balance

In life, you just have to find something you love to do and hope that it makes a difference.

Simple but poignant words spoken by my beautiful and wise younger sister, over brunch this morning.

What a great sentiment – to find something you love to do, to work on it, share it with others and believe in its potential to grow, move, inspire, comfort, entertain and educate somebody and hopefully, make a positive contribution to the world in some way. This is what nurtures humanity, drives the soul and fulfills us.

The challenge for me, as it has been for some time, is not in the finding, but in the working on my passions amidst the distractions, priorities, responsiblities and pressures of adult life – where ‘reality’ often means foregoing one’s ‘dreams’.

As I (somewhat anxiously) head towards my third decade, I’ve decided that I’m not going to live with the regret of foregoing said dreams. 

This next chapter will be about balance. 

It will be about working on my dreams whilst embracing the realities of the less fantastical world (comprising of such dreary matters as money, politics and keeping up appearances), which inevitably, are integral to our survival.

While adjusting to adulthood has led me to believe that comprimises must be made in order to give full focus to any given priority, I’ve realised for myself that dreams and realities can co-exist and in fact, help nurture one another.

Now is the time to take ownership of both aspects of my life, to give the same energy to the important though mundane things, as well as the defining and exciting.

May you also seek and achieve balance as you live your beautiful lives!

balance

leopards

There are many obstacles in life that delay and sometimes all together prevent the progress that you have your heart and mind set on within any given timeframe.

Unfortunately, many of said obstacles are people, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced the arduous task that is trying to change people. I believe in miracles but more often than not, avoiding the former is simply the best solution.

Whether or not your ‘people’ issue is a family, friend or work-centred one, here are 5 tips to help preserve your sanity when interacting with characters that well, you’d rather not be part of your story:

1. Accept that you cannot change others. The old idiom, “a leopard cannot change its spots” still rings true in the human world. I like to think that we each have the capacity to grow and become better versions of ourselves and that we should empower one another to do so, but not everyone likes to compromise.  Thus for your own sake, assume that in general, people (like leopards) cannot (or will not) change who they are and just learn to adjust to that.

2. Don’t expect others to think/say/do as you would in a particular situation. Each of us is different and therefore react differently to various circumstances.

3. Try patience and kindness instead of resistance and hostility. Don’t allow anybody’s negativity bring out ugly qualities – how you feel inside will start to show on the outside!

4. Master the art of breathing and letting go. The natural reflex of being annoyed by someone is stress and frustration. Take a beat, count to three or sing the theme song from Disney’s Frozen in your head before you answer or deal with the annoying party.

5. Embrace and be the heroic protagonist that your story demands. You will make mistakes, ruffle feathers, be let down by others as well as yourself but at the end of the day, self-belief, passion and persistence will help get you to where you want to be. And if you’re still not satisfied by the end of the book, there is always the option of writing a sequel.

This has more so been a note-to-self than anything else but here’s hoping it also helps you deal with any stubborn, annoying leopards in your life.

NB. I think leopards are beautiful animals, the semantics around their genetic make-up have simply allowed me to creatively anchor the idea for this post.

leopards

she for she

I might preface this post by saying that it is not my intention to cause anyone offence (well, it never is, really) whilst I indulge myself in this little rant based on a recent experience I’ve had as a career-focused single woman in her (almost) thirties.  Ugh, I actually detest the notion of having just labelled myself so blatantly in that way, however, such facts are crucial to this piece.

The offence that may possibily arise here, has to do with the ever-debateable topic: feminism.

I recently came across this article in Time Magazine which collated thoughts on feminism from notable women in the entertainment industry.  Each of them, with valid grounds for their opinion, and it gladdened me to know that women with this type of powerful voice are using it to help stimulate discussion on how strong, successful and fulfilled women can be.

I’d like to especially echo Salma Hayek’s thoughts, “[Feminism] means being proud of being a woman, and [having] love, respect and admiration and the belief in our strong capacities. I don’t think we are the same, women and men. We’re different. But I don’t think we are less than men.”

