There’s a time my next door neighbor told me that his only wish was to grow up quickly and get to be 21 years old. At the time, he was 11 years old. I got curious and asked him why…
Boy (with childish yet great conviction in his eyes): At 21, I’ll be considered a youth and I’ll get to make my own decisions
Me: And then what?
Boy: I’ll be listened to. People listen to you when you’re a youth."
With that, he went away leaving me to my thoughts. I call him the ‘seeker of 'small wisdoms'.
When I think about the youth I wonder, “Are we doing it right?” Looking at the response given by my neighbor, I wonder a bit more. We, the youth, are in the prime age of information, technology and innovation. We’re also in the age of climate change, terrorism and tribalism, etc. Youths are at the heart of everything that is blooming and glooming. Which begs the question, “what does that mean for us?” Such questions sound so vague and forlorn; yet it is essentially what we should ask ourselves. What do we live for? Is it to change the world? To invent or innovate? Is it to challenge status quo? To fight against or uphold something or is it just to pass through life? To live and die like sloths and Koalas? There’s so much at play in this big big world. Have we ever stopped to think about the path we are walking in? What REALLY matters?
Here’s what I think. Vanity is screaming everywhere around us like the traders in Gikomba* and so the youth have a lot of distractions and I’m afraid that we’ll grow up to be an empty people. People who don’t WANT to care about anything. Not about our neighbours, sacrifice and patriotisim and not so much about our environment! This is an empty way of living. We cannot exist in a void and hope that nature will take course. Don’t hold your breathe. Nature will take its course and it will win. All I’m saying is this; there’s more to life than YMCMB hoodies and fake Malcom X spectacles. We know that don’t we? We know that we’ve got social problems that need our attention as young people. Common and John Legend in their song ‘glory’ say “…Now we right the wrongs in history, no one can win the war individually, it takes the wisdom of the elders and young people's energy…” We know that the environment is begging for us to take care of it. Our trees and oceans are talking to us. To be more mindful about our litter. We, the youth, know so many things yet we still leave water taps running because ‘tulilipa school fees’ (we paid school fees), we still throw biscuit and candy wrappers, and the ugly banana peels from our matatus and our cars ignorantly asking “kazi ya kanjo ni nini (what’s the work of the city council?) and we’re now betting our school fees away.
This year’s theme is: “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production” and I wonder why we are so indifferent yet we make up about 35% of our country’s population. Why aren’t we using this power (of numbers) to increase the low youth development index (currently 0.42), to increase our literacy rate (currently 85.90%) and create employment opportunities for ourselves? What are we contributing to our society?
Let’s be intentional about our role in society. Happy International Youths day!
*Gikomba: open air market in Nairobi, Kenya.