There was a time when dreams were hallucinations. Those days when you would wake up wondering if people with salaries used the same purses and wallets that you used, or if their purses were as big as back packs. You were a student surviving on lean budgets then. You questioned if they wore the same kind of linen as students, because you knew for a fact that the money was so much. So much that it could tear your cheap campus linen. There were days you would dream that your first salary would be used to travel the world, and the second one would buy you a car, then you would become a millionaire and billionaire shortly after… Subsequently, you would buy a big piece of land in the prime South Coast, and another one in the leafy suburbs around the capital city. You would embark on the construction of the century. An impossibly imperial castle or a chalet bungalow! On the beach piece of land, you would put up a private beach, a royal one. You imagined that the child of the child of Queen Elizabeth would propose to his girlfriend on this land. You would have this proposal scene well figured out in mind, and the royal architects that you would hire to design it would have to get the grand picture right. You cannot have room for disappointing a royal prince, helloo? All the things money would buy you would be of the century because you used to think that the people of this century did not how to spend their salaries. Who works for a year without building a home? Or buying small toys like cars?
In your life as a hallucinator, you did not have much respect for people who defiantly refused to upgrade their lifestyles despite being fatly salaried. You often caught yourself wondering what their problem was, and if it was clinically treatable. You sometimes asked silently if they had some forces that stole their money, if their bank accounts had some holes which leaked their money out. Was it possible that they made an agreement at birth that they would pay for all the air they breathed between the second they were born and the second they got their jobs? Must be billions of billions by now!. Or maybe they were repaying ancestral loans for their clans. As a dreamer, you blacklisted one friend because they confided to you that they had taken leave on the last week of the month because they could not afford fare. Keeping such a friend would mean that you were exposing yourself to the risk of becoming a nillionare. You were born with the blood of a millionare, and as such, you needed people of similar blood and same dose of halucinations around you.
The good Lord was faithful. He granted you that job. In a multinational…in a globally recognized company ! It was a mega shift, from managing pocket change, to managing a salary. A salary that was so much that it had to be confined in the walls of a 24hour secured bank. Imagine that!!! It was a massive shift! You were becoming a tax payer, you were now eligible to advise the ministry of finance. After all, you had a Finance/ Accounting background, and your taxes would be a material part of the national budget…Back to the jumbo shift. You were about to become a rent payer or a home owner, an electricity bill payer, a water bill payer, a designer wear buyer, a car owner, and a business class traveller around the world. The paradigm shift was a few days away. As you sat in the job orientation, you deaf listened through the financial management session. You knew what you were waiting for, the etiquette session. This session would tell you how to carry yourself around, as the young millionaire you were just about to become. Gusto and drumrolls! And those people truly knew how to massage your delicate ego and rejuvenate your dreams. Ray mentioned the kind of suits that the society expected people of your calibre to wear, the kind of shoes and jewerly, the hairdo and the kind of people who were allowed to shampoo your delicate business head… He talked about the kind of perfumes young people of your stature were allowed to use- eau de perfume, not anything less. Eau de toilette for who?? You kept nodding heavily and smiling villagely as you took notes in the global notebook. On that bright day,you forced yourself to sleep in traffic: because that session had touched you somewhere where only a dream could take you back.
NOW. No car, no house, no land. Not much has changed. You have defiantly refused to upgrade, just like those people you thought needed clinical attention!
There comes a point when a person starts blaming their brains for having the ability to conceive such deceptive dreams. For faithfully making them believe that such a life is of this world, and attainable through months of work. That it is even attainable by a person purely depending on a single salary and no side hustle.
You sit in traffic, in a matatu- as a nillionare. You moved out recently, after very many months of working. If your folks had not looked at you badly, if they had not insisted that you needed to take responsibility of your life, if they had not quarrelled you for getting home at 3 in the morning and accused you of treating their home as a bed and breakfast thingy, if you had not realized that were not saving despite staying at home…you would never have moved out. You did not move to a leafy suburb, ( Did you even think you would afford it?!). You moved to a neighbourhood just good enough to accommodate a starter who knows how to operate a budget. A starter who knows the complex math of fixed costs and can clearly differentiate between a luxury and necessity. One who knows how to classify a TV and a home theatre as a luxury. Those ones will be bought later. Besides, you have a functional phone with earphones to keep you updated on what is happening around the world; and you have a laptop to keep you watching the latest movies released everywhere in the world; Nollywood and Hollywood alike. A starter, who now calls themselves a ‘self starter’ …( ‘I started from the bottom kind of vybe) . Needless to say, you do not have a car, at least not yet.
