HAPPY NEW YEAR // THINGS I LEARNED IN 2014

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Happy New Year my dear dear Internet brothers and sisters! I went to the Ellis Park Pool today and saw these girls coming out of a taxi going to the pool. I got in my car and watched the taxi door open to spill out not one, not two, not three, not four but five of these little ladies and I couldn’t resist. I went up to them and asked for a picture and while they were quick to pose, they didn’t seem too phased. Who are they? Such blatant fierceness fills those floral dresses. You can’t see it in the picture, but they all have the Lupita line in their hair and that just makes me smile and reflect on the greatness that was 2014.

2014 was undoubtedly the most significant year of my life so far. It is the year I tried on my adult self and she fit like a glove. I went through a life changing Saturn Return from the middle of 2013 when I was 28 and last year resulted a series of intense changes in how my mind functioned, how I saw myself, how I saw the world and ultimately, it meant a drastic change in how I occupy the space I take up in the world.  This year I turn 30 and I can’t wait. I know why the world has taught women to hate or fear getting older, and it’s because you become stronger, you take less shit, you stop trying to convince people to like you, you like you enough, you take things less personally and hopefully you’re choosing better people to surround you. At least that’s what this getting older business feels like to me. Yesterday I read this quote and felt so validated:

If you’re not losing friends, then you’re not growing up. 

Hayi kabi. Some friendships die natural deaths, other people disappear for a while and come back when the relationship is better suited to survive, others leave and you realize that they were never meant to stay forever and other people are just pieces of shit that stagnate your growth and so they must be flushed. This of course allows for stronger, better and more fulfilling friendships either with people who have always been there or new forces that are physical representations of your personal improvement project and social sublimation.   In the last 12 months, in the simplest terms, I grew up.

Last year I made a list of things that I learned, experienced, loved and hated about 2013 and what I looked forward to in the new year.  Here is this year’s list of things that made 2014 an awesome year of growth:

I read and reread the most mind decolonizing books (I Write What I Like is a good start)

I became part of a black feminist reading group

I studied the meaning of love for the self, for others and for another, thanks to bell hooks’ All About Love

I made some beautiful new friends who inspired me to eat better, read more and trust people more

I made some boy friends. Coming from a girls school background and a family with no brothers, I finally learned that one does not always need to equate masculinity with sexuality.

Speaking of sexuality, I got introduced to the idea of the power of female sexuality and how we give so much of it away because we are taught to. However, I am yet to harness the power of my female sexuality.

Somebody told me about The New School and my dream to study haunts me on the daily as a result. I also became acquainted with The New School’s YouTube page and it’s like dipping yourself in intelligence serum.

I made an effort to learn as much as I could about racism and sexism.

I became very angry at whiteness and maleness and their relationship to black womanhood

While I still have ugly days, I genuinely stopped thinking I was ugly.  My default view of myself stopped being negative and self flagellating.  This is because I became a lot more aware of how much patriarchy and our society’s commitment to misogyny and misogynoir affect how women perceive themselves and behave.

I learned and now regularly use the word misogynoir

I started to bake my own bread and it resulted in less carb intake and improved skill in the kitchen

I started saving money every month for the first time in my life. Consistently. Not a lot but something

I learned the difference between: getting into a relationship because you are in love and getting into a relationship because you want to change your Facebook status

I let go of the fantastical idea of romantic love and realized I don’t want to fall in love, I want to be standing up straight and walking into a situation with my eyes open.

I learned about the power of Skype and the detriment of the ”last seen” functionality on Whatsapp

I became a lot more critical about some things (like Mandela’s legacy) and a lot more relaxed about other things (like when someone doesn’t text or call you back within the window frame of respect, the world does in fact, keep on spinning)

I became black and proud

I am currently studying the various permutations of feminism and am at odds with some aspects of it like the place for black women within traditional feminism but I am committed to not complaining and blaming as much, but manifesting solutions.

I fell in love with my mother when our adult selves spent time together alone

I became an aunt to a beautiful baby boy and realized motherhood is a skill I currently do not possess

I got introduced to the idea of the imagination in writing and how important it is as a tool for freedom

I decided that I would make a documentary and the universe listened

I cried less for self indulgent matters and more for giving a fuck about other people

I took on a racist company and lost but felt good about acting

I learned that the value of discipline at work and in life starts with discipline in the smallest things. An example of this are the acts of a) making my bed every day b) ensuring that there are no dirty dishes in the sink at the end of the day c) washing my face and brushing my teeth diligently twice a day. I used to hate doing all three of these things because they are uncreative and unstimulating chores. But a simple change of attitude when doing all three helped.  Being conscious and performing those tasks with presence of mind and the view of them as loving acts to myself and the people I care for made them acts of love.  This might sound pretentious and lame if you have a family of 4 but I live alone and if I don’t do these things for myself, they add to an underlying anxiety that comes with our modern world’s pressure to balance our external lives with our internal minds.

