Honest Musings(Part 2): Struggles of a young professional.

At the end of what can be termed the most trying quarter I’ve had to endure professionally (so far), I thought I should give an honest account of the struggles I have faced as a young professional and the lessons I have drawn along the way. Whereas this writing may resonate with others, I will mostly write from my perspective.

But before I start, here’s a musical attachment (which I believe explains this musing ) to accompany your reading:

The space I find myself in as a young professional is a whirlwhind of contradictions.

On one hand, I am entirely thrilled and overjoyed to have a job (the unemployment rate in my country and region is devastatingly low- my placement can’t be taken for granted). I feel achieved and privileged. Most days feel like blessings and I rarely doubt my potential and abilities.

On the other hand, however, I am just starting out- with a blank slate. Every day serving as a deposit in my bank of experiences. This means I am yet to make numerous errors and be filled with feelings of inadequacy and doubt along the way. People that have managed to rank high in the professional world attest to the fact that the journey is not one without struggles. But, much as we are told to expect struggles, the impact that downfalls may have on our mental health and well being has not been talked about enough. But no one can be blamed for this as it is largely a personal and subjective experience.

One of my personality traits is that I am a perfectionist. I usually like things done the right way and I take delight in positive results and accomplishments. This is as much of a blessing as it can be a “curse”. It is a blessing to the extent that this ability makes me go the extra mile in ensuring I do my level best in every discourse- socially, professionally, etc. However, it is a “curse” to the extent that it does not teach me how to surmount situations when regardless of doing my best; my best is not- good enough.

This has been the biggest struggle of being a young professional. There is an overwhelming desire to be immediately good (exceptional if anything). There is a tendency to knowingly and even unknowingly overlook the fact that our role models took years to perfect their craft and be able to navigate complex situations with ease. If there is a place where experience has proved to be a good teacher, it is the professional world. Young professionals, like myself, must be alive to this fact. We should not be too hard on ourselves as we journey and grow.

Lately, I have come to learn that what matters most is how many times I pick myself up after every down fall. As Taio Cruz sings in the embedded song, “sometimes the pain is what we need for us to grow“. All the failures experienced along the way are stepping stones as we strive for greatness. We must always appreciate the lessons that come with the journey and embrace both highs and lows.

I can’t wait to be a seasoned professional who would’ve risen above all the set backs and lessons and developed the required skill and expertise to THRIVE. Until then, I remain a struggling young professional who wakes up everyday and reminds herself that hitting rock bottom (the worst case scenario) only leaves room for one option- RISING ABOVE. Like Taio sings, “even with broken wings sometimes you find your way to FLY

The following points explain how I surmount feelings of inadequacy as a young professional:

  1. I remind myself that I am where I am for a PURPOSE, otherwise, I wouldn’t be there.
  2. I affirm myself. Take a bathroom break, look in the mirror and say: “I am smart, I am capable, I will WIN”
  3. I consult and have open conversations with my seniors, I ask how they dealt with setbacks when they were in my position and what they would advise me to do differently. I believe that there is power in community and that we are never without a friend.
  4. I listen to UPLIFTING music- works like a charm 🙂

How do you rise above feelings of inadequacy as a young professional or even generally?

It’s time to be: BIGGER; STRONGER & HARDER.

I CAN BE.

I WILL BE.

Sometimes, love comes… softly.

If you’re anything like me, you are or have been inclined to a rush-prone love. One that makes the head spin, legs weak and stomach rumble. For a long time, this was a version of love I held to be true. The spin of my head had to be strong enough to topple my head over my heels whenever I fell in love. Anything different was not ‘enough love’, or so I believed. Until, he came along …

His was the kind of love that came softly. It cradled my spirit and embraced my soul with a gentle kindness like none I had experienced before. But, “where was the rush I was accustomed to?” my heart often wondered. Doubting, if it would be safe to fall for this peculiar, yet wholesome version of love. But, the more he laid down the beat, the more I carried the tune. I knew there and then I did not want to be a ‘one man band’.

