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Views from my end of the spectrum…

5 Lessons from my father’s death…

My memory was born the day my father died.

Coincidentally, it was on the 1st of September.

Hockey team
Dad (right) as part of the Dadaya Mission School Hockey Team. Source: Family archives.  

September, the month of my birth, will always be a time of internal conflict as it is characterized by pain and joy.  Pain because my father died on the first day of the month, and joy because I was born on the 12th day of the month.

I can’t say much about life before my father’s death. As a four year old, then, I was not aware of much around me. My memories of that period are vague and probably convoluted.

However, life changed and with my father’s death came the birth of my consciousness. I became acutely aware of everything around me, more attentive to people and my surroundings and more aware of what was happening around me.

Tragedy has a way of transforming us and always comes with some lessons.

For me, the most significant transformation was on my mind and I have carried some lessons from that experience throughout my life.

I guess it’s because part of my centre, as parents are central to any child’s life, had crumbled.

First, I learnt the value of people and relationships.

Perhaps because my father went to a land from where he would never return, I developed a new sense of consciousness about those who were left with me. Part of me learnt to appreciate people. Consequently, I value relationships and those around me, and treasure every moment with them. People matter to me and I pay close attention to them. I’ve been accused of paying attention to the minutest details about people, but that is their uniqueness, that which makes memories about them precious, and that’s what my father’s death taught me.

Secondly, I began to value words.

At that age, my memories of my dad were predominantly of him telling us Shona folklore about Tsuro na Gudo (the hare and the baboon) around the large blue asbestos heater on a winter night.  I certainly remember him teaching me our home address, phone number and other details in case I got lost, as a first step in preparing me for the outside world before I started nursery school. Needless to say I still remember that phone number more than 30 years later. I also remember the values he imparted to us about respecting people regardless of their station in life, after my siblings and I had disrespected the house help. Most of my memories of his words though, were based on what my mother and my siblings told me. I am glad they are balanced words that have molded me and shaped who I am today.

I may not remember much of what my father said to me individually, but I certainly became more attentive to people’s words after he died. Perhaps it was because I would have wanted to hear more of what he said in my mind, memorize his voice and immortalize him through his words, but that opportunity was lost. I desperately wanted to hold on to some of our conversations and retrieve some quotes from him in later years, but I missed that chance. But then again, how much can one really say to a four year old, and how much of those words can one so young retain?

You see, words are the glue that binds us together as human beings, because they are the vehicle through which we express our thoughts and emotions. My father’s words would have been the string that connected us, despite our being in separate worlds, and I wish I’d heard more of them. I treasure the words that have been passed to me by family, and from that experience, I learnt the value of words.

I believe people when they speak,  and I take them at their word. I trust that people think before they speak and weigh every word before it is uttered. Perhaps it’s the writer in me, but that’s been a major weakness on my part because I judge people based on their words and trust them. Unfortunately, some people just don’t take themselves seriously and are very flippant with their words. I’m amazed at the number of people who make plans and promises that they don’t live up to. I’m equally shocked by the number of people I’ve met, who forget their own words as soon as they are uttered. I am appalled at the number of people who don’t place any weight on their words, are careless with their tongues and don’t mean what they say. I guess they don’t realize that their words will form part of the memories they leave behind when they die. It would be a tragedy to be remembered for abusive, untruthful or flippant words.

It’s very uncomfortable when you remember  what people say, yet they don’t even value their own words enough to retain them in their memories. This sometimes puts me in an awkward position, particularly when I have to hold people accountable or repeat their words to them.

Sometimes my tendency to remember people, places and events can have negative consequences, like the time I caught my landlady’s husband trying to play the bachelor a few days after I was introduced to him. He had no recollection of our introduction, so you can imagine his embarrassment when I reminded him of how and where we had met before.

My third lesson was to celebrate life and to value memories we create with our loved ones.

Not surprisingly, the year my dad died, my fifth birthday was not celebrated. How could it have been, in the midst of mourning?

The following year though, we celebrated my sixth birthday.

It was a memorable occasion, although bitter sweet because one person was missing.  This, to my young mind, marked a first step in our collective effort to move on and start living again, in spite of our tragic loss.

I vividly remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the creamy orange cake, with neat little orange slices, some of which turned out to be made of jelly when I tasted them.  I remember all the children from our row of seven houses being present. I remember my mother reverting to her old wardrobe,  after shedding off the black clothes she had worn for a year as part of our cultural mourning  ritual for widows.

But most important of all, I remember my mother picking up the pieces of what was left of our lives, and rebuilding the family that we became. I will never stop admiring her strength and resilience. After that bleak year, we forged ahead. Mom went back to college, and built her career, thus enabling her to provide us with a comfortable life despite my father’s absence.

