Learning

Learning to Ride a Bike

In womanhood she saw how she loved being in control
although it should have been clearly in her sightline from girlhood –
Barbies could be dressed and named, have their hair cut by her small hands
Teddy bears arranged neatly on her bed
But riding a bike; that was unpredictable
factors outside of her control.
She loved being at one with the four-wheeler
riding up and down her road when sun would shine down,
then when dad removed the first of those training wheels
fear took over her body and brain.
Wheels off
off balance,
she tilted to one side, immediately aware that crashing to ground was a high probability;
she didn’t want to graze her knee or bang her head
even with a helmet on.
Pain would come on her own terms, not her bike’s, so she put the bike away,
just like the scooter and Barbie roller-skates that could also send her falling.
Being in control of her body was always more important than having fun like a child should,
able to free themselves in their inhibitions so they can learn to ride a bike or skate with friends.

Shaniqua Benjamin

 

They are Inspiring and Supportive

TCFT has brought an abundance of amazing people into my life over the years, including the awesomeness who is Geraldine, who I met in Bournemouth back in 2016.  Geraldine is inspiring, incredibly knowledgeable and extremely experienced in the media field, as well as being caring, down to earth and very, very funny.  When I invited Geraldine to TCFT Croydon last year, she was more than willing to come and support, bringing her friend, Patricia, along with her.

I met Patricia for the first time that Sunday, but somehow, I managed to make a major impression on her.  Ever since then, she has been one of my biggest – and I mean biggest – champions.  She is genuinely one of the most supportive, kind and driven women I have ever met.  She is also a master networker, just like Geraldine.  It is that supportive nature and networking brain of hers that recommended me to become a scholar for the eiClub.

I was beyond shocked when I received the email, but extremely thankful for the opportunity.  I knew that it would be a blessing for me and provide me with the opportunity to not only expand my network, but continue to develop as a person.  I would probably say that the biggest honour was being named the first ei Khadija Saye Scholar, named after the amazingly, talented young woman who lost her life in the Grenfell Tower disaster and was one of the scholars who came before me – I really wish that I had gotten the chance to meet her.

Being a Khadija Saye Scholar opened the door to a wealth of opportunities this year and introduced me to a whole lot of wonderful, stellar people.  Julia immediately comes to mind, the force of nature behind ei and the queen of networking, who is also thoughtful, intelligent and most of all, has a very big heart .  Julia is an amazing conversationalist, with some of the best stories.  She is inclusive and caring, ensuring that no one is ever stood on their own and taking time to introduce you to others.  Throughout this year, Julia has made me feel nothing but welcome and supported, also asking me to read poetry at one of the trips away and present an award at the Comment Awards – both unique and great experiences.

The trips taken as part of Names Not Numbers, to the beautiful Waddesdon Manor and Oxford, were kind of surreal from me, but never failed to teach me a whole lot.  They were filled with great people, including Angela, Louise, Mr Gee, Simon, Mr Gee, Justine, Deborah, Steven, Shanice and so many more.  I’ve also loved getting to meet and speaking to other members of the Editorial Intelligence team, like Alice and Karen – they’re so funny.

I’ve met other beautiful, supportive individuals over suppers, like Kat, who I sat down with for great conversation over coffee.  I’ve learnt from truly talented veterans and legends in their fields at various events throughout the year, buying brilliant books along the way, like The Empathy Instinct by Peter Bazalgette, who personally signed it for me with his nickname after being majorly impressed by a question I asked (I was surprised too, I was simply speaking about what I know).

However, I think I’ve most enjoyed spending time with and developing friendships with fellow scholars, Mayur, Dami and Rae.  These are three brilliant young people, overflowing with talent and making a difference in the lives of young people in different ways.

Dami never fails to make me laugh, or make me smile with his bubbly energy – he is a master networker in his own light.  Rae is very easy to talk to and a fun presence to be around.  And I enjoyed spending plenty of time with Mayur during the weekend away at Oxford, engaging in conversations on a variety of subjects and having him by my side when I felt out of my depth.  Mayur also touched my heart majorly that weekend, when he had my back and gave me an unexpected gift – those little things mean the world to me.

