The trajectory of life is something no one can predict. We can speculate and gamble on what the most favourable outcome could be, but ultimately the outcome of plans is sometimes out of our control. I guess this is why we have alternative plans, should the first one not yield the intended results. ‘Always have a plan because it will give you a sense of direction of where you are going,’ it’s said. Identify it, work hard to get it and then live your purpose.
I’ve always known what I wanted to do with my life, even though I was surrounded by people who did not have the knowledge and resources to understand it. If you were to ask 14-year-old Sindiswa what she wanted to be, she would confidently tell you, “I want to be in television.”
My parents always preached the importance of education. Like any other black parents, those pearls of wisdom were often followed by my mother’s musings (who didn’t miss a beat) about how I would be the first medical doctor in my family. As a self-proclaimed black sheep, I didn’t disappoint my fellow comrades in pursuing what I wanted. After passing Grade 12, I enrolled at the Nelson Mandela University for the journalism course and my parents dealt with the effects of me not chasing their dream. I had already identified what I wanted in my life, figured out the steps I needed to take and started to put in the work.
In my third year, I was offered the opportunity to work at a community TV station. The salary wasn’t great but I understood the importance of getting my foot in. I was wet behind the ears but all I wanted then as a 21-year-old was to prove to my parents that I could make a success of myself in the television industry. Two years went by and I felt like I was hitting the ceiling, so the next step was finding a way to get to Johannesburg. This was my first brush with having to close a chapter in order for a new journey to begin.
In 2014, I moved to Johannesburg with the mission of breaking into mainstream media. I worked for an established production company and for years, I was showered with praise, and seeing my name in the credits made me happy”, but as the years went by I realised that I wasn’t happy with where I was.
Yes, my name was in the credits and I worked with big names in the industry but in reality, I was living from hand to mouth.What I studied and the work I was doing didn’t correlate with my bank balance. I was tired of being an educated creative, working long hours, and not even taking home a R10,000 salary.
I knew I needed a change but I was already trying to diagnose myself with “abantu bazothini?” syndrome. I was among a few privileged South Africans with parents that could pay for their varsity fees, but I was scared of what people would say about a decision that had nothing to do with them. Whether we want to admit it or not, there’s a level of care that we carry inside ourselves that makes us think we should allow people to have some kind of power over the life choices we make. We consume so much outside noise that we forget we’re all just trying to make sense of what life really means to each of us.
At 27, working for the top television production in the country, I packed my bags and booked a ticket home. I didn’t tell anyone because I did not want my friends’ opinions to cloud the decision I knew was best for me. The first few months back home were characterised by tears and wondering if I made the best decision by going back to school. My peers where driving cars and buying property while I was enrolling for my second qualification. After the pity party, I forced myself to reflect on my journey, named all the mistakes I had made and went back to the drawing board to figure out ‘where to from here’.
Starting over is never easy but I’ve also learnt that when you don’t jump, God will make your situation so uncomfortable that you will have no choice but to jump. The journey will make you think twice, you might even fall off and lose your sense of direction, but know that the compass you seek is inside of you. I don’t regret my journey and I realise that it’s quite unfair for society to expect you to have everything by a certain age. I’m 30 and still piecing my life together. I have nothing materialistic to show for my success yet, but the beauty of life is having had to redefine what success was to me. I can’t tell you if this will be the last time I start over but what I can tell you is that I have no energy to doubt my ability to change the direction of my journey because in the end, I will reach my destination.
Sindiswa Nene has more than eight years’ experience in the media and television industry. Her journey began at Bay TV, but she left hard news and current affairs for her role as a Script Coordinator for Isidingo, which later ignited her passion for storytelling. She then became a Creative Coordinator and eventually a Junior Creative — working on productions like Big Brother Africa and Tempy Pushas. She’s currently in the process of completing her second qualification in Media Studies and hopes that this will continue to set her apart while making a name of herself.