Dad at wedding
My dad (right) as best man at a friend’s wedding. Mom, very pregnant, in the background. Source: Family archives.  

This was my fourth lesson, that tragedy may strike, but you have to get up and move on.

Indeed, it is important to mourn, but it is even more important to move on, give the best of yourself, live life to the fullest, create your own memories and carve your own legacy.

That was my fifth lesson.  My dad lived his life to the fullest and gave his best in all he did. He excelled in what he did and at the time of this death, he had risen to the highest post available to black Africans at his workplace in colonial Rhodesia.  Without saying it in words, he passed on his values through what he left behind, be it a note from former Prime Minister Garfield Todd, evidence of appreciation from his employer or his foresight and forward planning that ensured we were covered financially long after he was gone.

Garfield Todd signed pic
A congratulatory note signed by then Principal at Dadaya Mission School, Sir Garfield Todd, who went on to become Prime Minister of  Rhodesia. Source: Family archives. 

I respect my father for what he imparted, both in life and in death. I appreciate the lessons he taught me, and the senses that his death awakened in me, which form part of the legacy he left behind. He will always have a special place in my heart. Although I wish death’s cruel talons had not snatched him from us, I’ve learnt to accept the loss and to draw lessons from it. So on this day, I take time to pay tribute to him and express my appreciation to him in the best way I know how, through writing.

 

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The voice of the people, the voice of God…

It was once proclaimed
The voice of the people, is the voice of God

Yet when the people spoke

Their voice was not heard

Drowned by vociferous egos

It was disregarded

And rather ignored

Like a quiet and unwelcome breeze

On a chilly night

Their cries became more desperate

As the people magnified their voice

And became like a howling wind

On a stormy night

Yet when they shouted louder

They were silenced, like a noisy gong

Crushed with a heavy hand

And bludgeoned to death

Their blood sputtered
Staining the streets

On which they once sang

Songs of freedom

So they were silenced

And their voice whittled

To a distant echo

And background noise

A furtive whisper

And an occasional murmur

A barely audible sound

The voice of the people
Became a silent fart
With an obnoxious stench

Questions were asked

Was the voice of the people

Ever really the voice of God?

Would anyone dare to silence him

If he chose to speak?

Perhaps then, the voice of the people

Never was, the voice of God.

But rather, a collective wish

That could be casually dismissed.

Matilda Moyo

20.08.2018

Curating @AfroBloggers on #SundayTakeOver

Every Sunday @AfroBloggers allows one person to manage its Twitter account from 9am to 9pm. I was guest curator for a day and here’s a bit about my experience.

First of all, a great big shout out to the team that curates @afro bloggers on a daily basis. Y’all do a fantastic job. Having been a guest curator for a day, I must admit that I didn’t know that being a curator was so demanding. It’s a full time job!

Secondly, a big shout out to the @afrobloggers community. You guys rock. You’re so responsive and made my job easy. It was fun visiting your blogs and getting to know a bit about you. I admit I didn’t visit all of them, the first few responses to the initial tweet got more attention, but at least I can continue from where I left off.

Now I know where to go for fashion, motivation, amusement, political analysis, travel tips, photography and you name it. I certainly won’t be running out of reading material and ideas anytime soon, and I hope you all feel the same way. Let’s read and support each other. It’s one of the ways we can continue to grow. It would be useful to find out from this awesome community if the exercise was useful though. Did you see an increase in traffic? Would be good to know.

I must confess that when the day started, I was nervous. I didn’t know how it would pan out. I started off knowing one thing for sure though, that if no-one retweeted any of my posts, at least the afro bloggers team would, from their personal accounts, so at least there’d be two likes and retweets at the minimum.

Also, I didn’t want to bore you guys and wasn’t quite sure what would make you tick. At the same time, I needed to maintain a balance between tweeting and interacting without overdoing it. There’s nothing as horrible as a moderator who dominates the conversation, yet one who’s disengaged is equally annoying, balance is crucial.

I must say though, once we got started my worries subsided and gave way to excitement as we engaged. Of course the tweet calling on bloggers to share their links got the most traction. We’re all human right, and if probe are going to participate in something there’s got to be some benefit.

I also learnt #tips4lazybloggers which I’ll certainly apply. Hopefully, we all found them useful.

Beyond that though, my greatest joy would be knowing that people got more visits and followers after sharing their links. Of course we share those links regularly, and we can never overdo it, but I certainly hope last Sunday was one of the days it paid off. I certainly got more traffic than on an average day when I haven’t posted, not only on Sunday but throughout the week. Indeed we all have to invest in promoting our blogs to encourage traffic, and I hope this was just one of the many avenues that led readers your way.

