I opened my eyes this morning, facing the ceiling, I laid in my bed for a couple of minutes and just appreciated the sound of the chirping birds. We all know birds chirp every morning, but we hardly ever truly pause to appreciate this gift of nature. But today was different for me. Today, I felt like the birds were composing a joyful melody just for me. It felt like the Creator of the universe had wanted me to lay there silent appreciating this sweet soothing melody.
As I lay in bed, I was overwhelmed by a great sense of calmness and peace. My mind took me on gratitude lane and I just thought of all the things I had wanted, from the time I was a young kid to now being this blazing hot woman! Hahaha vele! lol 🙂 . Anyway, in gratitude lane I was reflecting on the things that I have been blessed with and also thinking about things I so badly wanted but ended up not getting. I am grateful for the things I didn’t get because what I received was far better and in line with my purpose 🙂 . I laugh about some of the things I thought I would ‘die’ if they were not placed in my path.
I think the chirping birds was the Master’s way of saying to me, ‘girl I got you!’ Even in the things I ask for now and circumstances I am confused about, I know that my Heavenly Father is a far better caretaker of my life than I am. I always think I know stuff, but my young life has taught me that the He always knows best.
This piece is a nudge to any one panicking about their life, I want to say, darling, relax! because God’s Got you. He is a far better caretaker of our lives than we are and the greatest gift we can give ourselves is, to learn the undying truth that we are God’s best masterpiece and into His hands we can commit our lives because it is the only safe place.
Growing up my dream was to become a professional soccer player. I started playing soccer from a very young age on the streets of Hambanathi township, in the North Coast of Kwa-Zulu Natal. The only thing I wanted to do was to play soccer and represent my country at international competitions. I will never forget the year 1994 and at the tender age of 6 while playing soccer at the local football stadium, near the sugar cane factory, tragedy struck. One dreadful day in an attempt to recover a soccer ball we had been playing with, I found myself stuck in a swamp of hot ash, till this day I cannot explain the surreal circumstances that were materializing before my eyes. Overwhelming feelings of disbelief and shock, there are no words to comprehend what I felt on that day. Funny enough, I was not feeling any physical pain at that moment, all I could hear was hysterical sounds from individuals within the vicinity of the incident.
The next thing I remember was being carried by a group of men into a vehicle and rushed to the hospital, I have never seen my mother cry so much before. Wittingly or Unwittingly than reality struck, I started to feel excruciating pain on my feet and to my dismay, when I took a peek at my feet, all I could see was skin peeling out faster than a speeding bullet. I thought I was going to see my bones, my whole world was falling apart, my mother’s frantic crying was not helping at all, then I realized the painful reality, I was burnt by hot ash, mixed with dumped chemicals from the sugar cane factory next to the unfenced sports field.
I remember being in hospital, my parents and teachers would bring me school work to complete while in a hospital bed. I am so grateful to them for that because they understood the fundamental principle that though my feet were burnt, my brain was not damaged and the only thing that would distract me from my painful misery was a sound education.
After being discharged from hospital, one had to face other challenges and stereotypes, there would be those people who would genuinely feel sorry for me and others who would mock me. At that point in time I was in primary school, school kids can be nasty and cruel, if you know what I mean, there were those who teased me and called me names. Some of the nick names I was given were“KFC”, “Chicken Licken” and “Mapheki Nyawo (Roast Feet)” I must be honest at that time it was so painful for me emotionally, it was a huge set back, because my self-esteem and confidence was at a “junk status”.
I remember while still in primary school, I hated the subject Physical Education (PE). I did not hate the subject because of the teacher and content, however I hated it because we had to wear shorts. Till this day I dislike shorts because at that time it meant I had to expose my feet and other mean kids would make me a laughing stock.
Fast forward to 30 years later, having had a supportive family helped me cope with all the tragedies and struggles I faced growing up. Being raised by God fearing parents, who prayed for me was what gave my life a sense of purpose.
My purpose in life is to inspire greatness and change people’s lives. If I chose to be bitter and angry I wouldn’t be fulfilling my purpose in life. So many people are filled with anger because of the things which have happened to them. Truth is you will never fulfill your purpose and receive your blessings in life if you allow yourself to be held back by your circumstances.
