I have learned valuable things from people from all walks of life. Some of them are known to me personally, whereas others have encouraged me through their work even though I haven’t met them. Sadly in some cases it took some time before I could truly appreciate the gems around me. Here I will describe some of the inspirational people from the centre of my life to the periphery.
I grew up in apartheid South Africa for the first ten years of my life. For nineteen years after that I lived in post-apartheid South Africa. Reading this article saddened me, but it also filled me with a newfound gratitude for the domestic workers who helped to raise me. They loved me unconditionally despite the injustice of the social system they were subjected to. It took some distance from my childhood years to develop a deep admiration for them in addition to the appreciation I had always felt. As a child I could not see behind the scenes into what their lives looked like outside the environment of my family home. They found a way to shine light into the world regardless of their circumstances.
I have strong women in my family who set a good example for me. I used to take parenthood for granted because everyone else did. During my years of breaking away from home, I went through different stages of rebellion. As soon as I started full time employment, however, my attitude changed. I realised that having a business job is no joke. All of a sudden the people who expected parenthood as a given for me at any point in the future seemed crazy. I understood what a remarkable job my mother had done as a single parent of three children all born within a span of three and a half years. She looked after us for twelve days in a fortnight while building a successful career post-divorce. There is no way that I could treat one child with the amount of patience my mother showed towards us, let alone three. My grandmother had six children of whom two were disabled. She completed a master’s degree in criminology while pregnant with her fifth child. In the era that she lived in, she was expected to refrain from attending class during pregnancy. The demeaning attitude did not deter her.
I have a musician friend, Josh Prinsloo aka Fruit Vendor whom I met at work (check his blog here). We regularly shared our frustrations because both of us felt disconnected from a deeper purpose. He wanted to devote his efforts to the arts whereas I was trying to figure out a way to make healing work my job. Josh is a few years younger than me and did not have the kind of financial backup that I had at the time. While I was still making excuses for myself, he quit his job. He jumped into a career as an artist without asking permission of anyone. He recently won a music competition. I have always believed in him.
There are people who have inspired me through their work. My teacher of shamanism, Ross Heaven, had left his well paid job in the pharmaceutical industry to pursue true healing. He taught me valuable principles while encouraging me to go with my own insights. I have not met many spiritual teachers who in no way claimed to have authority over anyone else. I am grateful to him for re-affirming what I knew to be true although I was too afraid to acknowledge it.
There are also the famous writers and musicians whose work I admire but whom I have not met. Some of them have taught that the easiest way to be an artist is to go and do it. I feel daft to admit that such an obvious statement opened doors for me, yet it is surprising how the belief that I had to earn a right to do what I wanted deterred me. Those artists whose work has truly meant something to me have taught that others can be as great as they are.
None of the people who inspired me are perfect. All of them are admirable because they have given a unique gift. Inspiring people can be found anywhere, regardless of fortune or education. The challenge, I believe, is using what one has to create a life that is worthwhile. I am hoping that I could learn from these fantastic examples to also bring inspiration to others.