Growing Up To Be A Man

The world is moving fast, and life is moving with it. I am 25 and a few months old, battling it out with 7 billion souls. I’m going through a difficult time, that of transitioning from parental care to self-independence. Growing up as a first born in Africa, there are so many pressures on you. Everybody wants you to be an example. You are a natural leader. But sometimes it sucks. I hate following tradition. I hate having to make people happy all the time for the sake of making an impression that I am respectful. Of course, the Bible says that children should honor their parents, but things change when parents want to live through their children.
I’ve had a very hard upbringing. I have grown up very violently. My parents physically fought for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the major reasons I ventured into poetry, because I was a very lonely boy trying to figure out who he is. I had no one to communicate to so writing helped me ease the tensions that I often went through. It’s been a long journey to get to where I am, and I thank God for it. There was a time I had given up on life. I was 16. Yes, and even contemplated suicide. Most people do not know, including my folks. To this day, I calculate what I say and to whom. But poetry has taught me to be self-confident, expressive and eloquent. I grew up with a very low self-esteem owing to the fact that I changed school too often and also because my teeth were discolored because of the salty water I grew up drinking in Kitengela, my first childhood home. Being a not-so-good-looking newcomer too many times killed me. I used my talent to face the fear of talking to people. That was football. And it worked pretty well. It was hard for me even to raise my hand in a boys-only class. Due to my condition, I never at one point thought that I could ever face a girl to express my feelings for them. Then I learnt something else about life, that it is never about your looks, but the handsomeness of your heart. And sure my heart is handsome. Well, maybe not, but I came to understand more about life anyway. 🙂 

My father and I have not been the best of friends for a long time. We have fought for so many years, both physically and mentally. Through it all, my emotions suffered more. Perhaps his too. I came to realize that we are many sons and daughters of this sort but most of us shy away from talking about it. It’s hard to live in silence. So hard. I have reached a point in my life where I want to make my own decisions concerning things that directly involve me. To be honest, and it pains very much to say this, I haven’t had a father figure I could relate to in our home. I would love so much to be able to commune with dad on the same level, but I really find it hard to climb to his, and he is not the kind of a person to come down to ours – his children. Yes, we have attended the best schools he could probably take us to. We have never slept hungry at home, but we never story-tell with daddy. We don’t like him being at home because of the element of fear that’s in the house when he is around. We are very free with mum on the contrary. I do not know if it ever bothers him. His father was a polygamist with three wives and more than 20 children, some of whom have since died. So I kind of figure out they were not given that fatherly attention and it affected him to his adulthood. Sad thing is it is so hard to get him to admit something as sensitive as that. 
He saw his father beating up his wives in front of them so it wasn’t a big deal for him to get physically violent on mum in front of us. It was right in his mind because he is the head of the house and a woman shouldn’t tell him anything. His father was a heavy drinker. He is no different, only changed in the recent past. Fathers really influence the behaviour of their sons, so I have come to fathom. My greatest wish before any of us dies is that we shall be at utmost peace with each other. I have grown up with so much trauma, and regardless of the numerous meetings with our extended family, things haven’t really worked out to heal us. I am the first born. I am supposed to be strong and pretend that nothing is wrong. Oh, I am a man, I should be hard hearted and assume that pain will fade away in my silence. At my age, my father had already married and I was two years old. Sure, the world is not the same as then, but it does not make sense to want to keep me in his house until I attain my Master’s Degree. I don’t want to be a scholar, I want a life! Parents want things perfect for their children, but life itself isn’t. It does not add up to want me to go to church every Sunday but no one opens a Bible in the house in the course of the week. I should find God at home first, otherwise I will go looking for Him everywhere, including the wrong places. 

In my plans, I want to marry probably at 30. Five years are not too many considering how hard I am supposed to work to achieve my dreams and goals. It is hard to find the kind of lady you want to keep for a wife and vice versa. Courtship has been saturated with so much confusion that each time you fall out of a relationship, you feel like a toddler who has to learn a language from scratch. And the thing about running a ‘Christian’ or godly relationship is not always clear to all of us, because we hear the message but do not know how to apply it. If only our parents could teach us how to go about some things. But you know what, shit happens and we learn from it. Nowadays you can find someone marrying and three-quarters of the wedding attendees are their Exes. It’s not easy. Nevertheless, I now know that you do injustice to self and humanity if you enter into a relationship simply out of loneliness. Old couples have something in common, people know each other, because they took time to invest in one other’s world. They are individually whole. It was never about quick fixes and weird emotions. Yes, love can be wild and weird, but it reasons. It is not blind, it envisions the future. It yearns to take the extra mile.
At this moment, I face each day as a new page in the book of my life. Christ is my greatest example and I want to achieve his humility, love, patience, wisdom, passion, strength, will, and perseverance. I want to leave trails behind that will teach both the young and the old. As I battle with my body and mind, my greatest wish is to live my life to the fullest, to make a difference in this world, so I may die without regrets. I want to be that man God is proud of, like Abraham, and most of all, like His only Son. I want to be me. I am not there yet, still work in progress.

Post Author: Eric Onyango Otieno

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