I have wanted just to start writing this line for dog years, but I couldn’t get myself to. So, perceiving that there could be an angel who has held the demon tormenting my writing life with a sword to its neck, I take this window of grace to see what I can do with the red ink dripping from the pen of my soul. I am not even sure what I will write next after this word. Yes, this one. This last word you just read. I am just winging it. Not thinking about it. Just letting it go and flow like Jill Biden’s dress in the middle of the Kenyan wind. I probably shouldn’t have written that, but what’s that compared to the tens of YouTube wannabes who reposted the embarrassment of the woman who drives crazy, the most powerful man in the free world? I also probably shouldn’t have said it like that. If you don’t hear from me again, just know I was extradited to the US.
It’s been a while. A long while, and it feels so new, like a man who has reincarnated into a woman’s body. Still a human being, but there’s a lot of getting used to going on. I am anxious as I write this because every additional word in this blog is a nudge toward fighting the fear of the unknown. So many self-doubts about how much I can write before I run out of juice again. How many stories will I write before I feel like I’ve run out of them, and just how many blogs will I write before I feel like there is no benefit to them?
You see, I am a born writer; at least, that’s what I am still trying to believe. I am sure you understand because maybe you know what you’re good at. That one thing you know you will be remarkable in. That one thing people know you for. You could say you’re a natural at it. But the problem comes when it reaches a point where it stops becoming so natural to you. Something is standing in its way, I want to say cock blocking, but I won’t. It’s something unseen and intangible, like an ailment from the inside that doesn’t kill you but doesn’t spare you enough to have as much zeal and energy to do the things you used to.
The last blog I wrote was in 2020, if I remember well. Before a mighty fall, a lot of stumbling is on the way. My stumbling happened when I started to lose consistency. Skip writing for a week, then two, and you know you’re supposed to, but you can’t find what to write for some reason. Nothing was fascinating to me anymore. I felt like my world had become a cocoon, limiting me from new stories and experiences. The privilege to travel and engage in different social settings has a unique way of reliving creativity, so don’t underestimate it. And now that I think of it, I was exiting uni, which was the Rona year. Everyone’s life was bleeding internally while we stretched the corners of our lips in the name of smiles.
I felt like I had lost my relevance as a writer. I felt like I deserved more and needed more than my level at the time. I had been writing for, what, four years then? Nearly achieved a 200 blog milestone but still felt like I was getting less credit for that amount of experience. Yea, I know; you will probably say that people had done the same thing for a long time before they broke the glass ceiling. Sigh. You’re right. I had no excuse to down my writing tools simply because Heaven wasn’t putting me on its payroll after all my years of hard work. Here is what emerged, though. I had to take a sabbatical. It sure was one hell of a sabbatical because there is a baby somewhere who was born when I went on maandamano and now she’s about to blow three candles.
I was pushing myself too hard. In fact, all my life maybe until the point when I realized this – was spent pushing myself beyond human limits. Everybody saw me as the admirable boy who is ever on the move and looking focused, knowing what he wants. In high school, guys would look for me and ask me how I did it. They themselves were searching for purpose and never seemed to get any closer to touching the hem of its garment. I made other parents’ kids look like they didn’t know where their lives were headed. In June 2017, I sat in BikoZulu’s eleventh writing masterclass as the youngest to ever enroll. I am yet to know whether my record still stands. He asked me during the opening of the class, after everyone was in disbelief over how young I was, “Where do you see yourself when you reach 35.”
Tilting my head as if to peer into the future, I said, ” Very far, “I’d be very far.”
“Well, that’s what we all said. Look where we are now.” The whole class broke into laughter, presumably because they could relate.
I was amused. For the rest of my initial 20s, I still was. And I knew I had to prove to myself and them that I knew what I was saying. That hard work and consistency would eventually pay. Fast forward, I grew a beard or two. Balls even. But not have the balls to face life so boldly to say I am still going to make it in spite of not having broken the glass ceiling yet after four years of consistency and hard work. Sigh.
I had to take that sabbatical. I had to reconcile myself with myself. I had to get my perspectives right. But it started with wandering off into the winter to look for another way to make it. As long as I make it, right?
