In parts 01. 02, 03 and 04 of this mini-series marking 7 years of my radical move after 20 years from Austria/Europe back to the content we call home. I shared snippets of our journey so far. I celebrated the main characters who make this journey so fascinating, even to me. The characters are my 19-year-old daughter, my 21-year-old son, my co-parent, and my global tribe. The intention is to use our experience to inspire, uplift, acknowledge and encourage others. Your reactions have been many, and I received each of them with gratitude. I am sure you have been asking yourself many questions. Part 05 provides you with some of the answers.
Quick disclaimer. In the post on my son, I mentioned that my kids were diagnosed with dyslexia. Dyslexia is something that runs in our family, and if you have been following my postings, you would have noticed that I am the absolute queen of typos. It does not matter how many times I read over it; there are always some typos in my post. SHOUT OUT TO ALL YOU DYSLEXICS OUT THERE. I want to reassure you that you are wonderful and never let the fear of making mistakes stop you from writing anything you feel like writing!
Yesterday I shared the news that Tropics Magazine featured me on their 2022 PowerList of 700 African Doers. I must admit that this took me by surprise, and your overwhelmingly positive reactions even more. I receive all these with deep gratitude, humility and the commitment to carry on doing me and the things I do.
When I look back at the last 7 years, I see delicately fragile, risky and insanely audaciously manoeuvres in search of myself. My big boss daughter has a fine way of describing this when she says, “ My mum loves breaking out of her comfort zone in search of better versions of herself.” In 2014 I was not in a good space, and all I needed was to break out in search of myself. Check out my 2014 spontaneous Tedtalk if you want to have s snippet of what was going on in my life 7 years ago that led to my radical move.
There are moments when life forces us to take actions that, on the surface, may seem bad for the people we love and us. Especially when such decisions demand that we let go of our most precious gift in life (our children) because we have this urgent need to find/safe and or reinvent ourselves, and we know that until we do, we will neither be at peace with ourselves nor be a good mum/parent.
I knew I had outgrown my environment when shit happened in 2014. I badly needed a 160-degree change in my physical environment and direction if I wanted to unleash and grow. It was clear that I would become a very cynical and lousy mum if I continued to stay in Europe. It was equally clear that the environment I was in was not and would never be prepared for the version of me that was obviously becoming impatient to be unleashed. Paying attention to the sh*t led me to write my third book, “Follow Me to Africa. In an Unspoken Conversation with Nelson Mandela.” In that book, I had some rough and uncomfortable conversations with myself. I concluded that I had outgrown my space and needed to make some radical, unconventional, and crazy decisions if I wanted to take back my powers and heal my badly wounded ego. The only plausible solution was to return to my source, Africa, the continent we call home.
Back then, I knew that many people close to me would judge and criticise me for the decisions I was about to make and that some of them would call me all sorts of names - and they did. Some even questioned my sanity. All I knew (which they did not or choose not to understand) was that I badly needed to get out of the city and country that I had come to call home for 20 years (which was the only home my kids knew). This was the only solution that would help me pick up my pieces, grow into a better me, and become a better mum to my kids, one they could look up to with pride and whom they could go to when they face their own life challenges.
After some tough, transparent and heart-wrenching conversations with my kids, their dad and (weird) stepmother, I took my two suitcases and left behind me my kids, Vienna and Austria, the people that I loved the most and the city and country that had been home for me for the past 20 years and them for their entire lives. We had to give up everything they were familiar with, including our home and some of their belongings.
Oh, there were a few more things I had to let go too, such as:
the desire to judge anyone based on their opinion of me
replace onsite parenting with the will to learn how to love and parent my kids from a distance without regrets
the love for familiarity and expectations
Once I let go of all of the above and more, I committed to finding myself and opening up to the totality of possibilities and opportunities.
As long as my kids understood me (and they let me know that they did, even though the separation was painful for all of us), I chose to allow the world to judge me as I packed my two suitcases and left with just €1800 in my pocket, a visiting permit, no work contract, no bank account, no insurance, no credit card, but with the firm determination to make it in Africa and never to return to live in Europe or any western country come what may.
In the past 4 posts, I shared with you what became of my kids 7 years after. Read on if you are wondering what became of me that led to me being featured by Tropics Magazine on their 2022 PowerList of 700 African Doers.
