There are exactly 14 days to the end of this year. This will be the first time I will be truly reflecting on the happenings of the year. The last 351 days have taken me through paths and thickets I have never trodden before. I thought it would be good to share some of them with you. Even though some of the may seem too trivial for life, they have undoubtedly reshaped my life, thoughts and the direction that my life has taken.
1. THE GAINS
I have worked in three firms this year. April Fools’ Day saw me exit the firm where I had worked for close to 8 months. Two days after my dismissal from the first place where I ever worked as a graduate quantity surveyor, I got a call from my professional mentor. A friend of mine has equated him to a chaperone after the roles he has played in my professional growth.
“Hi Barrack, what are you doing now?”
“Nothing much, just resting and finding something meaningful to do now that I have all the time”
“You have been so quiet that I thought you had secured another job already”
“Not quite,” I responded while laughing. “But I am trying to apply to other firms.I am not quite sure whether I will get an opening though.”
“Okay,” he interjected. “I have a proposal for you. Check your email. I have sent you some work too for you to do. You may consider my proposal, even as you seek to work elsewhere.”
I was dumbstruck.
“See you at the office tomorrow,” he went on before ending the call. “Everything has been organized for you”
And just like that, I got a job I had not applied for. After working for three weeks, I went for another interview at a firm I had always wanted to work for. Breaking this news to my “good Samaritan” boss was not easy but I eventually did.
I eventually joined this other firm across town. These two experiences have taught me the importance of having mentors in life. ‘Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.’(Proverbs 15:22). The experiences have always reminded me that doing anything, whether in employment or in private business, is a blessing that ought to be shared.
Old Man’s Retirement
This year also marked the end of my father’s 35-year long career in civil service which he joined back in 1979 right after university. He has worked in the same institution as a Botany lecturer ever since and moving out of the staff house was an emotional journey. We were all born and raised here. Most of my aunts, have also lived here when they were in high school.
His retirement has taught me that we will never work forever. One day we shall have to hand over our roles in the society to the new crop. As Luis Franceschi aptly put it : “While the sun sets here on some people and some places, it always rises elsewhere.”
I am still curious to know how his farewell party went down and what his students have to say of him.
My greatest weakness this year has been books – buying books. I frequent established bookstores only to window-shop for new books and then stroll out to a roadside bookshop where I willget the same book at half-price or even less. This is a habit I acquired from George Ogutu and Iddi Ganguma. In one instance I spent 3500/- on one roadside bookshop and left with a paper bag full of books that I have always wanted to read.
This is what happens when you date an avid reader for more than half a decade – you can’t help but strive to match up to what they do in case you want to have any meaningful conversation. Back then, we got each other books as gifts. After all, as Holbrook Jackson said, “A book is a gift you can open again and again”.
I haven’t read all the books but I will always find time to read one. I have, for example, managed to complete two books while stuck in traffic.
Experiments: BuildingKE, Shiku and other Jameson stories
I have done all manners of experiments this year. Some planned while others accidental.
I am grateful for having friends who have consistently come through during those moments I have doubted my very own plans. Some are blatantly and brutally honest while others just called me up for a cup of coffee in Westlands just to give me lectures on why I should not sleep on what I believe in.
One such experiment has been BuildingKE, which is almost hitting 20,000 page views. Shiku deals with social media matters. Owaahh emails to find out where I am with the content calendar and why I have slackened on churning content.
On the day I attended the interview that later landed me my current job, I bumped into a sales executive from one of the paint making companies in Kenya. I’d met her while at my first job and she had taken note of my birthday. However, she failed to find me at the office I used to occupy on the day she was delivering my birthday present. It had to be this day when I eventually landed a new job that I bumped into her at the reception.
“I have been looking for you,” she said. “In fact I still have your birthday present from our company.”
“That’s great,” I responded. “But I am waiting to be called for the interview. Probably I may ask one of these guys here to fetch it for me.”
“No problem,” she said.
When the package arrived, there was a branded birthday card and a bottle of Irish whiskey – Jameson. I smiled, wondering what I was going to do with it. For some reason everyone I thought of gifting this cherished drink was either too busy or out of town. I took it to the house and set it in a corner.
“If only I could be a faithful drinker then this would have been my night cap to celebrate the new job every day until it runs out,” I told a friend.
Long story short, since I started work mid-month, I received a proportion of my full salary. So I decided to go to my landlord and surprise him:
“Man, I am short of your full rent but I have something here that I believe should warrant a discount,” I told him.
“And what is it?” he quipped.
“Lemme get it for you,” as I dashed to the DSQ I occupy.
“Jameson!” he said, with a smile beaming on his face. “This is great! No problem about the 2k on your rent”
That experiment saved me Ksh 2000 on my May rent.
2. THE LOSSES
‘Wrongful Dismissal’, April Fools’ Day and other stories
This was the second time my resignation and dismissal converged. This year has taught me to always pray that nothing serious happens on April Fools’ Day. I had a difficult time convincing ANYONE that as from 2nd April I would be out of a job. The next day, a friend sent me a text with the contact details of their boss, urging me to apply and join their firm. This experience taught me that work is not an emotional affair. It is a business.
I also found some truth in this TED presentation that was banned: The speaker, Nick Hanauer, poses a question: “When’s the last time you worked overtime? How about the last time you worked overtime and got paid for it? If you’re in the middle class, probably not recently.”
Sickness and Death
Health is priceless. A cliché, I know. The year 2014 has unravelled the profound truths about this statement. When everyone in your family is healthy everything else tends to fall in place. When any one of them falls ill, then a lot of things are at stake.
This was the year I had to walk through a lot with a friend who had to bear a lot due to a parent’s illness – and, sadly, eventual demise. In the words of Siri Hustvedt, “Every sickness has an alien quality, a feeling of invasion and loss of control that is evident in the language we use about it”.
I also lost a cousin I lived with in my first days in Nairobi to an illness. Then a housemate from high school.
I am still reeling from these two events for myriad reasons. The difficult and sad moments that we both had to undergo exerted unpredictable forces on the core of our beings. There were moments it hit us and shook us vehemently – and eventually knocked us out of orbit and thereby altering a lot in my life.
The immeasurable, painful losses have made me numb to the fact that life is not permanent. That we ought to strive to lead a meaningful life no matter how tough the going can get. The only way to live forever is to leave lasting impressions and memories in the lives of anyone we come in contact with.
Relationships, Friendzones and other things
Nobody ever told me how devastating the end of a relationship can be, so devastating it was, I could hardly understand. This year marked the end of the only relationship I have ever been in. It has never been an easy stretch ever since but I am not where I was a few weeks ago. Endless battles deep within have stretched my ability to deal with deep-seated emotions.
“It was a graceful exit,” I would console myself at times.
“Something else is about to begin,” I would still encourage myself. Laughing. Gazing into the space.
“How did we end up here?” I would ask out loud.
I must have stared for so long at the closed door that I forgot to see and acknowledge the other doors that had been opened before me.
I learnt a lot from that phase in my life that have shaped me in ways beyond what I had thought. I am yet to learn to deal with the whole situation when I go to a place filled with clueless mutual friends who insist on finding out where she is. How she is. I have found myself replying with that clueless smile. Or a dismissive giggle.
TO 2015, INFINITY AND BEYOND
I have never made resolutions that worked. So 2015, bring it on.