Then and now…

In my last blog post I related what an epiphany my trip to Poland had brought on. Further to the point on “getting with the times”, I would like to pick your brains further around some then and now scenarios.

As parents, we [with good intent] sometimes try to live or perpetuate the life we either missed out on or were “successful” in, through our children. This is often evident in such cases where politicians beget politicians, lawyers beget lawyers, athletes beget athletes, and so on.

For a lot of parents whose childhood was lived in the pre independence era, the dream is often for the children to become doctors, teachers or for them take up one of the professions that have been around since yester year and can be found on the “you’ve made it when you are..” list.

Drawing a parallel from Prince Ea’s “dissing” the education system, is it not equally an injustice to have the expectation that our children aspire to what we deem to be virtuous lives and career paths, in these vastly different times that we live?

Surely nowadays, having a large family is no longer commonplace or encouraged for that matter, even in African families, correct?

Is it not tyrannical that some companies still provide pension plans, as opposed to provident funds? While these plans may have been relevant in the past, where people actually stayed at one company until they retired, what one person in what is called the Generation Y actually stays in one job for anything more than 5-7 years at most? Show me one person, and I’ll ask you “Y”?

In conclusion, let me just emphasize that I am not “dissing” the attempts of well-meaning parents to help their children live out their best lives. We, as parents just need to be careful that we do not beget children that grow up to be dissatisfied adults who spend the majority of their adult lives thinking “What if?”.

Note to self: perhaps I should embrace my three year olds love for beat boxing and start investing in a drum set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The more you know, the less you realise you know

I recently got to visit the beautiful city of Warsaw in Poland, and might I add that this was the first trip outside Africa, let alone Southern Africa, that I had made. The experience was quite an eye opening one, and while I acknowledge that this would obviously be the case when one is travelling from a third to a first world country, it goes beyond just that.

What became very real to me from the get go, albeit that I may have heard it paraphrased before, is that the more exposure one gets, the more they realise how little they know. Another way to look at it is to simply say that a lack of exposure “kills” a lot of us.

In his article for GQ , Tom Goodwin writes about how we don’t need to teach our kids to code, but rather to dream. He gives an account of why we should be living our lives inside out, rather than outside in. The conversations I had during my stay with people from different parts of the world drove this point home. One individual related how he had recently made what I thought was a drastic change in career, having gone from working as a sailor for rent, to a consultant in the Information Technology  (IT) space.

The inverse, living life inside out, can be likened to what Prince Ea describes in his video on how the frigid education system sometimes judges fish on their ability to climb a tree. Specific notions are handed down to children on what characteristic traits they need to possess, what schools they need to attend and what subjects to take up, in order to end up doing specific kinds of jobs.

This by parents who obviously want to ensure that their children end up making something “meaningful” of their lives, more so in instances where the circumstances are challenging. By the same token, there lies a risk of prescribing a one size fits all cookie cutter lifestyle for very differently wired individuals.

In my observations, I am also aware of some of the differences in the realities of first and third world countries. For the most part, these seem to lend us in a position where, in third world countries we are not exposed to lifestyle alternatives, such that our mindsets are not open to the idea of taking the road less travelled.

In a third world South Africa, the scales are such that some are able to afford first world living, while others live in the squalor that is often depicted in the ads aired in first world countries, by nonprofit and charitable organisations requesting funding. Having had the little exposure that I got from my trip and sitting somewhere towards the lower end of this scale leaves me in a predicament somewhat:

I realise that I have to shift my mindset from the one I inherited on “how to make it”, to one of adaptability. A change is as good as a holiday, even though my trip was work related.

This means having to prioritise exposure, colouring outside the lines, or better yet, not seeing the lines, all within reason. With the little disposable income I have, some of the “things” I would ordinarily buy, should now fall second place to “experiences”. For a great number of us, catapulting ourselves into this mindset, and going against the grain, is unthinkable, and sadly is our downfall.

I have a great interest in innovations that use tech to make life easier, and would dare to claim that investing in experiences would sharpen one’s entrepreneurial skills. I will write about some of the brilliant innovations I saw in Poland and other parts of Europe in posts to follow, but in the meantime I dare those who would try, to go out there and see the world!

