It is 3:47 a.m. I am lying in a twist such that my upper body is facing a different direction from my lower part. Yogis would call that the supine twist. I am staring at the shadow of the circling fan on the right wall. I am gazing into the nothingness; blank space. It reminds me of my own brain; tabula rasa. A clean slate. Back to square one. I pick up my phone and reply some messages. In the morning, one would ask, ‘But what keeps you awake at 3:47?’ Uncertainty… This part of my life is called, uncertainty.

I have been here before; this uncertainty phase. It always finds a way to catch up with me. But maybe this is what makes my life interesting. The uncertainty. The not knowing of where you are headed to or even what you want. It reminds me of this famous gif on uncertainty. I smile.

My boss had said, ‘We are caging this bird. We need to let her fly and grow her own wings’ referring to me. This is the only permanent workplace I have worked for nine months. If it was a marriage, I would be having a baby. But I don’t have a baby. It was a comfortable place, perhaps too comfortable for me to have any baby by the end of it all. Then the other day, just on an impulse, I walked in to my boss and said, “I feel confined. I need to grow.” I am not good with confined spaces. Must be the claustrophobia. But I can’t really say I just acted on a whim, I had thought about it for almost two months yet it still feels like a reckless move. My manager sat me down for that ‘goodbye pep talk’ and I asked, ‘so how long do I have?’ She said, ‘One week.’

One week. I remember when it got to the seventh month, I thought to myself, ‘wow…am I really doing this?’

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‘I have no plan.’ I was talking to myself more than I was, to her.
‘I absolutely have no plan.’ And suddenly, I could feel the heat at the pit of my stomach. For the first time I was terrified of my action. How was I going to learn how to start flying within a week without leading myself to starvation? Uncertainty.

It is also just two days ago that I realized my side business was an NGO in disguise. We were doing charity instead of business. I need to go back to the drawing board…this means back to square one. Did I just throw away my last straw keeping me afloat on a stormy night? I curl up in my bed. Uncertainty.

A mentor recently told me, ‘You are already successful, you just haven’t realized it yet.’ And I said, ‘There’s something i’m looking for that I haven’t found. I don’t know what it is but when I find it i’ll recognize it. I still lack utmost satisfaction in me.’ Then he said, ‘That’s where our different definitions of success comes in. Everyone has their own.’

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I now lie flat staring at the ceiling. I am not sure whether I am abnormal, too ambitious or simply living an illusion.A friend told me, ‘You can’t just make an abrupt decision. You need a contingency plan.’ But a contingency plan never existed in my dictionary. So ironic for an over-thinker I know but then not having a plan always pushed me to the edge. So the plan has always been ‘not having a plan’ and i’d just spend hours over-thinking my lack of a plan. Nonetheless, this made me explore all fields I could get myself into. It seems like an adventure and I love adventures. There’s the thrill and excitement that comes with it every time I tried something new. It’s terrifying. So terrifying. The uncertainty. Not knowing where life is pushing you into.

Sigh. Perhaps i’m in the wrong planet or perhaps i’m taking longer strides than my legs can stretch?

I have known failure far too many times to not know the feeling of uncertainty that comes with it. But I never regretted any impulsive action I ever took. Like the times I cancelled contracts just because my clients or bosses were crushing my self-esteem . Who does that really? But my peace of mind is my priority and I just decided i’ll stick to that even when i’m starving to death. If you can trust me with your vision then you might as well trust my abilities. Or the times I started new courses without really thinking ahead or even whether I had the time and resources to do it. My best friend says I’m becoming a risk taker. Risk taker sounds good. I’ll gladly take the title.

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I’m uncertain of what i’m doing, or what I want or where i’m headed to. I just know I have big dreams and goals bigger than myself. I am back at the starting point and doing this all over again but what’s the worse that could happen? Me staring at the ceiling at 3:47 a.m. Not so bad. This too shall pass.

I am still staring at the white ceiling and for a moment, I assume the wall is life. And I say, ‘Surprise Me.’ Life has never disappointed with surprises and the electric shocks that awaken us. But so does God. He never disappoints. My eyes are getting heavier now. I slowly drift back to slumber land. I still have one more week to plan my new adventure…

I still haven’t found what i’m looking for…

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By: Ibrahim Al Jabri

I often critique our societal norms and structure in respect to happiness,to try to find the source of our unhappiness. One of the greatest factors that correlate to societal norms and happiness is financial success, how we define it and it’s acceptable attainability.

It’s important to mention that we are beings dependant on a sense of level of satiability. Are we satisfied with our level of success ? If we’re not then we immediately retreat to depression and self doubt. In this regard we are deeply flawed.

