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.
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.
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.
Welcome home Heather 🙂 You have done yourself proud!
Thanks Sheryl. Not just for this nice comment but for everything else 🙂
Happy anniversary Heather. I don’t always comment, but I am always here in the shadows following you every step of the way . I have seen your ups and downs. I admire your courage and tenacity. I always enjoy your photography from what ever source. You inspire me. Thank you for writing your blog and letting us fall in love with Joburg and South Africa through your eyes. I look forward to the next few years as you continue to grow from strength to strength.
Thanks Debbie! I’m grateful that you and I met because of this blog!
Happy anniversary Heather. Definitely more likely to be another thirty than three years. I can’t see you going anywhere. Well, maybe Brighton for a visit… Miss you!!!
I miss you too. My friendship with you is yet another reason to be grateful for this blog! By they way, I owe you an email.
I’m glad you’re still here, sharing the Jozi love. Its been emotional following your journey, you’ve really come a long way. Thanks for being one of my inspirations to blog.
Thanks Mzansi Girl 🙂
Thanks for the blog, and especially the photo of the flower with that incredible light on it, from you know who . I read the associated blog from your friend and admire your honestly , but also the amazing passion and tenacity that you embody
Thanks very much. I appreciate the comment!
You made the great leap from being a blogger to becoming a writer in this post and some before that (not all, but some). It is my pleasure to see where you’re going. Congratulations on how far you’ve come.
Thanks Chuck, I really appreciate that. I was a writer long before I was a blogger though! Sometimes they are two different things and other times they are the same.
Wow, Heather, hard to believe it’s been three years! But congrats on the anniversary. I love that deep understanding that we are sufficient for ourselves–that we are all we need! God, that’s an important reminder. Thank you for that!
Hugs from Ecuador,
Thanks Kathy. I hope life is well in Ecquador 🙂
This post really touched me. I appreciate your courageous honesty. Thank you!
Thank you, and thanks for reading!
Your honesty and self-reflection are brave and beautiful. Congrats on that and on 3 years!
Thanks Jenny! I hope you’re doing well 🙂
Happy anniversary, Heather. Many people (myself included) struggle with the idea that our own, independent personhood is the most important thing (and something that should be developed and celebrated). So well done for embracing that, and here’s to YOU 🙂
Thanks Ang. And thanks again for motivating me to dig deeper.
Happy anniversary Heather, here’s to your future
Thanks Mr. Bunny Chow!
Happy Anniversary Heather 🙂
Thanks Lena! xx
Great interview Heather! Yep, I’ve currently got that song loaded in my car – Fred and I sing along to it 🙂 I’ve had to face my own co-dependency issues and all the work is sure worth it! Goodonyermate! 🙂
I like to imagine you and Fred driving along in Australia and singing to Paul Simon 🙂
Congratulations! Your post really resonated with me. A couple of years ago I too realised that I now know how little I know! Finding that spot in yourself where you can really just be. I look forward to rediscovering or discovering Jozi through your eyes for another three or thirty crazy years!
Haha, thanks Gertie. It’s good to know I’m not alone.
Your photography humbles me and your writing makes me feel like I have a friend on the other side of the world. Thanks for letting me come along on your internal trip.
My pleasure Eugenia. Thanks for coming along.
You wrote this so well! As I knew you would:-). I think it’s really thought provoking, at least it rang true to me – stop waiting for someone to “rescue” you or to even reaffirm you, we can stand on our own two legs and be proud of what we accomplish. And chart our own future. I just had this epiphany not too long ago (and still fall back into my “seeking for approval” mode often). Why is it so hard and why does it take us to be in our forties to get there? Wondering what I should do differently to keep my girls from that fate…
Thanks Sine. It’s not an easy thing to learn. But I think the fact that you’re aware of it will help your daughters to learn too, hopefully sooner than we did.
And for the record, I managed to learn it while still in my 30s. Barely! 🙂
haha, I made you older:) Sorry!
Heather, I have SO MUCH respect and admiration for you, you are a real inspiration for many of your readers, thank you to you!
Thanks Catherine, I appreciate the support!
Happy anniversary! All the best for a happy future.