A Defining Decade
December 1999. According to one of my animated brothers, the world was about to end. The Y2K bug was about to hit and leave mother earth in total darkness. There was tension in the streets of Harare (apparently) and some had started buying food supplies for sustenance till whenever it was their lives would come to an end. It was absolute “Pandemonium”.
My then pre-teen self was sceptical yet fascinated by the possibility that when the clock struck midnight to mark the end of the 31st st of December 1999 we would potentially be meeting with our Maker. I was somewhat disappointed when hours after midnight we were all still awake and no doubt alive enough to hear the sound of many joyous people in the streets. Like us, they had realised the Y2K issue was a hoax! So on that day I went to bed underwhelmed by the hype of Y2K.
Fast forward a couple of years and there was yet a new hype. “Vision 2020!” This became the mantra of many, a lyrical buzz term touted by many of the ‘visionaries’. It would be the era in which poverty would be eradicated , peace would reign, and a gamut of other issues would be resolved. So the long wait for 2020 began.
December 2019. The end of an era!! Far less ‘pandemonium’ and now I’m more mature to understand and reason out the realities before me and everyone else. There is however, an air of sobriety which I suspect has much to do with reality setting in. They had said, “Poverty gone”, “Peace reigning”, and “Equity and Equality achieved”. They said. They promised. They even funded. Yet, here we are. If anything, there has been a compounding of the opposite effects to what was the dream. The good news at least on my part is that I am less sceptical about the start of 2020 than I was on the 31st of December 1999.
Like most people I have been consumed with thoughts about the future. I have spent a large proportion of time ruminating about my top takeaways from the last decade and have only recently concluded that for me, it has been a life defining decade. On both the personal and professional front there have been some critical points that have ushered clarity. I am now cognisant of many things and I can confidently say that I’m emerging and moving forward a more refined, focused and bolder person and woman.
In my early 20s I could not have imagined myself working with and as an economist on some riveting projects that have a direct impact on the lives of many people. I was and hopefully remain laid back on most thing, however, focus and understanding of self were two things I had not realised I lacked. What I thought and assumed to be focus and understanding of self were merely false constructs I carried. These constructs had been shaped by family, friends and culture, and what a detour these constructs took me on.
Instead of bemoaning lost time and opportunities from my detours and many youthful follies (they were too many), I thought that I’d instead share some of the lessons that I have come to learn and will be carrying with me for the rest of my life. What good are lessons that are never shared?
I’ve had enough conversations with loved ones and strangers alike on countless occasions where I have realised that in sharing what I’ve learnt I can help one; and in helping one I may in fact be saving a nation. More on the latter perhaps when I’m more inspired to write on that. So in this last post for the year and decade I’ll be sharing with you my top 5 takeaways. It is all stuff we have heard but there’s always something different when you walk through something. Here goes…
- Be Anchored
Life is a journey and we will get to travel to different places. In spite of where we find ourselves it is important to remain consistent and intact. I’ve been on a few boats and watched my fair share of National Geographic “at sea” episodes to understand that what keeps any boat or ship from drifting out to sea is how and where it is anchored. There must be something that keeps you in place and on course or ready for the next journey. Be like an anchored cruise ship or boat (depending on what kind of vessel you fancy yourself to be). Go where you need to go, face the elements but always remain anchored and know what anchors you!
- Be Principled
In the last decade I have been to places – mentally , emotionally and physically where I thought I’d lose it or abandon myself. It may sound crazy but there are some seasons in life where it would certainly be much easier to be someone else. Took a while to figure out what made me tick and understand what it was I stood for. In the last 5 years this has become clearer for me and I have noticed the growth and shift in my interactions with people
In the same period, I’ve made up my mind on the negotiables and non-negotiables. As a result, I’ve lost opportunities and people because of this. Yes it has hurt, and yes it has been a process, but I am glad I have clarity on what guides me. Knowing my key principles has simplified some decision processes for me. So I’d encourage you to take time to note down and write out your key guiding principles and make sure they are not just good but they are the right kind of principles.
Then, let your principles guide you in every sphere you belong to. You will sleep better because of this!
- Be Yourself
Get to know yourself. Embrace yourself (good and flaws). Love yourself (in a non-narcissistic way). Commit to yourself and then be intentional about your growth.
