Remembering that we are not immortal and to live thus.

sunrise over graveyard, reminding us to live

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose

Steve Jobs

I often forget this. It’s easy to forget that we are not immortal; that I am going to die, and so are you, and everyone you know. It’s a painful reminder that smacks you in the face whenever Death catches up with someone you know. It’s a mortal blow when it’s closer to home, when it’s family. But I don’t want to make this a painful read for you, or a struggle to write for me, rather I want to share to my thoughts with you.

Even legends die, but legacies live on

Sometimes I ask myself what my legacy will be? Whether I will be remembered and in whose memory I will live on. Some people change the face of history, art, music, business…the face of the world. But that’s not everyone’s fate, it couldn’t be. Legends make big ripples, and the rest of us, smaller ones, but all ripples matter. To love and to be loved is a legacy. To show unlimited kindness and generosity…to touch people’s lives no matter how few, is a worthwhile legacy.

What will my legacy be?

I love literature, film, art; and to leave the world with my writing, the fruits of my imagination is a dream. A dream I promise myself in my sane moments, to pursue relentlessly without pause, without fear. But that’s not the dream. I read in a book (The Shack) once, based on a true story, that our purpose for existence is to love and be loved. This guy claims he had an encounter with God, and that’s basically what he learnt. Whether the encounter was real or not is beside the point. I’ll take that purpose any day.

The dream, if I do nothing else with my existence, is to love without remorse, without regret, without restraint. It’s easy to forget this aspiration. To lose sight of it in the murky waters of day to day living; in the petty grudges, and justified anger we hold on to, too often; and in the bone deep fear, bitterness and pain we nurture close to our skin like a warm blanket on a winter night. It’s easy to forget the cooling balm forgiveness brings. The peace and quiet that comes with just minding our own goddamn business.

But I want that to be my legacy, that I loved, and I was loved.

Living before it’s too late

I can’t count the number of things I have put off for another time. The things I promise myself I’m going to do; things I actually really want to do. Small things, mind you, nothing too grand or too expensive. Small things like attending a Tuku show; like calling my sister; like visiting my father…except they’re not so small. Life isn’t going to wait for me to start living it. Whether I choose to live fully or not, the earth continues to orbit around the sun, and the world goes on.

I have clothes in my closet I always considered too special to wear on a regular basis. Gorgeous dresses saved for special occasions…except over the past two years I’ve steadily gained 10kgs and almost none of those beautiful clothes fit anymore. I guess the joke is on me. And I barely wore them! Why I just didn’t attend more occasions that called for dressing up like that, I have no idea. The worst part is I’m doing it again, I suppose teaching an old dog new tricks is pretty difficult huh?

Nowadays I try to catch before denying myself simple pleasurable or joyful experiences. Eating brings me joy. Eating chocolate anything (except chocolate yogurt, that stuff makes no sense to me), delicious food, and sweet wine brings me joy. So yes, I’m going to indulge myself once in a while, or as many times as is still healthy. Many things bring me joy, I can’t and won’t name them all, but I’ll certainly try to do them (within reason) …because I want to live whilst I’m still alive.

Too young to die

Here’s the thing, everyone expects old people to die, that’s the natural order of life. Nobody will say it, but well…we’re all thinking it. When you’re in your 80 and 90s, we kind of expect that eventually that you’re going to die, soon. It’s not an abstract time anymore, because you’ve lived a long life. It’s still sad when the elderly pass, but not unexpected. Even if they push to a 100 years, you all know it’s coming, and depending on how they’re faring, it’s almost anticipated.

But no one expects young people to die. Nobody ever anticipates the sudden death someone young. Even when s/he has been ill for the longest of time, it’s unbearably sad for onlookers, and a living nightmare for the family. When young people die, it leaves you questioning the very purpose of their existence. And this happens every day. Somewhere a family is burying someone whose life had only just begun. The 26 year old journalist who was shot by soldiers; the 22 year old boy playing football who suffered the same fate; the young women, robbed and murdered by alleged taxi drivers…the list could go on.

