Since you could always easily Google and know all about this phenomenal lady’s work, allow me to present her to you like only I can:). Also refer to a video with her in her studio on the Phenomenal Magazine Facebook page here.
She’s the owner and creative director of Windhoek-based web-design establishment, Turipamwe Designs, and describes herself as a creative thinker, maker and doer. Meet Tanya Turipamwe Stroh.
Highly recommended by one of my respectable clients, I had no idea what to expect when I made the appointment to meet Tanya. For the first time, I deliberately did not “Google” her, for the sake of relishing the experience of knowing her in real time vis-à-vis reading about her via other people’s opinions. What would follow was worth my deliberate ignorance.
I write at least three pages of whatever comes to mind, every morning before I leave my bed
Loving herself from the inside out:
“I do ‘morning pages’ in which I write at least three pages of whatever comes to mind, every morning before I leave my bed. It can be anything – the good and the bad. However, I eventually focus on the points that can add value to my life and emotionally dealing with the unpleasant ones.
“For instance, if I might have gone to bed upset about something, I wake up the following morning and write every last thing that comes to mind about it. I then separate the good and the bad about and possible solutions to it, going forward, especially if it is something I still have to deal with on that particular day. I find that I gain a sense of clarity now, doing my morning pages, than I ever did without them,” she says.
Would I have been raised better had my father been around more? I think so. Do I wish things were different? Let’s just I’m sorry I never got to know him better.
She adds; “See, I’m not particularly a Christian believer but I do believe in that Higher power that allows us all each breath on this earth. I acknowledge its presence in my life in a way that helps me appreciate my very life and those of others. That’s self-love. You have to acknowledge the existence of your Creator to appreciate your awesomeness. But then again, it takes living in the moment to be that self-aware.
“Truth be told, that’s something I actually have difficulty in – living in the moment. I could be showering after doing my morning pages and thinking about what to do all day. I’ve, however, chosen to at least try and change that by, for instance, if I’m showering, I have to ‘speak to my body’ – study my nails, my skin, my hair… really ‘experience’ the shower versus thinking of the next moment. That, for me, is part of loving oneself from the inside out – being aware of what makes your skin rough, or dry, or whatever it is that you eat that gives you pimples, or whatever it is that you do in your morning routine that sets each day’s mood for you. You have to be aware of your comings and goings to know and truly appreciate yourself. That’s self-love.”
It takes living in the moment to be very self-aware
Born in northern Namibia, Tsumeb, and brought up in Grootfontein and later in Windhoek, by a single mother who devoted all her productive life to the law and recently retired as a justice, Tanya owes all she is today to her upbringing: “My mom understood the power of education and sacrificed everything for me and my sister to have a great quality of life. Even though I’m Afrikaner, I went to an English school – the Windhoek International School, after three years of studying at Pioneerspark Primary School.
My mom understood the power of education
“Yes, I loved my former school, but there was something missing – I didn’t fit in. So when I reached Grade 3, I asked my mom to change schools, because I felt stifled in the way I would artistically express myself. Nobody got me there. But it was different at Windhoek International School. It nurtured my identity as an artist in a way I doubt any school would have.”
“Funny though that for a moment there, I thought I’d be a psychologist,” she chuckles, as she reads my facial expression, before adding; “I was intrigued by the human psyche. I wanted to know what motivates people to be the way they are. What makes sad people sad, happy people happy or successful people successful. I wanted to know why some people are super wealthy while others are super poor. I wanted to get into their heads.”
I strongly believe high school leavers should take a year off to figure things out, and should be allowed the chance
Like most privileged kids, Tanya would nurture her love for creativity instead, yet at the end of high school, still didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. Let’s face it, no underprivileged kid would take a year off to ‘figure things out’. They’re usually told what to pursue from the moment they begin senior year of high school and are expected to follow through with their ‘chosen fields’ immediately after high school, if they stand a chance of having a ‘bright future’.
I was intrigued by the human psyche. I wanted to know what motivates people to be the way they are
For Tanya, her ‘off year’ came with a six-month stay in England.
