Monday, 30 November 2015

You Versus the Challenge

There, wherever you may be, you lay an inch from death in front of the challenge.   

It has insolently come before you, putting your desire, your fire, your hopes on display for its gnarly teeth to clamp down into.  You feel the searing cut of the sharper of the teeth and the unforgiving pressure of the flatter of the teeth.  Before long, not only its teeth gnaws its way through your flesh, but its numerous limbs take seamlessly orchestrated strikes at your weaknesses.  The challenge possesses mental abilities as well, beyond merely brawn and force.  The challenge seems to know that which makes you tremble and fear, that which makes you dread the sunset and the coming of the night and that which keeps you awake at night dreading the start of the day more than its ending.  It threatens your very core and shakes the foundations of your soul as an unexpectant earthquake rips through the hustle and bustle of daily, repeated motion of a grand city on a glorious summer's day.  You are left a-questioning, left fearing.  Indeed, the challenge has disconnected you from your very self.  There seems to be no light, no saviour, no silver lining, no chance for redemption. 

Yet, in the depths of despair, in hell's fury, in the valley of the beast, in the lion's den, you still have something.  You have life!  Life; so glorious a brevity bestowed upon us by the Ancient of Days, which has escaped billions already, but lay kicking, willing, knowing in your bosom.  Life is what you have that the challenge does not have - that which the challenge will never have.  The challenge only seeks to exterminate the very last life from you as you lay writhing in despair in the pit.  Yet, dear reader, you must rise!  Rise from the grave like the phoenix of legend.  Rise to claim the fullness and the abundance of the glory of life that your Maker has given you.  You must claw with your very blood gushing in passion out of that pit.  You must struggle unto your feet with the pride that still remains.  You must raise your eyes and lock your stare with the challenge with the last inkling of courage that remains within you.  Finally, you must turn the challenge upon its head by laying down itself in front of it.  You must provide it with a mirror image of itself within you.  "The challenge is no more external to me, but the challenge is within me!" you must roar, loud and long, to the challenge's ugly head.  The challenge will run in fear, cower and the victim will have become the victor!

Whatever challenge you may be facing as you read this, know that you are able, you are willing, you are courageous, and you WILL overcome!  Think that one day when you are old and infirm, you will long again for these days of blood of sweat of tears for never at any other point in your life than in these days of struggle were you more acutely aware of how alive you are and how glorious it is to be alive.

There is no greater an honour than the fight against the challenge.  Battles with the challenge are said to echo into eternity.

The more difficult the struggle, the more glorious the triumph.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The Sands of Time

On Sunday afternoons, I have a tradition of Skyping with my parents. I do this considering that, other than text, I have no other way to immediately communicate with them.  Older people may say that back in my day the only way you could contact home was via snail mail.  I understand their points, that must have been hell, but not even a live video stream of your loved ones can truly ever replace being right there, next to them.  However, being in my third year of university 7000 miles from home, the pain of separation fades quietly  into history.  Yet some Sundays I am left more than nostalgic than I normally am after attempting to bridge the great Atlantic divide.  Maybe it's because it's rainy and grey outside.  Maybe it's because Homecoming at South Alabama finished yesterday.  Maybe it's because I don't have any practice today.  I suppose all of these things have come together and placed me in a ruminative mood.  Today my thoughts are turned towards time.

I have mentioned in previous posts how it seems to me that every semester I have spent at the University of South Alabama is better than the one that preceded it.  At the end of the Spring of this year I thought the Spring could not be topped, yet, here am I, sad on a Sunday afternoon in early November and I can almost cry with gratitude of an amazing semester so far.  The biggest mistake I made in my first semester in Spring 2013 was that I spent way too much time on my own in my room.  95% of the times I went to the caf, I would sit alone and further sink into sadness of being alone and further into the doldrums of my head.  Each semester that percentage has decreased to the point where nowadays 5% of the time I sit alone .  I haven't played video games since the summer because I am in constant contact with people and I have had no lonely weekend excursions on my bike because there is always a friend around that wants to do something or there is someone new to meet and to get to know.  How then, considering how far I have come from the desolate days of early 2013, am I seasoned with a hint of sadness today?  Time. Time and the tragedy thereof.

The past few days have enlightened me again to the tragedy which is the brevity of human life.  It always seems that as though there is not enough time.  Whenever you come to, the event you have dreamed about is already a distant memory.  It seems like only yesterday when I was playing in the arid field of Koingnaas (my original hometown), dodging snakes and scorpions and my worst fear being to not knock out a house window hitting some balls toward the house whilst swinging some golf clubs!  I close my eyes from those everlong days and open them to being in my third year of university wondering where all those years went.  It's funny how when I live in carpe diem manner I seem to worry more about the passage of time whereas if I live unproductively and lazily, the passage of time is insignificant.  Maybe it's because when you live every day to its maximum potential, you are made more acutely aware of how much more you could have done.  Trying to balance sport, academics, personal growth, love and friendships is hard because you can always look back and say that I could have done more for this one or for that one.  That is, as they would say, where prioritizing comes in.  How do you prioritize life when you want to have it all?  How do I say no to playing soccer with friends when I want to do well in academics?  From an economical or societal perspective, doing your homework is better, but from a human perspective playing soccer with my friends is more important than learning the origins and insertions of elbow muscles. 

