Managing it all

While I was in New York working on the business and NBA range of handbags the FIFA offices contacted me saying the agreement would be ready in a month. As a requirement I would also need to provide them a business plan so that they can structure my agreement based on my projections and target retail categories. The FIFA licensing process was different from the NBA licensing process. Both processes were very intimidating and motivating at the same time. It was very educational for me, especially because I was still in the early stages of running a business.

Now that I was back in NY I started to promote the NBA bags. I prepared press packages that included information on my company, the product and also included a sample of the bags. A few months later ESPN magazine had a contest and a feature that included my LeBron James bag as the winning prize. I also managed to get the bag in one of basketballs top magazines Slam. The best part is the NBA flagship store on Fifth Avenue featured the bags in the front window display and mannequins!!!

When I was a student at FIT I used to dream of having my bags featured in the front window displays at the NBA flagship store. I would go to the store every week worried that some company would come up with my concept and beat me to it. To have my bags retailing in the NBA flagship store and displayed for everyone outside to see a few years later was a very big deal to me. I had a lot to look forward to and the FIFA licensee was going to be a great addition to growing my business.

The NBA and FIFA were not the only projects consuming my mind. My family started absorbing a lot of my mind too. I found myself thinking about them most of the time. Some of the thoughts were happy thoughts and others were negative thoughts. There were days I would brag to my friends about reuniting with the family and then there were days I would find myself walking down the street in Brooklyn fuming, thinking why couldn’t they have reached out to me?!?!

My mother was also starting to pick up that I was embracing the relationship with my fathers side of the family and it didn’t help our relationship. Her insecurities started to kick in and with our lack of communication I did not lean on her for emotional support. I really tried to managed the relationship by sharing the bad stuff because I knew the good stuff would not fell good to her. My mother has never really spoken much about my fathers side of the family and sometimes thats enough for a child to know the topic is off limits. The deeper my relationship got with my fathers side, I would see sides of my mother that I never saw before. This wasn’t just a journey affecting me but it also affected my mother in ways that I never could have imagined and probably never will get to fully know.

Then there was Dineo, with her brother very ill I would check in on her regularly. Lazy was out of the hospital but still very ill. Dineo and I planned for my next trip to visit her mother, aunt Grace. My aunt Grace I remembered very well. She was my favorite aunt and she would call us often while growing up. My memories of her were very positive. She still lived at my grandparents home in a small village called “ My Darling” located in there northern province of Limpopo. Even though I was not thrilled about going to my darling because it is a very rural area, I was looking forward to seeing my aunt. One of my last memories of my darling was that the toilets were outside and we had to fetch water outside. It was going to be the experience. Granted this is now eighteen years later, surely there should be some improvements.

At that particular time I don’t know what was consuming my mind and time the most. Was it business or the family? I found myself trying to build a company, managing new personal relationships and dealign with countless emotions all at once. I just managed everything that was happening without stopping to process and deal. You can say my survival instincts took over.

Growth can only come when you are uncomfortable. This was the beginning of me being uncomfortable for a long time. I was growing. The beautiful thing about growth is that it has taught me options about life that I never could have imagined possible.

 

 

 

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The journey is mine

With Lazy in the hospital I spent more time with Dineo and my mothers side of the family. I wasn’t looking forward to it because it was uncomfortable meeting them earlier. It was a different discomfort form my fathers side of the family. My first encounter with my fathers side was more welcoming and they were nice to me. They avoided discussing the past. Granted, the elephant in room was also making me uneasy. I was mostly uncomfortable with them because of the history between my father and mother. I couldn’t understand why they never reached out whenever they came to the United States, especially NY. There were lots of South African friends who would come visit us and share all the nasty things my relatives would say about us. The price being paid for my mother and fathers relationship was largely by me and my younger sister. The truth is, naturally I had a lot of mixed negative feelings while enjoying being embraced by them. My fathers side embracing me was something that I was not prepared for.

On my mothers side of the family I received the opposite treatment. Dineo and her brother Lazy were really excited to see me and made my experience a little easier. With them I felt like I belonged and protected. Everyone else gave me the cold shoulder. At the time I really didn’t understand why, which is why it was very difficult. I remember my mothers older sister Shila, being aggressive asking me why I never call and why I didn’t contact them? I am sure she meant well and her feelings were hurt but I didn’t receive it well. Why did that matter? I am here now. At the begging I found myself fighting tears when I was around my mothers side.

