Thoughts on Life

Shut your eyes and see

It took me three years to realise that I was wrong.

For a really long time, I believed that the most important things in life are captured by the eye. It’s kind of like a window to the soul thing in which your eyes allow for you to discover the world and read people and learn things and expand horizons. I thought that you could feed your soul through feasting your eyes on amazing and beautiful places and things and people.

But I was wrong.

It has been almost three years since I first read James Joyce’s Ulysses. There was a sentence that stood out as if it were being shouted at me…

“Shut your eyes and see.”

I re-read it at least fifteen times before my brain was able to wrap itself around the confusion.

Shut your eyes and see.

I’ve been wrestling with it ever since…

What I see through my eyes are signatures of all the things I have been placed on this planet to read. But somehow there is a limit to that. There is a limit to what can be seen. Limits to discovery. Once you’ve seen it all, you are done. It is done. You have done it. You’ve seen it.

You’ve travelled to Germany and you’ve seen their giant pretzels and now you can tell everyone about it and show them the pictures when you get back home.

But really you did so much more than that.

There is something bigger than seeing everything.

There is something to which there really is no limit.

Something you can never exhaust.

Because there is no limit to what can be felt.

And that is why, when you shut your eyes, you really see.

You discover more. You delve deeper. You understand better.

You comprehend.

That is why, when you shut your eyes and allow yourself to experience and to feel, I imagine you create the most powerful of memories.

It is huddling around that table in the freezing cold enjoying a glass of Glühwein with people who speak in your native tongue.

It is standing in the rain in Amsterdam with a friend you only met twelve weeks ago, but who somehow has become a soul more connected to you than even some of your lifelong friends.

It is climbing trees in the Gooise forest with the sound of summer hissing from the treetops.

It’s not about where you go or where you’ve been or what you’ve been taking pictures of.

It’s about the one thing no-one can take away from you.

It’s the memories.

It’s eating a bowl of bitterballen in a restaurant in Utrecht not because you’re hungry, but because they have heaters that will help bring back the feeling in your hands.

It’s listening to Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3 – the saddest classical symphony of all time – over breakfast with friendly strangers in Belgium.

It’s stroking your fingers across the rough sand of the North Sea.

It’s dancing so joyfully the soles of your shoes tear off.

It’s cycling against gale force winds in aggressive rain and complete darkness through the narrow paths of ‘s-Graveland.

It’s falling off bicycles.

It’s thinking about the people you loved when you were home.

It’s the nostalgia when listening to that song from that drive to the ocean that day.

You must remember this.

It was all I had.

All I’ve ever had.

The only currency.

The only proof that I was alive –

Memory.

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There is no time to waste

It took me a long time to realise that we don’t have much time. And even less so, time to waste.

In my past four months living in The Netherlands, there has been a sense of urgency to see as much as possible in my time there. To cycle to cool places every day. To catch the bus to amazing events. To spend all night dancing. To meet as many people as I can… It’s a desire to experience anything and everything I possibly can in the limited time that I’m there.

And it has changed the way I perceive the value of time.

My one week back in South Africa for Christmas has taught me much the same thing. I only had 6 days in which to reconnect with my people. With my car. With my way of life here. With my country. I was unable to spend even just one moment doing nothing or going nowhere. I had to see my mountain. Feel my ocean. Drink my wine. Laugh with my people.

It has allowed me to see that I do not have the time to spend any of my days doing nothing. Or to spend any of them doing things that don’t allow either for growth or a sense of fulfillment. I do not have time to waste on any trivial pursuits or a life not lived with the unapologetic intention to make every moment mean something. I do not have time to sit on my ass doing nothing. There are places to see and people to meet. Music to make. Books to read. Sights to see. Memories to make. Get up and go do things that make your days worthy of crawling out of bed in the morning.

I do not have time to pine over things from the past that didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped they would. It’s done and its effect on my present should be only to have learnt valuable lessons and to have grown stronger and more resilient to the universe and the punches it throws.

