Nomana describes how she had to learn to smile again after difficult times at university.

“Since the class is so noisy today, maybe I should ask a question from yesterday’s lecture. What is the function of insulin?” the biology lecturer said in a mocking tone.

The students bent their heads down, scared of being pointed to answer the question. Suddenly it was the silence where you can hear a pin drop.

“You!” pointing at a girl in front of me who didn’t look like she was paying any attention.

“Answer the question!” she said with an authoritative voice.

“What was the question again?” the student asked shyly.

“I said, what is the function of insulin?”

“I don’t know,” the student answered shrugging her shoulders, turning palms towards the roof.

“You are clearly not paying any attention,” the lecturer scolded. “How will you know when you are busy with your own business over there?”


Was she pointing at me? My heart started racing, my palms sweating.

“Please repeat the question,” I asked nervously.

“What is the function of insulin?” she said slowly in a sarcastic, ridiculing tone.

“Uhm… uhm, I don’t know.” The class broke into laughter. But I knew the answer, just didn’t know how to say it.


The alarm has just gone off. It’s dawn and the west is calmly giving birth to the sun. I have to prepare for my class but I’m not up to seeing my classmates.

The night wasn’t a favourable one. I could hardly sleep, blazing at blurry thoughts of nothingness. A flush of tormentor’s agony went from my mind to my body manifesting itself as a race of the heart, a sweat of the palms, a headache and a churning stomach.

Vuk’uzoyaeklasini (Wake up and go to class),” my roommate said. The alarm had wakened her up too. “Wake up and go to class,” she said again, forcing her voice out of her throat as she had clearly gotten up from sleep.

“I don’t think I’m going today.”

“I knew that was coming,” she said, swiftly removing the blankets over herself so that she could go to the bathroom.

“Missing class again?” she asked.

“Yes, I’m not feeling well. I must go to the doctor.”


“You have anxiety,” the doctor said. “I’m going to refer you to a psychologist.” A ‘shrink’, I thought to myself, but as reluctant as I was I went.

The fast-paced varsity life made me forget the principles that my parents had taught me from a tender age. They taught me to greet people and to always smile, preparing me for a world of communication. But this world was one that was fast and had straight faces that hardly looked at you.

“You have anxiety and social phobia,” my psychologist said, and she started teaching me about those old forgotten principles that my parents taught me, ‘communication’. She taught me how to laugh, to smile, and how to say hi.

Smiles have changed my world. They remind me of the days when I was a young little girl, staying with my parents and having no clue of the world that was around me and the life I had ahead of me.

My dad would play with us after we had finished a scrumptious meal Mama had just lovingly made. After the dishes had been washed sparkling clean and Dad was just lying in bed. He’d call us and say, “Mannase, Zimi, Khaya, yizaniapha (come over here).” We would run to his room, cheering and chattering, knowing he wanted to play. We would play and he would tickle us as we giggled. Those were the happiest moments of my life. They gave me feelings of happiness, ease and security.

Today I live to create happy moments in my life. Feelings of happiness, that ease and bring security to every situation. Chuckles and chatters continue everywhere and with everyone. I have learnt how to laugh at myself even when I’ve done something stupid or embarrassing (who says it’s the end of the world). I smile with every face and to acknowledge their presence and I say ‘hi’.

I have learnt how to smile, laugh and say ‘hi’.


Have you had any similar experiences? Tell us what you think.