The other thing that made the experience difficult is there were dynamics within the family that I knew nothing about and I was thrown into them. The difference between American and South African families, in South Africa everyone gets involved.  I’m talking about parents, siblings, cousins, second cousin, friends and the list goes on and on. If you don’t participate you are being disrespectful or selfish. If you didn’t grow up in that environment it’s overwhelming. I did my best to stay out of it, my goal was to support Dineo the same way that she supported me during my time in South Africa. While Dineo was still dealing with her ill brother and family dynamics she still managed to find ways to make me comfortable in that environment.

The welcoming  I received from my fathers side of the family was the one I expected from my mothers side and the welcoming I received from my mothers side I expected from my fathers side. You can say I was thrown off…lol

Eventually the time came for me to return to NY and I still didn’t have a contract from FIFA. The FIFA officials assured me that I would get the contract and not to worry. Once I arrived in NY, I couldn’t wait to go back to South Africa. I believe thats when my need to belong came back. This was a hard feeling to identify with because for almost two decades I always told myself I did not care. How can I miss something that I never had? That wasn’t true, for the first 8 years of my life I had it. There was a need for those relationships and it would take another 7 years before I fully understood why the need was there. By recognizing my need to belong, it helped be learn that some environments I just don’t belong and that’s ok. It’s got nothing to do with me. The beautiful part about that is being ok with it and who I am as an individual.

I went to South Africa to obtain the FIFA 2010 World Cup licensee and little did I know the universe had other plans for me. It was to discover my true self! This happened by dealign with feelings that got neglected for so many years. In just a matter of months I was dealing with countless emotions from anger, pain, confusion, anxiety, joy and many more. These were feelings I couldn’t share with my mother because I wanted to manage her feelings. As supportive as my support system was, I don’t think they also fully understood what I was going through. Especially since I didn’t know what was happening. It took years for me to understand the affects and price that came with me returning to South Africa.

This wasn’t just about the culture, environment, my father, his family or my mothers side of the family and their treatment, it was also about how our move to the United States affected me, my sister and my mother. For example, when I am really hurt by someone I can just cut them out of my life. As if they never existed, could that be because at a very young age a lot of significant people in my life where were gone in one day and we never talked about it? I learned to cope on my own. Returning to South Africa helped me unlock and understand a lot about some of my feelings and actions through out my life. Feelings I struggled to understand, which made it difficult to make changes. A lot of things started to make sense to me, especially the kind of human being I am. The most beautiful thing that my journey back to South Africa has taught me is that NO ONE SHOULD EVER DECIDE FOR ME WHO I AM SUPPOSE TO BE! We all have different journeys that require different explanations and experiences. No one can walk through that journey for you, so never let someone take way what you are suppose to discover on your own journey away from you. The journey will be painful, lonely and beautiful. When you are suppose to pay attention you will…

The beginning of the end

The day after Maru’s birthday bash Dineo received a call that her older brother needed to go to the hospital. She quickly got dressed and left. I stayed behind at my aunt Anna’s house and spend sometime getting to know the rest of the family. It was a full house and I had a lot of people to bond with. The male cousins were so easy to chill with but guys tend to be like that. I immediately flocked to them because they weren’t as curious as the women. They were more interested in the present than the past.

Through out the day I would run into my step mother and it was so awkward, I just did’t know what to say and what we would talk about? Where do we even begin? In fairness I bet she also had the same insecurities that I had as well. Eventually I would spend sometime with my older cousin Ludo from Botswana. She was nice but also very intrusive and entitled. From the beginning I was uncomfortable in a negative way with her because she was one of the relatives asking around if I was crazy like my younger sister Mokgethwa. I think because of that naturally I just never cared for her. To keep the peace I gave her my polite smile and answers that I though she wanted.

I later got a call from Dineo saying that her brother was in the hospital and not doing well. I offered to come and she told me to come the following day. I forgot to mention in my earlier blog“ The Unknown” published November 3rd, about my encounter with Dineo’s older brother Lazy (I am laughing as I think about how the western world is pronouncing his name…lol). The day that I went to meet my mothers side of the family Lazy was also present. With the exception of Dineo, Lazy was very kind and welcoming to me. I remember him running to me and just picking me up with excitement. He wanted to know everything about me with no judgement. I felt safe with his approach.

The following day I went to see him in the hospital. Lazy looked very different from when I saw him a few months earlier. He looked very fragile, lost a lot of weight and couldn’t speak. I couldn’t understand how the same guy who picked me up just a few months earlier could barely lift his hand up when I reached out to hold him. I didn’t know why he was so ill. I don’t want to lie, I thought, is it AIDS? Because this is the stereotype, in South Africa if you lose weight suddenly the first thought is that you have AIDS. It was my first experience seeing someone at the hospital in such a grave state. I thought to myself I was looking at death. I left the hospital very sad that day and didn’t know if I would see him alive again.

