“I’m making this for my son in primary school. I sell one bag for two thousand shillings and he has arrears of six thousand, so that is three bags. No he is not in a private school; he is in a public school. Their teachers insisted on having private tuition even after the government banned them, and since I did not want him to drag behind in class, I let him go. Yes, I also make bracelets. But they use a different string other than this one, so I’ll make it for you when I go back home. You cannot come for it tomorrow because I may not be there.
Tomorrow I’ll be taking my ten year old to a physically disabled school in Machakos. He has epilepsy too besides being mentally challenged. In the local school they do not know how to handle him so he always comes home with so many scars. Last week I had to take him to hospital because there was a deep gush on his head. No, there is no one else to help me with them.
My first born daughter is married to a mkokoteni guy who delivers water to households. In some cases he has to carry thirty 20l Jerry cans to the 10th floor of storey houses. So when he comes to the house in the evening, he is always tired and in bad moods. He beats my daughter. There is a day he beat her up so badly that he injured her breasts. I went and confronted him and called his family from Tanzania. No, I did not take him to the police station because my daughter still wanted to stay with him.
She does not work maybe casual labor once in a while. I wanted her to finish her form four education. But she got pregnant while in form four and the principal refused to register her for the exams. So she gave birth while at home, but I noticed that she still used to visit the father of her baby. So I stayed with her baby while she went to stay with him. But they broke up. And that man is very successful right now. He just bought a car. Anyway as for her current husband, I told him to stop beating my daughter. When he comes from work, he should realise that she is tired too and help around instead of being a burden.”
I met this woman in the course of my work and I couldn’t get her story out of my head. I would love to say life is unfair but I realise that that is not entirely true. I think life once in a while throws an unexpected twist of events to everyone. And while most people will say how you handle it will determine how you end up, I digress. For some I think they are just lucky. For some like this woman, they are not so lucky on so many fronts. And yet she did not complain or sound bitter. She seemed to take it as though it’s okay, it’s the plate of food life has handed her, she will eat it in peace.
And I’m here worrying about the future, what I’ll be and who I’ll be. I wish I knew what paths I’ll take or how many kids I’ll have. Will I get married in the first place? What will be my first car? Will I ever get to buy my dream car or will it be replaced by a better one? Will I travel as much as I want to? Will my best friend achieve her dreams? Or will life catch up with her that she forgets to want more out of life? Will my mother live to see her grand kids? Will cancer come for her? Will I ever live to see the day my father asks for forgiveness? What course will my sister choose in the next two years or so? And is it wise to advice her to follow my path, when I do not know where it leads to?
Am I happy of the twenty one year old I have become? Happy is a bad word to use. Am I content with what I am? Content is now worse, it makes me think of comfort zones and how they are bad zones to be in according to motivational speakers. So what am I? When I was ten years old, I remember spending a great deal of time wondering what grownups think about. And now that I am one, I’m not any wiser. I still have no idea what grownups think about.
Maybe that is what life is all about. Asking questions that you will never find answers. Meeting people whose stories you can not relate to but they seem to have an answer to a question you have not yet formulated. Maybe life is writing sentences that you do not even know if they make sense. All those are maybes. What I am sure of is that the curve balls life throws at you is what finally defines what life is for you.
Yesterday someone who I thought understands me told me they do not understand me. Had it been some months ago, I would have delved deeper into the subject with them to find out why on earth they came to that conclusion. But I just smiled for I realized that they have finally completely understood me by coming to that conclusion. For neither do I understand myself. So it only makes sense that the only way to know me is by accepting that you can never fully know me.
There is meme that has been going around that goes like “I always feel happy, you know why? Because I don’t expect anything from anyone. Expectations always hurt!” Most people I have interacted with resonate with it. They even agree that it is the way to be happy. I don’t. I think if I removed expectations from my life I would be left with nothing, not even happiness. I expect a lot from people, circumstances, from life, from myself. How I view things and people is based on the expectations I have of them.
I love hope. Sometimes it is the only thing that keeps me going when tomorrow seems so blurred. Hope is the virtuous desire for future good while expectation is the prospect of anything good to come according to the oxford dictionary. These two words go hand in hand. So how do people live without hope? How do you not have expectations from people? When will you know that you need to cut off some friends from your life if you were expecting nothing from them in the first place?
However, I understand them. Many people will do anything to avoid being hurt. It’s human nature to want good things and keep off from the bad things in life. But I have come to learn to immerse myself fully to pain, hurt, confusion and anything else unlovely that life throws at me. The other day I was in Karura forest and the silence and tranquility of the place was soothing my soul into peace. I realized that the noise I was so used to was what made that silence so heavenly. Probability is that, was I living in a Karura like place, I would never even notice the silence. If the bad moments are not there, then you will never notice the good. And since we notice both, sadness and happiness, then it’s easier to embrace them as a normal part of life than over glorify good times and live our lives running away from the supposed bad times.
I can’t still get over the question, would the ten year girl that I was be proud of the woman I have become today? That woman whose story I shared above, what do you think as a ten year old she dreamed of? A happy ending maybe? A prince charming to throw her off her feet till old age? How many kids did she want? Do the dreams that powered her existence then, matter to her now? Does she still look at the stars and marvel at their beauty? Does she notice the beautiful sunset or sunrise? Or does she only exist? What tickles her ribs nowadays? What does meeting people like me so full of dreams, ideas and whatnots remind her of? Herself maybe? Her daughter? Or her grandchildren?
My biggest fear, which you might have figured out by, now, is disappointing myself. I expect a lot from myself on all fronts of life. Whether life throws its worst at me, the basic mercy will still remain. I want to smile on my death bed knowing that I took all I could from life. I may not be the best daughter, friend, colleague or mother but I want to be the best version of me I can ever be. I want to discover all things that I love and give them to myself, I want to satisfy all curiosities that I have, and I want to be content with always wanting more. I want to pass my own test of life. I want to be the best person I know of.
And finally I want to be a fifty something year old woman, telling my story to some twenty one year old girl. And I want that story to stick with her. I want that story to chase her in her dreams till she shares it whichever way she knows how. I want her to find questions for the answers I have just handed to her. I want her to create a story of her own that when she is a fifty something year old woman she will hand over down to another twenty one year old. Because maybe that is what is what life is all about. Stories.