Musings of a twenty-something year old


I’m not your usual fix. I’m an impersonator.

I am a mere mortal, unlike our resident mkubwa, Mwendwa. I am an avid reader here but a ghost commenter, a bone that I know I’ll have to chew with him. I’m in a relationship, with words, but it’s just budding, in the early stages. We are still a little shy around each other but we make each other happy, and that’s the important thing, no? Yes?

Other than my (dear) words, I like the shadows where no one is watching, but where I can see it all. I pick up a lot of things just looking at people, unconsciously even. I will tell you what you were wearing the day before the day before yesterday. I pick up nonverbal cues. I’ll know if one of your eyes in bigger than the other. I am a master of details.

So I was walking in town the other day, it was hot. It was one of those days when the sun was in a jolly good mood and the wind was out there just chilling. I was walking fast, mask on, my face set very hard. Very hard because this is Nairobi and predators and thieves can smell vulnerability. I was covered anyway I’d brought my toughest face with me that day. Tight lipped expression and all. If you know me, you know that that’s not my norm. I’m always laughing at something or saying something else, or listening at another with my mouth wide open like I’ve witnessed Lwanda Magere come back to life.

Just when I thought I’d finally mastered the art, a random guy approached me. I thought it was one of those who promise televisions, gadgets and t-shirts (sigh) ‘for free’ and nonetheless from a Toyota Noah, mostly black. Do you know them? I’m sure you’ve seen them around. I walk past them like my life depends on it. So that is exactly what I did when this guy approached me. On looking closer though I realized he wasn’t one of them. His clothes were tired and worn. Discolored from being worn for too long and over exposure to this hot and merciless Nairobi sun. He was holding a Baker’s Inn loaf in one hand and a red woven bag on the other, hanging from the shoulder to his back.

He looked like a regular street urchin. And what with the tough times that we are going through their number has significantly increased. They are everywhere. Literally. They are on every other street asking for a kumi tu siste. So what did I do, I picked up my pace and held my purse even tighter, tightened my lip too, the trademark don’t bother talking to me face. Not that he could see it with the mask thing going on, but I had to try anyway. What I didn’t know was that he wasn’t going to let go of me so easily because this is Nairobi and you don’t give up after one try. No you don’t, you keep trying. It favors the strong willed. He quickened his pace alongside mine.

If determination had a face it would be this guy’s. In addition to being relentless, it seemed like he had a couple of tricks up his sleeve. When he saw how unyielding I was, he decided to pull one on me. He said he had hungry kids at home. Three of them; Natasha, Michelle and Alvo. Alvo is the youngest he said and they hadn’t had food for two days. Could I just get him a packet of milk? “Just one for Alvo.”He added. I thought this was a plot to get me to slow down, I didn’t know how true it was. But it worked. I asked him where the next shop was and he said “Hapo mbele tu.” Which wasn’t true, but he knew he had me already, and there was no way he was letting me go.

I told him that I wasn’t going to the supermarket, and that if I was going to get him milk, it was going to be from the shop. And of course he knew where the other shop was. He had done his research well. This other shop wasn’t near where we were, but it was near the supermarket. Not the supermarket itself he was keen to add, just the next-door neighbor. This time I told him that if he was lying I’d just walk. Well not really told him, more like told myself. If I was the type to tell him that I wouldn’t even have stopped in the first place. Starving Alvo and all.

True to his word, this time, the shop was actually there and I could see the relief on his face when we walked towards it. I asked for two packets of milk because one wouldn’t be enough for Alvo and Michelle and Natasha. To my shock and sheer disbelief he asked the shopkeeper if he had a specific brand. Not in a placating or otherwise endearing tone, but in an authoritative one. I half expected the shopkeeper to turn around and shoot daggers at him. He didn’t. My head, however, went a little bonkers for a second. He redeemed himself by being appreciative afterwards, but wanted me to get him cooking oil too, which I didn’t because I had exhausted my good deeds bucket for the day. As I walked away, I really couldn’t help but think about how he’d confidently asked the shopkeeper for what he wanted, despite the bill not being his own. And he even asked for more.

As a young adult I’m always out to look for lessons in the little things. I pocketed one that day. Go after what you want. Don’t limit yourself. I am a young adult, as I said. Still struggling with grasping the philosophies of life. Understanding how this manual less life works. Being a young adult is a daunting place to be. I find myself often wondering if our parents went through the same. You ask yourself countless life questions half of which you don’t have answers to. Dreaming such big dreams you are afraid won’t come true, and going through a series of feelings and thoughts that can only be understood by someone who’s been there. It means being too old to be a child yet being too young and inexperienced to be a proper adult. You grope blindly in the dark and stumble time and again over obstacles you didn’t even know existed.

