It’s been over 15 months since I started this blog, and something that I have heard again and again is, ‘Norman, you chose the wrong career’. It’s one of the greatest compliments I have received, because these people actually believe I write well enough to make a career of it. Thank you. But it makes me a little sad too, because I realize what these people are actually saying is, ‘Norman, you COULD be writing’ and yet I AM writing. (For those who might not know, I am a final year Mining Engineering student).
I am reminded of what Steve Jobs said in an interview back in 1994. He said: “When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world”. So it saddens me when my friends tell me to ‘Just be an engineer’ or ‘Just be a writer’.
But I am that kid that grew up watching Lois and Clark, Batman, Double Dragon, GI Joe, X-Men and the Teenage Ninja Turtles.. And if you came to me over a decade ago and asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would have looked you square in the eye and said, “I want to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle”, and if you looked at me funny I would have told you in all boyhood innocence that my Mum (who’s always right) told me that I could be anything that I wanted to be.
Then I grew up. And instead of watching Leonardo and his Niten Ryu I read about Leonardo da Vinci, a man who refused to be defined. A man who conceptualized a helicopter, a tank, a solar panel and a calculator in the 15th century (an engineer), who painted the Mona Lisa (an artist), who made important discoveries in anatomy and drew the Vitruvian Man, widely acknowledged in medical circles as the most proportional male human body (a physician). A man who was also a mathematician, sculptor, architect and geologist.
Instead of Raphael’s Sai, I learnt about Raphael da Urbino, the Italian painter and architect famous for his portrayal of The School of Athens. Rather than learn how to use a six foot Naginata like Donatello, I read about Donatello di Bardi, another Italian painter and sculptor famous for his statue of St. John the Baptist.
Instead of mastering Michelangelo’s tactics with the Kusarigama, I marveled at Michelangelo di Simoni’s sculptures, art and poetry which include the world-famous statue of a nude David and a painting of The Last Supper in the Sistine Chapel.
And what I learnt most was these people refused to be defined by the world. They went out and did what they chose to regardless of what career path others said it fell under. They were rad,(short for radical and street lingo for something that is really cool in a subtle, effortless way. A natural coolness, so to say). The day I realized this, I told myself I would be rad forever. Today I have put a spin to it. I am R.A.D , short for Rising Above Definition.
You see, people fear what they do not understand, and to understand you they need to define you. They will look at you like, “He’s a lawyer. I will look for him when I have legal problems” or “She’s a doctor, what would she know about investment? I need financial advice, not a CAT scan”. To paraphrase St. Augustine, you cannot stop the world from coming up with a definition for you, but you can refuse to be defined the world. Definitions have the power to limit you. If you submit to a definition, you are in essence allowing the world to say to you, “This is who you are and this is what you can do. However, you cannot do all these other things but don’t worry there are so many other people we have decided are just like you and if you hang around them long enough you will realize it’s okay to be unable to do these things”.
I refuse to be defined and it is for this reason I do not prefix my name with Engineer on facebook, nor will I suffix it with a long list of letters after I graduate. I am not who you or anybody wants me to be. I am who I decide to be. I am not on the outside looking in. I am not on the inside looking out. No, I am in the dead centre looking around. So the next time I talk about P2P, Miss Havisham, Laplace Transforms and my mother all in the same sentence don’t try to define me because I am not a writer, I am not an engineer…I am simply a human being!
So if you ask me a decade from now, what I would have become, I will look you square in the eye and say, “The Fifth Mutant Ninja Turtle…but only during weekends” and I will also have picked the name of a Revolutionary fighter – Che Guevara and would have made the pen my weapon of choice. Because through my writings I can introduce a gold standard currency in Zimbabwe, make the US lift sanctions and never impose a no-fly zone over Libya. Through my poetry, ‘Lost Black Girls’ can leave the corners of Harare’s Avenues because their fathers stayed around long enough to raise them and Murambatsvina never occurred. Through my writing, Herbert Chitepo can die of old age and Josiah Tongogara can read his eulogy. There can be no colonialism in our history and the Second Chimurenga would be avoided. Through my poetry there would be no weed-smoking drop-outs loitering at ghetto bottle-stores, matter of fact there would be no ghettos to build bottle-stores in. Through my writing, nothing will be impossible.
So here is a shout-out to everyone who refuses to compromise who they are to be accepted by the crowd, everyone who prefers substance over popularity and everyone who chooses to think their own thoughts.
Everyone who wants to LIVE and not survive.
Everyone who wants to LAUGH and not cry.
Everyone who wants LOVE and not lies.
Everyone who wants understanding, knowledge, peace and knows they are not a nerd but R.A.D.
I leave you with a tag-line used by Steve Job’s Apple Company in its famous ‘Think Different’ adverts:
“Here’s to the crazy one. the misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who actually DO!”