It has been an interesting year in Cape Town – one of those years that will take a while to get over. Like a bad ex. It’ll take a while.
I have not had an interesting year in a while. Most of my years are planned in advance. Not in the New Year resolution kind of way that no one ever really sticks to. I am talking about the militant setting of goals and pursuing them relentlessly. That’s been me. Maybe it is still me. I don’t know. Either way, since 8th grade, everything has been going according to plan. Everything has been been bland that way, one success after another.
It climaxed in 2010. What year. Everything I touched turned to gold. I could have won the lottery, run for president of any country and discovered the cure to any number of diseases if I felt like it. It was that kind of year, the kind of year where you feel truly invincible. I expected the same from 2011.
It didn’t quite go according to the plan.
That’s me being positive about the situation. To be really honest, the shitteth hitteth the fan in 2011.
The shit hits the fan for everyone sooner or later. You cannot avoid it. I’ve come to believe that life is some kind of giant board game where sooner or later, everyone lands on the FML block. The inevitability of the shit-fan scenario is depressing. How you respond to it is not though. If there is one thing I have learned this year, it is that there are any number of ways to respond to bad situations: anger, fear, pity, selfishness, hope, and determination. Or my personal favourite: one man parties. It really doesn’t matter. The choice is up to you.
I only discovered this late because I have never really had to confront failure. True, I have had some bad moments in life, but nothing autobiography-worthy. It’s all been one success after another. I’ve overdosing.
2011 went cold turkey on me without warning.
Success is a dangerous drug. The more you get, the more you want. There is never enough of it to sate the beast. One success has to be eclipsed by another; one achievement must be followed by two. Onwards, upwards, higher, faster. It’s a dangerous high, especially if you don’t taper it off with a good healthy dose of failure.
You need to fail at something. A Maths test, a basketball game; you need to lose at something. It is the only way to counter the adverse effects of too much success. Otherwise you’ll overdose. Lord knows I have been abusing it for the past ten or so years of my life. 2011 is the rehab check-in.
You can tell when you’re overdosing too. You just lie to yourself that you are not. When you’ve become used to success you start taking it for granted. You start thinking of it as the default setting for everything you do. You bull into everything, sometimes without a plan, relying on your instincts, past merits and trophy cabinet to get you through whatever it is that comes your way. When this starts, you’re kind of screwed. Your high will end without warning. Your dealer will relocate, leaving you cold and shivering, ready to do anything for a hit.
And that is where the shite and fan will be on a collision course. All that is left to you is to decide what you’ll do once it’s spraying all over the place.
I am not fatalistic, but I think failure is inevitable. You cannot succeed forever. It’s not natural. Failure is necessary – it’s essential for evolution of all kinds: ecological, social, personal.
I am not saying that failure is good. Or that it necessarily makes you better. I’m just saying that when it happens, do not think it is such an alien concept. Failure is not strange, it is just different.
2011 has taught me that.
The other lessons I have learned from this year are things that we all innately know but are often too afraid to believe in, mostly because social pressures try to tell you otherwise. If you look through this article, you will realise that this is nothing more than a recycling all of the little things that you have secretly believed in all of your life. They might be phrased differently, but if you pay attention to them, you’ll realise how familiar they are.
After the inevitability of failure, I think the second most important lesson from 2011 is that everyone runs their own race. And in the long run, the race is with yourself. Never run anyone else’s race.
Not every win is a victory. Not every loss is a defeat. Some wins are worth it, some are not. Some losses expose a weakness that you can fix now, a weakness that would hamstring you if you happened to carry on with it by chance. Look at the value of everything.
Stop protecting your win-loss ratio. Go on, live a little. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Do better next time. Your win-loss ratio doesn’t actually count for anything. If anyone tells you it does, ask for your money back.
If the sun is shining, get out of the house. You don’t know how long the weather will hold.
Call your friends and do something together. You never really know when you will get the chance to hang out and do things together again. Life is strange and unpredictable – it only takes 365 days to put you and your friends on different paths, in different universities or jobs, in different countries and on different continents.
Know your worth. Always. Never compromise your dignity; never give a discount on it. If you do, you’ll never get it back.
Do what you are doing to the best of your abilities. It will make things easier to explain to the man in the mirror.
Fear, but don’t quake.
Don’t stress too much about things, especially the endings. Everything will be okay in the end. If things are not okay, then it is definitely not the end.
You’re a star. Fuck anyone that says otherwise.
Those are the things that I learned in 2011. I spent most of my time in Cape Town, this year. Only now am I heading home to the patch of heat and sand that I call Namibia. It’s been a long year in Cape Town; you don’t learn lessons like the ones I have learned by idling on the pavement. They come at the expense of time and energy. For once, Cape Town managed to tire me out. It is time to go home and follow my own advice. It’s time to do something I never do, something that is important in today’s world but frowned upon: rest.
Success is tiring. Failure even more so. It is time for a break.