How to change your life

2012-01-03 00:00

New year is traditionally a time when people try to make a fresh start but how do you actually do this? Two Maritzburg women tell their stories while another talks about facing a radical career change.

While many of us go through the motions of making New Year’s resolutions at the beginning of every year, others steadfastly refuse to do so, perhaps afraid that would be setting themselves up for failure.

But there are some people who make giant transformations without the fuss associated with New Year resolutions. They just quietly put their mind to something and decide to do it. Others are forced into change by circumstances. While dealing with a traumatic event, they don’t feel they are ever going to survive it, but they look back later and feel as if they have accomplished a great deal.

While some advocate tackling change in bite-size chunks, there are motivators who say never do anything in half measures. Most self-help books reveal that the secret of achieving change is your mind-set.

Gabisile Ngcobo

AS long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work with or for the people. Growing up as a sickly child with my mother taking me to a public clinic almost every month, I thought I’d grow up to be a nurse. However, I couldn’t pursue that dream — it was killed by my fear of blood and sores.

I started teaching my younger cousins and a close childhood friend who lived next door when I was still in primary school. I only knew enough to give my “pupils” a day’s lesson after school. I’d steal white chalk from school for my own classroom at home. I loved every minute of it.

I taught Zulu, English and mathematics. I enjoyed instructing them on how they should tackle certain problems and being called “Mistress”.

This is how my love of teaching was awakened.

I come from a big family that is mostly made up of children and there is no greater joy for me than to spend time playing and teaching them how to draw, count and write. It makes my heart smile that they delight in my company.

When I was in Grade 7, according to my English teacher Mr HIubi, I wrote a “touching” essay and for that I deserved a small fee which he gave me. It was good to get paid for writing. Years later I studied journalism because I loved writing and I thought I could serve people in another form — as a voice for the voiceless.

But as much as I love journalism and meeting people on the job, it doesn’t give me as much joy as teaching and engaging with children. In the words of my favourite author Zakes Mda’s last book, Sometimes There is a Void.

In the past two years as a junior reporter I have met lots of people who are living their dreams — artists, medical specialists, activists and even my passionate colleagues. I love how these people’s faces light up when they talk about their craft. I want the same glow.

Now I’m in pursuit of happiness and have decided to become a teacher. This year I’ll be studying for a postgraduate certificate in education at the University of Cape Town.

Going to back to school and facing lectures is not going to be an easy ride but I will have an opportunity to groom a child.

It’s no secret that our country’s education system is in a shambles and I guess that’s the reason why most people advise avoiding the teaching route. According to the government, in 2009 there were 12 million pupils who were taught by 386 587 teachers in 24 693 public schools. The country is not only in dire need of teachers but in need of dedicated and passionate ones.

According to South Africa.info: “Illiteracy rates currently stand at around 18%. Of adults over 15 years old, about nine million are not functionally literate, teachers in township schools are poorly trained, and the matric pass rate remains low.”

For this reason, I want to contribute in the education department while impacting on future leaders.

Future plans?

I want to study further until I have my PhD, and perhaps be a policymaker one day.

Lyn Diane Boucher

AFTER 26 years of marriage my life took a U-turn, resulting in my starting over again.

My husband and I fell in love with Jeffrey’s Bay on holiday there, so much so that I bought a second­-hand shop and we decided to settle there. Our last child was about to leave home and we felt it was time to try a new life.

I moved first while hubby packed up and sold our lovely home. He then joined me in the paradise that is known as J Bay. He started his own mechanical workshop just around the corner from my business. He got good trade as the locals were very friendly.

Life was good, my bank balance was great, and my hubby was with me.

Things were too perfect.

Six months down the line a neighbour invited hubby to a Christian meeting “for the boys”. I had my reservations and bleated loudly that he was being “hypocritical”, but he went anyway. It was the beginning of the end. One meeting led to another and then he was “reborn”. In fact, he became a reborn Christian wunderkund. He was never home at night, flitting from one church to another, attending seven different churches at one stage.

Hardly at work, he made no money. We were practically living on the takings from my business which was going downhill because I didn’t have money to buy new stock. He imposed house rules based on his new beliefs and I was under incredible stress. I lost weight and was a mess.

One morning I refused to get out of bed. I was depressed as hell. Hubby loved this. I was at my weakest and he insisted I “see the light”. But my light-bulb moment actually came when I had a chat with myself.

“This is bulls**it … get up and get on with life,” I told myself. I closed my failing business. I managed to find temporary work in J Bay for a few months, working in a shark aquarium, but I was drifting aimlessly and I felt very unhappy.

I moved back to KwaZulu-Natal with bits of furniture and an old car. At first I had to move in with one of my children. But over the years I have rebuilt my life. I now own my own small “pondokkie”, I have a decent car and I don’t owe anything. For me, the greatest lesson was learning that even if life has turned upside down, you can find that inner strength to cope. I have learnt to respect myself and know that I can cope with whatever life throws at me.

Beth Ames

IT is said that desperate times call for desperate measures. Drastic change does not come from average circumstances. You have got to want something so badly that it seems as if nothing else matters.

August 2005 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. My motivation was my 40th birthday —  only nine months away. I decided that I didn’t want to take the extra kilograms into my forties. Although I had maintained my weight in my teens, it was something I had to work on constantly. I was active and had worked out almost every day of the week.

But after three children, the kilograms had piled on and I finally tipped the scales at 128 kg. I had become a professional dieter of note. I had tried the soup diet, the grape diet, the blood-type diet, the X diet, the no-fat diet, the high-protein, low-carb diet. I had even tried my hand at bulimia.

As a “fat” person I had developed a great sense of humour, but the joke was often at my expense. Success somehow eluded me. I would read the success stories of other people in magazines, questioning what they had that I didn’t. What was the key? It all seemed such a mystery to me.

I began a journey of soul searching. Why did I want to lose weight? How badly did I want change? What were my fears? Did I even have a goal? And what was it? What were my strengths and weaknesses? What was I prepared to sacrifice to achieve my goal?

I realised that if I wanted success, I would need to make the following four truths a strong foundation. Honesty, responsibility, commitment and inner strength. Life is not easy, there are always going to be challenges and obstacles along the way. I had become what I had created because consequences follow choices.

I used a mental picture of the Comrades Marathon. There is a “start” and a “finish”. Before a runner can actually start, preparation is vital. A Comrades runner will study the route, know where the hills are. I also prepared for pitfalls and self sabotage.

I had to be honest with myself about my issues, accept responsibility for what I had done and forgive myself. That was the beginning. I joined a Weigh-Less group in Kloof.

I reached my goal weight on June 6, 2006, a week before my birthday. My total weight loss was 58 kilograms. That moment released such freedom in my life, achieved by determination and sacrifice.

I felt more in control of my life than ever before, more confident. None of it was rocket science, it was all about choices. Don’t wait for “Monday” or “next month” or “New Year” to change your life, start today. Drastic change is born out of a desperate need, and determined decisions are available to anyone who just believes they can do it.

Kate Emmerson’s Tips on Transforming Yourself

• Be willing to be vigilant and honest in your assessment of yourself and where you truly are in your life now, regardless of what “once was”.

• Then be brave and courageous enough to face the changes that need to be made. No matter how many people may not like it, your job is to work on your life.

• Get the right support (this does not mean lamenting with your friends about how bad the situation is), but is about getting the right support for the right change you seek.

• Accept there is strength in facing your challenges head on — no one else really cares what is happening except you, so you are your own biggest obstacle.

• Try to maintain a “bigger picture” and be willing to see the funny side of what you are going through. It is never as bad as it seems. — www.kate-emmerson.com

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