It is not enough to eat, sleep, wake up and merely survive another day. There should be a higher purpose to why we are here, someone offered in an interesting conversation I had with a group of young people this week. So far, these youth are not overly worried when they look at a ticking clock.
Time, however, is one of those things that can throw one into a panic as one year rolls into the next and right down to the start of whatever next decade scares them….30, 40, 50, 60... Much later, long after the conversation had ended, my mind stayed on 60. I had a startling thought. Our own country will celebrate 60 years of independence in a little over year.
Now, if 60 were a deadline of some sort and we had to account for the whole time our nation has been running under its own flag, what would our timesheet look like?
Like my young friends, we may rush to collect the things we can see; houses, cars, number of children, bank balance and such. However, is our time worth only that which we can touch? When the debate with the young people got really heated, we got to wondering, does it matter, for instance, if one amasses fame or fortune but never spent any time with his family? Sure, you could count all the money and milestones but would that cover a profitable use of one’s time?
Back to the countdown, in 2022, our beloved country will make 60. There are several ways to account for the years: We could look at all the money we have earned or consider what we could have earned. We could look at what has been spent and what we got for it. How much has been stolen and what it could have got us. It is like the Biblical story of the talents, only that in our case, we may be called to account even for what was lost.
Getting older gives some people the heebie-jeebies, and with good reason. Apparently, a good number of adults these days cannot count their age without it seeming like an indictment or approval of how they used their years. If individuals hold themselves to such stringent standards, it got me wondering why we couldn’t get together as a nation to demand as much. Some people do truly great things, memorable stuff for the history books; the kind that leave you feeling inadequate in comparison.
Some countries of similar age have done things that leave Ugandans green with envy. Every time something momentous happens, whether joyous or tragic, the discussion shifts to our economic or social health. The verdict is overwhelmingly negative and the forecast very gloomy. We envy others in their progress in political maturity, infrastructural development, value-for-money project implementation and a whole lot more.
Every time we are reminded of our age, we cringe and lament in shame and self-blame, much like that worker who looks back at years of toil but has nothing to show for it. He or she probably still lives in their father’s house years after they resolved they would build their own shack and that business they promised they would start is still a pipe dream.
Forget the fancy statistics. When Uganda makes 60, will we be able to account for the years? When our next milestone comes around, shall we be wringing our hands, hating ourselves and wondering if we are forever doomed to a life of setbacks and regrets?
Ms Nampewo is a writer, editor and communications consultant