It’s typical human nature to take stock towards the year end and plan for the following year, right? And as we do this, we determine what to leave behind in the old year and what to roll forward or embrace in the new year. Before I let you in on what I am looking forward to in 2023, allow me to vent and set a few things straight. Actually, just one thing. In 2023, I do not want to hear or see the word “quote”. Not in a conversation, not in a book, and not even on a billboard. If you meet me and you have an ounce of empathy in you, save me the anguish of relieving traumatic experiences by not uttering that word at all costs.
Over the years, I have had ambitious plans, some of which would come to fruition, while others would be rolled over to the following year, similar to that “tidy my desk” entry on some people’s to do list that never sees the light of day! My goals would typically range from being as audacious as “put up a country lodge”, “buy an apartment”, “become a board member”, “buy my dad a car”, “get an endowment plan” (after cashing out the last one), “buy my dream car” (whatever the dream would be at any given time haha), “switch jobs” (this one has been a recurring item in the last five years, one that always got ticked but then would somehow make a reappearance on the list!). The goals have also been as simple as “drink three litres of water daily”, “write weekly”, “wake up at 4am with no fail” or “workout a minimum of four times a week”.
Besides the annual review, I tend to pen my thoughts/ideas on the go, or just write random notes about interesting things I come across, not necessarily to share on social media, but as a reference point in future. I use Google Keep for that which allows me to retrieve notes from as far back as seven years ago when I started writing, even if I have changed (or lost) phones severally within that period. The beauty about journaling is that the notes take me back to what I was feeling at a particular point in time, the motions I was going through, the passion I exuded or lack ed, the curve balls life threw me and perhaps almost broke me but in retrospect a couple of years later become laughable.
Recently, I was looking for a particular song in my notes, I so I typed the word “music” in the search bar. The search engine returned a couple of notes which were so refreshing to read, including one titled “France 2019” that was about my escapades in Paris dragging three suitcases up a hill as I looked for my hotel and ended up missing my dinner cruise, but later meeting this French musician who gave me his album and a T-shirt, giving real life to the phrase “Been there, done that and got a t-shirt!” Haha!
Another note titled “My thoughts” also from 2019 read like this:
“My mortgage feels like a curse. It’s a bottomless pit that I continue to finance, and just when I think we’ve hit normalcy, random costs crop up, thanks to KCB Bank’s useless systems! From an outstanding balance that was erroneously higher than the issued amount, to erroneous penalties. And finally when there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel in terms of Stanchart taking over, I have had to pay 400k to bring it down to KES 4,875,000, a level they were comfortable absorbing. Only one week later for me to be advised that it has yet again crossed the 4,875,000 mark to 4,899,000 and obviously will be higher than that by the time they take it over. So, the longer they take, the more cash I have to fork. On top of it, I have to pay KCB’s lawyer 40k, Stanchart’s arrangement fee of 50k, and mortgage insurance of 30k. What’s worse, there’s so much drama at folks place. This same home whose mortgage I am working hard to finance. My mum feels like her life is at stake, my dad is depressed, my brother is a drunk, and my sister is looking for a new lease of life and my kid bro desperately seeking a breakthrough.
I should be celebrating randomly securing a job amidst all the issues with the economy currently, but it doesn’t feel like such a win. My new job requires me to provide original certificates that I misplaced many moons ago. I doubt I even held my KCPE certificate for two minutes before it got misplaced as we shifted houses in the thick of political clashes. Now they want that cert. And my KCSE one too and the degree one as well. All which I only have copies of. Have I mentioned that I also don’t have a birth certificate?
My daughter Xia is way behind meeting a typical four year old’s milestones. She has no balance and topples over every time she walks or runs, and her facial muscles are quite weak making speech a challenge for her. She’s made progress in the last two years through occupational and physio therapy, but the finality of the neurologist’s words today broke my heart. “Thats just how God made her and we should just carry on with Physio.” Yet, I was somehow hoping for an instant or a near term fix.
I am hurting. I am also visibly irritable and the same people I worry about are the ones I find myself taking out my frustrations on. I am scolding my kids unnecessarily and not wanting to spend time with them. I want to be alone, either in my room, or in a deserted restaurant staring at a grand view or listening to mellow music. Anything but to embrace my emotions.”
You probably have your jaw on the floor at the fact that I have let out so much intimate stuff about myself and in only 500 words. I deliberated long and hard before sharing this and of course had my reservations, but one thing that makes me love writing is the ability to be authentic. To tell it as is, especially when its hardest.
This particular note took me by surprise. I had somehow forgotten how much pain I was in 2019, as everything I have ranted about in it is a thing of the past-You should see Xia on her scooter with one leg in the air lately! Her balance is so great she’s even taking horse riding classes, finally. My mum is the happiest I have seen in ages, my dad is at so much peace and so is my sis, my kid bro has been my mentor in last two years, and my big bro-well let’s just say he is alive. I replaced all my certificates, got that job in the end and even moved to another one barely a year later. I have the best relationship with my kids.
