If I was screaming for my life, I would want someone to save me

fear

“Help! Someone please call the police, he is going to kill me!”

Those chilling words penetrated by sleep in the early hours of this morning.

I live in a quiet neighbourhood, the most exciting thing that happens here is that my one neighbour really likes his dubstep, but we don’t complain because it’s dubstep.

However, last night our quiet little block of flats was woken up by a woman being attacked.

I heard a terrified scream, then another voice spoke, he was menacingly violent and then all of sudden I found myself shaking with fear in my bedroom. I thought someone had broken in downstairs and was attacking the lady that lived directly below me.

Three things happened very quickly.

One. I called the cops and they told me to stay calm and they could be along shortly.

Two. I called my “frack I think I might get murdered” contact — he was asleep, so no answer. Shit.

Girl screams again. I hear glass shatter.

Three. I grab a cricket bat my other neigbour had left lying around the other day and head downstairs to help. But before I do this I tweet to the world and let them know I am about to do something incredibly stupid.

Luckily I am not alone, my other neigbour heard the screams too and she is also out and we both confront the guy who looks murderous and ready to hurt someone. He calls her all sorts of names and gets very aggressive. We get girl away from him and get out. Cops show up, and he gets aggressive with them and they send us back to our flats and deal with him.

All this happened in the space of 30mins to 45mins. I stood in the middle of my hallway after: I was shaking with fear but somehow haven’t passed out or let it overwhelm me. Somehow I am sort of okay. I am still clutching the bat, I am not letting it go, I take it to bed with me.

Of course I was tweeting as this happens because if I was indeed going to get caught in a crossfire of domestic dispute at least someone needs to know. I have been asked by my Twitter friends, why I went downstairs after calling the cops. Why didn’t I stay put?

Here is why:

When I heard her bone-chilling screams and decided to go against every single instinct that said to me hide under your bed this instant, and pray for a miracle.

“You never investigate”, I heard myself saying.

“You call the cops and you hide.”

All that was true.

Then I wondered, if it were me or one of my sisters or my girlfriends on the other end of that scream, wouldn’t I want someone to save them? Save me?

So in the midst of crippling fear I summoned up courage and went to save her, knowing that the chances of success was slim because let’s face it the man that incited her screams was not to be trifled with. I went anyway and so did my other neighbour.

I don’t know who the girl was or what happened but she was hurt and bleeding and terrified and that should be enough for anyone who could to try and help.

Lessons learnt:

Violence is a dangerous reality, people are effed up and fear is both crippling and empowering.

Tonight we ate cake and didn’t care: the startup edition

Cake

Tonight, I ate cake for dinner and I didn’t care because I work for a startup and having dessert for dinner seems like the only reward at the end of particularly bad day.

I am dead inside, but that’s okay I had to pay a price for what lies at the end of the finish line and my soul is a small price to pay for what is to come. Yeah, right. This is the sort of bullshit that dedicated startup worshipers feed themselves and they sit and think it’s okay that they have no friends, or not having any semblance on a personal life makes them that much dedicated. It does not.

We believe in the product and we are building something amazing. I can’t wait for the world see. That’s pretty much how everyone who works for a startup feels. You join a company and give up yourself. A company drone you will be.

I work for a startup, most of my friends work for startups or have startups of their own. I am not sure if it was by design or some cosmic accident but 90% of the people I deal with on a daily basis are involved in some startup world (tech or otherwise). In someways this is a good thing because they get my daily woes and the many problems that make up copious glasses of wine. When you work for a startup wine becomes a food group because if we are being honest it is much easier to end the day with a glass than have to factor in feeding yourself with everything else.

For the special, the startup chosen, we find it hard to understand why our “normal” friends can’t just see it. We don’t understand why they are bored of our obsession with this supposed best product ever built. Especially for the tech startups, how can these people these non-geeks not want to just be consumed by this little win that the tech world is losing its mind over? For us, the good soldiers we get it and the loss of these people who don’t, makes perfect sense.