For me, it isn’t about female empowerment in opposition to men, but rather, in addition to.  In the fight for gender equality, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that each and every one of us has been created with different abilities and talents to offer the world.  As a woman, I don’t need to prove that I can do every single thing that a man can do.  I just want the same opportunity to be able to reach my potential in whatever field I choose, which thus warrants the same respect and reward that any man would receive.

I digress, hence back to the recent incident which has primarily inspired this post.

I have come to accept that this next season in my life is the one where many of my peers have figured out exactly what they want in their future.  Or so it seems.  It’s the chapter for ‘settling down’, for putting to rest the whimisical dreams of childhood and the rebellious, impulsive ventures of adolescence.  Quite simply, it is getting-married-buying-a-house-starting-a-family-time.

Those who know me, understand that it is not in my nature to envy others (I’ve just realised that the sarcasm of the previous sentence may suggest otherwise), and it frustrating to think that people enjoy the task of trying to unearth a bitterness that is often associated with being a single woman at a certain age. 

Please stop trying to prove that I am unhappy being single, because I’m just not.

I have come to accept that societal expectations, no matter how far progressed we might feel in this 21st century, always allude to the idea that happiness is unattainable outside of a (romantic) relationship.  This is untrue.  Happiness is unattainable without love yes, but there is much to love about the lives we lead.  I personally, have never been without happiness in my life solely because of my single status.

A recent catch-up with an old friend has left a bad taste, in light of my thoughts above. This ‘friend’ of mine was once very close to me, it was during our impressionable years, when we were studying and still working out who we were and what we wanted. Since graduating university, we began to see each other less and less, ultimately down to once-a-year catch-ups which for me, became more than enough.  As the cliche goes, I felt that we grew apart, each pursuing a different path in life.  

I had long been prepared to take leave of the friendship that seemed to no longer serve us well, but surprisingly, she wasn’t ready to let go.

And then she invited me to her wedding.

My natural reaction was one of excitement and support, there is no doubt how right the time is for her, she is set to be an amazing wife and mother one day.  In turn, I had always given her the benefit of the doubt that she respected me in the same way for the choices I made for myself.

It was perhaps, inadvertenly, the conversation which followed her giving me the invitation, that has stained my perspective.  It went along the lines of, “At least you’ll know someone there,” (only one other girl I know had been invited with her husband, though I haven’t seen her for years) “And if you start seeing someone closer to the wedding, just let me know and you might be able to bring him along.”

Attending a wedding solo has never been an issue for me, albeit other girlfriends have had the sense to group me with numerous people that I know, thoughtfully considering my enjoyment factor on the day.  It did not feel that was the case this time around.

Her words and the way she relayed them to me that day, were very telling of what she actually might think of me.  The solo invitation was given in light of me not having a partner, yet the other girl is somewhat obliged to bring her husband.

Does it mean that no other ‘plus one’ outside a boyfriend or husband would qualify?

At risk of overthinking things, the whole incident highlighted to me the problem that women impose on other women when it comes to how we measure self-worth.  As basic an evaluation this is, I was denied the opportunity of bringing along a guest to a wedding where I won’t know most people, on the grounds that I am currently not romantically involved.  Subtext: I am not complete without a partner, therefore I cannot avail of the same privileges as those who are.

This echoes the earlier debate on feminism being about women being granted the same opportunities as men.  Many of us complain and are quick to blame the male species for denying us these things, often failing to realise that we are as much a part of the problem.

Whilst in admiration of Emma Watson and her He For She movement, let us not forget that in campaigning for men to change the way they treat women, we too must change the way we treat each other.  

How can we earn the respect that we long for from the opposite sex if we don’t even recognise and encourage it in one another? How can we feel empowered to do extraordinary things if we as women look down at other women whose life choices might be different to ours? How do we achieve gender equality if our measure of self-worth solely involves being in a relationship with a man?

