Every day I wake up in panic, confusion, anxiety, fear and [most times] depression but this feeling isn’t the dread of going to class, at least not entirely. After a semester and a half, I am now majoring in a degree that is of little or no interest to me, whatsoever. Growing up, it was drilled into my brain that, ‘you don’t work hard, you work smart.’ My “corporate mother” would sometimes [subtly] belittle retail workers, waitresses and any person who generally didn’t wear a suit. There was no other option than to be successful to find fulfillment. Yet she always complained about “rat race” and her frequent hustle wading through traffic jam just to get into a job she never liked, filing papers, chasing after clients, meeting targets.
At eighteen I was pushed into studying, which is a privilege within its right, but I naively chose a degree based on its entrance difficulty. Like any other ambitious post high school graduate, I believed that if I was accepted into a lucrative competitive degree, I would find my perfect nook in the workforce. I was admitted into Bachelor of Economics and Statistics degree in Kenyatta University.
During my pre-university [EALP] placement, I realized how mundane working in a bank was. I pushed a button and a computer did the rest. The artistry and skill of developing bank reports and networking with clients had been replaced by a computer and other advances information systems such as ModFin, Finacle 10 et cetera. The days were slow and I had no passion for the job. Not once did I find myself into problems with my supervisor, Mr. Martin Mungai, for always failing to meet the bank’s expectations. For goodness sake, I was just 17. In a forest of qualified graduates strolling through the streets of Nairobi busy soliciting for a job (for the patient ones) and sometimes troubling innocent citizens (for the hopeless ones), how would you take a high school graduate and place him to handle a plethora of annoying Equity customers? Well, the rationale the management has always given is always appalling since I remember there was a time they laid off 7 staff members from Westlands Branch for the sake of this heart-tearing and mind wrecking pre-university internship program. Well, this is beside the point.
Back to my bewoed state of mind. In joining KU, I knew my family would be very upset that I was switching degrees so I felt it would be sensible and appealing to move to a more prestigious degree. I decided to move into a Law degree, given the range of applications this qualification could potentially bring. Of course, my high school grade was good enough to guarantee me a slot in Parklands. Of more concern is that I had signed up myself up for a five-year degree studying a degree of law. This gave me plenty of time not to worry about my future career. The few days in law school, however, can only be described as a horrible lonely experience. I felt out of place, dumb and anxious during class and at home. The harder I tried, the worst my marks got. I guess I was eager to fulfill a lot of societal expectations, since the best performing students from my school were doing these elite courses, and I wouldn’t want to be left out for whatever reason. However, after several weeks at the law school, I began to understand the stress, ruthlessness, and grit that it takes to be a solicitor. Whilst I admired my lecturer, he was short-tempered, angry and insensitive. Forget about him for now.
Eventually, I dropped out, hardly a semester into school. Let it be noted that I didn’t drop out solely because I couldn’t handle all the pressure from this “elite course”. I believe I managed because I satisfactorily convinced my mom and grandma (the only two people who visibly expressed their enthusiasm after being admitted into a university). I delved back into college application paraphernalia, all day week long. With the help from friends, and of course very very little help from the same foundation that held captive the most crucial time span of my glorious teen life, I got into about 23 schools worldwide. Of course, like every other African boy, I would be happy to travel the world over to acquire a “world-class education”. I began soliciting for a scholarship to Edith Cowan, Sidney, UBC, FSU, UCT, UP, et cetera. I have never been so desperate in my life. I even contacted Arap Mashamba for some little endowments from the millions he’s stolen from the public coffers. You’ve never seen a snob in your life. In fact, his daughter (name withheld) was my very good friend, whom we met at Galleria for coffee, twice, until she learned that I was pursuing her father for some funds to travel to Perth, Australia.
And then………..ASHESI happened.
At first, this was quite a relief, given that I had resigned to going back to KU. I wouldn’t say I was excited. In fact, I never bothered to check the website, I confirmed my acceptance into the college very late, I didn’t feel the ish of having being admitted at all, like my peers. I remember going to Mombasa with Cyndy and talking about our wildest ambitions, our life goals, deeply breathing the fresh air in Nyali (it eventually became our chill spot). I was dreaded being asked where I school, especially with my contemporaries. They’d be like “I go to Barnard, New York” or “I go to MSU, East Lansing-Michigan” or “Minerva, San Francisco- California”. I’d take some time to craft an answer.
A similar case is Jackie (my crush-turned-friend) who was also in a similar predicament until when the gods decided to be lenient with her case.
Again, this is a story for another day. Back to my degree issue.
