Being renowned as an intellect, a soccer star and most humbling, a virtuous girl, gave me the glory of acknowledgment from all groups of people. To motivate learners, teachers would cite me a blessing to the community. Not all my needs were met in time, nevertheless I was content with what I had. I lived my life for what it seemed to be as if oblivious of its circumstances.
Only in my late teenage years did reality kick in, and all that I considered meaningless started to mean a lot. The past took on a new look as if I just got an updated version of the encyclopaedia I was using. The only thing that remained the same was my attitude towards education: it was still the DNA of my life.
Inquisition and I became best companions as I was now at tertiary and needed stability in all aspects. One question that vexed me was “Who is your father?” Illegitimate by birth, I grew up shunning father-related topics. My mother fled the topic herself, the only source of information I had was unwilling to share. Statistically, over 60% of South African children are in the same situation and such big numbers mediate for the abnormality of the matter, we assume, yet nothing can ever do. Financial problems worsened the scenario and I imagined how better life could have been, ignoring the fact that the converse was even more probable.
Meanwhile, the impact of growing up in two different households (religiously and in terms of lifetime values) was materialising. I had programmed my mind to switch with environment at my aunt’s and at my mother’s respectively. Before I felt like an outsider and as if I belonged to neither, but I used to visit both households equally during school holidays. There was no connection. It was sad.
School took preference until I got stuck with engineering. I fantasized about medicine even when I was supposed to study. I had tried reading touching stories about successful engineers and joining relevant societies but in vain, I was failing myself.
“What did I abandon that was so essential? What did I adopt that is so catastrophic?” I heavy-heartedly asked. Yet my life still whirled around school, church and home. Was it a matter of not diving as deep as required? I re-visited 2013 to discover why I applied for Chemical Engineering. Finding answers was easy, only they were superficial. Not once did I focus on myself, after all I knew that I was capable of anything, but time and passion were now active factors.
I had no time for digging up inspiration when I constantly lacked intrinsic motivation. Truth be told: the only stable bursary I had excluded MBChB. Yes, medicine had always been my lifetime dream, but dipping my mum into financial stress was the last thing I could ever do…somehow I successfully caged myself in engineering.
Everyone spoke school, the very school I now hated. From a village so small, one’s fame protracted. Kids looked up to me, they still saw a supernatural. Presenting speeches about university life became my worst enemy as I couldn’t bring myself to lie or deflect difficult questions. I knew no roots of mine, the collapse of the only thing to define me was disheartening.
An acceptable U-turn was substantive but family status swept in. Being the first to make it to university, I was about to prove that we were not the ‘type’. Moreover, for a black first born, it’s an unwritten decree to study – study, get a degree at all costs and liberate the family. Happiness was the last thing to talk of, for fear I could be called an egotist.
Society also took a fair share of my thoughts, not knowing what to say to who… even worse, what to omit. My former schoolmates would not believe this; those I was still in contact with claimed to be coping. Not only was I the first from my group, but in my high school’s history no-one of my calibre did as I was about to do.
The more I clung on; the more difficult it was. I longed for a calling, not just an occupation, and nothing could quench this fire. Ultimately I followed my heart, it was only fair. I had no regrets, no time wasted, lifetime lessons learnt instead and it all came down to this.
Fortunately, some souls had empathy and they supported me whole-heartedly. A brighter future seemed certain. Not that all my problems vanished, but because I finally had the fortitude.