In conclusion, I think it would be befitting that I share a quote from Mr. Musa E Zulu, who is a World Class Author, Artist and Motivational speaker that I respect and look up too, as a matter of fact, I am currently reading his book titled: WHEELS ON THE SOUL OF MY SHOES.
“Think about it, I’m young, I’m Black, I’m free, I’m possible, I’m diverse, I’m open, I’m smart, I’m an African and I’m possible!”
Nhlanhla Mhlongo is open-minded, friendly, crazy and down to earth person. He loves to work hard and also enjoys life to the fullest. His academic background is in Public Administration and Management, Public Financial Management and Public Service Delivery. He obtained his qualifications from The Durban University of Technology (DUT), he is currently studying towards a master’s degree in Public Management at DUT. He is currently working at Ethekwini Municipality, Ombudsperson and Fraud Prevention.
These days when you meet someone and there is an attraction from either one or both parties, there is bound to be some light cyber stalking involved. In my unresearched definition, light cyber stalking is:
“Going through someone’s social media platforms, sometimes saving their images without wanting the person to know. The aim is to satisfy your curiosity about the person.”
I purposely termed this ‘light cyber stalking’ because there is the unpleasant definition of cyber stalking in the Oxford English dictionary, which is described as:
“The repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone, for example by sending threatening emails.”
For the purpose of this article, I humbly ask that we stick to my unresearched definition of light cyber stalking :-). And according to that one, I think most of us can agree that we have been light cyber stalked or we have light cyber stalked someone. I have had a couple of suitors go on a ‘research exercise’ by viewing my social media platforms as a means to satisfy their curiosity about who Bongeka is, some even to the extent of saving my photos on their phones…hmmmmm still not comfortable with the latter part!
I have also been on a social media expedition, seeking to satisfy my curiosity about my crush-lol yep and after disclosing this to a few friends, guess what I discovered? That we all in this together comrades! Hahaha… I have come to learn the comforting truth that a couple of my friends also cyber stalk their ‘crushes’. For example, they look at photos dated 2010, investigate the females in these photos, interrogate dress codes, find out where they like hanging out, how they think and what they like.
Light cyber stalking is a new way of gathering information about someone in the digital age. Though this seems like an innocent exercise, my slight concern is that it may lead us to form inconclusive perceptions about people. A friend of mine shared an example of wrong perceptions being formed about people on social media. She echoed that, if you are a woman in her late twenties and your social media is flooded with images of your frequent fine dining visits, trips with the girls around the world, looking good and always posting about how glorious life is, you will be placed in a category of people called ‘abathanda izinto’ (loosely translated to mean those who love and consume the finer things in life). She continued to say some men will even go to the extent of being intimidated to approach you because they feel you will be high maintenance and ‘not’ wife material-whatever that means!
In my own light cyber stalking, I have also formed exaggerated conclusions about my crush’s photos and status updates, sometimes to a point of working myself up over nothing. Since most people are doing this already, I started this dialogue to say it’s OKAY! lol, and as we continue with our light cyber stalking journeys we need to employ self-control and do it in a manner that serves to appreciate the existence of another glorious being!
My friend and I have been engaging in dialogue about redefining work and creating a meaningful life in today’s world. We are both independent consultants with very different lives from our peers who work a 9-5 in corporations. More so, we are quite selective about the kind of projects that we choose to get involved in because we think differently about our quality of life. Work is not just about paying bills, but about choosing projects that we believe in and being in spaces where we feel we are able to make meaningful contributions. But even more importantly, it’s about getting projects that create room for flexibility so that we manage our time in a way that allows us to pursue our God given dreams and enjoy a fuller life.
