This Young Man


Mike Laria was out clubbing last night. He has a searing pain in his calf. He climbs the stairs leading up to Afrah Restaurant with difficulty. He clenches his jaw and grabs onto the railing, lifting his leg like an anchored mass. “Ugh, hii ndio ubaya ya kusugua dame mfupi usiku mzima.”

Mike is a deep-voiced, long-limbed and lively speaker. When he goes off on a tangent, he uses his hands and his face and his torso. Like when we talk about his campus highlight, when GSU officers stormed into school and beat up students.

“Tukaenda home. Lecturers waka-strike. Students waka-strike. Kukakuwa na elections. Alafu elections zingine. A lot happened those nine months. Nilikuwa depressed. I was waking up, smoking up, doing nothing. Masturbating, watching movies, playing PS. Basically ilikuwa tu kungoja siku iishe. That was me. For nine fucking months. Sifanyi kitu.”

Or when we talk about his stand on feminism: “I’m a feminist, in like the ideal sense of the word. I believe men and women should have equal rights. [But] feminism sai imechukua a whole different meaning. Now feminism is, ‘All men are trash.’ It’s not equality. It’s women first. It’s…fuck men. Sijui msee.”

Mike does this thing where he holds up two fingers while talking, pointing back and forth like he’s brandishing a gun. He says ‘msee’ a lot, too. Conversations with him are always a ball.

Right now he’s telling me about his attraction to the violin. “But mzazi haezi lipia hiyo shit. Napenda violin. Ni hauntingly beautiful. Such a small thing na inatoa sauti inafanya uskie kulia.”

It’s Saturday. 4 p.m. We have a bottle of Krest spiked with some gin.

Mike is 22, a fourth year architecture student at UoN. As we were setting up the interview, Mike was apprehensive. What else could he adequately talk about, other than architecture? His course is everything to him. It’s the thing that excites him. He always walks by Banda Street just to catch a glimpse of the ICEA building.

“You don’t need an air conditioner for that building,” he says, “It’s facing east-west, so the place is cool the whole day because the sun doesn’t penetrate anywhere. That building is very sustainable. It’s never too hot or too cold. The architect made it perfectly. It reminds me of another time. It’s like history kept in a building. Of course it was designed by some white guy. Some guy called, er… nimesahau.”

My story with Mike dates back to 2012, when Mr. Muigai, the class teacher, decided our high school antics needed bringing down a peg. I was a notorious prep time sleeper and Mike was a first-class noisemaker. Mr. Muigai decided to sit us together as desk mates at the front. I lost the backbench spot but it barely hurt because by lunch time Mike and I had struck a chord that would thrum for the next seven years. And counting.

While I take notes with my pencil, Mike leans forward and says, “Ni weird kuona ukiandika hii shit.”

We chuckle.

In the time I’ve known him, Mike has not had a girlfriend. Well, there was a girl, two years ago. They slept together a few times and flirted with the idea of dating. Then the girl suddenly announced that she was closing shop. Going celibate. Mike suspects it was a ploy to break up with him.

“Sijui nini mbaya na mimi. I think niko broken. I don’t know what love is. I’ve never felt that shit.”

“Do you feel like you’re missing out?” I ask.

“Yes, and no. Yes. The regular sex seems amazing. Also, the companionship, that’s cool too.”

He laughs.

He continues, “Nairobi kuna wasichana. Beautiful women. As in, ni enough kuwaona.That’s how beautiful they are. By kuwaona, it brightens up your fucking day. How can you see this and say God doesn’t exist? This isn’t a mistake. I appreciate Nairobi for its women.”

Mike is the middle child of two sisters. Last year Mike moved out of his folks’ place. Now he lives in an SQ. His landlady is a retired Jehovah’s Witness who forbade him to have girls over. On the first day she asked him, “By the way, do you have a girlfriend?”

“No,” Mike said.

“No way,” she said, “A handsome boy like you. And you’re also smart you’re doing architecture. I’m sure the girls are following you. Because here we follow God’s teachings. And we don’t want us we’re following God here and you’re doing other things. It’s not right, Mike.”

He leans back on his chair. Then he steals a glance at the TV screen behind me. Man U are playing Watford. The only other time Mike breaks eye contact is later in the evening, when, with the setting sun dying the balcony of Afrah a mix of reds and yellows, and under the slow burn of gin, we talk about his Dad.

