PERIOD

period

The year is 2016 and society is still afraid to speak openly about the female menstrual cycle. Do not get me wrong, I am not calling for the introduction of a law that insists that in all your conversations there has to be some period talk. No, I am simply asking humanity to not make me feel like me bleeding is a serious crime against the world, a crime so serious that it must not be spoken of. We have found a name for ‘it’ or many names for ‘it’. It is puzzling because ‘it’ brings life and ‘it’ is quite natural. Whether it is “that time of the month”, “monthly”, “code red”, “leak week” and my favourite “imvula iyanetha”, these are a few of the names that people use in order disguise the biological process that is happening. Every time I have a conversation about my female parts, I am always forced to use a substitute name for them in order to make them less ‘disgusting’ or it is implied that one should not speak about such things in public. I remember the first girl who got her period in primary school. When the young students found out, boys ridiculed her and the young girls isolated her for the fear that her ‘disease’ would spread to the rest of us. Clearly, we had been programmed to feel ashamed of something that happens to every woman in the world. As I progressed to high school (a same sex school), I found the reception towards menstrual cycles to be the same. Girls with stains on their dresses where spoken about behind their backs for being highly unhygienic and not taking care of that ‘thing’ because ‘that is disgusting’. Where do these views come from? After all, a female having her menstrual cycle is often a sign of health. All these views on menstrual cycles stem from religious or cultural interpretations of books or beliefs. Most religions define menstrual cycles as time of impurity, women are not to cook or have sex for a week in order to prevent Gods wrath upon the household also they are deemed to be unclean.

Another stigma comes from certain cultures in which menstrual cycles are said to be female only problems and only females speak about such things. A campaign called Happy to Bleed was started in India as a response to an Indian temple chief wanting to place a ‘period detector’ machine, in order to make sure that the women that enter the temple were ‘pure’. This is not the only example of discrimination against women but there are many more. The Happy to Bleed campaign highlights the absurdity of the many ways in which the female body has been oppressed and calls for women to appreciate their own bodies and for society to understand that bleeding is not a sin nor is it a crime that requires a detector. Nikita Azad, a college student who started the campaign explained its ironical name as so “We are using happy as a word to express sarcasm – as a satire, to taunt the authorities, the patriarchal forces which attach impurity with menstruation”. From this explanation one clearly sees that women have been made to feel impure because of a bodily fluid and that society constantly taunts females by problematizing their bodies. Since bleeding is such a sin I would like to explain in layman terms what a menstrual cycle is. A ‘Menstrual cycle’ is that natural thing that women get every month to show that they are not pregnant. When you menstruate, your body sheds the lining of the uterus and the menstrual blood flows from the uterus through the cervix and out of the body through the vagina. Biologically explained plain and simple. Thus, the absurdity of labeling a simple biological happening as a sin has severely harmed as a society. A grown woman on her period has to hide her tampon or pad when going to the bathroom because she has been made to feel ashamed of her cycle.

Girls are not attending school because they do not have the money for pads or tampons (often classified as luxuries thus made more expensive), an occurrence that has a dire impact on their studies and their development. Women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies from a young age. And men cringe at blood more than they do rape. It is time that periods are not made a taboo, but are turned into a topic in which I as a female can speak about without the fear of being ridiculed, belittled or judged. It is time that we speak about this part of the female experience not because we want to make you squirm at the idea of vaginal bleeding but because I should be free to speak about my body without it being an abomination because after all WE BLEED, GET OVER!

By: Nelisiwe Mkhele

Surviving University 101

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So you did well enough to become one of the few or many that made it to university. Despite what you think varsity is certainly different to high school in many ways. So here are some tips to help you survive.

