FINDING YOUR TRIBE

Whether you are moving to a new town, state, district or country because of work, school, or family there is always adjusting that needs to be done. Apart from becoming familiar with your new environment, one needs to take time to find people to hang out with and associate it so that it doesn’t seem like your social life is on hold. It also helps you get over the feeling of being alone especially when you may be away from a lot of family and close friends.

This PhD started and I was ready to try and have some sort of life. I am a bit of a workaholic, not really because I love working (I do want to do deliver good and quality work though so that might have something to do with it) as such but because I prefer to use work as an excuse for not having to deal with people. I just find work easier to deal with. Sounds a bit harsh (especially when I’m not a perfect person myself) when I state things that way but as an introvert that believed she could do life all by herself a while back, I do struggle now and again to be around others or at least make time for socializing.

It hurts and it is has been a very serious wake-up call having to be an international student because the experience HUMBLES you. You realize that you cannot do life alone and that really did piss me off in the beginning and make me quite scared as well because I know now for a fact that I do need people in my life. In spite of this, it does still take time to unlearn all the solitary habits, behaviours and mindsets that I have had for a while.

My Master’s degree taught me things. I think I have become way better at trying to make friends or just being a bit more open and friendly to people that have not known me my entire life. Sometimes it feels draining and so tasking and some days I have to fight ti choose people over work. At the end of the day, the work that I am using to distract me from all other life matters (particularly social matters) will not be there to hug me at night, celebrate my birthday, bail me out of a terrible situation, hold my hand or pick me up from the airport. So basically what I am saying is that people are important.

The process of having to immerse yourself into other peoples’ worlds is also a task in itself. As someone who feels like she holds the crown for being SUPER awkward around people especially new people in public spaces plus gatherings especially, things like small talk kill me and 85% of the time I just want to say no when people invite me for things. I do not know if some of you reading this may be in a similar situation. If you are, I just really want to caution you to fight that feeling and just show up anyway.

During the first semester of my Master’s program, I had to fight against so much awkwardness in order to finally find people I could hang with but also give people the chance to know me and be there for me. God kept on telling me to persevere and things did get better eventually. I stopped feeling like the newbie that had to constantly introduce herself as the Ugandan girl. Soon I was just Vanessa and that was it.

Since this is not my first rodeo in regards to making a move by myself, I think I have become a bit better at finding ways to find my tribe AKA like-minded people to be around. I am going to elaborate on some things that can help.

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HOBBIES

The first step would obviously be to look for people or groups that are involved in activities that you like for example your hobbies. I like to sing, take photos, bake and write. These four things are not just hobbies but things that I find really therapeutic. I am working on finding people to sing with or spaces where I can do that freely. I auditioned to be part of the worship team at my Church a while back. Waiting to see what they say post-lockdown.

When it comes to writing, I have a set of virtual communities that I follow and contribute to when I can that is; the Uganda Blogging Community  as well as Afrobloggers . I am looking forward to being actively involved in what the Bloggers in East Africa do as well.

I am part of a WhatsApp group for a number of postgraduate Ugandan students in Cape Town. I found someone that bakes a lot at home. After the lockdown, we will be meeting up so that I can have lessons on making really bomb cookies (I have to perfect the art of making chocolate chip cookies!!!). I am hoping to find more enthusiastic and gifted bakers as time goes on.

During the time where many of us are in lockdown indoors, some of you may not be at home or in a place that you may find very conducive which can still bring up the feeling of being by yourself. That is where all these online meetings platforms and your virtual online communities come in handy.

UNIVERSITY GROUPS AND SOCIETIES

Before I even made it to Cape Town I looked through all their societies, groups, etc. I do not think this is standard practice for most graduate students or even PhD students in particular but this was my attempt to try and fight to have some sort of social life ( a whole separate post about that will be coming soon).

I had a friend of high school that did her Bachelor’s degree from the University of Cape Town (UCT). She used to post a lot about the East African Society on Instagram and I knew that I had to look out for them when I made it here. These societies are bound to have mostly undergrads so I might feel terribly old and out of place but the most important thing is to find what you can contribute to while you are there and of course learn survival skills from people that have been in Cape Town longer than you. I like organizing events so I thought it would be good for me to join the team that is in charge of that and make use of my expertise in that area 🙂 . Mentorship is really close to my heart and so I was really excited to hear that the society has a mentorship program. I decided to volunteer to be a mentor. Going through the training process was really amazing.

