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Confronting my ageism…

ageism
/ˈeɪdʒɪz(ə)m/
noun
  1. stereotyping, prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age. “ageism in recruitment is an increasing problem”

I am going to start with a few questions for you.

  • Is it always important for you to only hang out with people your own age?
  • Do you only consider dating in a certain age range and never step out of that range?
  • Do you only accept the views of people in your own age range and view others on the outside of that range to be “uninformed” about your experiences?

If you have answered yes to one or both of these questions, you might be an ageist. Well, that might be a strong statement, so let me rephrase. You might have practiced ageism knowingly or unknowingly.  I recently had to admit that about myself and it was only after taking some time to reflect on it and research on what ageism is all about that I realised just how limiting this mindset can be. The extreme forms of ageism can lead to people being overlooked for job opportunities or being discriminated against in society. However, I am going to describe my own experience with ageism, from how I have come to understand it.

The first time I came face to face with my own prejudice related to age was a little while back when I went on the GPS Gateway Camp . This was the first time I admitted to having stereotyped people according to their age and I felt really ashamed to have done this. The funny thing is as I was busy making stereotypes about people based on their age, it did not occur to me that I was also making those same stereotypes about myself (judging myself as old).

Here is how it happened:

So, we arrived at the camp on the first day and it was a Monday afternoon. I registered as an individual camper which meant that I would be part of a team of people who will be meeting each other for the very first time, unlike those who registered as a group. So, you know how it goes when you have to make introductions… The conversation went like this:

“Hey, how are you? My name is ….and I am from (insert country of origin),  how old are you?”

I was fine answering the first part of the question, but the last part I found myself feeling oddly uncomfortable. For some reason, I felt uneasy answering the question about my age. The reason being that the people in my team looked really young. I immediately thought, OMG, I am in the wrong team. I am in my early 30s and most of the people in the camp looked like they were teenagers. My reaction was so immediate and sort of subconscious. I  had judged them based on their appearance and made the conclusion that they were young and therefore, I was in the wrong group/the wrong camp.

In hindsight, I am happy to know how wrong I was to have made that judgement because even though the people in my team were much younger, it was the right group for me. Their energy levels and stories made me reflect back on my days as a young adult and also gave me an opportunity to feel like an older sister. 

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These days I am learning to work on my prejudices. I am willing to befriend people outside of my age range and I honestly think that has widened my network a whole lot. I am finding that younger or older people also have a lot they can show and teach me. Even people ten years younger or older than me.  I also realised the importance of having a teachable spirit and not judging a book by its cover.  Funny story…none of the people in my team believed me when I told them my real age, so it goes to show that age is really just a number.

Have you confronted your ageism and in what instances? Drop me a message below, you know that I always love to hear from you.

 

 

 

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I have high standards and I know my worth!

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Keep your standards high and your expectations low

This is the lesson of the week!! It is only Monday, but this day has made me think about my standards and what I value most in life. These are lessons I will keep learning as I grow older and experience life. I think what I have been building over the years through personal and intellectual development allows me to say yes or no to certain things.  I really want to stress that in the search for an identity, your place in the world, career or whatever it is, it is very very important to know what you will be willing to stand for and what is a NO NO!!

I am realising that in the process of looking for what is next and in making a transition we are often tempted to take the easy way out. We get impatient and we don’t want to struggle. We want the path of least resistance and this is human nature. But, I learnt today that anything that makes me lower my standards or go against my values is not worth it. Anything that requires me to sell my soul to the devil in order to say I have made it to the other side is definitely not worth it.

If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything! ~Alexander Hamilton

My standards remain high because I know what I am worth! There are people out there who are just waiting for the opportunity to tell you that you are not good enough or that you need them to become anything in life.

I have low expectations of this world, such that I am pleasantly surprised when I meet really good and kind people. The world we live in has become such a terrible place, with individuals who are preying on people’s desperation to exploit them for their own benefit. There is no amount of money that is enough to make you lose your value. There are people who might look at me as a person of colour (POC) and judge my worth as less, that is the world we live in. However, if you know the value of what you bring to the table, racism or discrimination must not discourage or bring you down. There will be a handful of people willing to hire you based on your merit and not the colour of your skin, you just have to keep going until you find them. Unfortunately, being black and African in a world that accepts the one narrative of Africa as an impoverished and aid-dependent continent often means that when people meet us, they first want to offer us the bare minimum and we are expected to be grateful.  I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to sell myself short just because someone in a position of power and privilege feels I am only worth as much as they decide I am worth. It is disrespectful to what I stand for as an individual and my core beliefs.

