Kids, on the eve of my 32nd birthday, I was feeling particularly thankful for all of my many, many blessings and it made me feel a little bit nostalgic.
I started thinking about the very best birthday gifts I’d received over the last few years and here are my top 5:
The gift of a social media blackout: In 2016, I practiced the first of my no socials on my birthday cleanse and by Gods, it was fantastic to have the silence! What’s more, people actually took the time to call me and what’s better than talking to your loved ones on your special day? I was going to do the same in 2017!
The gift of being surrounded by friends and family: Each year, I had birthday parties surrounded by the people I love… whether it was an intimate dinner where the whole #howimetyourfather campaign kicked off or high tea with your Spirit Mom at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
3. The gift of a kickass studio tour and being on my own show in New York: In 2016, my f***ing amazing Wyrd Sister Leo gifted me with a NBC Studio Pass for my upcoming trip to New York. It was by far the highlight of my solo Big Apple vacation AND I got to record and star in this epic mock late night show interview:
4. The gift of a fantastic 30th island holiday: My angst at turning 30 in 2015 was majorly alleviated by the incredible week-long birthday celebration and vacation your Nan booked for us in Mauritius. Your aunt Sam, Nan and I really reconnected, doing aqua Zumba, snorkelling, catamaran cruises and water side dinners. It is also where I learnt to appreciate the art of going solo and lessons I have implemented in my life ever since.
5. The gift of love and life: Kids, in the spring of 1985, your Nan risked her life for mine with a two month hospital stay and a risky emergency C-Section. She’d regularly remind me of the crazy circumstances leading to my birth:
When I look back at photos of my birth I can’t believe how incredibly strong my then 24-year-old Mom had to be to care for a baby born two months early:
I’m so thankful, though, for her bravery and for always being there for me. I love you, Mom!
Kids, in the autumn of 2017, I was having a very bad week of adulting.
As in epic, end-of-the-world bad… not only did I get swindled out of A LOT of money by Gumtree scammers (the buggers ran off with the mobile phone I was selling after sending me a very real looking bank deposit sms) leaving me super broke, but I was battling a cold that wouldn’t go away and I had a massive fight with someone close to me that there seemed to be no way of coming back from.
Life sucked. Being single sucked.
And just when I started feeling like none of these things would have happened if I had had a boyfriend or a husband, I ran, and beat my personal best in my second Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon run:
I shaved more than 10 minutes off of my previous run and the act alone made me realise two things:
I am capable of doing some epic f***ing shit when I put my mind to it:
Sure, I’d lagged behind in training over the past few months before the the race but in just one year, I’d come so far. I was a runner: I got up early for races, I trained, I wrote about this physically challenging pursuit and I f***ing did it.
Running and the determination to do it well, the dedication to that pursuit had spilled over into other elements of my life.
Hadn’t I just returned from a solo trip to New York where all I’d had was my wits to see me through? Didn’t I just win a major magical career award for my love and dedication to the magical arts? I was more than capable of exceptional feats!
I am stronger than I know:
Yes, some crooks had done me wrong and my first instinct was to look for validation and comfort from someone else.
But, as I had proven over and over before, I was stronger than I gave myself credit for.
These terrible things could have happened to me even if I was in a relationship and all that the other person would have been able to do was dry my tears. It would still have been up to me to fix my shit.
Being single doesn’t mean being helpless. It takes courage to be alone ( but not lonely) and protect yourself, make the tough decisions and stand up for yourself, even if the people who should be supporting you, reject you.
On this insane road of life, there is you and the miles ahead of you. How you get to the end is up to you.
It is a universal fact of life that just when you think you have the hang of the adult thing , Life will bitch slap you and prove that just like Jon Snow, you know nothing!
See, in 2017, the month after my return from the Big Apple, adulting hit me hard …so hard in fact , that, I was pretty sure I’d be living off two minute Maggi noodles for the rest of the f***ing year and saying goodbye to my dreams of travelling.
