New Year Old Things

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One of my favourite things about almost turning thirty is how certain I feel around/about my life. That’s not to say that nothing freaks me out anymore, or that I am no longer fearful. But a lot has changed. I have developed a weekday routine – around work and the occasional coffee or dinner date after 5 p.m., I prefer to turn in at 2230 hours and wake up no later than 9 a.m. – even on my off days, I have mastered my cycle and what that means for my mood, food preferences, need for company or “alone time”. I’m not there yet, but I have figured out a lot about what I can and will tolerate, what I like, what I love and what I want.

It’s a beautiful thing to be feeling this settled, because my early and mid 20s were a nightmare in this regard. I felt uncertain and insecure about anything and everything and though the anxieties and insecurities will crop up every now and then, I am now able to go:

“Shut up! You’re not helping.”

“Regret is useless. You can’t change what has happened so let us see what we can do going forward.”

“It’s okay not to be okay all the time.”

I am happy to be on track with my spending – I have finally loosened the spending noose and I cannot stress how liberation it is – and I am still saving a good tenth of my salary. I’ve made plans to travel later in the year – maybe twice instead of the usual one trip – since this is a big part of what I intend to do for as long as I have life. So far, I have been to Munich, Darmstadt and Vienna (2014), Diani (2015), Arusha (2016). I see Europe getting a few more visits in the future, but I would also like to go to Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam and other parts of Kenya – especially the coast which I can never get enough of and the Rift Valley because of all the camping, hiking and lake viewing potential therein. I’m making time for family and friends – more for the latter because the former I can  deal with best in measured dozes.

Other than practicing more gratitude, I plan on getting a grip on my temper – surprise, surprise – and growing more patience and giving meditation a try for both the anger and impatience issues. I also want to attempt surviving the year without getting excusively and severely attached to an emotional/physical non-platonic male partner(ish). A good friend calls these non-arrangements: situationships.

Mismatched

Until about three months ago, I did not feel any intense need to behave like a girl. I took pride in dressing for comfort and having a hold on my spending habits and caring little for the idea of marriage.

Then I started to work with and for women. And the rainy season began.

This morning, while walking to the office from the bus stop, I was thinking about how quickly things have changed. I now talk about babies and have two pairs of heels at the office. I resisted the temptation to join a merry-go-round with the colleagues, but I’m the one who made a call to the United Women Sacco office and scheduled a Friday afternoon talk about fixed deposit accounts and emergency loans. I can’t stop of thinking of dyeing my now short hair – which I must admit I cut short so it would be neat for work. And I care immensely about being taken seriously at work.

The worst change is the growing need to be understood. In typical artist fashion, I have descended in the deep dark abyss with a sign that reads: No One Understands. I have pretty amazing friends. They are emotionally intelligent and tactful and most of them are not out to prove points or win arguments. That’s what I call real social support, real social capital.

But…

It’s now raining and between beating traffic, dealing with the blithering cold, planning for the holidays and simply dealing with life, I am feeling quite alone. Confusingly, I am also experiencing the need to be alone a lot. I’ve grown more impatient and irritable and my greatest comfort is now in loud music, exercising to the point of exhaustion and sound sleep. On occasion, I wish I had a hookup for every other dull weekend, but I still don’t want anything permanent. Not yet. And that mushy Chris Brown song, Little More, has been blasting through my headphones at the office all morning. I’m beginning to wonder whether the evolutionary programming finally caught up with me.

I kid.

I had hoped that having my BMI drop to 19.9 with a body fat percentage of 21.1 would leave me feeling inspired to effect more life changes. Outside of my physical health. What the hell is this? Wait. I might know what this is about. I finally have control over my work situation and my health, but there’s a gap on the personal angle: the friend zoned almost fling from 2015, the fading long distance romance of 8 years and the 6 month long crush which flared up after 4 quiet(ish) months.

 

Same old. I’ll go away now.

Broken 

A good friend shared this post with me. I can relate to it to some extent. I am so glad we are finally having the conversation about loneliness, social anxiety and depression.