Maybe more than anything I am caught in the web of fear of missing out.  If I work on personal development, I might be skipping out of an important practice.  If I study for a test, I miss a movie night with friends.  In all those situations, I want both, but the tragedy of time is that you can only pick one.  The real tragedy lies in the fact that when you have chosen one, you cannot go back and relive that other when your first choice is completed.  The Almighty hath made this universe one where (at least as far as it is practical) time is linear.  Time and life spent on one thing is forever lost for the other.  Yet, that is a more negative way to look at it.  More positively said, time and life not spent on one thing is forever gained for the other.  My mother always told me that tears you shed are like pearls, you are only born with a set amount of pearls, therefore you cannot spend them indiscriminately.  Same goes for time, when we were born, the Greatest endowed us with a set, but unknown amount of time.  Our task at this genesis was to spend the time in the most excellent way possible.  To never waste, but never be too frugal with all that time either because other than the tear-pearls (which you have a relatively good deal of control over) the time we are given slowly trickles from our lives, just like sand trickles out of an hourglass.  Our finite time is therefore spent whether we consciously choose to do so or not. 

I suppose therefore the origin of this Sunday feels is that the sand of my hourglass, your hourglass, our hourglasses is trickling away into the bottomless pit of history.  Our time is running out.  This is nothing new, that's for sure, but do know that even though consciously "unspent time" casually drifts away into the abyss, consciously spent time goes exactly where your heart desires it to go.  We have not been bestowed power to control every facet of this beautiful life (but that's why it is beautiful!), but we have been given our knapsack full of time.  Use that, my dear reader, in the most excellent way possible. 

I leave you with the words of Gandalf in reaction to Frodo's regret of being bestowed the Ring, "So, do all who live to see such times, but it is not for them to decide.  All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.  There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.  Bilbo was meant to find the ring in which case you were also meant to have it.  And that is an encouraging thought."

Do not go quietly into that night

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Thormania: An Adventure Lived Vicariously through Yik Yak

An interesting trend has occurred with me in my time in college.  Ever since my very first semester at South Alabama in January 2013, each semester that followed was better than the preceding one.  By the time we reached the end of Spring 2014, I thought to myself that it would be impossible to improve thereon.  How wrong I was!  I am now in Fall 2015 and life is absolutely beautiful.  It's not for me to go on about achievements or any of the like, but I will tell you about a little cellphone app that has put my personal growth (especially with respect to relating to women) on an accelerated pace.  If you are at South Alabama, Yik-Yak may bring a smile, a frown or a cringe to your face.  Hopefully my post today can turn the frowns upside down and encourage the few who take time to read this.

I always knew about Yik-Yak what it was about (basically a service where you read anonymous tweets or "yaks" by people in your area) and I knew that I had been mentioned by some yakkers before.  The extent whereto the conversation in the collective conscious of South's student populace raged about me was something I was placidly unaware of.  Every now and then a friend or teammate would tell me about me being mentioned.  It was at the beginning of this month that much of these mentions were happening, but back then I didn't have the app.  Sometimes I wonder how my behavior and thoughts would have been different had I downloaded the app earlier because the Thor furor was actually borderline unsafe.  For those that do not know, a number of people on South's campus consider me to be Thor.  I should note that I am not the only one to be called by this name, but I seem to be the most enduring Thor on campus.  Why Thor?  Long, dirty blonde hair I suppose.  A lot of people have long dirty blonde hair, yes?  Indeed, but people seem to remember me more than the others.  Maybe it's because of my shoelessness, maybe it's because of my short shorts, maybe it's because of my mad biking skills. 

Regardless, the Thormania of early September was borderline unsafe because people were actually yakking about my every move.  I am not kidding.  When I entered or left a building someone would yak about it.  Obviously I did not know this at the time, but found out weeks later.  There were actually numerous yakkers who stood up for me and told these people that were yakking my every move to stop doing that because I needed privacy.  Had people not told me about this, I would have been completely oblivious about it.  I saw no change in behaviour of people towards me during those weeks.  Just the odd stare here and there, but that was normal for me.  Maybe now and then someone would stop and proclaim to others that I am Thor and even a brave few asked me whether I was Thor.  That was it though.  The point of this paragraph was to highlight that even though something might be at the very forefront of the collective consciousness of an entire people, there is a chance that those affected by it may never know about it.  Why is that? I wish I had a definitive answer, but fear would definitely be up there.

Fear brings me to the next big idea in this post.  As I said earlier, a brave few ever contacted me during this period.  All those that did I ended up having fruitful exchanges with.  There was one though that stood head and shoulders above the others.  It started with something innocuous as asking whether I had a Kik by an anonymous profile on a social media.  She will henceforth be titled Thoradorer to protect her identity as well.  I did not have a Kik at the time and before I knew I was asked something I could give, but it would be hard for me to do so.  My blog is all about transparency, but this one I will keep mum.  Before long my relationship with Thoradorer took all kinds of turns.  She asked tough questions and I was back in the psychologist's office of June 2013.  The struggles I took to the psychologist in 2013 has not been entirely resolved.  I came to the conclusion that socially I have grown tremendously because I am much more able to communicate with others, relate to others and build and maintain friendships.  I am really proud of having come this far, but Thoradorer was not happy and wanted to see more progress.  We realized that I still struggle with self-worth and self-esteem issues (I actually blogged about this back in 2014).  These same issues arguably contribute at least somewhat to my underperforming in discus.  However, I have always been aware of these two issues and I could openly admit to them.  I have made some progress on them since 2013, but not enough.  Thoradorer then pushed onwards and hit hard on probably my greatest struggle so far in this life - romance and women.  I have never had a girlfriend and I have never gone on a date before (well, at least I haven't been on a one-on-one excursion with one female that both parties described as a date).  Thoradorer's digging commenced.

