I turned 24 today, which means I have one more year to milk the fact that I’m still undeniably a youth and qualify for grants meant for women in third world countries below the age of 25.
As a writer, in all these years, all I’ve done can be summarised as collecting words like memorabilia and tucking them away in my life. Some words I kept because they were pretty. Some because I could relate. And some because they were absolute gems that were so gorgeously disruptive I wanted to mould my entire life around them. These were words that I want to live by, that I have lived by and that I hope I will continue to live by.
Here are 24 gems I’ve collected in my 24 years of living (accompanied by some of my favourite conceptual self portraits).
1. Memento Mori
I came across this phrase for the first time in 2013 when I was skimming a book titled Infinite days by Rebecca Maizel. Although I never actually read the book, I did see this quote and it stuck with me forever. It’s latin for “remember you MUST die.” It’s been my motto ever since. It serves as a reminder that one day I’ll die and to live each day as if I will by doing what I want and minimising regrets.
2. Better to poop in your pants than die of constipation
The person who told me this was actually talking about picking up girls, but the lesson behind it remains a guiding principle til today. It’s better to shoot your shot (with women, opportunities, whatever) and be rejected than never to try at all.
3. Just do it
Fun fact: Nike’s slogan is inspired by the famous last words of a death row inmate, Gary Gilmore. He murdered two people and right before he was executed by firing squad, he said, “Let’s do it,” which was then adapted for some Nike campaign. Isn’t History wonderful? Anyway, in the same vein as word of wisdom number 2, don’t over think things. Just do them.
4. I am me – with a few apologies
I made up this caption on my 20th birthday. I was reflecting on a few things and even though I do try to live in a way that “minimises regret” , there are a few things about myself that I’d like to change. Things I wish I could have done better. Things that I’m apologetic for.
5. Go forth in darkness and in light
I’m not sure where I heard this, but I think it’s also from the same book I got “memento mori“. In the words of Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist, in case you didn’t get the reference you heathen), “keep moving forward.” Of course that’s not as poetic as “go forth in darkeness and in light,” but the sentiment remains. The path is forward – regardless of the obstacles, regardless of opportunities.
6. Show up for yourself. Show up as yourself
I saw this when my friend put it up on her status. What does it mean to “show up for yourself.” To be honest, it could mean a great deal of things. To me it means not completely giving up on myself (cause nde, I struggle with this). It also means giving myself a fighting chance to chase all the dreams I want. And showing up as myself? Being the most authentic version of me at all epochs in my life.
7. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.
These are words from Amanda Gomani’s iconic poem, which as a whole – context aside – is just *chef’s kiss*. But this line is particular just resonates through me because I’m a firm believer in platitudes such as “be the change you want to see” and “BElieve THEre is GOOD in the world.”
8. Healthy self. Heal thy self.
I saw a quote with these words sometime in my teen years. I had just been diagnosed with clinical depression and was going through a melodramatic melancholic and brooding stage, waiting for someone to love all my mental afflictions away. (I blame wattpad for selling me wayward dreams). Somewhere along the way I learnt that I was the person I was waiting for. Someone would have to put in the work every day of dealing with whatever trauma and whatever messiness I had (and would have in future) and that person just had to be me.
9.Take it straight to the vein, do what you your afraid to. You’ve got to be brave. No one’s going to save you.
This is a song I recently discovered by Kai Straw and it’s basically the same as the last quote. I used to want someone to “save” me like the damsel I thought I was – sad and lonely, waiting for some guy to understand the darkest parts of me. Love my younger self for dreaming, but what a load of rat manure. As much as I have met people who have understood me in ways I had given up on, there are still too many darker parts that I can’t possibly burden on other people without first doing so myself.
10. Wherever you go, there you are.
I heard this from Angasa and I’m not sure where she first got it. But every three business days I’m comfronted with the fact that even if I could run from everything, I cannot run from myself. There are certain things intricately tied to my being that I cannot escape. Things that I have to face. Things that I have to live with. Things I have to accept.
