I have always wanted to juggle five balls. I mean, it looks cool when I see people juggle more than two balls. This, I thought, was something I could achieve. This, I presumed, would mark my adulthood experience.
But I have never been able to juggle three balls (or in my case, apples or oranges). It’s my birthday today and all I can think of is that I have underachieved. One of my earliest memories is of me and my mother on a bus ride to Muthaiga to see a friend of my mother’s. I might have been about four or five. We sat next to the driver who (my mother tells me) was a woman and (because I never could have kept my mouth shut) I told my mother that when I grew up wanted to be a driver, just like that bus driver.
Another memory that is so vivid, I sometimes doubt it, is when I am about to join nursery school and because money was really an issue back then, I got in late but because my mother had taken the initiative to teach me some of the basics, I knew quite a bit of English. I remember them (my sisters and parents) asking me the question, “What a man can do?” and my enthusiastic answer being “A woman can do better.”
I am quite aware of how memory can distort facts to fit our idea of what happened to what we think actually happened. So I am not really sure if that is really what happened or it’s my identity as a feminist somehow shaping my memory. But what I am 100% certain of is I woke up to the realisation that I never achieved that dream of becoming a bus driver –as much as I never actively pursued it. I can live with that. What I think is the underachievement of the century is that I have never mastered the art of juggling balls. It is my birthday today, and all I can think of is that I never mastered the art of juggling more than three balls. Maybe I should also add that I desperately need this night to be the night that I finally get to feel like an adult. After all, I am one year older. That should count for something. Right? Right.
The title of this post is from the song No Reptiles by Everything Everything.