Why Am I Still Stuck Here?

When your only choice is hope.

Photo by aluko ayomiposi on Unsplash

You ask yourself again. Why am I still here? You’ve done your part. You’ve done your due diligence. There are other companies looking for people with your skills. Your relationship is going nowhere. You both know it. Your neighbourhood is suffocating you. You know you have to get out.

You don’t want to end up like aunty Sally’s children. All 4 grow up and still living at home. Johnny tried to get out. He was away for a few months. But he came back. He looked a little worse for wear. Maybe he just got hung up with the wrong crowd.

You tell yourself you can do better. You just need a break. You’ve been scanning the job section. Something out of town. Yeah, it’s time to get away from this area code. You’re from the hood, but not part of it anymore.

Your mind is somewhere else. They told you that you had potential.

Can they stop talking! These voices don’t want to go away. STOP, you say out loud. It’s only you in the room. You have trouble sleeping at night. You don’t want to end up a failure. It’s hard though.

No one understands.

Maybe you should go for a run. That always helps. To quiet the voices. You put on your running shoes and take off down the road. The cool breeze of the afternoon sun is refreshing and your mood starts to lighten. There must be a way out. You start to think of possibilities. Your marks were not so bad.

You’ve sent off several applications to universities out of state. No-one has gotten back to you yet. There is only a small chance of getting in. They’ve raised the bar. You need near-perfect test scores. Who gets that? No-one you know.

Even though you need the money, you know that you need to finish your education. You had to stop because you ran out of money. The IT support job at the local ad agency brought in just enough to keep the lights on and to keep you in the neighbourhood.

You had bigger dreams. You know you have to figure out a way to finish your schooling and feed yourself. Luckily it’s only yourself that you have to feed. You know Johnny has to feed himself, Rowanda and little Tristan. Thank God you had a narrow escape. Rowanda’s sister was all over you at the Spring dance. Clearly, she knew something you didn’t. You made it through the chicken wire by a hair’s breath. Carlo was not so lucky.

As you run down the road you see Mr Clarke’s Nissan coming down the road. Mr Clarke is the headmaster of the town’s only high school. He’s been driving the same Nissan forever. You wondered before how much he gets paid. He is the smartest man you know, but in his eyes, you always see a hint of sadness. As if someone or something dear to him is lost, lost forever. You don’t want to end up like him.

While you are daydreaming you don’t realise that he as past you and slowly brought his brown Nissan to a halt just a little further away from you. He jumps out and has a huge grin on his face. Adam, I’ve got something for you he smiles. You wonder what it could be.

Good Afternoon, Sir, you greet. He takes out an envelope from his jacket pocket and hands it to you. It’s a letter from the university. Mr Clarke could not contain himself.

Full scholarship he yells!

For a moment the sadness disappears from his eyes. There is something new there.

Hope.

It makes two of you.

How Bad Do You Want It?

Not nearly bad enough.

No-one ever has time. We wear the busy badge of honour. Well, did you have to sit in traffic today? Did you have to wait at the doctor’s office somewhere in the not so distant past? Were you waiting at the bus stop or train station today?

There are really no more excuses? You just have to ask yourself these questions.

  • Am I lazy?
  • Am I trying hard enough?
  • Have I sought advice when I feel stuck?

Now ask yourself these questions.

  1. Did I have 10 minutes to listen to an inspiring podcast, but instead scrolled through Facebook?
  2. Did I have the choice of packing my own lunch this morning, but instead decided to eat the greasy food at the cafeteria?
  3. Did I have a choice to set my alarm at 05h00, but when it went off I decided to hit the snooze button for another 10 minutes.
  4. Did I have a choice to hit the gym after work, but decided that I will go tomorrow and just slouched on the couch all evening.
  5. Did I have a choice to join my friends for drinks after work, or go home and work on my side project?

The reality is, you always have a choice. The fact that we ignore the fact that we have a choice does not make it go away.

The fact that we decide to close our eyes to how much we’re eating, how much we’re spending, who we spend our time with, what we do with our free time DO NOT make those choices go away.

In fact, in a very unobtrusive way, it remains. By not acknowledging it, it sits there and just grows in strength and form until one day we wake up and feel like we’re suffocating. Your whole world is falling apart and you wonder how you got there. Little by little.

Your mind doesn’t question you when you make those choices. You don’t give it a chance. It silently acknowledges that you have yet again bailed out on your new year’s resolutions. You said you were gonna stop drinking and you said you were gonna start exercising.

