Opening Comments: On the first post of the blog I chose a photo I took when I was out and about around Rhodes University and Grahamstown. A place which many did not know I had longed to come to for the longest time (since I was thirteen years of age). I was having one of my personal moments where I think about my life and the many directions it has taken, and the ones it is about to take. I always have these moments in and around my university, but not the town so much. One thing I can say about Grahamstown is that it has become a second home to me, and I have honestly come to build a life for myself in this place. On this particular day it was a chilled Saturday a few days before the start of the final exams. The picture was taken on the 29th of October 2016 at a place called the Student Union towards the Great Field Stadium. To those who will be reading this from a cellphone, I apologise very much for the length of the post.
When we meet people for the first time do we have a pre-determined or a standardized way of introducing ourselves? A way that is known by everyone, so to make it easier to get to know one another. What I do like most people is that I opt for the safest option, which is to initially greet a person as is they way we are taught when we are young. After the formalities a conversation may start, on any topic that may arise. Whether there is any further engagement beyond the conversation that rests entirely on the people involved. If an interest is built then the interactions and the conversations also take a turn of their own, the topics of discussion cover a variety of things. You get to find out how the next person thinks, what they like what do they not like etc. For some the connection is instant, become friends there and there. Having no real need that there be any solid base between them and that person. For others things are similar to how I make friends. In that I believe in the fact that in introducing yourself it is not an idea of yourself that should be known to the outside world. But let it be the closest representation of yourself according to yourself basically.
A case in point will be the kind of posts I will be writing. Which I believe will build an idea of who I am as a person in all spheres of my life. Be that as it may I am not completely ignorant of the fact that I am not able to dictate the kinds of opinions that people have of me. However what I am in charge of is living or representing myself in the best way I know how. And despite what may come my way in the form of getting shunned, shamed or disassociated by anyone, it is my wish to stay true to myself. As self-centred and as selfish as this delivery may appear or be interpreted, but correct me if I am wrong that in order to be known by others you need to know yourself very well. So that when self-bias is accounted for, you more or less present the person you wish to be known as.
Who am I if you may ask, I am just a human being lost in a world that objectively makes no sense, so in order for it to make sense I have been given a body of different instructions, methods or procedures of how to make sense of this world. The best way to create a life for myself and to thrive within it. From the simplest of things like do not go there, do not eat that, that does not belong there, you do not speak in that manner etc. The general stuff that will give you a good footing when you reach a stage in which you can now start socially interacting with people outside your home, and outside of everything you know. In our modern times this is mostly important as we move from mostly being with our families (both our elders and our familial peers). To a state in which we are now interacting with strangers of all kinds. The most amusing thing about being a child is that you do not need any good reason to play or be friendly with another child. You would just immediately become overly excited at the prospect of meeting a new friend. Playing, running, jumping, talking, fooling around and generally just being carefree children. One of the things I remember from my own experiences at meeting other children for the first time, would be teaching each other the different kinds of games we knew how to play. The songs we knew (mostly nursery rhymes), the places we have been to (for the longest time for me my wild card would be my trip to the Pretoria Zoo back in preschool). To boasting about each other’s parents, the amount of toys each person has, and how they would be shared among ourselves should anyone ever visit. This meeting up of other children would usually be at social gatherings, and the whole day would be nothing but a ball of fun. The adults would be doing their thing while we played to our hearts’ content. Until when it starts to get dark and people would have to go back home as the festivities have come to an end. Then people start crying, people beg and plead to their parents that they be allowed to sleep over, or just play a little while longer. Of course all of that begging and pleading fell on deaf ears, and we would be dragged to cars screaming and crying at the fact that our fun day had been disrupted.
