A Happy Place Poem

Today’s post features a poem I wrote a few years, my first ever attempt at writing a rhyming poem. I have long harbored a desire to be a poet among-st many other things and frequently draw from my all time role model poet, Maya Angelou whose words and poems have stuck with me and birthed a love for the beauty of words. Words are like honey to the soul, to be cherished, nurtured, ruminated over and absorbed for their immense power at conveying the deepest thoughts and feelings of humanity.

Hope you enjoy today’s lighthearted post and do leave me a comment! I love hearing from my readers.

A Happy Place

I go to a happy place
Where not a care exists
Feet bare
Wind in my hair
Running through fields of meadow
Colors bright
Everything feels right

In my happy place
The sun shines bright
Bringing forth its light
Defying time and space
Rays bursting through with grace
With sunshine hellos
Smile her heart glees
Now you can be free
Like poppies carried by the wind
Lay on the meadow

Be still beautiful one
Your heart is free
Caressed by the warmth
Radiant from her Lover soul’s

 

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Dare to be Different: Why I Stopped Trying to Conform


Have you ever felt different? Have you ever felt like you don’t fit in the crowd and try as hard as you may, you always end up feeling like a square peg in a round hole? If you have, you’re not alone. For the longest time, that felt like the story of my life. Growing up, I always felt different. It’s hard to explain but it would sometimes be in the simplest of things. For example, I was very happy as a child to bury myself in books, whether fictional or educational like Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton books and encyclopedias. Reading a book was more fun to me than going out to a party. So much so that my sisters lovingly called me a “party pooper”. When I did manage to go out, I would spend a good portion of the time thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get home and continue my book or whatever else I thought was more fun. It was like I entered into the world of whatever book I was reading and everything around me faded to the background.

As I got older, I started to feel like maybe I was different and something was wrong with me for not necessarily finding interest in the same things that others found interesting. So, I tried to conform and act normal and do the normal things one was supposed to do. With time I started enjoying going out and trying my best to fit in. But at times it felt like an effort. As the years went by and I lived through different experiences of trying to conform, I came to the conclusion that to be anything less than our authentic selves is not only a disservice to the people around us, but most of all to ourselves. This got me thinking about the definition of normal? What is normal and who defines what normal should be? It appears society has defined a set of standards by which we must all abide and anyone who does not fit into this box is either considered weird, unsuccessful or nonconforming. Whilst my choice to not want to party is a mild example, there are far more heavier, consequential examples of situations people choose to be non-conforming to, which society rejects.

For example, society cannot understand when a woman or man chooses to remain single,or a married couple choose not to have children or a man chooses to stay home and care for his children while his wife works. Far too often in a bid to abide by societal expectations, people have found themselves in unpleasant and unwanted situations because they chose to give in to societal pressures. If a couple decide that their priority is to each other and have no desire for children, who are we to judge their decision whether we agree with it or not? In my own life, I can think of a few different, difficult situations I found myself in because I bowed to societal expectations. The journey to overcoming the sometimes negative effects of those decisions were far more trouble than it was worth in the first place, and this led to me deciding that no longer would I allow society’s expectations place a burden on me. However, this is not to say that we are not to live by any standards, but we all have different standards and we are the best judges of how those standards apply to us and impact us.

One of the biggest areas I see too many people conforming to (myself included) is the expectation of a white collar job. I know of too many people unhappy with their current jobs because they conformed to societal expectations of having a 9 to 5.p.m. job instead of pursuing their passions which may not necessarily be aligned to sitting at a desk. Whilst there is nothing wrong with having a typical office job (and I know people who love this as well), many of us bought into the white collar job dream and gave very little thought to pursuing true interests and passions that could really make a difference and effect change. Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that many people do not know what they want to do by the time they’re ready to go to university, and by the time they through with university, they discover that their true interest has nothing to do with what they’ve just spent years investing in. This then begs the question, has the educational system failed us to a degree? But that is a topic for another day.

