Issuu on Google+

The book is compiled and edited by Samantha Page. Samantha is currently the editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, and it is under her leadership that the magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary in April 2012.

A percentage of the profit will be donated to help2read.org

9 781431 404223

ISBN 978-1-4314-0422-3 www.jacana.co.za

Edited by Samantha Page

From Me To Me is for the teenager wondering what life is all about, someone looking back on their youth or seeking unpretentious wisdom, or just a chance to meet some of your favourite personalities, before the fame.

From Me to Me

From Me To Me: Letters to my 16½-year-old self is a collection of letters written by South Africans – from headliners to ordinary people and everyone else in between – to their younger selves and published with photographs of them as teenagers.


Letters to my 16½-year-old self

Edited by Samantha Page

3

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 3

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Published by Jacana Media (Pty) Ltd in 2012 10 Orange Street Sunnyside Auckland Park 2092 South Africa +2711 628 3200 www.jacana.co.za Š Individual contributors, 2012 All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-4314-0422-3 Also available as an e-book dPDF ISBN 978-1-4314-0437-7 C over design Shawn Paikin and Maggie Davey Set in Glypha 9.5/14.5pt Job No. 001820 See a complete list of Jacana titles at www.jacana.co.za

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 4

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Dedicated with love and gratitude to my grandparents and parents who nurtured me, my sisters who support and inspire me, and my husband and son who always make me feel loved

5

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 5

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Acknowledgments

My GrAtItUDE tO EACh of the contributors, who shared their story, gave of their time and believed this project could liberate and inspire them and others. heartfelt thanks and gratitude to Jacana Media, especially thabiso Mahlape, for entrusting me with this project and for gently guiding me through the process. Marc hendricks and I bonded over Shakespeare when we were 16 years old. We have been friends ever since. he has been a better friend to me than I have ever been to him and loves me for who I am. Shaun Viljoen, many years ago you walked into my lecture theatre and read the poetry of Neruda and yevtushenko – that day the trajectory of my life changed. your gift to teach, inspire and open new worlds will never go unacknowledged. Martin Myers, you are a man of your word and you know how to get things done.

7

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 7

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Introduction

“the best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought unique and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” – Alan Bennet, screenwriter

WhAt DO yOU kNOW NOW that you wish your 16-and-a-half-year-old self knew then? that’s the question I asked 48 prominent South African men and women, from different fields and backgrounds, ideologies and disciplines, and their answers are sweet, poignant, tragic, shocking, inspiring, endearing and liberating because, through the passage of time, whether we like it or not, we all learn a lot about ourselves. Personally, I didn’t know very much about myself at 16 and, like most 16-year-olds, I was uncertain about everything. I knew that I loved reading robin Cook’s medical thrillers and listening to Michael Franks (during

9

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 9

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


my moody phase) and Prince and the revolution (during my I-need-tobe-my-own-person phase); I knew that I vehemently disliked feta cheese and would rather eat a Waldorf salad without the walnuts and Greek salad without the olives; I knew I had to keep my weight down and my marks up; and I was certain that, more than anything, I wanted to own a pair of Converse All-Star high-top takkies, and to rise above my station as the “baby” of my family. Until I started working on this book, I hadn’t thought about 1988, the year I turned 16, very much. It was part of my life’s landscape, but it was ground I’d covered; there seemed no reason to return. I know many of the contributors’ thinking echoed mine but, like me, they were intrigued by the opportunity this cathartic assignment presented. We all realised we were harbouring unprocessed sentiments that could finally be expressed and, hopefully, healed; that, with the benefit of hindsight, we would have more compassion for who were then; and that, ultimately, the exercise would be more validating than we ever could have imagined. I have been so moved by all the letters, and by the commitment the contributors have shown in seeing the process through. For some, the experience was a little too real and I had to literally drag them across the finish line with me, but they are so glad I did. there’s no way we can change what was, unsay, undo, unthink the things that caused angst and uncertainty, but we can heal the past to bring hope to the present and the future.

10

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 10

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


reading has always been an emotional experience to me, a gift to travel to other worlds and see life through a different lens, and as a former teacher I always want others to also feel like “a hand has come out and taken yours”; which is why a portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to my chosen charity, help2read, an organisation who uses trained adult volunteers to help primary school children learn to love books and become confident readers. the missives in this book will give you insight into the men and women who have contributed, but our journeys are so individual that I’d like to encourage you to write a letter of your own, and to allow the process to help you find comfort, joy, laughter and vindication in the advice and insight your older self will undoubtedly supply.

