Friday, 28 November 2014

Two Feelings - They Don't Mix

This past summer, sis and I were with our then 5yo niece as we headed to my home for a Girls' Night. Pulling her lil carry-on beside us, I noticed she didn't seem her usually excited self. I asked her what was up.
"I'm happy and I'm sad," she said.
"Oh. So, mixed feelings?" I asked.
"No. Two feelings," she replied in a beat.

Sis later made a joke about that moment, saying Kiki was very clear about her feelings; that "they don't mix." Lol!

I thought of that moment sometime earlier this week. It came to mind shortly after the Grand Jury's decision on whether to indict Officer Darren Wilson was announced. Wilson was not (even) indicted for the August 9, 2014 killing of Michael Brown.

Much has been written about this, including: how the prosecutor's statement sounded more like a defence of the officer; the theories behind waiting until late evening to make the announcement, and so on. A quick Google search will reveal tonnes of articles.

My two cents' on it is about my two feelings - unmixed - that came after the announcements and the protests.

There will always be racism, as long as people exist.

We should not give up advocating for respect and justice for Blacks. Black Lives Matter - as the recent online and offline campaigns remind. Yes. Strides are being made.

Black people in America are hurting like crazy; it's like a wound that doesn't heal. I've said it in another space (in writings of yesteryear) and I might write about it some other time in this space. I am sensitive to the racial tension that exists in the USA. But, it is not my lived experience. My experience, growing up in Jamaica, has entailed run-ins with colourism. But, more anon.

On the first point, I believe people have their biases and prejudices. Generations to come will have biases and prejudices. There is something inherent in some human beings that, for some reason, makes them believe they are better than others in some way. It may concern race; complexion; social status; money... And, people don't change. I've heard my dad with this Jamaican saying: What born inna kid, dead inna goat. Another 50 years from this, there will still be run-ins between Black people and white officers in America. There will always be that officer. Laws, policies, protocols, etc., hopefully, may allow for greater accountability and for justice to be done - and to be seen to be done. I saw a picture on Twitter shortly after the shooting occurred in Ferguson in August. (Pardon the language, btw.) For me, it sums up the feeling of frustration and yet, an acknowledgement, that the fight doesn't end, only the fighters change.

(Pic via Twitter. Happy to give credit. If you own this pic and wish it removed, please let me know.)

And that's where the second feeling comes in. The fight, the advocacy, the campaigns and awareness-raising must continue. Because they do make a difference. Blacks - and the general consciousness of racial injustices - have come a long way since the 1960s. I wrote a piece along those lines during my early days on this blog, shortly after the announcement of President Obama's first win. A cursory glance would reveal that much has changed since the '60s - for the better. And, 50 years from this, much will have changed - for the better.

In a real sense, it is a realization of that truism: The more things change, the more they remain the same.


Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Freak Out...Then Figure It Out

About a year or so ago, a sis and I were having a conversation about a new opportunity. It was not a hand-in-glove fit, but that did not make it any less desirable. My advice was to say yes. After all, strengths, transferable skills, and experience would help her be good at it in no time. I shared with her my approach:
  • Say yes to the opportunity. 
  • Freak out about how daunting it looks. 
  • Figure out how to do the task. 
Here's the thing: You don't want a great opportunity to pass you by, all for the sake of lacking a bit of experience in a particular area. If you pass that up, thinking there's no use going after it, you'd have done yourself a disservice. Go for it. Let the recruiters/selectors decide. If your résumé, or a contact, gets you an interview/meeting, make the best of it. Don't keep yourself off the list when, had you tried, you would've made the shortlist - and likely got hired/selected.

Funny, but, some months after the conversation with sis, I saw a quote by Richard Branson making the rounds on social media. It was, essentially, the same message. Given that I had shared my approach with sis long before I got wind of his quote, I have no reservations about expounding on what I shared with her here.

I'm not shy when it comes to networking, nor about letting the right people know I'm on the lookout for something new. There have been people who've given me a heads-up about new opportunities, simply because I was top of mind when the news landed on their desk - because they knew I had an interest. Additionally, along the way, I've participated in mentorship programs - as mentor and mentee. In these professional relationships, the terms of engagement are made clear at the outset. Whatever they may be, as a mentee, I never lose sight of one thing: I have a responsibility to honour the time and effort my mentor puts in. It may come in the form of making time in a busy schedule to have a chat over coffee/hot chocolate. Or, it may be in the form of helping me make connections. So, even if I feel under the weather when that email comes in - "I got you 20 minutes with so-and-so. Schedule something with her Admin." - my immediate response is stteo: "Great! Thank you! I'm on it!" And, I get on it. Right away. I can always climb out from under the weather later. I respect my time, too. So, I have to ensure my preparation (research pre-meeting) and execution time is not wasted.

