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Why I started this blog… and a little fear

Why are we so scared? No, really. Why do we have this thing holding us back, this little voice saying “Nope, step back. Who do you think you are?” In fact, who does that voice think IT is?

I’ve written a bit about the ego, and that is exactly what that voice is, fuelled by its old friend and bedfellow, Fear.

I went for an interview last week, and had an inspiring chat with two of the other interviewees. This very discussion came up, and we relayed our relationships with fear. We were all unhappily devoted to him/her (because I’m not falling into the trap of personifying a feeling or object with gender, thank you very much). It boiled down to a recurring narrative – that voice again – of “I’m not good enough”. We concluded, however, that the job interview in itself was a way of taking a risk, and leaping over the edge.

We may never be the next big thing – the next Oprah, Mandela or Beyoncé – but that’s exactly the point. To delve into a bit of cliché here, your uniqueness is what makes you special. Pretty obvious point, but I bet you never considered that Oprah, Mandela and Beyoncé had people who they thought were much bigger than them to contend with, and thought they could never live up to.

I started this blog last year (2012) as a requirement for a module of my Master’s course, called Digital Cultures.

The title of this post was initially “How to be a writer”, which felt a little too esoteric, considering that to many people, I am not a writer. To me, a writer writes, and that’s what I do. So, in your face, naysayers. But it felt more important to share a story than tell you how to be a writer. On that, it’s simple: once you affirm what you want to be, you are it. “I am a writer” Boom, and it’s done. Now you step in and do the work and voila, vision completed. I am, of course, leaving out the many, many mini steps in between (also known as hard work), but you get my point.

So after the 6 month course was over, I realised that I really enjoyed putting out a message. Now that I am approaching the second year of blogging, I’ve realised the value of sharing. You see, even if I discontinue this blog and never write again, it will be on the internet for all to see. I kept it up as a way of having a portfolio of work for employers, but now it is so much more. I keep at it in the hope of someone stumbling across it and, like my regular readers, will find something in the archives that they think it is funny, insightful, and clever or pretty. Or even better, that they find stupid or ugly and use to make their own art better. I’m ok with that too.

If you’re not stirred to anger or passion by something that you don’t like in the interest of making your own life better, then you have probably stopped living. NEVER STOP LIVING.

During key moments, when I felt like giving up, I ignored the fear and jumped. If you’ve been teetering on the edge of greatness for a long time, and you’re reading this, then I’m sorry, my friend and faithful reader, but it’s too late. You’ve already read too far and these words have already served as the seed which now lies in your consciousness. It’s time to stop teetering, and the time to jump is now. You’re welcome.

My first foray into writing, when I knew that maybe I could do this, was in school when, in English class, we were given an assignment based on Buckingham Palace by Richard Rive. If you have not read it, I suggest you do so. It is one of the few books that had me bawling, although that could have just been teenage hormones. The assignment was divided into sections, so not the traditional essay. Keywords: NOT TRADITIONAL. I was sold. This would be my first experiment with playing with voices in writing, and it paid off. I got 80% and my classmates actually found me funny. This was not the usual class clown antics, but rather my way of taking what I had observed, transcribed, within the framework of the novel and also in the Cape Coloured dialect. I was commended, and I was validated.

Since then, I’ve had to really toughen my skin (not an easy feat for a lover of lotion) and creative writing classes have especially helped in this regard. I am impervious to trolls.  I have also continued to receive compliments regarding my writing and hope to use it to keep speaking truth to power, entertaining and hopefully informing and enlightening.

Oh, and guess what… I got the job! Take that, Fear!

 

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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Stand Up?

No, not the comedy kind, but I knew that would get your attention.  As much of a comedian and sarcassanova as I tend to be, this is a partially serious one.

How many of us stand up?

Think about it. No, not literally! I mean standing up to oppression. Calm down, I’m not trying to save the world here. Or maybe I am, one bitch at a time.

Here’s the story: I was at a wedding recently where a person at our table shouted at someone on the wait staff and demanded that she gets what she asks for. We were all shocked, first thinking that it was a joke or that she knew him. Of course we all knew that that was not true, but humans tend to think the best of people, I suppose. Or we didn’t want to be the one to stand up against her.

Later on everyone was discussing how inappropriate this person was and that it was so rude of her. But still, none of us said anything! The appropriate response to this only came weeks later when I realised that I should have said something along the lines of “That is NOT cool. You don’t speak to him that way!” and so on.

This made me realise how often people like this get away with this type of behaviour.  Many of them do not realise that they act this way and go on with their lives unaware. Why do we not speak up and stand up?

Because we are scared of being different?

I think back on events such as the (here we go) Holocaust and other such events. Here in SA we had Apartheid (I know, I know, I’m sorry. I’ll conclude soon) which took off at a rapid speed. How many people look back now and wish they had stood up and went against the grain? We all can’t be large scale activists, I suppose, but doing nothing at all builds up and allows for momentum such as the aforementioned events in history.

Even closer to home and to our time are the on-going xenophobic attacks against foreigners in the townships. People who fought for their freedom are rallying against people who want the same.

But that’s not our problem, right? We don’t need to worry about foreigners and people in townships. Well, at least not until they start invading our lives. Then we stand up. Oh boy, will we stand up!

So why not do something small regularly.  We can’t point the finger unless we do something ourselves. And I’m not talking about the debit order every month to your local charity. That’s great, but an even smaller thing to do: tell people to watch their tongues when they are being assholes. Sure you won’t be popular and many might think you’re a killjoy, but where’s the fun in being good?

***

On a different note, you can also stand up by just helping others. Recently I realised how often I say no. This is something that I preach against and to which I stay true reasonably often. But as I filled up at the petrol station, a homeless guy asked for change. I did my usual puppy dog “I’m a poor student” face as I patted my jacket pockets and mouthed “I’m sorry”. That’s right; I didn’t even roll down the window.

I’m not saying you should put your safety at risk. Don’t stop for a beggar as you open your bag, get your wallet out, look for a coin and then get it snatched out of your hand as you cry and prepare to sue me. No, don’t do that.  But if you have a coin in your pocket, as I had, give it!!

That is standing up, in a way and helps others. Like my Medical Anthropology lecturer said, “If you have, just give”. If they use it for drugs, that’s ok because that will bring them comfort at the time. Until we solve bigger problems, they are still on the street, hungry and homeless.

So that was my huge digression, but I think (hope?) you get the point. We don’t need to be an icon to change our worlds. Do something small all the time and stand up for the better.

<p>Author <a href=”https://plus.google.com/102128103971030481396” target=”blank” rel=”author”>Jerome Cornelius</a></p>

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