I’m seated on a wooden four-legged chair with a high back, this very seat that overlooks a white wall overlain in flowery wallpaper. It is in this very seat that I often settle down to write, and it is this same damn wall that I sometimes find myself staring at for hours on end when creativity has become elusive. It is this very seat that I’m now lazily slumped on that has come to be my favorite, for we have had our days, days when it has carried my weighty frustrations. But in hindsight, I guess this is the price we pay for freedom of speech, staring at flowery walls because you really have nothing to say. I’ve grown accustomed to this spot to the point that I know choose it consciously, it’s become my lucky spot. I know what you must be thinking, that I’m probably superstitious and delusional, but don’t we all have our superstitious beliefs which we keep to ourselves, if only for the reason that if people knew about them we’d be locked up in mental asylums?
Nonetheless, I’m here to keep a promise I made last week, erm, last year, when I said I’d be here more regularly, and this is why I’m heaved up on my lucky spot staring intermittently at our wall over here. I know that a promise is a debt, so let’s settle down and allow me to pay my dues now. For once. I hope you feel at home, for this is a safe place, where we’ve all come not to judge or to be judged. It’s a little ‘live and let live’ world over here where we’ve come for reasons best known to ourselves – some of us are here out of curiosity, to peek around silently and see if there’s anything that might add value to our busy lives and when we do (or even when we don’t) we disappear as silently as we appeared and move on to other places to satisfy our existential angst. The rest of us come perhaps because of the aforementioned reason, but we stay and linger for longer because we love words and the power it holds over us. Different reasons these are but at the end of the night, aren’t we all doing the same thing, pursuing happiness and meaning, or meaning in happiness?
Anyway, first things first, especially because it’s the beginning of the year. I think we should take this rare opportunity to get to know each other? I’ll set the pace and go first.
Well, who am I? I’ve been asking myself that very same question for a long time now. But after much introspection, I’ve come to the realization that I’m many things to many people. To my folks, I’m a son (and gladly for that matter) born to conquer the world and carry forth the family name and I have unconditional love and support to show for it. To society, I’m a man, at least I’m becoming, and I have responsibilities to show for it. To the government, I’m a statistic, one amongst forty five million others whom together we’ve come to be known as Kenyans. Patriotic Kenyans for the record. To my peers, I’m a friend and drinking buddy perhaps. To you, I’m probably a narcissistic stranger who has his way with words. Do these answers satisfy you? Me neither. For even though I’m often amazed at how quick I can switch in between these roles, nothing beats the feeling of getting home at the end of an overwhelming day to the pleasure of removing these masks, of laying down these roles to actually become myself, whatever this means.
Perhaps that is what life is meant to be, isn’t it?
To be defined by the roles we play. To peg our identities on all things fleeting. To wait for the world to tell you who you are. To wear these masks for so long that they stop being masks and become a part of who we are.
Or maybe it’s not.
Maybe life is a journey of self discovery. To peek inside of you (not literally) and discover who you might be if you lost everything you have now. If you were stripped off your roles, your identity and even your name. And at that very moment, if someone asked you who you are, what would you say?
Image Credits: Google – The Masks We Wear