Category: Inspired

These are posts inspired by a quote, a movie, an artist and by anything that moves me to write.

Boarding schools in crisis…my personal story

I had a conversation with my mother today that just brought back the motivation I had lost in the past couple of weeks. She brought back memories of a decision she once made about my education. Back in 2001 she decided, due to financial constraints to remove me from the boarding school where I had been since 1998. After I passed my O’Levels, I wanted to go further with A’ Level, but my single mother of four children sat me down to share how much she was struggling with the decision to remove me from boarding school, but the truth was that she just could not afford it anymore. For me, this was not a complicated decision at all, I told her that I can attend school anywhere and I will still do well, even the local school in our small town.  I remember her being so worried about that at the time. At the tender age of 16, I already knew that I was dedicated enough to study in any environment and make it.

I attended my A’ Levels at Mvurwi High school in Zimbabwe, which was pioneering A’ Levels that year. They had no library, no books, and a few experienced teachers to teach Advanced Level. This was the school my mother could afford because it was close to home and there would be no need for transport costs or monthly groceries and pocket money as I would have needed in boarding school. I went to this school and still passed with flying colours. My mother worried about what people would say and whether the quality of education would still be good enough for me to have a future. Our stream was the first A’ Level stream in 2001 and I am happy to say that we had good results, even with no library and books. I remember we used to have one book for History and another for Literature that we shared amongst ourselves. We used to share notes that our teachers were able to source from other schools. Our best student had 14 points and I got 13 points. This meant that we had more than enough points to get into the university.

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My local school Mvurwi High

 Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…Zechariah 4:10

I went on from that local school to be awarded the Zimbabwean Presidential Scholarship to study in South Africa for my Bachelors’ degree in Social Work. Later, I went on to get scholarships to study in Ireland and Hong Kong. I have become a beacon of hope in my community, to motivate other students and parents that they can dream big and they can succeed no matter the circumstances. Hearing my mother tell me that she was at a meeting where people in our local town discussed me as an example to advise other parents to not be afraid to remove their kids from boarding schools and allow them to attend local schools blew my mind (our town is that small, everyone knows what the other is up to, so when someone’s kids graduate or go overseas, everyone knows).

Getting this feedback is the essence of my educational experience and I honestly believe that stories and examples like these are the foundations that build legacies (there is an idea forming here).

At the moment, boarding schools in Zimbabwe are struggling to provide water and basic needs for students and a lot of parents are paying huge amounts of school fees, yet their children are going without basic needs.

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Image from iwpr.net

The economic situation in the country is dire and parents are facing the same tough decision that my mother faced years ago, to remove their children from prestigious boarding schools to local schools.

I realized today that I might think and feel that I am invisible, but the world sees me. I am a light in someone else’s life and that light can be used to fuel a young person’s dreams. I remembered 16-year-old me telling my mother not to worry, that I did not mind leaving boarding school. I can imagine the relief she felt as a parent at the time and also after watching me doing well in spite of it all. Hard work, dedication and a sense of purpose will always be rewarded. I have seen this in my lifetime and it shall forever be true.  To God be all the glory and honour!

I hope this encourages someone.

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Three ways to beat the trap of comparison…

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We live in a world where there is stiff competition in every aspect of our lives. There is always someone who is doing the things we want to do and from our limited perspective, they look like they are doing it better than us.  So often, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves with our peers. We are always on a clock that is socially constructed and we compare ourselves with each other based on this social timeline. It is a mental trap because it is the thought in our heads whenever we see someone else doing what we wish we could be doing, and it can be toxic if uncontrolled. It can turn into jealousy, low self-esteem, self-hate and even depression.

In the world of academia, this often leads to a phenomenon called imposter syndrome:

impostor syndrome
noun
noun: imposter syndrome
  1. the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.
    “people suffering from impostor syndrome may be at increased risk of anxiety”

When I was in grad school, I got caught up in the cycle of comparison and it often made me feel like an imposter.  Even now post-PhD, I find myself looking at my peers and it looks like they are doing better than I am doing. I even caught myself comparing myself with students who are just beginning their academic journey and feeling like they were better off because they seem to have more support than I ever did. The truth is this comparison is not helpful or productive, but it is also human nature. So, I don’t beat myself up about it. However, I do want to view myself in a way that is actually beneficial and not detrimental to my mental health, and comparing myself with others is not the way to do it.

