So here I am, for all the world to see. All my wobbly bits exposed.
I made two incredibly poor decisions early on in life.
These decisions have caused me to experience life in a different manner to my peers. I have had wondrous highs, and have bottomed out lower than the Mariana Trench. I have worked hard, and failed spectacularly; I’ve worked hard at failing spectacularly, depending on your reasoning, your perspective or indeed your psychological acumen.
Over the years, my thirst for the spice of life has left me parched, and I have found myself drinking my fill of apathy instead. A raspingly poor substitute.
Actually it was not two bad decisions that have landed me here, it was one. I just made it twice.
I arrived in 1993 ablaze with self-glorification, dripping with a freedom I had hitherto not experienced. An imagined freedom. The previous year had seen me matriculate; years and years of torturously mundane study and psychological abuse finally at a blissful end. The halls of my mind echoed with the righteous proclamation, so powerfully orated by the late great Dr King: “Free at last, free at last, thank God (I am) free at last.”
The idea of immediately plunging headlong into further study, bobbing and weaving amongst the crowded platform, trying to shove my way through the doors of a train that would only take me as far as the very start of the rat race, was abhorrent to me. What I really wanted, what I needed, what I knew at the very base of my hormone addled brainstem, was freedom. The freedom to choose the road less travelled. The road that lay at the heart of Robert Frost’s poem, and led inevitably to a place of romance and adventure. Obviously.
It never did occur to me that certain roads are less travelled for a very good reason indeed. Nevertheless, I did have romance by the bucket load and adventure by the spade; though those are stories for another time.
Having thus interred my future in the graveyard of my mind, I rebelled against the immediate necessity to pursue a tertiary education. My poor, dear parents would have none of my whimsy, recognising my flights of fancy for what they truly were. In another place and time perhaps, the romantic acorn of a gap year could have seeded and still grown into a strong oak. My parents could not afford such risk. So off I went, kicking and screaming to university, pursuant of a science degree I did not want. This is where I made that first terrible decision.
In lieu of doing as I should have, I asserted my ignorant will instead, and pursued an education not in science but in the biology of a girlfriend, and the effects of tequila upon the eighteen your old body and brain. An entire year was sucked into that hedonistic vortex. I learned much, and though scintillating in memory, not particularly marketable as skills an employer might find useful.
At years’ end, while my peers basked in the well-deserved shower of affection and glory from their parents; I negotiated a torrent of rage, and disappointment from mine. And rightly so. How could I have been so insensitive, so blatantly careless with their love, their trust, their hard earned money? I don’t know. It is forever my shame that I had treated them so. That they are the best sort of people, brimming over with unconditional love for their idiot son is plain to see, and they deserve so much better. So much better than me, doing the same dance again the following year.
After the storm of their tirade had simmered to a gentle rolling boil, they forgave me. They knew I had merely made a mistake. But now it was time to get serious. They would not be here to take care of me forever. Education is so important, my mother said.My father’s admonishment was just as dear and he ran a modestly successful business, enough to provide a comfortable middle class life for his family of five. Ungrateful toad wart son included.
And so, head cast down in shame, though still not knowing what direction to pursue, I reregistered at another tertiary institution the following year. This time a hotel school. Tourism in South Africa was beginning to boom, apparently. With an unjustified faith, as it would turn out, my parents finally thought me on the right path.
I cannot countenance my actions, but can only ask for forgiveness. This time the school was different, the girls were different, but otherwise I had somehow found myself spiralling down that same vortex of self-immolation. Yet I never saw the damage I was doing to future me.
Inevitably, my parents found out. They had learned their lesson. There was only so much rope they could hand me before I hanged myself, and that was the last thing they wanted. So time to try it my way; together with their love and support, they would give me that much. Except, I had no further plan than to not study, not until I was ready. I had become a clown, not to be taken seriously, and my life was a circus. The great Bozo!
Well, a few things have happened between then and now. I moved to Cape Town and back again, I got married and have the most amazing daughter. I moved to Johannesburg and back again. I got divorced. I started a business, and failed at it. And in between have had the myriad jobs that a lack of education has allowed me. Mostly sales related. I hate sales. I incurred so much debt, that for the longest time I could not have a bank account. Any cent arriving therein would quickly be swallowed by that black hole. I have been unemployed for the last year. And, I’ve moved back in with my parents…
In spite of this, I am soon getting married again. I take it as a personal victory that my fiancé recognises that finally I am travelling, not the road less travelled; but the well-worn road that leads to a brighter future. It’s about love and understanding. But it’s also about pursuing a goal that is not immediate, and about creating a future for myself and my daughter that perhaps my parents could look at with pride. And that I could too.
Now that I have hindsight, I am amazed at how clear the future looks. Twenty-two years late, I know what I want to do with my life, and am taking the slow measured steps toward that end. I want to be a teacher. An English Teacher. I have an ability here, and a love to pass on knowledge. I have too a love for cultural immersion, and I can think of few professions as noble. Earlier this year, my beloved sister (the older one; it’s difficult to tell since they are both beloved) bought me one of the greatest gifts I have ever known. Possibility. I am, because of her kindness, studying to become TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certified. My goal is to pursue a teaching career in China, where it is still acceptable to teach with a TEFL certification even without a degree.
But the fire has now been lit. My daughter reminds me consistently with her love and trust, how important my pending move to China actually is. She wants me to succeed for her as much as for myself. I think she’s already planning a holiday to come visit me. But first I have to get there.
Two other courses are on my new bucket list. The first is the Cambridge accredited CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults). It is a one-month intensive campus study course which will help me pursue private tutoring in China, with a specialisation in adult and business English. The second is a degree course in Creative Writing, which I’d like to register for next year. I love writing. I believe that with practice, guidance and education I could be a writer. Having a degree also opens up other areas of the world for me to teach in.
So this is my appeal (lord)…
I messed up when I was young and stupid. I think I’ve endured enough and subjected those I love to enough worry and emotional pain by that stupidity. I am on the right path now. I need a second chance please. Don’t most people at some point?
I need money to pursue a brighter future. If you can, please help. For the cost of a cup of coffee, you could turn philanthropist and change my life.
In turn, I will pay it forward however I can.
Thank You So Much For Your Support, and Please Pass It On