In my country especially, there’s just not enough good jobs out there for the taking and it creates a deeply competitive market that capitalizes on niche qualifications. This creates a rush to degree courses and specializations on ¬†markets that can sustain our need of financial success,our need to one day flaunt it.

Now personally I did look at job markets before choosing my degree , I had to do so much research on the monetary value of certain employment opportunities over others that I forgot what’s truly important. Passion. Am I interested in this field or am I chasing financial gains ?

It’s not my fault for being so crass in the way I choose , I was programmed that way by a failing market.

No one should have to choose passion over financial success. In a working economy all of our interests would warrant sufficient compensation, I would be able to survive just a writer we wouldn’t all be pigeonholed into being doctors and lawyers oh and let’s not forget pilots.

If I had a penny for every smart as a bag of hair medical student who’s parent is rich enough to pay for the novelty of a Dr tittle I’d be rich enough to survive on my writing alone.

Feel free ( or don’t ) to replace the above example with any degree course that isn’t in the arts as I have no qualms that are degree-specific.

The only reason I’m not in a liberal arts college ( besides that my country doesn’t have one ) studying literature and creative writing is the fact that I don’t want to be homeless. Its that simple. We give up our passions for realistic degrees that pay well and once we are financially stable we yearn for happiness.

I can only hope that there’s a niche market out there for writers without any college level training in writing.

My future happiness is banking on it.

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Sometimes I wish I could be a drama queen.You know like,’You are going to listen to me. Whether you like it or not!’ and just make noise till I get what I want. This has been my thought since morning today. I decided to wake up and do something once again after I had given up on all the newspaper houses I knew of. Well life is all about trying again and again,isn’t it?

I rushed into town with a very well plotted plan on how I was going to go into Nation media and approach the receptionist as confident as ever. I would look into her eyes with such a burn that she would get scared that I am just from murdering someone.I would ask for the editor and of course she would tell me he/she is not around. She would ask me what I need from the editor and that I can leave a message. I would lean forward and tell her in a deadly whisper,’I have a hot story worth your headlines. You better not let me go away from here because I am going to sell this story to the Standard and YOU (pointing at her) will be fired for letting a person like me not meet the editor. You are going to bite your fingers with regret and your editor will hit your head to the wall for making the paper go through such a loss. No other media house will take you in because everyone would have known how you let a story worth millions go to the competitor. Woman,you are going to be miserable forever.’ I would then walk away confidently and she would quickly pick her phone behind my back and whisper something before calling me out loud. I would turn as innocently as ever and ask,’are you calling me?’ and she would quickly nod before apologizing,’Sorry, the editor asks us to not let people in. They should just leave their message here.’
‘But I am not people did you notice that?’
‘Yes I did. Sorry once again. You can go in. His office is over there.’ She would say so apologetically as she shows me the way.
I would walk confidently into the office and give the editor an enigmatic smile.
‘I was informed you have a hot story. So i’m all ears.’ He would say after the greeting.
I would sit upright and cross my legs.
‘You are very lucky I choose Nation and if you are curious to know why then let not the suspense kill you. Do you remember ‘the falling star’ fiction story published 10 years back? I was just 12 years then but your paper declared me among the youngest best writers. Do you remember? Perhaps you don’t but I very well do. Let me show you (and I would hand him the well laminated piece of newspaper),this is why and how I’ve always considered myself one of you. When you declared me among the best writers, you gave me hope and this is when my writing journey started. This is when I decided i’ll be a writer for the rest of my life. So how dare you decide that i’m not worthy your newspaper now without even having a look at my CV? How dare you shatter my dream and of many other writers by letting secretaries deal with us instead of YOU deciding and listening to us and seeing our potential before declaring’THERE IS NO SPACE FOR ANYONE??! Please make me understand why things happen the way they do. Please make me understand why you let so many people give up just because of these boundaries? Someday I’m going to be the bestselling writer and I promise to remind you of all the CV’s I sent that ended to the secretary instead of the editor or HR’ *whispers ameen to that* Then I would courteously apologize for his time. The hot story was simply about the hundreds of talented writers who are never given the opportunities. I would leave my business card and my CV, just in case you know…he might still want the story…I’d say thank you and leave him as flabbergasted as never before. I wish it was as simple as writing it. See why I started with wishing I could be a drama queen? I would have spoken for so many other people who wish to do the same. But I am an activist by pen so this is what I can do best perhaps.

Well I was planning to make the editor as guilty as possible, ruin his ego and make him feel like the worst human being ever.Then after that I was going to go do the same at Standard,Nation, Star and all these newspapers I ever submitted my CV to and never got a response not even a humble one of,’We did receive your CV but unfortunately we don’t need a writer but we will surely consider it for the future.’ Isn’t there any etiquette left?