11. Love doesn’t have to be long. It just has to be good.
I started telling myself this after the first romantic love of my life broke up with me for reasons I understood but could not change. I was hit with the realisation that perhaps, because of the person I am, longevity in a romantic relationship is a farfetched dream. Confronted with that information, I told myself that regardless of the amount of time, I should aim that my relationships in whatever shape or form are always exceptional and fun and fulfilling. That the people I have loved can at least say I was good to them no matter the duration.
12. The sun will rise and we will try again.
First heard this from a Twenty Øne Piløts song. A simple reminder that bad days end and you can always try again tomorrow.
13. Inhale. Exhale. Begin again.
Got this when I was watching a yoga video by Cole Chance. I’ve always been big on new beginnings. I tell myself that at any moment I can just take a few breaths and try to start over.
14. What you share with the world is what it keeps of you.
The world will remember you by what you put in it. I got this from a song by Noah and The Whale titled “Give a little love.” So, if I excude love and kindness and tasteless humour I hope in turn that’s how I’m remembered.
15. Bear each others burdens.
Galatains 6 vs 2 – my favourite verse in the entire bible. I believe in empathy and always being there for the people in my life. I try to make sure the people I love never feel like they are alone in what they are going through.
16. You can’t save people, you can only love them.
In a similar notion, these words by Anaïs Nin. The full quote being, “I weep because you cannot save people. You can only love them. You can’t transform them, you can only console them.” I used to think, I was capable of loving and helping people out of their misery. That my presence was enough to remove all their burdens. I probably had some sort of saviour complex. By and by, I realised that wasn’t my place nor was it within my power. What is within my power however, is always being a friend and making them know I’m there for them.
17. Fumbi ndiwe mwini
My mom told me this idiom along with a bunch of others (that I didn’t internalise into my life). It literally translates to “dust is yourself” but it actually means blow your own trumpet or sing praises for yourself or whatever. In the iconic words of probably some rapper (because I definitely didn’t come up with this but google search isn’t helping me either), “In this game, if you don’t speak for yourself no one will.”
18. A small joy but a joy nonetheless.
I probably read this from a book, but I can’t remember which one. What I do remember is the tiny lesson this quote taught me. Nothing is ever too small if it brings us a little bit of happiness in this dark world. I try to relish in the little things – like caramel ice cream on a bad day, or the sound of my mother’s voice, or a simple kiss on the forehead. Whatever keeps the demons at bay is worth acknowledging and indulging in wholeheartedly.
19. Never underestimate the kindness of strangers (and sometimes the stranger is you).
This is a common phrase I hear thrown around a lot. It probably came from Tennessee Williams’ famous quote, ” I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” It might be a stretch to think the two are connected, but they do address the same thing. It’s a simple reminder that a little grace and compassion go a long way to make someone else’s day better.
20. At what cost?
I honestly just started saying this because I used to wake up groggy every single day when I was at my old job. Gawd, I didn’t look forward to it, but I also needed the money and the experience. In life there are always choices and trade-offs. What you want always has a price. What are you willing to give for it?
21. I go to seek a great perhaps.
These are the alleged last words of Francois Rabelais but I read them first in John Green’s Looking for Alaska. I have forever been in pursuit of a fulfilling and purposeful life. I want to chase all my dreams and do what I want and love the people that I love. Will I achieve everything my heart desires? Will I ever fill the void that aches within my being? Will I feel content at my dying breath? Perhaps.
22. Zokupha munthu timazidziwa, ndipo si izi.
When I first started weight lifting, my trainer at the time really pushed me to my absolute limit. He wanted me to truly know what my body was capable of, and each time I thought I couldn’t go on, he’d say this phrase. It basically translates to, “We know what can kill a person, and it’s not this.” Now I use it as mantra when I’m going through something that’s extremely taxing. When I think I’m at my limit, I tell myself this.
23. Take care of what takes care of you.
Be it your house. Your body. Your job. Your friends and family. The things that ground you. The things that sustain you. Whatever it is that maintains you, needs to be maintained as well.
24. Let me live so when it’s time to die even the reaper cries.
This is a line from a song by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. I’ve loved it since I heard it. All in all, I hope by sticking to these little words I’ve collected, I can at least warrant a life that even death would deem well lived.
2 thoughts on “24 commandments”
This is beautiful!
Thank you so much.