Updated: Jun 25, 2020
| This is the 374th story of Our Life Logs |
Upon my first breath in 1996, time seemed to sway with the gentle breeze in our small Kenyan village. Life was easy and fun. I grew to play happily with my neighborhood friends and by the time I was five, my parents sent me to school, just as my two older siblings had before me. I knew my peers, for we had been playing football in the streets since we could walk. Just as any normal kid would, I settled into learning.
But that was then.
When I was 12 years old, my parents both took jobs in the city of Nairobi. When we moved, I switched schools. I had heard that new students face bullying but I tried to remain calm. My plan was to keep breathing, blend in, and just be myself.
To my disappointment, nobody wanted near me, but I didn’t give up…at least, not at first. I did anything I could think of to “bribe” my classmates to talk to me. Every lunch bell, I tried to share the snacks my mother packed for me, but that made the lonely walk back to my chair even more humiliating. The girls never looked at me when I tried to smile at them. The boys mocked my every attempt to be liked. My parents tried to console me. They said that “the other kids picked on me for being smarter,” but I knew better. I was an outcast. When the summer holiday finally rolled around, I feared for it to end.
Nothing changed after a few weeks into the new school season, and I…gave up. I was so frustrated by the loneliness of my life. One evening as I was walking home from school, I walked into the middle of a busy street and laid down. The warm pavement on the backs of my arms felt nice. I closed my eyes and waited to be swept away.
I wanted the cars to swerve into me. I wanted to be done. However, a group of pedestrians came over and carried me to the roadside. I never explained to them why I wanted to die. That night, I cried in my bedroom until I fell asleep.
During teenage years, I just decided to become a loner. I went to school and avoided all glares and gazes, and then went home to do the same. I went on to adopt a bizarre lifestyle, as was evident from my fashion sense and hobbies. Nobody associated with me because they feared me, my parents never questioned me, and, honestly, I loved it.
I entered high school at 14 years old, and while those around me buzzed about how “these years were going to be fun and social,” I was never after any of that. I didn’t care. But it was in distancing myself from the status quo that I fell into a group of friends, or rather, a couple of loners like me.
Mike, Dave, and I shared a lot in common being mostly introverted and aloof. Mike was the ambivert of the group who got us to go out on some Friday nights. It was somewhat fun…but never fulfilling.
During our sophomore year of school, our group decided to take on drugs. What else was there to do? We smoked bhang, drank alcohol, and used drug injections of potent stimulants in an attempt to escape reality, we presumed. Luckily for us, we used to top most subjects in our class, so we never got into trouble with the administration at the time. And, if I was ever running low on cash, I would tell my parents I needed money for some class trip I had made up. Was I making great choices? Certainly not. Still, I no longer wanted to throw myself in front of a car, or if I did, I at least had two friends I could commiserate with. Life went on smoothly until we got to our final year in high school.
Despite my parents being ever busy with work, they began to notice the significant changes I had undergone. One time, my dad, who was a medical doctor, asked me upfront, “Are you doing drugs?” I lied, of course, but my eyes told all. My elder brother also had caught me a couple of times smoking bhang in my bedroom, but he never reported to dad, or so I thought.
One day, Mike, Dave, and I were hanging out in an old, deserted building. The place was quiet and dark, just like we always wanted.
Dave, who rarely spoke up, suggested that we should start a business. He claimed he knew a guy who was making a lot of money and needed some help. Apparently, the market was lucrative and the profits immense. When Mike and I showed interest, Dave came out with it. We could indulge in sex trafficking. To my amazement, Mike cheerfully applauded Dave for pitching the idea to us.
My insides lurched, but the thought of a big paycheck nursed my mind at ease. Looking back, I wish I would have bailed, but I didn’t. Instead, I sat on a dusty armchair in a damp building and nodded, fully embracing the vile comradery I got to share in.
• • •
The next day, we met with our new boss, Adam, to talk about business. Adam was tall, huge, and had an intimidating look. With his full beard, devilish tattoos, and muscles, he resembled a movie villain. I feared him. He explained every detail he deemed relevant and gave us our first assignment.
At this point in my life, I was a different person. Humanity had departed my soul, and all that mattered in my life was me. Our first assignment was simple. We were to watch a bunch of girls who stayed overnight in a small house in the woods as they awaited transportation the next day at 6 AM. The poor girls were aged between 13 and 19 years. I still wonder how I never felt sorry for them back then. The night was cold, but Mike had brought a couple of drugs that kept us going.
