Reflecting on a Hated 2017

As we come to the end of 2017, it’s that time again when I reflect on the year.  When I say that I cannot wait for 2017 to be over, it is no word of a lie – I am not exaggerating at all.  Although good things have happened, I have hated this year.

I started off 2017 with a plan, but as I have come to realise, plans rarely ever stay on course.  In fact, this year has made me delusional of planning.  After my job came to an end in December, I was going to spend time focusing on Young People Insight (YPI) until April – when I would have attended TCFT in Sarteano – then come home and find a job.  However, I decided to embark on a crowdfunding campaign for YPI that would launch in April, so I decided to hold off looking for a job until that ended, which actually wasn’t one of my problems.

Being trained for, planning and running my crowdfunding campaign actually allowed me to think more concisely about YPI and develop certain skills I could use going forward.  What was a problem was my campaign launching on the day I returned from TCFT, leaving me slightly unprepared, and having to jump into something full on after being drained from the two-week residency.

My crowdfunding campaign was like a full-time job in itself over 35 days, mixed with meetings and other happenings in my life, and on the final day I found myself on the Victoria Derbyshire show, which required me to wake up at a crazy hour in the morning and seriously drained me.

Days after my campaign ended, my mind, body and emotions were just beginning to recover from a crazy couple of months, when I was hit by the sudden death of my uncle.  Death seems to have been following me since last year, when I lost my grandad and aunty, which my heart was still recovering from.  It didn’t seem fair to me, but I would have to keep on fighting, so I did.

I went to regular meetings and events, while starting to plan two relatively large-scale events for August, which was stupid of me; all while dealing with the usual hurt from friends and guys, but I don’t want to spend time on that.  Numbers of my YPI events were falling and I did not even want to be attending them myself, due to feelings of frustration, exhaustion and despair.

Eventually, I cancelled one of my events in August and continued the planning of the other one (TCFT Croydon), which turned out to be a mountain that I fought tooth and nail to climb.  While planning, I completed the Prince’s Trust Enterprise course, where I gained a lot, but it was still a decent amount to take on.

Taking on so much, without taking the time to reflect, and being hit by so many emotional bullets had completely burnt me out.  I was depressed and disillusioned, fed up and fatigued.  I wanted to sleep the days away, with one day when I could not face getting out of bed at all.  Tears regularly flowed and nothing I did brought me joy anymore I wanted to die rather than feel pain.  There were numerous occasions when I thought about stepping in front of a moving car and taking a knife to my wrists – I questioned why it was my uncle, grandad or aunty in the grave and not me.

Then there was my 25th birthday, the one I had been dreading for the longest time.  A birthday that reminded me I wasn’t married or any closer to being married, and I had gone off my life’s course.  The was lovely and barely celebrated like I wanted, but I have not come to love this age and I don’t think I ever will.  The feeling of getting older is not one I like at all.

This week also brought another personal issue, giving December a sour note, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.  However, I did say that there were good things about this year.  Some were mentioned above, including TCFT Croydon, which I was so proud to facilitate.  The day went better than I thought, although the stress leading up to it meant I couldn’t enjoy it, as I just wanted it to be over.

Image by Robert Golden

I have a beautiful godson, and I was able to spend time with my beautiful TCFT family in Sarteano and some beautiful people who come to the soup kitchen at the church I attend, who I also spent time with in Queens Garden.  I reached the target of my crowdfunding campaign, and also wrote a number of articles for the brilliant Black Youth Achievement Awards‘ Stories of Success magazine.

I put on poetry related workshops with young people, which led to regular work with young people in Merton libraries.  I wrote the words for the Anthem of Peace on behalf of the London Mozart Players, which was performed in Buckingham Palace, and I am an ambassador for Croydon’s London Borough of Culture bid, which I created a poem for.

I completed a Political Poetry course at the Roundhouse, learning from the amazing Anthony Anaxagorou, Dan Tsu and Deanna Rodger, alongside some talented poets I intend to stay in contact with.

There were a number of other things that I was proud to be part of, including being asked to speak at Another Night of Sisterhood twice and be on the Thornton Heath Arts Week Question Time panel, but my most special achievement was being named Young Achiever of the Year at the Mayor of Croydon’s Civic Awards 2017, which I was not expecting in the slightest.  It was a humbling moment that I will treasure forever.

Although I hated this year and want it to be over, God has blessed me and I have achieved a lot, but I know there is more I could have done.  I’m still struggling and fighting, but if God has kept me, He obviously has a purpose for my life, so I have to keep trusting in His leading.  I don’t know where I’d be without Him.

P.S. Usually I do thank yous, but this post is quite long, so I think I’ll do a separate post for that, also allowing me to focus a little more on some of the beautiful people in my life.

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Love of My Life

The love of my life.

Honestly, I don’t know why,

I don’t know how

I didn’t realise or acknowledge it sooner.

Referring instead to college basketball,

which is one

of the great loves of my life;

yet its done nothing for me

and my feelings could change

as they have for the NFL and NBA.

My love for You will never change,

unless you count it growing stronger

each passing day.