As with every experience, there are always regrets and lessons learnt. What do I regret about the day? Not having planned more for it in advance and not having said a little more – at the risk of bombarding you with tweets. Beyond retweeting and liking the links you shared, I wish I’d had the time to visit every blog and say something to promote it, but that required time. Being currently based in a non-Christian country, Sunday is a working day for me, so I had to juggle work and play. I also regret not being more creative with the posts. And oh yes, the hashtags, I didn’t make enough use of them.

What would I do differently? Given another chance, I’d maintain some of what I did, that is, find another way to promote other bloggers but in a more exciting way this time. Perhaps I’d do the individual blog reviews and promos. I’d also plan for the day well in advance, while still leaving room for sponteneity so we’d have a healthy mix of both. Having taken note of the times people were most actively engaged, I’d be more strategic in scheduling tweets. I’d also have posted more questions and promted more conversation.

Nevertheless, in spite of the highs and lows of the day, I can say with certainty that it was well worth it. I enjoyed curating and was actually heartbroken when it was time to say goodbye. As the clock inched closer to 9pm, I felt the pangs that come with letting go of what you love. I’ve always enjoyed being part of the afro bloggers community but after 12 hours of interaction, one clearly develops some attachment.

Having said that, I’d encourage anyone who can to try the #SundayTakeOver. You won’t regret it, I promise you.
The most immediate benefit was the interaction, but beyond that, if you’re a shy person, it will certainly help you to come out of your shell.

However, beyond the benefits, whether real or imagined, I think we owe it to ourselves to offer our skills and share the responsibility of curating this awesome account. After all, we all have something to offer and since variety is the spice of life, a different curator every week will certainly add a little more flavor plurality of voices.

So, give it a try, go for it.

When silence is convenient: 6 reasons why women don’t report sexual harassment

 

sexual harassment 3.jpg

Georgina and Norma’s story…

When Georgina’s boss Dan made advances at her, she brushed it off and opted to deal with it the best way she knew how – through silence.

As his demands became more pressing, she maintained her silence. Georgina knew the signs of sexual harassment all too well, yet she chose not to report. The hand that crawled down her thigh and squeezed her knee, or strayed too far down her back and landed on her rump, the hugs that were tighter than normal around the chest and left her feeling defiled, the furtive stroke of her cheek when no-one was looking or the gesticulations that conveniently brushed past her breasts, the veiled threats and the distasteful sexually suggestive remarks, yet she still maintained her silence.

When a younger colleague, Norma who was experiencing the same abuse confided in her, she advised her to be quiet. A new colleague, Norma was on a short term contract and needed it renewed. Georgina feared that her young friend might lose her job, as the contract renewal rested solely in Dan’s hands.

“Look, it happens to all of us. Don’t ever breathe a word about it to anyone. Do you understand?” she whispered to Norma, as if she was afraid the walls would hear them and carry their conversation to Dan’s office, more than 250 metres away.

“But he’s abusing us, there is strength in numbers, can’t we do something about it? Surely we can report him,” Norma persisted but Georgina retorted with a stern warning.  “Do you still want your job?” Sure Norma wanted her job, but not at the cost of being abused, yet she would not dare to report without the support of her colleague.

Both knew they were being sexually harassed and the reporting channels for such cases. They were bombarded with information on how to protect themselves regularly, yet they still opted for silence and justified it in their own ways.

Georgina (55), driven and highly specialized, was at the apex of her career and would not let anything stand in her way. No organization could match her current salary and benefits, while she felt her age made it more difficult to find a new job and start afresh. She could not afford to jeopardize her job and was unsure of the repercussions of reporting Dan.

A mother of two, who was undergoing a brutal divorce and would soon be a single parent, her confidence was severely battered and she could not face another battle. So, she chose to focus on the positive aspects of her career and threw herself wholly into the only comfort she knew and the most successful aspect of her life at the moment – her work.

On the hand Norma (30), strong willed and choleric, with an acute sense of justice, felt they should report but was reluctant to face the battle on her own. She believed in the mantra “united we stand, divided we fall.” Her colleague’s reluctance to join hands held her back.

Norma had received a partial scholarship at a university overseas and needed to save up for her tuition so she could resume her studies.

Both were unsure of the consequences of reporting but lacked the assurance that it would not jeopardize their jobs. Although all cases were treated with strict confidentiality, the two did not have faith in the system. Besides, since Dan was abusing both of them, they would both incur his wrath when he was called up for his actions, regardless of who reported, the other would still bear the brunt. Most discouraging though, was the fact that the burden of proof lay with the two women and while each case was investigated thoroughly, it was extremely taxing on both the victims and the perpetrator.

