“It’s never too early to teach your children about the tool of money. Teach them how to work for it and they learn pride and self-respect. Teach them how to save it and they learn security and self-worth. Teach them how to be generous with it and they learn love.” ~ Judith Jameson
Living in Johannesburg (and on the internet), I have come to realise that we are a melting pot of people from all walks of life. Some of us come from poor backgrounds, others from middle class backgrounds and, a few, from wealthy backgrounds. We are all thrown together in this metropolitan melting pot to do what we can to not just live, but to thrive.
I am sure I speak for a great many people when I say that our parents did a great job at parenting us. Most of us are well-mannered. Our parents invested in that. We had access to education. We had decent clothing and food most of the time. Our parents invested in that. We were taught to be ambitious. Our parents invested in that. Safe sex and abstinence? If not the parents, then certainly the schools invested in that. Personal grooming? Of course, there was plenty of investment in that. No-one wants to be the girl or guy with the hairy, smelly armpit. Articulate and well-spoken? Articulate folks are a dime a dozen. We seem to be a bunch of well-rounded human beings with a good education. What more do we need?
In the final year of my law degree, I genuinely felt that way. I felt that as soon as I had that degree, I would be fully equipped to face the world and win. I got the degree and stepped out into the world and reality burst my bubble instantly. In the boxing match between myself and reality, I got knocked down a good many times. Each time, the following was confirmed: A degree was not enough; Good manners weren’t enough; Good personal grooming wasn’t enough; Even a first job wasn’t enough. I needed a financial education and I needed it fast.
All of sudden I was assailed by the concepts of good debt, bad debt, personal loans, car loans, store credit accounts, buying lunch, surviving from pay cheque to pay cheque, taxes, budgets… in short, financial management and literacy. I was ignorant about one of the most defining factors of the success recipe. Allow me to illustrate how much of a defining factor it is: Donald Trump.
Slowly and painstakingly, I taught myself both from experience and from the experiences of others that buying everything for cash is not always wise in the long-term unless you are already wealthy. That you need strategic debt in order to build a credit record. That a good credit record opens a lot of doors when you need good debt. That a clothing account is not good debt. That a credit card is dangerous in an inexperienced hand but you need the bank to trust you with one later on in life when you want to shop online from the comfort of your bedroom. That you need discipline in the early years of earning income in order to be comfortable in your later years. That you don’t need everything you want. That bad decisions and ‘YOLO’ financial decisions are the main reason why so many people cannot afford to retire. That it can take up to a decade to dig yourself out of a year of bad financial choices. That Mike Tyson can go from having three hundred million dollars to being bankrupt because of financial illiteracy so it can happen to you just with a lot less money.
I have even grazed the tip of the iceberg of lessons that hit me.
Our parents equipped us as best as they knew how with the hope that we would do better than them. Is that not every parent’s ultimate goal. In doing the same for our kids, we need to ensure that we close the gap and equip them to make smarter choices than we did. They say a wise man learns not from experience, but from the experiences of others. Let us be the generation that learnt that financial literacy is the difference between success and failure and let our children be the generation of wise men and women who learnt from the experiences of their parents.
The earlier you teach a child to swim, the more comfortable and proficient they are in the water as they grow older. The earlier you teach your children the founding principles of money, the higher the chances are that they will excel when their peers are trying to figure it out 2 decades from now.
My brother (the youngest in our family) just launched his own blog and I had to re-blog his first post. Not only am I incredibly proud of him, his subject is about a fundamental life lesson so it falls within my genre #score 😉 . He has saved me a blog post today 🙂 “Live long and prosper” hun xxx
My imagination has always amused me. I’ve had to give myself a mental high five several times because of the sheer brilliance that goes on in my head or laugh out loud to my own musings in aisle 3 of a supermarket only to see the family next to me staring and blatantly annoyed by my sudden noise.. “hi guys” (walks swiftly away). Happens to everyone though, right? …anyone …no? ..oh
When I lost both my parents I didn’t realize that slowly I started visiting this happy place more and more until it became the place that got the majority of my attention. I would spend most of my time zoned out, deeply invested in my own thoughts, in particular, I would be thinking about my future. Surely, years later it wouldn’t still hurt this much. Perhaps I would have made sense of it all. I was fully persuaded that…
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“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale
My friends and I had the most hilarious conversation this past weekend about the most horrible things/back-handed compliments and all-round mean things people have said to each of us over the years. Truth be told, the human being has incredible capacity to be mean. I know it’s not funny but I still manage to chuckle every time I think about it.
