I am beginning to understand…
Free, yet imprisoned. Privileged, yet suffering. Loved, yet
isolated. I am alive, but am I really living?
I have always been a happy child. As a young boy, everyone
would comment on the smile that never, for a second, left my face. It was
infectious. I could not stop. No matter the circumstances, there was good to be
found in everything. An unceasing happiness.
But in growing older, in coming to understand the world I
live in, and in my devotion to the building pressure of everything an
adolescent in the crux of his high school career has to deal with… I have
forgotten my smile.
This year has not been easy. I have been challenged in all
aspects of my life.
As my new year’s resolution I set myself three major goals.
Number one: Become the mayor or chairperson of a committee in the Johannesburg
Junior Council. Number two: Become head or vice head boy at school. Number
three: Achieve a 90% average in my June exams and go to the matric valedictory
for academic excellence. I came so close, and yet narrowly missed every single
one of my goals. I was elected as the vice chairperson of my committee on the
Johannesburg Junior Council, and was told in an attempt of reassurance “You
were so, so very close. You just missed it.” I was elected as a chairperson of
my committee at school, and was told once again, in an attempt of reassurance
“You were so, so very close. You just missed it.” After receiving my marks, I
achieve an average of 89%, missing out on my 90 by half a percent. I told
myself, in an effort of reassurance “You were so, so very close. You just
On top of my failures, I was faced with massive emotional
growth and struggle. I was fortunate enough to be a participant in the March Of
The Living 2017 program in which I, accompanied by a group of fellow South
Africans, marched the streets of Warsaw and Jerusalem, raising our fists in
honor of our ancestors whose lives were ripped out of their hands for no reason
other than their genetic code. We are living proof of our victory.
We toured Poland: Concentration camps, death camps, we saw
it all. A mind-blowing experience, no doubt, one which I believe is vital for
every single human being to experience. But it took a toll on me emotionally.
In addition to my emotional turmoil, I began to feel more
and more isolated. My devotion to my major goals left me with less time for
social interactions, as well as left my brain no thinking space to devote to
the relationships I had built around me. I was focused, but perhaps too
focused. Although in a tight group of close friends, I began to feel distant.
Split between two sub-groups, unable to find my place. I did not have a best
friend nor a girlfriend, and the isolation intensified every day. I was losing
my balance. My isolation metastasized to other parts of my life as I lost
another major relationship in my life that I had built for 17 years. My
relationship with God.
As my way of thinking, my outlook on the world and my
understanding of everything around me revolutionized, I became different.
Different to my friends. Different to my family. Different to everything I had
been taught to be. Different. Lost.
Every day, a ruthless pressure expanded inside me as it
pressed so stubbornly on my life, but I fought back. I fought and fought until
one day, I was beaten.
It was a Sunday night. The next day a public holiday. My
plans for the night included a movie followed by a chill at a girl’s house with
my friends. What more could I ask for in a night out? Surely a recipe for a
great night and yet, I couldn’t ignore the growing pit in my stomach. I couldn’t
ignore the vulnerability and the unjustified sadness. I couldn’t ignore the
The next morning, my mind collapsed. I broke down in tears
and I lost the will to do anything. At that moment, I could not distinguish between
the tedious studying for an exam and playing my favorite PlayStation game. I
did not want to do anything. A paralysis of the mind. I was shackled in a cage
of my own subconscious creation.
“What is the point of this? What is the point of anything?”
I was a projectile, falling inevitably towards a pit of
depression that I was afraid I would not be able to climb out of. But somehow,
I found a parachute.
Thanks to the support of my family and those closest to me,
I began to find my footing. To regain my balance. I started off slow, doing just
one thing at a time, focusing on the ‘now.’ I gave myself one week to be free
of all my pressures and just live. It was slow, and difficult, but it was
manageable. On the 29th of September, I was a new person. I had a new-found
motivation, an inextinguishable passion to move forward. A fire inside me
burning bright, fueled by the words of Gil Oved, “Breakdowns are actually break
throughs” and the words of Epictetus “We suffer not from the events in our
life, but from our judgement about them.” I found peace in my study and I
worked harder than I have ever worked before. And I enjoyed it. My studies were an outlet
for me. A place of peace, quiet and order. I was in control.
I have once again found my smile. I have broken the chains
that had tied me down for so long. I cannot say I have won the constantly
waging war I have declared with my mind, but I have surely won the battle this
time. I have a long way to travel in my journey to seek ultimate happiness and
self-peace, but as I edge ever closer to the summit of my own pyramid, I learn
more with every step.
My triumph in this particular battle has uncovered a
I am beginning to understand… there is no such thing as
You either succeed, or you grow.