In Their Own Words

Who am I? Former CU vice chair ‘s Battle with Identity Crisis

There are things we struggle with, which are more psychologically damaging and more worrying than asking google whether eating mango skin is good for your health.

Moreen Chebet, also a former Egerton University Christian Union vice chairperson, narrates her struggle with identity crisis, which almost crashed her self-esteem. For her, she wanted freedom from the societal demand to gain recognition through clan/father’s name. Read on.

Me, myself and I. These are the most crucial self-searching statements someone might battle with in the different phases of growth.

I grew up in a culture that prizes identity on family dynamics. If you really don’t have a strong family/ identity system, the world might come crumbling down for you.

I hail from the slopes of Mt. Kenya. On the leeward side of it. Nanyuki is famously known as Mwisho wa Reli, since this is the last town where the British-built railway line ended. Many have it that the railway line map got lost and the Indian constructors had to stop here.

I’m a firstborn in a family of five, raised by a strong mother and grandparents (I’ve been a community child since almost every woman in the village narrates how they babysat me when my mother was away, possibly looking for something to eat.)

I had many questions in mind including my identity. You talk of your mom, what about your dad? Most people would ask this question any time they wanted to know more about me.

I grew up in a small village where everyone knew everyone and you would be identified with the name of your father as a cultural shtick. On top of this, there is a clan name, where you are named after someone in your family who passed on recently. Your clan is more important than you. People identify with the clan, and not as individuals.The clan name is a preserve only to them whose parents are married. So if your mother is not married, you only end up with the regular name, with no clan name.

Growing in such a society created a longing and a thirst for a name. Especially when visitors or old wazees paid a visit and wanted to dig deeper to know your namesake and would be very happy if you are named after their dead mother, father, aunt or sister. This would win you some sort of favours including an invitation to their home or some instant money.
Without a name or someone to identify with, these favours flew right in my eyes. Identifiable age mates would go pay a visit to their namesake and I would be left behind.

This saw some of my siblings taking my grandfather’s name as their surname to fit in within the system.
With no special treatments, I would be left behind wondering what mistake I ever committed to deserve this.

As a result, I had low self-esteem. I would cry a lot and ask myself why I had no name like others. It pained me more when my younger sister started calling my uncle ‘dad’ like my cousins did. It was so painful to tell people that my mother is not married.

In the midst of all this, my grandparents accepted us. They would defend us from fights and arguments from whoever tried to mock us. My mother would leave early in the morning for work to earn some money, leaving the five of us safely under the care of our grandmother and aging grandfather.

Shosh would cook, feed and clean us. We were named shosh children. We knew we were secure with her. She would sell her poultry or goats to clear our school fees.

Allow me tell more about my grandmother.

Moreen’s grandmom in her graduation attire

She is an early riser, she would be up at the first cock crow, warming water for her grandchildren and making an early breakfast. By the time we left for school at around 7, she would have done the dishes!

This continued till I joined high school. While there, I felt an urge to get into love relationships to fill the gap of a father or rather a male figure. And mark you, these relationships never worked. I felt they were not fulfilling the void in my heart. Fortunately, grandmom’s love and hard work kept pushing us to read hard and return to her good grades.

She would give us a big challenge when she started attending ngubaro classes (classes meant for old people). Her 32 page exercise book would be cut into two pieces (there was no chance for wastage of resources) and this is how much my grandmother valued education.

I remember she would sermon us when she heard that we failed in exams or we had developed uncouth behaviours. Anytime we were with her, we felt a sense of security.

The issue of having a female surname as opposed to most children raised a lot of concerns. Yet I now feel secure and okay using my mother’s name since she is both mom and dad.

Moreen

I continued battling with identity up untill high school when I kind of took a self-discovery journey. It started dawning on me that I have more than a father to identify with. A father who would stick with me in best and worst moments. This is when I welcomed Jesus Christ as Lord over my whole life.

Whenever I feel lonely or urged to be identified with a physical father, I have and will always whisper to Him my anxieties and He has always been there to hear me out. Doing greater things than what a physical/biological father could do. He never disappoints.
I am now satisfied and secure under His wings.

