I know I do not say it as often as I should- but I am proud of you. I am proud of the little and great journeys that you have taken. Do you remember when I did that motivational talk at Lily Academy when you were in class seven? You came to me crying, scared of what life held, yet you made it. You made it to attend one of the best schools in this country and you have now made it to another stage of life.
I know you asked me to guide you on how to deal with the next journey in University. I am afraid that it was too big an ask, but I scribbled a few hacks that could help. I know these hacks herein seem too hard to follow but that is why they are hacks not rules. They are just guidelines and tips that should help along the way. They are not exclusive. You do not even have to follow them if you feel that they are too many or too strict.
But do discover your own hacks and rules. There is no perfect way to live this life.Here you go:
- Eat at Fritaz and Sanford(and eat chapo smokie at Klabu)
Nevertheless, save enough for Fogo Gaucho*
Campus may make you feel that you need to keep it classy. You don’t. Buy fries from the cheapest joints in town-they serve more than KFC. Take your supper from Klabu* (I will be happy to take you round the joint.) If possible, shut your ears from the noise that the food at the student’s cafeteria is horrible-it is honestly very much edible. Remember, HELB is a loan that you will have to pay back, so use it well if you decide to take it.
However, save up and try good eat-outs in town; they will blow your mind away.
Diet if you want to-if you feel that your body needs it but Milano’s* still has the best ice cream in town.
- Love truly and deeply
Fall in love truly. Do not rush love because you are finally in campus and you can do what you want. Only date when it feels right and if it is right. When you say, “I love you”, look deep in his eyes and mean it. Let the love you find flourish. You will not find perfect love-it does not exist. But the other night, my friend told me, you will have to learn to take each other with all your flaws. However, be wary, know when too much is too much. Know how far is too far. In so many words, I am saying you need to know when to walk away (or run) and leave.
Break up with him if he does not make you happy. When you break up, unfollow him on Face book if it makes you sleep and keep the no-contact rule if you need to. Scratch that;Keep the no contact rule until you heal.
Oh and before I forget, Public Display of Affection is an offense in Kenya, at least in Nairobi. However, if you need to display it, please walk around with 2000 bob in your M-Pesa.
- The most important sex organ is your brain.
Lotsa boys seemingly always translate to lotsa sex for most people. I think you know by now that most of the hostels and washrooms in campus come pre-installed with condoms. This is largely to say that schools are aware that the campus population is sexually active. I will not nanny you on the right or wrong thing to do about virginity or having sex. It is entirely a personal decision. Refrain from thinking of it as a moral or religious rule that you need to adhere to (Prof. Gakuru taught us this semester, that this world is neither moral nor religious-it is real). I have heard arguments that border on this, “you need to know if he is the right fit”. Refrain from such thinking. Make the rules for yourself and choose yourself first-not your boyfriend.
Learn how to get rid of campus bullies; they are the easiest to lick. They are characteristically always huge, they are campus goons-you will know them when you see them. They force you to hug them, grind on them in parties and date them. They are not many, but they exist.
- Question your assumptions
Question who you are as a person, question what you stand for. Question whatever your parents and teachers have taught you over the years. Question whether feminism is valid. Question the country politics and public policy measures that you hear on the news. Question what famous people say. Question the impact of religion and doctrine. Lucky enough, you will be exposed to learning theories in some of the units in campus. Analyze and critic them beyond the classroom. Whenever, you are asking questions in class or having conversations, argue from a point of facts, not emotions or feelings…or quotes.
Read everything. I recently found a 1923 Kenyan Report by the British colonialists in the library. It made me aware of how easy it was to colonize us. They documented our behaviors, our attitudes, our culture and even created the stereotypes for us. They colonized us because they had the knowledge about us. So read to liberate yourself. Your friends will taunt you for reading too much. They will tell you, ‘degree ni harambee’ but do it because when all is said and done, we all die alone.
The truth is that you might even not find the time to even read-create it.
Subscribe to blogs that speak to you. Read magazines to pamper yourself and read journals to enlighten you. Read the constitution; and do not only read the Bible because you are Christian-read the Quran. Get a favorite sitting spot at the library and read books by Malcolm Gladwell-they will make you rethink life. Read books by feminists: – Gabrielle Union, Chimamanda Ngozi, Sherly Sandberg and Elizabeth Gilbert-they will make you understand why feminists stay true to their course. Read Grisham’s novels, Ngugi wa Thiong’o books and read comics.-Just read.
- It is far more honorable to fail than to cheat.
I will give you a free pass on this one. The easiest thing to do in campus is to cheat during exams. There are many tactics as you will learn and most of them are amusing. But remember the easiest person to be is yourself. Attend classes, read for your exams and do them diligently. Set targets for yourself and stretch yourself to beat them. Then reward yourself. Pass exams for yourself not for your parents. I will beg you, if I have to, that you do not cheat. The other flimsy argument that I have heard concerning cheating in exams is, “we will all have to go through graduate training when we get employed after all.” This country does not need such crappy argument. Learning concepts without copying them will teach you how to retain content, how to reason, how to solve problems in new angles. So fail those exams if you have to but do not cheat.
“To thine own self be true and then it must follow as the night is as the day, that thou can’t be false to any man.” William Shakespeare.
- Learn and create.
