Something Close to My Heart

I am an INFP, meaning one of my main traits is having a very active imagination. Most of the times I get lost in my own little world. For all those whose smiles, winks, waves or worse still, stretched out hands (or arms) went unnoticed, I take this opportunity to apologize. I am very sorry, it was never intentional. You may think I am walking on the University of Nairobi sidewalks when in actual sense I am shoving past a crowd in Paris, well, at least in my head. I may be looking at you straight in the eye but in my head, I am giving a speech at one of the UN conferences.

“Today I want to talk about something that’s close to my heart, both literally and figuratively. Literally, because it covers the heart and other important organs in the body acting as a shock absorber. Figuratively, because… do I really need to explain that?”

I watch as the audience’s faces light up with anticipation and I smile sheepishly to myself. Then a ‘Lilian, have you heard what I’ve said?’ bursts my bubble and punctures the utopia I’ve created in my head. I get embarrassed and annoyed simultaneously because I am forced to go back to the real world. I love my active imagination, but sometimes it consumes me and gets me in trouble. Some people tend to think that I am a snob which I do understand. Also, I am very oblivious of my surroundings. There could be a petrol station somewhere whose name I don’t even know yet I pass by it everyday.

Okay, enough on my imagination. Today I wanted to expound more on the speech that has been in my head for a long time now. I had tried recording a video on it but I got frustrated midway and had to delete it. I wanted to write on the subject for a long time but I simply could not bring myself to. Setting deadlines and making sure everybody knew when to expect the article didn’t work. I kept thinking that if I were a columnist in one of the dailies I would have been fired by now because of my inability to meet deadlines. Sigh.

Anyway, I bet by now some of you have figured that I want to talk about fat. Being fat.  I have always been the biggest person in the classes I’ve been to. The first time I noticed I was different, I was in nursery school. Some kids started calling me ‘jack nono’. To this day, I wonder where the jack came from. I even did some googling and I came across a nursery rhyme called: Jack Sprat. It goes like:

Jack will eat not fat, and Jull doth love no leane.

Yet betwixt them both they lick the dishes cleane.

I know it has no relation to Jack being fat but can we all just take a moment and appreciate the absurdity of this nursery rhyme? Can you imagine 17th century kids speaking Elizabethan English? Me neither.

Many people get called mean names when they are in nursery school and lower primary school because at that age children are very honest and regurgitate all they have been taught at home; the good, the bad and the ugly. As we grow, we learn a few things and we change. Or maybe we learn to hide our prejudices better. Some people don’t change and I get it, sometimes we don’t know better.

I remember one day in high school I was walking really fast because I was running late to class. An acquaintance caught up with me and told me she was very happy to see me trying to lose weight and went on to tell me how research showed that walking fast burns more calories than jogging. People tend to assume that I am trying to lose weight whenever I do something different. I don’t feel like eating breakfast? I’m advised on how that is not the best way to lose weight. It is very irritating, to be honest, especially if the comments come from total strangers.

Oh how I love our society and its double standards. A society that tells you to love yourself the way you are and then the next minute tells you that you are not allowed to love yourself if you are not a certain size. I’ve seen big people embracing themselves and preaching body positivity on social media only to be told to shut up and take care of their health first. People love to use health as an excuse to body shame people.

Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the health risks that come with obesity and I do try to lead an active lifestyle. However, I know that losing weight is not the key to happiness and self love. And I know that if I don’t love myself with what I have right now, I won’t love myself when I get what I want. So please, allow people to love themselves? Also, don’t go preaching about weight loss to total strangers and acquaintances. It’s annoying. We do talk about that with people who are close to us, who actually matter.

I won’t pretend that I don’t have insecurities. Don’t we all? Sometimes the comments get me. I laugh them off just to conceal the hurt. But most of the times, they don’t. Years of getting hurt and brushing off mean comments made sure I grew a thick skin. Like my friend Allan said, ‘I got used to brushing them off and with time, like a rock at the bed of a river, the current just flowed above it.’

That’s it. I feel like I should have said more. So many stories left unsaid but I hope what I’ve written is enough to bring the message home. Let’s be kind to one another. 🙂

PS:

I do love the good-humoured teases though! 😉

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Logical Fallacies

The other day I mentioned in a WhatsApp group I’m in that I didn’t like a certain person’s music. I told them that I found it depressing because it left me in a worse mood. It was just not my cup of tea. Now, this is a very popular musician among the group members and I knew very well that I would be attacked for saying that. I was right, someone retaliated by saying that my cup of tea consists of ‘5 lines mumbled a thousand times.’