PS: In case you have a compelling life story, you can tell it at OneStepBeyond, the only place that communicates and reaffirm your worth: email mosesauma51@gmail.com

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OneStepBeyond

Storytelling is the next Big thing for African Youth

If we go silent, negative stories take a life of their own and create misconceptions that are very hard to change.

If I could sum up everything I’ve learned from over three years of blogging, it would boil down to one thing – one important lesson in communication – never let anyone else tell your story!

Because if you don’t tell your own story, you empower the tendency of other individuals with different motives and agendas of their own to misrepresent who you are or what you have done.

In one of the most watched TED talks called the Danger of the single story, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said these brilliant words which espouses the need for storytelling. ‘Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.’

The 2015 World Happiness Report stated that Togo was the world’s least happy country. It was just another example of how the world misunderstands Africa especially when they speak for us. The Legatum Africa Prosperity Report on the other hand used some of the same Gallup data as the World Happiness Report, but its conclusions were slightly different – and Togo’s ranking was slightly better.

This is a good example that shows how a people who have never spent time in Africa, (even if they did, it is between airport and hotel room) uses their academic observatory to malign a continent that is so rich in traditions and taboos and which make us happy than merely using indices like laughing and smiling to measure happiness.

Unlike our ancestors who told stories merely to pass time, storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in today’s personal development and business communication toolkit. Sadly, it’s a tool that most people don’t use.

The best way to brand yourself and pose a good representation of your abilities, values, what you care for and respect has always been, everywhere else, in telling your stories of maturity, of dignity, integrity, of consistency. Stories of interest, humor, intellect, science, art, sport, love, of resilience, of failure and success.

Whether you are trying to apply for a job, writing a motivation letter for a scholarship, evangelizing your visions or struggling to get your message across anywhere, you need to include storytelling in your repertoire.

At OneStepBeyond, storytelling is my currency. I’m trading on my story. Genuine, unusual story is my key to becoming memorable in a highly crowded digital world.

Each individual has a tremendous amount to contribute to humanity. You can make a positive difference in the world through storytelling. The worst mistake we make is thinking that other people don’t care about what we have to say. They do, though it might not be out loud. Humans have a natural desire for a compelling narrative.

If we go silent, negative stories take a life of their own and create misconceptions that are very hard to change.

Life and Optimism

How I fought a Monster called Hemorrhoids and Won

Social Media is a fool

It only shows half of what is real. Nobody posts about issues they’re grappling with. Like being afraid their health may fail them. Or how dissatisfied they are about the arrangement of their teeth or conformation of their foreheads or the size of their eyes.

People are presenting the very best take of their lives. Adorable photo-perfect moments. Edited faces. Addictive feeds of fitness models. Exotic travels in constant state of joy and, humblebragging about their professional and personal accomplishments. What the sound bite media does is to make you think your own life doesn’t measure up while everybody is living and winning big.

Not at OneStepBeyond. Here, I promised I would bring it all. Including tinny snippets of my comparatively humdrum and badly lit life. We need to cultivate in our communities permission to share struggles, regularly communicate the message to never stop trying and that showing up for help is deeply important, if not necessary.

This post is about creating awareness on a disease called hemorrhoids a.k.a piles. I’ve been suffering this for two years. Two more people have opened up to me about it but I won’t discuss them because I don’t have their permission.

Piles of defeat

Even in our history, hemorrhoids wrecked havoc. Phil Mason’s book ‘Napoleon’s Hemorrhoids: And Other Small Events That Changed History‘ tell us that the almighty Napoleon Bonaparte, a French military revolutionist (Kenyan version of Miguna Miguna) lost a battle to the French army at Waterloo on June 28, 1825.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Despite fighting well at Ligny a few days before the dramatic June battle, there is considerable indication that Napoleon was bothered by very painful thrombosed hemorrhoids that day, which affected his generalship and eventually made him lose the war.

So what is piles/hemorrhoids?

There are things we take for granted like being able to pooh-pooh comfortably. Hemorrhoids take away all that privilege and throws to the dogs. A very easy, enjoyable process you are used to, all of a sudden, becomes a monumental task. You begin to wish things like washroom never existed in your a to-do list. You are at a big loss.

Then there was the fog of my diagnosis, a bunch of misshapen junk terrorizing my anus – grade one internal hemorrhoids and severe anal fissure. Which would later advance to stage three at the time of the surgery.

