INSPIRATIONAL WOMEN – MARCEL ARNOLD
In 2017 I started my “Inspirational Women Series” where I featured women in my life that inspire me and others by just being themselves.
On the 9th of August in South Africa, Women’s Day is celebrated. A day to commemorate and remember the strength and courage of the 20,000 odd women who took part in the march in 1956 to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. The march, a protest against by laws requiring individuals registered as black by the government to have a travel pass in order to roam the land within the borders of South Africa. The protest was lead by strong women like Lilian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph to mention a few. These women wanted South Africa to change.
I met Marcel during a period we worked for the same company. From the minute you meet Marcel, you either like her or you don’t. For the mere fact that there’s no pretending where she’s concerned. She is who she is, not one to pretend to be someone she isn’t to make anyone feel comfortable. Marcel lets you have it like it is, that said, she is one of the fairest individuals I have the pleasure of knowing. I hope you appreciate Marcel’s realness like I do.
It doesn’t matter what background you have, dream big and work hard to make YOUR dream a reality. It’s not going to be given to you on a platter! Ok, sometimes it can be 🙂
Thank you for making time in between packing for Hong Kong to share your story and inspire others to follow their dreams regardless…
In Marcel’s own words …Be inspired.
WHO IS MARCEL
“Hi, I’m Marcelle” … this is how my name is intended to be spelt but home affairs had different ideas for me … On all my official important documentation like ID, matric certificate, degree etc I am Marcel (yes the French male form of my name) it also does not help that my parents had a sense of humour and my second name starts with an R and my surname is also rather ambiguous as a males’ name, so I am often addressed as Mr Arnold. Even funnier is when I present an invoice that is meant for me but is addressed to the elusive Mr Arnold living in my home. The Customer Consultant will insist that they need to see Mr Arnold. After much debate, it’s followed by an awkward and confused look from them. I then have to explain and show evidence that it is all my documentation for the umpteenth time. Honestly, if we going to be pedantic about my name, I much prefer Marcie, like in the Peanuts comics.
I’m originally from Coronationville or Corrie as it’s more affectionately known to the locals. It’s slap bang in the middle of JHB but I suppose some will say somewhat south and a lot more west. If you’re not familiar with the place, it is close to Melville or RAU (if you were in varsity in the 90s) or as is now better known as UJ. It’s close to Northcliff, Brixton, and Cresta … so you see why I say in the middle. I am the youngest of my birthmother’s two kids (my brother who is the kindest best brother ever) and my birth father, that said my parents never married…. and no I am not affected by it – as mine was a very happy, honest childhood – it simply was what it was.
My stepdad, aka Uncle Willie, was amazing. We had daily devotions, he went with me to my paternal granddad’s funeral, was extremely proud of my achievements like I was his own child and he taught me to drive – I am a parallel parker of note. A cousin’s (she’s more like a sister to me) dad and my stepdad would “hang out” back in the days of the Peter Stuyvesant adverts. When smoking was considered cool and smoking around kids was not frowned upon – could also explain why I’ve never ever touched the stuff. I have fond memories of uncle Reggie, uncle Willie, my cousin and I on impromptu trips during the school holidays to Swaziland to visit family. Just in case you’re wondering why I refer to my stepdad as “uncle” because uncle Willie wasn’t my birth dad. When my mom and he decided to get married they consulted me – I think that was very decent of them. However, as much as I appreciated him as a person and all he did for me when he wanted me to call him “dad”, I couldn’t. I suppose I have always had strong convictions about who and what I am about.
Looking back to my youth, we were poor. Everyone around us was poor, granted some more than others and it was ok because I used it to drive me to aspire for more. I have amazing memories that still make me smile today. Like “Gouws the milky” or the milkman delivering milk and fresh orange juice to our home early in the morning, the sound of doves cooing and me following the route of the coal truck with a bucket to collect the coal stones that fell off the truck. Stuff kids today may never experience. A favourite pastime of mine was being placed into the coal box to sift through the sand and find nuggets to fill my bucket. I suppose that’s the beauty of being a child, there really was no judgement. Now I know why I was made to scrape the dregs, it was to make the coal stretch to month end. Poor as my family was, my parents, sprung (made a plan) for good schools. I went to St. Theresa’s an awesome convent school in Corrie – I loved school and especially my primary school years. I have fond memories of Sister Sally – the denim wrap skirt wearing nun from Ireland who played netball and soccer with us. I recall being extremely anxious in Standard Five (Gr7) because it meant me leaving the school I loved so much and moving to a new one. Even today as an adult, I avoid change if I can help it. The only change I like is that which I chose. My foray into McCauley House in Std’s 6 and 7 I loathed! So I took myself out of McCauley House. Yep, I lied to Sister Rosarie and my mom about it. Clearly, I justed wanted out and hadn’t thought of possible consequences. When January of the new school year finally arrived, I was without a school to go to. My dad (birth dad) was a lecturer and school inspector for Geography had to come to rescue me from the dilemma I’d created for myself. He called Mr Feldman, then Principal at CJB to find me a place. It was the best thing to have happened for my socially awkward self. I wouldn’t say there was much improvement, I think I was born to be socially awkward. Even as an adult I think I can be awkward, that said I know I’ve done well for myself.
FROM THE STREETS OF CORRIE TO SIPPING TEA IN THE QUEENS LAND
I’ve lived and worked in London and been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work across 19 African countries in my various marketing roles and I loved it! I climbed Kilimanjaro twice, summiting on my second attempt. I’ve hiked The Otter Trail twice, completed The Hakkerville, The Outeniqua, Blyde river canyon, the Fish River Canyon amongst the many beautiful trails we have in SA. I’ve finished four Half Two Oceans Marathons, a Soweto 21km and a few other races around Johannesburg. Surprisingly though, I don’t like the running, preferring hiking any day, but I run to keep my heart healthy and my blood pressure at bay.
