Spent last weekend in London for a hackathon. I could live there.
This makes me nostalgic for something that I can’t exactly pinpoint.
(Source: Spotify)Source ( Spotify )
Now, I know that Kenyans were kinda pissed off (not drunk British friends, angry!) about the US announcing travel advisories to Kenya. The surprising thing to me is that most Kenyans didn’t know there are ALWAYS U.S. travel advisories about Kenya — not just after the Westgate attacks. My dad reminds me nearly every time I talk to him that Kenya is on the U.S. Travel Advisory list and has been since I moved to Kenya years ago.
American citizens in Kenya also received constant messages and emails from the U.S. embassy or our places of employment that looked like this:
Did we become de-sensitized to these emails over time? Probably. But, I am astounded by all the things that have been happening recently in Nairobi that make me fear for everyone’s safety — locals and expats alike.
I’ve had EXTREME paranoia of being mugged since I was pretty brutally mugged about a year and a half ago in Kilimani. And a few days ago, a friend of mine was robbed at gunpoint during lunchtime in front of the Statehouse. Is anywhere safe anymore?
I’ve had really bad paranoia since being hit by a matutu in 2012 and hearing about so many unfortunate lives lost to road accidents in Kenya. It’s the #1 cause of death, and you can’t trust anyone but your best drivers on the road.
Two weeks before the attack, I was feeling especially paranoid. My lawyer gave me a number to call for armed assistance in case of an emergency. I’m pretty sure members of that unit were first to respond at Westgate. But, terrorists had not even been in my periphery until this happened. There had been isolated incidents in the Central Business District, Eastleigh, and fighting in the northeastern regions, but really?
"Move to Karen," people have said. But heavy weapons were found near a Karen country club, and I have heard of many getting robbed by militias in Karen… Is anywhere really safe anymore?
Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Kenya. And I have always loved Kenya, but this intensity of violence in Nairobi has gotten to the point that it has really started to affect me and change me as a person. The constant vigilance that people have to feel walking down the street at times is very wearing. On top of that, to be a small American chick walking down the street, I’m easily the first and most vulnerable target for anyone to hit.
I suppose the point I’m trying to stress is that we shouldn’t sugarcoat what does and will continue to happen in terms of violence throughout the world. I’ve heard more people die in South Africa in a year than in Iraq. (Both stats are very tragic, considering I don’t think Iraq should’ve been occupied in the first place!) So many cities are not safe; I don’t think it’s just Nairobi.
The question to our generation is: What are we going to do about it?
I keep finding myself thinking about all the seemingly senseless stuff I do in a day that is not moving our world forward. I may be a social entrepreneur, but are all these conferences really helping? Is all this email going to move the world forward? Why aren’t we moving fast enough? Why does progress seem damn near impossible at times? And why are so many of my peers still working in jobs where they feel the need to apologize to me because they know they are ‘immoral’? (I love those conversations where people are like, Oh wow. Well I basically sell shit for the devil, so I’m glad there are people like you. Does thinking there are others to solve worldly problems good in the first place? Why would someone even say that? I feel like we’ve barely even made a dent in what is possible…)
Pardon my language, but our generation needs to grow some balls and make a difference. It isn’t about following your dreams, kids. It’s about doing what’s right. Don’t worry about taking credit. Listen to what people need. And dammit, do the work!(4)
A quick lesson in geography for all those twitter haters of the new #MissAmerica:
1. India is circled in BLUE. The Arabian Peninsula is circled in RED
2. Italians (like me) look more like Arabs than Indian people do.
3. She was gorgeous. Don’t be jealous.(3)
Scrabble Champ. 70-point word: ENQUIRE. triple letter on Q, double word. Now time to retire.
Back in 9th grade, my french teacher (hi Mr. A!) used to say, “Toni, tu n’es pas le centre de la univers.” [Toni, you’re not the center of the universe.]
I was pretty good at French, at least, one of the highest performing in my class, and I was always confident that no matter how many times I walked in late and how many homework assignments I did right before class, I could still get an A. I would mess around during class, distract others, say silly things in French, and ultimately, not try my hardest. I was 15, and I didn’t care as much as I should have.
