It’s fine if you don’t know. It’s fine if you don’t have a plan. It’s fine if you are the only one who doesn’t seem to know where your life is headed. There is a TV series you will watch in your 30’s called The Boardwalk Empire where Blaise Pascal is quoted; All humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room. Sometimes there are no solutions, at least not immediate ones, so all you have to do is sit it out. Things will sometimes work themselves out when you do nothing. Don’t sweat it. Have a banana.
At 31 years of age you will make an unlikely friendship with someone who sells eggs. One evening you will be called by the barman at Azalea that you need to move your car and you will step out to find him hot under the collar because you are the idiot who blocked his exit. These are days you will drink red wine like a precious guy in touch with his feelings. Unkind words will be exchanged in short spurts and while leaving in a hurry, he will scratch your bonnet because you didn’t bother to move your car too far and numbers will be exchanged because he has to fix your car the next week. A friendship will ensue. As it turns out, he – Justus – will be the one to save you one day when you are 35 and you are backed up against a wall and you need a tiny sum to get you off a pressing crisis. Some solid relationships will be born of conflicts.
Time is sand in wind. It will literally dissolve. Save. Don’t start saving when you get a better paying job. There will never be a better paying job. Or gig. Save. Be an ant. It’s not the amount you put away, but a discipline you will be building. Save because as sure as death and taxes, winter is coming.
At 33 you will work very briefly for a very nasty mixed-race couple. Terrible, terrible human beings. You will feel so tired going to work in the morning and even more tired leaving work. One of them – the husband – will often write you deranged emails in caps.
DEAR BIKO, I HAVEN’T RECEIVED COPY FROM YOU AND IT’S GOING TO 6PM!!!!! WHY??????? DO I HAVE TO REMIND YOU THAT WE ARE RUNNING LATE WITH THIS PROJECT AND IF THIS DEADLINE ISN’T MET BECAUSE OF THIS LACK OF COMMITMENT TO THESE DEADLINES, THERE WILL HAVE TO BE REPERCUSSIONS!!!! (The exclamations and questions marks would exhaust me more than the emails)
Sometimes he will shout through the glass-wall that separates your office from his, an overgrown wazzock, throwing his toys out of his pram. You will never have a job that fills your heart with such hate and loathing. One evening, as you work late, things will come to a boil and you will finally grow a pair and stand up to him. A furious shouting match with him will ensue and his face will turn red as you shout into each other’s faces and you will want nothing better than to smash his head through the glass partitioning. A week later you will write a resignation letter in a flight to Mombasa and when you land you will press send and suddenly you will feel lighter. You will be fearful of the future because you will be a father. But from this couple from hell you will learn something vital; the importance of self-worth and peace of mind. Some jobs diminish you as a human being, filling you with poison, making you feel small. It’s not worth it. You will also learn that you will be fine. And that things work out, eventually.
Nobody will tell you not to get married before 30. At 30 you won’t know yourself. Unfortunately marriage isn’t an institution where you find yourself. It’s unfair to the other party.
At 38 a man at airport security will take away your lotion because it’s over 100mls. You will say, “Look, man, come on, please, it’s only Aveeno, it’s new and I just bought it.” He will just shrug and say rules are rules. “Come on, cut me some slack, I can’t possibly blow up a plane with it, look at me I’m black! We hate loud things!” He will laugh and toss it into a metallic can with the rest of the guilty lotions and liquids. You will be so sad. Then you will tell everybody about it. Everybody. Oh, the bad man took away my lotion. Let it go. Nobody cares.
At 28-years you will meet and work for a phenomenal man called Mr. Ehsani who owns an upmarket mall. He will be a very nice and calm man who collects exotic swords from all over the world and hangs them on a wall behind his massive desk. He will be important because, apart from being wise and generous with pearls of advice, this is the man who will give you an interest free loan to buy your first car. You know how first cars are, you will want to sleep in it. And when you get called for a new job with a magazine, you will spend two agonising weeks gathering the courage to tell him that you are quitting his company which you will later realise wasn’t necessary because when you finally tell him he will be very gracious and supportive about it. There are people you will work for/ with, decent human beings full of compassion, and many years later if these guys call you asking for a favour in the dead of the night, you will not think twice about putting on your shoes. It’s true, people forget what you said or did, but never how you made them feel.