While I don’t deny that I enjoy trap music, I did not quite get the comeback. I understand that he was offended, but he committed a fallacy which most of us are guilty of: argumentum ad hominem: the error of attacking the character and motives of a person who has stated the idea, rather than the idea itself. Instead of adressing the matter of the artist’s music and give me his dissenting opinion, he chose to attack my character: loving trap music. This is no way to win an argument.

The whole purpose of a debate or a discussion is to help us see both sides of the coin, and therefore reduce bigotry. However, logical fallacies defeat this purpose. I see this a lot with politicians. That’s why I sometimes cannot bring myself to watch the discussions on television regarding the current political climate. A lot of logical fallacies are committed either knowingly or unknowingly. I will bring some of these to your attention in a few.

Maybe I should first say what prompted me to research on this. A certain lady had commented on politics and as always, some people were offended. They called her a whore, a bimbo and many other deregatory names instead of saying why exactly they disagreed with her. I had settled on chauvinism as the main culprit but then I realized the problem was much bigger than that. What is the source of  chauvinism? A flaw in reasoning. Our thought processes account for who we are. To deal with a problem, we must first change our mindset. It is important we know of these fallacies so that we avoid commiting them, point out those who commit them so that at the end of the day we engage in a meaningful and fruitful discussion.

That being said, the next fallacy I want to bring into focus is Post Hoc (ergo propter hoc), claiming that because something happens after something else, the first caused the second. In other words, saying that because two things correlate, one caused the other. This takes me back to my primary school days, when a certain teacher happened to be in a mood for caning us whenever she donned clothes of a certain colour. We would conclude that the particular colour was the cause of her bad moods. In retrospect, I believe that her moods dictated her choice of clothes. Not the other way round. Another good example: your company has been doing very well since a new manager was appointed. You attribute the success to the manager yet he hasn’t done anything new. In fact, it’s the one in charge of marketing who should take the credit since he or she has been working overtime.

Another common fallacy is Argumentum ad numerum,(appeal to numbers), where if many people are of the same opinion, then it must be true. Well, those many people could be wrong! Our argument must not be wholly dependent on the numbers, we must take other factors into consideration.

The last one I want to mention is Argumentum ad verecundiam (argument or appeal to authority), assuming that because a public figure has said something, it must be true, even though the said person has no experience whatsoever in the area. For example, concluding that slimming tea helps one lose weight just because a certain celebrity said so. Most of the time, they have been paid to promote the product.

There are so many others I have not mentioned. You can read about them here and also here.

Have a fallacy-free time, won’t you?

Bringing Out The Experienced Child

I got teary as I recounted tales of my childhood the other day because I noticed something about younger me that I had not noticed before. I was one determined girl. I barely took no for an answer.

Take this instance for example: A few weeks into class one, a certain teacher came to our class and asked who had participated in singing games (nursery rhymes associated with a set of actions) in nursery school (sorry, kindergarten ;)). A number of pupils raised their hands. I was among them. The teacher wrote the names of those who had raised their hands and asked them to go back to school in the afternoon so that they could practice for the oncoming music festival. Problem is, she never saw me. She never wrote my name.

I was really annoyed. Good thing is that younger me could not accept things without putting up a fight. So during lunch at home I told my mum that I was going to go back to school anyway even if the teacher didn’t jot down my name. Luckily, she didn’t hold me back.

So I went back to school in the afternoon and explained everything to the teacher. She gave me that look that suggested she would have loved to get rid of me but she couldn’t, heaved a sigh of helplessness and told me that there was no problem, I could join them.

This tale and many others brought tears to my eyes because I wondered where that determination went to. I realized that growing up does something terrible to us. Voices from the outside become louder than the voice inside us hence most of the things we do is dictated by other people’s definition of sanity. Our sense of determination melts away. We become trapped in our picket fences, afraid to take risks.

I want to bring out the child that’s trapped inside of me. She child is not a novice anymore, however, her many years of experience has not dampened her spirit of risk-taking. She has not allowed other voices to drown her own, and she has not lost her sense of wonder.

