This one time, I chased this guy like he was the mother fucking Rolling Stones and it all blew up in my overzealous little face.
Years ago, I left my birth place of Cape Town in a blaze of glory. Goodbye fuckers! I am outta here. See ya! Wouldn’t wanna be ya! People were like, ‘Won’t you miss it? What about Table Mountain?!’ and I would respond that I found Google images to be extremely comprehensive these days and that would suffice. There were a few reasons that helped make up my mind about leaving but the main one was that I was tired of the place. I wanted out. I had aspirations and dreams and I didn’t think that South Africa was the correct setting for these to come to fruition. Plus, I am an absolute addict for clean slates and fresh starts. I had also come out of a 7 year relationship, my parents and siblings had already immigrated and in hindsight, being there was just too painful. I was on my own and I was going to take my life by the balls, even if it killed me.
In comes Australia. Aaaahhhh…Down Under. I hate to be all ‘you know what the problem is’ but, you know what the problem is with many Aussies? They have no idea how fucking good it is here. This place is like DisneyLand. Everything and anything is possible and the well is never dry. Life is good in the colonies and if you’re going hungry then you’re doing it wrong. From the first day I landed here almost 6 years ago, I took advantage of everything this huge island had to offer. I got amongst the culture and I let my hair down. Nobody knew me and I relished the opportunity to reinvent myself without having to explain myself.
I indulged in money, men, drugs, booze, music and you know, general debauchery. I had never been amongst this much excess and I’m not gonna lie…I was loving it. I’ve always had eclectic taste but was never really 100% confident about expressing it back home what with growing up in a beige suburb filled with beige people with beige perspective. But here, the gloves were off! The clothes got louder, the nails got longer, the make-up got thicker and the attention seeking got stronger. Who was going to question me? I was a foreigner with an accent, I worked in fashion and after a while I had started a blog where I poured out all my opinions and provocative thoughts in a crass, obnoxious manner that made strangers love me and my mother disappointed in me.
As my readership grew, I became addicted to the attention. The praise. The acceptance. I was taken under the wings of people in Australian media and pop culture who I looked up to and wanted to be a part of. I was on the social scene both online and IRL and I approached both with a ‘go hard or go home’ attitude. As my unique hits kept climbing, so did my hunger for the game. I once took so many drugs at a music festival that I lost eye sight for half an hour and I thought it was hilarious. I rolled around with many, many bad boys (my kryptonite) and sexually, I had some of the best and worst times of my life but I would just get up, dust myself off and write about it. Why cry about it, when you can write about it? Amirite?
I was spending money like I had a money tree growing in the backyard. I would miss rent to buy new shoes. I would leave work early to get my nails done. I would neglect good friends in order to pay attention to false friends with benefits. My life was going so fast, and I was burning the candle at both ends trying to be both Tammy as well as Obnoxious Owl, the extroverted blogger. I had an image to uphold and God dammit, I was going to hold it up high. The people I had surrounded myself with kept telling me I was awesome and my family and old friends kept shaking their heads. Screw them! I will remove myself even more and transfer myself across the country where there would be no disapproving family and nothing to remind me of home or the person I used to be. These assholes were just jealous/didn’t understand/the fun police.
So I moved from Perth to Melbourne and cut myself off completely from the former ‘me’ along with everyone and everything that went with it. It’s not my fault they don’t understand, I kept telling myself. After living in Melbourne for a year, my lifestyle since arriving in Aus began to catch up with me. I was in debt because drugs are expensive, and so is having an impressive wardrobe that is worthy of 78 likes on instagram. Plus, the only way to ignore or surpress how you really feel is to self medicate, and my ultimate drug of choice was food. Drugs were cool because at least they make you skinny, but now I had no money so I took to cheese and bread. I started stacking on the weight and that combined with being on a year long come down after a 3 year drug binge, I was overly emotional and unfocused at work, causing me to drop the ball and become emo of the year. My writing went from witty and uninhibited to sarcastic and bitter. Readers started dropping which meant my self worth did as well because that is what I had based it on for so long.
