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The Makings Of A Man: 31 Things The Last Year Taught Me

 

On the eve of my 31st birthday I caught myself devouring a shawarma wrap with such unthinking and savage dexterity that I actually had to take a pause and reflect on life itself. And in the middle of that pause all the ambivalence I had been nursing about turning 31 dissipated. In its place was a renewed enthusiasm. Suddenly celebrating my last calendar birthday (Apparently it’s a thing.) didn’t seem so frivolous.

I realise that this could be the most meaningful year of my life yet. In the bigger scheme of things 31 has its place. It’s a year-long step into the thirties. 52 more weeks away from the glorious twenties and one more step into the rest of my life.

Starring down at what was left of that shawarma I realised I have so much to be thankful for. I am eating. I am here. Not everyone made it this far. These years are blessings.

My twenties were all over the place. It was a decade of constantly moving between cities, countries and continents. My twenties were all about risky behaviour, confident assertions, and delusions of having it all figured out by 30. It was the decade of were trial and error was my modus operundi.

Not so much with my thirties.

Being just one year in, I can already tell that the thirties will be very different. My thirties are going to be the decade of negotiating my most precious resource, my time. It is going to be the decade of deciding what to ignore and what to peer into. My thirties are going to be about appreciating the deliciousness of slowing down and turning inward. This next decade will be about which parts of me get refined and which get sacrificed among the embers.

The way 30 delightfully whizzed past me, I can tell that my entire thirties could end up as a breathless blur. Like the gap of white space between a before and after photo between the twenties and forties. And this only serves to encourage me to live each day to the fullest and to create memories with the people that matter.

And to think it took me eating a shawarma wrap to finally embrace becoming a thirty something. I know. I am a weirdo, and I am so random, but I actually cool with that. I like the person I am becoming. I like the person I have grown into. Even if it’s not every one’s cup of tea.

Life is crazy and beautiful like that.

It’s become something of a tradition since I started this blog to share some of the lessons I learned during the year. I always try to do this around the time of my birthday. And this year is no different. So …

Here are the 31 things I learned in the last year.

 

  1. Becoming a writer was the easy part. Staying a writer, much harder
  2. Time has a great way of revealing intentions, the truth and character. Trust time. Time always does its work.
  3. You can’t learn if you aren’t willing to listen.
  4. You will have bad times , but they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to.
  5.  The internet is always in a constant state of either making you feel better or worse about your life. Just depends on the day. Also, The Humans Of New York Facebook page just might be my favourite on all the internets.
  6. Happiness depends on knowing when to be kind to yourself. Purpose, on when to be tough on yourself.
  7. There is a vast difference between advancement and culture. You can be advanced and modern without losing your culture.
  8. You don’t get to chase a new dream and keep your old life. When it’s time to dream be brave enough to leave behind the things you must.
  9. I still don’t understand how one would sip from one’s cup til it runneth over. Regardless Jay Z is still the King of the double entendre and metonym.
  10. Conversations that unlock a picnic in our minds, a paradise for our souls to meet. Delicate sips of an intoxicating essence. That.
  11. Understanding that acceptance is a form of understanding is one the greatest of understandings to understand.
  12. I have been supporting Manchester United for twenty one years now. And until David Moyes happened I had no idea what heartbreak really felt like.
  13. I love the smell of rain. Only a few things are more soothing than the soft thrum of raindrops falling outside my window.
  14. The harder we try to escape who truly are, the further we get from lives of meaning.
  15. The man who knows “how” will always have a job, the man who also knows “why” will always be his boss.
  16. Sam Smith is a really soulful dude. You actually feel his voice before you hear it. Also, ‘Latch’ (Acoustic version) makes you want to never fall in love, but fall in love at the same time.
  17. The ability to say NO out of respect for your well-being is a priceless life skill. When you can do it with ease, you avoid so much torment.
  18. Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty beer glass. (See, it’s a thing.)
  19. The only thing that keeps me sane is reading and all these attempts at trying to nurture my own intellectual development.
  20. Most people will hardly understand what you’re trying to do until it’s done.
  21. Victory introduces you to the world, but defeat introduces the world to you.
  22. Life is a language we will never be fluent in. But that shouldn’t stop us from learning it even with all the mistakes it may come with.
  23. In solitude and silence many questions are answered.
  24. There is eloquence in true enthusiasm that is not to be doubted.
  25. The difference between success and failure is just a decision to keep trying.
  26. “Apologies” and “Thank You’s” are the best way to create a conversation on your terms.
  27.  There is no easy way out for big problems; but there is always a way out
  28. Experience is what you get just after you need it.
  29. ‘Bae’ is such a beautifully ambiguous word. And even though I have used  fleek’ on occasion, I am still not entirely sure if I use it correctly.
  30. There is no such thing as life that’s better than yours. No. Such. Thing.
  31.  Do you. Always.

