‘Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own’ – Matthew 6:34
It’s impossible to live a live free from risk. Even if you think you live a comfortable life, it just means it has minimal risk as opposed to no risk at all.
Every decision we make involves stepping into the unknown (even if it’s just a tiny step); from accepting a new role, to starting a new relationship or moving to a new location.
I don’t know about you but I get very annoyed when I don’t know enough things. You think the problem of ignorance will lessen over time but the truth is it never does. In a world of constant change, we will always have gaps in our knowledge – collectively as a species and individually in life too. It means when you’re making a decision and you don’t have all the information (which is always.) You wonder, will this decision work out to my benefit or to my good?
Interestingly, although we all similar risks in life, society is designed to celebrate those who made risks that paid off. The person who happened to invest stock in a start-up eventually valued at billions. The marriage that has lasted over 50 years. The mother who happened to have raised the next flashiest millionaire. Subconsciously, it puts a lot of pressure on us when we make big decisions. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to be ridiculed. We don’t want to be the ones that it goes wrong for which means we then have to experience the aftermath of comparing ourselves to others who made a risk and thrived. So yes, as I said – a lot of pressure. But also, a lot of worry and fear. If you have the habit of overthinking, like I do, then it’s easy for feelings to leave you in a state of paralysis.
Taking charge, having faith
Ultimately, even if armed with all the information humanly possible, a decision we make can still go left. You can research a house and area thoroughly, or spend time dating someone and getting to know them properly for several years. However, it won’t always prepare you for things you’ll discover when you finally buy the house and are living in it or when you’re living with that person as a married couple.
Unfortunately, there are some things you just won’t know until you lived through the experience and have a story to tell. I’m starting to learn that an important part of life is embracing uncertainty, and taking risks despite them. Obviously, do this with discernment – try and make informed decisions and reflect on the source of your uncertainty since (especially in relationships) it can sometimes be a red flag. However, I am a strong believer that God knowing all and us knowing not much in comparison is definitely not a mistake.
I realised quite a while ago that I hate borrowing things to people. As most things do, it probably stems from my experience as a child in secondary school (high school, for the non-British folks).
Back then I was always eagerly borrowing people my pens, pencils – and even money but rarely getting my items back. At the time I had just started getting into graphic novels; I reading a fantastic graphic novel series of Manga-version Shakespeare novels which I had borrowed from my local library. After talking to a friend – let’s call her Janie – about the series something possessed me to borrow her the book, no harm, right? So I thought. After all, I see her everyday so receiving the book back should be a straight forward process. Janie was in the year below me but we always hung out in the library together since we loved books, they were the main building block of our bond. Days stretched out to weeks and each time I asked Janie about the book she always had an excuse. After buying herself a few months she eventually coming clean that she had lost the book. I remember feeling a sharp pang of disappointment, although it was basically a confirmation of what I had already suspected.
Don’t lend what you can’t afford to lose
Now, as a fully-fledged adult, you wouldn’t dare catch me borrow one of my books to someone – they’re prized possessions. Also, my secondary school experience taught me something – once you borrow someone an item of yours, you do so with the optimistic belief that they will treasure it like their own. Of course, this is hardly the case in my experience. A random experience that comes to mind is when I watched someone use my pen in class (which I had loaned to them) and they started biting it. BITING IT. It was probably an absent-minded gesture, something they do with every pen or in the throes of concentrating, but COME ON – biting takes the mick.
Nowadays I try to control the variables when it comes to borrowing or giving – it has to be something low value, that I can deal with losing or that I have many of, and has to be to someone I trust to a certain degree. So, chocolates or sweets – yes. Books or a prized pen gifted for my birthday – No, absolutely not. Boundaries such as these, I’ve learnt are the key to stress-free borrowing (if such a thing exists.)
