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Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Quarter Life Crisis

It recently dawned on me the other day, that its coming up to ten years since I finished High school. Ten years (Ten!). A decade ago I was a scrawny, wide eyed teenager meticulously dissecting a frog for my final A’level Biology practical exam. When I finished that frog dissection I was ready to take on the world – or at least I thought I was. I had a ‘life plan’ – graduate, get a job, get published in a respectable scientific journal, be my own boss by 30, travel the world, and hold on to all my inner child through it all.

I am sorry but, ten years ( Ten!). Excuse me whilst I have a mild panic attack … OK, I am back.Woos-ah!.(Note to self: Keep Calm and Carry On). Ten years sounds like a long, long time ago when I say it aloud, in no small part because it seems like the older I get, the shorter the distance between events I have experienced seems to be. For example the ten years between 1992 -2002, a period covering most of my primary and secondary education, seemed to take forever. In fact I couldn’t wait to grow up. To become independent. To become a man. The last decade feels like it has just blitzed right past. Suddenly change is the enemy and I find myself desperately trying to cling on to the past. A past that is drifting further and further away. I am becoming ‘that guy’, always reminiscing about the good old days in uni.  A period were I met enigmatic and interesting characters that hold season tickets to the Grandstand of my memory.

Ten years after high school I find myself constantly dissecting my life. I am wondering where I will be in 2014 – when I hit the big 30. All the while desperately clinging onto sanity’s last nerve, because on most days I barely know where I am right now. When I talk to most of my friends most of whom I met in university I realise I am not alone. It seems we are all going through most of the same emotions and questions over and over. We talk about the same topics. We worry that we are going nowhere fast, seemingly lost between the idealisms of our youth and the realities of adulthood, trying to help each other steady the compass of our life’s direction. It seems we are all going through our own little Quarter life crisis’.

Unlike the midlife crisis, the quarter life crisis is not as widely recognised. There are no ‘experts’ to help us. We are in our best of times and our worst of times, trying as hard as we can to figure this whole thing out. We have no support apart from each other. In fact its only recently that the British Psychological Society carried out a study published in the New Scientist  dealing with  the quarter life crisis. In their study, the society says that the Quarter Life Crisis affects young adults between the ages of 25 – 35 years and it has four phase listed below.

Four phases of the quarter life crisis 

Phase 1, defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both. “It’s an illusory sense of being trapped,” said Robinson. “You can leave but you feel you can’t.. Feeling as though you are living your life on autopilot.

Phase 2 is typified by a growing sense that change is possible. “This mental and physical separation from previous commitments leads to all sorts of emotional upheavals. It allows exploration of new possibilities with a closer link to interests, preferences and sense of self.

“Up until then you may be driving fast down a road you don’t want to be going down. A minority of participants described getting caught in a loop, but the majority reflected on a difficult time which was a catalyst for important positive change.”

Phase 3 is a period of rebuilding a new life.

Phase 4 is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person’s new interests, aspirations and values.

The up side is that the researcher’s go on to say that the crises is a good thing. ‘People who have experienced it often look back at it positively”. Its a necessary evil, if you will. I couldn’t agree more. Over the last 2 -3 years I have gone through all of the first three phases of the Quarter Life Crisis. I have been frustrated with the trajectory in which my career and the rest of my life was going. So I have had to reassess my “Life plan”, in the process acknowledging that the “Life Plan”, was based on what I perceived to be conventional success.

I learnt more about myself in my first five years after High school, than I had previously learnt prior to finishing High school. It only made sense then that I had to take a time out from the “Life plan” and give it a make over. In the process I have switched jobs and moved back to the Motherland. I have gone through relationship breakdowns with lovers and friends. I have missed the comfort of hanging with same people on the regular. Its all been in effort to craft a new life thats more in tune with who I really am. Granted its still a work in progress but despite my bouts of insecurity I am more confident that I am entering the fourth phase of my Quarter Life Crisis.

I have learnt to exist outside my career, stepped with a little bit of irony beyond my inner  most ambitions and realised that living my life my way is the ultimate career. One thing that helped through all this was the decision to rekindle my passion for writing. I didn’t know it when I started this blog, but somewhere in the thick fog of my nostalgic rants I have gradually started to locate my clarity.

Hopefully ten years from now when I  look at this part of my life, I will not plunge into another crisis. I am quietly optimistic about that though. An added bonus of going through a Quarter Life Crisis is that you are much less likely to go on to experience a mid-life crisis. Booy-ah!

