The Act Of Wanting (3/3): Owning Your Deep Desires

…And the journey continues.

This is the last instalment in a three-part series concerning being in conscious alignment with one’s subconscious wants and vice versa. (Do I mean to sound like a wanna-be spiritual guru? Not at all. Oh well…)

I thought I’d share some tips I use to check myself whenever I seem to be straying from who I am (=somebody who is important to herself) or what I want. How I know when this is happening? I start to do inexplicable, self-destructive things that make no sense even to me. In addition, my bar or standards for what I consider self-sabotage lowers. Then I realise I’m not right with myself. Here’s a little example. I say that writing is important to me, right? And that I want to become a talented writer someday. (Yes. If I wasn’t born gifted I’m hoping I’ll become gifted. Leave me to my madness, please.) When my standards are high, I’m making time for writing no matter how busy the rest of my life is. I’m waking up at 4 or 5am. I’m reading novels and essays as well as writing during tea and lunch breaks at work. I’m editing before bedtime religiously, after reading another chapter of someone. And every night before I turn the lights out, I’ve scheduled a blog post for the next day or three. I’m doing everything I can to stay on track. It doesn’t matter that sometimes there are power cuts or sometimes I don’t have access to the internet or my devices are not co-operating. It doesn’t matter. Because I’ve already done everything possible to counter those eventualities.

But when my standards are low and I’m being self-destructive, I always have the perfect excuse. I’m entertaining people who have zero respect for my schedule while I make all sorts of allowances for their schedules. I’m spending extra time with people whom I love but who always take liberties with my self-esteem. I’m forgetting that guarding my peace is a constant endeavour until I am able to remove myself from toxic environments. I’m forgetting that how I feel, my time and my self-respect are my responsibility and are mine to protect.

So here are a few things I do to get back on track. Here is how I own my deep desires:

1. Say them out loud and/or write them down (right before you thoroughly dispose of the piece of paper). This works for me if what I’m desiring sounds horrible to me. I’ve found myself saying:

“I only did that because I am so lonely right now and I’m desperate to belong.”

-which made me sound pathetic

“When she said nothing I do should work out because her life didn’t work out the way she wanted it to, it made me want to make sure my projects don’t work out. Because who would I be if I didn’t have her approval?”

-which sounded so twisted, I was appalled

“Of course, he doesn’t care about me. Why would he? The other guy? No, I want someone ‘better’ than that.”

-which made me think, ‘Pick a struggle, b*tch! Plus you know you don’t even want to pick anyone because you think they’ll all hate you once they know you. How cliché and how effed up are you? Is there no end to your issues?’

([sigh] Yes. Myself and I actually said that to me. The nerve…)

So once I’ve said these things, I can’t take them back. I spoke them from my heart. I said it. So now it IS. And I need to do something to replace what IS with what I want there to be. It already was because it was in my soul/spirit/head. But now there is no denying it.

And it might take some time and unintentional messy behaviour to decipher what you even need to say to yourself. Some of it has taken me years. But every second was worth it. I’m more at peace knowing than not knowing.

2. Wean yourself off your unhealthy desires. Based on my above examples, (a) I would go about this by taking care to enjoy the time I spend alone even more than I usually do as well as making quality time for people who have been trying to reach out to me while I was pushing them away in favour of the people who make me feel like scum. I find that I am usually only as lonely as I allow myself to feel. The world has been kind to me in certain respects. There are people who actually appreciate me. It’s what I do with that affection that either makes or breaks my friendships. As I mentioned yesterday, taking responsibility is important. Here I’d be weaning myself off the desire to desperately belong; the desperation was never necessary. Some people made me feel alone, I let them and, in the process, I let the people who actually appreciate me go. Context is crucial. (b) Get away from anyone who directly or indirectly encourages you to fail nomatter how much they tell you they love you. (c) Remind yourself each morning of your ‘dateable’ points: good, precious things that come naturally to you –always have since you were a child – and go for people who particularly appreciate you when you’re being your best self without trying much.

