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Thank you Rihanna, for setting me free to be myself

Thank you Rihanna, for setting me free to be myself

Reliving the memory of a wild night, I’m dancing to a different tune.

The memory of that night in Amsterdam made me think deeply about who I am and who I always wanted to be. I wanted to be free.

A friend and kindred spirit recently reminded me of the night I danced to Rihanna’s Only Girl in the World, while partying in Amsterdam.

It was my first trip to Europe. I was surrounded by gorgeous Italian men, flocking around this African goddess as she sang and danced without a care in the world.

My friend called it a certain “brand of wild”. With the memory reawakened, I called a Dutch friend, and we reminisced about that unforgettable night. She acknowledged a thought that had been lingering in my mind.

“Our shared pursuit of freedom and purpose has always made us akin to twins,” she said.

My wild nature has always been intertwined with my quest for freedom, as if my father foresaw my future when he named me Nonkululeko. It means “Mother of Freedom”.

But just a few weeks before that night of dancing and abandon, I felt trapped. I was stuck in a corporate job, with a boss who seemed to feed on my self-esteem.

I resigned. I planned to pack up my life in Cape Town and head home to Johannesburg. I was going to set up a Joburg leg of the digital literacy project my Dutch friend and I had been spearheading in Khayelitsha, for bright young technology-hungry minds who were on the other side of the digital divide because of their disadvantaged circumstances.

Before heading home, I spent three whirlwind weeks in The Hague, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Paris, being my free self and attending a Digital Natives conference to which I had contributed a position paper.

At the beginning of this year, once again, I found myself stuck. My nerves were shot, this time from financial stress.

I had been carrying my household financially, getting way too close to broke. I was questioning whether my marriage was a noose I had unknowingly chosen to kill my free spirit.

I couldn’t recognise myself in the rage, frustration, and disappointment. I felt betrayed by a life partnership that felt more like a burden.

I decided to shake myself up again and run towards freedom. My mantra at the time was: “Remember who you are/have always wanted to be”.

My finances made me feel like I was sinking in quicksand, while I held tightly to my dream of an idyllic homestead life.

The memory of that night in Amsterdam made me think deeply about who I am and who I always wanted to be. I wanted to be free. So I let go.

I rented out my homestead and relocated to my favourite province, KwaZulu-Natal. We’re living across the beach now, with a breathtaking view of the ocean and the endless possibilities of life.

If I need to go into an office, the organisation I work for has a lovely space in Umhlanga. My boys, 10 and 12, are schooled online. They’re looking forward to taking up surfing.

Each day feels like an adventure for the boys and me. My partner has an income again. Although there’s still a way to go before I feel loving and financially secure, we’re taking it one day at a time.

For now, I’m loving the opportunity to work, write, and explore the world with curious eyes.

Nonkululeko Britton

Change expert, Nonkululeko Britton, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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