Life came before language.
It is almost as if life happens, and then the mind desperately trying to catch up, slowly grapples with the task of finding the words to describe what has happened. It picks each word, holds it against the light to check its weight and suitability for the events that have occurred, with the aim to describe the essence and depth of what has happened.
Typically at the end of this exercise, a feeble group of inadequate words come together and try to represent the kind of experience that would best be honored by a monument.
Yes a tall stoic enduring iconic monument.
Sorry my mind has many unnecessary words, let me get to the point.
I have been tongue tied lately.
I am unable to find a defining monument that could represent losing my job, or the end of a thirteen year career.
In my mind, I can see how tall huge and stoic it is, but the words I have, they don’t work.
They are too little and immature, they fall short of the emotion and the experience that this monumental part of my life, needs to be properly described.
It is even worse when questions are asked.
How for example, do I say to someone who asks how I feel at losing my job, “the death of a bad boss and being fired have the same net emotional effect on me, I feel like throwing an office party but have to pretend to be sad until no one is watching”
Or perhaps, “While it’s a terrible thing that has happened, I am secretly relieved and very happy”.
How do I say all this without dishonoring their expectation for my deep sadness?
To avoid falling short of expectations, when asked I respond meekly accepting the “It is well” “We continue to pray” and “It shall be well” platitudes with the correct amount of sadness and disappointment in how the events around my career have played out.
But then at night, I lay on the bed in the dark and smile deeply, and indulgently at myself like I was performing a forbidden ritual and revel in my secret joy, the joy of no longer being stressed or worried that I will have to go in to work the next day, the joy of not having an assignment with a deadline, the joy of not caring what targets are anymore.
In that secret time I imagine all sorts of happy things that I will do with day light tomorrow, and then slowly shut my eyes and sleep.
My secret happiness at night has become so enjoyable and my day time “sadness” so well-rehearsed, I worry that achieving such a seamless daytime to nighttime shift flawlessly, may leave me with a split personality.
Do not get me wrong, I am not one of those Kenyans who work as a hobby or to supplement my parent’s allowance. I am truly middle class, very flash and no savings, so I indeed needed my old job, as definitely as I need a new one soon.
See my job, it paid well and made sure I did not worry about my bills or my son’s education as I do now.
I traded my fear to get away from an unstable erratic income, a sharp decline in independent critical thinking, permanent stifling of the imagination, clinical extermination of new ideas or solutions and activities as pointless as meetings, shouting sermons and office interactions riddled with “speak your mind" career limiting traps, all of which resulted in the accumulation of bile in my liver throughout the day.
To survive that, I would come home to nurse my wounds, and milk my liver of the excess bile accumulated so my mind would calm and allow me some sleep.
On some days, if the images of all the unworthiness I carried seemed too difficult to shake, I would turn to my trusted “whisky method”.
The scientific removal of bad feelings and thoughts using single malt triple distilled fluids.
But that is now behind me.
I have gone back to the closet today. And looked at the mold I wore every day to be effective at my job.
It was the mold we all wore.
It made us nice and shiny and the envy of many. Now it hangs stiff and hard and formal in my closet.
I tried it on.
My shape has changed.
I have my own shape now.
I am fluid, warm, colorful and soft.
My larger than life form exceeds this mold now.
My soul has learnt to laugh, my hips and hair are no longer straight and flat.
I wear my thoughts as they are, and embrace all the colors of my creativity.
I am too big and bulging at the heart now, it is impossible to fit back into it.
This may be the reason for the subtle uncomfortable shift I feel when I interact with old colleagues.
I have gone from respected corporate gladiator who crafts genius solutions, to the person people only view with some level of sympathy.
My place has moved from the invitations to hang out, to this new eerie social silence that is characterized by weird luke warm phone call endings.
The feeling has changed from the constant exhaustion which we carried around like trophies, and shared in conversation with a sense of belonging, to this new person I am that feels no guilt in resting, and thinks being rested is something good to be.
The word for me now is fallow.
It is this resting place.
It is where I am finding my voice, and gaining fertility.
It is the wilderness that has sprung forth in my mind that enjoys the sunlight of uninhibited thought, and the power of my raw creativity.
Life will touch me again, and its light will touch my soul and what I produce will be beyond the words I know.
Words by Teresa Nyangi