The Prisoner

I look down at my ankles. They are held firmly together in the tight metal shackles. My hands are handcuffed in front of me where I can see them. I look at them closely and feel the desperation start filling my heart as I think of my captivity. I am a prisoner. I cannot go anywhere. I am stuck in this cold dark room. My ears fill with tears and I sit back feeling defeated wallowing in my own misery.

 

I miss the sun. I want to feel its warmth on my skin. I would like to wear my sundress and dance around in the open fields on a sunny afternoon. I would like to lift my hands to the skies as I take in the warmth of the sun. However, how can I do this with my hands and feet tied? How can I do this while I am still stuck in this room?

 

I want to travel and see the world. I want to see people smiling; I want to hear children laughing. I want to see it all. How can I do this at all? The room where I am stuck in does not even have a window. I am in a prison, four walls closing in on me. This is the hand that life had dealt me with. I am stuck in this room.

 

This prison is not very bad though. I have a bed to sleep on and three meals a day. I am also safe. There are many risks out there in the world. In this prison, I am safe. I never have to go hungry. This is not something that everyone can say. I could get used to these four walls here. My only problem is that I know there is a world outside these walls, a world where I could possibly be happier. However, I am scared of this other world. Scared that it may not be all that I imagine it would be. I am scared that my safety will be gone once I venture into this world.

 

There are many times when I am happy in my prison. I find contentment in staying behind the four walls. I find happiness in my thoughts where I keep thinking about my freedom. I keep thinking about the world outside the walls. Lost in my own thoughts, I find solitude. I imagine myself walking under the clear skies, smiling, dancing and laughing. I imagine myself without the shackles on my ankles and the cuffs around my wrists. I dream of this other world and this gives me the strength to stay in my prison. I am just here physically but my mind is free.

 

I look down at my ankles, and for the first time, I actually see them or rather; I don’t see them. It’s the shackles, they are not there. I stay still and think about the meaning behind the missing shackles. Could it be that my shackles were an illusion. Could it be that my dreams is the reality and my prison was imagined? I reach down and touch my free feet. That is when I realize that I am actually free. The handcuffs aren’t there. I could lift up my hands if I wanted to. I looked at the four walls and for the first time, I notice the door. It swings wide open immediately. I can actually walk out.

 

I sit back and for a minute, I think about walking out of this room. There is nothing holding me back apart from my imagined shackles and handcuffs. I slowly get up and purposefully walk towards the door. Without looking outside, I bang the door shut and go back to my corner. I am scared of what the outside world could offer me. I am scared that it may not quite be all that I imagine it to be. I would rather go back into the prison that I built for myself. I would rather go back to the shackles and handcuffs.

 

One day I will walk out of this prison. That day is not today. Today, I continue dreaming and thinking about what it would be like, to actually be part of the world that I truly long for.

 

This is for everyone afraid of following their dreams.

Job Seeker

I remember my University years, talking and thinking about the future. Everyone had big dreams about their future careers. In addition, the lecturers gave us the impression that everything would be easy. I remember our Head of Department, Mr. Agallo. He made us feel like the whole country was just waiting for us to graduate. He talked of the countless job opportunities that were available. He also liked to give examples of his former students who were head of departments in different organization. With all these in mind, I had very high expectations when I graduated from the University. I couldn’t wait for my big career and I already had plans for all that I was going to do when I started earning big money. I could visualize the house and the car and all the good things in life.

 

Immediately afterwards, I started applying for jobs. I started by dropping my CV at my former place of internship. They had given me a glowing recommendation a year earlier on and had promised me a job after graduation. However, when I went there, it was like nobody remembered me at all. I didn’t lose hope though; I still had my high hopes and dreams. A month after I had started my job search, I was invited for an interview at Babadogo. I remember being very excited and I could not wait for my scheduled interview date and time. I wore my only suit and ensured that I arrived at the location on time.

 

The interview was conducted by one Korean man with poor English. At some point, he asked me to write an essay about my observation of the company. The whole interview was very casual, almost seemed informal. When it came to the point of salary discussions, I almost fell off my seat when I heard about how much I will be paid. The man said that I would be paid 8,000 shillings since I was a University graduate. I asked him how much the other people got paid and he said 4,000 shillings. I was numb from the shock. My mind went back to campus and I thought of the fact that my parents used to give me 10,000 per month for pocket money and here I was being offered a salary lesser than that amount.

