At the Senior School Prizegiving held last week, our Headboy for 2019, Ben Maposa addressed the school:

Ben Maposa, 2019 Headboy

“Good afternoon all.

Greetings to Mrs Hornby, Chair of the Kingswood Council, Mr & Mrs Collier, Mr & Mrs Vorster, to the respective heads, Councillors, invited guests, parents, staff and fellow Kingswoodians. I truly appreciate being given this time to address you all today.

To be honest, I’ve never really been a big fan of time. Allocated time to be more specific. Restricted time. This is partially because I despise the feeling of being limited in any way and also perhaps due to the fact that I have the horrible tendency to procrastinate and leave quite a few things until the last minute. Even then, I’ll still have the nerve to think “surely that wasn’t even time”.

Now I know it’s not practical to live without allocated time. It is in fact crucial. It keeps things running, flowing.  It keeps things manageable. The president has four years. A lesson is one hour. A chapel service is thirty minutes. A rugby match is an hour and 10 minutes. This speech is supposed to be five minutes, but if you have ever heard me talk you know that’s not going to happen. Clear your schedules. Cancel any dinner reservations.

We ourselves, as human beings are allocated time. We ourselves are simply a moment in the infinite concept that is time. I’ve experienced my beginning and I will eventually meet my end, just like you. But here is why our time on this earth differs from our day to day experiences of allocated time. I will use an example to illustrate my point. Mrs. McLean teaches Mathematical Literacy and Business Studies. I’m sure many of you know of her. She is a lovely teacher. She is aware that each day when her pupils enter her class, she has got exactly one hour to teach, nothing more, and nothing less. So to efficiently go about using this hour effectively, she will come up with a lesson plan.

On a typical day, she’ll spend 15 minutes going over last night’s homework and taking questions, 30 minutes teaching a new concept, then use the last 15 minutes to get pupils started on that nights homework just in case they have questions she won’t be there to answer later. It’s a perfect plan, the perfect blueprint. Like I said about allocated time, it keeps things running, flowing. It keeps things manageable.

However, neither one of us can truly contextualize that concept to our own lives. The difference is Mrs. McLean knows she has an hour for each lesson, how much time can you say you have? We all know how much time we have had. I have had 18 years 6 months and 7 days so far, but the future is left undetermined. All that is promised to me, all that is promised to us, is this moment. The only breath that is promised to you is the one that you’re breathing right now and that is only because you are currently experiencing it. It is your present and will quickly become your past, and then you’ll find yourself in the next fleeting moment.

Now I’m going to tell you the predictable phrase that most of you were probably waiting for. “Live each day like it’s going to be your last”. This is just one of those phrases that you have heard so much it has begun to lose its meaning. I will not try to resuscitate the phrase or say it with more enthusiasm in the hopes that it may stick “LIVE EVERYDAY LIKE ITS GOING TO BE YOUR LAST!”. You see, I just looked foolish. Instead, I am going to revamp the phrase and add a hard-hitting yet subtle sense of urgency to it.

Here it is. ‘Live like your future isn’t promised, ellipses, because it’s not’. Don’t forget the ellipses, it adds drama. I’ll say it one more time. Live like your future isn’t promised… because it’s not. Now let me tell you what many of you are going to do right now. You are going to pull up that mental bucket list and start scoping it. I’m finally going to take that trip to Durban, I’m finally going to cut my hair into a bob, because why not, I am going to apply to that university or that job regardless of if I get in or not, I’m finally going to tell Susie I have been madly in love with her since we were 3.

All of these are great things that have the potential to bring about a sense of personal fulfillment. If you do have a list of things that you hope to accomplish, I urge you to put time into achieving them, because time well-spent is time that is both enriching and fulfilling. But you should be very careful when going about this; I’ll use another example to illustrate why because I am obsessed with analogies.

I take drama (if you cannot already tell) and drama is what I like to call a two in one subject. 50% is theory and 50% is practical. To achieve top marks in drama you need to excel in both. You could be the best performer, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Ben Maposa, take your pick. However, if you are lacking on the theory component, you will underachieve and vice versa. Now the same thing applies when it comes to this feeling fulfillment. 50% of feeling fulfilled is what you do for yourself and the other 50% is what you do for other people. To feel true fulfillment, you cannot have one without the other.

There are some extremely successful individuals out there, millionaires and billionaires who are leading unfulfilled lives because they’ve filled one box to its capacity and neglected the other due to gluttony. And on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are people doing incredible charitable work, dedicating their lives to the betterment of others, but have completely neglected self-care, thus feeling as if something is lacking. These two components need to rise in congruence to one another. One might even spike the other, but you need to acknowledge it for it to count.