The first quarter of 2018 is gone. What have you achieved? Are you part of the 90% who fails? Those are overwhelming odds, to be in the 10% who actually succeed in keeping their new year’s resolutions.

One question remains. How badly do you want it? Is this the year of real change for you? You can try and fool everyone else. But you can’t fool yourself. Your heart knows. It knows how much you’ve put in. It knows if you have really tried. Talk is cheap.

Stop lying to yourself. I don’t want to be at this same spot next year. You don’t want to either. Make a conscious decision to start taking action and put one foot in front of the other towards a better life. One that you can be proud of.

One where people look up to you and say: wow, I really admire you. You have shown such courage and commitment in striving to become a better, more successful, healthier you. Be the one who stands out like a sore thumb, in a good way.

People all around us need encouragement. They need to see that it is possible to change your life around. They need to see just one person they know do it.

Is that you?

Do you really need more stuff?

How to cut down on accumulating even more stuff and make do with what you have.

Last weekend we had some friends over for a braai (the South African barbeque). I have a modest kitchen with just a few essentials, however, when you have people over you realise that you may not have enough plates and spoons. My friend was cooking jollof rice and she asked for a specific spoon (one with holes in it).

I opened the drawer and showed her what I have. I didn’t have one with holes in it. I know in her house there is a spoon for every purpose. My other friend was making the salad and I didn’t have any salad dressing! It never crossed my mind to buy it, because I don’t normally use a salad dressing.

I know this may sound strange, but how can you miss something that you don’t even know you’re missing.

I do like things uncomplicated and simple. I have downsized my wardrobe (I am not at the magical 33 pieces yet), but I am just happy that I don’t have to look at that lbd that I was hoping to fit into again after 2 kids! I wear a lot of the same outfits to work and whether people notice or not, I don’t care.

My pair of brown suede boots was a staple this winter (for the 3rd season), but I just wasn’t going to spend money on a pair of shoes for our 3–4 month winter (yes I know we’re lucky)! And the 3 coats I have, have served me well. They are well worn and so comfortable.

Wearing the same few outfits interchangeably saves so much time in the morning. There is only 1 of 2 choices. Besides freeing up space physically and mentally, you are also saving money.

And there’s a greater benefit. I paid off my credit card the other day. After many years of trying to get it down to zero and even if I did, I would keep it open just for emergencies. Of course, before long it would be maxed out again.

Well, that day was the day. And boy was it a mission to just close it and tell the bank that you don’t need their money any more. I called the bank and was told I had to wait another day or two for their systems to be updated, to confirm that I now officially had a zero balance.

Because maybe, just maybe they could squeeze another bit of interest out of you. The next day I was put through from one assistant to another and then the question: “Ma’am why do you want to close your credit card?” Well, maybe because I don’t want any more debt? Like my husband says when you wake up, it’s your morning! He is much better with money and thankfully a few things rubbed off on me!

But, it took time. I cannot judge anyone who is not there yet, I was also blind for a long time. But when you finally see the light, man you wonder, where have I been? You can also get there. That is the great thing about life, no situation is permanent. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The guidance will come from somewhere, but you have to be willing to take the first step. It’s mostly an individual journey.

As long as you are willing to make small sacrifices, incremental changes, then as surely as the sun comes up in the morning you, too, will arrive. I want to inspire you. It doesn’t matter that you wake up when you are 40 or 50 or 60, the fact is, you are not asleep anymore.

We become what we spend most of our time (and money) on

It’s month end and if you are one of the lucky ones who has a decent job or who runs their own business, you can count on a salary or some form of revenue coming in. You can take care of your expenses, the lights are on, you can decide whether it’s going to be chicken or beef, or vegetarian for dinner. However, the comforts of a somewhat middle class or upper working class come with their own share of pressures.

Our parents have worked hard to give us a better life than they had. We managed to make it through college without having to bribe, beg or steal and we are now safely far from the claws of poverty. But what do we do with this new-found freedom? We accumulate a bunch of stuff that we think we need. We entertain our friends to show off our new apartment, latest pair of wheels and everything our salary can afford us. Of course not far behind are the letters of demand and rising debt. It is so easy to spend more than we actually require or need. Before you know it you are stuck in a job you don’t like, to support a lifestyle that is stressing you out.