At the end of 2012, over the course of one week, I lost my job, my apartment and my will to live. The roller coaster I had been straddling came to a sudden and aggressive halt and I went flying forward and straight into a metaphorical brick wall. I was chubby, miserable and broke. I had pretty much ignored my family for over a year and my friends in Australia had only ever known Obnoxious Owl. Nobody knew me pre Owl. This soft, vulnerable girl was a stranger to many and it made people uncomfortable and my self reflective mood was making them depressed so, they bailed. I felt like it was the end of the world. All I had was 20 pairs of Nike, enough gold jewellery to rival the Pope and a weight problem. I was wallowing in a vat of self pity and self loathing and it was strangely comforting. The world was against me. As far as I was concerned, I had nothing to be thankful or grateful for and ‘happy’ was for fairytales.
First things first, I needed to find a steady income. I had a weekly column that I was struggling to make deadline because they were/are paying me to be insightful and funny. Not bitter and emotionally unstable. The former is extremely hard to achieve when you are feeling the latter. I was also proud. Ironically, it was pride that had gotten me into this pickle and it was pride that got me out. Also, when you go about your life wearing a mask, there will be times that the mask will slip and fortunately, unbeknownst to me, the person underneath it wasn’t so bad and I know this, because when I decided to wake up and wipe the sleep from my eyes, I had actually made a handful of real friends who had my back even though I know for a fact that I had taken them for granted.
I eventually found a new apartment directly across the street from my fancy apartment that was more ‘me’ in the way that it was not much from the outside but an absolute gem on the inside. All freshly painted floorboards and lots of natural light. The landlady was and is a blessing and she gave me a week’s free rent so that I could get my affairs in order. How the FUCK was I going to pay for this? Not to mention I had also cracked my tooth and needed a root canal. So no job, moving house, and extreme dental. Sweet.
There was no way around it. I would have to sell all the shit I had acquired over the years that had aided in building the persona that I had created and tried to live up to. Ebay and I became BFF’s in November 2012. Everything went. And I mean, everything. I kept all my jeans, black and white clothing, a couple of pairs of heels and my Converse, because they go with everything. I got rid of the nails and all the trinkets and designer handbags gifted to me by previous ex boyfriends. I deleted all the numbers from my ‘little black book’ and I went on a high protein, low carb/sugar diet. I traded the chemicals and prescription drugs for Mary Jane and incense. I began to ferociously pluck the feathers from the owl.
I made enough money selling all my belongings to put down a deposit and pay the first months rent, buy the cheapest white sofa Ikea offered and ate well but sparingly. After 6 weeks and at the 11th hour I finally found the perfect part time job that paid just enough for me to pay my bills and live modestly and gave me enough time to finally start writing the book I had been talking about writing when I was coked up and getting high off my own misplaced self esteem and confidence. Plus, the position allowed me travel to Western Australia where my family lived which was perfect because I hadn’t seen them in a year and it was Christmas. My grandparents were also visiting from South Africa and I hadn’t seen them in 5 years so the family time was probably going to be just what the doctor had ordered.
And it was! I spent December and half of January 2013 in Perth doing not much else but swimming in the ocean and hanging out with family. My grandad had Parkinsons disease and I could tell he was on the decline so when I left Perth to come back to Melbourne, I promised that I would visit Cape Town later in the year and touch base with the rest of the family whom I had cut ties with when I left SA in 2007. I felt good about it. I came back to Melbourne and approached life with gusto. Worked hard, lived clean, lost all the weight and got 8 hours sleep. I stayed away from men that were bad news and kept a clear head.
Not long after arriving back in Melbourne, I got a lovely surprise in my inbox. An email from an old friend in Cape Town whom I had known since I was 19. We both lived in London at the same time and only a street away from one another and we were each other’s shoulder to lean on. We lost touch when he got married and I moved to Aus, because you know, that’s just life. I learned that he was divorced for nearly two years and was happily living in Cape Town and was single healthy and still gorgeous. He got in touch because he had come across my writing online and he wrote a bit himself and wanted me to check it out. He was also a little flirty which didn’t phase me because as I have always so openly written about sex, I have attracted the worms out of the woodwork and I was a pro at side stepping it. Boys will be boys!