I will not go into details about the conversation, but will highlight some themes that came from them.  I have developed so many defense mechanisms, rationalizations and intellectualizations about my woman-less life.  Some defense mechanisms include me moralizing that I don't want to approach women based on looks alone (which, on average, most men do).  This happens because some of my feminism teachings has told me that women don't want to be catcalled or solely looked upon for their beauty.  I overcompensate and try to not even look at women sometimes, when in the end, I do everyone a disservice by not making eye contact.  So, I am really sorry for all the people I never looked at (I am not a cold person, just shy) and especially to the one girl who made her hair pretty for me and I never noticed it (I am so sorry, had I know I would at the very least have given you the respect you deserve).  Since this realization I have made a concerted effort to make more contact (both duration and frequency with strangers).  I also try to smile and I must say this has been a powerful boost to my self-esteem.  It's absolutely brightens my day when I smile at a girl and she smiles back.  It's one of those things that make every other struggle in this life seem like nothing at all. 
Another fear/defense mechanism is that I fear failure and rejection.  The idea that someone would not want to talk to me or not give me a chance is tough for me because I have never approached any woman with evil intentions (not that I can remember).  However, it shouldn't be an attack on my character if someone says no to me.  There are a plethora of reasons why someone would say no and most of the time it comes down to time and place. 
A final one that I will share in this post (before it becomes way too long) is that I have always been a bit closed for romance.  It's funny, I blog about how I desire it and many nights I feel very lonely but I seem to resist it at the same time.  How could someone that desires something so much also fear it so much?  However, I know that I can never fully enjoy this life, fully grow if I don't season my maleness with external femaleness.  I strongly believe in the Greek maxim, "Nothing in excess." which to me means balance.  I cannot become the best athlete if I cannot look a woman in the eye without being overcome with anxiety, I cannot become a great husband if I do not get to understand the hearts, the minds, the wiles, the games, the triumphs and tragedies of women and I certainly cannot become a great father if I cannot be brave enough to stand up for women. 

How does Yik-Yak play into all of this personal development?  Well, other than helping me discover all my struggles and finally giving me the confidence to admit openly that I struggle with romance, Thoradorer told me download Yik-Yak.  It was a great decision.  It did exactly as she said it would.  I used to put women on a pedestal, in other words I idealized them too much (too much idealization leads to too much fear and eventually disappointment).  The app helped me to humanize all members of the fairer sex that surround me.  I learn that they have same anxieties that I do.  The same anxiety that builds up in me if I feel the desire to approach or talk to a girl, that same anxiety is within them when I am around.  I like to think about the analogy of the spider and I.  When I see the spider, I am scared as hell of it, but when the spider sees me, it's probably at least equally as scared!  If we both could just admit our fears then this life would be so much less of a hassle.  Because I am aware of this fear, any girl that has the courage to talk to me I always tell her that she is courageous.  I tell it because I understand the fear, I tell it because I know I am too scared to do it and I tell it that what she did is especially brave in a culture that tells women to wait for love.  Love and romance is out there for all of us, but it is only to be gained by those brave enough to reach out and take it.  That's why we often find ourselves questioning couples so often.  How in the world did he manage to get her because she is so high above him?  He simply was the bravest.  Even if you are the best looking guy, with all the money, all the abdominal muscles in the right places and with all the right moves, if you know what I mean, you will never date to your potential unless you have the courage to take the leap of faith - to break the barriers of non-communication between you and your target and be prepared to fail.  That, my dear readers, is what I need to learn to do before my time in college runs out.  I have the opportunity of a lifetime.  Many men would kill to be in a position of campus fame as myself (and would also much better make use of this privilege than I am currently doing). 

If you are reading this and wanted to talk to me, hey, my social medias are always open and I make time for everyone - ugly or beautiful, short or tall, fat or thin, black or white.  My belief is still that human relationships are the most important thing in this life.  I will always make time for others, but know that I am just as scared as you are about taking the leap of faith.  I mean, I am writing an entire essay about how scared I am about talking to girls and God knows whether it may change anything or whether it may just make me get comfortable because I got a fear of my chest.  The key though to personal growth is to never become truly content.  There is always more to chase, more to aspire to, but don't take this too far though.  Eventually, for things and people outside, of ourselves we all have to settle for something at some point.  Don't settle too soon, but don't wait too long either - both are just as bad. 

My thanks go out to my fellow students and especially Thoradorer for challenging and changing me through the cut-throat world which is Yik-Yak.  I see the very worst of humanity thereon, but also the very best of humanity and that, my dear readers, gives me courage, joy and, above all, hope.  Thormania may have petered out, but maybe now Thor will move from our screens and right into our actual lives.  That, that is beautiful thing.

All of life is interaction

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Ontskakeling van ons Erfenis

As mens op jou bed sit en Dana Snyman se Onder die Radar lees (dankie Agtersitplekvensterdromer) en die laatsomer Saterdag son se laaste strale deur jou onoopmaakbare venster die boek se bladsye verhelder word mens sommer op 'n reis van heimweë geplaas na dae wat lank reeds vergaan is. 
Soos Dana vertel van sy kinderdae in ons land se droeë intern, daar in Kuruman se wereld, word ek ook vlugtelik na my eie kinderdorpe van Hondeklipbaai, Koingnaas en Kleinzee vervoer in die soorgelyke droeë, maar helder Namakwaland.  My eie en Dana se lewensverhale is nie noodwendig dieselfde nie, maar vanuit elke bladsy tap daar gevoelens en emosies wat my terugneem na Suid-Afrika.  Die woorde van elke bladsy laat my ook terselfde tyd die verlede met die hede en die toekoms kontrasteer.  Dis ongelooflik hoe baie ons Afrikaner volk verander het in die afgelope 30 jaar.  As 'n 21 jarige jongman het ek die voorreg om deel van die ewolusie van ons volk en mense te wees.  Ons word intern gewroeg deur destydse mantras dat die Afrikaner by die suidpunt van Afrika geplaas is deur God om beskawing na die mense en die land te bring en hedendaagse ontnugtering waar honderde duisende Afrikaners die land verlaat en heeltemal afvallig word van ons erfenis, godsdiens en geskiedenis.