3. Fill that gap with something else and don’t romanticise your flaws. So in example (a), you’d do that by filling the time when you feel lonely with quality time with yourself and people who are sincerely good to you. In that quality time, do your favourite things and do something for those people who genuinely care about you. Show them things that you love about them, not because they’ve helped you but just because you have also grown to genuinely care about them. I know some people will say every human interaction is a transaction anyway but you don’t have to do it the greedy, unfeeling way, right? (b) After getting away from people who make you want to self-sabotage, fill the gap left by your desire to fail with remembrance. Remember a time when you got an accolade that became dear to you and the influx of positivity winning that accolade brought into life. Soak in that feeling then set a goal for yourself and work steps to take towards the goal into your daily routine. Don’t forget to set timelines. When you achieve the goal, make sure to celebrate with people who would truly be happy for you. Rinse and repeat until you can feel it in your bones that you deserve to win when you set a goal for yourself. *And please don’t romanticise your flaws.* People you’re trying to get away from will try to make it sound like you were living your best life when you were miserable, why did you change, and all that. Remind yourself that those were not the good old days and keep it moving.

4. Start hanging out with people who represent what you really want. For example, if you’re a daughter who wishes she had a better relationship with her mother, hang out with friends who get along well with their mothers in a healthy way. This counters that ‘absoluteness’ that happens when something has been a staple in your life, causing you to subconsciously believe that life is like that and daughters ‘just don’t’ get along with their mothers.

5. Act as you really want to be. I don’t like the phrase ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ but I do agree with it in this case. Put on the attitude you want to have towards friends, colleagues, men, women, children until it becomes who you are. If that attitude is that you want to be respected, treat yourself with respect in front of everyone around you until that is your reality. Put on your best clothes regularly, walk with your chin up, smile at crying babies, if someone is mean to you cut down the amount of attention and time you usually give them, express gratitude when you would have complained because this sends the message that your life is going to be okay and you’re able to handle it, make time for your own needs.

That concludes this series. What it boils down to is this: the day you acknowledge what you really want is the day you decide who you’re about to turn into.

The Act Of Wanting (2/3): Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Disclaimer: Apologies for the preachy tone of this article. I’m sharing some things I’ve learned. I might just be talking to myself, quite frankly.

Yesterday, I wrote about how we have two versions of our lists of desires: the list of what we think we want and the list of what we really want – which is usually buried in our subconscious. The two are not always in alignment. How do I know when my lists don’t match? By observing my actions: I really want what I am actually investing my actions into.

I know it probably sounds obvious but it took me a while to understand this much deeper than from an intellectual standpoint. It’s as if my life –or the development of my mental self – has been a backpack full to the brim. I have been unpacking this backpack (pretend the unpacking hands are my experiences) and, each time I do, the knowledge is transferred from my subconscious to my conscious(ness?). I was born with this backpack but I could not unpack it unless I actually went through some things.

One of the lessons I’ve learned during this process is that you really want what you are actually doing not necessarily what you say you want. As it applies to yesterday’s article: the people who wanted to be super rich did whatever was necessary, restructured their behaviour, shifted whole aspects of their lives in order to get there. Sometimes getting to where you want to be is a matter of strategy, particularly if you’re even remotely in an environment that can support your goals and you’re there at the right phase of your life. Some other things may simply be a matter of talent and genes but I’m not talking about those things.

I’m talking about things that we know we would have liked to have, had the opportunity to have, but somehow let that opportunity pass by. It’s fine. It’s also fine not to have wanted what you ‘should’ have wanted. I’ve come across people where this applies to children, steady careers, lovers who were perfect but just not for them, a relationship with one’s mother, fame… Success, even.

Not being in alignment with what you think you ‘should’ want tells you so much about your current situation and who you really are or what you truly struggle with. Please do not ignore it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t allow yourself to sink into guilt. Don’t numb yourself until you get used to an undesirable situation. Even when what you really want seems evil, wicked and anti-social, it helps to acknowledge that you want it. That way you can deal with it. You do not have to come across as a healthy or good person if it means shutting down your real self until one day you snap and it affects a number of people’s lives. If you acknowledge that aspect now, while you still have some modicum of control over yourself, all the better for everyone –as long as one thing is understood: with acknowledgment comes responsibility.

