Coconut Tree

I read a blog post by a friend’s sister about her experiences growing up biracial, and how they affected her outlook on herself along the way.

I was inspired to write about my own experience because even though my skin tone is worlds apart from hers, we had fairly similar experiences.

Like her, I was not the most racially and/or culturally aware person growing up. I played with other children not caring about what their race was, as long as I got to play and I made sure that I got home before the street lights came on. It was not until I was 10 years old that I realised not all people accept you for who/what you are, and some of that scrutiny comes from the very people you identify yourself with.

My father is Ugandan and my mother is South African (Xhosa). I grew up in a majority isiXhosa-speaking town, but I was raised speaking English at home. When I was in Grade 4, a girl (whose first name I still remember) began to bully me for numerous reasons: I was a “coconut”, I spoke English too often, I spoke English too well, I didn’t speak or understand isiXhosa at all, my father was dark but I was light(er than him), my father was a “kwerekwere” which made me one, I was a coconut and my natural hair was too long (imagine?!). Every day I had to wait for an hour after school for my father to pick me up, and in that hour, she would gather her minions and make it a point to ensure that I felt every single one of the above reasons… and it worked. For 3 years.

When I was in Grade 7, I pondered on ways I could avoid her onslaught of negativity. I decided that I would use the after school hour to walk home. In hindsight, that is probably how taking long walks became one of my methods for dealing with any kind of negativity. It literally took the entire hour to get home on foot, but it was better than being teased, and my nanny would occasionally walk to my school just to walk home with me, which made the journey a bit more bearable. At the end of that year, we moved to a predominantly Setswana-speaking city, and things began to feel a whole lot worse.

Having been raised in the Eastern Cape, I never got opportunities to hear any other South African languages being spoken apart from isiXhosa. Starting high school in a new city where everyone generally cliqued up with whoever they knew from primary school, was overwhelmingly lonely. In my home room on my first day, I met a girl who grew up where I did but she had been living in the city much longer than I had. She took it upon herself to help me navigate the school and make a few friends. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really accepted by her group of friends as they were all of the same opinions as my primary school bully (minus the xenophobia). I was disappointed but not too surprised. The language barrier in particular pushed me towards a group of white people, which I was judged for by black people throughout my time at that school, but I felt as though they were the only people who genuinely accepted me for who I was, which allowed me to form amazing friendships with them.

I did go to another school in the Eastern Cape after that, where I matriculated with some of my best friends to this day. Fortunately, black people there were generally inviting and open-minded, which helped me build my self-esteem in small steps.

When I got to university, I realised that I had to start the journey with people all over again. I cried for 2 days at the thought of being asked the same inane questions I had been asked by various people my entire life:

“Why do you have an English name?”

“Do you have an African name?”

“Why do you use your English name?”

“Why don’t you speak vernac?”

“Don’t you feel embarrassed that you can’t speak vernac?”

… and that isn’t even all of them. Throughout university, I was mainly drawn to black foreign nationals because I felt like they were the only people who seemed to understand me.

It took me some time to realise a few things about why being asked those questions bothered me.

1. I could NEVER be sure of the intent behind the question. Given the xenophobic attacks that take place in South Africa, I would immediately assume a defensive position. I still do sometimes as I was almost attacked by a man in our apartment building in 2009.

2. I never knew why it mattered. I still don’t.

3. The tone used when being asked those questions. Does this person want to get to know me or is this person about to provide an unsolicited opinion on my upbringing?

4. People tend to draw assumptions about my parents. I don’t take lightly to that at all.

“Now when you associate yourself with a group of people who themselves initially reject you as one of their own and associate you with another group of people, its just emotionally tiring.”

There’s truly no other way to explain feeling like you don’t belong.

I have made it a point to learn more about my cultures by asking my parents and friends to teach me whenever they can. I no longer allow anyone to tell me who I am or what I should be (yes, I’m side-eyeing you “you are what your father is” people). There are obviously plenty of things I wish I knew more about when I was growing up, but my experiences built my character and they helped me grow confident in where my identity is rooted.

xo

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Self-Love

Self-love means realising that you, your happiness, your honesty and your journey should always selfishly come first.

This is a single life. You don’t get to go again. Focus on molding yourself into a work of art.

When it comes to others, kindness and vulnerability are usually the formula but it takes bravery, practice, a thick skin and possibly a lifetime to achieve all these qualities.

And that’s okay because the journey is worth it.

xo

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3AM on a Friday

My anxiety manifests itself in strange ways lately. Okay, maybe not strange, but in prolonged ways that I am not used to managing. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s strange because I’ve never read up on it, but maybe someone might find this relatable.

Something that makes me anxious will start small. It often starts with a pet peeve; a triggering person; or someone who I’m around often enough, changing their routine behaviour [towards me] in a way that just pushes my patience to the edge. Sometimes, it is unintentional on their part but 95% of the time, I really don’t care.

If this happens often enough, it starts to manifest itself in the form of frustration. It lies dormant under the surface until there’s no more space for it to multiply. It starts boiling under my skin until a situation I don’t feel particularly comfortable in, presents itself.

Then I just feel numb. It’s almost like the outside of my body and the inside of my body are not in sync. On the outside, I’m nonchalant yet on the inside, my mind feels like those “solving the math” memes. And the voices in there are LOUD. They tell me to remember things, be wary of things, forget about things, figure out how to handle things, pick myself up, be alone, be social, try to be happy, not get too excited about things, men are trash etc… all at the same time.