Dit is verseker 'n interessante tyd om Afrikaans te wees, veral iemand soos myself wat hier aan Amerika se suidpunt sit.  Ek het die voorreg van 'n uitkyk wat toelaat dat ek ons kultuur en mense se ewolusie dop te hou met minder partydigheid as een wat tans in ons kulturele warboel is.  Dit blyk of ons stry of ons ons taal, kultuur en leefwyse moet prysgee en liewer  konformeer met die internasionale gemeenskap van Engels praat, internet lewens lei, tegnologies gedrewe wees en liberale denkwyses aanneem of die ander kant van die munt verg weer dat ons soos die Israeliete van ouds vasklou aan oorbleefsels van 'n tyd van ossewa bestuur en nie-Afrikaners uit sluit uit ons lewens.  'n Mens kan nogal hierdie stryd van tradisie teen modernisme in ons musiek sien.  Die Steve Hofmeyrs en Bok van Blerke van die wereld speel op bang Afrikaners se gevoelens om ons te laat dink dat ons kultuur aan't uitsterwe is.  Die Fokofpolisiekarre en Die Antwoorde is weer helde van die renegate en afvalliges want hul spreek na kwessies soos vertroue aan God, konformisme aan die Afrikaner kultuur en isolasie van die buitewereld.

Hierdie generasie van ons jongmense is seker die belangrikste sedert die Voortrekkers, al weet ons dit nie.  Dit gaan in ons hande wees of ons die Afrikaner nasie oor 100 jaar slegs in die anale van geskiedenis kan opspoor, omdat ons heeltemal geassimileer het met die globale kultuur, of dat jy nog die bittereinders gaan vind daar in Orania, afsgesluit van die wereld.

Dit is in ons hande om ons kultuur die 21ste eeu in te neem; om 'n fyn balans te tref tussen tradisie en verandering.

Kom ons sien waarna it als na gaan lei

Sunday, 19 July 2015


I think is only slightly ironic that the word lonely appears in the title of this blog, but it took me nearly a year and a half to finally say something about this overhanging problem. 
The original intent of the lonely in the title of this blog was that in January 2013 I had gone through a tumultuous 2013 where I left the comfort of high school and my adopted hometown, Paarl, where I was respected and loved.  I entered the New World for the very first time with no one there from the life I had lived prior to that point.  It was only then, mid the newness, that I realized how socially isolated I was.

 I have never publicly admitted this before, but part of the reason for my insatiable drive to be the best in the world in athletics was that I knew people would interact with me and that I would "gain love and respect" this way.  To be frank, that still is part of the reason for my drive to be the best in my sport.  Numerous factors (which will be too much for one blog to dive into) created a perfect storm where the appeal of fame and the respect and love associated with living a publicly significant life became a very appealing position for me to be in.  For some reason, this idea rests in my being that unless I am significant in many peoples eyes then I am a failure.  I know being externally motivated is not per se the best way to approach success, life and sport, but it would be wrong to not admit that I am motivated why the social aspects of sporting glory.  Maybe that's why the prevailing feeling in my heart, the feeling of shame, ruled in my heart after my less-than-perfect debut at Nationals a month ago. 

Going back to the point on loneliness in a new part in my life in America, when you go somewhere where no one knows you, your hard-sought for reputation might just as well never have existed.  I actually needed to reach out to other peoples lives for the first time.  Too bad I didn't do that in the beginning of my American odyssey.  I didn't admit it, but I was very alone and obviously not admitting to a problem makes it nigh impossible to ever solve it.  However, after the efforts of my parents, I committed to change this loneliness since June 2013.  I have come so so far, but am still far away from being liberated from social isolation. 

I now have friends and teammates at South Alabama that have become so important to me.  I actually recall a moment from the Spring semester where one friend asked me at the lunch table at the caf where I would want to be right now if I could be anywhere in the world.  It might have seemed cheesy or insincere  but I said that I wanted to be nowhere else in the world.  Just prior to the question being asked of me I remember thinking, "Wow, I am so content right now.  My lunch table was surrounded by people I care for and respect and I am sure the think the same of me."  I thought the same during my birthday party last semester where 21 friends and teammates celebrated my 21st at Buffalo Wild Wings.  It's interesting, ever singe semester at South Alabama has been better than the one that preceded it.  Every semester I ask God how He can keep these blessings on coming - when will this end?  I couldn't go on forever?  I just feel so blessed.

The thing is, this summer semester has been quite lonely.  Almost all my people are out of town during these hot, stormy months.  I often find myself resorting to solitary video games or YouTube videos to fill the hole left in my time that used to be spent around the cafeteria table sharing in memories with the people of South.  I guess my social ability has regressed somewhat in the past two months because I spend most of my time hoping for and dreaming of August when everybody will be back.

