It’s been more than a month since I first moved to Stellenbosch and I am still attempting to give you the most accurate version of my experience. So here goes attempt number 794 at writing my “Moving to Stellenbosch”-piece that I promised a helluva long time ago.
The reason for my silence
The real reason for my silence is the fact that every time I finish this piece, I realise that I feel completely different from how I felt when I started writing it, and that I knew absolutely nothing about Stellenbosch nor about adulting at the time of writing. So that is my take for today – I admit that I still probably know nothing, but neither does anyone else who has given me their opinions about what I should expect from the whole experience.
Since my last draft, I have come to the realisation that all the strange and wonderful anecdotes that I heard about the Western Cape, and becoming independent were just everyone else’s take on things and how they view the world. The stories that people tell are their own way of making sense of the world. Sure, sometimes it is good to listen and learn but for the most part, I would urge anyone to rather just make sense of their own experiences than to live through another’s narrative.
Point is – I have learned to take everything with a pinch of salt, even my own opinions. For now, however, I would like to (ironically) share my own stances so that you as a Stellenbosch “inkommer” won’t fall for the same parodies that I fell for. Let’s face it, you are probably reading this article for one of two reasons: Firstly, because you are planning on moving to a new city, or because at some time in your life you moved to a new city and went through all of the same stuff.
Treat yo’ self
The first lesson that I had to learn was that my new place of residence (Stellenbosch) is indeed somewhat more expensive from where I come from. There are, however, some more controllable aspects, and how you manage your expenses is one of those. As Sam Beckbessinger says in Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup: “Trying to look rich is how most of us get poor.” This lesson is not exclusive to this book. I believe that everyone has, at some point, heard the phrase “living above one’s means”. If you haven’t heard it before, you have now.
I am not saying that you should never splurge – in fact, if you know me you would know that I love to throw the phrase “treat yo’ self” around like confetti. So you could guess that for me it is all about being frugal yet thrifty and knowing where I can get the best deals and how I can keep busy without spending. So you will certainly be able to spot a wild Heloise on the Coetzenburg trail, drinking coffee at Schoon or Java, or enjoying a wine tasting at JC Le Roux, all of which won’t break my bank.
The substitute for real human connection
The second lesson that I learned was that there is no substitute for real human connection (things are getting deep now, so dive in or get out). I quickly had to learn how to live without my sisters being around the corner at any given time, and I had to learn that old friends can’t be replaced easily. This was something that I learned when my childhood best friend who also recently moved to Stellenbosch, to become a teacher, left for her hometown during the September holidays. I was so used to driving over to her whenever I felt lonely that I didn’t even notice how far away I really was from my home base. This feeling disappeared when two of my uni-friends showed up out of the blue to visit from Namibia and Johannesburg, which brings me to the third lesson: If someone cares they will make an effort.
If someone cares they will make an effort
I had seen these words before on a classic Pinterest quote-image, but I never knew how powerful they were until two of my friends drove across the country to visit, not only me – they also came for the scenery, the wine, and the company, but it did not matter because for the first time I realised the sloppy attempts at relationships and friendships that I accepted into my life in the past. It took a major move before I had the revelation that could have been achieved much more easily, but I am still grateful that I eventually had it.
Maybe, the stigma that surrounds the clicky nature of Cape Townians (I don’t mean to insult anyone, so no offense) is not something that we should degrade, maybe it is something that we can learn from. That we should say “no” to relationships that don’t serve our needs for human connection and that we should spend less time trying to accumulate ample acquaintances and more time feeding the relationships that add value to our lives.
That’s a wrap
So that is my opinion for today, and it got more intense and personal than I would have liked, but I guess that’s life. I still don’t know anything about being an adult in a new town, but I have kind of figured out how to budget. I am still trying to get my degree while working, I still have to stop myself from making dad jokes at wine tastings, and I still end up in Kuilsriver when I try to get to Kanonkop. Luckily I still get to appreciate the aesthetics of the most scenic town in South Africa and I am thankful that I was persistent enough to make the move.