I do not have time to spend time with people who are not my kind of people. It took me a while to learn that you really can choose your friends. But it took me an even longer while to learn that your friends sometimes choose you as well. So to be yourself and the best version of who that is at all times is of vital importance in having the right people choose you as a friend.

I do not have the time to disagree with you over set opinions and dogmas. There are some things in life that are by all means worth discussing, but much less worth picking a fight over. Tolerance for the beliefs of others, for their ideas and for their choices in life is a sign of respect that not many people ever show. We’re so invested in how we live and what we believe is right that we become ignorant towards the right of others to believe their own things.

Be open. Be tolerant.

I do not have time to not be present. The past couple of months living abroad have added a freaky little twist to many of my friendships back in SA. My need to soak up every moment has pulled me away from my cellphone and my computer to such an extent that people have begun to think I have forgotten our friendship.

I really haven’t.

I see my people in everything I experience.

I see my crazy friends with their infectious laughter in every foreign smile. And I see the big blue eyes of my friends near the ocean every time the blue skies reflect in the canals of Amsterdam.

I am reminded of my family every time “o ek wil huistoe gaan na mamma toe” loops on the local bar’s speakers.

I think about all of my favourites all of the time. And it sometimes even feels like they’re right there with me experiencing every epic moment, becoming part of all the new memories I make.

So here’s to an exciting 2016 in Dutchland! Remembering all the ones I leave behind. And embracing all the ones I am yet to meet.

Tot straks, bitches!

In Defense of my Arts Degree

I have a Bachelor’s Degree in the Arts.

In my first year of studying this, I spoke briefly with this one guy at a social that I was forced to attend. The first question we were forced to ask each other was, quite unoriginally, what do you study?

His answer was Engineering.

Mine was Humanities.

He laughed. And then he said “Oh, so you’re one of the dumb ones.”

It was funny when I stalked his Facebook the other day to see that he now lives in the middle of nowhere and keeps posting Throwback Thursday pictures of when he was at university and still had friends.

It seemed a lot like the idea of being an Engineer and thinking that it would set you apart was all it ever was to him. The idea was to be the smart, eligible, inventive Engineer.

Doesn’t look like it makes him happy now.

I learnt a lot of things about people through studying Languages and Psychology and Philosophy.

It’s not that it infuriates me that some look down condescendingly on the Arts Degree. It’s that I don’t understand what you believe sets you at a higher level with your Science or Commerce or Accounting Degrees.

I respect the knowledge you have built. I respect how you can create and how you can make sense of a mess by using your brilliant mind, your mathematical skill and your analytical brain.

Maybe that’s why I gave a go at Engineering for a year. I also wanted to use Science and numbers to create and build systems that would make things easier through analysing and improving on existing theories and appliances and infrastructure.

Why, though, are my Arts-related abilities to create, analyse and build believed to be of a lesser calibre than yours?

I grew up in a family of achievers. There’s the one with the Masters Degree in Science. The one with the MBA.

The grandad with the Doctorate in Agriculture who basically orchestrated the invention of synchronised reproductive processes in farm animals so that all of them go into heat at the same time to provide farmers with a stable income and grocery stores with a stable supply of meat.

And then there’s me. With the Arts Degree.

At the university where I studied, they laughingly label this degree as the one you study when you’re trying to find a man. Because it’s apparently really easy and you’ll probably never find a job so best spend your time finding a husband to take care of you.

Are you fucking kidding me?!

Who let you climb on that pedestal? Because the pride darkening your judgment is making you forget that I have acquired the ability to analyse the insecurity that stepped you up there. And the facets of your societal surrounds that will eventually cause you to fall due to your disrespect of the supposed underdog.

There may come a time when you will meet an Arts graduate who has far surpassed your successes. They won’t necessarily be professionally or financially. If that is what life is about to you. Or maybe they will…

But they may just surpass your expectations through their understanding of life. Of what makes people choose the lives they do. What makes people respect the choices and paths and mistakes of others.

They will teach you about the dynamics of society and its need to prove itself to itself.

They will teach you about the art of expression.

They will teach you about culture.

They will teach you about societal structures and its evolution over time.

Communism.

Politics.