I have a friend who’s very passionate about the Montessori educational system as she believes it allows the child to naturally explore their creativity and figure out what they’re good at. There is something to be said of this system of education when we look at some of the famous celebrities in the world today who were Montessori educated – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google founders, Anne Frank and Beyonce, to name a few. Some of the elementary principles of Montessori such as self motivation, questioning how things are done and learning to fail early and often can essentially be classified as nonconformist, yet these very principles have helped shape the lives of these successful people whose creations we frequently benefit from today.

It seems that by forcing these rigid set of principles, we have managed to create a society of identical robots, like the movie I, Robot. We have not fully harnessed the full scope and potential of diversity and creativity by allowing nonconformity and the freedom to question things with the goal of creating new things and improving the old. What would happen if we allowed people to be their true selves? Would we truly be worse off or would be perhaps create a society where people are a bit happier and creativity flourishes to the betterment of all?

5 Simple Steps to Overcoming Lack of Motivation

She sat at the living room for hours contemplating what she would write next. Her tablet was beside her on the sofa, beckoning to be opened. Words floated and faded through her mind like little white clouds of smoke, each one unfruitful and leaving her more frustrated than before. She thought to herself “this is not going well at all”. She was coming to the realization that it would be a lot harder than she had envisioned penning down the words she knew were deep inside her that needed to be heard. Yet she was determined to prevail. As she mulled over these thoughts, with the cool air conditioning system billowing above her head, she drifted off.

This is not a scene from a movie or a book, this scene is the reality of trying to pursue a passion and the often accompanying lack of motivation that comes with it. Too often we only see the glamorous side of accomplished public personas but we rarely get to see or hear the arduous, sometimes boring, demotivating journey to success. It is this demotivating obstacle that must be tackled head on if there is any chance of attempting and succeeding at anything.

I have often had conversations with friends who have said they lack inspiration, don’t have passion or know what their purpose is or they just don’t know where to start even if they know what they want to do. To them I say “welcome to the club”. My point to them is, you’re not alone. At the heart of it, it appears unseen forces conspire to prevent us at all costs, from accomplishing the things we want to. These unseen forces parade themselves as everyday distractions which can be seemingly harmless. They range from social media to television, work, friends, boredom etc. A bite sized portion of any one of these distractions is sufficient to bring plans to a halt.

Fortunately, there are a few tried and tested steps that can be taken to combat this issue.

1. Identify the culprit

There is a popular saying that “you can’t change what you won’t confront“. This holds true when applied to every area of life including demotivation. To be motivated, you must get to the bottom of why you’re feeling unmotivated. This usually involves a lot of self-reflection or meditation. Could the demotivation be stemming from self-doubt or negative thinking about your abilities? Or could it be the circumstances or environment around you holding you back? Do you need to make certain changes in your routine, time management, priorities or focus? Or perhaps you want to be inspired by something that will lead you to your next big accomplishment but haven’t found that inspiration yet? Taking some time to think about why you’re feeling demotivated can help you get to the root cause of the problem and begin to make positive steps towards changing your situation.

2. Dispel the culprit (self-therapy)

Once you’ve been able to identify the obstacle in your way, you can begin to take steps towards getting rid of the obstacle. If your lack of motivation is caused by self doubt, focus on asking yourself questions to identify why you doubt your own abilities? Could it be words people have spoken over you that have caused you to stop believing in yourself? Or a track record of failed attempts that have knocked your confidence? Recognize that these events are past events and may have served their purpose at one point but are no longer serving you now and have become a hindrance to your progress. Maybe your demotivation is caused by the need for perfection? Perfectionists have a tendency to reason that anything worth doing is worth doing well and therefore if a roadblock is encountered that could derail progress or completion, they are likely to not start or try at all. This kind of reasoning must be avoided and a perspective shift introduced. The primary focus should not be on the final outcome at this stage but rather starting. Small, incremental steps are expedient for perfectionists to overcoming stagnancy. If the obstacle is a distraction such as social media which can eat away at productive time, limit your usage by turning off your notifications for the app in question or discipline yourself to only go on social media at specific times of the day. Discipline is a key tool that must be applied at this stage whatever the obstacle is causing the lack of motivation. Another useful tool to apply is accountability. Find a trusted friend or loved one and share your idea with them. Give them permission to hold you accountable to it, prodding you gently along the way on your progress. Knowing that someone else is vested in your progress can be great motivation in itself.