Change is the Only Constant 

In the 19th century, a group of people who called themselves Luddites after their leader Ned Ludd (who was perhaps mythical) objected to the Industrial Revolution. They expressed their frustration by breaking into factories and smashing textile machines. You see, these were British weavers and textile workers who had taken so long to learn their craft. You can understand their anger when they found out that people with no experience or skill at all could now weave thanks to the spinning jenny’s and other textile machines that were invented. 

Luddite is now a general term referring to a person who is opposed to increased industrialization or new technology 

Technology has improved our lives in so many ways. However, it has left a bitter taste in our mouths. Can we acknowledge the fact that adapting to change is never easy? Also, each time something new is invented, someone somewhere loses a job. 

Most people are now using the Standard Guage Railway to travel from Nairobi to Mombasa because it is cheaper and faster. This is a sigh of relief to many people who had had to endure several hours on the road. But. There’s always a but. There are people who are losing business. Bus companies, hotels in Mtito Andei because not many people are stopping by for refreshments, the list could go on and on. 

The first time computers were introduced to schools and businesses as a means of storing data, so many people were opposed to them. How can one simply trust machines with important information? Computer literacy programs were rolled out so that employees could learn how to operate them but some refused to take advantage of them thinking that they (the computers) would never be an integral part of a company’s day to day activities. What happened to them? They were sacked. 

Change is the only constant, they say. Nothing we do can stop change from occurring. Therefore, instead of spending a lot of time and energy fighting it, we should channel our resources into adapting. That’s the only way we will survive. 

Right now the change most of the people are grappling with is social media. But guess what? It is here to stay. All we have to do is exploit the opportunities it offers us and we will go far. Do you think companies who don’t have a social media presence will stay for long? What of public personalities who  do not take time to connect with their fans? Will they be relevant? 

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw

Hair Chronicles

“Oh my gosh, your hair! What’s the secret?”

“Hehe, honestly, there’s no secret.”

“You just got it in your DNA, eey?”

“We could say that. I never even apply oil.”

“You have made it worse. Never say that to someone like me. We do struggle.”

 

I guess that’s my little secret. The only time I get to apply oil is when I go to the salon to blow-dry my hair. I don’t have fancy hair products. Yet the crown of my beauty is adorned with splendour and glory. Haha.

The conversation above reminded me of a time at the height of my adolescence when I had mild acne breakouts. I was quite worried so I decided to seek advice from a friend of mine who had amazing flawless skin. I asked her which skin products she used and to my utter astonishment, she let me know that she only used Vaseline. Abeg! Vaseline! Vaseline was my skin’s best friend but…

I have just remembered this one: A teacher asked her students which skin products they used. Heck, that was an opportunity to mention the expensive cosmetic brands and they had to exploit it. The likes of L’Oreal and St. Ives were thrown casually into the air. However, one girl, the one with the most incredible skin among them, humbled them. She said she used, wait for it, Arimis. Yes, you heard me right. The famous milking jelly was more than enough for her.

You also have something that is aggressively beautiful. You don’t even struggle to make it great yet it is effortlessly amazing. You don’t know what it is? Keep looking, don’t settle. (Uncanny resemblance to Steve Job’s speech? I know right ;)) Pay attention to compliments. Instead of turning them down, say thank you. 🙂

Back to my hair. There’s this time I opted to wash my hair at home so as to save money. I went to the salon to have it blow-dried and boy was it an embarrassing thirty minutes! My hair, akin to the chimney of a big factory, emitted terrible dark billows of smoke that were suffocating other people. They all gave me looks that chilled me to the very core. Twice did the hairdresser ask me if I was really sure I had washed my hair.

And that is why, my friends, I had to resign to washing my hair at the salon whenever I want to blow-dry it. I had to get used to the hands that wreck havoc on my scalp in the name of massage not forgetting the extremely uncomfortable sinks that make me feel like I am about to slip into a comma.

The Long Wait

To say that I was extremely exhausted would be a super understatement. The person I was waiting for at the airport had apparently forgotten that the country he was departing from was in a different time zone! His terrible mistake had caused me to arrive at the airport two hours earlier! I was therefore forced to imbibe on excessively overpriced juice (you  know how unreasonably expensive restaurants stationed inside an airport can be) while thinking of better ways the money I had spent on the miniature glass of juice could have been put into use. That money would have fed the whole world and there would be still some left over. I haven’t even mentioned the exorbitant packing fees.