 

I sat down and thought about the offer and decided that I would take the job and do everything I can to get a better job within the shortest period possible. I was excited about having something to do that for a minute, I forgot about the 8,000 shillings salary.

 

When I started working, I soon realized that the salary was going to be the least of my worries. I came to learn that all women were required to leave their handbags at the gate with the security guard who was a man by the way. I used to find it to be so embarrassing getting to work and having to open my handbag and remove my essentials in front of some gawking men. This became worse during that time of the month whereby, now id be forced to carry my sanitary towels by hand into the office. The fact that the management believed that the black people (they didn’t have any issues with whites) would steal from them was really discouraging.

 

When I was hired, I was told that I would be assisting the Managing Director. What nobody mentioned was that, I would also be cleaning and cooking as part of my job. I used to start my day by washing all the offices which normally took about an hour or two. Then I would prepare tea and then lunch at 12:00pm. All this time, I was still expected to carry out my official duties. There are times when I would start mopping and halfway, the MD would call me to attend a meeting with him. Other times I would be serving tea only to be stopped midway to be introduced as the MD’s PA. I could feel the stares and discomfort. Being the only University graduate in the company, the MD took pride in telling everyone that I was a graduate. This was more embarrassing to me and I wished that he would stop introducing me in that manner especially when I had a mop in one hand.

 

I did these menial jobs for almost a year. I used to cry a lot. I spent endless hours looking for another job but nothing was forthcoming. I remember travelling all over the country, even up to Kilifi to attend job interviews but still not getting anything. I got desperate and started looking for jobs even way below my qualifications. I looked for anything that would get me out of the situation that I was in. Friends and family got tired of my job search since that is all I used to talk about. My three years of looking for a better job took me to unexplainable depths of desperation. As time went by, I started giving up and I kept asking God why I went to University. I started regretting the four years that I had “wasted” studying instead of looking for a job.

 

I was at my job for three years. Three years of suffering, crying and struggling to make ends meet. Don’t get me wrong, I did thank God for the opportunity that he had given me. I knew I was better off than most people who did not have any job at all. However, those three years were brutal. I had been promoted to the post of Human Resource Manager and was earning 20,000 shillings by then. However, I had given up on life, my dreams and hopes and had started accepting my fate at my mediocre job. In addition, to the harsh conditions of my job, I started my running-in with the law. I spent so many hours in court and even more hours dealing with police officers. Thanks to my new “HRM” title, I got served with two arrest warrants, tracked by the CID and recorded endless statements in various police stations.

 

I also got to experience racism firsthand. Working with foreigners as management, exposed me to blatant mistreatment of Africans. I remember one of my Italian bosses used to like talking about the many African problems and he used to openly treat us like lesser human beings. In addition, the African employees used to undergo so much suffering with most people working for less than 10,000 shillings. In fact, being a single girl earning 20,000 made me the richest black person in the company. While we all had to do with the low income, the foreigners were practically swimming in wealth. They bought big cars and homes and used to flaunt their wealth openly. We all knew of their golf club memberships, their vacations all over the world and their kids attending the most sophisticated and expensive private schools. In a week, they would earn an entertainment allowance of over 20,000. The company paid all their bills including their housemaids’ salaries. They used to have smartcards and all kinds of privileges. All these while, most of us could not even afford to be sick. At some point, I used to give out loans to my workmates just so as to help them survive. Most of them were parents and trying to survive on a salary of about 6,000 to 8,000 shillings per month was really hard. Some would resort to stealing which was kind of understandable.

 

One day I woke up and decided not to go back to my job. I had started working as a part-time writer, earning double the amount I was making working as a “HRM”. I considered my options and realized that I was wasting my time at my full-time job. That is when I made the decision to leave. I can’t believe it took me three years to finally realize that I deserved a better job. I needed to trust in God and let him open doors for me.

 

Walking out of that job made me feel really liberated. For the first time in three years, I felt alive. I had plans to go on a whole month vacation and then travel for a bit as I did my writing. I wanted to rest. After all, I had worked for three years, Monday to Saturday without ever taking a break. I wanted to rest. In my mind, I felt like I had been serving a three years prison term with hard labor.

 

However, God had other plans for me. Three years after graduating, I finally got a nice job with a really decent pay.

 

If you feel stuck in a job that is going nowhere or have been “tarmacking” for some time without any good results, this one is for you. Do not give up. Do not be discouraged. Something bigger and better is coming your way. You just have to trust in God.