“Nadai ku-drop mixtape this year. It’s nothing serious. Si kitu ati nitaweka social media, sijui hashtag buy my new album. Msee, zii. I just want to make it to say I made it. Under my rap name, Young Man.”

He chuckles.

“I look up to Donald Glover. Childish Gambino. He’s not tied down by sijui oh, I’m a rapper, or a producer, or an actor, director. Zii. Yeye ni everything. Ata mimi nadai shit ka hiyo.”

He takes a sip of gin and purses his lips. His Adam’s apple jumps as he swallows. Then he caps the bottle and places it on the table.

Ever since I started writing my own raps, naskiza rap in a different way. Someone like J Cole. I respect him on other levels. Huyo msee ako juu. Unajua what it takes ku-craft a whole thing? Like hooks. Siwezi andika hooks to save my life. It’s complex as fuck. But ni interesting. I like a new challenge. Kitu mpya najaribu kujifunza. Ni ka hiyo ndio what life is about or some shit.

I feel like there’s a lot of good Kenyan music. Generation yetu, tuko juu, especially artistically. Tumekuwa na Internet. Tumekuwa exposed, and people are so different.  The art is amazing. Our generation is not all books. We’re doing that Childish Gambino thing. Millennials want to try everything.

“We expect more from ourselves. People are making at 19, 20, 21. Look at Rashford. Kitambo there was only a certain way you could do things. If you wanted to get acclaim, there was a template. But sai, Internet, msee. Just do anything. Be good and do it consistently. And you’ll get there. Sort of.”

When I ask how it feels to be a Nairobi millennial, he rubs his forehead and says, “Watu wanasemanga millennial ni kama ni matusi msee. I love millennials, especially on Twitter. People are funny as fuck. And they’re doing things.

“Msee kama Ed Wainaina. Nacheki Joy na notebooks zake. Wasee wana rap. DJs, photographers, singers, I’m just like, Yo, we’re doing shit, fam. And no one talks about that when they’re talking about millennials.

“They only say, ah, Fucking millennials, they just want an easy life, hawajui struggles, sijui they want everything to fall on their laps, hawajui ku-keep their heads down. I believe we’ll do some crazy shit, generation yetu.

“But of course we feel lost. Like we don’t know our place in the world. But uko 22, 23, msee, una-expect nini? Ni process msee. I just hope the journey is worth it.”

I turn the page of my notebook. Then I say, “Tell me about your relationship with your Dad.”

He looks away, pensively, his thoughts knitting across his forehead, waiting for the words to fall from his lips. And when they finally do, he speaks – it seems – from a vault in his chest, and it’s a Mike Laria I haven’t encountered before. Vulnerable is a word that doesn’t quite pair with the Mike Laria I’m used to.

“I have no idea what that man does. OK, I can tell you generally what he does. He was in the air force when he was younger. Now he deals with airplanes for UN.

“He’s rarely around. He’s been travelling since I was a kid. I’ve never had this thing where you wake up and find your Dad getting ready for work and coming back in the evening.  That’s how it’s been for me always. And it’s not a bad thing. Just how things are.

“When my Dad is around, he tries to overcompensate. He does what feels to him like the parent thing to do. Anytime we do something wrong, like coming home drunk, just the usual shit, my Mom gets mad and says, ‘utaongea na babako.’

“If he’s away she calls him and tells him what we’ve done. Then he calls you. Sometimes he doesn’t call. He’ll wait until he comes back. Then the day before he leaves again to UG or Congo or whatever, he’ll sit us down and say, ‘Guys, I want us to talk.’ Ugh. Nachukia hiyo shit. Kitu ilihappen three months ago.

“Relationship yetu ni weird as fuck. I drink with him but I can’t talk to him. Hatunanga story na huyo msee. Ball, mostly. And current events, and school. I guess you can’t force it. Kama tumelewa we have stories. Ha-ha. But sober us…” He shakes his head.

“But nampenda, msee.

“And then there’s always the weed factor hanging over our heads. It’s the elephant in the room. [My Dad] has always been hard on me. Do you know what he said when I got an A minus? Yaani haungepata A?’

“Nilikuwa like, As in? Unataka nini kutoka kwangu?” He raises his hands in surrender.

“I think ni juu I’m the only son. Mimi ndio nimeshikilia jina ya familia. He even tells me all the time.

‘Wewe ndio unashikilia familia when we’re not around. You’re the only son we have. So nikiskia unavuta bangi, hainifurahishi, Mike. Because I know you’re getting lost.’

