I remember how we used to get told not to “bow to peer pressure” when we were growing up. We got warned that it would lead to all types of outlandish and illegal behavior (liquor, drugs, rock n roll & wild, wild sex… Yeah I said it!) & possibly result in a sticky end (which you wouldn’t see coming since you would be drunk or high) Of course when I heard all this, all I thought was “I’m not bowing to anyone!” Hehehe! I’ve always had a high opinion of myself. For as long as I can remember I have had faith in my own judgement & ability to steer myself in the right direction. When I was 7yrs old I had a teacher named Mrs Pretorius. Mrs Pretorius had a reputation similar to that of the roman general Hannibal in that she took no prisoners (No she didn’t kill people…) but, being 7 year olds, we thought she did 🙂 The day I was informed that I had been assigned to her class I remember my friends offering me chips & their condolences.
Hahaha! It was that bad. That was as close as you could get to a death sentence at the age of 7 & I had been given my marching orders (“To the gallows boy!”) Many a bottom had been tenderised in Grade 2P & I was on the hit list. It was a daunting prospect… but even at the age of 7 Evile was a savvy little punk. I took my bag & went to my new class… ready to face the demon of grade 2. I had spent my childhood afternoons playing video games with the street kids at the Cafe downstairs & had to learned very quick how to dodge cars & criminal in Hillbrow through my many trips to the OK Bazaar 🙂 My inquisitive mind had been receiving more input than what Barney The Dinosaur & Kideo where trying to teach me as I watched the kids at the corner cafe sniff glue & rob kids of their coins on the one hand & men get thrown down the stairs at Moulin Rouge by Nigerian bouncers in silk shirts on the other hand (while topless woman, with ample assets, shouted things I didn’t understand at them as the rolled down the stairs) Between my parents artist friends, watching the IFP march past me to ANC HQ singing “Protect yourselves! Shoot to kill” on my way from school & the sights & sounds of Hillbrow, it was a pretty colourful childhood.
So by the time Mrs Pretorius called me to her desk (& I thought “This is it… Goodbye jam sandwich”) I was already pretty fascinated by life. So when she smiled at me & asked “Do you like reading?” my answer of course was yes (even though my face had confusion written all over it “What? She isn’t going to smack me with a duster?!”) Even at age 7 books fascinated me 🙂 Every chance I got I would sneak one of my dad’s Louis L’amour books, lie under my bed & read about “The Quick & The Dead” or sneak a book about Dirty Harry Callahan telling the punks to make his day. I had to stage little operations to liberate the forbidden literature from the then towering cabinet & from the tops of my parent’s wardrobes. It was exhilarating. My favourites where by Glen A. Larson. I found the tales of Michael Knight & the talking car enthralling & was rather amazed when I saw the TV show. At a very young age I was travelling the world, learning new words & having showdowns at high noon. On top of all that I was watching my fair share of movies & TV shows too (MacGyver, Highlander, Knight Rider, Star Trek, Indiana Jones & Stargate where legendary) So when Mrs Pretorius told me I could go to the reading corner (which I had always assumed was the punishment corner) & read her books, whenever I liked… It was like giving a fat kid the key to the Nestle factory. She even let me take them home & told me about libraries. I remember the first book I read… Jason & the Golden Fleece 🙂 One of the most epic tales of all time. I should thank Mrs Pretorius one day… She helped me cultivate my curiosity & would always encourage me to think about what I read & ask me what I thought. She was a good teacher.
Thus I grew up reading about men who believed in themselves, men triumphing over seemingly insurmountable odds, men finding their fortunes & peasants becoming kings. I grew up learning about the code of chivalry followed by kings &knights & the honour of samurais. You can say I grew up being mentored by kings & warriors. I learned that princes were taught to be honourable, just, loyal & courageous. They were given the words of poets, the thoughts of philosophers & the knowledge of scholars (a conqueror/ruler couldn’t be ignorant) they were taught to always question what they didn’t understand & learn what they didn’t know. On top of that they were taught to be confident, ambitious & to trust their judgement & ability to steer themselves in the right direction. These where the values that raised princes & kings. The values taught to Odysseus, King Arthur, Moses & to this day taught to Prince William & the princes of Spain & Japan. It is these values that I’ve kept to this day, taught to my little sisters & will teach to my children, grandchildren & my nephews & nieces. I’ve learned that the difference between kings & peasants was in their values. What they were taught to believe. How they were taught to think.
You see, the way we think governs the way we act. My unwavering confidence comes from my belief in myself & my knowledge is fed by my love of literature. It’s only with self-belief that you can change the world. It’s only with knowledge that you can create a vision & by trusting your judgment you can follow it through & see it to the end. Even if no one can see what you see. They don’t know what you know. Wing it!