Your Work & Your Worth

When you find yourself out of a job you suddenly have access to 1000s of resources and benefits stripped away; from software to exclusive networking events. Even deeper than that you find yourself violently shaken from your routine. Suddenly, people, you considered friends who you may have worked with for years are gone. Sally your manager who loved Friday pints at the pub after work no longer calls so you find out the hard way you were only friends out of convenience. On top of all that you find that due to lack of money you have to start declining social events, you would have happily attended – or even have organised – when you were working. These things all tend to slowly knock your confidence and erode your happiness.

It, therefore, can’t seem surprising that your job can become entangled with your perception of your self-worth. I noticed this in the little things once I quit my role earlier this year and was looking for another. For example, when I would introduce myself to new people it felt weird that I couldn’t jump to the topic of what I do and the industry I’m in. It’s a classic icebreaker topic although I now realise it doesn’ reveal as much about a person as we may think. Another instance was when I went to an industry panel event and the sign-up form required me to fill in my place of work – which was nowhere of course. I ended up putting something to that effect in the field just to fill it but it did annoy me that that was even part of the form, therefore technically ruling out people like me from coming. That is people who are looking for work and still want to go to such events to network and stay informed on industry trends.

Anyway – moving on…

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Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

As we find ourselves in mandatory lockdown, unexpectedly confined to the walls of our homes, it’s easy to put pressure on ourselves to be productive. It’s after the all the currency we use to measure our days when we’re out and about. Being able to tick tasks off our physical or mental to-do lists also gives a little dopamine rush; thus making us want to get even more done. We’re seeing a lot of things from various articles and social media influencers of things to do during a lockdown or a showcase of things they’ve managed to do. Learn a new language. Read 11 books. Become a master of coding and video editing (because one skill clearly isn’t enough.) In all honesty, I am not guilt-free when it comes to failing to listen to this pressure. Recently, I decided to try and increase my proficiency in WordPress and get better at promoting my blog content a bit more.

To be honest, the pressure feels quite burdensome and the demands stemming from it unrealistic. It feels like we’re worker ants constantly scuttling, never knowing when to be still and rest. This Guardian article which covers similar ground makes the interesting point that these pressures, coming primarily from the ‘hustle culture’, don’t actually benefit us. Rather, it benefits the Capitalist structure we are engrained in; that worker ant mentality drilled in us from childhood (i.e. school) is only done so with the endpoint being too make us ideal employees. And it does. It makes us great, efficient employees but can also spill over into our private lives causing unnecessary stress because productivity at home will never look like productivity does at work.

Why should it be a bad thing that my to-do list just consists of blog writing and shows to watch on Netflix? The time for such things may as well be now because once we’re back to normalcy, it will be like we had this moment to pause and recuperate. Overall, it is not a bad thing to decide on a personal endeavour like earning a language or instrument etc. Just know two things:

  1. Do it because you want to; don’t do it because you find yourself bowing to that external pressure I referred to. Be driven by interest and passion, not because you want to be able to cite a long list to people post-lockdown of all you accomplished.
  2. Your worth will not change even if your productivity levels do; you may be busy and buzzing some days but not on others and that’s perfectly fine.  This is a stressful time for everyone but in different ways; so we are all dealing with it how we can.

That last point also applies to those like myself who are reading this and are in the middle of a job search. I encourage you to keep going, know that you’re not alone and always have value – with or without a job.

 

 

 

 

The World as We Know It

I told myself I wasn’t going to write a post about COVID-19 but I think that would be a disservice to the extent of the situation if I didn’t. With the exception of this post, I will try to post minimally about the topic simply because I’m sure everyone is a bit overwhelmed with information – possibly to the point of fatigue. As I sit working from home each day; I switch on the news on the radio and hear about COVID-19 for several hours straight, so I for one can testify to this.

It’s a weird phenomenon we are currently experiencing where it feels like we are receiving too much information, yet at the same time, we know nothing at all. From what I’ve seen it’s clear this ‘being in the dark’ feeling extends all the way to political leaders who are primarily acting reactively to the situation with the little information they have. We are still learning about the virus and each day it seems something new is revealed.