At that time Dineo and I had built a very good relationship. We even kept in touch when I went to the US. I really cherished the relationship we were building and I wanted to be there for her through this difficult time. Even though Lazy was my cousin I still felt like and outsider vs a family member going through this ordeal especially because I was never around and didn’t know him well. I also didn’t want to overstep boundaries. The universe works in amazing ways, thinking about it now we both needed each other so much during that time and we were there for each other.

Happy New Year!!!!!

I want to thank everyone who has made me smile and  to wish you all a New Year filled with Laughter, Forgiveness, Growth, Wonder, Love, Laughter, Tears, Peace, Health, Forgiveness and many more treasures that your heart desires! Thank you to all of you have showed me Laughter, Forgiveness, Growth, Wonder, Love, Laughter, Tears, Peace, Health, Forgiveness and many more treasures that my heart desires!
I leave you all with the lyrics from my all time favorite song… I hope you dance!

GrowthandWonder will be back on Wednesday the 3rd! Cheers!!!!

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger
May you never take one single breath for granted
God forbid love ever leave you empty handed
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance
I hope you never fear those mountains in the distance
Never settle for the path of least resistance
Livin’ might mean takin’ chances, but they’re worth takin’
Lovin’ might be a mistake, but it’s worth makin’
Don’t let some Hellbent heart leave you bitter
When you come close to sellin’ out, reconsider
Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder)
I hope you dance (Where those years have gone?)
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
Dance
I hope you dance
I hope you dance (Time is a wheel in constant motion always rolling us along)
I hope you dance (Tell me who wants to look back on their years and wonder?)

Lee Ann Womack

Maru’s 21st

It’s the night of the Marupings 21st birthday and all the immediate family are at my uncle Pius and auntie Lindiwe’s house for photos. I had never seen anything like this in my life. My father, uncles and cousins in tuxedos and aunts and cousins in evening gowns all dolled up for the evening; and there was a professional photographer to take different set of pictures, some with the whole family, others with the cousins and others with siblings. Afterwards we headed to the venue where the party was held. Upon our arrival we were assigned seats and I was seated with the female cousins along with their better halves.

My older half-sister walked me to my stepmother and introduced us. I cannot accurately express what that moment felt like because earlier when I ran into my father and her for whatever reason he did not introduce us. I was very nervous and I now believe is was because of the anger I had towards my father, thus didn’t know what to do with that relationship. We greeted each other and she was nice but I didn’t entertain any idea of us having a relationship. I had the same attitude with her as I did with my younger half-brother. I wasn’t as drawn to them as I was with my two older siblings. I am sure it had to do with the fact that our relationship with our father was almost identical and we could relate more to each other.

I believe there was about 200 people at the event, which meant meeting more relatives. I remember meeting Uncle Sam, who is my father’s cousin, neurosurgeon and prominent member of the family. I found him to be very funny and sweet. He is actually one of the doctors who took part in separating the first Siamese twins to ever be separated in the world. In South Africa he is considered my uncle, which was confusing to me because in the United States he would not be considered my uncle, but second cousin. I was then taken to meet my dad’s aunts and uncles whom I was told that they were my grandparents. This was also a bit confusing because I looked at them as my great aunts and great uncles. Earlier in the week I had met my cousin Ludo’s daughters and was told that they are my nieces. Ughh!!! Addressing them the way I would in the United States was offensive to them and in time I learned to address them the South African way, which entailed responsibility on my part and was exhausting. I was also taken around to meet family friends and I was overwhelmed by hearing people that I didn’t remember tell me things about myself when I was much younger. I just gave my polite smile and couldn’t get to my seat fast enough. It was too much!

Eventually I made it back to my seat and engaged in casual conversation with the other cousins. Thank God Dineo was there because she made the discomfort a bit easier. There was a professional photographer moving around the venue taking pictures of the event and the food was amazing. This was better than my junior and senior prom. This event was the first of my families events that I would attend.

