Continuing the Journey

Well, this is scary…

Image Credit: Markus Spiske — Pexels

I’ve published my first Medium article — yay!

… But, now the second one awaits.

How do I top the “I defeated a brain tumour and still passed high school with seven distinctions!” story? Well, how about the sequel to that story?

Let’s backtrack a bit, in order to get the full picture.

I’ve always been a bit of a creative. When I was a little girl, I drew pictures, coloured in and dabbled in a bit of pottery and crafts. I was happy as long as I was creating something. Granted, I am no artist, but creative activities like these kept me happy. Though I see myself as a creative being, I am a nerd by heart. I did well in school throughout my life, considering I didn’t take any subjects that would act as an outlet for this creative side.

It was only after my brother started studying graphic design that I started to feel intrigued by the idea of pursuing this creative side as a full-time career. This was around the time I started high school, so it was a long time until I actually had to make a decision. I was uncertain so I kept it to myself, mostly out of fear of being accused of trying to be like my brother.

And I did question myself; was I only intrigued by it because my brother was doing it? What was it that made me want to do this job? Why was I being questioned what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, at the young age of 13? How can we expect 13-year olds to make such a daunting decision?

I suppose the most difficult thing about it was what the other kids chose, as strange as it may sound. Because a tendency started to develop among the other kids; lawyer, accountant, doctor, farmer… While I have the utmost respect for each of these professions, it just doesn’t excite me. I couldn’t see myself doing it for the rest of my life. I hated school because of the tedious, repetitive tasks and rigid schedules. I didn’t want to be stuck doing the same thing, day in and day out for the rest of my life, which is exactly how school felt for me.

So here I was, recently completed high school and had just overcome the greatest challenge of my life, but had no idea what the road ahead had in store for me.

I honestly can’t tell you what lead me to Graphic Design. Something just felt right about it. What that something is, I don’t know. And I admit, I was afraid I might fail. I was afraid I chose the wrong field and halfway through my studies I would have wasted not only my time but the money spent on tuition…

Tuition.

Ha… We could not afford that. We were by no means poor and my mother always took good care of me (and still does), but we just didn’t have the kind of money to pay for the course I wanted to take. False hope had been bestowed on me when my student advisor from high school informed me that someone in government had heard about my story and I would be contacted for a bursary — all my problems solved!

… I’m still waiting for the call.

I did some research, but there were no bursaries for jobs in the IT sector. Not for software developers, not for IT support, not for designers, just nothing! I can write a full on rant about how important design, development and the tech industry is, but that is a whole other Medium story on its own.

Long story short, my boyfriend applied for a student loan, regardless of the fact that he himself was only starting the second year of his apprenticeship, earning a meagre salary. We were hopeful at best, and by some miracle the loan was approved! I packed my bags and moved out of my mother’s house to move in with my boyfriend in order to be closer to college. Shout out to him and my amazing mother-in-law for taking such good care of me at the time. The trips of taking me to college before I got my licence, the late nights he spent up with me while I was working, the lunches that were freshly made every day, the encouragement and honest feedback on what I’m sure I would now call shoddy work… You really shaped the years of my student life and I appreciate all the support.

My first year of being a Graphic Design student started off just swell. I was absorbing everything with ease and I immersed myself into this incredibly vast and amazing world of design. I was quickly moving up in the list of top students. I did well enough to keep my marks above 90% and I was truly enjoying every moment of my studies.

Until my world came crashing down around me. On Saturday, 6 June 2015 around 9–10 AM, I don’t remember exactly. That was the day that I was informed that my stepfather had passed away in a motorcycle accident. You read stepfather but I read father. I won’t get into much of the details as that’s a part of my personal life I don’t wish to expose to the internet, but take my word that I had lost my father and my hero that day. It was the worst thing to ever happen to me, and I had just survived a brain tumour the previous year.

The worst part about the “real world” is that the show goes on, regardless of your personal problems. I was in the middle of a big collaborative project and my international Photoshop exam was coming up. I did’t have the luxury of mourning his death the way I would have wanted to. I wrote my exam two days after the funeral. The proud feeling of passing on the first attempt had quickly converted into tears because I couldn’t share my accomplishment with him. I continued with my studies and life as best I could, and continued to do well, despite the circumstances. I also lost the beloved kitten that I rescued as a tiny baby and raised by hand, just a few months after his death. It was a tough year, but I pushed through.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to do your job, or your studies (or whatever is applicable to you) without letting your personal problems and obstacles get in the way. Allowing any obstacle, as difficult as it may be, is giving up. Giving up is never an option. You have to keep moving.

I continued to complete my second and final year of studies, where I strengthened my existing knowledge and learned new skills. I learned valuable skills in those two years that I am now applying in my career, (and you best believe that a lot of my future posts will be about Design!) but more than that, I learned how to deal with real-world problems like dealing with death and managing your emotions in a professional environment. I learned how to cut toxic people out of my life, how to let go of what you can’t change and how to live a little, too! That’s mostly thanks to the three best friends I made during those two years — I love you guys.

I left the three of them behind to pursue a dream that had recently taken hold of my every waking thought. In September 2016, We went on a family holiday in Cape Town and I fell in love with it the moment we arrived. My boyfriend and I spoke about living there one day, and we would continue to speak about it until January 2017 when the two of us, along with my mom decided to take a giant leap of faith and just move there. We were living in Johannesburg at the time, I had just graduated college with limited, part-time work experience. My boyfriend had just qualified and had been given a great opportunity that would be the smarter choice over moving 1400 kilometres away to a place where we had no family, no jobs, no place to stay and no plan. We had a lot of reservations for sure, but fuck it, life is short!

In the end it all worked out, and we have no regrets.

Now, three years later, I stand stronger and more confident. Perusing a passion that cannot die. Learning new things every day. Pushing myself to do everything I was always afraid to do before. Living the life I dreamt of.

That’s the whole point… life is, as I have recently realised, extremely short. Pursue the dream, face the fear, abolish negativity and kill self-doubt. Live the life you want to.

You deserve it.