In between our watch shifts, at around 3 AM, I heard a loud bang at the door. The sound became more frequent, more demanding. My heart dropped just before we heard, “Police! Open up or we will break this door.” Everyone, including the girls, woke up. Nobody was prepared for this fray. Mike, Dave, and I scooted to the back door to escape, but we were trapped. We got arrested, and the girls freed.
All this happened so fast that we believed that we had been set up. We were charged with human trafficking and illegal possession of drugs. Our parents were informed of the arrest later that afternoon, and my dad never wanted to believe the accusations. Dave’s parents were both attorneys, and Mike was a foster kid who had run away from home and lived in a community home. The three of us had different backgrounds of upbringing, but we were unified by our sentence. Upon assessment of our identity, we were put in a juvenile remand, even after Mike’s dad tried to pull strings for his son. The police detective said we were to stay in remand until investigations were completed.
We were secluded from each other for two weeks. During this time, I didn’t talk to anybody. It felt just like the old days in primary school—at first. After a day or two or wallowing in emptiness, I started to develop a different mentality. All this time, I had been the loner kid who never found pleasure in people, and there I was, in remand for a crime against humanity. Most often than not, I wondered what I would be doing if we were never arrested right after we got recruited. I used to experience schadenfreude, as my therapist would later come to explain. She explained that it was a familiar feeling of pleasure people felt towards others who had a misfortune.
I tried to write poems in praise of people, believing that maybe I would start to feel something for them, but all that never worked. I got depressed. I prayed to God, but I felt as if he never listened. During meal breaks, I would try to crack dry jokes to my fellow inmates, but everyone knew what I was in for, and wanted nothing to do with me. Apparently, Dave had been freed since his parents were high profile in the government, so it was just Mike and me, still not allowed to interact. Long story short, I had nobody to talk to. But I had a plan. And if by God and the heavens above I was set free, I would carry it out.
The day I had been waiting for eventually came. Our fate would be determined by a judge, and we were to either admit or deny the charges. The proceedings unfolded while I prayed to God to help me, just this once. We both denied the allegations. To our amusement, Adam had been brought in for questioning as the major suspect. Dave testified against him, and that gave us a ticket to freedom. However, we were assigned community service for possession of illegal drugs. My prayers had been answered after all.
Two weeks and after stepping out of the juvenile remand, I felt like I had been kept away for years. Once I was free, I decided to defy the odds and embrace people. It was not going to be easy, I knew that, but I thought it would be the perfect way to apologize for the life I had led before.
I came with a plan that would help me win people’s hearts and come out of depression. The first step was clear-cut—I had to master my emotions. At face value, it sounded easy, but it proved to be more than I had anticipated. It was a learning experience. I tried giving, mindfulness, cultivated awe, and taking recommended drugs.
To my disappointment, these methods never proved to work either.
Then, my breakthrough moment came. I decided to imagine myself in the state or situation I wanted to be in. If I was craving attention, I imagined myself in a podium talking to people about an exciting topic that I loved, after which I would try to do it in person the same way I had imagined. I do not know how, but I felt contented after doing this. I tried imagining a lot of things and actualized them in real life, and I appreciated my imagination.
All my efforts doing whatever I imagined bore fruits, and my life changed for the best. I made a lot of friends than ever before, and I enrolled back to high school and graduated and moved on to university where I am currently in my final year.
Now, my goal is to create a nonprofit organization that will impact troubled teens and adults in a positive way. It’s my way of proving to myself and to all those who will listen that I have been able to reconcile my present with my past and that the power to change lies within.
This is the story of Kelvin Gitari
Kelvin is a student and a part-time employee living in the capital of city of Kenya, Nairobi. After a childhood of rejection and loneliness, Kelvin got involved with hard drugs and, briefly, sex trafficking. Upon his immediate arrest, he was able to deal with depression, drug abuse, hatred, and need for acceptance at a young age of 17 years. Throughout his journey, Kelvin has met a lot of people from different backgrounds who have shared stories with him that have empowered him and made him want to share his experience with everybody. He believes that life is a matter of combined efforts from different people who shape and build one’s life. It is from that realization that he has been able to accept and appreciate people and life in general. The constant desire to impact more people positively has made him decide to start an organization that will focus majorly on that, once he graduates from university.
This story first touched our hearts on July 3, 2019.
| Writer: Kelvin Gitari | Editor: Colleen Walker |