 

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Posted by on January 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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I’ll Never Let My Son Have An Ego

iTunes shuffle is the best thing since sliced bread. There. I said it. Now that we have gotten that out the way , back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Earlier I was contemplating what exactly I was going to write about for this series of blogs I have been doing this week on the lessons my father taught me. There are so many lessons and I was struggling to pick one particular lesson to share today. But whilst listening to the song ‘New Day’ by Kanye West and Jay Z I knew I wanted to talk about my father’s legacy to me and the legacy I hope to one day pass on to my own son should I ever be fortunate enough to have one.

‘New Day’ is one of the more emotional and introspective tracks off Jay Z and Kanye’s collaborative album ‘Watch The Throne’. In the song both Kanye and Jay have conversations with their unborn sons. A constant theme in both rappers lyrics is a desire to give their future sons better opportunities and a better life than they had growing up. They are not necessarily speaking about material wealth. Their wish is that their sons become better men than they were. They want their sons to not have to make the same mistakes they did.

‘And I’l never let my son have an ego. He’ll be nice to everyone, wherever we go. I might even let him be Republican so they know he loves white people …. Don’t want him to be hated all the time. Don’t be like your Daddy that would never budge’ – Kanye West ‘New Day’

Most fathers are accused of trying to make their son’s into miniature versions of themselves. If it’s not that then they are accused of trying to live out their broken hopes and dreams vicariously through their sons lives. some mistakenly believe providing their kids with material wealth will suffice. But there is also another narrative. Father’s whose aim is that their son’s become their own man and best possible man they can be. Father who spend time and make an effort to nurture the character of their sons.These father’s are more focused on the legacy that they live their sons. That legacy is often some aspect of their character or lessons learned from their own mistakes. The values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

‘Sins of a Father make your life ten times harder. I just wanna take you to a barber, bonding on charter’s, shit I never did. Teach you good values so you cherish it…. Took me 26 years to find my path, my only job is to cut your time in half …’- Jay Z ‘New Day’

My dad’s personal career success meant very little to me as a child. It is his character and the man that he is that has had a greater impact on how I approach my life. That is what I believe is his legacy to me. From an early age my dad taught me that people will treat you the way you allow them to. He also taught me that I should never let anyone tell me that I couldn’t achieve anything. It was very important to him that I became my own man and that I learn to make my own decisions from a very early age. He afforded me a great deal of autonomy on my life. This is not to say he let me just be. Whenever he thought I was losing my way he would never hesitate to gently guide me back onto the right path. And all the time he managed to make feel like I was in control and in charge of my life but I knew if I ever needed any help he was always there. My dad gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give another person. He always believed in me, even when I doubted myself.
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Whenever I tell my dad any of my plans he always says the same thing. I remember when I first told I wanted to write a book. Despite my trepidation he was true to form and said to me” Make sure you follow through with it. Whatever you start, you must always finish.” Anything my dad has ever started he has always seen it to the end. So in that regard he has led by example. And that is probably one of his greatest legacies to me. Because for all the things he has taught me the greatest lessons I have learned have been from following his example. I just hope by the time I have a son I will be able to do the same for him.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2014 in Lessons From My Father

 

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Lessons From My Twitter Detox

Twitter is a fascinating platform. At its very best it delights and instructs. It is also a formidable networking tool. It is a bridge to worlds and people you would otherwise never have the pleasure of interacting with. It breaks and covers news at such a swift pace “old media” can’t keep up as witnessed during the “Arab Spring” and other revolutions around the world. Twitter is also great for raw commentary on other live events like sports instantly placing your fingers on the pulse of your hand picked community. At its worst Twitter can feel like the mental equivalent of dozens of people talking into your ear all at once. It feels superfluous, a platform for the narcissistic and banal.