The liberation of modernism.

The crisis of experience.

The evolution of space.

The philosophy of Science.

Religion.

The art of logic and conversation.

The taboos around sex.

Man’s ability to love.

Man’s ability to hate.

They will open your mind to new focuses on religion and ways of life.

They will help you discover respect for atheists who love and live honourably without the thought of divine reward. You will understand their need to do good simply because they believe the world deserves it.

They will help you externalise that which is interior and put it out there in the world. Like downloading your knowledge and your consciousness onto paper.

They will teach you how to differentiate between what is beautiful and what is ugly. In a less shallow sense.

They will teach you how to use literature to teach.

To entertain.

To escape.

To switch off minds.

To change mindsets.

They will teach you that reading that novel really is you writing that novel. Creating pictures in your mind and people in your life that only disappear long after you’ve read that last page.

They will teach you how to tap into the human unconscious.

My professor once said that “Communication is an ORGAN!” It influences everything. Without it, we’re pretty much hanging on by a thread. We lose touch with other humans. We lose control. We lose order. We lose life. It carves culture and communication carves life.

Respect the Arts, my friend.

There’s a lot beneath the surface here.

An adventure in the now

I don’t get jogging. I don’t get how putting that strain on your legs and your body and your lungs is fun. Let your lungs rip just doesn’t resonate with me. Sprinting I get. If I need to run from danger I will do the fast run. But no. I will never jog.

A place where people meet up for a jog would be a good place to hide something from me.

So I spent the past weekend drinking wine amongst vineyards in the Franschhoek Wine Valley. And while I was sipping on a glass of Grenache, and characteristically spilling it all over myself, I felt a tiny little surge of what people call happiness. Sitting in the sun. Drinking wine. Sharing thoughts with smart people. In a wannabe French town. In South Africa. Right here at home. And it was good.

But for years I’ve made myself believe that South Africa isn’t enough. It’s not enough to have a dayjob and it’s not enough to grow roots here and it’s not good enough to settle for something as simple. I should leave. I should explore. I should meet new people. I should speak new languages.

And I’ve saved and saved and saved everything I earn. Everything. I wear clothes I bought three summers ago and I never go anywhere and I restrict my budgets because I’m saving a bunch of money for an escape. In my refusal of mediocrity. But then I realised that I haven’t really been living. I’ve been holding so tightly onto a goal for my future that I’m purposely pushing aside the short-term ones that would make me happy in the meantime.

And I blame all of it on jogging. My need to sprint to the end-line is making me fly by all the little experiences I could be having in the place I’m “adventuring” in now. It’ll be quite some time before my dreams of running really far away will realise. If they ever will.

Also, jogging is hard. It’s like you’re getting somewhere but you’re getting there really slowly. And it hurts, man. Jogging is not done quietly. And it takes a really long time to get used to it. Though I’m hoping my proverbial legs and lungs will forgive me by evoking the endorphins my soul has so desperately been craving. So in the meantime, it’s a mini-venture towards making what I have and where I am exciting and memorable.

Maybe it’s not always the far-off places and culture shocks or language barriers. Sometimes it’s just making music. Or reading books. Or maybe it’s just you and your mind and your thoughts and pushing them to the limits in the meantime.

Let’s be adventurers.

If they cannot be literal and geographical,

let them be intellectual, emotional, spiritual, interpersonal,

and my very favourite 

CREATIVE.

Because: onward.

tired

300 Days in Digital

I was 9 years old when Google was first invented. I’d say it changed everything but that’d be an understatement.

For the past year, I’ve spent my days trying to understand and trick and master the beast that is Google. I now know what an algorithm is, what ORM means, how obvious your internet stalking really is, and why people in digital marketing never take lunch and always have Red Bull can towers on their desks.

I also know what a nerdgasm is.

I’ve spent, as a guestimation, 300 days driving to work in bumper-to-bumper traffic for up to 2 hours a day. I’ve sifted through all genres of music I could possibly find and have now resorted to listening to the Harry Potter soundtrack on repeat to distract myself from the pains of traffic.