Everybody has hemorrhoids. It only becomes a problem when the veins around your anus stretch and bulge and get swollen and leaves you with tremendous pain after defecation. Sometimes you see blood in the toilet paper. Sometimes you feel like you’ve not finished pooh-pooh even though you have. You want to scratch the lips of your anus like crazy. If you have external hemorrhoids, you want to push them back every half hour.

When I went to our school’s sanatorium to register a complaint two years ago, they wished it away and sent me back to class to work hard and sort out the country. Not once did I do this and got the same results.

It is when I was overwhelmed with pain that I spoke up about it with my American dad and mom. Listening, they suggested I find a doctor I trust and begin the examination. Wasting no chance, I went to Mediheal hospital Nakuru and met Dr. Aemen Asher, Consultant General, Cancer and Laparoscopic Surgion and Gastro-Intestinal specialist.

He examined me in his office and declared with a gentle slap on my cold butts and a gentle Indian accent ‘you have hemorrhoids brother.’ Then he instructed me to convince my parents to first consider a lab test called sigmoidoscopy – a very expensive test for a hundred percent evaluation of disease to rule out things like a growing tumor.

Then there was the fog of my diagnosis, a bunch of misshapen junk terrorizing my anus – grade one internal hemorrhoids and severe anal fissure. Which would later advance to stage three at the time of the surgery.

Now anal fissure, a long crack in the rectum, is not a child’s play. While writing one of my exams, the discomfort it brings had reached an overdrive. It was the sense that I wished I were cut into two and the torso were thrown into a pit of forgetfulness.

We were in an exam hall where desks connect with each other. The desk you sit on acts as a table for whoever sits behind you. To survive, I had to alternate between my left and right butt. Unfortunately, I shook the desk uncontrollably, rendering the person behind me unable to write. He hit and shoved my back to stay cool. Eventually, for the sake of his peace, he moved to other place. Leaving me torn among grinning, writing exam or explaining my discomfort.

When you suffer from hemorrhoids, you don’t want people to notice it. You become pretty darn good at hiding it. You fake smile and cut an image of a very cool person in public. But alone, you grin in pain and soak your pillow every night. You alter your bowel movents from the normal once per day to once after every 3-4 days. Food rots in your belly because you don’t want to pooh, because you don’t want to cry.

According to American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons (ASCRS), the average person suffers for a long time before seeking treatment for hemorrhoids. Many people are embarrassed to visit a doctor to have their back side examined. According to Medical Life Science Journal, worldwide, the overall prevalence of hemorrhoids in the general population is estimated to be 4.4%.

The surgery and my hospital phobia

I entered the Mediheal on 20th December to be admitted for Open Hemorrhoidectomy – a surgical procedure involving chopping off of the swollen anal veins. There is another option called stapler hemorrhoidopexy. Though healing time is shorter and there is less pain after surgery, research suggests there is a high chance of hemorrhoids reoccurring later in life and is a lot more expensive. There is almost 0% chance of reoccurrence under the former option.

After registration I was supplied with blue, one-size-fits-all uniform and led away to the backyard, to the wards.
I’ve never been to a ward leave alone an operating theatre. I freaked out on entering the general ward. Which would become my home for the next couple of days. I’m greeted by a sight of hopeless people looking forlorn and woebegone. At best belly-up and writhing in pain like upturned beetle and teetering on the edge of a fast cliff. People whose shelf-life could soon become obsolete and others who have shrugged off prognosis. Some with pipes running through their bodies. Others being fed and making sounds of despair. Others with bandages wrapped around their head. Others upholstered in specialized beds. There are these untouched meal trays and a squad of doctors making rounds.

The next day, I was laid head flat atop a gurney and ‘chauffeured’ away by two nurses into the God forbid operating theatre. A spinal cord anesthetist had been hired for me by the hospital. As he mixed his madawa, the surgeons were brandishing their tools of trade off the standard hemorrhoidectomy tray, talking in low tones in a circle and adjusting the light beams.

Will there be blood? Will I be hearing scalpels cutting through flesh? How long will I be there? Will I be able to use my anus immediately? Will they lend me theirs in the meantime? These are some of the questions I asked the medical psychologist I was put under.

