Hi Fran, it's me... Fran!
Sometimes I wish I could introduce the future me to the present me.
I sat down next to the stranger with the guitar. He was wearing a red and blue checked shirt.
He looked friendly.
This was enough, I like making friends with strangers.
“I’m Fran, what’s your name?”
My friend who saw us say goodbye when it came time to collect our luggage at the end of the flight, nicknamed him “Rooibaard”- red beard it means in Afrikaans. Paul looked Irish more than anything.
“You heading to PE? The same flight as me?”
“Uh-huh, my friend is picking me up there.” My questions to the Rooibaard were safe and polite. I used to listen to a radio show where the commentator would ask everyone he met, “who hurt you?” Maybe I should have asked Paul this question.
I turned to him, “What are your new year plans?” Safe question number two.
“We’re not too sure yet.” Paul shrugged. He looked about my age, maybe younger. Yeah, probably younger.
“Us too,” I agreed. “Give me a bunch of friends and a few drinks and I’m happy.”
Paul laughed. “Yup, can’t party like we used to…getting old.”
“I know. It’s fantastic. I love it.”
I bet you a whole Bitcoin (not that I have one, mind you) Paul expected me to say how much it “sucks to be old”. Maybe, he expected me to wish I was in my 20’s again watching series, spending cash on cheap shots at the Rat and Parrot Bar and falling across my bed at 2am while the room turned faster the loading icon on an old Apple Mac Computer.
HERE'S THE THING: I don’t miss that life. At all.
I recovered a long time ago from the pressure of trying to do something “cool” for New Year’s. This year, I decided to see the New Year in off on the coast of St Francis with my friend and her family. #bliss
St Francis is as clean and white as bleached sheets. The family owns a house which overlooks the ocean and if you stare at the turquoise sea long enough you can see the curved fins of dolphins rise and fall with the waves.
The town is as sleepy as an old dog, with the exception of one day. You guessed it, New Year. On New Year every 16-25 year old with the desire to get as far as possible from their family and as drunk as possible without death from liver failure makes their way to St Francis as if it were a free Taylor Swift concert.
My friends and ,I although we had zero intention of doing anything remotely “cool”, made the fatal error of going to the shops on New Year’s Eve in St Francis. We shouldn’t have. We should have known better.
You couldn’t move. You couldn’t park. Every 22 year old white kid in South Africa was traipsing around the town with 6 pack’s.
The worst thing about it was that it was a strange (and horrifying) mental snapshot from my past.
I was that kid. There was something about the contrast of me (now) and the kids in queues for the Till that made me realize how much I wish the me then had known the me now.
You know, even though I was that kid, I had never liked drinking until the room spun and and I couldn’t walk straight along a yellow line. I had never liked putting my tongue down the wet throat of a boy who didn’t know my name to make sure I had a New Year’s kiss. I’ve never been interested in guys who have no vocabulary and are proud of themselves because they down a beer in 15 seconds.
As I look back I can see I’ve been old all along and now, eventually, my body has caught up to my head.
That’s why I told the Rooibaard I , “it’s fantastic, I love being old.”
I've grown the a place where I feel confident enough to be the real ME.
Why does it take us so long to know ourselves?
There is something about trying to be someone who you are not that corrupts your soul. It’s exhausting.
Yes, there is a piece of life, usually in our 20’s, where we have to figure out which outfit in the wardrobe of life looks good on us. The folded pleats, the black chiffon, or the lacy midriff? We have to hang out with different people, try them on and see if they fit.
Then, there comes a point where we need to know what looks good on us; what we like and what we don’t. We need to know what makes us happy and what feels like squashing a fleshy piece of thigh into a size 0 pair of skinny jeans.
Perhaps, we take so long to listen to ourselves because we don’t want to accept who we really are. Perhaps we're scared to ask ourselves the not safe questions, like am okay with not being popular? Or, do I act this way this because someone hurt me? Is this really what I wanted?
Being honest with yourself is as difficult as being honest with someone else. And yet, held within it, honesty holds so much true freedom.
I didn’t spend the eve of 2017 tripping over drunk people- surprise, surprise. As planned, I didn’t do anything remarkably “cool”. I had a seafood braai, 3 glasses of champagne and danced to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” in the Living Room.
It was fantastic. I loved it and most of all, it was ME. Whatever choices you're making now, think about them. Don't do something that isn't you.
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