No matter how slowly you drink a glass of juice, you will still finish it. What would have taken a gulp to be finished managed to take thirty minutes. Ahem, round of applause. Taking atom after atom of juice so that you are not kicked out of the restaurant is no mean feat. I was determined to finish off the dregs, but to no avail. I had no choice but to vacate my safe haven.

I joined other people who were waiting, hope and anticipation written all over their faces. The sweltering heat of the sun did not seem to deter them. Occasionally, planes would land and after several minutes smiling people would descend to the waiting area, dragging their big suitcases. 

“Hey! Mary! Lucy! Dad has arrived!” a middle aged woman standing behind behind me shrieked with glee. Before she even finished her statement the two children had already started running to their father without a care in the world. One almost knocked him down. 

There was still no sign of the man I was waiting for. I was reduced to mere observer, observing other people’s joys. I saw happy reunions everywhere I looked. Running with arms stretched wide seemed to be the signature dance move for people in the airport. My eyes however caught a man who seemed distraught. He was bald and considerably overweight. I could not  quite see his face. Clutching at his suitcases, he was scanning the airport. No one was running to him, no one seemed particularly excited to see him. In the midst of all these joyous reunions was a man who could not trace a familiar soul. Maybe he thought that his family didn’t care about him, that they had forgotten him, that they had lied that they would be waiting…

Opposite me were people who, just like me, were tired of waiting. Some were even raising placards that contained the names of the people they were expecting, but none seemed to approach them. On one side, some people, including the bald man, never found anyone waiting while on the other side, some were getting weary of waiting for people who didn’t seem to come. The irony of life has never been more apparent.

I don’t know what led me to approach the man, but I found myself walking towards him.I wanted to see how I could help him. I wasn’t prepared for the pleasantly rude shock that awaited me. He was the man I was waiting for.

“Michael! Is that you? You’ve changed! Oh my gosh!  You’re losing hair, you’ve gained…”

“Shhh…” he interrupted and reached out to hug me.

We were locked in deep embrace. Tears of joy streamed down my face. I had finally gotten the chance to see him after so long. He was alive. He had arrived safely. Nothing else mattered at that moment. 

My Love Affair With Books

Though I have a faint recollection of that day, some details are ever so clear. I was in class five. The tuition program we were to attend had backfired so we were told to borrow books for our holiday reading. I picked ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’. Like any 10 year old, I was enchanted by the images on the cover: a man who was blowing a pipe was being followed by a ‘delegation’ of rats. The book was begging to be read, itching to tell its story. 

I couldn’t resist the charms regardless of the fact that 1. I had read it before. 2. I was perhaps too old for such books. 

So I confidently took the book to the classteacher to have her indicate that I was borrowing the book. 

To cut the story short, she never let me take that book, saying that it was too short. She had me borrow a copy of ‘The Boxcar Children’, a novel. For one accustomed to reading storybooks, this was very overwhelming. How was I supposed to read that giant of a book? I took it  heavy heartedly and commenced the herculean task of reading it. I was excruciatingly bored within the first few pages, to be honest. My mum encouraged me to read on, saying that a time will come when I would not be able to put the book down. 

True to her word, I was hooked once I reached the middle. What I had previously termed as a herculean task turned out to be very easy and aggressively entertaining. You should have seen how dejected I was when I finished reading it. 

That is how my love affair with books started. Little did I know that in this part of the world, most people conclude that you are a very boring person when you tell them you are a reader. How can you read during your free time? Don’t you have a life? 

That became very apparent in high school. Not wanting to be associated with boredom, I stopped reading. I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I did not regret this. This, in fact, is my biggest regret. 

I was determined to get back to reading after high school. It was a struggle at first, but I got back on track. I vowed never to let people’s opinions dissuade me from doing what I really love. 

Books have really helped me in a lot. They helped in my grammar, opened my mind, allowed me to have a better understanding of areas that I was not familiar with before. It is always refreshing to read books whose characters you can relate to. The advantages of reading are just so many. 

Next time I say I enjoy dancing and you tell me ‘To books?’ ‘To poetry? ‘ I will proudly tell you I wish I could, and that I adore books. 😂Try reading too. You never know, you too might fall in love with books. ☺