How’s this for all kinds of rude:
My Friend to a girl she knows: “Your top is gorgeous. Where did you buy it?”
Girl in the said top: “Thank you. They don’t sell tops for fat people though.”
Seriously!?! LOL. Who raised you?
While I can’t for the life of me imagine what the right answer to this girl and people like her is, I do know one thing for certain: criticism is par for the course in this life thing. It comes in many shapes and forms and we can’t control when and how we receive it. The only thing we can control is how to deal with it once it is gently or cruelly given.
While criticism hurts (and has definitely knocked my self-esteem down a few notches (or all the way down) more than once in the last few decades) it would be remiss of me not to give it the credit it is due for making me a better version of myself over the years. Some of the most significant positive changes I have made in my life arose from a critical word thrown at me with little thought here and there over the years. The more I think about it, the more I believe that sometimes, the life lesson is, rather than reflexively kick back every time we are criticised, to use that criticism as a means of self reflection. To take it and use it to improve what we can and laugh off or ignore what is simply malicious.
Allow me to illustrate:
Playing hockey – This is one of the things a lot of people commend me for doing very very often.
There was a time, soon after I started working, when I didn’t play hockey. Instead, I loved to talk about how much I enjoyed playing hockey in high school. In response to another bout of hockey nostalgia an ex irritably responded, “if you were so good at it and you enjoyed playing it so much, why don’t you just start playing again and stop talking about it.” The sting of the comment aside, his criticism was valid. Why re-live a past nostalgically and pointlessly when you can simply choose to do what you are passionate about today and make new memories.
The next day I googled Johannesburg hockey clubs. 9 years later, long after he became history, hockey is my life. I am not only a good player, I have made priceless memories and built timeless relationships within the hockey fraternity in these parts. My legs and arms are seriously toned (seriously) and I have even branched out into coaching and have built a solid reputation for myself there as well. I am delighted that he said it. It needed to be said.
The Power of Body Language – I was excruciatingly shy growing up. If my people believed in psychology I may have been diagnosed with agoraphobia AND anthropophobia. I remember the acute anxiety I would feel when my mother sent me to the store to buy bread. She worked most days so she had no idea what preparation went into any foray out of the house. I had to psychologically prepare on a scale I can’t even describe. When I did leave the house, I would walk with purpose, without looking up as much as possible, to exactly where I needed to be and then straight back home. The entire time my anxiety levels would be at 92%.
Did I mention that I would pretend to be normal so my mum wouldn’t harass me *chuckles.* I would wake up, clean, open the windows and the doors and make tea, as one does. When my mum left at 6.45am, I would quickly finish cleaning, close all the windows, curtains and doors and relax in the semi-darkness until 3.45pm then open it all again in time for her to come home. Sometimes, when people knocked, I pretended I wasn’t home so I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. I was 16/17 on that long school holiday between O level and A level so my siblings were at school. I had zero interest in boys. Zip. Zilch. Nada. I turned down all my suitors
Towards the end of my holiday I had to go and pick up something from my mum’s nursing colleagues at the hospital. My worst nightmare. I walked there as slowly as I could and practically tip toed into the “duty room.” It was my worst nightmare. The room was choke-full of nurses doing whatever it is nurses fill duty rooms to do. They absolutely picked me apart, albeit good-naturedly, as I stood in the door and wrung my hands. The pain was almost physical. The last thing one of them said stayed with me since then, “why are you so distressed by us engaging with you. Are you shy? You should be careful of that. Even if you are shy, this inability to meet people’s eyes doesn’t say you are shy to a person who doesn’t know you. It says you are dishonest.”
Dishonest?!? Me. Is what people saw when they saw me? That hurt. It hurt a lot. The experience left me feeling like I had been emotionally scalded in boiling hot water. The more I thought about it over the remainder of my holiday the more I realised that I had a real problem. I immediately set about fighting my urge to keep my eyes glued to the ground all the time.It took me years to work out the right coping mechanisms but I started trying immediately. I was always comfortable with people I knew but never with strangers (i.e. majority of world). This also made it difficult to make friends because they have to be strangers first, not so?
