Book of the Month: Finding Me by Viola Davis

I am excited to break the fiction streak of Book of the Month for THE Viola Davis. Her memoir, Finding Me, had a sixteen-week wait or thereabout at the library. And trust me when I say this book was worth all of that and more. 

This book tells the story of Viola Davis’s life from a crumbling apartment in Rhode Island to the world’s stage. In a lot of ways, it shows a path that normally wouldn’t make sense but can only be connected looking backwards. There is a lot about her life growing up, and the abject—and this is putting it mildly—poverty she and her siblings grew up in. This is a deep reflection of her life, a validation of her life, and an affirmation to 7-year-old Viola (who literally ran home every day from school because some boys chased her with sticks calling her the n-word and such). This is not a juicy book as much as it is a truly inspiring—if somewhat heartbreaking—memoir. It is a testament to resilience, hard work, and struggle. The honesty in this book is the best part of it. There are hard truths about her life, her family, and her mistakes that she sheds and presents to us. Yet, all of what she writes in this book only makes her more alluring, and you, more in love with her. In this book, her vulnerability is her power. 

What Does Love Look Like? Answering With Help from bell hooks

Love. Love. Love, baby. Let’s get all intellectual about love. If anything could both be underrated AND overrated, it would be this bad boy called love. Love encompasses our society. It touches our soul, and our heart, and yet, it is so delicate we don’t really know what to do with it. There is an implicit assumption that we just know how to love even though no one ever really teaches us how to. Enter bell hooks. Now, I have to preface this—especially as a Christian woman—by saying bell hooks is not the authority on love nor does she have the final say on love. Her book, All About Love, just shows she has given a lot of thought into love, and she shares those insights. She provides an intellectual take on the concept of love, but we are going to attempt to simplify it in this post so that every day we embody love to the best of our abilities.


Let's get started.  What is love? The biblical definition of love conceptualizes it as more than a feeling and more than an emotion. It is so much deeper and richer and involves how we relate to others around us. As 1 Corinthians 13 show us, love is patient, kind, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things, never fails, rejoices with the truth, believes all things. Even writing this out is making me…cringe. Love can’t just be all these things because it almost feels like.. a LOT, right? Also how does this look like on a day to day basis? What does this mean for us? 





This is especially because, as bell hooks says in her book, it seems like people are afraid to love, afraid to give themselves completely to another person. But love—and apologies for how cringey this may sound—must overcome all your fears. You must never give up on love even in the face of astronomical odds. The risks of love have been framed as so significant that so many people encourage sexual pleasure without emotional investment. They relinquish the possibility of love and as a mechanism for the fear beneath this, they boast of seeking interactions without the investment of love; seeking sexual relations without intimacy and emotional connections; they adorn cynicism as a tool to shield disappointment and betrayal.  But in the long run, is it even worth it? 

Friday Reflections

 1.) My friend suddenly passed away last week and all the usual words--devastating, senseless, unimaginable, heartbreaking, despair--just won't do. I told my other friend that there are some things the brain won't (or can't) process, such as this. Because he was so young (only 33), the word that keeps coming to mind is "unfinished". All that never was for him, oh man. 


2.) So I am trying not to be unfinished. I am trying to do. If I have dreams, I want to go for it. I want to do. Part of that is this blog so yeah, here we are. 



Book of the Month: The Push by Ashley Audrain

Hi people and welcome to another installment of Book of the Month. Are we going to have two books this month to make up for the lack of last month's? Well, I hope so. So many the great books out there, yet, so little the time to read much less write about them. Hmmph. 


Let’s get into it. The Push is a story about Blythe Connor’s reluctant journey to motherhood and how her experience of motherhood is nothing like she hoped, but everything she feared. We are also taken on a journey of the making and unraveling of a family. When we first meet Blythe, a tormented mother (to say the least), she is sitting inside her car at night and watching her ex-husband (Fox) with his new (and younger) wife, their little son, and the daughter Blythe shares with Fox. This daughter, Violet, locks eyes with Blythe in the moment and as we will later realize orchestrates her own mother’s unraveling. 




The novel is written as a manuscript Blythe writes for Fox to describe her own version of events leading from when they first met until the current moment. However, the story is interwoven with Blythe’s own maternal lineage and the curse that seems to plague the women in their family. Her own mother abandoned her when she was 11, after years of abusing and neglecting her. Her grandmother was similarly abusive towards Blythe's mom, and left in an even more macabre way: she hung herself in front of the house. So much of this foreshadowing by her progenitors suggests that she never had a chance. But didn’t she? This psychological suspense tale that will leave you on the edge of your seat from the first page to the shocking—or maybe a little expected—end unpacks this amongst several other themes. 

