“The next time you going to live like this will be when you are a millionaire,” the old taxi driver carrying my stuff from college to new home was telling me.
“Out here, you don’t stone other people’s cars because water is not running in your tap or there is a black out.” There was a ring sadistic sarcasm in his tone no matter how well intended his unsolicited advice was.
Over the last couple of weeks, I had been having a series of meeting with Mr. Reality. A fortnight ago, while having a house warming party at a colleague’s place with whom we have just cleared campus at a flat in the Eastlands, the caretaker came breathing fire and served a notice that killed the party completely. Only the other day I was shopping in the neighbourhood supermarket and I discovered that price of Unga is six times what it was when I joined campus four years ago. These are some of the vagaries that the deceptively comfortable life in college shields you from. Not funny at all.
Reality is the ugliest monster one can encounter, especially when he turns up naked. That is what a number of undergraduates who cleared campus over the last month are experiencing. On the last day, as we cleared from our prized rooms, from where we have played the loudest music, drunk all the alcohol we could afford and of course other substances, I saw the word ANXIETY written on the foreheads of my colleagues, FEAR on one cheek, and a TEAR rolling down the other. A certain inexplicable apprehension engulfed us born of the immediately uncertain future. There are no guarantees out here.
Finishing college is not funny. Out goes the wild and reckless youthful days of irresponsibility and in comes the life of marriage, mortgage and mainstream living. You discover the vulnerability of many Kenyans out here. They are not secure with the national politics, the government is bleeding them dead with taxi returns, the Matatu Industry is rips them off daily, yet no one can stand for them. Out here, the clichéd COMRADE POWER is sheer nonsense, even getting to know your next door neighbour is a problem.
The protective shield of collective conduct common in college is gone and out here, everyone is pursuing his or her interest with unbridled capitalistic zeal that blinds many to many realities of those legitimately suffering. The socialist nature of college life has no place in the outside world. We live in a society that can’t even give an expectant woman a seat in a public vehicle. You get out here and discover how voiceless the citizens are until everyone is extorting them until it has become a routine that they have become immune to. Think about the City Council.
As a student in a public university, if arrested, you can proudly present your school ID and make noise to a police (wo) man and you will be released. Law students, especially in their first year can be a nuisance to the police and anyone from the police force who has ever dealt with them can tell you that they can be a handful. As a student you disregard every single rule and always believe that the country owes you a living.
Some of these things are understandable and are bound to happen in our youthful years, only that we go overboard. Some of us party our entire life in campus and forget even to build a career when it matters. Some of us are always consumed with nonissues that the best moments pass us by. By the time we discover that our time is over, we have made some costly blunders that are quite irreversible.
But college teaches us so much and some of these experiences permanently shape our social political and economical attitudes. Some of the unchanging perceptions that we wiled towards either sex are probably formed in campus. While women learn that men are biologically polygamous, they prove to men that for them they do not need any biological validation to fool around.
Men probably learn that in the absence of height, charm and humour in the process of dating; money has the same biological effect on women as the previously mentioned gifts of nature. Women learn that in this world the end justifies the means. You can a take a short cut to wealth or fame but the death lurks in that route. Some trust men so much that when the very men turn against them, they lose it completely and take to a life of recklessness. So much for trusting human beings. Where is Jaguar to sing for them?
The college must go through someone as (s) he goes through it. For women, it is about having the capacity to fend for yourself, but more importantly knowing the limits of pushing that independence thing. For men it is about suitably readjusting to the fact that what men can do, women can do it both better and worse. Just look at how women have taken up the bad habits of men and their only answer to the raised eyebrows is invariably, ‘but men do it.’
As we go out and become full tax-paying citizens, we are faced with a life of uncertainty, untamed expectations that exceed reality from many quarters including ourselves. We don’t know about the future but many have been through it and many will be joining us. We must learn to get into the systems and hope that we don’t get sucked into the cliched, 1-2-3-4 type of life. As in, one wife, two kids, 3-bedroom house and driving a four wheeled.
They say ambition is the only currency that never depreciates; It is my wish to everyone who just cleared college that with ambition, hard work, a little luck and more importantly prayer, we will make it. Let us step out, roll up our sleeves, swallow our pride and start working towards making this a great country.
Here is to a good start to citizenry to all those who just cleared college or about.