Our chats were sporadic at first and eventually they became daily, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day. We spoke about everything! Who we were sleeping with, what we had for breakfast, old times, new times, old friends, new friends…everything. Eventually, I got used to our chats and began to miss them when they didn’t happen. The man was persistent. It eventually dawned on me that he actually liked me and although at first I was apprehensive because of the geographical factor and I also suspected he was a bit of a womaniser and a 24/7 stoner, I eventually caved in and found myself adding 1 + 1 and coming up with 4. In my head, I thought that after all the crap I had gone through that he was somehow my reward, that he and I were ‘meant to be’. I know…go get your vomit bucket. I’ll wait…
Back? Ok, good. So now I had even more of a reason to go to Cape Town! I had family reunions, getting back in touch with my roots and now a possible blast from the past love interest. I extended my trip from 2 weeks to 4 and did nothing else but work, sleep and eat in preparation for ‘The Big Trip’. I was making more money now but I still had to watch what I was doing. Hitting rock bottom like that has made me anal when it comes to cash. I shop when I absolutely have to and I dyed my hair bright red so that I had a permanent accessory that jazzed up the most basic of outfits. Our chats started becoming more intense. Things were thrown around in jest…marriage, sex, what we were going to do together when I got there, etc. I was fucking bursting with excitement. Fuck knows I deserved it.
After a long winter of working and saving, September came and I was on a plane to Africa. Home. My anxiety levels were through the fucking roof. If it wasn’t for facebook, I had literally kept in touch with nobody in Cape Town. Not even family. I had changed, I knew the place had changed, my dynamic with the boy had changed because our light hearted chats had gone from sweet nothings to neurotic rants (me) as my trip grew closer. I was so nervous about going home, I can’t even tell you. I had to put my pride in my pocket and be ready for change. Two things that up until that point would fall under #notmystrongpoint. But fuck it, once I was there is would all be fine…I kept telling myself.
The day after I arrived, I went to visit my Grandad who had been admitted to a care facility two weeks prior to my trip. I knew he was bad so I expected the worse, but nothing could have prepared me for the state I saw him in. I could tell he was dying and it was probably going to be any day now. That night I got on the phone with my mother in Australia and told her that she probably needed to come to Cape Town because I had a feeling that something wasn’t right. I couldn’t exactly say, ‘Mum, I think your dad is dying. Please get on the phone to Qantas’ because my nan was convinced that he was going to get better and come home any day. So mum was getting these conflicting messages and I was getting so frustrated because I could tell he was dying and no one would listen. The Parkinsons had gripped him so violently that he lost his ability to speak or stand up unaided. He was just lying in his bed, deathly thin and miserable. His mind was working but his body was failing him. This trip home was going down a different road to the one that I had been mapping out for months, let me tell you.
That night I was meeting up with Mr Africa. I decided I wasn’t going to tell him too much about what was going on at home. I was going to be light and happy and we were going to have a good time, so help me God. But, because my mind was whirring and I was feeling all sorts of things on the inside, I wasn’t the sassy, 2 dimensional character he had come to grow fond of on the internet. Instead I was this pensive, over analytical, self conscious shadow of my actual self. I was freaking out, man. I was back in my home town, my high school was down the road from where I was staying, I knew my grandfather was dying and no one was listening and if I wasn’t careful, I could fall back into the depression hole that I had fought so hard to get out of.
He would have sensed that something wasn’t right because he refused to have sex with me. But do you think I would graciously accept his wish? No way. I wanted him to fuck my brains out and make me forget where I was. I persisted and persisted and he resisted and resisted which did wonders for my general self esteem, as you can imagine. I realised that I was being needy and weak but to be honest, I felt needy and weak. I needed someone to be strong for me for just a minute because I had been strong on my own for so long and I was beginning to unravel. We stayed up chatting and smoking in his home in the mountains. Isolated from society with nothing but fresh air, a book shelf and a dog to keep him occupied. He took isolation up several gears from where I had, which should have been an indication that he wasn’t ready to deal with all the baggage that I was dumping at his front door.