Once you’ve seen yourself for all your different sides, you must take responsibility for everything –particularly the things that will definitely have a widespread negative impact on other people. Do something to make sure you unseat these deep psychological worms or kinks. Also, take responsibility for the things that are simply you. Things that maybe your family or culture doesn’t allow but really only truly affect you. If your parent is abusive to you – in whatever way – and it would be culturally unsound to cut ties with them, think about how cutting ties might allow you to heal and have a healthier relationship with your own children. If travelling the world instead of settling down in the corporate world is what you want to do, maybe do it. Your future self won’t understand when you someday try to explain that nobody approved of you –a grown adult – going off by yourself to explore. Yes, eventualities and worst case scenarios must be planned for but do something. If you have a complex that makes you self-sabotage or you feel uncomfortable whenever you’re successful, ask yourself what makes you feel you shouldn’t be the one to have a life of achievement and good things. Why should you always be right there with everyone who is having a hard time? Yes, empathy is good but not to the extent where you feel guilty for anything good in your life. Being a good person is ideal but why must you be the martyr in every equation?

There are so many situations we may find ourselves in that require us to understand why we want to remain in an untenable circumstance or why we want to want what we say we want. But life is short. Even 80 years is not all that long. There’s nothing noble about sacrificing your life to your psychological burdens, or cultural norms that are just not for everyone, or people who never really loved you in the first place, or people who love you so much it limits and stifles you. Are you willing to give yourself a fair shake in this life?

How much do you desire to want better for yourself?

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Copyright ©️ 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu

Race Series: The Issue Of Race

I find it difficult to write about race, issues affecting where I’m from or about anything that I was born into, really. It’s easier to talk about the things that happen to you, rather than the things that you are. Perhaps that’s why people struggle to describe their hometowns or to write their ‘about’ pages. Yet the language for describing the first time you tried your favourite food, or your first breakup or first trip abroad is easier to reach. But I really don’t relish talking about race as people end up justifying or defending or feeling that they are betraying something that they just are. Not did. But are.

It first dawned on me that race is a thing when I won a prize for a poem I had written. I was in high school and my parents attended the prize-giving day, which was held at a local private school. Particular local private schools were predominantly white at that time, and also attended by children of Indian descent. At that particular school, there were some black children, increasingly so, but people treated it like a predominantly white institution. I have to qualify this because, where I’m from, people perceive a marked social difference. Anyway, growing up, I had always thought of myself as… well, me. Not Black Tebogo. Not Coconut (a colloquial term meaning a black person who has white mannerisms and interests) Tebogo. Not Natural Tebogo. Just Tebogo. I got along with people of all races. Yes, I did experience racism – even in a country whose population is mostly black – but I failed to register it as personal. To me, it felt like if someone told me they didn’t like my favourite outfit. I would just think their opinion was a nonmatter because they didn’t go out and buy the outfit, they didn’t contribute any money to my buying it and they didn’t have to wear it. So why care what I’m wearing? My blackness – as people call it – was not something I used to discuss, really, until a couple of years ago. I just existed as myself, loved it and didn’t care what it was labelled.

That day, when we walked into the assembly hall of the white private school, my father hesitated. He seemed unsure. We walked in, headed towards the empty seats. And he hesitated. That was uncharacteristic of him. I asked him what was wrong. And he said, “Lapha sivunyelwa ukuthi sihlale ngaphi?” “Where are we allowed to sit?”

I admit: that undid me more than I realised at the time. My father is a traditional man in many ways. He has always seemed particularly proud to be who he is, yet here he was – questioning his own importance based on the colour of his skin. I currently cannot find the words to explain to you how that moment unfolded. But it definitely was not a regular, “Sooo where should we sit?” No. He seemed humbled. He seemed like he was trying to show that he knew his place and would not cross the invisible lines set up by someone who was more valuable than he inherently was. I am not being dramatic. I am trying to give you an idea of how packed that moment was. At the time, I saw it but I didn’t dissect it. I just ushered my parents close to the front of the assembly hall and that’s where we sat. And as we sat, I remembered that I had used a pen name when I handed that poem in: Robin Cook.

I thought it would give me the best chance of being judged fairly. I had not thought about the issue of race much, but I did suddenly realise that I and people like me became someone else when placed in certain environments – perhaps as some sort of defense mechanism? But suddenly, we would tweak certain things about ourselves – even our accents – in order to be understood or to fit in. We, in our black country, were trying to fit into what most of us thought is a more superior way of life – a way of life outlined by a psychologically powerful minority. That natural superiority is not true, of course, but it’s what was being implied. That has disturbed me increasingly over the years because it was not discussed in our community (I live somewhere in Africa) – perhaps jokingly mentioned but not seriously discussed. And it has birthed other problems. Black-African people appear to have groomed an identity crisis whose characteristics and symptoms we don’t even recognise. It’s a complex problem. People of colour who live on other continents are quite vocal about their race issues but we are not; and, in my opinion, it’s because we come from cultures where nothing is talked about openly, really. We do what we’re told and are discouraged from probing. That may be changing now, but not quickly enough.