At 23, three of my peers whom I knew personally didn’t live beyond 22; a family member, beyond 14. I sometimes wonder if Lisa’s mother will ever learn to cope with the gaping wound her daughter left at just 22. I wonder if the family will ever function again. I wonder what the purpose of her living was, if only to have her snatched away so soon. Perhaps, it was to love and to be loved, I don’t know…the pain and grief is a heavy price to pay.

Choices we make

I look at this as a reminder; a reminder that I am not immortal. A reminder that I only have this one life, that I’m the one who gets to live it and that I don’t know how long I have. My choices and actions will be mine to live with, therefore whichever steps I take, I’m always cognisant of this. I will pursue only the career that I want; live how I want to; and marry only marry if I want to, when I want to, whom I want. I choose to live with hope, no matter how hopeless a situation seems.

Let it be said at the very end:

I was here, I lived, I loved. I’ve done everything that I wanted and it was more than I thought it would be.

When I leave this world, I’ll leave no regrets, instead, I’ll leave something to remember.

Beyoncé – I was here

Why I choose to remain hopeful in a continually hopeless situation

light at the end of a dark tunnel (choosing to hope)

“They stole our dreams; they stole our future.” A mantra I’ve heard repeated again and again. I never really understood it before. I wasn’t affected by it when I was in high school, closeted away in a boarding school, living in our own little world. At 19, in university, up until I graduated I still didn’t understand, because I had traded one bubble for another. Now, facing my 24th birthday I understand. I understand the frustration, I understand the bitterness, I understand the pain…but choose to remain hopeful.

I had big dreams when I left college, I still do. My bigger picture hasn’t changed, but the smaller, crucial details have. I have tempered with, adjusted and re-adjusted my timelines on a quarterly basis, now down to a monthly basis. I heard the rumours about transport cost changes a day or two before. I laughed in disbelieve. I said to the housekeeper, “haaah it’s too soon, maybe they’re just rumours.” I didn’t want to believe it; I didn’t want to think of what it would mean.

Fast forward to last night (the night of the announcement) and I was counting coins, trying to see how long they would last me. Barely a week. My friend’s
birthday was on the 1st of January (she’s like a sister really) . We wanted to take her out, a simple lunch to celebrate her birthday and show her some love. She’s had the hardest time, among the three of us. We put it off because we couldn’t afford it. I counted my coins again, if I went for the Sunday birthday lunch, my bus fare wouldn’t last the week. So we re-scheduled, again.

The pains of growing up

Simple things I always thought I’d be able to afford as an income earner now seem like luxuries of the highest order. I read a tweet by this girl, she said Zimbabweans keep complaining yet they have all these luxuries, others have none at all. I find that logic vexing. Deep poverty doesn’t justify lesser poverty. Poverty is poverty. Should I be grateful that money that should afford me all the basic commodities I need now only covers one? Anyways I digress.

One year four months after graduation I understand why so many Zimbabweans fled the country. Survival in Zimbabwe is like a game of… I don’t know. I don’t know any games that don’t have rules, or rather, the rule book changes before the ball hits the ground. It’s hard. I say this and yet I don’t personally have to face the half it. Raised in a middle-class household, (in good times probably upper middle-class), I’m somehow protected, but still aware of the struggle to acquire that lifestyle.

I am one the fortunate ones; still living in my mother’s house (I’m so glad I didn’t move out when I wanted to!), I don’t have to worry about rent, or food, or utility bills. I contribute whenever I can, but nobody will starve if I don’t get paid. I have no dependents, and barely any black tax. But on most days it also feels like I have no future.

A futureless life

Most days it feels like I have no future. This feeling brings a dangerous emotion; an emotion I refuse to entertain.

Hopelessness.