Nobody is born confident. Confidence is like how those Kisiis build their homes in Ongata Rongai; brick by brick while they sleep in one of the rooms. They build it from the inside. Confidence is built from the inside, never the outside. So fill yourself with things that build you.
Of course you will be heartbroken. At some point. There is always that woman who will crush you. Long legs. Ass like a rainbow. When she breaks your heart everything will hurt. You will even feel the hurt when you brush your teeth. You will not want to wake up in the morning. You will not draw the curtains, you will just lie in bed in that darkness, with your heart feeling like a dog ate half of it and then got bored. Good news is it won’t last for more than two weeks. Then one day you be will fine. You will draw the curtains again. There will be girls. Better girls. OK, not all, some will wear bad knickers. Everything heals. Everything.
At 26 you will take up the best habit of your life; running. Running will empty your mind. It will teach you discipline. It will refresh you and keep you fit. It will also help with your hard-ons. You will meet other runners and forge friendships. Most importantly it will keep your heart young and strong.
You have to be in theater to see them born. One will come at 30-years. A girl. You will stare at her feet as she lies there covered in goo under that heater that doubles as weighing scale; 4.35kgs. While shopping for her abroad you will constantly be placing the flat of your palms against the sole of a shoe because their feet grow so fast. She will steal your heart. Another one will come at 36. A boy. Big eyes. Happiest things ever. This one will steal your soul. Problem with children is that they will fill you with deep worry in equal measures as they do with love. They leave you constantly afraid. Fatherhood is a bed of fear. You can take all manner of insurances for them, to protect them, but you always remain helpless with respect to other elements like terminal diseases or accidents or people touching them inappropriately. There is no insurance against terribly horny boys who want to impregnate your daughter at 14. Or lewd psychotic men who stare at 13-year old girls.
Just before you turn 40 you will choose yourself first. You will choose you above everything else and your closest and dearest will think you are crazy and selfish and mad. And for a while guilt will jump into bed with you every night and you will sleep with the lights on because in darkness guilt occupies more space. But then one day you will switch off the lights and you will sleep.
You won’t own a house at 40. Or a cabin by the lake. You won’t be a multi-millionaire. Most of the plans you had for life won’t have happened at 40. Sorry. You will be a working man, making ends meet, hamster on the rotating wheel. Some days you will look over at your best friend who owns a house and feel some form of lingering failure. But you will soon learn that it’s a race and some people have longer legs, some started earlier, some have bigger lungs and that some cheat in the race and take shortcuts. You will also learn that looking over the fence keeps you from looking at your own little triumphs. And they are many, these triumphs; you are healthy and free from disease, you have a lucid mind that is productive, you have a vocation that you are lucky for and you have lovely children who love you and (hopefully) like you and you have at least five people you can call when shit hits the fan and they will come to your aid. Most importantly, you are here. And you have internet. You still have so much fight in you left and if God gives you more years you will still keep your best foot forward.
Don’t ever ask yourself what happiness is. Just be your best version of happy. Pursue it. Be selfish about it.
Your mom will die. I won’t tell you at what age you will be when she dies but she will fall sick for a few years and then she will die on a sunny Sunday…at 11am, if you want to know the exact time. Days after the burial you will sit on the verandah in shags, empty and hollow like a dead tree and you will stare at, without seeing, the large wreaths on her grave now dry from the sun. Then you will grieve for many years and you won’t stop. Good news is that it will get better but it will never be the same. But then your dad will marry another woman, a much younger woman (atta boy, and she will hang her clothes in the same wooden wardrobe your mom’s clothes once hung for years. That’s how life moves on; your mother will be replaced and you will start to whine about it, about “preserving her memory” and “respect” and all that claptrap and someone – an elderly relative – will eventually pull you aside one day and say, “Stop this nonsense, your father was first a man before he was your father. Get a grip.”
