2020: Everything Good Has Come
I read Sefi Atta’s Everything Good Will Come towards the end of last year. It was one of the books that left me with more questions than answers. About what I deeply desire in life. About what I am doing to fulfil those desires. About what lies ahead of me if somehow, those desires do not come. Somewhere within the book, she says the lesson to learn is that the world is round, which means that if I run too fast, I might end up chasing the very homeland I am running from.
She says that at the end of the day, everything good will come. Not necessarily what your heart desires, but that which the universe creates for you. And that is how the ‘Everything Good Will Come’ became my mantra in 2020, even when I did not know I was living by it.
Unlike everything else, I never make new year resolutions. Heck, I do not think I have ever stayed up late waiting to usher in the new year, and send those boring messages to people I haven’t talked to in years. If I like you that much, and you occupy some space in my heart, I will wake up at my own time on 1st January, and draft you a kinda-long personal message. No two people can ever get the same message from me.
So when I stepped into 2020, I had only one goal; to note down all my wins, at least weekly, no matter how big or small they are. Breathing. Laughing. Finding peace. Conquering fears. Starting out new things. Newness.
But by the time we got into February, I was already overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep track of days, let alone my weekly accomplishments. I could wake up on a Monday, and within seconds, I was begging myself to get out of bed and go to church, because well, Sunday was here again.
Before I knew it, it was February 22nd and I was supposed to host a Breaking Down book reading. Ah, you should have seen how freaked out I was a few days to the event, to a point I almost cancelled it altogether. Why? I didn’t think I was enough. I didn’t thing I was big enough to host an event at Alliance Francaise. I didn’t think I could pull another crowd, in Nairobi. Kwani who do I think I am? Why would people leave their houses on a Saturday afternoon to show up, when most of them already attended the launch barely six months ago?
I know I was freaking out because even when I went to fit my outfit of the day at my designer’s place, I didn’t know what I wanted, which is a rare thing for me. I almost always know what I want to wear. How I want it to flow. The colour. The slits, etc. But I was lost, so I threw in a ‘just give me what you think would look good on me.’
I know I freaked out because I did not send out any personal invitations, apart from the ones to my bosses, who failed to show up :-) I was afraid of texting people only for them to say, ‘I am afraid I won’t manage to show up. But receive my heartfelt congratulations. I know you will do well.” Come on, Josephat, how will I do well if you do not show up and buy the books?
Heck, I didn’t even hire a photographer because well, what is the point?
So a little girl with huge fears sat in confusion, hoping that more than enough people had seen the poster do rounds on social media, and would miraculously show up.
What is that thing they say about everything good will come? Yes, it comes. My people showed up. The turn up was more than 100, to a point I began to think the hall would be too small.
People sat in silence listening to me talk about the book; most of whom I was seeing for the very first time.
Scholar showed up, bold and courageous, and held my hand throughout. Nyanza, fashionably late as usual, wore an impeccable black dress that has refused to leave my mind. Someday, when I finally gain a few kgs, I promise myself to steal it from her, together with her cinderella shoes.
And at the end of the event, I had to struggle with ‘Who are you, please?” Because I was meeting these people for the first time, and they were almost worshipping at my feet.
After that, it took a lot of time for me to process that I am a big deal. That I am doing great things. That this thing I think only belongs to me and the people closest to me, is growing wings and I am in no position to control whoever it touches. Which is both a good and a bad thing. Good because there lies a lot of greatness in uncertainties. Bad because well, you cannot control what comes out of human beings’ mouths.
Good because one day, just like me, you will be lying in bed wondering why life has started to move so slowly when a text pops up:
“Hey. You remember Kas Kazi? That novel we wrote ages ago? It is finally published, and the launch is scheduled for 6th March. Would you be kind enough to show up?”
If you are like me, you will make just two phone calls after you read that text. One to your designer; please make me another dress for a book launch, and one to your nail tech asking ‘Will you be free to make my nails tomorrow at 9 am?”
