Breathe In, Breathe Out

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“I am not a recent graduate, Shyla. Not anymore,” I answered to my friend. This is the confession that made me realize that I have been actively searching for a job for the past twelve months. My friend Shyla was talking over the phone. It was after several failed attempts to reach me through my switched off phone. I just wouldn’t return her calls. Who does that? You ask. Yeah, well me. Yes, I don’t return calls. You’re probably thinking I am a shitty friend, and I suppose to some extent you are right. I have been a bad friend to Shyla, but she loves me. In the past year, this girl has extended me more grace than I thought was possible. To be honest, she is the reason I have been able to pull through one of the hardest seasons in my life. I don’t deserve this kind of love, but Shyla loves me as she finds me.

I am sorry for drifting out of my opening statement. So yeah, Shyla and I were in a phone conversation. You may wonder why this is important, and I’ll tell you why. Shyla and I bonded in our first year in the university. Two, naive nineteen years old glad to be out of their parents’ watchful eyes. We were so ready to explore and embrace adulthood. The reason why this phone call is important is because for once in a long time Shyla had to recharge credit on her phone to call me. It’s rare that we communicate offline. We like to think it’s because we are Gen Zers but honestly, it’s because it’s cheap and convenient. We only recharge our phones to buy bundles. Sad but true.

You know that feeling that you should be up and about doing something tangibly constructive but somehow you keep procrastinating when to wake up and at the end of the day you’ve done nothing and you’re feeling guilty about it? Yeah, that feeling is what I had been dealing with, along with other dangerous feelings and thoughts. It’s not on purpose, I promise. It just sneaks up on you, and even though you know you should fight it, you can’t. You could try talking about it, but you remain silent at the thought of actually speaking up. It’s a constant battle between snapping out of it, making plans on how to finally get up, sabotaging that plan and starting all over again. Time flies away and you find yourself still laying in the same position having fallen asleep with a dark cloud hanging over you. On some days, you succeed in telling yourself that you’re okay. People don’t even notice a change because you have mastered deceit via appearances. You throw self-effacing jokes around, and people laugh hard. Deep in your bones you wish they knew, but you won’t tell them, so how will they know?

Shyla’s phone call came at the right time. I was sinking in this bottomless pit. I had no idea how to get out of it. It was genius of her to reach me offline because I felt guilty about not responding to her missed calls. Our conversation was centered on my ghosting, which ended up with me pouring out my heart to her about my current headspace. We both knew I had been unhinged for months, but I seemed to be handling it well. However, there is only so much running you can do, especially from yourself. When my dark and grey thoughts finally caught up with me, I had no choice but to deal with them. Going offline, being selfish and just getting through the day was how I dealt with them. In our conversation, we talked about my ability to be unemployed despite graduating top of the class. Yes, I am being sarcastic. I think right now you have an inkling of what transpired before the quoted conversation. Now I am going to tell you this amazing skill called breathing, taking a day at a time. Yes, it is a skill.

Nothing ever prepared me for the taxing journey that is job searching. I have had my heart and spirit broken many times than I can count. So many boyfriends, “jobs” that have dumped me without closure. There are also those that completely ghosted me despite our love at first sight. To top it all off, I have had many run-ins with scammers. They never actually got my money because I am broke, but they sure did toy with my hopes. My motivation for going through school was to get a decent job, buy a car and afford anything I wanted. In short, my main objective in this life has been getting out of poverty.

After my graduation, I was sure I was almost getting rich. I just needed a great job. The joke was on me because you don’t get the job just because you have the papers. No, you need to be a wholesome package with relevant experience, qualifications and great connections. I know Kenyans understand this. Given the high rate of unemployment in the country, which was highly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, entry-level jobs and internships are being taken up by young experienced professionals. I mean why incur expenses training talent when you could get a skilled person for the same rate?  As a result, we have graduates without experience, like me, investing their time in learning new skills virtually.

Breathe. It’s such a simple act. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat until you feel relaxed and present. Letting go of the bad energies. Embracing positivity. Stop trying to control things. Do not fight change. Adapt to the circumstances. These have been the mantras in my head. They help me deal with my fears, anxiety, excitement and thoughts. It is not always that I am in a good frame of mind. I am still struggling to keep sane thoughts. What I know is that, like the ocean I can be everything all at once.

Article written by Lynet Wayua a Youth Advocate and Mental Health Champion.

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2 thoughts on “Breathe In, Breathe Out”

  1. The disconnect between undergraduate education and acquisition of skills is a concern. This whole transition that few are talking about is rapidly affecting the mental health and well-being of young graduates.

    1. Thank you for your feedback Sally. We would be glad to engage with more young people not only to understand the struggles young people go through but also to explore ways of overcoming these. We look forward to have you participate in these caucuses:)

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