Feeling angry and helpless as they sat in Georgina’s office, the two spent the rest of the day in depressed silence and ate imported chocolate, their shared comfort food.

A few months later, Norma could not take any more of the harassment and had an outburst. Dan could not fire her because he had to provide compelling reasons for doing so and her performance at work was outstanding. The morning after the outburst, Georgina and five other female colleagues sneaked to Norma’s office to congratulate and thank her for standing up for them. She had stood up for herself, but in doing so did not realize that she spoke for many others who were suffering silently.

Emboldened by Norma’s action, the others began to push back and stand up for themselves, forcing Dan to retreat and treat them with respect.

Dan was later dismissed for other misdemeanors. Sexual harassment never appeared on his charge sheet, after all, no one had reported it formally.

Tatenda’s story…

10-crazy-sexual-harassment-webWhen Nicholas bumped into Tatenda (38), a colleague, at a supermarket and waited for her to finish shopping then insisted on paying for her groceries, she felt very uncomfortable and made it expressly clear that she did not appreciate the gesture. Although they had both stretched forth their hands to give the cashier money for the groceries, he had opted to take money from the man, forcing Tatenda to reluctantly accept the unwelcome offer.

After asking him never to do that again, she was taken aback when a few months later, she received a list of numbers from Nicholas. He had bought credit for her mobile phone and sent her the numbers from the scratch card. Again, she was uncomfortable, but the friends she told saw nothing wrong with it. She never used the credit.

A few more weeks down the line, he discovered her love for Swiss chocolate and went out of his way to source some for her. She relaxed a little, perhaps he was just a kind man, but her friends immediately saw a red flag. Within days of the chocolate delivery, he demanded sex. Tatenda was taken aback, she’d been uncomfortable about being showered with presents but did not think it would lead to that. She made it clear that she had values, had never asked for any of this gifts and sex would not happen.

Nicholas was surprised. He had an 80 percent success rate. Most women he showered with gifts consented, so he could not understand Tatenda’s reluctance. As far as he was concerned, the gifts were a future investment for later sexual activity, a bit like depositing money into the bank for withdrawal later, so he didn’t see where Tatenda missed it.

Sadly for Tatenda, most of her colleagues had consented because Nicholas held a higher position, which he used to manipulate them. However, she and her friend Mary were in a better position to speak up as they had more senior posts and did not fall within his department, hence his 80 percent success rate – they were the 20 percent minority that stood up.

To her relief, he stormed out of her life and that was the end of his advances. He also found another job and moved to another city, permanently.

Neither Tatenda nor Mary reported the matter. After all, they had not given in to his demands so it was no big deal. Silence was convenient, they did not have to face the humiliation of discussing the matter with anyone. It never occurred to them that the colleagues who had consented did so under duress and that reporting the matter would have given the more timid and less empowered workmates a voice.

These few examples point to a larger, global problem. Sexual harassment was brought under spotlight recently, when women got the courage to publicize their experiences and named and shamed some prominent male perpetrators, prompting some resignations. Emboldened by the reports, the issue snowballed as more women came forward with their cases.

sexual harassment 2

As with most cases of sexual harassment, the first question people asked was “why now after so many years?”

Well, to feel the pinch, you have to wear the shoe.

There are many reasons why women take long to report cases of sexual harassment or choose not to report at all. Here are just a few:

  1. The risk of being judged and ostracized

Clearly the people who ask “why now?” do not realize that reporting or talking about sexual harassment or any form of sexual assault is not as easy as buying bread. It takes a great deal of courage for someone to stand up and speak out, particularly in a society that blames women for the harassment they incur, while excusing the perpetrators. In most cases the women, who are the victims, are judged and risk being ostracized.

Some years ago, I heard of a case where someone reported a case of sexual harassment to authorities in the organization she worked for. After conducting investigations and establishing that sexual harassment had indeed taken place, the man in question was dismissed while the lady retained her job. Unfortunately, the lady was judged for the rest of her tenure in the organization and treated like a pariah, who seduced men then got them fired when she was done with them. I’m sure when some colleagues saw her approaching they secretly sang the golden oldie:

“Oh oh here she comes,

Watch out boy she’ll chew you up.

Oh oh here she comes,

She’s a man eater.”