3. Pace yourself

At this stage, setting realistic goals will go a long way in maintaining momentum and staying inspired and motivated. One of the biggest killers of motivation is having unrealistic goals that cannot be met for various reasons. It is more effective to set small goals and increment to larger goals over an extended period of time than one large goal that runs the risk of killing any motivation you may have when challenges are encountered. Think of this as a top down approach. The top down approach is a popular methodology in software engineering which starts with the big picture but focuses on breaking down, understanding and defining the smaller components which make up the big picture. It is important at this point to also relax expectations on yourself. Remember that your first end result right now is starting. You can focus on the final end result once you’ve comfortably started and gain some momentum. Again think bite sized pieces instead of a whole lump.

4. Celebrate the small wins

As you accomplish one goal and move on to the next, celebrate the small wins. We tend to only celebrate big wins in our lives but make no room for small wins, yet these small wins are the fuel which keeps the car running and moving. Without this fuel, the car will inevitably stop running and come to a halt.

5. Enjoy the process

It is far too easy to get caught up with worrying about all the things that can go wrong, worry about progress and get stressed about your goals. But what if we learned to find enjoyment every step of the way, even in the difficulties? The key to this again lies in perspective. No matter what you’re facing as you progress with your goals, you can enjoy and appreciate the journey when you realize that at least you are taking steps consistently. It may be baby steps and it may be fraught with lots of tumbling over, hurdles to jump and even fatigue but at least you are moving forward. Enjoying each step of the way is a surprisingly simple yet effective means of staying motivated.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this, like, share or leave a comment. I look forward to hearing from you.

A Journey called Purposeful Living

Following on from my last post detailing why I quit my job, I’ve been overwhelmed by the responses and reactions I’ve received from friends and loved ones. The support and encouragement has been truly remarkable and I’m deeply grateful and humbled by it. Every comment was read and cherished. I’ve been especially touched by those who voiced similar sentiments about their jobs, finding their purpose and feeling a sense of unfulfillment. From the friend with three kids whose husband quit his job as a lawyer to pursue his dream of obtaining a masters degree, to the friend who took voluntary redundancy and went travelling through Kenya and Tanzania for four months or the friend who quit her job as a teacher and started her own learning company, it is always liberating to open yourself up and realize that you are not alone in your struggles, there are other people who have walked similar paths and ultimately there is very little that separates us in comparison to what unites us.

One of the recurring questions I’ve received over the past couple of days has been “do you know what you’re going to do next”? And the truth is, not entirely. Sometimes it feels as if I’m at a crossroads of some sort. A crossroads between familiar territory versus venturing out into the unfamiliar. The more I think about it, the more I’m compelled to explore the unfamiliar even if for a period of time or concurrently. I keep thinking about how I would feel when I get to the end of my life and look back on the things I did and accomplished and I get this sense of dread that if I don’t at least try, I would regret it. I don’t like regrets. They serve no purpose to me and therefore if I have the choice now to potentially avoid a regret, I would prefer to take that choice. Having said all that, what I do know right now is that I’m rediscovering passions and interests that have been buried by the vicissitudes of daily life, one of which is writing.

