On Darkness, Demons and (self) Destruction

Marshawn McCarrel, a 23 year old American activist, died last week from self-inflicted gunshot wounds. This is the message he left on his Facebook,

My demons won today. I’m sorry.

I read those words and felt defeated. I feel defeated because it reminds me of the helplessness I feel watching people close to me suffer emotionally and mentally.

Unlike physical pain, which is typically overt, emotional and/or mental pain is very difficult to detect. You can spend time with someone and be completely unaware of the demons they wrestle.

But soon, they can no longer hide the darkness.

You notice that they look different. Sound different. The energy is different.

Is everything okay?

They promise their okay. They smile at you, laugh with you and things flow back to their usual.

But it doesn’t last long. The darkness is persistent.

You hope. You pray. You hug them, tight.

You reassure them endlessly, “I’m here for you, you know that“.

If your love could heal them, it would.

But they can’t receive the love. They can’t help it.

You get angry with them. Please, stop self-destructing.

But mental illness isn’t self-destruction. It’s like someone falling over, cutting their arm and then telling them to stop the bleeding. How?

There’s no switch on or off button for mental illness. It creeps into your life and you wonder how, why – I didn’t invite you..?

Here’s what I know- you can’t fix people. You can try- but it’s an exercise in futility. You don’t have magic healing power. Healing comes from within. Healing comes from God.

So don’t take it personally when your efforts are met with no response- it’s not about you.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. Or that you won’t cry endlessly knowing that someone you love so much is in such pain.

You would give anything to see them whole again.

But again, just remember- it’s not about you.

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See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”  (Isaiah 60:2) | Glasgow, Scotland

For mental health information and support, check out:

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

What 2015 Taught Me

We’re about to close 2015.

Here’s what I’ve learnt over the year, in no particular order:

Friendship – 2015 has taught me that friendship is sometimes seasonal. It’s a heart-warming aspiration to want your nearest and dearest to stay close to you forever. But this year I’ve learnt that the seasonality of friendship is not an indication of a weak bond. Or that one or the other person is at fault. Falling apart can happen just as unexpectedly as your coming together.

The Pressure to Succeed – 2015 has (reminded) taught me that there’s space for all of us. Everyone seems to be move making at an exponential rate and it’s easy to feel left behind or lacking in some respect. But I’m learning that another’s success doesn’t impede on my own. I believe truly that my path has been marked out by God- just for me. It doesn’t matter how much other people seem to be doing. My time will come. Most importantly, I’m drawing so much inspiration from the success of others. There’s so much to do.

Health – 2015 taught me that health is expensive. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a price that I need to be willing to pay. On my 21st birthday, I decided to switch to a healthier lifestyle. I made a serious effort to stay fit and eat clean throughout the year but I found myself spending significantly more to maintain this. Life is about sacrifices, I guess? Additionally, I’ve failed on the healthcare front but I’m not going to make any more promises. I’m just going to do it. It’s no longer my parents’ responsibility to watch over my health. I need to own my physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

Hard work – 2015 has taught me to do more with less. It’s better to work hard on a few projects than to do everything at the same time. I have to repeat this to myself- prioritize. It’s okay to say, ‘not today’. It’s also okay to say, ‘no’.

Self-love – 2015 has taught me that I need to come to terms with self-love. What does it really mean? I’ve been asking myself- do I love myself? I think so. How do I know? I don’t know. And why is it important that I love myself?

Failing – 2015 has taught me that failure is success. There’s an element of success in every failure. You learn something new. You become something new! And that is something to celebrate and be thankful for. Failure has made me courageous, introspective and grateful. I’m focused on excellence but wholly embrace failure. Don’t shy away from it. Don’t let it shrivel you up. Allow failure to mould and shape you.

Learning – 2015 has taught me how much I don’t know. There’s just so much to learn from and so much to learn about! Most importantly, as you learn, it’s perfectly okay to construct anew. It’s easy to feel held back by what you know or believe. But I think it’s enlightening to be led by a search for truth. At the same time, learning can also strengthen and deepen your roots. Either way, don’t fight the process!

