Birthday musing: 36 events that shaped my life

The last time I wrote a birthday post was 4 years ago. Today, I turn 36 and I challenged myself to think about defining moments that shaped my character and perspective on life. It was surprisingly easy! I also realised that whatever I write about is rooted in one or more of these events. So if you’re ever wondering what’s wrong – or right – with me, here are 36 events that shaped me:

  1. being born first

  2. being born female

  3. being born Black African

  4. being told early that I am smarter than most people

  5. being told later that I am not

  6. being called ‘ugly’ more than once

  7. finding out not everybody likes me

  8. finding out I don’t like everybody

  9. having a really good maths teacher throughout primary school

  10. following simple instructions without questioning

  11. questioning simple instructions

  12. living in the Middle East for most of my teens

  13. marrying in my early 20s

  14. having children

  15. being the only black person in the room

  16. being the only woman in the room

  17. meeting people who believe in me

  18. meeting people I believe in

  19. finding out that people can lie straight to my face

  20. finding out that there is a power greater than anything or anyone

  21. learning to tap into that power

  22. leaving a job where it was not okay to be ambitious

  23. leaving a job where my values and the company’s values did not align

  24. leaving a job to follow my ambition

  25. discovering the past can be left behind

  26. learning that living in the present is more important than worrying about the future

  27. appreciating my sense of humor and that I have it for a reason

  28. writing – even when I don’t feel like it

  29. loving – even when I don’t feel like it

  30. rejecting words that tear me down

  31. accepting words that build me up

  32. getting proof that time heals almost everything

  33. letting friends walk away

  34. walking away from friends

  35. loving myself just as I am

  36. allowing people love me without questioning if I’m deserving of it

I hope to continue dealing with some of these events through my writing here. Fingers crossed, it won’t be too uncomfortable…

Happy birthday to me! :-)

The luxury of being average (4 years later)

If you have been visiting this blog for a while, you may remember one of my popular blog posts back in July 2011 titled, ‘The luxury of being average. Here is an excerpt from it:

Now and then, I wrestle with my fear of being average. I worry that I’ll live an average life that won’t be worth remembering and be just as good or worse than the person that came before. I always want to be better.

Before I go on, let me put a definition of ‘average’ out here. Cambridge dictionary defines ‘average’ as

a standard or level considered to be typical or usual.

I re-read the post recently and my feelings have changed slightly but significantly. I still find easygoing folks a little annoying and I still want to be damn good at what I do. But I have found a way to live with the fact I am not good at everything and that I need to find my niche in life. How am I living with this? Here’s how: The crux of my 2011 blog post was that I felt under a lot of pressure. I know now that I was probably striving for the wrong things. It had very little (if anything at all) to do with average-ness, whether I deemed that to be a curse or a blessing. I wanted to be what other people wanted me to be and that was incredibly exhausting.

Angry or confused face?

When I handed in my resignation this past February, I discovered people find change very uncomfortable and some have certain views on what I am supposed to be and the things I am meant to achieve. To announce that I’m probably not going to achieve those things because I don’t want to is a pill some still have under their tongue and haven’t swallowed. I would say to someone, “hey, I quit my job!” and then they would proceed to tell me why they cannot quit their job. All good information but eh, I haven’t asked you to quit your job! It’s pretty funny to watch/listen to. So…do I still fear being ‘average’? No, not really. I think that regardless of whether I keep up with people’s expectations or not, I will never be average simply because I am who I am. Those decisions and the life journeys I choose to go on are unique to me. Whether or not I succeed on the path I’m on doesn’t change that. And…do I think being average is a luxury? If I define ‘average’ as

not having too much or too little and not aspiring far beyond the current reality

then yes, it could provide the luxury of a content, relatively stress-free existence. As I glance back at the definitions of ‘average’, I know it’s a luxury I cannot afford. Guess I’ll never learn.

Images from flickr user: thejuniorpartner – Angry or confused face?

I lost my mojo. Then I found it on a plane.

Be yourself, be kind to others and your soul will rejoice

– me

I am on an Aberdeen-Birmingham flight. The plane is small and full. As I sit down on my aisle seat, I do my best to tuck in my limbs so as not to irritate the window-seat passenger. My mindset on flights is that unless the passenger next to me looks particularly friendly and/or initiates a conversation, I’m willing to sit there in silence for the duration of the flight. A little brutal maybe, but it’s the safest option.

reading passenger

I am halfway into a paragraph in my book when I hear the voice of a young lady in the seat across from me. She is talking to the passenger next to her. She laughs a lot. I do not hear the other passenger (a man) speak for the first 15 minutes of the conversation. She talks and talks. I learn that she is 23 and got married about 18 months ago. I learn that her husband is a doctor and a similar age to her. I also gather some information about her 2 siblings – one a brunette and the other blonde (she is a red-head).