It was a very merry time, there would be none of this fuss, red tape and diplomacy around interacting with other people. No discrimination because of difference in language, skin colour, ethnicity, gender or any social category mattered. We were all children, and we just wanted each other’s company, that presence was enough just for us, and we would savour every moment of it. Now you always find yourself in a state where you have to actively discriminate against people, exclude and include others. Whether your discrimination is good or bad you have to do it, all in the name of fitting in. You do not make or have the power to question the rules so you just have to choose your group and stay with it no matter what. The best ones to be in a group with are the ones who stroke your ego in all the right places, agree with you in all you say, nurse your feelings so to say. To make that group stand out and be distinct, every member is tasked with weeding out anyone who does not fit into the group’s ideals. The groups morals, norms, likes and dislikes become your own. Within the group individuality is implicitly discouraged, and no one ever voices out the need to do things they would personally want to do. Because by doing so they threaten the group’s very existence, so a threat must neutralized whether by the cause of it or by the other members. So like sheep everyone follows suit and follows the group’s “collective opinions”,
For me what would always get to me the most was that each member of the group would end up buying in to the thinking of one person, and that person would then become the unofficial leader of the group. What they say goes, everyone else in the group just does as they say, no questions asked. Even though there may be some complaints about the bossy nature of the self-appointed leader, it is very rare that people say it out loud that the “squad” has now become a dictatorship. Should anyone dare object or do something contrary to something the group (or the “squad”) believes in. It’s congratulations loser, you just got yourself kicked out everybody hates you and will never be your friend again. That person literally gets excommunicated, booted out, and like a bunch of lemmings instructions are given out to avoid the ex-member like the plague. I am not talking about airy fairy stories here there’s actual accounts of situations like these such as the recent “shocking” break up of bands like One Direction, to the old Beatles, the Rolling Stones, locally here in South Africa we have Bongo Maffin. All of these break ups are spurred on by the fact that one person no longer bought on to the vision of the group, they chose to individuate, live their lives untethered to a small society which controls them. Usually it’s very easy to spot such a fault (person) in any group’s wall, and that is a person who is in touch with their individuality, but they stay because they fear the lonesome that comes with not belonging to any group. Much like a natural disaster they just suddenly leave the group, shaking everything to the core, which then starts the deterioration of that group. All the things that I mentioned are not mere fictional things I came up with in my brain. But they are factual things that I went through in the past, so as part and parcel of me introducing the blog and myself, I also introduce the way in which I am as a person. More on this topic is explored in the next blog post.
[Side note: This is just my own personal opinion about communal friendship which involve being friend with a crowd of people. People who know every waking moment about you, what you did and did not do, what you ate and what you did not. To even knowing about everything you own. Such friendships never worked for me because by nature I am a very rebellious person, and I do not like being imposed or being coerced to do something I do not want. I see that as an attack on my personal space freedom and choice. So in anything that I see as threatening my individuality and my freedom I shut it out of my life. For me especially these types of friendships have proven to be just that. As an active threat to myself and my freedom, especially the constant need to explain your whereabouts when you find yourself to not be with the group. The constant monitoring and a whole other baggage lead me to the decision that I will even carry into my adulthood. So I made a promise to myself that I do not ever want to see myself in such a situation, I will actively stop anything that will put me in another communal friendship or mini society. Because I already receive enough “directions” from normal society, so as such I will be damned if I find myself in that exact position again.
[What I can say is that I am not hating on anyone who is in such a friendship, because in hindsight I am just another loser with a blog. Another annoyance on the Internet].
So as I was saying, because from a young age I saw that I did not like being dictated and controlled. I now tend to avoid situations which take away my power to exercise my free will. Currently there are many things that I am also weeding out of my own life merely because they suffocate me, they deprive me of the room to be myself, they put me in a state of not living for myself but in a way I am expected to leave. Most of the time I just look at all the people around me and I ask myself, do any of them truly know me? Do they know of the dreams I have? My goals, my aspirations? My fears, the things I hold dear? What I like, what I do not like? In the totality of these questions I ask myself do they even try to get to know me. Because if there is no such attempt, they will constantly know me according to their own interpretations and expectations of me. Because we all have subjective thinking, then we will never have a uniform way of thinking. I think in this way, and the next person thinks in that way, the other one thinks in their own way. Which then always brings me to the conclusion that I may never be actually understood in the way in which I wish to be understood. Then constantly exhausting myself, twisting and turning as if I am a contortionist trying to be understood accomplishes nothing. Instead it leaves me tired and disappointed in myself that even at this age my self-esteem is still not as firm. So like a tortoise I go into my shell, I sit there in my own company and I spill over like the banks of the Nile River. All my strengths and weaknesses all around, being enveloped by myself. As it is the one time that my exhaustion of always containing myself comes to an end. Because when I properly contain myself, when I am neatly seated in a perpetual Tupperware other people breathe. All of this is just a full-time non-paying job, a job which I am close to resigning to.
In another part of introducing myself I think it would make sense to get into why I write, or essentially what is it that I am hoping to achieve with this blog. What I can start with is to say for as long as I could remember I always had a pen in hand and I would scribble down whatever would come to my mind. Even back when I did not know how to write properly I would still scribble in any exercise book I found lying around the house. And then as I grew up things became more serious because I would find myself coming up with stories about people and situations that have never existed before. This may sound crazy, but in thinking up these stories I would see the actual details involved in the events of any of these stories. I would know the people’s names, the places they lived in, who they lived with, how they lived, their history. I mean every last detail about any of the stories I write would come to me as if they get sent by someone. As to where these stories come from I do not know, but they always come to me unexpectedly like a flash flood. These ideas or stories would even come in the form of dream sequences, and they would hound me all the time, just poking and prodding at me. Bugging me to be written down.