Living Away From Home – 2015 has taught me that a life away from home must continue. For the past few years, I’ve felt that my life has been on pause while I’m abroad. I often want the time to move quickly so I can go home and continue my life. I have to remind myself constantly that despite the discomfort and disconnect I feel, this too is my life. I have to remember that I carry life with me. And I need to make more of an effort in breathing life into my days, weeks and months here.

I’m so grateful for a 2015 rich in learning and experiences. God go before us all in 2016!

T

© Tessy Maritim

#faves: Blogs & Vlogs

When I started blogging in 2012, I didn’t have much to look up to except for the few gossip blogs that would often pop up on my timeline.

Today, I relish the work of so many thoughtful, engaging, creative and inspiring content creators. It’s beautiful to watch journeys start out, metamorphoses and move-making right before my eyes!

This #faves post pays homage to some bloggers and vloggers whose work inspires me (not in any particular order).

writing to lift your spirits// Hayet Rida | thathayetrida.com

photo via www.thathayetrida.com

If you want raw, heartfelt writing, look no further than Hayet Rida’s blog. I love that she uses her blog as a space to uplift herself and others. She seems like the kind of friend who’d sit opposite me at a cafe chatting about life over copious amounts of tea, cake and laughter. She’s basically my spirit sister-friend. Her style and hair is also sooo swoon-worthy! Yum.

comedy with a conscience// Chesca Leigh | youtube.com/chescaleigh 

Chesca Leigh

photo via franchesca.net

Chesca Leigh is remarkable. I came across her work earlier this year when I had just started making my own vlogs. Although I am not a comedian myself, her content inspires many of the topics I speak about. I love that she makes profound social and political commentary in an accessible and easily understood format.

photography & lifestyle// Cynosure by Lyra Aoko | lyraoko.com

Lyra Aoko

photo via lyraoko.com

I love the clean aesthetic on Lyra Aoko’s blog. Her photography is beautiful and I can hear her authentic voice through her content. I also keenly follow her segment ‘Play Kenyan Music‘ which features new Kenyan music each month. Truly an all-rounded lifestyle blog!

africa to the world// Siyanda Writes | siyandawrites.com

Siyanda Mohutsiwa

photo via siyandawrites.com

I first came across Siyanda’s name and work on my Twitter timeline. The first line on her Twitter bio says “I don’t come here to be governable“- it was love at first follow! Her content is witty, smart and stimulating. She writes book reviews, speaks about black consciousness and has a dope vlog called ‘Africa This Week With Siyanda‘ featuring hot topics across the continent. Another spirit sister-friend!

p.s. Please support her as she raises money for her project ‘Africa this Week’. Details here.

I’m grateful to each one of these content creators and many others- for being a reminder of the power of stepping up to be seen and heard. Wishing you all much love and flourishing!

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

Self Care- Mental, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual

Just before I boarded my flight to England three weeks ago, I called my cousin-friend. It’s a ritual for me to call 7 people before I travel- my cousin-friend is one of them.

We talked for a bit and just before we cut the call, she said “See you soon babes! Take care of yourself.” I shuddered a bit and almost choking with emotion I said, “Yes, I will. See you soon.”

Her words made me reflect – do I really take care of myself? What does that even mean? Outgrowing this cocoon of mine has meant that I’ve acquired the independence and agency over my own life- how am I using it

Her words reminded me of my duty to myself. My little holiday retreat where I enjoy chasing my Dad every night (it’s a game we play called Kunet- all my tupchet will know what I mean), eating my Mom’s delightful food and catching matatu’s with my sisters was now over. I’m grown now. I have grown people things to attend to. 

I’m not equating studying abroad with growing up. They are two separate things. But in my case, and for many others, the two have a symbiotic relationship. They feed into each other. I’ve found that growing up has been amplified because I live abroad. And similarly my experience living abroad has been influenced by the fact that I am currently defining myself. Doing and undoing. Becoming and unbecoming.