As we explore projects that will fit well with our lives, most of our days look like this: We choose what time we wake up and go to bed; we choose where we have breakfast and where to work from. We plan our week according to our hearts desires and always slot in things we enjoy doing, such as going to book launches, doing research, reading and getting our nails done – This is the life right! 🙂
It is definitely going against the grain and as a result our way of life comes with scrutiny and confusion from people in our lives. When people know you don’t have a project, work a 9 to 5, or run a business, they struggle to understand what you do with your life. When I tell people I am working, I always get the confused response of ‘doing what?’, since I don’t fall in the normal parameters of what is considered ‘working’ or ‘having a job’. People would say to me “You must have a lot of time in your hands, right?” insinuating that I am less productive and don’t know what to do with my time. Sometimes they would even say, “wow, you probably have lots of money then.” Both of these assumptions are not a true reflection of my life. I can understand why people think this way because when I was in corporate I also thought in that same way. Our socialisation has taught us that ‘valid’ work is having a long-term job in a particular institution. Part of the reason I am writing this article is to challenge narrow perceptions of what productivity is and should look like. Often the assumption is that, you have a ‘proper’ job or are more productive if you wake up early, go to an institution and receive income end of the month. Whilst this is great, I challenge that it cannot be the only true voice in a society that is comprised with different kinds of people with various lifestyles.
I believe that we are moving into an era where more and more people are wanting to really do work that fulfills their divine purpose. My friend and I are not trying to go against the norm just because we can, no. Actually, this is a very divine journey for us because despite the opposition we face daily, we remain peaceful knowing that we are grounded spiritually. This journey has made us think differently about work, productivity and money. I say this because the things we do, don’t have immediate tangible pay off benefits. But we have a peace about that because we recognise that what we invest in today will pay out gigantically in future 🙂
I want to end with this note- friends, it’s okay for our lives to look different. We need to be more understanding of other valid forms of working and just appreciate that there are multiple views of what productivity is and should look like and guess what, they all have a right to co-exist!
I recently read an article that truly changed my life. The most mind and heart-blowing thing the author mentioned was:
“You are joy. You are joy itself. Causeless, reasonless, careless joy”.
Three years ago, I would have struggled with this phenomenon – is this person saying that joy is a human state of being? What about the need to work hard, endure hardships, make tough decisions and sacrifices – all of which do not involve joy? Today, I can appreciate that joy is a choice I make (or not make) but it is something already in me and not something out there. I am learning that even through the most ‘unjoyful’ life episodes such as grief and loss, joy is always there, waiting patiently for one to live it out. Let me share my story…
There was a time in my life when I felt that joy was lacking. The strangest thing was that I appeared to be doing fairly well in life. I was on a great career path and turning into a seasoned consultant, earning good money. I had a good romantic relationship, my family and I were healthy and strong. Why then, was I not content nor fulfilled by my life? Why did I feel a sense of dread on Sunday nights when I thought about going to work? Something was not adding up.
As a reflective person, I continued to think about this until it led me to a vision board I developed a few years back. My personal mission statement at the time, which surprisingly I still hold dear was: “to appreciate the nuances that make people great for participating in a productive, divine and joyful life”. Adjacent to that statement was ‘Obtain PhD before 30, abroad somewhere’. Eureka! That was the missing link. It made complete sense that this was where my joy was! So I put all my trust in this concrete goal to pursue the loftiest task ever, an entire doctorate. Little did I know that it was the process of pursuing this goal that unlocked greater joy overtime rather than the achievement at the end. Fast forward to today, three years later, I have made a paradigm shift. Joy is not the outcome accomplished through achievement, but the approach to life amidst the highs and lows of your journey.
Do not be misled, this is not a linear process. Through this journey, I’ve had to deal with some unmet expectations of living abroad. I’ve struggled financially, experienced a failed romantic relationship, fell ill at a critical time on the verge of completing my degree and I still deal with a lot of uncertainty. Moving towards joy took hitting myself on a brick wall a couple of times. When I started to see the light, I became grateful for what I had , allowed myself to indulge in simple pleasures and that resulted in creating joy for others which has become my priority.
Joy remains a childlike part of me that wants to live itself out fully. Unfortunately, as we grow older, we do not consciously choose joy. I’ve heard these statements way too often:
“I need to just get to Friday, then I’ll be happy”- could we not approach the week with a more joyful state?
“I need to grind hard for 10 years and then I’ll enjoy life” – could we not allow for some moments of enjoying life in between that?
“I’ll put up with this unsatisfactory relationship because it’s the best I’ve had so far” – could we not live a full life as a single person?