I know Your love for me is unwavering,

deep,

the truest love I’ll ever know.

You’re my constant,

always to be relied upon,

never to let me down;

an ear that never fails to listen,

strong arms that cannot drop me

and a heart I know is genuine.

Your consistent character

means I always know where I stand.

Lies never come from your mouth,

empty words neither,

Your promises the sole ones that matter.

That’s why I’ve given You my heart,

it’s Yours to have

forever;

I know You won’t disrespect it,

discard it,

destroy it;

only nurture it,

protect it,

care for it;

take time to heal,

cleanse,

mould it.

You not only have my heart,

but You have all of me,

wanting to devote my life to You,

prove I’m worthy;

because You are perfection,

that’s no exaggeration,

while I’m tarnished,

not even worthy to be in Your presence.

In spite of this,

You still want me there with You;

giving your precious time

and care,

showering me with love unconditional.

I cannot wait to spend

my eternity with You,

finally gazing on the face

of the ultimate love of my life,

who saved me through grace and mercy,

continuously forgave me

and filled the heart

that had broken into pieces.

Looking Back on The Corner

Earlier this year, I started on a journey of reading one of the most heart-wrenching, raw and powerful books I’ve ever picked up.  David Simon & Ed Burns’ The Corner had been on my reading list for a long while, but it was only this year that I finally lifted the cover and began turning the pages, taking me to the gritty corners of Baltimore.

This was a world that I was already familiar with after watching The Wire, which coincidentally was created by Simon and Burns.  The Wire is a show that has a special place in my heart and tugged at my heart-strings a number of times, so much so I’m surprised they didn’t come apart.  However, The Corner did so much more than that, because these were the lives of real people unfolding and unraveling in front of my eyes.

Reading this book was a process that took a whole lot of reflection, which was necessary after the completion of each part, because this book is seriously heavy.  I needed time to think over all of the situations that had been brought to my attention, consider the utter brokenness of the system and sometimes cry a little in despair or anger.

Anger was a common feeling while reading The Corner.  My anger was not only directed at the system, but also the members of society who look down on those who are caught up in this drug culture, without actually wanting to help or even accept that they are part of the problem.  This is a dangerous, heartbreaking culture that no one should have to be part of, but unfortunately many are and it is a cycle that is beyond difficult to break.

One of my stand out passages for The Corner reads:

“…We’re furious at the drugging and terrified by the shooting and unnerved at the notion that unless something is done, it won’t be contained, that this horror show will creep beyond the rotting cores of cities.  We have lost patience with the idea of our own culpability, with the corruptive message that accompanies the bribe.  For three decades, we bought them off with the small coinage of charity at the beginning of every month, telling them they were not necessary, that their nation could do without them.  Now, with that lesson of helplessness learned and learned well, we feel entitled to say that we can no longer avoid the coins.”

I began to realise that those on the corners are in a country of their own, ostracised from the United States and living by their own rules.  Their life is nothing like the lives of others and trying to get out of that life, off those corners, is like entering into foreign territory.  What I think broke my heart the most was reading about individuals trying to get clean or break free of the corner life, but finding themselves right back where they started, because being back in the “real” world was too difficult and complicated.

That isn’t helped by a government and the other powers that be who simply do not understand or have the best interests of these individuals stuck in the corner world at heart.  As I read the final parts today, this segment caused fierce anger to burn up inside of me:

“Just before Christmas, a few months after Fran had celebrated a full year of being clean, she was laid off — the result of a federal audit of the detox center.  It seemed that the grant money funding BRC required all counselors to be fully trained and qualified; to preserve its budget, the center was forced to let go of some of its best and most reliable staffers, men and women who had survived the corner and were now using that experience to great effect.  Fran, Antoinette, and about a dozen others were corner veterans on a hero’s journey, trying to salvage something of themselves, trying to give a little back.  The government, being the government, could not see it.”

You see, this paragraph – like the whole book – remains incredibly relevant today not only in the US, but also in the UK and many other countries in the world.  Problems surrounding the lower class continue to persist while those in power continue to thrive off it and act as if they are coming up with solutions, when it is blatant that their solutions do not work.  More and more of the same was a major issue in The Corner, and I’m sure that it is an issue that continues to persist today.  It genuinely makes me sick.

These are human beings and members of society who deserve to be treated as such – it was evident that many of them did not want to be in that corner life, but what other alternative did they have?  As I mentioned earlier, breaking away from the corner is no easy feat.  Getting an insight into their lives was honestly a privilege and it broke my heart to see the tragic endings for many of them, particularly for one individual who I was especially rooting for – I was tearing up by the end.

The Corner is honestly one of the most devastatingly, beautiful pieces of work I have had the opportunity to read.  It has vastly opened my mind and made me more adamant that we should not put labels on others, or judge others by the labels put on them.  We have no idea what life can be like for other individuals and we don’t know how we would act if we were in the same situation.

If you have not read this book already, I seriously suggest that you do, because it is something that we can all learn from.  I challenge you to be the same person you were before reading by the time you get to the end.