This past couple of weeks I’ve really been conscious of what it means to take care of myself. So I wrote a list of things that mark my mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

mental In the past couple of years, the one principle that has marked my growth mentally, is speaking my mind. It’s come to the point where I feel a heaviness when I am silent about something that I feel strongly about. Even for something as small as my hairdresser blow-drying my hair too much. I can no longer sacrifice my mental stability because of the fear of offence. Who cares what the hairdresser feels about how my hair looks? It’s my hair, after all, and I’m paying for a service.

If you are silent about your pain, they will kill you and say you enjoyed it” – Zora Neale Hurston

emotional I have learnt to be responsible with my emotions- especially towards myself. We are often so generous to others but utterly reckless towards ourselves. I’ve been the girl who has blamed herself for break-ups, fall-outs and misunderstandings. There has to be fault- it’s either mine or yours. And if it was mine, I would completely self-destruct. I had no understanding of the fact that sometimes life just is. And that you can’t depend on people to be your world. I’ve learnt that you can give your all in situations and sometimes they still. won’t. workout. Because that’s life! I know better now. I am kindest to myself first, because I know that is the source of my kindness to everyone and anyone else. I have learnt to embrace my emotions- I am open about when a close friend has uset me. I tell those I love that I love them. I appreciate when I should. I give of myself freely but cautiously. My heart has learnt how to balance the two. But sometimes we get it wrong. In those situations, I allow approximately 6 hours of wallowing in a puddle of my own tears and then it’s over. We get up, take a shower and face the world. Emotionally responsible.

I find comfort in knowing that anything meant for me has not missed me. It knows me by name. And when the time comes, it will knock on my door and I will wonder where this missing part of me has been all my life.” – T

physical Doing my eyebrows or not. Working out or not. Dressing to the nines or not. Wearing make-up or not. The beauty (pun intended- wait, do people still say that?!) of growing up is that you choose. The decisions had always been made for me- either by parents, other people or media. Not anymore. I do what feels good for me. I understand what I need, when and how. And despite the popular narrative that my self-care is for the pleasure of others- I defy. I resist.

“My body. My dress. My choice.” – T 

spiritual I nurture my spirituality by questioning. Why, why and why?! I have a friend who articulates my thoughts and questions so accurately. I won’t mention his name here but if he reads this he will know. I talk to God. A lot. About things other than my questions. But I have a feeling I should probably address them directly with Him. I like this stage, but I am also wary of going too far off the edge. Hold me tight, Lord. 

“I will say of the LORD, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust” – Psalm 91:2

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backdrop to my thoughts | Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh (taken using my trusty iPhone)

Taking care of yourself is a learning process. There will be ups. There will be downs. My only request is that you be intentional about it. Think about it. Mediate on it. Learn yourself to the level where no-one can tell you about you.

© Tessy Maritim

Thank You, August

Life moves quickly. So swiftly, that it’s easy to miss the things, people and events that make life worthwhile. I’ve decided to create a new section of my blog, to share, appreciate and reflect on each month.

I’m grateful for:

  • Children after my own heart – I’ve spent the last few days chasing after 6 of my lovely kid cousins. They couldn’t stop making fun of my ripped jeans- fashion ni wewe! We played outside, did algebra for hours on end and sung ‘Paulo na Sila’ to the heavens. Children are chaotic and the most beautiful remedy to any low spirit. I had a wonderful time. On my trip back home I closed my eyes and remembered that these are the moments I treasure most when I’m away- Michelle swinging off my body, Imma’s witty questions, Kim’s beautiful smile, Rono’s gentle demeanour, Kimu’s unending playfulness and Chesanga’s sass. My family means everything to me. Every moment of impending loneliness abroad is cured by the fact that I carry the love and fullness of each and every one of those children.
  • A lounge by Victoria– I’m so excited to be featuring on a show this week hosted by the gracious Victoria Rubadiri. How I got involved is a story for another day! Lol. Check out the preview below and tune in to NTV at 7.30pm on Thursday 3rd September to watch the show.