 For me Twitter has been a conduit for more good than bad. I have a hyperactive brain and an almost insatiable need for information. Twitter makes me feel like I am not alone in my thinking. Occasionally somebody on my timeline mirrors my own mindset. They condense and articulate my spirit in a great joke, epigram or apercu. A lot of the times when I tweet I am just talking to myself. Twitter gives voice to the introvert in me. Twitter gives my overactive mind an arena for it to do its acrobatics. The problem with acrobatic shows with no referee or rules is that you can do significant harm to yourself or others.

Whilst Twitter is a great way to share and expose myself to a variety of ideas I have come to the realization that this constant exposure isn’t always necessarily  conducive to a sense of balance, stability or  ideas being able to take root. By the time I read something compelling on one website, there is another article being praised on my timeline. There is always another issue to be outraged about, something else to critique or another celebrity scandal that warrants stepping on the digital soapbox. There is always something to say or consume. That is the deceptive thing about Twitter. It can make you feel as if you’re actually doing something, even if you’re not. It not only serves as the distracter in chief, but is one of procrastination’s strongest allies.

Twitter has helped my writing in many ways. Twitter democratizes expression and gives a necessary public to writer’s, and types of writing, that otherwise would be confined to the hard drive. I am no exception. Following and interacting with other writer’s has helped me grow as a writer. It serves as a sounding board for my ideas. Some of my tweets have been the first drafts of the pieces I have written. The 140 character has somewhat tamed the rambler in me, schooling me on brevity and wit. On Twitter I have consciously curated my timeline to ensure the mélange of personalities and organizations I follow mentally stimulate me in a variety of ways. There are the people who tweet obscure yet fascinating and illuminating links to longer reads. The people who keep me updated on the latest developments in the worlds of Hip Hop, F1 and Manchester United. The writer’s who inspire me.  Finally, there were those who professed ideologies are diametrically opposed to mine but have a compelling way of conveying them.

Despite all this I quietly worried that inhabiting a 140-character universe meant my thoughts and writing were becoming staccato. Twitter was slowly eroding the patience and care I applied to my writing. It wasn’t as symbiotic as I needed it to be. There was an immediacy, automatism and compulsiveness, that I found becoming more and more disturbing. This all came to a head recently when a friend was telling me something and I found myself thinking to myself. ‘I don’t remember seeing that on Twitter”. Not to mention moments when something would happen and I would mentally step out of the moment to wittily capture the moment in a tweet.

A little over a week ago I made an active decision to take a step back from Twitter. I was in a losing battle for my soul and sanity. I need to revaluate my relationship with Twitter. I decided “F*ck hashtags and retweets. 140 character’s in these streets.” It was time for a Twitter detox. The premise was simple. No tweeting.

 Stepping out of the information cyclone that I had helped foster meant my thought process slowed down because I was exposed to less. The detox has been far from simple. The more I have been away from Twitter the more tweet worthy my experiences have seemed. So it’s been harder not to tweet. I have had my 10 year old cousin staying at my house. Engaging with him without distractions has been a fulfilling experience. I have been encouraged by his candidness and childlike curiosity. He reminded me of the vibrancy and beauty that exists in the world outside of these pixelated screens.

My detox reminded me that I needed to sit more. Sit with my thoughts. Sit at restaurants with family and friends without scrolling through my phone. Sit with disruptive emotions until there was some form of resolution (or not). Either way sitting and slowing down was a welcome change from the constant connectivity and speed.  The most important lesson I can take away from my Twitter detox is the need to strike a balance between the 140 characters in these streets and the 140 characters in tweets. I am determined to make Twitter work for me and not the other way round.

 Twitter, can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Three Little Words.