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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Venus vs Mars

I am scared  about what I know about women. I live in perpetual fear of what I know about them and what they know about me, and how my sordid life will one day burst into the open. I could tell you ghastly things about women. I am amazed how everything comes back to women. Women. Women. Women. I could tell you about kind women, and cold women, and cheerful women and simple women and intelligent women, but I realise some things are unwritable. I am trying to get to the rotten core at the heart of this rant but here I go backing off again. Over time I have learned that it is the synthesis of the knowledge derived from the experience that matters, and not the detail.

Early in life, we men start by relishing our sins and proudly cataloging our exploits but after a while we get bored of our deeds. We get bored but we don’t stop. Yes men are children. Yes there is a polygamous streak in all of us. Yes 60% of our thoughts are sex related. Yes half of us are nymphomaniacs. Yes we don’t care for the children we spawn. Yes we are irresponsible. Yes we cant feed ourselves. Yes we are rapists. Yes we are wife beaters. Yes we spread AIDS. Yes we are weaker than women.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

So I am a snitch arent I? Blaming men. Writing this unthinkable stuff. Shaming myself like this. I can see you shaking your head – rolling your eyes.

I hate men. But women are no better, really. Women can be beautiful and intelligent and they can make me open up and think and talk, but they sometimes have a curious way of thinking. They always think somebody is out to get them. They can take you to task for a wrong word. They … But let me not get into that. In case the feminist brigade come after me.

I need friends. I hate friends. I need friends and I hate them. I cant stand friends interfering too much in my life, but I ache for company. I admit I have not always looked for love and friendship in the right places but I think there is more kindness, more understanding out there than one would believe. I have discovered that real insight and intelligence have less to do with background or class or education than what the cultural gatekeepers would have us believe.

You don’t really know me. You will most likely never know me. Nobody knows me. All I have is this beautiful mind and these flimsy words to show for it.

Rant over.

*Drops pen and walks away*

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Very Short Story

After an almost 10 year hiatus finally worked up the courage to write a short story.  It has been inspired by the places I have been to, the people I have met, the experiences I have shared, the books I have read and the music I have loved. In this story I use the outer facts of a real journey as a vehicle for fictional characters. The characters in this story bear no resemblence whatsoever to any living people or individuals. They are imaginery creations. The journey is real but the people are invented. Enjoy.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

If I could build her again using words I would – Ranganai thought to himself. That would make a great opening line to one of his pieces. He sighs. He knows that’s not his idea.”That’s my favourite opening line to a novel Hayley had said to him on their first date. ‘What’s yours?’.’ I was not sorry when my brother died” he had answered,”Its from Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga, she is a Zimbabwean writer” his body language delivering the pun

He puts on his Kanye West playlist on his iPod which is synched to the car stereo and continues cruising along the highway the speedometer nosing on 110km/hr. He liked driving alone, especially at night. Just him, the music and the headlights slicing through the dark. The car was his friend. She knew his journey’s, his haunts, his deepest darkest secrets. She understood his moods. It was his sanctuary. Here he was free from distractions. Here he could also reflect on himself. Locate his centre of clarity. Take stock of his life. Even his inner creative benefited, he got most of his a-ha moments on trips like this.
The solo nocturnal drives had become a ritual that had started a few years back. Ranganai had been juggling his university studies with working the graveyard shift at the meat factory. The factory was a 45 minute trip from the university. This brief reprieve was his downtime – in between lectures and working the assembly line. He feels a slight chill, remembering those late nights in the sub zero temperatures of the cold room. The early morning lectures – but he had had no choice.
He had been lucky his Supervisor Phil liked him.“Where are you from?” “Zimbabwe”, answered Ranganai “You are long way from home a long way”, Phil remarked with a chuckle, “How do you find Australia?” asked Ian. ‘Its OK, but I miss home.” Ranaganai smiles tightly. The Eastern Highlands are breathtakingly beautiful,they remind me of the Scottish Highlands. It is a beautiful country. I love Umtali and Inyangani.” Phil continued.’Its Mutare and Nyanga’ Ranganai had responded tentatively. The colonial nostalgia put to bed they managed to get along swimmingly. Phil taking him under his wing. Here and there letting him off the hook when he slacked off.

On the stereo Kanye West intones in his head:

And I know I did damage,
’cause the look in your eyes is killing me,
I guess you’ve got another advantage
’cause you could blame me for everything.