One of the reasons I take this seriously is because – like it or not – not being able to trust someone with your things can negatively affect your relationship with them. You may have to start reassessing their character or the things you trust them with. Of course, there may be legitimate reason why something can’t be returned to you but if this is a frequent occurrence? Then, yes – questions may need to be asked.
Inspired by Kindness
I think the slightly sad thing about my aversion to borrowing is that it sometimes makes it a lot harder to give – especially in circumstances where it counts and can actually be lifechanging. For example, tithing in church used to be a constant struggle (things have changed in that department though, thank God.) Or even donating to a homeless person – my heart will be moved to action but my mind will put up a road block by whispering ‘won’t you need that money later, Hannah?’
I remember going for a walk with a friend and as we passed an off license, we came across a homeless person sitting opposite the shop. Without hesitation she offered to buy him a drink and listened as he weighed out his options. As we went into the store and hunted for his final choice – orange juice – I was moved by her kindness and the readiness she possessed to give.
Admittedly, I’m still working on being more giving (so I’m not in much of a position to give advice) but I’ll end with that scene because to this day it still makes me smile. 😊
I think this dance we do through life for the approval of others is interesting. On the one hand you’re told to stop seeking such approval, all you need is your own validation. But does that really transfer to real world? Honestly, the answer is no. Every now and then in certain situations you’ll find yourself hiding or exaggerating parts of your personality in order to be liked or gain the approval of the people in your company. Job interviews? You hide your insecurities and fact you can easily get overwhelmed. Instead, you exaggerate your intellect and ability to work with others. In that very moment you want to be liked, even admired if you’re lucky.
Relatable? This doesn’t make you superficial, don’t worry. However, is does make my point that to some extent we are all walking shapeshifters; adapting our personalities or perceptions of self to gain likability to various social situations. It’s actually necessary for survival and to achieve life goals we have; without being likable to others, we most noticeably wouldn’t be able to inspire or influence others. Teachers and coaches giving pep talks wouldn’t inspire their pupils or team respectively without the recipients of the talk liking their teacher enough to listen, if not respect the words they’re saying.
I was thinking more about this human longing to be liked, to gain approval from peers as I binged watched the first few seasons of The Office US during the first lockdown. For those familiar with the show. you’ll know that Michael Scott, the show’s regional manager and protagonist yearns to be liked by his colleagues a little too much, despite being their superior. This leads to him often pushing the boundaries of his working relationships with them which makes for uncomfortable yet hilarious viewing. Despite how exaggerated the trait is in Michael, it is a relatable one nonetheless, particularly in this age of social media where everyone is a small business of one – hoping to get more views and more likes on their content.
Love me or Hate me
So, we’ve established that people long to be liked and care more about it than they would admit. Yet, it’s impossible to be liked everywhere by everyone, so how do we reconcile our fantasy with our actual reality; that more often than none, people will strongly dislike you for no (obvious) reason.
Two things should be noted here:
In the face of hatred always remember the people that love you – they’re the ones that see something special in you, and will always be your biggest fans. You realise how rare such people are when you realise how unkind the world can be. Never neglect these people or take their appreciation of you for granted!
Be open and willing to take criticism: Dare I say it; sometimes a person’s disliking of you may have valid roots. I remember being close to a friend at university; we would often have random banter or go to society events together. After a few months had gone by I realised we hadn’t met up in a while and messaged her because I missed her company.‘Hey, we haven’t met up in a while, I hope you’re okay… blah blah’
As we discussed how quiet it had been between us, she admitted honestly ‘you always bail out of things we arrange to do and it’s annoying’. At the time I was obviously a bit annoyed and met that response with a flurry of denial. But looking back, what If she was right and in pointing out my flakiness had highlighted a bad habit I had overlooked?
That last point in particular makes a case for importance of self-reflection – sometimes it can be the key to spotting not so obvious bad habits in us before others do.
Then again, self-reflection can be a double-edged sword sometimes, as I find with myself, if we do it too often, too deeply we may find ourselves annoyed about traits we don’t need to change or can’t change [easily] but feel pressured to do so anyway.
