For Olerato, in today’s world skin color should not determine our fate. We’ve read/heard a lot about apartheid. But here in Nigeria, we haven’t really experienced it. So why I’m I mentioning it now?
I had an interview with Olerato Lekgabe, a young South African lady who has/is still experiencing depression based on the above, but somehow, even with all her challenges, still manages to be a source of strength and support to a lot of people, old and young, in her community.
I’d have really loved to upload the interview recordings so you can play it and hear her for yourselves. Olerato has a very sweet voice and her laugh makes the sun brighter. You would have enjoyed listening to her, but, this interview was done over WhatsApp and WhatsApp voice notes aren’t really recognized as a standard audio document by some major platform, including WordPress, as I’ve come to discover. So I have transcribed the interview and posted it below.
Olerato Lekgabe is both South African and Botswana. Her father is from Botswana, and her mother is South African. She resides in the north-west province, popularly known as the Platinum province because of its platinum mining and rich agricultural activities. She has two elder brothers, who are now married, and with kids.
For Olerato, growing up in a strict family had its advantage and disadvantage, as reflected in this interview. Olerato said in her growing up days, you sit up or get whooped. Somehow, it instilled a level of fear in her. And when she started to face major challenges that brought about depression, she had no one to talk to about it, but her brothers.
So how far has she come? Please see the interview below.
Pelleura: What’s it like to be South African?
Olerato: I love Africa more than I love South Africa. I say this because I share skin color with billions of people from all over the world, who are Africans. I don’t believe my skin defines me. Neither do I think our colonial days do. And with my skin color, I like to motivate and inspire people.
Pelleura: Please tell us about your parents
Olerato: My father came to SA in search of greener pastures. Father is Botswana. He started as a workman in a mine. After some time, he left the mine to take up a teaching job. That’s where he met my mom. She was one of the students. One thing led to the other and they clicked, not minding the age gap.
In the past, for women, age was only a number, and as such, women were married off at an early age. So when my mother became pregnant, dad had to marry her and then take her to school. At least that’s what being a man is.
Mom finished school but never got to further her studies. And she has never liked the decision life forced on her, as she had no choice about furthering her education. She became a full-time housewife.
After my brothers, they had me. In their happiness, they name me Galaletsang, meaning praise. It was all praises to God for answering their prayers for a girl child.
Pelleura: When did you first start to feel depressed?
Olerato: Officially, it started at age12. My grades weren’t good and there was pressure from home, especially from my dad; his anger towards me for my poor grades. But I managed to make it through to Midrand Graduate Institute (MGI), one of the most expensive schools here in SA.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t cope with school. And I couldn’t tell my family either because already, they kept asking me to come back home and try something else.
Part of the reason for my inability to cope was that I actually wanted to study music, not the course I was asked to study. I love music; it has always been my healing and my escape from my realities. As a child, and even in my teenage years, I was not allowed to have friends. I wasn’t allowed to go out or engage in any recreational activities with other kids, So I hardly made friends.
As such, I didn’t know how to go out. All I knew was music.
I’d search for songs on the internet and add them to my playlist. So in school, I’ll sing along with it in the hallway, corridors, or quiet corners and other students would approach me to collect the songs because they loved it. In a way, I started to make friends, and I liked it. It made me feel good, that I could be recognized for music. I felt I was now hanging out with the cool kids because I knew music.
Unfortunately, after my first year, I dropped off school and started to write proposals to companies. But I was told my skin is too dark for the jobs I am applying for.
It hurt. It was hard. But I managed to keep a smile on my face, hiding the sadness and eventually, depression that crept in with each rejection email, stating I was too dark-skinned for the job.
I also started to write proposals, hoping to get investors for my business. I was at home, one year, writing proposals. And the depression didn’t go away.
Pelleura: Do you remember the exact incident that first brought about depression at such an early age?
Olerato: As a growing child, I was constantly reminded of how my parents live their lives, and how they wanted me to live mine. And it depressed me.