I follow the Postgraduate Health Sciences Students Council at UCT. I could not believe how many PhD students are actually part of it. It was SUPER encouraging and really challenged me. I would never have heard about it if I did not show up for an orientation event they had at the beginning of the semester for postgrads. When people make an effort to see postgrads get through life in an awesome way, I am all for it. It was great to be there for the event but also meet and chill with some people afterwards (by the way we have a really cool hang out place on the medical campus. I think every university needs to invest in spaces like those).

EVENTS, EVENTS, EVENTS

Go and attend as many as you can and whatever you can find. Whether it is work-related, school-related, church-related or just organized by some people that live in the same area code as you.

My first instinct is to say no when people invite to stuff. It is like my default setting but I as I said, I fight hard against that feeling and make an effort to try and show up and actually engage in conversations (did I mention that small talk kills me. I seriously want to enrol in a professional course on how to strike up banter because yoh……. It is a mission for me on so many fronts).

You just never know who you will meet when you are there. You never know who your next friend will be or what significant role that person could play in your life later on. So just JUMP ON (hoping to actively exercise all of this after the lockdown so that I do not come off as a hypocrite).

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Even if someone has not invited you for an event but you have found out about one, tell others about it and see who they can bring along. I actively seek out events. It is so interesting but I do that a lot on Instagram and Facebook. Following certain people, groups and organizations really helps me find out certain information. It is because events may not always knock on your day so you do have to put in some effort to find them and remind other people to invite you for some really cool things that they might participate in.

Right now I stay in a flat complex and it has been LOVELY to be in a space with other people and just meet up in the backyard to eat together and play some games. I am meeting new people, getting to know more about the people that stay around me but also spend some time in the lockdown having fun. We will DEFINITELY be hanging out more after the lockdown!!

Cheers to finding your tribe!!! PS: Finding your people takes TIME so be patient and remain adventurous throughout the process. Never be afraid to start your own community from scratch. That can help so many other people like you.

MUSIC HEALS

Around August 2019, I had my phone stolen. The thing I was worried about the most were the thieves getting a hold of my personal information and using it in all sorts of illegal ways. The next thing I thought about were the things I lost, especially the music I had been collecting all the way from high school and has stored on my SD card.

The upside to having siblings is that you share literally everything with them. Every holiday, my siblings and I would share the new music we came across. In December 2019, I decided to sit down and transfer as many songs as I could from my siblings’ phones to my laptop. It took me a while but I did it and I am so happy. There were songs that brought back so many memories. I also got my hands on some really new and wonderful tunes. Listening to all these songs and just knowing that I had them made me feel so much better. For the first time since I had my phone stolen, I felt better, emotionally better. I felt like I kicked those thieves in the butt 🙂 .

The other reason why I decided to sit down and get as many songs as I could was because I was preparing myself for the fact that I would be away from home for a while since I am doing my PhD somewhere else. During my Master’s degree, I remember the huge role that having some music from home and listening to music that reminded me of certain moments in my life, as well as the people that were around me, helped me remain sane during some really tough academic times.

In the last week of last December, I found out that I did not get a side-hustle gig that I really thought would look lovely on my CV. Listening to some comforting tunes helped me sleep better and get up early the next day to move forward with my to-do list. One set of songs came from a mix (#TweetaMix 154) made by a really cool DJ (Find him here on Soundcloud) that used to work at my favourite radio station in Uganda.

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When I look at the song list on my laptop, I can literally map out different moments in my life especially during 2018 and 2019 simply based on particular songs that I listen to.

Music heals so invest in it. Let music be your friend. Let it comfort you, wake you up in the morning, give you the boost you need, bring you closer to the people around you and bring back beautiful memories that neither time nor distance can take away.