Data As a Weapon: How Algorithms and Data Destroy Lives

Data is interesting because it can provide answers, it can clear the path to the future, and it can resolve the past. But it can also be dangerous, and terrifyingly so. It can be wielded for evil, can be used to perpetuate injustice, and it can be used to further confuse people. I should know, I spent more than half a decade in grad school trying to use data to prove complex theories. More people are sounding the alarm, but I don’t think people are listening enough. It’s why years ago when I came across this book by a mathematician, Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, I was intrigued. It was also the reminder I needed to talk about it on the blog. Yes, people, sometimes blog posts on this blog take years in the making.




Friday Reflections

1.) I just realized there hasn't been any post on this blog since last month, woah!


2.) Also, the last Friday Reflections post here was in May. Double woah! 




3.) It's the usuals: life is happening and sometimes hobbies and/or passions are not prioritized. Okay let's go.


4.) America's gun problem. Let's be honest more guns means more death. Here is the bottomline: "In every country, people get into arguments, hold racist views or suffer from mental health issues. But in the U.S., it is easier for those people to pick up a gun and shoot someone."

Black Dignity and Assertion: Existing in a World that Doesn't Want Us To

I am writing a much longer post about the dignity, emotional and psychological safety, and anger of Black people. But it is too long and a little too complex in its current form so I left it in its messy state and decided to switch gears to something...different. 


First of all, argghhhh to the United States Supreme Court for overturning Roe v. Wade. I want to write about this too, but I am currently too angry and I might regret what I say. So let’s put a pin in that for now. Let’s move on.




Book of the Month: Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Welcome to the book of the month! Let’s get to it. The book of this month is Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez. The book is about Olga Isabel Acevedo, a 40-year-old Nuyorican from South Brooklyn. Olga and her brother, Prieto Acevedo, had it tough: they were abandoned by their revolutionary mother when they were young and their father contracted AIDS amidst a struggle with addiction during the height of the epidemic (both the drug AND AIDS epidemic). Because of these unusual and unfortunate circumstances, Olga, who was raised by her grandmother, is fierce, never wavers, and determined to succeed. When we meet her she is now an owner of a successful business she built from scratch. She plans weddings for the rich, famous, and powerful and she is not above overcharging brides for nonsensical napkins or fencing liquor for Russian mobsters. But she is not the only one with skeletons in her cupboard. Her brother, the epitome of the American dream, is a fiercely charismatic and savvy politician dubbed “the Latino Obama” (listen, I cringed too). This book shows how secrets unravel and ghosts of parents dead and alive hunt the siblings as they chase after the American dream even as it slowly becomes a nightmare.




A Case Against Social Media

When I wrote the series of posts on concentration, deep work, and curing languishing, one integral thread was focusing. And one great hinderance, as those posts show, is social media. Ohh boy, I hear you say. I feel you and I say it too. Social media is so enmeshed with our society that it is almost impossible to separate the two entities. It is who we are. This has remained the case even as the danger of these sites have been proven over and over especially for kids. Adults are not left out too: social media is detrimental to our mental health (DON’T EVEN GET ME STARTED), concentration, our connections, and even our democracy (see here too). Now, don't get me wrong, social media is quite the beneficial tool. As a social scientist, I would be remiss to not mention all the fantastic ways social media has improved our society. Quite literally, there is dopamine—the same type linked to activities like sex, food, and social interaction—released in our brain reward center as we scroll. It's been used to spur social movements. It’s been used to crowdfund to help people. Some people met their spouses there. Some have formed lifelong friendships. Yes, these are all true. 






Here is the thing: it was designed to be addictive. Even the people who created it admit as much.  And anything with addiction at the core can't be good. 


There are only two industries that call their customers ‘users’: illegal drugs and software.” 

- Edward Tufte


For all it’s woes, one of the biggest is that if you want to do deep work, you have to drastically reduce your use of it or quit altogether, unless of course you need it for work. In the past, I have quit social media for months. I have also largely disconnected now (for various reasons), ultimately deciding to focus on the real world, and I know that while it is hard, it is not just doable but achievable. The benefits are almost always astonishing. You may think disconnecting is hard, but once you actually do it, it's not nearly as challenging. Baratunde Thurston, a digital consultant who once did an experiment on quitting social media in 2013, said he struck up conversations with strangers, he enjoyed food without Instagramming the experience, and he bought a bike. 


There is no doubt whatsoever, and you don't even need any scientific evidence here to know that these network tools (Cal Newport classifies Facebook, Twitter, Instagram as well as Business Insider and Buzzfeed in this category) are incredibly distracting and they reduce our ability to concentrate. To put simply, deep work is entirely incompatible with social media.  But not many people can quit. And even when people take those sabbaticals off the internet, when they get back like most drugs, the addiction is even more intense. So, Newport proposes an alternative: accept that these things are not inherently evil (I disagree, some of them are in fact inherently evil but I digress).  He says accept that they may even be integral to your success and happiness but accept that the threshold for allowing a site regular access to your time and attention (and your personal data!) should be more stringent. 