I wrote my section of Kas kazi in mid 2018, when I was struggling with a lot of things. I had just cleared campus, and was struggling to lead a writers group down in the coast. I was broke, because part of my contract read ‘this is a voluntary position. It is better you understand this before you sign it.’ It is not something we give a second thought, the unpaid thingy, because mostly we think this is a great avenue to propel us further. But the amount of suffering that awaits you ahead of that is never worth it. Just sign contracts that have money.
It was difficult; writing Kas Kazi. Because it was my first time writing controlled fiction. Controlled in the sense that the characters and plot had already been set. All my life, I have almost always been a confessional writer (You will need to google that in case you are hearing it for the first time), and fiction was still something I had not thought of.
Now that I think of it, Kas Kazi was beautiful because it set me up on my journey towards writing. Why? Because when the editors got back with feedback about my part of the story, I couldn’t believe it. It was so beautiful they almost gave me a chance to write another part of the story.
It was beautiful because it gave me the courage to try my hand at fiction. Because it taught me how to believe in my art. It taught me that even though I was just starting out, I had what it takes to work with legends. Who would have thought I would write with the legendary Peter Kimani? He of the famous Dance of the Jakaranda? He of Nairobi Noir?
But I did it. I wrote with Peter Kimani, and I was only included in that project because of MERIT.
And that thought has remained with me every Thursday when I have been tempted to not put up a blog post. That, together with Bantuh always telling me, “You need to put in the work and time, Eunniah. As cliché as it sounds, there is no overnight success. At least not in the creative industry.”
Even then, the ‘Technology’ tab on my blog is probably thinking I died. Or the apocalypse happened. Or the whirlwind came and carried my 52kgs to a faraway land, where there is no creative mojo. And just when it wants to log into Facebook and type ‘Rest in Peace. I cannot believe you are gone. We just talked yesterday,” I show up and religiously fill the the other tabs. So it shakes its head in disgust and mutters ‘WAMAMA!!’
It has been close to seven months, I think, since I bothered Mike to create that tab. Mike is my IT guy. You know your stars have started aligned when you start to have guys. Mike my IT guy. Fred my boda guy. Wilfred my other boda guy. Omosh my mathree guy. Rasta my parcels guy. You have so many guys that you are forced to save them wit their respective profession, to avoid sending a ‘nimetoa nguo zote already, ni wewe tu nangoja’ text to your boda guy, instead of to your ‘mama fua.”
It has been seven months, I guess, since Francis and I walked into the Java along Mama Ngina Street, because we needed a table to finish our pictures-transfer business.
Francis, I like to say, comes carrying the entire Luopean software. Ebu go order three double lattes. Here, use my mpesa to buy. Of course, my pin is **. Bwana do you think you can steal from me? Hata hiyo ya mpesa hukua pocket change tu. Steal it if you want tuone kama ntakufa maskini.
Myself, if I go to Java and pay fro three lattes from my pocket, I swear I will regret that moment for the rest of my life? Just hot water, milk, coffee, and sugar? Or maybe it is just poverty that is speaking on my behalf. :-)
But Francis continues to breathe just normal, and asks why I am not practising engineering. And when i tell him bla bla bla employment bla bla bla, he says:
You do not have to wait for someone to give you a job. You see that blog you have? Use it. Create an extra tab. Choose a day of the week where you just upload things related to technology and engineering. You might never know who will come across it. And even if no one comes across it, at least your brain does not forget the thing you went to school for.
And that is how Mike my IT guy had to endure, for days, my nagging messages of ‘umemaliza? Ai, kwani ni ngumu aje? Na si kama hutaki uniambie tu?’
But Mike my IT guy understands my shenanigans, so his calm response was always, ‘Ni utulie tu. Ile siku ntamaliza ntakuambia. Ama kama uko na haraka sana unaweza jifanyia tu.’ (I promise ,if you know the Mike I am talking about, and you can read the above in a kale accent, you will die of laughter)
It saddens me that I ave not managed to put up even a single post on that tab. It pains me that there is a lot of material that lies scattered around me; material I could turn into a beautiful post about technology. But I have done none of that, and overtime I try to beat myself about it, my heart reminds me that I have an 8 to 5 job, and it is okay to feel drained at the end of the day.
