What growing up really looks like

Life after campus is full of drifting apart, even with your boys

In Summary

• First, boys lose touch with their campus crushes, then with each other

Youth use social media
Youth use social media
Image: FILE

Listen. I’ve come to learn patiently, albeit painfully, about the surety of change. How natural, even biological, it is. Energy, matter; it’s always changing, morphing, growing, dying.

Scientists say our bodies replace billions of cells every day. In a hundred days, 30 trillion cells are replenished the equivalent of a new you. We are constantly changing. Ever evolving. See?

It’s the way people try not to change that’s unnatural. The way we cling to old memories instead of making new ones. The way we want to believe in the permanence of it all despite every scientific indication that nothing in this lifetime is permanent.

My life is and has been a myriad of changes. First, we filled some blank papers, and after a few months, wore some ridiculous gowns, and received the “power to read and write”. And then we left.

But before we parted, we shared jugs of Keg for old-time’s sake, crammed ourselves into selfies we knew we would lose anyway, and then we fist-bumped and hugged, saying things like, “See you in the outside world” and “I can’t wait to kick corporate ass with you.”

And then we never saw most of those faces again.

The girls were the first to disappear. The first batch quit social media immediately after graduation. No Facebook, no Instagram, no Twitter. Nothing. They were not even on WhatsApp. They neither called nor messaged, and on the few occasions when their phone number went through, it was picked up by a guy whose voice does cardio eight times a day. In four words, he proclaimed in a jaw-shattering tone, “Usipigie hii number tena.”

A year later, they would resurface out of nowhere. Suddenly, there they were on WhatsApp status, Instagram and Facebook stories, pictures of themselves in ballooning tummies. Behind them stood a man we would immediately recognise to be the campus CU ‘Dad’ or that lecturer who taught us philosophy in first year and awarded everyone Ds except her, the sole A in the class.

All this time, we’d imagined she must be a close relation of Aristotle and Socrates. Turns out we were wrong. Now we could have simply dropped a “Congratulations. Beautiful family.” Instead, we opted for something like, “Is that Dr Maake?” and they blocked us.

The second bunch hung around a bit longer. Not physically, no. They were too busy in their flashy new 10th-floor jobs they got thanks to the married corporate executive they met during industrial attachment. So, we conversed online, commenting (mostly ogling) on their new ass, hair or skin tone.

And once in a while, they would call us to their Kilimani apartments to help set up some new high-end tech they got, like an 83-inch Samsung TV or a fridge that talks. Yeah, a fridge that says stuff like, “A cold Dom Perignon Rose is available for your pleasure,” and then plays Beyonce’s ‘Who Runs the World, Girls.’ Soon, they started flying to Dubai, and those Pacific Islands where rich people go to die. Well, before we knew it, we were just one of her 3 million TikTok followers, writing comments like, “Do a video for me in a booty short.”

The third bunch, well these ones were our people for a long while. They hit the clubs with us every weekend, and we would talk nonstop about whisky and music and adulthood and aliens and, well, whether their pretty friends were single or not. And then they stopped answering our drunk midnight calls. Soon, they were joining us for drinks in the company of this dude who was obviously too old to have an Olivia Rodrigo song on his ringtone, and yet, for some reason did. Slowly but surely, they just faded away.

But the boys, we remained tight. For some time at least. There was the flashing Alan, always the life of every moment. The brilliant and brooding Larry, the dude could drink and once drunk, danced like Michael Jackson if he was a chicken. Mato thought himself very handsome, only he was not, the ladies simply fell under the trappings of his wicked lying tongue. But he has a presence that fills rooms like the perfume of flowers. And myself, well I know how to have a good time if you can get me out of the house.

The four of us had some great moments together. We spent weekends playing pool with beers in our hands, or watching an EPL match with whisky in our hands. Sometimes Larry would borrow his brother’s rickety automobile, and we would cruise to the MayuMayu escarpment and pee from those terrifying heights because we were young, wild and free.

But change is a biological imperative. We cannot control it, it just happens. This year, Larry and I turned 25, Alan turned 26 and Mato turned 27. Early this year, Mato jokingly said he will soon be proposing to some girl he’d met a day before. And we started counting the days before he blocked her and jumped on to another unsuspecting mami, only that a month later, he invited us to some beautiful joint in Thika to watch him propose to this light-skinned, final-year medical who, for some reason, had decided to spend the rest of her life with Mato.

Soon after, Alan received an email that pretty much said he should move to Mombasa and work for this company happily forever. I got tied down by this 8 to 5 job that takes all my time in exchange for some monthly bank deposits. And yesterday, I saw Larry off to the airport on his way to South Africa for a scholarship he’d stumbled upon.

If someone had told me this is what growing up would look like, I wouldn’t have left Min Jii’s womb. But whatever.

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