I wish I could find a reason for this close-to-one-year gap between posts. I can’t, except that from time to time I find writing a blog an extremely egocentric and self important activity, especially when I am not contributing anything of value to the ‘blogospehere’ (that word. Eugh). Writing a blog does serve as an outlet to my creative juices, those rare times when they feel like solidifying and forming into something concrete, rather than settling in my head like a puddle, forming that swamp of unrealized ‘great’ ideas which is my mind.
A while ago I learned that I am an ENFP, and that ENFPs can go wrong. For those of you who are not familiar with bullshit, the ENFP is a personality type based on the Jung-Myers Briggs metrics. ENFPs (The Inspirers, no less) are ‘are warm, enthusiastic people, typically very bright and full of potential. They live in the world of possibilities, and can become very passionate and excited about things….An ENFP needs to focus on following through with their projects. This can be a problem area for some of these individuals … ENFPs who remain centered will usually be quite successful at their endeavors. Others may fall into the habit of dropping a project when they become excited about a new possibility, and thus they never achieve the great accomplishments which they are capable of achieving.’ Oh Shit.
It is with this in mind that I can better illustrate my recent predicament. I am not sure when I last wrote in this blog, but since May last year I have been working in an amazing little social enterprise in Nairobi that makes clean burning cookstoves. The founders are such open minded, friendly and easy going people that walking into the ‘office’ – a house with a sprawling garden- is a pleasure every morning. The homey feeling is accentuated by the comforting presence of Jacky, the most hilariously sarcastic Kenyan mama I have ever met; this shapely Luhya lady who likes to take the piss when the bosses are not around and cooks hearty and healthy lunches for us all, then threatens to never cook for us again if our plates still have traces of food on them.
Working here is a pleasure, so it came as a surprise – to myself included- when I said NO to the offer of a more permanent contract. Why? I tried to get around giving a proper answer by repeating this quote:
Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little – Agnes De Mille
This is true: knowing I would be in a cushy job for two years would be like a death sentence for me. But the truth is I had always fancied myself as a Lara Croft type lady who hunts down poachers, arrests human traffickers or uncovers the depths of corruption and brings whole governments to their knees.
So early last November, instead of knuckling down and searching for a way into this life as a crime buster, I further put off turning my aspirations into something concrete by accepting the role of Caucasian Nurse 1 in a Japanese film here in Kenya.
I can’t even remember how it happened, but the day after finishing my job at the social enterprise I found myself in an operating theatre in full surgical garb, telling a blood splattered amputee that he would be A-OK. I cannot describe the weeks that followed at length – all I can say is that we – the extras and crew- were living a parallel life, where nothing but set existed. We were soon spending every minute out in the ragged bush near Magadi Lake, sometimes waiting 18 hours – in costume, in the heat, covered in flies – to be told we were not needed or, if we were lucky, to ‘take this clipboard and walk over to that tree looking worried’. Director Takashi Miike is quite a big deal, so watching the crew trying to impress him really illustrated the dangers of Karoshi – death by overwork for the Japanese.
Not that we were at risk, as we spent many hours sleeping, eating and ‘birdwatching’ – wandering off for a few tokes on a fat one then laughing at the extras walking around with their faces blown off and dripping blood, the results of excellent Japanese makeup.
I had a great time on set – maybe I should work in film? That was it, I would work in film. What a great idea!
But barely 24 hours after wrapping, and before I could process my new-found dream, I was boarding a plane to China.
My boyfriend, a Kenyan Kickboxer who is currently training and fighting in China, was flying me over to visit him. Kevin is the opposite of me – Jung-Myers Briggs says that our relationship should be a shitshow, but somehow it works. I have a million ideas, I need everything to be NEW, EXCITING, SCARY, UNCERTAIN and I change my mind as often as I change my knickers; Kevin knows what he wants, he plans how to get it and he gets it.
“So what are you going to do when you go back?”. My complete lack of direction was incomprehensible to him. In between bowls of noodles it dawned on me that I would soon be returning to Kenya – jobless, plan-less and close to penniless. My ideas – to become a film producer, a freelance writer, a champion in the in the fight for human rights- started to look like nothing more than baseless dreams. After all, I hadn’t applied to a single job – here I was, an ENFP going wrong.
My mum landed in Kenya a few hours before I arrived back Christmas eve. Her visit exacerbated these nagging feelings of failure. “Megan, you’ve regressed” my mum said as she took in every corner of my little flat – the broken tiles, the wires sticking out of the walls, the tap that doesn’t stop dripping, the blankets hanging at the windows in lieu of curtains. As I looked around with my newfound critical eye, I saw it too. My messy flat, no money, no plans for the future, a toilet that doesn’t flush unless you put your hand into the cistern and pull it up yourself
The next few weeks were great, but the white sandy beaches, seafood feasts and elephant sightings only served to postpone my feelings of dread. When my mum left it was time to face the truth. I was unemployed. I abandoned my film-career dream and sent out a few emails pitching ideas for articles, and when a few hours later no one responded I decided that my writing career was also dead in the water.
Looking at my pitiful house, I started feeling terribly sorry for myself.
‘They never achieve the great accomplishments which they are capable of achieving…’
Bloody Briggs Mayer.
Some morning I wake up and feel like I can do anything: write a book, be the kickboxing champion of the world (maybe I should follow Kevin’s steps? That could be the one…), save thousands of starving refugees, bring the world to tears with my compelling human interest news pieces. Granted, I achieve very few of these things. But during my brief pursuits- before moving onto the next project- with the wind of future greatness under my wings, I get carried into new adventures and peculiar situations and meet people I would otherwise never meet. It’s fun while it lasts, and I usually move on without too much thought.
But this time, unemployed and living alone in my hovel, spending the evenings with my laptop balanced on my belly watching South Park, I started to feel like I had truly failed at life. I wasn’t any of those things I had dreamed about being, and it’s no wonder either, since I had never stuck with anything long enough.
It was a long and terrible 3 days.
I’m not sure what made me –partially – snap out of it. Could it have been the positive response from an editor, only a day after my first pitch? Or the abundance of ripe avocadoes and juicy mangoes for sale I am faced with every time I step out of my house and onto the street? Maybe it was riding a motorbike with my friend at around 6 PM, when the sun becomes soft and the air feels like a cosy blanket on your skin, listening to Congolese music and realizing that it’s February and I have a banging tan.
Getting out and talking to people also helped me get things into perspective. One of my loveliest friends here lives in a room that resembles a Trainspotting set, and that doesn’t make her any less brilliant or lovely. Another friend of mine has no idea what he wants to do in a few months’ time, and he is amongst the most interesting people I have ever met.
I realized I was being a little self-centred by thinking I was the only one with a broken toilet, no job and an ADD disposition. No use feeling sorry for yourself – either do something to change the situation or fully embrace it, don’t be afraid to send that pitch (I just imagine everyone huddled around the editor’s computer, laughing – ‘she sent you this?? Oh ahah’) and beat yourself up about it afterwards.
I’m also trying to be responsible – I’m back at the social enterprise doing some consulting work as I try and figure out what my true calling is – and to follow through with projects. After all, ENFPs do ‘have many gifts which they will use to fulfil themselves and those near them, if they are able to remain centered and master the ability of following through’.
So there is still hope… ;)