Letter to a 20 year old.
I thought I would write this in a letter form so that I might tempt you to read beyond the first paragraph, back in my day letters were the bomb dot com, we waited for them in high school and college with almost the same eagerness as you wait for Friday night, the first salary or having your own place for the first time. Whether it was a letter from a boy or girl who you thought was absolutely amazing, wait I hear it’s “amaaaziiiiing” these days. Don’t be fooled though I am only 10 years older than you so yes I am on Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp just to mention a few though I still can’t make out what Instagram is all about. I tried but the cow refused! I am laying this foundation to make you comfortable in the fact that this is not your mother or father talking, I know how parents can be. The ‘we used to’ speech is way too familiar and no, my parents were never number one at any point of their education the one thing they nailed very well though was cultivating good character and seeking wisdom.
I know this because I turned 30 the other day and realized the harsh truth “my parents were right all along”, yup believe it or not I guess they just did not communicate it in a way that I could understand. Anyway just having to admit this to you guys makes me feel like a traitor, a snitch, like I am acknowledging I should have listened and maybe I would have avoided the whole deep dark depressive days of my life. You see the thing is at that particular time we have our own set of ideas on what is right and wrong, well are they really ours or our friend or are they from the movies and radio stations we watch ? I digress…
I have come to realize that many times we rarely look at the whole picture. say for example when you begin college you are excited mostly because of the new found freedom, new friends new environment and what not, we rarely count the cost of being in college, the financial cost: which would remind us that our parents are working their butts off and most probably one of our siblings will have to forgo school for a year. What about the cost of time? Hey we will not live forever, the thing with time is that it can never be carried forward, a day like today, right now this minute, you will never get it back, as in once it passes it’s done, gone, kaput! Yet our lives have a limit of how much time we have to spend, for some of us we will live to be seventy some not so lucky. And the cost of purpose? I am a firm believer that each and every one of us was created for a purpose, our genetic makeup, thought process, abilities and talents are all part of a bigger picture and the beautiful thing about this cost is that it involves the world. We get the opportunity to change the world when we realize what mark we are supposed to leave in the world.
At 20 we have only seen and experienced a glimpse of what the world has to offer, so it’s still a good place to be at because all hope is yet to be lost. If there was something I could share with a 20 year old without going all pastor on you is that you are a unique human being, unique in the way you were created, in your thought process and that you are capable of making your own decisions but like I mention our fault is in never looking at the bigger picture the choices I make now have consequences now or later and the sad thing is that the decisions you make not only affect you but the people you love and those that love you in return.
Believe it or not the cycle of life has never changed just because you are at that age. In my 20’s we had less of the kind of fun things you guys do and this is not to mean that they were acceptable then nor now. Our definition of fun then was smoking weed, “dressing in clothes that began way too early and ended too late”, indulging in alcohol, changing guys like you would change clothes, flirting , club hopping etc. The definition of fun I see and hear of today would turn my grandfather in his grave! Homosexuality is the it, one night stands, dress as less as one can, vibrators are a girls companion, drinking has become a sad excuse and orgies have taken over, let me not forget the public grinding,twerking,cyber sex, the private house parties and everything that go on there just to mention a few.
The question of whether it is right or wrong has found each and every one of us at a crossroads of some sort in the journey called life, but I realized some years back that I have been asking the wrong question all along. It’s never whether the thing you are doing or the decision you are about to make is right or wrong, the question each and every one of us needs to ask ourselves often is, “Is it wise or not?”. Is it wise to be part of an orgy with friends or even unknown person not knowing where his private parts have been or who they have been doing? Is it wise to drink till you pass out at a club or rugby game with the excuse that your designated driver will get you home safely when the probability of them ending up with a one night stand are 10-0, clearly meaning you might be left high and dry in a club, alone and vulnerable? Is it wise to not dress up and disrespect your body by inviting all kinds of preying eyes?
Growing in wisdom comes from making wise choices in every circumstance and not necessarily the right choice. The bigger picture is that your 20’s will fly past and friends will change and move, will you still like the person you are now? Will you sit down with your children and share stories of Masaku 7s, Safaricom 7’s and other rugby tournaments, the road trip to Naivasha, Nakuru Mombasa etc. or will you like our parents twist and turn the truths hoping, wishing, praying that your children will never know your past or God forbid they turn out to be anything like you.
There is something that threw me off balance a few months ago that I see fit to share at this point of my letter. I did indulge in what we called fun in the 90’s and I thought as I left that life behind everything would be forgotten. Thank God I don’t have children yet. Last year I was in church hanging out with some friends after a movie night which takes place every third Friday of the month. (Let me invite you to join us for the movie night this July if you live in Mombasa. It’s the third Friday of the month at 6pm. don’t forget it). So we are talking and one of our newest staff introduces me to his brother the brother stretches his hand to greet me with a grin on his face, I pause out of confusion, see the thing is he is familiar to me, I can’t remember where or how I know him but I know him, somehow, somewhere we have met but I will never know where or under what circumstances. I have asked him severally to remind me but he says that’s in the past and that I wouldn’t want to remember, what about the time I was in the middle of sharing the word of God with the whole church and I spot this guy sitting smack in the middle of the 4th row. On seeing him, I start sweating as I remember very well where we were and the things I said and did .You see the past is often forgiven but rarely is it forgotten only God forgives and forgets.
My dear 20 something friend as I conclude let me share something that has changed as I have grown up. As you live your life having fun, posting photos on Facebook and Instagram as you post comments and like questionable pages, as you visit questionable pages on the web and have videos of yourself uploaded all over the internet, remember one day you will get out there, a degree in hand ready to conquer the world. Many times we lie to ourselves and think that we will leave that irresponsible life behind and get serious but we forget that the internet never forgets and faces are easy to remember and memories do not fade away easily. The job market today does extensive searches on the people they hire, they Google you to see what kind of person they are inviting to be part of their family as they seek to ascertain your character and how you will fit in to their organization and brand. I have seen enough reference check forms come to my desk for my boss to fill and I can tell you that companies are no longer moved by grades and points you scored in school. It is John Wooden who says, “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
Make wise choices now and avoid the enticing fun that has the potential to devour your dreams of tomorrow.
For my generation