Rather that quit the Internet altogether, Newport challenges us to “reject the state of distracted hyper-connectedness that requires you to need that sort of sabbatical in the first place.”  The reality is if you use it so much that get to the point where you “need a break” then something is wrong. There is a middle-ground and we can get there. 


Despite the fact that these things are specifically engineered to be addictive, I don’t think you have to necessarily get rid of them completely if you don’t want to. You can, as Newport suggests, adopt a tool if only its positive impacts substantially outweigh its negative impacts. He goes ahead to suggest a practical and realistic way of assessing each tool and assessing your goals (and activities needed to achieve these goals) and if each tool doesn’t substantially impact each activity, drop it. I won’t go into that in this post because it seems too complicated.


The easier suggestion Newport gives comes from Ryan Nicodemus' strategy for minimalism but to adopt it with social media use. It goes like this: ban yourself from using them for 30 days. All of them. Don’t formally deactivate these services, and don't mention online that you'll be signing off: just stop using them, cold turkey. If someone reaches out to you to ask why they haven’t seen you on it, you can explain but otherwise don't go out of your way to tell people. After 30 days, ask yourself the following two questions about each of the services you temporarily quit: 1) would the last 30 days have been notably better if I had been able to use this service? 2) Did people care that I wasn’t using this service? if your answer is no to both question, Newport suggests quitting them permanently. If your answer was a clear yes, then return to using them. If your answer is qualified or ambiguous then it's up to you whether to return to the service, though he encourages leaning towards quitting and joining later. 



True talk? In most cases, no one outside your family and VERY CLOSE friends will even notice your absence. These things are so disconnecting, the lack of humanity on these sites can be astonishing. To put it bluntly, except you’re like Kim Kardashian, no one really cares. No one cares if you post or if you don’t post. Perhaps, this humbling fact is also necessary to keep at the back of our minds before we tweet our next nonsense (I include myself in this because we are all in this together). No doubt these tools can be fun but in the scheme of your life and what you want to accomplish, they are lightweight, whimsy and unimportant distractions that distract you from deeper stuff. 

And if I can give you one big tip, it’s this: don’t use social media to entertain yourself. Or be more strategic about your leisure time. When it's time to relax, don't just default to whatever catches your attention at the moment, but instead take some time in advance to think about how you want to spend your leisure time. Addictive social media and websites thrive in a vacuum: they always beckon as an appealing option if you don’t fill the free time with something of more quality. But if you fill your free time with something of more quality, their grip on your attention will loosen. Think about how you plan on spending your evenings and weekend before they even begin. Structured hobbies can be really helpful here. Maybe that's time to catch up on reading? Perhaps you can even plan 30 minutes for social media, but after those 30 minutes are done, that’s it! And don't worry about this defeating the purpose of relaxation. It turns out our minds are not necessarily like our bodies that get tired so easily. If you give your mind something meaningful to do throughout your waking hours, Newport argues that you will end the day more fulfilled and begin the next one more relaxed instead of allowing your mind to bathe for hours in semiconscious and unstructured web surfing. In sum, to eliminate the addictive nature of entertainment sites, give your brain a quality alternative. 

It's that simple. Have I made a strong case? I sure hope so.


Love,

I

When Thoughts and Prayers Won't Do

I have accepted that life comes with a good deal of the good and the bad. It’s very healthy to wade through life with that mindset. Yet sometimes the bad is so staggering it can eclipse all the wonderful good. Such was the case on May 24 when NINETEEN children and their teachers died mercilessly one afternoon in Uvalde, Texas. How could? How can? How? Just how. And now, where do we go from here?


Whenever there is a tragedy in the U.S, especially a shooting, the first thing a lot of lawmakers and regular citizens alike say is, “our thoughts and prayers are with [the victims]…” Now, ordinarily this is fine. Prayers are great. Thoughts too are fine. It is also especially great when you feel helpless, because prayers are anything but useless. Prayers are powerful. I know for sure I would not be here without prayers. But when the people literally—LITERALLY—in charge of making the law and changing them where necessary also parrot the line without any bite to it, you begin to wonder. When they are joining us to express moral outrage online even though they have all the power to do something, your blood boils even faster. Forget putting out statements, forget tweeting, get TO WORK. Pick up your pen and fix this and make your coworkers do the dang work too. DO something. We the people can’t really do much. We can grieve, and use our voices and vote, but you are the ones with the actual power to do something. How can you waste such a privilege, such power? 




Friday Reflections

1.) Elizabeth Moss is a powerhouse of an actress. I have never not seen that woman put up a STELLAR performance, with every breath of air from her and hair on her skin fully embodying her character. I hope she gets more recognition, this New Yorker profile does her some justice, especially helping us understand the contradiction as a pop-icon and feminist steeped in Scientology.





2.) Blogging is a hobby for me right now. I realize that' sounds crazy especially in this world where everything is monetized. 