Samantha Page Cape town May 2012

11

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 11

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Alan Knott-Craig

Dear Young Me ( age 16) DON’t WAStE A SECOND OF yOUr LIFE. you’re young, you think you’re invincible and, right now, you could never conceive of your life ever coming to an end, but it will, and as you grow older, it will seem to pass you by at an ever-increasing speed. (tIP: read Einstein’s

theories of relativity – it’s clever and fun.) And there is nothing worse than trying to make up for lost time when you feel yours is running out. Make sure you have fun, no matter what you do. And, regardless of what your friends may tell you, hard work can be fun, too. Don’t forget to fall in love, out of love, and back in love when you’re young. It’s much easier, and less painful, than when you’re older. Life is tough, and you will have to be strong to get through it, but don’t confuse toughness with cruelty. Being tough means you’re willing to fight for and defend everything that means the most to you, which is admirable, particularly when you feel the whole world is conspiring against you. this may surprise you, but you will achieve real success, so it’s important to remember that everyone defines success differently. What’s of greater importance is how you define it. Don’t settle for average or mediocre based on what others think or feel. If you decide to be the best you can be, you’ll have no regrets.

12

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 12

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


And if you should ever have power (trust me – I have a little insight here), be careful how you wield it. Use it to make the world a better place not to make you feel superior. have the courage to be decisive, and sure of yourself, but not so sure that you cannot learn from others. Be humble in success and brave in failure. And when those failures come (and they will), try to put your emotions in perspective and use the energy to drive not drain you. Choose kindness. Every kindness you show to others is bound to make you a happier man. Laugh whenever you can. It will energise you, and those around you. read, read, read… Always build – anything, anywhere – and try to leave something you’re proud of for future generations; something you can touch. Be gentle, respectful and generous and take comfort in the fact that, in the end, everything always works out, as it should.

From Your older and wiser self

ALAN kNOtt-CrAIG Sn r is the CEO of Cell C. he is considered to be one of the leading thinkers in the Afr ican mobile telecommunications sec tors, but he’s also a nature lover, author and a man who believes in building up rather than breaking down.

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 13

13

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Elvis Blue Dear Jan ( you haven 't changed your name yet) SOME OF thE thINGS thAt ArE ON yOUr mind right now (females, sport, music…) shouldn’t be shared in this public forum – it could get quite embarrassing for me – your older self! Although you have a fairly carefree attitude to life, I know there’s always an underlying fear of the future. your marks aren’t great, and you’re not one of the cool kids, despite how hard you try to fit in. (Next year will be a noteworthy year for you, though, because you reach puberty, which will be a big deal for the other boys in school.) So, between your sketchy grades, squeaky voice and your skin that acts up at the most inconvenient times, you often feel inadequate and out of place. you’re really just a regular 16-year-old, with the same issues as your peers, but right now you can’t see it. So what advice can I give you? I have thought a lot about this over the past few weeks. I even asked my friends on Facebook (trust me, you’re going to have a following you couldn’t imagine now) how they would answer this question. I had about 200 suggestions in response to my post. this is a classic case of having so much to say, with so little time… or space in this case. So, I decided to narrow my advice to you down to three words that have helped me/us a lot in the past: timing, choices and opportunities. TIMING Life is hard. you will have good and bad times, and you will experience the hurt of heartbreak and the joy of love. you will have times of plenty and times when you are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Very few things are forever, so always remember that life can change in a second. Many doors

14

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 14

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


will stay closed to you, but it is important that you keep knocking because circumstances change and you never know when one of those doors might open. Don’t compare yourself to others – just persevere and keep going even when things are tough. Oh yes, when you turn 30, make sure you enter

Idols. I have a feeling you could do well in something like that. remember this advice when things are going well, too. Don’t get too comfortable because anything can happen. Enjoy what you have and where you are. Be thankful for the time you are given and try to enjoy every second. CHOICES Do you know who you want to be? Do you have a picture in your mind? Do you want to be the fat cat with the fancy car, or do you want to leave a legacy through actions that impact the world and yourself? I know I probably sound a little corny and sentimental, but this is serious stuff. If you don’t have any idea who you want to be, you will always be aimlessly floating around, following the latest trend. I’m not talking about the career path you plan to follow. What I’m asking is, Do you know what kind of man you want to be? I suggest the following: • Be a man who opens the door for his wife. • Be someone who learns to be friendly even when you don’t feel like it. • Be someone who apologises when you’ve done something wrong. • Be someone who is friendly to petrol attendants, waiters and domestic workers. • Be someone who tells the truth even if it is hard. • Be someone who is faithful. true love takes commitment and, as is the case with most useful pursuits, hard work to succeed. • Make a difference to the lives of others – it will make you feel great. Share your money and your life. Empty your closet every once in a while. • Choose integrity. there will always be people who take short cuts, and it will appear that they get where they want to be quicker, but I promise you that’s not the case. Integrity may take longer, but it always wins.

