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Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela: The kayak ride that set me free & changed my life

On the ocean waves, panic set in, before a tide of calm took over. In that moment of liberation, the crest of a brighter future shone clearer than ever, writes Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela. 

Nonku, farming, BrightRock, Change Exchange

By Nonkululeko Britton-Masekela*

A while back, in my 20s, just after uprooting my life to move to Durban for work, I met a friend of a friend. I connected with his daring, carefree nature – my name means Freedom, and I can’t help but be that person.

He somehow co-opted me into going kayaking with him. I’d never done it before and he insisted it was a bucket-list item.

So the next day I found myself on a kayak in Durban, with this madman I only met a few days before. With nothing but wetsuits, life jackets, and oars, we rowed further and further from the shore, chatting away.

Before I knew it, we were in what seemed like the middle of the ocean, and everything resembling certainty (people, buildings, movement) was out of sight. Like a swelling wave, panic started to rise up in me. I started questioning my own sanity, and even doubted my ability to swim. I asked if we could go back.

Recognising this potentially dangerous panic, he reassured me, “We’ll go back soon. For now, be still and take this moment in.” It was abundantly clear that there was no need to fight it. So, I surrendered to the moment.

I looked around and took in the magical sense of calm and peace. All around us was tranquil waters and faint vibrations of life beneath. It was truly unforgettable and liberating.

Fast forward to 10 years later. Now I have a husband (not the guy on the kayak), three boys and a full-time job as a digital content marketer for a major media company. I also have an organic vegetable farm business I started over a year ago.

Business has picked up dramatically over the past few months, but not yet at a point where I could confidently transition to doing it full time. That is until work started becoming incredibly uncomfortable. For weeks I’d felt that something wasn’t right.

I had just been moved to another division (I later found that they were shutting down the publication I was working for), doing work that was more junior than I was. I hated the position I was finding myself in and started fighting.

Then the question came up in my head, ‘What are you fighting for?’ Over the year, I had fallen in love with my new passion for farming and found the most bizarre sense of contentment, despite the turbulent market, rising effects of climate change and lurking pests threatening to destroy crops. There was a rhythm in its uncertainty that I could totally vibe with.

I had drifted further and further into this passion and found that I had even drifted from the things that I thought gave me certainty – a stable salary, a routine, and a career. So I decided to stop fighting and instead give into my passion.

I resigned from my job. I often look around the farm, vulnerable as I am, with an overall, gumboots and a pen to write about the abundant life in the plants, and the farmers surrounding me, and I feel the same tranquility I felt on the ocean in a kayak. How incredibly liberating.

  • Nonkululeko ‘Nonku’ Britton-Masekela is a seasoned media professional with over 15 years experience in broadcasting and digital marketing. She also has a passion for writing, social change, innovation, and agriculture, as well as her husband and 2 boys.
  • This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.
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