To finish off proceedings I must say that it is only in these moments of separation from my people that I realise that I am not lonely anymore.  That's a seemingly contradictory statement, as I am now literally alone, but I describe myself as not so.  For the first time in my life (well, maybe not the first time, but we humans have a bias towards the present) I desire to with people.  I always denied this within me; the seeds of being a citizen of an overly individualistic culture left me with fully blossomed disconnect from other humans.  We humans are made for interaction, for other people, to cherish and to share with others, but modern day extreme individualism has told us that you don't need others.  Man is the measure of all things, not men, apparently.  Though this summer has helped me to start the breaking free process from the destructive asocial ideal of Western culture.  I DO miss my family back home, I DO miss my friends, teammates and the familiarity of seeing known faces as I bike across campus.  My atonement from Social Anxiety Disorder has reached a new mile marker - I now truly know that I am made for others and that without others there is not much to my existence except survival.  Where we not made to thrive instead of survive?


Friday, 12 June 2015

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

I write now mere hours after finishing in an abysmal 20th place at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Oregon in the discus throw having been ranked 8th or 9th.  I had my third shortest meet of the year and it's really tough to deal with all the negativity in my head right now.  In fact, I have developed quite the headache.

Let me go on a good old ramble because this is probably the thing I need most right now.  This was my 3rd major sub-par meet in my life.  I came 5th at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2011, having been ranked 2nd.  I finished 15th at the IAAF World Junior Championships in 2012, having been ranked 8th.  And now today, my lowest ever position on any level in any discus competition.  My previous worst was that 15th from 2012.  I have received gut punch after gut punch at the major meets.  The worst part was that I trained so well on Tuesday at Hayward Field.  If I had one of those throws today, it would have been much different.  Yet, that's not how life and sport work.  There is no prize for winning training sessions.  Unless your effort is displayed on the big screen and in terms of medals about your neck, there is no glory.  This is a terribly hard thing about athletics.  You can fixate yourself on something for years (9 and a half for me) and then seem like a fricken noob on competition day.  After my performance today, you wouldn't think that I actually had a really good season so far with many breakthroughs and firsts.  Yet the pain of inadequacy and under-performance looms awfully large.  It was embarrassing to be on the field today after my third and final attempt.  The 11 000 people in the stands must have wondered what this effeminate guy was trying to do - competing with men? Bah!

I now, more fully, understand the pain of higher level sport.  Man oh man, I now feel so deeply for the Brazil footballers after bowing out to Germany in the World Cup semis (does 7-1 ring a bell?).  I remember sitting in a tent right after the discus - gruesome thoughts were mulling through my seared mind.  I was doubting my worth as an athlete and actually as a human.  I already struggle with a brittle self-esteem because of negative thought patterns (such as an inferiority complex) I have had for many years.  Believe me, I am fighting these ancient negative thought patterns very hard and I have made great strides but losses such as today only seem to scratch open old painful wounds.  I guess, I still have much work to do (to overcome these old demons) because the man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can't are both right.  It's all in my hands but there are still times when the ancient titans are too strong for the contemporary heroes.  That's one thing I have learned about neurosis and mental struggles - you never truly eradicate them from your history.  You only better learn to tie them down and inoculate them before they can attack.  If you let your guard down for just a tad too long, the neurosis is back in it's full evil glory, but this time with a fervent determination to make up for lost time.  My biggest battle has always been with self-esteem (most prominently social self-esteem) and to a lesser extent self-worth.  So, until the end of time I will have to teach myself to consider myself worthy of another person's time and, maybe one day, know that I am worthy of another's life.  Yet, that future Avalon/Valhalla/Sovngard/Utopia/Paradise is still a distant one for me.

I join the ranks of The Fallen once more.  Once more I am subject to the annals of history where... no, wait there are no records kept of The Fallen.  The moment they depart us from this Good Earth they are made a distant memory, slowly disappearing from history as the rememberers are sent into the abyss themselves.  Ere the midnight strike, we are but gone from even being a byword for the greatest historians.  We are lost. Gone.  Forsaken from time.  Such is the story of failure.  Such are the struggles of not achieving.  Such and so are the days of our lives.  The feast and the famine.  The light and the dark.  The victor and the vanquished.  The Yin and the Yang.  The life and the death.  Ashes to ashes we flow as leaves tossed to and fro in the perpetual winds of time - only to be brought hence by fate and chance.

If it is fate and chance, then this must be our destiny?  Or maybe we tell ourselves this is our destiny so that we do not have to more truly accept the horror of reality?  Reality bears an inconvenient truth that can topple empires and annihilate nations, but those who embrace it are deemed free.  For the truth will set you free, but never was it said that the truth will cast you in the everlasting lake of bliss. Nay, the truth only lets the veil over our eyes be cleaved asunder and allows us to breathe, to look, to hear, to smell, to taste, to love, to hate and to experience more fully, more authentically.  As someone who appreciates authenticity more than almost anything in this life - it's a blissful death.  It's beautiful to die consumed in the reality.  To know that you finally know beyond any doubt.

Yet, I cannot say that I know, but I will suppose for now is that this Shadow that has encompassed me round about can maybe mean something to you.  Maybe my lamentations of my life and the honesty whereby I make these innards so public to the world might make you realize that there is another who struggles - just like you.  I feel the depth of the field of the pain, both in the emotional and physical realm, of yours.

I must take a moment to say sorry.  As I said in my most recent post on Facebook, this may be an individual sport, but without other people it would be pointless.  I am sorry for building up your hopes and then fail thereupon.  I am sorry I had to take away all the time and money that was spent on taking me to this meet away from someone else who might have done far greater things.  I am sorry for everybody who has to read to this and be saddened.  I am sorry for all those who will attempt to console me.  I am sorry for taking your time.  Most of all I am sorry to my parents.  Anders as myself, het ek sekerlik vir julle die meeste teleurgestel.  Ek wens ek kan net een dag vir 'n slag met oorwinning huis toe kom sodat ek darem kan probeer om vir al jul opofferings iets terug te bring.  Die NCAA trofee sou vir julle wees, maar helaas.