Mind Conversations

When I was growing up I knew I was going to be successful. I loved school and my grades were in line with my dreams.I imagined having a family, a beautiful house, a nice car, gorgeous kids and taking family vacations, everything looked so real.I just couldn’t wait to grow up.

Last year, as the year was coming to an end, I almost lost my job and things didn’t get better after that, so I decided to quit my job and figure my life out. Everything wasn’t going according to plan. I finished school, got good grades in campus, got a job then another then another and now I was tired of looking. So I decided to start my business. It seemed like a great idea. Now all my childhood fantasies were on the way to becoming a reality. I had a few friends to back me up on the…

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Treat Her Like a Lady: Part II

The mind of a woman has the capacity to capture exact words and phrases when she is in a highly emotional state. You’ll pick details about a day or night such as the weather and sounds around you, who was wearing what, and some random crap like that bright red Toyota or a matatu tout calling out for passengers or a low flying airplane. If you add to this mix the fact that you’re also artsy, you have the most varied color palette from which you can paint experiences. The possibilities are truly endless. It’s an intensely beautiful gift, but also a heavy burden; depending on what the canvas displays. Negative feedback is magnified and hurts deeply for longer when you possess the ability to replay the tape of the circumstances surrounding a difficult conversation with fine detail. The high of a romantic encounter can leave you craving another “hit” especially because of how wonderful the script of linguistic prowess and iron clad comebacks appears in your head – in high definition video. This too is a good and bad thing; you go through intense feelings love/like/lust and this often causes you to develop an addiction for the romantic phase of relationships. When the fizzle dies down, you’re out – running around all rife for shenanigans and also “jonesing” for another encounter.

I think you get the picture.

My last post was a sort of rant about the downside of being one of the girls that guys refer to as one of their own boys. I promised to celebrate, anonymously, the men who have made being one of the boys worth my while. I admire courage. And for me,,nothing spells courage like vulnerability.

These are parts of some of my most cherished conversations I have had with men with whom I have been, and am, friends. Naturally, some of these statements are paraphrased, but a number are written as they were said (and/or as they are remembered ):

  • I’m afraid of how comfortable I am with myself around you (After sharing a deeply personal story)
  • I still have your key. In case you forgot. And so you know that you can call me if you’re ever stuck outside your house at 1 a.m. (Following a few months of falling out of touch)
  • I want you in my life (Quite out of the blue)
  • If I took you home to my mother, considering the girls I’ve taken before you, she would puncture the holes in my condoms herself (In a drunken state)
  • You’re my buddy for life (Towards the end of our final semester in campus)
  • I’m here if you ever need me, if you need to talk (After I refused to say what was bugging me)
  • Walking you to the bus stop is not always about you; I feel good about it too (Because I thought I was being an inconvenience, but he didn’t know)
  • You’re the only person I’ve given my spare key. You’re the only one I trust with my house (A telephone conversation following a bad fallout)
  • You’re part of a dying breed of women (At a party in the presence of mutual friends)
  • Whenever you take off your glasses, you turn on your pretty and it’s distracting
  • You have an amazing body, but the sexiest thing about you is your mind
  • When I make my money, I’ll remember you (After we had been talking business)
  • I was rewatching Casino Royale and the conversation he (*) has with the bond girl made me of think of you. I called because I realized the script sounded like your writing and you would appreciate the tact/wordplay… (Drunk dial following a few months of silent treatment)
  • Most women your age don’t think like you
  • You are pretty special
  • Relax. No one has it all figured out in their twenties (During a quarter-life crisis breakdown)
  • Stop shutting people out. Don’t be alone when you’re not okay (Same as above)
  • You’re it. You make it (a relationship) look so easy
  • You’re good with people. I don’t have that (Childhood friend)
  • I feel like I can really talk to you
  • Your mind is a beautiful thing (High school friend)
  • I prefer you with your natural hair (After I complained about a headache from getting new braids)
  • I’d be lying if I said I wished you well (When I said I was applying for school in Europe – a few months ago)
  • I don’t know what to say, because I didn’t want you to go. I don’t want you to go (When the uni application fell through because of a few last minute hitches – about three weeks ago)
  • Congratulations! You got in and that is a big deal (Because I got acceptance letter from said uni – almost as soon as I had picked his call after sending a text about the application fall through)

There you have it. I’ll go nurse a vulnerability hangover for while and prepare for a long-awaited sleepover.

