In just two weeks I leave for a ridiculously bold and exciting adventure – I am flying to Berlin – a city I’ve never been to with the hopes of moving there full-time. The last time I went travelling was during my two gap years in 2007 and 2008. Since then, I have spent 5 years finishing off Uni and getting my professional qualification as a clinical psychologist. In this time I have moved home six times, I have moved between provinces and cities, and I have moved between jobs. I have felt very far from settled most of this time. But despite all of this change and adjustment, I have still always felt I was HOME.
So I guess it is because I am leaving, which is making me acutely aware of what I am leaving behind, that I find myself in a state of nostalgic melancholy when thinking about my home here in South Africa and what it means to me. And because it is Gratitude Wednesday, I thought I would share with you some of my thoughts and why I am so grateful today.
It’s hard for me to describe what being a South African means to me. I think of South Africa not only as my nation but also as my family. It is a dysfunctional family a lot of the time and for that I feel instinctively protective over it. I see South Africa as a land full of promise and possibility, where the potential for growth and creativity stretches as far as the imagination. But I also see the pain, the wounds, and the violence. I see how the agony of the past injustices has left scars that even the most skilled plastic surgeon cannot cover up. I look around me sometimes and I see a miracle – a nation that should in some ways never be this peaceful, yet almost always at the brink of collapse and chaos.
I believe that living in South Africa forces one to be more conscious than living anywhere else in the world. Sure there are people still with their heads in the sand. But on the whole, people are faced with their shit living here. The rich have to face the poor and the privileged have to face the disenfranchised. But at the same time, what I love about South Africa is that it celebrates individual creativity, ambition and entrepreneurship. In this way, the lazy and entitled have to face their creative, energetic counterparts. In this country there is no place for resting on your laurels. You will be left behind in someone else’s dust unless you make something happen for yourself. The cream quickly rises to the top.
So as I contemplate moving away (not permanently, believe me – I love it here too much), I realise how fortunate I am to have experienced this fascinating melting pot of a country for almost 29 years. And like a long-term relationship, we know each other’s shit. I am familiar with this landscape, the way things work and the kind of people you come across. There is a lot of diversity. No city, countryside or sector of society is alike yet there will always be pockets that can be referred to collectively, conjuring up stereotypes no doubt. I would love to talk more about this and perhaps I will another time. The point of this reverie is to describe to you what my mind is doing as it prepares to leave and how the movie reel of memories spinning around in my head invokes a wistful longing for the familiar as I embark on this journey into the unknown.
Apart from all the familiar surroundings, it is also the special people that I’ll be leaving behind that truly make this my home. I have mentioned this before, but I am so grateful to be blessed with the most wonderful collection of friends and family who make my life better and better each and every day. You know when they say, “it’s the little things…” well they (whoever they are) are right. When I think of the true comforts of home, I think of life’s arduous tasks made simpler by a helpful friend or a considerate relative. I have renewed appreciation for the wonderful people in my life who know how to truly support me by offering me a lift to or from the airport, or make me a fantastic home cooked meal when I’m tired and worn-out. Of course, I am sure that all these gestures of human kindness can be found in strangers as well, but there is something truly supportive about sharing with those you’ve known the longest. I am incredibly grateful for the people I love and who love me in South Africa.
And so the final countdown begins. I will depart in two weeks time. But my heart is swollen with love and appreciation for my life here and for the people that occupy my world. Thank you for the natural beauty that one can only find in Africa. Thank you for the vitality and generosity that I have found in the people here. Thank you for the love, support and nurturance that I will never forget from my friends and family. You are me, and I am you. And now I will take all of this love and energy and positivity out into the world and make it shine like the African sun!