However, know also that this train ain't stoppin'.  We may have returned this campaign dead on our shield back to our abode, but that is only the physical body.  The mind and the soul still lives on.  It may be that the flame of this soul that has burned so bright and hot before has lost some of it's Kelvin and Lux, but I am here and I still live.  For now, the catharsis and lamentations will run their course, but the flame of this revolution will not be stilled so easily.  Get thee hence, Satan, for I know my God has given me the strength to overcome this.  And so I shall, that maybe if the only mark I left upon this world would be that I kept going, I never surrendered, I never lost the war and most of all, that I ran (threw?) the race until the very finish line - not an inkling before, but certainly anything beyond; albeit I receive no reward at the end of it, as long as it bodes well for the End of All Days.  Onward, to a new dawn, however long this night may still be; this shadow is only a passing thing - for our day will come.

From The Fallen

Monday, 25 May 2015

Between Two Worlds; The Struggle of a Foreigner Growing Away From Home

There is one major problem with that awkward period between the end of Spring semester and the start of Summer school, one has far too much time at hand.  Normally, I do some quick scrolls through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram during the semester, but when you have no classes and not too many commitments to attend do, you find yourself extending those quick scrolls to deep, lengthy analysis of the lives of others who appear on your timeline.  Yet, no paper is published, no peer discussion groups are started, instead, all of the study builds up in one's head.  The twisting kaleidoscope of thoughts, information, feelings and memories evoke a full spectrum of emotion.  Old enemies are doing well and you feel terrible for not going for alliance instead of steely relations.  Old flames transcend the fears you had of them, making you doubt why you decided to extinguish that flame in the first place.  Some are still stuck in the emerging adulthood limbo of finding a way in this life.  Some are sporting shiny rings on the fingers and others a shiny new four wheel toy to show of their mastery of worshipping the capitalist Empire.

I am a great lover of Facebook, it has allowed me to gain access to entire new worlds which I ne'er would have found myself in.  Indeed, I am now in that world which previously was only something I could live vicariously through the shiny faces on the television.  Being in this new world of America has removed me from the my native world - South Africa.  I look through the pictures and videos and see how I miss out on the struggles and triumphs of my culture and my people. 
The murder of farmers is a big ol' problem in my country.  Thousands have been killed since rebirth of '94.  Yet, recently a movie has been made to highlight and bring together all sides of the divide - the killers and the killed.  I can only imagine how this movie will swoop farm murders into the foreground of national discourse in my beloved nation.  Maybe this will improve things?  I won't be there to see it.  I will be living vicariously through the lives of Facebook friends who are on the forefront of the struggle and some even in the backseat of the struggle. 
I see how young adults of my age in South Africa start to reach the Spring of their lives.  The young women have reached the zenith of beauty, which, as we know too well, only cascades downwards from hence (even though I personally find the height of a woman's beauty to be in the mid to late thirties).  The bad boys from school are finding their way in this life - realizing that their rebellion was merely a yearning for the discovery of their higher purpose which the identity moratorium (as we like to call it in Psychology) of the teenage years finally has brought them too.  They are now ready to engage with the true manhood which is ambition, drive and passion. 

Part of being a human and being part of a culture or a nation is that you get to share in it's highlights and lowlights.  I can boast about my people having caused the British their most costly war since Napoleon one hundred years ago, but I must also hang my head in the shame to the fact that we only ended Apartheid 21 years ago and woefully suppressed a people - which is biting us right in the ass now.  Our struggle nowadays is towards reconciliation and solidarity.  I sit here in America and look onwards as the people who have been left behind try and fight this fight.  If all goes well and we can truly unify our country, I cannot tell my children that I was part of this struggle.  I was away, frolicking overseas, trying to get an education and experience some of the New World. 
It's sad that I lose my part in the evolution of my culture.  I can only support artists, musicians and filmmakers from 13 000kms away.  Maybe that gives me the chance to spread the ideals, hopes and dreams of my people to a far removed place.  Maybe that's why I am on these yonder shores. 

Though, I can say it is not all bad.  As you slowly feel your own people and culture slip from your identity, you have the need to replace that all with something new.  So, I place America in my mindset and make that part of my identity.  I learn about the struggles the common man faces here.  I learn what concerns them, I learn what it is like to be them, I learn what makes them happy.  By immersing yourself so fully in the culture and lives of others, you cannot help but feel that you become part of them.  As each year ticks by, I feel myself more concerned and closer to the matters of the United States.  Of course, the matters of home is still within me, but my personal experience of the happenings of my own people becomes ever more outdated with the passage of time. 
Eventually the stories of the those around you become more important than those who were around you.  You find yourself in a tension of opposites - the past, the culture you left behind and how it formed you and then the present, the possible future and how the present culture is challenging and changing you.  The question is how to you act in the midst of this tension filled environment?  Do I let go and let the concerns and ideas of the now absorb me and make me one of its own, or do I hold tight to tension that binds me to the past and it's reflected glory? 
As ever, the answer is probably answerable by the Greeks.  "Nothing in excess."  the timeless maxim sounds out from Athens' ageless stones.  Appreciate the formative power of the yesteryears, but envelop yourself in the new culture as well.

As for me though, I am still more bound to home than not, but, no doubt, I can feel the tension drawing me back thence weaken by the year.  Where will the Great Decider take me?
Only his greatest equalizer could tell me - time.

