It’s that time of the year again, when we look back at the past 12 months and try and understand it as a collective entity – the year that was…2014.

Each of us does this differently and with different intentions. Some may use this opportunity to look back on their achievements and decide if “progress” was made or not. This might be a very quantitative process involving a calculation of income earned or holidays taken. Others may look at the year more qualitatively and review it in terms of personal growth, internal shifts or a deep maturation process.

Although this is a very personal process that each of us must undertake on our own and with our own personal style, I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts as I look back on 2014.

  1. Funemployment taught me how to take it slow

After an 8 year long process of becoming a psychologist, punctuated with 3 gap years I might add, I finally qualified at the end of 2013. My first lesson in 2014 was learning how to stop. I had been jumping through academic and professional hoops for so long that I didn’t actually know how to ask myself what I wanted or where I wanted to be.

We can all get carried away along the torrent of life’s endless activities, duties and routines. To get a chance to step off the treadmill and take stock of one’s life is a gift but not necessarily one that is easy to receive or make use of.

If this is what you are looking for in 2015 you need to make a concerted effort to spend “downtime”. Switch off your laptop and open a book instead, go for a long walk in nature, stop accepting invitations to events and instead stay at home and be with yourself. Whatever you need to do to find time to stop, make sure that you learn to drop the idea of “goals”, of “urgency” and of “achievement”. Use time to reflect, to start a relationship with yourself, and to work out how to be a human being.

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  1. Friendship is Fickle

I value my friendships immensely but I have had so many disappointing experiences in 2014. I have been let down, stood up, excluded, ridiculed and ignored by a number of people who I considered as friends. In the same breath, thankfully, I have also reconnected with and formed close bonds with people who have already been in my life or who only came into my life this year. 2014 has thus been a year of great friendship and great hardship. My take on it all: friendship is fickle. It is not an exact science and like with all relationships, there are going to be times when our friends fall short of our expectations. The best friendships I have currently are those who have overcome difficulties and bumps along the road. I am a forgiving person and I will always welcome you back into my life if you show up and take responsibility for your steps in the dance. And I will take care of mine.

If you are worried about your friendships and looking to work harder next year, here are my tips for building friendships in 2015:

  • If you think of someone then text or call them immediately. It doesn’t matter where they are or how long it’s been since you last spoke, it always feels nice to know you’re in someone’s thoughts. What have you got to lose?
  • Take your bestie out on a date. Why should this important relationship(s) not get its own special night? Go out for a lavish dinner, or go to the movies, go see a show, whatever. Spoil your best girl/guy!
  • If you feel hurt by something your friend says, tell him/her. Do not let it fester and cause you to retreat from the friendship. Be honest and allow the other person a chance to make up for it. Part of being a good friend, is being able to help each other grow through honest reflection.
  • Don’t get jealous about your friend’s significant other. Friendship love and Romantic love take up different quadrants of a person’s heart. Never feel you have to compete with someone’s partner or friends (if you’re the partner) for attention or love. If you truly feel neglected, find ways to get your feelings heard and your needs met without being competitive.
  • Don’t give people energy if they don’t deserve it. This is true for all interactions but with friendships most of all. If there is one thing I have learned in 2014 it is that there are some people who use the label of “friend” to suck the psychological marrow right out of ya! You will know if your friend is one of these if you spend all your time together talking about his/her feelings and problems. These kinds of people leave you feeling tired and drained, emotionally. You might think these friendships are worth it because you have a buddy to spend time with. I know that sometimes you just need a wingman, regardless. But it’s just not worth it. Take care of your psychological energy!

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  1. It’s going to take more than an SAB ad and Nelson Mandela’s legacy to heal South Africa

One thing that I think all South Africans should not ignore is the fact that it has been a year since Nelson Mandela died and the country is in the worst state it has been since he was president.

I try very hard to remain optimistic about South Africa, which is the most beautiful country filled with incredibly talented and spirited people, but I am becoming increasingly despondent as I hear stories of racist attacks, murderers walking free and a president who is corrupt and smug while his countrymen starve and kill each other.