In another example, a male employee fondled a new staff member in the office. She immediately screamed and reported the matter. He was instantly dismissed and in his defence claimed a demon had possessed him. Interestingly, in discussing the matter later, work mates were quick to ask “what will become of his family, he was the sole breadwinner.” One could not help but detect the finger pointing. I suspect that sentence, rephrased, would have been “you shouldn’t have reported him, you should have kept quiet so he could keep his job, after all he didn’t do it, it was the demon.”

In both examples, discussion turned to the women’s conduct, dressing and voluptuous shapes. Both women were blamed, yet had they kept quiet, their silence would have been misconstrued as consent.

  1. Fear of possible loss

The stakes are also high. Take for instance Georgina’s case, she felt she had a lot to lose – her dream job, the prestige it brought and the associated financial benefits. Whether the loss was real or perceived is inconsequential because it prevented her from reporting and accessing her rights.

  1. Lack of trust in existing systems

Many organizations have put in place systems that protect employees, both male and female, from sexual abuse and harassment.  In such organizations, the various forms of harassment are clearly defined and reporting procedures are spelt out and communicated to staff, with assurance of protection and confidentiality.

It is a well-known fact that women are being harassed, yet the question is, to what extent are the policies and procedures to protect them being taken up?  The low uptake may be an indication of lack of trust in the system. Indeed systems may be good but they are implemented by people, who have flaws. Take for example a situation where Dan is best friends with the focal point for receiving such cases. What guarantees are there that he won’t informally warn his friend about the reported case and should he do so, what protection will the victim have?

(Although the policies and procedures protect both men and women, focus here is on women because on enquiring from male counterparts, they said they welcome advances from female colleagues and would not consider reporting cases of harassment as they did not view it as such)

  1. Lack of solidarity and support

One thing is for sure, there is comfort in numbers, as evidenced by the snowball effect of the #MeToo campaign. As long as women feel isolated and unsupported, it will be difficult for them to report cases of sexual harassment. Peer support is very important, particularly when reporting results in investigations and interrogations that are emotionally taxing and psychologically draining, with the risk of social sanctions.   At the same time, organizational support within the system is equally vital.

This is clearly illustrated in Norma’s case.

  1. Possible impunity for the perpetrators

It is never clear what will happen after one reports a case of sexual harassment. The pendulum could swing either way. While some organizations have been known to act without fear or favor, others have reportedly defended the perpetrators. In any case, impunity is always a possibility. In the examples shared, the perpetrators were punished, but that is not always guaranteed, particularly when the focal point for receiving cases is friends with the alleged perpetrator.

In some cases, particularly the private sector, men have reportedly joked about cases brought forward in private over a beer after hours.

A friend of mine always remarked about “old boys’ clubs” and these sometimes manifest when men rally together after one of them is accused of sexual harassment.

  1. Fear of reprisal and other unforeseen consequences

To every action, there is a consequence and while most organizations make every effort to protect those who report cases of sexual harassment, there are no guarantees that the victims will not suffer unforeseen consequences.

There are numerous possibilities. In the examples of the two women who reported their cases and were blamed by colleagues for doing so, the unforeseen consequences included the accusations and isolation by colleagues, the scrutiny they were brought under, the ensuing judgment and the guilt of thrusting a family into economic deprivation by getting the bread winner fired.

In some cases, women who reported late have been accused of doing so after a relationship they had consented to turned awry. The implication of consent disregards the possibility of coercion and abuse of power.

In other cases, the men banded together and frustrated the woman who reported out of the organization.

There is also the possibility of reputational risk to the organization, should the case leak to the media, particularly if the company is a significant one.

In conclusion, women who come forward and speak out about sexual harassment, no matter how late after the incident, should be applauded for their courage, while organizations should look at improving their systems to make it easier for victims to report. Organizations should also act on such reports fairly and speedily as this would set a precedent and dissuade other would be perpetrators from abusing their colleagues. Men also need to join hands with women and condemn such behavior as this will shift the problem from being dismissed as that of “whining women,” to a universal issue. Just as there is strength in women uniting, there is even greater strength in women and men joining forces to battle the monster called sexual harassment.

Picture sources: https://goo.gl/Nzv2gh , https://goo.gl/ofuJEF , https://goo.gl/tP5VDZ

Don’t die just yet: Advice to women 35 years and above

product-life-cycle-4-638

One of life’s ironies is the claim that life begins at 40, yet many people start to die before 40 and behave as if they have died after 40. It’s as though they have reached the decline stage of their life cycle and begin to gradually check out.

Apart from voluntarily dying off gradually, it seems society condones this and expects people to stop dreaming and start checking out after a certain age. This is particularly so with women. I find some women stop living for themselves after birth and those without children give up on life and stop living after a certain age, usually post 30 when society writes them off as having lived past their best-by date.

