What If I told you… you don’t need to have it all figured out by the age of 18?
2018 started out very unceremoniously. Nothing really exciting happens on New Years Eve, when you’re pregnant and can’t indulge in the J.C Le Roux or have any feta on your Fattis and Monis the next day, with the rest of your family. (I guess you are a Fatty and Moaning, but I promise you it is a very different experience. I would rather have been in my JC Le room).
The fact that I am giggling at myself as I write this is testament to just how little I get out nowadays.
Also, please don’t pretend that noodle salad isn’t a staple in your coloured family’s afternoon spread for New Year ’s Day. What else would we shred the week-old Gamon into?
Regardless, here we are, the people who survived 2017. Back at work, reminiscing on easier times, when Omunye nearly replaced the national anthem.
I sit here grateful. Staring at the Christmas tree, looking for the energy to take it down.
With no more food money for the month.
And no more gevriet for people.
January will truly reveal your inner-self. Every South African you meet is a philanthropic poet in the festive season, with endless sonnets about the fokolness of the festivities, till you check their bank balance in the new year, and it’s so empty- there’s room to shake a spear.
Yes that was a joke about being a South African and a poet.
…. Yearning for adult company.
Many of you know that I work from home, full time. It’s really a blessing, but now that I am twice my normal size, and my hubby and friends are all back at work… I am finding it very hard to adjust to being on my ace with the kids.
Juggling working from home, and making two minutes noodles for lunch… and wiping bums… and facilitating other people’s bowel movements and breaking up fights about whose turn it is to watch a movie and dealing with my own constipation is really disheartening.
(Bear in mind that each child wants to watch the same fucking movie on each turn. It is either Frozen or Up. Neither one wants to let it go.)
So naturally, I am having another child, to even things out.
I seem to be counting down the days to when the children return to school, so that I can share pictures of the holidays on social media, of the rare occasions when they aren’t just engrossed in YouTube, while they watch other people play with toys they forced me to buy them in real life….
The truth is I fucking love school time. That is when the parental holiday begins.
I had a good laugh at the commotion on Facebook the other day, when the Matriculants of 2017 revealed who had merely passed with a Matric certificate, or with a fully-fledged Bachelor’s degree. I weep for the future call centre agents of this country.
But on a serious note, even though I willfully engaged in the gatmaak of every single one of them, I feel compelled to send a sincere message of my own to Matriculants, and students still in the system alike.
Your matric results do not matter.
Not in the greater scheme of things, anyway.
Now, hear me out.
Let me tell you a story.
In 2005 I discovered many things.
I discovered that Mrs. Jacobsen would never forgive me for the drawing I made of her massive hairstyle, even though it happened when I was in grade 9. (I may have drawn a map from her head to a blow-dryer. I wasn’t the greatest person in my teens. Ask my mom, or every educator who may have crossed my path).
I discovered my vagina (leading to me dumping my long term high school boyfriend, to ride in cars with boys from Pelican Heights and surrounds.)
But more importantly, I discovered that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I only knew what everyone else wanted me to do… act and sing.
I knew that I was an average student. That is what my report card said.
Every year the staff would sign off the same sentence: “Shana is not reaching her full potential. She has been promoted so that we don’t have to deal with her any longer than necessary”.
I’m paraphrasing, but you get it.
But 2005 was the year I was in matric at Muizenberg High School. I was 16 years old, and I wasn’t really good at anything academic.
The children in my grade were not a lovely bunch, (however, there were many coconuts), and when my name came up, the top ten didn’t shudder. The top 100 weren’t really perturbed by my presence either.
There was a select crew of kids who always received the top marks.
The school always made a note of informing the average students of how much better than the rest of us the top students were. These students became prefects, custodians, tik addicts.
Pressure will make you do crazy things to pull an all-night study session.
Don’t get me wrong, many of them deserved their place as the cream of the academic crop, but high school wasn’t as inclusive of all personality types and strengths and weaknesses at the time.
If you were outspoken and Frank like me, you basically signed your own detention slips.
In a parent/teacher meeting mid-year, I was in tears at the things the teachers had said about me to my parents.
My mother and father are the type of parents who always believed the educator.
But in Matric, I had consciously tried to be the best student I could be. I was in all the plays, attempted Eisteddfods, I did my homework. I even upped my marks, as much as one could in the final stretch.