I have been tempted to quit my job, several times, this year, because of various reasons. Because I started getting tired of monotony. Because I started dreading Mondays. Because I began to feel that my time there is up, and I needed to move. Because it somehow stopped to be the reason I looked up to new days. Because the happiness I used to derive from it started to dwindle. Because every new message that popped in the Whatsapp group drove my anxiety levels to weird heights. Because I started growing tired of giving my all, and getting so little in return.
But my Ally has been here for me. He has listened to all my rants about work. He has given me hope. He has assured me that he will be there, always. He has texted whenever I was down and asked “How are you?” And before I could answer, he followed with “And do not give me that bullshit ‘I am fine’ answer. Tell me how you really are.” And even though most of the times I struggle to fight my tears, I know I found a human in him.
And when all comes tumbling down and I tell him I want to quit, his answer has always been “Why quit when you can do multiple roles, and earn while at it?” He calls, and makes me laugh, threatens me a little bit, and then reassures me. That it is okay to feel that way. It is okay to want better. Heck, I deserve better. But it is also okay to not have it yet. And when my resolve to quit became too strong, he sighed and said, ‘If nothing, stay because of me. Because we both agree we need at least one person at the workplace with whom we can reason together.”
What I have learnt this year is sometimes all you need to do is ask. You want something? Ask. You feel something? Ask. Confused? Ask. What is the worst that could happen? They could say No. And you won’t die.
I ran into a big loss this year while doing my second book. There are things I overlooked. There are aspects I ignored and man oh man, I lost a whole load of cash in the process. I remember sitting in that dingy restaurant along Tom Mboya street, my cheek in hand, struggling so hard to not cry in public. Trying to calm my racing heart. Tearing myself into pieces. Begging my soul to hold on a little bit longer. Trying to come to terms with the fact that I would have to wait for another month before I could again think of doing the book all over again.
So what do I do? I call Nano. I call Nano because their name suddenly crosses my mind in my time of distress. I call Nano because I need to talk to someone, and distract myself from the crying I am about to do. I tell Nano what just happened while I beg myself to not cry while at it.
But Nano calms me down, and asks how much I have lost. I hesitate because I am still in shame. But when they ask for the second time, I manage to whisper it out. But Nano keeps their cool and says, “Hold up. I will sort you out. And no, you do not need to refund. I know how passionate you are about books. Go on. Do your magic.”
Sometimes when I sit and reflect about that moment, I cant help but wonder what could have happened if I had not picked that phone and made that call. What if the shame could have clouded and mind and held me back from saying what was bothering me. What would have become of my book? Would I be where I am right now? Would I ever forgive myself about what happened? Would I even get the courage to respond to media interviews that keep on having the same question: When is your next book coming out?
Still, Nano did not stop there. When I got anxiety attacks, they welcomed me to their space. They listened to me. They allowed my laughter to fill the room. They showered me with books. They allowed me to dream, all the time saying, ‘Do not be a stranger. You are free to pass by and relax when you need to.’ It is a wonder I have always managed to keep my tears in check, throughout my struggle to being myself.
again, just ask. Ask for what your heart wants. I promise you, there is no shame once you realise what good tidings come from asking.
I saw Ndugu Abisai ‘s “Remember Your Greatness. Remember You’re Greatness” t-shirt and said, ‘I think I also want that tshirt.’ You know what he said? ‘What is your size and preferred colour?’ And I had the t-shirt in a week’s time.
When Bikozulu’s Thursdays came out, Bantuh posted it on his status and I casually commented: “If you still like my locks, please get me a copy of this.” Why? Because every time I post a picture of me, no matter how fire it is, Bantuh will only see the locks. And now he calls me murasta like no one’s business.
Do you know what he said? ‘Next time you are next to Prestige Bookshop, give me a call. I will get it for you.’ That is how I owned Thursdays, and a couple of more books this year.
I have posted pictures of books on my Whatsapp status, asking for santa to come thru, and yes, someone has always seen me kando and bought me the book. I have read, as of now, 50 books this year, and most of these have not been bought by me.
