When the ‘Kenyan Dream’ just isn’t enough

Nairobi Skyline

It starts somewhere at 27 or younger for some people. It starts as a gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach. You are doing what you are supposed to do. You went to school, got your degrees, you have a good job. If you are lucky, you got one that pays you enough to live in the neighbourhood of your choosing. You may be married or not, and by all appearances your life looks perfect by Kenyan standards. It is. So why are you still hungering for more.

Many of us, especially those born in the 80s can attest to this feeling. We were born in the Moi Era, at a time when start-up was just a word for cranking up the engine of the old Datsun. We were expected to get a good job and keep it. And definition of a good job was a job that pays. Employment was the new ‘ hebu eat your food, do you know there are children starving in Ethiopia’ trope. And we toed the line, we went to school, we got our papers and hustled until we got into those offices.

This is expected of you, but there is something different about our generation. Instead of staying with one company for the rest of our working lives, we tend to switch jobs or are forced to depending on the type of contract. Others are switching careers entirely or quitting to pursue things that our parents considered hobbies. While others, fed up with knocking and getting the doors of corporates slammed in their faces are starting their own companies and are better off for it.

Still most of us have followed the well beaten path — ‘fuata nyayo’ so to speak. We are working 8 to 5 on the jobs we have found even though our hearts are not in it, fighting gnarly traffic to get to offices filled with people like us. It could be something that had been drummed into our heads from a young age; Keep you head down and work hard! Blend in don’t stand out! It was as if success came dressed in the same grey suit and brown Bata shoes.

It’s sort of like the idea that students who got Bs and Cs in KCSE were expected to take business and commerce degrees, those who got A were expected to take medicine and pharmacy..if you had a D…mayoo! you may have to repeat Form Four. It’s funny, back then, IT was what students who hadn’t gotten called to a national university did as they looked for other options. Today, it’s where the young, bright and hungry are flocking to. IT is ‘the goose that lays the golden egg’.

We are a society that loves to conform and bites hard when it comes to career trends, this is not saying that there is anything wrong with an office job or knocking those who enjoy their 8 to 5 but rather calling on those who recognise that niggling feeling.

I know of personal assistants who write their poetry in secret, corporate relationship managers who dream of owning interior design businesses and many others who stash their dreams under their bed and look at them when they are alone at 3am. We believed the pervasive lie: ‘you can only be good at one thing’. It may not be realistic to quit your job but what can you start doing now to pursue a dream or incorporate it into your life? Can you set aside an hour a week? Start small and see where it gets you, the idea is to start living a happier more fulfilled life now… and to never stop learning.



3 thoughts on “When the ‘Kenyan Dream’ just isn’t enough

  1. Totally agree…career trends are slowly taking kind of a U-turn.Kenya might be still showing signs of sticking with tradition, but it is quite clear that in future we might have even brilliant minds taking on jobs we didn’t consider as “lucrative”.

    Liked by 1 person

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