Well,being a drama queen was never going to get me a job or anyone but I needed to explode and when you have to,then make sure you do it at the right place;to the people who can change the course of things.

So when I finally got to Nation media house and as I adjusted my confident self,I got a face palm from the kind notice on the door,we have moved to opposite Pandya hospital.’ Aarrghh, my bubble burst right then. All that planning?! I console myself,’Everything happens for a reason. Everything happens for some goodness.’I look ahead and see Coast Weekly. Let me try over there.

I go to Coast Weekly and the personal secretary to the editor explains to me that the editor is not around and that she has to deal with me first before sending me forward to the editor. I was heartbroken once again.Why do editors keep these barriers always? Why do they let secretaries decide and filter whom is worthy being listened to?I saw it in ALL offices I went to and I ended up believing that to get a job especially in media industry you need to have strong connections in the hierarchy somewhere so that they can fix you the job. I do understand that secretaries are important and that without them we would have mediocre people and jokers storming in to the editor for silly issues but haven’t people seen that so much talent keeps being kicked off? What if,just what if,this person you sent away without listening to may be the light in your dark tunnel? Just what if they push your company to grow?

Anyway,I decided I had learnt from experience and said firmly I was only going to talk to the editor and no one else. I wanted my privacy I insisted but this lady explained that these are rules for the organization and had to be followed. I understood,it is like that always.Everywhere.RULES and boundaries. She offered to help and so I spoke to her. I was really pissed then. Pissed at how editors are acting like mini gods. Even God Himself doesn’t keep such boundaries!! The lady then recognized me from when I used to write for Coast This Week and praised my work. Now that she knew am talking from experience, I told her of how secretaries keep making decisions on behalf of their bosses and she said she understood me and that in their office, all that is received is open to all the key leaders in the organization. This kind lady tried to console me before asking for my contacts, just in case you know…I calmed down a bit and left the office.

Many thoughts been clouding my thoughts since then. You talk to people about these problems and they just sympathize. But we don’t really need the pity! We; writers have worked hard,got our good certificates,have the talent required yet why do we people have to treat us like orphaned children who have nowhere to go yet we have oceans of wisdom to offer? I know this happens to many other people as well in other sectors where you have to force a connection with a superior to make it through. Do our CV’s even get past the secretary or the editor just asks’what is that? A job application? Just put it on my desk’ and it rots there forever. Or is it thrown in the dustbin? Are the emails even read after we get the automated responses? It’s really annoying and sad.

I’ve always wanted to become an editor and the more I meet these boundaries so I don’t get to talk to the editors or HR managers, the more I want to become one. I hope this dream comes true someday because I will employ these writers who have nowhere else to take their work. I will make space for them even if there is none.I will give chances to these very talented people whose work is just getting old in the yellowing books. I will look beyond the certificates because I very well know of degree holders who have zero zeal while there are some local writers with so much passion that when kept on the great wall of China,it would explode from it’s weight.. I will not let any secretary or anyone decide on my behalf whether they are worth the job or not. I will listen to them myself and help if I can. I will pay them well and not peanuts like they always get. I will give them the utmost respect because these people;these writers are the people who are making a difference,they are the people who can awaken humanity.Yes, I am going to be the best editor that ever existed. You good people keep praying for me;someday by God’s will we will all be working together and we will make the best team in the world! Ameen!


By Lubnah Abdulhalim

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

The first thing any parent would ask you when you go ask for their daughter’s hand is, ‘what do you do for a living?’ of course it is their right to ask that. All parents want the best for their children and when you mention that your job is carrying cement, the first instinct would be that you wont be able to provide for their daughter and the children to come. Well maybe it would be your duty to prove them wrong by elaborating how you have a plan for the future. Parents easily get impressed when they see someone had previously arranged for their future; say, you have a saving account that was just for your wife-to-be and children and so on. of course it will be tough to convince them that carrying cement can make you sustain a family so maybe it is up to you to put in the effort to prove them wrong. But the question one should ask themselves is, ‘is it really worth it?’ Sometimes you may do all you can to show the parents of the girl that you can take up full responsibility, they will still put up walls to prevent you from marrying their daughter. But that is where we are always advised to marry/get married from people with same backgrounds as us because there will always be a time whereby the issue of class will be an issue between the two families. If you are hustling and you go approach a family whereby their daughter wakes up to find breakfast on her bed, then they will obviously not want any less than that. If their daughter is always in a prado, they will expect you to drive her in nothing less than a prado let alone make her board a matatu. As much as this is a wrong way of living and thinking but this is the reality. For you, providing ugali for both lunch and dinner may be what you consider as enough to sustain a family while for someone else, sustaining a family means being able to provide for their daughter a full meal from starters to the dessert. And this is how most people end up being rejected in families. I will repeat, it is not the right way of thinking or even living because this is definitely not what our prophet p.b.u.h taught us but nonetheless, sadly, not everyone is ready to follow his example. But still, we are taught to believe in qadar; which is our destiny, and if Allah has already planned that you marry this girl from a higher social class than you, you will still marry her by God’s will, even if the whole world is against the marriage.