Good news; Toni Braxton will never age. She will always look as ravishing as she looks now.
At 40 you will have many existential questions. What does all this *waves hands around* mean? What’s the sum value of content? What’s the ultimate balance of money and happiness? What good is art if it has no impact, if it doesn’t evoke and transform? What bearing does mortality have on your dreams? How does one get to the curve of contentment? Why does Octopizzo with his 410K followers on Instagram follow only two people?
It’s okay to change your mind and position. You can change your mind as many times as you wish. So what if you wanted an apple last week and today you want nothing but groundnuts? Only fools don’t change their minds. You will constantly feel differently about things and people but the burden of guilt shouldn’t be something you yoke yourself with. There is a close friend of yours who will not come for your mother’s funeral and you will feel betrayed and one day you will tell him so over a drink. While the grave is fresh one of your siblings will ask you about him and you will say you are done with him and that level of superficial friendship that is conducted in bars. But then he will later learn that you guys are back to having drinks and he will ask, “Ala, I thought that story died?” and you will say, “ Well, not exactly. I changed my position about him.” You will also realise quickly that people never disappoint you, what disappoints you are your expectations of them. Adjust them and nobody will ever disappoint you.
Hard to believe but at some point men will start wearing colourful socks that they call Happy Socks. This is because happiness will be derived from things. They will take pictures of the said happy socks and upload them on this thing called Instagram which you need to know now, is a mirage, a smokescreen, make believe. It’s like a wonderland where everything shines and everybody is beautiful and happy and accomplished and blemish-free. It’s the only way humans will deal with their insecurities of modernity.
Also, you don’t know it now, but one day you will have to lose your Yahoo email. So don’t get too attached to it because nobody will keep theirs in the next 10-years or so. Well, except for people who type with one finger.
More good news. You will not go blind from masturbation. It’s a myth. Wank away, baba.
In 2017, a good chunk of the urban population will claim to be intolerant to gluten. They will also try to say that chapos are bad. Good thing you won’t listen. Neither will the legion of chapo lovers out there who will fight the propaganda brigade by turning a blind eye to this allegation and retain chapos as the reigning king of carbs.
In your early 30’s to mid 30’s you will lurch often through pockets of turbulence, filled with insecurities: Are you a good enough husband? Are you even enjoying being one? Are you a good father? Are you equipped to raise a human being? Are you doing the right thing? What about your art? Is it fluffy? Are you competent enough? What if one day you wake up and you can’t write a sentence? Is there any other talent in you that you can capitalise on to complement writing? What if you never discover that talent and you die with it or worse, it dies in you? But even more pressing, is your forehead visible from the moon?
There will be an application called Whatsapp that is like a channel that leads social debris into a tepid pool of manure. You will enjoy it. Everybody is on it, including everybody’s grandparents. Sometimes great conversations will be had there in groups, other times there will be a lot of pictures of tits and ass flowing down that murky channel and what you will learn are called memes. But if you sit it out, once in awhile you might learn something poignant, like someone sharing a quote by Toni Morrison: “Definitions belong to definers not the defined.” People might define you but thankfully that’s not your weight to carry, it’s theirs.
I know 40 looks so far and so old right now. Trust me, it isn’t. Try and blink and see if you won’t be 40…Go ahead, I dare you…
Ultimately, you will learn that it’s never that serious. Don’t kill yourself saving or dieting or drinking or writing or thinking or conforming or pleasing. The worst thing is to deny yourself and forget to live for yourself. Time is measured. Jump off the cliff, something will eventually catch you. Beauty is not knowing what.
I’m probably 40,000ft above the air while you read this today, headed out to some place with a view and whisky. The fourth floor awaits on thursday and I have been taking the staircase. Listen, as a “gift” could you all just write a note down there on the comment section what you have learnt in life so far? It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 55, just one thing you have learnt in life. It could be in the form of a story or a gem of wisdom. I think it would offer great insights into your lives so that I see you not as mere comments but as normal people who might like normal things like yoghurt.
Peter Wesh, wanna go first?