Technically, I moved out of my mother’s house at 18. That was when I was coming to Nairobi for campo. But I do not count it as moving out because I lived with a distant cousin of mine who we grew up with, so the relation didn’t really feel that distant. He was a lot older than me. By the time I was checking into his house, omuga had a wife and kids and lived with his sister who also had two kids. Which was not such a big deal for me because growing up we always stayed with relatives. It never felt like crowding. In fact, the house could get pretty boring when they were not around. But if I knew just what it meant to stay with a relative, I wouldn’t have dared. I would have insisted right off the bat on staying in a hostel like Deo.
Staying with a relative is hard, man. This is something I came to learn when living in a relative’s house, even though I lived most of my life with relatives. Sometimes I wonder, with Mother Karua’s temperament, how these people managed. Or perhaps I am just spoilt. Actually, I was spoilt. Being a last born and all. Then when I arrived in Nairobi to stay for the first time and walked into my cousin’s house, everything changed. It was an adjustment.
At the time I was taking CPA classes at Strathmore. It’s not as if I have ever taken interest in accounting or anything like that. Quite the contrary. I had just cleared forth form, and my mother couldn’t possibly imagine me perambulating about, burning daylight and doing nothing for one and a half years. So she suggested I should do something while I waited for my government sponsored entry into law school. Well, she didn’t suggest. She is an African parent, through and through. A jang’o one, no less. She said I should go to school and get more papers, and I had no choice. Not if I still preferred the taste of air to the musty scent of a decomposing coffin, six feet nearer to hell.
At first, I enjoyed staying with my cousin. Those were the first first days when they were still welcoming me to their diggz. So I was spared from shit like household work. Then I became a mwenyeji and had to also put my skin in the game. It was only fair, looking back now. But at that time, it felt like slavery. Especially on Mondays.
My cousin and his wife ran a joint biashara for fish. They’d bring in fish from ocha and then sell to the mamas who fry them in Nairobi West. Then his wife would prepare some for her own customers. South C had a lot of walalos and kyuks, both of whom cannot prep a fish from scratch.
Now, the problem was not the business, but what it meant since it was operated from home. They knew my classes were in the evening. So in the morning, I helped in sorting the fish, sometimes chweroing the scales off in preparation for customers etc. Then after that I was to walk my little nephew to school in South B, come back, do dishes and then go to school. (Sometimes I did the dishes at night when I came back, which was a horrible idea because then I would find dishes for the day piled up, waiting for me.)
So you see, it wasn’t that bad. But at that point, as an 18 year old who has been spoilt his whole life, I might as well have been picking cotton in Mississippi.
Now, the mistake I had made was imagining that I was going to be treated the same way I was treated back home. It did not sink into my head that I had moved in with someone who had built a life for himself with another person who I had not even met until then – his wife. So in as much as I was boys with my cousin, however much he knew my shenanigans from back in the day, his wife did not. I was bringing my entitlement into her house. Which she did not take very well, of course. Took me a while before I got used to her rule about no shoes in her house – the last time I did, she asked me to mop the entire way from the door, up the stairs, to my room. Then when these things compounded and started getting to me, I decided to spend as little time as possible in that house. My classes ended at 8.30pm. From Strathmore to South C should take at most 15 minutes. But I would rock up at 10pm.
Small small things like that, you know. She must have been wondering who the hell I am to behave like that in her home.
I moved out. To a hostel, funded by my elder bro when he was finally tired of my constant whining about that place. I went to KAFOCA – a military owned hostel in Madaraka. I did not last long there either, because they had this stupid curfew that required everyone to be inside the compound by 10pm. If you came in later and did not know the watchies, they’d lock you out. Halafu they were strict on discipline. Sijui minimal interaction with chicks. No alcohol. No weed (I do not even get stoned, but I would like to have the option goddamit!). No visitors in the rooms. There was this Mother Hen who would scold you if you misbehaved, and if you didn’t listen, she would report you to your folks when they visited. Aaaaaargh. Basically, Maranda High School, but for college students. Good thing is, by the time I was getting exhausted with this place, I was already getting ready for University of Nairobi, Law School. Now that is where I found my freedom. It was so absolute, the admin couldn’t give a penguin’s buttcrack what we did or didn’t do, so long as we did not kill anyone.
Now, with all that freedom we got at UoN, the kind of shit we got away with, you can imagine just how difficult it was adjusting to staying with mother again after fourth year. By then, she had moved from Kisumu to Nairobi. Here I was, a grown man with balls filling his hands, going back to staying with my mother. Only that my mother did not care how grown I thought my gonads were. Staying at home meant abiding by her rules. They had not changed simply because I had gotten a university education. Meaning, when I went raving, I had to give notice. I could not just sleep outside and come back however I wanted. When I did, I received a text. Not from my mother, but from Deo. Ati I am being disrespectful.
Aaaaaaai. Hard small.
Then I decided that I was dropping law to become a blogger and that is when feaces greeted the air-conditioning. Monday night RAW at home every other night, about how I was throwing my life away. There was no way I was staying in that house for long. Fortunately, my cousin’s hubby had employed me as a copywriter at his new PR firm in Upperhill, and I was also writing for Crazy Monday. A cumulative monthly income of KES.33,000. I was OK to move out of the nest. The chick was growing into a cock, and there was no space for another ego in that house.