Forget BOMA but remember you are a bomerian. Remembering you were in The Kenya High School will give you the false assumption that you are learned-you are not. Keep the values they taught you but relearn everything afresh. Learn and fail. Learn how to learn. Watch ted talks: listen to podcasts: listen to Steve Jobs’ commencement ceremony speech at Stanford. Stay up late with guys from architecture school when you are free. It is fascinating to watch them make models late into the night and I promise they are hot.
Apply to and join fellowships. Save up and travel. Take a foreign language class- Chinese at The University of Nairobi is free. Learn how to play a musical instrument. Learn code and build beautiful websites and apps. Simply create. Volunteer during the holidays, PACE* is a great place to start.
- Friends will disappoint you.
Nevertheless, do not let small mistakes ruin friendship. Learn how to save the most important friendships and do not be scared about watching the rest trip and fall. Let people go. Remember your friends’ birthdays and buy them gifts. I once bought a friend a shaver for his beards and it felt perfect, yet it cost me less than a 100 bob. When you admire something in someone else, tell him or her. Lift others up and hug your girlfriends when they are sad. Be authentic about friendships. Never pretend that you like someone if you don’t-it will only hurt you. It will make you anxious around them. Avoid loud and aggressive people too-they are a vexation to the spirit.
- Party if you are type that parties.
However, have pleasure with a conscience…because the opposite is a social sin. Alternatively, if like me, you are not as loud, take night walks with a friend to clear your head. Have deep conversations late into the night. But do not kiss. The night has a way of making people vulnerable just like alcohol. Know your boundaries because once you cross that line there is no going back.
- Social Media
Social Media is really the revolution. But learn early that it is a fallacy too; it brings out the vanity in us and if you get too hooked-you may become bitter. None of us has life put all together. We only post our lives highlights there. If you sit around my squad (Richard and Regina), they will tell you, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Don’t live in that world, always comparing your life to the glitz and glam on Instagram. You are your own self and you are perfect.
We fail to admit it, but social media is addictive. Its apps are engineered that way. Likes and comments are delayed in a bid to make you log in again. So take selfies, post and forget about them. But on the upside, steer meaningful conversations; find good human beings there and meet for coffee or mutura* and if you can; make money from it.
- Clothes, make-up and wigs
Thrift shop for clothes and shoes at Gikomba, Ngara and Githurai. Buy make up and wigs on Dubois Street. Your life will be so much easier and cheaper. I hate the arc that girls make on their eyebrows: but by all means, carve yours to perfection. Wear red lipstick and forget what others say. Do not struggle with high heels when going to class but learn how to make an appearance: a statement when needed.
Wear wigs and weaves. There is nothing unafrican about them and delete contacts of boys who critic them-they cannot afford them or you for that matter. Better yet, grow your natural hair thick and long. I am willing to write you a hair regimen to follow if you need one. (Trust me, I am an A student in You Tube) but always remember-you are beautiful even without make up.
God and this world need men and women who are true to themselves. Men and women who are not too lazy to work nor too proud to be poor. There is nothing wrong with coming from a poor or humble background. Are you broke? Sit with your brokenness! I know it is such a mean advice to give. But sit with yourself and listen to your old, boring sad music. If you are going to get a sponsor, get him because you are in love with him. Don’t stretch yourself thin paying for expensive photo shoots-your mum can take your pictures perfectly.
If you can, start a small business, sell clothes, sweets, charge to apply nail polish on nails. Watch the business fall and crumble. Only then will you realize the value of money and its vanity too.
- Keep your principles and know your God
Liberals will tune you to believe that there is no God. Now more than ever you will question God, you will question the Bible. But with time, learn to remind yourself of the relationship you have had with him. Write down your doubts about him and Google. I mean Google questions like, who is God. Why does God allow evil if he is all-powerful? Write down your prayers so that when they are answered you have proof that he exists.
Do not bend your principles for anyone. The last time we talked, I told you most of the people who are lost in campus don’t even know they are lost. Just don’t exist, live, see every day as an opportunity to seize.
- Find happiness.
Find your personal space and peace. Find moments to be alone, to think and to meditate. Catch up with old songs that get you. Make vision boards. Tear them, make new ones, and make them beautiful. Watch movies alone and cry. Watch How To Be Single. Sing in the shower. Hum while walking to school. Be positive and do not live in your head. Cry when you need to. Do not hold it back because one day it will either break you or turn you into a monster. Trust that life is good, love is powerful and the future is full of promise.
-Find a mentor. They have been where you are before. They know better.
If possible, mentor someone too.
-Save or even better invest. I know friends who use their HELB loans to buy shares and trade in the stock market. Buy shares from small start-ups that look promising. However, do not be naïve or else you will be duped.
-Tolerate your roommates. I know in BOMA they taught you how to dress after taking a shower-in campus some of your roommates will strip.
-Say hi to security guards, cooks and lecturers when you meet them on the corridor-they are human.
-Make mistakes and forgive yourself. Apologize when you are wrong and truly mean it. But don’t fret when you are not forgiven. – forgive yourself and start all over.
-Make bold statements and change your mind tomorrow because every day is a learning experience.
I hope these will help.
*Fogo Gaucho-Brazilian steak house in Nairobi
*Klabu– food joint on Mamlaka Road where university students eat.
*Milanos– An ice cream joint that everyone needs to try out. It’s on Kaunda Street I think.
*PACE International– Promoting Access to Community Education is a volunteer program run by Peggy Ochola. The program posts young people to volunteer as teaching assistants in underprivileged primary schools.
*degree ni harambee- Famous campus slogan that insinuates that attaining a degree requires collective efforts.