There are no simple solutions to staying out of these mental thought traps (unfortunately.) It is worth reimagining it as a tight rope balance between self-worth and likability. The former shouldn’t depend on the latter, it should be something unshakable at our core. Of course, the reality is much different from this ideal, but there’s no harm in keeping it as something we can aim towards, right?
2021 comes at a weird time – the current pandemic has officially been going on for more than a year and although vaccines have now been rolled out many people are still uncertain about what the future holds. Can I book holidays? Can I continue to plan my wedding? When will I next see my parents? Many questions like these plague people, with no guarantees of answers being close on the horizon.
Typically, at this time of year we plague our minds and journals with new year’s resolutions – some realistic, some not. Reading more books. Eating healthier. Learning a new language etc. However. lots of our resolutions (without us realising ,perhaps) rely on a degree of certainty and the ability that provides to future plan. For example, if I want to travel more then it may depend on my ability to afford and easily access my destination of choice.
Of course, I’m not saying resolution making capabilities are no longer there, all I say is if you don’t have as many as last year (i.e. pre-COVID), then that is perfectly fine. It is understandable that even the simple act of resolution making would be drastically changed by COVID-19 (as it has also done so well with EVERYTHING else too.) I think we should not be afraid this year to approach it one month at a time. Like everyone else I was simultaneously a spectator to and participant of many of the crazy events of last year. This year I think the key to sanity and a steady joy for me will be to take things slowly and lower my expectations (ever so slightly.) Maybe I’ll get to eat out for brunch again in the summer with my friends. Or maybe I won’t. Either way, I won’t obsess over the details and allow the unknown probability of such events to eat away at my mind; and neither should you.
I do, of course, understand that this one-month-at-a-time approach is a privilege, after all I don’t have a wedding to plan or baby to have. These kind of life events don’t always make this approach an option for those experiencing them. You have to plan in advance for such things- i.e. mid-wife appoints, furnishing a nursery and general preparation for childbirth and nursing a months old infant. I could go on.
Anyway, regards of your plans and resolutions for this year, I hope it is going well so far and pray it will be an amazing one.
What were some of the New Year resolutions you made for this year?
I’ve made an Instagram for my blog – follow me at @theartofchatter 😊
Would it really be Christmas season without the obligatory Christmas themed post? I think not, so here we are.
I think it’s really important this holiday season that we allow ourselves to be happy. I read a tweet, recently and the person who posted it said although it was her mum’s birthday all she could think about was the thousands of people who lost a parent to COVID-19 and were celebrating their first Christmas without them. The tweet was a saddening read but one that accurately reflects what most people have probably perceived to be the sentiment for this year, which has undoubtedly been a tough one. With all the loss and anxiety caused by the virus outbreak, it does almost feel quite like quite a distasteful move to allow ourselves to be happy, despite the occasion calling for it.
However, I think we must at least try, even if it just means finding happiness in the small things, whether that be from a random ad jingle, the sound of your knife and you butter your toast or the softness of your pillow as you lie to rest. The way finding happiness looks has been different this year – we’ve had to be more creative to find ways that help us relax, refresh or escape. For example, for me I often love to watch theatre productions or films in the cinema. This year has meant having to adapt; I’ve found pleasure in organising group Facetime calls or going for chilled afternoon walks with my neighbour. (And this is being said by someone who typically dislikes calls and feels no shame in taken the bus one or two stops is needed.)
There is a blessing in every minute we have, perhaps we should invest more of those minutes on being happy. In the moments where feeling happy possible it gladdens the heart and keeps us going which, let’s be honest, we’re going to need as we approach the new year.
What activities have you turned to for happiness this year? I would love to know!
