I have a bit of a conundrum. My wife made the observation that I tend to over think things and end up not doing anything at all at the end of the day. In her words, I think things to death. So as part of my corrective therapy, I’ve gotten into the habit of jumping head first then judging distance on my way down. Unfortunately, there is no prescription for my self-medication so I applied this technique indiscriminately to most of my life. I honestly believed I was making progress until my beautiful wife made yet another observation. She brought to my attention the fact that I had just rushed into posting onto this blog without giving my prospective readers context and background as to the purpose and history of my scribbles. She said I should have put more thought into it before just putting a hatchet to it and swinging away like an inconsiderate Neanderthal. Proverbs 18 Verse 22 says “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favour from the lord.” Amen to that. So following my wife’s firm urging, I have taken this opportunity to time travel and explain the birth and intentions of this blog.
The strange days started some eight years ago. Being on the precipice of 30 and not having much to show for my life I was suffering from a serious case of insomnia. After several nights of drifting in and out of consciousness I got into the practice of watching late night news shows with the volume off while doing the voice overs myself. I know this was an absurd activity for a moderately educated man such as myself to engage in but I proudly owned that inanity. I could have picked up a good book or studied the business section of my local news paper, but I didn’t because I couldn’t. To the uninitiated, when you suffer from insomnia you’re not asleep and you’re not awake either. Days blend into each other, colours bleed to grey and everything just sounds like a dim humming sound in your head. Your brain is too busy trying to distinguish the real from the imagined and is performing with dismal efficiency at that. Logical thinking is far too much to ask for.
One particular night after giving George Bush the Mickey Mouse voice-over treatment during some press event on CNN, I started surfing through channels. I came across a documentary about the great continent of Africa on one of the Discovery or National Geographic channels. As is synonymous with such “award winning” coverage about Africa, I was bombarded with visuals of child soldiers, emaciated livestock, charred landscapes and shabby dressed child brides walking ridiculous distances just to get water, food or their children immunised. The next scene jumped to a smartly dressed bespectacled Caucasian man in a navy blue dinner jacket. He had a graph behind him with different continents depicted by different coloured lines. For some reason the African line was lower than all the others and in shocking red. The man had an intense look about him as if he was trying to convey some deep truth or vast reflection. My curiosity was tickled so I turned up the volume. I was just in time to hear him say “…and according to the U.N. report and the South African Institute of Race Relations, the average life expectancy in Southern Africa is pegged at 52 years for women and 51 years for men. This means that I at 55 years of age would be considered one of the elders in an average African village setting. As Africa looks to the future is it plausible with such a truncated life expectancy to…” I switched the volume off in mid-sentence as my attention was directed to trying to figure out if the silhouette of Idi Amin that had just appeared on my ceiling was real or just another figment of my imagination.
Though I felt that little “African village setting” quip of his was tasteless I started thinking about what the man in the box said. 51 years? I was turning 30 in the few months that followed. I started taking stock of my life and came to some discomforting realisations. I, having been born in the tail end of 1980 and depending on which study you ascribe to, just barely fell into the millennial bracket. A generation, also known as Generation Me or the Boomerang generation, that is characterised by social scientists as narcissistic, fame obsessed, individualistic and bursting with a sense of entitlement and instant gratification while plagued with delusions of gradure. In the same vein, millennials are also described as tech savvy and socially conscious. It was these descriptions that I once viewed as positive that I now realised were the cause of what I now call my Great Undoing.
In those months before my thirtieth birthday I was living in a little matchbox with my then girlfriend and now wife Lynnett. I had a job that put food on the table and paid the rent but barely little else. True to my millennial instant gratification birthright, I wrote the business plan for my hospitality consultancy business when I was 24 during my first year of management training. I was going to be the youngest general manager in the history of the company I was with in the following two years and I would make more than enough money to holiday in the Seychelles and watch Wimbledon from the bleachers by 30. That’s how a 20th century man rolled. So after i quit my job, some friends and I started our business in our home country of Zimbabwe and it failed spectacularly. So Lynnett and I moved to South Africa in search of the famed “Greener pastures”. It seems they were more elusive than anyone had let on. Every morning I would get up praying for a good day that didn’t come. My days at work were filled with drifting aimlessly from one monotonous task to the other. When done I would then commence with interminable loop of drunk people falling on YouTube, checking on the seemingly spectacular well-travelled lives of old classmates on Facebook and checking out the latest thumb wars on Twitter. I had no real friends apart from those I sporadically communicated with on the WhatsApp groups so I would check on them too. Then after knocking off work would begin the long commute back home where Lynnett would greet me with a continually fading smile and prepare dinner. We would trade complaints about our respective idiotic bosses and lazy workmates then go to sleep and the cycle would repeat the following day.
That short episode I had with the smartly dressed bespectacled Caucasian man in a navy blue dinner jacket and his statistics brought to the fore my impending mortality. Of course these statistics were in no way written in blood and cast in stone but they were a sharp reality check. That night, with the silhouette of something between Idi Amin or Oprah Winfrey dancing on my ceiling I decided to take stock of what I had gained through my 30 steps of travel and in some way plot the remaining 21 steps. I looked around the bedroom and found an old journal in which I had made the last entry in March of 2006. I wanted to write a concise evaluation of past events and actions. I sought to come up with succinct 10 or 20-point plan on how I was going to dig Lynnette and I out of the financial pit we were in to a life akin to my peers on Facebook. I wanted to plan and layout specific time frames and evaluation criteria to measure progress. Nothing came. For a whole hour I sat there willing my brain into action but nothing came. That is when I realised that even my mental aptitudes had begun to wither as well. I used to be able to write intelligent and well thought out text but right then all I could come up with was “dear diary.” I put the journal down, switched off the light and went to bed with a huge lump in my throat.
The following night instead of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or news voice-overs I engaged in an introspective exercise to try and decide what exactly had led me to this disillusioned and lost point. I came from the “Never let them see you bleed” school of life. I was taught that a man never shows emotion or vulnerability. I decided however to let my defenses down and tap into that closed off closet of emotions. As I began to write the words and emotions flowed out at a rate that both frightened and excited me. I felt the dark cloud that had hovered over me begin to dissipate and rays of sunshine peered through. Babies don’t sleep as well as I did that night and every other night that followed. I had found my therapy. I began to research issues that affected men and I realised that I was not alone in my quest for purpose and meaning as a man. I realised that I was the product of a male culture that taught men that a fat bank account and sexual conquests were the mainstay of living a masculine life. However, I got to find out that gratification from such sexual encounters was transitory and they didn’t provide perpetual fulfillment. Western contemporary pop psychology had adopted a politically correct and feminist agenda and men are being firmly encouraged to disparage their own masculinity. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for female emancipation and progression. I however had a problem when masculinity became a euphemism for misogyny and and feminism a euphemism for anti-men. Words like toxic masculinity, mansplaining and patriarchy were banded about and I, to coin the American phrase, was drinking the Kool-Aid.
Now as a father of two boys I decided to get my mind right and not only educate myself into discovering my true purpose but to raise well-adjusted and resolute men who would never be ashamed of their manhood simply because that was the trend. Beyond the secular constructs of what it means to find purpose, I never really asked what God’s purpose for me as a man was. So I did. Now as Facebook and Twitter were my undoing then, I believe my faith and the bible will be the foundation of my reconstruction. So as an extension of my journal scribblings that I kept to myself, I started this blog to share experiences, thoughts, feelings and hopefully come out the other end a more well-rounded individual.