Aydn and I went to the same school and lived in the same residence at university, but I haven't met him. We had these experiences about 14 years apart. The Westville Boys' High he went to is, I have to admit, a different place to the one I went to. The core of teachers who taught me are still there, but they and others have taken the school on in leaps and bounds creating a wonderful learning environment that makes me a proud old boy. Having met up with some of the guys who are currently in Smuts (the University of Cape Town residence) when they were in London was also an interesting look at 'shadow paths' as we compared experiences and shared stories. Some of the older Smutsmen were less impressed with my story of guys having connected the washing machine to the internet (the internet of things) so we could tell where the washing was in the cycle. They used to have theirs collected, washed and returned. Sometimes doing stuff yourself is progress. Aydn and I were both responsible for the mentorship programs at res, and I see a shared intensity in his post. Social Media does allow chats across generation without much difficulty. Since 'all advice is autobiographical', sharing that experience with someone on a new but similar path is an opportunity worth seizing. The great thing is how much we have to learn from the younger chaps too.
The George Pub at Smuts
Wait and Hope
by Aydn Parrott
Kicking around on the surface, too afraid to hold our breath and go under.
As I write this UCT will be holding its annual set of year end graduations, schools have been closing for holidays all around South Africa and office parties have commenced. These events all signify the arrival of the festive season. Time for family, long vacations, matric rage, Ballito, Plett, Umhlanga (insert other exclusive beach town name here). However these events also usher in an event which, for many, has a dual purpose. That event is New Year. The dual purpose is one signified by the Roman God Janus (deity from which the month January originated). Janus had two faces, one facing the past and one facing the future. New Year's allows individuals to reflect on the past year and look to the year ahead. Cue big dreams, clever ideas and innovative diets. People start making new year's resolutions and we all know how those usually end, the same place they started.
Janus - The Two-face Roman Deity
Having struggled with these resolution crises for many years I stumbled across an article which says that the reason people struggle to stay the course is because, although there are good intentions and a genuine desire to change, before changing your identity or image, one must first change the habits that make up that identity. This concept led me to examine a trait in myself common to many people. People often tackle issues in their lives by dealing with the results. This world of constant change and need for adaptation has left people clinging onto any and every form of certainty they can. Therefore many people are too afraid to examine themselves and their being at the core. People are too afraid to look inside themselves and try and understand what it is that they truly want, what truly would make them happy and what they are currently doing, thinking or saying that is preventing them from obtaining that. Instead people deal with the results of a problem whose cause remains very much the same and any attempt at change is temporary, an icing to cover up the bread that is preventing your cake from being a cake. So we create a cycle of being busy with change but never actually producing any change.
In my personal life I have decided to address this issue. I have decided to go "deep sea-diving" and explore the mass of the iceberg that is me. I have decided to look inwards and ask myself who I am, what I want and what matters most. Talking to everyone from parents, friends, my mentor and even UCT staff, the consensus seems to be that because I have not taken the time to examine myself and discover who I really am, I struggle to decide what I really want, where I want to go and how I will get there.
Edmond Dantes spent 14 odd years discovering his true self, examining what mattered most to him. Unjustly imprisoned at the Chateau D'if he had time, and himself. The culmination of the two produced The Count of Monte Cristo. Edmond Dantes had no distractions during his incarceration, nothing to keep him busy, only the Abbe Faria (a mentor??) someone to guide him to independence. I (thankfully) am not incarcerated. However I believe that as we enter University or the working world many of us enter our own Chateau D'if, our own journey of inward reflection. A journey that is painful, joyous and confusing. Regardless of which of these feelings dominate, as long as we embark on the journey we will get to the destination (not that that really matters).
So to all who read this, I encourage you, as we enter the New Year, to look inwards and explore who YOU are. Times will get difficult but I always find comfort in the following words from Alexandre Dumas' 'The Count of Monte Cristo'
In writing a blog about several topics in which I admit to being a complete beginner, I am going to have to rely heavily on the people I am writing for who cumulatively know most of what I am likely to learn already. I would love it if some of you found the time to write a guest post on the subject of happiness or learning. The framework I use for thinking about these things is what I call the '5 + 2 points' which includes proper (1) exercise, (2) breathing, (3) diet, (4) relaxation, (5) positive thinking & meditation, (+1) relationships, (+2) flow. Naturally if you would like to write about something that you think I have missed, I would love to include that too. If you are up to doing something more practical, it would be awesome if you did a 100 hour project and I am happy to do the writing based on our chats if that is how you roll. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org