I guess for me personally I still feel like my 18-year-old self at times. To explain that further, when I turned 19 I felt no different than I felt when I was 18; this feeling happened pretty much every birthday until next thing you know – BAM, you’re in your 20s. Yes, you’re technically an adult and everyone is treating you as such but your mind is still in the teenage zone and not ready to adjust. The only way I can describe the feeling is like when as a child you were prematurely pushed down the playground slide before you felt ready; usually by an impatient child crouching behind you. The things that make being an adult hard can’t really be pinpointed or reduced to one thing so I’ve placed five I’ve thought of below. I can guarantee you there is more than five but since I’m writing a blog post and not a book, five it is.
1. Fending for yourself.
Love makes the world go around and so does money – and you start to understand that more as you grow. The inadequacies of the education system coupled with traditional financial institutions leave one very confused adult. Three areas to master are; spending -making wise purchases, budgeting – looking for opportunities to help you spend less and saving – putting money aside for a certain goal or future rainy day. Key to mastering these areas in self control – something we can have in droves and at other times not have at all. It’s especially hard when your#’re about to purchase an item on a website’s check out and have to ponder the question ‘do I really need this?‘ – trust me, I’ve been there way too often!
To avoid your mind scrambling I recommend getting a ‘money manual’ a go-to guide explaining some finance basics that you can keep in reach on the shelf; mine is Money: A User’s Guide by Laura Whateley.
2. Navigating the World of Work.
Especially when you’ve never had a full-time job before – the world of work can be quite confusing to navigate. From job applications and interviews to steering through office politics, difficult colleagues and performance anxiety on the job – it can all be very daunting. I remember reading my first payslip and thinking ‘what does this evening mean?!’ On top of that, there are the indirect things linked to work like figuring out your ‘personal brand’ and networking which aren’t exactly necessary but are advised. These are things no-one properly talks about in-depth, or they expect you to get used to such concepts very quickly. The truth is, that it can definitely take some time – and a lot of googling!
That being said, don’t lose yourself in the process. Seek to help others but do so whilst being rooted in an unshakable sense of self-worth. One way this might manifest itself is by you demanding your time be respected; yes, you’re giving it freely but that doesn’t mean you should be taken for a fool. Additionally, find those that will pour into you when you feel your most down – there’s nothing better than receiving some TLC from close friends when you’re at your lowest. Because yes, it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes village to keep an adult sane!
4. You need to figure out who the hell YOU are
Adulthood undeniably forces you to face the question of personal identity upfront. What are your passions? What makes you tick? What are some life long goals of yours?
Some people may find that their childhood has helped them to answer these questions very clearly. But for what I expect is the majority, it takes a lot of trial and error experiences to properly know these things. Passions and goals have a habit of even changing over time which is why you may meet people in their 40s or 50s who still may not know what they want to do with their lives.
For me, my identity journey has involved embracing what it means to be black, a woman and a person of faith. Society talks very loudly – all it takes is a 30 minute scroll through Twitter to feel like my brain is going to scramble from subconsiocusly absorbing eeryone’s thoughts! Making it a daily point to take a step back and look upwards instead of outwards or inwards is important.
5. Confrontation becomes unavoidable
When I was younger my mum would happily march to my school when she thought anything or one was getting in the way of me having a positive educational experience – i.e incidents of bullying.
Adulthood still has its bullies – they have similar traits but just look different. They’re often people with little regard for others, who have unchecked previlege and are in a position of authority in some form. Although my mum is very much around, I know she can’t fight my battles for me anymore – I have to confront problematic people head on. The need for necessary confrontation will likely psotively correlate with age as you realise the growing importance of accountability and proper communication. It cna make all the difference if you are able to say – whether to a partner or manager etc – ‘You doing [x] makes me highly uncomfortable so please stop’.
I’mby no means a master of confrontation so envy those that are. One thing I do know is that it has to be done with tact – there’s a right place, time and way to do things so it is worth covering these bases before jumping on the confrontation train!
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…
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:
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.
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.
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!
‘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.