Romancing the story

What’s your dream career? I don’t mean the job you’d love to do, the one that ‘wouldn’t feel like work’. I mean the one you fantasise about, the one you think must be fairytale bliss. (Mine is probably chocolate taster, because omg so. much. chocolate!

For a lot of people, it’s being a princess, or a writer, or a sailor. I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week because my writing list has covered Pest Control Services and Tombstone Carvers … Also, I’ve been reading about maritime disasters, watching Royals, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

A lot of the clients I write for are family businesses in the first world. So while us guys grow up wanting to be doctors or lawyers or socialites, there’s a guy somewhere in the bundus of UK who woke up one day and said, ‘You know what, Wife? We’re going to kill bugs. And people are going to pay us to do it.’ And they did. For 50 years and counting. And all their nieces and nephews and kids and grandkids are part of the family business.

These kids did not tell their guidance counselors that they want to be policemen when they grew up. Nope. Their career path was clear from day one. Their folks and grandfolks had made millions (?) killing insects and it was their duty to continue with the business. They didn’t really have a choice.

For some people, this is a blessing. They find comfort knowing their path is charted out, that they have a job waiting, that they don’t have to struggle to discover what they want to do when they grow up. They just go to school and study something relevant to the family firm. Like … I don’t know … a degree in radioactive roach control.

For others, this feels like a trap. They are free spirits and would rather be lost and uncertain on their own life journeys than have a destination chosen for them. They’d rather flit from job to job until they find one that fits. A similar line of thinking came up in the royals documentary.

Some street-side interviewees said they felt sad for modern royals. Their whole lives are designed, what school they go to, what charity they support, what family they can marry. Especially the first borns, the crown heirs. The crown spares are even more trapped, because their whole lives are basically waiting for siblings to die so they can be a just-in-case monarch.

Other people thought this was the best way to live! Be rich, don’t pay bills, attend fancy events, then die and be buried in fancy clothes. The cost? Don’t fall in love with the wrong person, and try not to be photographed doing anything stupid. I suppose your views on this spectrum are driven by your personality, what you believe in, the kind of person that you are. Neither opinion is right or wrong. They’re just … different.

Unrelated: how the fuck did we ever communicate before gifs?!?!

Back to the point, I’m a writer by profession, and my current target for 2025 is a container house on the shores of Lake Elementaita (where a friend currently owns a resort full of forest cabins and is trying to convince me that cabin beats container). So yeah, lying in a hammock, staring at flamingoes, and typing on my laptop is a very real possibility by the time I’m 43. #KnockCabin

Except … that’s not really what my daily life is like. Yes, I work in my pyjamas and write for a living, and I generally enjoy it. But it’s not the romantic notion of scribbling words under a tree. Most days, I’m on my bed or at my writing desk, sitting until my ass hurts, chasing panic-inducing deadlines as I write SEO articles about marble tiles and Japanese blenders. Up-side, it pays well, I nap a lot, and I get to use all the puns I want woohoo! #PunsAreFun

Sometimes I think other jobs must be way more exciting. Like being a sailor or a hunter or a chef. But the truth is – as much as we romanticise that shit, they’re all just jobs. Hunters still have to skin animals and clean smelly intestines. Sailors spend a lot of time in nasty weather smelling like fish. And some people earn their millions killing bugs. What’s my point? I have no idea. I was just thinking about it so I wrote about it. Sorry. Here, have a gif.

♫ How you remind me ♫ nickelback ♫

Pain

I’ve never considered cutting. It just didn’t occur to me. I guess because I’m terrified of pain, and not too wild about blood or broken skin. Scabs maybe, but not the raw stuff. But I do get the thinking behind it … probably because it’s the space I’m in now.

My teenager tells me everybody cuts, and that it’s no big deal. Unfortunately, one of her crowd took it over the edge and ended up in hospital, but that’s not my story to tell. My story is … well … feeling so much emotional hurt that a physical outlet seems better. It’s an inkling that if I had something tangible to focus on, then it would dull the torture inside.

Some people cut for the opposite reason. They’re so numb and dead inside that physical sensation – even the negative kind – will remind them they’re alive. Seeing their blood flow out proves that they’re still breathing. But because those dark spaces are cyclic, they keep needing the razor-sharp mnemonic. And anyway, beer is better, so if you’re cutting, you can get cheap-to-free non-judgey help at Amani Centre of Befrienders Kenya.