3.) Stop catastrophizing.


4.) "It is easy to dress up a lie so nicely, that it starts to take on the glow of a truth. We cannot talk about the admirable decision of the UK government to accept refugees from Ukraine without also talking about the other refugees who the British government will unceremoniously ship off to Rwanda." - Chimamanda Adichie.


5.) Self defense training for stand up comedians. 


4.) Jane Fonda. The iconic. That is all.


5) Trevor Noah's remarks at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. This felt like OG comedy. Just pure roasting. Although he came for everyone, it was definitely not mean spirited and he came for everyone.


6.) She  donated her kidney to her boyfriend and then he cheated on her.


7.) Today's reflections are short and sweet. Have a good weekend!

Freedom (or Lack of) of Religion in Nigeria

 As important as it is to me for this blog to feed your soul, I also am quite intentional about not talking about every darn social ill and injustice that occurs in the world. After all, where would one begin? In the past couple of weeks alone, American leaders have decided to hold all the power on women's body, some other moron perpetrated a racist attack on black people going about their lives this weekend, food for babies is scarce and some people think "illegal" babies should not get food, and oh gas prices won't stop skyrocketing, and oh wait a minute, Mr. Putin threatens us every other day with nuclear war. And that's just in America. 





That said, something happened in Nigeria last week. Deborah Samuels, a student at the Shagari College of Education Sokoto in Sokoto State, was brutally murdered. They stoned her to death and set her ablaze because she made "blasphemous statements" against Prophet Mohammed. They had asked her how she passed and she said "Jesus O". She had also apparently complained because they turned a What's App group for group study and class activities into a religious group, which bothered them. So they plotted to kill her. They actually recorded themselves doing this and posted it online. There are a lot of layers to this madness that I do not feel like writing about, except to share the below which I posted on Instagram this past weekend:


I have been thinking about what it means to not just kill another human being but to actually set them on fire.


It’s many things—barbaric, sadistic—but it’s actually not animalistic. That’s the thing: animals don’t do that to their kind.


It’s not just that Deborah died, it’s the gruesome way she died; all that agony and despair.


I can’t stop thinking about it and I didn’t even know her.


I am not a theologian but I know there is no way God or any god is so sensitive or weak as to need human beings to defend him like so.


In a free society—nay, in a sane society—blasphemy should not be “illegal”. Either we have freedom of religion or we have “blasphemy”. We can’t have both.


You can get offended, roll your eyes, get angry even,  if someone attacks your religion or your God. But to kill them. To kill them? To KILL THEM?


I have been thinking about it.


And I hope everybody else is thinking about it too.


Love,


I

An Unforgettable Italy Trip Plus A Comprehensive Guide to Visiting Rome and Florence

 For as long as I have remembered, I had always wanted to visit Italy. It’s funny because I don’t like traveling. I don’t hate it. But in my list of predilections, it’s not at the top. I do it because it is never not memorable (and absolutely FUN) but I would rather just sit on the couch with a book, a T.V. show, or MS Word open, and me writing. But Italy was the exception. I have just always wanted to go. I have never watched Eat Pray Love or any movie based in Italy, by the way. Nothing. It’s just a spirit thing. In any case, my birthday was approaching and I thought, perfect timing.


So here came Italy and me. And of course, the best travel buddy in the business, my one and only sissy poo, who is ordinarily way more adventurous so she didn't need that much convincing. I know people tend to do these types of trips with groups of friends. So you may be asking, why not ask friends. I don’t have that many friends and asking people to invest thousands of dollars because  I was celebrating my birthday is not my style. I told them though and said they were welcome if they wanted to. You may also be wondering how a trip that happened in March is only just written about in May. Just let's move on from that. Okay let's go. Italy in a blogpost. 

Our Habits are Us: The Secrets to Behavior Change

Let’s talk about habits!  Actually, back it up a little. People talk a lot about habits and productivity, and all the 10-second videos on your favorite social media APPs can delude you into think we have all got our act together; that everyone is now one hundred percent into setting healthy habits and achieving all their goals. That’s just not true. Too many people struggle with committing to good habits and there are people that have spent their entire lives talking about one [seemingly easy] habit or goal they want to achieve but which they never quite seem to do. As we head into May (or would we be in May by the time I finish writing this? We’ll see. Yay made it in time for April after all), it can be a good time to take stock of goals we set at the beginning of the year, but this can also be a depressing event if you’ve fallen off the wagon of all the good habits you started on January 5. Behavior change is hard but extremely necessary since sustaining healthy behaviors is crucial to a long and healthy life. In fact, according to Dr Edmondson of Columbia’s Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health, a recent study shows that human behavior accounts for almost 40 percent of the risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke. So, behavior change can literally be life or death. Given that, how can we imbibe healthy habits and ultimately change behavior?

