One Year Ago Today

Last year, on a day like this, I wrote myself a letter. I have been waiting all week to read it and find out how well I’m doing since then. I also thought I should share said letter with all of you, and challenge you to keep your hopes and dreams alive this way.

Dear Sharon,

On this day last year, you were a few weeks into singlehood, 5 months into your job, finally getting over a crush-turned-fling and good friends with an old flame.
I write to you from the past hoping that you finally moved to a new house – warm, beautifully your own, a safe distance from the road, close to a market, with a jogging path and not going for more than Kes 12,500 per month. I also hope that you have cleared your Helb loan – if not about Kes 30,000 away. I am trusting that you got yourself that Sony TV and an oven and that you’ve put them both to good use – exercising indoors when your aren’t out and enjoying movie nights alone and with your girls, and cooking healthy and fun meals.
Above all else, I hope your faith is stronger – first in God and then in love. I hope you like how you look now and that you’ve found the perfect haircut. I hope you like your new pants, that they fit well and are decent and that they go with every top/blouse in your closet. I hope you haven’t lost any more weight.
I secretly hope that you aren’t newly in love/crush, but I pray that you still believe in love and a forever with someone starting late next year and going on to the day that you breathe your last.
Hopefully, you’re ready to travel to Europe or Australia and there are solid plans for you to go back to school – so you can study, but also to allow you to travel and see the world and appreciate new cultures and learn another language.
I hope you’re less angry, more fulfilled, less lonely, more kind.
Sharon, I pray this letter finds you grown and still ready to grow, because you kept hope alive in your delicate heart and big head.
Love always,
Sharon from the Past
P.S. I did move to a house which I am completely in love with; I bought myself a four-burner, gas cooker with an oven; I am still single and enjoying (most of) it; I believe in love on most days of the week; and I have not given up on my dream of studying and living in Europe for a few years. I’m learning to channel my anger and I’ve decided to grow out my hair in the coming year – although I might decide to keep it short, and that too is okay. I love my new body and although I’ve been on a break since the Stanchart marathon on the 26th of November, I can’t wait to get back on the track. God and I are still on talking terms and I am slowly figuring out our relationship and how to make it work.
I’m off to nurse my vulnerability hangover now.
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New Rules

Remember how I told myself – and the internet fraternity – that I had purposed not to get emotionally attached to a man in 2017? If you don’t, I do. Even though it didn’t feel easy to do at the time, mostly because I was freshly out of a relationship of over 6 years (long distance, I now feel the need to add), I was putting it all out there. I was relaying my inner desires to the universe because I had also recently come to accept that a lot of what I confessed out loud usually came to pass.

That is one resolution I failed to meet. This, for me, meant more than just managing to remain celibate for another year. It was about learning to be okay without the validation that comes with having a man who makes you feel good about yourself, and especially on those off days when work is slow, when your mother is upset with you again, when you’ve missed five whole days of jogging, when you deleted another email about a masters program overseas.

Armed with a celibacy partner and a refresher course on embracing vulnerability, inspired by Brene Brown, I went out into the world. I made more time for morning runs to keep my hormones in check, I ate clean, I kept the company of female friends almost exclusively, I drank lots of water, I stopped watching Scandal and started catching up on Criminal Minds.

And then I met a man. One cold and wet Thursday night while out for a jazz gig with two girlfriends. We shared an Uber home, he walked through the pouring rain to get me French fries – he was in his best woolen suit while I was in something underwhelming paired with my only large pair of running shoes. He sent me a text one month later, I responded and gave him a hard time about being a d*** to my friend, he invited me over for dinner. We cooked and ate and really hit it off. It was fun for all of maybe one month before I noted the pattern I have been attempting to get away from all my life: largely unavailable.

Here’s the back story. I fell in love with a wonderful man a year before he was scheduled to leave the country for his studies abroad. We had both decided, albeit half-heartedly, against a long distance relationship. But just before he left we went for it because we were young and in love and certain that I would be joining him in Europe anyway. Life threw us a pile of bricks and his program was deferred and I lost all hope in love and a life with him. So we broke up after almost 8 years together. That was about a year ago. I had an intense fling that same year, but we were both weighed down by baggage and after a few really good weeks, that dissolved into a painful puddle of awkward avoidance. Another crush from two years earlier made a brief appearance and helped make a mess of an already properly messed up situation and when this last man had left his mark, I was done. I swore off men and sex.