A good friend of mine also asked me an interesting question “do you think that each person must have some sort of talent or particular thing that’s called their purpose”? It really got me thinking about the term purpose and the human perception of purpose. I believe that talent and purpose are two different things which can exist independently of each other or coexist in unison. I can be talented at singing, enjoy singing but it does not mean that my purpose in life is to be a singer. Purpose on the other hand is the what you were created for, the thing that gets you out of bed every morning. There is a sense that yours and the lives of others depend on it so you cannot ignore it, try as you may. It is a nagging deep within to do more, be more and create more. There are many notable people whose talent and purpose appear to intermingle, such as Serena Williams and Bill Gates to name a few. These people have mastered the art of turning their talents into a purpose that supersedes personal interests.

We can find purpose in our everyday life. Take for example, the security guard that keeps office buildings safe or the air traffic controller that ensures airplanes land safely and without incident are both fulfilling purpose. Now being a security guard or air traffic controller might not be their passion, but it fulfills a purpose that goes beyond self to the greater good of humanity. Perspective matters in being able to find fulfillment and a sense of purpose in everyday living. If the everyday humdrum leaves you feeling depleted and wanting, then consider pausing for a moment and listening to the inner workings of your heart. The answers most of us spend a lifetime pursuing already lies within us. Ultimately, our willingness to let go of fear and take action is the key to unlocking those answers and living a purposeful life.

Why I Quit My Job

Sine Metu
Without Fear

Tuesday marked my last day in gainful employment. I promised myself this year would be a year of taking more risks, living more purposefully, stepping out and documenting my journey as much as possible. I’m unashamed to say I’ve failed woefully at documenting much of it until now. This promise to take more risks and live purposefully stemmed from what can only be described as my year of turmoil. 2017 was one of those years I will never forget, a year that in some ways changed my life and the events of which are still changing my life even as I write this. It was a year of growing a backbone and truly realizing that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. As a popular adage goes, it was a year of “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong“.

Continue reading “Why I Quit My Job”

Breaking the cycle of perfectionism: my personal journey

Nobody wants to hear the F-word, and I know what you’re thinking right now but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about failure. Nobody likes that word or wants to hear that they failed. Yet failure is a part of everyday life, in the same way success is. Some people might disagree with this and that’s okay. For a recovering perfectionist like me, it takes a lot to admit that failure is a part of life and whether we like it or not we are bound to fail at some point, the longer we live on this earth.

I grew up thinking there was no room for failure in life or in other words, failure was not an option. With that rule and mind-set in place, it meant that I would work my hardest to ensure I never failed at anything.  But it wasn’t just about not failing, I wanted to be at the top and I did just that. This served me pretty well until about my 2nd year, 2nd semester of university when failure came rearing it’s ugly head at me for the first time. I failed two modules and it felt like my world had literally come to an end. See, I’d never failed a subject before so seeing the letter “F” on my result was about as alien as swimming in the Atlantic ocean. I couldn’t accept it. I tried my hardest to get my lecturer at the time to re-mark my results, but all my efforts were futile. After much internal struggling, I resigned myself to my fate and vowed that I would more than make up for those grades during the next semester. So, I poured myself into my studies with a renewed vengeance. Every spare moment I wasn’t having a lecture or working on an assignment was spent studying. Needless to say, I aced the following semester with a 4 point GPA. 

Since then, I’ve had other encounters with failure – not necessarily of the academic kind but nonetheless just as unpleasant and traumatic in some cases. Failed relationships, driving tests and job situations. Each time I failed at something, it felt worse than the last time. A sea of emotions would overtake me and I would wrestle internally with not being able to understand why I couldn’t just succeed at whatever it was, after all I was accustomed to excelling at most things. It never occurred to me that even the best of us fail sometimes and that’s normal and part of navigating life. Finally, my epiphany about failure came when I realized I’d attached my sense of identity to my ability to succeed. This meant that whenever I failed at something, my entire identity was questioned and nestling on shaky ground. I no longer felt like the ground beneath me was stable and I was worried I would not be able to overcome this unfamiliar feeling. It has finally taken me a string of failures and a lot of deep reflection to truly understand and even come to appreciate what failure can do for me, if I allow it. We’re told we must work hard to succeed, but nobody ever tells us that even though we work our hardest, sometimes failure is just inevitable. Nobody teaches us that failure in itself is a teacher. I’ve come to realize that success, whilst rewarding and exhilarating teaches very little. Failure however opens up a whole new world of opportunity to learn about ourselves, our world and even challenge previously held views and beliefs. Failure can be the catalyst to enjoying a kind of success borne out of true humility, maturity ,wisdom and experience.