Carry on, my wayward son

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday Evening Musings of the Unloved

Something I find myself thinking about far more than I should is love.  Then again, can one really think too much about such a powerful force?  It shaped history like none other and even God likes love so much that he equated Himself thereto.  Maybe my thoughts are spurned on more by the fact that I have been on the lesser end of love, rather than the greater end.  I should say that never have I lacked love from my God, my family, my friends, my community, my team, my teachers, etc.  If anything, I sometimes feel as though the Almighty might have dealt me unfairly too much love from these wonderful people.  The thought process is, "Maybe someone else needs or deserves this love more than I do?"  The average person would spring into action and quickly curtail my questioning soul and let me understand that this is a destructive thought process. 

I suppose more than anything in this life, our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us, shapes us and our worlds.  Love is fundamental to the human experience.  To live therewithout is not to live at all.  Whenever, therefore, we start to doubt the love that is already within our lives, your average person would try and upend those  thoughts long before they start to manifest and fester and inflame and infect.
Yet, as I indicated before, I thankfully lack not in the caring variant of love, what I do lack is the romantic, the companionate love which 90% of all literature, entertainment and art is devoted to exploring more deeply.  I make this common knowledge in my conversations with others, but, at the time this essay is published, I, as 21 year old heterosexual male, have never been in a relationship before.  I know not the lips of another.  Is this situation brought about entirely by one factor? Nay, for all of life is interaction.  By this I mean that in every conceivable situation (except mathematics) there is more than one explanation as to why what we behold is at it is.  I am single partly due to lack of salient opportunities, partly due to fear, partly due to perceived inability, partly due to perceived unworthiness, partly due to idealism, partly due to romanticism and partly due to commitments to being the best I can be for the person I am to, hopefully, eventually share love with. 

I have that unique vantage point (which, frankly, all of us have for a large part of the initial stages of our lives) of not really knowing the depths, the feasts and the famines of romantic, companionate love.  As is human nature, one tends to ponder much about things which one has not, unless one comes to acceptance and absolution of the situation in question.  Clearly, I am not in acceptance of a lack of love.  When Wilde pens "The curves of your lips rewrite history." I am driven to the power and effect that a kiss can have.  When The Perks of Being a Wallflower delineates that "in that moment we were infinite" I desire to feel, to experience this sense of mortal immortality.  When Grey's Anatomy questions love, "'I'm afraid it's going to destroy me.' 'It's not love if it doesn't.'" I am intrigued and enticed to know more about this immaculate force that has the ability to conceive and create human life, but also seems to destroy it as readily. When U2 and Bono sing, "I felt the healing in her fingertips." my soul almost lusts after the touch of another that can potentially obliterate all my fears and anxieties in a such a simple gesture.

Being without and being constantly told what it is to be therewith, one cannot help but be desirous of being therewith.  Will I stay in my stay perpetually?  I do hope not, but what I hope even more than being relieved of my lack is that I may be relieved in God's Good Time. 

Love is what I want.  It is what all who tread this Earth want, for it is hard to argue against something that is felt so strongly - such is, has been and always will be the story of love.


Thursday, 26 February 2015


The word fear was perched nice and high on the white board behind my laptop above my desk.  I look at this white board (aptly named "The Situation Room") numerous times a day, as I plan my week on it.  I also have a small section on the board where I place ideas and other long-term to dos.  Fear was one of the topics which I have resolved to post about for quite some time now.
Why?  Well, it has been a driving force in my own life and to know fear is to know me better.

Elliott Hulse, one of the great YouTubers and "philosophers" of our time, once said on a video of his (if I remember correctly!) that in this life we have two major driving forces - fear and vision.  The idea is that almost all the things we do is related to fear or vision somehow.  Fear is self explanatory and I will come to it, but vision is less so.  By vision he means your dreams, your hopes, your desires for your own, your family's, someone or something's future.  If you envision yourself to be the person who finally gets all nations to agree on a comprehensive deal that will curb Global Warming, you will wake up each morning doing things to realize that vision.  I a sense you could say that you
 are driven by the fact that you do not want the image you see in your brain to remain bound to fiction anymore.  You want it to be born.  You are thus a creator.  This can obviously be good or bad as someone may envision becoming an evil mastermind.

Returning to fear, I know that my life has always been a tension of opposites - fear v vision.  I am the man in the middle of two great forces pulling on me from distant ends.  For much of it, fear has been the dominant opposite.  Revealing emotions to others for example is a fear.  Maybe I am going to eat and on the way I see trash lying on the ground or I see someone throwing trash on the ground, I get upset.  Walking on, someone stares at me for no apparent reason - anger builds.  By the time I reach place of eating, I might be quite frustrated and borderline angry at all the small things that happened.  A friend wonders why I am so quiet and I just say that I am always quiet.
Really though it is fear that prevents me from saying what really happens.  I know that if I let my walls come down and tell the person "I just hate it when people stare at me for no apparent reason" or "It really is hard for my to see wastefulness and pollution." there might be further questions.  "Why do you have a problem with starting people?" "Why do you care about one bit of trash?"
Obviously as the questions explore the undergrowth of psyche even more I might start showing the societally determined negative emotions sadness and anger. 
No, people shouldn't see my angry or sad because that would require too much explaining which might force me to show more emotion.  So, I put on the old mask of introversion, detachment and stoicism.  No emotion, no feelings - no questions. 

I thank God that this fear is weakening within me and I am much more open about my feelings than ever before, but it's still a long way from being where it can be.  As many of you know, I have/had social phobia.  An example might be that someone visits our house (even if it's someone I know) and I run to my room when I see them at the gate.  I stand in my room knowing that this fear is nonsensical and baseless, but I can't seem to move towards the door where I will be seen.  That old enemy fear grabs hold and anchors me to the ground.  The vision of me being a confident, expressive and assertive (yet sensitive, empathetic and caring) you man pulls my thoughts toward how I will walk out of my room, greet the visitor to our house and converse.  I am slap-bang in the middle of the tension of opposites; fear pulls me to the comfort of my bed and browsing the internet whereas visions pulls me over the edge of my comfort zone.  For a camera focused on me, I seem almost frozen (stoic, detached, introverted) but for the Great Storyteller who can see the workings of my thought and feelings know that the tension of the opposites are near breaking point within me. 