  1. Stick to your values. By sticking to your values, you do not have to compromise and do things that you actually would not like to do thus making you unhappy.
  2. Most of the time, the friends you started with at the beginning of the year are not the same friends you end the year with.
  3. Just because everyone is going out all the time, it does not mean that they are not studying. So do not be shocked when the guy you thought parties the hardest passes with A+ . People broadcast their party times not their study times.
  4. Respect all degrees. Everyone worked hard to get to university and many students are still working hard to earn that 50%.
  5. University is a time to reinvent yourself and experiment with hairstyles and discovering a bit of who you are without your parents are a certain institution behind your back. So make mistakes but good mistakes.
  6. You are your own responsibility. Now that there’s no report card going to mummy and daddy be sure to be responsible of how you use your time and getting good grades. Do not let the university lawns be your kryptonite.
  7. Education first, wives and husbands last. Focus on what you came to do in university that does not do not have a social life it only means know what to prioritise.
  8. Live within your means. If you do not have money to flash around like everyone else that is okay, someone who is not friends with you because you do not buy your lunch at the expensive shop is not in your side.
  9. Universities have long holiday breaks so within that break try to get a part job or do community work that you are interested in. Doing this is beneficial for working experience, discovering your passion and for a bit of pocket money.

 

Some fun advice: On the real.

  • Go to a protest and learn the protest song Iyoh Solomon ( whilst at that learn about Solomon Mahlangu)
  • Sadly no one cares about how distinctions you got in matric. (well done for the achievements though)
  • Even though you have learned something in high school do not block your ears. When in university assume that you know nothing.
  • Read ahead so you have an idea what your lecturer is speaking about in the lecture.
  • Create a dream board for all the things you would like to achieve. ( Do strive to make those dreams a reality)
  • Go to orientation week. This way you become familiar with the university and make a few friends
  • When unsure about something, ask the lecturer or your tutor.
  • Sir and mam no longer exist. Its professor or doctor at the most however your lecturer will inform you as to how to address them.
  • Join a society in order to do something other than academics and in order to make friends and relax.
  • Thou shalt NOT wear thy student card around thy neck.
  • Make the assignment due date one day before the actual due date in order to eliminate the stress on the actual due date.
  • Random conversations with people are the most helpful.
  • Make friends with people you do not know. Meaning, make friends with people who are not from your high school by doing this you stand the opportunity to meet people to come from a background than you.

 

*Written by Nelisiwe Mkhele, 2nd Year Student at WITS

From me a teen .. well .. lets keep it strait .. we didn’t ask to be born :/

lonely teen

I honestly feel like some parents are the most selfish people on earth. So you decide to have unprotected sex one night and then “BOOM!” The baby’s here. Here’s the thing though, realise that I said you, the parents, decided on this. Choosing not to do anything about the fact that your partner has no condom on because you’re too “caught up in the moment” is a choice too. Here’s the thing though, the baby had no say in this whole thing. This might sound stupid because the baby wasn’t there when you conceived it but always remember this.

So you’re in an argument with your child when you decide that it’s okay to bring up the fact that you have given them the best life possible, that you work hard for them and that’s why you’re barely ever home. You bring up the fact that some children out there are starving and orphaned, that some children’s parents are barely getting by. Here’s the thing though, the child didn’t ask to be here. So what you’re saying basically, is this :

I made you for my own [selfish] reasons but it’s okay because I’ll provide for you, monetarily and sometimes emotionally. You need to understand though, some children have no parents and some children’s parents have no money but they are always home [they’re there emotionally too] but that’s a bad thing because I am giving you the best life possible by giving you money and not knowing what’s going on in your life or even what you do with the money that I give you.

Here’s one thing parents fail to understand though: YOU made us. Why then do you think that you’re doing us a favour by carrying out your responsibility as our parents. You are NOT, in any way, being selfless by waking up every morning and going to work to ensure that I have a good life. You are simply doing what you signed up for by deciding to have us. Selflessness is a mother who is co-parenting with a man who raped her, not you who enjoyed every moment of the fun.

So everyday, remember this – parenthood is a choice you made so never make your children feel like they are a burden because they didn’t ask to be here.

Written by Inga Ncetani, Grade 10 student, 16yrs

New Anger – The rage of the snobbish black middle class.