My personal identity, if you have been following this blog you would know that it is first and foremost, that I am a child of God. Everything else is secondary. This identity makes it impossible for me to be tossed around by individuals in this world who seek to take advantage of me and offer me less than what I deserve as a daughter of a King.

I have been reminded to stay vigilant and watchful! Never settle for anything just because it is available.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour~1 Peter 5:8

Today I choose gratitude and happiness!

It is amazing how much of a mindset shift can occur when you change your perspective. A change of perspective simply means looking at an issue in a different way, choosing to believe that there is more than one way to understand something. A different perspective!! I want to take this moment to thank each and every person who reached out to comment on my post yesterday, you can read it HERE if you missed it. I got  so encouraged to think in a different way and I am honestly happy to have shared my experience because sharing it showed that there is strength in community. So here is how my day went today:

Today I chose gratitude as a new perspective. Instead of looking at all the things that are not going so great, I chose to be grateful for being here today. As I write this I thank the  Lord for this stage of my life which I am now beginning to see as a period of learning and growth. I choose in this moment to focus on what is going well and not what is on standstill. In this period of waiting and resting, help me to

“turn this pity party into a cycle of praise” ~Pastor Judah Smith

Today I came across my happiness activity journal and I realised that I hadn’t written in it since February this year.

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I really love how it allows me to reflect on what made me happy this week and what made me unhappy. It doesn’t just end there, it then asks me to think about what I will choose to focus on to be happier next week, and has space to share an inspiring quote for the week as well as lessons for that week.

Today I said to myself, no type of schedule (busy or not) should keep me from keeping track of my happiness, although all the evidence points to the fact that I had in fact allowed the craziness of the past few months and my current circumstances, to steal that away from me. I chose to continue writing in my happiness activity journal and just doing that shifted my mood a great deal.

Today I got out of bed and did something useful with my time. I think movement is good. I just wish I was the exercise type, but sadly that is furthest from my mind. I did take a walk and got caught in the rain with my friend. Hong Kong weather has this weird impromptu rain around this time of the year,  that only lasts a few minutes and then it is back to being hot and humid again. When it started raining, we didn’t have umbrellas because when we left home it was not showing any signs of rain. Me and my friend Abi didn’t even bother running for cover, it felt so good getting soaked for a bit, we even held hands and started singing. The rain felt oddly therapeutic, I just hope we both don’t catch a cold. Those are the rare moments of joy that cannot be captured except in our memories.  Who would even have the time to think of taking out their cellphone to take a rain selfie? You would be surprised with the way we humans love our selfies these days. If people can take selfies at a funeral, then anything can happen.

Today was a good day.  This blog reached the 200 followers milestone today.

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See what happens when you count your blessings, you see more and more of them in the least expected places. I am so glad to be able to share this space with all of the people who read and take the time to interact with me. You all make it worth while.

 

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Another day of post-PhD blues…

It looks like this is going to be a series of posts related to my post-phd transition and the depression that I have now come to know about through experience. If you have not already, you can read my previous post  Post-PhD life…when will this phase end? . I am writing about it as a way of coping with it and I also hope that this could inform other postgraduate students of its existence.

I am currently in the 4th week since completing my PhD and I did not expect to feel the way I am feeling. Nothing and no one prepared me for what I am going through now.  These are the signs of my post-phd tension (I don’t think I am in full-on depression mode just yet).

The not knowing what to do with myself

The first few days after my exam, I just didn’t know whether I should sleep all day or go to the office like I was used to doing for the past three years. Now, four weeks later, on some days I happily sleep in and  tell myself that I deserve the rest, but on other days I feel so guilty that I am not doing anything. A close friend of mine said that I just don’t know how to relax and that made me think, mmmh, perhaps! I wrote in my previous post about how I am trying to stay busy, but not all days are the same.

 The stress comes from not wanting to do anything, but feeling guilty when I don’t, if that makes any sense.