In a week that can only be described as the ninth circle of Dante’s Inferno, I had the most f***ked seven days of bad online dating ( we’ll chat about that next time); home renovations where the builders left more damage than they fixed and the unpleasant news that I needed surgery that would cost me an arm and a leg.
Add to that the fact that I was locked out of my own apartment complex because the building managers changed the f***ing locks without telling anyone and every second person I met asking me to define my ethnicity and marital status and you can understand why all I was craving was a walk through Central Park.
I used to hate it when adults told me not to be so impatient to grow up… I now understood what they meant.
The icing on the proverbial cake, of course, was that this was all happening in the lead up to Valentine’s Day and I was feeling my singleton status all the more keenly.
I knew I was a strong independent woman but when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles and an ever growing mountain of debt, I wished, just for a second, someone else would do the adulting for me and take the load off.
I was absolutely mortified for a split second, thinking that I had now further endorsed Americans ‘views on African citizens being uncouth. Then I realised, well f*** it, at least one other person had seen my fabulous ass in the Big Apple, and that’s ok with me.
“Say you’ll share with me one love,one lifetime /Say the word and I will follow you”
Kids,as my solo trip to New York came to an end in early January 2017, I was no where near ready to say goodbye to the Big Apple.
More importantly, I wasn’t ready to take my leave of the person I was there – a confident, free-spirited traveller who wasn’t afraid to take on new and amazing adventures or experiences.
The girl you see in the picture above is radiant with satisifaction; has a lust for life and most importantly, she is happy …
Happy,guys, honest-to-the-gods happy – the black moods that sometimes dominated my Capetonian nights and days;the insecurities that overwhelmed me at home didn’t exist in New York.
And while I know I was living in a bubble because life isn’t all subway rides and walks in Central Park; I wasn’t in a hurry to get back to the Mother City to be the awkward singleton who doesn’t get invited to her godchildren’s birthday parties because her status makes the other guests uncomfortable.
In New York, I grabbed opportunities to be the centre of attention by the balls (including being the fake VIP guest on an NBC Tour show):
In Cape Town, I was so used to being second or last choice, I didn’t even bother volunteering for shit at all.
In New York, I rode the subway often and only got lost a few times -in Cape Town, the train was a last-minute,I’m fucked and I need transport resort:
I fit in New York – for the first time,it felt like I fit my surroundings.In Cape Town, I was always a beat or two behind everyone else -people who had their shit together; people who shared the same sense of humour and the same boring plan for life; people who effoetlessly met their spouses/co-parents/lovers/partners and lived the picket white fence lifestyle. I couldn’t catch-up and I was tired of trying.
I wanted to stay in New York where I belonged,Kids …
But all good things must come to an end and,though I had to leave , I made a promise to myself (and one that would set me on the path to meeting your father and finally having you!) : I’d live every day of 2017 as fearlessly and passionately as if I were in New York!
Kids,in December 2016, I travelled alone to New York City and people,who should have known better,kept asking why?
Them : “Why would you do that? And alone too? That’s crazy!”
Me (thinking it internally but I should have said it out loud): “I’m f***ing off to the other side of the world because I am sick to death of your narrow-mindedness; your gossiping about my sexuality; your assumptions that I must hate men and children because I have neither when it couldn’t be further from the f***ing truth and you don’t know how hard I have to work to keep my desire for having a baby under control; because you assholes talk about me maliciously on Facebook where the world AND I can see it and you don’t even think about my feelings,do you?!!”
Like I said, there were many reasons why I travelled solo to the Big Apple but ultimately only one really mattered …my happiness.
In the space of just one week, New York quickly made me feel at home by:
1) Making me feel like a local:
Sure,I got lost so many times but somehow I always ended up where I was intending on going later,like Central Park, so it worked out!
2) Inspiring me on the daily:
There were so many things to see and do in New York that inspiration was seeping into my pores all of the time.I felt re-energised and motivated for the first time in a long time and I wanted to write again.Not just about one attraction as I had been for the past two years but about a variety of topics!
Staring out at the city line from the Top of the Rock, I knew it was time for a career change.
