I’m turning 28 today. The thought weighs me down. I’m not sure how to handle this ‘auspicious occasion’. I feel fretty and jittery. I want to pee. I feel like it has come at the wrong time, a tad too soon.

Growing up, I wasn’t accustomed to cheesy birth day parties. Oftentimes I would be oblivious whenever they {birthdays} came around. I would remember say a fortnight to, completely forget the damn thing, and then remember a week or so after. In which case, it meant zilch. Not this time round. The thought has squatted in my mind. And it’s farting.

Turning 28 means that the big 3 0 is just around the corner. Look, you can get away with ‘murder’ in your 20s, not in your 30s. In your 30s you don’t shit around, you put your act together. 30 is synonymous to responsibilities. Responsibilities and lofty expectations. You’re responsible for the trajectory of your life, you’re responsible to those you love {and at times even those you don’t}. You ask yourself what change you’re making in this world.  Whether your existence is benefitting humanity or whether you’re just filling up space. Whether you’re just a nuisance, or whether you’re making the world a better place.

Like most lads out there, I had a mildly rebellious pubescence. I wanted things my way. I could be touchy and grouchy this minute, and then burst into a raucous laughter the next. I chased girls, some of whom said no, even though I’d outdone myself with presence. Others loved me with their lives even though I didn’t feel the same way. I grappled with identity crisis. I wanted to be Nicky Byrne {him of westlife}, or Usher Raymonds. Music meant everything to me. Music and football. I idolized Ronadinho.

I had a severe crash on this girl in my hood. Her dad was a military guy. An air man. Quite removed but amiable all the same {the dad}. She was chocolate and petit. Cute legs and dark flowing hair. Her voice was sort of husky, it made my heart throb. Endowed with squishy boobs, I found her irresistibly beautiful.  Her presence alone made my knees feel jelly like, wobbly. I’d liked her since my primo days. Back then I could pass by her place every morning on my way to school and we could trudge together. She knew I liked her and of course relished the attention. And because she was of my age and therefore smarter than me, she played mind games. Her kid bro was way younger. So there’s this day, a Saturday, overwhelmed by infatuation disguised as love, I drafted a steamy ‘missive’ and gave it to him to deliver. Wingman maneno right there. I greased him with a 20 bob. He delivered the missive. Hell broke loose. Luckily air man wasn’t home. Let’s just say I never won her over. Though we’re still in the same hood back in the bundus, it’s been eons since we last lay eyes on each other. I don’t know if she’d still struck me as gorgeous as she had back then.

Creeping into my early 20s, my idealism was exemplary. Top drawer. I was a desperate romantic, mushy and all. I was super conscious of my image. I wanted to be cool and sleek. I craved for validation.

I lost my virginity a few months after high school to an older girl {that’s a whole blog post}.

I fought with my dad about which course to pursue in campus. I always knew since high school that I wanted to pursue media studies. But he could hear none of that. He was convinced that it was bull. So he shoved B. Ed arts {Eng/Lit} down my throat. I swallowed it whole. It’s still digesting. In the meantime I’m a hawker. I hawk words. It earns me peanuts, but I don’t give a shit. It’s my first true love.

I’ve been pretty erratic in my twenties. Bad judgment. Poor decisions. I’ve screwed up a few times and lost some opportunities and friendships as a result. I know I should have done/known better.

My system is anti-liquor. I’ve severally tried to drink ‘manly stuff’ so as to fit in, but failed miserably. I’ve settled for the occasional wine.

I’m not comfortable with where I am in life. I feel I should be doing better. Way better. I have had setbacks that forced me in this corner. {Another blog post right there}. I’m learning to count my blessings though. And taking positively whatever lessons life teaches me. I’m moderately happy, I think. I try to be as positive as can be. And I tend to drift away from cynics, and I give pessimists a decent berth.

Life has thrown me some curve balls. And I’ve inadvertently learnt a few things…

At 28, I’ve made peace my low center of gravity and receding hair line. And I’ve decided to keep beards, ostensibly to make up for the lost hair.

I’ve decided on what I want to do with my life – writing. The mountain of uncertainty before me notwithstanding. Wait, I should have been cognizant of this much earlier; when I got ecstatic whenever my essays could be read before the class. When I churned out copies for the school magazine. When I was appointed to the editorial board in campus curtsey of the horde of letters to the editor I’d penned since second year… surely, I should have known.  I’m not yet a finished article though. I’m far from perfection. I’m still learning the ropes of the craft, my craft.

At 28, you have a relatively relaxed disposition and mien. You talk less than you did five years ago. You take a few seconds before responding to a question. You digest them first.

Your wardrobe has more shirts than t-shirts, and more khaki pants than jeans. {Official pants aren’t your thing yet}

At 28 you watch less TV, and read more. You hate noisy matatus because you want to push a few chapters of Baldacci or Clancy or Grisham. Or just think through stuff. Speaking of which, I’m reading this whodunit by Clancy, Rainbow six. It’s about a team of tough ex-SWAT boys lead by an ex-navy seal, John Clark. They give terrorists an over doze of their own medicine. The pages ooze testosterone and adrenaline. It’s gripping! Get a copy if you can.

Anyway…

You value solitude. You value quietness and peace of mind. You realize that you don’t have to win every argument, or have lots of friends. That a few genuine friends to push you towards your purpose are far better than a crowd cheering you to oblivion. That encouragement during failure is worth more than praise after success.

