How long have I known you again Gash? Fun fact, did you know you were the first person to ever give me a CD randomly as a gift back in the day? Look at me being all nostalgic and making us sound like some old dinosaurs! Haha! I’m sure you don’t remember that moment! 🙂
So Gash, or should I call you B.K. (ahem Beyoncé Knowles), I find you to be an interesting, intense guy. The way you think and the way you express yourself shows a level of maturity that is not so present in our generation, especially guys around our age. So I’m more than honored to have this opportunity to pick at your brain and get to find out more about the man behind B.K.
1. How would you describe yourself Mr. Brian Karanja?
I dislike that question: It’s said that there’s a difference between what we think of ourselves, what others think of ourselves, and our actual selves. At the risk of saying something vastly different from the reality – my true self – I would describe myself as driven, ambitious and brave. Ambitious because I am a dreamer, driven because I do and brave because a whole lot of what I do is “crazy” and it requires me to be courageous enough to do.
2. Oh really? Crazy? In what way?
By crazy I do not mean mental. I mean “crazy.” You see, there seems to be an invisible set of rules that we should follow in life, especially if life has been kind to you and you are generally pretty okay (come from an “okay” or well off family, good parent(s), did okay in school, have a degree, have a job etc.). It seems you are meant to glide along that corporate life, enjoy the perks, do the time, be grateful for all you have and for fuck sake, don’t rock the boat. At the appropriate time, find a great girl (or guy) who is cut from the same middle or upper class cloth, have a wedding, make brown babies who shall go to pretty good schools and develop great accents. Wake up. Repeat. Die of a lifestyle disease. “Crazy” is deviating from the script. Acknowledging that you have your own diverse interests and actually being bold enough to pursue those interests, however they may be packaged. To illustrate my point and I admit that this is not a good analogy: You have a degree in something pretty structured. If it was a box it would be nice and rectangular. Like the ones Toughees would come in. How do you think your father would look at you if you told him that you wanted to become a contortionist for a living? In our social and cultural middle class context in this country today, I imagine that your father’s eyes would bulge so big and fast that they would seem that they want to fart. Heck, one would think that he was a contortionist as well.
3. Who or what would you say is the biggest thing that has helped define and shape who you are today? How so?
I am not yet my best self. I am working on myself; I actually have a BIP – Brian Improvement Plan; I’ll send it to you, for your eyes only.
Love. I have received love when I least deserved it. I have given love when I shouldn’t have. I have given unrequited love, and received love that I did not return. I have turned away love and changed myself because of it. I have lost loved ones. I have read books (written with love) that have totally shifted my mentality. Of course I do not necessarily mean romantic love, but love in its many faces.
4. Let’s take it back to your childhood. How would you describe yourself as a child?
I was a happy but insecure child. I had things pretty good: school was pretty easy and teachers, especially in primary school, generally liked me. I didn’t have a problem making friends. I had several love interests along the way. But I was insecure – I didn’t have a strong sense of “I.” Hence I was socially bi-polar – an amazing person to some but a complete douchebag to others. Those experiences with others had absolutely nothing to do with those people but were manifestations of a boy who didn’t know who he was. Oh, and I thought I was fat. That probably didn’t help much.
5. Taking all these insecurities into consideration, how then did you cultivate a strong sense of self? Was it an easy journey for you and others around you?
Frankly, I’m working on that. I am well away from a place I would say that I have a strong sense of self. What I can say is that I am a lot more self aware than I was even earlier this year. From my ramblings all through this, I guess it’s pretty clear that it’s been hard as fuck.
6. What is the fondest memory you have of growing up?
They are so many. My childhood was amazing! From running after goats with my cousin, hanging out with my cousins almost every weekend, Mombasa every December with my family, going to Karatina every Easter with the entire family to visit my grandma. They are many.
7. High school. How would you describe that period in your life?
High school was a blur. I would describe it as a missed opportunity. I didn’t really live- things just used to happen and before I knew it, it was over. I feel like I would have done so much more in everything – school, friends, girls, sports etc. – but instead I was just there.
8. What is the biggest lesson you learnt about yourself (and even other people) during that period?
Oh, that’s easy! I have learnt that with people, everything matters, so be fucking kind. I have also learnt that there are truly angels out there. Most of the people I call friends I have stood by me despite the numerous clusterfucks, and they have been there for me.
9. Would you say high school helped shape who you are today? And if so, in what way?
Absolutely! Most of the friends I have today I met in those days, they really know me and more importantly, have helped me. They have been there during my fuck ups and downs; they have always condemned my bad behavior and eventually, the message got home. If I am to be a good thing, I would pay homage to those people. Also, through the school environment I was in, I was moulded in some ways and forms and it has really helped along the way, despite the pomposity many of us Strath guys developed.
10. In retrospect, when you look back at your life, what are you most grateful for?
I am grateful to people – particularly those I have crossed hairs with, those who defended me when I did, those who corrected me and those who forgave me when they didn’t have to.
11. What are you most thankful for?
My family and my friends. I would walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more for them.
12. What are you proudest of?
Who I am now.
13. What do you think is the key to happiness?
I think… acceptance. Of everything. Especially, yourself. Exactly as you are.
14. What would you say has been the happiest moment of your life so far?
The very happiest, hmmm… ask me that next time. What comes a close second though is the moment when I resigned from my job. I loved the job and the people there but I knew what I wanted to do with my life and that wasn’t it. But the instant I told my boss that I was resigning, which was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, I knew that I had expanded my universe – I had done that which took every ounce of courage in me. Pursuing one’s dreams is an act of courage I think.
15. And what is your dream Brian?
I don’t just have one. But at this moment in time, the brand that I am building, my business, to see it off the ground and to be amazing at what we’ll be doing. We’re almost there.
16. What has been the hardest moment of your life and how did you get through it?
Hmmm… This too, ask me the next time. Basically, it was in January of this year and it really fucked me up. How did I get through it? I just did. I didn’t die, my friends didn’t die despite me taking my time off from life, the sun didn’t fall from the sky, and my loved ones didn’t stop doing what they were doing because of me not being “around” anymore. The days passed by. Eventually I realized I was getting actually better. I am still getting my head wrapped around it though… It was horrible for me. Great for me as well. Horribly great.
17. What legacy would you like to leave behind when you leave this earth?
I want my funeral to be a social event. Thousands of people at my burial, in mourning, with the earth soaked by their tears. I want each and every person there on that day to be there because I have blessed them in one way or another. I want them to say that that man truly loved. I want to leave a legacy of love. Of an extravagance of love – through generosity to people, through believing in people, through being a great friend to people, through being a great writer, speaker and walker of streets, through being a great entrepreneur, through being a great brother, husband and father, through being a great student, schoolmate, colleague, employee, boss, through being a great good Samaritan, through being a great ex and greeter of strangers, through being a great forgiver and quick asker of forgiveness, through being open to opportunities and a smiler at wait staff, watchmen and police officers, through being a great tipper and a generous giver of compliments, to be a giver of positive feedback and to be an encourager, to be a great understanding of people and of emotions – for each of those are avenues in which we can demonstrate love.
18. And lastly, if you could be any cartoon, who would you be and why?
I would be Ed from “Ed, Eddy and Eddy.” The one with the mono-brow and the sleepy eye. Ed was awesome! And I love buttered toast almost more than life itself.