How did this situation end?  An external force got me out of my room and then I seem awkward as the decision was made for me and the tension of opposites never truly got resolved.  With enough of these my vision becomes dependent on the external force and we all know that's not the best way to go about things.  True change and improvement can only come if it is from within.  Don't get me wrong, more often than not we need those external forces to shove us in the right direction and let us know that fear is pulling is far too strongly and we are being pulled away from the vision.  Sometimes we can only know this when an outsider can look upon us and see what we cannot see.  This can only be done if we let those walls come down and let people know what's going on. 
It should be mentioned that someone else might be pulled by fear and might cause you to be pulled by fear even stronger, but generally the people in your life really wants you to move closer to that vision.  Let them do that.

I thank my family that they have always handled this situation really well for me.  Now I am far more able to regulate the tension of opposites truly on my own.
As a final note not all fear motivations are bad (researching cancer because you want to have a cure when you or a family member is afflicted is a good motivation), but it is down to each of us to know when to gravitated fearwards or visionwards and other people can help us do that.

Face Each Affliction Readily

Monday, 12 January 2015

Social Opportunity - Not Initiating and Regretting It

It really sucks that this is my first post in two and a half months.
However, I am back at it again making this the first one for 2015 and the start of my second year of blogging!
I want to write about opportunity today, but specifically opportunities in the social spectrum as this lies to the heart of many issues when you have social anxiety like me.

Back in the day, when I was very much in denial about my social anxiety and, to be fair, mostly unaware of it, I saw myself as an oblivious person.  I knew that I had an impeccable knack for not realizing that someone was trying to talk to me.  Whenever there were signs that someone was trying to converse mewards I would tell myself that maybe they're mistaking me for someone else or maybe they are trying to start a talk with someone behind me.  When a smile would appear and the person's body language open up to me (you know, typical social initiation signs) I would always immediately deny that it was actually happening.  "Why would this person want to talk to me?" is a question I still struggle with to this very day and I hope to God will one day overcome.  In the meantime though, I deny the reality and often come across as weird or cold - I don't reverberate the energy that the other person projects to me.  Before you know it, after a few abrupt superficial sentences the other person is gone and then the self-loathing starts.  Hell hath no fury like my mind after a failed social interaction.  I go into painstakingly small details of how the person really wanted to talk to me regardless of whether there is any sort of divide between us (as I like to create fake hierarchies in my mind where I am at the bottom and all are above me).  Then I start feeling guilty.  Guilty that I could not honour this person's bravery in trying to bridge a gap in a world where the chasms between us grow larger by the day.

All the above happens without my facial expressions not changing much at all.  I am reminded of a flight I was on the other night which so well illustrates the above.  I was seated next to a woman and I could feel within in me that I had to talk to her.  Initially I did not, but that strange energy that drives us to reach out to other people swole within me.  My friend who sat in front of me even tried to help me on.  The energy then became so great that I started resenting myself for not doing anything.  The mind fury was its usual fierce and through my self speech I broke myself down to the metaphorical ground.  The feelings of unworthiness and guilt were so much that this negative feedback loop would prevent me from reaching out.  All of this happened without my facial expressions changing much at all.  To an outsider it would look like I was casually paging through and airline magazine. 
The sad part is that she probably wanted to talk to me, because she did break the ice later on, but I was already so down in the dumps that I was a mere shadow of a man.

I am a feminist and I believe in the social and legislative equality of man and woman so you would think that affording the opportunity for a woman to do the ice breaking would actually make me feel good.  It didn't.  Indeed, I felt so emasculated and ashamed of myself.  Not per se that I afforded her the opportunity to start, but that I had a desire within me which was constrained from reaching reality because of fear.  To live a life ruled by fear is the worst life there is, I would reckon.  Sadly though, this is the life we as anxiety sufferers (even my case which is quite mild) live.  Our amygdalas just have to be overactivated at the most inopportune of times.  Fear becomes our masters and we live under its iron fists - lives of unrealized potential.

I guess that's the hardest part about missing opportunities; looking back one day and seeing all the opportunities you missed, all the potential squandered, all the what ifs.  Believe me, as a anxiety sufferer I play through thousands of what ifs and miss even more opportunities by daydreaming. 
It's not all doom and gloom though.  If I really have a definite objective for conversing with someone, then I can talk to anyone.  For example, if someone told me to go ask someone about this or that I can do it.  However, general superficial conversation (which really makes the bulk of social interactions) that brings hardship.  You would think that a harmless lamentation of rain or a nice compliment of someone's hair would be easy to do, but those are the hard ones.  What if the person thinks I am one of those people that complains all the time?  What if that person thinks I am creepy or what if I am seeming too flirtatious?

I end up saying nothing.  The movie of what ifs playing in my head.  The other person leaving the scene probably wondering why I was so cold.  I know that I am anything but cold, but a fire on a cold day is only of worth when other people can feel it.

At least, in my journey with social anxiety I have reached the point of realizing when opportunities arise and when I miss them.  This wasn't always the case and this already puts me well ahead of where I always was.  Next up would be to act on those opportunities in spite of fear regardless of whether the interaction turns out all right or not. 

God make me valiant, brave, courageous