I must confess that no one likes foreigners in their countries. This was the first feeling I had when I landed in the cruel hands of the unwelcoming immigration officials at Kotoka Airport. I resented having traveled over 6500kms away just to be treated as a sub-human. The air was hot and dense. Weird accents. Just from the word go, I thought twice, and within a dint of a second, my whole 4 years flashed through my mind. I couldn’t; wait to get back home, again. Perhaps, I would tell my sisters and those who care to listen to me that, home, yes Kenya, that is where you ought to stay. After all, that is where the heart is.
This mad craze for standards. This yearn to study abroad just because you have the illusion that things are not right at home is just utter non-sense. Lemme tell you why. Had I not left KU, I strongly believe I’d be waaaay better that I am currently. You see when I frequently contact my friends studying across the planet, except home, the common denominator I get is how they are struggling with mental issues imposed by an education system they are not accustomed to. Always venting, cursing, regretting. Disclaimer; I am not suggesting that life out here is generally awful and that all you deserve is staying home and chilling because you cannot thrive out here, NO! I seek, rather, to dispute the notion that studying out here is way better, in all standards than studying in Kenya, or wherever you are comfortable. I do not speak for everybody.
I am left to study Bachelor of Science in Business Administration for lack of a better option. FDE, one of the few practical courses has, with considerable justification, posed a threat to more than half of the freshmen’s mental health, of course, as the administration ignorantly watches from an arm’s length. MADNESS. One of my lowest points was during the fall FDE exam. I neglected my other subjects to spend two weeks studying entrepreneurship. I had no excuses, I studied hard, I was focused and I thought I understood the content. On the day of the exam, I wasn’t tired and I felt confident. My result was 74%. The pain and anxiety of failure has stayed with me for a long time and my confidence was shattered. Oft times I told myself ‘this isn’t forever, you are meant for bigger things.’ This is the dogma that had been instilled in me from an early age and is shared by many of my age in my university.
Again, forget about that. Let’s focus on my useless degree.
Recently, I walked around a shopping center and saw people working in clothing stores and going about their day. I was filled with shame for labeling these people as sad or stuck in dead end jobs. I thought about my mother and how I would have to tell her my failures. I thought about my prospects and about how a retail job might be the best option I could hope for. I was filled with despair for my future and I thought about my choices and arrogance.
So, in essence, I’d advise all level headed students back at home not to leave the very promising course, thriving friendships (including boyfriends and girlfriends), your family and the city delights of Nairobi to punish yourself. Or better put, to end up in a course that would be of little essence to your career endeavors just because of the deception you see in the photos we post from this other side of the world. It’s not that rosy. Life is better at home if you want to make it so. You can walk in the streets of Tom Mboya, Moi Avenue, University way, Muindi Mbingu, get yourself booze at whatever place without fear of being taken advantage for being a stranger (foreigner). That you can thrive in the ever sweet Ugali and take Sunday excursions in Longonot, Ngong, Kijabe, lakeside (Kisumu) et cetera as you please without worrying about anything, after all, YOU’RE HOME.
And above all, you can keep your “old friends”. Believe it when they say “OLD IS GOLD”. I have burnt all my bridges, sometimes without the knowledge of it because of the way it is so demanding to get even a minute in the social media. Don’t trade what you have already for something you ain’t certain about. How did I leave Economics in a thriving Kahawa West environment for Business Administration in an environment I have to deal with a snoring roommate, very intolerant and sometimes ignorant classmates, xenophobic lecturers, pathetic food? My malnourished ailing body, troubled state of mind, constant emotional wreckage, psychological disorders, lonely life- beleaguered by the very blood that feeds my soul- is what I have to pay for my restlessness in KU. If only I thought twice.
So, my friends agitated about leaving Kenya, listen to me; You might not necessarily thrive out here as much as you expect. You will not see people smiling at you at the airport, welcoming you into Ghana, or South Africa, or [especially] in the United States. Baki kwenu. Don’t let your juvenile foibles be the reason you are hoodwinked to give up a course you always dreamt since you came to your sense just for the promise of better things out here. There’s nothing much to look forward to.
I am just 20 years old and I am afraid of what my future will bring. I wish I could say I found an amazing career or became self-made prodigy or social media star but I haven’t. I wish I could say that I found a passion or something I am working towards, but that isn’t the case either. I have a few in between reprieves but in the meantime, I spend my days worrying. I comb through career sites daily hoping to find the perfect job to suit my course (but always disappointed). Until then, I hope others can read my experience and reflect on their own path.
2020 is 3 years away! Cursed be the heavens!
Muigai wa Muigai
(alias Daniel Patrick)