‘So what do I do, Ben?’ you might be asking. My answer, I cannot stand here and tell you the ways to go about attaining fulfillment. You already know them. Each day we are presented with opportunities that will enrich us and enrich others, it is all up to you to be mindful of them and take them and if you don’t see these opportunities, create them.

To die fulfilled, truly fulfilled, is to die a death that is only physical for the works of your hands and the impact you had on others will live on regardless of its magnitude. Time is nothing but a reminder that you’re alive, the way you use it is what tells you if you’re truly living. So don’t count the years, the days, the gray hairs and wrinkles. Start counting the memories and the experiences.

Today, in this my very last address that is what I am doing. I think back to the moments I took risks, the moments I succeeded, the moments I failed, the moments I stood for injustice, the moments I developed and strengthened relationships, the moments I embarrassed myself (that one is jam-packed), the moments I was happy, the moments I was sad, the moments I was there to lend a hand and all the other moments in-between that have led me to this moment right here.

Kingswood has been nothing but enriching, fulfilling. It is here that I found my footing and developed my character and it is here that I truly discovered the importance of building other people up. I will never forget the lessons and experiences that have led to this moment for they are now embedded in my foundation.  

Tsepo, Destiny, Jocelyn and Matthew, my leaders. Individually you are remarkable, together you are unstoppable. You are now entering a period of allocated time, but I pray that you leave an influence so strong and inspiring, that it lives on past your year. This is your time.

Amy, Caleb, Siya. Yoh, we’re tired. Jokes aside, this year I’ve seen all of you grow immensely and it was incredible to witness it. In you I found inspiration, courage and wisdom. The time we spent together was nothing short of incredible.

To my fellow prefects and matrics, this year has been a whirlwind. There were smiles, there were frowns, there were tears, there was laughter, Zinga’s laugh in particular will always be the soundtrack to my nightmares. We are about to go our separate ways, but one thing we can each hold dear, is the time we spent together. Hold on to the memories and they will hold on to you.

Dr Vasilliou, Mrs. van Molendorff, for starters, this is the first time I refer to you both by your full surnames and it is strange. I will always be in awe of you and I thank you for your guidance and your words of wisdom. You made Kingswood history this year. It took this school 125 years to open their eyes to the undeniable power of a woman and even beyond Kingswood I will lend a hand to ensure that they are never ever closed again. Behind every great woman is her willpower and perseverance pushing her forward. Thank you taking this school forward.

And to all the men and boys out there that are intimidated by a woman in charge, my number is 0764163961, text me your concerns. It will be an honour to shut you down. In the most eloquent manner of course.

To my mother. Mama, I am who I am today because of you. All that is in me is a result of your love and care. You made sacrifices for my benefit and the fact that I can even stand her today and give a speech as Kingswood’s head boy is your doing. Thank you mama. I love you.

To four very special humans, my juniors. Harry, Bream, Danyal and Ncwane. Before this year I made a vow to myself. I vowed to be the best mentor I could ever be for whoever my junior was to be. I got one junior but I asked for more. I had created so much room in my heart, that I couldn’t bear seeing it vacant. The time we spent together will probably be the time that I will cherish most. I have so much more to say, but for now I will leave you four with the statement that I love you all dearly and equally. Now I know how parents feel when their children ask them who the favorite is. I hope I was someone you could look up to, even though physically I have to look up to you guys, but let’s not talk about that though.

I now address Kingswood. Kingswood isn’t the campus, it’s the people. It is the teachers, it is the kitchen staff, it is the ground staff, it is the cleaning staff, it is the administrative staff, it is the Old Kingswoodians, It is the council, it’s the guards, and it is the pupils. It is even the defecating pigeons that have no respect for our pathways. I thank you all for this opportunity. You entrusted me with this position and every single day since my name was called, I hoped I wouldn’t let any of you down. Individually, I hope if we ever interacted, even if it might’ve been brief, it was meaningful in some way. I’ll cherish it all.

I don’t think we should base our success off of external opinions, but in this case I will wholeheartedly make the exception for I sincerely hope I made all of you proud. However, if you aren’t proud of me now, I hope you will be when I become president.

Even when I leave, a piece of my heart will remain here, because a place you were nourished and nurtured in any way is a place you will always call home. I am leaving fulfilled and accomplished. So thank you, Kingswood.

Before I step down, during his final address as head of state, Barack Obama, a role model of mine, ended his address in the most epic manner. It was a simple gesture, but it spoke volumes and was very impactful. Yes, I am talking about the mic drop. I just so happen to have a mic right here. When I proposed this idea to a friend he said, “Ben, you would never do that at such an event”, Oh yes I will. Now I don’t want to break the mic so I am going to call on the best support I could have ever asked for, Caleb.

So, peace and love to all. May you discover the things that you love and the things that make you feel fulfilled, and let them consume you. Thank you for your time. I am out.”