Over the years, I have made a few observations about women over the age of 35. Of course there are many exceptions who have defied the odds and achieved great feats. Those are the women we look up to today and aspire to be like. However, if we are to reach the heights they have scaled, we may have to change some behaviors. Below are some concerning behaviors about women aged 35 and above, which I feel sabotage our growth and prevent us from attaining our dreams.

  1. Reluctance to learn new things.

I have noticed that as we grow older, we become reluctant to learn. Consequently, some people become redundant. Newspapers are a good example of this. Once upon a time, journalists used typewriters for their stories and newspapers were printed on printing presses. That has since changed. Now everything is computerized. When computers were introduced, some people went on strike and complained that “they are bringing machines to do our jobs.” Well, guess what, change came regardless of the strikes and those who embraced the new technology were absorbed into the system, while those who resisted became redundant. No prices for guessing the ages of those who were subsequently retrenched.

Such is life, the world is moving and you resist change at your own peril.

We are living in an era where almost everything is based on technology. Job applications, banking, shopping and bill payments, among most daily activity, are now being done online, yet some people refuse to adapt and opt for the same old way of doing things.

Some women over 35 have excluded themselves, particularly from anything to do with technology, because they feel it is “for the kids.” Not surprisingly, the number of women over 35 who embrace technology is small in comparison to men. For example, less women are active on social media than men. One could argue that access to the internet and the gadgets needed to go on social media is a challenge, particularly for rural women. However, even those women with access to the gadgets and the internet do not embrace technology as readily as their male counterparts. Although many finally caught on to facebook, rather belatedly, few have embraced twitter, instagram and snaptchat among other platforms, yet this is some of the technology that is influencing communication and driving the world we live in.

While it is true that younger people embrace technology much more than the older generation, there is nothing that stops people from embracing technology. In the same vein, I have heard social media being trivialized as being for immature people, yet let’s face it, it now plays a huge role in our lives, in some cases even recruiters look at one’s social media footprint.

Last year my older sister attended a forum for women in business. During one of the sessions, the facilitator asked the women how many of them were on facebook. Less than half of the participants raised their hands. The numbers dwindled further when she asked about other social media platforms. She then asked them why they were not on social media and most responded that it was for their husbands. Thereafter, the session shifted focus to why women should embrace technology and how they would benefit from it. Many of them left the forum motivated to embrace and tackle, rather than shy away from technology.

The truth is that those who embrace technology, learn new skills and adapt to the ever changing environment can never become irrelevant and it is time that women aged 35 and above embraced this reality.

  1. Deciding to simply stop dreaming

Some women simply stopped dreaming as they grew older. It’s as if their ability to dream is being chipped off with every year added to their ages. I believe it is possible to take on new challenges regardless of one’s age. We can all reinvent ourselves and trying something new certainly should rejuvenate us.

I recently remarked to someone that our generation will need PhDs to get ahead in their careers as everyone now has a Master’s degree. Her response was that it was too late for her and she was leaving it to the next generation as she was over 40. Really?

Interestingly, most of my male friends who hold PhDs attained them after the age of 40. They did not stop dreaming and certainly did not let the number of years they have been on earth stop them from pursuing what they wanted.

I believe more women ought to adopt this kind of self belief too. We cannot afford to resign so early in life.

I don’t know how many people realize this, but working with a retirement age of 65, at 35 one still has a good 30 more years in their career, while a 40 year old still has 25 more years. That’s ample time to undertake further studies, pursue dreams and to reach one’s goals.

  1. Fear to venture into new territory

Let’s look at a case study of three women over the age of 40. We’ll call them Christine (44), Martina (48) and Roxanne (49). Christine got an offer to move to another country and start a new job but turned it down because she was too old to start afresh in life. She is still frustrated.   The same opportunity was offered to Martina, who immediately took it up and moved. Within a year she had settled in both the new country and the new job and was happy. Roxanne was laid off and the only job she could land was totally different from what she had been doing for the last 20 years. She took on the challenge, learnt the ropes and excelled at her new job. She is happier in her new job than she was in the previous one.

I believe these stories illustrate that it is never too late to venture into new territory, learn new skills or take up new challenges. It’s all in one’s attitude.

  1. Voluntary stagnation

Some people have simply stopped growing, out of choice.  I call it voluntary stagnation. This entails choosing to refrain from anything that will aid one’s growth. For instance, when one stops reading, chooses to remain oblivious of current affairs, decides not to learn anything new and opts for like-minded friends, it is a form of voluntary stagnation.

I am amazed at the number of women over 35 I have met who find it taxing to read. One lady even boasted that since she left school she has not read even a paragraph from a newspaper. Really? That’s frightening. Where do people get the information to make informed decisions if they refrain from acquiring knowledge?