15

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 15

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


OPPORTUNITIES you will have many opportunities. you will miss some and, hopefully, grab a few. We are usually on the lookout for those big breaks – the record deal, easy money… But don’t be fooled. Sometimes the smallest opportunities have the greatest impact.

Let me illustrate this with this story: there was once an aspiring musician named Jan hoogendyk. he was a very good musician, but he had struggled for many years to make a success of his music career. he grabbed every opportunity that came his way and he was very hard working, but nothing seemed to work out for him. he ended up being a music teacher in a small town in the Western Cape. those opportunities didn’t amount to anything significant and he felt his dreams of making music for the masses had also died. he told himself it was important to be content and happy with what he had, but he always felt there could be more – if the right chance just came along. One day he got the opportunity to make music at a hospital for terminally ill patients. It wasn’t a highly publicised event – no one important would even hear him perform. he decided to go anyway. At this hospital, he met a youngster named Elvis Blaauw. Elvis was an interesting kid and the two

16

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 16

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


of them had an immediate connection. he also had a great name – Elvis Blaauw – or you could say, “Elvis BLUE”. Jan always thought this was such a cool name, and it was a very sad day for him when Elvis passed away. A year later Jan got the opportunity to enter a singing competition and he needed a stage name. Jan hoogendyk simply wasn’t going to cut it. So, the name that came to mind was Elvis Blue. the opportunity presented itself and he took it. Who knew what would happen? Jan (Elvis Blue) won the competition, and he got his chance to entertain the masses with his music. So why am I telling you all this? Because a seemingly insignificant event truly changed the entire course of your life, which is proof that sometimes the small things really do make the biggest difference. the things you do in private, driven by what’s true for you, will change you; they will build your character and help you to deal with the big opportunities when they come along. Well, I hope this helped, I really do. Enjoy the music friend...

Love, Elvis

in school young boy, singing a as d rte sta ey rn l jou ELVIS BLUE’s musica d Scotland. In 2010, of Johannesburg an ts ee str e th in ing le of choirs and busk won the covetted tit e spotlight when he th in ce pla like he a t ed fel rn s Elvis ea o alway for a young boy wh nic iro is ich wh l, South African Ido never quite fit in.

17

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 17

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Hanli Prinsloo

Hanli,dear! thIS IS FrOM ME, yOU … to us, you! you’re 16 and in standard 8 and, sjoe, I know,

really know, what you are going through. At the time of writing this letter, I/you are 33 and living in Cape town. Imagine that! there are some things I am hoping to share with you because, well, you being me, I would’ve appreciated the guidance. you have beautiful hair and, in my eyes, you are more or less perfect, so you should stop worrying about your looks – It – IS – A – WAStE – OF – tIME! And nobody’s opinion on that matter is, or will ever be, important. Don’t worry about being sure about everything. the most beautiful journeys are the windy ones. Wind and wander and enjoy all of it, secure in the knowledge that you will end up doing exactly what you love – I promise. But if you can incorporate some marine biology studies into that crooked path, do that! (Especially anything to do with sharks.) It’s a long story… (Maybe next time I’ll write you a book, not a letter.) Be careful about being so quick to judge others. you’ll end up doing some of the things you hate and despise the most in others to those you say you love; it’s harsh, but true, so be kind. I know you think it’s a schlep to live on a farm and drive 65 kilometres to and from school every day, but enjoy it. Go for long

18

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 18

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


walks and spend as much time outside as you can. Nothing lasts forever… and we end up missing the things we once thought were mundane. If it’s any consolation, your life works out as it should, and you are, always have been and, as far as I can tell from here, always will be loved – so love back. however, if you are ever faced with the choice between being loyal to a friend or a guy, choose the friend – always, always, always… Get to know your grandparents who are still alive. Do it – now! Put this letter down and call Ouma and Oupa Piet. honestly, they have the kind of wisdom and insight you will come to appreciate. Oh, and before I go, in a year’s time you’re going to have the urge to shave your hair. take my advice, don’t do it! keep swimming.

