If you’re under 45 and/or aren’t familiar with Paul Simon’s early solo recordings, you won’t get this headline. Sorry for that. It popped into my head when I started writing and then I had to use it.

Heather portrait by Germaine de Larch

This is me. Do I look happy? (Photo by Germaine de Larch)

Today is the three-year anniversary of my arrival in Joburg. I always write a post in honor of my arrival anniversary, so here goes.

I’ve been thinking back on the previous two anniversary posts that I wrote. I’m not going to link to them (although if you’re really gung-ho you could probably go back and find them). I’m not sure how to explain it, but I feel kind of ashamed at how naive I was when I wrote those posts.

Two years ago, on my one-year anniversary, I remember feeling blissfully happy. I was living with my boyfriend, Jon, who had recently finished a stint of rehab for alcoholism. None of my readers knew this, as back then I didn’t write about what was really going on in my life. I hadn’t written about what went on in the months before Jon went to rehab: the car accidents, the hospital stays, the begging and pleading, the insanity, the desperation. I only wrote about happy stuff.

Anyway, in August 2011 Jon was sober, everything felt fresh and new, and I believed that our problems were behind us.

That belief was wrong. A few months after that happy anniversary, in December 2011, Jon died.

In August 2012, on my second Jozi anniversary, I was back on the happy wagon. Jon had died eight months earlier, under some of the most traumatic circumstances imaginable. But I somehow convinced myself I had “recovered”. I was doing some engaging work at the time and I had even started dating someone. What a relief, I thought. I’m okay!

Except I wasn’t. I was soooo in denial, it wasn’t even funny.

A few weeks later, I crashed and burned. I wasn’t finished mourning Jon; I wasn’t finished recovering from the trauma I’d suffered both before and after Jon’s death. I looked fine on the outside, but actually I was a mess. I certainly wasn’t ready to be dating again.

However, I was ready to take a good, hard look at myself — at who I was, where I came from, and where I was going. I entered my own kind of rehab and I did just that. The work I did had nothing to do with Jon or anyone else. It was only about me. It was damn hard, but I did it. I’m still doing it.

So now, here I am at the end of year three. I no longer harbor the illusion that I’ve “done my time” and everything will be great from here on out. I’m no longer subconsciously hoping to  be rescued — by a man, by a circumstance, or by pure luck. I no longer believe that I have things figured out.

There’s one thing I do know, though — something that I didn’t know last year or the year before. I now know that no matter what happens, I have everything I need. I don’t need to be rescued, I don’t need to be saved. I don’t need someone else to tell me that I’m smart or pretty or destined for success. I can take care of all that stuff on my own. And since I’ve learned that, things have started to fall into place for me in a way that they never have before.

I have a plan for the future now, which doesn’t involve anyone but me. It’s a vague plan but a plan nonetheless. I have great friends, fulfilling hobbies, and a healthy support system. I’ve identified what I’m passionate about and figured out how to pursue those passions. I have tools to deal with my feelings and emotions.

I know that I thought I was happy last year and the year before. But is it possible that now, I might truly be getting there? I’ve learned enough not to make any assumptions about next year, or next month, or even tomorrow. But at least for today, I can say that the answer is yes.

I don’t know how great a job I’ve done telling my story here. So let me share another person’s telling of it. A few weeks ago, fellow Jozi blogger Ang Lloyd interviewed me for a post she wrote about me on her own blog. For whatever reason, I opened up to Ang and told her things that I’ve never discussed in this blog before. I think she did a great job summarizing things, so here is her post.

I haven’t included any of my own photos in this post yet. Let me remedy that.


Just now, as I was writing this post, I looked up and saw a flower in the garden with a single ray of sun shining on it. I instagrammed it with my iPad.

Fordsburg sunset2

Sunset Instagram in Fordsburg two days ago. This is one of my favorite places in Jozi.

I just thought of something. I’m really proud of myself. And I’m really grateful to all of you for reading this. If it weren’t for this blog, I firmly believe that I wouldn’t be in Johannesburg celebrating this anniversary today. The blog has kept me here. And a blog can’t stay alive without readers. So, thanks.

Here’s to another three (or thirty) crazy years.

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