25 Lessons

VANESSA SMEETS

My first quarter of a century is up! 26, already?  Inspired by the voice of Baz Luhrmann for the Sunscreen song, I’ve come up with my own 25 lessons to honour the last 25 years that have passed by quietly or with a bang, on my eternal quest for love and truth.

love family

YES, DAD: A beautiful day in Zimbabwe with my dad (1986) PHOTO: CVU

1)    Learn from your parents’ mistakes. Although marriage seems like a tempting way to consummate one’s love for one another, it rather comes from hours of proper communication and compassion. Yet, happily divorced parents tend to give great advice…

2)    Write down your grandparents’ tales. Parky (Grandpa) used to tell his World War 2 tales under the stars. Wish I wasn’t too little to really understand how precious these memories were…

3)    Speak to strangers. As children, we are taught: “Don’t talk to strangers.” But, in adulthood meeting new people adds colour to one’s own world. You’d be surprised at how many similar experiences you actually share. Today, I spoke to an Afghan refugee. It was the most thought-provoking conversation in a few years.

cocktail times

BICYCLE DIARIES: Happiness in the middle of the night PHOTO: CJ

4)    Ride a bicycle in a cocktail dress. Late one night, a friend and I jumped onto bicycles a little tipsy. We never arrived at our initial destination. Instead, we spent an amazing 40 minutes trying to perfect riding a bicycle in a cocktail dress and trying to stay on it without the cops suspecting we were a little over the limit…

5)    Don’t fall too hard in love, although it hurts just as much every time. After a few excruciating heart-breaks, I must say the shortest one was the most painful. Although you become a little more cynical after each failed relationship, you also make the huge mistake of settling for less. DON’T!!!

6)    Keep your girlfriends near. Many girls once in love brush away their friendships in order to make room for their new guy. A true gentleman will allow a wonderful girls’ night out, where you can recharge your batteries away from him.

7)    Ask your guy friends for direction. Blessed with wonderful guy friends, they have taught me how to laugh at myself, step away from abusive relationships and help make the right career move.

Valencia

SERENITY: The beautiful aquarium of Valencia, Spain PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

8)    Travel. Try the Paella in Spain, the white beaches of Mauritius, the beer-gardens in Munich, the apfel-strudel of Austria and the Table Mountain of South Africa. So many languages and cultures to explore, even in your own country.

9)    Write love letters. Somehow, emails never have the same impact. If someone really means a lot to you, the relationship is bound to last longer than a few weeks. Getting a letter written when everything was burning hot re-ignites that spark!

10)  Gain wisdom from children. Two years as a pre-school teacher taught me enough to last the rest of my life. The joys of being human come from our unique gifts: speech, creativity, compassion, reason and enough laughter to keep it all going strong.

11)  Give pseudoscience a chance. This year, I fell in love with Reiki, a Japanese technique of finding out what is bothering you and allowing you to heal in your own time. I also realised graphologists (people who analyse handwriting) contain a lot of truth. Even the way one presses against the paper means something exceptional.

12)  Leave the ex alone. As tempting as it is to flirt with an old flame, you have to realise it’s preventing you from meeting someone new. This is your turn to shine for someone who truly appreciates you.

13) Study in different countries. Travelling is somehow not enough in seeking solace for one’s soul. By living 11 000 kilometres away from home, I‘ve come to appreciate South Africa so much more. Yes, Internet and transport efficiency is amazing in Europe, but the sun doesn’t shine as much, the people tend to keep to themselves and you have to make the effort of getting to know them first. Long live the days of “braais” around a pool…

14) Be prepared to be criticised and criticise. Although I hate conflict, a little conflict with some of my closest friends taught me there is joy in reconciling only a stronger friendship.

15) Keep a journal. Writing your experiences, struggles and feelings helps you meet the person you will spend the rest of your life with: yourself.

Faith through Ibrahim

FINDING FAITH: Ibrahim gets paid a minimum salary for being the care-taker of Stellenbosch's (South Africa) only mosque PHOTO: Vanessa Smeets

16) Have faith or find it through others. Whether it comes from believing in G_d or Allah, it gives one direction in living a purpose-filled life.

17) It’s never too late to fall in love. When I saw my grandmother smiling in the old age home because of a certain someone, it hit me that it was never too late to fall in love again. Although at the same time I realised I don’t want to find the love of my life in nappies.

18)  Fear only fear itself. In high school, we were taught by watching Strictly Ballroom that a life lived in fear is a life half-lived. I wouldn’t be where I am today (travelling like a nomad with little knowledge of what’s coming next) if I had feared this ocean of incertitude…

19) Party till the sun comes up. Watching the a sunrise over a beach or mountain at the crack of dawn gives life so much more meaning and so many more reasons to appreciate every day as TODAY.

