Nowhere everyman

Yesterday I reblogged a piece by Marianne Thamm called “Nowhere boyman.”
Let me start by saying (at the risk of pandering to famous writers) that I grew up reading Thamm’s columns in Fair Lady magazine and I’ve always found myself reading stories by strong women – Antjie Krog, Thamm, and more recently Lauren Beukes. Now that I have four years of media studies and two years of world travel behind me I constantly look at myself to figure out where I became who I am and I can see how I’ve been influenced by the things I read as a child.
But that’s not the only reason why her story shook me.
See I could easily have been in Adri Marthinus’s shoes. I come from a family of white Afrikaans labourers who benefited from apartheid so much they didn’t feel the need to go to school or learn new skills. I was the first person in my extended family to go to university, and one of the few who has Matric. It could have gone the other way though. If I’d started drinking a little earlier, or if I liked cigarettes a little more than I did, if I made different choices somewhere. I’m always looking at my timeline trying to figure out why I made it out, and others didn’t.
Because see, as Thamm feels guilty about her R400 haircut, I feel guilty about having a flat, about owning a cellphone, about recently buying a car. I don’t feel like I deserve what I have, and this might sound to you like self-indulgent crap, that I should just be happy with what I have and stop moping about it, but I can’t.
I feel guilt. I see my father’s face in every bum, every beggar asking me for spare change. I get angry with mothers who send their children to ask me for food. I want to shake the grown ups who approach me in the streets, I want to shout, “What is it about me that makes you think I have money?!” I’m not rich, not by a long shot, I have debt and I work as many part-time research jobs I can find, but somehow one day I stepped out of being Annetjie with the dirty hair and the holes in my clothes and became someone who looks and acts respectable. But I haven’t put anything from my childhood behind me, it’s all in my head whirling around like a cloud of doubt filled with loose screws and spanners chasing each other down the endless corridors of brain-land.
Who am I really? And what do I stand for? At 25, shouldn’t I know these things by now?


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