I’ve noticed my posts tend to be rather serious and topical so I have decided to do something different and more lighthearted this time around. I mean, we could all use more content like that right now, amirite?
Even today as I write this, I just today experienced a less than satisfactory Uber trip where the driver ended up dropping me around the block from the actual destination. He apologised saying he doesn’t know the area very well and I got out the car and walked it to my brother’s house which was the destination concerned. It can be very annoying when drivers don’t know the local area very well but that’s only one of a host of frustrations when it comes to booking an Uber.
Although many drivers have 4+ stars it’s really not accurate reflection of their service. Many just give high ratings to their drivers because it’s a much longer process to try and explain via the app why you want to mark them down. If their driving was dodgy or dangerous, the car smelt or you were sexually harassed – how do do such situations justice through the vague categories you’re forced to choose via the complaints menu on the app?
I remember getting an Uber from Kings Cross station (North London) one time in the evening. I can’t remember the events of the day, I just remember it had been a long day, I was tired and not willing to battle the public on public transport in order to get home. I ordered an Uber and stood rather awkwardly at the edge of the pavement on a busy junction waiting for it to arrive. I suddenly received a notice saying the car was nearby so I put my attention to detail glasses on and started analysing passing car number plates. Next thing I know the car was darting passed me and driving down an adjoining road which is NOT what I placed as the meeting point. Knowing you only have two minutes to enter the car before the ride is cancelled I called him in an attempt to get him to drive up again and nearer towards me. Maybe 5-7 minutes later I finally get in the car, sweaty and frustrated. It’s a shared Uber so a male stranger is casually spread out in the front passenger seat and gives me an amused stare as I enter. The driver turns to be and says he’s so sorry but I have to exit because my order has been cancelled.
AFTER ALL THAT. I really could not explain the frustration I felt on that day. A fire breathing dragon is an accurate visual image right now if you want to try and imagine the rage and annoyance I was feeling. Once I was standing on the road again outside the station the question is; should I risk more money on another Uber or just finally take public transport (an option that looking slightly more attractive with every second that passes.)
Other negative experiences I’ve had include my Uber being STOLEN by a couple standing nearby who I now suspect were simply pretending to wait for an cab themselves so they could pounce. On the same day another driver I had booked before the stolen ride refused to properly tell me where when I called him which inevitably led to the ride being cancelled. You can bet I requested my money back for BOTH of those rides. Another time we were rather aggressively shouted out by our driver who insisted we get out the car and re-enter so we don’t ruin his new white leather interior. (Which no one told you to get, sir.)
These experiences do make me think more widely about some of the toxic relationships we have with certain brands. Despite bad experiences with them – whether it be with the customer service or product itself we keep going back and why?? I keep saying I will delete the Uber app, because realistically there are many attractive competitors that have arisen and established themselves – Free Now (formerly Kapten), Bolt and Ola for instance. But realistically, the reason why we do continue to engage with such brands is because we’re optimists at heart. With every order or purchase we hope for the best – it’s what we know we deserve – as paying consumers who are loyal and have rights. It’s just unfortunate these brands themselves don’t see us that way.
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?
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.
Graduating from university is such a surreal experience. Funnily enough, when starting a university course- you don’t actually imagine what it will feel like for that course to end. All your energy is focused on studying and surviving your degree. The graduating process- and even the run-up towards it- is an ideal time for reflection and thanksgiving. Everyone’s experience has been different, with most people at some time or the other experiencing the feeling they may not actually make the end of their course. Yet, that moment as you secure your parchment or stand with family under the lens- smile beaming is a testament to your perseverance and hard work. You can proudly look at your transcript and say, ‘I did that.’
The significance of the completion of this specific stage in your life, especially for many BAME students is immense- with many being the first generation in their family to enter and complete higher education. As you sit in the hall for your ceremony waiting along with pride and excitement, there is a sense that anything is possible; a room packed with students will be tomorrow’s politicians, lawyers and entrepreneurs.
For those that recently graduated, along with a huge congratulations, here are some tips to steady you in this new phase of your life:
Remain Positive– for those that are starting their job search positivity can easily be lost in the midst of your worries about the future. What do I want to do? Where will I be doing it? There is no denying that job hunting can be laborious- especially for graduates who are up against fierce competition when applying for roles and schemes. Additionally, as black people we are up against institutional racism which constantly remains a silent (and often covert) enemy in many industries. For example, in 2016 TUC research found that unemployment amongst BAME students is higher than that of their white counterparts; and this is regardless of their level of qualification i.e bachelors or PhD etc. However, there is also good news since the same statistics also showed- employment rates amongst BAME people are the highest they’ve other been since records started in 2001. This simply shows that yes, despite an intersection of struggles (partly due to being a graduate and partly due to being black), success is indeed possible.
Everyone’s path is different– although very exciting and a great doorway to various opportunities, graduate jobs are not for everyone. This means if you find yourself in a non-graduate role, or an entry-level role different from your envisioned ‘dream job’, don’t be disheartened. This applies even to those who aren’t recent graduates but yet find themselves in this position. You may even discover you are lacking skills for the industry of your choice and therefore choose to invest in yourself by gaining a qualification, doing some formal training or a course. Remember, success is not instantaneous; rather it is a process that requires planning and premeditated steps.
Your experience tells a story– getting the grades is only half of the purpose of university; the other half centres around your experience. Thousands of people can go to the same university but grades aside, what will distinguish you from the rest is your experience. Maybe you were the treasurer of the dance society? Or helped with charity fundraising and ran for a student union position? Such experience not only indicates you possess a variety of skills, it always reflects your character; you’re likely to be a go-getter, a team player and someone who is driven. And it is this experience- and the traits they indicate that is going to carry you the extra mile when applying for jobs. So, if you are applying; whether that be for a full-time graduate job or simply a summer job before starting your postgraduate reflect on your experience and ask yourself what exactly you got out of it- good and bad; both types of experiences count!