Balancing Between Personal Goals and Social Expectations
RACHAEL: "Did you attend the wedding on Saturday?"
IRENE: "No, I was not invited; but I am told it was a cheap wedding."
RACHAEL: "Someone told me about it. Why did she embarrass herself like that?"
IRENE: "I wonder. If what I am hearing is true, then it's such a pity."
RACHAEL: "If I was the one, I would not have agreed. If I cannot have a stylish wedding, I would rather remain single."
They were discussing Beatrice's wedding.
It had no cakes, flowers, photographs, white dress, or ceremonies - just a simple, plain exchange of vows between two people who had lived together for four years.
Earlier that morning, Beatrice, Ken, and Kathy, their four-year-old daughter, had traveled by public transport from their home in Umoja to Nairobi's City Centre.
Kathy sat on her mum's laps, and she slept most of the way.
Along the way, Beatrice and Ken exchanged notes in low tones, just to make sure everything was in place.
Once in a while, they picked phone calls - from relatives asking for directions, colleagues announcing they had arrived at church, or friends asking if there is any way they could assist.
Occasionally, they reached out to each other and hugged gently, careful not to wake up Kathy or make others uncomfortable.
The couple first met in my office when they interned in my firm six years ago. They had graduated from different universities and they were looking for someone or company to help them take their first steps in their professional lives.
They stayed for only three months, but we have remained in touch through the years.
They are some of the most brilliant interns I have ever coached. Both graduated with First Class, and they are now pursuing their PhDs.
The wedding ceremony was presided by a middle-aged priest who said he was also a lecturer and a chaplain at a public university. Before inviting the couple to take their vows, he gave a short sermon titled "I Do It for Me."
His key message was: "Don't do things to impress others. Do what makes you makes you happy, but do it within your means."
"In my job as a lecturer and a chaplain," he said, "I deal with many young people; and I can tell you the desire to impress others has become a disease that is killing many. They are under pressure to look a certain way, dress a certain, or own certain things; but, since they don't have the means, they are forced to take shortcuts that leave them broke, sick, dead or in jail."
As he was winding up, he asked Beatrice and Ken to stand.
"Many of you," he said, "might find this couple's wedding unusual. It is not what you are used to; but, if they are at peace with it, it doesn't matter what the rest of us think."
After he finished, the couple exchanged vows, and we were led to the church hall for the reception.
It was a very simple reception.
We were a group of about 50: Family members are close friends only; and we were served with tea, mandazis, and fruits.
Two ladies I was sharing a table started grumbling that the event was boring.
"Harusi ni chakula," one of them said. "How can they give us tea and mandazi?"
"Yes," her colleague added. "If I knew I was coming here to take tea and mandazi, I would have stayed at home."
An elderly lady who was also sharing a table with us asked them if they had listened to the pastor's message, and they said they were not in church. They came straight to the reception.
"Then I understand," responded the elderly lady. "If you were in church, then you probably would not have made those remarks."
People made speeches, and most talked about how unique the wedding was.
The couple was the last to speak.
Ken was the first to speak. He thanked us for attending their wedding, and he said Beatrice would speak on their behalf.
Beatrice also thanked us for coming, and she said if there is something we did not like, it is her to blame. She said it was her idea.
"Please accept us we are," she said. "What we have given you is all we could afford."
"We didn't want to bother people or take a loan to do a wedding."
"Ken and I had some little savings we could have used to do a bigger wedding, but we used it to buy a house a few weeks ago. We'll move in at the end of this week," she explained.