When I went back to high school to do my A’ Level, my interaction with people was different. I spoke more. I worked on faking my confidence until it became real. Sometimes the anxiety made me feel like throwing up but I toughed it out. Suddenly, I became a prefect, I was noticed by the debate society and declined their invitation to join the debate team, I captained the school Athletics team, the school hockey team and the provincial hockey team. As I reaped the benefits of putting myself out there a little more, my confidence increased and I improved as a person.
I particularly focused on cultivating the ability to be relatable to a wide range of people. From a girl who could barely make eye contact, now I am the girl who drives her husband crazy because I make eye contact with strangers (and with anyone who is talking to me), smile at them and talk to them. On a good day, a complete stranger will tell me their life story while waiting to pay for bread.
If I am being completely honest though, because it doesn’t come naturally, I can switch it on and off. If I don’t want to be approached or relatable, I simply resort to my default setting…the resting B**** face.
Right before a hearing or speaking in public or a major meeting, my stomach will tie itself into one hell of a knot and I always get that familiar wave of nausea. What I have mastered is ensuring that no one else in the room knows it.
All the old fears and insecurities are still alive inside me. They are just not as well- fed as it used to be.
I could give a hundred examples, literally. To save you the trauma of a book of such examples I will end with this: criticism has been the doorway to countless life lessons; updating my style, being more creative with my hairstyles, being more gentle with my words sometimes (I can be a little too blunt at times), sifting out the constructive from the destructive words, how to excel at work (your boss’criticism will tell you what they want you to do better), growing a backbone (my boss actually said I need you to get tougher and to grab people by the balls when you need to), writing better, defending my opinions, embracing my ability to change for the better and, even more importantly, recognising that changing one’s self is a choice. Self-improvement and absorbing criticism (or not) is always an option and, as far as it relates to me, I am always in control of the option I select.
They say, “you can’t miss what you never had.” I believe them.
What they never tell you is this:
Can you miss the loss of something… someone…somewhere… you didnt know you had?
A fleeting presence that you missed entirely.
Does knowing it was there once upon a moment of your existence entitle you to feel ownership?
To a strange kind of loss?
Does it entitle you to a tear or a smile?
But can you miss it?
Can you wonder what it would have been like had you known? Of course.
But can you wrap your mind around a shape you never saw?
Can you love it? What are you loving? The ghost of presence unknown?
Can you reach into the darkness to grasp …. what?
What exactly are you grasping for? A fading shadow? A wisp of a memory you never made?
Does it matter?
Does it count?
Was it really ever yours?
Now that it’s gone, can you miss it if you never knew it was there?
“As long as you live, keep learning how to live” ~ Seneca
November is a lot. A whole lot.
It is the month of my husband’s birthday. That’s a few days after my brother’s birthday (he just missed the magic month). It’s also the month of my sister in law’s wedding anniversary; my brother in law’s birthday (not the one married to the sister aforementioned. His wedding anniversary is 2 days into December. Close enough right?); my sister’s birthday; my mother’s birthday and my mother’s death.
This year, it also marks the end of my first quarter of a year as a married woman.
What an intense 3 months it has been. My wedding was on the 20th of August and it was nothing short of magical. I didn’t cry. Strangely enough (maybe not strange at all), I think I laughed and giggled through most of the day. I was really and truly happy. As with every other wedding, I noticed the odd thing that didn’t go exactly as I wanted but even those imperfections were insignificant on that day. My lover was mine and I was his and it was all imperfect perfection. God’s day to flex… and He did.
The wedding planning was not difficult or stressful. Planning doesn’t stress me out. It is a simple movement of chess pieces to achieve the desired outcome. What I found difficult was processing the fact that I was getting married without my mother to hold my hand. Like graduating from university, a wedding is something that had never happened in my family before.
While I had never fantasised about my own wedding until a couple of years into dating my lover, my mum certainly had. She spoke about it a lot. What she would do about my lobola process. How she would deal with absent-father drama if he dared to show up. How she would cry when I walked down the aisle. I was in high school when she made that particular declaration. I was at home on holiday and she said it out of the blue. I was busy with some mundane chore but I stopped to look at her after she said that. Genuinely perplexed, I asked, “why?” “How can I not cry? It’s monumental. Someone will be taking you away from me,” she said as she smiled into the distance at whatever her imagination was conjuring up. I didn’t answer for a simple reason…I couldn’t understand it. Even if I was getting married, she would forever be my mum. What was there to cry about 🙂 In hindsight, I realise that my cool, pragmatic, minimal-emotion approach to life has been around for some time. The only difference is now I am developing the emotional maturity to realise that it’s not an easy thing for emotionally expressive people to understand. That’s a discussion for another day. Today’s discussion is that my wedding was my mother’s dream.
