Truth be told, I find you Jeff to be a little bit intimidating, despite having known you for over 10 years! And whoever knows Jeff knows that he is a deep thinker. He is smart, bold, opinionated yet calm. He’s the kind of guy who thinks through before saying anything. Or maybe it’s a façade he puts up when he doesn’t know what to say! Haha! Nevertheless, Jeff is the kind of person to say it as it is without sugar coating. A part of me hates him for that yet likes it at the same time. Ultimately, he is one of the most fascinating people I know. So with that in mind, I just had to get him to share a bit of his life thoughts and ideas with you guys. It wasn’t easy though! Enjoy, and take notes.
- What’s your favourite Beyoncé video and why?
It’d have to be Party. Simply because it seems (at least to me) to have a timeless sound about it. The video could also be pulled out of anywhere from the 80’s right up to the 2000’s.
- The Kardashians or The Real Housewives of Atlanta?
That choice is akin to picking the lesser of two evils. However, for pure entertainment value, I would have to go with Real Housewives. I have never watched more than three of four episodes in total, but from those I can’t help but be impressed at how dysfunctional grown up people can be.
- Will Smith or Idris Elba?
Idris Elba edges out Smith in my books. I say this based on the kind of films and shows he’s done. Most recently Beasts of No Nation. He was captivating enough to inspire some resentment and pity at the same time. His role as Mandela as well as the small roles in some Marvel movies, series like Luther and The Wire show him as a character with more gravitas and charisma than Smith.
- Modern Family or The Big Bang Theory?
I probably watch Modern Family exclusively for Phil and Cam. They’re over the top and still so convincingly sincere with their emotions, facial expressions and remarks. Sort of what we all do on the inside when faced with the kinds of things that elicit such reactions. They feel like such genuine people I’d like to hop out of the screen and into life.
- Java or Art Café?
Java for the food because it’s more flavorful, although I admit I am tired of their menu after so many years. Art Cafe for the drinks, since their food is comparatively bland or rather toned down. Perhaps my African palate might just not be sophisticated enough to appreciate it.
- Ever since I’ve known you, I’ve always thought you were this tall glass of confidence. Have you always been that way? How were you as a kid?
I am not a confident person. I am, however, a perceptive one. Or at least I try to be. I grew up in a house of strong minded people, with unbuckling tendencies and who are very “real”. I suppose I learnt (from simply existing around them) how to handle people and situations on the fly, and that in turn made me slightly more comfortable. Confidence comes about from knowing what your insecurities are and owning them.
- What is your biggest insecurity and would you say you’ve grown to embrace it?
It would have to be making everyone happy. I had a fear of making enemies once upon a time. Those group exploits or activities where I had to do something with a number of people were especially agonizing. As kids, we’re as diverse as ever and not all of us quite embraced each other’s differences. So in that space of time, I was unable to keep all parties satisfied. Growing up, I’ve learnt to let people take their own grief, since we have a lot of compromise in modern day diplomacy…”give and take” as they call it.
- What’s your fondest memory growing up?
Ironically, it was trips to the country with my folks. I can’t say exactly why.
- What’s the biggest thing you miss about being a kid?
I like Kanye West. I remember at some point in 2010 it’s like he woke up, logged on to Twitter and posted, “I have decided to become the best rapper of all time!” So few adults can embrace their whims as fully as he has in the past couple of years. So I think the biggest thing I miss about being a kid is the innocence and naivety when we all wanted the impossible, but also marveled at the mundane. Kanye said it best:
“I believe in myself like a five-year-old believes in himself. They say look at me, look at me! Then they do a flip in the backyard. It won’t even be that amazing, but everyone will be clapping for them.”
- What’s your favorite Kanye song by the way? And what are your thoughts on him marrying Kim Kardashian?
My favourite Kanye song would have to be Good Morning from the Graduation album. It has the feel of a wake-up call, more relevant today what with the various ways we can lose focus. As for Kim Kardashian, as much as I’m not a fan, I think it was okay marrying her. I don’t quite have an opinion worth sharing.
- What were your perceptions of adult life back then? Do they match up with the reality now?
Adult life was a complex idea back then. So much so that I never thought about it much. The grown-ups seemed to have their shit together. Now, I’m not nearly as impressed by some of the things adult life entails.
- What’s the hardest thing about adulting for you?
In Lord of the Flies, (a highly recommended read) there’s a part that goes,
“The half-shut eyes were dim the infinite cynicism of adult life”
The statement refers to the fact that the head represents the evil inside of all people. The “infinite cynicism of adult life” means that there is no end to the lack of belief in goodness; that adults know that people are not good and that they do not act without selfish motive. The Lord of the Flies tries to poison Simon with this belief; that all adults think this way and that all people are bad. Simon realizes though that knowing that there is an evilness inside of each person is the first step in preventing that evilness from coming out. He sees that if they are aware of the presence of this natural tendency, they can stop the tendency and stop the beast. So in my own way, I try to have a little more faith in people, as undeserving as they are.
- How would you describe your high school experience?
