.
    I loved the ”respect your work” bit most since it resonates with me. All the best and keep writing.

  19. ‘Your job is to make your boss look good’ to get this in your 20’s makes you a very wise person .Many in their 20’s think its all about them mpaka kazini.Nice read

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  20. I have read Desiderata before, you have brought it out more clearly. Vile vitu iko kwa ground. Being at prime 20’s is a 2020 in itself.

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  21. Eddy, you write beautifully. Always here for lessons and laughter. And this word, ‘oscillate’, you love it, don’t you? Mine is a not so well curved word: nevertheless. But then, there’s always space for the ugly ones too. As for adulting, it is a scam. But we move regardless. Here’s to getting a good grip of the sails as we ride our ships in these sometimes not so still waters called life.

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  22. Listen….
    Take the trip.
    Leave the situation.
    Shoot the shot.
    Move.
    Apply.
    Love.
    Enjoy.
    Do all the things you think you can’t because these years fly by so fast!!

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  23. Eddie there is only one adjective to describe your words….Beautiful! Having left Club 27 recently, I find this so relatable.
    You are right on the guacamole..sorry…avocado and yes…Make sure your mom knows you love her. Mothers are like a rare gem that you only come across once, but they stay with you for a life time and cannot be replaced if they ever get lost.

  24. Thank you Eddie… I still love your words a little more each time. You are an older soul and empath than I was in my 20s and that’s a lot. Proud of you and you know it.

  25. Get stitches!!! Haha

    I loved this so much. Helps that my favorite boy was turning 27 on the 27th and this made for a wonderful, serendipitous literally gift.

    I am so sad that this hiatus is over. Pimp yourself out Eddy, where might we find you and your sentences in the meantime?

  26. Also, honest truth is this is the Kind of crushcourse young men need when leaving campus and getting into the whole adulting thing. The truth in it is undeniable, the writing, impecble and delivering with an unmatch gumption. I look forward to reading more of your work.

  27. “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 while the sun shines.” I couldn’t agree more.

    You just scripted the 20s bible. Nice read!

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  28. This was definitely meant for me to read , great insight , 27 has been a whole lifetime this year.
    looking forward to many more articles .

  29. Nothing ever prepares you for the 20’s gang. I’ve felt like I’m hanging on a feeble twig, then an almost dead end but then again there’s lots of learning and unlearning.
    I’m still friends with my ex(s) and its absolutely normal.
    Thanks Eddie..

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  30. I am actually on the verge of dusting and packing my 20’s into the rucksack of time on my back, but these are lessons that I shall carry with me. But I love ugali and maziwa mala. And I don’t carry water bottles. Like a monk, i tend to only eat and drink at home.

  31. We thought this could never happen for our “mid-twenties in 2020” generation. But look at God, we have another Biko!
    I’m sleeping with my boots in tonight.

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  32. Better late than never..I don’t have uji today but I’ll share my bottle of wine..*smile emoji, wine glasses emoji..*
    I’m reading through this and nodding at the nuggets of wisdom I find there-in. It may be a couple of centuries since I was 27, but I’m not one to shun knowledge, whithersoever the source.

    “Never be afraid to leave money on the table. To survive in business, and in life, you need a moral code.” I need to bookmark this and remind myself about it ever so often. *smile emoji.*

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  33. God, you’re delightful!
    Such quick wit, such sarcasm! Absolutely hilarious. And you tell stories with the subtle precision of a well-read person. Kudos!

  34. This was beautifully written, felt my heart swell with just joy and some unexplained happiness as I read. Oh and the out of nowhere humor and laughs you put there, just amazing and of course how relatable you made everything here very commendable, I should definitely come back with a notebook. I sure look forward to reading more of your craft. This was amazing kudos.

  35. I do read Biko with an Oxford dictionary open on my lap. With Eddy, I need it additionally with a Merriam Webster. Keep it up, this was very relatable in a comforting way knowing most of us are going through these experiences.

  36. Totally dig the way you have written this piece not that the others are not good, I just dig this one more.

    I know am weeks late but things/stuff find you at the right time .

    Cheers Ashioya

  37. Being a Nairobi woman I really rolled my eyes at you when you said dont send her fare send her bible quotes…. please edit it to : Send her fare na pesa ya kukula so she doesn’t eat fare and not show up
    This post yaani umetuonea to us Nairobi women ..like what did our water bottles did to you? We are just trying to hydrate and mind our business you know….

    I loved loved this, I related to it on so many levels yaani….

  38. Joined club 27 this week! This is a weird place for a young man, father n entrepreneur.. I can’t wait for life to make sense again..