It occurs to me now that, in hospital, you have to be on the other side of fear. No gain without pain. You will be injected just about every time and just about anywhere. I had anesthesia needles thrust into my spinal cord. Arms fitted alternatingly with tubes complete with stoppers to create what they called ‘njia ya dawa.’ When I asked how long this ‘thing’ is supposed to take on my arms, I was told ‘as long as you are in the ward Moses.’ ‘It is like an identification mark here.’

After the surgery, urinating the normal way becomes a thing of the past because, apart from it not coming out totally, ‘you will strain and you will break the incisions and you will bleed like crazy, and you will go back to the theater, and we will restart with anesthesia and we don’t want this to happen and so do you” said Dr. Aemen. You are fitted with catheters to urinate through a system of bags.

If things can go wrong they always will

Problems seem to arise naturally on their own, while solutions always require our attention, our energy, and effort. Your precious Christmas time. Your family and friend’s involvement. But above all, your money. When I started out about my hemorrhoids, my crisis consisted in the fact that I didn’t have a medical cover, the surgery being very expensive notwithstanding. Now, we have used alot of money to put hemorrhoids into remission. And if my American dad and mom did not come through for me, I would be condemned to live with my condition. Even worse, die from it.

Love to thank everybody who stood with me and the hospital nurses and the doctor – all who have tremendous respect for human life!

Call to Action

If you are suffering from this, open up about it and find ways you can manage it rather than wait for the time tested methods of treating pains, ignoring untill it goes. Not all hemorrhoids need surgery. Your doctor could help you deal with this from an early stage, before it becomes resistant to conservative methods of treatment.

Murphy’s second law of thermodynamics state that entropy – which is the measure of the tendency of things to go wrong/disorderly – normally increases. If things can go wrong, they always will. So don’t wait. Patients prevent, doctors treat, God heals. Go one step beyond.

A law of physics says that it takes work to make the entropy of an object or system smaller; without work, entropy can never become smaller – you could say that everything slowly goes to disorder – Wikipedia

Happy late Christmas Day! I was in hospital, you know.

PS: Subscribe to my blog below (fill email details & ask to be notified about future posts) so you can always receive more helpful articles on your email! And feel free to ask more questions about hemorrhoids on: mosesauma51@gmail.com

OneStepBeyond

Books are not Relics to be Preserved

I’m not a hoarder (one who accumulates stuff). In fact I’m a semi-minimalist. I love to have only a few helpful things. As a matter of truth, my email account has got only six email exchanges at the moment – which I anticipate to use – before deleting them to make it even empty.

My phone has only a few useful apps. I delete most of them (except for the stubborn apps that come with phone and you can’t delete) and arrange those few ones into some order to put everything I frequently use center stage in a minimal layout.

Every so often, I run through my phone’s document files with the intention to delete most of it. A few weeks ago, after I completed my college degree, I deleted New Institutions Economics PDF file. I also deleted PDFs that contained business taxation, agricultural and environmental law and risk management ( is this one way of managing stockpiling risk).

As if that is not enough, I went through the many offline pages I saves on Opera mini and deleted “Blue economy conference” “Akasha brothers names 13 Kenyan bigwigs in drug trafficking business” “Raila-hugs-Uhuru-but-does-not-hug-Ruto” among others.

In essence, I have a theory in life that helps me lead a neat, manageable life and, create an environment that promotes harmony, clarity and freedom; if something does not help me in the moment, I do away with it even if it means dysfunctional friends and boring songs.

But folks can have problems with things. Psychologists call it endowment effect. We get attached to things that doesn’t serve us but instead, clutter our lives. There are people with ten yoghurt jericans lying without any discernible plan in their corner. Another with five broken wrist watches in his small rugged bag hanged on the wall. Yet another with eleven used tins of Top fry™ cooking oil, holding a ‘sentimental meaning’ and taking up space they could use to store additional packets of useful Dola maize flour.

Let me introduce you to myself. I love to read somethings whenever time allows. Most nights, I doze off with e-books on my hands. Having unread books strewn all over the place might actually be a sign of intelligence rather than the lack of it. But I consider it a spit on my face to savour only those moments when I acquire and store books on my e-reader/home with freneticism but bug out when it is time to read them. To me, the pain of having books and failing to read them is psychologically as twice as that of having to read all of them! Books are not relics to be preserved, they are for reading! And we can’t live fully in mind without books and time to study them.

