To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing – Elbert Hubbard. I don’t know who this man is, but I find his statement factual. Sit down, fold your arms and see if you will get somewhere. (Unless if you are a passenger, or you are in the cinema wanting to see the movie through). Throughout my life I have come to learn that what you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you. However, it’s kind of difficult if not impossible from time to time not to consider others, especially family and friends, and sometimes even strangers. Come to think about it, lots of my energy was dedicated to others. Don’t get the wrong idea about my statement, I love helping people and I enjoy working with them. However, you sometimes need to draw the line so that you could have time for yourself; I am talking about your private and personal space.
I used to stay in Sunnyside in Tshwane with friends. How I got there in the first place is a long story. To cut it short, let’s just say I was escaping the boredom and struggle of being unemployed. Those who know Sunnyside can attest that this area has become the new Lagos (if you know what I mean). There is practically everything that shouldn’t be there. As you read this line, someone in Sunnyside is probably drinking and or taking drugs, and having sex with someone they hardly know, and it is mainly transactional sex. You can go and witness it for yourself if you don’t believe me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though.
I stayed with a friend (John) who was paying for the flat (you could say I was staying for free), and he was well known and liked by white folks. Some of his white brass were club owners, which qualified us free entries and sometimes even free booze. This is life, “re ja joy mfana”, translating – we are enjoying life my brother. That was my favourite line, eight years ago. One thing for sure I was a yes person, all my friends were. None of us had the back bones; we gave in to everything that was done by majority, whether it was right or wrong. Our attitude was, my friends are doing it and people know it is happening. That man is doing it and even that woman does it. Who cares? Everybody is doing it, so what? It’s ok if I do it. No stress.
John was the ring leader and since he was paying for rent, none of us had the ball to question him. I found that frustrating at times but hey, I guess that was better than facing the hardships of being unemployed in Mamelodi. In reality, who was I trying to fool anyway? Perhaps I was just trying to console myself, you know, trying to see the brighter side or maybe it was just a coping mechanism, who knows? Naturally I am a shy and soft spoken person, always have been. Deep down I knew that some of the stuff that we were doing were totally against my values and self-worth but I was a coward to say no since majority were saying yes. Later on I would regret it and beat myself up for being unable to stand my ground.
Our apartment was always full of people, mostly women. I used hang around with them and share jokes but then again deep down I would still feel lonely. And at times I would not eat because I would imagine my family starving while I was having good times. I remember the other time when I locked myself in the bathroom pretending to be busy whilst crying and praying to God, asking Him to help my family out of the situation. What is wrong? Have you been crying? One of my friends called Ntsako asked. I think he might have seen tears in my eyes. No man, don’t be silly! Me crying? Come on. I said while putting a fake smile. They would start making fun of the situation, coming up with all sorts of stories, such as I am crying over a woman that didn’t want anything to do with me. Others saying I am missing my ex-girlfriend. They came up with all sorts of accusations but none of them came close and I just couldn’t tell them, they wouldn’t understand anyway. I would go home from time to time to visit them only to find the situation still the same. In fact, they seemed to have gotten used to the struggle. They seemed comfortable. Perhaps that was my problem. Maybe I did not understand. But how do you get comfortable in your struggle? Do we have to survive every day while others are living large? Ok maybe, but for how long?
Is this the vicious circle that my family is struggling to break? My own family is not going to go through this. I promised to myself. I don’t know if I was fooling myself or what. But I knew I had to do something, I had to go out of the situation. I needed someone to talk to so I opted for a female friend named Mpho, whom I grew up with. The problem is that you are not focused, she said. I couldn’t believe she said that. Maybe I was looking for pity. (Believe me I kept hearing her voice saying those words repeatedly) That didn’t go down well with me and I did not hear anything that she said afterwards. I got angry at her for saying that, but I didn’t tell. I guess I didn’t want to hear the truth. Who the hell does she think she is telling me that I am not focused? I thought. I was convinced that she was saying all that “nonsense” because she was working. Her statement echoed in my head. The more it came back the more I got irritated. Few months later when it has sank, it started to make sense. I didn’t want to admit it then but it was true. Of course I was not focused. There you go, I said it. I was not focused, period.