Here are three of the ways to beat the comparison trap:

  • To celebrate others.

I want to try this instead of comparing myself with anyone. When you celebrate others, you are saying that “we all have different talents and it’s this person’s turn to shine so I am going to celebrate them without looking at my own circumstance.”  That reframes the narrative. I believe we all want to be surrounded by people who celebrate us and not compete with us. If one of us has a victory, we are all winning.

  •  Limiting social media

Social media is the best place to fall into the comparison trap, particularly Instagram where everyone is portraying their best lives and Twitter, where everyone is self-promoting. Limiting your time on these platforms might be one of the ways to stay grounded in your own reality and not allowing people (often strangers) to dictate how your life should look, where you should be and how you should be living.  If scrolling on social media for hours on end leaves you feeling drained, you are probably falling into the comparison trap. I recently looked at the type of people I follow because I realised this was also important. What is your timeline feeding you? Are you following people who live realistic lives, who post motivating stuff or it is the opposite? Some people feed off the “glamorous” lives posted on social media, but how real is it really?

  • Seeing myself the way God sees me,

That means that there is no way I can think of myself as less than capable. The word of God tells me that I am created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). God sees me as an amazing and talented individual, so that is who I am. It is all about FAITH and you can believe that too. The next time I am tempted to compare myself with someone else, I just have to remind myself that I am capable of doing all that I set my mind to. This may not be my time, but in due season, I will shine as I am meant to shine.

I only wrote about three ways but I am sure there are many more ways to stop comparing ourselves with others. Let me know some of the ways that work for you down below.

Happy Monday!!

The Value of Good Friendships

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire.

Francois de La Rochefoucauld

From recent conversations and generally observing the people around me, the value of a good friend has become more illuminated than it has ever been before. Having a good friend, even just one, is a really great blessing. A blessing which can significantly affect your life trajectory.

We often hear people talk about “the company you keep” and how “you are the sum total of the people you spend most of your time with”. I have seen this unfold in my life and those of the people around me. Most people do not invest much time in acquiring and keeping good friendships because we take it for granted. We think the people around us are good enough, but when last did you take stock of your friendships to check:

  • Are you helping each other to become better versions of yourselves?
  • Are you giving each other constructive advice or you spend time talking about other people or engaging in time-wasting activities?
  • Do you see your current friends in your future or you are just taking it one day at a time?
  • Are you being real with each other, or when you get together it is time to show off to each other, instead of building each other up?
  • If you would lose everything you own today, can you count on your current circle of friends to have your back?

If you can truly answer YES to these questions, then I can say you are in good friendships. Very few of us really take the time to evaluate our social interactions and this is dangerous. In 2018 and years before that, I spent a lot of hours with the wrong people who were not adding any value to my life. Only when you find yourself in the company of really good and meaningful individuals, do you start to notice the difference. I do not regret the people who have passed through my life, they also taught me a valuable lesson on friendships. Now, I am more careful who I bring into my circle.

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Happy to say that I have these women in my life

One of my friends said something that stuck with me this weekend. He was talking about ENERGY! and how each one of us gives off a certain vibe or energy which can be described as either positive or negative; life-changing and exciting or destructive energy. He said if you find people that are giving positive, life-giving, inspiring energy then reciprocate that because that is hard to come by. When it is reciprocated, it grows and you feed off each other’s positive energy and it can only get better from there. These are the kind of conversations I am trying to have in 2019.

Me and my close friends are always discussing pushing one boundary after the other. We are constantly challenging each other to do better and be better.  Me and Uche are always hyping each other up, calling each other boss ladies, LOL. It actually works because we put in the work to become what we confess everyday. We all need meaningful interactions, otherwise what are we expending our energy on? This is why it is also OK to outgrow some people and friendships that have reached a dead end. If the energy is off and the friendship has become more draining than useful, then it needs to go.

Wishing you a fruitful week and do take the time to evaluate and make solid friendships that make sense for your current life stage and for your future.