It is not all doom and gloom (although the Eskom power outages might have you fearing such) because I know so many fiercely ambitious and swag young people who are forging their way in the world and showing off Africa’s potential (see below).

But there are still so many deep wounds that won’t heal so long as those who have the privilege to stay ignorant continue to do so. There is something particularly crippling about the way South Africa looks to me right now. I feel helpless and paralysed at times. I want to be able to wave a magic wand and make it all okay. But that is not possible.

For 2015, I hope that South Africans can do the following to continue Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

  • White South African’s need to realise that Apartheid is not ‘something that happened a long time ago and has no bearing on the present’. Apartheid’s legacy continues to shape the current social landscape of South Africa. You as a white person are not personally responsible for the atrocities performed but you have indirectly benefitted and it is your responsibility to face that and give respect to that privilege.
  • I don’t believe that guilt or mindless charity is the answer, either. Don’t go volunteer to play with black children unless you understand ethically what your presence as a white person is doing and how it impacts on those around you.
  • If you really want to help shift things to become more transformed and unified then number one, you should learn to speak an indigenous language like isiXhosa or isiZulu. Not sure how? Find a course through Ubuntu Bridge today!
  • All South Africans have to stand up for their rights to be respected as citizens who deserve a number of things from their government. Vote for those who you think are going to do a good job in government. Support the parties that will improve the economic standing of South Africa, because that is the most important thing right now.
  • Black people in South Africa, especially those with the means, need to own it. You are living in a time of an African renaissance. The whole world is looking at Africa right now because it is the freshest, most interesting place on the planet for fashion, music, film, etc. There are so many talented people in this country and on this continent. I am so proud of those who have already been showing the rest of the world how cool it is to be African. For those of you needing inspiration look no further than the stylish Sowetan trio I See A Different You, the talented Lebo Rasethaba who directed Future Sounds of Mzansi, Simiso Zwane aka Okmalumkoolkat who’s been creating waves in the SA Hip Hop scene and pop sensation Sautisol over in Kenya who won the MTV EMA Best African Act in 2014.

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  1. The Oscar Pistorius post that went viral taught me about fame

I was encouraged to write a post on Oscar Pistorius as I have first hand knowledge of the psychological evaluation that he went through at Weskoppies Psychiatric Hospital because I worked there during my internship year. Little did I know that it would catch the attention of the media. The next thing my little blog became the centre of a massive international news story.

I got retweeted thousands of times. My blog got more traffic in one day than it usually sees in a month. I was harassed for days with emails and calls from journalists wanting interviews. I was even offered a spot on BBC but had to turn it down because my dearest puppy dog Caramella went missing and I needed to put my efforts into finding her.

All in all it was a surreal experience. I have since been encouraged to write about topical issues and go for click bait tactics to up the traffic on this blog. The weird thing is that I have never tried to write a post in order to get that kind of traffic again. I don’t want to only think strategically on this blog. And I don’t want to always write about news stories.

If you are someone who is dealing with your own moment in the spotlight, here is my advice for you for 2015.

  • Reconnect with your friends and family because no amount of flashing light bulbs and unread emails can make you feel as good or as loved as them
  • Switch off your phone for large portions of time or include a “contact free zone” in your contract so your agents and other members of the media know that there are times in which you will be unavailable
  • Never lose track of who are you inside. It sounds cheesy but when you’re in the public eye, you have to manage a large amount of projections and idealisation. People will depict you in many ways to suit their theories but you need to be able to stand up to those accusations with integrity. The only way to do this is to know yourself.

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  1. Applying to The Blogcademy taught me that strangers can surprise you with their generosity

When I found out about The Blogcademy and their scholarship, I knew I had to do something special to get their attention and win. I asked a few of my creative friends to help me think about what to do and (shout out to Kone aka Fort Rixon aka Forrest) I was given the idea of creating a video.