This is the one thing I refuse to have stripped away. An ideal I have chosen to protect fiercely and tirelessly. I have learnt to protect it so well, when the president made his announcement, my guards were ready. They were ready to defend my fortress, and defend it they did. When they announced that import duty for cars will now be in forex, I had no fortress. My heart broke, and I cried. I’m sure the reason is pretty obvious. Another “luxury” goal shot right in the balls. This time though, I was prepared.

See my reason for clinging to hope isn’t to do with faith in the government or the lack of it. I cling to hope for my sanity’s sake. Without hope, there is no reason to live. Without the promise of a future, there’s nothing to fight for, not much to live for. I don’t want to fall down that rabbit hole, it’s not an easy one to escape.

I choose to hope because otherwise my life will be vain. My mother’s sacrifices and hard work to give me a fair chance at life would all be in vain. However way we proceed, I will get up to fight another day because the alternative is unfathomable. I have my reasons for not turning to immigration as yet, but maybe one day soon the time shall come when I’ll cast my eyes on the “easiest countries to migrate to for Zimbabweans.” I’m quite convinced if I Google that I’ll find it.

Earphones are my new best friend

I remember one day, a few weeks ago, coming from work (a part time job) a conversation was had in the shuttle. It was the standard one. How bad things had gotten in Zim, how expensive counter books were, and how sad it was for the young people joining the workforce. That’s where they got me. They talked about how hopeless it was for the younger generation, the driver went on to say how grateful he is, him and his wife decided not to have children after the last boy who was studying in China, with the older one working in Japan.

My heart rate picked up, at some point I had stopped participating in the conversation. I could feel the anxiety starting to suffocate me, but I breathed through it. Absorbing people’s despair, internalizing it, making it your own, is a dangerous endeavor. I caught another ride for the leg home, this time it was a kombi. I’m pretty sure I cried on the way home. I didn’t eat that night. I decided to not participate in conversations like that anymore. At the risk of appearing rude, earphones have become my new best friend.

I’m not burying my head in the sand, I know the situation at hand, I’m living that situation. However, if no one is airing any helpful solutions, I’d rather not listen. I choose to protect my sanity. I’ve cried silently in a kombi enough times.

A future where I’m sane

Living without hope is a brutal endeavour, one I don’t wish to undertake. Yes, I know things are bad, I’m not a fool, but I also know my personal reality could become a lot grimmer if I let them strip away my hope. See, over the course of the year I’ve learnt I need to play the game without rules somehow, and I’m fast learning how to.

In December I moved into the gig economy because my career path demands it (plus the economic situation) so I held down a part time job that pays monthly and a freelancing gig that pays weekly. As I’m writing this, the trajectory has already changed, I no longer have a monthly flat fee salary contract; it’s now on a project by project basis. In some ways it’s better because for me the 8-5 was a brutal rat race. But it also means I will only eat what I kill (i.e. I can’t get paid for loafing around at work.) But that’s okay, I’m playing the game without rules.

I choose to live with hope, that somehow I will navigate the murky waters of Zimbabwe’s economy. I choose to believe that I can play this game without rules and still score. I choose to believe in a future for myself, and my fellow Zimbabweans, however way we get it. Whichever way we choose to fight; I will not lose hope. They may have stolen our dreams, but they will not have my faith.

I am angry but remain hopeful.

A hopeful youth, Y.F.F

10 Things to Ask Yourself Before Setting New Goals For the Year

question: when, what, who, how, where

The start of a new year is always exciting, well to me at least, I don’t know about you. New goals and all that! And setting goals for the year is amazing, I love it. I love it so much in fact I do it every 3 months…yup, I don’t wait for year end because anytime is tea time! But first there’s a little exercise I like to do first.

It’s easy to jump to the resolutions and goals part, without ever reflecting on the previous year. Did you reflect? Did you look back and take stock of the last year or you just dove into setting some shiny new goals and resolutions? It’s kinda hard to do anything differently or better, or to continue something, if you haven’t actually identified what it is. I find asking myself these 10 questions has helped me set and achieve my goals year after year, and they could help you too.