I take each book at a time. I don’t disregard any type of book. I give each a chance by reading the preliminary sections and the first three chapters to determine if it is suitable for me. If a book is poorly written, boring and complex, I simply toss it over to the bin and take the next. If it is otherwise, I fish out my entire reading paraphernalia: a pencil (for hard copy), a note book, and dictionary then begin the job.

Happy Holidays to you! I’m sure Santa knows the difference, but I’ll put in a good word for you, just in case.

Leadership & Development

What Would Happen if Every African Youth was Under a Mentor?

I’m not mimicking to suggest a white superiority or a ‘feel good’ promotion but United States of America is known for its mentoring movement and a young person having what he/she calls a ‘personal mentor’ is not a new idea.

Millions of adults, mostly over 50 years are not afraid to directly dedicate time, talent and experience to improving the lives of young people.

As a matter of fact, Watson Institute in Boulder, Colorado, for example, has developed in collaboration with Lynn University, the newest model of higher education in the world. In their highly personalized, award-winning methodology, they have developed a bachelor program in Social Entrepreneurship, with emphasis laid on community and mentorship, shifting away from a fierce culture of stand-and-dictate notes human beings, test-taking and rote memorization and reproducing.

Each student is paired with two mentors relevant to their passions and challenges. Such arrangements is what powers America and the same is true to other Western countries.

In Africa, Kenya for example, youth mentorship is not only an unpopular thing but one of the most undervalued and unappreciated tenet of life.

But it should not be so.

Kenya is a blessed country with tons of trailblazers – a professional class of folks who have shattered glass ceilings in business and social circles and, who have as souvenirs, stories of corporate success, excesses and influence. If you happen to follow them on digital media, they express a bubble of their expertise either teaching emotional intelligence or warning bosses to watch out half-baked graduates seeking intern positions.

What would happen if these class of people, who rubbishes youth as ‘spoilt kids’ chose to assign themselves two mentees at any given one moment of their lives? To work with us to show us that anything is possible? To help us thrive and increase odds of success in life?

Of course cases of spoilt and difficult youth as well as half-baked graduates would reduce. According to a 2017 audit report by Commission for University Education, which unearthed so much rot in public universities, Kenyan graduates are the most useless people on earth’s lithosphere and employers don’t want to give us a second look. But instead of laughing at our nakedness, we can be shown how to dress up through mentorship!

The power that be in mentorship is hardly new. Historic icons we know like Socretes, Plato and Freud owed their crafts to the magnanimity of mentors. mentorship is the thing that makes all the difference in human development anywhere in the world. When the successful old leads the way, the youth are better placed to deal with the inevitable challenges of finding an exciting, useful, healthful place in a culture that continues to despise and marginalize them. They also acquire the kind of social capital and guidance that will help them thrive.

We become people through other people and it is not possible to rise to a level of success, excess and influence in isolation. If we work this way, we can not only forge formidable intergenerational relationships to transform our future but the country could also benefit from a national intergenerational model for matching younger and older participants.

But as youth we have a role to play to close the mentoring gap. We must be willing to learn continuously and to leverage the insights of people who have a genuine interest in our growth and success. As for me, I’m up for grabs by any willing relatable role model who wants to make a continental difference.

If you like it, crown it by either commenting/shairing

Leadership & Development

The Proven Way Young People can Become Experts at Whatever they Do

Indecision

To reveal, been mired in indecision over the most appropriate title for this article. To draw you in – which is an important aspect of modern writing, I wrote what you’ve seen up there as a hack to make tons visit and read! Haaa! Now, reboot your mind to think along this title: Why Giftedness is not Inborn. I swear by the bones of my forebears I will never put you into a trap.

Personal Story

Nine years ago, having spent my entire teens in the village, I stumbled upon a desire to be able to communicate fluently in English. As teens staying in the village, we had no knowledge of the official language of our country even though it was presumed to be the vehicle of communication between the government and us. This means that for a majority of us, language was a barrier. A huge barrier to self-development.

How could I rise to speak moderately persuasive English?