When I met the suit, he was a good friend’s date for the evening. I liked his friend better than I did him, but changed my mind the minute I learned that his friend was my fellow tribesman. New guy turned out to share one of my hardest-to-hide quirks: a keenness for clean and neat spaces and closets. It was lust at first house visit. And the ninja could cook. He was also a fit and regular runner who did not drink. He texted in full words and sentences, he had a great sense of humour, he did not once try to get handsy, nothing happened when we shared a bed (twice) and his taste in music was decent.

Then the clouds gathered.

I saw all the signs. The disappearing acts, the promises to “try and make time” for little things like hanging out at his house and watching old episodes of Coke Studio, the tales of hangout with colleagues and the other guys – out of town or at a local club. I kept telling myself that I should cut him loose, but he was such fun when we did meet up. And there was no pressure to have sex or put parts of him in my mouth or any of that scary stuff so I stayed on. The worst part was how I kept telling myself that I have always had a thing for workaholics. Over and over, I made excuses to quiet the building rage and frustration.

Then one day I snapped and said that I was done making plans which always seemed to fall through and there I was wishing I had not said anything until I’d collected my sneakers from his house. But an almost road accident brought us back together, because I am still a sucker for the good-and-faithful friend title. That evening, while we cuddled on my couch, something in me changed. I became acutely aware of what I was doing with this man and why. Self awareness is a very good thing, but she is also a b****. So I gave him a week to get back to his old habits. He took two.

Texts are responded to promptly. Plans to meet are never initiated, but talk about future road trips and nights at his favourite club are brought up. Suggestions to meet up are usually met with responses such as “I’ll let you know” and “Let us see how the day goes”. Morning and evening salutations come in whenever you’re both online. Small talk and flirting are a ritual, but no personal information is ever willingly divulged. If and when you meet, it is literally flashing with scenes from Sleeping With Other People – rich conversation, heavy flirting, good food and light petting only at the end of hangout.

But I’m calling bull****. Because nothing annoys me more than emotional constipation and emotional unavailability. And yes, no one promised anyone anything, but I made my intentions clear and I told you what I wanted. Then you, my nigga, led me on and delivered none of what we had both agreed to as basic expectations of human interaction. Such as civility and respect.

If you didn’t know, now you do. And you’re welcome.

Dating A Mature Woman

Hello everyone! Here’s a post I helped a good friend with. We both embrace vulnerability and have been vulnerability and celibacy partners for a several months now.
Read, share and comment!

Miss Thoughtful

I’m dating again!!!

Wait. That didn’t come out quite as expected. I said it anyway.

See, I have not dated much in the past year. I use the term dating loosely to mean, actually going out to meet people at a restaurant or coffee shop, and not simply chatting on social media. Why was I not dating? Yes, I still look like fine wine! Yes, I still have an awesome personality! Yes, I get catcalls a lot! But jokes aside, here’s the real story: I just took time off the scene to reflect on my life, to date myself, to master the art of not going mad from loneliness, to learn how to be alone and not lonely and just basically to sink into my celibacy journey. Oh, also, try dating while on this (celibacy) journey. Tell me how that goes for you. It’s almost impossible y’all!

You’re probably wondering…

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Petty Pity Party

I’m a petty person. I like people, but I also like my personal space. I’ve made friends with people who, like me, enjoy your company only so much before they start to hope that you’ll go away so they can breathe easier, walk around the house naked, sleep across the bed diagonally, not think about cooking or doing the dishes right away. But this is not about them. This is about me. And how I am the type of person to ask a guy to drop me home when we’re done getting our groove on because I like my bed that much.

I am a petty person. I like to cook in my kitchen because I’m convinced that it’s my comfort zone and where I can create magic with the greatest ease. I like my floor rags exactly where they are right now every single day. These towels hold my feet and keep them warm and happy. My bed and I have an actual relationship because it’s one of the only places where I can be my real, vulnerable, small self. Not literally because I’m 5 feet 7, but you get the point. My bed is the only place where I feel better when I simply lie down and breathe. I like my shower because I walk in there barefoot and don’t stop to think about dirt or germs. That’s where I take long showers to ease me of bad feelings, menstrual cramps, fatigue, emotional beat-downs, the fear of having done too little with my life. I fall in love with the little studio that is my home every time I catch the sun’s rays streaming through my windows and when, like earlier this morning, I watch the rain fall steadily over the field overlooking my front door.