 

  • Late Identification– Can you imagine I only just got my ID? I had never applied for one. Unfortunately the joy of this identification is overshadowed by the fact that someone decided to use my middle name as my surname. Eish! I’m not queuing up again!
  • Elusive closure– Here’s the thing about closure- it doesn’t come looking for you. You go searching for it. If you’re lucky, you will find it and it will give you peace. But if it becomes elusive, I’m afraid that in itself might have to be your closure- what seems like an unfinished story will just have to end on that note. Don’t try to cap the pen that was left lying on the floor. Don’t bother that the ink hasn’t dried. Don’t worry that you didn’t close the book. Just leave things as they are and find comfort in the fact that anything meant for you will never miss you.

 

Thank you, August.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

T x Gen 50 +

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with a group of 17-21 year olds on the topic of how to use social media as an effective tool in communicating a powerful message. I’m always eager to speak to young people so when the Gen 50 + team got in touch with me, I could not say no.

Here is an excerpt of what I spoke about:

My name is Tessy and I write. I write because I enjoy it. I write because I’m good at it. And I write because my voice is important.

I was asked to host this masterclass on how to use social media as an effective tool in communicating a powerful message. But you know what? I’m not going to take you through how and why you should use social media. You know all that already. Your entire generation was born into the internet age. Most of you probably knew how to use Facebook before you learnt to count.

Today I want you to leave this masterclass with an understanding of why your voice is important. Because that’s what scares most people about starting a blog or using any other online medium to communicate a message. You ask yourself- what will people think? And it can terrify you to the point of paralysis.

I started my blog in my first year of university abroad. My blog was a lifeline in many respects. I started it to help me cope with living away from my family. But most importantly I wanted to document my journey. Sharing is a powerful thing. It brings people together; it highlights commonalities and also celebrates differences.

Over the years I have realized that what makes a blog successful is a writer’s ability to sustain an audience through consistent content. But more importantly, to me at least, a successful blog is one that is authentically and unapologetically you. People connect to a blog when they can feel the personality of a person shine through.

As I’ve grown, so has the content on my blog. I look back at some of the posts I used to write and feel embarrassed. Thank God for the glow up!

For a long time I was a very safe writer. I wrote about what I thought people wanted to read. I filtered a lot of my thoughts, packaged them gently and posted them with caution. I was also a shallow writer. Glossing over issues; saying without really saying.

That changed when I joined student politics in my former university in 2014. I found myself in the thrust of a politically charged, socially conscious team of elected representatives. They opened my mind, exposed me to new concepts but most importantly- they taught me to speak up.

I’m very much an afterthought kinda girl. I need time to reflect on a discussion before I can share a viewpoint. Discussions on politics and social issues with my team were always very intense and I found it challenging to articulate my thoughts immediately. Which is why my blog worked so well for me- I could reflect on an issue, gather my thoughts and share them in my own time.

My students’ union colleagues were by and large much more knowledgeable than I was on politics and social issues. They were involved in campaigns, joined political parties and knew feminism like the back of their hand. Then there was me- 20 years old, never been involved in politics and having a shallow understanding of world issues.

It didn’t take long before their passion and fearlessness rubbed off on me- I started sharing my thoughts- or as my friends called them, mini-rants- on my snapchat story anytime I felt strongly about something. One day I downloaded one of my videos and shared it on my blog page- the response was overwhelming. I had 3000+ organic views in just a few days.

But I also want you to know something- as I’ve made videos over time, some of them have had a really poor response rate. Can you imagine being welcomed so nicely with 3000+ views and then that reducing dramatically to like 200 views?! I almost stopped at some point because I felt shortchanged I couldn’t be baring my soul like this and only getting only a few hundred views- No way!

These days I find myself watching my videos and reading my posts several times before I upload them. It’s scary to be honest and vulnerable. But whether I get 100 or 1000 views, it’s my voice and it’s important. It’s my responsibility to share my experiences. Especially when it comes to gender-issues.

Equality is what we’re trying to achieve. And I believe feminism is the vehicle that gets us there. Feminism has two important tenets: firstly, understanding we live in a patriarchal society and secondly, a belief that there must be a women-led liberation.