Book of the Month: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

When I first started reading Gilead, I honestly didn’t think it would be the book of the month or that I would even talk about it (for various reasons, some discussed below), but gradually, page after page, it moved me beyond words. And here we are. The book of this month is an old book titled, Gilead, and written by Marilynne Robinson.




I Went Without Sugar for 30 Days: A Sugar-Free Challenge With Meaning

A few months ago, I came across a YouTube video where the vlogger had gone an entire year without sugar. I posted it on Friday Reflections. I remember thinking this is not possible. How I drew the line from that thinking to embarking on a no-sugar challenge still eludes me. I know I love a good challenge so entering into a new year, I decided to try it. So here goes, I went without sugar for 30 days. When I say "without sugar", I mean without any added sugar or processed sugar. So of course, I still ate fruits since the sugar in fruits in naturally occurring. This challenge was a while ago in January but you know me and writing about stuff. Anyway, let's get into it.  At first, I kept  a “diary” to keep track of my feelings around everything going on, but soon it became repetitive so I just stopped. That said, please excuse the fact that my tenses below are all over the place. On some days, I wrote in real time. On others, I wrote in the evening in retrospect. I could edit it to have consistent tenses, but then it would sound and feel weird and inauthentic. The alternative is to leave as is. I chose that option.




Day 1:

Friday Reflections

 1.) Happy April, folks! Is that a thing we still say?





2.) Don't worry too much about goals you set earlier and whether or not you're achieving them. Focus instead on your systems and your habits. Also, don't be reluctant to ditch some goals you made. It's okay if they no longer serve you. We are humans not trees. We can move.

How to Decide Which PhD Program Offer to Accept When you Have Multiple Offers

Hi people! It’s that time of the year when acceptances are rolling in from Ph.D. programs and excitement is bubbling in the hearts of recipients. Someone I am mentoring (my God, does this read as pretentious as it sounds?) told me she received an acceptance into her first choice PhD program! Such fantastic news. I am very happy for her. The visiting/open day (or whatever it is called now) will be happening soon. For those who don’t know much about the process, it’s a day when grad programs invite accepted students to come visit their program after being accepted but before deciding whether to in fact enroll.  They understand that prospective students may have 3 or 4 or 5 (or even more for some lucky people) programs to choose from and need information to make a decision. Part of attending the grad students day/visiting/open day is gathering that information.




Book of the Month: How Beautiful We Were by Imbolo Imbue

Hello and welcome to the book of this month! I have slacked off on this blog these past few weeks and want to get back in the groove of things. Needless to say, I LOVED the book of this month. From the same author who brought us Behold the Dreamers, the book of this month is called How Beautiful We Were, and that past tense in the title reveals more than you can imagine. New York Times described this book as "sweeping and quietly devastating" and I couldn't agree more  This is not a feel good story at all. Anyway, let's get into it. 


"We should have known the end was near..."




The book tells  the story of what happens when a small fictional village in Africa (yes, the author was this unspecific) called Kosawa decides to fight against  an American oil company that had been polluting their land for many years. It follows a group of children who were born in the village, but especially draws the focus on one of those kids, a girl named Thula who ultimately leads the revolution and resistance. When the story starts,  the village is very polluted, the rivers are covered in toxic waste, the air is dirty, the kids are getting sick and dying. In response, the oil company just resorts to false promises that things will get better but things aren't getting better and kids continue to drop like flies. So, the villagers decide to take matters into their own hands, and when the story starts the children are watching their parents fight the oil company and over time, the fight becomes theirs and they take over. The story unfolds from the perspective of "The Children'', a group of about seven kids and the family of one of them, Thula, who becomes and becomes the leader of the movement to bring the company to justice.

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY 2022

I happened to be in Florence, Italy today, at the Galleria Della Accademia (Accademia Gallery). The first piece of art I saw when I walked in was a marble statue, a masterpiece by  Giambologna, called "The Rape of the Sabine Women". This represents an incident often called the same name or sometimes termed "Abduction of the Sabine Women". Let me tell you a little about that incident. According to Roman mythology and historians like Livy, in the early history of Rome, just after its founding, Romulus and his male followers realized the population wasn't growing enough and thus worried about the city's strength. Yet, there were so few women inhabitants that growing the city's population would be challenging. They appealed to a bunch of people including some from neighboring towns to co-mingle with them or marry them, but that was not successful. Thereafter, they decided the next course of action was to abduct Sabine women during a festival (they deceptively invited these women to) and then, they raped them. 



Friday Reflections

 1.) Kizzmekia Corbett is just getting started. If you're tired of me talking about this woman, sorry to you.





2.) Chimamanda Adichie demonstrates the tyranny of priests and other so-called men of God, as she describes how her family's priest bullied them, harassed her,  and disrespected the memory of her mother. 

