PART I —-
It took enduring the writing process for 9 months, along with a life-long list of lessons learned, for Sam Ncube to birth her baby: a poetry debut book, Things You Need to Hear Most. Her life, leading up to 2020 seemed pretty charmed. Ncube had partnered with a friend to build Find Your Tribe; a community that gathered women of color and allowed them to build each other up through their shared stories. She was meeting people and growing her network. But all of that came to an abrupt halt when Ncube became terribly ill early 2020.
“At the beginning of quarantine I fell really sick; up until then I had been living a life where I was always on the go and, I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was living inauthentically to myself. I got severely depressed,” says Ncube.
Ncube realized she needed to slow down and take things as they came. So she took a step back from all her commitments and sought out a therapist and a naturopath to facilitate her healing. Her ailment? A major vitamin D deficiency.
In those moments, where her pace of life had reduced significantly, Ncube found herself doing two things more: spending time outside in nature, under the sun, and spending time in her journal – penning her thoughts to the prompt: what do I need to hear right now. In so doing, her perspective on nature completely shifted.
“I think about 3-4 months later I looked at my journal and the notes I had on my phone and read the stuff and was like ‘wow, I actually need to hear this right now’ and that’s where the book idea came from because I think other people need to hear this too. I have a collection of them, let me compile it. I thought back to the process of creating it and Things You Need To Hear Most [as a title] just made sense,” says Ncube.
Inspired by the butterfly’s journey, Ncube split her book into four parts; “the first chapter is about the egg, you’re born into the world still learning how things go; the next one is the caterpillar where you’re taking everything in; then there’s the cocoon, it’s about the breaking/unseen healing, all the pain and growth that people don’t see; and then, the butterfly that emerges throughout that whole process; a creature that is beautiful and healed and spreading love.”
For the first time in her life, Ncube wasn’t living according to others’ perceptions or expectations of her. She wasn’t submitting to the messages of “being [a] woman of grace, poise, and only get As” which she received incessantly as a young high school student in Zimbabwe; or to the competition of university; or to how society expected her to participate in ‘hustle culture’ by “always [being] ‘on,’ or doing something.
“So all around the message is [to] grind yourself, be a robot, go go go,” says Ncube.
PART II —-
But when Ncube became sick, all of that went out the window. “In discovering self-love, for the first time I decided to choose me even if choosing me meant walking away from the things that I thought made me stand out in this world.”
In choosing herself, she decided to try new things and ultimately became a yoga instructor. After attending Teach Your Truth, she began incorporating movement, meditation and creation into her daily activities.
“When I got better and had more energy,” Ncube begins, “what I would do would be movements, usually in the form of yoga or I would go biking and then I would sit down and meditate. Words just started entering my mind and I would write it down. My writing process was more of a spiritual practice.”
Despite enjoying her new change of pace, Ncube was still struggling with the changes she was making. “I cried so much. It was hard…especially letting go of the community. It took a lot of work. It felt like I was losing a bit of my identity. I felt like, if I’m not doing all these things, who am I? What value do I bring to the world?”
Ncube is not alone in thinking one’s community has to be vast and wide. “Before, I used to think that a community was like 10 million people in the room; through this process I’ve learned it could be like one, two, or three people who are like home. They really helped to remind me that I am loved as I am, not through the things I do. Me as a person.”
So she kept spending time in nature. And she kept journaling. And she kept prioritizing herself. In so doing, with the help of her therapist, she discovered what her core values were.
“While working with my therapist, she gave me these things called ‘values cards.’ You go through them and decide on your gut reaction what resonates with you. You narrow it down to 5 and those are your core values. Doing that helped me understand the lens I use to see the world and what guides me. They ended up being peace, love, joy, and health.”
As Ncube worked to get a better grasp on her core values, she realized she had to unlearn some habits she picked up from her mother and from her African heritage.
“I was raised by a single mom who always did everything. I always feel like I need to be able to do everything….with africans as well, it’s all about community – which is fantastic and I think it’s so important, but sometimes it’s a huge focus on community to the detriment of the individual. You give yourself even when you have nothing left to give. I really want to focus on refilling your cup first in order to overflow. When you’re full, that’s when your goodness can overflow.”
With a better understanding of her values, and her self-care accounted for, Ncube could now turn more outwards towards her community; thus following the words of her mentor, Alex Elle, who has said, “self-care is community care.”
PART III —-
“[Being selfish] needs to be reframed as being self-full, Ncube says, “when you show up on a day where you’re well rested, have eaten well…the way you deal with certain situations is very different depending on your state.”
And so, Ncube started to lean on her new-found community and asked for help. “I feel like I’ve discovered who the people [are] that really align with who I am and I leaned deeper into those relationships; I found a lot of people from my past resonate with me now [on this part of my journey] even though I haven’t spoken to them in years; and I have met new people on this journey who I feel are aligned and share similar values.”
So she reached out to friends who connected her to other friends or gave her advice on promotion. “The reception of my work has been incredible. I reached out to a friend who works in media asking for help and her response was one of joy at being able to help.”
Friends and strangers alike are sharing and reposting her work on social media. “I heard someone say that…when you don’t ask for help, you’re robbing someone the opportunity/joy of having helped you create whatever is important to you….as a first time author, first time poet, it means so much that my journey and these words are resonating with people on this level.”
This may be her first book, but Ncube has high aspirations. She can’t wait to see Things You Need To Hear Most on the New York Times Best Sellers list. All of this is leading up to her writing a fantasy series rooted in African Mythology.
“I’m walking in alignment, finally,” says Ncube.
For all other aspiring writers reading this, Ncube has a message to share with you: “your voice as a writer is so unique the world needs it, someone in the world needs to hear it. It’s not just about you, it’s about the impact of your word on other people. If your self-motivation isn’t enough, think of someone else who could be missing out on whatever message you have to share if you don’t write.”
Prior to 2020, Ncube’s life seemed pretty under control; but the life she was living wasn’t the life she actually wanted. As she underwent this journey of healing, growth, and discovery, she realized the answers she seeked were always within her. She hopes to continue radically loving herself by healing, growing, and discovering…and inviting others to do the same for themselves.
Things You Need To Hear Most is out everywhere as of February 14th. You can find Sam Ncube on Instagram: @thesamncube.