Nothing hurts more than when your mother looks you in the eye, and says how disappointed she is. And, that she deserves better from you.
She’s perched forlornly at the edge of a straight-backed chair, with red faux-leather padding. Her hands clasped on her lap and tears threatening to burst. Today - of all days - she’s wearing her beloved Women’s Guild blue scarf.
That still hurts, man - two decades later. I was in Form II.
This is a scene from my disciplinary hearing in the Deputy Principal’s office. I had just served a two-week suspension. I had been busted with a few other boys pelting a neighbour’s mango tree, just beyond the school’s fence.
Our parents had to appear, and - to bring a new roll of barbed wire. For the entirety of that suspension, my old man hadn’t uttered a single word to me.
The Deputy Principal glances at him. Father leans forward, taps stained fingers lightly on the mahogany desk - it’s massive, polished to a remarkable shine - and turns to my mother. He tells her:
“We are yet to fence our home, but we have money to fence the school.”
He sighs, makes a remark about obscenely high prices for a roll of barbed wire.
Unlike my mother, my old man had not bothered to look the part. He’d just hopped on his bike and cycled to school in his oil-stained overalls and weathered Safari Boots. He was then a bike mechanic.
But, it’s my father’s parting shot that has haunted me for decades. A simple statement that lives rent-free in my head, and has largely shaped my life’s philosophy.
He asks: Kijana, are all the mangoes in the world worth it?
That was my first, and most painful intervention.
Have you ever been in an intervention? It’s ugly business. I think, especially millennials - we all have endured one sort or another, growing up.
Basically, a group of people sit you down on a chair and start to tell you unpleasant things, in a choreographed sequence. By ‘unpleasant things’ - I mean a couple of bitter, painful truths about you that you are either unwilling or unready to face.
It’s usually about something in your life that needs a check. Maybe a bad habit, or indulgence that’s adly affecting your life and that of people around you. The people that care - friends, or family - surprise you with an intervention. They all pull down their cordial masks, and serve it to you as they truly think.
An intervention reminds me of a visit to Masai Mara game reserve. I’m not overly enthusiastic about another.
First, wild animals in their natural habitat are not my favourite things. Secondly, game parks are packed with extremely traumatic occurrences. I’ll stick with the zoo. If I ever get to crave leopards, smelly baboons and reptiles, I prefer reinforced glass between us.
But, this is about hyenas. Singly, hyenas are generally weak and quite incapable predators, turning into scavengers. There’s power in unity, though - and, in hunting mode, hyenas form large groups. This is known as a ‘Cackle of Hyenas’.
If that phrase evokes a bit of fondness and cuddly…..hold that thought. The scavengers are anything but.
On that visit, we had the fortune - or misfortune - of watching a cackle of these misunderstood creatures on the hunt. The predators had cornered a poor buffalo, stuck knee-deep in the mud at a watering hole. The hyena is ruthless - they rip apart their prey alive, breathing! There's no time to make the kill, properly.
Mambo ni mengi, masaa ni machache.
I see an intervention that way. A caring group of friends picking off painful pieces of your soul!
I need a financial intervention.
Today - Friday July 9, 2023 - is the 160th day of the year. That’s 21 days shy of 2023’s halfway mark.
In January, I kicked off implementation on a list of financial goals for the year. Truth is, today, it seems quite a tall order to achieve.
This has inspired a self-intervention.
If I had shared my goals with my friends, I’m certain that the cackle would be grouping for the kill. I rather wish I had shared, the pressure to be accountable would have greatly helped.
I have created a bulleted list of destructive habits that keep blurring my financial goals. There are two ways to deliver this, to me. I’ll look for a place with a full-length mirror, and tear myself down. A neutral place, certainly not my apartment - that’s my major financial crime scene.
Or, I can make an audio recording and send it to myself. I’ll send it to a private Whatsapp Group. I run a private group. It acts as my digital journal, a repository for random thoughts, musings, photos and other trivia.
I love you, you are generally a good person. But, you still have that one habit we agreed to abandon in January. You are still a terrible spendthrift. You know we don’t need most of the stuff bought in the last five months. Did you need three more pairs of sneakers, and two hoodies? Who needs a bedside rag that cost us Ksh3,500 we could save at the Sacco? Grow up.
We learnt the 50:30:20 Savings Rule. In January, we pledged to follow it religiously. We have stretched the 50% part for general expenses to almost 70% - it eats way too much into the others. Think, man...…like TV subscriptions, for instance. Why did you need a new one, when you rarely got time for movies? Wacha ujinga buana!
You are excellent in lots of ways - but, for your disgusting habit of abusing the Emergency Fund. In January, we agreed to build a fund that would be sufficient to sustain us for at least six months if we lost our income. It worked for only two months. What happens if an emergency crops up? Kaza mshipi ni time ya recovery.
You are innately an extrovert, out-of-door type. I know. You love to mingle, talk to random people - but, hey - does ‘out-of-door’ only refer to hanging out in pubs? There’s lots you can do, at no or little cost. Say, a solo or a group hike. No one spends Ksh3,000 buying expensive whisky for random strangers. Is that reason legit enough to raid your Emergency Fund kitty last Easter? Tumia akili!
As Baks, I’ve taken note of the annoying guy in the mirror. Quite unpleasant stuff, he’s told me - but, well - all true.
It’s time to regain control, for the other half of the year. As long as I remain financially conscious, no financial goal is beyond reach. I’ve employed ways, and a lifestyle audit to recoup wasted time.
Let’s do this, Annoying Man in the Mirror.