You can only imagine the challenges a person of my calibre faced to voluntarily break an adaption without austeric or justifiable circumstances compelling them to. For anyone who’s keen to unlearn a construct and or conduct by which they are known for, it’s dismantling and frustrating, it feels like self-betrayal surrendering yourself to the unknown and putting your essence and integrity at risk. The comfort zone is self-protective but detrimental, power and courage are in recognising it’s potential detriments ahead of the damage.
I was born of a dysfunctional couple, who separated shortly after my birth due to a family feud, I swear I was a bomb waiting to destroy their relationship! My father went abroad my mom was too young to take care of me so my life then became nomadic as I grew up, I went through a lot of hands from relatives, guardians and family friends who kept me on behalf of my parents and you know the condescending and or abusive treatment children born out of wedlock get from some people. If I’ve learned a very valuable lesson; do not send your, especially first born child, to the hands of people who’ve got children of their own to raise him or her too. Children are first priority to their parents, even if your child is older than all of them, their position will be neglected, they will always come last to them and that will affect their first born influence, they will grow up with last born inclinations and behaviours of not knowing how or being confident enough to lead, to be responsible even for their own life and lookout for others. It becomes a triple braided problem if they are patronised or abused, they will grow to think they are worthless and lose a zeal and control of their lives.
Before I went into the hands of some people, I had so much life but that spirit was suppressed, when I turned 16 I decided to stay on my own in my father’s house which was occupied by tenants. I was tired of feeling out of place; I was depressed and knew I’d be better off on my own, that was my first time I was taking control of my life. Solitude is blissful but too much of it can be depressive. We all subconsciously yearn for surroundings with a true family, a father figure to guide and look up to, and a mother figure to love and care about our existence. Without that, one will definitely have a complex and misbalance somewhere, I have my shortcomings but I thank God I didn’t resort to drug and alcohol indulgence to recompense for my inner voids. However, I learned to detach myself from my emotional entitlement on my parents. Don’t get me wrong my father has sufficiently supported my needs my whole life and, he has always phoned me since I was a child, I’m grateful to the most high for that but he was just not there. Sometimes I think if he’d stayed I’d have grown to witness his struggle and that would’ve influenced me to be a better man because that man is great! I don’t blame him though, because when I look at it with a now matured perspective, I’d have made the same decisions, they costed moments but benefited the future. He tried everything for me to live with him but sadly my visa was declined and here I am today selling bananas in Zimbabwe. So detaching myself from my parents helped me to hold myself wholly accountable for my life and cope with my depression without blaming my despondency, lack of a direction and shortcomings on parental negligence and absence. That worked! But the downside of that separation, unfortunately, is the disintegration of bond; I don’t care about my parents! So I am learning to check on my father more often and considering visiting my mother soon. Solitude, however, helped me to introspect on, regain and value, myself.
Sixteen isn’t a definite age to have your ducks in a row and your life figured out though, you can promise your parents that you’ll focus in school for two years and lose your grip on the second day. I’ve had a bad record of academic performance since middle school; my grades were always under water. I was never invested in school and nobody was actively concerned about my academic performance so I didn’t really care too. I started skipping class in form three; my grades sank until I decided to drop out in 2019 when I collected my O’level results for 2018 exams. I was not surprised by the slip, it was my second collection, I was worried about telling my father yet another disappointing story. It’s painful to disappoint parents but my father has always had faith in me against all odds, he said “if your energy doesn’t ignite in the academic sphere, it will in another” and that was empowering and motivating because we think life starts and ends with school, there are so many realms it this life and any soul that fails in one deserves to discover the best one yet where they can exhibit passion, commitment and deliver their heart. I want to return to school though; from what I’ve encountered in the streets and my vision, I realised I’ll need academically enhanced skill sets to achieve some of my longterm goals. Some people function in reverse and the idea of education sounds more considerable now for me, being that I actually need it to fulfil a specific purpose. Others discover their purpose and definite career path at an early stage in High School, some later in life. Engineering was my initial childhood dream, I took the sciences class for it and just couldn’t keep up, it wasn’t science that was difficult, I’ve got a challenge concentrating, learning and remembering things. So there was no way I was going to pass anything at sixteen without a little push to be honest.
I began to contemplate deeply on my life in my last year of school in 2018, I had already forecasted that I’d fail through classes. So I started thinking about vending and quickly dismissed that idea and considered something more ‘appropriate’ given the standards I was raised into, which was being a radio personality. I was fond of listening to radio and imitating personalities growing up, it was so much fun I started creating short demos that were station pretentious while I was in school. I loved the reaction and disbelief I’d get from people, but deep down I felt I wasn’t eligible for that position yet, radio personalities and socialites are jovial people. I was rather melancholic, depressed, despondent and boring! So I didn’t actively pursue that career, but I knew I needed a breakthrough from my anxieties in order to pursue that career, I needed spaces that would constantly entice conversations and engagements. I needed to be inclusive, and the flea market looked like such a vibrant environment, I had to think better though. After my sitting for 2018 November exams I submitted my CV in supermarkets; I’d gained experience in customer services and till operations working at a supermarket in the suburbs in 2017 during my gap year after my first sitting of 2016. Sadly I didn’t get calls and that’s when I was certain I was not going anywhere with my life, what struck me even more were the poor results I was waiting on and the thought of returning to school, I didn’t want to waste my father’s hopes and money any longer, I felt like a burden! I felt the need to be self-sufficient and get my life in order, so I reconsidered becoming a vendor but I wasn’t about to degrade myself to that level like that.
