The Divide

Living in South Africa you know in the back of your mind that it will happen to you. You don’t leave stuff in the back of your car, you leave your phone at home when you walk around at night, you get burglar bars and the extra lock on your door… but eventually it happens. About three weeks ago it happened to me.

Three of us went hiking in Houtbay. We were a good 45 minutes up the mountain, overlooking the ocean, when we turned around and two coloured guys were walking along the pathway. Growing up in South Africa you learn to be very sensitive to race, and I didn’t want to assume it was something bad straight off the bat, but none the less my heart caught in my throat. I hoped they would just ask for money or were just out to scare us a bit, but the moment we started walking the other way, they made their intentions clear. “You are too far to run back, there is no-one around so all we ask is your phones, money, watches etc” the one said with a smile, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Considering where we live, maybe it was. He pulled out a large, silver knife and held it out to us as if he was showing off a newly purchased item, not threatening, just emphasizing the point that we had no other choice.

Looking into the eyes of this young, coloured man, I guessed him to be in his early twenties. I felt as if I knew him, knew his story, his motives and how he came to this moment. Since I moved to Cape Town in 2010 up until the beginning of this year, I’ve spent a few days a week volunteering in the Cape Flats. I did my master’s research interviewing young, coloured men, such as the one before me, listening to their life stories. I understood how they had come to this. I assumed the young man before me had a hard life behind him. His father was probably deceased or an alcoholic/drug user. His mother probably had many children, trying to make a way in life, while caring for her children. He didn’t get much support from home and from an early age had to fend for himself, finding a means to gain access to money, food and other possessions. He probably started smoking weed before I had even heard of the word. He tried to fit in with his friends, had to fight to prove his manliness to the world, had to learn to stand up for himself because no one else was there to take care of him. He learned this from his friends, his parents and his community. He was just another link in the chain of poverty, living the life his parents had, and that his children would most likely also live. Looking into his eyes I felt I knew his story, because I’ve heard it so many times before. I knew his struggle and his pain.

But this didn’t make the moment any easier for me. The young men I interviewed for my thesis told me of the times they had robbed other people with a gun or with a knife. Hearing those stories impacted me, but I never really thought about their victims. In their stories, they were the focus and my heart went out to them, the young men, who had found themselves pushed into the story they had been living.

Now I was the victim. Knowing them, their stories, their motives, didn’t change that it was now happening to me. A day or two afterward I didn’t think it really affected me. You are scared in the moment, but adrenaline kicks in; you go to the police, take care of the necessary admin, tell people the story over and over again. For a day or two then it all passes because everyone has heard it before. It happens to so many people. We weren’t physically injured so we had come off “unscathed”.

However, one cannot walk away unaffected. No one has that luxury. I noticed changes in myself. Where I used to not mind giving a R2 to the car guard, I now feel resentment rise up inside of me, because if I didn’t give him anything, he would just take it off me if he could. I feel angry when I see people beg by the side of the road. I feel scared to walk down my own street at night. If I’m getting into my car and a dark figure approaches my heart beats into my throat.

What it has done to me is perpetuated the stereotype of the young, coloured male, in my mind. Without having decided it, I now assume the man at my window to be a threat to myself and I impose the characteristics of lazy and aggressive onto him. I am also well aware that my reaction perpetuates his stereotype of white people; that I am a “white bitch” who doesn’t care enough to give him even some small change. Thus he becomes more aggressive towards me and “my kind” and I become more resentful to him and “his kind”.

I type this, with no answer. I have no conclusion as to what to do or how to change this. Knowing their stories doesn’t make me less scared. I am quite aware of the impact this has on me and my reaction toward them and the reason for theirs towards me. But this doesn’t make it better. For the first time in my life I am seriously considering saying “fuck this country I’m moving”. Right now, I don’t see hope of it changing. I worked hard my whole life to not create a divide between “us” and “them”; the rich and the poor, black and white, cape flats or city bowl, pre-apartheid and post-apartheid. I’ve continually challenged myself on what I believed. I’ve tried to get to know people from all walks of life in an attempt to understand them better. But right now it seems like it caught up. I am angry at what that moment has changed in me. I’m angry at how powerless I felt in that situation. I am angry at now being scared in situations where I have never been before. I’m angry that I now see a “us” and a “them”.