How to Cure Languishing: Six Deep Work Tips for Thriving at Home and At Work

 Before you continue on this post, first check out the FIRST PART


Done? Okay good. Now that you've heard all the virtues of flow and deep work in that first part, you may be asking,


But How? How Do I Do Deep Work?

I'm glad you asked. A potential challenge to the idea of deep work is that our brains don’t just immediately listen to our desires/mind and focus when we tell it to. As you may know if you read this blog, I use some form of the Pomodoro technique a lot. I am also a fairly disciplined person. My friend recently said I have a gift of discipline and she wants to learn to be like me, but she is my friend and part of being a friend is gassing your friends up, so take that what she said with a grain of salt. My point is even with all that discipline, I can tell you that you may be resolute in your decision to focus on your work, but your mind can still refuse to accept and just focus, especially when you're working on something deeply uninspiring or for which the solution is hard. Maybe your mind just wants to, I don’t know, watch videos of cats on YouTube. Even I will admit this is a challenge to the deep work thesis, but it’s not fatal and there are a ways around this.  So, in a real world, how does one do deep work? Here are some tips from Cal Newport’s book:

How to Cure Languishing: The Secret to Thriving At Work and At Home

On January 5th—the day I resumed work after the holidays—I posted on Instagram that getting back to work after a two-week break was particularly hard. In retrospect, it seems a little silly, but I spent the entire break dreading the return.  Motivational speakers would probably say if you are that terrified of returning to work, it’s not your passion or whatever. The thing is I don’t kid myself; work is work. There are other ways to express my creativity and fulfill my passion that aren’t necessarily work, but work will not always be fun. Hence, not wanting to return. The way I ultimately dealt with my return was to remind myself that I have done harder things and succeeded. It’s very important that we remember that. In addition, to tackle the problem and to get into the groove of the new year (at the time), I decided to go back to my toolshed and take another look at my productivity tools. I wanted to better understand how to work harder and smarter without constantly feeling depleted, how to produce more, and I wanted to better understand how to enjoy working—seeing as we do have to do this for the rest of our lives, no? To solve problems, I utilize three tools from the aforementioned toolshed:  reading, challenging my brain, and taking a critical look at things. I have done (and I’m still doing that) with productivity and working. Here is what I have found. Now this IS going to be a long post (that I have also divided into two/three parts, depending), so feel free to read a little, pause and continue later.


In sum, the kernel argument of this post rests on two things: the importance of deep work as the cure for “languishing”.

Book of the Month: Early Morning Riser By Katherine Heiny

When I first opened this book, and on the first page, I saw "2002", I was like uh oh. Here we go with all the time travel authors take us on. It turns out this was quite the linear progression and was incredibly easy to follow. That's not all I loved about the book of this month so let's get into it. The book of this month is Early Morning Riser by Katherine Heiny. It's a heartwarming, funny, poignant book about love, unconventional family, happiness, friendship, and community. 

Friday Reflections

1.) Most of today's reflections are YouTube videos. It is a signal for me to spend less time on YouTube, but I suppose it does tend to be easier for people than reading another long form essay (my favorites).




2.) Tabitha brown envisioned being "America's mom".


3.) Some life errands are terribly boring. Pay bills. Make calls. Check bank statements. Be on top of things. Ugh. And it's interesting we have to do this for...ever? 


4.) Marcia Fudge grapples with America's acute housing crisis. The housing crisis, while not flashy or sexy enough a problem to make politicians pontificate, is still very dangerous. Skyrocketing rent, lack of available units, and a few people buying all the available properties because "investment". I don't think you can live in 8 homes at once, please remember that. 


5.) Quit social media or at least spend less (much less) time on it. I am on some kind of rallying cry to get us less addicted to these things. I am now "back" on social media but don't go as often anymore. I'm sufficiently weaned off it, but I know as with addiction to anything, it is always a dangerous slippery slope. 


6.) One tip for reducing social media is to first get rid of FOMO. Second, stop being so nosy. I am a very nosy person, but now, I just don't care if I don't get to see another person go on vacation or another make a fool of him/herself. These things always find their way to you anyway. 


7.) Jimmy Kimmel surprised Quinta Branson with the 6th grade teacher she named her new show after. This was heartwarming enough as it is, but trust Jimmy Kimmel to make it even more beautiful. 


8.) As I watched  #7, I thought, is there any teacher in my past that made such an imprint in my life, and people, the answer is no. Okay okay, if I definitely DEFINITELY had to produce one then maybe Mr. Foster from primary 5. But otherwise, I just never had a special connection with my teachers nor did anyone have a great impact on me. Lol. 


9.) Here is an heartwarming story that is both bittersweet and funny (characteristic of Katherine Heiny's writing) about her mother who is suffering from dementia.


10.) Foods that fight inflammation. 


11.) The hidden costs of Ivy Leagues. I've never understood the hype behind these schools. They are soooo toxic. I can't imagine going to a place like this or wanting your child to go to a place like this.


