I was listening to the radio the other day and the two presenters were having a conversation. One was telling the other of how recently they had boarded a matatu and saw these beautiful and funny stickers found there.
They laughed about how hilarious and sometimes witty those stickers could get. Then he mentioned a specific one which was the funniest of them all. I listened more keenly to hear this funny stuff. And here it goes, nay, went: Kama uko na haraka, shuka ukimbie. The other presenter interjected and added another even funnier one he had also seen in another matatu: kama uko ha haraka ungekuja jana. By this time, the two of them were on the floor laughing. This was really funny. I think.
All this time I was still waiting for the funny thing to come out. Because I was sure that it was not what they had just said, since that was something I had seen and heard for many years. Then I realized that was the joke. Only that I didn’t catch it. Poor me!!
Then it dawned on me that for these people, the times they are in a public vehicle can fit in half a dozen. That is not the level they operate in. For me I had seen those jokes for more than 10 years, and even gotten tired and sick of the. But not them. In fact, for them, they take a public vehicle from Thika to Nairobi when they want to feel cool, for fun, and to take photos they can post online. It is an adventure.
It is like how when we go to home for holiday, we want to sleep outside to feel the stars and the breeze. We want to hold our shoes in our hands and walk bare-foot. And really have fun at how good it feels. We can even take a jembe, fold our trousers to the knees and go to the shamba, ensuring there is a camera-wielding city dweller following closely behind us.
We pretend to dig, we pretend to irrigate, we pretend to fetch water from the river, to collect firewood from the forest. All these as we take filtered photos and post them to our followers on Instagram aptly captioned “#ShagsManenos. This life is fun!”
It never dawns on us that that life we are calling adventure is the life another person actually lives. It is the best another person has even known. And what we do for fun, like walking barefoot, is the default mode for many other people there. We, unintentionally and unconsciously, poke fun at their normal, at their misery, at their discomfort. We call it “cool”. Then we go back to the city and upload our high definition images online. And everyone agrees how cool it must have been. After all, they operate at your level. But someone will see them, shake their head and go back to their uninteresting lives. How dare you call that cool!? They wonder.
But I intend to shift my angle of observation.
This radio conversation made me realize one thing: life is really a tall-storeyed building, and there are always more rooms upstairs. There is a level higher than we operate. They are people who long-forgot how it feels operating in your current level; they climbed up and occupied the rooms there. And they are still going up. And sometimes, you will find them unable to relate with how you feel, and we cannot always call them proud. Sometimes they are sincere; they went up. They forgot.
I found that revelation very comforting. There are more rooms upstairs. In some apartments with many floors, the ground floor is even darker and with poor air circulation. You see with difficulty. You breathe with difficulty. Your life is strained. But as you go up, it becomes brighter, and your lungs breathe cleaner and lighter air.
And that is the revelation I have made the philosophy of my life: no night is dark enough to make me reconcile with darkness. I will never lose sight of the morning dawn. Of the rising sun. Of the brighter day ahead.
Brother, sister, I will leave you with that. There are more rooms upstairs. Embrace them. Look forward to them. For truly truly I say unto you, the day is coming. Keep going. Keep climbing. You are not where you used to be, and this is not wherever you shall forever be. Some may use the elevator, others the escalators, and some the staircase. But all of them still go up, albeit at different speeds.