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There is a problem which certain people who were involved in “the struggle” and few others do not understand. The end of apartheid and the rhetoric of Ubuntu does not mean that all has ended and we are now one happy family that sits under a tree and sings kumbaya (excuse the cliché).  Yes, we were not forced to learn all our subjects in Afrikaans. Yes, we did not have kwela kwela’s roaming around our homes at 6pm in order to enforce curfews. Yes, we did not experience the white man beat us down whilst his dog eats into our skin. However you, “the struggle” generation did. That is why I am quite surprised at your response when you hear a born free generation child express their stories of racism, and you seem to render them exorbitant and completely ridiculous.  I recently read an article by Professor Jonathan Jansen entitled “South Africa: when student activism turns to gangsterism” and in this article he speaks about a “new anger” which leads to violence or as he coins it gangsterism.  In his words:

“I have studied the somewhat unexpected emergence of this new black anger with a mixture of intrigue and concern. Intrigue, because of who the voices are raising this strident critique of post-apartheid society. The critics are mainly middle class black students (or those aspiring to such status) who attended white schools and white universities in South Africa. In other words, they are for the most part children of privilege as far as their educational aspirations are concerned, and unlike the vast majority of young people who enjoyed access to premium institutions and made that experience work for them, their families and communities—this group of disaffected graduates are angry, and appear very angry. The argument of the newly angry is very simple: Thank you ANC for what you may have done in the struggle, but no thank you. We reject your closed and circular narrative of freedom—that you came, saw, and conquered. That is your narrative, not ours. We are still not free.”

This anger that the Prof speaks about is not new. Black people have always felt a sense of anger regarding the race tensions in South Africa. Do not let the 5 minute world cup moment of happiness erase what a majority feels every day in fairly simple instances of life. We see it when a racial matter arises in South Africa, like white students urinating in the University of Free State (which Professor Jansen is vice-chancellor) workers food or when our mothers and fathers watch documentaries about apartheid and always have a word to say about white people with tears rolling down their eyes.  The anger is not new just because it’s a new generation it is a different kind of anger. In reality it is an epistemic anger. The anger that I feel as a privileged middle class student in a white school when I am not handed a sports blazer that I deserve because of a supposedly “criteria change” which only seems to apply to my brown skin. The anger I feel when I am made to feel ashamed about the fact that I eat chicken feet and ikota whilst my friends eat Woollies and Kauai. The anger that I feel when I am forced to relax my hair (by the white school) because my hair is unruly and untidy. Or the “The need that I felt to adopt your English accent in order to avoid being marginalized was a strife experience on its own. Because at every turn you would mock the Black accent (or Blaccent) for its aberrant mispronunciations. Whether it be your own joke or one said by Wackhead Simpson (god, I despise this man). Even stories of the “incompetence” of your domestic work (or “maid”, as you power-vaulting self would prefer), coupled with condescending accents and impersonation, whilst I was sitting there and thinking of my own aunt and grandmother who were once domestic workers and what sort of experience they must have endured at the hands of spoil, unappreciative and condescending white kids (that’s the impression I was given by your tone and folly).” – Bongani Masilela on FB

Yes, we the children of a black middle class although privileged to attend these schools do not throw away the fact that we are uncomfortable within these schools. Many people seem to miss the point. Our parents fought in the struggle in order for us to register in these white/ private schools (amongst other things) however us being allowed to come in, does not mean that we are appreciated and welcomed. We do not expected to be treated like kings and queens in school but we do expected to be treated like humans. Why must my wearing an ‘isiphandla’ require an explanation when my ‘isiphandla’ does not affect any of your students nor does it show over my long grey blazer sleeve? Our parents have struggled to open the doors for us and our entering through these doors does not come in a rainbow colour wrapped present. We, the supposedly born free generation still suffer the consequences of our black skin. I see no reason why my suffering should be compared to that of the 76 generation because they suffering was immensely psychological and physical and arguably much worse than ours nor do I see no reason for people to disregard it because it no longer comes with guns and teargas (although that is debatable considering the recent #feesmustfall campaign).