My friends and family were incredible. They sent in selfie videos talking about Carly’s Couch and what it meant to them. Thanks to the efforts of Dan, Kate, Leo, Debi, Kieron, Craig & Alexi, Daniel, Sindiso, Thomas, Max, Kat, Niel and the sensational Alice I got over 14 videos on my Carly’s Couch YouTube Channel. Fourteen videos and no idea how to edit them. And then out of the blue, a fan of the blog and facebook friend of mine living half way across the world in Hamburg, Thomas Fiehn, got hold of me and offered to edit it for me.

Over the next few weeks Thomas kindly and generously spent hours fine tuning the edit. After hundreds of emails from me, he never got grumpy, never told me to piss off, never even tired. I am so humbled by this amazing gift of time and creative energy.

I hope that 2015 is the year that you surprise yourself with generosity for others. Make a stranger’s day. Say thank you. Offer your services for free at least once. Take a chance on a crazy project that sounds like it could be fun. Do something for the sake of helping rather than for your own personal gain.

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  1. Moving to a new country is really hard

When I decided that I wanted to travel and chose Berlin as my destination, I only thought about the positives. I thought about what a cool city it is and how much fun I would have. I imagined that getting work would take time but I would find it easy to get along. I thought that learning a foreign language would be fun and quaint (and that knowing English would mean I could also get away without).

Moving to Berlin was one of the most challenging experiences I have ever had in my life. Moving away from home, from your friends and family is tough. Trying to settle into a new home, with its new culture and foreign language is extremely tough. Learning German is … well you get the picture.

What I learned through this trial by fire is that human beings need time to adjust and that we should not place expectations on ourselves that we cannot meet. I exacerbated all of these factors by my ignorant belief that I would be fine, that these processes weren’t difficult, and that I would somehow find this incredible upheaval entirely settling and comfortable.

In 2015, for those of you attempting to make any kind of transition in your life, please remember the following:

  • We are living, breathing organisms not machines. Your iPhone might be able to switch on and off in seconds but even it needs a reboot every now and then. We are not designed to be switched on and off. We are sensitive to a multitude of fluctuating variables in our environment.
  • Respect your self as a vulnerable, sensitive organism and you will find renewed tolerance when dealing with life’s challenges.
  • Take it slow, don’t rush yourself into feeling okay before you do. Allow the time of adjustment to come with its concurrent mood swings and moments of anxiety and depression

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  1. I actually like being a psychologist

People often ask me what its like being a psychologist. And the truth is it’s hard. Being a psychologist in South Africa is even harder. There are so many daily challenges that you can easily lose sight of what brought you to the field in the first place.

I have at times reconsidered my career choice and I have wondered if I am well suited to the position. I have been so filled with self-doubt at times that I felt like the world’s biggest failure, incapable of helping anyone. There is nothing more debilitating than feeling helpless when all you want to do is help.

But I have forged on and I have fought to keep positive during dire situations. I have learned to take on less and to accept my limitations with humility.

It has often felt like an arduous task, like something just didn’t fit. Part of that was my inexperience and anxiety.

But something changed in 2014. I found myself actually enjoying the work, like really enjoying the role. I have had such interesting clients and have grown so much as a therapist and professional.

Sometimes I feel like there is no greater thrill then when your work fulfils you. I think it is the greatest privilege and gift that I am happy in my profession, that I gain personal and professional fullfillment from my work and that I feel I deserve my successes because I believe in myself and my efficacy.

I am grateful for each of my clients who have graced me with their presence, with their life force, with their sorrows and their triumphs. I am so glad to be able to sit through your pain with you and to know your suffering like I do. You continue to humble me and make me proud of the work I do.

And I’m not perfect. I’m learning. I make mistakes. I am like everybody else.

May 2015 be the year for greater fulfillment in the work environment. May you find your true calling. May you find the inspiration to try your hardest each and every day. May you find the rewards that make it all worthwhile.

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