1. What did I achieve last year?

This seems so obvious (and maybe even dumb) but it’s surprising how easy it is to skip it and go straight to the failures. It’s important to ask yourself this question and to actually answer it. It’s also the first question for a reason. What did you achieve last year? List that stuff down. Whether it was intentional, by accident or pure stroke of luck, it matters… write that shit down.

What are you most proud of that you did last year. It can be one big thing, or many littler things. And it’s not restricted to material things! Maybe you worked on being a better child, parent, spouse, boss, student, employee (etc. you get the gist), and you actually improved. There are lots and lots of things that you could be proud of that you might have done. Think of them, list them down.

victory dance

Feels good doesn’t it?

Now keep them in mind. This little exercise probably shows you that you’re being too hard on yourself, and you should give yourself a little credit for what you’ve done so far. It also shows that you win some and you lose some. You mightn’t have gotten everything you wanted, but you had victories. Celebrate them. If you have absolutely nothing you can say you achieved, don’t worry, we’ll fix that, but maybe skip straight to number 5.


2. What/who helped me achieve these goal, or get to that place?

This is sooooo important. I really can’t emphasize how much! Okay, so you’re proud of yourself, awesome, but what or who helped you get there? This is pretty straight forward. If it was a person, or people, send them a thank you message, telling them what you’re thanking them for. It feels awesome to know you helped someone, so make them feel awesome by just telling them the truth. A little appreciation goes a long way.

Figuring out who helped you, can also show you who actively tried to hinder you. Maybe it wasn’t deliberate, maybe they didn’t know, but they still got in your way. If it was intentional, just avoid these people or person. I’m talking about having minimal contact. If it’s your spouse, partner or parent, then you need to have a very serious conversation, avoidance won’t help. Thank me later. Of course, be diplomatic and tactful, you don’t want to burn bridges.

The what part is also pretty important, because you identify enabling circumstances, environments and behaviour. Sometimes things work out better because you’re in the right environment, not entirely because you’re a genius. Sometimes you made it work despite the circumstances. You need to acknowledge these things. It’ll help you figure stuff out, and adjust plans, whenever things go wrong. Which brings us to question number 3…


3. How did I achieve it?

Okay, this seems quite similar to number two I know, but still…it deserves its own little subheading in bold, if only for the effect. Or the emphasis. Anyways, how did you achieve these things you’re so proud of? Was it because of good habits you developed, or have always had? Was it largely influenced by good timing? Did someone else do the majority for you, or half of it (see, number two again). Was it because of something you actively didn’t do?

Whatever it was, figure out how to keep doing it for future purposes. Or what enabled that behaviour from you. If it was mostly due to external factors, then you might want to figure out if you can keep those external factors constant. If they’re out of your control, just take note of which factors work in your favour the most.

Okay, next question.


4. What did I love most about the year?

This is just a gratitude, feel good exercise really…but a serious one. Being grateful helps us feel happier, and you want to start the year on a positive note. So, what did you love most about the previous year? Please note, this is not goal related! It’s just appreciating certain events, emotions and people from the previous year.

There has to be something you loved about last year, even one thing. If it’s something you have control over and can keep repeating into the new year, then perfect! Do that. Remember when we said this is a feel good exercise? Well you’re going to need those positive vibes for the next part.

5. What do I wish I could have done differently?

We all know when we mess up. We might not be willing to admit out loud that we’ve messed up, but we know. (If you can’t even admit it to yourself in the privacy of your own thoughts, then you may have a serious problem you need to address.) So review the past year, and figure out what went wrong, and what part you played. You can’t do anything differently if you’re not willing to own up and take responsibility.

If you know what you could have done differently, then you know where the problem lies. Then follow through and do it differently this year. It’s not rocket science; it’s just being honest with yourself. If you’re not sure about your ability to be blunt with yourself, then ask someone close to you to tell you (just don’t be angry after).