Yes we are certainly not free, apartheid was not only a physical process, it was the process of the mind and as I have mentioned above an epistemic violence and thought. Epistemic meaning that it had to be thought out and implemented in the black mind that European ideas are superior and our African ideas are inferior and problematic. It is difficult to understand epistemic violence because it is not often seen but felt.  The “new anger” generation feels an anger which I think needs to be expressed. We cannot be foolish enough to think that just because black people are allowed into the space of whiteness, all is well. The epistemic violence has been micromanaged and bred in the same schools which we are so privileged to attend. Understand that racism and discrimination still exists today in these institutions that we so hate but love. We cannot force a generation to stop feeling the pain it feels because another experienced much worse. We can only try and understand what they are going through and their stories. Movements such as the #feesmustfall are not violent or as professor Jansen refers to them “gangsterism”. They are movements which aim to create change. The blocking of entrances into university might disturb you for one week. But the blocking of entrances to university is a brief example of how a R9350 registration fee blocks the bridge to a fairly decent life, for a not so fortunate middle class student, which is often created by a university degree. We cannot associate the misbehaviour of a few with the purpose of many. Our protests come after six months of negotiations and discussions around a table in which the voices of students were reduced to voices of nothingness. Our protesting, dear sir, is not gangsterism. Did the youth of ‘76 achieve anything by sitting and waiting for the government or did they march to their own freedom with blood being shed on the way?

I beg to differ on those who think anger is only found in the black middle class. There are many students that I have met in university that do not come from a middle class status but still feel a certain anger towards the whiteness that has been perpetuated by the university. We cannot deny the pain that we feel when we are made to feel inferior in the very same schools that our parents fought in the struggle for us to attend.  We cannot deny that we do not feel free because we cannot express ourselves and our cultures (which is our essential being) because ours is too ghetto. I can express my views as a middle class because I am granted a platform in which I can express my discomfort and struggles in a place which my parents thought would be peaceful after “THE STRUGGLE”. The young guy who comes from “slightly not so well of background” finds the same problems that I experience as a black middle class student. I see this anger as a cycle.

It starts with one attending a township school which has one dominant race a black/coloured or Indian. And then moving to a “great” private high school because of a scholarship or such and diving into the world of whiteness. In this world of whiteness we deny ourselves “us” in order to conform to the twang in the white university or private school. It ends with the realisation that one has been convinced and programmed in a very subtle manner to hate thy self and thy home.

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We do not spit on the graves of those who fought for our freedom. We are simply saying that the road to freedom does not start and end with one generation but lingers onto another generation. The need to “breathe” and the need for “freedom” is rightly expressed by the new generation because we do feel oppressed and unequal. Movements such as the #RhodesMustFall movement express the sentiments which Biko expressed over 40 years ago: “the basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity”.  

I’m sorry that my words sound like another privileged black middle class child who so happened to stumble across a book by Fanon or Biko. These writers do not create my anger, but only put into perspective and diagnose a disease that has eaten me for a long time: : “A New Anger”.

-Nelisiwe Mkhele

Who am I

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I am your worst nightmare and your wildest dream all rolled into one.
I am a living miracle on two feet.
I walk the world to an untappable beat.
I am the contradiction to popular belief.
I represent the beauty of mistakes.
I am not found on Google; cos any other me would be fake.
No-one can detain me because I will break free.
No-one can give me limits cos they are meaningless to me.
I cannot be remade for I was designed by the Maker of heaven and earth.
I cannot be cloned for I was thought out way before my birth.
I dance to silent music and sing to an unknown tune.
To hatred and insensitive chatter, I am immune.
I am not perfect but perfecting is found in me.
Finally, this is who I am and lastly, this is who I’ll be.

By Rebecca Plaatjies

My hair

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My hair is my hair.

It is on my head not your head.

My hair does not seek your opinion.

Nor does it want it, require it, or need it!

My hair is my hair!

 

My hair is not a calculator …

To what you defines me as African

Are you really going to reduce my Africaness to hair?

Really?

 

I love my hair straight, coiled, curly, bald, sometimes big and sometimes short

But does my hair determine the contents of my soul?

But does my “natural” hair make me more African than the female with the weave?

 

No I have not been “colonised”

I am aware of my African ancestry

And I wear my hair the way I want because my hair,

Is an expression of me

 

Your opinion of my hair,

Your questioning of my hair styles,

makes me believe that you have a certain complex

a “blacker than thou” complex

this complex ironically displays the same colonised mind

that you claim to be running away from.

