My friend, who writes the #PassionatelyKenyan blog is also an ex-youth like me – she is my age. She is a C-level executive for a large government organisation and I can tell you for sure, she has come a looong way. Here’s her unedited story.
I am at the junction. I am a youth who belongs to the generation POBOX-www.com. In that case, maybe I am an ex-youth, I am not sure.
My current domain is a large corner office in one of those organizations that I hear people say they want to work for. I have hundreds of staff under me. I talk and people listen, I am sought after and have found myself in the presence of many mighty persons.
Sadly, many of the people I interact with think that I am too young to sit where I sit. They think that it is not right for me to sit at the table of men. They call me a child. They sneer in shock when they meet with me for the first time, because of my petite body – it does not match up to the person, title and rank they were expecting.
They have desperately tried to locate my county so they can apportion my current existence to some tribal forces. They are constantly asking when I will marry and have children so I can mature enough to sit at the table. They think I was handed a golden spoon right from university to the corner office I currently occupy. Some of them think it is unfair, I do not deserve to be there, it is too easy for me.
Fifteen years ago, I sat for my first interview, following an advertisement in the daily newspaper. I was fresh from college and was excited to join the working masses. The job I landed did not require me to use my college education. All I needed to do was wear a white coat, and stock up milk, meat, sausages, yourghut and all those perishable goods that fill the supermarket fridges.
Every day I toiled for 12 hours a day. There was no chair to rest, there was no office tea to provide the much needed refreshment and energy boost. I had to be in the office at 7.30am and the earliest I could leave was 8.00pm. During Christmas, I worked till 10.00pm, after which I was expected to find my way home and report back to the office at 7.30am the next day.
Two years into the job, I decided to get a university degree. My salary was Kshs 13,000 but I was determined to go to a private university and pursue my dream degree. I proudly approached my bank so they could fund my university fees but they declined my loan application one week to the commencement of my studies.
Thankfully, the Sacco came to my rescue and it is then that I was stepped into the land of hustling so I could make it to class. I bought two flasks and a bag pack. I learnt to carry tea in one of the flasks and left over supper in the other. I became creative in managing my wallet and survived on a maximum lunch spend of Kshs 30 when there was no left over supper.
On days when the fare was up by Kshs 10, I could not afford to disorient my already strained wallet and so I would wait for the Nissan matatu to fill up, then casually tell the tout that I was in a hurry and so could he allow me to occupy his seat? (This is that place behind the driver’s seat where the makanga used to sit facing the first set of four passengers seated behind the driver). The answer was always a yes- a win win for both of us.
To supplement my cost saving measures, I went to HELB, I deferred semesters, I wore jeans and rubbers for the next five years till I was given the powers to read and write and all that pertains to my degree.
In between this hustle, the famous “Michuki rules” took effect and I found myself appearing in the local TV news items as one of the passengers aboard over-crowded commuter trains. I had to report to duty at whatever cost and so I would walk for about 1.5 kms every morning to board a crowded train. I would then alight at the city stadium and spend several minutes walking to Mombasa road. This would be repeated every evening and every day of the week thereafter. I had to keep this job. I needed it.
Five years later, I hustled my way into another organization having risen through the ranks in the supermarket. It was a different industry and I had long nights, missed holidays, minimal entertainment and crazy days just so I could learn and became the best I could be.
Once more, I hustled, I carried packed lunch, I saved some more. I went back to college.
I deserve to be where I am today. Not because I am proud, but because I worked at it. I cleaned the floor, I packed things, I lifted boxes, I was insulted by customers, I missed dates, I cashiered, I supervised and was supervised. I chose to learn. I chose to hustle. I chose to make sacrifices so I could have what I desired.
I am not there yet, I am still hustling, I want to be a millionaire so freaking bad. I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine, standing next to Oprah and the queen. Do you hear the lyrics?
I know, the more I sacrifice, the greater the reward, the sweeter the success.
If you want a green backyard, you must be willing to water the grass. You must be willing to pay for the water. There is no magic or science about it and you must do this regardless of what your neighbors think. Their thoughts must not hold you down. It is your backyard, it is your dream, not theirs.
Sacrifice today’s comfort and earn tomorrow success.
Lesson 3(a): There is no success without sacrifice
Lesson 3(b): Join a Sacco – today!
Lesson 3(c): What you do today – is not an indication of who you are – your vision and your working towards that vision will vindicate you.