It’s been a crazy time since arriving home on Wednesday, mainly because I leave again this coming Wednesday for Australia for a month, and I have a ton of work to complete before I go. I sit in front of my lappie, trying to write write write up New York. And I am surprised by how much I am missing the city that I got to know, and fell in love with in just 9 days. Facebook and twitter are my distractions, and I am so saddened by local news of the Limpopo education crisis, the brutal rape and murder of children here at home, and other stories that remind me so shockingly of how we live. Granted, while I was in New York I didn’t have half a moment to scan the internet for news, and there might have been a ton of stuff there that I missed, but it felt like Maria Carey and Sarah Jessica Parker entertaining Obama on one night that we were there was the big news (and Justin Bieber on the Today show).
My sadness is the realisation of how much I carry here, on my shoulders and in my heart, when I am home. I am so drearily sad of being white. Yes, yes, I know what it means, and where it comes from, and how privileged I am and how 90% of South Africans are worse off than me and they are black. It’s not incorrect, just heavy. When the Spear issue exploded in South Africa I found myself in the truly awkward position of having such strong opinions about it (I identify with the artist, and demand the right to freedom of expression) and the overwhelming reality that my opinions were somehow unimportant in the context of where I am. I realised that my struggle history is not visible and will never be counted. I am identified in a certain way regardless.
Back home I am white. Back home I am Jewish in an anti-Zionist way. Back home I have been called “a struggling artist”. Â Back home I am “of a certain age”.Â Back home I feel like I am stuck to the pin board of classification and definition.
Something liberating happened to me in New York, the melting pot of diversity, money and poverty, immigrants, art, commerce, power, old, new, fast food and health food, dogs more spoilt than children, and hot subways where intimate conversations about everything under the sun can be heard. I was, for the most part, just me; made up of all sorts of bits and pieces, background, quirks, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class. And all of it was true and ok and unquestioned. I was me. And, overwhelmingly, I felt huge pangs of jealousy that I was not born there, or had moved there to live years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt that NYC can be depressingly lonely, and hard, and cold in winter, and scary if you have no job and money. It’s not that. It’s that you aren’t being pre-judged, pre-decided on. It’s ok to admit that you are obsessed by money, or are passionate about theatre or want to study for the rest of your life. It’s ok to be a waiter, or a tour guide, or an actor-in-waiting who is a waiter or tour guide.
In NYC everybody except the biggest celeb is anonymous. Everybody is getting on with it. Everybody is doing stuff. I’m not suggesting for one moment that there isn’t injustice, or crime, or ugliness, or corruption, or racial profiling, it’s just that I’m not walking around overwhelmed by it all. And the truth is, at home I am.