 

GET ALL THE SUPPORT YOU NEED

2019 was a mad year with so much that went on. One key thing that happened was the loss of hope that I had in ever having a career as a research scientist. It felt like I could not find a place that could challenge me intellectually but also people that would support me, whole-heartedly along my journey.

One event that made me want to try a bit harder and seriously rejuvenated my fight to succeed was attending a two-week Immunology workshop organized by the lovely graduate students and faculty members under Center for Emerging and Neglected Diseases (CEND) at UC Berkeley. I got back to the reason why I wanted to do research work and it came just in time for me to organize myself for a PhD application. I was way more prepared this career option a chance again.

Several other factors brought me back to what was really important and it was the lovely people that got back to me when I asked for career guidance, help and direction. I do not like asking for help because of pride obviously (highlighted in another blog post here)  but also because really getting help from people requires being honest and vulnerable so that these people you are reaching out to are in the best position to help you.

In 2019 I sent more emails that I think I will EVER send in this lifetime. I reached out to research scientists, postdocs, PIs, you name it, anyone that I felt had conquered an issue I had faced and was able to progress with their careers. I loved the fact that they were honest enough to talk about PhD programs in their entirety. They highlighted the fact that taking on a PhD can be rewarding, in the long run, but can also also be a very big undertaking especially with all that one is expected to achieve during that 3-6 year period.

I found people that I was able to share my fears, aspirations, plans and goals with. Most importantly, I was able to share my shortcomings and how inadequate I felt when it comes to my CV or thinking about doing a PhD. These people helped me keep myself together and remain hopeful about the career I want to have. I talked to them about strategies to succeed during one’s PhD and how one can prepare themselves for life afterwards and to easily transition when one goes back to their home country. These are the people I share my milestones with and my progress. All this helps me feel like I am not struggling in a corner all by myself.

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I want to emphasize the need for people to reach out. I thought that it was going to be me, myself and I hustling to move forward with my career but I came across people that have been more than willing to help me and stand by me so I urge every single person that is curious about how to progress with their scientific careers not to hesitate to reach out to whoever they believe can help. There are people that have been in your shoes and are more than able to help you navigate graduate school so go out, be bold and ask for help.

Sometimes people are REALLY busy so if you think they missed the first email, then send another. If some people still do not get back to you then it is okay. What matters is you did your part to reach out. Move forward with the people that will be able, to be honest, and make time for you. One person that I really trust and respect told me that the most important thing about mentorship is finding someone that is both willing and available to help and set aside time for you. It is because of this that sometimes the people you least expect may be the people that show up to consistently help you.

For people that are international students, I cannot stress this enough. On top of all that, there is to navigate with graduate school, there will be issues of adjusting to a new country, making new friends as well as becoming comfortable with not having family and friends around you. Make use of all the help and support that comes from the international students’ office and from the people within your faculty and research group. Sometimes the immediate response is to crawl under a shell and hide or isolate yourself because some things just seem so difficult and you may feel like you are always one step behind. From one international student to another, the sooner you open up and let other people in, the easier it becomes to adapt and adjust. 

They are still so many things that I do have to work through as I fight to have the career I want to have but I thank God that I have far more clarity than I did before. Most importantly, I am not alone because I decided not to struggle on my own anymore.

 

CHOOSING YOUR ONLINE PLATFORMS

I did not think social media could ever play any role in my scientific career or contribute to it in any way but times are changing. On social media, people are actively engaging in discussions around science and through this, researchers are able to identify other like-minded scientists both in and out of their fields that they can connect with.

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One needs to choose which social media sites they want to be a part of because you cannot be on all of them and that is the truth. All require a certain level of attention and time in order to see a real maximum impact. Our lives can become very busy so it is essential to identify which platforms you believe will boost your career the most. Also, feel free to choose the ones you really like because chances are, you will pay the most attention to those at the end of the day.

These are the platforms I have chosen and these are some of the reasons why.

  1. Twitter

I just find members of the scientific community easier to talk to and learn from on Twitter. People are friendlier, more open and easier to approach compared to LinkedIn. For a long time, I tried to gain traction on LinkedIn but things were not going as expected so I decided to make my Twitter account centred majorly around my career interests and when I began to talk about what I did more and more, engage in discussions, share things that I felt were useful for the rest of the scientific community and most importantly, follow people whose research I was interested in I began to find Twitter so useful.