That’s when I learnt that sometimes, love comes … softly.

It softly learns your ways

It softly understands your scars

It softly holds your entire being- sometimes through the palms of affirming words

It softly and consistently chooses you over and over and over again

I’m grateful for my soft love.

Milestone: 50th Blog Post!!!!

I was about to blog another Honest Musing when I realised this is my 50th blog post!!!!! (insert frantic screams of joy!!!!). Honestly, for someone that started blogging as far back as 2016, I should be pulling more numbers. But, if you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I have not been a consistent blogger for a while and that I struggled with writers’ block for years (yeah that long… crazy, I know).

This year, I decided to be more intentional about growth and consistency as far as keeping this blog up and running is concerned. To be honest, writing is one of my all time effective coping mechanism- being unable to write despite my need to was not a good place for me to be. I am glad I made the choice to keep going at it and even more glad that I joined a community of fellow bloggers across Africa (SHOUT OUT AFRO BLOGGERS!!!) to help me stay committed- directly and indirectly. I am sooo excited for what the future holds for my blog and I.

Here’s a huge shout out and THANK YOU to:

  • All my readers
  • Everyone who has given me reviews so far
  • My muses (lol)
  • Fellow bloggers who keep on, despite. Your commitment and creativity inspires me to keep going at it.

I hope you all live on & read on!

The first taste of failure.

Finding the right words to explain the first taste of failure is one of the hardest things to do as it can be triggering.

Failure is subjective and what one would consider as failure may not be considered as such from another’s perspective. But try telling that to an eleven-year-old girl who has not achieved something she had been wanting so bad. The notion of a mere “perspective shift” is as impossible as it is insensitive.

Suddenly, all the prior awards and gratifications leading up to that point didn’t seem to carry as much weight.  Living through the consequences of the “failure” miles away from the people I loved was the salt on the wound. Furthest I’d been, most hurt I’d been, that far.

Learning how to fight the storm on my own. Wish I could say it built someone “so resilient that no amount of pain could ever shake her after that” but I’d be lying, this was just the beginning of the downs in life’s “ups and downs”. Every encounter unique in its own way.

Many drizzles later, the sun did shine- I learnt that life offers second chances and when it does… one must be brave enough to unapologetically grab them with both hands. 

The day after International Women’s Day.

It’s the day after International Women’s Day, this year we #ChoseToChallenge stereotypes and biases in the continuous fight for equality and smashing of the patriarchy. Yesterday was flowered with conferences, hashtags and empowering dialogues to honour women.

It’s the day after International Women’s Day and today is not as loud as yesterday. Work places are back to business as usual and the flowers given yesterday are slowly starting to wither away. The echoes of cries of emancipation for the girl child are still resounding though the tone is not as mighty and uniform as it was yesterday. Thankfully, the hope for a better tomorrow remains in sight.

It’s the day after International Women’s Day and very soon the days will turn into weeks which will turn into months up until next year, when yet again another theme will roll out and the fight will carry on.

But, my mind wanders to what will happen between now and the next International Women’s Day.

Will women receive the work force support that allies pledged yesterday?

Will women collaborate rather than compete as agreed yesterday?

Will the girl child be safer?

Will the world be kinder?

Will what we chose to challenge be truly challenged and hopefully defeated?

It’s the day after International Women’s Day and I hope-

I hope between now and the next International Women’s Day, we each play our part in making the world a better place for every woman.

Honest Musings (Part 1): Anxiety

I recently reached out to members of the Afro-bloggers group to ask how people manage to strike a balance between pouring out and not over sharing. Wearing my heart on my sleeves is something I have always struggled with- mostly as a defense mechanism. “Why should I share so much with anyone and everyone? Why should people get to know me that well?” – are some of the thoughts that flood my mind whenever I try to be open and vulnerable. But, I digress … In the conversation with other bloggers, a handful of people shared how being able to write about honest experiences, weaknesses and vulnerabilities was a courageous stance that unknowingly helped to heal others and pave way for the much needed conversations about life and living.