Deaths in Britain have reached over 28,000 which is just astonishing to even think about. My heart goes out to families having to currently grieve during this ordeal. Many report their loss is magnified by the fact they didn’t get to stay with their loved one during their last moments because of the safety measures currently in place. Similarly, many who may have wanted to attend the funerals for those now passed could not due to number restrictions on who could attend.

We have witnessed the pandemic bring out the best and worst in people as the nation has experienced feelings of fear, panic and sympathy all at once. Initially, people started to panic buy in droves with items such as hand sanitiser, toilet roll and dried/tinned goods proving most popular. It was all well and good for individuals who managed to get what they needed but their selfish buying, unfortunately, was disproportionately affecting the elderly and NHS workers who would go shopping for groceries – only to find most of the items they need are gone. This led to several heartbreaking scenes being shared on social media like the one below:

Luckily, this behaviour has died down in the UK now due to the excellent response from supermarkets who decided to implement measures such as rationing in order to ensure as many people as possible could purchase what they need.

On the other hand, we’ve also seen undying acts of generosity and kindness. Big brands are donating goods, offering NHS worker discounts and manufacturing high demand items like PPE and ventilators. And to balance that we also see individuals and charities working to feed those that may have been forgotten through all of this such as those in homeless shelters and elderly individuals living alone. Additionally, I’ve seen people cook homemade meals for keyworkers and school kids, as well as landlords, offer accommodation rent-free to NHS workers. Lots of heartwarming stuff really!

 

I remember reading on my Instagram this weekend a post that said ‘The World as we know it has changed.’ In other words, there is no ‘normal’ anymore. Returning back to business is not a choice because the definition of ‘normal’ has changed from here on. But the post went on to say we should embrace this change – because the way we were functioning before was flawed and in need of adjustment. I think this perspective is a useful one to adopt – it allows us to look forward and be filled with hope, as we should.

From the way we communicate, spend our leisure time to the way we work  – this pandemic has opened a new way of doing things that may become a new normal. I’ve seen everything from IG streamed concerts, pub quizzes and weddings over Zoom to virtual conferences and church services.  I look forward to seeing how this manifests but I personally will be taking a well needed from Zoom calls and webinars of all forms – post lockdown!

There’s hope on the horizon with several talks of vaccines being tested and countries like Italy and China slowly relaxing lockdown regulations as deaths decrease. The UK itself is likely to follow suit in a few months now that we have experienced the peak of the curve; meaning deaths from here on should steadily decrease. That is of course as long as people KEEP THEIR BUTTS AT HOME!

Lastly, to those reading – stay strong and hang in there!

 

Mid-read Reviews: April 2020

One of my resolutions going into the New Year was to read a lot more which I think I am definitely doing; although I don’t have many books to show for it since I seem to, unfortunately, read at a snail’s pace. Of course, I try not to get bogged down in hitting arbitrary goals because that does tend to suck the fun out of leisurely activities like reading.

I thought I would talk a bit about the books I am reading and my thoughts on them – although they are yet to be completed (so no spoilers, please.)

So my current reads are:

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Blurb: racial tensions rise in a small community when Atticus – the father of the To_Kill_a_Mockingbird.jpgprotagonist Scout- takes on a rape case, defending Tom Robinson – the black man falsely accused of the crime.

I started to read this a few years ago but never completed it because the copy wasn’t mine and I had to give it back. This read is, therefore, technically my chance at redemption. The part I am currently at is the trial; which I believe the whole book is technically meant to build up towards. It goes without saying that this book is considered a classic, although I am probably reading it more critically and with higher expectations because of that.

It’s hard not to view the protagonist Scout really fondly; I love her curiosity and brave spirit. She also seems to be amazingly intelligent for her age and in many scenes holds her own in conversations with her adult counterparts. Part of me does suspect this is due to the fact she is looking back on childhood events using language natural to her as an adult, as opposed to how she truly spoke as a child.