I’m big on MBTI and I’m a feeler, so I’m supposed to prefer ‘feeling’ over ‘thinking’ and be comfortable with my emotions. My best friend is a thinker, so it’s always been my assumption that I can handle sentiment better than he can. Turns out it isn’t the case. See, he … feels things. He doesn’t try to figure them out, because digging into feelings is exhausting. He prefers logic.

So when he feels something positive, he goes with it. When he feels something negative, he sits still and waits for it to pass. It’s a lesson he’s trying to teach me, because I give so much weight to my feelings that I’m obsessed with understanding them. So I analyse them to breaking point, and if they’re illogical (which feelings generally are) then I suppress them.

Here’s the thing with the stuff you suppress. It eventually pulls a coke bottle on you, and the sight is never pretty. I thought I had learned this lesson already – especially since my therapist made repeat the exercise so often. Turns out I wasn’t paying attention.

I’ve been holding in a lot of shit and it’s coming out explosively. So then I just started tuning it out with beer and weed cookies, but that just pushes it down further. Also, it makes me wake up with cramps. So this week I decided no cookies, no beer (also, I was super broke). I decided I’m just going sit with this shit and feel it. And you know what? Feelings suck raw eggs. Send beer.

♫ Basket Case ♫ Green Day ♫

Tell the whole story goddammit!!

I hate cops. I really do. To me, they’re not people. They’re ghouls in uniform. If I was dating someone and I found out they were a cop, I’d dump them, no discussion. In fairness, I dated someone whose parents were cops, but that’s not why we broke up.

I hate cops because I haven’t had a single positive interaction with them. Not when they accosted me outside my house in my pyjamas and harassed me. It was 6.30 a.m. I was 14, walking to the kiosk phone booth to call a boy I had a crush on. And they surrounded, these four tall men with guns. I’ll never know what they wanted with me, because in my panicked state, I started yelling in schitzophrenic dholuo, using vocabulary I didn’t know I had. I don’t know exactly what I was saying, but one told the others that I was psycho and they scrambled away. I never did call that boy.

Not when I was pickpocketed, lost my ID, and went to the cop station for an abstract. Twice. Not when my brother was robbed of everything including his spoons. He went to the station with all his receipts and serial numbers and was told ‘Boss, hizo ni nyingi. Mtu hu-report kitu moja ama mbili.’

Not when our house was robbed at gunpoint by neighbourhood kids we could easily recognise. We were tied up, and after they left, we got free and called the cops. They arrived two hours later, banging on the now locked gate. When I finally got the courage to go open it, with my 2 month old baby in my arms, they laughed that I was too scared to open. ‘You thought the thieves had come back? They already took everything, why would they come back?’ Why was I scared? Well, you might know the Kenyan proverb for rude knocking, ‘Mbona unagonga mlango kama polisi?’

Utumishi kwa wote. Yeah, right.

I have taught my child never to seek help from a cop. If she ever finds herself in a jam, she is to find a woman who looks safe and ask her to immediately call me. That’s how much I hate – and fear cops. So when I saw this picture, it hit me on a visceral level. But more than being upset and traumatised, I was puzzled. I couldn’t understand that photo. What was going on? The girl was clearly horrified, but he couldn’t have had any negative intentions … not with a camera that close.

I mean yeah, cops have impunity. The maim and kill and steal and worse. They teargas nursery schools and truncheon pregnant women. I’ve seen this happen. But they do it ‘in the dark’. When there are so many of them that all you see is a sea of uniform. When you’re alone and scared with no one to save you. When their serial numbers are hidden inside their sweaters. They don’t do it in the open. They’re not that brazen. So I was willing to accept that version of the story. That this big scary man with his big scary gun was trying to hurt a little girl in school uniform.

But he wasn’t. He was trying to help her. And so were the journalists.

Watch the video here.

In the past, the media – especially international media – has taken  disturbing (and award winning) pictures without getting involved. It was their duty to report, not to change the facts. Because, you know, time travel, butterfly effect, yadda yadda. Of course, journalists are human, so it does catch up with them eventually. So I’m glad that this time they – and the cops – intervened. They got those kids to safety.

I don’t trust cops any more than I did last week. I still wouldn’t tell my daughter to ask them for help. But this time … this time we were wrong. He was helping that girl, they all were. So stop spreading the lie. We’re divided enough as it is.

But but … what about this one? Nigga please. It’s called tear gas. Nkt. 

♫ I Hate Everything About You ♫ Three Days Grace ♫