Memory finds me on a Friday evening; seated on the balcony of a fifth floor apartment, enjoying new-found independence as I stare at the traces of life on the street below. Roysambu underneath is an assortment of colour; of red and yellow and white and scattered spots of blue that grow smaller, dimmer as you look farther into the distance. I love this about high spaces; how they make you feel outside yourself, outside everything, like a spectator watching the horse race from the stands – and isn’t that what life feels like sometimes, a horse race?
Music seeps out from inside the house, moving me into a melodic trance as Dan Wilson vocalizes the poetic brilliance of Semisonic’s Closing Time. In moments like this I like to close my eyes and imagine I have wings, clouds floating beneath my feet, breathing in the warm air of a December afternoon. The ground beneath appears as a mural, a painting of perfection. And here, looking down at everything, I feel weightless, soundless, formless; moved only by the effortless melody playing out in the background. I become air.
Open all the doors and let you out into the world
This first line transports me into a blur of thought, conversation and motion. Suddenly I am at the back a 14-seater, chatting away with friends to ease the travel sickness, and erase the weariness of a long trip, and secretly wishing I had carried Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, which is long overdue from the company library but I still cannot make time to finish. My two pals Abdi and Gambo are arguing over something or other and I have now lost track of the conversation because they are always arguing over something or other. Outside, trees shuffle past as the matatu whizzes towards Meru for a friend’s graduation party.
Moments later, after the argument has fizzled and silence is king, Gambo turns to me and asks an unexpected question.
“Have you ever thought about what it would be like if we didn’t exist, if nothing existed?”
I am taken aback; not so much by the question, but even more by the one who asks it, because this guy is the most happy-go-lucky person I know. Always content with the simple pleasures of life (a game of Fifa, a half-full can of beer, a roll of weed), he’s never seemed the kind to burden himself with heavy existential questions. But here he is, all deep and sagely, and this question, it blows my mind.
What would it be like if we didn’t exist; if nothing existed?
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
This verse finds me on a Sunday morning; dipping my feet into cold, clear water on the banks of River Thongithi in Nkubu, Meru County. A lazy wind tugs at me, beckoning, beseeching me to sway to an imaginary rhythm. The river flows on; resilient, unencumbered, braving rocks and crevices on its way to God-knows-where. And it makes me think about the motions of my own life.
Time has a way of outdoing itself. Last year was such a frustrating year and I remember in my final post, asking 2017 to surprise me. It seems that challenge was accepted, because 2017 went and did just that. What a year this has been. Learning, just like growth, seems to happen in hindsight. You take a pause to recollect, to take stock of previous lives, to breathe; and only then do you realize how much you’ve grown, how much things have changed, how different today is from yesterday.
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here
Letting go seems such a cliché thing to say at the end of the year. We keep speaking of getting rid of baggage, of cleaning out our closets, of ridding ourselves of negative people but lately I have been thinking that just maybe, we are the baggage we need to get rid of. Perhaps it is our habits that should take the flack for our misery; and not other people. Our decisions are our traitors. And if we consider habits, not people, as the true determinants of our well being, then maybe we shall own our life a little more. Good habits surround us with good people; Toxic habits attract toxic people.
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
Ben Okri says to read the world: it is the most mysterious book of all. This year I took up a new hobby, but photography can only do so much for you if you’re not capturing people, places, moments, that take your breath away. I have done some traveling this year, but it has done little to quench that wanderlust that scratches on my throat. I want travel, travel, and travel. Dear God, I want travel. I want to fill up my blank passport with strange symbols and emblems from different lands. I want to fill a drawer on the side of my bed with mementos from lost nights in distant places. I want to pick up new words from strange languages. I want to save people on my phonebook according to their nationalities and dear God I want to know – to feel – what jet lag means.
So gather up your jackets, and move it to the exits
I hope you have found a friend
I am learning to see beauty in the dark spots, to look beyond the blandness of all things plain and unremarkable, all things seemingly mundane; and to find, hiding inside, a beautiful soul. I am learning to find joy in simple, inexpensive adventures with friends. I am learning to look forward to experiences, to capture the essence of moments, And to not get too comfortable in my own company.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end
Please be kind, 2018.