Choosing not to attend my graduation was easy. Passing my exams was for me. I love law. Walking across the stage was for her. It didn’t mean much to me outside of making her happy. In her absence, it was immediately unnecessary therefore I didn’t do it.
A wedding is an entirely different story. I wanted to get married. I also wanted her to be there when I did. The only way was through it. My biggest struggle in the run up to the wedding was accepting her absence. It was accepting that I was doing something she had keenly wanted and imagined in her absence. It was not having the definitive voice of a mum to cut through the mountains of advice from all corners and focus me on what mattered. What I really needed to know. It was accepting that this is something one can not really talk to friends about because hearing how sorry they are about your situation and making everyone sad is entirely unhelpful. It was letting people misinterpret my long silences and general withdrawal in the run up to the wedding as wedding stress. It allowed me to contemplate how keenly I felt alone without the interruption of well-meaning voices. I didn’t know how I would react to my wedding day. My biggest fear was that I would start crying and never stop. Full disclosure – I am an ugly crier. There is nothing cute or sexy about me crying. Not. One. Thing.
My saving grace was an email out of the blue from one of my bridesmaids, Edith.
Sidenote – My bridesmaids were my own personal miracle. Each one of them came through for me in unexpected ways but always on time. Gorgeous set of humans arent they?!
Now back to Edith…
She is an amazing, gentle soul and I am sure she watched my increased intensity with grave concern. Well, that and a few lectures on wedding stress which I dutifully listened to. In a bid to get through to me, she sent me a link to a blogpost. I think she sent me it to me because she feared I would turn into a bridezilla and cast a cloud over the wedding *chuckles.* Whatever her reasons, that post pulled me out of the darkness. Couched in the long description of two weddings the writer had attended, was a simple truth. The bride owns the wedding day and her mood sets the tone for the wedding. What you allow to take you over, will.
The simple truth is that my mum is dead. She has been for some time. No amount of depression or tears or wishing things had been different will or would have brought her back. Truth be told, if she had turned up at the wedding, I might have been a bit freaked out.
Instead, I saw what Edith wanted me to see. I could choose to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event. I could choose to laugh; to smile; to dance. I could choose to love love. To celebrate that I had met an amazing human and I loved him and he loved me. To paint a beautiful potrait in the prettiest colours with my spirit. I could choose happiness. I could choose to be a glowing bride and to infect others with my glow. I could choose. What a magical realisation. And so I did.
May my wedding be a toast to you mum. Every perfect moment, a tribute from the child you birthed and raised alone. Every smile on every guest’s face, anacknowledgement of the amazing job you did creating and moulding. The deluge of notes from guests and staff at the venue to say what an amazing wedding it was, evidence of your success. That every staff member at the venue when we went to pick up the trinkets we left behind on our way to the honeymoon came out to greet and hug us when they heard we were there still blows my mind. Cheers to you mum. Life without you is tough but you did a damn good job before you had to leave. I love you.
“This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man/Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!” – Hamlet
What Polonius actually meant when he said these famous words to his son is debatable. All lovers of interpetation of literature will have no trouble coming up with more than one interpretation of these words. My favourite of these is simply that one must be honest to themselves about who and what they are in order to have the capacity to be honest in their dealings with the world.
Contrary to what one might think I met and fell for the quote long before I spent quality time with the book. It appeared on the cover of a pocket book of quotes gifted to me by a then very close friend some time before she gifted herself with a bite or 20 of my then boyfriend. As with all things and people in this life, no matter how they exit your life, there is always a contribution of value that they make to you. This, among many others, was hers to mine.
She unwittingly gave me what I think may be the key to my happiness.
It is such an easy trap to fall into…changing to please a lover; changing to please friends; changing to fit in; changing to be accepted; changing to fit a stereotype; changing to look more like someone you admire; changing to fit the societal norm; changing to meet somebody else’s expectation of who and what you are; giving up fundamental pieces of the essence of your values, of who you were raised to be in order to reflect something society is more comfortable with.