So parents always have this notion of, ‘ah what will I be telling people when they ask what my son-in-law or even son is doing?! How can I say he is does a bodaboda business/sells vegetables in the market or that he is a carpenter?!’ Why? because to them this is not cool; not classy. And this is even why you rarely see Mombasa youth driving bodabodas or selling vegetables in the market; because they have always heard it from their parents criticizing such jobs, so they too grow up with the notion that it is not their standard to have such jobs. They would rather stay jobless and keep complaining about leaders who haven’t accomplished the promise of providing proper jobs. Truth be said here, we have jobs like the matatu industry, these people earn a very good amount of cash per day than quite some people working in offices. But there is also this perception of matatu workers being miraa chewers and drunkards and so on and the parents therefore wouldn’t really accept a matatu worker to join their family. We can’t really blame them for such a perception because this bad image exists but nonetheless, you won’t miss some of the matatu workers who are clean from any kind of drugs and may be all they have to do is prove it…but again, only when it is worth it and when you know your efforts can bring out a good result of being accepted in the family.

As much as we will blame the youth for only seeking what is cool in their eyes, the bigger blame goes to the parents. When they see that their sons can’t get an office job, then they would rather send them to Dubai or Suudiya or Qatar so they work there. Funny thing is, the jobs that they are given over there can still be done here but their hilarious notion is ‘I’d rather that my son sweeps the streets of Dubai rather than Kenya or Mombasa.’ Why? because to them it is really cool to say ‘my son works in an Arab country or abroad’ irregardless of what they are doing there. And the people being told this rarely ask ‘what kind of a job is he doing in Dubai?’ all that matters is that he is not here and he is there. Some would give the excuse that doing the local jobs in the Arab countries will be earn them more but hey, how do we forget to account for the lifestyle there? The high and expensive lifestyle there will end up draining the money just like the way the struggles of our country would have costed. And if there is any difference, we have to admit, it’s not really that big not unless we are talking of professional jobs.

Sometimes, working out there becomes the easy ticket of being accepted as a son-in-law. This is a stupid way of thinking honestly because it is just like those people who do business just so that they are recognised as business men even when they are not benefiting from it. As in kiswahili we commonly say, ‘yani bora wao wajulikane wana biashara tu! ata kama haileti faida!’ They’d rather drive a prado bought from lent money rather than own a bicycle bought from their own sweat.

Sadly, we have let our egos take over us and now all that matters is our outside image; how our neighbours will see us, our class and our standards, be seen driving a mercedes even when the petrol was bought from lent or even stolen money, even when in reality inside our homes we are dying from hunger. Just because it is cool? That is sooo NOT cool!


By Lubnah Abdulhalim

Photo Courtesy: Salem_Beliegraphy

Well since Mombasa is an amazing island with blue oceans and beautiful scenaries, the immediate first instinct of any person would be ‘if Mombasa is not the place to be cool then where else?’ but my ‘cool’ that i mean here is the extended kind which to some would be termed as laziness and irresponsibility. I am a resident of Mombasa myself; of course i wouldn’t want to talk ill of our people but truth be said; youth and even some of the elders are misusing the word ‘cool’ and how to be it.

In a research on community resilience against violent extremism that I participated in four different areas in Mombasa, there was this common factor among all the four places, which is the behaviour of the youth of Mombasa. It’s nice to be cool and to feel nice about oneself but that is totally a different case when a person decides they are too cool to do a certain thing.

