I once attended a breakfast talk at Nairobi club and there was this Mzee who was sharing his success story. I still remember a comment he made about how we live in society. He labelled Kenya as an exhibitionist society. Many of us buy things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like. Our fancy lifestyles attest to this. For those of us who are able to put up the show. Nowadays as I drive on our roads I see many top range SUVs and limos all over. I’m even wondering what I’m doing wrong as I don’t have a VX, yet they are now as common as Probox in traffic. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Uber introduced a VX and Range Rover category on their app. Maybe call it Uber majuu or something.
We live in a capitalist world so I have nothing against living well and making some good money. In fact, I personally intend to live that way very soon and end this constant worrying about chums. It’s a terrible state of being. The only problem here is that many folks live this life on credit and should one’s job katika then it all comes crumbling down like a poorly constructed building.
So why this pressure to conform and appear successful? It’s been a tough year and season for many of us. I must admit that since the 40s crossroads and business downturn checked in, I have felt some internal pressure to maintain a lifestyle that seems not to have any challenges. I know I should make the necessary adjustments to make it through this tight period, but that doesn’t come naturally or easily.
In these uncertain economic times, I know guys whose careers and biasharas have come to a screeching halt. You lose more than just your job or business. You lose social status, identity and maybe even yourself. This is particularly difficult for men who largely identify with what they do and take great pride in it. Over the last three years I have had to appear like I have it together on the outside. My mental calculator has been working overnight trying to add up hesabu on how to make ends meet. This has mostly just added to the stress instead of giving me solutions.
I decided to follow a new passion for my second half that’s completely unrelated to what I’ve done for the last twenty years. Like any new thing it takes time to grow. Currently, I appear very busy but don’t have much to show for it. If I were a bamboo tree, this would be that five year period that it grows underground. When it finally shoots above ground, it has a very solid foundation and will grow tall and strong. I can’t wait for that time to enjoy matunda ya this labour.
I call this period of growing underground, (working hard in silence), a temporary loss of self-esteem as a friend aptly described it. And here is where the screensaver comes in. there’s a ka pressure to be in a certain way that’s acceptable to society, until what we’re trying to do chini ya maji breaks through the surface. At least that’s what the world informs us. Recently I had a screensaver moment when I visited my local for a meeting with myself and ordered my favourite dawa. It felt expensive this time round. After having one, I was tempted to order a second one because I do enjoy this watering hole. I suddenly felt like an impostor. Here I was finding a drink expensive and wanting to hang out here. I quickly paid for that one and left for home. I now have cheaper options to have meetings with myself, like the local that is my veranda at home.
One of the reasons we put on screensavers when going through major shifts in our lives is because society doesn’t know how to handle change very well. People don’t know what to do with you. We are uncomfortable in places that have a vacuum. I’ve been asked severally, “So Lucas you want to leave your business?’’ I answer, “Yes I do, it’s time to hand over to a more competent person.” Then the common question follows. “So what will you be doing?” I reply, “Writing and talking.” And I get this perplexed expression from them. I completely understand that bills have to be paid and the clan has to be fed, so those concerns are valid. But the the look I get of “Now what do we do with him,” is quite funny.
Screen savers put pressure on us to conform to others yet we are all on an individual journey. It’s not a race. The finish line is personal for all of us. I should compete with myself and be aware that my intrinsic value goes with me wherever I go. I am complete and okay as I am irrespective of whatever stage in life I find myself in. Even the ‘not knowing what to do next’ stage is a necessary stage to pass through to arrive at my purpose.
I hope we can get a balance between resisting the pressures that come with screensavers of putting up appearances, and still faking it till we make it, as that image can also open doors. May 2018 have the real movie of progress in our lives now showing and not — coming soon to a life near you — as it has been for a while now.
I’m personally tired of screensavers and can’t wait for the real show to begin. Lets get the popcorn in eager anticipation.