Another thing I like about Twitter is information and conversations are far more filtered than they are on Facebook. It can be difficult to cut out all the noise, fake news and unnecessary posts that show up on Facebook EVEN from people you are not friends with AT ALL. On Twitter, it easy to track the source of information and simply unfollow someone if you are no longer happy with their posts. I also like the fact that with the use of hashtags and lists, you can easily find Twitter threads that stand out for you.

I try not to get obsessed with the number of followers I have because naturally, due to the kind of brand I am building, there is certain attention I will not really attract on Twitter. If, however, numbers matter to you and would aid the goals you have for your career, know that Twitter analytics are far easier to follow and interpret than the ones available from Facebook.

  1. LinkedIn

I have always found LinkedIn intimidating. I never even wanted to join it but the moment I finished my undergraduate degree, my dad told me that I needed to create a profile and continue adding to it. It was hard for me to start and I honestly thought it was useless but with time things have really paid off and I think the year after I finished my Master’s degree is when I have seen the most growth and usefulness out of LinkedIn. I got better at connecting with people by sending in when I request to connect with someone. I realized that is important because I am also cautious about who I connect with on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn allows you to keep track of jobs all over the globe. By putting in the job titles, organizations, industries and locations that I am interested in, LinkedIn is able to put up available jobs. When these companies are on LinkedIn, it makes things even better because I am able to learn more about the company, find out who works there, connect with them and ask questions about the company.

All the hard work I have been putting in is FINALLY paying off because these days, I get more connection requests from people that are closer to my field other than people that are in no way related to what I do or plan to do in the near future. So keep your profile updated, communicate what you are doing, what you have done, what you are interested in and what you plan on doing in the years to come.

  1. Researchgate

I honestly thought this platform would only make any sense to me after about 100 years. I joined it when I had just started my Master’s program because I was so excited about the university I was going to and the degree I was doing. I thought that without publications, being on this platform would not be as meaningful as I expected it to be but I was wrong. Researchgate allows you to connect with people, follow their publications, different projects and even request for papers in case they are not readily available. The latter part is one of the major up-sides for me.

Researchgate is particularly close to my heart because the decision I made about where to do my PhD and the group to do it with it came from me following the work of two researchers on this platform. By the Grace of God, I was able to talk to both of them in-depth.

Researchgate can really be great for learning more about people that are part of a certain research group or laboratory because that information shows up on some peoples’ profiles. This can really help you find out more about the entire scope of work done by a research team and approach members in a more relaxed way. This came in handy when I had questions about a group that I made my second PhD application to. There were some warning signs and talking to one PhD student made me realize that I most probably dodged a bullet by not getting called for an interview.

Apart from being able to connect with scientists around the globe, having accounts on social media channels allows you to increase your visibility and provides more opportunities to share your work. All that ultimately contributes to you enhancing your career prospects and finding other people to collaborate with.

I would love to find out what other platforms people are using and how they have helped them along their scientific journey. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section or via email.

These walls full of pride

I was so sure that my pride complex came down during my Master’s degree because the sheer humility of not knowing much and having to adjust to a new town was MAJOR. I have not forgotten what happened because it was really a lot. Being away from home can teach you things about yourself that are critical for you to know but may also bother you due to the fact that unlearning certain behaviours is not always easy but it is possible. I find myself in that place again since I am doing my PhD full-time in another country.

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These days I do have mini-audits to find out if I am truly progressing personality-wise and putting into practice all that I have learnt. Today I saw snippets of my pride come through again and it was not good. I was so embarrassed.

The issue is that when you work with other people, you can’t really decide to behave in whatever way you want to because the way you do things has implications on the work of others. That is why it is really key to evaluate how you relate with other people and how this influences the way you work with them. The issue if battling my pride is even more serious for me now because it is not just on a social level anymore but at a work/career level.

The thing behind the thing is the real thing. With that in mind, I know that my behaviour and particularly the pride that I have been exhibiting in certain encounters and situations may just be a symptom of a much bigger issue that needs to be addressed.