It felt disgraceful, I was not raised like that! You see I spent half my childhood in the suburbs and another half living a city life. We used to have Debonairs, Nando’s, Kentucky or McDonalds every week growing up. I lived a soft life, we grew up riding bicycles, playing video games and going out swimming, we never played in the mud. We grew up watching people raise double storeys and high walls, cruse through motor gates with their exotic cars and to this day there are domestic infrastructural developments in my neighbourhood, my peers drive cars now, we’ve never ran out of water here, we were surrounded by tall trees, neat lawns, full pools and we played with prominent people’s children, we didn’t encounter struggles growing up, we woke up to mocking birds and still, it’s a good life! My father built a very beautiful home and sent me to a private school, I had five maids taking care of me. So it’s very challenging and laughable for a person of my caliber to voluntarily break that programming without austeric or justifiable and understandable circumstances compelling them to, it’s a paradigm shift! There are a lot of constraining classist and elitist adaptions clasped to it. For instance; I have a sense of belonging to the elite that I act classy and reticent as though successful and protective of something reputable, hence feeling a need to maintain a certain image and standard by not doing certain things or going certain places considered low rank, like the flea market. So I was highly concerned about the denigrative and disparaging outlook people were going to have of me had I broken the conduct by which I was known for. That was just one, but very strong constraint. Strong because you will find it hinged on my preferences and inclinations, on the way I speak and carry myself; I had a certain tone and accent that inhibited expressing myself clearly and fully in our native languages Shona and Ndebele. You see these things are all extensively influenced by a classism. Secondly I was concerned, at most, about how disappointed my father would be in my decision, and the mortifying image it’d convey of him as a parent. No parent wants that for their child, especially when they’ve worked so hard and done their best to educate, maintain and support their child, what could go wrong really? But my father, although he built his house in the suburbs, is not classist. If there’s one thing I’m grateful for about my father, among other things, it’s his unfailing faithfulness in me and understanding. I think that’s the most fundamental thing in being a parent, to never lose hope and belief in your child! My father didn’t give a damn how I chose to pursue my life, he said it actually induced his mental health and continued to support me without resile. So that bull was gotten rid of fast! Among other constraints, like proving my High School math teacher’s philosophy right that pupils like me end up as a failure, I feared actually demonstrating and people witnessing in broad daylight that I was lost and without a direction and ambition for life and being an example by which other parents use to warn their children against their recklessness with life and education, people do really have condescending speeches. So breaking these adaptions felt like transgressing against self, betraying your essence and integrity and remaining void of significance or value. The comfort zone is so protective of its bounds because when I look back at these fears and constraints now, it’s all absurd really but it was my biggest breakthrough.
However, I observed something that terrified me! A horror I predicted myself getting plunged into; Millennials in the suburbs, unlike me, grew up with at least one of their parents if not both. They attended and succeeded at advanced schools and tertiary institutions, returned home and hangout by the street corner rolling blunt with homeboys, partying and drinking every weekend if not daily and live like they are not special. No lie, employment opportunities are scarce I cannot blame them, but I gauged and compared myself to these homeboys. Unlike them I’d badly flunked school and had no active parental pressures to push me, I saw myself going down a much rougher path man! I was certain upon that horrid observation that I was going to be far much miserable than them. I looked up to the much older guys, they are so smart man, they sound learned and sophisticated when they talk, their language is so eloquent you’d think their life is figured out but they are up to nothing! With their enthusiasm and sharp delivery I wouldn’t be pursuing bananas! I envy their analytical and observance skills and the way they can express things. One of my elderly customers said to me once that; We, millennials, were born in such difficult times! During their days in prime, straight out of tertiary they’d get jobs that sustained them enough to jointly afford to buy or build a home with their spouse, maintain needs and send children to school. They never encountered people selling peanuts and these indigenous fruits in the streets, those were things they’d bring back to the city from the rural in buckets for their neighbours, but youths are selling them today. After that conversation I grew an understanding and sympathy for them, I don’t blame them really. I’m just personally terrified at the thought of clocking thirty five years and still depending on mom and dad to bring bread back home without any self-sufficiency at all, nothing to show for my life, just talking smart, rolling blunt and sc****ng a lot of girls. I don’t want to end up like that, in fact I’d be worse. So I put it on myself to rather make hay while the sun shine. If I learned something about myself and I believe all youths feel this way too, I’ve got a lot of energy and I feel the need to exhibit maximum strength, so channeling it some substantial work really gives me purpose. I wouldn’t know this had I yielded myself to the comfort zone.
