Heartbreak

Perfect Peace

People have consistently been asking me how I’ve been since I got baptised on the 23rd March.  I say it’s just been life, because it has been, but I haven’t really gone into it in-depth.  This poem, though, says everything.

If God were to take my breath from me today, I think I’d be content.
Laid back comfortably on the bed that is nothing but a source of joy
Listening to the songs that have warmed my soul.

Having become the director of an organisation and collated a collection of poems
Facilitated creative activities and gained friends from all walks of life,
Grown as a person and performed in a spoken word show
Found purpose, discovered myself and made my way into a career I love.

Most of all, I developed a beautiful relationship with my Creator, Saviour and King
Studied His word and had amazing conversations in abundance,
Became better through Him, before giving my life wholly to Him.

I’ve also poured myself out, over and over, rarely ever re-filled
Often barely standing or getting through the day,
Dreading minutes and hours I have to be among others, smiling in their faces.

Tired of being drawn from and pulled on by countless sources, expecting free labour consistent
Drained by the state of our contaminated world, forever breaking my heart
Exhausted from trying to remain happy and positive, everyone sees me beaming
Fatigued by friends who turn out not to be friends, repeatedly out-of-place;
I feel I may have reached my peak and am giving from an empty well
Cos I’m blind to envisioning, it’s covered in black, unable to see a future for myself.

I’m ready to embrace sweet sleep where I won’t be used, stressed or hurt
No longer tired of being tired and fighting with myself,
Won’t have to wrestle with not feeling good enough or that I’m insignificant on this earth
Because I’ll finally be at perfect peace; seeing, hearing, feeling     nothing.

Shaniqua Benjamin

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.

Putting My Big Heart to Good Use

Ninety-five per cent of the time, I love people.  I genuinely love them with all my heart – I love spending time with them, engaging in conversation with them and showing them care.  It’s important for me that every person feels loved, cared about and listened to, because it’s horrible when you’re not or don’t feel that you are.  As I’ve said before, I never want anyone to feel the loneliness I feel or as out-of-place as I feel – it’s a horrible feeling to have.

Over the past week, I’ve put that love of people to good use by volunteering at the homeless shelter the religious denomination I’m part of puts on each year.  I’ve wanted to volunteer since it started, but I finally took the time to volunteer this year, which is a natural continuation of the time I’ve spent volunteering at the soup kitchen at the church I attend.

I began to look forward to going the shelter more each day, as I got to know some of the guests through numerous conversations.  It’s nice to watch them getting more and more comfortable with you, feeling able to share their stories and reveal more of themselves.  I personally believe that it is an honour when individuals share their stories with you, as they’re giving you an insight into their lives when you’re a perfect stranger.

However, I also know that some individuals just want the opportunity to have someone to talk to and I’m glad to provide a listening ear.  Sometimes that simple act is all that’s needed to get through to someone or brighten up their day.  After all, God’s given me two ears to listen with and I want to ensure that I’m putting them to good use.

I also want to ensure that I’m putting my big heart to good use, because God’s given it to me for a reason and I don’t want to waste it, especially when so many are in need of love and affection.  I hope that I was able to spread some love, affection and cheer during my short time spent with the guests, which they’ll take with them in the future.

Being a part of the shelter was a really special experience and I’m eager to volunteer when it opens up again at the end of the year – I miss the guests already and it’s only been about a day since I last saw them.  I made some new friends and met some sweet people who have unfortunately ended up in difficult circumstances – I just hope they’re able to find their feet soon and get themselves into some sort of home of their own.  But most of all, I hope that they remember they are more than homeless and each of them are special individuals.

It breaks my heart to think that these individuals have gone from just over a week of warmth, shelter and feeding back into the cold, cruel streets of London.  I wish that there was more I could do to help each and every one of them, so they never have to be homeless again.  No one should ever have to be homeless and hungry, especially in a first world country like the UK.  It sickens and saddens me – we need to do more to put a stop to it.