In the last decade, I made several attempts to adjust and conform to the expectations of people and culture. In retrospect it was one of the greatest disservice I did to myself as I ended up trading great opportunities for the safety of comfort. Glad it was for a brief period before the light bulbs came on. If I could travel back in time and thoroughly discipline myself I think I’d take the opportunity. There is nothing more disappointing than looking back and realising you sacrificed great growth opportunities in favour of keeping the peace with folks that were only passing through your life for a season! Oh youthful follies, but they were not all a waste for I learnt that it matters to:
- Know your quirks and own them.
- Know your faults and work on them.
- Know your fears and confront them.
- Know what and who draws you back, then detach from them – there is a way you can like and love people and still remain genuine without risking your own sanity, safety and well-being.
Above all, understand that knowing yourself is a never ending journey, so get comfortable with it.
- Always be Present
I remember attending a Young Professionals Network session where our then Secretary (the equivalent of CEO in corporate speak) said, “Wherever I am, I am completely present”. What he meant was whenever he goes for a meeting, a catch up over coffee, dinner or whenever he is with family, he is completely present. He spoke about making it a habit not to carry a mobile everywhere he went , or if he does carry a mobile it is completely out of sight and silent when he has to engage with whoever he has agreed to meet or spend time with for the complete duration of that period. This right here, coming from the most senior person of the organisation struck a chord because it spoke about valuing the time, presence and effort of everyone regardless of position or relationship.
He went on to talk about how if he had a 1 hour meeting with someone he would ensure that for the full hour he would not look at anything else. He was intentional about not taking a laptop to meetings either and preferring to rely on pen and paper and the notes written by the designated note taker in meetings. His rationale for this was that he did not like the idea of denying himself and those he was to work with the opportunity of getting the best of him and he, the opportunity to receive the best of what was on offer from people he was with.
After this event I resolved that I’d do my best to be present. Still a point of development as my mind tends to be much like my internet browser , many tabs open and I can’t tell where the music is coming from. In the times I have been fully present, I have been surprised at what I have learnt about people. I have also been amazed at the impressions I have felt and the questions I’ve then been inspired to ask in conversations. This too has connected me to some unexpected characters in ways I could never have imagined. So what am I saying? Get in the habit of being fully present in whatever you do.
- Be Unapologetic
I have been learning, albeit in baby steps to be unapologetic about certain things. My femininity. My hair. My skin colour. My voice. My beliefs. My views. My rather audacious dreams. I cannot be apologetic about what makes me, Me. Everyone has something that they hold to , that drives them and anchors them in spite of. What anchors me is my faith in God. I know enough about where I have lived (mentally) and the paths I have walked (emotionally) to be now at a point of partial understanding. I say partial because I really still have many questions for God. However, I am quite clear on what I will not compromise on and what or who I would be willing to lose for the sake of my faith, sanity and well-being.
Where there are differences of opinion and understanding, I have and continue to learn to be open and understanding. I’ve had to learn how to be comfortable with the fact that there will be differences I can never resolve with everyone I meet. However, I can still live in harmony and with respect of the other because they too are just as human as I am. So where difference exists, be comfortable with it and mindful of your responses to those you disagree with.
There is a lot to say about the last decade but I’d like to keep it short and sweet. I’ll leave you with something from one of my favourite talks from the last decade. It was a talk given by Carla Harris who drops some pearls of wisdom from her many years of working as a woman of colour on wall street. In her talk she speaks about always keeping your head up. She says, “Keeping your head down will not keep you from getting shot, so you might as well keep your head up to see the bullet coming”. I still giggle at this because there is a lot of truth in this. Life happens in cycles. There will always be the good times and the not so good. No matter the season, it is always best, I believe, to give your best and do your best. So, as we welcome 2020 my parting words to you are: Be bold. Be strong. Be courageous.
Looking forward to sharing more with you and hearing from you about your top reflections from the decade that has been. What would your top 2 or 3 takeaways be?
Until next time😊
So inspiring Eugenia. Wondering why you can’t pen a collection of short stories or definitely a novel(no wonder it would be bemusing) for us to spend life on and immortalise you and your pen.