I am in no way, making small the comprehensiveness of life’s experiences. However, as the author Claire Dimond puts it: “ We are joy itself. And when we know this we can grieve, weep and suffer knowing that all of it is there to be experienced. When we don’t have this wisdom, the slightest sadness becomes magnified and intolerable”. This is an approach to life I hope to always remember. I’ll leave you with this final thought:
“Do you know that you are pure love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom? That there is nothing, you can do not to be? Or do you believe you are what you think you are? An isolated, separate being, here on earth to find love, wealth, intelligence, security, joy and freedom?”
About the writer:
Dr Siphokazi is a Durban-bred global psychologist and educator who is passionate about building the future of Africa and her people. She is a scholar-practitioner and life-long learner in the field of leadership on matters that intersect transforming education, African renaissance, organizational behaviour and culture.
Of recent we have been flooded with a display of numerous marriage proposals on social media. I saw one recently on Instagram and I just had a thought. I don’t know whether the people who record the moment via video are told in advance, but I suppose so. The usual scene is; guy and girl are together in various types of settings. Then guy goes on one knee, takes out the ring, and pops the big question, “Will you marry me?” Girls vary in their responses, but the most usual responses are, girl in shock and excitement, puts hand on mouth and almost instantly after guy pops the big question, girl stretches hand towards guy as a sign of ‘I accept’ and says “Yes” on the spot!
I believe some of us have either been or have witnessed this scene sometime in our lifetime. I am sure you may be wondering ‘Bongeka, what’s the big deal with this?’ Well, let me share my thoughts and insights on this. I was reflecting on something else when I saw the marriage proposal on Instagram and I thought to myself it’s an interesting analogy I can draw from to make my point.
Recently a friend of mine asked me to help him with something and at first because of the ‘negative’ emotions I was feeling at the time, I nearly almost immediately gave him a response that was not thoughtful. But over the years I have learnt the power to say, “Let me sleep on it” even despite pressures from the external world to make an instant decision. Indeed after sleeping on it, I woke up, prayed, thought about it and re-looked at the situation with fresh eyes. I was able to fully apply my mind and see all the incredible benefits that the opportunity presented. If I had instantly responded when the request came, I would have regretted and missed the opportunity. The free dictionary describes ‘sleep on it’ or ‘sleeping on something’ as, “To postpone a decision until the following day so that one has additional time to consider it.” (https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/sleep+on+it)
There is such wisdom in actually “sleeping on it” before giving a response. I have consistently found that I make better decisions once I have slept and have had time to process things. But the pressure to say ‘Yes’ now and make instantaneous decisions is synonymous with our generation. Experts have deemed us the ‘instant gratification’ generation. We want things now and fast because we don’t have the patience. Even in corporate environments the culture of ‘instant results’ is constantly fed. I don’t know how many times I have heard people in corporates say, ‘We want quick turnaround times’; ‘We don’t have the luxury to delay adoption of this change, people need to adopt these changes in the next month’. I really don’t like these statements because I believe that nothing solid can be built quickly.
So back to the marriage proposal analogy, when the marriage question pops up; ‘Will you marry me?’, is it rude or inhumane to delay the response? After all this is a lifelong decision and surely it cannot be made on the spot. But, I also acknowledge that circumstances differ and maybe the ‘Yes’ is not always an instant response. I do believe that in some instances the ‘Yes’ is a premeditated answer prepared way before the big question. But, I do still believe there is wisdom we can draw from the marriage proposal scene. The ‘sleeping on it’ concept is powerful because it reminds us to appreciate the process of being patient and not to be hasty. I am often not too trusting of people who respond quickly to things, because to me I read it as haste and someone being too lazy to apply their mind. I think in this instant gratification generation, I want patience to be fashionable again.
I end with this, Dear future bae, please take note, if you ever do the usual knee on the floor proposal, and say to me, “Will you marry me?”, there is a huge possibility that I would say, “Well thank you, can I sleep on it?”
I stumbled across the above photo of myself in my social media archives a few days ago. I looked and smiled at the photo. This was 2011 and I was 22 years old in this photo. I recall that my older brother took this picture on our way to my honours graduation ceremony. It was a really great day, I was so happy that after a tough academic year, I made it.