Nimelewa, msee. Niko too candid. Ukiandika hii part soften the edges kiasi. Pitia na sandpaper. Ha-ha.”
Follow Mike on Instagram: mikemuthaka

The parts of Miriam
The one with the bracelet

Comments (3)

  1. Bett

    “I believe we’ll do some crazy shit, generation yetu. But of course we feel lost.”

    I believe this too, Mike. I feel it in my bones. And I’m proud that you guys are finding your way despite the tectonic shifts in the ground beneath us.

    I think you feel as lost as the Baby Boomers. Our folks. Leaving shagz to come to Nai and build an urban life. I suppose it’s one of the reasons fathers don’t know how to be dads.

    Find your way, though. Muscle your way through it and find a way. You’re paving the way for our kids, kina Muna. Generation Z.

    Thank you for sharing your story with Craft It, Mike.

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Florence Bett-Kinyatti


Columnist Saturday Nation Writer Craft It Author of best-selling ‘SHOULD I?’ and ‘HOW MUCH?’ ~ Guiding word: Overdrive Subscribe to our Newsletter👇🏾 eepurl.com/igmN8P
  • Dear God, 
It’s me again.

I don’t pray as often as I need to, You know that. I don’t kneel by my bed in child-like humility, as Muna does. I don’t whisper a prayer in the morning. Or at noon. Perhaps just in the evening. 

This going-to-church habit is a constant false start. So is reading the Word. 

I’m often guilty but I also know: You and I have a language only we can understand. 

I speak to You through this gift You bestowed upon my Kale shoulders, this gift to write in colour. It’s a gift that sometimes feels like a curse, a burden I have no choice but to pursue. 

Yet other times – most times, actually – it’s the very breath of my essence. Everyday I sit to write, when the words flow from my head and heart through my fingers to the page, I feel You next to me. 

You are here, Lord. Hovering. Lingering. Swooshing about in Your regal robes, like a character from Bridgerton.

Sometimes You get so close I can feel You breathing on my neck and I’m like, ‘Err, God, do You mind, personal space?’

And You chuckle uncomfortably. ‘He-he, of course. Of course.’

I’m here to tell You, Thanks!

I hosted my first in-person event last March, Lord, thank You to all the lovely ladies who granted me their time and full attention. 

I’ve carried them in my heart since and every day, my prayer is that You bring them closer to the life of abundance they each seek. To their own version of wealth. 

I always call them by their name: Becky. Purity. Lindsay. Wangui. Naomi. Shiqow. Mercy. Liz. Winnie. Polly. Nduta. Lynet. 

And Mike. 

Dear Lord, I’m prepping for my next in-person event in June, Inshallah. 

Walk with me as I get there. 

Love always,

  • Highlights from our first-ever in person event hosted by Craft It and @financialfitbit 
Thanks to all the lovely ladies — and gent, hehe — who honoured us with the privilege of their time and attention. And colourful energy. It’s been weeks since and it’s only now that I’m coming down from the high. 

Thank YOU!

🎥 @mikemuthaka 

#craftit #author #MakeYourMoneyMatter #personalfinance #money
  • I am a woman.

I’m strong. I’m brilliant. I’m like a comet shooting across the sky, I’m so bright you have to put on shades to see me.

I’m almost 40, I’m almost fully realising myself as a woman and the power of womanhood I possess.

I’m so powerful that if KPLC connected me to the national grid, I’d power up this country and we’d never have another blackout.

Ho! Ho! Ho!


To recognize and celebrate International Women’s Day today, I’d like to recognize and celebrate eight women.

I have eight things to give away to each of these women:
a) Two tickets to my upcoming event on March 18 with @financialfitbit Theme is ‘Make your money matter’
b) Three autographed copies of my book ‘Should I?’
c) Three autographed copies of my other book ‘How Much?’

To participate:
1. Like this post
2. Tag women who deserve a win of either event ticket or book (tag as many women as you like)
3. Tell us what you’d like her to win and why she deserves the win
4. Make sure your tagged women follow @_craftit and @financialfitbit 

Here are the rules for the giveaway:
— One woman, one win
— Winners will be contacted via DM
— Giveaway closes at the end of this week, Inshallah, on Sunday 12 March
— Only open to people living in Kenya

All the best!

(Swipe right to see the women I’m celebrating.)

#craftit #internationalwomensday
  • My 2022 word of the year was Wholesome. 

