#np All That I Got Is You – Ghostface Killah (feat. Mary J. Blige)
I pace around my newly rented space, silently, pointlessly, thoughtlessly. There’s a song playing. Sweet melodies from the violin are all I hear, the piano too. My mind reads through the story of struggle told by the artiste. His honest take on life with a single mom helps simmer down my thoughts. It takes my mind back to a different time. A time when I was still young. Young and emotionally vulnerable. Filled with hurt from the struggles some of us humans must endure.
I crack open an egg, and pour its contents onto the already heating pan. Then crack open a second, and do the same. The sizzle of the cooking oil, cutting short the life of a would-be chick, seems to extend a calming effect my way. Perhaps I’m in a Freddy vs. Jason state of mind, I don’t know. To be honest I don’t care. All that matters right now are these eggs. Scrambled, or whatever they turn-out to be. They’re all I can afford to think about right now. That, and my parents. For the song playing reflects a part of me. A part of my life that people who know me will rarely fathom. A part that I hate as much as I appreciate. Good or bad, this part of me has made me everything I am.
I click through the images from my past. Those that float inside my head without inhibition. Those of happy times, and some of sad times. I gaze at the stars from my younger days, whose glow still lingers in the hidden depths of my optical senses. I’m spinning in circles, floating in the fragrance of the open fields at Kilimani Junior Academy. Amidst tall trees somewhere in the heart of Karen, it was here that I learnt not to wish, but dare to dream.
As the artist of the class, I would stand in front of my fellow second grade classmates, day to day, taking them through the strokes of a hand, the motions of an art. My art. With this gift, I – an instrument made from clay – would embrace my chances at making the Almighty proud. For if we are made in His image, is He not the one that’s gifted, and talented, even celebrated? Little did I know that this was to be just the first sketch on my life’s canvas, but it felt great to have the entire blackboard at my fingertips. It felt wonderful. Almost magical. A seven year old kid, with the world at the tips of his fingers, and the mercy of his creativity. I must say it helped me grow mentally – real fast.
From a young age, I knew and embraced challenges. For each time I looked at a clear piece of paper, or even blackboard, all I saw were pictures and drawings. It was the challenge of turning this clear and unused medium into a work of art that has helped me become the risk taker that I am today. Plunging into the world of self-employment without any of the tools, or financial support, that most people say the lack.
Fast forward through the years, and my life turned black. A dark cloud engulfed my life, killing my bright, sun-shining eyes ever so softly. You could say I began staring out of Stevie Wonder’s glasses. Yet as the first born, and as is for every first born, I was expected to brave it out. No show of defeat was I to portray, no amount of sadness was I to be overwhelmed by. It was I to help my younger siblings pull through this storm. To face this monster that is life. These were lessons fast learned, not by choice, but by circumstance. By the lack of any alternative routes to take.
I would spend my schooldays with my mom, back and forth this Nairobi city. As a teacher at my school, I had the unwilling chance to be her student, and she my class-teacher. Never have you been tormented by noise-making demons, until you have your own parent as your class-teacher. Still, I pulled through. Still I made those years count. For in our silent journeys across the worlds that lay in our way, I learnt the art of perseverance, of sacrifice, of persistence, and of prayer. I learnt to understand the hard-work, and effort, it takes to be a dad – my dad; and the love and sacrifice it takes to be all that is expected of a mom – my mom.
And that’s why I write to you both, mom and dad.
From neglecting your own hunger, just so we, your children, could have a meal, to staying up all night when you were overwhelmed with life. The endless nights and countless thoughts you must have had, they seem more than what you should have had to endure, to raise me and my siblings right. But now I understand, now I appreciate. Being a mother means more than just giving birth; being a father means more than just being the man of the house. It means hard-work, prayer, sacrifice, tears, laughter, joy, sadness – all because of your undying love for your kids.
I remember one outing we went to, neither of you was there, when I had to forsake my hunger, because my younger siblings were as hungry as I was. Leaving them the first share of what was a fairly decent meal. Making sure they were fully satisfied, before I sat down and took to satisfying my own hunger. This, I learnt from you. I think about all the times that we did without. All the days of hopeless stares and silent cries. Of the letter I once wrote to an anonymous reader, saying how I wish I could help change the world we lived in. Those were the thoughts of an ambitious nine year old. And having just read through that letter, it’s so heart warming to think of how wild my thoughts were back then.
In spite of it all, I sit here and thank God that I am alive, that we are alive. That the love is still there, despite the invisible lines your children have now drawn in the sand. Saying you can only do this much, and only interfere with our lives this little. You and dad have been the inspiration for all that I am. It is you two that have given me the strength to cope with life, and its struggles. The understanding of how hard one has to work at making a better life for themselves, and their kids. The faith of a better tomorrow, no matter how bleak things may be. The power of prayer, and faith in God. The sacrifice that is love; and most of all – the conviction that we all rise out from the ashes, no matter how terribly burnt we are.
As I sit here, alone in this room, I’m caught up in a whirlwind of thought. Reeling from the sad and lonely feeling that is the aftermath of reminiscence. Still listening to music you repeatedly told me was too noisy. Yes, I admit, I was too infatuated with loud, nonsensical music back then. But I’m grown now. More composed, more introspective. No longer the nuisance I was in my high school years. I now look at my life through different eyes. I now look beyond the surface of life, and that’s why this song gives me tears. That’s why it might just make me break down and cry, even as I write this.
The lyrics go “Sometimes I look up at the stars and ask “Was I meant to be here? Why?”.” Well each time I do ask this, it is these pictures of our past, lying on my table as I type this, that remind me of how far we have come from, and how far we still have to go. It is the thought of your tears that gives me strength. The days I would sometimes hide and cry, just seeing the pain in your eyes, made me swear never to see you struggle. Yet here I am, trying to make sense of the mess that is life on my own. Not enough joy or romance with the world as I trudge through the ruthless streets of self-employment.
It pains that you had to go through all you did just to raise us right. You may hate the conditions that you raised us in, but be proud of what you’ve raised. Me, my two sisters, and brother. Despite our faults, and weaknesses, I know there are things about us that still give you hope, that still give you strength. I’m sure there are still moments of joy you find in our everyday lives, moments that renew your love for us. And even though emotion is now getting the better of me, tears now clouding my sight, I have to finish this letter.
May the blessings in our lives mean to you what they’re really worth. May we always make you proud. May your hearts find comfort in the long future ahead. May you live long enough to see your great-grandchildren. And of the things I wish I could do, things I want to do, just to prove to you, that you were getting through – may this tears I cry be the keys to the house of happiness that we couldn’t afford.
#np Family Business – Kanye West