But beyond this day, the year 2011 was probably one of the most challenging years of my life. I fell in love with this young woman in the photo again and I felt like doing something corny. You know how famous people say ‘if I had a chance I would say this or write a letter to my younger self’’…so that’s exactly what I decided to do. Since June is youth month in South Africa, I decided to share some wisdom in the form of a letter to my 22-year-old self, so here goes:
Dear Bongeka I write this letter in the year 2018, yes you are now 29 and I want to share some things with you. There’s so much to share but I can’t write everything now, but hear me when I say, 2011 is the year you will truly learn what faith is.
I love the habit of praying about everything and spending so much time with God that you are cultivating, that is going to be the back bone of your life, thank you for starting it.
You are at your heaviest in terms of your weight and I know it pains you when those you love say you are “fat” but you know what – in exactly a year from now, you are going to make a few lifestyle changes and God is going to help you with your health and baby, you are going to look so sizzling that everyone will be asking you how you did it, so don’t stress about.
You will soon learn that life is not what you have been taught growing up! Life is war baby and you are going to see that, but you know what? You are going to fall in love with yourself and that will be the foundation of your greatness and your self-confidence.
When you see that injustice speak up more, so that it doesn’t haunt you. You will soon learn as you already learning that religion is limiting. Next year you will have an encounter and a revelation of the true Gospel of Grace.
Don’t stop believing that you can do the impossible – continue to dream big and yes you are part of those chosen to impact your generation positively. But the clarity of your purpose will be revealed to you in the next coming years.
I need to tell you this, this is major – one of the most critical battles you going to have to fight is a battle to be you. But don’t worry too much as you will get better at it over these next few years and unfortunately this is a never – ending battle in a world that constantly wants us to be the same.
In a few months from now you will take a trip that will change your life. On a lighter note- uhm there will be no wedding ring and no kids by 27 – Thankfully! Lol, in fact you will realise that this marriage and kid’s thing is not to be dictated by society.
Sadly, you will lose one of your closest friends, but don’t despair because you will gain the most incredible people as friends. They will continually show you how much they love you.
And finally, cherish your family, they really got your back. Put God first always, speak less and listen more and enjoy every moment of your life because baby, you are a force to be reckoned with!
I had mistakenly thought that I had it all figured out because of knowledge acquired in blogs and books, but life has surprised me.
I have realised that the saying “Experience is the best teacher” is indeed very true and below I list my 3 main life lessons.
Lesson 1: Every man for himself
The way I feel so strongly about this, I even wanted it to be the title for this post. This idiom makes more sense in my life right now. So, let me share a bit of my story.
When you arrive at a new place (e.g. First year University) you literally have no support except the support you receive from people at home. Once you done with grade school, you are considered an adult and expected to act accordingly.
Oxford dictionary defines ‘adulting’ as “The practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult”.
When I moved to the University residence, I experienced so much change that made me understand what it truly meant to be an adult and do things for myself. Suddenly, I had to manage all aspects of my life and see myself through everything.
Though I had friends from the first day, but I soon realised that there were so many things I had to figure out all by myself without any help. Everybody has their own business to attend to, so as soon as you get to University you have to immediately start being independent. It’s like being thrown at the deep end and being expected swim and survive somehow.
So indeed, the saying “every man for himself” made so much more sense. You have to realise that everyone has their own life to live and won’t be able to attend and give you attention all the time, and that’s okay.
Lesson 2: Age means nothing- own race own pace
After experiencing the challenges above, I had this mindset that probably I came into university late because I took a gap year. I thought my classmates would be younger than me but I was pleasantly surprised to find different types of people. There were people who had graduated already, people who like me took a gap year and even people who had been working before and discovered their passion then decided to go back and study.
This showed me that age is nothing but a number and that I still have plenty of time to figure out what it is that I really want to do. Being expected to decide on a career path at 16 is hard and we are given the impression that you will have to live with that decision forever. Even though your degree will make an impact in your life, it’s never too late to do what you really want.
The saying “Age means nothing” to me this also says, as young people we must be as responsible as the adults since everybody is seen as an equal in settings such as Universities.
Lesson 3: Everybody but you seem to have it all figured out
I’m one person who is always reading blogs about life lessons just to make sure I don’t mess up, trying to figure out the best way to avoid mistakes that would ruin my life. While I’m trying to figure out if it’s best to date that guy or not, it seems everyone knows what they want in a relationship. When I was trying to figure out what to study, everybody around me knew what they wanted to do for the rest of their lives.