I was constantly reminded by my parents, especially my dad, of my school failures, peer pressure, and a constant push to live up to expectations.
They also used to throw some questions at me that I didn’t like. “Would you like to try certain things? (I don’t want to mention them), Would you like an arranged marriage?” Those questions didn’t go down well with me.
But what really triggered it was when I had to quit University and hustle. Trying to find a job was what really brought up the depression a notch higher, and left it there. It caused a psychological problem.
Pelleura: For how long have you felt depressed?
Olerato: Depression was always there. But, officially, it’s been about 5 years. And I don’t feel I can change it, until I can change my situation, by actually getting a job or support for my business. I am still job hunting, and still writing proposals. I’m also writing a book about my life experiences so far.
Pelleura: What Do You Think triggered subsequent depression?
Olerato: Being isolated the most, or growing up isolated to know my only friend is a brother who is way older than me. So I befriended my diary, writing out my experiences. But then, the days go by with no progress about my situation, and it is a killer.
My other friends are my four walls and one window. I also find myself creating an imaginary life in my head, seeing myself achieve everything 1 want. But the stark reality is still there to deal with.
Pelleura: Is there anybody you feel comfortable to share your worries with? Someone who encourages and gives you a shoulder to lean on?
Olerato: I was thought never to tell my problems to another. So people instead, share their problems with me, and I’d answer like their big sister and mentor.
Back in the days, I used to tell my brothers. But they’re now both married with kids and no longer stay in the same location. And I don’t feel it’s ok to go throw my problems on them.
It’s just so sad though, that I’m not getting a job because of my dark skin, instead of my qualifications.
Pelleura: Does this depression ever lead you to suicidal thoughts?
Olerato: Yes. A lot. One of the events that led me to such thoughts was when I met my friend who studied military law, a week back. She’s got dark skin too and she has succeeded. But the painful part was meeting her, while still wearing the same old clothes I used to wear in middle school and University. I felt the ground should open up and swallow me.
But my mother, who I like to refer to as my savior, used to tell me about how she survived, and she never misses an opportunity to advise me never to think about killing myself all because I haven’t gotten to where I want to be. Besides, I am a major source of hope and comfort for my mom, and a role model to a lot of kids I mentor. I just can’t afford to kill myself.
One of the other reasons I haven’t gone ahead to act on those suicidal thoughts is because I hate the sight of blood and I hate to see people hurt. So I would do anything to not hurt myself.
Pelleura: What helps keep the smile on your face, despite all you’re going through? And how do you keep yourself going?
Olerato: When I see a lady on the road with a lot of bags, I can’t resist offering to help. Stuff like that put a smile on my face. A lot of people I come in contact with say I’ve got a gorgeous smile and often times, need to see that smile to ease the tension and stress they’re going through due to their own difficult situation(s). And they say stuff like, “thanks for making my day. Your smile has made my day.
I could also be driving and see people on the roadside who I help with free lifts. It makes me happy, helping people.
Pelleura: Have you been able to see a therapist?
Olerato: Currently, no. The only therapist I have is my Bible. I pray, every day, asking God for the verse and knowledge to create something and be lifted.
Pelleura: So while you continue to work towards securing a job, or support for your business, what other stuff do you spend your time on?
Olerato: For now, my time is also spent on writing my book. The book is titled Tales of Libra, and it is about a girl called Jenny.
The entire story is a mixture of Imaginary and real life.
So, that’s the end of the interview, guys. Even in the face of strong challenges, you meet people who still push on. Olerato is a symbol of hope and she represents many other women out there, who go through depression and a host of other challenges, but still, they do their best to get inspired.
Olerato owns a blog. She will be revamping her blog and launching out soon. This blog is going to give you so many chills and excitement, you’ll find yourself addicted. We will announce the blog when it is ready to go live. So please, watch this space.
Thanks so, so much for this interview, Olerato. It was an eye-opener and I sincerely pray that you get your heart’s desire. Keep being strong, and keep motivating the people around you. Cheers
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