Sunél’s Blog | Here’s to turning 21 and hope!

Sunél Veldtman, | 05 March 2021

Tomorrow our daughter turns 21. A largely symbolic milestone because she has been regarded as an adult by the law since 18.   But it is still a chance to celebrate (within the boundaries of COVID regulations of course),  and we need opportunities to celebrate. We need to grab them with both hands and nurture them. We all need the upliftment that even a simple and reduced celebration can bring.

We have reason to celebrate too. She is a happy and healthy young woman on her way to completing her undergraduate degree. Later this year, she will have the chance to participate in an international exchange programme. She’s already a budding online retailer (check out her thrift shopping site Skattebol on Instagram.) and is set on following her passion for fashion into the retail sector, intent on making a difference: to making fashion more sustainable, fair and kinder to its workforce. She is more self-confident, self-aware, and conscious than I was at her age. She stands in contrast to my stumbling through the darkness at that age. She’s funny, kind, enthusiastic, creative, determined, diligent and one-of-a-kind. Living with her is a treat – even in the darkness of lockdown, she appeared in a uniquely-styled outfit every morning. “Now we know who’s dressing for themselves,” she pronounced, while the rest of us slipped into loungewear.

It is also a chance to reflect – and I don’t need a big gap to tune into my reflective mode. We need to reflect that she is incredibly lucky – she’s the epitome of privilege. She was raised by two white, university-educated parents, the perfect beneficiaries of the last days of Apartheid. She was born in a time and place in history where no war or monstrous disruptions impacted her life. She sat around a dinner table on most nights of the week, surrounded by a (mostly) loving family.  She regularly enjoyed friendships around the fire and the warm embrace of an extended family during countless family holidays. These are all factors that are predictors of success; more so than personal effort.

Of course, she worked hard. Of course, she overcame challenges. Of course, we were imperfect parents. Of course, it wasn’t just plain sailing. There was a time in her teens when she had to make difficult choices to redirect her life. She chose well.

We still can’t negate her privilege and luck. She’ll be the first to admit that. Like many of her peers, there’s a growing realisation that their fortunate position asks of them to not merely focus on themselves but on their society. They differ from my generation. In fact, they stand in stark contrast to our generation. We lived mainly for ourselves. We perfected a system that focussed on self-enrichment and the enrichment of capital providers and those in the system; as opposed to the welfare of our broader society or the environment.  I have alerted readers before to the unprecedented levels of global inequality and the dire state of our planet.  Issues, which if left alone, will engulf all our efforts to protect our wealth.

When I look at my daughter’s generation, I have hope though. I have hope that they will take on these issues, that they are on a mission, that they will make the difference we so desperately need. I have hope that they will create a kinder and more generous world. I have hope that they will work towards creating more wealth for more people. I have hope that they will save the planet. I have hope that they will correct the imbalances. They are already showing us that they deserve this hope. They are prepared to make sacrifices. They are shunning fast fashion. They are eating less (or no) meat. They drive the recycling in our homes. They will reject a great job for more time to pursue balance. They will avoid a brand associated with racism or child labour.

More importantly, however, I also hope that some of their passion for people and the planet will infuse our generation, just as our daughter has filled our home with her ideas for a new world.

She gives me that hope. Her generation gives me hope.

Here’s to turning 21!

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