This is my story. This is my experience. Whether you deem my reaction as “right” or “wrong”, please in your comments try not to attack or judge it. Or further reinforce a stereotype. It is what it is. It happened and I am processing. 

I am perfectly loved

If you know me in even the most basic way, I think you will know that I hate to be alone. I have diagnosed myself with sever FOMO (fear of missing out). And here I find myself on a Sunday evening doing the thing I hate most: being alone. Which is weird, because I wanted to be alone. I needed a bit of me-time after a few weeks of permanently being with people. My work entails talking to people, hearing their stories, being very un-alone for 8 hours of the day, so it’s not strange that I sometimes desire some alone time. But tonight my phone doesn’t work, no one is on facebook and I don’t have any emails to read. My flatmates aren’t here.

I’m really alone.

And this really scares me. It forced me face to face with the one question I work so hard to ignore: What if no one loves me? Somehow my greatest fear is being alone, because this somehow reminds me that I might not be loved. I have this irrational fear of dropping from the earth if I’m alone. If no one loves me. If no one acknowledges my existence. I fill my life, my time, my space with people as much as I can and as often as I can.

This is hitting me harder tonight than before because over the past few days I’ve had some conflict with two of my closest friend which I experienced as rejection, and sitting here tonight I am forced to face this fact: I feel alone. I feel unloved. I am asking myself: What if no one loves me?

The rational part of me knows that this is irrational, because I have friends that show their love in various ways, my parents love me incredibly, I am in a relationship and I could call at least a few people right now and go to them if I needed to.

But somehow I sit here, feeling sad, feeling alone, feeling unloved. And I’m not really sure what to make of this except, for now, to embrace it. I feel it is important not to run away from this. To turn around and stare this loneliness (that is always two steps behind me no matter how fast I run) in the face and say “But God loves me. And therefore, I am loved wholly”. Even if this is a whisper. Even if I don’t believe it yet, I need at least say it.

God loves me. I may not know this yet. I may not feel loved right now. But God loves me, and therefore, no matter how alone I may feel, I am perfectly loved.

And this is enough.

A love story in the dark

“Why are you sitting in the dark?” he asked

“I like it here”

He stared at her for a while

“You are really pretty, come and play in the sun so I can see your face better”

“No, I’m sitting here now”

“But you will like the sun. We can do amazing things together” he insisted

“It’s too bright” she answered

“It’s too dark here. Come with me” he said

“Why are you afraid of my sadness?” she asked

He left without answering


A while later someone else came


“Why are you sitting in the dark” he asked

“I like it here” she said

“Then I will sit here with you” he answered

“I’d like that. It’s been lonely here”

And he sat down next to her


A while later she said

“I’m ready to leave now. Will you hold my hand as we go?”

The un-repeated feeling

I’ve never loved as uninhibited as when I was with you

And years later, I still search for that feeling


The poems I’ve written for you could fill books and permeate a lifetime

Interrupting the thesis…

I interrupt my thesis-writing to share this…

In the middle of all the chaos, tears, frustration, meetings, late nights, sleeping tablets and avoidance behaviour something is now starting to happen to me… I am becoming proud of my work. I am receiving feedback, from somewhere inside of myself that says “Wow, you really are doing this. And doing it well”. More than getting a master’s, publishing research and furthering my education, this feeling is now the basis of completing my thesis. The knowledge that I can do it. That I have done it. The feeling I get when doing something well. Knowing that, how someone else interprets it, I am proud of myself. Which I really, really am today.

Die gang

So sonder waarsku trap ek vanoggend, nog half deur die slaap, reguit in die diep gat wat soms in die nag langs my bed kom lê. Val my hart dwarsdeur die deksel wat ek lank terug so versigtig daarop geplaas het.

Dwaal ek vanoggend vir ure in die gange, deur die tonnels van herinneringe. Loop ek om elke hoek en draai in myself vas. In dele van jou wat nog, spookagtig in die krake rondstaan. Daar waar ek gedink het die spinnekop se web lankal die gedagtes sou toevee.