This has to stop. It is easier than you think. Start by drawing up a budget to see where your money is going. I am still confused when people tell me it’s in their head. Yes, but did you count your take-away cup of coffee on your way to work this morning? It’s the little expenses that add up. Once you know where your money is going, you can decide which of the luxuries you can live without. Take lunch to work instead of ordering at the cafeteria. But the meals are subsidised and we pay a fraction of the price. Yes, but you will have to work twice as hard at the gym tomorrow! Those meals are laden with fat, preservatives and everything that’s not good for you. And then there are drinks after work on Friday night. It won’t kill you to pass every now and then. Please don’t be the one who picks up the bill every time. Unless they are real friends, they will offer to pay some of the time, otherwise no need to hang out with them.

Do you really need cable or the flat screen tv that is taking up most of your time? Today you can download everything off the internet and watch on your time. Better, instead of wasting away in front of the screen, why don’t you take up a new hobby? Learn a new language, go for dancing classes. Best will be to move, if you have been sitting down all day. Put on your running shoes and go around the block. The benefits are endless. You’ll feel better, it doesn’t cost you anything and you will be more inclined to watch what you eat and better still, enjoy a good night’s rest.

We have to start taking control of our lives. Sit down and make a list of everything you want to accomplish and where you want to be in 3–5 years. Decide which habits are holding you back, what you can do without. Then take small steps every day that will bring you closer to your goals. The key is consistency. Celebrate the small victories. Only you can change your life and create the one you want. Let’s be proactive rather than reactive.

Finally, start today.

Ten Things In Life That Are Absolutely Free

Getting everyone in the car in the morning in time for school is a bit of a challenge. You tell everyone at least 20 minutes before the time that we are going to leave in 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes, I tell the boys that we have 5 minutes to get in the car and leave the driveway. Another 10 minutes go by because someone is missing a shoe or another can’t find his library book.

By the time we are all in the car I am just a tad frazzled. We get to school and as I wave my son goodbye he says: mommy, I love you so much. You can’t beat that.

Here are my list of 10 things that are absolutely free and that you cannot buy for any money in the world.

1. A child’s love

It is so unconditional. You can’t do anything to get it, you can just receive it.

All a child needs is to feel safe and to feel loved. It is in our power as adults to give them that. Don’t shy away from that responsibility.

2. A beautiful summer’s day

You wake up and it’s there. Whether you choose to see it or not, it will stay in your face. Seasons come and go. At the beginning of each season, embrace it. Don’t wish the time away. For once it has passed, you cannot get it back.

3. The feeling after a good run or workout

You may not feel like going to the gym. Don’t think about it, just put on your trainers and get going. It is really the best way to start your day.

Some people would love to move a bit more, but their bodies won’t let them. Be gentle with yours. Fuel it the right way and move.

4. A cup of coffee with a good friend

The coffee may be $1.75, but your friend’s company and good advice — priceless. Make time.

5. Curling up with a good book on Sunday afternoon

You may have had to pay money for the book, but the investment is in yourself. The time you spend nurturing, learning and growing cannot be bought with any amount of money.

6. Coming in from the rain and cold and taking a hot shower

The lights are on and you have somewhere to ‘hang your hat’ like my friend Nick Maccarone would say. Appreciate what you have for someone else will give their left pinky to have what you have.

7. Checking your bank account just before month end and finding that you have more money than month left

I wrote another piece a while ago about needing less. The easiest way to lift your mood is to know that you’ve worked hard trying to curb your expenses and then one day seeing that all your efforts to save are paying off.

Savour the moment, but don’t stop. It is only the beginning of great things for you.

8. Having a sense of humour

Whether you are the one with a sense of humour, or you have a friend with a sense of humour it makes life 10 times easier if you can laugh at yourself or catch a joke.

My colleague said something at work yesterday and if I think back I can’t help myself but burst out laughing. It was the most hilarious thing I’ve heard in a while. The best are those who can tell it to you as if they are reading the weather forecast. Enjoy!

9. Long awaited rain

On my grandfather’s farm in Namibia we are always waiting for rain. It is a semi-arid climate with long, hot summers.

The air is dry and there is very little green fields for the animals. When I was a child, we would spend most of our holidays on there.

At Christmas when you see the clouds gathering and you can hear the lightning and thunder after you’ve been waiting and praying for months. It’s a different kind of joy. You have to experience it.

10. Gratitude

It’s so easy to become despondent and question everything. Our daily routine sucks us in. We feel like we are barely hanging on.