A few weeks ago I shared on this very blog some of the lessons  that I have learned in the year leading up to my 29th birthday. To say I was overwhelmed with how that particular piece resonated with readers is a gross understatement. The conversations that grew out of it were so enriching. After all was said and done it was a humbling experience.

As I slowly navigate my way out of my twenties I have slowly started to appreciate more and more some of the bigger lessons that I have learned over the last decade. In my twenties I discovered that I (mostly) knew nothing at all. It has been a period in my life when I began to unlearn some of the things I thought I had learned. In hindsight, as chaotic and uncomfortable as my twenties have often been, I realise that the changes had to come together; otherwise their individual impact would have been negligible.

It was reflecting on this that I realised that I had left out an important lesson that I had not only learned in the past year, but I continue learning and has been a product of the many relationships I have been privileged to be a part of in my twenties.

I have a big ego which often manifests itself in a need to be right. Managing my ego and letting go of the need to be right has been a struggle. I am the eldest child. I was reared to be right and lead. I was reared to think cogently and debate effectively.  I reveled in intellectual sparring. I recognise now that on some level, I reveled in it, not just because it provided me an opportunity to learn, but a chance to feed my ego. I was never a gracious debater. Though my words were said with class, the aim was to wound my opponent. Defeat them using whatever tool I had to employ. Logos, ethos, pathos, or a witty remark that they would spend half the debate trying to unpack. This was not how I was raised, but it is what I made myself. Plus when you are losing in the other arenas of life, winning a debate (however pointless) can be incredibly self-affirming.

Then it happened. I was the recipient of the intellectual humiliation I had liberally handed out for years. This was both a horrible and great thing.  It sharpened my mind, but cut my heart. I realised what it is to be made to feel small, just because someone wants to arrogantly convey a futile point. Their urge to make a point means they dismiss your feelings, the basic need for you to feel respected, welcome, like you are worth something.

I lost my need to be right because I realised that most of the time I was wrong. I realised that spending my life constantly proving the merit of my nascent, myopic opinions, meant I was constantly losing opportunities to learn something else. Something more dazzling (or it could be something boring) either way, my attachment to the traditions and beliefs I allowed to rule my mind, meant my view of the world wasn’t expanding at the rate it should or could.

As I have slowed learned to manage my ego and subsequently abandoned my need to be right, I have started to grasp the redemptive and humbling power of asking for forgiveness. I have learned the power of those three little words “I am sorry”. Historically, I had been great at apologising. Not so much at actually saying “I am sorry”. My apologies were formal, guarded, and professional. They could be framed with intellectualism and delivered in a tone that suggested a concession had been made on my part.  I had let cold apologies govern my relationships when they were on the brink of collapse and in desperate need of warmth.

When I said, “I apologise” I knew precisely what I was doing. I love words, their power and how they can transport you to a realm you didn’t know existed. I knew if I said “I am sorry” from my essence and with all my truth, it required vulnerability, raw honesty, humility,t he type of strength that looks like weakness to the untrained eye and courage. If they rejected my “I am sorry” it would mean that I would have shown them how much I cared and it didn’t matter (enough) to them. My ego wouldn’t let that happen.

When I apologised, I made the healing process about me. As I have grown I have begun to appreciate the redemptive power of the words “I am sorry” and how when said with earnestness, transparency and penitence, they could bind up wounds that once seemed irreparable – it dawned on me. It isn’t about me or my ego. It’s about them. It’s about their healing.

A week after I posted that piece I said “I am sorry” to someone.

I said sorry because my words to them, though true, were harsh and were not conveyed righteously. In my effort to be honest, I had forgotten to be loving. And this was to a person who I love and care about. Who like all of us is frail and flawed, but deserves to be told the truth in a spirit of love rather than one of bluntness. What’s the point in making a point if it scars rather than heals? The person will never remember the point, but they’ll always remember how it scarred them and how it felt when your words pierced their heart.