A friend of mine told me that working for a startup does damage to a person’s psyche.

“It fundamentally changes who you are and the things you want,” he said. “If you are not careful it will ruin you.”

He has a startup and his startup ruined him, but according to him, it is his burden, his curse and his gift and they are bounded together. Interestingly his company is successful and by all accounts he should be happy.

“It’s the sacrifices,” he says. “You have to ask yourself, what are you willing to give up?”

What am I willing to give up? Am I willing to give up myself? Am I willing to give you my friends? My comforts?

For some very strange reason the idea of working for s startup seems greatly romanticized. People think that working for startup means you get taken on a romantic date, you get to make love and live happily ever after. No it is actually the opposite. The realities of starting a business and working for a startup is you get screwed and get left for dead on the side of the road the majority of the time. There are no “it’s not my company, I don’t have to stress” — when you work for a startup who stress like it’s your company you don’t get the rewards of ownership but you feel the pains of it. You have no identity beyond the startup, your sense of self gets incredibly warped that most days when you look in the mirror all you can see is a product of an environment that is not your making. You become consumed by company mantras without your permission and soon interrupting your life and your happiness and your little wins for the bigger picture become the norm.

You won’t leave, you can’t leave because yourself worth seems to have morphed into this place, you suffer from Stockholm syndrome because this is home and you convince yourself that this product, this thing that is being built cannot be built without you, even though it can and most certainly will be built without you. My friends and I have these conversations and I see the patterns, no startup is the same but the threads of what they demand is. No one forces these on you, it just happens, and you feel like a defector if you don’t think this way. The ones you leave are traitors and you are a good little soldier for staying. It is the most effed up psychological warfare known to man. Entrepreneurs have it worse because for them defecting means failure and how can they fail, how can they sum up their worth if they are marred by this failure.

It isn’t all doom and gloom and it is all getting f*cked while your back is turned. There are moments when your Stockholm syndrome isn’t in full effect, when you become part of something that you can see the rewards. When you share and create something so amazing even your non-startup friends want you talk about it. The days when you have a sense of achievement so high that you eat real food, the day when you’re toasting to a job well done not drowning the demons that keep you awake every night. There are days when you think “I am xx years old and i just did this, how cool is that?”. Those days make it seem like paradise, in those moment, you are not dead inside, humour is genuine and not twisted by battle scars. In those moments you simply work for a company that is taking over the world and you couldn’t do anything else.

Those days are rare, but they do exist.

Tonight, I ate cake and didn’t care because today is the day in-between.

A life unlived: why I keep running away from home

Cape Town

My biggest fear is that I will fail miserably at living my life.

I live in Cape Town. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and I don’t think I could live anywhere else, yet in the last year I have barely been home. Whenever I recount my globemich tales of the wonderful and exciting places I have been and plan to go to, I am usually met with a mixture of impressive nods and jealous admiration. I relish in the well-prepared words to chronicle my tales because after all they make up the sum of who I am.

So imagine my surprise when I was asked why I was running away from my beloved city. Perhaps the best thing to do, would be to explain my thoughts on travel before if I am ever to address that.

I travel because I do not want to live a life of regret. One of the most universal regrets people have is that they didn’t travelled enough. Most people sit in their day jobs daydreaming about lives not lived, loves not experienced and missed adventure. We keep our worlds closed in tightly in case it ever falls out of our grasp and we lose control. We have become slaves to routine, calendars and devices tell us what we must do and when we must do it. Routines control our lives and we let it.

I travel because I fear the unknown. When ever I get into a new city the first thing I do is get on Google maps to find my way. Every time, without fail, I lose the direction the minute I step away from the wifi zone. So I walk and hope that I find my way. Generally what I do not know brings on a stressed anxiety that all but cripples me. When I travel, all I have is the unknown and every time I step out without a map or plan on where I am going, I chip away at the fear. I have never suffered an ill fate on any of my trips, I have never been robbed, I have lost many things due to my own negligence but not one of my fears has ever come true while I navigated the unknown. There is a deeper, sadder reality in the fact that we let ourselves be held back the fear of the unknown.

