This week, I stood in a room filled with bright eyed and fierce teenage girls who were looking to me to demystify the world of work. When tasked with this presentation, I became extremely nervous as I too went to a girl's school and meditated deeply on the advice given to me by many an adult who wasn't just my Life Orientation teacher, but someone I looked up to.
Immediately, self-doubt flooded my thoughts as I thought that my knowledge was not ripe enough for these teenagers. Perhaps, if my voice emulated the safe, softer tones encouraged by (some) of our mothers then maybe I would be qualified to give advice to these young women.
Swaying between overthinking the task as opposed to believing my voice or just trusting in my experience in my designated field of work, I procrastinated. Soon enough, I trailed towards the bright light of my smartphone screen. Living in the era that we do, I shared my anxiety with the community and constructed the following tweet:
This week, I speak to teenagers about the reality of the working world. If you were a teenager what would you have liked to hear?— Noxolo Mafu (@nox_mafu) June 11, 2017
Notification after notification, I read the brutal and defining truth of my generation. Each testimony revealed that our schools, families, religious structures did not do enough to prepare us for the most important lessons needed (not only in the work place) but in society at large. Each response eluded that many contributors had learnt their nugget of wisdom through a cluster of painful experiences which no authoritative structure could have prepared them for.
"Trust no one, avoid debt, work hard, then even harder", are just some of the themes that flooded my twitter account. It was clear right then, that the youth (and I use the very generous scope of youth unique to South Africa) are only finding the textures of their voice way after the final school bell rang. Each of us are learning in isolation and experiencing the sobering truth and utter ecstasy that comes with growth.
It is possible that the structures currently set in place to groom young people are not adequately equipped for the fast-growing pace of our dreams. However, when listening to one of the pupil's introduce me to her peers in a language that was honest and aspirational, I realised I only had one task. To encourage every girl in that room to find her voice and rhythm in the world. To understand that as the young people of this country we do not need to continue to learn from -- and about -- life in seclusion.
Let's work hard, let's experiment and embrace the lessons that come with "mistakes" openly. The unity we were taught about the class of 1976 is drenched in misery and our forebearers worked exceptionally hard for us to miss that lesson of hurt. What the youth of 2017 needs is constant collaboration, across ages, industries, race and creed. I am almost certain, that the fundamental purpose we crave is to learn and grow on our own terms, much like the courageous students of 1976.
However, it is imperative that we prepare each other for how complex and deeply complicated it will be to secure that purpose for us all.
And when it's all a little too unclear and the anxiety that comes with growing into a responsible adult creeps in, it's important to look to your community. Tweet, WhatsApp, and just ask somebody - anybody, and you'll find that the most earnest answers are usually only a question away.