So I said I am sorry. Reminded them that their beauty, courage and greatness, far outweighs any misdeeds they could ever do. That I hoped they would always remember those words, rather than my accusations of the evening before.  They accepted my “I am sorry”

It was only after reflecting on this that it dawned on me that my ego had for a long time inhibited my ability to say sorry. And now that I had learned to manage it and let go of my need to be right, I was free. Witnessing them heal sets me free. Not free from the guilt of the deed that sparked the process, but free to say “I am sorry” again, to someone else.

Free to reembark on friendships that I believed were broken or dead. Free to pick up the phone and call family members who though living, feel like ghosts. Free to know that even if stuff does get screwed up, I am bold enough to say I am sorry and ok with being wrong.

So that lesson that I left out …

30. Apologising and actually saying those three little words “I am sorry” is not always the same thing.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Makings Of A Man: 29 Things The Last Year Taught Me

In the last few days leading up to my 29th birthday I was in an unusually pensive state. The word unusually is deceptive. Let me give you a brief bit of context. I am a chronic over-thinker. My ability to think myself out of (and into) problems, has like many of my other traits, imprisoned and set me free me at various points in my life.

What was unusual about this particular period is that not only was I having thoughts within thoughts within thoughts (some weird Inception type thought process). I was undergoing significant paradigm shifts. The past year taught me a lot of lessons. All these lessons came from all the different people I interacted with, the challenges I faced and the words I read.

As I reflected on all this I finally began to understand what the last year had been attempting to teach me. So armed with a reckless enthusiasm and a furious animosity towards the past year I set about writing down some of the lessons.

Here are 29 of some of the lessons I have learnt in the past year;

1. You have to be honest. You have to have the courage to be honest with yourself and other people about who you are, how you feel and what you want. Lies will lock you up, with truth the only key.

2. Do not be afraid to walk away from people in order to save yourself or retrieve the person you once were. The people who are really for you will understand.

3. Sometimes a dream broken is a dream worth having. Don’t give up on your dream. God put it in your heart for a reason. If he placed it in your heart, he has already created the means for you to fulfill it. Stay in faith. Protect and fight for your dreams at ALL times.

4. Anything someone says before ‘BUT doesn’t count.

5. Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.

6. It’s not all about you.

7. If you admire somebody go ahead and tell them. People never get the roses when they can still smell them.

8. If a girl likes you she likes you even with your lack of game. Your lack of game might in fact be your game.

9. Don’t go around breaking young girl’s hearts. No Billie Jean. Sigh … This world didn’t deserve Michael Jackson

10. Don’t give fear the majority vote at the table of life

11. The grass is greener where you water it. You must be at peace with yourself and your path. Stop looking at what everyone else is doing. Focus on your own plan.

12. You are not alone in your struggle. Everyone is fighting their own Chimurenga. Lets be kinder to each other.

13. Doubt your doubts.

14. You don’t need Batman when you have got Robin Van Persie.

15. It’s better to be a Clown-Ninja, have everyone think you are weird and be at peace with yourself, than to fit their description of normal and be at war with yourself.

16. Silence can just be as therapeutic as music.

17. Consciously make your choices, or your choices will consciously make you. Deciding not to decide. Not a good look.

18. Twitter is unbeatable for aphorism, great for anecdote, decent for poetry, useless for analysis, and the eye of a newt for surrealism.

19. When it comes to your goals be the Michael Jordan of your Dream Team.

20. Sometimes a stranger is more likely to help you out in the way you really need to be helped than a ‘friend’. (I still can’t understand why this is.)

21. The toothpick kept in mouth is like a middle finger to fine dining.

22. “What” and “if” on their own are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together and they can bring you a lifetime of regret

23. We are bigger than the worst thing we have ever done. Don’t let it hold you captive. Learn to forgive yourself and other people.

24. Never stop learning. If you are the smartest person in a room, you’re in the wrong room. Get out and find a room with people smarter than you.

25. Great writing is like that other thing: hard to define, but easy to recognise.

26. Love is simple. It’s people who are complicated.

27. Fulfillment and love come from honoring real emotional connections. Despair and chaos come from failing to rise to the occasion.

28. Breaking up with a lover is one thing …. But, breaking up as friends is heavy.

29. I am a grown ass kid. I have still got a lot of growing up to do.

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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