Living in Cape Town, South Africa
My time spent in Cape Town in 2013 represents for me a period of great uncertainty, introspection, and change. I had just graduated with my Bachelors degree after having intentionally (twice) extended my tenure at Grand Valley (I graduated with over 150 credits). One simple question loomed over me like a dark cloud: what was I going to do with my life?
Plans for post-graduation seemed to change on a weekly basis. Was I going to study for the MCAT and apply for med school? Would I enter the corporate world? Could I even get a job if I tried? The daunting “real world” faced by so many of my cohorts was speeding toward me like a runaway train.
Towards the end of my final semester at Grand Valley, I sought the advice of one of my Anatomy professors. Although I did not necessarily know what I was to do with my chosen major (Biomedical Science), I did know that I enjoyed life sciences, particularly Anatomy. He described to me his similar path of indecisiveness, where he found himself on a plane to Johannesburg to start a Masters degree in Anatomy. He essentially helped me to talk myself out of med school, and planted the seed in my head for South Africa.
Making the decision to move to Cape Town, South Africa
It’s hard to look back and remember just how naive I was about the country; I honestly can’t remember what I didn’t know. All I knew was what my professor told me – that I could get a Masters and even a PhD that was extremely affordable (and in my mind postpone the need to answer the question of what to do with my life). He set up some communication with various contacts at the University of the Witwatersrand, thus launching my quest to pursue higher education in South Africa.
By mid summer after graduation, the contacts at Wits started to fizzle out, but I was so far down the path now that I decided not to give up. On a whim I emailed several professors at the University of Cape Town.
When Googling Cape Town, I caught the first glimpses of the place that would change my life’s trajectory forever. Why had I even wasted my time on Johannesburg? Cape Town looked in the pictures to be heaven on earth. A giant mountain and the ocean. What could be better? (To be fair, my professor had actually warned me about Cape Town, saying that I’d likely not get much actual studying done and probably spend all my time at the beach. He would turn out to be partially correct).
Fast forward to a cold Tuesday in January of 2013, and I’ve just received my student visa. I left for Cape Town two days later.
Arriving in Cape Town
As previously mentioned, I entered my time in Cape Town with not a clue of what I would do with my life (I still don’t entirely know). Cape Town 2013, however, would prove to be my most formative year to date.
I’ll spare you the details of my education and adventures, those are for another time. The bottom line is that within a year of living in Cape Town, I made some lifelong friends, met the woman that would become my wife, and set my life down a trajectory that I am still fulfilling as I write this. In addition to its meaning to me personally, Cape Town also is the beginnings of our love story. I grew not only as an individual, but our love also grew. From the day my now wife (who visited me in Cape Town in December, 2013) and I returned to the U.S. from Cape Town, we have been doing everything in our power to figure out a viable path to return.
Back to the United States
Fast forward again to the moment that Cape Town became a reality. February of 2016 and I found myself unemployed and again questioning the path my life would take. It was in that moment, perhaps the best thing that could have happened to me, that Leeann and I decided Cape Town or bust. We would move back to Cape Town by years’ end and figure out the details later. We booked flights 3 months later (still lacking many of the details).
Moving back to Cape Town, South Africa
Here I am now, writing this post overlooking Table Mountain and the Cape Town City Center from our new Flat. I still can’t say for certain where life will take us, but I can say that we are marching towards a future together.
If there is anything I took away from this beautiful city in 2013, its that of hope. Like many places, maybe more than some, Cape Town is not without its issues. Much of the population lives on a dollar a day, and within the small city limits you’ll find the highest income inequality. The resounding sense of hope that I see transcending that, however, is what has brought us back. I learned about myself in this city. I’m hoping that both Leeann and I will continue to learn, to grow, and to continue down the path towards a meaningful existence that we promised to each other in our wedding vows.
At the end of the day, Table Mountain represents it best for me. Whenever things seem bad, or I’m feeling down, I just look up at that gorgeous mountain rising out of the middle of the city. Table Mountain remains unchanged since before Cape Town was ever even a dream, and it will remain long after, ever watching over land and ocean below. Here we are now, two insignificant specs trying to find our own path in the shadow of that mountain.
Here’s to life & the pursuit of happiness.
P.S. If you need further convincing as to why we are here (and why you should come too), peruse the photos below from my 2013 adventures.