I travel because the world will no doubt forget me when these mortal coils are shed, but that does not mean I shouldn’t experience it. Society is full of people who sit and pontificate about the world without ever experiencing it. People judge entire nations and box societies in based on the carefully crafted words of journalists (yes, the irony is not lost on me) and the concluding thoughts of a few keystrokes. The world is a big and vast wilderness waiting to be explored. How can I truly know and understand anything if I don’t see and become part of it.

I travel because I am looking for something, a story to tell. A few years ago the pain that only loss can bring rendered me paralysed by the thought that the sum of my life could easily be quantified because I had not experienced a enough. If life truly is a journey surely it cannot be had behind a desk wondering what the adventures will entail. I will never experience all that is out there but I want to give it a good go. I am looking for the stories that exists in different parts of the world so I can tell it as honestly as I can.

I travel because other opinions matter more than my own. A few weeks ago a very interesting video about Facebook’s algorithm for regulating its Newsfeed and content seen by users surfaced. The author of the video talked about how Facebook systematically takes away things you don’t like and only keeps you in a world of your own making. Essentially Facebook only exposes you to people just like you, people with the same beliefs and thought processes. I want to be able to see beyond my nose. I relish the energy a good debate and a well-paced argument brings. The learnings that lie when two opponent realise that both have merit and walk away friends. The humbling pleasure of knowing you can, and often will, be wrong. The ostensible inspiration that comes when you learn something new from someone you couldn’t imagine could teach you anything.

I travel to run away. I am running a way from a life unlived, a dream deferred and a tragic complacency that would otherwise live me disappointed in my own existence. I am running away from home because I love coming back and I think I will keep running.

When in doubt, try to blow a hole in the universe and see what happens

woods cellophane

Growing up I had a friend that was always willing to get into trouble with me. There was never a question whether we were allowed to do it, if our parents would approve or if it was legal — he was just always willing. I spent many evenings at his house watching television and when I had a party I considered it a personal insult he didn’t RSVP the second he was invited. We were quite the pair.

When I was at university my best friend was also willing to get into all sorts of trouble with me and we did get into trouble, some we sorta looked for but most of them found us. I found it amusing that if something odd and completely insane would happen to anyone on the planet it would find a way to be us. We tried to avoid it but it always happend and we had the best time always.

Last year I was in Jordan and I met a fanstic girl who again was willing to get into all sorts of trouble with me, we had a blast as we observed the world around us the subtlities of the country and its people and breathtaking beauty that it has to offer. It’s a very brutal lesson when you see the world, all your preconcived ideas shatter away without buffer. When you see enough of the world it bare and unapologetic just how real it all is. Reality, she is a real bitch.

LinkedIn told me today that it was three years to the day since I started my current job, yes I have a real job, I am not paid to get on plane (I wish). I think LinkedIn meant it as some congratulations and surely people congratulated me. However one friend said to me it was time to leave my prison. He said: “All you have is work, surely that’s depressing”. Is it?

My Prison.

Myself and a friend that used to work me used to joke about stockholm syndrome, according to him I had it the worse. See it was never case of whether or not I wanted to leave, it was a case of my seeming inability to. It’s funny that we classify work as a prison, my father and one of his closeth friends are convinced I enjoy working so much and it is the reason I still don’t have my PhD. The later is true, but I think there is a fine line between loving a job so much to dedicate every waking moment to it and having no choice.

So back to my prison, I wish to pose a question: how do you tell the difference? Am I held hostage by a notion or do I find fufillment in nothing else. I love my job but it doesn’t seem to want to get into trouble with no matter what.

