I do not even remember when I got my first journal and began to write. It may have been as a teenager with a diary that had a lock on it, or it may have been when at the age of 26 I decided it was now or never. The United Kingdom was offering South Africans like myself the opportunity to come and spend two years on a working holiday visa. I was going to go no matter the cost and truth be told I do not quite recall where the money came from to pay for the ticket. I had friends that were already there and friends who had come back but still had contacts that were willing to help me out on my first day in a foreign country.
I bought a fake leather-bound diary because I was going to document the entire journey. This was potentially the most exciting thing ever to happen to a small-town girl like me. All of this happened in a world where mobile phones were not in the hand of every man, woman, and child yet and the internet as we know it today was still an embryo in some tech geeks genius brain. It did not matter that I had absolutely no idea where in London I would find my friends or that I was most likely to arrive there before my letter did. It did not even register in my mind that I had to be afraid, why would it? This was the greatest adventure ever; I was going overseas and there were all these opportunities to explore Europe; the places I had seen in movies were in the palm of my hand.
I wrote diligently about my trips to Paris, witnessing a beautiful couple celebrate their engagement at the top of the Eiffel Tower. How Paul almost changed his mind about coming with us because I was such a little energiser bunny of excitement about travelling on the Eurostar. Who wouldn’t be, what an engineering feat it was so of course I wrote about it. The time we went to Pamplona and had to sleep on the street because we incorrectly assumed the running of the bulls was not such a big deal so we could just show up and find accommodation.
I stopped writing when I came back to South Africa and all the excitement and adventure felt like it had left my life. I did not write about the time my grandfather died and intense pain I felt rip through my heart when I heard. I did not write about the destructive path I found myself on, allowing men to use me for their pleasure and not as a meaningful pursuit. I did not write about my rocky encounters with alcohol where weeks of my life passed by in a blur. I did not write about the time Andrew pulled a gun on us one New Years Eve while he was high on Kat amphetamine, or about how emotionally dead I was that my only response was, “Can we go and do it outside because I just put new carpets in. I did not write about how he left me for another woman with more money only to have a baby six months later. And I definitely did not write about the tablets I had begun to take to stay awake during the day or the ones that helped me sleep at night. The fourteen-hour days, seven days a week at work.
And then it just imploded. My good friend Charl committed suicide and I began to wonder just what it was I was doing. What lay at the end of this road I had travelled so many times before was certainly not a happy ending. I would be dead within the year if I did not make some very drastic changes. So, I picked my journal again, found some inner resilience and courage and started to sober up. I made a promise to myself to get to know me and what I wanted first before I got anywhere near another relationship again. The only relationship I was interested in rescuing was the one I have with myself.
Slowly it began, I was writing every day, a practise in my life I had forgotten I missed. It felt like a warm cosy blanket wrapped around my soul as I sat in front of a crackling fire on a cold and dark winters night. As I wrote I felt all the abuse, the trauma, the sadness, the negative emotions, and everything else that went with it was leaving my body. Travelling down my arm and out through my fingers on to the page. I began to feel a lightness enter my heavy world.
I have written furiously, and I have written gently and the beauty of being able to read those journals again is that I can see how much I have grown. How all those events, incidents and encounters have helped to shape the woman I am today. In that instance the message I got from my Dad suddenly made sense. I was driving to site; it was Father’s Day and I asked him what he would like as a gift? “Find the beauty in ALL of the experiences, the bad ones and the good.”
I have discovered I have a life I can write about.