These observations sadden me because I believe women, like all members of society, have so much to offer the world at every stage in life. Any society that does not harness the potential of women can never develop to its full potential because it is only benefiting from the contribution of half of its population.

Unfortunately our operating environment also perpetuates this to some extent. While there are men who encourage women to grow to their full potential, there are also those with a false sense of superiority, who believe in oppressing women and maintaining the statusquo.  Unfortunately, the oppressive men are the majority and tend to discourage women from excelling. Some even use age to hinder women’s growth. It’s either the women are too young or too old to achieve, and one wonders if there is ever a right age for women to pursue their dreams.

About two years ago, a colleague overheard me talking about plans to take on a new job. His response was, “at your age, do you honestly think you can adjust to a change of environment?” I was surprised, considering I was younger than him. Thankfully, I did not pay attention to him and in less than a year I had a new job in a different environment. Needless to say I adapted very well to my new environment and excelled at my new job. I don’t think adjusting and excelling is a function of age. I believe sometimes it boils down to one’s attitude.  I know women who took on new jobs at 55 and still excelled because they were determined to succeed.

Ever wondered why most younger women complain about the shortage of mentors? Well, apart from the historical gender imbalance that deprived women of opportunities, I believe women also contribute to that shortage when they stop achieving and aspiring for greater things because of their age and it is time to change that narrative.

My advice to women aged 35 and above is let us not die before our time. We have so much to offer to the world, but  before we can give anything, we need to grow. That growth comes from learning, embracing innovation and investing in ourselves. We can rise up to any challenge regardless of our ages. Let’s get up, go out there and conquer the world.

Don’t die just yet!

Picture source: https://goo.gl/jQ4Cen

Same monster, different face

Different face

Same monster

Just another side

Of the same coin

Like Janus

The two faced one

In Roman mythology

Who coincidentally

Was the god of beginnings & transitions, 

gates, doors, doorways, endings and time.

When dreams are like raw material for movies

For me, going to bed is like booking a seat in the front row of a theatre to watch a free movie.

I have the most vivid and sometimes rather entertaining dreams. They range from cartoons to romance and sometimes more serious dramas. The nightmares are particularly horrific.

On some occasions I’ve woken up to the sound of my laughter, when I have a comic dream. Similarly, nightmares induce occasional screams. Once I was woken up by sobs, only to realise it was my voice and I was crying in my sleep. I still remember that dream more than 15 years later, but I’ll leave it for another day.

By the way, on a normal night, I sleep in three hour intervals and usually have a different dream for each segment, although the dreams in the last interval are the ones I remember most.

So today, in the wee hours of morning and during my final interval, I had an interesting dream in which I was not an important person, but just a casual observer accompanying the main protagonist.

It so happened that while completing some forms in a banking hall in some country, I struck up a conversation with the man beside me. He was a six foot tall, lanky Caucasian man probably in his early 50s, with weathered skin because of the amount of time he spent outdoors. He looked every bit the outdoor type, clad in khaki pants, a blue shirt with rolled up sleeves and a well-worn beige leather hat.

He was just one of those ordinary looking but interesting guys with an odd habit. It’s important to mention the habit because it’s a central part of the dream.

During our first conversation I learnt that this man always carried two sets of keys – one for a car and one for a helicopter – the Cessna type that uses an ignition key.

He and his partner, whom I later met, were in the business of rescuing people in distress, a bit like The Samaritans in action. Their rescue operation was designed so they could access cars and helicopters across the globe using the same two keys.

We instantly became friends and they started taking me on their missions.

One day they were called to rescue twins aged somewhere between the late 30s and early 40s, who were planning to commit a double suicide while skydiving. The two Black ladies of mixed descent, intended to jump off the plane, quickly undo all measures designed for their safety, then free fall to their deaths. In this dream, they were to dive alone and had calculated what it would take to ensure they were dead on landing.

They had envisioned every detail of their deaths and the ensuing media coverage.

Twins, together at birth and in death, exiting the world a few seconds apart, in a tragic but well executed double suicide. Their grievances were well documented in a note that would probably be discovered during the investigations following their deaths.

My hero, whose name I didn’t know throughout the dream, got wind of the suicide plan through the ladies’ family – his business was well known back in his home country.

I travelled with him and his partner on this particular mission.

As in an action movie, they managed to catch up with the twins as they began their descent. With his partner controlling the helicopter, they circled the air while my hero jumped out and managed to catch both women in the nick of time so they all landed neatly in the back of an open truck in some desert.

Of course the helicopter and truck used the universal ignition keys.