I don’t think your job is a prison unless you cage yourself in, I thought about it. I think the problem that currently exists here is that while I had my friends that made every day fun by willing to break rules with me and have a blast doing — something key is missing here. All those friends and times where periods where I was trying to blow a hole in the universe and risk everything becasue that was who I was, the risk taker who was never afriad to speak up who dare to think up the impossible. I was the girl who when I didn’t like something I said and when I didn’t want to do something because I disagreed I wouldn’t. No one ever made feel less than I was and I retained my voice.

I didn’t have one thing that consumed all my waking moments, I had serveral things that mattered and I cared about a lot of things. I was the girl for who maturity wasn’t the amount of time I accepted faith but the times I was willing to make a difference. I cared about women issues on more than an academic level, it mattered to me and I did something it about it. For me one well done never nagated the 10 horrid and unnecessary bullying that came before. I am the girl who threaten a much older and bigger boy because he pushed my big sister into a door that resulted in an injury. I am the girl that refuses to be in a prsion.

Missing Paris, the Christmas spirit and Love Actually

2013-12-24 15.44.26

I love the holidays. There is something about a season that forces us to be the best of us that makes me have faith in who we are the potential of mankind. I love everything about this time of year, the big dinners, the leftovers and the time spent with friends and family. I even love the cheesy Christmas movies.

Paris, so Chrismassy the spirit grips you the moment you enter

I love the Christmas spirit. But I seem to be missing it this year. Usually by Christmas I am brimming with the spirit and ready for Christmas day and all its glory. Interestingly earlier this month the spirit bamboozled me and as quickly as it came it left. I was in Paris for a few days and the city was so full of the Christmas spirit it knocked me off my heels. The decorations, the people and the markets, the city was so full of Christmas that it was hard not to get caught up.

Paris

Walking down the Champs-Élysées all you see are reminders of the season. The window displays done by some of the world’s famous stores, the lights that set the city ablaze at night and Christmas corners with trees and other fitting decorations. Then there is a Christmas markets with delicious crepes and more winter delights and there is shopping to be done for presents for your loved ones and yourself.

Ever since have I been back home I have yet to find that spirit, it seems it only existed in Paris for me and the minute I left its wet and cold surrounds so did the spirit. I have tried several things of course to get the spirit, a Christmas party with friends, which was amazing. However, the party felt more like a good time with friends that I had missed dearly than actual Christmas festivities.

I did get a Christmas miracle of some sort, against all odds and many obstacles I managed to catch a flight that by all rights should have left and made it home for the holidays.

Ruing Love Actually is such a douche thing to do

Then to top it all off I read this article that has apparently demystified one of my favourite holiday movie, Love Actually. Yes guy at the Atlantic, well done on being the equivalent of the guy to tell little kids there is no santa. Interestingly I agree with the piece mostly and in part articulates perfectly some of my feelings for the movie.

However I think there is still elements of romance of wishful world where things can be that easy and there are no consequences for the PM falling in love with the maid and where insurmountable human laziness gets in the way of a good thing. What I take issue with is saying it is not a holiday movie. Obviously you haven’t watched Die Hard, You’ve Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle and many countless holiday movies that happen to not be about Christmas but end up making great Christmas movies because they happen to take place during.

So I must say I think you are wrong, one might argue that the romantic relations in the movie are only possible because it is the season and the impossible happens. Love at first sight, love without language and love that suffers in silence. If we are being honest, and seeing as a decade later and every Christmas I still watch this movie, it is a movie that makes us want to fall in love, actually.

The Christmas spirit

The world is in such a hurry in December, the shopping malls are a nightmare and the city streets leave much to be desired. The season is about lists and checking things and people off it. Turkey dinners, fruitcake and pretty lights are summing up the season. It’s time we slowed down and remembered, no?

Perhaps, I have found the Christmas spirit after all, perhaps this year is has come in a more subtle fashion than before. Perhaps though sick in bed and watching my favourite holiday movies while my dad makes me tea and talks about tomorrow’s plans I am experience the joy of the season, a time with family. Happy Holidays.