In light of the foregoing, I thought I should start an unlimited series of random honest posts which I will call : Honest Musings. In these sessions, I will share real life experiences and struggles from a lived or closely noticed perspective. The delivery will vary and I hope to collaborate with or feature some other amazing bloggers and their stories.

For the first part, I’ll talk about something I’m way too familiar with- ANXIETY.

You can play this song in the background as you read this musing (P.s for sensitive readers/listeners, please excuse the french):

What is anxiety?

The dictionary definition of anxiety is, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome”. Studies show that anxiety disorders are the most common form of emotional disorders and can affect anyone- AT ANY AGE. When one has anxiety, the feeling of excessive, irrational fear may be with them all the time. It is an intense and sometimes debilitating feeling.

From my lived experience, I agree with the dictionary and scholarly excerpts of anxiety shared above. Though I should add that no words can accurately describe the intensity and irrationality of the fear and worry that comes with anxiety. It’s for this reason that I embedded the song by Selena and Julia as I feel that their description is the closest to express what having to battle anxiety for me has been like. “I’ve got all these thoughts running through my mind, all the damn time and I can’t seem to shut it off.

Anxiety and Me.

What’s weird is I can’t pin-point when exactly I started having my panic attacks and anxiety. Growing up, I know I was usually unconsciously WORRIED about the smallest things. Like, when I accidently broke water glasses in my mum’s kitchen or when I was told to present something in primary school. I always just felt excessively apologetic and sad for the smallest things and much worse when things didn’t go my way.

The older I grew, the more intense these feelings got. The pressure of excelling academically and the detriments of the lack thereof did not make things any better. I remember one time in High school, I did not perform well in my end of term examinations- I spent hours behind some classroom blocks, shivering and crying. A friend who found me attempted to talk me out of it by highlighting how “others were having it worse than I was“.

But, that’s the thing with anxiety, it defies logic. It presents all the things that could go wrong so VIVIDLY and casts a shadow on everything else that could go well. It’s not as easy as “snapping out of it”. Professionally, it requires therapists to properly manage and spiritually (from a Christian perspective), it requires studying of the scripture and praying against it. That is the magnitude and intensity of anxiety.

Myths about anxiety & how to “do better”.

From my experience, there are a number of myths associated with anxiety which I find to be offensive. Understandably though, they usually come from people who genuinely do not know how to do better. Some common myths include:

  1. Anxiety is rooted in lack of gratitude. I have had people in the past always list things that have gone well in my life whenever I’m having anxiety about some unknown outcome. They seem to suggest, if I was grateful for the previously surmounted fears and worries, then there would be no logical reason to be “beaten down” by whatever hurdle. Such a perspective is as flawed as it is insensitive, regardless of the noble intentions that may be underlying. A better approach if found in a situation were you’re required to be there for someone battling is to acknowledge that there feelings are valid and walk them through how that particular situation can not lead to the outcome they are worried about or just assure them that you’ll be there for them and with them regardless. After all, “we all need somebody to lean on”.
  2. Anxiety can easily be shut down. Drawing from the lyrics of the embedded song- “I’ve been told I could take something to fix it, damn I wish it- I wish it was that simple“. It must be understood that anxiety is an emotional disorder that affects one’s mental health, it needs as much attention and care as any physical ailments one may have. Being empathic about it is one way to definitely do better.
  3. One can’t be happy and have anxiety. If you ever thought in these lines, please think again- it is very possible for one to be generally happy in their lives and still battle with anxiety when it comes to certain aspects.

How to cope with anxiety.

As narrated above, anxiety is not the easiest to “snap out of”. It is a continuous process of adhering to carefully crafted copying mechanisms. This much I know. We live in a very triggering world- now more than ever. Everything around us is so uncertain; this means that more people are battling with anxiety now more than ever.

