I WISH I COULD TELL YOU IT GETS BETTER WITH AGE.
Last night at dinner my teenage brother started giggling and smiling widely exclaiming “ah teenage problems!” While fiddling on his phone. I looked up from my plate of rice curious to find out what the source of such an “adult” statement was. “You know” he said looking at me with a bright smile. “Yes…?’ I asked quizzically. “You’ve watched enough movies on this subject” he said. “Teenage crushes?” I guessed. He nodded in agreement. “I wish I could tell you it gets better with age” I replied with a sigh. “I know. It doesn’t” he replied with confidence while shaking his head from side to side and returning to his mobile phone where the real action was happening.
CRUSHED: CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE
This conversation is a good analogy for what I have been thinking about for the past few days, months and maybe even years. I think it also serves as a good example for the state we are in as a nation. There’s so much at stake for a teenager with a crush. It’s very awkward, all-consuming, the most important thing in your entire life, and the subject of every conversation or secret diary entries, endless doodles on desks, skin, paper, in fact any surface. I mean a crush is a serious thing. And can get friends, families and teachers even the entire community involved. But there is one element about crushes which I want to highlight in this conversation. Crushes do by their very nature almost always, with very few documented cases, cast a negative focus on the beholder of the crush, a self-imposed negative self-image not based in reality. The person who has a crush on the other does not feel worthy of said object of affection. The person one has a crush on assumes a Godly, Idolized status in one’s eyes and can never do wrong. They are holy, perfect and indestructible. Even all the things that would make a sober person a little circumspect are cute to the one with a crush. Crushes as I am sure we can all remember – can be quite painful and humiliating, a source of much scorn, embarrassment and jokes at school or at home. It’s generally a painful state to be in – being in a crush. It is simply not sustainable: it’s a place of enormous tension and struggle especially within the mind and heart of person with a crush. Should I tell or shouldn’t I, does s/he love me? Does s/he love me not? Should I write to them? say hello? How? When? What will they think? Oh is s/he looking at me? Oh my GOD s/he smiled at me! Oh No it was for someone else etc. Until one finally gets to the conclusion that: “I can’t keep these feelings in anymore!!!” Something has to be done.
A FORK IN THE ROAD
In order for something to happen (for action to take place), one must make a decision, a choice. One must choose between knowing (if the crush feels the same way?) or not knowing (deciding not to pursue the issue) remain stagnant. Sometimes, as in a fork in the road, the choice or decision is by all accounts and purposes not an easy one to make. As in a crush, the decision is daunting and has consequences one invariably does not wish to confront: you discover your crush likes someone else, does not feel the same way about you, considered you for a split second and decided you’re not worth the trouble, doesn’t even know you exist, uses you and discards you or worse they like you too and have been just as afraid as you were to tell you – so what now? The consequences are so grave they can make one freeze, in a state of panic unable to make a decision either way. So how does one know how to make a decision that would have the best outcome for all concerned, especially you?
CONSULT YOU: WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I have been thinking quite loudly about my decision-making processes over the last decade. And I have made a startling discovery. Many of the decisions I made, I used “someone else”as the reason. I made someone else take the “fall”, I made someone else the main reason or foundation on which to base that decision. i.e. I came back to SA because I wanted to be with my mother or my mother missed me; He or she didn’t love me, like me, wasn’t there, didn’t support me, I didn’t have money, it was too hot, my sister said so, they chased me away, she said she needed me etc. All of the reasons given most probably are valid and true but ultimately it is not my mother or anyone else who made the decision. I chose to come back. I made the decision to book my ticket and took all the necessary steps to make that decision a reality. I simply used my mother as a mitigating/aggravating circumstance among other reasons in my argument. What is startling for me is that I didn’t realize how afraid I had been of making decisions and being personally held accountable to myself for the consequences that came with them. My mother may have given some advice, provided some support, influenced my decision but she did not by any stretch of the imagination force me or could not force me to leave or to come back. I was the one responsible for all my decisions and consequently the actions and reactions that occurred after that.