You have to learn new concept, like fending for yourself. Something that you didn’t have to worry about before because it was your folks’ responsibility. You take up new responsibilities and go about them in the only way you know that works. Many of us lack guidance; we stumble upon things we could have avoided had we gotten prior advice. The tricky part, however, is that you want to feel like your own person. Advice feels like a gross violation of your beliefs, especially if it is delivered in a particular tone. You want to dye your hair green, and grow it wild and full. Then add colored beads to it and have no one say a thing about it because that’s you expressing your inner self, your inner artistic self.

Some days you feel like you co-own the universe with the good lord. You want to walk on air and have everyone else watch on in admiration. You want to use strong language that causes the good people in society grow more wrinkles. You have time and youth on your side, and the world in your hands. You say things like, ‘I am the master of my universe,’ and ‘good vibes only’. The world doesn’t feel ready for you yet. Have I talked about passion? You have in it droves. Packed and packaged to be used for things that bring you happiness. You haven’t known disappointment yet. All that is important is that you have a full stomach before you go to bed. Weekends mean mad fun and bad decisions.

When you are not feeling this however, you are burdened with questions. Riddled with decision making and burdened by insecurities. You start seeing life as much more than the next gig. You want to make something of yourself. You realize you are transitioning. That you are becoming more adult that child. You realize that tomatoes cost a fortune at a certain time of the year and sugar is not really a necessity. You struggle to grasp all the new concepts that are being thrown at you at neck breaking speed. You face the realities of life, like you losing friends like a sick dog loses its fur.

Your phone no longer blows up with messages. It so silent you keep checking if someone has remembered you. Let me shock you, in high school we would buy 500 texts at twenty bob which we would exhaust before the end of the day and even buy more. Nowadays you just carry forward your texts and Internet bundles. People leave.

The hardest gig of all, if you ask me, is trying to find balance. Schoolwork is a constant that you carry with you everywhere. You work over and above, not because you really love working but because you don’t want to just have been to campus, you want to make a difference. To be remembered for a thing and maybe two. You want to keep up with the remaining friends because you don’t want your wedding committee to only be made up of your Aunt’s brothers and their friends.

Do you remember those big dreams? You have to make time for them too. And invest your energy there. You do all this while trying to be happy and in touch with yourself and all the things happening around you. Being present. It is an extreme sport. Quite the juggle that only a very few seem to have aced. The rest of us become overwhelmed and decide to just let it go only to realize, later, that that’s not the way forward. You realize that you have to go for what you want because no one will hand it to you on a platter. Not in this life.

Daunting as it is, or for that particular reason, there are lessons to be learnt. Little gems of information you learn and pick up as you go. Priorities for instance. You learn to put energy and time to the things that are worth it. Not forgetting that determining them is a task in itself. People too. You prioritize the people in your life. Your sanity, you learn, is a precious little baby that needs to be protected at all costs. Guarded and handled delicately. Life throws you down so many times but you learn what it means to pick yourself up. To patch up your life in fabrics of different colors and to walk around like the rainbow you are. You learn the meaning of the phrase beauty in ashes, and to enjoy the little things in life. Like the way the sunset is such a beautiful ruckus of color. You start reading the writing on peoples’ shirts because it makes you happy. You learn to dance to the music in your head and to make the music itself. You drink tones of water because you want your skin to glow and it’s what all these self-appointed-Google-trained-doctors recommend.

You have to find beauty in the small things, because they will keep you going. They make your days all the more brighter. You learn to laugh more and find more reasons to laugh. Find your calm in the storm and hold on. I’m holding on to the one saying, that a smooth sea never made a good sailor. And I don’t want to be just a good sailor. I want to be an exemplary one.


PS.: Sometimes I have a lot going on and I can’t find time to write. Sometimes I have the time but I don’t feel like writing. Sometimes, I have a writer’s block. On these days, I find people like Mutanu who love to write, want to write and have no place to share their work. I give them this platform. Call it “my CSR” or something. If you are one these people, drop me an email on or Also, tell me whether you loved Mutanu’s work.

  1. Am not even halfway through the manual of life..It gives me mixed feelings going through it.. Sometimes it’s the ups and sometimes it’s downs of life that throw me to the deepest of thoughts..I love life and the fact of being young makes me feel I co own the universe with the good Lord..hehe.. However as age catches up the responsibility part of life replaces the fantasies of it. Good Read..I love this article as I resonate with it.

  2. Beautiful story… keep going Mutanu. In social and religious circles, we talk of Pre-teens and Teens… but I’ve never heard of Post-teens. I think there’s a package we need to unwrap for this phase of life. I guess I’m looking at it from the lens of the numerous ongoing (mentorship) holiday camps, this April!

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