As not only the end of another year, but the end of a whole damn decade looms, I always find myself becoming reflective, pensive and little nostalgic. What has been, what happened, what’s next? All those delicious dreams we can recreate. When I say it out loud, though, –2020- I find myself singing the lyrics of that fabulous George Benson song which also seems quite apt for this particular blog.
Here’s the chorus:
If I knew back then what I know now
If I understood the what, when, why and how
Now it’s clear to me
What I should have done
But hindsight is 20/20 vision.
Apt because ‘hindsight’ only happens when you reach a point – any point but usually sometime after a significant event – when you can look back on a thing and say, oh yes! that’s what it was or when it was, or how it started.
As a young girl finishing school now more than three decades ago, I thought of nothing other than becoming a lawyer. But if truth be told, deep inside, I always thought that writers were the real deal, that they were somehow truly magical. If I heard someone, say, ‘I want to become a writer!’ I imagined them to have a secret power, a subtle knowing, a way of seeing the world that was simply impossible for me to fathom.
I could never have said that.
I became that lawyer. But even before that I was also a sister, a daughter and later became a student, an articled clerk, a newbie employee, a girlfriend. A sex kitten.
Then a year or two before I turned 30, as we were driving along the national road on the way to Arniston, the man I was sitting next to asked me if I wanted to get married. To him. I said yes.
I became a wife. Along with that, I became primary food shopper and cook, housekeeper, entertainment manager and general companion to the man I married. I also became a daughter in law, sister in law and gradually, since I knew something about the law, an advisor.
When baby number one came along, I became mother. This remains for me, of all the miracles life offers, the most miraculous thing of all, but, without doubt, also the thing that has precipitated the rest of my continual ‘becoming’. I became a dual person: nurturer and lover. Sex kitten? Not so much anymore.
With number baby number two, I became a full time juggler and then fortunately, or not, an ex full- time employee.
The man I married? A father, a lover and a constant income earner. Not much different ‘becoming’.
During this time, back in 2001 or thereabouts, sneaking away from a two and four- year old for a few hours, I attended a writing course with the inimitable Anne Schuster at the Centre for the Book, a beautiful old Edwardian building in the centre of the city of Cape Town. For many South African writers, Anne seems to have been the common denominator of their writing journeys and many since her sad passing, have used the framework of her brilliant teaching of free writing in their creative writing techniques.
In hindsight then, I became a writer almost twenty years ago.
Be assured, writers don’t ‘become’ overnight.
But then I became mother of baby number three. Lucky me. And in order to establish a flexible but stable (read: ‘paying’) career I became another type of lawyer who could juggle these three: the worker, the wife and the mother.
The man I married? Pursued a singular track of businessman and became primary income- earner and devoted dad (without too much of an office juggle) as I tried to become yet another type of income earner.
Sex kitten must have made a reappearance. I became a mother of four.
And with this, yet again, I became a breast-feeder. (If I were to dwell in the ocean, I would definitely be a bottom-feeder.)
All the while, in the background, I had once become a lawyer. And since that day, I have continued to become someone else, something else. I became an educator, a lecturer, a researcher, a module leader.
But I had also become a writer because I continued to write. Not every day, not always very much, not anything worth sharing publicly and certainly nothing which earned substantial sums. Apart from the odd magazine article, there were a few academic papers and some course material.
And I now know many women friends, mothering friends, who have similar stories of ‘becoming’.
Women are continually becoming something else as they age and embrace shifting priorities while exploring special skills which they can fit in with their families: designers and decorators, small business owners, athletes and marathon runners, artists, florists and friendship connectors, estate agents and yoga retreat offerors.
Women are continually becoming.
Men, I believe, not so much. They continue, most of them, along similar career paths and trajectories, perhaps rebranding businesses and selling off others but essentially, they don’t become as we women seem to. They remain. Or they become the sex kittens…um… cat. No, that’s not all true either. Not all men become sex kittens. It’s simply that they remain pretty much as they have always been in many ways, but perhaps become a little more eligible than women? Or so they think and in fact I do too. They’re far more attractive with a self-assuredness that replaces egos of the earlier years.
But since the perception is that as women age, they become ‘less’ (as in ‘less’ desirable in the market place (fallacy! actually we have become smarter, wiser and more dedicated!) and less attractive in the dating places (compared to the younger and firmer) we feel as though we sometimes become invisible whereas in fact , we start becoming something even more.
We finally become ourselves again in a way that perhaps we always were. Or perhaps dreamt of becoming.
And in order to become a writer, you need to write.
So now it’s clear to me,
that it’s not what I should have done,
but in hindsight, it’s 2020 vision
that we as women, towards the end of yet another decade,
are continually becoming.
And how powerful and wonderful is that?
Wishing you all my love and happiness as you wind down the teen decade,
and dance into the new one!
Til again in 2020!
With love, always
(and with acknowledgements to title of Michelle Obama’s book ‘Becoming’)