I have grown more beards and maybe more balls; there’s only one way to find out. Am I any close to the definition of making it? In the eyes of my younger adult life, maybe no. But in my eyes now, I say that is the wrong question. In fact, having been asked where I see myself when I reach 35 was more of a trick question than the correct one. Anyone who has just turned 18 should understand that there is a lot of shit to figure out at that age and in their early 20s. They should be made to understand that it is okay to take it easy, and they should not be pushed to have their life all planned out. It’s a self-discovery age, and if you’re just turning 18 or in your early 20s right now, stop and catch your breath. No one is chasing you, and more importantly, don’t chase you either. The glass ceiling is a mirage; it gets further as you race toward it. Free yourself from the pressure of suddenly landing a lottery jackpot. The more you chase it, the more frustrating it gets.
I chased myself into thinking hard work and consistency would get me there. I should have known that that equation is like an acidic equation that is in need of a basic neutralizer called patience. In other words, just take it easy. Recalibrate. Re-evaluate why you do what you do. For the years I have been away, I have been living like a monk who was once a man who had lost touch with himself, but solitude has helped him bond with himself and nature. I had to re-evaluate why I started writing this blog in the first place. It wasn’t for any monetary benefits. It wasn’t for any form of recognition. It was simply to tell the stories of life through my eyes to whoever will be interested to read. So this desperate attempt to compete with yourself to gain fame or money is gradual suicide. Depression comes through that door.
I have allowed myself just to be a normal kid. Learning and believing that life will align itself in the proper direction if you don’t try too hard to steer in a straight path. I had to start believing that good things would happen to me and stop being afraid of failure. The fear of failure pushes people to make irrational decisions, live fake lives, and push themselves to deep ends in the hopes they’ll emerge with a pot of gold. Well, I hate to break it to you mjango, gold sinks, and you’re most likely to drown trying.
But the essence is in the balance, take life easy, don’t over-plan, and try not to let your youthful years go like smoke because you’re being too hard on yourself while at the same time not letting assumptions win you over and vain indulgence drag you into a manhole. I meet several ladies who lament over 28 to 35-year-old men who still behave like boys and barely have anything to show for their years. My lovely friend Katutu, who, by the way, at the time of writing this, I received a notification from Instagram reminding me of moments we had shared over the last five years – had me cracking when she showed me a conversation where she told a 28-year-old man that among the reasons why they cannot work is because he still sags his trousers. Pull up your pants and tuck in your shirt, boy! Mjango, let that not be you. It’s embarrassing.
What am I saying, I am saying, repurpose and take it easy. Know where the balance is and strike it. One Liz Nyang’ara once told me sometimes it’s okay just to be. You might wake up and feel so purposeless because you have no job, and no alternative source of income, and it’s stressful, especially for a man. The reality is there is almost nothing you can do if you have been applying and seeking ways to catapult from your current situation. So sometimes, it’s okay just to breathe and be. And while you be, read a book, watch a movie, or visit a friend or two. Everything will eventually work itself out. I’m not advocating for laziness, I am advocating for your peace and mine. The constant chase makes you lose yourself. So it’s okay just to slow down and camp. And it is within the silence of the night amidst the campfire that you will find direction through the stars and hope under the moonlight.
So here I am, slightly over 1900 words, and not anxious anymore. Well, okay, significantly less anxious. I am not sure if I’ll relapse into demotivation again, but I won’t kill myself if I do. I pray you develop the same spirit over whatever it is you’ve been saying you want to do or go back to doing that matters to your passion. Remember, it’s not a race; it’s a marathon. Subtlety is the key. Not too subtle that it turns into laxity, just enough that you can monitor your progress. At the end of the day, someone will be blessed by you and someone is going to love you for you (in the same way some of you still loved me when I was in a writer’s crisis. You still looked for my old blogs and kept them warm for me. Thank you for being true.)
“Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
Max Ehrmann ©1927
(Special thanks to my shrink Peshy. You were relentless in following up on my writing crisis. What is the moral of the story? Get yourself a Peshy.)