Every day, depending on the temperament of Cape Townian weather, I drive into blasting view of Table Mountain and it still excites me to move into view of this natural wonder knowing that I actually sort of live here.

table mountain

I’ve climbed that devil and I’ve sworn at it and it never ceases to be incredible. But for more reasons than one, it is time for change and it is time to move on.

Things I’ve learnt over the past 300 days:

You are not your profession

Some days I feel upset with myself that I didn’t become something like a Doctor or an Engineer or a Teacher. Because then I wouldn’t have to explain my job and why I do it. Everyone would be like, oh cool, a Doctor? Nice.

Every conversation kind of starts with “I work in digital marketing but it’s not like the marketing you think it’s more about Google stuff.” And then they think you’re really smart because you said work and Google in the same sentence.

But if everything was designed solely to serve its intelligence, things would be pretty bleak around here. So you have your degree and you have your job and that’s amazing. And you work hard and you enjoy it and you feel happy.

To me, though, there needs to be a definitive mid-ground here. A characteristic of your life or of yourself for you to escape to. Not because things are hard or because times are tough. But because somewhere between the emails and the conference calls and the continuous strategising, there needs to be a YOU.

A Lelanie who is an individual. Not the Lelanie who is the developer or the Lelanie who is the strategist or the Lelanie who is the analytics chick. There needs to be the Lelanie who is the girl who tells the dirty jokes. Or the Lelanie who’s learning to play the banjo. Because the Lelanie who is the analytics chick isn’t meant to define her. It’s meant to be a little part of the whole that is her as individual. You are more than your job. Don’t be Lelanie the analytics chick. Be Lelanie – the girl who gets invited to parties.

Your parents are not always right

Everyone keeps saying that you should listen to them and that they are wiser than you and that they have all the answers. But in the end they’re also just people. Who are sometimes also confused and angry at life and want you to not make the same mistakes they did.

If I listened to my parents a year ago, I’d never have started working in digital marketing. There wouldn’t have been that “memorable” adventure of having a tequila brand as a client and I’d also never have been given a brilliant analysis of how my ability to retain relationships is similar to the bounce rate of the Terms & Conditions page on a Japanese porn site.

tequila2This by no means constitutes being ungrateful for their lifelong efforts or disrespecting their opinions and advice. Those are always welcome. But I am the one who will essentially carry the consequences of my decisions. I am the one who needs to live with it.

Your mistakes do not define you

Man. I’ve done some stupid ass shit. I really am not always very smart. And I really am not always a good person. You may see me smiling in the corner, but deep down in my soul somewhere there is a bitch who ruins lives. But after a lot of wine and a lot of binge-writing, you reach a point where you are able look past your mistakes and move into a place where waking up and going to work is less a chore and more something you look forward to.

What we do is we try and build something nice around the black hole. We start from the bottom and we build our way up to something we can be proud of. And we never make those past mistakes again.

In the end

You work through the night and you swear at your computer a lot and you’ll probably start smoking just to deal.

Many digital marketers end up dreaming about conversion rates and landing page optimisation and these things tend to drive you to drunk Facebooking. It’s tough and it’s a 24-7 job and it will inevitably, at some point, crush your fragile spirit.

tired

And it would’ve been totally worth it.

1 in 7 billion

The Millennial Curse

I hate being a millennial. I hate having been branded as a millennial. And I hate other millennials.

Three insufferable beliefs of the typical millennial:

I am special

1 in 7 billionNo you’re not. You’re just another ant in the underground kingdom. It’s like that quote someone came up with that one time:
I just want to be unique like everyone else.
Maybe your mother wanted you to believe that you’re the exception. Mine certainly did. Maybe she even told you that you’re an indigo child. But let’s be real… Even though you probably still live with your mother and she’s constantly encouraging your belief in how special you are, she is one of few people in life who will ever believe it as much as you do.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? Because that’s what life is. You work hard and you play amongst the masses and you make the most of it.

I deserve it

You probably do. This does not mean that you’re entitled to special treatment though. You have to go above and beyond to get noticed. You have to work your ass off to get a promotion. And you have to do this for years and years and then maybe… MAYBE… you will get what you deserve.

