My decision to leave my cushy (albeit stressful) job has been such a trip! I keep thinking about how I have been here before and suffered – leaving Unilever with some low-paying job and pending student debt was a pretty tough experience. So it is no surprise that I have been going back and forth with this, wondering if I am making a mistake.

 
Am I making a bad move for my relationship which requires me to save pretty soon and could therefore do with the Delta rands?  Am I making a bad decision for my cushy life – springing myself back into a mediocre or poor financial position for no reason whatsoever when I promised myself the last time that I would not do this to myself again?  Am I strangling my career with these constant back and forth decisions that seem somewhat whimsical? 
Alas…

I then read a thread by the rapper Noname where she details how she finds the idea of secrecy around hoarding wealth and how much people have, pretty weird. She argued that it’s partly rooted in capitalism and that the idea of us all not knowing how much the other person has allows them to create an illusion of seemingly either earning less than we think and therefore, seeming on par with us, or more than we think and therefore pretty much creating a perception of wealth that doesn’t even exist. She then goes on to detail how much she earns, how much her company as an independent artist earns, how she basically donates most of her streaming money to mutual funds because she doesn’t want to be stuck in a capitalist rut where she is hoarding wealth – the money she earns is enough to feed her and her family, so she doesn’t feel the need to keep making more. 


Noname’s clear idea of the life she wants, the deliberate nature of creating it is incredibly inspiring to me. It reminded me of my resolve when I left Unilever – how I wanted to dedicate my talents to doing work that matters. It also reminded me that it’s normal to fear not having enough – but that it does not mean it should lead to hypercapitalism to compensate for your fears. It reminded me about how every time I make a “big” decision, it has always led to some form of decluttering. 


Decluttering: the process of removing things that may seem useful and necessary in your life which actually have just become excess. You think you need them until you have to make a choice and realise you actually don’t. So what decluttering am I thinking about this time?


Detaching myself from the idea of Sandton

  • I think getting accustomed to quick and easy everything and being at the heart of capital, creates a perception of the “need” to live in such spaces. I want access to things – the theatre, good coffee spots, brunch, book stores and such but I don’t need them next door. The question then becomes, can I have access to my wants but not necessarily be at the heart of them?

Detaching myself from other people’s idea of “success”

  • Being daily bombarded by people who want to be “wealthy” and to “make it” sometimes gets confusing. I have found myself questioning whether I don’t want the “good life” because of some random moral high ground that I have created and therefore are forcing myself to live up to it? The answer is no. I want a simple life full of love, enough money to make the pots and time filled with people that I actually like. The temptation for “another type of life” is merely rooted in being in it. I have become complacent and accustomed but it certainly is not a desire. 

Clearing my mind from random anxiety and worry

  • I want to sleep well. I want to dream and stay up working on random ideas that I actually believe in. I don’t want to be on antidepressants. I don’t want to be too anxious to open emails. I don’t want to not have enough time to barely do anything besides work and sleep. I want to go home and see my family. I want to spend time with my friends without feeling guilty. I don’t want my conversations with my boyfriend to be filled with complaints and worry. I want my skin to stop hating me and become clear again. I want to go to church and not think about the work I have to do later – I want to live. Decluttering for me means leaving behind any and everything that takes away from my living. 

So now what? 

I am not naïve enough to assume that some pretty words on a page mean that I magically get the life that I want. Or that because I am committed to “decluttering”, my life will not turn out differently and maybe more horribly than I had imagined. I could end up in an undesirable financial position again (please open your purse if I do – lol). I could end up asking myself whether I made a mistake, wondering why I did this AGAIN. I could end up sad and depressed, I know this. I suppose the thing that is most clear is that even after having been here before and somewhat regretting some of my decisions, I am still allowing myself to be here again. I am learning that I truly am committed to being the person I envision. I want to do the work I dream about. That if I died today, I would  feel like I was on the way to becoming. That even when I wrongly envy everyone else’s wealth and “good life”, I can revisit moments like this – moments of clarity and resolve. 

My dreams have always always consumed me, they refuse to allow me to quit on them. I suppose this moment reminds me that it’s okay to keep giving them a chance. And that no matter what happens, I will never be the person who says ” I could’ve been..” but the one who says “I truly truly tried to do the best I could with all that I was given – to live coram deo even in my career.” 


4 thoughts on “On the idea of decluttering

  1. Thank you for opening up – very insight. It is something that does tend to haunt me from time to time also: balancing creating wealth & following ur “money-less” passions. As a black, previously disadvantaged individuals, there is a huge sense of responsibility to fight for a certain status in the society to make it easier for the disadvantages SA generation that follows, and unfortunately in our very capitalist world this does tend to mean prioritizing wealth over our passions or more personally meaning pursuits. How do we just ignore this responsibility? Or should we be focusing on finding a sweet spot: while creating wealth; still dedicating some of our time in doing more meaningful work? Or a “tilting act” where for a couple of years we focus on building wealth and the other on our “money-less” passions?

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    1. Sho these are good and valid questions N. Very thoughtful comment, so thank you.

      I don’t really have the answer that fits well for every case here but I think each person knows their capacity for each of the examples you gave here. So I would say it will like a version of those examples depending on the person and what they see as pressing responsibilities at the time and also honestly what they can withstand. What I am hoping this reflection does is to help us to think deeply about why we are where we are, what we want from those spaces and whether we are getting it. If that means doing certain work that you aren’t necessarily passionate about because you need the money then so be it. But then you have to ask yourself how much money you really need and whether you “need” the money at that job. Or you could just want the money to be honest and that’s also okay, just know that it’s a bit pointless talking about how you aren’t living true to yourself because that’s not what you’re prioritising.

      I also think we need to move to a more advance definition of success as young black South Africans. There is a Barack Obama quote that I am about to butcher through paraphrasing, where he talks about how a lot of us really lack ambition. He talks about how easy it is for smart people to do the corporate jobs that we do because it really doesn’t take that much from you but gives you lots of money. And he goes on to argue that ambitious people would try to use their brains to solve some of the most pressing challenges we see in the world – essentially using their intellect to really grapple with challenging questions and how they can be solved.
      I think about this often when we talk about wealth and ambition.

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