It’s both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so deeply

Facebook wanted to give me a year in review video; I declined. I didn’t want to share a shitty, posed, composed review of what my life was like this year. Because let’s face it, that’s all social really is right now isn’t it? Filters.

Back in England people kept asking me why I would give up all of what Cape Town is, for a dirty, polluted city. And at some point, I wondered that too. But coming (going, I dunno) back home was very emotive for me. It brought up a lot of old feelings that I thought I’d outgrown. It made me remember all the reasons why I couldn’t stay in Cape Town and why it was so easy for me to walk away from all this untouched beauty. I wanted to explain what I mean by that, because I didn’t want people to take it personally and think that it’s a stab at Cape Town.. it’s not.

I’ve never told anyone this before, maybe because I didn’t really understand it. As MJ and I drove to the beach, windows down, Mae – Suspension playing loud in the car, something clicked in my head. It was like everything up in there just straightened up and everything finally made sense. I realized why I left. And don’t get me wrong, because in that exact moment I felt completely and entirely happy. I turned to MJ and told him, “this is why we came back, for days like these.” And in a parallel universe, I also felt extremely sad. It was like everything I’ve experienced in the last 20+ years of my life came crashing back at once and it was very overwhelming. My life here in Cape Town hasn’t been all blue skies and white sandy beaches. I remember it to be filled with death, heartache, trauma, misunderstandings, mistakes. Even as I write this, I feel completely raw… in Bikram yoga there’s a pose called camel – which leaves your heart feeling very exposed and the instructor even tells you that you’ll feel a bit emotional after this pose because you’re literally bending backwards, opening up your rib cage to expose your heart. But while doing this, you’re strengthening your spine. And that’s exactly how I feel right now.. it’s kinda poetic.

I’ve gone through some traumatic things in my childhood that changed who I was when I was 7, and will probably stay with me forever. And seeing the people who were involved in this experience on a regular basis, having their name pop up in conversations or just the thought that I would maybe bump into them even when I didn’t want to, didn’t give me the chance to fully heal from all that. I needed to get away from it altogether. What has happened has influenced my lifestyle, my personality, my choices in life. I’m completely confident with who I am because of this, and it doesn’t own me at all. I don’t think I would ever have felt this way about this if I didn’t leave Cape Town.

I also didn’t have a great relationship with my dad until I was like 21… and then he passed away when I was 22. I’ve seen loads of deaths in my family before his, but his death has undeniably been the worst one for me, naturally. And this week in Cape Town people have told me stories about my dad that makes me really sad that he’s not around and also, that I didn’t get to know that side of him. I remember the day he died very vividly, every horrible detail.. from seeing him in the ambulance with a hundred pipes in his body.. to the moment the doctor told us he didn’t make it.. and I screamed and tugged at his lifeless body telling him to wake the fuck up. I wrote him letters for months after he died. I didn’t want the only memories of him to be the painful ones, like.. when I sat at the back of the car at a taxi rank and watching as a guy bash a pole across his face. No child should have to witness a parent being beaten like that. But I also have some fond memories of him, which are very sacred to me. Like when he taught me how to drive and I crashed my first car. It was a tiny dent in the wheel but I cried and cried and he got it fixed for me instantly. And when I opened up my acceptance letter to the most prestigious ad school in South Africa (Red & Yellow) and he hugged me because he knew how hard I worked to get in. The hug felt weird because we weren’t that type of family, but the memory is still fond. I will always regret not trying with him. In my defense, I was a child and going through my own shit.. I always thought I’d have more time.

At breakfast yesterday my aunts pointed out the owner of the restaurant and told me that it’s because of my dad that that guy has got his life together and in turn made such a success of it; because my dad mentored him and got him to quit drugs. It made me feel really proud of him, and wished he could’ve been sitting with us at the table right then.

Just being in this house too makes me feel different. It makes me feel like the person I was when I was going through all the shit and no one knew. It’s like I never left; like I am still 16 and everything is happening all over again. The only difference is I’m stronger now. I’m not a 16 year old kid who only had punk rock as a weapon to defend myself.

Leaving Cape Town, as beautiful as it is, has been the best decision of my life. And not because I get to live in London. Obvz that’s a bonus, and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be able to do that. But I think if it weren’t London, it’d be somewhere else. Somewhere new, far away, on the other side of the world. London allows me to be the best version of myself. London has been the place that has allowed me to reach for the stars and go balls out crazy on being me. I am able to focus on myself, without having to consider anyone and anything. I am able to ground myself and find myself whole-heartedly and outside of everything I’ve been through.

I never realized how deeply I feel things; like everyday things. Like driving down Rosmead and seeing so many guys just sitting with their construction tools and waiting on the street for someone to stop who might have a job for them that might pay R100 (£5) a day. Some get lucky and get picked up for jobs, while others sit there day and in and day out morning till night just waiting. That’s not a life to look forward to. And that’s not something I want to see on my way to work everyday, where I get to drink my hipster coffee and sit in an air-conditioned office and not deal with poverty. The divide between rich and poor in Cape Town is so big that it fills me with immense guilt. Every single time I even bought myself a tshirt or new trainers, I’d try to justify why it was okay to spend that much on myself, when others are starving just down the street. I hated it. I hated it because I could never save everyone and it killed me inside. And that’s why I always said  that my Cannes Lion would be for social for good. I want to do something more with my creative skills, something meaningful.

I’ve learnt so much about myself over the last few years. This year I had the balls to get on a skateboard and teach myself to skate. This is something I’ve always wanted to do growing up but never had the balls to. I’m so glad that I finally came to terms with the idea of falling because skateboarding has opened up a whole new world for me. I’ve always been an outcast in life. I rejected the academic school system and studied art instead (well, advertising, but you know what I mean). I was never a ‘normal’ kid, for many reasons… I didn’t have a normal family life, I wasn’t into the regular things kids were into.. and because society always hero’d the normal, I always felt like less of a person. And the skate culture is like… the more weird you are, the more of an outcast you are and the more you don’t fit in with society’s norm, the better you feel about yourself. It’s the same with punk rock music (the music that shaped who I am today) but it just feels like that realisation came together more for me when I started skateboarding. It allowed me to fully embrace my difference and not apologize for it.

My year in review has been the ultimate camel pose: brutal to the heart and so rewarding for the spine (figuratively).

Here’s to 2017.

L