It unnerved him, how she still lingered teasing him on the outskirts of his mind. All the other women in his life. They had all been short stories. A few pages – a light, morning read. Hayley was a novel. Something you can’t put down. Something you hold close to your face, lick your fingers and turn the pages and read for a long, long time. Something with intricate sub- plots, with editing and work. Long and complex.

They had met during Bruce week in his first year of university. At a mutual friends, Netsai’s art exhibition. Ranganai the struggling culture vulture, imagining himself Stephen Dedalus’s twin in Jame Joyce’s A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. Hayley, the cultured vulture gracefully swooping over life’s carcass, capturing it all with a click and a shutter of her digital iris. Ranganai was supporting Netsai, his home girl. Young, Gifted and Black- that was Nestai, envisioning herself Nina Simone’s doppelganger. Assured. Sassy. Fiercely Afrocentric. Traits that translated so authentically and with devastating beauty onto the canvas. Ranganai had been more than happy to help her set up the show. That’s how he had become familiar with the pieces on display. How later that night he would impress Hayley with his ‘artistic’ knowledge.

His heart smiles, the image of his first meeting with Hayley swirling in high definition in his memory. Hayley had looked, somehow as if she smelled good. She had briefly held his gaze, half smiled back at him, and just as quickly glanced away. If he had been a dog he would have been left there wagging his tail. As if drawn by her pheromones he had made his way closer to her as the night worn on. His instincts had been right. She smelt good. He had managed to get in some small talk. For the rest of that weekend he had bugged Netsai for her number. Eventually she had relented – reluctantly. Giving in to his innocent aggressiveness.

Their first summer Down Under, they had been inseparable. When they had first road tripped The Great Ocean road he had felt oddly nostalgic. On one side the thick rain forest, its shadows looming over the meandering road stirred memories of family holiday’s to Troutbeck. On the other side the road hugged the magnificent coastline stretching out over the shipwreck coast and the Southern seas. The endless mass of water, making him homesick. “I want to go to Africa one day” Hayley had said to him.

That same Christmas Hayley had invited him to spend it with her family. “You shouldn’t spend Christmas alone’. she had said to him. Her family home was in Ablury-Wodonga, a small country town on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. Her parents welcoming him in like a long lost son. He had played backyard cricket with her brothers. He had asked Hayley’s mum for a second helping of her sumptuous Christmas pudding.

Even though they had their feet planted in completely different worlds, they shared a lot in common. She understood him better than anyone, indulged his duplicity. That constant conflict he always had between his ego and vulnerability. His struggle with different cultures and identities that made him feel strangely anchor-less. He was like a like a transient existing in a peculiar state of hybridity. A hybridity she often understood more than he understood himself.

Bon Iver chimes in

I’m lost in the World, I’m down on my mind
I’m new in the city, and I’m down for the night
Down for the night
Said she’s down for the night

He glances at the dashboard. Its now six O’clock in the morning. He has been on the road most of the night. His windscreen is turning pink-amber with the first fervid licks of dawn. He rolls down the window. Takes in the fresh crispy clean country air. He loves coming to the sticks. A pick up truck overloaded with tomatoes, potatoes and cabbages overtakes him as he approaches Magunje Growth Point. The Growth Point was the ‘capital’  and the service center of the surrounding communal lands (formerly Tribal Trust Lands under the colonial government). Growth points had been mooted by the government after independence as a means of decongesting cities and towns. Whilst a noble idea, it had failed and as a result Magunje was like a ghost town and still underdeveloped and marginalised. As a Growth point, Magunje was a place drippin in irony. A National Breweries is parked at Magunje making a delivery. The local beer hall, seems to be the only thriving business. As he surveys the area strangers greet him by raising their hands. Its not because they know who Ranganai is or remembered him. It is just the decent thing to do: you see a human being, you greet him. Just that simple. On the stereo the play-list continues:

Can we get much higher? So high
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Can we get much higher? So high
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

His heart flutters as he slowly approaches the turn off to his Grandmother’s rural homestead. As he approaches the gate children run to meet the car. Swarming the Range Rover they cheer loudly “Mukoma Wauya . Mukoma wauya‘ The women join in ululating their welcome. As he switches off the engine he quietly thinks to himself “If my life was a Kanye West discography. This part would definitely be My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”

As he makes his way to grandmother’s hut, he feels a sense of calm. There was something the matriarchal ease of that his grandmother exuded that made him feel anchored. He had tried to explain this to Hayley.”How long can a ship survive, drifting anchor-less?. Can one exist as a transient forever?. There surely comes a time when storm or not, where we must anchor where or we are or steer the ship and sail homeward.’ Hayely had said she wanted to come with him. He had told her he needed to go alone. She had asked him,”Will you come back?” Ranganai had said nothing, hugged her for a long, long time then let go.


