At the end of 2016, I was exhausted. My sleeping habits were a mess and my appetite was virtually non-existent; I was deeply stressed, unhappy, emotional and harassed. People were bullying and manipulating me, lying to me, hurting me, and I was going out of my mind wondering what on earth was going in my life. I was completely depleted and crawled through the last two months of the year. I won’t lie; with each day, it was harder and harder for me to get out of bed. I was going to the gym pretty much daily, but I felt really weak. Wake up, shower, get dressed; neat bun, lipstick, fix on a smile and try harder than I normally had to, to concentrate on my work. It was one of the hardest periods of my life as an emerging adult. No matter how tearful and broken you are, you still have to show up, clean, polished, smiling and charming. Get through an entire day without cracking, then go home and prepare for a repeat. There was so much negativity and ugly energy in my life. I was hurt, angry, frustrated and heartbroken. I really needed a break.
I knew what I needed: a get-away. Somewhere deep in the mountains, remote and mysterious; still; a little fresh stream running by the side of a white cottage, hunks of firewood hewn and sitting by the side of a rock fireplace ready for the night. I could picture it. Somewhere cold, clean and fresh. Extra blue sky, thick, billowing milky white clouds sighing gently and lazily pushing each other side to side, mist weaving through the thick tree-trunks. A new start. I wanted to purge every single emotion, bawl my eyes out, go running until I couldn’t breathe from the cold air piercing my lungs and could only concentrate on my next breath and nothing more. Eat some fresh fruit, drink icy-cold hard water, immerse my body in even colder water, pray for deliverance and reflect on my life. Shake off the pain, hurt, fear and loss of the year.
Talk to God.
When I was younger, my closest cousins lived everywhere around the country. They moved from Chindunduma to Madziva to Chiredzi and to countless other places I no longer recall. I remember travelling to see them- for a birthday party, for a holiday visit. But what I remember most was when they moved to the mountains. At some point my uncle finally decided to settle and chose the Eastern Highlands region. They still moved around from time to time, but it was now concentrated within the region. It was closer than other places they had lived in, so when we had the chance, we would travel down to their side of the world. It was then that I first fell in love.
I have been to the Eastern Highlands numerous times over the years. I remember for our Grade Seven trip we went to a camp called Far and Wide. Unfortunately there was a cyclone passing through the region and most of the trip for the teachers and chaperones involved panicked parents checking in to make sure their beloved children had not been swept away. Blissfully unaware of the drama, we swam in the Mtarazi River every morning mispronouncing it like the white lady who ran the place did. It was only a few years later that we realised that the correct pronunciation is actually the Shona Mutarazi and not Mmm… Tarahziii. Those morning sessions before we hit the team building poles and trails were brutally freezing and supposedly character-building; I don’t remember where the certificate I got for lasting the week is, today. But I remember how great a time we had, completely oblivious of the panic our parents were apparently going through. Youth!! I’m not sure if Far and Wide is still functional, but it still looked pretty good when we drove past on the way to the Mtarazi Falls, so I am hopeful that it is still serving other children.
I love to travel; I always have. My mom enjoys reminding me that when I was younger I would confidently declare that I wanted to be a tourist when I grew up. We traveled quite a lot when we were younger and I guess it has just stuck. I love the idea of packing up and going far away for a bit, to find a different piece of myself. It calms and centres me. And I always look forward to coming home to my bed after a healthy jaunt full of overexertion, love and reflection. I hate not having the money to do it more, but it is something that I have prioritised going forward, so I pray it works out.
The Eastern Highlands remains one of my favourite spaces, and is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the world. I always feel at peace when I am there. Completely light and magical. Time moves slower, the air is cleaner, the company keener, the earth feels more solid beneath my feet. I can breathe again. I think in a few years once I have made my first few hundred thousands in the corporate rat race, I will be investing in a cottage property deep in the mountains far away from the stress of daily life. It really is a hermit life. There isn’t even a supermarket anywhere close! Everything is locally sourced. Fish, fresh fruit, vegetables, wild mushrooms.
I went for early morning runs through the mud and dew with my Dad; pointlessly winding explorations with my sisters while my mom slept soundly and graciously declined all invitations to go outside until the rain stopped or at least until the bacon was fried and safely in her stomach! I was glad everyone was getting what they needed. You don’t know how wonderful it is to wander and to get lost in whatever you are doing with no conception of time and schedules and deadlines. Bitterly cold air, breathtaking sights, overwhelming greenery, earthy new potatoes, sweet white wine and scalding local tea. Finally putting the off-road vehicle to full use and not just navigating the gaping potholes in the city. Family and love. It was calming and a beautiful end to an unbelievably ugly year. Even writing about it now is making me happy and calm.
More than anything, I was happy. My phone was reduced to a fantastic camera and not a source of stress. For a change, my earphones were not semi-permanently attached to my ears blocking out the noise as there was no noise! I was not running. Not figuratively at least. I was calm, restful and peaceful. I was happy. You have no idea how important it is to have those things in your life. The men who had been stressing me out were the last thing on my mind. No one was making demands of me or angering me. Zero distractions. It was one of the purest experiences I enjoyed the whole year, and I returned clean and soft and glowing, inside-out, determined to cling to those feelings for as long as possible.
One of my colleagues asked me what my resolutions are for the year.
“To be happy,” I replied.
“Wow. That’s a lot. In a way, it’s everything,” was his response.
And I smiled because he got it. I am my top priority this year. My happiness, my peace of mind, my goals and success. Me. No compromises. Because what I learnt from my first real year of being an adult in an adult environment, was how easy it is to get lost and be drowning in things that have no place in your life. It sounds childlike to actively work for happiness, but I have found that the only way to get what you want and need, is to actively fight for it. It will never come to you while you sit and absorb the mundane unhappiness and drudgery of everyday life. You have to fight for it, and hang onto it for as long as it will have you. I am grateful I learnt that lesson.
Thank you for reading.❤️️