In 2013 I started visiting schools to motivate students. I thought that would be a nice way of giving back to the community and I was (and still remain) passionate about making a difference in the lives of our future leaders. I never imagined that by sharing my life with other people, I would then find healing from things I thought I had forgiven and moved on from. See, I started this project with the intention of sharing only the good parts of my journey with the students. I remember on the first day, I had even prepared a little speech about my achievements, places I had travelled to and people I had met. But after introducing myself, I found myself overpowered by the moment, and there I was in front of 200 students telling them about my journey, my truth, and honestly, my life lessons, my mistakes and my pain. None of it was planned. I admitted my disobedience as a daughter, I acknowledged how I used to be a negative influence as friend and I confessed the insecurities I often battled with as a teenager. When I finished talking, I stood in shame, and irritated with myself. How could I leave myself so exposed? I waited for their judgment. But it never came. Instead, tears flowed.
I realized in that moment that my truth was theirs too- they were suffering from the same thing(s) that had kept me silent all along and they were oppressed by shame. There was silence. The masks were off. The veils were gone. We came out of hiding. And there we were- bruised but alive, broken but hopeful, scared but no longer hiding.
In that moment, regardless of our different backgrounds, we had one thing in common: we were out of hiding. We were tired of being fake, we were done with being slaves of our own fears, and we were done pretending to be OK. I stood there and instinctively, the students stood up one by one and hugged me. That was the day my healing began and I decided that I wasn’t going to hide anymore. I didn’t know that my pain could be useful to someone else if I shared it. Up until then, I had underestimated everything I had been through because I felt embarrassed by my background, I felt ashamed of some of the decisions I had made in life, and I was scared to admit my flaws. I assumed that the world was only interested in Nono Cele the TV Producer, the achiever, the girl making great strides… But that moment called for something deeper~ the truth of what was happening within.
This journey with the kids has opened my eyes to the fact that we are all hurting somehow and we need to empower each other by sharing our stories. Success doesn’t come without pain. We owe it to the next generation to give them the tools to use to navigate through the storms of life.
No matter how we smile outwardly, no matter how we pretend that we are OK, we are all patients in some areas of our lives. We are not victims, but we are wounded somehow… and coming out of hiding is the choice that begins to set us free.
I have met with young girls who were hiding growing stomachs from their parents, I met with young men who were selling drugs just to be cool, and I have spoken to teenage boys who were acting out violently because they were struggling with their identities. Our youth need role models who are not afraid to admit their mistakes and own up to their slip-ups. We won’t change the world by pretending we live perfect lives. Society teaches us to only show the world the best parts of ourselves and hide away the parts we aren’t proud of, and there lies our biggest obstacle: keeping up with the idea of who we think we should be while we drown in the reality of who we really are.
We need to help the youth to overcome the fear of failing, the fear of falling, the fear that once broken, we can’t be healed or whole again. These kids need to know that they won’t be discarded, thrown away or ridiculed when they make mistakes. But how will they ever know how to flourish in life if they don’t know that flying involves falling? Superheroes have flaws too, but we aren’t defined by those flaws. Let’s stop hiding and set ourselves and others free.
It takes so much energy to hide from yourself. And it’s such a relief to let yourself be seen.…