Wholesome meant engaging in moderation and in pursuits that didn’t leave me feeling yucky.

An example: there’re weekend nights I’d go out then have too much to drink. On the drive home, I’d tell GB to stop the car every half mile so I could throw up on the side of the road. Then I’d take three working days recovering. 


No more of that nonsense.

Now I have only two doubles of Singleton whiskey and chase it with water. I eat less food and I eat better. I take my supplements. I treat myself to an early bedtime and arise with my body clock, no alarm.

I spend a lot more time hanging with my kids, Muna and Njeeh. 

I buy fewer things. 

I play the piano. 

I created a disciplined routine for my work and take Thursdays off. 

You catch my drift…

Wholesome has become my lifestyle. 

(By the way, I was asked, ‘Where does this word-of-the-year come from, Bett?’ I don’t know about other people but for me, the words present themselves when I’m journaling. My spirit tells me what it needs; I must be still enough to listen and brave enough to obey.)

My word for 2023 is Overdrive.

My two books have unlocked new opportunities for me as a writer and creative. As an urban brand. I’d honestly not foreseen them. 

I know that if I adjust my sails to where the wind is blowing, these opportunities will translate to wealth.

Last Friday, I listed all the work I’m already doing and all the new opportunities – potential and realised – knocking at my door.

I asked myself, ‘What am I taking up here and what am I dropping?’

The response, ‘None – we go into overdrive and smartly pursue them all.’

#craftit #urbanguide
  • Years ago, my best friend said to me, ‘Bett, we’re almost 40 – forget makeup, let’s take care of our skin instead.’

I had to laugh because this was coming from Terry. Terry my Kisii pal, this fine gyal with skin the colour of honey, the only practising SDA in my circle. 

Terry had spent her 20s and early 30s sleek with Arimis. That’s right, the milking jelly with a lactating cow on its logo. 

Arimis addressed all her skin pickles back then. It was her problem fixer. Her Olivia Pope. It’s the one thing that always said, It’s handled.

Now here she was preaching to us about a consistent skincare regimen in the AM and PM.


It wasn’t until Terry shared her selfies on our girls WhatsApp group that I stopped laughing. It wasn’t until we stood next her – and took these selfies – that I reeally stopped laughing: Terry’s skin was youthful and toned, plump. Hydrated. Moistured but not shiny. 

It looked like it had been kissed by the Greek goddess of radiance. 

So we gathered around her feet and said, ‘Forgive us, master. We are ready now. Teach us everything you know.’

She did. 

Terry and I now spend plenty of time before work and before bed squeezing out little portions of expensive skincare products from expensive tubes, we layer them on our face in a calculated measure.

This serum here is for the circles under my eyes and the fine lines around my mouth.

Turns out I’ve been giving away too much of my face: I’ve been looking too hard, laughing too easily.

I’ll have to spend the next year into my 40s with my eyes half shut and laughing little. I'll have a resting bitch face.

Don’t blame me, blame the retinol.

And age.

#craftit #urbanguide #urbangirl
  • I’m Bett. I’m the author of your favourite books about money. I’m hosting an in-person event in March, Inshallah: This is my personal invite to you.

#craftit #moneymaker #moneyinkenya
  • I am hosting my first money event this March, Inhsallah. It’s the first of quarterly events I have planned for the year. 

(Give me a moment here so I pull myself together long enough to write this. I’m smiling very hard right now, ha-ha, I look like a donkey.)


The event will be in-person. On a Saturday morning, a loose three hours which, I am certain, you’d have burned on some other pursuit you couldn’t account for later. (I’d probably be oiling the hinges of a squeaky door or decluttering my sock drawer.)

My guest host for this edition is Lynet Kyalo. 

Lynet is a personal finance coach under her brand @financialfitbit She also hosts @getyourbagrightpodcast 

Buy your tickets from our Market.

Early bird tickets are discounted until the end of this month.

Limited slots available. 

#craftit #millenialmoney #moneyevent #moneymaker
  • Sometimes I sit down and read my own book. 

Odd, huh?

Reading my own stories is like an out-of-body experience. Or getting introduced to myself again. An outward journey inward.

It’s fascinating.

I also read because I need to improve my writing for my next project.

We call them the Elements of Craft: things like sentence structure and punctuation, word placement, story length etc, they all inform your reading experience.

This is what makes the book easy to read, and has you turning the pages.

Cop your autographed copy and #betteryourmoney 

#craftit #howmuch #millenialmoney #moneymaker

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