Why do I feel the need to struggle sometimes?

Asking for help is not easy for me. I’d literally rather die first.

I think my need to try and impress people and get street cred for handling my ish all by myself is something that matters to me a lot. I never want people to think that I am not strong enough to handle the things that I am faced with every day. That is why I can’t share my weaknesses with everyone and yet being able to be honest about that and share those things with others is one of the only ways that people can truly help you. But I do fear that people may call me weak or unstable because I couldn’t ably handle matters by myself.

I also know for sure that taking care of my matters all by myself is important to me because I never want to feel crippled or that I need someone in order to progress. I never want to be in a position where not having someone around me causes me to panic because doing a certain task just seems to be so daunting. The desire to not ever need people is something that reminds me of a message one of my pastors from my home Church said about God creating us as social beings that are meant to grow and flourish in their faith by making use of fellow believers in the body of Christ. And not only just fellow believers but the Holy Spirit as well that is there to guide us.

It’s really hitting me now that if I am to grow career-wise, I do need to make use of the people around me. But as usual, easier said than done #God help me# I really want my supposed perception of weakness to change because there is far more strength in accepting your limitations and making that made known to others. There are so many people that don’t get to progress or move to new heights because they could not be honest about where they were. I am fighting hard to make sure that I do not end up in that same place because ideally, after all that I have been through, I should know way better by now.

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Again, I don’t want to ever need someone because I’m afraid of what will happen when he/she leaves, but to love is to trust and hope that no matter what happens, you can still come out okay.

Knowing and admitting all of this is super-important. I do want to move to the next step of actually applying what I know now. The follow-up to this article will happen months from now after I put some measures in place and take the necessary steps to address this issue, knowing that it will mean uncovering each and every reason behind this pride.

For now, let this blog post serve as a reminder for not only me but all of you that there are battles you fight more than once in life and it is okay. I need to act fast but also forgive myself a little and just realize that unlearning behaviours I have carried for a while does require Grace, energy & persistence.

As I embark on this journey of breaking walls down once again, I will constantly remind myself of the times when a lot of light and love came in because of that process.

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If anyone of you has something to share about how you got over a huge amount of pride and were able to progress with the rest of your life, please feel free to share that. We are all here to learn, especially me 🙂

 

TRIGGERS

2019 had a lot of emotional and psychological trauma in it. For a while at the start of this year, I honestly believed I was better but the fact is that trauma leaves scars. Even though the cause may be gone, other factors can result in memories that end up affecting your present. I refer to these as triggers. Whether you are in a position yet where you are in therapy or not, it is very important to recognize and be aware of what triggers you so that you can address these factors accordingly.

Some things may be seasonal, one-offs or things that you will continuously be exposed to. There are things and people that you can block off but it may not always be easy to do that for each and everything. That is when one has to take a lot of thought into how they respond to these triggers.

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I had an academic retreat with the research organization that I am attached to. I was so damn nervous especially when it came to the issue of my career plan because that is something that really matters to me and I do want to see myself prosper career-wise. Due to 2019 where I felt like I was in a place of stagnation, having to talk about my career aspirations really meant a lot to me. Due to feeling like I gave a mediocre presentation about my project and my career plans, thoughts in my mind that weekend was just reeling. I really wanted to communicate what I wanted to do but I was scared that I was not eloquent enough. The anxiety behind that stemmed from the fear that my inability to communicate what I wanted to do would lead to me failing to participate in everything that I felt was essential to my career.

This week I got some edits back on a funding application I am working on. Something I ideally should have remembered to fix came up and the anxiety and fear just kept flooding in. I felt like I misinterpreted things and am possibly failing to grasp certain things that I should ideally be very conversant with at this point in time. I know that I have a tendency to overthink things so I will discuss things over with my supervisor just to be sure that I’ve got it off my chest and that I don’t end up thinking about the entire weekend.

What I am getting to is that I am aware that things may get to me more than once. It is because of that that I am putting measures in place such as taking a step back to think about how I will react to these things. Talking to my supervisor is ideally one short-term solution but eventually, I need to fully talk over last year especially since it’s March and the rest of the year doesn’t need to suffer because of what 2019 did or did not do to me.