With love and hope and all things blue, Me

, record holder an free-diving ic fr A th u So t -times sea and is mos SLOO is an 11 e lives for the Sh r. hANLI PrIN re tu n ve ad who grew up d avid ocean sual for a girl u n u is h ic filmmaker an h e, w her watery hom comfortable in on a farm. 19

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 19

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Jodi Bieber

Hey Jodi I CAN ALrEADy SEE yOU LOOkING At thIS letter cynically and defiantly. It will be hard to swallow from where you sit now, an uncertain 16-year-old, but place this note somewhere close and read it once in a while, when you need encouragement. At 45, with more life experience and feeling wiser and more comfortable with myself, I, your older self, am writing to you. I know it’s tough for you to conform to how your family, community and school might want you to play out your life. your rebellious nature, questioning mind and challenging ways have made 16 a nightmare for you, but you have my word that life will get easier and, eventually, your individualistic nature will lead you to the path you were always meant to follow, and this course will bring with it great respect and life-affirming rewards. Most people and institutions don’t embrace non-conformity. It makes them feel uncomfortable, but don’t let them suppress your true nature. Believe in yourself enough to go where life leads you and live out your passions and your dreams. It won’t be easy and you will struggle and fight to make them a reality, but it will all be worth it in the end. remember your teachers are young, too, barely out of school themselves. your family want to love and protect you during the hurts and disappointments you’ll inevitably experience, and your friends, you’ll come to realise, are not the be all and end all of life. At some point in the future, these people will return, fleetingly, and you will be surprised at how differently you will feel about them. you might even find yourself having a giggle that you made

20

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 20

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


such a fuss about them at one time. Jodi, the road you are going to travel will come with obstacles, but think about them as part of the challenge and know there are rich, diverse experiences ahead. yes, I know you feel things deeply and you don’t take personal knocks lightly, but you need to remember that lessons help build character. Continue to keep an open heart and don’t be afraid to let others in. I want you to realise that how you are feeling and responding to the world will also nurture who you are and heighten your understanding and compassion for others. Stick to your guns and your journey will be an extraordinary one.

With love, Jodi

fags. P. S : Quit those ge Smoking is a hu waste of time! JODI BIEBEr is an aw ard-winning photograph er and photojournalist, who, in 2010, won the Wo rld Press Photo of the ye ar award for the haunting portrait of an Afghan woman maimed by her husband. She has always encouraged herself to seek out divers e experiences and extraordinary journeys. 21

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 21

2012/07/17 3:32 PM


Uyanda Mbuli

Dear Yanda It hAS BEEN DIFFICULt tO FIND thE tIME to sit down and write this letter to you. Despite the wonderful life you have now, there are always challenging periods that will test you, and this is one such time, but I know how strong you are and you will get through this with the help of your family and true friends. Our mom and sisters, khosi and Phumzile, have taught you that an inspired life can be borne out of adversity, with 100% support from your family. Simphiwe Majola, a dear friend, wrote this about the older you, inspired by Maya Angelou, and it’s still true today: “they know my name, not my story. they’ve read someone’s view of what I’ve done and who I am, not what I’ve been through and who I really am. If they were in my shoes, they’d fall after the first step. they shouldn’t even try to walk in my shoes; the heels are sky high!” this is good advice and you should always keep it in mind. your mother has been a guiding light all your life and these words of hers will carry you when you’re most down: “you have a personal calling and God has chosen you to fulfill it; it’s a journey only you, and no one else, can walk. Along the way people will hear of you and your journey – some will dislike you – but those who matter will truly love and respect you.” the confidence this knowledge gives you will build strength of character. I’ve always believed that no one can stop you from fulfilling your destiny – except you. I know you might be concerned about how people perceive you, that if some people only understood where you were coming from they wouldn’t

