Last week Wednesday, I packed my suitcase and looked out the window and onto the Braamfontein streets, knowing that that was the last time I would ever see the city from that perspective at night. As a taxi drove through the green robot (traffic light), I found myself feeling emotional, realising how something so mundane could end up meaning so much when you’re saying goodbye. After four years of living in the same flat, I was moving out.
What’s funny is that in the beginning of matric, I had never even thought about attending Wits or living in Braam. The plan had always been to go to Tuks – Pretoria - and it wasn’t until one of my friends mentioned Wits in the middle of the year, that I actually stopped and pictured myself going there. A few weeks later, I attended a debate about organ transplants at Wits Medical School with my mom, and I remember standing with her and Dr Anna Sparaco in the parking lot at night, going on about how alive everything felt, and couldn’t they feel it? I applied to Wits when I got home and was provisionally accepted a few months later for a degree that I would end up changing before starting the university year.
The first semester that I lived in Braamfontein was tough, and I remember experiencing home sickness for the first and so far, only time in my life. Everything just felt so unfamiliar and I was worried about making friends, working out transport and finding my way around the campus. I vaguely remember crying over the dirty dishes one night because it just felt like so much. I was missing my family and my friends, and I wasn’t used to that stillness that comes about when you’re all by yourself.
Nevertheless, I worked out a routine, and by the second semester I was wondering why on Earth I had cried over dirty dishes a few months before. That is one thing that I’ve learnt through this experience – things are always scary in the beginning when you haven’t worked anything out, but after time, you adapt and get into a comfortable routine. The Jess who looked at the last taxi going through the green robot is very much different to the Jess who looked at the first taxi going through the green robot, and she is so much more confident and sure of herself now.
Looking back at my four years in Braam is interesting, because I can see now that the most significant parts were unexpected, and a large amount of change and growth took place in a short amount of time. At the beginning of my 1st year, I was standing in the kitchen crying, feeling completely insecure and unconfident, and yet by the end of the year, I had started 44’s Facebook page, and was regularly posting videos of myself talking. For the whole of 1st year, I had struggled to really connect with anyone, despite speaking to countless people in lectures, and yet in the beginning of 2nd year, I sat next to a girl in Philosophy, and we became best friends. In 2nd year, I attended a Spanish themed party hosted by another close friend, and after she said that she wanted to learn Spanish, I said that I had never even imagined learning Spanish. In 3rd year I took a Spanish course at Wits. For my whole life, I had eaten meat, and my parents often referred to me as the carnivore of the family, however, in 3rd year I read an article on the amount of water used within the meat industry, and two weeks later I went vegetarian. Later that year, I really felt the urge to volunteer at an NGO. In my Honours’ Year (4th Year), I was the Director at The Assist – an organisation that tutors high school students in Alexandra township.
While I’m scared about what the next chapter will bring, I feel better knowing that the significant moments cannot be predicted and that opportunities will present themselves as I go along. I believe that we can get everything we want and more by taking these opportunities, despite how scary they may be. In varsity I had asked for both a close friend as well as to volunteer at an organisation, and in return, I was handed an empty seat next to a Carlie Joselowitz in a philosophy lecture, and a poster on the wall that said ‘Come tutor for the ASSIST!’. Even though it was scary, it was up to me to sit next to Carlie and say ‘hey’ and to email the person on the poster to tell them that I wanted to join. By doing the scary things, I think that we’re expanding our world into an era that we may not have even imagined.
And so, as I say goodbye to Braam, I’m sad that that era’s over. Its lessons will always remain though and I’m excited about what’s waiting for me around the corner.