 
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Posted by on July 20, 2012 in Short stories

 

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Shona. Do you speak it?

When I was fifteen I carried out my first act of independence as a young adult. It was the first day of Form Three in Mr Manhimhanzi’s Shona class. On that day his first order of business in addressing the class had been to inquire – if any students would be discontinuing his Shona classes? Without hesitation I had stood up and with a teenage defiance in my stride I had smugly made my way out of that class. My relationship with my Shona teacher during my first two years of high school had been contemptous. So as pleased with myself as I was for walking out, I am sure he was equally happy to see the back of me. With the power of hindsight I see now that my smugness would have only served to reinforce a stereotype informed in his view by my unacceptable attitude towards my Shona studies. He couldn’t comprehend my incompetence when it came to writing in my mother tongue, especially compared to my budding literary skills in the English language. Something I suspect he strongly resented. On several occasions he had accused me of a contempt towards my mother tongue. I was snubbing my own culture and heritage. An accusation I equally resented. I felt that as the teacher he should have nurtured and encouraged me to apply myself more. Instead he regularly ridiculed me in front of the class, which further antagonised me. What I had failed to factor in was the school’s Draconian approach to the use of language. During the week speaking in Shona was a punishable offense. Having quit my Shona classes, all of a sudden Shona speaking was reserved for weekends. It didn’t bother me then. It should have.

My decision to walk out that day had also been reinforced by the ignorant assertion that I could already understand and speak the language so I didn’t need to formally learn it. It also was part of my grand plan to get perfect grades for my O-Level exams. I wasn’t going to have a repeat of my grade 7 and ZJC results were my Shona marks had been blemishes on otherwise perfect certificates. This hadn’t been through any fault of my own. Up to that point my formal education in Shona had been brief dalliances at the start and the end of my primary education. This was mainly because my family moved a lot when I was growing up. My Dad a Hotelier at the time was regularly dispatched to different parts of the country. As a result I would spend  my first two years of primary school learning Shona as the vernacular language, before switching to Ndebele classes for my vernacular studies. I would study Ndebele consistently before having to move again in my final year of primary to a school were Shona was taught as the vernacular. I only studied  Shona for two school terms  before I had to take the national Grade Seven exams. I passed all my other subjects with flying colours. I failed Shona, dismally.

Years later when I finished high school and moved to Australia for my university studies my relationship with my mother tongue would take a turn. This time for the better. Ensconced in a new multicultural environment my self awareness magnified. My Shona culture and heritage became pivotal to my identity. For the first time I was desperate to speak  Shona. On campus I was living in the Orde House a.k.a  (UN)United Nations. This was the most diverse residence on campus with students from Maldives, Norway, Thailand, USA, Singapore, UK, Japan, Botswana and they even threw a few local bogans for good measure. We all communicated to each other in English.  Conversations in Shona now came at a premium. To make matters worse there was only one other Shona speaker on campus. In those early days the almost daily phone calls with my Mum when my only real opportunity to use Shona. She would fuss over me. Was I settling well, eating properly, making any new friends?, and if so I should say hi to them. During these calls I soon realised that I struggled to speak fluidly in my mother tongue. I would catch myself mentally translating my thoughts from English to Shona. Often settling for Shonglish – Shona interjected with English for the words I couldn’t translate. This was the first time I regretted walking out of Mr Manhimhanzi’s Shona class. At home my parents had indulged and even encouraged our use of English in the home. Now confronted with this strange cocktail of cultures I wanted nothing more than to sip on my own home brew – Shona.  I didn’t want to turn out like Mukadota.

One of the lasting memories from my childhood is from the show Mukadota. This show aired sometime in the early 90’s during the glory days of Zimbabwean television.The title character Mukadota was a triple threat – singer, actor,comedian. In one particular episode he returns from a short stint living America. Upon his return to the Motherland Mukadota pretends that he cannot converse in the vernacular. He tells his wife who had stayed behind that during his short stint in America, he forgot how to speak his mother tongue Shona. He also claims he can no longer eat any of the local dishes as his stomach is now accustomed to eating American goulash. A recipe he proceeds to teach his wife Amai Rwizi, who dutifully indulges his newly adopted eccentricities. Back then the proliferation of Zimbo’s in the diaspora was not what it is today. As such anyone who had been overseas was revered and their idiosyncrasies often accommodated. “Ngeve kuchirungu ava”. After he has settled in Mukadota is attacked and robbed by thugs. During the ensuing melee, Mukadota instinctively screams for help in the vernacular betraying his earlier claims. On being questioned his responds in Shonglish (a mix of Shona and English) saying “Mai Rwizi, pandarohwa tongue yangu yabva yaita loose.” which literally means when they beat me up my tongue was loosened. For some reason that episode has stayed quarantined in my memory’s museum.Until  now.