In the last 7 years, I can tell you that I have found and unleashed the author that I almost killed me. In less than six years, I wrote 25 books and 15 eBooks. Fifteen of them are currently being used in schools in SA. I launched a publishing company, GloBUNTU Books, out of nothing and without prior knowledge. Today GloBUNTU Books® is a proud publisher of over 56 books from the continent and diaspora, and the numbers are growing. I am also pleased to share that besides writing and publishing my books, I have coached 15 kids and 26 adults to write and become published authors; a significant majority of them are now award-winners, and the books of all of our 15 young authors have also been approved for schools in SA.
After 6yrs and 10mins in South Africa, and after more than two and a half years of the pandemic and lockdown, I again felt that I needed a new environment to unleash the post-pandemic version of me. So again, after consultation with my amazing kids, I decided to move out of SA to another destination. One month ago, I said goodbye to South Africa, packed my two suitcases and moved to Sao Tome & Principe in pursuit of the next better version of me, which is unfolding magnificently. This is a topic for another post. Let me know in the comment box if you want to hear about my new chapter in STP.
Looking back over the last 6yrs and 10 months, I can’t help wondering how our lives would have turned out and what story I would have been sharing with you right now had I not moved. One thing is for sure; I would have become a bitter, cynical and nagging old woman in Europe. I would not have unleashed the author in me and would not have known how great and vast my African legacy is. I would not be the proud African woman I am today. When I see my young authors' transformation, I know I would not have been in the privileged position to be called “auntie” and “publisher” so many times. I would not be the coach, mentor and publisher of our 15 award-winning young authors and 26 adult authors. Our books would not be in some 250 schools in Gauteng, South Africa, where some 10 000 learners are reading them.
When I look at the trajectory and the accomplishments of my kids, when I see the personal growth, we have gone through as individuals and as a collective, I wish that many more mums/parents would stop using their kids as an excuse to kill their dreams and, by so doing, unconsciously hold the kids responsible for missing out or letting go of their dreams.
Above all, when I look at myself today, I am endlessly proud of the woman I have been and continue to become. The bitterness is forever replaced by “betterness” (for lack of a better word). I have learned to look at my challenges as the perfect growth opportunity. I am happier, more daring, and inwardly more balanced than ever. If my day were to come today, I would be grateful for the blueprint legacy I have created in the last six years, and I would know that my kids will be just fine without me because they have learned how to be without me in the last 7 years. And this alone is priceless.
Even though we have always had a tremendous co-parenting relationship, my being away has dramatically improved and strengthened the co-parenting relationship with my kids' dad to the greater joy of our kids.
Each time my kids share their newest achievements with me, I am grateful that we let each other go when we did so we could grow individually together. Each time I apologise for a missed birthday, a graduation ceremony, for not being there to welcome their first boyfriend/girlfriend and to comfort them when they had their first heartbreak, they remind me of some of my parenting principles:
“In life, you make your own decisions and assume the consequences because I may not always be there when you need me, but one thing you can be sure of is that as long as I live, I will always be here to catch you if ever you fall, virtually or physically without judgement.”
“I love you passionately. I am committed to you forever, and I will always be here for you, but I am not attached to you, and you should not be too attached to me to the extent that you can’t be without me."
” These principles may sound heartless to some, but when you get them as my kids do, you will understand that they come from a deep place where nothing but love dwells."
Each time they visit me, they remind me that leaving them behind was one of the best things that happened to them because it made them understand that I trusted them enough that they would be fine without me. Living in different countries allows them to visit and have other experiences that put them ahead of their peers.
They say my going in search of myself gave them the audacity to find themselves. They say they are sure that the beautiful, intimate mum/daughter/son bond we enjoy today is because I am not always around trying to fix or control their moves. They say they know that the beauty of the relationship we share today has to do with the fact that we each have our private spaces to be ourselves, make our own mistakes, and learn our life lessons, knowing that I will always catch them whenever they fall, irrespective of the geographical distance between us.
They even add that seeing me find myself and grow in new environments challenges them to do the same. And that being in different locations allow them to learn how to manage their emotions and feelings and to do their inner work.
My kids, my co-parent and my tribe are my constant sources of inspiration, for which I am endlessly grateful. I owe that inspiration and audacity to the woman who brought me up, and I am forever thankful to her.
So what is keeping you from pursuing your dreams at the moment? What is your excuse for not putting yourself first?
What radical parenting decision have you made that you now look back upon with pride?
Look out for part 06, my call to action loading!
By Ankwetta B. Achaleke An audaciously proud mum