When a baby is born, people rejoice that the baby is light-skinned or express disappointment that it’s dark-skinned. Anything in between is fair enough. When a dark-skinned man marries a light-skinned woman he jokes that he’s trying to do his bit to ‘lighten’ the gene pool. When someone moves to a predominantly white and richer country, people treat this person like a celebrity even before the person has achieved anything concrete. If as a migrant, you are living under terrible conditions in that destination country whereas you were doing better back home, people back home will say, “At least he’s in Dubai… At least she’s in America. I’ve always dreamed of going there.” No emphasis on what the person is actually going through to remain in that country. Honestly. It’s as if reality is skewed to the point where people do not see how lowly they have pegged themselves or how crazy they sound when they are saying these things. It’s bad enough that – to the outside world – Africa is seen as a perennial disaster or a place to be rescued, among other things. Other people are entitled to their own conclusions. But seeing ourselves that way – as incapable and inferior – will not help us move on from our problems at all. Sure we did not create these problems. But they are our responsibility now, unfortunately. And the mindsets we harbour will not help us effectively tackle the problems. The African problem is currently largely that of mindset.

Yes, it’s all a product of long periods of oppression and colonisation but at what point do we take charge of our own self-esteem? The true healing has to begin somewhere. But instead, all these insecurities are being covered up by the accumulation of degrees, businesses and money. I like to see people of colour succeeding materially because money is not just money, as we all know. It is access to better health care, people treating you like you actually exist, children having a better future than the previous generations did. It means a layer of protection in times of great crisis, exposure to different ways of thinking, living and problem-solving, exposure to different cultures, self-actualization, being able to provide opportunities to people who used to be marginalised even when qualified, growth. Etcetera. But none of that can truly compensate for how you really feel about yourself. And you will find yourself acting in ways that are telling, that give away your insecurities when you least expect it – when you thought you were good now. It’s as if in reality, when we say “…#BlackLivesMatter,” we mean “to different degrees and extents.” (I’ll explain this further later.)

So I’ll be publishing a series of articles on the issue of race alongside my poetry to explore issues such as the rules of being black (which are ridiculous to me), some black history topics such as things we used to do pre-colonisation that we ought to revive (particularly looking forward to this), unpacking the issue of black women being romantically linked with white men, the issue of successful black men preferring women who are not black and other things that may come to mind. I probably won’t talk about dating and marriage much beyond those two titles, though. This article is the introduction to that series.

PS: To contact me, don’t hesitate to email


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Copyright © 2011 – 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu

Thank You To All The Crazy People


Disclaimer: I’m not a professional mind person. These are a few things I’ve realised lately or tell myself from time to time.

I have learned most of the useful things I know from crazy people. Crazy in quotes. These are people who were ridiculed for being who they were at some point, only to find –when they went out into the world- that someone needed their crazy. And that the label ‘crazy’ only applied when they were in their previous environment. In the new environment, they were embraced and learned to cultivate their crazy into a gift that keeps on giving. These people could be, to you – your favourite aunty, singer, writer, CEO, pet that could not be tamed. The empathy they bring into your life when they do what they do, when that song hits the right chord –for example- could be what keeps you going when times are tough and what helps you celebrate good times. All because this stranger gets you.

Imagine if those people –all of them- never existed or never tried to come out of their shell. Imagine that you are one of those people to someone out there. This is the importance of trying.

If there is something you feel compelled right from deep down in your core to do, do it. Yes, there’s some self-actualisation that goes on there when you are doing it, this unparalleled satisfaction. But it seems there is more to it than that. What you manage to salvage from your talents may be the thing that saves someone else’s life or shows them that there is more to life than survival. We are examples to each other – in success, in mediocrity, in distress – what you are doing means something to someone else’s existence. If you are withholding a gift or talent the world or even just one individual out there needs, run away from it all you can, it will still haunt you.

There may be a great deal to be learned from taking the great leap forward into becoming the best you that ever was –as cliché as that sounds (clichés are clichés for a reason), for example:

  • You can always invent your own normal.

