I cannot remember the exact date of the day that I packed my poor Toyota Corolla to the brim and drove off to begin my life in Johannesburg, but it was somewhere around this time four years ago. It was definitely the day after the Elton John concert in Durban.
I fell in love with Johannesburg before I even moved here and it is one decision in my life that I will never look back on. I am not an impulsive person but the decision to come here was in a way (at least for me) – I found a post-grad course at Wits that I liked, phoned my mom and told her I wanted to leave Rhodes at the end of the year, came up during the holidays to look for an apartment, moved in with someone I barely knew at that stage and almost cried when I saw the GPS was taking me straight past Ponte upon my arrival.
There is an energy here in Johannesburg that you will struggle to find anywhere else in South Africa; people aren’t just friendly, they are open. People come here to live out their dreams, to kickstart their careers, or because they believe in some way or another, this is a promised land. And you can feel it…
What I am most grateful for is the constant opportunity to meet people from completely different walks of life. I thrive on these people, sucking up their stories like those yellow Handy Andy kitchen cloths (according to my mom the Handy Andy ones are far more absorbent than the others). I believe I am a better person because of this – my ideas are constantly challenged or expanded and it becomes impossible to stereotype people.
Of course there is a flipside to all this – it means that Johannesburg is also the place where dreams are shattered and where the ruthless ambition of one leads to the downfall of another. It is a place of stress, exhaustion, burn-out, haste and anger.
But you get out what you put in – you need to be open to the experience, to meeting people outside your existing circle of friends, to going to new places, to starting the conversations that start frienships. If you’re not then I am afraid that you will struggle to see beyond the traffic jams, the lack of beach, the never-ending supply of personalised number plates like LORD OF*GP or YUR NO 1*GP, and the very questionable architecture of the Northern Suburbs…
(Oh and those number plates are for real – I have photographs to prove it)