I am a petty person because I am particular about everything I count as my personal space. I don’t like to be touched unnecessarily, I’m still learning how to cuddle and I prefer to sleep alone. I like to sit in the dark and listen to music, I am convinced that you can either be friends or neighbours, not both, and I can only enjoy the company of people I love in doses. A few months ago, I made friends with a young man who is a lot like me: neat, organized, picky. He also likes to run, he eats well and enjoys his music, work and personal space. This guy admitted to me that people like us are bothersome to others. He has accepted that he does not know how to live with people. It then came to me that although this is different, it is also okay. Like male feminists and couples that choose not to have children or people who decide to remain unmarried. It’s different, but it’s okay.

Does that still make me petty? Yes. What it also does is make me more accepting of myself and my quirks. I made huge strides in accommodating those whose habits are completely different as mine. Even while I grind my teeth on account of the breadcrumbs begging to be swept off a floor, screaming children on a sugar high, pictures on a wall which aren’t properly aligned, dust bunnies under a friend’s bed, food served on a wet plate, a sticky table at my favourite coffee shop, that person taking up some of my seat space on a bus ride… The list goes on and on. But I am learning how to pick my battles. Sometimes I do great. At other times, I lose it and make a smart ass remark to make you aware of just how petty I am.

Tips for Travel: The Coast

I had the pleasure of traveling to the coast of Kenya – Diani, to be specific – and I kept scribbling down important points which came to me while on my trip. I figured they’d come in handy for my next trip. And for whoever would read this and find it useful. Almost 2 weeks after my return to the capital, I decided against putting up this post. Then a chat with a friend who feels inspired to emulate my intentional, planned and saved for trips convinced me otherwise.

So here we are. I promise I’ll try not to bore you.

