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Your greatest achievement in life is surviving the madness of youth

By Ted Malanda | June 14th 2021

You are a battle-scarred war hero. Big up!

On the bleakest of days, most people in their 40s often sit back and reflect on their sorry lives, their hearts dark with disappointment at paths not taken, or wrong paths taken.

I am jobless, they mourn. My job sucks. My pay is too low. I am not married.

I have no children. I married the wrong spouse and how I wish I could kick them the hell out.

My children don’t ‘catch’ anything in school. Will I ever buy a plot or build a house? I should have been a lawyer. I will never be rich. People don’t love me. I am a failure… What nonsense!

Failure how? And you are in your 40s? Look, the army band should sing praises in your honour on national days because you are a hero for surviving the madness and idiocies of youth.

This thought occurred to me when I caught my young nephew standing on the roof of his grandfather’s house. Before I could shout a warning, he flew into the air and landed on the ground, face burbling with joy.

And up he went again, and again. Yes, that was me, same age, 40 years ago, risking my bones for fun with the only toy in the homestead. I have the scars to prove it, too. Scars acquired in the line of folly.

My mind raced to an incident from 25 years back and I smiled.

I think it was a year after graduation, and I was wandering the lengths of my home town when I bumped into a college mate, an elderly woman by her side.

“Meet my mother-in-law,” she cooed, and I chuckled inside, wondering if this sweet old lady knew what her cat of a son had dragged home.

That lass had been one hell of a generous bandit, to say the least, with a mileage that ran from here to Timbuktu, and now there she stood, wife material to the hilt.   

But then, who hadn’t been? I recalled, with amusement, the horror on my high school teacher’s face when I told him I was a teacher. He said congratulations, but his face was screaming: “Who the hell gave this criminal fool a licence to teach children?”

This madness of youth starts early, with dangerous experiments that can leave one maimed, scarred for life or plain dead.

They explode into proper lunacy in college and university. Come to think of it, university graduates should not be awarded degrees, but certificates congratulating them for managing to stay alive.

In our youthful days, just like them, we indulged in things no right thinking person ever should. We had sexual partners we should never have touched with a 10-foot pole.

We drank poisonous substances in quantities that would have floored an elephant, argued with armed police when we were inebriated and clearly afoul of the law.

Oh, how we loitered in the dark in very dangerous places on the wrong ends of town. Wrong company? We were Satan!

Then there followed the decade of sheer idiocy after graduation, when we were presumed to be adults, yet we were just overgrown, shenzi kids with protrusions on our chests and hair on our chins.

This was the age of driving stupidly fast, powered by hormones and the quest for conquests now long forgotten.

Remember the bar crawling? The dropping of friends in the wee hours of dark, rainy nights in unfamiliar places when we wound up dead, broken apart, or dead asleep behind the steering wheel by some roadside in Dandora?

Remember the nonsense of being penniless a day after payday, with absolutely no clue where the cash went?  

Remember the idiocy of waking up at 2am to drive from Ongata Rongai to Thika because a drunken pal called slurring, “Niko na mzinga na ma dame?” Remember the stupid pub fights and sexual escapades with dodgy strangers?

Remember the many close calls with certain death that we survived only because of our mothers’ prayers?

You are no failure, mate. Surviving the idiocies, recklessness, madness and the know-it-all foolishness of youth is the biggest achievement of your life, even if all you have today is the shirt on your back.

You are a battle-scarred war hero, man. Big up!



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