Here is the thing…

I picked a habit. I was smart enough to realize that anything that generates enduring value requires effort, focus and discomfort and that I needed to do something pretty uncommon. I began to read tiny severed pieces of newspaper I picked along the unpaved roads. Along the way, I felt an urge to say the words in the papers just the way they were expressed whenever I was speaking. I was feeling the words right within my system but I still could not bring myself around to speak them verbatim except through a life-long of purposeful and dedicated attempt to do so.

I can not overemphasize how hugely important a skill it has been for me and how not so difficult it is to master it if you are so determined. With many years of intense practice, my narrative changed. I started to become better in speech and writing. I was yet to volunteer more than a hundred articles to a local magazine for one year and even start a leadership motivational blog, OneStepBeyond, which is now gaining mainstream recognition for being educative and inspirational.

Valuable lesson

All good things require effort. That which is worth having will cost part of your physical being, your intellectual power and your soul power. Let us ever keep in mind that life is largely what we make it – David O. McKay.

My story has taught me one inescapable truth: I can not achieve anything outrageously extraordinary without putting in extra-ordinary effort. I’m speaking to you as much as I’m speaking to myself. Giftedness is a stubborn thing which is never inborn. Giftedness is a process. It is something we create painstakingly over time. We are going to need an uncommon level of grit and massive amount of faith even when we feel like giving up.

In an article exploring why genius takes time and extraordinary effort, Thomas Oppong writes “With considerable, specific, and sustained efforts over time, you can do most things you struggle with. You can only turn into the expert you want to become by deliberate, purposeful practice. Deliberate practice can do miracles to your mind. Genius requires extraordinary efforts Geniuses, past and present are normally identified by perseverance”

If you want to be good at something – and I know you do – then we can try this. To succeed, a person must do something strategic and productive to initiate the change required to achieve success. I’m not even the first person to suggest success requires extraordinary effort.

IMG_20180423_221720.jpg

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OneStepBeyond

Plain Truth Why Youth are an affront to their own Success.

Last Friday, I took a step of faith. I sent an email to the Standard Newspaper. It was a well articulated opinion article in form of MS Word document together with a photo bearing my face. I wrote something I considered immensely valuable to reach the ears of the masses. If you are a constant reader of the newspapers, you note that majority of those who write in the opinion column (op-ed) are adults. 

When I sent this document to the opinion editor, I was consumed with the thought that my efforts could count being a young person notwithstanding. I can’t tell whether or not they will publish my work but, I can tell one thing for sure: as youth, our opinions can count, we are old enough to do anything. This is the all-consuming belief that instigated my actions to the paper, a step which could spearhead my foray into the national discussions, I believed.

My dream has always been to become an opinion writer. I’ve spent my life studying the work of current industry players and can count them by name from the Star Newspaper through to Daily Nation. From Macharia Gaitho to Rasna Warah, from Alexandria Chagema to XN Iraki. 

But I’ve never been struck by the reality that I don’t need to wait for something to happen to start contribution. I don’t need to wait to be big enough either. All that the papers seek is content and sincerity and the authenticity of the person writing it and living it – that will keep changing the world to make it better and, I believe with hard work, I can more than achieve this.

Not old enough

A couple of days ago, a young campus student requested me not to say what she described as ‘hard English’ as she is only a second year. From our discussion, she meant that she will be good in English by the time she finishes campus. But I doubt if she will put in the uncommon level of readership to achieve an uncommon level of mastery.

Are we going to jump into success people? Is mere waiting for age to catch up with us going to equip us with those skills and competency? What are we really waiting for? A future we can’t conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating? You’re bound to feel uncertain, unprepared, and unqualified. But let me assure you of this: what you have right now is enough. We can start before we feel ready. Despite a lack of capacity and experience, we’ve got to start things anyway. Lets give up our belief in the future and think about present.

Law of Cause and Effect

The law of cause and effect espouses the value of doing things rather than wishing for things to happen. This  law says that all achievement, wealth, happiness, prosperity and success are the direct and indirect effects or results of specific causes or actions. What this means is that, if  we can be clear about the effect or result we want, we can probably achieve it.

Emancipation of ourselves as youth demands that we do more than avant-garde functional activities of young people. Let’s suddenly become acutely aware of what’s going on and enter the present moment more powerfully than ever before.