What you could have done differently probably contributed to answers from the next question.

6. Which goals did I fail at?

This part sucks, but it’s necessary. What did you fail at? If you’re in the habit of writing your goals down like I am, then simply pull out that list and take a look at last year’s resolutions and goals. Sometimes you have a something you want to change or do so badly it’s at the forefront of your mind, you don’t need to look at a list to know what it is. List these failures down. Now for the next part…

7. Why did I fail?

If you’re going to point the finger at someone else for everything, then stop reading this post and just close the page. We have nothing to talk about. Blaming everyone and everything else for your problems is partly why things keep going sideways for you. Granted, you can’t control everything about your circumstances, but you can always, always control your response to it.

Now, why did you fail? Own up where you messed up, then identify things that were beyond your control. If, for example, you got retrenched because the company was closing down or downsizing, then you’re not largely to blame. What you could be blamed for though, is not keeping your eyes open for sighs of change, and not preparing or trying to be ready for that change.

Hint: Read “Who moved my cheese” by Dr Spence Johnson

Now you know why you failed, you’re ready to answer this:

8. What do I need to change to do things differently?

Remember the question, “What do you wish you could have done differently?” Well the answers to that question are the keys for this one. What you could have done differently, what you failed, and why you failed are most likely related. Which begs for this question. Some of the reasons you failed at what you set out to do are internal, i.e. it’s largely your fault. Is it a behaviour, habit, attitude, character trait, personality trait, a belief, mind-set?

What was it?

Getting to the root means you know what needs to change, if you can change it. Some things are hard to change, like personality. If that’s the case, then you change the environment that brings out that personality trait. Learn your triggers, and either learn to control your response to them, or avoid them as much as possible. Knowing what triggers undesirable traits or behaviour means you know what gets in the way of achieving your goals.

Other reasons that contributed to your failure could be external, like sudden policy changes by a failing government. Or the collapse/wobbling of the economy. Or the death of a loved one. There are so many situational factors that come into play which you probably had little control over. Accept that some things are out of your control and that life can suck sometimes (or a lot) but you still need to keep going.

This is a really tricky part. Change what you can, as much of it as possible, then work with or around what you can’t. But please don’t hide behind external factors, that leads to the blame game. You can’t win with that route.

9. How realistic where my goals?

Set realistic goals. Okay, I hate that statement because sometimes it’s thrown around at totally unnecessary times. Oftentimes it’s just used to discourage you from going after your wildest dreams. Nevertheless, there’s a kernel of truth in that statement. Sometimes we set ourselves up for failure and disapointment by setting up implausible goals…in other words they’re pretty unrealistic.

Maybe you could achieve that goal, just not in the timeframe you’re giving yourself. We set ourselves up for disappointment by setting goals that are incredibly hard to achieve in that time frame. I could say I wanted to make a million dollars (USD) from my blog by the end of last year. What were the odds? My blog isn’t even monetized! And I don’t have all the right structures in place. Also my posting was erratic. Anyways, I think you get my point.

Before you beat yourself up about failing at something, ask yourself how realistic the goal was. Sometimes you have the capability but there are things you’re understandably not willing to sacrifice to achieve that goal, so technically, it’s not a realistic goal. Pursue your dreams taking into account what’s on the ground, and what you need, and you’re willing to do to see that dream happen.

Then, be patient. Time doesn’t work the way we think it does, but you can use it to realize your dream.

Finally, …

10. What advice would I tell 2018 version of you?

With that review of your past year, what advice would you give the slightly younger version of you? Sit him or her down and take them through the past year, advising her/him with the power of hindsight. Take this same message and internalize it for 2019 you. The same wisdom you were dishing out a moment ago applies to you now. They say experience is the best teacher, well now you have it.

End note

Take this little list and save it if you must, or even print it (just include the credits). Share it with as many people as you can and help them review their past year too.

Happy New Year!