That phrase has reappeared several times in my life. There were times when I said it to my own students, desperate to get them to realize that their actions affected everyone in the classroom. Times when I said it to my family members or friends, heated because I thought they were thinking too much about what they wanted, without taking other people’s ideas/thoughts/feelings into account. And most often, times when I say it to myself, believing that I have taken self-promoting paths or directions, yearning to feel better about decisions I considered selfish at the time.
But the fact of the matter is: You ARE the center of the universe. Of your universe. Because that’s the only perspective you’ll ever have. I have spent so much of my life trying NOT to be selfish: aiming to please other people, trying to make an impact in society, sacrificing my time, my energy for others, because I don’t want to be selfish. I have worked ungodly hours, let my health and personal satisfaction of life go, just because I can’t think of anything worse than being a “taker.” I get so much satisfaction out of giving.
This has really fucked me over in a number of ways. Brief list:
1. I try to please boyfriends/co-workers/family members instead of doing things because I really want to. I took this tri-metrix assessment of my professional strengths & weaknesses, and the highlight was my high sense of empathy and understanding of others and low sense of self. I understand what you want and why you want it, but have no effing clue when it comes to me.
2. I am much more forgiving of others than I am of myself. Friend gets too drunk and has to be taken home in a taxi? No problem! It’s funny! It’s cute! But if it was me, I’d feeling guilty about it for at least a year. And I’d tear myself up over it. Other people are allowed to make mistakes, but I’m not.
3. I freak out if someone else around me is unhappy. I stress. I ask more questions. I’ll do everything I can to make them feel better.
I recently read a book that one of my mentors gave me: Give and Take. It changed my perspective in a number of ways. During the past year, I’ve also really changed myself, leveraging my own giving and encouraging others to pay it forward.
When it comes down to it, you need to create a universe that you really want to live in, one where you love your work, your friends, your relationship with your family, your personal relationships, and most importantly, you — the physical you, the intellectual you, the emotional you, the professional you, the traveling you, the make-up free you, the rough-night you, the stressed out you, the paranoid you or the adventurous you. All of you.
Here are the ways I’ve been trying to do that:
1. Live in the present. Meditate. Think about now. Give my all in this moment, while still making plans for the future. Fuck the past — forgive those d-bags and get over it.
2. Eat right, exercise, sleep. Screw all those people that say that the most successful people are those that drink whisky for dinner and get 3 hours of sleep. They’re wrong. I like being healthy; I like being physically fit. I like having nice skin and wearing red lipstick. My mental awesomeness has to coincide with physical awesomeness.
3. Do things I know are right for me. Call the family. Go home for holidays. Take time off. Write. Read. Travel. Drink good wine and eat good food. See my friends get married and cheer them. Remember birthdays and important dates. Take long hikes/walks. Watch the 100 Greatest Movies of all Time. Compost that trash. Enjoy good conversations. Argue. Agree. Learn.
4. Stay vigilant in work. Don’t become a spotlight seeker. I do what I do because I want to make a difference, and I have strong values around education. Measure that success in the right way. Don’t take shortcuts. Forget about recognition, but make my family proud. Remind myself that when people stop worrying about who gets credit for something, good stuff happens.
5. Be vulnerable. This is the hardest for me to do. I’m about 70% of the way there. That last 30% is by far the hardest but most important.
In A Brief History of Time, Hawking talks about what it’s like to be in a black hole. I’m sure I’m not doing his quote any justice, considering I read that book like a decade ago, but he says something like, “No one knows what is inside of a black hole because once you are sucked in, you are inside a vacuum. The end of your universe ends at what is called the event horizon, and no one can see into your black hole, and you cannot see out of it. You are alone with a cosmic swirl of dust and light and energy and who knows what.”
It’s kinda like that in life, isn’t it? What’s different than living in the black hole, however, is this deep human desire to understand one another, to get to the vulnerable cores of our being, breaking past our dinky event horizons of protection into what is our bests selves.