Take some time out. Go somewhere quiet and alone and just be. Think about everything that is going well for you. Think about all your blessings. Appreciate who you are and what you have.

11. Bonus — Your beautiful smile.

You have it, you own it. Give it away freely and it will come back to you one thousand fold. Just try it.

Life is what we make of it. It’s in our hands.

You ARE Interesting and Smart, and YOU Matter

Building confidence and self-awareness and loving who you are

While growing up and in high school, there was the popular clique and then there were us. We were the average girls. I was one of them. We would always be just at the edge of all the activity and hype.

The smart and interesting girls had so much fun.

Everyone wanted to know what’s happening in Smartville. They sounded clever and confident and all we could muster were nods and oh really.

Fortunately time is a great equaliser. Fast forward 10 years and you will see who made it. It’s not always the high school sweethearts. Few things trump determination and hard work. Laziness cannot be part of your vocabulary.

It took me a long, long time to figure out that I was just as interesting and smart. That I can actually be quite witty and fun. You don’t have to wait for anyone to give you that validation. I want to encourage all the girls and guys who feel they are not matching up.

Those who feel inferior because your 3rd grade teacher did not think you will amount to much. Sadly, those words may have come from a parent or care giver. They sting and they stay.

Let’s encourage positively affirm our young people. You need to know that you are valued, that you are respected and that you can do anything you set your mind to.

Unfortunately, living in a digital world the enemy is just a click away. We are looking to Social Media for that affirmation by posting a perfectly staged moment and waiting for the likes. If you are confident in who you are, you don’t need any validation. Much less from digital friends who don’t even know your address.

Let’s teach our kids that their sense of worth must come from within, it cannot be obtained through someone or something else, like buying a loaf of bread over the counter. It comes from a place of love, self-awareness and pride in who you are and where you come from.

We as adults have a responsibility to the youngsters in our care, be it our own children or those of family and friends.

Everyone has a place and your place is where you are right now. Tomorrow your place will be different. You will be ready and you will fit right in. The anxiety comes from thinking about it when you are not there yet.

Take every day as it comes and know that if you consistently work towards your goals, you will wake up one day and you will be there. The opportunities are right in front of you, it is what we make of them.

There are things I know now that I wish I knew earlier, but I realise that I may not have been ready. Trust the process. Trust and take the advice of those who have walked the path before you.

Treat everyone you meet with love and kindness, for you know not what battle they are fighting.

Let love lead.

Be The Change You Want To See In The World

Do Something For Someone Who Can Never Repay You

As we were driving this morning to run a few errands, there was a heavy police presence in our area. This was unusual for a Saturday morning. It later dawned on me that it was the funeral of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

She was a South African anti-apartheid activist and was married to former President Nelson Mandela. She was very much part of the freedom struggle that led to the country’s independence in 1994.

We Are Indebted.

She, and others like her, fought for our freedom. She didn’t know me by name, but I am free today because of her. She didn’t have to, but she did.
South Africa is a better place because of her.

In a man’s world, she stood up. There is no excuse for me and you.
It’s time for ordinary citizens like you and me to pay it forward. In whatever manner we choose. There are opportunities all around us to do good and show kindness.

If you are reading this you are inherently fortunate. Our basic needs are met. About one 3rd of the world’s population live on a dollar a day. What are we going to do about it?

On Minimalism

We can start by making it a point to get out of the endless consumerism treadmill. We don’t need more stuff. It’s a good time to clean out the house and donate unwanted stuff.

Physical clutter takes up mental space.

Buy less.

“My riches consist, not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.” — Joseph Brotherton

Our journey here on earth is temporary. We are on borrowed time. Strive to do something that will leave a mark. Not for applause or accolades, but simply because we care.

Kindness, Kindness, Kindness

Kindness starts at home. Be gentle with your spouse. Be gentle with your children. At the office. Go out of your way and make someone’s day.

Those who need it most can never repay you. It is infinitely more valuable to give than it is to receive.

People like Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela stood up and said enough. It is our turn. Let’s be the voices of the voiceless.

There is always an opportunity to show kindness. To make an impact. To help someone in a less fortunate position. We owe it to ourselves.

”Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.” — Annie Lennox

We will all die one day. The saddest part will be to die without ever having lived. That is the biggest regret of the aged.

You have a chance to turn it around. Start today.

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ― Henry James