And then I just snap. It doesn’t take much for me to snap either. I just start shaking and crying uncontrollably and struggling to breathe. It almost feels like being underwater and trying to fight creatures that are pulling you deeper underwater.

I don’t like it.

xo

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Rock Bottom: a Basement or a Foundation?

I wanted to stay off Twitter, but I didn’t know how. Before I took my Twitter hiatus, I went on the following rant:

It’s kinda nice to be able to come here for chuckles or to vent when you’ve had a hard day.

I won’t lie though, it is often tough to see such amazing things happening for other people when your life is in absolute shambles and all your hope has been smashed to smithereens.

“I got the job!”

“I’m engaged!”

“My dream business is coming to life!”

“He/she did this just because it’s Thursday”

Well damn. Must be nice.

It doesn’t take away from anyone though. It doesn’t mean to say that you are incapable of being happy for others or that your well wishes are not genuine.

But wow.

That feeling of “it would be nice to be thrown a bone of goodwill in at least ONE aspect of my life” is difficult to shake. An entire year goes by and you have almost nothing to show for it. It is extremely depressing. Then, to make things worse, it is not like you have not tried to make things better, you know? You apply for jobs day in and day out or you try to go on dates, for example, and still end up in the same bottomless pit of hopelessness.

I hate life with my entire soul. I really do not know or understand why I am here.

A few weeks into my “cleansing”, I’ve realized that being self-aware is actually quite exhausting. I find myself in my head all the time; having to rethink and relearn; and also teach myself how to compromise because as much as I want to be comfortable all the time, the world doesn’t work like that.

Sleepless nights that I normally would have spent passing time on Twitter, are now forcing me to deal with each day’s emotions and find other ways to manage my anxiety. I think I became a little bit too addicted to using [often unhealthy] distractions as a remedy whenever I felt anything negative. “Depressed? Frustrated? Anxious? Tweet about it. Someone probably feels the same, or worse, then you can focus on caring about their feelings instead of your own.” 🤦🏾‍♀️

It has been extremely tiring being the person who is always providing motivation and support when it hasn’t been reciprocated. Exuding positive energy for people to feed off of while I deal with being drained on my own. Despite the challenges, I would rather protect my [small semblance of] peace every day than be in the wishy-washy-just-go-with-the-flow state I used to be in.

I am convinced that this is what rock bottom feels like.

xo

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Me & The Corporate Whale

I’m not particularly religious but the Bible story of Jonah and the Whale seems to be a perfect way to describe my corporate experience so far.

For those that are not familiar with the story, the following is my understanding of a Googled summary: Jonah was ordered by God to go somewhere. He refused and boarded a ship to go some place else. In response, God sent a storm in the ship’s direction as punishment. The ship’s crew blamed Jonah for disobeying God’s instruction, so Jonah offered to be thrown overboard to save everyone else. He was swallowed by a whale at some point and spent 3 days and 3 nights in its belly praying to be saved; after which the whale threw him up onto land.

I have been working at my current place of employment for almost a year now and it has been nothing but an emotional rollercoaster. Of late, however, the lows have been more frequent than the highs and the main cause of this has been my manager.

From her first day, she has been trying to implement all these supposedly positive changes to reinvent the image of our department. I played along at first. I respect[ed] her, not only because she is my manager, but also because in a company where most of the women holding managerial positions are white, I was happy to have a black woman as my manager. I saw her as someone who I could potentially relate to and develop a mentor/mentee relationship with. I was unspeakably deluded.

I basically began experiencing what being victimised by an older black woman in the workplace felt like. It was awful. I could feel the lack of respect when I walked in every morning. Opening up about how I felt didn’t prove to do me much good either, as I just ended up being put down even further. Some of the comments directed at me even attacked my personality and my background. The only way I could end that conversation was by bursting into tears.

After a weekend of trying to get over what happened to me, I learned that in the corporate world, there are a number of things I won’t want to do and even more things that I don’t believe in. As much as there should be mutual respect in the workplace regardless of one’s position, things won’t always happen that way, and to make it worse (for young adults in particular), we have to accept the way things are for the sake of our careers.

I just hope that 2018 brings me much better experiences.

Xo

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Beyond Passion

I truly admire people who have hobbies that they are passionate about: whether it’s poetry, fitness or playing an instrument. I admire that they have that one thing that they can always go back to that will make them happy, no matter what the circumstance. Something constructive and healthy that they can use to escape.

Other people’s passions may not interest you entirely, but it almost always helps you expand your view of them, and discover dimensions of them that you never would have discovered had you not stepped into their world.

I often feel honoured when a person feels comfortable enough to share that side of themselves, with me. They feel comfortable enough to show me a vulnerable side of them which people most likely take for granted.

All I can say is … don’t trample on their souls.

xo

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Overwhelmed.

I’m tired.

Tired of thinking.

Tired of being so busy yet trying to make everyone happy at the same time.

I wanna cry but no tears come out.

I’m tired of being misunderstood.

Tired of being alone.

It’s been a long day … too many of them … and I get home and don’t even know who to vent to.

I just wanna cry but no tears come out.

All in the name of graduation. And it’s only going to get worse from here.

That I know.

That I accept.

Just sometimes it’s difficult.

Sometimes I just need that “things will be okay” hug. That “if you ever need anything, I’m here” hug. That “you’re not alone hug”.

xo

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