You are so courageous.
People will sometimes use this phrase to mean that may be you are a tad bit too ghetto and refuse to don a mask. The first time this happened to me we as in campus. My heart beat to radio waves. I hurt my ears with cheap ear phones when the original ones that came with the Ideos were worn out. The buttons on the mixer in the school studio were easy on my fingers and I could tell what each does with my eyes closed. Back then I had a good friend, Ben.
Ben and I had a dream where we would take the world together. Not in a Bonnie and Clyde type of way, no think Kalekye and Shaffie. Let us take it a notch higher. Steve Harvey and Shirley Strawberry. Rule the airwaves with our magic and make a career off it. With this in mind, there was an opening for hosting a school event that would offset this dream.
I had an in with the planning committee that would not have any influence on whether I would be picked or not, but I would get an upper hand on things before word got out. That way I would prepare a humble celebratory speech or practice how to handle the disappointment. Ben who was in the meeting was booked to host. As I watched him coming from the meeting I was elated at the world seeing what we are made of. There was just one challenge he could not face me. Something was off.
‘What happened? What?’ I unintentionally shouted at him.
‘They rejected you for the hosting gig.’
‘I am going to need specifics.’
‘Ng’ethe said you are too ghetto.’
‘Because I live in Eastlands?’
‘No. He says you are too bold too honest.’
‘Oh. Okay. So who got it?’
The only reason I did not fall down that day is because the reception had exceptional seats that I often wondered if the guards caught naps on them. This event was supposed to affirm my suspicions that I could host an event and subsequently a radio show. She was qualified. Very much so with her elegant walk and air of grandeur that she seemed oblivious of. I did not attend the event.
Weeks later I was seated at a radio station as a news reporter intern. Between breakfast and lunch errands I created content that I was really proud of. One day while making my favourite snack made of yoghurt and nuts. Heavens know why I kept a small waist despite the mess I put in my mouth.
‘Tomorrow come join us for shopping.’
I looked behind to see who she was talking to. My boss was here talking to me and asking me join her and the girls for shopping the next day. She never talked to me which explained the musky awkward energy that hung between us. She stood expecting an answer from me and when I took a few second she asked again
‘ I would really love to come with you. Where exactly are we going?’
She mentioned the store and while I had walked outside the store and dreamed of shopping there, I was pretty sure that there was no way I could afford anything beyond a pair of earrings, I would probably never wear.
‘I would really love to come but I cannot afford it for now. Can I save up and we can do this in a couple of weeks.’
She never said a word to me again for the rest of the time I was there. Not even when I found her in the bathroom crying and offered a napkin. That one instance might have made a potentially awkward relationship rocky.
Years later at a theatre where I was the production assistant, a colleague told me that though I was a nice person but I had a tendency to just speak my mind.
‘As opposed what?’
‘It’s not a bad thing it’s just really courageous.’
There goes the word again.
Most of the childhood was spent as an introvert. When I spoke to my parent, it was very open minded and more often than not, she winced at what I said in amusement as opposed to the expected anger. I was brought up with the notion that I would speak my mind but at the same time deal with the consequences of said words.
This is why in today’s world the level of oral plastic surgery that happens throws me off the balance all the time. Why promise to catch up on coffee you have no interest in taking or conversation you would rather not be a part of? Someone I work with taught me something that I am eternally grateful for. She cut her locs after years of growing them. Let no one lie to you, locs are like nurturing a baby. There is the confused stage in the beginning where they are trying to hold on, the terrible twos where they are defiant of any styling and then they slowly start to settle down. So when I saw a picture on Facebook of her shot fro, I called her in panic with little coils in my head that I hoped would be locs one day.
‘Do you want the truth or the press release?’
‘I got bored’
With the three words, I was so grateful for her honesty that saved on time and airtime. We then had a brief conversation about work and went about our lives. That statement that I use to date is best demonstrated by social media. Press releases that would make Sarah Sanders’ job easier as she tries t explain the happenings of The Donald’s thumb on twitter.
Let me try and explain safety to you. If you have a family and are the breadwinner, you are not allowed to be ‘reckless’ with your job let alone your words. There are high stakes when people depend on you. The choices you make reverberate to them and their wellness, something anyone would want to protect. In Chimamanda Adichie’s Americanah, Ifemelu’s dad refused to call her his boss and that costs him his job and his family the decency that his salary accorded him. There is a silver lining here, he gets a much better job years later. Between rock bottom and the ray of shine, there was a season of wilderness, much like the biblical one.
Caroline Mutoko has talked about her journey in radio over the years leading up to the legacy that she continues to build. At one she mentioned that at the age of 26 she spoke her mind and her bosses allowed it. She got into trouble a bit, but she spoke her truth. If you have shared space with her then you know that she can be unsettling, intimidating if you are not sure of yourself or are not on the run to work on your dreams.
With the wake of social media she has harnessed her admirers both public (fans) and secret ones (haters) to create platforms that are now a market force that local and global brands are proud to be associated with.
So what are you saying Medrine?
Choose your path; the truth or the press release. You will need to remember what you said in the previous press release. You will need to edit it, create strategy on how to make it sound good for the receivers. Truth. Speak it and live free. Understand that there will be feedback that might threaten your newly found freedom that comes with speaking the truth. You might feel the need to pull back and even think the press releases easier. But once you have had the taste of freedom, it is hard to go back. Truth will also allow boundaries that you don’t have to explain to anyone including yourself. Let us talk about boundaries next post.