Believe me, I try not to listen but I think the whole plane is listening. She isn’t perturbed by the quietness of the passenger she is chatting with. He nods and smiles from time to time. About 30 minutes into the flight, his voice becomes more audible. He laughs. I hear that he has a girlfriend and has been to Aberdeen only a handful of times.

The two talk for the 1-hour flight, with the young lady leading the conversation, asking questions and probing for detailed responses.

I have to be honest. I am half irritated by her. I have a book in my hand and I can’t get through more than a couple of pages due to the distracting conversation. We passengers glare at her periodically, hoping she just ends the conversation. We already know too much.

missing plane

The other half of me greatly admires her. She is bold and confident. At 23, I think she displays tenacity that is uncommon in many young women. I think about my safe option to keep to myself on planes (and in other public places, especially places that ‘move’ e.g. trains).

Then I realise something:

The young lady…that used to be me

I have let the fear of rejection change how I behave in certain situations. Being an extrovert by nature, I have a lot to say, a lot going on in my head that I want to share. But more and more, I don’t. I think it’s not important. Or the slight frown coming across my listener’s forehead becomes my cue to be quiet and withdraw.

As we disembark from the plane, the man thanks the young lady for great company as it helped the time pass quickly. I can’t help smiling. I want to thank her too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m glad to witness that young lady on the plane. I am on my way to attend a workshop (I wrote about the workshop here). The workshop is an awesome experience in part because of the young lady on the plane. I walk into the venue deciding to be yourself and not to shrink when people don’t take me on as I hope. I smile and talk to complete strangers with no malice even when they appear not to welcome my intrusion. It is liberating and I have fun. My spirit is light. My soul, gratified. I am not holding back.

My extroverted nature has been partially suppressed for years. In fact, I think there are times I lose it. Somehow, I’m finding it and I want to keep it even when I’m gray. I just need to have more faith in who I am. And gentle (and not so gentle) reminders are welcome. Thank you, Red-Headed Young Lady :-).

Images from flickr users: Dreemreeper – reading passenger on plane; Eole Wind – Missing plane; Paula Bailey – Paula Bailey

The Digital Academic….Could that be me?

Today, I attended The Digital Academic Tools & Tips workshop hosted by Piirus and jobs.ac.uk at the University of Warwick. It was greeeat!

Throughout the conference, I tweeted about it and really enjoyed doing it. I got a real buzz. I even increased my twitter following by about 20% in a span for a few hours as a result of tweeting the event. Mind you, 20% of nothing is nothing haha but you get the idea.

The speakers were Dr Nadine Muller (Lecturer in English Literature and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University), Andy Tattersall (Information Specialist at University of Sheffield) and Dr Inger Mewburn (blog owner at The Thesis Whisperer, Director of Research Training at The Australian National university). I learned about what academics are like and how they think social media and its obvious challenges.

Some of them are stylish, some are quiet, some are extroverted, and many have strong opinions about how to make working in academia better. And all of them are brilliant, experts in their fields!! It was a real thrill being there.

Part of my motive was to get an inkling as to whether academics would mind being around me and if I’d mind being around them. I also wanted to know how I might merge my love of social media and blogging with my academic aspirations.

Dr Nadine Muller

Dr Nadine Muller and I at the workshop

My high of the day was taking a selfie with the amazing Dr Nadine Muller (check out her beautiful blog http://nadinemuller.org.uk). She has the coolest tattoo on her chest – and that’s coming from me who is not keen on tattoos as such.

My thoughts from the conference are:

– A personal social media strategy is a must. A LinkedIn profile (for all professionals) and Google Scholar (for researchers) are a must

– Not all channels work for everyone – “try before you buy”. Find your niche

Build a network of supporters and potential collaborators through digital tools- it makes research much more fun!

– There is no academic stereotype in my head anymore. Being at the conference blew that away. Most people I met were real, gutsy and open – no illusions

I made a mental note to look into Mendeley (for research publications) and Haiku deck (for blow-their-minds PowerPoint slides).

Dr Lily Canter has written about the workshop here. It’s much more articulate than I could muster at this point in the evening.
Good times.

New Journey. New Blog.

I’m excited to let you know I’ve started a new blog. As I wrote in my last post, a new journey has began as I embark on my doctorate degree and take a break from corporate life. The new blog will follow my research as a main theme with secondary themes on photography. I plan to write more personal posts here from time to time.

It would be great if you could continue to follow me on the new blog. You have been so supportive over the nearly 5 years that I started blogging here. Things change and I’m hoping you’ll support that. Thank you so much! I appreciate every one of you.

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