Let me just let you into my brain a little bit, you see what happens to me almost daily is that I can have a million billion (excuse the exaggeration) thoughts racing in my head. It could be new material that wants to get written, or a way to improve any piece of writing that I already have. And do not think just because I do not have a pen and paper, phone or computer nearby that whatever it is I am thinking will not get written. I put it to you and say that whatever it is I will be thinking will write, modify and edit itself while still inside my brain. The downside though is that because the brain needs space to perform other activities, then that “document” is lost forever and is never to be seen again. But all is never lost because as soon as the old one leaves as if by a miracle a new piece of writing presents itself. Fortunately that one would come at a time when the means of writing are present, which then results in some of the pieces of writing I have. In terms of the language I write in, it is in the same one that my predecessors before me wrote in – English. Despite most of my writing being in English, I do wish to be given the space and the time to construct my thoughts in at least ten paragraphs ngolimi engaluncela ebeleni likaMaVinkhumbo sengisho isiZulu uqobo lwaso. To take the opportunity and pour my thoughts out into external existence in my own language which I also think in.
When I reflect generally on the journey I have taken with this “gift of writing” all I can say I have pushed it aside for many times, ignored it even. Mainly because I always have the fear of how are people going to receive and react after reading the things that I write. Will they think less of me, will they not look at me in the same way or not, will I lose friends? Just those questions would be enough for me to have deleted a whole file that had a budding novel in it, because of fear. I still remember the characters though, so if I wanted to I could rewrite that story, but that’s how I have always felt about this part of my life. I have been told many times by very knowledgeable people that I must not worry what anyone might think of me or my writing, instead I should just follow this writing streak and see where it leads me. Also that I just be content even if one person commends me on my writing (Michelle Ngunjiri if you’re reading this, I dedicate this to you). However in a field such as this, whereby it is the people that determine whether you make it or you break it, much more than the writing does the talking for you. In that in as much as you may write the next Harry Potter series or the Da Vinci code, if people do not like you as a person they will not even give anything you write the time of day. So you might as well have stayed with quiet and not written in the first place right? Which might be why my mother does not take seriously the idea that I want to write, well not professionally, but I want to do it. Possibly maybe not possibly see something with my name on it published, distributed widely and getting read by as many people as possible. Just the knowledge that a large group of people has graced me with the honour of reading what I have written. Because again the very investment that people project into something like reading is an honour in and of itself.
So much so that if it was something I would be doing alongside any kind of formal employment, I would still take it. Because by doing so I would be killing three birds with one stone a) ensuring that each month I am guarantee to be able to get food, water, clothing and shelter and b) taking off some of the worry my mother has about me and c) I would still be developing a craft I have loved since I was a little boy. Telling and reading stories. At times I really do not know what I am doing to be honest, even creating this blog was on pure impulse. For countless times I have thought of deleting it alongside everything I have ever written and focus on actual tangible things like this university degree and getting employment. Having a steady income, acquiring resources of wealth which are essential in this materialistic capitalistic world. What discourages me even more is that most people who make a living through their art end up in the sorriest of situations when their art is no longer appealing or if old age limits their ability to release their art.
There are always accounts of artists who were on everyone’s lips in one era, and in the next they just fade into obscurity. It eventually reaches a point where people no longer know if they even still exist. What I do is I put myself in those shoes, and I think of how I would have regretted not having listened to my mother. Can I have both of these things? I do not know really I do not have the answer to that. What I do know though is that I am always driven by a foolish hope within me which believes that this appropriated art of written speech will take me to places I have never been to in my life. So much more than the spoken art of my ancestors would have. Also there is somewhere that a person has to start from right? Make the mistakes that you can later say you learnt from. So this is my start, my first try at making mistakes, my beginning, the first step I take at perfecting my art through being observed by other people. Despite still not knowing which way will be best in introducing myself to people, or not knowing where I will go in terms of storytelling. I will still use what has worked for me for years, which has been to always factor in the kind of parents that raised me and the expectations they have for their child. While also showing them that their child is an independent free-thinking individual who may not necessarily think like them. But in whatever shift I take, in whatever path I take, the last thing I wish to be is someone my parents do not recognize. So in all my decisions, in all my wishes they are always there because I am linked to them in a way that I am not linked to with any other person that has come into existence. They named me Sthembiso, so it is my duty that even though I have to be my own person, but that I always stay their Sthembiso. Despite the Sthembiso that the rest of the world may come to know.
“Just like uMkhul’ uStephen Bantu Biko I will write what I like, you may not like what I write. I will still write nonetheless, because by doing so I will be passing on his message to generations that will come after me. Who will also write what they like, so much so that in the grand scheme of things we will not have other people telling our stories in their distorted narratives. We will own our stories.” – Sthembiso TTV Ngwekazi.