Reducing years to a statement

FRIDAY, 2 DECEMBER 2005

17:18

I lived in Korea for 22 months and three days. Today I say: “Yes, I was in Korea. It was okay.” It takes me 4.5 seconds to make this statement. And yet, there was a time in my life that “I am in Korea” was lived 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and then again 24 hours … and again, and again. All that time in which I breathed, ate, slept, worked and spent with friends and acquaintances has now been reduced to a statement: “Yes, I was in Korea …”

For most of my adult life I was not involved in a relationship with anyone. Loneliness and solitude were inevitable results. It was such an overwhelming experience that until recently it had defined my life to a large extent. For the past nine months I have been involved in a relationship with a woman who can only be described as an angel (and I do not play around with these terms). Today, when I am asked about it, I will say, “Yes, I was alone for a long time. Sometimes it was okay, and sometimes it was pretty crap.”

What lasted for years and became a defining aspect of my life is now expressed in a seven second statement. “Seven seconds?!” I want to scream. “We’re talking about days and nights and weeks, and months, and years! Seven seconds?!”

I have been working on a book project – a collection of essays and notes – for more than two and a half years. The Afrikaans text is almost done, and I am already in the process of translating it into English. I have also spent a huge amount of time on other projects. No tangible success has so far come from any of these projects – neither recognition nor any significant financial gain; only some encouragement, and a little money from one textbook.

Sometimes this lack of fruits of my labour bothers me. But I believe that this situation, like the Korean example and being alone, will also reach a point after which I will refer to it in the past tense: “Yes, I had to put in quite a lot of time before I could taste the first fruits of my labour.”

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