20) Make peace with your past. My childhood friend passed away this year. Although we hadn’t talked properly in years, her death hit me hard. I found  our old letters and photos we had taken 13 years ago. I made peace by her saying goodbye in this way…

21) “Imagination is more important than knowledge,” declared Einstein. The world is so much more colourful when you stop over-analysing situations in exchange for creating new dreams and desires.

22) Appreciate everyone, even the bergie (beggar) that will one day save your life. When I was being followed in Stellenbosch after a late night working at the newspaper, I bumped into Moksie (Stellies’ famous bergie). By being nice to her the week before, she “took care of” the people following me.

23)  Embrace your childhood. Time for the clichés: run like you’ve never fallen, laugh like it’s your first time, play before it’s too late, love like you’ve never been hurt and find your inner child again!

school days

PRECIOUS MEMORIES: Laughter and sunshine with school friends (2003) PHOTO: VS

24) Trust your teenhood. If it wasn’t for that first cigarette or terrible first kiss, we wouldn’t appreciate the real taste we have now.

25)  Feast your adulthood. People take for granted the ability to savour each new memory or experience. It comes from soothing your soul. You need time-out from work, friends and family to reflect in solitude. Ever listen to your own heart-beat? It’s possible…

Dare to Dream…

VANESSA SMEETS

In thoughts from the visions of the night, when deep sleep falleth on men…  ~Job 4:13


heaven stairway

WHERE TO? My destiny was revealed to me at the age of 8. I haven’t looked back since… PIC: online

I’m not sure if a blog is the right place to do this, but where else can I declare my feelings on writing? I have lost too many friends this year to realise there is only one life and one chance to write this.

If I had my way, all my readers would be sitting in a hall listening to the following:

Just before my parents’ divorce, I dreamt that my brother, our two best friends and I jumped into a pool. We woke up in heaven, but all went our separate ways…
I followed my guardian angel. Her name is Rebecca. She is over 2 metres tall, carries a golden belt around her waist and has the softest golden locks. I know, angels don’t have genders, but she symbolised womanly strength I was seeking at that time.

I asked her to show me Jesus Christ. There, in a beautiful garden filled with palm trees was a white tent. On the other side, I saw blind and paralysed people walking into a building and coming out completely healed. I was anxious to meet Him. My mom was a strong Christian, but I had questioned His existence. His voice was tranquil. He knew my name before even looking at me. My heart was quickly at rest.

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart: his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords.  ~Psalms 55:21


His eyes astonished me the most. They were an amazing metallic blue. When He looked at me, I could feel Him looking into my soul. Yet, I was not afraid. An 8-year old doesn’t have much to hide, except maybe guilty feelings of teasing her little brother.

He was busy painting. It was then that I noticed He was painting humanity using His blood. Using His tears, the strokes would be lighter or darker. I could not bear to watch. He was painting mothers, fathers, children covered in blood, crying out in agony. I started to weep, but He told me to be strong and patient; things could change from one day to the next.

I knelt beside Him. “You are ready,” He said. He gave me His paintbrush and it turned into a quill. I haven’t stopped writing since that day. When I left the tent, I felt reassured: I knew my purpose, except I had no idea how to go home.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.  ~Proverbs 16:9


“Your parents are waiting,” He told me, “But your Father above knows where you’ve been and where you are going.” It has been 17 years since the dream, but remember it as if it was yesterday.
He showed me a corridor that would lead me home. It was a corridor filled with portraits and I have met every single person since then. They don’t just happen as déjà-vus; it’s as if I’ve met them before. Indeed I have and they all came at a time I needed guidance or reassurance.

At the end of the dream, my brother and our two friends meet each other again, but our senses have changed. We speak, listen and see much clearer. Four years ago, after my near-to-death experience, the four of us all found God again. The dream had reached full-circle.

heaven's gate

DARE TO DREAM: Whether we believe in God, Allah, Jehovah… we all have similar dreams and the power to change the world around us by revealing them to others. PIC: online

The dream taught me numerous things:

  • You may be young, but you can awaken at any time.
  • It is on our stillest times, that we hear Him.
  •  Sometimes it’s best to go to your room, pray out aloud and wait. Wait till it all makes sense. It eventually will. Your subconscious will communicate with you via your dreams.
  • I’m a journalist that types with one finger. People laugh at me all the time about it. It’s okay, I received that gifted finger when I was 8 years old.
  •  There is God’s peace in anxious times, God’s love in heartbroken times and God’s hope in uncertain times.
  • Dare to dream about peace, love and destiny…