Merry Christmas. I sincerely hope something beautiful was born in your life alongside Jesus. I am typing from my phone, lying on my bed, immensely grateful that I am here. 2015 is a year I am going to remember as an oxymoron:It was bitter and yet from the bitterness, came such growth. It’s the year I also turned 28,a very monumental age for a woman. The lessons in 2015 are things I would be proud to tell another young woman someday.
1.Don’t be too careful that you miss out in life…it’s okay not to get it right all the time
When you’ve lived a life such as mine, you learn not to take anything for granted. When an opportunity is given to you, no matter how little, you embrace it. You are careful not to ruin friendships and break trusts. You go out of your way to make the most out of the generosity accorded to you. Sometimes,your obedience to doing what is right is the fear to disappoint those who have believed in you when you had no potential. Sometimes it’s because you know that,unlike other young people, you have no mother or father who will come cleaning after you.
I plan everything. From how long a conversation in a date will be to what topics you and I will talk about. I dig about my interviewees that sometimes I even know what they are allergic to by the time I get there. I always ask editors in the newsroom, “Do you have any special instructions for stories you edit just before I submit mine?”I love order and being in control of every aspect of my life.
Here is the problem with this type of life. I have become too cautious, too careful and guarded that you miss out on friendships that would have been very beneficial for me because I was busy analysing whether the person has that rare trait of a serial killer. I take years planning, analysing and consulting for something as little as deciding what fabric I should buy for sewing my next line of dresses. I have become afraid of challenging myself because I don’t want to make a mistake. So I don’t learn anything beyond my ambit. I don’t err yet mistakes refine people, strengthens their resolve in life. So here’s to 2016 where we will practise caution but also allow ourselves to make mistakes and learn from them.
2. Wear designer names… First impressions do matter
Nobody knows the health of an economy betterthan a young graduate from a modest background like me. There’s never money to buy food, let alone proper clothing. So you become reliant on sampled second hand shoes, bags and hairstyles. Believe it or not there are suits that may cost as little as Sh500 (about 5USD). There’s nothing wrong with that. Except, as my mentor Zipporah Musau would say, people can smell cheap from a far. Your potential employer, investor or even spouse will smell needy from miles. So let’s learn not to fill our wardrobes with 60 dresses that you can’t even wear to statehouse to meet the president. Gather all those little monies that you use on second hand clothes and get just one good expensive bag, shoe or suit that will never give anyone a chance to mistake you for a pedestrian 🚶 professional.
3. My love life affects my career… Am not dating /marrying a bum
I met Janet Wainaina from UkenTv. In the conversation Janet dropped me a line about coupling that has always been dropped by my godmother Dorothy.”Verah you’re aggressive, honest and driven. If you marry a man who will not talk about health or economics with this much depth, you’ll be frustrated.” That hit me hard because I have only dated one man my whole life (That’s our little secret readers) and when the relationship ended I was quite disappointed at myself for not being able to concentrate on my work.
Studies have shown a correlation between between successful women and the men they marry. So let’s take a step back from the usual parameters with which we judge a partner in Kenya (money, class, looks and that first physical reaction when you see them) and look at other features. Dependability. Honesty. Supportive. Integrity. So, I will take my time because investing in a man is as serious a decision as my graduate studies.
4. Say “No” to people, family and friends sometimes…take care of yourself
In Kenya, and in my Luo community,young men and women are brought up to be altruistic. Sadly, this noble principle that was meant to save widowsand orphans from starvation is abused. You find yourself carrying emotional and the financial burdens that drain you yet they are not even yours to carry in the first place.
I work very hard,dear readers, but this year I found myself in debt and borrowing money left, right and centre to take care of something as little as my hair because I used my money taking care of another grown human being’s responsibilities. I found myself too tired emotionally and taking prescription pills for depression because I was playing Jesus.
Let’s say this together. “In 2016, I am learning to take care of myself. I am investing in myself emotionally.” We live in a very selfish world where generosity in people is treated as a foolishness that can be exploited. One day I woke up in November and realised 87 per cent of my income was either paying fees for someone with able bodied parents and siblings who could work or bailing out an adult who bought prada instead of paying his rent. It is noble to be philanthropic, but it’s irresponsible to do that and not take care of your own responsibilities.
Take time to pray,for yourself. Take time to eat properly, for you. Say “no” when you can’t do it. Invest in your hobbies, education and intellect because at 40,those very people you’re helping will ask you “you were working all this time, where did you take your money?”
5. Advertise yourself… Your jobs are taken by talentless bimbos as you play modest
You see there’s a modesty that I was brought up with that sometimes comes out as pride and self assurance but it’s sometimes stupid. There are this Swahili saying “kizuri chajiuza, kibaya chajitembeza” which can be losely translated to mean the good things sell and the bad things make the most noise about themselves. I want to ignore this saying a little bit.
Kenyan women who worked hard to get where they are, intellectually atleast, are so shy to come out there and say “Hey I am soooo good at what I do”. They are waiting to be discovered. In the mean time, the academic dwarves and lazy bimbos aggressively shove themselves on our faces through the mainstream media, blogs and social media that we give them the jobs that you’re playing modest in claiming. I have always dressed so casually because I trust my IQ and believe it will be picked over a short dress or a fake accent. Well, I have learnt that is stupid pride. For my IQ to be noticed, I need a meeting first or the job which I won’t get because the others whose IQs couldn’t let them put up a proposal, wore the power suits, put together whatever little they have achieved and got the interview with the CEO.
Welcome 2016. This year we’re telling the world, loudly and boldly, that we can rock the miniskirt but we can also contribute to the discussion about health as though we worked for World Health Organisation. We’ll analyse music because we can actually read and write music. We will speak against ills that have been normalised in Kenya from an academic angle other quoting platitudes like emotional fools. We will do that because we can.
Tell me, what has 2015 taught you? Talk to me firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com