As I scrolled further through my notes, I came across several notes running all the way from 2019 to 2022 that had one common entry that was never addressed but always pushed over to the following year. “Put up a kids’ only hangout space”. This seemed to be a nagging idea that every time I posed to think about actualising it, my stomach would churn, my knees would go weak, and I would just move on to the next agenda on the list. In fact, one note from last year read “This is the year I should put together the strategy for the kids hangout place, but I cant put a single word on paper. For someone who claims to be a writer, one who has even written countless research papers and investment proposals, what is my problem?”
And so amidst a cocktail of things happening in my life early this year, I quit my job in April without a plan. The idea was to take a six month break from the drudgery and mundanity of the corporate world, allow myself space to think about my next move without being clouded in whatever way. I went to Capetown in May with friends, drunk heavenly wine in Tokara Vineyard and saw gorgeous sites in Hermanus, their little Europe. I discovered interesting ways to spend time with my kids at home like playing charades, and puzzles, sitting around a bonfire making smores, I partied hard, I watched so much movies and series on Netflix you would think I was hoping to be the next Steven Spielberg, I went back to church and genuinely enjoyed being with my family listening to and laughing about Father Steve’s trendy sermons and Father George’s baritone singing that dwarfs the choir, I signed up at Westgate’s exclusive club and tried out all their workout options including boxing which I failed miserably at, I enrolled for swimming lessons with Coach Noni from Little Fish Club, I took up hiking and climbed four mountains/hills, I went to America and toured four states and while at it, threw in a cruise to the Bahamas.
Basically, for a cool six months, I lived. And finally, as the clock ticked towards the six month mark, I had utmost clarity on my next move. For the first time it was not to jump into another job, but to finally tick the three year recurring item on my annual goals list and set up that kids’ hangout space that I couldn’t bring myself to even think about for the longest time. My six month break gave birth to Kids’ Nook, the toughest yet most rewarding initiative I have taken up in my entire life.
When I finally identified a space that I believed worked for me towards the end of October, I thought it would take me only a month to spruce up the space and launch the operations on 1st of December, but boy was I wrong. I had no idea the amount of time it would take to tackle landscaping (the last tenant was probably planning on having national park in backyard!), plumbing (water does not just miraculously flow through taps with the kind of pressure that warms your heart), cabling (sockets are not just stuck on the wall like the stars stickers that your child gets for being awesome in school), painting (let’s not even go here) and installing wallpapers, masonry work thanks to a very neglected frontward…I could go on and on but we are already at 1,900 words. The most painful experience was not even the realisation that the scope of work would take at best two months to cover and I would miss out on the December holiday season, it was the headache of dealing with a cocktail of funds day in day out. I think people in the corporate space are a spoilt lot because structures exist almost everywhere. For instance, if my job entails providing funding to a financial institution, there is a clear logic to how I’ll determine how much to charge the client for the funding. But my God, contractors are a different lot. I think they have many coins with different figures on them and every time you give them an assignment, they toss whichever coin appeals to them and whatever comes up is what they quote as labor. I have seen quotes running from KES 1,000 to KES 153,000, the later which almost made me close shop and go on holiday. And let’s not forget how somewhere along the line, something always crops up. A crucial thing that for some reason the contractor had not taken note of at the onset which suddenly becomes an emergency and they have to send another quote for that job.
“Madam Joy, hiyo pump lazima tuijengee nyumba. I’ll send you a quote shortly.” The plumber would occasionally add halfway through his plumbing job. (to mean we have to get a permanent housing for the pump for security reasons and so he would need to charge me extra for that.
Another classic one is where we had worked out the cost of tiling and agreed on all the aspects of the job and bought the needed stuff. Then just before installation and while I had moved on from that job from a cost prospective, the fundi decides to give me a call asking informing me to check WhatsApp as he sent a quote covering adhesive and cement.
I have been dreaming of a place where kids could play, create and get pampered, without the need for their parents hanging around or needing to pick them up after a couple of hours. Everytime I took my kids to the salon, I dreaded that call that would find me in the middle of my errands, announcing that they were ready to be picked up. I also dreaded living them at the typical kids play centres as some of them get so crowded and even with minders, I would never be at ease being away from my children given the uncontrolled crowds. I needed a space where they had endless options of indoor and outdoor activities to keep them engaged even for a whole day if possible, one that had the discipline to only take up a limited number of kids, but I have yet to come across one. And so I created one. At Kids’ Nook, boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 15 have access to dozens of indoor and outdoor games, can get creative in the art room or competitive in the gaming room, and while at it, also get their hair done. Kids’ Nook members will get to enjoy monthly excursions, educational workshops periodically conducted by professionals on key topics such as financial literacy, sex education, emotional intelligence and kid safety.
Construction/project management is a different ball game and I now have mad respect for people in that industry. But if done well, the gratification that one gets from just staring at the final product is worth every coin, every tear, every stressful moment, and every quote. But even then, I hope not to hear anymore of that in the next year! But most importantly, I cannot wait for all your children to experience the Kids’ Nook right after the holidays in January! You can follow us on @kidsnook_club on Instagram for more details and updates on the launch.
P.S. This is my last feature this year. I will see you all on the 8th of Jan, God willing. Wishing you and yours a joyful Christmas and a new year to reckon with!