  1. Listen to your gut – about what to pack, what to leave, what to unpack, what to repack – because you will usually discover that your instincts were right all along. For me, this time, it was the urge to carry my bulky and not-at-all-cool-looking sleeping bag. It turned out to come in handy two of the nights we (my travel buddy and I) spent at a cottage a walking distance away from the beach. Because it got a little windy at night. So listen to your gut. Charge your power bank. Pack your USB cable. Bring a book – on soft copy and a hard copy. Get that neck pillow for the long bus ride.
  2. Travel light. As much as possible, pack as little as you can. My rule is to only pack what my backpack can carry – with the exception of my sleeping back, of course. This rule applies within reason, of course. Because a backpack will not likely last you a month-long trip to another continent. Unless you’re hiking. Or back packing.
  3. Have a budget, factor in miscellaneous costs, stick to the budget. It feels great to be able to spend while on holiday without worrying about how much money you will have left for transport and groceries when you get back home. Save a little every month for travel. Factor in costs such as public transport fares, souvenirs, snacks and the just-in-case accommodation fee should you fail to check in to your hotel in time. For instance, there was an issue with our online booking so we were double booked. This meant taking another bus, 2.5 hours later than scheduled, spending 10 hours on the road instead of the anticipated 8, and arriving several hours past the intended time. We wound up having to stay a night on the north coast because we couldn’t make it across the ferry at almost 11:20 p.m. WhatsApp Image 2017-07-04 at 15.55.03
  4. Split your cash. I like to have more of my money on my phone – more specifically on M-pesa, a mobile based money transfer service commonly used and accessed in Kenya.  Should I happen to lose my phone, I would simply replace my sim card and use another mobile phone to access my cash. Still, one does need to be a little liquid when traveling. A rather handy tip I got from my travel buddy was to break down my cash into small denominations and spread the cash around – in different pockets and in my purse. This really helped when we used public transport to get around and when we made purchases from street food vendors and kiosks.
  5. Pack using an actual list. Because it sucks to realize that you forgot something as basic and as important as underwear, a swimsuit, body lotion, sunscreen, etc.
  6. Carry a sleeping bag and a clean sheet. I don’t like to be cold. Ever. Not as long as I can help it. Less than a month before my trip, I spent one night at a campsite in the middle of the cold Maasai Mara conservancy while cursing myself for failing to bring my (very light) water bottle for the trip. Yet I had a ride to and from my house! In short, it was a looooong night.
  7. Bring your own flip flops. Because you never know whether you’ll find them on the ground. Also, if you have large flat feet like mine, you almost always need your own flip flops.
  8. Wear a pair of comfy flats and carry a spare pair. Bata Ngomas are my favourite shoes for any occasion. They are flat shoes, made of actual absorbent fabric (like a mixture of cotton and corduroy or khaki) with a rubber sole. And they come in different colors! WhatsApp Image 2017-07-04 at 15.47.12
  9. Beware of pick-pockets! Travel in comfortable pants with good/deep pockets for your loose change or earphones or gum or iPod/cellphone. Tying a hoodie or sweater around your waist and over your pockets is one way to make your stuff harder for pickpockets to access.Also, always have a clear view of your backpack zipper and carry it on your front when on a crowded street or when making a mad rush for the ferry.
  10. Travel in great company. This should have probably been the next point after the one about budgeting for the trip. Bring a fun, street smart, fun travel buddy along and plan with them well in advance of time (if you can). So I had planned for this trip with someone who could not make it at the last minute – they got dates mixed up and had a load of fieldwork to do far out of town. So I call an old girlfriend who has traveled to remote parts of the country for fieldwork and she was excited to come along, thankfully. When we arrived in Mombasa, it was almost midnight and vehicles were few. My travel buddy was able to help me negotiate a fair cab  (more like tuk tuk) fare and she had someone on the ground to accommodate us for the night at a discounted fee because she refers people to his guest house. Throughout the trip, I kept thanking her and God for making my vacation much more fun than it would have been had I traveled solo. WhatsApp Image 2017-07-04 at 15.40.42
  11. Plan for your meals and buy lots of snacks for in between. Always make a point to know whether meals are served at your hotel/cottage, how much a standard meal would cost and what the timings are for all the meals served. Then ensure you stock up on snacks – nuts, crackers, fruit like apples and bananas, yoghurt, etc – to help keep your energy levels up and for those days when you want to sleep in and skip on breakfast or when you would rather a light dinner of your own choosing.
  12. Buy lots of bottled water. Better more than less, because water is life and dehydration or lacking access to clean drinking water while traveling can go horribly wrong. Depending on where you are going, and how sensitive you are to stomach bugs, you may need to have bottled water for brushing your teeth. So always stock up.

    I know I went on and on, but I hope it worth the read. Travel safe and happy vacationing!

Existentialist Crisis?

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things that count in life. Because I’ve been thinking about the brevity of life a whole lot, of late. Somehow, I want to have a child, but only if I’m sure that I’ll be around to raise her. One of my neighbours passed away recently. I made friends with her daughter, recently. She’s not older than six, but is already very kind and protective of her little brother – he learned how to walk recently and is always trying to get passed her and out the gate whenever someone’s getting into or out of the compound. Their mom was in her mid thirties when she died and left a husband and three little kids behind. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

I’ve been working hard to clear my student loan. Which is something I should have taken more seriously before – the amounts I was paying and not just the consistency I brag about. But regret is useless and I’ve learnt my lesson. Somehow, I got to thinking that if I died, I’d want to have paid back my student loan so someone else won’t miss out on it because I felt my already good life needed more stuff.

One of the older consultants at the office lost her mother. As I reread her tribute today, all I could think was what I’ve been thinking since the funeral: How do you match that? Everyone talked about what a good listener she was. How much she loved dancing. That she fought for the rights of others. That she cared for children. That she gave until there was barely anything left, then she’d figured out ways to make sure that there was more to give. I want that legacy. Now I see why our consultant is always giving. Kind words, a smile, good stories, gifts, time, encouragement. I want to have that legacy and what I want more is to pass that on to someone.
My own mother has already built a track record in her career as a civil servant, a youth mentor, Christian guide, boys club runner and mother. People meet me and tell me how she came through for them and it fills me with awe. And a little anxiety. Because what am I doing with my life? I don’t volunteer anymore, I’m not really making time for my hobbies, I don’t make much time for my friends, I don’t even like going to church anymore. There’s no more passion. Not much writing, barely any reading, cooking to eat and stay alive, jogging to meet my FitBit targets. It’s really quite sad.