The feminist dilemma: I am not a manifesto

feminism-now-what

This is not about one single globe trotting adventure but the trip of this year.

“You’re such a feminist,” a friend once told me. I looked at him mildly assumed, he meant it as a compliment because that is what every progressive woman wants to hear.

As a black woman I am held to different standards, I am a minority that must strive for more even harder and more fervently. There is an even higher glass ceiling that I must break through, or so I am told by successful women of my race. I am lucky, I have worked hard and very few people have tried to stand in the way of what I want. However, the glass ceiling that concerns me more is not my career it what society seems to think is acceptable to demand of me.

The more successful I get the more of a shrew I become in society, I am told that I will never find happiness because I am determined to be a feminist about life.

“You’ll never find a husband the way you are carrying on,” I was told at my sister’s wedding.
“What makes you think I want one?” I responded.
“Because you are a woman.”
“So?”
“Because what’s your worth is if you are not married,” the final response that silenced me.

My worth. I should not have given it a second thought but I gave it the better part of a year (and we will come back to this).

Months later, I posted photos of brownies I made on Instagram and a friend sent me a text message as a friendly warning.

“Why do you domesticate yourself so,” the text began. “You are so smart, all that baking and homey stuff diminishes your feminism.”

Women today face a dilemma of publicly rising to their feminist status and upholding the unwritten manifesto that defines women as such. I have never stepped up on any world stage and claimed to be radical feminist but because I believe in equality then I am. I do not reject it but I must now address it because my worth is neither bound to marriage or the feminist movement.

I believe in equality. I refuse to be bound by the shackles of society and norms and ideals built on some preconceived idea of what a woman, a man and a human being ought to be. I am not a manifesto, I am not shackled by false ideas of “sisterhood” that benefits a conversation for a platform that divides us from them. I refuse to be defined by a mob mentality because as a feminist it is expected.

I believe in equality. I refuse to be in society that teaches me to shrink myself in more than expand to experience the world. I am not a manifesto. I want the same rights that everyone else have. I have always said that equality does not mean the same. Equal should not mean exact halves of a whole but two different halves that make up a whole.

In Africa feminist means western ideals. Being an empowered woman means you have read too many books, watched too many movies and listened to many speeches. It is a society that condones slut shaming, a global pandemic, where it is okay to disgrace and publicly chastise women for their sexual behaviour but the men are praised for their worldliness.

Women in today’s society have mastered the art of perfecting pretence and civility, where they accept and play their role. Women fight for things they believe in but still worked hard to diminish their shine because society teaches us to. Women get dressed in the morning and worry what the look will relay, because all this is expected.

A friend once told me that she only gets complimented when she is in dress simply because it was a dress that showed off her legs. Yes the dress does look nice and she does look lovely and the compliments may be genuine. But we live in a world that teaches us to be cautious about everything especially when you are a woman. Why does no one compliment her when she is jeans she asked. Why indeed?

Women undermine other woman who dare to be stay at home mums belittling their sacrifice because it is un-feminist to choose to stay home and take care of your family. Women are taught to compete with each other for the affections of man and not be bold enough go to after what or who they want. We are dragged on by the chains of ideas born out of ignorance and ideologies as old as time. We bare the cross of compromise because someone must relent.

Women wage emotional wars on each other or unite in the fight against men when the real issue is to drive sustainable change and build a truly equal society. We search for the whores and ice queens because there is a category that everyone must fit, the perfect cage constructed out of civility.

Being part of the feminist movement does not define my worth. Women have made me feel less empowered than men have. Women have judged me more harshly than any man I have known. I refuse to be part of a platform that decides that my worth is one or the other. We have become so focused on telling the feminist story and upholding the ideals that we forget the human stories and human beings that make up the sexes.

I do not write this because I seek validation of who I am or who I hope to be. I write this because the world seems quite determined to pontificate about me, my gender, my race and my role here and I thought it was high time I chimed in.

I am a feminist but I am not your feminist. I believe in the social and political equality of the sexes.