Practicing mindfulness in the smallest of ways helped me develop the strength to quit smoking and McDonalds and to stop drinking for 66 days, which was something I thought was impossible. Now alcohol is not a central feature in my social life. Waking up without a hangover is priceless.

I wrote at least one excellent article that I will always be proud of

I started to pray out loud

I didn’t leave my ancestors and they didn’t leave me

I became more vulnerable

I broke some promises 🙁

I stopped (after 18 years) trying to get men to like me. Convincing anyone to like you is stupid

I cheated on This American Life with Radio Lab and I felt terrible about it. Then wrote a note to get over myself

I became less scared when I learned about the power of breathing and focusing on the truth

I learned that time well spent really makes me happy, not money

I learned that my self esteem should not be linked to my productivity or lack there of

I bought an amazing desk

I learned that I will make a dumb decision at least once a week but the rate of dumb decision making has decreased incrementally over the last 12 months

I still need to work on thinking things through before saying them

I made an effort to not squeeze relationships with loved ones into the weekend. I see my friends during the weekday for garden lunches, walks and conversations not because I’m a free lancer, but because that was a choice I made to prioritize the things that make me feel good

I got over someone I was (regrettably) convinced I loved after learning that just because someone treats you well, better than anyone has ever treated you, doesn’t mean that it’s true love.  It just means that I have been treated like shit so often before that I gave noddy badge after noddy badge and for things that a partner is MEANT to do anyway.  Also, people who withhold their emotions for whatever reason are not stronger than those who are generous with their emotions.

Writing goals down will never get old. Not achieving some is okay

I learned that service to others is worth a lot more than self-service. But self improvement is necessary to be of better service to others.

Most importantly, I learned growth is the one thing we can always rely on.  Here’s to a year full of healthy challenges, the pursuit for truth, integrity, love and self-determination and more time spent with people who make you feel alive.

Happy New Year! Please share your lessons and goals in the comments section below.

 

x

// Comments (17)
  • Amy says:

    Oh I love you!

  • Bahleza says:

    Hi Milli,

    Great post – pity that not many people saw it due to the holidays.

    In 2014 I have learnt that whatever will be will be – I try less to control people, my relationships with them etc. This has liberated me.

    I have also learnt that being an excellent mother is more important than being an ever ready and available girlfriend.

    I realised the love that my parents have for me.

    I have learnt that baby steps make a difference – in all aspects. I was a go big or go home kind of person, and many a times things would not come through at the rate I was expecting, and therefore my progress would be non existent because of the all or nothing attitude. This lesson applied in all areas in my life.

    I started taking better care of myself: I bought proper grooming products. I grew a garden so that I can eat healthily everyday. I made a vision board.

    I realised that there was nothing wrong with me! People’s actions and reactions towards me were not a reflection of me, but them. (Four Agreements)

  • Lefentse says:

    WOW!! S0 profound, thank you.

  • Heather says:

    I learned that Maya was right all along. People don’t care or remember what you say. Nah, never that. They remember how you made them feel. Dassit. So why worry about exposing yourself anyway? But that being said, always be kind, always.

  • Really great and inspiring post! I share so many of your lessons as 2014 was an equally core-shaking year for me.

    I learnt the power of operating from gratitude. I read somewhere that gratitude unlocks the fullness of life and am awe of its truth everyday.

    I lost my mom to cancer, let my heartbreak and learning to walk through life with “the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child.”

    I’m amazed at how unprepared human beings are for the finality of death.

    I discovered Sheryl Sandberg thanks to an Oprah Masterclass and am now more determined than ever to make meaningful contributions to society. How this is going to happen is unknown but will unfold.

    I’ve learnt to give my family the best of me and see the best in them.

    I ran the 10 km Soweto Marathon and had “spnning is winning” as a bbm status on the regular.

    I became oh so aware of God’s faithfulness and learnt to love Him without guilt.

    I became more confident in my writing ability and in the workplace all round.

    These are just some of the many things that have prepared me for 2015. Within the first week of it I turned 26, got engaged and moved to Joburg. The greatness that I’ve been on the brink of is here and I’m ready to own it.