So the typical scenario of a Mombasa youth is that of: I wake up at nine or ten in the morning, I go to the table and my lovely mum has already left some good breakfast for me on the table. After eating I will go out and do totally NOTHING sensible but when I come back home at lunch hour, my lovely mum has already covered some food for me. I may be 24 or even above that, I am jobless and probably so is my dad but there is nothing to worry, because this lovely woman in the house will always find a way to provide good food or at least some food on the table even when we don’t know how or where she gets the money from. So where is the coolness I am talking about here? You may find that this young man has been offered several jobs but his ego won’t allow him to go sweep in the streets or carry cement. come on that is totally not cool right? ‘I mean, what if pretty girls come by and see me in shaggy clothes sweating under the hot scorching sun, carrying cement?!’ Isn’t that the mentality that most youth have? So what they would rather do is wear their lowered torn jeans revealing their inner wear, have a funny ‘cool’ haircut sit at a maskan, chew miraa and smoke bhang, walk with some swag and have the ‘you-cant-tell-me-a-thing’ attitude. The best any of these young men can do is wait at the maskan for an attractive classic matatu with banging music so that they can ask for a one round of reckless driving like in ‘fast and furious’, because to them, that is what is ‘cool’.

The reality is that this kind of young men are untouchable in these times because the kind of power and command they put even in their actions has created fear within us. Right now we are having very young boys below 16 walking in gangs, carrying pangas and murdering people and scaring us out like hell because we know they are no joke; that once they raise their pangas up then there is no way that they will let the panga fall down without touching blood. Another not surprising factor that emerges is that most of these young gangs start with a fight over a girl. Then a boy from a certain place is beaten up to death and the others come to revenge and it goes on like that till the gangs become organized groups with full leadership. And this to them is so cool because it is giving them the recognition they want. They want people to talk about them in every corner and be scared when they hear their names and well, they have succeeded in that. Yet when you see them, you would never think that such a young boy can fight you to death.

It is only in Mombasa where you will hear a person saying, ‘come on I am learned, how do you expect me to sell water’ or such kind of a thing. It is also only in Mombasa where you will hear a youth demanding that their parents give them the freedom they want yet they can’t take responsibility of their lives. They want to be left alone so they do evil and harm people yet they still want to come back home and find food ready on the table. And this where we have to admit that the upcountry fellows are doing a pretty good job in raising their children because at a very young age, they teach their children to take responsibility and how to take control of their lives. Whereas for us, that is where we have failed terribly. Our parents have shown us clearly; ‘My son, for better for worse I will provide for you even when you have a wife and children, I will cover up your mistakes for you, even if you are murdering and attacking people aimlessly. I will give you the money you need, even when i know you will use it in buying drugs.’ And that is the attitude most of Mombasa youth grow up with in these times.

Then we complain when our upcountry brothers come to Mombasa and lead us. But we have no right to complain! These fellows come from wherever they are from, they start from the very bottom; sweeping streets, cleaning toilets, making tea but give them just two years and you will see the same guy already a secretary in the organization. Give him five more years and he will be the manager. Then the Mombasa lad will come to the same organization and be given the sweeping task and he will say, ‘I am more educated than the manager. I completed form four while he dropped out of class eight. I can’t accept such a job.’ Ask him why he will tell you because it is unfair. But they never put into consideration where this manager started from. I have a neighbour from upcountry who is a graduate from pharmacy course yet she opened her own saloon when she didn’t get a job. Then try asking a Mombasa educated lady to do the same and you will hear the response, ‘That’s not my kind of job.’ And this where the difference comes from; our fellows have a focus while we don’t! We are always comparing our journey with someone else’s! “He has a Subaru while I have a probox or, I have nothing that can’t be!” We give the lame excuses of ‘upcountry people run the country that’s why they advance in life’ yet we all know that they are not coddled and that’s why they never lose neither their cool nor their focus. As for us, we just want the short cut. We want to get employed in an office that will make me the boss from the first day. A job we can brag about and get recognition. When you ask why the response will be, “because it is cool isn’t it? to be the boss, to own a nice car, to come in the time you want. If not that then i’d rather sit at the maskan and have a good time.” And it is this mentality that has made most of the youth remain jobless, because they want heaven without struggle. They therefore create their own ‘heaven’ by being in gangs smoking bhang and other hard drugs, harm people, maintain some swag and well, life goes on!

Yet another sad truth is that, even when parents know their children are causing harm, they would do all they can to release their children when they are arrested; even if it means selling their houses and property. Well, understandably, parents will still be parents especially the mothers. In the end of the day, they still want them to be fine and be with them. They will always be protective, but the question is, are they doing any good favour to their children by bailing them out always yet they will still continue to murder and beat up people? Till when will the parents keep pampering grown up youths instead of toughening them up to be responsible youth?

It is at this time where no one should even talk about the children of others. It’s scary. Really scary. Today you may be pointing fingers of how lost the neighbour’s children are, yet you don’t know what surprises your own might bring you tomorrow. We just have to ask for God’s mercy and protection; even for ourselves as youth. As the Swahili methali says, ‘Ukiona mwenzako anyolewa, chako kitie maji.’