Saying that this liberation must be women-led is not to say that it’s exclusively a woman’s job to fight for equality. Men must be involved, but should acknowledge the power that women have to lift themselves up from the jaws of the dreaded patriarchy.

You don’t need to look far to see the patriarchy manifest:

Catcalling – how many of you have experienced catcalling in the recent past?

Forced early marriage– Many girls in African communities face this today. This is different from an arranged marriage.

Rape culture – the idea that men are entitled to women’s bodies and that no somehow sometimes means yes.

Feminism needs to be intersectional. This means we acknowledge that gender can intersect with other identities such as race, sexuality and class. The issues faced by an upper class woman from Lavington will not be the same as the issues faced by a young girl from Samburu. Let’s stop applying Western feminist ideals to ourselves.

Too many people out there are trying to define and control the narrative of what it means to be African, Kenyan, Woman- if you’re not African, you don’t know what it means to be African. If you’re not a woman, you don’t know what it means to be a woman. Stop trying to speak for us. For those who define, use the internet to tell your story.

Social media allows us to share the African/ Kenyan story. We can’t all be interviewed on NTV or CNN or Al Jazeera, but we can create our own platforms via the internet. No one needs to invite you! Invite yourself and have something powerful to say.

You’ll hear those people who say “OMG, everyone is a blogger these days!” Guess what? No-one owns the internet. If you have something to say and want to say it consistently, do the damn thing! Don’t let anyone shame you into thinking the Internet is some kind of exclusive club.

With that said, have something to say. Read, watch, listen and learn. There’s already a plethora of vacuous content on the internet- please, don’t add to it. We need to hear intelligent, well thought out perspectives from young people.

Your voice is important. Your voice is so important. Don’t be a closet believer. When people are sharing sexist memes on Facebook, call them out. If you have friends shaming women for wearing ‘skimpy’ clothes, speak up. It takes courage to put yourself out there- but do it.

When you are afraid remember these words, “It’s not the critic who counts. Not the person who points out where the strong person stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the person actually in the arena.” The credit belongs to the person actually in the arena.

It doesn’t end on social media. Social media activism is powerful but it does Not. End. There. Grassroots action is so important. Use social media to inspire, galvanise and mobilise people into doing things on the ground. Have a protest on the streets. Write a petition. Speak to the authorities, whoever they may be- but do things on the ground.

Things are looking up. Even if just one of you leaves here today and does something to challenge status quo, Gen 50 + has done it’s job. Thank you.


After I spoke, the questions came in thick and fast. If I thought, for any second, that they were going to just nod and accept what I shared, I was wrong. They challenged, critiqued and questioned.

What do you mean when you say men shouldn’t speak for women? The best example I can think of to explain this is the diaspora saviour complex- the idea that people who have studied abroad are more capable of contributing to their respective countries than local people. Those who have studied abroad have had the privilege of exposure and can often be blinded to think that this makes them the answer to all their nation’s challenges; without an understanding that the people on the ground can often be equally as capable as they are. Similarly, when men speak up for women, there’s a danger in that being interpreted or understood as them using their superior status in society to save women from the oppression they face. This doesn’t sound bad at first glance, but where there’s a power dynamic, there’s a danger that this could continue to be enforced when the more privileged take up the role of ‘saviour’. The people who are oppressed should take a lead role in liberating themselves. But that’s not to say men shouldn’t speak up for women at all- so Iet me correct myself- men, speak up for women, but just be conscious of what you say and how you say it.

What do you mean by gender equality? Someone from the audience made a really interesting point. He explained gender equality as this:

10 = 10

7 + 3 = 6 + 4

2 + 4 + 4 = 3 + 1 + 6

His point was that when we speak about gender equality, we do so without acknowledging that men and women are different. And that gender equality can be achieved, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we’ll have a 10 = 10 situation.

Okay, I really like how he explained this. And I agree. But think we should note that some times, the differences in women are socially constructed to keep women in their place. For example, someone once wrote to me asking me how rape can be eradicated when women are (often) physically weaker than men.