3) Putting me at ease about difficult choices I’d made previously:
When I left a side project as a theater reviewer in 2015 because my family needed me emotionally, physically and financially to help with my dying grandfather; people didn’t understand and so many of them faded away from my life because I was no longer available to be frivolous and fun at a red carpet opening night three times a week.
It felt like a horrible thing at the time but I do not regret spending 2016 taking care of Pa ,our family or dedicating myself to my magic career that year either…both elements thrived because I was focused and I am eternally thankful for it.
As I took in a number of Broadway shows in December, I realised that things had come full circle and this,this opportunity right here, to see award-winning international shows was meant to be all along.I have always been a theatre lover -I didn’t need to be “famous” to prove it.
4) Seeding a sense of wonder for myself :
Thanks to the mind and emotional f***ery of He Who Must Not Be Named; being dumped by my travel buddy; warring family wanting Pa’s estate and all of the malicious gossipers; my sense of self-worth was f***ed royally.
Having my wits and determination to depend on to guide me and keep myself safe in the Big Apple rebirthed my self-belief.
I felt imbued with new-found confidence in the Wonder Woman I know I can be. I worked hard to get to New York again and I could do that and so much more if I just tried.
F*** the haters in my world, I am f***ing AWESOME!!
I loved New York,where I was free to be me SO much, I didn’t want to go home …
“Travel far enough, you meet yourself…” Cloud Atlas
Kids, in 2016, I was in a bit of a rut… seeing friends’ engagement, baby and new job announcements on social media gave me huge FOMO (fear of missing out).
It made me nostalgic for a time when I was doing something epic – like travelling to the US solo for a two week Contiki trip across Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York in the (South African) winter of 2014.
Sometimes I need to leave home to get some perspective
It’s all too easy to get caught up in the fishbowl that is your life when you stay put. In 2014, I was up shit creek with the disastrous Monroe flirtation, hating aspects of my job as a Cape Town marketing writer and trying to figure out what to do with my life.
Travelling to the States wasn’t so much running away from my problems as it was getting a new perspective on them. Seeing world-renowned icons like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge up close, made me realise that while my problems were important, they were small in comparison to the rest of the Universe.
Looking at it that way made me calm the f*** down and just enjoy being me.
Conquering my deepest fears was possible
I’ve had a paralyzing fear of theme park rides since I was three-years-old and your grandfather decided to rock the cabin of the Ferris wheel we were on, scaring the hell out of me.
That fear, though, wasn’t going to stop me from enjoying or at the very least, attempting to enjoy the rides at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
I’m not saying all of it was fun – in fact, between the Transformers and The Mummy rides, my pancake breakfast kept threatening to blow all over my fellow riders – but I pushed through my fear and did it anyway.
I held hands with complete strangers in the Haunted House; screamed for all I was worth during the King Kong ride and held on for dear life in that final drop of The Mummy roller coaster but at the end of it all, I was extremely proud of myself for conquering my deepest fear.
Being just me is more than ok
The greatest thing about travelling solo is the chance to shake off all of the labels and personas people you know impose onto you or force you to be (you know what I am talking about – some relatives, co-workers and friends push your buttons so much that you react negatively and get labelled as the nasty/mean/perpetually single one in your social group) and rediscover who you are.
On this trip, I discovered how much I actually enjoy magic, separately from it being a requirement for my passion project. I was totally prepared to attend Criss Angel’s Believe show in Vegas on my own but just by being so excited and passionate about it, a few of my tour mates eagerly joined me too.
People liked me for being the weirdo, magic-fanatic I was and you know what? I liked me too.
Most importantly, I also realized that I like doing things solo – something I’d be reminded of again a year later in Mauritius.
I am capable of pretty much anything
A week into my trip, I was standing in front of the fountain at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and I suddenly had an Oprah-style A-Ha moment…
I realised that little ol’ me, who had sold my first car, worked crazy hours and saved for eons just to be able to afford this trip, had actually done it! As I stared up at the full moon in Sin City, I realised that I could, and was capable of doing just about anything I set my mind to.
