Friday, July 23, 2010

the world wide web in the palm of my hands

At the beginning of the year I finally bought a new phone. My previous gadget had finally ceased to be a phone worth having, it even became subject to any hot weather. As soon as the temperature was beyond 27 degrees it would suddenly switch off while I’m having a conversation and would do this until the weather became cooler. After a week of this I decided it was time to be a real modern kid and get a decent gadget one that would have the essentials of keeping up to date in an information obsessed era. I didn’t go the whole nine yards with a Blackberry so I decided on a pseudo-Blackberry, Nokia E63. It has all the basic essentials as well as operating like a laptop in the palm of my hand. At the same time I got a new laptop and I discovered that the cellphone and the laptop might as well be married. Anything I do on my phone I can simply send via Bluetooth to my laptop and vice versa. I also received emails as instantly as an sms but I eventually got rid of this option, being so easily available made me very uncomfortable. So I opted to downloading gmail onto my phone. And then there’s facebook! I haven’t embarked on tweeting yet but I can sense the urge is coming. One of my professors commented on this gadget when Letta Mbulu and Lira started singing from my bag as their songs are my ringtones. Walking in public has become uneventulful as I often spend time clicking away while on my way to campus, frantically trying to keep up with either facebook or demanding emails from the Mandela-Rhodes Scholars. I can catch up on other blogs I am following instantly and read up stories on the “My first time blog” about anything and everything many women have experienced (many of which are intimate), but I have never met them.

So with this kind of communication device I have been able to stay in touch with friends in Lithuania, Argentina, Mauritius and Australia. The world is in the palm of my hand. If I think of anything I can google it instantly and get an answer right there and then. Emails have replaced smses when I want to communicate with a large group of people. I am connected to people all the time often from the comfort of my bed. Strangely though, I am mostly alone despite being in touch with so many people in one day. I make new “friends” on facebook everyday often because they saw my profile picture in someone else’s list of friends or they read and article I wrote. I currently have over 150 but I don’t know that many people! Status updates allow me to read on what people are thinking about at any moment . And then there’s MXit! I can catch up with my sister and cousins all at once without sitting in my grandmother’s house like we did when were growing up. Everyday I get introduced to new abbreviations about how to ask someone how they are or what they are doing-hud=how are you doing, wud=what are you doing.

The paradoxes of this information age are crazy. How is it that I have access to this many people and can still feel so disconnected from people? I am far from home which means my primary community is far from me. Being at varsity, many of my friends have left but we still want to be in each other’s lives hence facebook. The prospect of falling in love has become complicated as I can easily swoon from an email the object of my affection has sent, but the reality is, I don’t know anything about him except what is in the email or the sms but I have to trust the honesty.

We (or maybe it’s just me) have become so desperate for friendships and authentic relations that we never question each other on the updates we have on our various profiles. We glibly accept that there’s a worldwide web etiquette or code of conduct that says be as honest and truthful as possible so we go along believing each other and we convince ourselves that we are making connections with people. Part of me buys into it because I have put myself out there in various platforms, even blogging. But part of me yearns for face to face chats, holding hands, cuddling on the couch, playing outside in the sun or wind or rain, sand between my feet at the beach, which is how I connected with people before technology took over. But who says I can’t do all that? Why not swap the E 63 for something less invasive and live the life I want to live? Because I want it all, modernity is part of who I am and I’m tired of running away from it, but that doesn’t mean I don’t envy hippies from time to time.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Living a fraction of my dream

I’m a chronic planner. Throughout school I bought into the habit of setting goals at the beginning of every year. I think I took it to the extreme though when I thought I could anticipate my life when I left school with 5 year plans of what I wanted to do. Nobody warned me about the danger of removing the exciting part in living when we believe that life is all mapped out. I thought that if I had a plan I would have structure and stability and growing up wouldn’t be such a scary prospect. It was only after my first 5 year plan started falling apart that I realised that it’s true when people say life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. My obsession with stability is a result of my strange childhood and wicked youth that had both the joys and woes of growing up but little structure. I’ve realised that my obsession with control has been about pining for my childhood and youth that was devoid of stability since I was 6 years old and I came back from school being told we had been evicted from our mansion.

Since the first 5 year plan fell apart I have been living with a strange excitement in my life. I can’t remember when it all started happening but I blame it on my honours year: I went to New York and Berlin in one year, I started writing for the public and people who read my words told me I made them think about things, I “met” Nontsizi Mgqwetho who taught me “asinakuthula umhlaba ubolile’ (we cannot keep quiet when the world is in shambles), I had people trust me with the well being of their children, I was awarded the Mandela-Rhodes Scholarship that led to me meeting Madiba in person, I had lunch with Prof Gerwel-the man who looks permanently bored at our graduation ceremonies and discovered that he’s nothing like the portrait outside the council chambers here at Rhodes, I presented a lecture at the National Schools festival that caused the learners in attendance to get talking and the same thing happened this year at the Eastern Cape Schools Festival, I have been nominated to sit on Councils with people double my age, I have been selected for the 200 Young People...Mail and Guardian list, I was involved in initiating training for young leaders in Grahamstown and was grateful to see the pitfalls that ensued-seeing what it’s really like working with teachers from low performing schools. Recently I helped my sister get married (one down two to go) which is quite a monumental task in our family for many reasons I will explore in another conversation. I was also asked to lecture this year so I had people trust me with ideas and students’ minds. I recently told an elderly woman that I was doing my Masters in Education and she asked me how old I was. When I told her I’m 23 she laughed and asked me “iMasters yinto yokudlalela kuyo na mnta,am?” (is a Masters degree a toy that you can play with?).

In short I’m living a life I never anticipated when I wrote my 5 year plan down and could never have anticipated when it started falling apart. But there’s something so ordinary in this spectacular life I’m living, I still have the same challenges of juggling my priorities and keeping out the background noise, I still worry too much and have heart palpitations whenever I think about my work. I still think I don’t have what it takes to do what lies ahead of me. Lately I’ve been actively searching for some sort of comfort, something to keep my heart still and my hands steady to do the things I know I can do but too fearful to begin at times. I’ve realised that prayer is not enough sometimes, that simply asking and expecting things to fall into place or the anxiety to drift away is not the ideal situation. I have to make conscious choices about my reality and my capabilities and be determined not to give way to fear of any kind-of myself, what people will say, of failure and above all to keep my heart open to the spectacular. The truth is I want to die empty. Whether I die young or at 100 I want to die knowing that I have done all that I could do with all that I have been given. I want to die knowing that I have failed and picked up the pieces thereafter, I have been part of people’s lives in a meaningful way hence I thrive on the relationships that I have.
One other thing that has been spectacular these past 2 years has been the ability to look in the mirror from time to time, learning to love the person that I see. I’m learning to understand my flaws and make peace with the fact that I will never be perfect but trying to be good and simply just being me is sometimes enough. I don’t have to strive for accolades and recognition to believe that I’m worthy, I simply am worthy just the way I am, “I am sufficient as I am”. Maybe this could be my mantra to keep my feet on the ground.