12.) Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Addresses The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria. Truth telling is already bravery, but when it is directly addressed to who it is meant for, well, that's just an additional level of courage. One, I strive towards.


13.) It's a wrap, people. I always try to keep these under 10 but alas, LOL. I hope these tide you over the next week especially when you get bored at work or life. I'm happy it's Friday. Have a good weekend!


Planning a Trip to Cancún? An Unforgettable Vacation Experience in Cancún, Mexico

Long long ago, I went on a vacation…I’m just kidding, mostly. It was just September last year but it feels like a distant past now. I’m not sure why it never actually got shared on this blog, but here we are now. Do we still share stuff like on this on our blogs? Or is that very 2008 now? Who cares? What matters is I have decided to bring some sunshine your way this gloomy, long January. As I type this (on Saturday, January 29),  a major winter storm is happening across the States and it's been snowing so much here since yesterday that we are now blanketed in snow. What better time to reminisce about the sun, and the sands, and cold drinks, and delicious foods than now?


Needless to say, this is quite a picture heavy post. I will try to provide as much information as I remember, knowing that this has happened so long ago and events have since taken over.


Getting there. 

Book of the Month: Bamboozled by Jesus By Yvonne Orji

I randomly remembered that we haven't had a proper book of the month post this month and I was like we gotta fix that, because I have been reading really great books recently.  And that's the story of how this is coming to you on the very last day of the month. The book of this extremely long month (why, y'all has it been January for soooo long ehn?) is Yvonne Orji's Bamboozled by Jesus: How How God Tricked Me Into the Life of My Dreams. Yvonne Orji is a Nigerian-American actress best known for her role as Molly Carter on HBO's hit show Insecure, for which she was nominated for an Emmy. She is also a stand-up comedian, she hosts shows here and there, basically she is a celebrity. 

Friday Reflections

 1.) "My mother has forgotten everything, including me. But her love is still here." A beautiful essay on love, motherhood, old age, illness, and all that come with it. 





2.) Chimamanda Adichie on the death on good faith.

How a Near Miss Showed me the Lack of Connectivity and Humanity on Social Media

A few weeks ago (last year) on a random Friday, I randomly decided I wanted cake and I headed to the best bakery in town to satisfy that craving, because when do you ever need a reason for cake? On my way back, I was in a near miss. There is no reason to relitigate what happened plus all you need to know is my cake and I walked away uninjured. That evening, I got on Instagram and I posted my cake, made a joke about never needing a reason for cake, talked about the near miss, and mentioned that I was very grateful to God to be alive. I didn’t think much about it.


The next morning, two of my friends messaged me to ask if I was okay and thanked God for and with me. That was when it dawned on me that more than 100 people viewed that Story, saw what I posted, and no one said anything. NOTHING. People just continued scrolling. Maybe if my friends hadn’t said anything, maybe I would have thought that was normal. But their saying something, asking about my welfare, and showing concern opened my eyes to the indifference and lack of connectivity on social media.





I realized the how crazy social media can get. People just go about not caring, just scrolling past, and living such insular lives. God forbid, but if I died, people would have come out of the woodwork with trite messages. There would have been lots of “Oh MY GOD!”, “I am so sad, so devastated”, “I can’t believe this”, “She was so nice,” and the worst of the niceties after death: “Please remember to tell people how you feel about them. This is a reminder to always check on people” and other such BS.  To be clear, it’s not that these words are inappropriate or wrong, it’s that they are usually empty, hollow words. 


And I’m guilty of this too. I’m guilty of spending time consuming the nonsense people post on social media but not taking the time to be human enough. I’m guilty of participating in social media’s unraveling of our humanity. Yet being on the other side of it and actually experiencing it opened my eyes in a way I didn’t expect. It showed me the indifference, the lack of humanity, and the lack of connectivity on those social media streets. No kind words. Nothing. No “checking in” on the person. Nothing. It was jarring. But it also fostered some…thing in me and caused me to decide to do better.


I haven’t been on social media in a while (you cannot possibly understand the peace of mind that comes with this but moving on). But one thing I started to model, just before quitting it, and will continue to when I get back is caring more.  Apart from caring more, I also started to be more intentional and more mindful of how I use social media. I no longer just scrolled past without concern. I began to show concern, proffering solutions where someone asked for help; paying compliments when someone looked good; and sometimes, just laughing at jokes. It’s not exactly hard for me because I don’t follow that many people nor do many people follow me. Mine is definitely on the smaller side of IG communities. 


Whatever you do on YOUR social media is your business, of course. But stop waiting for people to die to give them their flowers. Stop waiting till something tragic happens before you say nice things about them. I remember when Virgil Abloh passed away (may he Rest in Peace). Our arbiters of [pop] culture must forgive me (please), but I had NO idea who he was before he passed. It wasn’t until  after he died (quite unfortunately) that people wrote such impressive stuff about all he accomplished and the insurmountable barriers he broke in the world of fashion. I’m like dang, if y’all felt this way why did no one ever say anything all this while? Why am I just hearing of this phenomenal person? It’s why when Insecure ended weeks back and people were rightfully talking about all Issa accomplished with that show, I was all for it. There is no need for someone to die before you realize how great they were or before you express how impressed you are with them.