En as ek uiteindelik opkom vir asem, skyn die son effe te skerp

Verlang ek, net effens, na die donker van die gang


Some days it’s okay to walk…

Today I was irritating the crap out of myself. I needed to be productive, I had many, many things to do. It started when I forgot to buy milk so I had to skip breakfast. By one o clock I was faint with hunger, but I was too busy to make a plan. I had emails to send, things to organise, presentations to work on and still wanted to have a little time to work on my thesis. Oh, and I wanted to go for a run. And phone my mom back. And organise some things with my friends. And be loving and kind and smile sweetly to everyone that crosses my path. But by 3 o clock, after realising I’d been staring at my computer screen for 30 minutes, making no progress, the cold hand of fear gripped my heart.

Why was I such a pathetic human being? Why hadn’t I been productive over the weekend? Why was I stressing so much about everything and why wasn’t I channeling this stress into effective and efficient work, but rather being dumb struck by it, running all the things I need to do over and over in my mind, instead of doing something? It all suddenly became to much for me and I decided to lie on my bed and read for a bit.

One hour later I realised I had wasted an entire hour. My earlier suspicions were correct, I was a pathetic, lazy, horrible human being. Everyone else could be productive and effective, why couldn’t I? What if I didn’t get everything done this week? What if I simply wasn’t smart enough to finish a thesis and when they marked it they would tell me to rather go and work in Spar? What if I was a horrible occupational therapist, a corrupt, immoral human being who could never fit into a normal society? Plus I was fat and ugly and lazy. All these things had to be true, because, why else would I spend an hour reading, a weekend doing nothing and still struggle to pull myself up and go for a run? Surely all my friends hate me because I have no time for them, my boyfriend will definitely leave me and I will never, ever finish my master’s or do everything I need to for my job. In fact, someone should lock me up somewhere, where I couldn’t harm anyone else.

The only reason I decided to get up and go for a run was because I have a fear of being alone for too long. I needed to see other people. Yes, I’m crazy like that as well. During the first half of my run, I realised that I was unable to run because I haven’t exercised for so long, and I would, in fact, need to call this a “walk” with short periods of attempting to run in between. I was beating myself up properly, wanting to cry in between, which then messed up my breathing and I was able to run even less and wanting to cry even more. See where I’m going with this? I was not nice to myself today.

Eventually though, as I walk/ran/contemplated the horribleness that was my person, I realised I almost made it to the end of the run. Sure, I didn’t go as far as I wanted to, but I was doing pretty well. My heart rate was up, I was exercising for 40minutes already, and I started to calm down. Had I not sent all the emails I needed to today? Had I not gone to class this morning like I was supposed to? And if I needed to rest for an hour because I didn’t eat breakfast, I could always finish my presentation tonight?

And I slowly realised that, even though I was not running all the time, I was still running as much as I could, for today. I won’t always be super efficient, productive, effective and wonderful all the time. I don’t have to always do everything right and perfect. I don’t have to write 10 pages of my thesis to be productive, some days I will write one or two, or read an article, or think about a definition or a concept. I won’t always be patient and kind and loving towards my friends, but they will still be there. I won’t always be wise with my money, but I will go to work, and I will get the things done that I need to do. Some days I need to focus on the things I did do, rather than the things I didn’t. I mean, I’m not doing too badly. I’m well on my way to finishing a 3 year master’s in 2 years, I’m working a part-time job, plus most Saturdays, I’m paying my own way even though it’s not always easy, I’m not the worse friend in the world, I still manage to see my parents every now and then, finish my assignments for class, pitch up for my job and not do too crap a job of all these things.

Another day I will run fast and far again. Some other day I will attempt to decipher the harsh feedback comments from my study leader, or think about my future plans, or handle the things that I need to handle. Today, I will do what needs to be done today.

I’ve realised that I’m often so harsh on myself, that I scare myself to death sometimes. If I think too much about everything I need to do, I simply cannot do anything. Sometimes we need to speak to ourselves kindly and gently. We need to read and not feel guilty. We need to eat chocolate, or listen to new music. We need to love ourselves and give ourselves credit for the things we’ve achieved. I’m not a hippy la-di-da kind of person, so let me sum it up like this: Some days it’s okay to walk, instead of run.