Having strength is not inherently a bad thing. It’s how you’re taught to use that strength. And men are often taught that their masculinity is defined by how they exercise that physical strength- through media, sometimes family and even friends. This has contributed to the rape culture mentality- if she says no, I can still use my strength to get what I want.

So we should be careful when we say that men and women are different- yes, it is true, in many respects. But how these differences are spoken about is often a social contruct designed to uphold a power dynamic.

Gen 50 + was eye-opening. It’s great to be challenged because it helps you reflect on what you believe and why you believe it.

T

© Tessy Maritim

Rome Wasn’t Built In One Day- And Neither Will The Arena

Building something from the ground up is difficult. It requires:

– an unshakeable foundation

– builders, architects, interior designers, quantity surveyors

– functioning systems (think water, electricity, sewage pipes etc.)

When we started The Arena it all seemed so simple. We wanted to create a space for young people to interact and learn from one another. So we put together a programme, invited amazing guest speakers and hosted hundreds of young people at our events.

But with time, it’s become redundant. This became apparent to me earlier this year after we won a business start-up competition- what exactly are we trying to do? What’s the outcome? How are we measuring the success of our work? And most importantly, how do the people we serve have input into the work we do?

Criticism of your own work is a difficult task. But it must be done. Otherwise, how do you progress?

We’ve done well. We acknowledge that. But we’re at a stage now where we want to do more. We need to do more. And not so much quantitatively- but qualitatively.

Arena 100 main pic

So we’re hosting The Arena 100– an intimate buzz session to listen to your thoughts and ideas on the development and vision of The Arena. We want to know (among other things):

What are you working towards?
What steps have you made towards that vision?
What do you need as part of that journey?

We’re calling on young people in Kenya to join us as we build this Arena. To build an unshakeable foundation and functioning systems, we need you- our builders, architects, interior designers and quantity surveyors. We all have a part to play in creating this space and platform that will soon be a force to reckon with- not just in our country, but across Africa. 

It’s exciting and I hope you can make the time to join us! RSVP here.

T

© Tessy Maritim

 

 

Thank You, July

Life moves quickly. So swiftly, that it’s easy to miss the things, people and events that make life worthwhile. I’ve decided to create a new section of my blog, to share, appreciate and reflect on each month.

I’m grateful for:

A few meetings – In light of my reflective holiday period, I’ve been reaching out to people to bounce ideas off and gain some clarity. Some of whom I thought I’d never get the chance to speak to in person, but to my surprise so graciously offered their time to me. So far I’ve met 3 people; one is the CEO of a leading incubation centre, the other runs an agri-tech company in West Africa and the final one leads an organisation that outsources services to start-ups. I’ve realized this- no one’s got everything figured out! Surprise. You just keep moving until it becomes clearer. You can’t stay out of the game to figure things out- you’ve got to be on the ground trying and failing. This reminded me of something I’ve heard Oprah say– when you’re stuck and wondering where your life is going, just ask yourself ‘What’s the next best step?’ Don’t always burden yourself with what happens 5-10 years down the line. Things will figure themselves out!

A reconnection– I work with a great team. And it felt good to reconnect! We have a long distance relationship- half of us are in the UK and the other half in Kenya. It’s difficult to get things moving consistently but we are doing our best! Reconnecting and remembering why we’re doing all this has really left me hopeful. We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars (said by someone else- google it, if interested).

Endless matatu ride(s)– The one thing I miss when I’m abroad is matatu’s! For me, matatu’s are more than just a means of transport. They represent Nairobi culture. I love being fought over by the makanga’s as they make their best efforts to convince me to go into their ride; I love the fact that sometimes a mat will be playing my ideal playlist through speakers with deafening volume and I love the stories I hear being shared. Matatu’s represent the vibrancy and ambition of this city.

A feature(s)– I’m grateful to have been featured in two fantastic blogs this month! Alisha gave me the opportunity to share a bit about being African, living abroad and navigating independence on a feature on her blog called ‘People On The Way‘. I also wrote a letter to myself on Hellen’s blog, Youth of Our Time. Check it out here.