In the same way that the coloniser judged me based on my appearance

you look at me, and reduce my mind and soul into a physical attribute

mirror

I look at the mirror

And I am constantly told

What to be as a female

I am told: what to wear

What to be

How to act

And what my hair should be like

I am told (rather than being given my natural right of speech and opinion)

What my African self is, based on my hair

 

See the problem is

When you reduce my Africaness to hair

You take away the content of my character

And you place value on the bodily component of me

You reduce me in the same way your colonisers reduced you

You reduce me to a hollow being

A being filled with nothing but air

A being which does not know itself

A being which is not African

A being which is bleached

You reduce me to a being. Being.

You reduce me to hair

But you forget.

That I am not my hair

And that my hair is my hair.

 

By Nelly Mkhele

A short letter to a refugee woman … #TeenPowerBlogEntry

Dear Female ‘fugee

I got your letter in the delayed developing world yesterday. You said you needed me now more than ever? Your masters sought a cure for Ebola quicker than an opportunity for me, and honestly, it made me feel mediocre.

I hear you’re on a journey? How do you manage it with such weight in your heart and a stomach echoing the meals of last week. I’m sorry to hear about your home. If it’s any consolation, mine has been burnt too. My theory now just embers under the blanketed ash covering the rest of the poverty basin you’re so familiar with.

I know your feet are mapping trails of distress in the sand, tracing tears and fears in your efforts to achieve something close enough to me, in a sense, a world where there is more to life than to flee.

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You said you have no country. No anthem monotonously falling off your lips, no flag dancing to the rhythm of a wind singing Viva! You have left your home before I could even see it. You will have to take me there some day.

I’m sure by now your feet are tired. Calluses flourishing beneath your waiting weight, as you’ve crossed borders of abuse and discrimination, only to be met with more fists firmly fighting, because apparently your arrival was unfair.

You asked me whether refuge will become like love, which is more than just a verb, yet underated and overused. I don’t know, dear female fugee. I don’t know how black lives still don’t matter, or how you still get taught that to provoke a man wise enough to walk leads rightfully to him manipulating your temple as he so pleases.

I don’t know whether the world will wake from this ominous,self-indulgent slumber, where a baby too young to count to four had to be carried in on the oceans arms before turning the heads of only three. I cannot say whether this world will realise that the same seriousness taken to tribute king Cecil was always owed tenfold to Syria, Congo, Zimbabwe, Gaza and the First Nations Genocide of ’88.

Mother…you carry nations within the constellation of your genetic melody. I apologise that I have not woven myself intricately into that, as I should have added scores more,creating harmony as only I can. Forgive me for my absence in the carbohydrated imports, sent to excuse those who have exploited your diamonds in return for dry rice.

I write this, while being imprisoned in their bank accounts, big enough to house your continent twice over.

I do hope to hear from you soon, at the earliest convenience of humanity and those who still believe in it.

Yours Sincerely,

Freedom

**Written by Courtney Koopman, 18yrs, TeenPower blogger**

Through the eyes of an almost-woman, still un-scorned.

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Through the pupils of a pupil, still being taught.

With internal wars raging within Africans about what it means to be thus, as an ethnic female no older than the freedom of my land, have I come to see things differently every day. As I grow, I am belittled. As I learn, I am called oblivious, and scolded because I am too aware.

 

I didn’t know that was possible.

 

Biko taught me how to be conscious via the textbooks I was fortunate enough to have, as this knowledge spilled off the lips of my teacher who was of European descent but believed in the soils of Africa more than those akin to it. Who was this white man to believe in black people? But it wasn’t his race I found surprising. It was his belief, not only in our future, but in us.

I am part of the WWW.GENERATION. Part of the era that books faces, but not the opportunities behind them. We live off virtual screens so that we don’t have to mingle with the people who complicate our reality. But that isn’t what defines us.

I, who I am, is a female in a stagnant male world where we talk about 50/50 relationships, yet those with a breast uncut and a womb still closed are “given away” at the isle, as if we were on the grand parade with a Mr Van Riebeck, who was buying vegetables, rice and slaves, all in the same day.

