“How did it get so late so soon?”
― Dr. Seuss
2016 has gone by, as stealthily as it came. Reminds you of the hand of time, doesn’t it? Shakespeare once wrote that there may be nothing as cruel as the hand of time. It comes and goes- following its own path. Beyond our control. Oblivious or independent of our human wishes and desires.
2016 came. And it went.
It was many things, but it was not forgettable. We learned that things that defy our expectations can happen. Pundits and polls never really saw what was coming. The British voted to leave the European Union and experienced a change of government. In the United States, a former reality television star confounded the odds to defeat Clinton and clinch the White House. An event from whose shock many of us are still reeling. It may well mean that in this coming year people will voice what they want for their democracies, shocking as those choices may be, but it is their choices.
2016 was also a somber year. There was never a shortage of acts of violence, hatred, and terrorism. Berlin. Nice. France. Syria. Iraq. Yemen. Turkey. The U.S. Just to mention a few. Through our small screens, we watched humanity at its worst, losing its core. Conflict. Refugee crises, which was of particular interest to me, as I wrote here. War. Turmoil. We saw, through Aleppo and Mosul, the real value of human life, that the definition of human life and human society has indeed changed. We saw, from this corner of the world, the murder of those who dared to speak against injustice. Unfortunately, this will continue through to 2017.
Still, in the same sobering spirit, 2016 was the year the world lost some of its most prominent and notable figures. Prince. David Bowie. George Michael. Alan Rickman. Leonard Cohen. There was a time all the breaking news notifications from my New York Times app was the death of some star or another. Spooky, I know. And being a music and culture lover myself (these are mere euphemisms for ‘hippie’), the deaths of these celebrities affected me personally. They were the voices of our youth. And I was moved by the way people from all over the world to mourn them. It was striking.
Here in Kenya, 2016 was bleak and unforgiving most times. People got more and more disenfranchised with the government. And even though elections were still more than a year and a half away when we started 2016, it has been more or less a year of campaigns. Typical Kenyan style. Our leaders engaged in caustic, vitriolic and divisive political rhetoric with as much, if not more, fervor and determination as we, the ordinary
People got more and more disenfranchised with the government.
And even though elections were still more than a year and a half away when we started 2016, it has been more or less a year of campaigns. Typical Kenyan style. Our leaders engaged in caustic, vitriolic and divisive political rhetoric with as much, if not more, fervor and determination as we, the ordinary mwananchi, did in trying to make our lives better. And with no real political opposition, or rather a better alternative to the current establishment, many of us young people have long lost confidence in the Kenyan political machinery, as the agent of change in our lives, at least as it is now.
Closer home in my beloved North Eastern region, and Garissa County, in particular, 2016 has been a year like any other. The sun has been as treacherous and as unforgiving as it has always been. The town and its residents have been mostly quiet, tucked away from the rest of Kenya. Well, except for the few instances of violent attacks that would jolt Nairobi awake. It still feels like a world away from the country’s plush, green and well-watered capital. Still Kenya’s ‘other’ region and people.
The renewed energy, hope, and optimism that came with devolution is slowly fading out.
It is ironical, really- that we have long complained, though deservedly, about marginalization and discrimination, but now that we have been given the control of our fate, we marginalize ourselves. We steal from ourselves. We employ the same mentalities and attitudes that Kenyan regimes have used against us. We, rather, unfortunately, mistake tribalism for politics. Rights, for privileges. Old age, for wisdom. But it would be improper to only mention the gloom and bleakness. There is hope, and life is definitely getting better. More and more people are opening businesses, more kids are going to school, and more and more facilities are being open. So there is a reason to be cheerful.
On a personal level, 2016 has been an unforgettable year. It started on a rather low note for me, with some difficult domestic and personal obstacles that I had to overcome. There was the loss of loved ones that made you think about life. Friends becoming strangers. The betrayal of family or friends. It was also the year that I had to do my law school pupillage, which any law student will rightly tell you, is a pain in the butt. The long hours. The meager pay. The exploitation, in the name of, ‘Everybody went through this.’ Navigating through the streets of Nairobi, both literally and figuratively, is definitely no mean task.It can be crazy, you guys.
It could be a cruel and an unforgiving year most times. Cold as ice, even in the midst of a summer. And you could see was ice that couldn’t be thawed by the hottest sun. It came with waves and storms that threatened to bury you deep in the abyss.
But it was also gentle, like a light ocean breeze. There were moments. Finishing law school. Starting this blog. Meeting incredible people who altered your worldview for the better. The kindness of strangers. Making a difference, albeit small, in other people’s lives.
2016 was definitely quite a memorable year, full of lessons and wisdom. It taught me about the value that is in risk taking, and trying out new things. That the difference, really, between what is possible and what is not, is fear, or procrastination.
That we are not necessarily 100% victims of our destiny, nor are we 100% masters of our own fate.
That anxiety and happiness are two sides of the same coin. That, lastly, what makes us weird is what really means something, and not what makes us like others. Perhaps if I weren’t as weird as a snake’s suspenders (you are welcome for the mental image by the way), I wouldn’t have anything to say.
Hal Borland once wrote, “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.”
So true, isn’t it? I think that beneath the fireworks and the clinking glasses, it is merely a change of calendar; we are continuing with the same hopes, dreams, scars, and habits. We all subconsciously hope for the best and are terrified of what lies ahead. Perhaps it is human to experience a sense of rebirth or new beginnings to remind us to adjust our sails accordingly and to take stock of the journey we’ve so far come…
So here’s to 2016. Incredible year. And may 2017, though it ultimately depends on us, be an exciting year as well!
Image credits: forbes.com; alamy.com