Lately, I find myself reflecting on my personal journey as umjita, and more often than it is required; I relish at the indelible fact that, some things are painful but necessary…like tough love.
Depending on who and how it is exerted, tough love can be your ally in turbulent times. Luckily for me, I have my older brother and mother to thank for the invaluable lessons that come with tough love. Both of them had a significant role in shaping my outlook on the world and why prioritizing yourself is always important.
iOlady was an archetype of a parent, she raised us with a salary from the retail industry. We grew up okay, although we didn’t always have the best of everything, our moral currency was of high value. Now you can imagine growing up without a father in your life as a boy child, a lot of the things you learn from the streets. In 1998, my mother got married, and needless to say that I was in for a rude awakening, to say the least. Although I was a kid, I had an innate ability to detect a wrong decision when I notice one; and iO’lady getting married to my then step-father was one of those instances.
At first, it was great, the whole blended family thing. My stepfather had three children of his own and my mother came with us (myself and my older brother) into their marital abode. Like with every family, disagreements are always warranted but what I soon realized was that, although my mother championed treating us equally, my stepfather chose his kids over everything; even his wife. Noticing the unfair family dynamics, I started to rebel in my teenage years. I realized if I needed anything I had to get it on my own. My older brother was in his early twenties and obviously, his priorities were in stark contrast when compared to mine. Years passed and my brother moved out while I was doing my matric. My brother organized some holiday work for me at his workplace and that’s when I saved up to buy my first cellphone; the biggest feat for a 16-year-old at that time.
The following year, I was in varsity and decided to go live with my brother in Dobsonville. This is where my coming of age was really cultivated. I thought things would be easy but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
My brother made it clear that I had to man up and do what I had to do because he wasn’t going to hand things to me on a silver platter. As bummed as I was at first, it didn’t take long for me to find my rhythm as a young hustler. I got a job at my tertiary institution as a junior network administrator. As fancy as the title sounds, it wasn’t paying much but I was my own man. I could afford to buy myself a couple of things, go on dates and do what teenagers do. From learning how to drive, getting a learner’s license, etc. I did it on my own accord, without any assistance from my mother or brother.
These may seem like little things to some people but when you do not have a springboard or cushion to back you up, the only thing left to do is leap out on your own and stand on your own two feet. Now that I am older, I realize that all that strife was not in vain. I am able to maneuver and find a way or even create a path where there wasn’t one. I commend the people who gave me tough love because if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be the strong individual that is today.
Qina Ndoda ekhaya ba bheke wena!
- Tebogo Kawawa