Depending on the intensity of the anxiety, some coping mechanisms that have worked for me and that have been recommended by experts include:

  1. Improved wellbeing. This is very subjective, but in simple terms it can be said to just do more of what you love- a “breather” or an “escape” . My escape is usually music and poetry. I literally get lost in words and find myself there.
  2. Regular exercise. I love taking walks when I’m overwhelmed, I find it very relaxing and good for the mind. Others may run, do yoga, or swim whichever exercise seems to be for you- do what you can to take care of your mental health.
  3. Therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotherapy are recommended by experts.
  4. Medication. These should only be taken as and when they are prescribed by doctors.

Closing remarks: For anyone who has been battling with anxiety, please know that your feelings are valid. You are not alone and you are never without a friend. Sending love and light!

HELLO, FEBRUARY.

February is arguably most people’s favourite month. Not only does it have the least number of calendar days, it is also flavoured with romance and affection flowing from the celebrated “Valentine’s Day”.

Research shows that the word February is derived from the Latin word “Februarius” which means  “to purify“. It is worth noting that, February was known as the “Month of Purification” during ancient Roman times.

I find the meaning attached to the word February to be very befitting as it truly is a month of purification for most people- knowingly and unknowingly. December is usually characterized with year end fun or pressure, as the case may be. January is usually a pressure filled month with people being intentional about various new beginnings and payment of bills feeling burdensome after “Decembering”. It is no surprise that January is jokingly tabbed as “Jan-worry” lol.

February is a stable month. A transition with less anxiety and pressure. I usually step into the month of February with a sigh of relief for surviving Jan-worry.

February allows me to still focus on my set goals only this time, it is from a place of continuity and a pace of reasoning- drawing from lessons learnt in the past month.

February is also the birth month of most of my favourite people and celebrating their gift of life and love is always so special for me. As a lover of love, Valentines usually gets me psyched and it is fulfilling to witness the multiple yet varying expressions of love.

I am excited to see what February 2021 has in store for me! I hope it keeps my mind pure and free from any stress.

Happy, February!

About 2021

“I do not know what my tomorrow holds, but I know who holds my tomorrow”

Some years ago, I used to be BIG on resolutions. December was mostly my month of deliberate and intensive introspection. I would put pen to paper and list down things that went according to plan in the previous year, self loathe through the failures that could have been avoided and spiritedly plan for the following year.

My resolutions were like a year long to-do-list. Whereas there are many benefits that come from having years planned out to the dot, the spontaneity of life is such that most times, life will not flow in the planned direction (But, I will not dwell much on this because 2020 thoroughly handed down this lesson to all of us).

In the recent past, I have been more reluctant about setting year long resolutions. Instead, I plan for the month, week, day or any shorter term as I perceive it to be more… foreseeable and contextual.

To attempt to write about my hopes and plans for 2021 is extremely scary. 2020 taught me that hope is frail and plans can be very easily disrupted. That notwithstanding, some plans I have (that can be ‘publicly’ shared) include:

  1. TO WRITE MORE!!!! – I honestly do not have any logical explanation for my inconsistency as far as keeping this blog alive is concerned. This year, I hope I keep the fire constantly burning. (If you’re reading this and know me personally, feel free to make me accountable)
  2. TO BE MORE HEALTHY– I don’t know if this qualifies to be a resolution/plan in the strictest sense because it should be a given, innit? But well, I hope to be more deliberate and consistent with avoiding unhealthy- food, spaces, situations, people, ALL THAT.
  3. TO BE MORE INTENTIONAL ABOUT (+CONSISTENT WITH ) LOVING MY LOVED ONES- If you’ve read my post about what 2020 taught me, you would know that I spent most of my 2020 alone, physically (and if I’m being honest, emotionally) detached from my loved ones. This year I hope to be more expressive, loud and suffocating with my love. 🙂
  4. TO DO MY BEST– this is also one of those “vague cliché resolutions” but regardless, I hope I maintain the pace and desire it takes to simply… do my best. In anything and everything. Despite whatever comes my way. I plan to be intentional about harnessing my agility and resilience skills so as to rise above unexpected hurdles.

All in all, I pray God blesses my plans and gives me the wisdom and grace to accept His plans for me (which may vary from what I may have in mind).

What are your plans for 2021?

What 2020 taught me.