What am I saying? There is power in asking. There is power in the words of your tongue. Your mind is power. There is power in the things your heart wants. You just need to let it out, and it shall happen.
Again, what has 2020 taught me? Yes, everything good will come. But that does not mean that there will not be hardships. That there will not be struggles. That there will not be losses. That everything good will come via a smooth road. It means that it is the way of life; everything happens as it should.
You will lose people you really wanted to stay. People who saw greatness in you, and you gave your whole to them. You will lose them in the simplest way possible. But you will understand because you do not want to scar them in the process of holding on to them. You do not want to go running after them, begging them to understand. That this is how you are. You get meltdowns, often, and rise after sometime. It is the way you deal with past traumas, because the memories keep coming back.
Still, you will keep hoping they come back. That they find the strength to pick you up, to let you know they will always be there, albeit in silence. And when they don’t, your heart will crash into your stomach, and your world will go dark.
I have lost a couple of these, this year, and even though I still feel the pain, I have learnt to move on. If it was meant to be, sure, it will at its own time.
2020 marks my being in the media industry for more than a year now, and believe me, I have not doubted myself more than I have for this. Sometimes, I look back at the first articles I wrote and wonder why the hell did someone even publish that? I am scared even more that it went live with my byline, and that it will stay that way forever. To remind me of where I have come from. That I have not been always this great; there was a time I had no clue of what I was doing.
But it is the way life is; you carry your own cross. And I am happy looking at that article and seeing its wackiness, because that means I have grown. So much, to a point one of bosses refers to me as “our aviation expert”. To an extent a client approaches the company and states they would like just ME to write their articles.
What is that they say agin? Yes, everything good will come.
2020 will go down as the year I have built my craft to heights I never believed I could. The year I chose to believe in my dreams, and do those things which pleasure my heart. The year I chose to choose those who choose me only.
I started a book club in March, Between the Covers, and no one prepared me for what it feels like when people refer to you as Founder of XYZ. It is a beautiful feeling. It reminds you of the goals you carry on your shoulders. It reminds you of the dreams you are nurturing. It reminds you of the greatness that still lies ahead of you. And I am so glad the members of that book club are the best I could ever ask for. They listen when I talk. They are not afraid to voice their thoughts. They hold each other’s hands, and have an extremely beautiful relationship with books.
While at it, someone I look up to in the book industry approached me and asked if I could be the commissioning editor (again, you need to look this up, just in case) for an upcoming high school set book. Man, I spent days replaying that phone call in my head, wondering whether they picked me by mistake.
But soon enough, they began sending me stories, and asking for my feedback. I was running up and down the literary corridors sourcing for high school stories from around the whole continent. I was coming into terms with the fact that one of my stories is going to be part of that book. Me? Writing a set book?
Sometime next year, we hope that book finally sees the light of day.
While at it, I have run a successful fiction writing masterclass, and people enrolled, and paid. They have referred to me as their mentor, and I was almost tempted to call them my students. But we have grown to learn from each other, to appoint we are one small family. A family that learns together. A family that drinks from each other’s well. A family that picks each other up. A family whose only goal is to grow together.
And just when I thought I had had enough, I found myself in a class. Learning the ropes of this creative world. Unlearning the things I had convinced myself I couldn’t do. Starting to accept that everything good has finally come. And God-willing, I graduate anytime from now…:-)
As usual, I am not making any plans for 2021. I am not writing a wish list. I am not writing resolutions because wueh, this body I carry has taught me the language of patience. It has taught me a lot about spontaneity. It has forced me to accept the fact that rules are never going to be a thing that works for me. And that is okay.
In the end, I just hope 2021 is kind to my soul. That it comes bearing soft lessons. That its waters make the flowers within me bloom. That its sun rejuvenates my will to dream. That its oceans breathe life into my heart and soul. That the whispers of its trees take me to a land full of freedom and peace. That its joys find me at a good place, and its sorrows, if any, do not break me into pieces.
In Sefi Atta’s words, I hope 2021 continues to bring everything good.