My journey, like that of many other graduates, began with the quest for opportunities post university. I packed my bags one evening at my then residence, at the University of the Free, enduring the perturbed looks from my friends, all of us knowing I do not know what I am doing. I caught an evening bus to Cape Town, with the mantra that ‘It’s going to work out, you will see’ I think this was me trying to convince myself rather than actually believing it, but you know what millennials say, ‘From my mouth to the universe to god’s ears’. The universe indeed responded with kindness: I got an amazing internship way above my expectations and I enjoyed it to the last bit.
16 months later my contract ended and I was back to square one, with insurmountable debt, and the inability to identify what I actually did with my earnings.
I went home with aspirations of helping out with the family business. To my surprise it didn’t work out, and there I was experiencing déjà vu and packing my bags to return to the mother city. Once I passed the tunnel I felt a void.
So when I arrived I had a plan to start looking for any form of work, and in my mind any form of work is =call centre jobs.
I was desperate and no idea what mental setbacks I would receive from doing in my words ‘’anything’’. But I knew how empowering it is to have ability to contribute at home and not be the slump who is always excused from the budgeting of household items, and it’s even more dehumanizing when you are a grown ass woman.
And so through the kindness of a friend, I smuggled myself in a company, literally smuggled myself in, and got the job at a call centre where I was a sales agent. Now please, if you know me you would know how none of this makes sense, I haven’t an inch of a sales element in me, particularly of a product I don’t believe in, but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. And you guessed right! Barely two months in I saw my body walking out of those premises.
But a feeling of relief consumed me as I was walking out. Finally in a long time I could breathe, I remembered my humanness, a kind reminder that I am loved and valued.
As you can imagine, in order to sustain this peace I had to prepare for war. I had just quit my only source of income, I had nowhere else to go, I needed to live, more so I needed to eat. I had to reflect on why I encountered this turmoil in these jobs that I left (gatvol). As I attempted to do this my inner hater wanted to surface and tell me I’m a quitter! I sussed her out as being hard on myself and at this point, would serve no purpose. Being kind and gentle were my only options.
Weeks of hustling, hoping and praying that I got another job went by, and so did the money. I hit rock bottom, and there no other way out from this position but up. As I picked myself up, I left some things behind – my pride, my fragile ego and ‘’what would people say’’ syndrome in order to survive.
Now I’m at home thinking what in God’s name am I going to do. Fortunately the beauty of survival will always lead you home to take immediate action. I started selling sweets, sweets guys! Me an entire graduate, former deputy president of PASMA, sweets! Anyway I started selling them at two local schools. The hustle picked up, I had learners who sold on my behalf and I paid them ofcourse, only to find out later I was violating child labour law, anyway we live and we learn.
In between all of this I was applying for work, and a friend of mine who owns a videography company called me in to be a facilitator for a project he was doing with UNESCO.
I’m still selling sweets yall. Like any other thing you have to level up, and I added popcorn to the mix, and it sold like hot cakes! Believe it or not I would wake up at 3:45 in the morning to make the popcorn, 50-100 packs depending on how fast I worked, and finished around 08:00. I made zero profit on this entire business, the money ended up in production, payments and stock but unlike before I was able to put something on the table and move from point A to B.
The universe has a funny way of aligning you strategically if you position yourself well. The film gig opened up a transcribing gig, so this is what my day now looked like. I woke up before 4am to make popcorn till 08:00. 08:30 till 15:00 I’d be facilitating. I’d come back, go and stock in Mitchell’s Plain and come back with a bunch of sweets, and then start transcribing till kingdom came.
What I want to share with young people in a similar situation is we have to let our egos go, sothule izidanga zethu and do what we gotta do. I am here bethunana an entire graduate, an entire curriculum developer, selling sweets, but yazi hini I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It taught me self-reliance, accountability, and perseverance. I too am in financial debt, owing university fees etc. but we cannot wait for the government to come to our rescue, they are clearly not coming, and if they pitch up they must find us somewhere. As corny as it sounds suziyekelela, suzozelela, don’t sleep on your talent and skills. Our dreams – small and big – are valid. We will always be the ones we have been waiting for.