Apparently 86% of the Kenyan population is younger than me.
It’s a shock to my system this ‘statistic brought home’. Demographic dividend, youth bulge, high fertility rate – all of these are terms I have heard ad nauseam. In fact in my work I have designed projects and programmes to harness this wonderful phenomenon of youth, energy and future possibility.
Then I heard that 86% of my country's population are younger than me.
We are no longer talking numbers, stats, programmes. This is reality. I have been intellectually aware but reality misaligned, the story behind the numbers had never been turned on its head and made personal.
When one hears, and then processes that they are the old guard, that less than 15% of the population is older than them, its a wake up moment like no other.
I remember the days when I used to look upon my parent as so old school. Even having a touch of pity on them because modern technology and music and art was beyond them. They were too analog, they just didn't get the fact that the world had changed, moved on from their provincial outlooks on life. And now in the prime of my life – I realize that others think that way about me. That I’m the one who is too old, not with it (I’m not even sure that lingo applies any longer!), plain outdated.
And yet… I should have picked up the signs. People call me madam, or coyly complement me for looking so good for my age, or being a hip mama. Even unofficial forms there are only two boxes left for people my age and older, 40-55 and 55+.
I just never considered it was because – I’m the outlier. The one older than everyone else . Its a bit of a mind-blowing-head-messing statistic. Then other things start to sink – that the Kenya I knew growing up, one that was peaceful, generally organized, where morality, values and hard work ruled the day; where corruption was a dirty whispered word that signified an inner clique of people who surrounded the president. Where Mwalimu was someone that was well respected and Nairobi streets were playgrounds and not plastic filled rubbish dumps. Where the City Council provided services out of rates and there were no private contractors for rubbish or security because they were not needed. Gates stayed open until your dad came home at night. And while it wasn't utopia, you knew wherever you came from, with hard work and an aspiration to excellence this country was your oyster.
All of these are unfamiliar realities to the majority of people who live in this city today. Its a fairy tale, something that they only read about in books but have never experienced. Its too far away from their grim reality to be anything near possible. So while I am hankering for the world I miss; they are yearning for one they have never seen. No wonder we are continually so misaligned.
So I’m going home with my statistic, to ponder over it, to swirl and savour it like I would a glass of wine. To ruminate over the fact that now that I am an outlier, amongst the few – what I am going to do with all I picked up along the way, what will I offer to the 86% before my exit door opens.