Run your own race

As we all huddled at the starting line, there was an announcement made that we were just ninety seconds till starting time. I was mighty excited to be taking part in this year’s Platteklip Charity Challenge, more so for the charity part of it.

As we took off I curbed my desire to also run off like a lot of the athletes were doing, and instead opted to take it easy alongside my teammates. I figured they were much more knowledgeable than I was about this hike, especially since they had done it the weekend before.

About a quarter of the way, my mind was already playing its usual games on me. If there is anything I need to learn in my new journey towards being a marathon runner, it’s to not listen to that little voice in my head that constantly tells me that I’m tired and should stop.

At about halfway from the top, my colleagues stopped to wait for me. I had slacked quite a bit due to the fact that I needed to stop several times to either remove or put on my sweater again, because the temperature would change very suddenly and drastically. I was also really tired at this point , and was really glad when one of my teammates offered to tow me. At this point I was thinking to myself that there was no way I was going to be able to go up a second time, let alone complete the minimum three climbs.

We got to a little waterfall, and decided to drink the water from it. As I stood in the waterfall and felt the light showers from it gently splatter on my t-shirt, I was an awe of the splendour of our city. For that moment, I forgot about how rough the hike had been for me only seconds prior to that point. My exhilarating moment was short lived though. No sooner than we left the waterfall was I brought back to the reality of what the situation was.

About ten minutes later we reached the summit, and again as soon as what had been seven hundred or so meters of steep mountain suddenly changed to level ground, my mind immediately forgot, yet again, of how agonising that last stretch has been. The agony of that last stretch had been exacerbate partly also due to the fact that I was getting cramps in my calves.

As we went down the cable car and engaged in light hearted chatter, I was very much apprehensive of this second hike we were about to embark on. My teammates reassured me that it would be so much easier the second time around, seeing that we would be knowing what to expect. Somehow, that did not offer me much comfort.

Now into the second lap, having stocked up on refreshments, I decided to come up with a mantra that would see me complete my second ascent a lot quicker. My mind was just not really cooperating though, and with every step I took, I felt my mental aptitude get depleted rapidly. As much as I tried to focus on the splendour of the view beneath me, and the fact that I was doing something I really enjoy, and contributing to the betterment of children’s lives, I found myself stopping to catch my breath every twenty or so steps, and this distance lessened with the very steep ascents. It also did not help that there were other participants of varying age groups that overtook me ever so often. Seeing their race tags with three or more clip holes, illustrating the fact that they had done as many ascents really discouraged me. I then had to make a conscious decision to not focus on the racing, but to just complete the three ascents I had set out to do, at my own pace.

With every climb the niggling pain in my left knee got worse, and the occasional cramping in my calves only made my mission all the more challenging. It amazed me even the second time when I reached the top of the mountain and made my way to the cable car, how the memory of the anguish I had felt just moments prior suddenly vanished. As soon as I got to the bottom I was revived and excited that this would be last time I would be going up. Sadly however, my knee was no longer cooperating at all, and as soon as I started to climb, a sharp prickly pain would hit every time I bent it.

This now meant that the “one foot in front of the other” recommendation I had heard from so many who had overtaken me would no longer work. I now had to step forward with my right foot and use that leg to balance while I pulled my left leg, all the while trying to keep my problematic knee as straight as possible.

Fast forward to about two and half hours later when I eventually made it to the top again, and at that point I was feeling all sorts of emotions ranging from elation, exhaustion, and I found myself half crying and half laughing, and involuntarily lifting my hands in celebration of that victorious moment. As I rode down the cable car for the last time with the other participants and tourists, I overheard a lot of the participants saying how they were still going back up for a least two more laps. I, on the other hand, when asked if I would still be going  up again, would shake my head and respond, “…the knee has spoken…”.

As the cable car descended to the bottom of the mountain, I looked out in total admiration and awe of the city, smiling at the thought of having accomplished what has to be one of the greatest achievements of my life thus far. I had done it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My heart