A wise quote put it succinctly “failure is not the opposite of success, it is part of success”. Take for instance, I have failed my driving test 6 times. Now some might think I must be a terrible driver to have failed a mere driving test that many times, but believe me when I say that I am actually a very good driver. In fact on two occasions after taking the test, the examiners have commented on how well I drive even though they still failed me. Human logic would reason “if I’m such a good driver, why am I failing”? Well, that’s a good question but the problem with that question is that it assumes that good drivers never make mistakes. Every test I failed allowed me to continue learning to drive and correcting the mistakes in the first place that caused the failure. So while I may not have a licence to prove my road worthiness as a driver yet, my experience of spending more time learning has greatly improved my skills, arguably more so than some who may have passed the first time. My point is, my encounter with failure allowed me to continue the journey of learning and in the process, build experience. My driving success is no longer defined by the plastic card I long for, but by the experience I have garnered behind the wheels and by the strength of character it has built up in me to brush off disappointment each time and keep going. 

I am no longer afraid of failure. Failure is just another word that has no control over my emotions or my identity. It is just another step on the journey to a life well lived.

And then Christmas came along…

20151225_165941.jpgChristmas, a favourite time of the year for many. I imagine right now on the streets of London people are frantically buying Christmas presents, lights everywhere, Christmas tunes blaring from various shops and decorative accessories beckoning eager shoppers to come in and spend their hard earned cash in the spirit of Christmas. I can only imagine right now because whilst the rest of the world is busy preparing for this season, I’m scooped up on my couch with the worst flu known to mankind,  short of the dreaded avian flu – not that I  know what that felt like but I feel like I’ve come pretty close judging by the past few days. With nothing better to do,  I’ve had a lot of time to think about this season a lot and whilst I’ve always been a lover of Christmas and have declared it my favourite time of  the year in times past , I’ve also come to see and experience a less than glamorous or joyful side of this season. Sadly, the festivity and emphasis on family time can also be a harsh and glaringly painful time for many because it draws attention to what isn’t. Absent fathers or mothers, a lonely widow or widower or a singleton wondering how many more Christmases they will have to spend alone or tagging alongside others because they have no one else to share it with. I don’t mean to paint a gloomy picture, but it is reality. And staring at this reality,in light of my poorly state got me thinking about what love truly is.

Love isn’t words first and foremost. Sure expressing love for one another is still important but what counts even more is what action follows those words we so easily say to one another. Love is picking up the phone and calling (not WhatsApp ing, texting, IG’ing, Facebooking or Twittering) that friend or family member or loved one to check how they’re really doing. Love is going the extra mile, even at one’s own inconvenience to help the invalid with their groceries or domestic chores. Love is seeking out opportunities to show kindness to someone – even if all you can offer them is a smile or a prayer, something that may mean little to you but mean the world to them in a world where they’ve been shown little to no love. Love is looking after the elderly in your midst,  love is helping the homeless escape the bitter cold of winter or treating them with  dignity and respect and talking to them so they don’t feel forgotten.

Love is action, the loudest word you can speak. So if Christmas truly is all about generosity of spirit and making merry, then the best thing you can do this Christmas is light up someone else’s world who can’t pay you back cos let’s face it, family members and friends can easily give back what you give them.