My kids are beautiful! Just like any other parent out there, I am biased. Liam, my son, is 16 turning 17 this year and he really is my Prince, Nkosana or “mini king” if I am to be a purist with my translation. Ouma Sia called him that. She will always be my favourite human being, ever! I never set out to have kids. It was never part of my initial plan. When parenthood beckoned me, I embraced it and it has changed my life in the most profound way. Although I don’t think I am a natural mother (you might be thinking “what is that”), well for me it is all the women who have always known they wanted to be moms. I was always indifferent. Sarah(my daughter) is 6 and she is such a girly girl. You know the expression girls are sugar and spice and all things nice that’s my Sarah. I look at her and think I was never a girl like this. I believe God knows why and He sends us exactly what we need. What a sense of humour He has right?! My kids have calmed me down. They have brought out a softer natured version of me and continuously make me want to be a better version of myself. Be a kinder human. I couldn’t be prouder of them, they are both so loving and gentle, it fills my heart with joy and makes me appreciate motherhood – albeit reluctantly.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A CHILD
Since my son’s birth, I have always been very conscious to be fully present with my kids. My workplace and colleagues know when I’ve taken my kids for extramural or a singing concert. I feel that work must and can deal with any situation that may arise. I do not appreciate that moms are forced to hide the fact that they need to be there for their kids during the work day too. Now I became a parent way before Uber replaced me as a taxi. My friends or rather my village, has been instrumental in helping me raise my kids. They’ve been there for me when I need them most. Like when I have to travel and Liam needs to be collected or dropped off or they babysit or they show up at a call without any questions asked. So much so that Liam’s nappy years were completely funded by a school friend. He used to sit behind me in class and when he heard I am having a baby without the dad being present, he gave my best friend “who was at the birth of both my kids” a nappy budget. It lasted until Liam was potty trained. If it weren’t for my village of friends and family it would have been tough. They have caught me and patched me together every time I fell apart. I am stronger today because of them.
Liam was around 6/7 when I had my first two-week trip overseas. I was stressed because it was going to be the longest I was away from him, so I made him a surprise box full of gifts and a personal message for him for every day I was away. My cousin, the one I mentioned earlier, had him for one of the weekends and she said he gave her hell because he needed to get his daily surprise and message mom left.
BEING A SINGLE MOM
How do I do it?
It’s not easy being a single mom.
It is a whole lot easier for me since the choice to be a single mom was mine.
I’m a single mom out of choice, so I hold no resentment towards my children’s fathers. Single parenthood wasn’t surprisingly sprung on me, as may be the case with many other mothers who may actually exacerbate the role of a single mother. I get along with my kids’ dads and I’ve never asked for maintenance because that’s my choice. I feel we all adults and they should know what they need to live on, so assume that your child will require at least half that to survive. Besides, I don’t want to be placed in a position I need to account to the dads for how these funds are used. They contribute if they want to, I choose to see it as extras for treats for my kids when the moment arises. We live within my affordability only.
TO FOLLOW MY DREAMS OR NOT
I’ve always dreamt of being my own boss and the flexibility it provides is amazing. Reality is a different story. There are challenges when you run your own business. There’s no cushioning when clients don’t pay on time or at all, that one has when working in the corporate world.
Bills must be paid.
We must eat.
As the sole breadwinner, I couldn’t afford, not to have a secure source of income. I went back to the security of corporate for a few years. The itch to run my own business has returned. I have left an amazing corporate position to be part of a start-up.
It’s early days, but I’m convinced this will be a success, so watch this space!
THE BALANCE …BEING A PRESENT PARENT
I am very strict with myself about being present when I am home. At work I give 200% so when I’m home, I am fully present with my kids.
We watch cartoons together, or potter around the garden and the house, swimming, playing pick-up sticks, reading and only cooking when I am in the mood (because if not I can mess it up royally in the kitchen). My best weekends are when I come home on Friday evening and only leave the house again on Monday. Thank goodness my kids are like me, they love lazy stay at home days as much as I do.
Essentially, that is pretty much how I balance my life. Friends and family know not to socialise with me during the day at work as I will be short (EKL – could be interpreted as rude 🙂 ) with them. The same rule applies when I’m home, I don’t look at emails or messages on my phone. At times I don’t even know where my mobile is until I need to leave the house. Count yourself lucky if you have my landline number. It’s the only way you will reach me.
We have three dog’s, two huskies and a poodle mix. Time with them is invaluable. No expectations and they share so much love with me and my kids. I hardly socialise outside the house because my job has a fair amount of socialising which is thoroughly exhausting. My home is where I switch off and focus on all my kids and US!
I have many things that I live by …. From the serious to the out with the fairies – I give/leave lots up to the universe and for me, the universe is interchangeable with God. I had to learn to give it to God and leave it there. Trusting in Him to provide the solution. A hard thing for a controlling person to do.
THIS IS ME
Michael Jackson and his consummate professionalism and firm but always kind manner I find completely inspiring. I watch the making of THIS IS US, over and over.
Love what you do and when you stop loving what you do – leave!
Never ever compromise on who you are.
Children do not judge you as a parent so one happy parent is better than two unhappy parents – sometimes leaving is a good thing. P.S I apologised to Liam for my decisions and for not staying with his dad … one day I will apologise to my daughter Sarah too, she is still a bit young now.
I read too much to have one favourite book, I like a variety of fictional topics.
“People who don’t get carried away, should be.” – Malcolm Forbes
What really resonates with me is Matthew 6:25-34 “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
This verse puts everything into perspective when I feel that life is overwhelming me and I am unravelling.
Find Marcel on FB