Of course, a certain educator found this PTA meeting the perfect time to say to my parents how I would amount to nothing. “Children like Shana disrupt my class. She only cares about herself. She got 70% for Afrikaans and she thinks that is so great”, she said, cynically laughing at me.
I remember my mom and dad looking at me shamefully. I remember that teacher’s smirk.
I really was proud of that 70%, until she made me feel stupid for even trying.
When the matric final exams came around, I sat in the hall to write my paper, and low and behold, my facilitator was none other than Satan.
She watched me very closely.
Someone spoke a bit too loudly and she screamed at me to get out. It wasn’t me, but none of the teachers listened to me because they had all already decided I was a hopeless case.
I went to the bathroom to cry, and as I came out, the biology teacher, whose name I can’t remember, rubbed my back and said words that I now want to share with everyone…
“ It’s just school Shana, it isn’t real life. Soon this will all be over, and you will see how life really is. This is only a part of life, not all of it”.
I had no idea what that meant.
I was so convinced that I had woken up too late to fix anything.
I was sure that now my matric marks would influence the rest of my life.
When I finally received my matric results, I was relieved and disappointed alike.
And I can’t really recall the rest, but I passed matric with a Modest C.
I carried that with me through all the “Haai, waars jou exemption?” questions.
“At least het jy gepass”.
You see, the fear-mongers tell you that you cannot get into a university without an exemption.
This is not true.
I have been to university twice.
No matter what Eminem says, you do not only have one shot.
Life is a series of shots, and ups and downs and avenues.
I was accepted at AFDA film school, and managed to complete my degree.
Then, the new rule was “Don’t fall pregnant, or you will never amount to anything”.
On my 21st birthday I was three months pregnant.
And my singing and acting career were aborted.
I will never forget my mother’s speech.
“Dankie dat almal hier sit. Is nou nie n baie gelukkige occasion nie but ai, so is die lewe”.
Again, I felt like a colossal failure.
I only say failure, because I am trying to avoid the word ‘poes’.
Then, when my son was born, people started to show me pity, and convinced me that there was no way I could ever be successful now.
An AFDA friend said to me one day “Just get a job anywhere man, like cleaning or something. Just say you have a laaitie and work your ass off, you don’t really have a choice”.
Even though I held the same qualification as her, in her head I was a write-off at the ripe old age of 22.
I really believed that my one shot was over.
Fast forward to two illegitimate kids later, and several failed business ventures, I was the laughing stock of my friends and family.
I remember when I met Lyle a friend said to me: “He is okay for you to date, but not for me. No offense”.
And I accepted that without offense. Because I had already placed myself beneath others, because of the cards I had been dealt by life… but admittedly, also because those cards were chosen by me.
You see, the truth is, what they don’t teach you at school, is how to deal with failure. They paint this picture of all your dreams coming true in life, if you are merely an obedient academic.
Everything is black and white.
But life, is a constant grey area.
I have had friends who failed matric, but went back to write the exam again, only years later. These people are now very successful members of their fields.
I know people who passed with exemptions, and went on to achieve their Masters… Who now, cannot find a job.
So, if you passed matric with flying colours: Well done, but that doesn’t mean you are set for life.
If you barely passed, or if you failed: Chin up, try harder… you still have an unlimited amount of opportunities left.
And if you are a parent or educator, you need to remember that you are not raising robots, you are raising unique individuals who need the proper tools to navigate all aspects of life, even failure.
Remember, the child, student, learner will remember the things you said to them twenty years from now. They will remember how you said it. Whether it was negative or positive. And even if they didn’t fully grasp it then.. they will grow up and understand it eventually.
Don’t be someone’s bad memory.
To be honest, kids.. I still don’t know what I want to become when I am big.
Right now I am doing pretty okay as a writer.
If I had believed what my report card said about me back then, I would be a tone deaf, semi-literate suicide victim.
Life is going to happen to you.
It isn’t always gonna be lekker. Actually, 50% of it will probably be difficult.
The victory is in how you learn to navigate, and come out on the other side.
If all else fails, though, marry rich.
I don’t have all the answers… I’m only 29.
Disclaimer: I am not saying do not work hard. I am saying give everything your very best… but if it doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean it is the end.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”