This November saw me attending my fourth wedding (technically 3 weddings and 1 engagement but it’s all the same thing really…) in the past 4 years. Among many other things, this means I got to dress up in a suit, jump on a plane or two and eat lots of well-cooked food. Above all else what I have really enjoyed about these events is being with my family.
Post high school ambitions
Born and raised in Swaziland, after leaving high school, I decided to take up studies at the University of Cape Town, all the way in … you guessed it – Cape Town, the southern tip of Africa. Now this decision was mostly based on the fact that I would be attending one of the best (if not the best) Universities in Africa – which claimed to have a top-notch Computer Science department – and also for the fact that I would be in a completely new area – forced to fend for myself, build my own shelter, hunt for prey and locate a willing partner to procreate with and spread my seed in order to ensure that the Mmari family name continues for generations to come. Ok slight exaggeration, but you more or less get what I’m trying to say here. On top of this, I have also realized that I am subconsciously in love with the idea of being able to re-invent myself at will – so being so ‘far away’ in Cape Town, in a totally new environment – gave me this opportunity, as opposed to going to varsity much closer to home in the form of Johannesburg or Pretoria – where a high percentage of my high-school mates were going (sorry guys, it’s not you… it’s me).
The joys of being far from home is that you are far from home, so when you do visit, everyone is really excited to see you for like the first 2 hours or so – before everything goes back to normal and you are told to unpack your suitcase, clean your room, run errands or wash the dishes or something. It’s also nice for your parents to tell their friends and relatives that “my second born son is in Cape Town” as this somehow implies that I am doing really well in life, because for some reason the further away you are from home, the more you have achieved !? How true that is, I’m not sure – but if it helps my Mum with bragging rights at the local church and family gatherings – then I’ll do what needs to be done.
The downside of being far from home is that you are far from home and you only get to see family once in awhile. During varsity, I would go home at least twice a year (sometimes three times!), June and December. Towards my later years (3rd year and honours), this became once a year because I took up vac work during the June holidays to boost my CV and rake in some cash-money. Thankfully my little brother and my Mum would also come down at least once a year, so this made it much easier. The sad part of seeing family so infrequently is that life just moves on without you. Babies are conceived, incubated and delivered all in your absence (not that I would want to be present for all these activities, but you get the point). Then they get introduced to you in photos and maybe you get to speak to them over the phone once in awhile, or you meet them for the first time when they are already 12 months old. Siblings parents, uncles, and aunties get older and in the worst case even pass away in your absence. To put this into perspective, I was told that my Dad (who was in Tanzania at the time) had passed away – over a phone call while I was hiking up table mountain on a Sunday morning. Ironically, one of the reasons I came to Cape Town in the first place, was to study computer science, which is what my Dad had also studied when he was younger. R.I.P Dad, your legacy lives on.
So naturally, growing up I have come to realize the importance of family more and more. See, when I’m around new people I often have to put up filters and walls just to ensure I don’t creep anyone out or offend them by mistake with my silly antics and/or non-conventional behavior, thoughts and opinions – but when I’m around family, it’s honestly a free for all. My family has known me from day one, all versions of me. They know my failures, my triumphs, my ambitions, my shortcomings, my strengths and my vulnerabilities. They can just look at my face or hear my voice for a split second in order to determine if I am happy or sad. There is no need for pretense, fake smiles or half-hearted laughs. They get the unfiltered version of me and they fully deserve to, because they made me who I am today and they have been there for each and every part of the journey.
Todo Para La Familia
I have had many views of life over the years, my goals and objectives have chopped and changed, my visions and my desires have evolved over time. But above all, no matter what – my lifelong creed is that family shall always be put first, no matter what, no matter who, no matter where and no matter why.
There is a phrase that used to be said at the end of each episode of a show I used to watch when I was a child, called “Brothers Garcia” on Nickelodeon. The phrase was “Todo Para La Familia”, meaning “everything for the family” – and that is the current creed that I live by because without family I wouldn’t be who I am today, where I am today or why I am today. They know all my yesterdays and they accept and support me in all my tomorrows, unconditionally.
Todo Para La Familia.. Everything for the family.
I’ll catch you all at the next wedding.
“A happy family is but an earlier heaven.” – Goerge Bernard Shaw
“I sustain myself with the love of family.” – Maya Angelou
“Don’t anger your parents in order to please other people. Those other people did not spend their lives building yours”- Some wise person
“No family is perfect… we argue, we fight. We even stop talking to each other at times. But in the end, family is family… The love will always be there. – Another wise person