The year 2015, I mean 2014. This is a mistake I have been making subconsciously all year long. Even right now, though it may look contrived it was just what my mind wanted to think the year was. The fact and frequency of this mistake say almost everything I want to say about this year. I have had nothing but enjoyable years since I finished high school, every year seemed better than the last or at least comparable in the amount of fun and adventure it provided, in my sense of my having lived it. This year is more like the year I spent reading for KCSE than any other I have ever had. I didn’t like it. Not in terms of major tragedies which I have had blessedly few of this year but just because I felt deep down that I was more waiting to die than really living.
Here’s the thing, it’s my first year in formal employment. My first year doing something that I may be doing for the rest of my life, working. I don’t know how it is for other people but my first year at work has been just as expected while at the same time letting me know that I wasn’t prepared for the changes that it would bring to me. The first year of work is about clipping your wings, reining in your ambitions. Unlike education that tells you, at least indirectly, that the only thing limiting you is yourself work tells you that there are many other limiting factors. There is your employer, there is hierarchy, there are clients, there is the endless quest for money-the fact soon crystallizes that we all are hawkers selling the same services but trying to offer the best smile, the most convincing pitch, the most prestigious premises to our clients. There is little glory, it seems to me, in the practice of law. It can be fun but I imagine most of it is rote after a long enough time. It’s not going off to war, it’s not being in a gladiator’s ring with a crowd of citizens egging you on. Instead it’s that most ordinary of things- going to work.
I feel that I’ve come to rely a lot on short anecdotes that can sum up what has been being going on in my world. A short story that encapsulates the dramas and conflicts of life as I see it. I’m not sure I’ve always done that. I’m pretty sure I’ve never done it as much as I did this year. There seems to be a laziness creeping in or else an efficiency and economy. I’m not sure which. It’s not true that because something is quicker and easier that it’s the lazy way to do things. Perhaps it’s just more efficient after all the greatest of all storytellers, Jesus H. Christ, used parables all the time.
Here’s one about this year. It’s also unfortunately a true story that expands on the first line of this post. Its early afternoon on the 29th of December. I have already accepted that I can’t soar as high as I did last year on this date I was 3 days into an epic 9 day trip by bus to Addis Ababa. I’ve set my sights on a place much closer than that. So close I can practically taste it Arusha, Tanzania. It’s right across the border. A 6 hour trip across a border that’s as secure as they come. On this afternoon though I’m not sure I can go. Due to a series of unforeseen events my travelling peoples are differently engaged. I haven’t yet been able to convince a single person to take this trip with me and I don’t want to travel alone. I’m sure that it would be good. That this trip would like all trips teach me something about myself and my capacity for: survival, awe, wonder. It would be lonely as heaven though. That’s not what New Year’s is or should be. This is a pagan celebration of friendship- of its rejuvenation, of its capacity for giving yet another chance without batting an eyelid at your antics. It should not be spent alone in a strange town if you can help it.
This means that I may have to stay put in this country. This is a prospect that allows me friends but at the same time heavily depresses me. I want more than anything to travel. To breathe different air. To cross a mythical border and suddenly be in a place with a different culture than the one I have spent the whole year steeped in. I want to see how other people live, how they celebrate New Year’s. I’m not tired of Kenyans, not at all but I am tired of who I am around them. From him I need a break. I want to be fresh faced and psyched to pick up chicks because I know that there is no chance that that girl I like will show up and save me the trouble of establishing a new connection. I want for New Year’s something I don’t know. A thing I can’t predict. I want what I want from every year- a sense of adventure, a sense of falling into the unknown. I want to go to a strange place I’ve never been before. Meet people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Do things that I could only do once I left the container that is Kenya.
To close off all this is this particular bullshit- we haven’t received our salary yet. A friend of mine told me to take back my life when I bitched about having to work on 24th December. I told him that no one had ever mentioned to me the addictive qualities of a salary. No one had told me that the want that quickly morphs into a need for a shot of this every month can get you more hooked than heroin. The things you do for this salary destroy your life just as much as if not more than any other drug. You are always tired, your interpersonal relationships suffer, the things you used to find time for because you rightly thought them important recede into the background. No time for friends or family, no time for trips or books, no time for sleeping or partying. Everything in your life is subordinate to this salary. When you don’t get your dose on time the withdrawal symptoms are there-irritability, depression, an inability to leave the house, a constant scratching a craving, a feeling that you can’t really live, that you are not really alive. These all appear. I expected to be paid before Christmas because that’s the way it has always been done I was told however we were not. As of the last time I checked I hadn’t been paid yet. I was foolish with my money, I threw it away because it was December and more was coming. More has not come and the plain truth is I cannot afford to go to Arusha. I cannot afford a new year’s plan in Nairobi. I cannot afford a normal Friday night plan.
That in short has been my year. Never having a choice before me that is fully satisfactory. A year of compromises which is growing up I guess, having to pick and choose and make the best of the limits life puts in front of us. Then there is the fact that so much of my time has been sacrificed to work and in return I can never seem to afford the things I want to do. A huge part of it is my carelessness. A huge part of it is the nature of the rat race that represents modern life. Almost everybody lives in a perpetual cloud of dissatisfaction and is kept sedated by regular shots of their drug of necessity.
An even shorter parable about that year? Fuck 2014!!