Exam time rolls around [as it would] and one of my students doesn’t appear.  The brother’s gone AWOL. Supplementary exam week comes soon after and the brother will not answer calls or return messages; he’s submerged.  His intension is to remain in hiding long enough for the problem to disappear mysteriously on its own.  When he returns, he plans to smile and find himself in the New Year with new circumstance.

That’s not how life works though is it? What’s he’s inevitably doing is setting about a chain reaction of events that affects not only the two exams he has missed, but his entire year’s performance.  The consequences are vast:

  • His parents will cut him off [he is 23, by all accounts he should be finished his tertiary education and onto his first job already]
  • Sure he could start over and “start a business selling digital artworks on the internet” [his plan, not mine]
  • The fear to begin anew may paralyse him completely and he could recoil back into the foetal position and wait for someone to kick him out his plush [parent-sponsored] apartment and land him on the street
  • If he’s on the street, he’s immediately society’s liability for he doesn’t know how to look after himself
  • If the streets teach him...well, you see where I’m going with this.

We’ve often heard that “real men show up”.  This sounds novel at best because it’s easy to “show up” for a braai or a party, after all, Ke Summer.  No one prepares you for “showing up” man-style.  This means that you have to be there to face your successes and your failures.  You have to look your failure-monster in the eye and determine how you will hack at it until you have carved out a solution for yourself. 

Making mistakes in itself is not a bad deal; but a real man is there to clean up his mistakes and right his wrongs, so this young brother had a tough lesson to learn.

You cannot bury your head in the sand like an ostrich and “hope” that things will right when you out.  Hope is for people who have done the work and know that the outcome remains is in the hands of someone else.  But they know that they have done all they can and can rest at ease.

When you have said all that there is to be said, and you have done all that there is to be done, you are at the place where you have laid the foundation for what you intend to build.  Teaching someone to be a man is beyond the sheer physicality of being, the general: provision and protection act that parents read out.  A man will be recognised by the things he chooses to hold dear; these may be things of a physical nature or things of a conceptual nature. 

A young man proves his worth by how he treats himself and how he walks his path.  So though a painful lesson for this young brother, coming clean to his parents, asking for help and working out a solution with all concerned makes your load much easier to bear. 

Photographer: Mduduzi Mpala


PS. I have mad respect for this young brother because I have seen much too many in his shoes simply give up and return to face a life of uncertainty; simply because they were too afraid to face their mistakes and man up [as it were].

Courage young Grasshopper. Courage.

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