The other day I was watching news with my mother. Well, she was watching news. I had been watching a documentary on spiders when she switched channels to the nine o’clock news. She is really keen on following COVID updates. I on the other hand can’t even tell you what channel it was. I turned to my phone and took to replying the day’s messages, not even in the least bit interested in what was happening on the screen. I should have gone to my room. But I was so comfortable and warm right there on the sofa. Plus the family cat had turned my thighs into her bed. Only cat lovers will understand. On top of COVID updates, she was also hoping there would be something on the nurses strike.
I don’t know whether it was out of no where or it was from something she had seen on screen, she turns to me and goes “Soni I really wonder what type of journalist you are.”
That is not the first time she has told me that. It is not going to be the last time. In her exact words, I am a fake journalist. She was hoping I would end up being a human rights activist and a champion for women, reporting and writing on the injustices the Kenyan government does to the common mwananchi. According to her, our house should not even have a TV because the journalist in the house will cover everything for her. Needless to say I do not fail to disappoint.
And apparently, she is not the only one I disappoint. A friend took to telling me that money was wasted sending me to a journalism class. That they should have sent me to an English Literature class instead. That I am way too opinionated to be doing fluff pieces at Campus Mag. I am wasting my brains I was told.
I’d be lying if I told you I had the perfect come back for that friend. Or that it did not get to me. I mean I have journalist friends who are real journalists. Friends in finance and agriculture doing a better job at sniffing out news than I am. Yet here I am writing about emojis and friends with benefits.
If I’m being honest, my course wasn’t my first choice. It was never my choice. Do you remember, when we were young and the ‘grown ups’ would ask you what you wanted to be? As kids my age were busy screaming doctor, pilot and the other ‘big’ careers, I was busy screaming a flowers and fruits farmer (at class three I never knew that they were called horticulturists). I’m that weird soul that fell in love with plants even before I knew people can be an object of love too. So how I ended up in a cameras and microphone class, I still can’t tell you to this date.
So after taking a three weeks hiatus from writing, I think I finally know why I am not out there changing the world and uncovering things people want to stay hidden. I have a notepad from class 4 me to thank for this. I do hope you are not reading this looking for motivation because I will disappoint. This is not going to be one of those epiphanical, apple to the head kind of stories.
I had already been in boarding school for two terms. So you’d think the homesick would be easier on the third term but somehow it got about a dozen times worse. And at that age, whenever I felt things I didn’t want to feel, I’d read a storybook, write my own or start doodling in my sketch pad. And no, I cannot draw. The word doodle has been used in total accuracy. While I am proud of what I did, I am not proud enough to share the doodles with you. But I am good at what I do so my description will paint a vivid picture.
In the dining hall, there was this plate. It was wide and ugly, not as shiny as the others. Nobody wanted it. It held a lot of food. Anyone who has schooled in a nun led school can tell you how strict the nuns are when it came to time management. Meal times were thirty minutes. Seems like a lot of time but try eating in under thirty minutes when it’s the hard weevils and stone filled githeri from back in my day. There was a rule; nothing remains on the plate. Is the picture clear enough yet?
But somehow, class four me found a way to give that plate an entire history. Her name was rusty and she was the great great great (add about ten other greats) grandmother to all the other plates. Every night, she would gather all the plates around and tell them stories about all the girls who had been unlucky enough to use her and the life stories of all the plates she had lived with in cupboardia. By the way the sketch pad was a daily article titled ‘1001 Nights In Cupboardia’.
So rusty and about a dozen other characters were the only reason I never spent half the nights in boarding school crying myself to sleep
So what does that have to do with me being a fake journalist? I realized something; the world is broken. As long as human beings are selfish it’s always going to be broken. I’m not saying there isn’t any good in it, no. But there is always going to be some injustice or some calamity in the world. I want to give to others what class 4 year old me did for me; an escape from the harsh realism giving you just a bit more heart to get through the day. I want to be the person that get’s you from “Najihurumia kuwa Mkenya” to “Hii Kenya sihami”; and not in the sarcastic, comic way. I know, the negative sticks out better than the good and politicians insulting each other sells. I want to make it my business to be the one that makes you smile and believe in love again despite your chain of heartbreaks.
What the so-called fluff pieces do, they take your attention away from all the bad and they make you smile a bit. Or give you half baked advice that you don’t take but still amuse you somehow. I can do indignant and weighty but writing fluff and comic is just so much more fun. And I can do without the sleepless nights because of the deadlines or stress when an interviewee cancels. I have tried hard core journalism. And I hated it. Writing pieces I didn’t want to write and on topics I wasn’t interested in and the only facts I want to stick to are the ones I make up in my head. Life is too long.
So that’s why I am not a journalist.