At only 19, I was lucky to get a job writing for the UN and African Union Communication Departments. My deployment was in Somalia. One of the reasons I took this job was for the adventure I imagined a place like this had to offer to a writer.
Getting hired was easy. A jack-of-all-trades media/PR background and a warm personality was all it took.
Shortly into my new super awesome job, I realized that working in communications was the ugly stepsister to conventional journalism. There were more things you couldn’t write about than there were those you could. I also quickly realized employment was not for me, as I did not do well constantly being told what to do.
The war in Somalia makes it the last place anyone wants to be. I disagree. I found that the hostile environment came more from within myself – my dissatisfaction with this new reality, the doubt about whether I was where I was supposed to be – than from the relentless attacks on our camp by Al Shabaab. It was an endless turmoil.
At the end of last year, I made up my mind to leave. I tried to throw childish tantrums (as the youngest person in the mission, I got away with it many times) and quit a few times, unsuccessfully, as my boss had made a tactic of rejecting my resignation with (hard to find in Mogadishu) chocolates to smooth out whatever situation I was going off about (this time).
No brain-dead person however just wakes up one morning and quits their dream job that is paying them dollars in the thousands every month – even I. I had a plan. A solid plan. I was smart to set up a promising project here that would push me along as I worked my own company through infancy and eventually out of it, and life would be good. As facts have it however, my plan fast turned out to be not that solid, so much it quickly came apart at my feet.
As a very young girl to whom a lot of money had just happened, I enjoyed pizza and new clothes a little too much. The idea of living in a nice house in Munyonyo with a spare room for my shoes seemed inconceivably exciting I went with it. With it followed a large plasma screen I was never around to watch, and cute fluffy rugs that felt good under my toes for every room in the house, and boy was I proud of my accomplishments!
Here I was now, stuck. My investment had gone so far south I could not find it on the map, and in a matter of months, I had lived out my savings to the last dollar. Soon, I could not afford my house. Soon, I would be couch-surfing with a few of my belongings tacked in a paper bag under my charitable friend’s bed.
Pizza-Tuesdays (add to that Mondays, Wednesdays and all holidays) were over, and I was always “not hungry” at the dinner dates with my friends champion of which I had been. Life became tough. Things stood out so clearly before me now, I was suddenly living my life in 3D.
Hastily, all doubt that I did not have many friends was removed and I was left dealing with the reality that, sadly, it was true. My boyfriend at the time became an estranged lover who to this day, I do not know if he is dead, alive, or very much alive and sipping mojitos at a beach somewhere. People turning to their smartphones when I accidentally ran into them became a repeated occurrence, and low-battery-lines echoed off everybody I called so commonly my life felt like a zoo of parrots.
I realized how wasteful I had been. Wasteful with food, clothes, ice cream stops, and everything else, while also witnessing the understanding that comes with admitting defeat. My landlady sympathized with me and barely called to remind me of how late I was on my rent, as I struggled to sell off most of my belongings and start over.
In the weeks that followed, I could only focus on making it through each day with my sanity intact. The thought of selling everything and starting over was freeing in a way. I told myself I had been given the perfect circumstance where everything had fallen out of place and I had the rare opportunity to assemble a whole new life in my own wiser design.
If you have been the strong person who lots of people count on in times of need loss can be hard. The people around you are quick to assume you’ve got it all under control as you have been known to do. They underestimate your desperation and your need for support.
The upside to being this person on the other hand is most likely you are beloved and the people in your life will not allow you to completely hit the ground. In this way, a friend made a habit to occasionally hand me a small amount of money unsolicited, to help me get by as I came to terms with my situation. His generosity, along with a few others, abetted me to appreciate the true value in great friendships.
I am trying to put my life back on track now. The moments of doubt are daunting and severe, but I have learnt they are no match for my strength. I have also learnt that my fluffy rugs do not matter; they never did. I am still as confused as I was when I first realized that my plan was not perfect. I still do not have a clear picture of what I want my life to be, but I am figuring it out.
Letting go of the pictures of a perfect life in my head is an on-going struggle, but I have finally stopped fighting and surrendered to the exhaustion; allowed chance for simple things to amaze me. I have made the decision to bask in the goodness of the simple pleasures of life like sunsets and the wind, and the kisses and hugs from friends and family. It is very true what they say: “We learn more from our tough times than from our easy times”.