“Keep it together.”
It’s 4.21am and I’m knee deep in development studies reading, Bryson Tiller in the background, the sound of the occasional truck passing in the main road, a few birds chirpin’ the shit out of their morning songs. I tend to work in the early morning, because my mind is less cluttered. During the day I have classes and seminars, books to read, ideas to critique, conversations to have. I like the quiet, calm ambience at this time of the day. I feel somewhat ‘put together’.
As a person living in the diaspora, I am constantly battling with my desire to be home with my grieving mother and being here – seemingly doing something constructive with my life and following my passions. Everyday I think of my country. I think of all of the wonderful, idealistic things I would love to do there. I think of my father’s death and the sluggish (or non-existent?) investigations around it. I think of how much I love the vibe, the people and the potential in Harare. I think of home A LOT. I have no idea where my life will take me after this degree. Most of my days are honestly spent updating my CV and website, applying for jobs, sending countless emails, thinking of where I would like to work versus where I can find work, whether I have what it takes to start a business of my own and so on.
It’s a strange feeling, being here. In some ways I’m seen as privileged (and I really am, don’t get me wrong) for being in the diaspora surrounded by so much promise and opportunity and stability (to an extent of course). In other ways I look around and see a space that has everything it needs to succeed so my contributions here would inconsequential. I feel so very ‘UN-put-together’ in a space that is so very orderly and efficient and where everything seemingly ‘works’. I feel scattered – neither here nor there, and neither succeeding nor completely failing.
There are things I find particularly difficult about having different “locals” as a young(ish) person in the globalised “shrinking” world we live in today:
- The pressure to succeed- This is obviously something most people feel, no matter where they’re from or where they are. But there’s a lingering voice in the back of my head that says “You’ve crossed oceans and seas to get to another continent. There’s no room for mediocrity here. Especially here.” My life is different now. I have pending financial obligations I don’t know how to meet, a family to think of, a career I want to build, and many structural problems I have to face to get where I want to. Because I am where I am, I feel the pressure even more. I have to fight the feeling that I constantly need to prove myself and never ever drop the ball(s). Because the ball(s) will drop. Eventually.
- L.O.V.E – I haven’t been in a relationship for a few months now, and being single has been both painful in the beginning, but liberating for the most part. I’m not actively looking for love, but if it comes my way, then I have a score of questions I need to ask. Where is he based? (*insert my mother’s tone*) If he’s here, do I stay? (Highly unlikely) If he’s home, do I go home? With what job? If I stay, does he do long distance? If not, is it even worth exploring options? Do I want to be married one day? Would he move for me? Am I asking for too much for someone to love me in my absence? I can barely figure out where I’m going to be in the next few months, let alone figure out who my life partner should be. There’s a constant tension between wanting to be home, building a life with someone, and wanting a salary that can give me the life I want and the capacity to build something at home.
- Making a difference – I’m an ‘over-thinker’. Anyone who knows me well knows that I tend to pick apart and analyse almost everything. I’m intentional. If I care, I’ll show you. If I don’t, I’ll also show you. I don’t take things for granted and I don’t like the idea of half-baked initiatives that don’t address real, deeply rooted problems. This has been my downfall, I suppose. When I think of making a difference in my country I think of a few questions: who do I want to help and why? Am I helping out of the guilt of my privilege? Am I concerned more with results than the people I want to help? Did they ask for help? Who am I to think I can help? Can they help themselves? Is this patronising? Are they really benefiting? Do I think I’m better than them because I’ve been abroad? How do I ‘make a difference’ as humbly as possible, cognisant of my privilege, aware of the pain the very mention of my surname may cause in some spaces, and a difference that addresses the heart of the issues that are faced by those I want to help?
Adulting without one of the main adults in my life to guide me has been an absolute roller coaster, but it’s the very questions I’ve outlined above that are shaping me into who I am. Being away from home sometimes can be just as difficult (albeit in different ways) as being home with all of the daily stresses one faces in Zimbabwe. In some ways I feel as though my life is a microcosm of my country – still a real state but just surviving day to day, juggling opposing forces internally and externally, semi-efficient and semi-focused. I still feel very ‘scattered’ and very ‘un-put-together’, but I’m hopeful that my constant mental battle will lead me somewhere meaningful.