Take a breather – read something which will tug your heart strings or push you a little closer to where you need to be…
In February 2016 I entered Wits as a full time (then) 30-year-old honours student. It was no ordinary war of difference. I was about to begin my toughest yet richest odyssey. There was no paycheck to compensate for an annoying client or hope for promotion. I met a multitude of people (some with and some without the basic decorum required for sanity).
I was the only (South African) Indian in the entire department and I felt it. My culture boasts a very specific type of inclusion which I never realised I needed up until then. It’s a big, loud culture in which formality has little place. We don’t just meet for coffee; we end up eating straight out of each others pots. Right there, in those moments of yearning, I dropped all shame I had of the culture’s accent, and colourful antics. I realised that traditionally, my culture stopped the glorification of the busy, and offered love in floods.
My honours year was a hard dance between teaching, learning, doing, talking and being silent. Masters brought a different set of people; these were individuals who were more affluent in the field of inclusion and had also quit busy landscapes to fulfil this demanding yet uncertain dream. My education was coupled by conducting therapy on a variety of people whom are rich in love, but it was a tough approach. How do you look a minor in the face and not be angry at her rapist? You can when her rapists are minors too. We may have spoken the same literal language, but through artistry, body language, silence, words and mostly via actions, I learnt how much work we all have to do to understand each other, let alone love each other.
Some of the most phenomenal work I encountered during my masters is based on a concept called role-theory. In a drama therapeutic context, it means that the more roles you assume in a flexible, healthy manner, the healthier you may become. Assuming new roles is intrinsically aligned to our ability to speak different languages. If you assume a different role (parent, spouse, leader, follower, friend, manager, hero, different work roles, giver, servant etc.), you meet new people, develop new feelings, skill sets and specifically new languages. My pursuit is to stretch my role-repertoire, not only for my own functioning but also to communicate with people who seem inaccessible. Inaccessibility is subjective. Most times, it’s just a well rehearsed excuse not to stretch…
Part of this journey brought an enormous hurdle of fighting invisible illness in the face of wanting to produce excellence. Internal wars between my intestinal and neurologically related (upper body) pain, ruled me. My stomach, head, eyes, neck and shoulders raged in silent rivalry. I was somewhat delirious during exam practicals and especially whilst reading. I developed ADHD symptoms which meant hours, months and a year of writing a thesis. An unfailing God took the pen when I relinquished it, and more significantly started to birth this storyboard vision through ebbs and flows.
Walking a paradox of looking normal (and talking pretty incessantly), whilst carrying unfamiliar, debilitating, invisible labels awakens you to things you do not see. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not jumped into the individualist, “You do you Boo” camp. On the contrary, I am ardent about community living. Not in a groupie Bob Marley way (although, no women no cry may bear some truth…), but in a way which combines healthy ambition with practical, out-of-your-comfort-zone inclusion. I am not fluent in many arenas, but I’m personally and professionally certain that we need to stop being afraid of the unfamiliar. Of having a child who looks or acts different (because what is normal?), of frowning on alternative career paths (biased much), of racial difference, of adopting children, of the silent people, of ‘poor’ people (because what is poor?) and of every marginalised human. I hate that word, marginalised, but it is real because we created it.
My mother has got this down to a fine (human) science. She remains unflagging in her efforts to smash the patriarchy, but never allowed the debris of the glass ceiling to severe her deep, strong Indian-women-roots which her mother (with severely limited options) gave her. She practices inclusion in a very tangible sense and because of her I know we can walk all sorts of crazy paradoxes. As Kanye says, “if you want crazy ideas, you must know they come from crazy people:.
The litmus test of humanity is how you choose to stretch yourself. How you work, create, discover and fundamentally, how you balance excellence between work and service. It is especially how you create your story, tell your story or listen to others. I hope that this blog brings you the richest part of humanity as we navigate through narratives of struggle, victory, tears, laughs and ultimately of water in the desert.