Kenya: Millennials - Cut Us Some Slack, We're Grounded On Values

19 November 2020

That millennials are less grounded, detached and whimsical, isn't a new claim. Mention Gen-Y and Gen-Z'ers anywhere and you'll be regarded with not-so-approving eyes.

While there is no scientific evidence to show that this generation doesn't stand for anything meaningful, this assertion remains quite popular, especially among older generations. On their part, millennials feel harshly and unfairly judged.

But what precisely do young people stand for? What aspects of life do they hold dear? We had a discussion with four young people in an attempt to understand their thought process, worldview and the values they would guard with their life.

Royford Mutethiai, 18


Financial freedom tops the list of my life's priorities. It is hard to talk about Covid-19 without thinking about the disruptions it has caused on people's finances. Every adult has learnt a tough lesson during this period.

It may sound far-fetched at my age, but everything I do now is part of a larger scheme of securing my financial future. Nothing scares me more than being dependent, especially as an adult. Inability to fend for oneself strips people of their dignity, sometimes even pushing them to crime and other terrible practices in a quest to survive.

As an artist, I view the world as a canvas for my imagination. I constantly try to seek freedom of choice and expression. I believe self-discovery is a product of freedom.

When it comes to career freedom, I would rather do something I'm passionate about than lead a drab life of being emotionally trapped by societal expectations. In a nutshell, I want to live my dream, and to find meaning and purpose in my life.

Being unique matters a lot to me. I'd rather follow the right path alone than walk with others in the wrong direction. Besides, I want to grow into a morally upright young adult who is useful in the society.

Sometimes safeguarding my values and interests is misunderstood. At one point, my parents felt that I was being defiant and insecure by asking to make my own decisions.

At this stage in my life, there's a lot of peer influence, which could lead one astray. My friends and I have common interests. I was, however, able to detach myself from this herd mentality very early on. I think I'm happier and more independent now.

Dignity, respect for everyone, a strong character and rationality, are my most treasured values. I wouldn't trade my dignity for anything. Not even for fame.

I have come to appreciate that true happiness is derived from being authentic. Accepting myself, in spite of my flaws, has been a great discovery and an exciting journey toward being happy about who I am and who I'm becoming.

Without these values, I'd probably be leading a reckless life of drug abuse and other ills like some of my friends. At the end of my life, I hope I will have lived a decent, fearless life that I built for myself.

Jacktone Maina, 27

Data Analyst, EABL

My priorities have changed a lot in the last few years. As a young professional, I now consider career progression a top priority. This gives me a sense of purpose as I add value to my employer and become more useful. I'm lucky to work for a company that avails opportunities for growth and allows people to rise through its ranks as they discover new interests.

I wouldn't want to work for a company that does not have clear career progression paths because this would mean stagnating in my career.

This job also allows me to be flexible and to work remotely. As such, my morale and productivity are at optimum levels. I am always inspired to work. Being flexible also enables me to take extra responsibilities outside my typical job description. As a result of this, I've been able to gain more knowledge and experience in my career.

To me, work-life balance is priceless. I dread burnouts, which is why striking a good balance is sacred to me.

My mental and physical health are vital too. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and feel like I'm not where I need to be both professionally and socially. So, effective management of stress and anxieties is an area I put a lot of emphasis on. After all, even a successful career is anchored on good health.

It recently dawned on me that money isn't everything. Getting the right job and making meaningful contribution is what constitutes a satisfying and successful career. Being able to do what I'm enthusiastic about is something I'll never take for granted. This brings out the best in me.

Other than these, I value productive networks as a component of professional growth. Over and above everything, I am selfish about my time. I avoid all kinds of distractions to focus only on things that matter to me.

Even though I started out as an intern in supply planning, I networked vigorously, which landed me an opportunity in the packaging department as a data analyst. I now feel that I am in the right space.

Determination, being straight forward and a constant desire to grow have kept me grounded in what I do and believe in, in spite of the challenges I faced initially, such as inexperience.

It isn't possible to stay focused all the time. Sometimes you can't help the distractions. Moving from one level of your career to another can be quite slow, and demands a lot of work and even more patience. To address this reality, I've chosen to set short-term career objectives and to celebrate every milestone.

Bianca Karuere, 20

Student, university of Nairobi

I equate happiness with living a complete and content life. A few years ago, I made a deliberate choice to always be happy no matter what. Over the last few months, I have discovered so many things about my life and everything around me.

My family has always been my priority, but when the coronavirus pandemic hit, I realised that at the end of the day, family is all we have.

I have also learnt that mental health is priceless. It should be guarded jealously. I have also spent time imagining what it is like to live a lonely and loveless life where everyone misunderstands you. Being self-aware is something I now hold dear.

After all we've been through these past eight months, I've made it deliberate to spend money to look good. I also hang out with friends at coffee shops more often just to celebrate life. After all, life is an adventure.

To safeguard my happiness and peace, I've learnt to be honest about my feelings, to treasure the good moments and to smile often. Having genuine friends to keep me in check has been a game changer. Being thankful about the smallest things also goes a long way. But the beginning of true joy is to avoid expecting too much from others. Poetry and spoken word are now close to my heart for personal growth, nourishment and therapy. I value meaningful connections with people more than ever before. I am meeting more and more people who are different from me and who have different opinions about life, and that has taught me a lot about tolerance. In the process of interacting with my professional contacts, I have realised the need to be confident and to conquer my fears.

For me, integrity is key. I no longer have to be reminded to do the right thing. Being honest and kind has unlocked a new level of fulfilment in me. My father has always taught me the importance of hard work and sincerity, values I now hold dear.

Linet Kanario, 20

Student, Kenyatta university

As a young woman, my sense of self-worth is important. I hold it dearly and wouldn't compromise it for anything.

I cultivate my self-worth by loving myself and doing things that contribute to my personal development such as playing bass guitar. I also volunteer at my church's mentorship programme.

Sadly, our society regards women as inferior, and as objects of sex. I have been a victim of this kind of objectification. When I stood my ground, the person labelled me naïve. I think the society makes it harder for women to thrive and stand by their principles.

It is unfair and tragic at this stage to imagine that women aren't allowed to dream beyond family. We have a right to become worthy professionals, just like men.

Whenever I hang out with other people, I strive to emit positive energy and to have positive influence on them. Enhancing other people's sense of self-worth and dignity is the best gift you can give. I try to be a positive influence at all times.

One can't make real change in their environment if they aren't confident enough to stand up for what's right and just. As a young person, feeding my self-esteem is a top priority.

For others to value me and let me change their lives, I have to value myself first, and be grounded on good morals. We are valued because we value ourselves.

Compromising on this area would hurt my ambition. I might even end up leading an unfulfilling life, something I dread.

We live in a world full of stereotypes of what is acceptable or even beautiful. People treat others based on certain preconceptions, most of which are erroneous. I seek to judge people based on my own experience with them as opposed to what others think.

To protect my value system, I've become intentional about surrounding myself with people and friends who believe in me and see my potential. I have realised the importance of keeping good company. Now, I don't give anyone space to discourage me from going after my dreams.

More than ever before, I have no problem blocking people, including friends, who deliberately try to make others feel less worthy.

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