I wrote this post on July 10. Just have not gotten around to publishing it.
Yesterday I consumed my last annual leave day. 18 days a year of absolute freedom (“absolute” not to be taken literally, as I have to burn some of those 18 yearly free days – conditional freedom – I need to present myself at the office at 9am the morning following the incineration of that bitter-sweet, lovely, terrible, day 18.)
Freedom, you think. Is that not a word with a bigger meaning than being used to describe the, to most of us, inevitable fact in life of having to re-appear at your office at 9am. Well, yes and no. Maybe an aspect of freedom can be the choice to leave that office, the money and its 18 annual days of conditional release. To live on the street. Or maybe to go help someone, an old parent, a friend, a charity? Or go study, and come back to that office, but as the manager, the graphic designer or perhaps the chef of the company kitchen? Even if you do not want to leave your current position for any of the reasons above, with its package: salary, conditional annual-release and health-insurance; does it not give you a satisfying sense of freedom that you could still, in fact, choose to leave?
Well, maybe this is going to sound odd. But just that, that simple, banal sense of freedom – the lack thereof is one of the heaviest burdens I currently bear. I am not entirely sure why it would hit me so hard. – Because, although I am truly grateful for my job – and could even go as far as to say that I rather enjoy it (and a couple of the characters I see every day) – I do not have any other choice but to scan myself into the building every morning at 9am. I am a foreigner, not a citizen of South Africa. I may build my nest here and live my life here, be with my Anthony: On the condition that I follow the rules.
I am 21 and eager to study, learn, discover, change, move, move back, do a course, volunteer, lay at home and sleep for a month. There are plenty of fine academic institution here, exciting projects, cool places to live, short-term programmes for volunteering, surfing, travelling, meditation – whatever – they scream out my name but, when I walk past, I lower my head to avoid their eyes. I try to put it out of my yearning mind. If I stopped working I would be kicked out of this country, where I have a partner, a lease contract, pets, a TV, a bed, a life. I know it is only right and I understand it is the law. But having grown up in such a free country, being a kid using “the air is free” as an argument for everything I wanted to say or do, I feel stripped of my sense of freedom. It is one thing feeling trapped and “forced” to take maths as a subject back in school, and another when a country where you have made your life, will only have you if you keep your current professional position. – If you scan into that specific office building, every day. If you promise not do anything too exciting: Not to touch the glass, not to talk too loud, not to walk on the grass. Not stay too long, not be away too long, not have too much money, not have too little.
It is dark when I leave home, and dark when I come back. My eyes – squared and stale from the day in the bright, unnatural light from my computer screen – are too tired to read. My mind – perhaps too stagnant to take in the stories anyway – is growing increasingly shallow as the knife, the threat of being deported, presses harder against my throat the moment the dreams or fantasies dare to briefly liberate themselves.
Anthony and I are the greatest team and together we can get through anything and hold onto dreams that we know can only come true in a far too distant future. If there is anything that I have learned, about myself but maybe also about people in general, is that if this everyday-freedom-of-choice a country can provide you with, is a pond full of worries, the love and belonging one person can instil, is an ocean of certainty.
A true paradox: my heaven with Anthony that I longed for, and is every bit as sweet as I could have ever hoped it would be, has also become my prison. But my cell-mate makes me feel like my striped prison uniform is a princess dress, and the prison a castle: two lovers locked away, sacrificing their now for a shared future. A future where the princess may read, play video-games or enrol in a harry-potter-symbols-course, and the prince may be a food-lawyer or maybe a chef in a law firm (or something like that).
Moral of the story: 1) I get very carried away with symbolic thinking whenever I attempt writing a post. 2) I intend to find a way to have the cookie and eat it too, I have my cookie-prince, now I am going to find my cookie-licious freedom – be it geographically, within myself, or both. 3) My eyes do actually go very stale from the computer and it makes my struggle to concentrate on a book. I need to remedy this somehow. (Apart from changing occupation – of course)