You look through the window, through the rain.Those dreams start haunting you. Your life is not where you used to see it. You feel like you are behind schedule. You have not afforded any holiday so far, and no matter how hard you close your eyes, you cannot see yourself affording one anytime soon. It is the last week of the month. You hate this week. It is the week of revising your borrowing skills and taking honey to sweeten your voice lest someone decides to pay you for massaging their ears with your sweet voice. This week finds you so broke that you could almost call your ex demanding for payment for all your time that they wasted. It is the week where you spend a considerable amount of time refreshing your contacts and breaking the silence with long lost potential financiers. You invest time dropping a few texts here and there to cushion the reception of the borrowing text. You write down and rehearse ways of asking for money without making your financier think that you are THAT broke. Mostly, you find yourself picking all manner of excuses/ small lies. Sometimes, ati you lost your ATM card, others you lie that you lend a huge amount to a friend and they have not paid you back, or all these other lies you people borrow money with, sometimes you want capital to grab some business opportunity. Any wise person will read through the lies and show some empathy. But you have to butter the right side of the bread so well that you cannot be denied that loan.
Ironically, this is the same week your next of kin will call you with all their financial needs. They ask for small money like 15k and over. Did the definition of small money change by the way?! How is 15k small money to a starter who knows mathematics? You cannot disappoint them anyway, you would rather take a loan…you know you are their child, they educated you and you are undeniably doing very well financially. They expect you to have a quarry of money. In fact, your parents believe that you, yes you penniless one, can open a bank for the entire village to provide financial aid to those people who cannot manage their finances at a small interest- if you wanted to. You cannot admit your financial strain lest they suffer a cardiac arrest. Understandably, you are mostly in a bad mood before you are paid, especially when you see your kin calling-calling you. And you cannot even tell them what a luxury is when they ask for money to buy handbags or shoes. Before end month, why oh why?! You are tempted to call that friend you blacklisted in your life as a hallucinator, you want to find out if they finally got their finances right and stopped booking leave strategically.
The sun is starting to rise. As you alight the matatu, you start having a constructive monologue, far from halucinations.From today henceforth, you will redeem yourself from this shackle of pay cheque slavery. “Get thee behind me satan” will be your favourite verse in the bible. You will use it when your hands feel like they should pick designer things which are meant for people who throw notes of small value in dustbins. You will use it when these friends who help you celebrate that salary which is as tiny as the small finger of a newborn child call you. You will confidently ask them if they will foot their bill, and meet you halfway in meeting yours. You will also adjust your tongue to appreciate low budget foods, until such a time when you will not know the difference between the salary sunup and salary sundown (Read as payday and end month before payday). You will be comfortable saying that you are comfortable eating life in a small spoon. You will stop living to the societal expectation and create your own bar, based on your financial height. Holidays will be enjoyed during the company holidays so that you can savour every moment. Scarcity creates value, so the fewer, the more valuable! You will create a mental switch. You will switch your mind off when people ask you foolish questions. Like “Kwani where do you take your money?”/ “Did you get a paycut?/ “Why don’t you have a car yet?”Then you will start humming the ‘started from the bottom’ anthem.
Somewhere between the financial plan, friends happen, and unplanned-for events and other small emergencies. You resolve month after month to have your finances in check, unsuccessfully.:-( Sometimes, the pressure to catch up with peers mounts and you end up spending unnecessarily, trying too hard to measure up to the profile that the society has set for you. As time goes by, end month draws further and further. Reason? You pay off debts and settle bills as soon as that salary kicks in. By the end of the first week, you are broke. Like properly broke/broke!! Loans shift from soft loans to long-term ones. Eventually, you realize that you are tangled up in loans and lifestyles beyond your reach. But you have an image to protect, you have a way you want people to view you. Because of this want, you end up broke while trying to look rich. Problem with our generation is that we want instant success… we want to live large without a back up plan. We want to enjoy our youth to the fullest and get the finest of experiences now’now. I stand to be corrected, but the way to wealth is simple. Spend less than you earn, and invest the difference wisely. In the grand scheme of life, we will all get there. Of course, with the right financial decisions now. So SAVE and INVEST! The golden rule is that you spend what remains after you have saved.
Big little girl | story teller for all seasons | Kenyan |