I have been privileged for as long as I have been breathing. I have never known real scarcity, you know, real struggle. My parents had a taste of it though, before everything began working out for them. My dad is also a big believer in humble beginnings, so he made me go to the same primary school he did, his one of few attempts at trying to make me less spoilt. I remember this one time our English Teacher made us write a ‘The Day I‘ll Never Forget’ composition. But the story had to be true. Most of my classmates wrote about the day they visited their relatives in Nairobi, or at the Coast. A few wrote sob stories, and we had to console them as a class. I, on the other hand, wrote about that one time my Father took us to Paris, France. No one really believed me, not even the teacher herself. She punished me for making things up. To her, there’s no way a Kenyan man can take his family to hang out in France. That just doesn’t happen, and to some extent, she was right. Until my Dad came over during a school function and I made him go tell her that we indeed visited the City of Love. She was embarrassed, mortified beyond words. Mostly because she also went to that primary school during her time and she, of all people, was one of my Dad’s classmates. Talk about coincidences. But she never told the class that my composition wasn’t a fabricated lie, her bruised ego wouldn’t let her.
The only downside I despised when it came to having a lot of something other people didn’t was the plastic relationships that came with it. It’s almost impossible to know whether the people in your life are there for you as a person or for what they could hypothetically get from you. My generosity was the lamp and they were the moths. After I cleared high school, my Dad bought this katwo bedroom close to the College I wanted to go to. It was his gift to me for not being a disgrace to the family, the gift that marked my transition from being a boy to a full-blown man.
My first semester at school turned my house into a Frat house of some sort. My friends and their friends spent more time in my house than I did. And I didn’t mind it, not at first. The energy these guys had was intoxicating, and the glamour some of those girls had was hypnotising. For a boy that grew up reserved, this kind of chaos was addictive. There’d be at least 5 of us at my place at any point in time. Drinking and smoking anything that would get us high, for days on end. We did stupid things that could’ve gotten us killed. We literally attended more events than classes, and I drove intoxicated more times than anyone could count, but somehow, nothing really went off the rails. We lived a façade, a beautiful lie that reinforced our blissful ignorance. Until this one day when I nearly killed a mama mboga. I drove into her kibanda, smashing everything that could be smashed. I think she had gone to get a customer their change or something, otherwise, I’d probably be someone’s wife in Kamiti right now if she had been chilling in her kibanda.
That incident alone shocked the immaturity out of me. It felt as if the Universe and my ancestors had colluded just to give me a second chance. My friends probably forgot about it immediately after. But they began complaining that I was changing, becoming someone they didn’t know. To be honest, I was just freaking out over the fact that I could’ve murdered someone’s mother. I eventually became the fake friend that doesn’t have 5k urgently. I began avoiding the people I thought were my friends, not because I was better than them, but because I had lost myself in the process of trying to be one of them. I was just a shy boy with comfortable, generous parents. Everything else was an illusion. My lack of personality and self-worth had pushed me to seek validation from anyone willing to look my way. But even then, I still felt hollow and alone. Deep down, I kept ruminating on the idea that everyone that was being nice to me was only being nice because they’d get something in return.
Looking back, I think my paranoia stemmed from the fact that everything I had in my life was literally handed to me. I never had to lift a finger for all the opulence and luxury I enjoyed. It felt as if I had cheated in life, enjoying things I couldn’t prove I deserved. I wanted to be proud of something I had earned, something no one could take from me even if they wanted to. But I had no idea what to do or where to start, so I went back to my dad and convinced him to take me to a flight training college, thinking that probably getting lost in the clouds once in a while would distract me from my rich people’s problems.
Lucky me it worked. I’m no longer the paranoid, validation-seeking boy I once was. I love my life now, and the few people in it. I’m also a commercial pilot. That English teacher of mine still crosses my mind every time I find myself in France. I took my wife and my little son to Paris on his 4th birthday, just in case his English Teacher wants him to write about his personal escapades. I met his mother at the airline I work at. She’s the one that swept me off my feet. All I did was smile her way and before I knew it, she was walking down the aisle towards me. Being a father is also the single, most rewarding feeling I’ve ever had. Probably because you can’t just throw money at an infant and expect them to take care of themselves. You have to be invested, wholly. Little kids honestly feel like breaths of fresh air, they come into your life and before you know it, you’re a whole new person.
I also understand that not everyone can run to their parents for help like I did every time there’s a crisis in their life. But I think that’s the whole point. I was miserable because I felt like I did nothing for myself. It felt as if someone else was in charge of my life and I was the passenger. Going to that flight training school gave me the backbone I needed to shoulder my own buggage. And in as much as my tuition fee was catered for, I had to roll up my sleeves and get things done. I had to take responsibility and put myself in spaces that would force me to work on myself. And isn’t that part of what we seek as a species? So maybe the next time you feel like a pile of crap, try to diagnose yourself. Try and see what it is that you can do for yourself that no one else can. Trust me, I would know.
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