But moping away in the corner because your boss is treating you the same way he does other employees is not the answer – if you’re working in a corporate environment you’ll be at the bottom of the food chain for quite some time. Deal with it.

All I want is to be happy

Having seven different jobs in one year because none of them “made you happy” is ridiculous in the eyes of most employers. Some of them are all for playing the field and being a job-whore, but most – especially the significant ones – will look at your CV (if they even get that far) and chuck it aside because you lack loyalty.

Companies are not too keen on training interns or juniors just to have them leave a month later. They spend money training you. They invest a lot of effort and resources in you. You dining and dashing is a total injustice to yourself. Your patched CV could be a shot in the foot and you’ll have to spend the bulk of your late 20s & early 30s trying to rectify the happiness-seeking ways of your early-20s self.

Holding on to articles about millennials written by other millennials (irony) who are unable to suck up the natural course of working life might make you feel better for now. But peace, love and happiness is an outdated ideal initiated by people who lived through A WAR.

You’re becoming a statistic. Stop it.

Regret is never an easy emotion to rectify.

girls on mountain

Universal Human Dissatisfaction

Let’s talk about universal human dissatisfaction. Let’s enunciate the fact that people care about their own happiness too much sometimes to make sacrifices or go the extra mile to serve the happiness of another. Let’s admit for a second that none of us are truly happy enough with our own lives to give up an ounce of that for someone else’s. We’ve all done it. We’re all guilty. But are we ever going to reach a point where we put ourselves second? Where we look past ourselves and sacrifice a little? I’m not talking about spending a week in a township or volunteering to make sandwiches for a meet with the underprivileged. I’m talking about human to human, heart to heart sacrifice… True, sincere caring.

1

I’ve spent days trying to make peace with this and have concluded that there is just no getting around it. We live for ourselves and that is that. Someone upsets you, you walk away. Someone disappoints you, you walk away. Someone hurts you, you vent. And then you walk away. Because in the end, it’s all about self-preservation. If you’re not looking out for yourself, who will?

The other side of this conversation then goes to self-preservation… which we are all entitled to. I respect your need to care for your own happiness. Respect yourself enough to walk away from anything that no longer serves you, grows you, or makes you happy. Stand up for yourself. Fight for what you want. I am all about sharing likes and dislikes to people’s faces. Leave people behind to serve your ideal. This is your life and you might as well be happy enduring it.

But then you meet these individuals who are the exact opposite of that. Parents, for one… My mother would totally sacrifice the last piece of cake for me. My dad would drive kilometers on end because I locked my keys in my car. Work their fingers to the bone to pay my university bills. I also recently met a lady who exhausted all options to help me achieve something that serves no gain for her at all. I don’t believe I deserve any of it. I didn’t do anything to gain her confidence or trust in me and yet her kindness fell onto my plate and I am filled to the brim with blessings. Maybe, now, it’s my turn to turn the tables. The random act of kindness ball just bounced into my court. I have no ball sense but I guess life sort of threw this responsibility into my face and I have to fulfill it. The hardest choice in this matter, I’d say, is deciding who I feel deserves it.

After all the disappointments I had with friendships and people in general throughout my short and tragic life, I am in all honesty at a loss for who deserves the joy ball. I could legitimately count the number of people who have done right by me on one hand. And then I’d probably have to cut off a finger too. Is that my fault because I’ve worried too much about myself, or is it yours for doing the same thing in your own life? Vicious circle?

Choose people who you know would sacrifice for you. Choose people who would endure your faults. People who would laugh with you about your shortcomings. Your lack of skill. Or your absolute failure in karaoke. Because those are the people you, yourself, would sacrifice for. You give what you get and you get what you give and the circle is infinite. Tweet: You give what you get and you get what you give and the circle is infinite. http://ctt.ec/6a0L3+ @eyeofthespiderr Don’t settle for less. You know what you want and you know what you deserve. If you’re willing to do it for them, be sure to know they’d be willing to do it for you. That is where you will find your people.