I have a problem with postponing joy. It’s the reason why I almost didn’t go for every fun thing I managed to do – the weeklong holiday in Arusha, the long weekend in Diani with new friends, zip lining over Easter. Add falling in love and moving out to that list too. I’ve been living with the arrogant expectation of waking up to find it all waiting for mw the following day, week, month and year.

I need to finally take on something new and exciting so I can feel alive for longer than a few hours or days. More than a big purchase or weekend away. More than a good read or night out. I feel the need to give myself the chance to rediscover the things that give me fulfillment and joy. I need to start giving in and giving up more of myself.

Guys, I need to start living again. So I’m drawing up a list and working through it, beginning with the little things.

It’s kinda late as I type this and I’m counting down the hours before it’s time to wake up, but let me sleep on it.

The Writing Journey – 2015, 2016, 2017 Highlights

I have a lot to be grateful for. Usually, when I start a post or conversation like this it is as an attempt at channeling some frustration in my personal life. So what I really want to say, aside from how glad I am that this year has gone better than I had though it would, is that I am learning (ever so slowly) how to focus on what is actually working for me.

When I was younger, I dreamed big literary dreams. I imagined myself telling stories of civil war from an insider’s angle. I actually imagined myself traveling to different parts of the world to expose the happenings therein amid gunfire, mass displacements of entire communities and widespread fear. Then I grew up and simply wrote stories which I tucked away in notebooks, then later on Facebook, and finally on my blog.

Today, I would like to celebrate how far my dreamy tales have come – from the fourteen year old dreamer who signed off her make belief newspaper articles as Christiane Amanpour to the just concluded Nairobi leg of the Jalada Festival.

I will let the screen shots speak for themselves

pictory 1

pictory 2

pictory 3

Friendly Fire

Road Trip

StoryMoja 2015

FREE FALL

“Hello Claire.”

“David?”

“You’ve been avoiding me.”

“Yes. No use in lying. I’m predictable”

“Yet I couldn’t predict this.”

Neither did. I no longer know what to do with myself around you and we have been friends for fifteen years. You made me comic strips and let me copy your Math homework. I read your English compositions, wide-eyed with wonder because your stories were something out of this world; fluidly worded and intriguing. You were the lanky, awkward boy who cared nothing for my unkempt hair and flat chest.

“Could I get a blank pass?”

“That’s what you want, Claire? To ignore what happened and not bring it up again?”

Maybe if I lower my voice a little it will not come off as dismissive.

“Nothing really happened, David…”

“That’s not at all as I remember it…”

“Stop. Please.”

There’s no denying that things are still awkward, but I need to stop replaying the feel of my dress getting slipped off my body and my hands tugging at your belt before your cell phone rang. 

“The way I see it, there’s nothing to say that we can’t figure out without words. I got tipsy…”

“We.”

“What?”

We got tipsy.”

We got tipsy, a big mistake was almost made, your phone rang. The universe spared us a lot of trouble.”

“Fine. This isn’t it, though. You know that, right?”

“The rule is that a blank pass means we don’t bring it up again. We’ll live through the weirdness and life will go on.”

“That simple?”

“Yes, David. That simple.”

“I disagree. I won’t be able to help you zip up or down without taking you back to Saturday night. You will stop taking wine around me for a while and hide your favourite black dress in a box. You will not be able to stand too close to me, so you will stop offering to help with my tie. The jokes about my belt buckles will also stop.

“Is that all?”

“No. Then there’s Laura. You will not want to be in the same room with her, even when it’s while I’m on phone with her. I will try to make you feel better, in vain. I’ll call you in a few weeks, after you’ve started picking my calls again, and we’ll have a drink on your balcony. Only because I will show up at your door when I’m sure that you’re in. You’ll change out of your little shorts as soon as I step into your living room, I won’t be allowed to help in the kitchen, and you will be annoyed when I try to make eye contact. Then I will try to look at you, to really look at you, because I will also be masking that lingering question: What if? Until then, I left you at Brew Bistro at 10.30 p.m. just before Victor arrived. Now I’m done.”

I want to stop you from leaving, but I cannot find my words today.

P.S. This last piece, Free Fall, got me selected for the Nairobi Jalada master classes which took place a week ago.