Therapy helps. Therapy in itself could mean different things to different people. One way I get through things is to write. Sometimes it is painful but a very necessary step to getting things out of my system but also partly addressing the matter. I wouldn’t take writing as a substitute for therapy but rather a supplement to it. Talk to someone, talk to people. Have an independent party as well as someone that knows a bit about your background be there to not only keep you accountable but also help you evaluate your progress and sieve out the noise as you deal with these triggers or simply start by identifying what they are.

Finally, in regards to this, DON’T IGNORE IT. If you want to cry, call someone, write, listen to music then please do it. Issues that don’t get resolved tend to build up and leave you unresolved. That is the last thing you want.

Beautiful Distractions

I recently started this PhD thing. Yes, your girl decided to give this scientific career thing another shot #Hoping for the best#

A PhD comes with a very serious need for commitment and it can be mad trying to come to terms with the fact that getting jobs and having options after a PhD sometimes has a lot to do with you not solely being involved in just your project. Employers want to hear more than how you spent hours optimizing your laboratory assays though this could be necessary depending on which job you are applying for.

Because of the pressure and need for people to set themselves apart from everyone else doing a PhD and more so, people doing a PhD in a discipline similar to theirs, people are forced to think of ways to diversify their skill set and get involved in as many other things that could possibly enhance their chances of not getting stuck after grad school.

I am one person that finds myself in that sort of predicament especially, as an international student that wants to go back home in glory. I had a game plan for all that I wanted to achieve and all that I wanted to set into motion starting from year one. The only problem is your first year is also what sort of sets the tone for your project and allows you to set fundamental building blocks that will allow your PhD research project to flourish.

On a Wednesday afternoon was when I realized that I had really let panic set in and that the anxiety I had was going to become completely evident in my emails but also in everything else I do especially in my communication to others.

Thanks be to God that I have a wonderful team of mentors and close friends that know how to deal with all my mini-panic episodes (times like these that really show me that I need to marry someone calm because my children need some balance in their life man!!!)

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One person told me something so profound and just dead accurate. He said that even good things can be a distraction and that just really caught my heart. All these extra endeavours I have are good but they may or may not count as much if the overall outcomes of my PhD are not met to their full extent. The world has set a standard when it comes to scientific research. I want to supersede those expectations ( and the ones I have for myself) so I can’t afford to put in any half-baked effort. At the end of the day, this is the life I chose, the one of a scientific scientist. I was very well aware of some of the sacrifices I’d have to make in order to get here.

I am not saying that I have cancelled all the other things I want to do during my PhD but rather I am learning more about how to be strategic but also position myself well so that things just happen at the most optimal time that they are supposed to. Timing is everything and I am learning more about setting things into motion at a time that is most favourable.

My beautiful distractions are important when it comes to enhancing myself but for now simply getting through my training courses, my first additional funding application and my research proposal are very serious matters that need to be covered and dealt with TODAY. I am also learning that with the huge weight on my shoulders and what I would like to achieve, I have to be very selective about every application and extra activity that I devote energy to or get involved in. I can’t be involved everything because that’s what leads to burnout. Soon, I will be evaluating the most important things for me to be a part of.

PS: Let no-one else define what is most important for you. What makes you happy, what brings you joy and whatever interests you is soo damn important, PERIOD. Remember, everyone else is doing what they want to do and so should you :).

You might be reading this and might not be a PhD student but I think some principles discussed here still cut across. Ask yourself what beautiful distractions you need to put on hold or just let go of entirely so that you can achieve the main goals for the year 2020. Cheers!

 

 

Being Unemployed & Broke

it takes courage for one to share their stories. I want to learn to be this bold and open with others.

HeyAnci


Nothing irks me than someone that invites me to things or events that I can’t afford LOL especially when I am not employed. Maybe it’s not a wise move to announce to the stranger behind you in the supermarket that you are unemployed but then again it’s 2019 and I promised total honesty (sometimes!). I can’t help not telling you because I am an over-sharer and also because if someone is in the same boat with me, they need to know that someone understands and probably has a life jacket (an extra one).