Each compromise of your fundamental self that is not in line what is true to you, no matter how small, kills a little bit of your soul each time. It kills a little of your happiness. Of your light.
If you are like me, then laugh, read widely, be a ghost writer in your spare time, try new recipes, love your person, enjoy being loved by him, love eating sour milk and pap even when you make steak and salad for the other people in your home, do your best to figure out marriage, travel, exercise, sleep in, skip breakfast, study more, work, enjoy your job, learn about interior decor, dress well, be deep every so often, blog, look pretty, hang out with friends, love your friends’ babies, have conversations with toddlers, judge racist car guards, be an instagram addict, love cats, cry when you feel like it even when you have no good reason, spend time in the Dischem makeup aisle after a bad day (even if you don’t buy anything), fail at wing-tip eyeliner, cuddle your person, enjoy his peculiar sense of humour, enjoy sex, enjoy being alone sometimes, get angry sometimes, be frustrated on the odd ocassion, be unreasonable at times, be on time, eat roadside roasted corn, 2 at a time, any chance you get, absolutely hate waking up in the morning…the list goes on. It’s worth protecting.
What is true to you need not be profound. It simply needs to be true. That is enough.
Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it – Kevyn Aucoin
Every so often, in the course of ordinary life, we are privileged enough to encounter extraordinary beings. On an ordinary Saturday, a few months ago, I went to the laundromat and, while I waited for my load to complete its cycle, I decided to get tea from a nearby offeeshop. It’s in that coffee shop that I met a complete stranger who was so full of life and confidence and talked so much that he gave those of us around him no choice but to engage with him or at the very least, listen. I listened.
That was the mundane beginning of my extraordinary encounter with Ntimbwe Mpamba. Ntimbwe, of Zambian origin, was born HIV positive and, at 34, he is oldest person in Africa and the 2nd oldest in the world, only by a few months, born with the virus. You would think that that is what makes him extraordinary.
It isn’t. What is it then you wonder?
It might be the fact that his mother managed to keep his condition a secret from him for the first 23 years of his life. There were no ARVs or speacial treatment drugs or specialist doctors. There was only an extremely strict diet and herbal supplements prepared, administered and monitored by his mother, a nutritionist by profession. To put this into perspective, the oldest person in the world born with HIV started taking ARVs at the age of 8. By the time the first ever case of HIV was recorded in South Africa, Ntimbwe had already been born.
It might be that when he eventually wandered away from the nest, and repeated illness resulted in him finding out about his diagnosis, his viral load was overwhelming and his CD4 count was 36. A normal CD4 cell count in an HIV-negative man is between 400 and 1600 per cubic millimetre of blood.
It might be that, notwithstanding the fact that his doctor recomended that he start going to a public hospital rather than his practice, as there was nothing more to be done except to make him comfortable while he waited to die, he walked into that public hospital with music blaring from his earphones while his head bopped to the beat. That he could even walk unassisted was a miracle. It defied logic.
It might be the fact he is the most defiantly cheerful person I have ever met despite the experience of the brutally trying years immediately following his diagnosis. The years in which his lungs nearly gave in; he lost his eyesight in one eye to herpes; he discovered the hard way that skipping meds, once you start your ARVs, leads to dramatic deterioration of the body; and his family bore the crushing weight of the costs associated with his illness.
It may even be the fact that he is in a relationship that trascends the physical with a remarkable young woman whom he wooed with his wit and charm. On her first birthday with him in 2010, he gifted her with roses and a can of coke with the tag that read “Don’t open me because I want to spend more birthdays with you.” The can remains unopened.
For me, it is that he has somehow managed to focus on the positive lessons of seemingly insurmountable difficulties he has faced in this life. He is on the casp of publishing a book called “Crushed But Not Dis-Troyed” in which he explains how so often we seek external solutions to our problems when, infact, we could be the solution. How you are responsible for your own happiness. It’s a choice that you make each day of your life. How you can always choose to start living your best life. If a man whose own doctor told him it was ok to go home, lie down and die chose not to and lived, then ask yourself this, “what’s my excuse?” If not you, then who? Who should be in charge of saving you?
How you must never hide behind the reason for your problems or blame others for your situation. It has no effect on the situation but paralyses your ability to handle it. Instead, ask what your part is in creating the solution.
He believes that his part is to use his story to inspire others to live. I believe that, unike Harry Potter, he is the real-life boy who lived.