The twins were grateful to be alive because at some point during the fall, they’d changed their minds about the suicide.

On our journey back to the city, my hero and one of the twins fell in love. They got married and had twin girls, who looked exactly like their mother. They travelled the world as a family, sometimes on rescue missions and other times on vacation.

One day, while on holiday in Zimbabwe, the father went out on an errand, while the mother remained at their temporary home with the girls who were then toddlers. One of the twins wondered off and had a traumatic experience while the mother was preoccupied with some household chore. It’s not very clear what happened to the little girl, but she was dishevelled and distraught when she was found. The father got home in time to rescue her. The mother blamed herself for the accident, but although he secretly felt the same, he consoled her. In the end it all worked out well and the dust settled. That was his last rescue mission before I woke up. The dream ended as the father took an afternoon nap in their temporary home, after ensuring that his wife and daughters were safe.

In the previous episode on the same night, I dreamt I was at a gig where Zimbabwean contemporary musician, Jah Prayzah, released a new song. It was a beautiful composition in Shona and an instant hit. Of course should he ever sing such a song, I’ll be the first to recognise it. I attended the show with my friends and we danced like crazy. My dance was so breath taking, I wish I could transfer those moves to real life.

So, what’s your dream life like? What images do you see when you go to sleep? I hope they’re as pleasant and entertaining as mine.

Photo sources http://arseurope.com/ and http://bit.ly/2i14u9m

Stressed? Try screaming

Reblogged retrospectively in light of Day 14 of the #30DayAfriBlogger #BlogTemberChallenge #MyAfricaMyWords on mental health…

sheXpress Blog

Screaming has been known to have a cathartic effect on people. A loud, shrill, intense scream gives one a sense of release and leaves the screamer feeling at peace. Screaming is no doubt, a cheap outlet for pent up anger, energy and tension.

A few years ago, as students my friend and I discovered a simple way to manage life’s problems. Rather than bottle up stress or down tablets, booze or whatever options fellow students chose to drown their sorrows, we developed the habit of taking long walks at night, to a place where we could scream. Yes, we would just scream!

Once in a while, after a build up of stress, we would take our crazy, screaming walks, let out the steam and live happily until it was time to scream again. We would find an isolated spot in Harare’s concrete jungle at a time when traffic had subsided…

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5 Benefits Of BlogTemberChallenge Halfway Down the Road

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It’s been a number of days of blogging in the #30DayAfriBlogger #BlogTemberChallenge #MyAfricaMyWords and halfway through the challenge, I must say it’s been fun, although it hasn’t been easy.

Life is happening concurrently as I blog and in between hustling, eking out a living and fulfilling social obligations, I’ve tried to live up to the challenge and blog daily.

My journey has not been smooth.

Thankfully I’ve managed to blog on most of the days – say 90 percent of the time – and I can count the few when I didn’t.

On some days I’ve had to cheat a little and post on the following day but I guess it’s better late than never, right?

Here are five things I’ve enjoyed about the journey so far:

1. Being pushed out of my comfort zone.

I’ve had to write about diverse issues, some of which I’m not familiar with. On some days, the topics have been fun but time was not on my side, on other days the topics have been tough and  not what I would ordinarily write about.  There have also been days when I really felt I couldn’t do the topics justice without spending some time on research, yet I didn’t have time to research. I guess that’s the essence of the challenge and it’s certainly stretched me to go the extra mile in my writing.

There have also been days when I just loved the topics because they were close to my 💓 and I wrote from my heart. Naturally music is one of them.

2. Reading the work of fellow bloggers has been beneficial.

I’ve read to learn about our cultural diversity, get exposure to various writing styles, glean new ideas, get inspiration and be a part of fellow bloggers’ journey in this blogging challenge.

3. Developing the discipline to write daily.

I normally write when I feel like it, but I gave up that choice when I signed up for the challenge. Some days I was just not in the mood to write anything, but once I got started inspiration came from somewhere deep within me I guess. There have been times when I’ve had to write just before midnight to catch the daily deadline.

4. Growth. Personally, I feel I’m growing as a blogger.

I imagine my writing has improved. To start with I’ve noticed my posts are shorter, which indicates that I’m learning the art of brevity. The number of people who are reading my blog has also increased and I hope and pray that momentum will continue. The challenge has also come with benefits such as practising writing daily.

5. The support, encouragement, camaraderie and sense of community that comes with being part of this family of bloggers.

Conversations have been started and new relationships built over this short period. I look forward to continued engagement with this great community.

That being said, I intend to continue with the challenge and hope to blog daily.

Picture source: http://bit.ly/2f1Q6fj

 

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