GG

A love story…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

He loved me when I didn’t know how to love myself

He tried to heal the scars that others had left

I didn’t even allow him to love me completely, but he still did

I told myself I was done with love because I was scared it would always end in pain

He didn’t care. His love was like a balm to my wounded heart, but I wouldn’t love him back

For years he tried to thaw the ice that had settled in my heart. In a way he lasted so long because I knew I needed him, my heart needed him

I knew that even when I failed to show my love, he would make up for my lack with the abundance of love that he had

Love is sweet when two people love each other equally, or at least 60/40. When one is fighting to stay and the other is fighting to leave, it dies a slow death

He loved me with all he had and I lost him because of the ones who had been, the ones who were not him, but whose faults had left me thinking every man is a bad man

He wasn’t a bad man, and I knew that. But, I was too broken to accept that he could be different.

How I wish he was here today, how I wish I could turn back the hands of time. Because now I know how to love and he will never know it. Now I understand the kind of love he had, the unconditional, warts and all kinda love that he gave me when I was at my lowest; the always-forgiving kind of love that he gave when I didn’t even know myself, hated myself.

He loved me enough to let me go, hoping that one day I would come back to him. Now he is another woman’s husband. And she is one lucky woman. I just hope he still has that capacity to love that he had when I knew him

Now all I have are memories of the time he told me that I would never find another love like this…

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

coffee, cup, morning

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.

Sunflower during Sunset

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

Are you worried about the future?

The future is a weird place that we all like to visit from time to time. As humans we just cannot help but spend time in an imagined future, full of hopes and dreams. But, for many of us, the future is filled with anxieties, worries and fears. What if I don’t make it? What if I don’t get that dream house? What if I end up alone? What if, what if, what if? It is an endless list…

Because it is the end of the year, everyone is thinking of the near future, 2019!!It is almost here, but we have already started saying what we want or hope for it to look like. Truth is, these are just more dreams. We have no way of knowing if our resolutions will actually come to pass. We can only hope that they do and put in as much work as we can to try and get there. But, are we ever really in control of what is going to happen to us?

Today I had a revelation. I was reading  Psalm 139:5 which says :

You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head

God goes before us, into our future and follows us, into the past. This means He already knows what the future holds and what we have been through before. He has seen it already.  What this means for me is that, there is no amount of worrying that is going to change what God has already planned for me. There is no amount of hard work that will change his purpose either. What this also means is that, when you surrender to His will for your life, you can live a life free from worry. If you pray for His will to be done in your life and trust that it will, then there is no need to be uncertain.

This was liberating for me. I am walking into 2019 with a certain feeling that I am going to WIN and everything is going to be just fine. That is a winning mindset.

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Happy New Year

Finding your passion

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I know a lot of you may still be wondering what it is you are really passionate about. And, if we are being honest, most of our African economies do not really leave room for passionate pursuits. I wrote in this post What drives me? about how most of us as Africans do most of what we do for survival, not because we are passionate about it. We have mouths to feed and bills to pay.

But, I don’t think we were born to just pay bills and die. That is why I believe each of us has a greater calling for their life, that something they were created just to do. It is not easy finding out what that something is, and again, most of our African backgrounds and the way we were raised do not really allow for following out-of-the-norm passions.

In my family, the youngest of us and the only male child decided that formal education was not his thing. He quit college before getting the degree and you can imagine the outcry in our very African family. A lot of things were said about him; “he is cursed”, “he has been bewitched”, “he is lazy”. I realized later that the fear in our African society is more what will happen to him if he is not employable. But these days, with the rife unemployment rate, he was probably going to be an unemployed graduate anyway.  My brother decided earlier on that he would rather pursue a life in arts and craft and he did not think doing a degree would benefit him in any way. He is talented at drawing and his drawings come from his rich imagination. He found his passion and dared to follow it, even though he was shunned and called a failure. I look at him now, as a 27-year-old man and he seems happy. He does not live a conventional life and never conformed to society’s standards.

Many of us are scared to walk the road never walked before. We are scared of following our passions and tend to choose the safe route. Yes, it pays the bills and often that takes priority over doing something you love. But, I would like to believe that one day, whilst following your dream, you can make a living from it. Maybe one day, my brother will thrive in his art and be able to sustain a comfortable living off it. It all takes hard work and that stubborn determination, to never give up and to keep trying.

 

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From my brother’s collection

 

I think we worry too much about conforming to society’s standards. Most African families want their sons to be doctors and lawyers, but is that even what they want to do with the rest of their lives? If your motivation is money, then finding your passion is not going to be easy.

Just wanted to share my thoughts this afternoon as I am feeling really inspired.

Day 17 Blogtember Challenge

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