This week the results came out. I like this phrase because of the ambiguity involved in it. I like the way it can mean so many different things to whoever is reading it depending on what they are going through in life. In March we would all have understood it to mean the presidential results, after high school the KCSE results, if (like a very long sentence) there was a missing period; the pregnancy results. What it means though is the results for last year’s Kenya school of law students. It’s been almost 7 months since they did their papers. There were about 1,000 people in that year, they sat 9 papers each which means it took 7 months to mark, grade and confirm 9,000 papers. This when the teachers who have to go on strike to demand the fulfilment of an agreement they struck in 1997 mark millions of papers in one month. But if you are looking for quantitative results a bunch of lawyers is never the people you ask.
On Wednesday the school was a scene of joy, trepidation and sorrow. Trepidation because so many people did not get all the results yet, they sat there and were told to apply for the missing ones. They were missing for all the reasons anyone in a public university could tell you; incomplete CAT marks, missing exam scripts, administrative irregularities, negligence, plain bad luck. To them I wish I good luck, to those who passed congratulations-that is the shit, to those who have some resits Godspeed.
It made me think though. You see many of the people I met used to be my classmates, we finished university together and graduated together and were admitted to the Kenya school of law together and I went off and did some travelling and deferred my studies for a year. A decision I cannot bring myself to fully regret because of the experiences I had and all that I learned about myself and the world and what I need in order to be happy in it. There was though a lingering feeling of being left behind. These classmates of mine had moved on to the next phase of their lives, they were all working in law firms or NGOs or other legalistic sort of places. Learning practical things about the practice of law and earning some money, establishing independence and finding their place in the world.
It’ strange I’ve always been left behind, when all my high school classmates went to university the year after we were done I took 2. I went to university and knew almost no one there. They all had previously existing social relationships, most people seemed to know each other from this place or that other one and I wandered alone into that. Pay no mind, four years is a long enough time to form bonds and get to know everyone, I didn’t feel left behind at all because none of my high school classmates pursued law. Then it happened again I allowed people to go forward and begin this new serious stage of their lives while I seem stuck in perpetual student hood.
It’s true I had last year and I wouldn’t trade it in for anything but conflicting emotions are a birth right of humanity. The ability to feel the present much more than we can treasure the past or fathom the future is one of the things that allows us to live and I’m interested in living. A lot of the times when I think back to Norway I’m not sure if it was real, I mean it had to have been real, I was there and I met all these people and had all these adventures. But when try to remember the cold, I can bring to mind that it felt like something was assaulting my skin as if a million, million tiny needles were worrying away at my pores. I can almost remember the day I walked around in my boots for hours until my toes felt like there were razorblades secreted in my socks. I can kind of remember Valentine’s Day last year, how I had got it in my mind that I wanted to go to a performance of the vagina monologues and that I did and that I enjoyed it. Then I remember how far away the venue was from where I lived and how hard it was to find it. I remember walking back afterwards, it was maybe 9 at night and the sun had been down for about 5 hours. There was darkness and cold and quiet all around me. There was snow at my feet up to my ankles but I can’t remember how it felt to walk in snow, I remember though that they used to put a mixture of salt and something else on the road so that the car tyres had some grip. But there were no tyres and no sound and no other people. I walked through this blue and black and white landscape and my mind mulled over all the girls that I had regretted losing and all the things that I wanted to tell them. But they were all so far away and at that time they weren’t exactly real, it was neurons in my mind firing back and forth and creating them anew like I was some sort of god and now this memory feels that way. I have to struggle to bring it to mind, I have to stop and furrow my brow and concentrate before I write because it was almost lost. It’s a struggle to make it real and I’m not sure if it is or it’s just something I dreamed up.
This is my problem with memory. It feels so much like a dream. An amazingly vivid dream. Especially memories of travel and places that I don’t see so much. Was I actually there? did my feet walk those paths? Because right now here is where I am. And just like a dream the further away I am from it the harder it gets to conjure it up. Once conjured the harder it is to convince myself that this happened, I feel sometimes as if I am losing my grip on these memories and once they are gone it’s just like a dream I can’t remember, something that never happened.
Fortunately it’s not all like that. There are memories that are so present. Going skiing and losing control and falling down feels like something that’s happening now. I can remember slipping and I can remember hitting the ice and leaving blood there. I can even remember the old man who helped my friend learn for no other reason than to be polite. I can remember the old lady who asked where I lived afterwards and helped me pack my pair of skis into her car and dropped me home even though it was miles out of her way. Maybe it’s easier to remember warmth than cold. I remember without a doubt how shitty a tourist I was of European cities, sleeping all day, drinking all night. These memories are there and they can be accessed no problem.
Just writing about this makes me feel better already. On Wednesday after I said goodbye to my old friends as they went off in search of celebration or a balm for their woes I felt so disconnected from them. I felt some sadness, there was all this life they had gone through without me, they had been stressed and been happy and lived for a year apart. What they felt now was something I could try to empathise with, I could use it as an impetus to work harder over the coming months but I couldn’t be in it. Not the way I would have been if we had last year together. I felt sad because the bonds I have with them are not as strong as they used to be, not as strong as they would have been. Where they are now I am not and for a while there I felt left behind.
It’s strange this life, there is always a road not taken. And because we are cursed with the power to imagine, a gift that flows both from our memory and our ability to dream we can always feel a twinge of loss. There is always a feeling, a fleeting whisper of what may have been. Results came out this week and it made me think of what may have been. It’s not something I would willingly trade and thankfully life doesn’t give us the option of making those decisions. But results came out this week and for a while there it made me think.