I am a part of a squad, with a task that hundreds of years failed to complete. Where our parents still consider white and black, private and public with the shades in between that never really had their place in the sun. We know the struggle indirectly, my generation. We are the second hand recipients of the tears that rolled down my grandmother’s face as she was beaten for resting on a white woman’s couch.

This is what creates the defiance within my era. We indulge in complacency, wearing crowns of entitlement, yet have been thrown head first into fixing a country prematurely broken. This by-product of neo-colonialism is why we are who we are.

 

The hand that sold the slave, the hand that painted the streets red with Hector and his adolescent associates, that is the same hand that still stamps the gang signs in Mitchell’s Plain, El Dorado Park and Galvandale, where the social engineering of our past still hasn’t had an upgrade like the fire pool filters at the house of my president.

It is harder still to accept our heritage while we kill our brothers and sisters who have themselves fled from lands and a past that smells of home-made bombs and dictatorship.

All of this lies before me, a 19 year old, who not too long ago, had to ask to go to the bathroom, but now face making life decisions. What makes this imaginable, however, is that as much as I see the problems, I see the potential. I hear the downfall, but I feel the redemption even more so, through the power invested in me by the democracy I choose to fight for, and all those in my generation who choose to fight for theirs.

We are the laziest, angriest, most arrogant, intelligent, talented, innovative generation to walk this earth yet, and this is why we will save it.

Life is but a MAZE!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

These words while highly lyrical and awe-inspiring, are beyond true of our purpose as humans.

When was the last time you did something YOU wanted to do? When was the last time you noticed the simple beauty of a blade of grass? Or even just how precious your life is? How important it is to be true to you?

Life is a series of choices we make that either take us closer to our dreams and goals, closer to our destiny – or, further away from it. Most of us have lost sight of our life purposes because of past our failures or our belief that our dreams are simply to impossible to achieve. Those thoughts of denial are a product of tmazehe influences you’ve had in your life. Sadly those influences, if you’ve been through some form of schooling, has probably been mostly negative. I mean when was the last time a teacher told you that it was okay to fail a test? At some point I am sure that people have told you that you aren’t good enough. That the mark on your test is all you’ll ever amount to in life.

 

While we can’t change our past influences, we can stop them from boxing us in the maze of life. The universe works on Newton’s 3rd Law – that every action has an equal and opposite reaction – you may call it Karma, what goes around comes around, it’s all the same principle.

I’ve just finished my June examinations, and honestly, they’ve not been my best. However, I decided that I can either #drake (be sad/bleak) about it, or I can accept that I may have made some choices which weren’t wise (i.e. not studying for physics and mathematics) but that I have another chance. Adversity is a breeding ground for opportunity.

As with navigating a labyrinth, it is inevitable that you will hit a dead end every now and then and you’re going to want to give up, but I challenge you to keep going. Jump a bit higher, find a hammer and knock down the wall, try another route, claw through it if you must – but, never give up.

The sun always shines, even in the dark. You, like the sun, are also a star. You may not always shine the brightest and maybe there are clouds blocking your rays from reaching the people around you, but it’s your duty to shine brighter.

One moment which changed my life was when I realized that the glass is in fact always full. Traditionally, we are asked to make the choice on whether or not the glass is half empty or half full when in fact it is always full.

It can be full of juice, your favourite brand of alcohol, or even just water – you decide; or it can be filled with nothing. Even when it is half full, the rest is filled with nothing (and nothing by definition is something – it is an interesting concept for another post). The point is, you are the only one who decides what your cup is filled with and how full it is.

The solution to most of life’s challenges is to make choices. Whether you’re top of your class or the person constantly in detention, whether you’re the social butterfly or the ultimate snob – you are insanely awesome simply because you exist, you survived the birthing process, you can survive anything.

Please: don’t give up hope that it can’t get better, don’t let what you’ve been told about yourself by others become your truth, don’t stop thinking differently, don’t let who you are now determine who you’ll be 10 years from now, don’t give up on your dreams, don’t give up on life, and most importantly – don’t give up on yourself.

For those of us on holiday, fill it with happiness; for those who continue to work, or have life to contend with, do all things for happiness and with passion.

Make life aMAZEing. =D

Written by Kerwin Jacobs, Grade 12, East London based for now 🙂

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