Now that is when I reeeeeally moved out of my mother’s house for true. My sister was furious – I was being difficult, she said, from the comfort of her couch in Baltimore. I told her, you are talking as if you do not know your mother. So one afternoon, after coming back from a work trip, I walked into the house, took my clothes and relocated to Lang’ata. I left. And when I did, I swore I was never going to ask my fam for help.
Adulting level: PAPACY.
[I stole my mother’s duvet on my way out, though.]
The only reason I am telling this story today is because there is a chick I know who is in the process of moving out of her parent’s house. We were talking the other day and she was stressed. Still is, I guess. Her exodus is not as dramatic as mine. It was not in a quest for freedom. Actually, she is quite comfortable staying at home with her folks. She just thought it was time she made this step in her life.
But she is stressed because moving out is thorny. Kwanza when you are moving out from a place that was so chill – staying in a nice part of town, there is someone to do her laundry, she does not worry about food, or bills or cleaning. All of a sudden, these are everything she can think about.
When you are leaving the nest, that is when it hits you that moving out is not just about paying your own rent. It is about sooooo much more. You have to get a house in an affordable neighbourhood where neighbours do not nick your bras from the lines. Then you need to furnish it. Goodness. This is the time you will understand the witchcraft of adulting. Shit is bloody expensive!!! Forget the grand things like a fridge, TV or gas cooker. I am talking about mattresses, curtains, carpet and blahdy sufurias. The water bill is only 300 bob but there comes a time when that is all you have. So do you eat or do you bathe? The elec meter starts moaning as if it has lost a child, yet you just loaded the damn thing…and you wonder kwani these things operate like data bundles?
And then you need to find a helper (if you are lazy like me) and this is not an easy choice to make, because this is the one person who knows all your shit – when you are around, when you aren’t, whether you have a person, whether you are lonely, what food you eat, your allergies, how your clothes smell when dirty, how you like your tea, the number of pairs of underwear in your closet, whether or not you recycle socks for weeks, whether your poop needs to be flushed six times before it makes a graceless exit, your WiFi password, where you stash your sex toys. In short, your entire existence.
You do not want to get just anyone. You have to do background checks to know them all the way back to their twentieth ancestor. Who is she? Is she single? If not, why? If yes, to who? And why? Does she go to church? What are her true names, because Mama Boyi is not a name…as in, what are her MPESA names? Is she even Kenyan? What kind of person is she? Does she put Blueband in her ugali? Does she put dhania in chapo? If the answer to the two above are yes, run for the hills. Will she think your nonstick pans are dirty and scrub the surface? What is her work experience? Any references to people who can vouch for her? Will you be able to leave your money on the table and come back and find it? What is her relationship with honesty like? Does she steal people’s content online like Nairobi Wire? Does she think it makes a difference if she writes #Stolen after recycling a joke without due credit?
For someone who is going to be in your business, you also need to get into her business. Husbands and wives come and go, but the true life partners are the washing ladies. Those ones are for life. They know too much.
I like to believe that I was lucky. When I finally moved out of my mom’s for true, I moved in with Chess – a friend from uni. We had an agreement. I cook, he cleans. Everything else took care of itself. As for the house furnishings, it was just by said stroke of luck that someone was moving to the States and needed to sell their stuff. Luckily, they were not in an urgent hurry with money. We convinced them to give us everything and then we would pay them in installments. We crammed all those things into an apartment in Langata – an apartment so small if we ordered a large pizza, we’d have to eat it outside.
My luck ran out some two months into the agreement when I lost both of my jobs. But that is a story for another day.
For now, I am thinking about my friend who is moving out. I asked her why she was moving out and she said she just felt like doing it. I think the uncertainty is killing her. Me all I can tell her is that there is really no written script on how to move from her parent’s house. You make the decision, you follow it through and then you stay with it. It will be hard, but she will live.
There are people who have come up with all kinds of formulas of moving out. Mara oh, you should not be staying with your folks at 30. Ati you should wait until you have money – save for it. Mara you should not move out – just stay home until you get married. Others say you shouldn’t move out until you have everything, while another group says you should move out the moment you can afford rent and a mattress. Akia ni make sure your rent is 30% of your total income. Mara oh, girls should not move out because it is unsafe and/or immoral (eye roll). Sijui men should not stay at home after campus.
These are opinions of people based on their own experiences. Truth is, moving out is like wanking – you go with whatever pleases you. If you want leave, leave. If you do not, don’t. There is no ordinance that dictates how life should be lived. You know what? Let me tell you something. If home was a bit more bearable for me, I would never have moved out. But right now I do not regret it. There is a way in which moving out matures you. You move out into this cruel world and face a lot of the things you were being shielded from. Sometimes this level of adulting becomes suffocating – for instance, being broke in your mother’s house does not attract the same consequences as being broke in your own house. One means you are just sad about lacking money, while another may render you destitute.
From my experience, all I can say is staying home was fun, but there comes a time when you just want to have sex without the hustle of turning into a human trafficker – smuggling someone into the house – and then worrying about being caught when you should be worrying about orgasms.
Another life is waiting for you out there. Perhaps you shouldn’t stand it up.