What could be the most irritating feeling in the world? An itch in your crotch when you are in a public place? Stubbing your pinky toe? A crack in your nail getting caught in a tough fabric? Something stuck in your teeth that you can’t get to? I could think of countless situations but none of them top the most irritating of all. It happened through most of December and all through January. It was more annoying than that mosquito you can never get to that seems to have an affinity for your ear. It is way worse than being desperate for a pee when you get home then having the key drop just as you were about to unlock the padlock. It is as common as a burst sewer smell in Nairobi. It can be more frightening than a woman with badly drawn eyebrows. Others have various names for it. I call it Empty Wallet Syndrome.
This “new” year came with a lot of old nonsense. I didn’t even have resolutions to break but I still manage to be a disappointment to the girl in the mirror. I gained the weight I was hoping to lose. I seem to have developed cellulite in places that shouldn’t get fat. January wasn’t a new month of possibilities. New years’ didn’t have any momentous fresh beginnings. All that was just merry holiday sellers mocking us. This year is a nasty extension of 2015 so far and on top of it all, I’m broke.
I have a job but I rarely have money. I have a travelling CV but no new prospects seem to be cropping up. The sun rises daily silently encouraging me to enjoy a brand new day. But no- I can’t. I’m still in the same damn spot I was in since finishing college. The same house. The same clothes. The same shoes. The same hairdo. I still even have the same manicure- the inexistent one. And, I’M BROKE.
What is my point? I am fed up of being a constant victim of Empty Wallet Syndrome. EWS is a ruthless epidemic that plagues on collegiate and graduates alike. Savings don’t help because those are for that car or piece of land or stocks we hope to buy half a decade from now. Savings are supposed to be virginal. Special. Untouched. I can’t go pillaging them just because my wallet had the bad sense to suddenly run empty.
So what can be done? What can be done, differently? Njaanuary caught most of us by surprise. Sure those two weekend holidays in December should have gotten a little less investment, but still… what should we do to make sure that February doesn’t become a month of monetary famine? A sensible person would recommend a budget. An intelligent one would suggest cost-cutting. But do these budget people and the ones who discourage spendthrift-ness realize just how much even breathing in Nairobi is expensive?
Besides, budgeting or cost cutting isn’t enough. Even after giving up subways and shoes these past few weeks, I still got EWS. Although unnecessary expenses are given a cold shoulder, new needs always somehow catch up to you. Fare prices increase. Your phone develops a propensity for draining and sucking in airtime and data bundles. Sukuma wikis may be the new staple but you get less value for the same price. These overlooked events somehow add up. So what should be the cure-all? Which vaccine should we administer to ourselves that make us have a wallet that is not necessarily overflowing with money but at least your credit card doesn’t get spat out every time you visit an ATM because of the zero balance disease.
Well, I am just as clueless as the next guy. Short of getting a second job or moving out of Nairobi I’m unsure what to do to prevent EWS. As fellows struggling to row the same sinking boat, perhaps we should knock our heads together and share ideas. I have some of my own. We could petition the calendar people to remove holidays from weekends. Valentine’s is already on a Sunday so unfortunately we can’t dodge the bullet on that. I’m looking for a third job for earning more money. I have taken a vow of Shopping Avoidance. I will work even more hours to ensure exhaustion on weekends to avoid going out to have fun and spend money. I am walking to avoid hiking fares. Then one day, a few years from now, I will be that well-off adult who looks at strugglers with affectionate amusement. I will smile patronisingly at them and tell them, “Don’t worry, it gets better.” Then I will drive off in my Range Rover and have lunch at the Stanley while reminiscing with my other rich friends about how hard it used to be, especially after weekend holidays.