Have a wonderful weekend, good people.

Treat Her Like a Lady: Part I

I have a confession to make. I don’t like being one of the boys. Sometimes, that is. Sure, it has its perks – especially if the men you hang around are a pack of wolves who are smart, very good looking, (mostly) emotionally intelligent and bearers of the capacity to smell self-loathing on a woman from a mile away. But being a woman is a beautiful imperfection. It means that one day, like me, you will likely ask yourself why all those guys most of the women in the world wish they had never met, will not look your way.

The premise for this post is a handful of weekends spent binge watching Being Mary Jane. I get the main character of that shower better than I sometimes get my friends. She has often been called crazy by the men in her life. Most of her friends refer to her as the smart and mature one in the group. She is gifted and blessed and has her share of family drama. She knows what she wants and (often) goes for it, she is headstrong, she is a poor listener (the girl will hear you, if you can get a word out, but she isn’t always listening) and  her confidence is admirable. Even when she is wrong, you can’t help but admire the stubborn conviction that drives her to her decisions.

Then there’s Lisa. She’s the friend who live’s in Mary Jane’s shadow. Although I cannot claim to have had a life nearly as difficult as that of either of these characters, I can definitely relate to Lisa’s plight. Especially on the romantic front. Fine. I know the internet does not forget, but here goes… I can relate to liking someone who does not like you back.

Okay. I might regret this, but I am definitely not going back now.

Without going into the details, I will put this out for anyone who gets this to read. The girl who calls herself one of the guys, she’s still a lady and would like to be treated well. That means not making any jokes about a woman’s body as if you were breaking down the parts of a car. It also means not going on and on about the sort of body you’d like on a woman when she’s on the far end of the spectrum that is your reference point for “the perfect body”. Treating a woman like a lady means getting her to her bus stop or matatu stage after a late night just so you’re sure she got there in one piece and that she appears to be spoken for. Look after a girl’s drink when she goes to the bathroom and please be the first to speak up and do something when another man gets uncomfortably close. Being a good friend to a girl or woman also means having the decency to stop your friends from making nasty rape-culture-fueled remarks when they come up. Also, do not label a woman as difficult to love. It is unnecessary and very unkind. If she doesn’t suit you, let her go and move on because someone else will love her with her flaws and “issues”.

I will fight the urge to leave this out of the list: a good guy will let a lady know that he would rather not make out/sleep with her and ruin their friendship/make things awkward because he cares about more than pursuing the “skirt” within his closest range of reach; especially when he knows he is not interested in taking things any farther than that one physical encounter. And should there be a consensual arrangement to the crossing of lines and blurring of boundaries, guys, be civil. Be brave enough to have an actual conversation – a polite and candid one, at that – about what happened and what it means. Do not show up with your “main pursuit” or “new interest” to the Friday night game one quiet week after a drunken hookup as a way of saying “You get it right? We’re not happening. it not you…”

So I haven’t been this nice myself. Not always, at least. But I have grown up a little in the way I relate with men and how I talk to people so… I am still growing up and learning. Every single day.

On my next post, I’d like to celebrate the wonderful guys I have been fortunate to meet in my life. Because being one of the guys is not all bad.

 

 

 

A Letter to Your 28 Year Old Self

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Bhajia and Paneer 

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Chicken Lollipops

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Meatballs

One week into the start of my new job, my new employer took us out for drinks at Urban Eatery in Westlands, Nairobi. I was, and still am, glowing with the excitement of having gotten a job after two months of a lot of time and not nearly enough television series, morning jogs or kitchen experiments to fill the ten to six void. Ten because I am not a morning person, but I adjust for the things that I count as important – breakfast, watching a sunrise, some phone calls and morning exercise. Six because like the song I come alive in the night time and therefore often prefer to get home at sundown.

