Reflection

They Made Me a Better Person

On my last blog post, I reflected on ‘The Year of Shaniqua’, and mentioned that I wanted to do a series of blog posts about some of the beautiful people who have played a special part in my 2018.  When I thought about doing this series of post, two individuals that I met in TCFT in Bridport earlier this year came to mind.

I’m not really about labels and I don’t like putting anyone’s business out there, so I’ll just say that I had never met anyone like them before.  Meeting them made me more understanding, even more tolerant and less ignorant about certain things I had a lack of knowledge on.  I don’t think they realise how big of an impression they made on me.

More than anything, they became my friends, and if you know me, you’ll know that my friends mean a whole lot to me.  I enjoyed creating music with them, reading their lyrics, speaking about their questionable eating habits and having incredibly rich conversations.

Since meeting them in February, I’ve watched them grow and move forward in a myriad of ways, which is truly amazing, considering how shy and closed off they were when I first came into their orbit.  I am genuinely happy for them and proud of all that they have been able to achieve, especially artistically.

One of the most amazing things about being part of TCFT is developing relationships with individuals from all walks of life, which challenge you and expand your mindsets.  Meeting Billy and Ken definitely expanded my mindset and made be a better person.  The five days spent with them will have an impact on my whole life – I am literally not the same person I was before meeting the two of them.

I hope to see a little more of Billy and Ken in 2019, but more than anything, I hope that my friendship with them will continue for years to come and that we will have the opportunity to create more art together.

So to Billy and Ken, thank you for being such a special part of my 2018, contributing to my growth and having a significant impact on my life.  I love you lots.

‘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.

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.