I write passionately on this subject because I believe that us women need to change the way we see and engage with one another. It is fairly impossible to not judge another woman, but it is possible to support them.  

As women, let us not diminish ourselves to such labels of ‘married’ or ‘single’; we each have different paths, priorities, dreams and goals.  It is our duty – for the progress of our species – to allow each other to explore all aspects of womanhood that our generation allows.  There is still a long way to go, yes, but just think about how far we have already come.

she for she

social for the sole (soul)

As an avid social media user, I am still by no means ignorant of the negative impact that digital technologies can have on societies, communities and individuals when it is misused and abused.

I understand and sympathise with those who have been harmed by it. Those who have been and are victims of cyber-bullying, those who have been subjected to predatory advances, young people who have lost themselves in narcissism by using platforms such as Instagram for superficial self-gratification.

I also commend people such as Essena O’Neill, whose brave initiative ‘Let’s Be Game Changers’ arose from the pain she experienced through the ‘fame’ and popularity she gained as a model on social media. If you haven’t yet, read her story here, it’s an intriguing one.

So yes, I am not ignorant at all to the above. I just prefer to focus my energies on the positive social change that can result from inspired, well-intentioned social campaigns. This is where technology can truly shine, where creative ideas, engaging stories and uplifting messages can be shared. Where philanthropy can be on each and every one of our agendas, not only because of greater accessibility but also because of greater awareness which evokes that bead of compassion that lies within all of us.

This is social change in the online sphere that is powerful enough to generate social change in the real world in which we live.

I recently stumbled on a perfect example of this during an evening of scouring Instagram for inspiration. I discovered a beautiful organisation called Sole Hope which works to alleviate foot-related diseases which greatly impact children and communities in Uganda, by offering medical relief, education, jobs and financial support.

Founders Asher and Dru Collie felt called to do something after watching a YouTube video on the devastating impact on ‘jiggers’ which breed in the feet of African children causing them great pain, leading to disease and paralysis. Theirs is an inspired story of wanting to create positive social change. 

What forms part of the Sole Hope project is the idea that an old pair of jeans can be recycled to produce a pair of denim closed-toed shoes that an African child can wear to protect their feet from further infection. What a truly powerful message in that what seems so common and basic to our everyday lives, can in fact make an enormous difference to the lives of those in impoverished communities. How very blessed we are.

I immediately followed the Sole Hope Instagram account upon seeing the work that they do through the inspired and moving imagery in their posts. I’ll admit that some of the photos began to appear blurry through my tears. How amazing that social media has the ability to connect us so instantaneously to such humanitarian causes. How even the smallest organisations now have the opportunity to raise awareness without the necessary funds required to activate large scale above-the-line advertising campaigns.

Sole Hope are one of many fantastic organisations around the world creating social change and I am grateful that through social media, I was able to learn about their story. It is social for the sole yes, but also for the soul.

In this digital age, we have the power to communicate with more people than ever before, so why not use this power to empower others? There is only so much blame we can attribute to the physical constructs of media and technology, the rest is up to us. How do we best serve the tools provided to us? How do we maximise their potential to generate constructive conversation, ideas and values? How do we as global citizens incite positive social change, both online and offline?

solehope.org

social for the sole (soul)

these wounds

Oh these wounds, they’ve reopened
I might cry from the pain
Once so clear, not so broken
Yet it’s happened again

I walked with a mask, hid behind it each day
Stuck in my ways, neglecting the core
Now the monster’s unleashed, unexpected
I fear greater impact than ever before

A new season begins but my body’s rejected
Outside and inside, without harmony
The smaller I am, the smaller I feel
So far removed from whom I’m set to be

So this is a hurdle, a serious trial
A test of my strength, power of faith
The monster relentless at leading me down
Still I live with the hope that I will be saved

I’m giving it all, the ache and the hurt
I surrender to Him as I’m on my knees
I won’t let is waver, I will hold on
For only His grace can set me free.

these wounds