“England was part holiday, part work. I went there after high school when I didn’t know what to pursue and took a year off. I applied to live with an awesome family, a la Au pea. I was only 19. I was a live-in house help and took care of two little girls aged two and four, for four days a week. I was good at the job but hated it. It was the biggest task I’d taken on in my entire life at that point in time – being responsible for another’s life.
“I appreciated and still appreciate my mother for allowing me the opportunity to undergo that phase of my life because I feel that there’s always a huge amount of pressure in young adults to know what they should do with their lives from the moment they finish high school and I don’t think that’s fair. First because at that point in one’s life, you’re all over the place in most aspects of your life and the last thing you want to do is make decisions that will live with you for the rest of your life. I strongly believe high school leavers should take a year off to figure things out, and should be allowed the chance.”
The England experience taught Tanya what her uncle describes as “ambility” – the ability to be humble. It’s taking yourself out of the equation for a greater good, without losing yourself.
There’s always a huge amount of pressure in young adults to know what they should do with their lives from the moment they finish high school and I don’t think that’s fair
“I learnt that while I was undergoing that phase of my life for the experience, others were around the world lived their lives that way – leave their home countries to be others’ house help, for the sake of their families back home. That realization was beyond humbling.
“I also learnt to listen to my gut versus listening to others’ opinions of what things should be, because your gut always knows. I learnt not to rely on logic, at all times. I’d go to sleep every night wondering if I was doing things right. I’d trace my steps from the moment I’d have woken up to the point of going to bed, just to ensure I’d done the day right. Sometimes I’d go to bed thinking, ‘Hell, I so don’t want to do this, because I’ve lived a privileged life and I shouldn’t be here, doing this.’
It was much later that I discerned the point – to learn life lessons that would stick with me for the rest of my life.
One of the lessons, Tanya explains is that inasmuch as you might not always logically know whether or not something’s right, when it doesn’t sit well with you, go with your gut.
“When you wake up in the morning feeling challenged but you know you have to go with it, that’s different from when you’re feeling queasy, with a tightness in your stomach about something. The latter should be your cue for, ‘don’t go there’. I learnt this at 19 – to listen to my gut, because my logical mind can sometimes miss the point, being the left-brain, problem solving side of me.
…you might not always logically know whether or not something’s right, when it doesn’t sit well with you, go with your gut
“England opened my eyes. I’d grown up in a predefined community, as regards aspects of religion, racism, education, you name it. I couldn’t express the sense of self-actualization I felt I needed, because of the then status quo, stemming from a dark national history.”
Fast forward to a couple of years later after her post and undergrad spells in South Africa, studying design and visual communications, Tanya found herself in Germany as a working artist via a Windhoek-Berlin exchange program.
“I worked and lived in Berlin for four months, which gave me the space to pursue my creativity in a more professional manner, especially seeing as it’s not the most lucrative of careers.
“Through the experience, I discovered that I wanted to do art in a way that was bigger than what I’d been previously exposed to. That’s where my love for design began. It all started with moments of self-discovery, all the way from England. I wanted more. I couldn’t just exist and go through the motions of life. I wanted to create a long-lasting impact that would only be achieved through art.”
I wanted to do art in a way that was bigger than what I’d been previously exposed to
Being away from home twice instilled a sense of responsibility and commitment that has stuck with Tanya since: “There’s a thin line between ‘I don’t want to do this because it doesn’t feel good’ and ‘I have to stay the course because the end result will be worth the sweat’. I learnt this while away from home as a foreigner in both England and Berlin. These are life lessons that have carried me through. I don’t quit.”
Her little sister is quite the same – talk of sisterly influence. But Tanya doesn’t really see it that way. “My sister is an events manager in Cape Town, a line of business she landed in after quitting a high profile corporate career, taking a sabbatical to Italy for some serious soul searching.
I don’t quit
“Younger she may be but I look up to her, because her daring character has taught me to live rather than exist. You could say we both owe it to our mom who created a safe space for us to explore what we wanted to do with our lives. Inasmuch as she gave the liberty to explore our lives’ purposes, she taught us however to stay the course, and not drop one thing for another when things get difficult.
“Being a justice, you would think she’d be an overbearing mother but she wasn’t. She left the ‘tough nut’ side of her at work, and that went a long way for me and my sister.”
