Make your own life happen

Carin-Lee Masters

Dream 1 – fulfilled

For most of my childhood, I grew up and went to school in Mitchell’s Plain and remember it as a place of connection to others, good friendships, safety and a deep sense of community. I had friends and family living in Woodlands, Eastridge, Westridge, Lentegeur, and Rocklands, itself, where I spent my teenage years.

As teenagers, my friends and I would often attend the Saturday matinee events of the nightclubs at the Town Centre, and some of these dance clubs often hosted beauty and modelling competitions, the first of which I entered “by accident” and was crowned the winner (Miss “Fantasy”Eish! I believe I am giving away my age here).

Interestingly, my first “non-professional” modelling shoot was for the Plainsman after winning this competition. I always loved dancing and music and naturally felt attracted to modelling as it allowed me to move gracefully to the sound of music, which was just like dancing to me. Subsequently, I was introduced to a professional modelling agency in Cape Town but mostly did not get work as it was during the bad old days of apartheid.

The only modelling shoot I managed to score then (in 1986/7) was actually for the Cape Argus, modelling African head scarves! My family and I were totally amazed to see my face on the front cover of the Argus supplement. This brings a smile to face in terms of my naivety at the time in thinking that I had struck it big and believed my modelling career was taking off! But according to my agency then, I was told that I was too short to be a professional model so could only do smaller jobs. However, I was acutely aware that most of the models who were doing all the lucrative jobs with top magazines, TV commercials and catalogues were white and that the few models of colour at the time were not doing as potentially lucrative castings and jobs as the white models were or they were doing none at all. But, I did not give up there, and moved to Johannesburg in 1988 instead, where it seemed agencies and clients were more open to difference in skin colour.

My career as a professional model took off soon after, subsequent to committing myself to making this work. I sacrificed a lot, including following a very controlled diet, gymming for hours daily and on weekends and making sure I followed the guidelines of my agency in Johannesburg.

I continued to believe in this dream and that my “shortness” was not going to stand in my way of success. I was determined to make this work in the “City of Gold”. Soon I was doing catalogue and TV shoots for Edgars, Truworths, Woolworths, Fair Lady and other similar magazines, as well as TV commercials including Cadbury’s Snacker, Simba and Willards chips, and various other non-local products such as Nike. I even did small parts in local movies and music videos including MarkAlex’s first official music video. I enjoyed the experience and travel that modelling afforded me.

However, this did not meet my hunger for making a difference in the world, and at the same time I felt discontented that I had not completed my matric. This was as a result of many schools having been closed during the state of emergency in 1985/86.

While modelling in Johannesburg, I tried attending special classes for matric students at Wits University. Although that didn’t work out, I eventually returned to school at the age of 29 (most of my peers at this school were around 18 and I enjoyed their youthful energy!) and finally completed matric at 30 years old…mission accomplished!

Dream 2 – fulfilled

As a teenager, I also dreamt of doing something in the world that would make a difference, but living a working-class life in Mitchell’s Plain under apartheid, I believed my options, as a woman of colour were limited.

We either followed in the footsteps of our parents, becoming either a teacher or nurse and working for the state in these limited capacities or working for a white person in one of their businesses. Not that being a teacher or nurse was not valuable, but it seemed so circumscribed at that time, under the oppressive apartheid laws.

I wanted to help others out of their difficulties and thought of becoming a social worker but did not imagine that I, firstly would complete matric, and secondly that one day I would be able to undertake tertiary studies.

I felt very proud of myself for being persistent and determined, completing my matric in 1996 and beginning my tertiary studies in psychology and anthropology at UCT in 1997. Subsequently, I went on to complete my Honours degree in psychology.

All these years of studying, I was not able to afford to pay for my studying costs and support myself, although I continued to work part-time including waitressing. But through hard work, dedication and total commitment to my goal of being a clinical psychologist, as well as “providence” stepping in at the right time via student loans initially and later through bursaries and scholarships, I completed my Master’s in Clinical Psychology at Rhodes University in 2005.

What a journey this was for me. It lead to my own personal growth as well as learning to help others who struggle with coping with life and their emotional challenges. I would not exchange this for the world.

My interest in psychotherapy and healing probably goes back to when I was a teenager living on the Cape Flats and had a deep concern for others and their emotional difficulties. I also did not have an easy childhood myself and within me there was a strong sense that I could overcome anything if I committed myself to understanding myself deeply and finding ways to heal that which had been passed on from previous generations in my family and community, including the intergenerational transmission of trauma related to the very oppressive apartheid system which made us believe that if you are not white you are automatically inferior.

In my view, apartheid, or any form of oppressive government system which indoctrinates people to believe that they are inferior by nature, is bound to make people believe this is indeed the truth. We are deeply influenced by others, especially if they have power over us, including what our government makes us believe about ourselves.

Apartheid laws did all they could to make people of colour feel inferior and worthless. It is clear we are still suffering from the profoundly destructivepsychosociopolitical effects of apartheid passed from one generation to the next.

I think we are fooling ourselves if we believe the Rainbow Nation exists and that we were not deeply wounded by all the oppressive structures and beliefs imposed on us about ourselves in relation to whiteness.

While I believe the present government needs to find ways for people to heal their minds and souls from our oppressive and brutal past, individually and collectively, we need to have the courage to heal ourselves and do something valuable, profound and useful with our lives.

This life is precious and cannot be wasted on destroying ourselves or each other thorough violence, drugs, alcohol abuse, having a “jol”, teenage pregnancies, addiction to gadgets nor sitting around and waiting for others or God to help us. This is not going to happen. We have to help ourselves, then Life/God will support us, but we have to take the first step.

Yes, of course, there will be trials and stumbling blocks along the way, but these are to be expected and can only make us stronger. That’s life; it’s tough for everyone, it’s not meant to be easy as falsely portrayed in many Hollywood movies.

We ourselves, individually and also collectively, must use our inner powers, abilities, skills and chutzpah to make our lives work for ourselves and then also for the greater good.

Whether you are from Mitchell’s Plain or elsewhere, against all odds, you can make a difference in your life and in the lives of others. Walk a wide distance from destructiveness and destructive people (there are many, I have encountered these too!), stay focussed on your path and make your own life happen and work for you. The world is waiting for you. Believe in yourself and your dreams, action your part over and over again, and the rest will follow…

Dream 3 is a work in progress.