Istanbul, the unexpected surprise

I love travelling, so much so that lately some of my friends no longer start by asking me how I’m doing but rather where am I?! At the start of 2015, I really had no idea just how much travelling I would get up to but suffice to say I traveled to more countries last year than I have at any given time in my entire life so far. While I would not consider myself a travel expert, I must admit I’ve caught the travelling bug, a situation which has not been helped by my very generous friends who gifted me with the largest Lonely Planet book I’ve ever seen titled “A journey through every country in the world”. Having received this, I almost feel obliged to make this book become a personal reality and not just colorful pages sitting and accumulating dust on my book shelf. Continue reading “Istanbul, the unexpected surprise”

Stinky tofu, pink sunsets and an appendectomy

I can’t believe 6 months have gone by already since I last blogged! So much has happened in the last 6 months…where do I begin? Let’s see, in that time I quit my job, went on a 2 week holiday to Taiwan and Bali and discovered stinky tofu in Taipei 😷 (there’s a reason it’s called “stinky”), saw the most exotic sunsets I’ve ever seen in Bali, started a new job, and last but certainly not the least, had my appendix removed while on “vacation work” visiting family in the US! Needless to say there’s never a dull moment in my life! Continue reading “Stinky tofu, pink sunsets and an appendectomy”

My social media dilemma

“No!” I thought to myself, “I will not open it”.  Today, I revolted; I revolted against Facebook with all it’s distractions and nuances vying for my prized attention.                                                                                    fb image

It all started with a blue icon beeping every 4 seconds on my phone’s LED indicator. As I glanced at my phone, I could not resist the urge to check who or what had sent me a message. I now know what each flashing light signifies. Blue beckons me to check my emails, greenish-yellow calls me to Whatsapp and red wants me to check my blackberry messenger. On this occasion, blue was calling and like an obedient child I picked up my phone to answer its call. I was expecting a junk email as I normally get those at this time of the day for some unknown reason. But to my surprise, I had a notification email from Facebook sitting in my inbox, asking me to check out what my friends had been up to on Facebook. I scrolled down the email to see some summary updates Facebook had so kindly delivered to my inbox (unsolicited). I was annoyed. Annoyed because I’m pretty sure I had turned off notifications from Facebook, having no desire to be contacted each time someone liked a picture, put up a picture or made a comment. Facebook had clearly ignored my requests at privacy and done the unthinkable by sending me unsolicited emails.  But even as I was annoyed, the urge to open up my Facebook app and indeed check out what people were up to was so strong! But I resisted. I was not going to be manipulated into doing something I had every intention of doing in my own time, before it’s time.

As I pondered and was amused at my own revolting against what seems to be  no big deal, it occurred to me that had I opened Facebook I would have acquiesced to exactly what Facebook wants me to do. It seems to me to be some kind of twisted relationship between virtual master and servant where unconsciously, the very thing of which I am supposed to be master, has become a master of me. The very thing which was supposed to bring me entertainment has now brought me under slavery to its demands, vying for my attention and time whether I like it or not. And as I thought about it, I wondered what else in my life I have now become slave to without my knowledge. What other “distraction” in the form of entertainment or necessity have I unconsciously given control to, though I may think I have control over it? You see, I would have gone to Facebook anyway, but in my own time and on my own terms, not when Facebook decides that I should go to it! Tsk…

If you’re reading this and wondering why this seems to be an issue for something seemingly so small, never mind. Maybe it’s just the suspicious technologist in me revolting against technology and it’s power over humans which we sometimes give to it. Even now  as I read through this post, I realize that if Facebook had not sent me that email, I would not have thought about this and if I had not thought about it, I would not be writing this post. So in the end, my time has been taken up in ways that I did not plan but nonetheless I find beneficial because capturing these thoughts into words brings to the forefront of my consciousness the many seemingly little things that distract and pull us in directions we never intended. With all of this comes the realization that mind discipline is of utmost importance in this age we are living in where so many things vie for our attention with the promise of fleeting entertainment and satisfaction. So as I end this post I ask myself, how much valuable time has been wasted all because I could not apply discipline and self control?