View on life
“I have so much respect for single moms, starting with my own mother. It’s not child’s play to give all of yourself to your children and still be able to keep all of yourself for yourself.
When I get married, I’ll keep my surname, because I don’t think it would serve any purpose to take my husband’s surname if ‘Stroh’ is what I’ve been called my whole life.
“Would I have been raised better had my father been around more? I think so. Do I wish things were different? Let’s just I’m sorry I never got to know him better. He died a few years ago. I didn’t particularly have a relationship with him. He was married before my mom, so we have an older half-sister but he never remarried after divorcing my mom.
They were married for five years and divorced when I was two.
“Since he never had any male children, I’ve decided to keep my surname, because I don’t think it would serve any purpose to take my husband’s surname if ‘Stroh’ is what I’ve been called my whole life. I will keep my surname as homage to my dad. Maybe it’s too little too late for me, but I think it’s important that fathers or father figures stay in the picture. Sadly, the dynamics of life don’t always allow.”
Relationships – Deal with your baggage before you get involved in a long-term relationship
I only found him after dealing with my baggage
“I am in a serious relationship with an amazing kind and creative man who challenges me to be more and for whom I have the deepest respect. I can safely say I have truly, finally found my match,” Tanya blushes, before adding; “Make no mistake; I only found him after dealing with my baggage.
“I believe nobody should get into a relationship with issues. I was whole when he found me so was he. He didn’t need to play my Captain Savior.”
How does she exude her ‘wholeness’ into her everyday life, I ask?
I have requested the Universe to grant me a wholesome relationship that grows and not stifle me
“No single day is perfect, but I choose to love him in his imperfection, fully aware that I love him for love’s sake. It’s part of being whole – killing your impossible expectations of your partner and allowing them the freedom to just be. It is, however, not a quick-fix formula but an ongoing process. There’s never a final point to self-actualization.
However, you have to be clear about what sits well with who you are in your wholeness. It starts with inviting the Universe into your life, which I have – in my relationship and the way I love, live and operate my business. I have requested the Universe, if I may call that – that which is greater than all of us – to grant me a trusting, fulfilling, and wholesome relationship. One that grows and not stifle who I am as a woman, a sister, a daughter, a friend and partner.
“You have to create the kind of freedom that allows and accepts change in others. For instance, my partner quit his job last year to be a freelancer for six months and I had to let him do that, even though it meant tremendous life changes, especially financially and generally. I believed there was something better on the other side. When you make long-term decisions while in a serious relationship, you know they will not only impact you but your partner too. But as the ‘affected’ partner, you have to have a sense of emotional and spiritual security to carry you both into this transition.
“I believe it has so far worked for us, because came into the relationship unbroken, not needing the other person to mend us.”
Create the kind of freedom that allows and accepts change in others
Match made on Twitter
Several tweets later, we went on one date, then another and another
A rare pair they are, so I ask where she found him: “On twitter,” she enthuses, adding; “I responded to one of his profound tweets about life. I was so awestruck by his coolness, like, who’s this Namibian dude I don’t know?
“Several tweets later, we went on one date, then another and another and before you knew it, we were meeting each other’s families and moving in together. It’s been a year and four months.”
They blend well from what I gather, except, “He hates my pun jokes. Being a writer, he always goes; ‘Babe, that was not funny at all!’ And I’ll be like, ‘What? That was funny!’ and we laugh about it anyway. But that gives us, if you will, mileage, because we appreciate each other’s quirkiness.”
Deserving better and healing
I didn’t have a relationship with myself, at all
But is that all that makes them work? “After a couple of dates, he straight-up asked me what we were doing, which I totally appreciated, because that was new for me. I’d been in emotionally abusive relationships at a very early stage in my life, and mostly felt like I deserved it. In my mind I felt that I deserved better but really didn’t know what that meant. To some extent, I was disconnected from myself. I was merely floating through life. I didn’t have a relationship with myself, at all. It was only years later that I realized that I couldn’t have known better then given my background – divorced parents and all.”