But I digress. My new colleagues and I were throwing around polite small talk, sipping slowly and chewing with our mouths closed, when the boss lady asked something. I forget what it was, but I instantly thought: A Letter to My 28 Year Old Self.

Disclaimer: I have been thinking around this question for a while. And though it started off as a borrowed idea on writing a letter to my 20-year-old self, I have recently come across many people who think I am still young and there’s yet a lot of figuring out to do.

So I asked her, “What would you tell your twenty eight year old self if you could travel through time and talk to her from the future?”

In summary, this is what she had to say:

Cherish relationships. Make time for family. Visit often, make those calls and simply make time for your family. Endure the awkward or costly Christmas holidays, family dinners and little traditions at home. Relationships are a big deal and we often forget to relish our relationships with family members until it is too late – where we sometimes get out of touch and cannot repair the wear of time or when our loved ones pass on or we move away and wind up with regret for not having spent more time with them.

Save, save, save. Don’t waste your cash on too many shoes you never wear and purses you don’t need and an expensive apartment you’re constantly struggling to pay for. In the long run, it is never worth it. Buy only what you need. Spend wisely; enjoy yourself on a budget but only after you have paid yourself by saving some money (your income) before you start spending it. Save at least a third of your net salary.

No experience is a waste. Sarah von Bargen  of yesandyes says that regret is a useless thing. She is one of the most open, real and honest people I have encountered online. I cannot, for the life of me, find that post, but 31 Things I’ve Learned in 31 Years was also pretty relevant to the whole idea of life lessons.  I agree with Sarah on many things so… I’m starting to see it myself. How useless regret is. I hated serving tea and cold calling to confirm appointments and handling petty cash reimbursements until all this came in handy long after I had quit my first job. Making a good cup of tea is a chance to bond with a colleague after she has had a rough morning. Good tea or coffee often calms down impatient client when they arrived early, but someone who outranks you is stuck in traffic. The ability to reconcile monies helps you stick to your monthly expenditure and help out with transactions at work even when you have no history in finance or accounting. A work history with customer care and cold calling makes you a lot better at handling various issues in client relations, public relations, protocol, public speaking and marketing. So it’s important to stick it out and glean all the lessons you can from whichever life experience you have tossed at you.

I hope someone find this helpful because it definitely made me take fewer things for granted and allowed me to celebrate what I have been doing right.

Cheers to you all!

Positive Vibes for Results

Oh how good it feels to be back in circulation!

Back story: I lost my job at the end of May. Even the two month notice did little to stop the onset of anxiety about the future. I crawled into a shell and felt like crap about everything. Especially, getting out of bed and going to the office. All I could think was: What’s the point?

Upside, I went to Arusha, Tanzania, on a week long holiday. I got a chance to enjoy a break from the busy city that is Nairobi. Because nothing depresses yo more than having nothing to do and little to no energy to do anything when you live in a loud and constantly buzzing city. I got to listen to my body and eat and get back into a regular exercise regime. Like the book and movie, I ate and prayed and loved (the experience and myself for deciding to break away and treat myself to some healthy change).

The upside manifesting as a downside, was the introspection I subjected myself to. I thought seriously about the things I had done that I wasn’t proud of, about relationships that needed restoring and those that needed severing, about my greatest fears and biggest dreams and what I wanted to do about them.

I put it out into the universe that I wanted a break in June and July before resuming employment. I also decided to start considering what I would do in October – I would either find myself in Germany mastering in Public Health Nutrition or I would be 2 months into a new job. The focus of said job would be nutrition. I would make sure to turn down any offers in other fields, especially if the pay was better than my last job; because I now know the sort of black hole that that can prove to be.

I’m glad to report that I started my third week of work today. At a nutrition focused company applying the two skills I enjoy putting to use: client relations/customer care and clinical nutrition. Next month, I will take on social media support. I cannot wait to start!

If you’re reading this post and you cannot remember what I have been going on about from the beginning, remember this one thing:

Put out into the universe whatever it is that you desire to have. Pray earnestly and specifically, citing all the little details. Then surrender and expect it with all the positive energy that you can master.

Enjoy the rest of your week, good people.