I had an illuminating conversation with a friend the other day; so illuminating, I felt I should share it with you.
The conversation came about when he reminded me of a piece I had written sometime back: that of women who dress like models out of a glossy catalogue, yet their children’s clothes resemble faded, ill-fitting hand-me-downs.
Anyway, he told me an interesting anecdote about this friend of his who has lived in the same neighbourhood for more than 15 years.
They graduated from university in the early 90s, got their first job around the same time, and have been in employment ever since.
This friend tells me that when they got their first salary, they each rented a room in Huruma, an estate in the outskirts of Nairobi, where rent was more affordable compared to many other city neighbourhoods.
They were bachelors then, did not earn so much, and were somewhat comfortable with their dwellings.
Two years later, after getting a substantial pay rise, my friend moved to a bigger house in a better part of Nairobi, leaving his college mate behind. Since they worked for the same employer, and in the same department, his colleague got a pay rise as well.
A lot has changed in these friends’ lives since then: they are married, each has children — my friend two, his workmate three.
Career wise, my friend is doing better. He has been promoted twice, has built a house, and has a car.
NO PLANS OF MOVING
His friend is still in the same position he started in, even though they have similar qualifications, he still takes a matatu to work and yes, he still lives in Huruma.
A few months ago, his workmate was telling him how he has no plans of moving from Huruma any time soon, where he pays Sh5,000 for a one-bedroom house.
“Where in Nairobi can you get a one-bedroom house that cheap?” he had commented, sounding smug.
Last year, when their employer surprised them with a bonus, this colleague bragged how he had given his wife Sh8,000 to buy their three children clothes for a year.
Now, if you live in Nairobi, then you know Sh8,000 is nothing if you plan to get decent clothes for three children, leave alone one — forget it if you’re shopping for a year-long wardrobe.
Did you say second-hand? Second-hand is even more expensive than new, unless what you have in mind are clothes that will not survive a third washing.
My friend does not believe that life has been kinder to him than to his long-time friend, nor has he been more fortunate.
He reckons that his friend embraced all-round stagnation when he refused to move out of “cheap” Huruma.
He argues that if you stay in one place for too long, especially if that place has no promise, you no longer see beyond the convenience of your environment, and are blind to the opportunities that abound outside your door.
POVERTY OF THE MIND
This friend tells me that every permanent employee at his place of work gets a pay rise every year; therefore his workmate is no pauper. He thinks he knows what he suffers from — poverty of the mind, he calls it.
I could not help but agree with him. Life is about progress, and if you refuse to aspire to greater things, you will remain in the position you are in for the rest of your life, as others swiftly pass you by.
Progress demands that you move out of your comfort zone, interact with other people, listen to how they think and see how they live and go about their lives.
Take it from me, you will be inspired to make some significant changes in your life.