Several event(s)– This holiday is also about feeling the pulse of Nairobi. I’ve been to some really cool events this past month! I attended- a welcome event for MyAfricaIs, a documentary that’s showing positive stories from the continent; the Global Entrepreneurship Summit pre-innovation fair; a fireside chat with the Airbnb CEO, and a fashion and tech panel hosted by Nest Nairobi. I always thought it was difficult to meet like-minded people in this city. Turns out I was going to the wrong places! There are so many amazing people and activities in Nairobi. I’ve been looking forward to this.

 

Thank you, July.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

Obama, I’d Love To Let You Finish But-

What a weekend. Obama touched down and brought home all the goodies- the entrepreneurship summit, praises for Kenya’s progress, promises of investment and (by default) a traffic-less Nairobi city.

Most poignantly, Obama blessed us with a message still ringing in the minds of Kenyans- work hard and you can do and be anything you want.

Let’s not lie- we’ve all heard this before. But coming from Obama? It sounded magical. So sexy. I wish it was that simple- for all of us.

I am privileged. I benefit from education, a loving family, food and shelter, global exposure and working parents. Each of these privileges in themselves come with their own set of fringe privileges. I don’t want to discredit the fact that I work hard. I do. But the environment I have grown up in has had a tremendous influence on my ability to do so. I am painfully aware of the role privilege plays in enabling me to work hard and flourish.

To his credit, Obama acknowledged this, and said as much. To say that you simply need to work hard to be successful is an insult to the many people who face social inequalities and structural oppression. These injustices fueled by tribalism, sexism, economic inequalities, among other issues, trounce the ability to work hard for many Kenyans.

People with privilege often have a very myopic view of how society works. I found this comic that puts my point across perfectly.

Being successful is not purely your own doing. The ability to work hard, in itself, is a privilege influenced by external circumstances.

This narrative of ‘hard work’ is a political tool used to maintain status quo and uphold the power structures that continue to oppress the marginalised in our society. This power play applies in a global context as well. Kenya, and Africa at large, can work hard to progress economically, socially and politically, but the playing field is definitely not level. We are still often at the mercy of the West. We have colonialism to thank for that.

This isn’t about Obama or privileged people- it’s the ideology I have a problem with. There are people who when reminded of their privilege begin a pretentious, ‘it’s not my fault I was born in wealth’ tirade to deny the fact that they benefit from these inequalities. Awh, poor you. Do me a favour please- check your privilege.

 

T

© Tessy Maritim

Today Is Difficult

Today is difficult. There have been many days like this. And many more await me. Moments of uncertainty. Moments of doubt. Moments of fear.

But I want it to be known that I will not be difficult on myself. I’ve set up a precautionary introspective buffer to prevent that. I will not blame myself. I will not blame others. I will take my emotions as they come; they will not be suppressed.

So I want to channel this positively and write about what I find comfort in- to help someone; to help myself.

I find comfort in:

  • having my shit together : when one thing is falling apart, I find refuge in other areas of my life. I work hard to have all the things I have control over, in order. Disclaimer: it still does not fill the void.
  • prayer : keeps you calm, keeps you focused. Even if you just pray around the issue rather than address it directly- God still wants to hear from you.
  • solitude : intimate moments with myself where I can dissect my thoughts and talk myself in and out of things- the sweetest moments.
  • friends : all my angel, sister girls- what does one do without you? Thanks for showering me with endless wisdom; even when I’m stubborn with my decisions. You still catch me everytime I fall. Bless you.
  • repair : i met someone wonderful this week who reminded me that you don’t need to throw it away if it doesn’t work- fix it! Fix it, Jesus.
  • the future : a lot of this stuff doesn’t last forever. I’m reminded of this- There are far greater things ahead of us than what we leave behind. How scary is that!? You want to hang on to a lot of what you thought was the best you could do. But how beautiful to know that there’s more where that came from. May the best of your past be the worst of your future.

I will look back and be thankful.

T

© Tessy Maritim