A voice inside me used to cheer me on through all my trials. It would tell me famous quotes that William Walace (Braveheart) used to inspire his men in their rebellion. It would remind me of the difference one little man can make in the grander scheme of life. It motivated me to join community service groups, learn debate skills to coax others to join a movement, it pushed me to strive for the greater good.
As I’ve grown, just like my speaking voice, my inner voice has broken. It is deeper and unfortunately, it is selfish. As I read the post by Fungai Neni, about what defines activism, I realized I no longer fit into any part of that definition.
I hope you do not misunderstand, or judge me too early and assume I no longer care about my community or my roots. I still attend community service events, and give my time to charity, i still tithe to God, I still do good deeds for my friends and family and wave my flag during sports events.
Yet, I am no longer an activist.
The difference for me lays in how much I am doing.Or rather how much I am not doing. Not in terms of how much time, or how many projects, although that has drastically decreased also. But more in terms of how much of my heart and soul goes into these acts. I used to devote my entrie day, my entire heart and soul to a cause. School or work was something I did on the side, but my life’s every breath was to make the world a better place.
What has changed in me??? My father always told me, the only way to fix a problem is to find the core of it, it is pointless to just rebuild a torn down house on the same foundation because the next tornado may have a different name but it will have the same effect. As Koketso Moeti puts it “it starts with the man in the mirror”
I wonder if my voice broke during the plane ride here from from Zimbabwe. If as i stepped onto the plane and my feet left Zimbabwean soil for a foreign college degree that would fulfill the selfish motive to make my life better I lost the land that humbled me, the land that uplifted me.
I wonder if it broke while I was in college. When I became exposed to so many different exciting cultures that I put my own in the backseat when it came to driving my actions. When I began to prefer going on holidays in Colombia with friends instead of returning home for Christmas to spend the day at my parents farm.
I wonder if it broke when I began to think of volunteer work as a lonely way to spend my Saturdays. If it was in that moment I chose to go out with my friends in a smokey club and buy expensive drinks instead of save that money to send to a charity.
Or perhaps my voice broke the moment I began to use Facebook as my homepage instead of the NY times. When I learnt about the Egyptian uprising from my friends status and expressed my opinion with a comment before I had researched educated articles, like I used to when I read the newspapers regurlarly. When I lost touch of Zimbabwean current events, and spent more time googling songs, make up, hairstyles and pop stars lives instead of finding ways to enrich my knowledge.
I don’t know when, but I know when it became clear. When I fully heard my new voice and its high pitched scream sent a shiver down my spine. I was staring at my computer screen, in my cubicle at work. At a job that stopped being challenging and interesting months ago. A job that still kept the bills paid, and kept me looking fabulous but made me an average worker ant. I realized I’d entered the corporate world. I had done what the teenage activist in me, had considered unforgivable, what I had watched many before me do and prayed I would never do.
I now refer to my origins as “Africa” instead of Zimbabwe. My five year plan now has “returning to my home” as plan B instead of my final destination. I talk about a finding a new desk job instead of finding a way to fund desks for less privileged schools. I find annoyance and dissapointment in the injustice of the world, and instead of trying to change it, I accept it and mumble about how its incomprehensive.
My fear is I don’t know how to get the activist in me back. No, that’s not the truth. My fear is to accept the truth. That the activist voice, isn’t broken, it still exists. That the root of the problem is that its been drowed out. Drowned out by my surroundings, by the culture of selfishness I’ve adopted in America. Drowned out by my failure to make a mark instead of blend in. My failure to walk the lonely road of being different. Once in a while it musters enough courage and energy to let out a whisper, a whisper such as this blog post. But I know once I accept this truth, I will be at a fork in the road, where one path leads to unfulfilling yet easy life filled with exciting pitstops and a dreary existance, and the other leads to my heart’s desire, but my greatest trial.
My greatest fear is that I am inadequeate, that I lack courage and conviction, and I will not chose what Robert Frost described as the road less traveled. I will follow the easy path and not make my own. Because the evidence shows that, that’s exactly what I’ve already done,