Everyone here has come to Cape Town with different expectations, priorities, and hopes. Everyone here has different goals they want to accomplish, different issues they want to confront, different lifestyles they want to lead. Everyone here has a story to tell, whether they choose to share it with you or not. Everyone here has different reasons for why they want to be here. Some are here for professional development, academic interests, or cultural immersion – these are all valid reasons. My reasons and priorities happen to be of a more personal nature. I came here to attempt to answer these three questions for myself:
Do you know who you are?
Do you know what has happened to you?
Do you want to live this way?
Theoretically, these questions only warrant a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but reality requires answers with a bit more depth than this. Over the past couple weeks, it has taken a lot of energy, focus, and consciousness for me to confront these hard questions. It’s so easy to brush through life without reflection, without facing the hard stuff – I acknowledge that I am guilty of doing this myself, I am guilty of avoiding and denying the difficult intricacies that have made my life what it is. While these questions can be scary and exhausting for me to answer, I refuse to walk through this life not knowing who I really am, what I am really worth, and why I am really here. To me, getting answers to these questions is what will make life meaningful.
While trying to answer these questions for myself, I have also noticed a theme of other South Africans we have met with doing the same. Peter Storey from Simonstown, Dr. Noor from Wits, Thabo from Alex, Paul Vereen from Johannesburg, the students from the Albert Street School, Dr. James from the DA are all trying to piece together the answers to these questions. They have all shared personal stories of understanding identity, processing the past, and deciding how to live with it. Hearing these profound stories of overcoming the past has been a privilege and has helped me to reflect on my own story, my role in life, and how I want to move forward. To me, South Africa represents a place of healing, rebuilding, and reflection. I have been really inspired by the people I have met here, both South African and Duke friends, and I’m thankful for this unique opportunity for introspection, looking for the answers to these three questions.