After a looong couple of days. . . tears flooded my face as I said my last good lucks to those whose eminent tests still awaited. Arriving at the station a day earlier than expected, was not part of my plan, drenched in rain, the hour-long drive back home was the toughest journey I had ever made knowing that a part of my dream was getting further and further away with each kilometre driven.
After 6 months of waiting, countless applications and hard work, I received that call; 2 weeks later after confirmation that my application was successful I was on a bus, along with 20 or so other young hopefuls, to the SAAF base camp at an unknown location a few hours out of the capital city. Yes, I was trying out the army.
Over the next week we were undergoing rigorous tests, if passed, you were to stay another day, if not, you were on a bus – home that afternoon. It was very stressful and tough, I knew no one and sharing a dorm with girls who either spoke Afrikaans or Zulu was a little isolating at times as cellphone signal was the occasional myth. I did however pluck up the courage to make friends, not being able to get further than “Sawubona, unjani?” in Zulu, I put my 7 or so years in learning Afrikaans to some use and made friends with some spectacular girls; Anje, Zané, Zirkia and Wilardi.
Our days began with a very exciting breakfast of like half a loaf of bread followed by a quick briefing and a few hour-long ride to the various testing procedures which ranged from criminal records to fitness, seminars, inspirational talks and many many random quests around base. It was very exciting and each day I learnt a little bit more about the South African Army.
“We defend and we build a way of life, not for (South Africa) alone, but for all of mankind” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
As the days passed, I met with countless Soldiers, Corporals, Captains and Sergeants; each one telling their own tales and journeys – so wonderful these stories were, it almost felt like reading a fictional novel. Arriving back home after one of the insane-est weeks ever, having a dream crushed and realising that some things (as cliché as it sounds) are just not meant to be, I must say that since then I have learnt a great deal and I think this experience has been a hidden inspiration in life. I did get a call a few months after, to try out again but unfortunately not being in the country and have in a way “moved on” – I declined as I have other ideas of where my life would take me. I have learnt to overcome disappointment and I think that is something not many people can quickly grasp, it takes courage to get up, take what you’ve learnt, embrace the experience and become successful in other ways.
The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way – Robert Kiyosaki
It is kind of one of those one in a lifetime experiences, I joined the army and even though it didn’t work out the way I had hoped for, it worked out in more ways than I would’ve ever imagined. Incase you’re wondering, NO, I have NOT given up on my dream in aviation, if anything I gained even more passion for it – this is one dream that will not die out so quickly, I still get goosebumps every time I see an aircraft.
“If you are lucky enough to find a way of life you love, you have to find the courage to live it.” – John Irving
Anje and Zirkia – I wish you two all the best with the last bit of tests and recruitment processes. I can’t wait to see the wings on you two.
Wilardi – I am unbelievably proud of you, you’re living our dream – good luck and congratulations on your graduation.
Zané – only we’ll know what really happened (haha), but I wish you all the success and luck for your degree. We had the best of times and I was so lucky to have met you.
To all four of you: Baie dankie, vir ALLES! Die dae wat ek met julle het gespandeer was awesome. Ek hoop dat ek in die toekoms julle kan sien. Dankie vir die lags, glimlags en herinneringe. Ons nie so lekker week is in die verlede maar die vriendskap sal dra na die toekoms. Hope you’re all still eating half a loaf of bread off of steel cutlery, lying to corporals about where you live and travelling for hours to nowhere.
Mom and Dad, words simply cannot express the gratitude I have for you both, you’re quick with the motivation and planting the courage seed in me to continue in the face of hardships. To be given a constant reminder of amazing-ness every time I see you only encourages me to be the person I was destined to be. You’ve risked a lot to give me the opportunities to live my dreams – thank you.
So, everyone, this is the real reason why a year off seemed pleasing, I weighed that option to pursue my dream and even though it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. . . it was definitely worth everything I have within me!