People have different thresholds of pain, pleasure, respect, etc. And that’s what makes them interesting. That’s what forges friendships between certain people, attracts narcissists to certain people, gets certain people pregnant. Normal is not set in stone. There are things that people insist are normal which you don’t see a lot of when you look around. Either that or normal clearly isn’t working. Try to think of a few. So whose version of impossible-normal are you trying to fit yourself into? As long as your normal doesn’t kill or grieve someone else, you really are free to rebuild your world as you see fit. And if your normal grieves someone, take stock of if their grief is actually coming from their own insecurities. Do they have a valid point? Is it both? If it’s both, maybe take the valid point and keep it moving. Also, you will offend people along the way. But with time, you realise when to say you’re sorry and when to drop the mic and walk away or when to be silent. Don’t be ashamed of the trial and error along the way. Think about the rewards and let them push you forward –because you can’t go back to the way you were once you’ve even lost some people because of changes you made. Those losses have to count for something, so you have to keep going.

I for one would like to die having seen what my best life looked like – ‘normal’ or not.

  • You will not be telling your kids one day that they should stick with the safe path and forget about pursuing their own dreams.

A parent who lived their best life becomes the ultimate example to their child. A parent who never gave themselves a chance and regrets that *is in danger of* becoming the opposite of what the child wants to be when they grow up. Children are smart. They see more than we give them credit for. Our insecurities, regrets, anger and resentment manifest themselves to children in all kinds of ways and lessons. And if you are not being true to yourself, it becomes a whole entire mood in the depths of your soul then sprouts into a version of you that you’ll be shocked to discover. You’ll be the one scoffing at your colleague who is pursuing that risky side gig and secretly wishing that they fail so as to prove what you’ve always known: that people should just sit down and stay in their lanes. You will do this with people you love, as well: your children, your siblings, your best friend – because you don’t want anyone making you feel like you should have tried or tried harder. If you’re truly happy with yourself, you won’t be bothered by other people’s endeavours. But if you never tried, you’ll find yourself telling your kid that they’ll fail and make a fool of themselves. (Whether the kid is actually good at what they are trying to do is beside the point and nobody’s business if they are willing to support themselves through their struggles and will bear the consequences of their own actions. At least they’re trying at something (hopefully legal).)

  • You are setting yourself up for life to pleasantly surprise you.

Nothing can be learned from doing nothing when you wanted to try something. But when you do act, your actions can lead to unexpected discoveries and opportunities. Life seems to open up to you and present you with gifts and amazing people you didn’t even ask for – and also gets more interesting with time as you rediscover your curiosities.

“It’s the soul afraid of dying that never learns to live.” – Westlife, The Rose

  • You weed out people who keep you limited.

There are people in your life, you know you should have gotten rid of ages ago. Making changes to how you live your life organically takes these people away from your sphere of influence. Your activities change, so does your interest in doing the things you used to do with them. Also, you weed out the versions of you that used to keep you limited. There will be things you just cannot do anymore –like putting off achieving the goals of a particular project, self-destructive behaviour such as being messy where you could have resolved a dispute amicably and being tardy. At this point, you would be working from a mentality of someone who is sick and tired of being discontented. And you know what happens once you reach that point.

  • You ensure that you’re taken care of in hard times.

How many of us found themselves in the middle of a lockdown wishing we had pursued that passion project that could be making us money by now? That’s the thing with making sure you pursue what your self said you should be pursuing when they said you should be pursuing it. It’s not just so you can sleep well at night. With time, it actually gives back to you and becomes the thing that keeps you when you need help. Because you care that much more, you tend to do well. Even just in terms of keeping your reputation: when you have a career you love, you make sure you do right by it and so it builds value in your name –so that whenever you need a new opportunity, your reputation goes before you and secures you one. What happened there is you tried harder and longer than you would have for a job you don’t really care about, and that comes with certain rewards.

But this is not just about your life’s work. This is also about the standard you allow your life to operate at and how that standard sets you up to accept good or bad treatment from people and come out at the top or bottom when certain circumstances hit, or to be the one who is prone to thrive in most situations and has discernment enough to repel bad treatment. You may think you’re fine with your current expectations but have they paid off? Have they been good for you?

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Copyright © 2011 – 2020 Tebogo Ndlovu