After seven years in Australia, on my return to the Motherland I can safely say I didn’t turn out like Mukadota. So yes  I speak it – reasonably well for a Shona dropout.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Trivial pursuit’s

Random fact. I love Trivia. Correction – I love winning at Trivia nights. Why? Because boo-yah, that’s why. Granted there are often prizes to be won – its a jackpot system. Not only do you have to knowledgeable enough to win, you also need luck to walk away with the R500 jackpot. To date the jackpot has proved elusive. Instead I have often found myself on the receiving end of many a free meal voucher and bottles of cheap obscure wine. I am convinced I pissed off Lady Luck in a past life. Hell hath no fury… But I digress.

I am a nosy somebody. That might also partially explain my love for Trivia. From an early age I have always been compelled by curiosity. I must have been 8-9 years old when my Dad brought home the first of many sets of Encyclopedia Britannica’s. I was soon flipping through the thick pages of its many volumes. Little did I know at the time but the Trivia seed had been sown. I had slowly began cultivating my passion for picking up random and often useless facts. Around the same time another “nerd tendency” was also in its infancy. As fate would have it my love for comics would go on to have a symbiotic relationship with the Encyclopedia Britannica’s. Unlike the Encyclopedia Britannica’s the comics were viewed with the same contempt as contraband in our household.  So whenever I wanted to go on my adventures with Asterix and Obelix, it was under the guise of having my nose stuck in a Encyclopedia Britannica.

However as testosterone became the major driving force in my pubescent years my focus shifted. Girls became the motivation. So began my love/hate relationship with the nerd. A conflict that initially played itself out in the comfort of our lounge. Ever so briefly in black and white before fully blowing up in technicolor. On one hand I was Team Urkel (Family Matters). The Urk man. The epitome of a nerd. I was always rooting for him to win over Laura Winslow.Team Urkels wins though were low. “Did I just do that?” … ‘Yeezy taught me”. Moving on. On another 90’s sitcom I totally despised Carlton Banks. I wanted to be Will. The Fresh Prince. He always got the girls. With my focus now shifted, my inner nerd took a back seat. I would go on to spend the remainder of my teenage years and a huge chunk of my early twenties in the pursuit of awesomeness. Desperately trying to get jiggy with it. For the girls.

Back to the future. *Hopes into DeLorean*. The year 2012. Over the last year Trivia nights have enjoyed a resurgence in my social life.Its become quite an obsession. The revenge of the nerd. I have come to terms with the harsh reality that I am probably never going to be sent to live with my Aunt and Uncle in Bel-Air.

Alfonso … Still not a Carlton fan. Still very much Team Urkel. In fact a mate recently brought to my attention an episode when we were introduced to Steve Urkel’s alter ego Stefan. The Urk man for the Trivia nights.  Stefan, for the girls. That settles it – embracing the nerd. Bi-winning.

TRIVIA

True or false? Charlie Chaplin once lost a Charlie Chaplin look -a-like contest.

answer

True

Not only did he lose. He  failed to even make the finals. He later told a reporter at the time that he was ” tempted to give lessons in the Chaplin walk, out of pity as well as a desire to see the thing done properly.”

Charlie Chaplin was the King of the silent movie era. By the end of World War 1 he was the most famous actor in the world. His most famous role was that of ‘The Tramp”.

Now that my seem like a trivial story ( pun intended), but there is a lesson in there somewhere. An explanation for the loss is that in look-a-like contests people look for the exaggerated and over the top mimicking of the character.The caricature. Often times in dealing with people in our lives we will lose our own look-a-like  contests. People’s perceptions of us might just be based on caricatures of us they have formed. So when you lose your own look-alike contest, ask yourself… ‘What would Charlie do?’

In this thick fog of my nostalgic rants I am just really looking for myself. So if I ever lose the look-alike contest, I will be ready to give lessons in the “Chaplin walk”. Also I am always looking to testing out material for my writing – like I’m on stage. Why? Because tout, au monde, existe pour aboutir à un livre,.( Because the whole world exists to end up in a book).That’s why.

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Nostalgia Junkie

 

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