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.
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.
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.
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.