I Want To Be
At 4, I wanted to be a question mark.
Because my mother said I was. At that age, there is an innocence that placed me, for a time, beyond the responsibility of what the effect my unending questions and the consequential answers had on the people surrounding me. My mother, mostly.
At 7, I knew, perhaps subconsciously, that I wanted to be an intellectual.
Reading, writing, unpacking, packing and intellectualizing. This desire was manifested in my kleptomania. I stole books from my classmates, and they hated me for it. Understandably. I’d steal books and read the juicy stories then surreptitiously hiding them under my father’s car before entering our house after school. My friends reported me to my mother who swiftly beat theft and associated habits into the depths from which they emerged. My prayer for you is that you get better friends.
I had 3 pencils, an eraser and a razor blade. Always. All sharpened just the way I liked it, graphite penetrating obnoxiously like my alter-ego under the influence of cheap alcohol. I preferred sharpening with a razor instead of a sharpener because it gave me a sense of uniqueness. Sharpeners were just too commonplace and the goddamned things got spoilt as soon as you blew into them, or so they said.
I got a badge of recognition in my class because I managed to spell ‘babies’ correctly. Not b-a-b-y-s as Mrs. Muli, my English teacher had expected me of my 6 year old self. Faith Mwongeli. Best in English. Class One, 2001. — that’s what was engraved on my badge.
At 10, I fancied myself a neurosurgeon.
Everyone did. Because of that book — Think Big by Ben Carson.
At 16, I was a reader.
I think it was the most illuminating period of my life. I consumed words like I consume tweets now, with a ferocity that is unnecessary and truthfully, alienating. But I knew so much, mostly nonsense. Not surprisingly, the same way I know so much nonsense from my twitter feed. A friend of mine says Twitter is like reading all the signs strewn along the road during a road trip.
I was a conundrum — highly inquisitive but easily petrified by new information. I mostly expressed this curiosity by developing an obsession with a given topic, then I’d collect and consume any and all information I could find on my obsession du jour. Nothing has changed on my Pocket and Twitter apps, perhaps, fortunately.
At 19, I desperately wanted and tried to be nothing.
Bleak sheer nothingness.
At 21, I wanted to be a lover.
Because I liked his smile, not because it was breathtaking, but simply because I liked him and he was his smile. With him, there was an intense, mostly selfish, attachment. I wasn’t being intentionally selfish, it just made me feel good to be around him so I tried to be around him as much as possible. I surprised myself by falling in love with his mind and by default, his body.
I particularly loved the way he touched me. It appeared (and felt) as though his hands were made from the things I had trouble believing. He aroused an emotional vulnerability so potent that for a solid minute I thought he saw me, tangibly. And there is nothing more beautiful than the arousing of a place no one has ever touched.
He once told me he loved me - this amorphous, loud and mostly introspective sample of humanity, Ricky. It was the way he said it, the matter-of-factness, the absolute lack of coyness, that made me think I wasn’t emotionally mature to plunge myself into the depths of the uncertainty that being in a relationship with him would entail.
With that my lover days ended and with it came a shift toward a restless individualism that defines my temperament.
At 22, I want to be.
A friend. A sister. A daughter. An African. A Kenyan. Even amidst scathing bouts of loneliness, self doubt and periodical sentiments of crippling insufficiency, I want to be present. I want to be bold, loudly. I want to be kind, quietly. I want to be happy, persistently. I want to see and to be seen. To understand and to be understood.
From this piece that I love, there’s a pristine statement that so gracefully captures growth:
Childhood wants are boring, yet fundamental.
Teenage wants are fun, but hard.
Adult wants are hard, yet meaningful.
I hope you achieve your meaningful wants.