A week later, my Grandad passed away. I was with my Nan when she got the phone call and I took her to the care facility an hour or so later to say goodbye and see his body. My mum and sister flew in from Aus the next day and the funeral arrangements were immediately kicked into gear. I just floated along with everything, completely numb, making cups of tea, fetching tissues, fielding phone calls and emails, that kind of thing. I’ll tell you something, and I’m sure those who have had a death in the family would know, family come together like nothing else when they are dealing with something that is bigger than them. Any beef, any bad feelings prior to my Grandfather’s passing evaporated on the day that he died. It’s not about you. The healing began to take place almost immediately amongst any dynamic that was fraught with animosity.
With my grandfather’s passing and this new perspective starting to take place, you would think that I would just leave the whole thing with Mister Africa after he had shown me that he was not in the mood and it was all too much, wouldn’t you? Wrong! I chased that man like he was the last penis on earth. Phoned him, emailed him, got angry with him, sucked up to him, bombarded him with Tammy. I was trying desperately to show him that I was here underneath it all. I was trying to grieve and fall in love at the same time and the two conflicted and kept coming out all wrong. I kept forcing things, challenging things, tried to make him want me again like he had only a few months ago. But he was not buying it at all. In fact, he started being a complete cunt towards me. So that should have stopped me, right? No…no it didn’t. I am ashamed to say that it just rubbed salt in the wound and I continued to seek his approval and acceptance in order to heal the hurt and pain that I was feeling on the inside which only pushed him further and further away to the point that there was no turning back. I pushed his buttons until the buttons fell off.
So here I am a year later, December 2013 and back in Perth for the holidays. This time last year my Grandad and I were listening to Ella Fitzgerald and drinking wine and now he is no longer with us. A year ago I thought my story was about to end in a neat little package all wrapped up in a bow but there is no package and I nearly hung myself with that fucking bow. I got ahead of myself and tried to write my own script and get everyone to fall in line. I realised so many things about myself through the process. For one thing, I have real issues with self control. On one hand, I could save for 6 months and make sacrifices in order to go on a trip that I had been planning for nearly a year but on the other, I kept thinking that just one more email or one more text message could change a person’s perception of me because I am just so AMAZING with words!
But what a web of delusion we find ourselves in when we refuse to acknowledge the truth. People die whether you want them to or not. People will break your heart even though it was never their intention. People protect themselves and numb pain with a smorgasboard of crutches whether it be food, weed, isolation, sex, booze, consumerism, excess..I could go on, and nothing you can do or say can make them give it up until they are ready or until their web begins to suffocate them.
Life is such a gift. Such a precious, fragile gift and happiness is our natural state. It lays inside us like a sleeping dragon and all we have to do is wake it up, give it a little nudge, and you do this by being grateful. Not only being grateful by acknowledging all that you have in family, health and material possessions but by showing gratitude. You show that you are grateful by loving life. By waking up in the morning and acknowledging that it is a beautiful day or that the rain has finally come. By showing those that have proven they love you and mean good for you that you love them too and that you appreciate them. You show that you are grateful by accepting that everything is as it is and is as it should be and that by challenging the things that don’t work you are only going to stir suffering caused by pain and anxiety.
I saw what it looks like when someone does not leave this world peacefully. Although Grandad was in a lot of physical pain, his suffering was 90% psychological. In his drawer next to his bed, he had a wad of scratch cards. Right up until the last minute he was still trying to win his fortune. ‘Our day will come’, he kept saying to my nan. Little did he know how rich he was! Although, I do like to think, that he knows now.
Live your life and accept that the only thing that we can know for sure is that everything is going to be alright.
Happy 2014 xxxo