I am what I choose to become
Everyone has a past, their own personal story book of experiences, hardships, blessings, losses and all of those wonderful and not-so-wonderful things that life puts us through.
I know that many of us have faced battles while growing up whether it was going through a parent’s divorce, facing poverty, losing a parent or family member, moving around a lot. There could be a number of things that you went through that really tested you but then also molded you into who you are today.
My childhood has always been something I feel would make a good book. Not just my personal book but a book I actually write and share with the world.
Because I am no author (yet?) and this is my space to speak my truth I want to share parts of it with you.
I have mentioned my dad’s brain tumor on here before. I have also mentioned that my mom has bipolar disorder. Now I have to say that even though both of my parents faced massive battles, they did their best and I might have gone without a lot of things, but love was never one of them.
Our lives changed when my dad was diagnosed with his tumor because he was the bread winner. He had his first operation and it left him unable to work permanently. My mom had to take on the role of provider, caregiver, and so much more all while trying to make ends meet. At this point she was undiagnosed and was fighting her own demons but that didn’t stop her from putting on her superhero cape and doing her absolute best for my dad and I.
We lost our home in 1997. We moved around A LOT. We were always fortunate enough to have four walls around us but they weren’t always conventional. We lived in garages, outside quarters, shared a room in someone’s house, these were all pretty normal but didn’t help my social life at school because I could never invite anyone over. When it got to a point where we were almost homeless, my primary school who were very aware of our situation offered for us to take a storage container that they had on the school property to live in. We put it in someone’s yard and lived there for a while, until the municipality got involved. This is obviously the unconventional four walls I mentioned.
I shared a bed with my mom until the age of 17 and majority of that time it was a single bed. The only time I had my own room was before we lost our house and I barely remember it, I just know that it was pink and I had a Minnie Mouse duvet. I hardly even slept in it because I was so young and wanted to be by my mom and dad during the night. Do you know how often I wished for that pink room?
Not only did I wash for that room, my own space, but I wished for a proper, real, fully functional toilet. For a while we stayed in an outside room with no plumbing so we had to get creative and make a long drop of sorts. Now I know this is something that many people experience daily but do you know or have you ever known anyone, anyone that you went to school with, anyone you’ve worked with, a neighbour, who has had to use a “long drop”? Well now you do, kind of. It’s a reality people, and it was my reality (I told you, this is the stuff books are made of). And if you’re wondering about the technicalities of all of this, we used the bath in the house upstairs and sometimes that toilet, but at 12 o clock at night when nature calls you don’t go and wake an entire household up. You step outside and use your DIY toilet.
It often feels like fiction when I talk about it. I genuinely wonder if people think I am living in some sort of fantasy but I wish I was.
I can honestly say that even though it was tough, the only thing that ever really got me down besides the health of my folks was that I never fitted in and I was embarrassed about all of it, I couldn’t invite friends over, my parents didn’t have a car, I hated civvies days because I didn’t have what everyone else had. But behind closed doors, I had more than I could have asked for. Love, support, a real understanding of how important the small things are, and that nothing, not even a slice of bread should be taken for granted.
Every day was a struggle, there were never any guarantees, of food, of a roof over our head, or of my dad’s physical health and my mom’s mental health but my mom did a damn good job of making it seem like she knew exactly where that next plate of food was coming from. She never made me feel like I needed to worry about anything or that I needed to do anything other than be a child.
When I finished school (which of course was a blessing in itself because I was fortunate enough to receive a full bursary from primary school all the way to matric) I went straight into a job and things started to get better for us. Well, better for my mom and I.
Unfortunately my dad has deteriorated over the years and we find ourselves at a very difficult time with him. We are waiting for test results to see whether or not another operation is required and if it can even be done.
I look back now and I honestly don’t know how my mom did it, how my dad did it, and how we actually survived. But we did.
This is a summary, there is so much more, which you may read in a book one day or maybe on here. But I wanted to share it (I warned you that I overshare). I am at a point in my life where I have decided without a doubt that I want to help others and if this can help someone, somehow, then it is totally worth it. I am also no longer embarrassed by it. I am proud.
This is not a cry for sympathy, I’ve had more than enough of that throughout those years. But I also had my fair share of blessings and people helping me so I want to pay it forward in some way or another.
I have moments where I get angry that I was dealt this hand because as much as I pulled through and set up a life for myself, the past still affects me in my life today. But more often than not when I think about it I have so much to be thankful for – the relationship I have with my parents is what it is because of what we went through, my genuine compassion and care for others is because of it. I am strong, most of the time. I have such a passion and drive to succeed and make a difference because I had so many people who made a difference in my life and because I want to make the rest of my life the best of my life.
I will leave you with my favourite quote of all time.
“I am not what has happened to me, I am what I choose to become”