38

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 38

2012/07/17 3:33 PM


be so judgmental, which is why you love the words of that Nina Simone song so much (“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good; Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood…”), but, let me encourage you not to allow anyone else to write the lyrics to your song. All the sacrifices you make will be worth it because you will be blessed with a beautiful son who is an amazing gift to you, and when you have the opportunity to spend two weeks with him at the magnificent Jumeirah Beach in Dubai, don’t let the chance slip by. you will remember this time – the sun, the beach, the fun – as a magical, almost divine experience. you will share many other things with Landa – like your addiction to sushi. you’re even considering taking sushi lessons, so you can have sushi on demand. through the passing of time, many things will change, but a simple act of kindness still puts a smile on your face, and you are always meticulous about looking after your skin, which you will be thankful for when you’re older. you’ll also never part with the pearl earrings you received on your 18th birthday, which is proof that the one thing that is always “on-trend” is good taste, which you have plenty of. I have confidence in you and I am proud of all you will achieve. remember, life is too short to cruise through it without leaving footprints of your own.

Love always, Uyanda UyANDA MBULI is a for mer Mrs Globe and the owner and founder of fashion label Diamond Face Couture, who say s sh e has “dreamed big” from an early age. What’ s her secret to success ? She hasn’t allowed anyone else to write the lyrics to her song.

39

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 39

2012/07/17 3:33 PM


habi Redi Tl

Dear 16 -year old self I rEALLy ADOrE yOU AND, NOW that I’m looking at you through my adult eyes, I’m so amused and inspired by you. remember how fat, bubbly and carefree you were? What am I talking about? you DON’t remember being fat. Good for you! My 34-year-old self could really learn a thing or two from you. you were so busy being happy that you were oblivious to your weight problem and now, your adult self worries constantly about it. While I think it is great that you eventually became aware of it and adopted a healthy lifestyle defined by a nutritious diet and fitness, I think it was so great the way you just got on with life and focused on expressing your many talents and passions. But I do wish that you had not been so intense and taken life so seriously. remember how you used to spend sleepless nights wondering why the world was cruel and hurting so intensely when a friendship ended? I wish you’d known then that your life is a door and people walk in and out, and either way, it is okay. I am sorry that I didn’t let you be as light hearted and as exuberant as you deserved to be back then; you were a child and I burdened you with serious thoughts on the meaning of life and the purpose of your existence. there would have been plenty of time to ponder these vexing questions, but not at 16! Do you remember quitting maths when the going got tough even though your teachers insisted that you had the potential, but were being lazy? I’m

63

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 63

2012/07/17 3:33 PM


so glad you stood up for yourself because if you don’t enjoy something, why do it? I love that you turned your focus on other stuff even though some said you were a quitter. It is okay to quit sometimes, even for selfish reasons – good girl for knowing that. But you know, for a clever girl, you were a tad silly at times. remember how that loser, thabiso (I hear he is a bodyguard now) tried to persuade you to give up your virginity? you liked older guys and at 23 he was already a father to a little boy and was more experienced than you. I laugh now when I think about how he tried to talk you in to letting him “put it in” and told you not to worry about pregnancy because he was “preventing”. Admit it, you did not immediately reject that nonsense. you even asked him “how so” and he said “ka injection”. I know you didn’t believe him, but you were thinking, “really is that possible?” Silly girl, of course not! But at least you kept your legs closed. Imagine a bodyguard taking your virginity. yUCk! So this is just to say thank you for being a great yOU, for reading and being a thinker, but next time we turn 16 again, let’s laugh a bit more!

Love, Redi

rEDI tLhABI is a broa dcast journalist and ha s worked in both telev and radio for more th ision an a decade. She is cu rre nt ly the presenter of th tlhabi Show on talk e redi radio 702 and 567 Ca pe talk and a columnis Sunday times. to ma t for the rk her 30th birthday, four years ago, she ran Comrades Marathon he r first – something her 16-ye ar-old self couldn’t ev en imagine.

64

FROM_ME_TO_ME.indd 64

2012/07/17 3:33 PM


The book is compiled and edited by Samantha Page. Samantha is currently the editor of O, The Oprah Magazine, and it is under her leadership that the magazine celebrated its 10th anniversary in April 2012.

A percentage of the profit will be donated to help2read.org

9 781431 404223

ISBN 978-1-4314-0422-3 www.jacana.co.za

Edited by Samantha Page

From Me To Me is for the teenager wondering what life is all about, someone looking back on their youth or seeking unpretentious wisdom, or just a chance to meet some of your favourite personalities, before the fame.

From Me to Me

From Me To Me: Letters to my 16½-year-old self is a collection of letters written by South Africans – from headliners to ordinary people and everyone else in between – to their younger selves and published with photographs of them as teenagers.


From Me to Me