It’s been over six months since I dropped my book bag, and signed off higher education for good😏 (Mama I mean for a while), and I haven’t been called to a single interview or gotten the classic ” We have received your application” email.

Being unemployed and broke is a level six traumatic experience and if I am…

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Confessions Of An Unemployed Coconut

I love this because I know what it means to be in this place. You need to be able to enjoy every season of your life even if it involves unemployment. With God all things are possible.

HeyAnci

I am unemployed! Yep, it means I am broke 362 days a year ( except on my birthday and on Christmas because my family actually blesses me during that time). Being unemployed has made me kind of a drag😂 like they are certain things I do that make my friends hate me. Do wail or relate but above all just laugh out loud.

  • I can’t relate to month end excitement.

Uhmmm, I am really sorry I have the same mood January to December 😂 because I am just but unemployed and broke.

  • I always want you to be online

I can’t help telling you what I saw on The Doctors 😂. I am just but a Housewife but in my case more of a decorated lazy couch potato with no hubby or kids.

  • I feel sorry for myself half the time

Like am I cursed? Or just not connected…

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The Serenity Project – Step 1: Accepting the things I cannot change

Just typing the above title kills me quite a bit but I have reached that point in the year where I feel that it is necessary to be honest and act like a proper adult.

I got done with a laboratory placement I had and even though I felt the need to stay a little longer, I had to leave because number one: I was not getting paid and number two: I needed to deal with other things this year (by the way in spite of the above, it was a lovely placement and I thank God for what He allowed me to achieve). Part of me was excited about the free time and all the things I had planned to do with myself but for some reason my mind kept on drifting to a life I almost had and all the people that I had to let go of. I realized that I may never completely get over what I feel I lost and instead of trying to suppress how I feel, I thinks it is time for me to find a way to come to accept certain matters.

Usually my number one way of dealing with things is avoidance. It is effective up to a certain point but there are things that you simply have to continue to be in, live in and allow God to work a character of acceptance in you. There are things I cannot not say out loud or tell other people because it would make things a bit too real but I am going to take a bold step to deal with them.

There is no manual for getting over loss of any kind so someone told me that I am allowed to grieve in whatever way I see fit. I am calling this the Serenity Project because it is based on the Serenity prayer and things are going to happen in steps.

What do you do with the things you cannot change? Answer is you put them in God’s hands and ask Him to use time to heal all wounds. To love is to know pain and whenever you put effort into anything, whenever you hope, whenever you let people into your life, there are some setbacks that can occur but we serve a God that is able to work even through the short comings. At the beginning of the year I stalked up a lot of sermons and reading material about dealing with suffering as a Christian. Yesterday I was on the verge of starting to complain and talk about how calamity has come upon me like an eclipse simply because of another shortcoming.

I might not be able to share the things I have had to deal with here but I have decided to come up with two lists, one about the things I cannot change and another about the things I can change. I am going to hang them up in my room as a constant reminder about where I need to focus most of my energy. I also plan on hanging up the serenity prayer so that I can calm myself before I leave the house.

It is okay to reminisce and take a walk down memory lane. It is okay to mourn, please do because even Jesus Himself wept when Lazarus died and yet He had all the power in the world to resurrect Him (which He did). There is a time for contemplation and there is a time for moving on and embracing the things you can still turn around. I realized that I have been paralyzed these past two days because of being so stuck on some disappointments and these are the times when we have to recognize when the devil is messing with us and causing us to waste time thinking of what did not happen. Today I had to snap myself out of it. Yesterday I told my mum to pray with me. Today I took time to pray for myself. These are the moments when I know what it means to pray in pain and come to greatly appreciate the humility it takes to ask God and others for help.

The reason why I said I was suffocating at the mere thought of writing the title to this article is because some part of me feels that talking about accepting the things I cannot change almost feels like I am giving up on God and His unlimited power to work in each and every situation in my life. Later on I will see how to reconcile the two sides but at the moment this is the conflict I am in especially when I know that God can work in me even when I least expect it. Another part of me feels like I am not really giving up on God but just coming to terms with the limitations I have as a human being.

This is enough for step one. I will let you know how the next two weeks go for me especially after I put up the lists in my room.