 Anxiety about the future

Because I am completely surrendered to God’s will for my life, I am actively trying to avoid any negative thoughts that might make this situation worse. You know those “you’re not good enough”, “you cannot do it” type of thoughts.  They are very unhelpful, but they do creep in from time to time. The expectations I might have had during my PhD about life after the degree might not be what I am experiencing, but I still have hope that I will feel that sense of accomplishment one day soon and it will not be fleeting or momentary.  Everyday I wake up, I remind myself of His promises about my future and his plans for me. I am sure you know which verse comes to mind:

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Comparing myself to others

Now this is a slippery slope, because we all have different life journeys and we will not all get the same opportunities at the same time. If one of the graduates in my cohort gets a postdoc or a job offer before me, I should not be discouraged. I am trying to fight the urge to look at how others are faring with their transition and the effort itself is draining. It is a conscious effort I have to make everyday.

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The grass always looks greener on the other side, so I am trying to stay on my own journey and experience it for what it is and not based on what is going on with others around me.

Checking emails

I dread checking my emails now, but I kind of have to check them everyday in case something important comes up. The only emails I want to see right now are the ones where I am being offered an exciting new position, LOL. The rest are just causing unnecessary tension in my life right now and I cannot deal.

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By Liss West for Hashtag The Planet 

I could not get out of bed today

Not from a lack of trying, but I just could not manage this activity today or interact with a single human being. I did manage to write this blog post, so I cannot say I have been completely idle, but outside of that, I really cannot be bothered to do anything today.  If this happens again tomorrow, then we might have to call this something more than tension. I am also dreading social engagements because I really am not in the mood to discuss what is next in my life when I haven’t even figured it out yet. The pressure to have it all figured out is what is causing all this tension in the first place.

The above may be completely normal adulting blues, but because I am experiencing this shortly after completing what should be a huge milestone in my life , it is making me reconsider if it is normal.

If you are reading this and you feel this is normal and it is just a phase which will pass soon, please drop me a message or send some encouragement my way. I will greatly appreciate it. Maybe you are also going through the same thing for completely different reasons, let me know what you are going through and how you are coping. There is strength in community!!

Till next time,

GG

Post-PhD life…when will this phase end?

A couple of months before I completed my PhD, I started sending out job applications. I filled out countless job application forms, each needing a cover letter and often had to change my CV around to suit each position. Before starting this process, I sought out a mentor in my department, a Professor whom I admired and asked her for advice about the job hunt. She told me three things:

  • The academic job market is a jungle
  • It is survival, not of the fittest, but the most persistent.
  • Getting a job in academia depends on the relationships you have built over the years through networking.

She also said that I would need to send out 100 applications in the hopes of getting one. I took her advice and started applying, but I was never prepared for the constant stream of rejection emails that ensued. I never thought an email could spoil my day and the first rejection email, I took it well because I had been told this would happen. However, after the twentieth or so email, you start to feel a little discouraged. But I carried on with the applications because

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I found out that post-PhD depression is an actual thing. Some statistics in this blog state that 80 % of postdocs (someone who has completed a doctoral degree) hope to get a tenured academic position, only 10% get that offer. This leaves the other 70% feeling like they wasted years of their lives getting a degree that cannot land them a job. The writer of the article also said something about our expectations as doctoral graduates not matching the reality of what is out there in the job market. He also suggested taking a step back and rethinking your goals and values.

I came across this quote and I think it is so profound.

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Instead of wallowing in my discouragement, I am going to use this opportunity to encourage others who may be going through the same thing and for current students to know what to expect post-phd. Every case is different of course, we don’t all go through the same trajectories. What I am doing now to deal with post-phd stress is to take it one day at a time. I was comforted the other day to realise that I am not the only one going through it and I have started engaging in conversations with others around this.

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What this has done for me is to remove the mentality that I am the only one going through this and to just keep going. Understanding that this is a transition phase and with all transitions comes this period of discomfort as you try to find your feet again. I do hope the phase will end soon, but what I have also been trying to do is to enjoy the moment. I have nothing going on right now, I should be enjoying this free time before actually settling into a new job. This is the time to find a new hobby, start an online course that might be useful in the future or catch up with old friends. I recently attended a Christian youth camp for a week, and that was a nice new experience for me. I made some new friends and spent time in a new location. I also stepped away from my current circumstance which gave me a new perspective.

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Shouldn’t be difficult to spot me in this pic

By refusing to view this stage of my life as negative, I am slowly changing the narrative.