High school could easily be amongst the best experiences I’ve had so far. A sentiment more than a few of my mates could express. Strathmore and the people I met there shaped a lot of the views and opinions I have today. I also got to meet people from varied walks of life, both directly and indirectly. Through those four years I actually enjoyed myself and became a better person all in all.
- If you could write a letter to yourself when you were in high school, what would you say?
I would say have an open mind and take interest in people.
- What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt transitioning from the teen life to the young adult life?
Friendship. I’ve gotten a better appreciation for just how much the people you surround yourself with can contribute to your personal growth.
- How would you describe the young adult life to be like?
A constant state of second guessing oneself and not knowing what the hell I’m doing. Basically half-assing it on the regular.
- If you could equate young adult life to a song, how would it go?
Best combination I could think of would have to be Appalachian Springs by The Verve.
- You have one of the most interesting philosophies on school. What do you think about going to Uni?
I believe education should be just that… an enlightening experience. More than just the acquisition of grades and knowledge, the application and execution should also feature. So, Uni is supposed to be the place where one makes a conscious decision to do anything and everything of interest that’ll lead to one’s ultimate goal, be it wealth, knowledge, wisdom i.e. fulfillment of any kind.
- What’s your take on the education system in Kenya?
My thoughts on the Kenyan education system are not an easy thing to articulate. On one hand, it could be worse. We could all have had experiences epitomized in charity adverts; sitting under trees, scrawling in the dust on our knees. Our teachers would be wholly untrained and learning material absent. Though it still happens here, there are countries where this is the case for majority of the population. This is not to say that we should be indebted to the “gava” for our decrepit system. On the other hand, we have a literacy rate of about 78% according to UNESCO, which is not the best, but far better given what Kenyans have to do for an education.
- What’s the biggest lesson about life that you’ve learnt in your Uni experience?
That life is fair; in that it’s unfair to everyone indiscriminately. People from many different places can be afforded the same things/benefits, but not all will have the opportunity to exploit it as fully as others for various reasons.
- Do you think there’s anything such as failure and how would you describe it?
Failure is the point at which all is lost. No hope of success. So there is failure. However, it can be a mutually exclusive event, so failure doesn’t mean one can’t make other similar endeavors.
- In your view, what is your outlook on success?
Success is achievement of personal goals, which include career goals. However, the reason behind working towards one’s goals is what determines whether it’s real success or just another notch in the belt.
- What does happiness mean to you? What has been the happiest moment of your life thus far?
Happiness is a state of wellness and contentment. And so by that definition, can be fleeting and periodic in this life. I’ve had a lot of happy moments, but none I’m particularly keen to tag as the happiest. I don’t have one particularly happy moment.
- What are your thoughts on love and all its manifestations?
In a general sense, it’s great. If you split hairs, it’s amazingly less so. True love is supposed to be selfless, and despite mankind’s best intentions, we love other people partly for our own fulfillment, because they make us feel a certain way. It’s not an entirely bad thing. However, I’m skeptical about how much love means when the tough situations and decisions come into play. I don’t truly believe in love as a romantic concept, but more as a level of concern we should all have for those we truly care about, family or otherwise.
- What’s your stand on social media? Do you think it’s brought the human experience closer or further apart?
Social media definitely brings some people together, enabling quite a lot of interactions that would have otherwise never happened. We no longer have to wait 7 to 10 days for Mama Boi in the next town over to send pictures of her latest baby. That is good. On the other hand, we no longer have to wait 7 to 10 seconds for Mama Beibi to post pictures of her latest baby. Social media has the succinct ability to water down experiences that would otherwise have much more significance in our lives. We now have updates and photos that would otherwise have been conversations and stories told over a cup of tea. The human experience is supposed to be a bit more personal in my opinion.
- If you could meet anyone in the world, living or dead who would it be, why and what would you ask them?
I would want to meet quite a number of people. First, and certainly my favorite, would be Pope John Paul II. The why; because he lived through one of the times when the world was changing as rapidly as it ever had. I’d ask him about his interactions with people such as world leaders and public figures over the years, since a man in his position would probably evoke real reactions from at least a few of them. Second person I’d like to meet is Angela Merkel. Simply because as the German chancellor, she’s become one of the leaders the world looks to, particularly in the EU. Third would be Elon Musk. He’s an incredible innovator looking to make real applicable changes to the world.
- When all is said and done, how would you want to be remembered? What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I’d like to be remembered more for my works than anything. As a civil engineer, that would encompass any projects I might undertake. We’re often called upon to do assessments of the concerned society our work affects… from HIV awareness and civic education to maternal/infancy care. As a benevolent cynic, it would be acts of good that may change a few peoples’ outlook and perspective on what life’s supposed to be. What use are you to the world if your name and life cannot give back to the world, even in small seemingly insignificant ways.
- Complete this sentence, “If I could be a female pop star, I would be… “
Florence Wench of Florence and the Machine. The flame-haired singer has a richly textured voice, as well as a dramatic performance style. Back in 2008, Lungs was pretty awesome to me, given I’m generally not a pop music fan. She’s got a unique musical sound, straddling the genres of rock, pop, soul and even a wee bit of gospel.