In one of my High School English classes, there used to be a quote stuck on the wall written “if you don’t work hard at school, you’ll work hard in life” I took that very positively and I think about it a lot, I remember that note more than I remember Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Cowry OF Hope and Native Son. That quote together with my fears, motivated me to get out of my head and give up the standards, classism and constraints that obstructed me from hoarding bananas at a flea market and sell them in the streets in broad daylight. At my age the constraints that I clung onto were ridiculous to be quite honest; what reputation and image has a twenty one year old got to maintain and protect? I was enlightened by the realisation of extent of bargain compared to the loss in making the decision to sell bananas. I had so much to gain mentally, spiritually and socially as a young person. I had a work ethic to learn, a spiritual relationship to nurture and strengthen, skills and knowledge to attain, new people to meet, money to make, a comfort zone to expand and a direction and plan to commit to. I convinced myself that in the long run, against all momentary mortifications and anxieties I had a lot to gain from the new person I was about to wear into, because the instinct that people are watching and talking about you will never phase-out, people are always watching and talking just for a mere conversation and go ahead facing their day-to-day beasts, the trick is to constantly pretend it doesn’t matter.
I recognized my privileges, having a supportive parent is a side hustle if you’re clever, I mean well. I recognised having a supportive parent and not having to pay for accommodation and basic needs was a head starter for a small business enterprise and advance from there. The guys I work with don’t have these privileges and handouts, they live a hand to mouth lifestyle. I’ve spent more money on bananas than anything, otherwise I should be holding an iPhone 7 too today, rocking flashy apparel, going out a lot and maintaining a cool feed on instagram, but at the expense of valuable breakthroughs and lessons. Money spent and or lost investing in a small enterprise is better than money blown on trivial self-satisfactory things, especially when you’ve got nothing to show for, or a job to maintain the lifestyle you showcase so much. If you grew up soft like me, you’ve got to learn self-sufficiency some way, it’s a tough road but you’d be better off without a dependency syndrome. Once you start to prioritise buying bread and eggs you’re growing because some people reach 35 not knowing how to provide bread on a daily basis, they’d rather buy drugs and alcohol. I refused to neglect this truth for later when life has struck me, I’d rather condition myself now and look stupid now before I get too grown to do certain things that I should have matured in at that later stage, given my academic failures and lacking.
If I’ve learned something, the world is too busy to care about you and what you’re doing with your life. We bound ourselves in accordance to societal standards and conformities that hinder us from liberating ourselves to do what’s best for us because what are people going to say? Life events aren’t different from death, if you die today you’ll be forgotten tomorrow. The earlier you embrace this truth the better because the older you get the bigger the constraints and societal pressures that you’ll voluntarily subject yourself to. I rather people grow to know me as the banana guy at 35 than to be 35 and shy to sell bananas because I wasn’t raised like that, so long I’m in my bag and love my work, because when you start to eat out the trash, the same people whose opinions you feared will say you’d have been better off selling bananas. Another thing that made it a little easier to decide to sell bananas against my social inclinations and adaptions was embracing the reality that some people still neglect, that we’re in one of the world’s poorest and underdeveloped countries, this is no place to be classy and hold on standards, this is Zimbabwe not Hollywood.
Dr Myles Monroe would say “a man’s purpose is in his work, and work is something you’re becoming” His Soul Rest in Peace. I found redemption, purpose, direction and a passion in selling bananas and I see myself at greater heights in the course of time. People like me, who grew up through many hands, develop a complex and misbalance due to parental negligence and predominantly soft circumstances that don’t return any training or character building challenges. Worse when they encountered condescending and or abusive treatment in their upbringing, it becomes a triple braided issue because they will grow up feeling desponded, worthless and depressed. So we end up indulging in drugs, alcohol and night life, basically just throwing our lives away and living reckless without a sense of purpose, direction and zeal for life and sobriety. I’ve experienced that phase but church attendance saved me from dwelling on that life otherwise I’d be gone. I made this bold decision to sell, faithfully hoping it’d be the best decision I’d ever made in taking a hold of my life. My work is strenuous, especially during lockdown; the distance I cycle, the load I carry, the trips I make taking stock and delivering orders to my customers in my neighbourhood, you’d quit second day if you don’t love the job. I fall and bounce back and it happens a lot of times.
So I hope you’ve got a grip on your life too, at least trying. My friend’s father (68) ran a taxi business of 7 cars that fell off to the last one that sits on bricks today collecting dust, he subsequently ran an ice cream business and a cart business that fell off, he pursued a lot other enterprises that fell off but he’s still combating this life with a poultry business, side lining with other skill sets that attached him to a job, that’s power! That’s the hill I want to die on. Charles Ngobeni, a successful entrepreneur who also inspires me, lost a whole restaurant in Hillbrow, Johannesburg in the 90’s, today he owns 7 Wimpy franchises across Johannesburg, a taxi business and a lodge. He said “to be successful entrepreneur you’ve got to have ten enterprises that fell off and you’re standing on your twelfth.” I’m standing on my first and I still get ached when municipals loot my wares, I’ve got a long way to go.
Life is inherently risky, but the biggest risk is not doing anything.