“Better would eventually mean a partner who would have a great impact in my career, indirectly, which I have in him and appreciate tremendously. It’s not so much as running to him with every little thing or him hovering over my shoulders to patronize me but he allows me the freedom to make my own decisions and be okay with it.
My healing began when I clearly defined what exactly I needed healing from
“This was not always how I carried out myself.
I was overly needy, which affected my relationships.
My healing began when I clearly defined what exactly I needed healing from – Insignificance.
That’s part of loving oneself from the inside out – knowing what’s broken, so you can dig within to find a way to mend yourself from the inside out.
“Mine was healing from the years of insignificance – from past romantic, as well as my relationship with my father. I always felt like I had to do something for someone to love me. It was performance-based. That’s exhausting, because you eventually run out of steam. I healed by learning to accept myself as God created me and acting like it, no apologies.”
“As far as my relationships went, they bordered around my daddy issues. I would maneuver around myself to make the other person comfortable, forever wondering, ‘But why don’t you choose me?’ And that started with my dad.
I always felt that I had to be a certain way or do certain things for him to love me more or enough,
and I exuded that in my romantic relationships.
A performance-based love is exhausting
Revisiting an earlier point about commitment, Tanya ascribes to author Elizabeth Gilbert’s shit-sandwich philosophy which emphasizes what it takes to not quit.
“Living by the shit-sandwich philosophy is never minding taking on the bad, aware that the end result will be worth the tears. That’s commitment. I learnt that as well while in England and now use it even in my business relationships. However, commitment can turn into over-commitment, which can lead to misplaced loyalty. I’m very familiar with this.
“Over-commitment and misplaced loyalties only exist because the opposite parties fail to express their intentions from the onset.”
In relationships, for example, Tanya says; if you’re dating for the sake of dating, and you both know that, then knock yourself out. But if you’re the only one committed to the relationship, you’re headed for the rocks.
Shacking up before marriage
Nurture the kind of love that will not fall apart at the whim of life’s disappointments
“Inasmuch as society tells us to not live together before marriage, my partner and I think not. First because the person you’re going to get after you’re married is not the same as the person you’re dating. They will change. They will end up doing something that leaves you wondering, ‘What am I supposed to do with that?’
That’s just my personal take on this and he feels the same way. Before living together, understand what exactly you’re committing to, we did. Discuss how things are going to work out from the onset, so that there are no surprises. We did.
Initially, I’d want to be his super woman, constantly asking, ‘Are you OK?’ Had to stop!
“For example, we don’t do each other’s laundry, because it’s a personal chore and I respect that.”
She however warns, “Never, ever let the financial ease of living together be the deciding factor for why you shack up. For us, it simply began with wanting to spend more time together versus seeing each other only over the weekends.
Lessons learnt by knowing a partner
We don’t do each other’s laundry. It’s a personal chore
“Initially, I’d want to be his super woman, be matriarchal, asking him every ten seconds, ‘Are you OK?’ ‘Can I get you anything?’ I had to stop doing that, because I’m not his mother. He’s been taking care of himself forever and it doesn’t mean I love him less and more when I play mommy to my man. I mean, he can make me a sandwich while I do my laundry and vise-versa.”
Again, ascribing to another author, Cheryl Sanderburg, Tanya speaks of the manner in which successful working couples deal with running a household, let alone with the presence of kids.
If you can’t talk about money, religion, kids and lifestyle, you’ll have problems
“We are very upfront about our finances. I know how much he makes and vise-versa. We both run our individual accounts and still save towards mutual goals like holidays.”
She adds: “Allocate financial responsibilities to each other for the sake giving each other space to make personal financial decisions, while still minding each other. That is the one thing you have to talk about from the onset of your relationship. If you can’t talk about money, religion, kids and lifestyle, you’ll have problems. I’m no expert in this, but it’s something we have extensively discussed and know where we are in. It starts with a foundation – mutual love and respect.
…cut your partner just as much slack as you’d cut yourself
“We nurture the kind of love that will not fall apart at the whim of life’s disappointments or even unintentional heartbreaks from each other, which happen. When all’s said and done, we can still say, ‘I love you’, and deeply mean it. It’s part of loving yourself from the inside out – cutting your partner just as much slack as you’d cut YOURSELF.”