Doing better at being happier…

I haven’t managed it yet, but I wish I could. It is just a realisation that I honestly need to step up my happiness game. Easier said than done but I have a couple of things that have jolted my memory to remind me of all the reasons why I should be happy:

How far I have come

Winding Road Photography

Anyone who knew me, say ten years ago, can attest to the fact that I have come a long way. There is this song that is driving me nuts these days by Nathaniel Bassey This God is too good where he says “Don’t look too far to see how good he is, just look at me…” Those lyrics get me all the time. I have had it good over the years, I have come through fire literally, considering my shady past. This is a very good reason to be happy because I can look back and thank God for how far I have come.

I have a good life

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This depends on your definition of “a good life”, but by my own standards and not in comparison to anyone else, I think I do have a good life. I can pay my bills and manage to eat everyday. At the moment, I can afford to travel at least once a year, which is something I enjoy doing.   When you get to a point of needing nothing materially, which is how I can describe how I feel right now, then there is a lot to be grateful for honestly. Of course, anyone reading this might feel that there is a lot that we need in our lives, but I have learned to not need things I can live without. So you might see me without the latest car or not living in the most sought-after apartment or house and feel that I still “need something”.  In my opinion most material things are “wants” not “needs” and where I feel comfortable is where I am the most happy.

Good Health

Blue Shorts

I cannot overstate the importance of this one. After I submitted my first draft in December 2018, I fell sick for at least two weeks from exhaustion and fatigue. I hate being ill because it limits what I can do and where I can go. We take for granted that we can move our limbs at will and dance when we feel like it, because we are healthy. I listened to a sermon by TD Jakes where he spoke about a digestive tract disease which makes it impossible for you to digest your food. We take things like being able to eat and process our food for granted, only because our body parts are working perfectly at the moment.  I have every reason to be happy for my health because even wealth cannot be enjoyed by someone who is lying in a hospital bed.

The people in my life

My clique, though small is the absolute best. It includes my blood family and families I have made over the years, my friends. I like to keep my circle small and exclusive, only because we have been through so much together and I just cannot imagine life without them. They make me happy because when I feel down, for any reason or other, I can always call one of them and have a chat that will surely uplift me. We motivate each other to always be the best versions of ourselves and I guess we are trying to figure out this life thing together. I am also grateful for good conversations with the right people. These can turn any gloomy day into one full of sunshine.

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It is not always easy to remember the things or people that make us happy, but I think I need to try each and everyday to do this exercise. Counting my blessings helps to change my mindset from being disappointed, defeated and sad to a mindset filled with expectation of a bright future, victory in our pursuits and knowledge that I can always choose happiness.

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Hope this inspires you as it inspired me.

GG

Disclaimer: Images used are stock free images from pexels.com

The text message: a mind game.

She grew tired of waiting for that text message from him. A week turned into two and two weeks into a month. Some days she would watch her phone willing the text to come in. This text was becoming even more important by the day because it would reassure her that it was not her fault. She needed that text message to reassure her that she was enough, that she did nothing wrong…but it never came.  Some nights she would call his name in the dark while lying on her bed as if he would hear and respond by texting.

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She started reading, almost neurotically about how to deal with this. She could not even name “this”, was this rejection? Nah, that was a bit too much, she thought. Anyway, she read on The Law of Attraction and it states that

the best way to attract things to ourselves is to let go

…how ironic!! How will I attract something by letting it go, she thought? The universal law of attraction states that by letting go of the need to have that thing or person, you inevitably give it the freedom to find you. Sounded like a load of B.S but she decided to try it. She was desperate…Anything to stop from feeling the way she did.

So she actively worked on letting go. She first deleted his number, to stop herself from texting him first and making a fool out of herself. She willed herself to hate everything about him so she would forget about him. She started making lists daily of all the things she hated about him and it felt so good. She started watching movies like:

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Months went on and she finally managed to convince herself that she was over it, over him and did not need him to text her ever again. He no longer existed in her world and she felt more confident in who she was and what she was doing. The law of attraction did not bring him back, but she no made up her mind to “no longer seek that which is not seeking her” and with that, she was really confident that she had grown as an individual.

Then he texted…

All of a sudden all that she had accomplished fell apart. She was confused all over again. She started wondering what she should do. She considered two options:

a) bluetick him?    

 

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Image from americanbazaaronline.com

 

b) respond and hear what he has to say? Maybe something had happened to him…maybe he had fallen into a ditch and only just managed to climb out? There must be an explanation, right?

What would you advise her to do? Drop a message below.