on the question of choice

Time and again we debate our debating of the A word in Jamaica. In Parliament. On the streets. In churches. In the bedroom. In doctor’s offices. In back alleys. With hangers, with pills, with blood.

The ‘A’ word. Abortion.

The idea is castigated by our ‘Christian-minded’ nationalism and people get very upset whenever it’s brought up. Words like ‘murder’ and ‘human life’ get thrown around. Women are accused of being careless and cruel.

I think too often we get caught up in Christian morals to the detriment of our fellow citizens. As if we forget that slavery too was sanctioned by ‘God’. And I’m not saying that people shouldn’t read Bible, praise Jesus and pray to their Lord but the same way I stay out of Christian people churches is the same way the Church-State should stay out of women’s bodies.

Much like the buggery law it’s simply embarrassing that abortion continues to be a debate in government in 2018. Not even a debate, an issue so taboo we don’t even talk about it. Like sex education. Come to think of it, maybe abortion would be less of an issue if there was more sex ed. I digress.

It’s high time we doctors stopped pussy-footing around while women suffer. And it’s high time Parliament stopped ignoring the issue just because it makes the Church uncomfortable. If you not going to clamp down seriously on rape, stop bawl out when the victims are forced deal with the consequences.

Give women the choice, and get your damn hands off our wombs.

Another month older, another month wiser

I had about five paragraphs talking about how I planned to cut my hair and how hair is such a big deal for black women and why is it even such a big deal in the first place but it fizzled out when I cut my hair and realized how big a deal it wasn’t. So now my hair is four inches shorter and I am out of a blog post.

In lieu of some introspective self-reflection, I decided to share a snapshot into my life for the last month. So in no particular order. . .

1. In early October I learnt that a family celebration does not, in fact, have to break the bank, and birthdays can actually be commemorated with low-key gatherings and cake. Definitely cake. My purse and heart are grateful.

2. In mid-October Montego Bay hosted its very first Pride march which was also my very first Pride march. I helped carry the rainbow flag and it maxed out my feeble upper body strength. And though the actual marching was pretty short (can’t complain, the sun was brutal) the feeling was pretty incredible.

Pride was definitely an experience – a lot more head top and dash out than I would have expected, along with uncensored dancehall songs on the people dem good good Sunday morning. But overall I had a sense of bittersweet, well, pride. I was proud of the LGBT movement in Montego Bay for coming out and enjoying themselves, even as a good number of them opted to cover their faces. I’m already looking forward to Pride 2019.

3. In late October I recognized a full year of settling into my leadership role at work. It was a good chance to reflect on how much I’ve grown, how many leadership books I added to my shelves (a lot) and how many I’d read (very little) and where I plan to go next in my journey to becoming a girl boss.

4. I’m participating in my high school’s mentorship program for the second year in a row, and I’m excited to see what new adventures and experiences are in store us for in the upcoming school year. Last year was a blast of learning and growth for both me and my mentee, and I expect this year to be no different.

What have y’all been up to?

Your ideas suck. Now what?

Since my last super-optimistic post on the importance of having a vision, I have been taken down several pegs and come to a few realizations.

  1. It is not enough to simply have a vision. You have to successfully communicate that vision and get buy in from the right people.
  2. Unlike your friends, the right people may not be overwhelmingly interested in hearing your vision. In fact, they may leave the meeting at lunch time, when you’ve wasted the whole morning discussing reports, before you get to talk about your vision at all.
  3. Colleagues and work buddies will not always be as enthusiastic about this whole vision thing as you’d like them to be. Sure you’re fired up and ready to go but for everyone else it’s the same old boring meeting agenda that they always check out of. And don’t even think about asking questions in that setting. Not even the crickets will respond.

It’s exciting to have an idea that you think is great and will push the team in new, progressive directions. So it can be tough when your boss effectively says your brilliant new progressive idea is barking up the wrong tree. Ouch.

Hurt feelings aside (scrape it off and move on, this is business) it’s a great real life example of leaders being able to say we’re hacking away at the wrong forest. One silver lining in that cloud of ‘ooh, bummer’ is learning what kind of forest to look for when you’re at the top of that ladder swiveling your binoculars around. The uncomfortable experience of sharing an idea and having it critiqued is a powerful lesson in zoning in on the key issues.

For some people, I know, criticism makes them shut down immediately and not offer up any more ideas. But for me, I’m so eager to learn I don’t shy away from being wrong. In classroom settings I always attempt an answer, even if I’m not sure about it. Especially when I’m not sure about it. In the professional world I’ve been a lot more cautious about voicing my ideas. But I’m coming to realize that just like in class, getting things wrong can be a great way to learn how to get them right.

Show Your Work

I was going talk about identity and purpose today, and then one of my friends mentioned me in an Instagram comment about honest posting.

So instead I’m talking about social media representation, especially how sometimes Instagram and Twitter can leave us feeling ‘less than’. When you look at several smiling, sun-kissed, carefully curated and filtered images and then look at your own messy life you can wind up feeling disappointed and envious. God knows I have been “Best at Badmind” so many times, thanks to Facebook (this was pre-Instagram) and wedding websites like A Practical Wedding (yes, go and fall down the rabbit hole). Climbing out of that particular quagmire took years of practice and lots of growing up.

These days, even though I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and impostor syndrome, it’s gotten easier to remind myself that what I see on Twitter & Insta isn’t really what goes on when the camera turns off.

A conversation I had with my partner (who has dabbled in photography) when I was trying to learn how to take better, more engaging Instagram pictures:

Me: This website just suggested taking lots of different clothes on a photo shoot in case what you’re wearing doesn’t match the background. 