It would have been interesting to read this at a younger age and compare it to what I know now. Lots of people I speak to about the book mention fondly that they studied it at school; so it appears I must have attended schools that were statistical anomalies in that regard.

One profound part I recently read involves Scout’s friend Dill who runs out crying after witnessing how Tom is questioned on the stand. As Jean consoles him one of the adults observes them and says Dill shouldn’t worry – he may cry now but when he gets older he won’t get as emotional when he witnesses any racial injustice. That scene really does make you realise how desnsitised we easily become overtime to the struggles of others. Most of the time it’s a protection mechanism but it’s rather the fact it happens without us noticing which makes it more insidious.

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

Blurb: The book centres on Vanessa who at 15 years old was abused by her English teacher Jacob Strane. Vanessa, – adamant Jacob was her first love – now in her 30s struggles to come to term with past events in the light of the #Metoo movement.

This book is a recent release from HarperCollins but even before then, it has been making the rounds on social media; for some good reasons, and some less so. I was no doubt excited to delve in – the cover alone looks fantastic. From the blurb it goes without saying that this is not an easy or light read; it also does mean I have to take it small doses.

One thing it does make you realise is that victims of trauma come on a spectrum and the road to recognition and peace is not an easy one. Vanessa was ultimately deprived of normal teenage years – instead of giggling with friends at corner shops or gossiping about crushes – she was weighed down with the responsibility of keeping her ‘relationship’ with Jacob a secret. He’s honestly a despicable character; frequently using emotional blackmail to maintain the secrecy of the abuse. The book switches between past and present quite seamlessly; so we are able to witness how the abuse started and its present effects on Vanessa as an adult.

Vanessa as a protagonist isn’t the most likable of people but I don’t think that’s the important thing about this book.  As pointed out skillfully in this article; a lot of well known narratives on abuse revolve around the  perpetrator –  most notably, Lolita; which is referred to often in this novel. Narratives like these then are about women taking ownership of the narrative and finally having the space to share their story.

So there you go – a nice mix of modern and class I like to think.

If you’re looking for more detailed thoughts/ exploration of themes of My Dark Vanessa I would recommend this fantastic round table discussion on The Book Slut – a site I also write for.

Please do feel free to comment & share any thoughts you have about either book!

An Honest Review: The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez

 

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TW: References to child abuse, neglect, physical abuse and domestic violence

I write this review with a heavy heart. In all honesty, I haven’t even finished this docu-series – I started today and am on episode 5 out of 6 – but I feel so strongly about the content that I will write a review of my thoughts so far anyway.

I myself wasn’t aware of the case of Gabriel Fernandez before this series. However, the UK is not a stranger to such cases, with the case being reminiscent of the ‘Baby P’ case in London that received heavy media coverage and exposed numerous flaws in our social system services which helped to enable the abuse. In summary, Gabriel died at 8 years old in 2018 after several months of abuse at the hands of his mother and her boyfriend. The case covers the trial of the perpetrators but also looks more widely at systematic flaws that prevented the abuse from being stopped. The series covers so many themes I could not possibly do it justice or unveil all my thoughts; however – I will try and do my best!

One thing that was different about the reaction to this case was that the District Attorney of LA decided to prosecute the social workers who were aware of or working on the case. Initially, when I heard about this I applauded in my head – the logic behind it seemed straight forward; they were made aware of the chain of incidences which clearly indicated removing Gabriel from his home was necessary but yet they failed to act accordingly. However, as the series progresses it seems that prosecuting the social workers seem insufficient in comparison to the size of the problem. One of the colleagues of the tried co-workers states she thinks they are scapegoats in this case and I suspect she might be right. After all, several members from the sheriff’s department also visited Gabriel’s house – the site of the abuse – and failed to intervene or detect such abuse was happening. So why weren’t the visiting police officers arrested? If you’re going to use that same logic to arrest certain parties then use it consistently and arrest them ALL. It does indeed seem suspicious that law enforcement received such immunity.