There were many speeches given and I had never experienced so many speeches in my life before. Both Maruping’s friends and family members gave speeches. I learned later that the decision concerning who would make a speech was a serious process, including meetings with family members to decide on things that I naturally would have taken lightly. Granted, my aunt Anna and grandpa Eph (my father’s uncle) were always selected to give speeches. With my family there is a hierarchy and protocol and my aunts, Anna and Sesai are at the top of the hierarchy. Even if it’s not their immediate family’s event they still have final say in most cases on invitation list, who will give speeches and where the event will be held. I was really amazed by this hierarchy and that failure to observe protocol would result in negative consequences since most of them are successful and wealthy. It was the first time in my life learning that money isn’t power. All these wealthy people in the family but afraid to go against the norm. Overall the party was lovely and I enjoyed myself. I am an old soul, so I left early while the rest of my cousins stayed behind to party the rest of the night.

I eventually ended up being the rebel child since I could not abide by their norms because of the combination of my character and upbringing with knowing what I observed about the family.

All at Once

I didn’t realize how big my cousin’s 21st birthday party was going to be, even though I was told we had to be dressed formally. As I mentioned earlier, a few days after meeting my younger half-brother my father introduced me to my older half-sister, Lindi. Although I was nervous, I really liked her. She also came to South Africa for the 21st birthday and stayed at my Aunt Anna’s. This gave us time to get to know each other a bit. We had a lot of sad and upsetting stories to share about our experiences with our father.

My cousin’s 21st was such a big deal that relatives came all the way from Swaziland, United Kingdom, Singapore and Botswana. The experience was overwhelming for me because I was meeting all these relatives that I was not even aware that they existed before the party. It took courage to be around these relatives as I was full of fear and very anxious. My father’s side of the family is very big and they are very close. It always felt like me against them, especially since I had not been a part of them all these years. One thing that I appreciated at the time is that Lindi and I shared that in common. She wasn’t always with them and we shared the feelings of being outsiders. Our experiences were also different from each other and we were affected differently. At the time we had each other and I will always be grateful for that time.

I also started to observe how Lindi was treated differently from the others. My experience with the family upon my return was very different from hers when she first met the family. She was treated badly by some of the aunts like she didn’t matter to them. My father never defended her from the hurtful things they said about her, and she was aware of that. I was treated better than her, making it more painful for her. As terrified as I was, I received a warm welcome; they threw dinners parties for me, took me around and everywhere and bought me gifts. She shared with me that she never received that kind of treatment. I felt sad for her, but I did not respond to her nor say anything to my family. Not to make an excuse myself, as much as I liked her, I was protecting myself. Could I really trust her? If I openly sympathized with her, would she later choose them over me? I didn’t know what to do as I didn’t know what I was dealing with.

Before all the other cousins arrived from other parts of the world, I would hear how some were asking around if I was as crazy as my younger sister amongst other things. I suspected that there was a lot of negative and ignorant gossiping about me. Hearing about the gossip made my fear and discomfort worse. I started building another wall on top of the one I had already build before meeting the rest of the family, although I still pretended by hiding behind a smile.

A few days before Marupings 21st birthday, her older sister S’thi who lived in Singapore arrived. S’thi was actually the cousin I remembered the most and had lots of memories of her from my grandparents house before we left for the US. A part of me was looking forward to meeting her. Like the others, she was nice to me and I got to spent time with her. I later met the middle sister Nthu who lives in the UK. I went with her mother, aunt Lindiwe to fetch her from the airport. She kept on warning me not to get offended when I meet Nthu because she doesn’t talk to anyone. She would tell me stories on how she never leaves her room and it made me laugh because my mother used to get so angry with me as a teenager because I never wanted to get out my room. It was always stressful when she wanted me to come out and meet people. I never understood what the big deal was. My aunt was right, she barely said a word. Funny enough even though we didn’t speak much I was most comfortable around her. I have always preferred silence better than noise because it’s my way of setting my own boundaries.

Later I got to meet my relatives from Botswana which included my aunt Sesai, uncle Sam, their children, Mbako, Uyapo, Ludo and her husband, Boi and their two daughters. This event was becoming bigger than I imagined. The grooming and preparations felt the same like when I was preparing for my senior prom. The preparation was a distraction and took some of the pressure off from facing all the family members, whom eventually I would have to face. Fortunately for me, they also said I could bring someone with me to the party and I brought my cousin, Dineo from my mother’s side of the family. As we were leaving to take formal photos before the party at my uncle Pius’s house, I ran into my father and a woman I never met before. My father said hi to me and somehow it was very awkward because he did not introduce me to the woman he was with, and after a few minutes of this awkward silence they walked passed me. Only later that evening did I find out from Lindi that the woman with my dad was my stepmother. He couldn’t even introduce me to her!