At 28, I’m not keen on validation, provided I’m doing the right thing. You realize that people will always have an opinion about you. {Even those who hardly know you}. That you’ll either be too short, or too tall. Too light skinned or too dark. Too gentle or too weak. Too quiet or too talkative. I mean, you’ll always be too much of this or that. You realize that if you try to accommodate or please everyone by rounding all your edges, you’ll eventually lose your edge. You realize however well-intentioned you are, you can’t impress everyone.

I’m setting more realistic goals, and allowing room for the unexpected. I’m learning to let nature take its course.

At 28, you stop chasing love. And you DON’T beg for it. You’re not bothered in the least by why she didn’t say yes. You don’t try to figure out what’s wrong with you. You’re comfortable in your own skin. You feel like she lost you, not the other way round. Or you weren’t just compatible.

Looks mean less to you. And much as you are a boob or an ass guy, neither, surprisingly, makes a cut in your list of the qualities you look for in a woman.

You shed off the imaginary audience that dictates how you carry out yourself. You’re only keen on self-improvement. You try to remain confident and yet not be brash. You realize being confident isn’t about walking into a room with your nose in the air, but it’s about walking into that room and not having to compare yourself with anyone in the first place.

At 28, you’re mature enough to know that admitting failure, or a mistake, or seeking help is not a show of weakness.

You realize that you don’t always have to stamp your foot down and prove a point. That manhood is not determined by how much of a control freak you are. That you don’t have to prove your masculinity by picking fights, but rather by your diplomatic skills. However, you still ought to know how/when to throw a good punch when the situation calls for self-defense, or defending your woman.

At 28, you start living beyond you, your vanity, and your ego. You refrain from being foolish, or self-centered, or mean in the guise of “I’m just being me,” or “it’s just my personality,” or “that’s just how I’m wired.”

You are more thoughtful and kind. You realize the world doesn’t revolve around you. That life is not all about you. That your words and choices affect other people too.

You realize that doing the right thing is not always easy; like eating the humble pie and saying sorry, like walking up to a person you don’t like and saying hello. It’s not easy. But it’s the right thing to do. So you gotta do it. And also, you don’t have to like a person to be kind to them.

You put premium on temperance. You try to put your natural appetites like anger, sex, sleep, and hunger in check. You try to master your emotions. You try to conquer yourself.

By 28, you’ve already realized that truth is not truth by how many people believe it.

You learn that everyone you meet is struggling with something, and the least you can do is just to be kind.

You stop being a cry baby at 28. Because you realize that whatever you’re grappling with, there’s someone out there grappling with something worse.

You realize that the true measure of a man is how he handles pressure {of any kind}. That you judge a man by how he treats people he has nothing to gain from. That a person who is kind to you and mean to the waiter is not a good person.

At 28 you realize that you need and older guy to hold your hand and guide you. Someone who’s been around the block long enough. You need someone to tell you it’ll be well. Relax. Be gentle on yourself. But also chide you when you take a detour. And sometimes you’ll be forced to ask them to, because they won’t always come to you.

You’ll need a mentor for your professional growth. A successful figure in the trade. He’ll teach you what Harvard wont.

It dawns on you that grades mean squat out here. Because some of the people you used to beat in class are doing way better, and some of those who used to beat you are at a lower rung on the ladder, struggling.

You realize that the world owes you nothing. That life is not your mother; it can be ruthless. But it’s still good nonetheless.

By 28, you’ve learnt that you’re as good as your words, and you can’t run away from them. That your reputation matters a lot more than anything else. That it {reputation} will always go ahead of you.

That it’s therapeutic to believe in a higher power. Regardless of the name you give it.

I’ve made peace with the fact that I’m pretty old school, musically speaking. I’m still crazy about Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. Aliyah still takes me to the stratosphere, and I’m yet to get over that plane crash that took her away. I listen to Brandy with my eyes closed. I know that’s sissy, so to feel macho, I listen to Tupac Shakur and shaggy. I can listen to Kidum back to back. Kenny G takes me to moon and back. Papa Wemba keeps me company on a long jouney. Bahati and company don’t make sense to me. I think our music industry – especially the gospel bit– is a bucket load of baloney, save for a few.

I have tapered down in my use of absolutes like ‘never’. I have learnt that people don’t necessarily place you where you place them. That the person you consider to be your best friend considers someone else to be their best friend. I no longer place people on pedestals, I don’t sing praise songs.

I’ve learnt that everyone will disappoint you at some point. The important thing is to know who are worth it.

I’ve learnt the value of saying less when not sure. It saves you embarrassment, or trouble, or both.

I’ve observed that as the unmarried rush into marriage; the married tend to rush out. That you’re damned if you marry, and equally damned if you don’t.

At 28, you realize that you can be cute, or very decent, or moneyed, but a woman might still say no. And it’s ok. Take it in your stride and move to the next one. Contain you ego, maintain your decency. Be civil about it, no spewing vitriol.

You realize that every man is trying to live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes. It’s a raging battle in the innards. Few talk about it.

At 28, you’re still trying to come to grips with the separation of your parents, almost five years down the lane. You still hope they get back together some day. You’re not sure – yet – how much damage it has visited on you as a man. All you know is that you’re in no rush to marry anyone. And that when you eventually do, you want your first marriage to be your last. Because you don’t want your kids to go through what you’ve gone through {assuming that you’re not impotent}.28

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