It is also quite annoying that systematic issues within large organisations are highlighted but never dealt with. By arresting and firing different staff within bureaucracies the problem doesn’t automatically disappear. If the system is inherently flawed then those staff will be replaced by people that will only continue to enforce the flawed system. Authorities need to put it in the leg work into changing work cultures, changing legislation and conducting appropriate reviews on their operations. Systematic change won’t happen overnight but if the failures aren’t properly addressed another tragedy could strike until it happens.

Something that struck me throughout was that not a single person – his teacher aside – thought to speak or interview the victim himself, Gabriel. If the police or members from social services wanted confirmation of details or verification of Gabriel’s welfare or state of mind – they asked the parents. This fact frustrated me because Gabriel was eight. Of course in some cases the children are too young to adequately express themselves but that wasn’t the case here. If Gabriel had just been given the chance to speak confidentially to someone things may have been different. Abuse typically thrives on secrecy. If the parents themselves are the perpetrators then, of course, they would say whatever’s necessary to ward people off the scent of their crimes. And that’s just what they did. The failure to consult Gabriel or actually listen to his cries – he was actually quite vocal about his abuse -indicates a wider problem. Where in the midst of everything the children are ironically forgotten; or the adults around them make the decisions affecting them but they themselves are never consulted. In this case, prioritising Gabriel’s mums right to custody of her child over Gabriel’s safety/welfare and right to live ultimately cost him his life. If predominately dealing with children such services need to adopt models with children and their rights at the centre.

Although I would recommend this docu-series, I would definitely warn that this is by no means an easy watch. It will make you feel uneasy, angry and frustrated. On the plus side, it does dig deep into the wider issues that Gabriel’s case highlighted. They also interview a wider range of experts and people involved or affected by the case – from a journalist that broke the story to one of Gabriel’s classmates who continues to mourn for him. Not many stones are left unturned and this is helped by the fact it a docuseries. If you feel it may be intense, simply take it one episode at a time but definitely do give it a watch.

The trailer for the Netflix docu-series can be found here.

 

Fear Less not Fearless

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‘There’s NO ROOM FOR FEAR’, I’ve heard many a pastor claim to the sound of applause and gesture of nods.

But if we are being honest there is always room for it. Not because we want there to be but because most of the time fear is involuntary. It’s like a slow-growing plaque at times staining the surface of our mind and threatening to take over. One could compare it more even to an unwelcome guest who we tend to entertain all the while hoping they will leave.

And there is no doubt it can definitely be a problem. God knows how many opportunities I let pass me by due to overwhelming fear! So although I think fear to some extent is natural, it stops being so when it paralyses you to the point you are unable to chase opportunities that will lead you to the greener pastures you long for.

You may have started the year deciding you were going to approach life more boldly and without fear. But you may have felt yourself already backsliding as we enter February of the new year; already you’re hesitating over decisions and second-guessing yourself.

The new motto is to allow yourself to do things despite fear not without it. Let yourself feel an initial stab of fear and go for something anyway. I’ve done many things using this approach and trust me it’s honestly the most rewarding thing.

Lean on Me

This weekend I watched on amusingly on the train as a mother walked onto the train with her four children. All the seats were taken so they stood in the space in between the seats. Three of the kids stood in front of me and I observed their conversation as the train was starting to move. Two of three children were holding onto the handrails tight bracing for the train’s movement. However the youngest child – he couldn’t have been older than six- was adamant he didn’t need the handrail to support him; despite constant nagging from his older siblings. As the train moved along steadily, I continued to watch as he beamed proudly, strategically using his body weight to stand handrail free- despite the unnecessary effort he needed to do so.

Watching this innocent scenario unfold helped a lot of thoughts I have recently been having fall in place. Why – like the little boy perhaps – are we sometimes so adamant to ask for help or accept help when it’s readily offered to us?

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We’re social beings designed to support and love one another – never whether your storms alone.

I think generally we can be quite proud and stubborn – often thinking we can weather hard times alone. So we suffer in silence, often isolating ourselves from others ironically when we need them most. We also tend to think to ask for help says something negative about who we are; we’re weak, naive, not independent or self-sufficient. But truthfully, it says none of those things. It speaks volumes about the situation, not you. You’re going through a rough time. It’s a tough situation and you can only withstand so much alone; seeking or wanting help is understandable, if not expected.