Being intentional and mindful about my social media use and consumption for me is beyond stanning my favorite celebrity (I don't really have any tbh). For me, at its premise, the idea is to be human both in the real world and online. It means I will be kind to people (or at least try to be cos people be wilding) even when I disagree with them. Some people go through their entire day with no encounter of kindness; maybe work is toxic, home is toxic, maybe even they are toxic themselves. If they are going to post on social media and I will see it, then I’m going to be that voice of kindness they experience. I am going to try to care.  However, please understand that this is not always possible every day or even for everyone because the sheer volume of what you have to respond to may be overwhelming. That’s fine. But that does not necessarily negate everything written above. It just requires a bit more thoughtfulness and creativity. 


In so many ways, what happened after the aforementioned Instagram Story I posted put a lot in perspective for me. The irony of social media should not be lost on us: although its design suggests familiarity, it actually does not encourage intimacy at all, and it is even less emotionally fulfilling than connecting in person. This woman quit social media for a year and discovered that while we think all the overload of information and pictures mean we are up to date on our friends’ lives, it’s merely a perception, and connections are actually worse off. This psychology today’s post also offers tangible “proofs” that no one really cares about our social media posts. 


It's easy to understand how and why people became so indifferent and jaded on social media. Overload of information on social media causes a lot of harm: it increases misinformation and distrust, for instance. But even more than that, it makes us jaded. But if we are going to use this thing at all, isn't it our responsibility to find ways to use it well, to use it responsibly? There are real consequences to being on social media. This 2017 study found that adolescents who spent more time on social media and just smartphones more generally were more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies than their counterparts who spent more time on non-screen activities.  Yet, while being shunned online or having a negative social media experience increases the risk of depression, even a positive online exchange only marginally reduced depression risk in this other study. The way I see it is,  marginal effect  or not, positive online exchanges still reduced the risk of depression. For every 10 percent rise in positive interaction, that study found that there was a 4 percent decrease in depression risk. That is tangible. 


I spoke with another friend of mine about this, and she said it is possible that while people saw what I posted, they just didn’t read the epistle I posted. Maybe people don’t actually stop to read stuff like that. That’s absolutely plausible. Sometimes people type up such long stuff (or post way too many things) and you are too lazy to actually go through it.  In the spirit of transparency and honesty, even I don’t go past the first four or at most five circles on my IG homepage before exiting because I get very bored with that app rather easily. So trust me, I get it. We are inherently self-conceited and selfish. So again, I get it. You just don’t read that far. It’s not that you are callous, you are just distracted. Hey look, people have the attention span of a rat these days anyway.  Notwithstanding, I will be more intentional about social media, if I ever use it again (cos y’all I’m over it) and I think you should be too. 


Love,


I


Friday Reflections

 1.) Our first Friday Reflections of the year. *Throws Confetti* Welcome, welcome. How has this year been for you? Lowkey, I did not set a single goal this year Lol. My main thing is my relationship with God, praying etc. Otherwise, all vibes, baby!




2.) Okay, on to today's business!


3.) Language shapes our emotion


4.) The one-minute secret to forming a new habit. 


5.) The surprising habits of original thinkers. 


6.) I found this old post on faith, and how to make a decision when your faith falters. And wow. 


7.) Why you will marry the wrong person. "You can't think too much. You can think badly but there is no such thing as thinking too much about emotions."


8.) The importance of being color-full: a journey in black and white.


9.) Focusing your full attention on a single task is incredibly important. Adam Grant said researchers have found that the best predictor of well-being is not optimism but flow, which is the feeling of being in the "zone" state of total absorption in an activity.  There will be a post focusing on this idea, on concentration, on focus, on deep work. I've been really excited about these topics for this year and looking forward to dissecting this further. 


10.) Alright folks, have a great year ahead, but [in the words of Tabitha Brown] if you can't , don't you dare go messing up somebody else's. 

A Feminist Manifesto

Happy New Year! I don't have anything wholesome to say about the end of last year or the beginning of this one because I decided sometime in December to not be retrospective about the year at all. So let's dive into this post.


I don't know when it happened but I recently started buying books again. I am still not buying fiction but I'm buying gradually. I bought Chimamanda Adichie's Dear Ijeawele or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions. It's somewhat of an old book and I'm surprised that I'm just now reading it but better late than never. It's a short book and you can finish it in minutes. Honestly, it's more of an essay to me.  This post is not about that book per se, but more about the central idea of the book: how to be feminist or more specifically, a feminist manifesto.