We were clubbing and drinking every weekend, sometimes even during weekdays. My friends started doing drugs, occasionally. I detested drugs and didn’t even want to touch that stuff. I stayed clean and resisted the temptation. However, I started feeling like an outcast whenever they started doing it because they seemed to enjoy themselves after that. I felt lonely emotionally so I gave in eventually. I wanted to fit in. Some of them took cocaine and cat, while I enjoyed ecstasy. It made me cheerful and funny but forgetfulness too, and sometimes I felt like shit the next morning. The problem is that I was starting to rely on it for my happiness, which was a sure sign of addiction. I began to bleed from time to time but my defence mechanism said it was normal. Call that ignorance, no, no, no, call it being stupid. How could bleeding be normal?
One of my closest friends was seriously battling with drugs, which sadly took his precious life. He died while he and I were sleeping on the same bed. He woke me up around 04:00 am as he was in agony. We spoke for few minutes and then I assured him that it was going to be ok, that the pain will go away. I will get you something in the morning to make you feel better, I said, not knowing that I was talking to him for the last time. He looked at me and nodded. I could sense his pain and I wished it could go away. Indeed it did, but not as I wished. It’s gonna be fine, I promise, we will pull this through just hold on, I said, encouraging him not to give up. I looked at him whilst praying silently, asking God to save him. He died an hour later while I was fast asleep. The first thing that I did when I opened my eyes was to check if he was ok, only to find that he was dead. I cried my eyes out, like a small boy. It was heart-breaking and it still hurts sometimes. I still had five ecstasy pills with me when he died so I wanted to take them, one by one, all of them, to escape the pain. Fortunately something knocked some sense into me and reminded me that I would be letting him and myself down because we spoke before he died, and he told me how he wished he had not touched a drug. He tried so hard to quit without success. I stared at those pills, stood up, went straight to the toilet and flashed them. That was the last day that I had touched drugs.
I learnt that in life we influence and are influenced by the people we hang around with. When you choose to hang around people with negative behaviours, those negatives will rub off on you. That is why you will hear a failure who is trying to take you down with him/her, saying it’s impossible, no one can do it and nobody has ever succeeded. Do not believe them; in fact, do not bother listening to them. Don’t you want to be the first person to succeed? The word impossible says I’m possible. Anything is possible in life if you put your head to it. Let me tell you something, in fact I am echoing this statement – nobody can take you down if you don’t want to go down, so stop blaming people and start taking responsibility.
Luckily I realised that I had a choice, so is everybody. I had the choice to accept my situation as it is or change it. I wanted to change it so I went back home to face the situation and take it head on. I was still not working; however I was tired of feeling sorry for myself, tired of being a charity case and probably a baggage. I wanted to stand for something because certainly if you don’t stand for something in life, you will fall for nothing. I had to do something. Life was slowly but surely passing me by. I attended the Personal Growth and Counselling courses which were offered by LifeLine Pretoria for free. The Personal Growth course helped me to find myself. After that I volunteered and reached out to others. Six months later I was employed and the assistant coordinator. As you read this I am the Community Development Coordinator. I also do trainings and motivational talks on the Radios, Corporate world, schools, prisons, communities, to mention just a few. I am busy building my own brand and company, and I am able to support my family. I am just saying that everything is possible in life, if you put your head to it. No matter how long the night takes, the day will come and the sun will rise. Everything happens for a reason.
Get educated, get informed. It is easier to make a wrong decision when you are not informed or empowered. There are lots of skilful and capable people who made errors that could have been avoided if they were educated. Challenges are parts and parcels of life. You need to take them head on. It’s not the size of the dog that matters; it’s the fight in the dog. Victory is not in the field, is in the mind. Stop whining and complaining, stop blaming others for your mistakes. Hee hee, I would have been a better person had my parents been educated, blah, blah; maybe you are right, maybe not.
Regardless of who or what you are, you must never run away from your responsibilities and accountabilities. Take responsibility for your actions. You should always have a life vision, mission and strategies that are intended to uphold human values, principle and dignity. You ought to find out why God created you. Out of millions of sperms that raced to fertilize the egg, only one won and that’s you. Why you? Surely that was not a mistake. What is you purpose in life? You need to search and find it. Remember your attitude, values and actions will make or break you. You see at the end of the day, you reap what you sow. You must be prepared to say no to some of the things, as well as some great ideas. If you allow people or situations to pull you in every direction, I am telling you, you will never lead yourself or others. Take charge, be the drive of your life. It’s your life after all. Tell you what; only you can make the difference and if you do what interest you at least one person is happy, and that is you. Isn’t that priceless?
“No matter how long the night takes, the day will come and the sun will rise“
Peace unto you
Author: Malashi Lucky Mabunda