The Stylist published a collection of issues last year looking back over their work covering the last decade. They published 10 issues featured many of the women that had graced their covers over that time – one of them being Reni Eddo-Lodge (journalist and author most well known for her book ‘Why I’m No Longer talking to White People About Race’.) When reflecting on takeaways from the last decade she said something quite striking to me. She stated, ‘there’s no self-care without community care’; in other words caring for each other is key to our own wellbeing. But more interestingly so she quotes a t-shirt slogan that says ‘Be less capable. You never know who might help you.’

I think her self-care point speaks for itself but her second point on vulnerability is worth reflecting on as I finish this post. The pretence of capability is not always needed; sometimes it’s worth being fearlessly vulnerable. Vulnerable without the worry of judgement, hurt or mockery. If ‘community care’ is to truly happen we need to make sure this does first.

 

To the broken and downtrodden

To those who feel ignored or forgotten

I write this as 2020 is now in full flow.

Some people entered the New Year not filled with the same hope and optimism as those around them.

Perhaps as the fireworks launched on New Year’s the emptiness within you burned just a strong.

Or maybe you enjoyed the night but couldn’t ignore the feeling that someone who could no longer be there should have been by your side sharing the moment.

Maybe you’re entering the New Year jobless; having fallen far from the benchmark of success you set yourself the year before.

Perhaps you look at the New Year ahead and something won’t let you be happy; the uncertainty that the next 12 months may hold fills you with dread.

Just know that you have not been forgotten. You’re in my thoughts. And things will change; it may be a slow-burning change but it will come.

Your Difference is your Power

A few months ago I was standing on my doorstep one night rooting through my bag for my keys in order to open the door. As I looked up, I saw (what I assume to be) a white stray cat strolling across the street. I remember weirdly standing for a minute to admire it; stray cats I see are not usually white so it was a rare sight. It’s white stood out beautifully against the darkness of the London night.

Like that cat maybe we should start wearing what makes us different more proudly on our sleeves. I say this as someone who recently feels like they’ve been in a lot of spaces where they’ve felt so…different and out of place. Sometimes it was because I was black, sometimes it was because of my faith, other times it was simply because I felt like an introvert surrounded by larger-than-life extroverts. At times like that, it can be tempting to either shrink back to try to survive the situation by suppressing your difference so you can camouflage into your environment.

It’s definitely true that differences can be isolating. But differences can be empowering once fully owned and the beauty of them is fully understood. Admittedly, it is a learning process- and not an easy one; one that Is part of the wider journey of learning about and loving yourself. Don’t be someone who holds their differences tightly to their chest scared they might be noticed or zoomed in on. Instead, if like me, you often find yourself feeling such a way in certain social environments I want to challenge you to be a bold different from now on. 

Turning T&Cs into TLC

I walked passed a store recently which had a sign saying ‘free goody bags’; a sign which of course piqued my curiosity as someone who is a shameless lover of free goods. But when I paused to read further I saw that it only applied to those who spent a certain amount in the store- £60 or more.

I perceive life to be like that too; with terms and conditions (T&Cs) attached to every decision we make. Will the decision cause our financial hardship? Will it cause us mental or physical harm? The problem is- we don’t always know what those terms and conditions are until we living with the decision we have made.

This is something I’ve come to accept recently since I tend to be overly cautious with decision making. Simply because, I don’t want to live with easily avoidable regrets (but then again, who does?) But something occurred to me recently- there’s something to be learnt in every regret we have- or rather, every instance that caused a regret. Seeing regrets as learning curves changes things dramatically; for one it helps shift our perspective. Wade through the shame, embarrassment and self-resentment that your regrets have burdened you with and find a learning point you can take away from it. Maybe the lesson is to appreciate those in your life more, to leave fewer words unsaid, or maybe it’s to make more time for the things you love.

That learning curve will hopefully prepare you for a future situation and when the time comes; you will be thankful you went through that regretful situation.