But it’s easy to have someone else to blame other than yourself. In fact it’s comforting to know that there’s another person who will take the fall or stand with you or by your side for decisions you took or failed to take on your own behalf. It’s harder to say yes, I alone and no one else did it, and I alone and no one else will accept all the consequences that come with my choices/actions. I stand by my decision. Instead of owning up and being accountable we look for any and every reasonable argument to take the decision process out of our hands. We want to “share” the responsibility of making decisions at best or simply abandon the responsibility altogether by making someone else in one way or the other make the decision for us and ultimately be the one(s) responsible for the state we are in. She said, he did this, they didn’t do that, so I did this because of that.
I based my decisions on what I thought others wanted, desired, or expected of me, hoping to please them. It all came from a genuinely good place, I honestly meant well, and thought I was doing what is “right” and responsible. However noble and understandable my reasons were/ are, the truth is, I am, was and always will be the one who decides.
MAKE ME AN OFFER I CAN’T REFUSE.
So I have been speaking to voters during the municipal by-elections held in KwaMashu KwaZulu Natal this week. I asked them as they walked out of the voting booth – why it was important for them to vote. Their initial responses obfuscated any form of responsibility:
Q: Why was it important for you vote today:
“I don’t really know why it’s important to vote– but I vote because it’s important, they say it’s important” said one IFP member.
“It’s important to vote because I will get a house, and all my needs will be met” said a mother.
“I’m not really sure why I vote really, because nothing has changed in my life, I just know that I have to vote, why I don’t know” said a pregnant widow
On further probing… Q: Why was it important for you to vote today?
“ I voted because I need a job, I work part-time jobs, sometimes there’s no work for long periods, I am a father with children I have to support, so I’m voting so I can get a job, I vote for those I think will help me” said the IFP member
“ I think if you vote you will have services delivered to you. Like now I’m waiting for a house, I don’t have a house I live in a room with three people so If I vote I stand a better chance to get what I want” said the mother
“ I think I’m voting to promote those already in power to higher position in office, actually that’s what my vote is good for I think” said the pregnant widow.
It is not always easy to know whether one is making the right decision in a state of a crush. One only knows that a decision must and should be made. When it comes to voting one has the luxury of openly and without shame blaming someone else for any negative outcome . They become the fall guy, the ones who are ultimately responsible for the x you made on the ballot paper. So whatever the outcome, whether you get that job, or the house or the person you voted for get’s the position they wanted – they will ultimately forever remain responsible for the state you are in good or bad, because you gave them the power to decide what happens to you. If you get what you were hoping for, you can be happy because you made the decision that proved to be of benefit to you. But there is no way of knowing the outcome without making a decision.
What I am learning from this teenage-adult-in-crush-state is that they are ultimately necessary, to teach us to learn to make decisions both collectively and individually. You learn with each crush that it will pass, that the passion you feel however all-consuming in the moment will be history one day, you learn that there will be others who have a crush on you too, and you will also have to break their hearts sooner or later. You learn that a crush is not love, it’s a momentary infatuation that is here today and gone tomorrow. You learn that love is built on friendships with people you can actually talk to about all your “crushes”, who will make jokes with you and still look at you like you are magic even when you are in the throes of making a fool of yourself. You learn that love is equal, is a negotiated agreement which is not one-sided. You also learn that crushes are necessary because they can and often do show you what is really important to you. You learn that in the end you are the most important person in your life, and those who are important to you only want you to be happy, to see you being the best of who you are, and you learn that you cannot be the best of you until you decide for yourself what it is that is ultimately the best for you. The more crushes you experience in your life the more you learn, to listen carefully to you, to carefully consider all available options with openness, you learn to whether the storms (remain still in the noise). You learn that the only thing that is constant is change. You learn also that change – is an important, essential ingredient for any and all GROWTH to happen.
So trust yourself – you are more than capable of making the best decision for you. Because you know what… only YOU can do that.