I sternly believe it can be unanimously agreed that 2020 was a life altering year for EVERYONE. We all experienced the unexpected and had varying responses and reactions to the change.

This blog is a summary of some of my key lessons that came from the year (in no particular order).

  1. What doesn’t kill you … gives you unhealthy coping mechanisms if not addressed.

I know most times “what doesn’t kill you” is followed by a hope-filled, matter-of-factly-delivered: “MAKES YOU STRONGER!!!”. It’s almost as if any other outcome of surviving “what doesn’t kill you” save for being made stronger would be unthinkable.

Whereas the optimist in me believes in the sun shining again and flowers blooming after the rain, the realist in me is alive to the fact that there is a process between when the rain falls and when the flowers begin to grow. The muddy process, the one that messes up bright clothes and in worst cases even causes floods (if you’re from Lusaka you know this ALL TO WELL).

It is in that space that 2020 handed me this first lesson. Teaching me the importance of buying rain coats, protective boots and avoiding certain flood prone areas as I waited for the sun to shine (of course, metaphorically speaking). I learnt that it is okay at worst and EXTREMELY IMPORTANT at best to be deliberate about discovering and adhering to healthy coping mechanisms. I learnt that, in as much as hope is the rope we use to hold on to life when we cannot cope (barrrrrrrs!! lol), it is vital to do something about our situations in the present as we hope for a better tomorrow.

2. Change is inevitable, change is… GOOD.

With the coming in of the unexpected Corona Virus *DEEP SIGH*, the entire world was forced into a phase of change. The previously unheard of and almost abominable social distancing became the life saving order of the day. Face masks became a norm and most of reality took a sudden virtual shift.

As is expected of every change, it was not easy to completely adapt my personal way of life to fit this “new normal”. Those who know me well enough, know that I am a… Chronic Hugger (if there’s such a thing lol) and physical touch is one of my primary love languages. As such, being limited in this light… absolutely sucked.

However, there were a number of positives that I would regard as a good that came from the change. For instance, remote working was a change that I fully embraced, the ability to deliver regardless of my physical location was the flexibility I never knew I needed. Additionally, spending most times in doors with limited in-person interactions allowed me to introspect more and get to know myself better, I count that as another good.

3. The volatility of life.

2020 was a year of so much loss in my personal space, in the lives of my loved ones and in the world at large. The brevity of life and closeness of death became more apparent last year than it has ever been in the years past. It forced me to learn to love better and to live each day like it was my last.

To any reader grieving the loss of a loved one- I send you love and light. Please accept my sincere condolences. May the souls of all our departed loved ones, continue resting in Eternal Peace.

4. Dreams come true!!! No matter how seemingly trivial they may be.

The final lesson from 2020 was that, my dreams are VALID no matter how small they may seem. One of my trivial yet life long dream came true in 2020. This sparked an inexpressible joy in me and reminded me that all dreams come true- some just take longer than others.

Closing remarks: Like the picture attached to this writing, 2020, as seen from the lessons I’ve shared was a blend of “colours”. Some brighter than others. A month into 2021 and most of the struggles faced in 2020 still exist, I don’t know what lessons I’ll share about 2021 but I do hope it has more highs than lows.

The volatility of life

dove

I lost my cousin today.

He died of  a short illness.

Lots of thoughts flooded my mind- I usually go through a similar phase whenever I hear of the passing of someone I knew personally.

Do they know?

Do they have even the slightest clue that this could be it?

Or are they met by shock?

What is it like on the other side? I wonder.

Do they miss us like we miss them?

Do they look back and wish they could have done, re-done or not done certain things?

In times like this, it dawns on me that life is…. volatile.

Any day could be my last day.

And most times I wonder, what the last day will be like.

Will I know?

Will I be met by shock?

What will finally close my door of life- an illness? an accident? murder?

Will I be ready?

Would I have lived a fulfilling life the time death will knock on my door?

What will I be remembered by?

Who will remember me?

….. Any day could be my last day. The volatility of life….

[RIP Mwila, till we meet again]