I have already gained and learned so much during my time as a Khadija Saye Scholar, which has a whole lot to do with the people I have met.  I feel beyond blessed to have met them and I look forward to developing the connections in the new year and beyond.  To my champions and supporters, Patricia and Geraldine, you are the most amazing and wonderful women.  I love you all.

 

‘The Year of Shaniqua’

The end of the year is getting closer and closer, which always puts me into reflection mode.  If you know me, you’ll probably know that I never reflect more than when my birthday and the end of the year come around – for some reason, they always feel like new chapters.

If I was gonna give a title to 2018, I’d call it ‘The Year of Shaniqua’.  As much as I prefer to put others first, this year was about me and putting myself first, particularly through the second half, which I haven’t been doing a whole lot of in recent years.

A few months into this year, I came to the realisation that I had been seriously struggling mentally and emotionally for a long time, but had rarely given my mind and heart time to catch up.  Looking back, I can now see how broken I was, meaning that I was not giving the best of myself to others.  If I wanted to truly make a difference in the world and find my love for Young People Insight again, I needed to take time out and give myself the opportunity to heal.

I took a two month [semi] break this year, which was exactly what I needed.  I was able to enjoy time just being ‘Shaniqua’, rather than being ‘Shaniqua the Activist’ or ‘Shaniqua the Facilitator’ or ‘Shaniqua the Youth Advocate’.  I was also able to spend some more time developing as ‘Shaniqua the Poet’, which was amazing, as well as having more time to be ‘Shaniqua the Friend’.  It was great, although I would have loved a little more alone time, but you can’t always get everything you want.

Having time out made me realise that I need to take moments away from all I’m doing when necessary, which may mean cancelling a meeting when I’m feeling mentally unwell or putting aside work for an afternoon when I’m feeling emotionally drained.  I am just important as the people I want to reach.  I also decided to remove my Yahoo Mail app on my phone for good, as I did not want to be consistently checking it anymore.

I also wanted this to be the year of the ‘Single Shaniqua’, after coming out of a toxic relationship at the end of last year.  He came at one of the worst years of my life, when I was unknowingly incredibly broken, and still not over Charming, who I had really fallen for and had broken my heart.  It was like he was preyed on my brokenness, which enabled him to exploit my vulnerabilities and weaknesses, causing me to behave like someone I’m not – I never want to be that person again.

It was a horribly negative experience, which put me off relationships, but it was also a learning experience.  I learned how much I do enjoy being single and that a full-blown relationship really wasn’t for me at this time of my life.  I have so much going on that I want to apply my heart, mind and time to, without the addition of having to give so much intentional consideration and love to a boyfriend.  I also knew that I had a whole lot of work to do on myself – and also get over Charming – before I could even consider getting into a relationship again.  Although I have had some involvement with guys, I can happily say that I am still ‘Single Shaniqua’.

More than anything though, I’ve grown a lot this year and been able to move forward in a lot of ways, which was necessary after an awful 2017 and very trying 2016.  I’ve learnt a whole lot about myself, mainly through looking over my prayer journal and speaking to my amazing God, which has enforced how resilient I am and reminded me of how much I’ve achieved.  I’ve come to see that I need to be a lot less hard on myself, which I’m still finding difficult, but am working through.

I’m also continuing to ask God to help me work on my other negatives.  I’m trying to eliminate my frustrating inner narcissist.  I’m still fighting against comparing myself to others.  I’m continuing to work on being more patient, managing my time better, and most of all of, being more temperate and consistent with eating healthily, exercising and going to bed early.  Consistency is seriously one of my biggest vices.

This year may not have started off 100%, but it’s been a good one as a whole.  I’ve enjoyed 2018 and I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 brings, which I am already coining as ‘The Year of Young People Insight’ – I am definitely taking my baby to the next level in the new year.

However, despite it being ‘The Year of Shaniqua’, there have been amazing people that have contributed to my year and it would not have been the same without them.  Of course, there are always too many to mention in one post, which is why I plan to do something I haven’t done in a while and write a series of posts about some of the beautiful people who have played a special part in my 2018.  Keep any eye out for them – you never know, I could be writing about you.