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Friendzone: Zanele Mji

Some friendships are not meant to last.

With some people you meet, especially when you're young and having the time of your life, you have fun, you go out, get drunk a few times, move cities and over time, your friendship fizzles out. It happens all the time. No hard feelings and so forth and stuff like that.

I really did think Zanele would be one of those people.

We met in Cape Town or was it Joburg? Party girls, always moving in different directions. She had the best smile, like someone who smiles with their entire body. She had a way of always making you feel like they're genuinely happy to be in your presence.

After hanging in Cape Town a few times, she left for New York. Eventually so did I, but to Joburg, much less glam than the Big Apple, I still stare out my window onto a mine dump.

Life carried on. We kept in touch over social media. Then one day she hit me up.

At that time I was probably at my lowest. I was supposed to be living my best life, as a freelancer in the city of gold. But I hated it. I loved my life and my friends but the city itself, and the nightlife, bored the shit out of me. It didn't help that I was always broke and just really not the best person to be around.

So it was so good to hear from an old friend.

We arranged to meet up, in Rosebank, for cocktails, during the day (the best part about being a broke freelancer, now that I think about it: day drinking). We caught up. The smile was still there. She was so full of life but we were literally going through the same thing. That in betweenness of freelancing. It was so good to have someone to chat to, at the time, and just be like "I am not okay, this is shit".

We hit it off and I think our friendship grew from there. We kept in touch. We spent more time together. Found out more stuff we had in common beyond our love for writing, reading and music. She also liked yoga, loved her family and being close to the sea. We'd send each other long articles to read and then discuss the shit of of them over email.

But more than anything, she is a good listener. A deep thinker. She has done so much is such a short space of time. Whether it is traveling the world, being a columnist, working in media in the US and coming back here and starting all over again in a new city. Sometimes I even bank shit to tell her over email, and even when I say the most outlandish shit, she always had some well-considered response.

Like me, she has a sense of adventure. This is how we ended up in Swaziland for the Bushfire festival without a tent. Technically we had one, but it was coming in another car, with my sister, whom we didn't meet until the border. We still had the best weekend. Even saw 'Pedro the Music Man' from Kideo performing on one of the mornings. We also saw the most disappointing Bongo Maffin reunion performance ever. I still can't talk about it without wanting my night back, wow.

This would not be the last trip. With another friend we did a road-trip that almost lasted a month. It took us from Jhb, then along the coast from Durban, through the Eastern Cape, and all the way Cape Town for New Years. This trip is still one of the best things I have done with my time or money. It's also one of those affirming things that let me know that I am shit at other things but sometimes I make really dope friends who make the best travel companions.

I am not very good at communicating, whether with my friends, lovers or family. It is rare to find people who are either the same or at least, get where you're coming from and let you be. Zanele is one of those people. I thank the freelancing gods for her friendship and looking forward to our next adventure because it is going to be epic.


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First published on

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