Looking from my point of view it looks like I’m the only one who is still trying to know myself and what I really want.
It’s not until you talk to these people that you realise as humans we have the same problems. Nobody has it all figured out, at some point we must make decisions and live with consequences we don’t completely know how to deal with.
Making these three realisations took me a while but I now really understand, or at least have an idea on how to be my independent self.
About the Writer:
Palesa Makuru is a Pharmacy student who enjoys artistry particularly writing. She’s a content creator and writes columns about beauty and lifestyle on her website Pretty Palesa (http://prettypalesa.co.za/) and has shared her columns for similar South African blogs.
She often echoes that life lessons are taught every day, from the motivational videos in the morning, to a friend giving advice. She considers herself an “addict” of advice blogs and the like, but she has also realised that some things are better learnt through experience.
I was watching a show on YouTube and they were interviewing a famous singer. The singer shared interesting insights about the struggles of the music industry. She shared that though she had always been clear about what she believed God called her for in the industry, it hasn’t been an easy journey for her, particularly because she has had to deal with being negatively compared to others.
There was something that caught my attention when the presenter asked how she stays relevant and does not compete, but rather compliment her music compatriots. She said, “Everyone is talented differently. You often hear people say, ‘oh how I wish I had that person’s gift’ and they often don’t acknowledge that they also have a great gift that we need in society.”
Why did this catch my attention? I guess it triggered my thoughts around authenticity even further. I have been thinking and having dialogues about what I have experienced and come to observe. We are living in a time where people struggle to be themselves but want to be what the world celebrates as the ‘ideal self’’. Of course, there has been many points of view about this and the root cause of this stems from different things. The most common argument puts blame on social media and the general media at large.
Though I acknowledge that social media has created a facade in terms of how people do life, I still think that this occurrence has been evident in our society even before the social media buzz. I have even witnessed this phenomenon in old people and people who don’t have social media.
One of my mentors said something powerful, he echoed that the only time you are your true authentic self is the few seconds you born. After that you are handed over to guardians (i.e. family, society, etc) and shaped into being whatever it is they desire.
When 2018 began, I prayed to God and said “Father, I want to be Bongeka again, please reveal who you are to me again and I will serve you with my entire being”
Waking up each day and being real with God helps me to be real with myself and thus be more real in my social relationships.
My friend, the greatest gift you and I can give ourselves is to be ourselves.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Please feel free to share at –email@example.com
We are living in very interesting times with so much access to information and amazing progress by mankind. We witness this progress through technological advancements, human rights movements, business expansion, and so much more. Though these are awesome components of our society, one must admit that they also come with a hefty price tag on the soul. What do I mean by this? Well, in my conversations and observations I have noticed that the pursuit for bigger and better things may cause us to undermine the entire human experience.
In a recent conversation I was having with a dear friend of mine we laughed about this; “over romanticising” of a “spectacular end goal”. Our conversation centred around the idea that so often in our generation everyone is overly ambitious and that’s a beautiful thing, but you find that people don’t live in the NOW, they live fixated on their end goal.
It seems like people are saying to themselves “I will only fully start experiencing the whole human journey when I reach this particular milestone in my life” and I think that can be a ‘dangerous’ way to view the world.
It’s dangerous in a sense that, firstly tomorrow is not promised to anyone, we truly don’t know if we will be alive tomorrow. Secondly, we can undermine other very important aspects of our human development like; spiritual growth, social and romantic relationships, health matters, intellectual expansion etc.
Even in the business world we become so focused on waiting for financial year end to celebrate the previous year’s achievements and we often overlook progress in the quick daily wins. Yes, making profit is a spectacular end and the desired outcome of any business, but in pursuit of that, how about taking a pause and applauding things like fostering a great business culture, implementing all the great ideas and projects well, empowering leaders to do their jobs successfully and that the company values are not just words on a wall but that they lived daily by people in the organisation.
In the words of India Arie,
Life is a journey,
Not a destination,
There are no mistakes,
Just chances we’ve taken
Lay down your regrets cause all we have is now
I am by no means discounting long term goal achievement, but I am just advocating that there is a lot of progress that happens daily that we should celebrate.