    Love, love
    Lenny

  • Zethu says:

    I love you so much! When I turn 30 (after turning 25 this year) I want to be as brave and beautiful and proud as you are! (I personally loved Praying out loud)

  • Milli Bongela says:

    🙂 Thank you sweet Zethu! All my best wishes for 2015

  • Nangamso Jacobs says:

    I can soooo identify with 99% of the stuff you’ve listed.
    Here’s to a 2015 filled with more learning and growth and finally turning 30!!
    1985 are the coolest! ‘stru bob!

  • Happy New year Milli, your post inspired me to reflect on how 2014 was for me; all the things I learnt, all the let-downs and all the things that made me smile even through the worst moments. I was also Inspired to write a post about my best and worst moments of 2014 and things that I hope to achieve in 2015, you can have a look whenever you have a sec.

    Thank you for being a constant inspiration. I love how honest your blog is, it gives those who don’t know you personally, such as myself, a glimpse into your personality and I must say, you seem like a truly amazing person. All the best with 2015

    Love
    Lornz

  • Gugu says:

    Definitely the New Year article of the year for me! 🙂
    Thank you so very much.
    I have flipped back to pages forgotten, and realised that 2014 was my year of reflection. The entire year. I’d been shedding for many years and have found that I have finally grown into some solid skin. Everything you said about life, relationships, self-love, feminism, fear and mind f*ckery spoke directly with my soul.

    2014’s lesson for me was, understanding the difference between an internal boundary and intuition – and really allowing my spirit to revel, dance and swim through the exploration.

    In 2014 I peeled a foreign reflection off my mirror and finally met the stranger who has loved me all my life.

    Your enlightened spirit radiates through the screen and I would love to join you and the wild women at the feminist reading group. Will drop you a mail.

  • Amy-rae R says:

    Hi Milli,

    Only reading this now but it doesn’t make it less insightful and punchy. I really enjoy reading your work so thank you.

    I concur with everything you’ve written and with the second commenter Bahleza. Maturity is such a beautiful thing! I love that I’ve grown up and am still growing up.

    Last year (my quarter of a century) was eye-opening & defining for me in three ways:

    1) I became a feminist and 2) I started noticing racism & privilege (mine included) in basically everything and it shook me to the core. Initially I felt sad that we still have such a long way to go in eradicating a “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” and as such I started opening my mouth when those close to me would start saying ridiculous things such as: “Its so typical of… bla bla bla”.
    I refuse to keep quiet when I people spew out ignorant and racist shit and no one schools them. No.

    3) I actually don’t give a fuck about whether I “fit” into anyone’s mold of beauty. I ADORE my dreads and no they are not “unprofessional”.

    I hope that 2015 will be a year of ME. The year where I appreciate myself more and achieve as many of the goals I’ve written for myself this year.

    Blessings to you

  • Milli Bongela says:

    I also hope that 2015 will be the year of YOU Amy Rae! Go on with your bad self!

  • Nomali says:

    Beautiful girls. My sister’s just had to cut her german cut (with the line) because umfaniswano is oppressive af.

    Slay 2k15. Slay your entry into the wonder 30s. All the love.

  • Palesa Lehoko says:

    Why am I only discovering this blog now? Amazing post, inspiring lady, I have a crush on your personality!! Lovit!

  • ngazibini booi says:

    hi Milli
    firstly, i literally want to hug you through this computer screen. you’re amazingly talented and gifted in being able to reach so deep into the soul with your writing.
    2014 was immensely difficult for me, I literally staggered to the finish line drenched in sweat and tears, but i made it nonetheless. the year taught me that
    *never stay away from home too long, family is Love*hot water softens potatoes and hardens eggs, i found out what I’m made of and this skin is thicker now *i had become arrogant and big headed about my successes and attributed them to only MY doing, it took hard times to humble me and open my eyes to forces much greater than I *motivating and supporting others showed me a side of myself that i don’t always give a chance *exercise and balanced eating benefited me mentally and physically
    in 2015 i look forward to
    *im looking forward to finding my spiritual compass *learning how to pray again * venture outside my cocoon and close mindedness *going back to mirror conversations with myself because it benefits my state of mind so much *taking good care of my fro *saving monthly * showing my legs and feet (that i feel insecure about) more *appreciating my family more *be a better lover to my man*embrace and constantly evaluating the woman I’m becoming
    Wanga unyaka wakho ungasikeleleka, uyokozele ngamathamsanqa.camagu!

  • Milli Bongela says:

    Oh my god, I don’t know if it’s pms or your writing but I teared up at ”hot water softens potatoes and hardens eggs” – that so so so sums up the way I’m feeling at the moment. Thank you for this, thank you for sharing and A BIG BIG BIG HUG BACK TO YOU! 🙂

  • Milli Bongela says:

    HELLO PALESA 🙂 THANK YOU SO MUCH! WELCOME WELCOME

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