I knew I’d wanted to visit all of these cities since I was a teenager hung up on Sex and the City and I had made my own wish come true. I was my own Fairy Godmother, Superhero and Guardian Angel and I was awesome!
Letting go of my inhibitions every now and again is a good thing
A lot of crazy things happened in the Big Apple, like Drew, and that one time I wandered around Times Square high on Nyquil trying to treat a cold while almost being kidnapped by a Hispanic man (don’t tell your Nan – she will never let me travel alone again!).
My favourite memory of New York, though, is the final night of our trip when my Contiki group and I visited a local karaoke bar. Emotions were running rampant in the group, knowing we’d have to say goodbye to strangers who had become family in the two short weeks we’d been travelling together.
With various tour mates getting up on stage to humiliate themselves belting out their favourite hits, it was only a matter of time before my three closest friends Candice, Natasha, Cheree and I followed suit.
Yes, we were totally out of sync doing the mermaid dance to Cher’s Shoop Shoop song but boy, was it fun and the perfect way to end off a trip that had totally changed my perspective on life and my own capabilities.
By 2016, with all of the adulting I’d been doing, I was aching to rediscover myself via travelling again. All I needed to do was choose a destination … but where to next?
Kids, in the winter of 2014 I fled the cold of Cape Town for the sunny skies of Northern America and embarked on a Best of the USA Contiki tour, visiting my favourite cities Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and New York.
Having been raised (ok, sneakily watched when it was WAY past my bed time and age restricted) on a steady diet of Sex and the City and always imagining myself to be the next Carrie Bradshaw, the Big Apple was, of course, my ultimate destination.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of travel flu and multiple hangovers, I was way too ill to fully enjoy everything New York had to offer (picture me walking around Times Square late at night in a haze of medicinal drug hallucinations, determined to buy Wicked tickets at that hour!… yeah, I was Defying Gravity for sure).
All was not lost, though, because on my second night in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, my dream of kissing a tall, dark, American stranger came true …
August 2014 …
Tash, Cheree and I were clinking Cosmopolitan glasses at the Bourbon Street Bar and Grille (naturally, because how could we miss having a SATC moment?!) when a good-looking African American man in a well-cut suit leaned over the bar counter to order a drink.
As he invaded my space while doing so, I realised that this wasn’t just a mere coincidence but an intentional gesture since someone had done it to me earlier in the evening too (more about that in another story about how oblivious I am to men hitting on me!).
This time, I smiled at him and said hi. Shining a megawatt smile down at the girls and I, he introduced himself as Drew from the Bronx who was meeting a friend at the bar but totally had a few minutes to chat to us beautiful ladies… charmer 😉
By now, I had had three Cosmos, which in South Africa would make me buzzed but in the US with their triple shot measurements, was more than enough to make me lose my inhibitions.
I’d been a good girl, not hooking up with the tour guys as I had in Italy but gods be damned, I was 28-years-old in one of the best, if not THE best, city in the world and a damn fine man was giving me the “How ya doin?”look. You only live once, right?!
Between the multiple hand resting in the in the nook between my back and butt movements and the numerous compliments, along with the “I totally have to show y’áll the Bronx sometime – like tomorrow” comments, it was pretty obvious that Mr Dark and Handsome had some intentions.
I took a long sip of my fourth Cosmo and decided it was now or never. When Drew leaned in and said “I like the colour of your lipstick”, I flipped my hair over my shoulder and said “Well, I like it better on you” and full on kissed him!
With Cheree and Tash hooting and cheering me on in the background, the sounds of the bar in full festivity and a ridiculously hot guy at my lips, I lost myself in the moment, being carefree, wanton and happy in gorgeous, wonderful, beautiful New York.
As it turns out, Drew wasn’t my Mr Big (because he had a fiancée back in the Bronx!) or your father but he did inspire a return trip to the Big Apple with Leo, your Spirit Mother a couple of years later and boy, the stories that could be told about that trip …. 😉