July 18, Mandela Day, the day that Nelson Mandela was released from prison, 28 years ago.
I cannot say anything else than that Mandela is one of my heroes and biggest examples.
It started in a very dark period in my life where I faced many and big problems. In my family, where there was no harmony and a big lack of love, I just broke up with the girl I loved and I studied in France where I got terribly depressed. Suffering mental illness is difficult. It feels like a trauma and you don’t know how to solve it. There is no positivity, it feels like someone has driven over you with a big car and you cannot breath anymore because the wheel has hit your heart.
In that period, where I lived in a 8 square meter room with bars in front of the window I thought about Nelson Mandela. I often joked that it was like the Mandela cell on Robben Island. Little did I know that the metaphor of the cell became the biggest life changer in life.
The Long Walk to Freedom
Thinking about Mandela I ordered the Long Walk to Freedom, his autobiography. I felt attracted to read his story. To understand how a man can survive under such circumstances and how he faced prison and the sad and long days on the island. Of course, the story I make up in my mind now is that you think that I am dramatizing, and how egoistic to put me on the same level as Mandela... but I think that if you follow the example of another you can always learn and be inspired. That was my purpose as well and is my purpose by writing this article.
The book arrived and I locked myself up in my ‘cell’ where I started reading the story of how a little boy raised in a tribe became South Africa’s biggest criminal to fight against apartheid. I felt inspired: this is what it means to have a purpose and how you wake up the system to say “No freaking way, this needs to stop and right now”. As he said in court “for this purpose I am prepared to die”. And they condemned him to life long prison ship.
In prison, time was tough. Badly threatened by his guards, long days of hard work and no dignity. And that’s where his mission started. As he once told in a interview with Oprah Winfrey, he wanted to be known as Mandela, a person with dignity. Dignity we all have. I felt immediately connected as in my life I felt no dignity for myself.
Although the biography is not quite a page turner, it truly is a book full of wisdom. Mandela taught me about seeing the world with compassion, knowing that if you want to change society, you have to change yourself. Again I was inspired. I still suffered my depression, but I knew that when I got out of this ‘prison’ (I needed to graduate, that’s why I stayed), I’d start to work to change myself and my behavior towards others. And so I did.
Now, years later, Mandela is still daily present in my life. As an entrepreneur in Italy with the mission and purpose to let people speak from their heart, in full authenticity, especially for the next generation, I feel the daily struggle to change the world. And changing the world means that we need to have compassion. First for ourselves, then towards the other. Create more softness and be able to trust other people (which is a big challenge in these times).
Mandela taught me to be brave, that courage is not the absence of fear but facing the fear and conquering it. That all my choices need to reflect my hopes and not my fears and that dreaming is the best way to realize a life fulfillment journey on earth. I try to live by it every single day and inspire others to do the same.
We all have a bit of Mandela inside us
You know, dear readers, we all have a bit of Mandela in our selves. Doesn’t matter how small or how big. We all have it. Believe me, inside our hearts float compassion, wisdom and the truth that we want peace and love for every single person in the world. And, as Mandela said in the Oprah Winfrey interview, we have and need to be humble to get there, because if you show humility, people will see that you don’t mean harm and they will embrace you.
Dear all, let’s go for it. Together. We, the next generation, the voices of youth. We are peacemakers in our own fields. And if we collaborate we can create the impact the world needs. In climate, food, poverty, illness, peace and most of all, the creation of a society where we all want to live in: a society based on humanity and education. We can do it, no matter how high the mountain, we can do it.
And I invite you to do that with me.