One of my greatest fears

This is the Writers’ Bootcamp Day Three topic. I’m not a fan, I’ve got to say.

The temptation is just to write


And be done with it. But that defeats the point of the bootcamp, which is to spend 60 minutes writing. Unless I typed one letter every 10 minutes,


is not going to cut it.

There’s no way this is going to be an interesting post, to write or to read, if I just go on about the things I’m scared of. I fear what I imagine most happy, comfortable, middle-class people fear: loss (of love, money, security, a parent, a child, my home, a pet, respect); pain; being a victim of violence; failure; growing old without dignity, alone and forgotten; car accidents; plane crashes; cancer; heights; people not liking you; dying.

And my fears as a parent are fairly pedestrian: choking-drowning-suffocating-notbeinghappy-drugs-eatingdisorders-lowselfesteem-ridingintheopenbackofabakkieonOuKaapseWeg-drunkdriving-rape-emigrating-beingbullied-hatingherbody-beingstuckinaburningbuilding-notlikingme-strugglingatschool-neverfindinglove.

Nope, nothing much of interest there.

No matter how terrified I am of things going wrong, I am privileged enough to feel pretty secure almost all of the time. My husband and I are in a marriage of equals. I am university qualified and have a job I enjoy and am reasonably good at (though obviously, for financial reasons, I wish someone had steered me away from Journalism and pointed me in the direction of the BCom section of the university flyer before I enrolled). I am healthy, and my child is of robust health and developing completely normally. And even if she weren’t healthy, our private medical aid would take care of the financial side of things if there was a problem. We own our house and aren’t overwhelmed by the bond repayments. We have private security, live in a very low-crime area, and have airbags in our cars.

I am as safe in my happiness and comfort as I think it is possible to be. I am a middle-class white South African, with all the support that that entails. Through nothing more than an accident of birth, I belong to one of the luckiest groups of people alive today. (Caveat: I will continue to try to atone for the lucky breaks that people like me get for the rest of my life and that is exactly as it should be.)

My fears are vague. Occasionally, they nag, but they’re not all-consuming.

Our nanny, though.

She spent the first two years of her daughter’s life living in a wendy house that leaked constantly for five months of the year. Even though she can now afford to live in a flat, her daughter’s cough and rattling chest will never go away. When she takes her to the clinic, the nurses tell her that because she’s not South African, she shouldn’t be there, that she should pay for private medical care because her daughter is taking the place of South African children in the queue. Her daughter’s father drinks too much and doesn’t work. She has to go to Home Affairs every three months to renew her asylum seeker’s permit, every time knowing that there’s a possibility it could get revoked and that she’d end up back home, with no job and no prospects. She left her son there because couldn’t afford for him to live with her when she first arrived in Cape Town. Now she’s thinking of bringing him to live with her, but he’s just started doing well in school after recovering from breaking his leg in three places – he had to miss six months of school while he recovered because there was no way for him to get there if he couldn’t walk. She’s got a good salary but work as a nanny can’t go on forever because the child she loves (mine) is almost old enough to go to full-time preschool and then what if she doesn’t find another job, or what if she does, and it’s with a family that doesn’t respect her and kids who don’t love her like mine does? Or what if she can only find a job that pays less, which means she won’t be able to feed her daughter the preservative-free food she needs because of her allergies, and she ends up in ER again and again, and won’t be able to keep sending her son to private physios for his leg, and he ends up with a permanent limp that will mean he is overlooked for certain jobs as he gets older? Then what?

I reckon if I asked our nanny, who is about as vulnerable as it is possible to be, to write about her greatest fear, this post might be worth something, because I don’t really know what it is to be afraid.

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