There have been lessons along my career path. For sure. I remember there was a time when I used to allow awful co-workers or bosses to ruffle my feathers. But, I later learned a precious gem from a manager who was as frank as she was brilliant. "Claudia," she said, "I just tell myself I'm not taking them home with me." That became a mantra for me. Since then, co-workers and I live happily ever after. Well, not exactly. But, close enough. :-) So, lessons, yes. But strides and triumphs have been far more and far greater. My journey has been blessed.

In a nutshell, this is how I've been moving along the path:
  • Pray.
  • Seek a new opportunity. (This includes networking.)
  • Give thanks for closed doors. (There's something to learn from every interview.)
  • Be ready for open doors. (Can't pray for rain then leave your umbrella - ella - ella...) :-)
  • Accept the challenge. 
  • Freak out! (If need be. Even phone a friend and share the adrenaline.)
  • Work hard and figure it out.
  • Excel.
  • Give thanks.
What's sometimes surprising is how others see you (doing a great job) vs. how you see yourself. There's a thin line between confidence and hubris, but, it's good to believe in yourself. No use in playing small. Shine. Your light will help others. I've learned that, too.

One of my favourite Monk lines is from Mr. Monk Meets His Dad. He was trying to convince his dad that his boss was "The guy." His father wasn't buying it. Monk looked him in the eye and asserted that he's a detective. "It's my job, and I'm good at it."

Love that.


Saturday, 8 November 2014

Some Writing Should Not Be Read

Some writing should not be read. That's a pretty forward statement for a writer to make. It is also a conclusion that comes weighted with much thought and second guesses. For, after all, aren't all writers on a journey? Each travelling a path which, although similar in some ways, is very different in others? The struggle is similar; the struggle is subjective; the struggle is real.

Given the uniqueness of the journey, and the fact that each of us faces the next step for the first time, our readers understand that we are prone to errors. We don't always strike the right note. And, if it's one thing that every writer comes to find out, it is this: Words are powerful beings. They take on a life of their own. They cut; they heal; they hurt; they mend; they build; they destroy. And when you think you're finally over them, a familiar scent can bring memories of words spoken - and how - rushing back, unheralded and unhindered. There will be blood. Yes, things will sometimes get real messy up in here.

But, while we understand the limitations and ramifications of words uttered and media used, we do not have to subject ourselves to crap. And I'm not talking about the saying, "Bad writing is contagious." I don't know about you, but I have to be careful about what I take into my system.Things have a way of...lingering, for better or for worse. So, if I simply get wind that a piece of writing is crap (not crappy - I trust you to infer the difference), I stay away from it.

To me, writing that puts some persons up only by putting others down; that makes a person question their value and self-worth and feel they're sorely lacking; that reinforces the notion that one group is better than another, is not the kind of writing that should be fed upon. It gets into the psyche and...and does things - ugly things. Quite simply, it may leave someone feeling that they are not good enough; that the quality of life they heretofore enjoyed is, all of a sudden, not up to par. I've written before about people making different choices and doing what makes them happy - Squeezing Life Out of Life. What they do and how they define success and perfection will very often not be the same as someone else's. One of my grandmothers used to say, "Everybody pot nuh boil at the same time." We will not all get what we desire at the same time. As a matter of fact, given our differences as...oooh, I dunno, human beings? We do not all have the same ingredients cooking in our pots. And, to boot, it bears recalling that tastes do differ. Imagine yourself coming to my house and telling me that the delicious spread I've spent all day preparing is not...'ow you saaay? (French accent) ideal, because it does not resemble my neighbour's? The struggle is real for everybody. And, if the struggle is subjective, then, so too, is the definition of success.

What really saddens me is there are those with much influence - well, if you can call it that, in a small pond where the little fish thinks he's a shark - who are looked upon as thought leaders. (A moment of silence as we let that sink in.) It is neither fair, nor right, for young minds to be subjected to, and shaped by, writers and spewers of ideas who translate and transfer their insecurities into words on a page to be consumed as truth by the malleable. Ideas that feed divisiveness; that drive a wedge between haves and have-nots; that cause young minds and hearts to feel they've failed even before they've begun, and slap the cheeks of unsung heroes, are unwelcome 'round these parts.

When it comes right down to it, are we too busy brown-nosing, or trying to be validated by someone, or serving the Kingdom of Me - population One? Or are we performing the random acts of kindness, or helping someone who can't repay us, or hugging a child, or stopping to smell the roses...? You know, like gems we love to post in our Social Media fiefdoms.

Sigh. We don't always get it right. But, I really believe it is important to try to make a positive difference. Like that quote by Woodrow Wilson says, "We are not here merely to make a living, but to enrich the world with a finer spirit of hope and achievement and we impoverish ourselves if we forget the errand."