Friday, 29 January 2016

How we walk the line between two worlds - A tale of the educated brown girl.

This week has been interesting for me. I was somehow caught up in the pleasure of my yuppie success. It was the first time I did some work for my boss who is this amazing womxn, and one of the first people I have met who has the ability to influence policy directly as a result of years of tireless work, her boundless wit and charisma.

Being caught up in the glitz and glamour of working late nights and the self-importance of waking up and rushing off to meetings, where your work is presented to the media in front of really influential people can give you a really nice buzz. The kind of buzz that makes you feel like you're on top of the world. Like; "Mmmm I am doing things right - now this is what I studied so hard for!"

Coming back to the office after my little voyage into public policy brought me back to reality in no way other than the way life does. It fucking grounds you man.

My sister texted me. Looks like I forgot my mum was going to have an operation today and aside from me feeling exceptionally guilty for not texting her, my sister alerts me to the fact that her husband is in hospital too.

"What? why?" I ask.  She tells me that he broke his fingers. I immediately assume it is because he injured himself at work.
To which she replies in the negative.
His brother tried to stab him.
I am perplexed.
The only reasonable explanation is drugs.
To which she responds in the affirmative.
 I then robotically ask why he is not in rehab.
To which she responds: "he ran away".
Of course.

For a good few seconds I stop and think. I don't feel like something has blown over me, instead I feel like I've come back to reality. Back home, dare I say. Because I have. This is what reality has always been for me. This is what reality is for those of us who walk the line between two very different yet very closely knit worlds.

We are chameleons, constantly moulding to the environment that we are in. Not because we are striving to be something we are not. And not because we long to be anything other than what we really are. But because what we are is a strange amalgamation of dysfunction and chaos coupled with a rare and lucky deep sense of social awareness and the ability to maneuver life skillfully (atleast this is how I perceive it to be).

I can think of countless other friends in this position. I have a friend Lindiwe* who is an investment banker in the U.K, and she has said to me that she feels like a wild card time and time again. Imposter syndrome doesn't get more real than this. She's told me about times when she comes home and her cousins have invited her to street bashes and it's so hard to couple a life in the fast-lane of Canary Wharf with the life of street bashes and bootlegging. These two bizarre worlds are hard to unify when you live in both of them.

It is a heavy burden to bear, because "dual-worlders" (if I can call it this) are often seen as outsiders by one of the many worlds they inhibit from time to time. More importantly dual-worlders feel like outsiders in any one of these worlds from time to time.

In my case, hanging out with rich friends who have trust funds and holiday houses in exotic locations is a kind of mind-fuck. I think about where I grew up and where I am now and I can't calibrate the two. Similarly, integrating an extended family life that consists of violence, drugs, extreme conservatism and plain old emotional stupidity is taxing and one soon forgets how to relate. Fortunately I have learnt to detach from my parents and my extended family - reaching out is often done only on my terms.

For many dual-worlders this is not the case. Strong family ties compel many people to be bound to their families - with their own growth not being accommodated by the constraints of age-old family boundaries. More pertinently, as we continue our day-to-day existence in a primarily western patriarchal and white-washed world, it becomes harder to remain grounded and tied to the roots that we began with.
Roots that are usually not even slightly white. Roots that were not strong in the first place, that were almost kind of rotten, by their nature, and in the process of trying to heal we actively try to strengthen these roots while new ones are being born, and as the new roots become grounded the old ones get reinfected and we have to keep remembering to water the new roots lest the old ones infect the new ones. All through this we live in perpetual fear of the old roots rotting away or ceasing to exist forever...

My sister later tells me that her husband has been retrenched and is starting a new business. This happened last year. I don't know any of it. I say I should visit. She says I'm too busy. I reluctantly agree.  She asks if I could look at the financials of her husbands' new business plan because "Maths is not her thing".  I more than happily agree, as I do I feel a little spark lighting inside me. My worlds overlap once more, this time for the better. I hope.

*Lindiwe's name has been changed to conceal her identity
**If you would like me to share your story about walking the line between two worlds email me at

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