Him: Yep.

Me: They said that the different clothes and accessories make it look like you took pictures on different days, so that you can spread the posts out over weeks without being repetitive.

Him: Yep

Me: That’s insane! Who has time for this?

Him: Um, people who take it seriously? It takes work. 

And then I got distracted by something. Probably baking, or the cats. Which is why my social media gets updated maybe once a month. Can’t have you all noticing the pictures are really from the same shoot.

I’m getting off topic.

I’ve come to learn that a lot of social media is crafted and staged. When I browse Pinterest for hours on end trying to find organizational inspiration, it’s so frustrating when the pictures are perfectly aligned just so. How do these rooms look when they’re lived in? All these mommy bloggers with young children cannot possibly keep their houses this spic and span all the time. What does it look like in real life?

Credit: jordankrogmanphotograhy
That’s more like it.

One day I searched for real life pictures and the results were refreshing. Limited, but refreshing. There were toys on the floor, blankets thrown everywhere, dishes on the table. But underneath the mess was a certain cohesion, a level of deliberateness that gave a stable foundation to the chaos. It’s so much more inspiring to see the behind-the-scenes work that goes into getting that curated, crafted end result; it’s so much more helpful.

If we’re all out here trying to live our best lives, and proud of it, what’s the harm in sharing the struggle that shapes the success? Congrats, you graduated from grad school but your Insta is all selfies at the beach. What about the late night studying? Awesome, you got promoted. But your feed is all parties and #gymlife. Why not talk about the coffee-fueled work-after-work that got you there? Cool, you post about #selfcare mani-pedis and yoga but what about the harder parts of self care like therapy and introspection?

I know the ‘rough work’ isn’t for everyone. God knows I hated having to do it in Math class. But for those of us social media users who are interested in the face behind the sunglasses or the story behind the popularity, this rough work is endearing and empowering. Showing the struggle reminds us that we’re not alone in it. Sharing the steps makes us feel like we can accomplish great things too.

At the very least, it’ll be helpful to figure out how the hell I can get that style on my bookshelf.

Pax.

P.S.

If you’re a nerd like me and love extra reading, this article on JSTOR is an illuminating and lengthy read on the topic of social media envy. Here is the link, and here is a tidbit:

Social media could help us feel less envious about vacations if it also celebrated quiet nights in; it could help us feel less envious of other people’s perfect children if it also celebrated the beauty of the bachelor apartment we just arranged to utter perfection. 

We could hold our collective breath and wait for Facebook and Twitter and Instagram to vindicate the diversity our strengths and contentments. Or we could do it ourselves: by demanding honesty and vulnerability from our online friends, and from ourselves.

Thoughts?

Dancing in Public Places

Do you guys know that video of the little boy yodeling in Wal-mart?

That’s me, but with dance instead of yodeling. Who even yodels in 2018?. My partner finds it hopelessly embarrassing, but whenever we buy our weekly groceries instead of walking through the aisles like a normal person I boogie and ballet my way from one frozen section to another. I pirouette around paper towels and cha-cha-cha past the chips and snacks.

I won’t lie, I’m no Misty Copeland, but I have rhythm and a certain amount of grace. I danced all the way through high school and university, so I’m not shy about my moves. More than once people have chuckled in my direction and my partner has had to intervene before someone runs me over with their trolley (accidentally, of course) but I still do it. Partly because it feels good and partly because supermarkets are really boring so I’m glad to provide some kind of entertainment for my fellow shoppers.

What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you should do the uncomfortable, silly, socially awkward thing because if people are going to laugh at you anyway you might as well have fun doing it.

coat-dancing-face-794062

Renewing my Vow

I logged in to WordPress today with the weight a month’s worth of guilt about not posting resting uncomfortably on my shoulders to find the cheerful reminder that today is my seven year anniversary with WordPress.com.

Waaaay back in 2011 I was halfway through my first year of medical school. I wanted to transition from personal blogging on Livejournal to public blogging on WordPress. I started wellreadrobin with the hopes of posting regularly about everyday life and sharing my story for others to see. This was my very first post.

Seven years later, have I accomplished that?

My posting habits are best described as infrequent, worst described as irregular and uncommitted. Blogging as a form of writing is a form of creative expression for me, providing an outlet for energies that swirl around ceaselessly in my mind. I’ve been dabbling in other types of writing – journaling is one example – but I always circle back to blogging as a gateway to writing stories. If I can commit to writing true stories here on the blog then one day I’ll be able to write real fiction. At least, that’s the story I tell myself.

So for the umpteenth time, I’m renewing my vow to myself, the same vow that birthed Project 52 (an ill-fated attempt to share one blog post a week for 52 weeks).

It’s only 52 weeks. Only 52 essays or stories or random, coherent streams of thought. (Is there an innate oxymoron lurking somewhere in that last line?).  Only 52 attempts at something that has eluded me for far too long, something I should be good at, would be good at if I dedicated time to doing it properly. 52 ways I want to improve. 52 things I want to share with the world. 52 times my better judgment failed me (or impressed me). 52. Fifty-two. That’s all I’m asking.

-Well Read Robin c.2011

The promise is to blog with consistency and a reasonable amount of frequency. Once weekly, no pressure. Just to see if I can do it. Lord knows I’ve got more than enough things to say.

Back to Wakanda

Why am I a writer? I am a devout believer in the power of words. The right story can change the world. My writing found its genesis in sharing my story, because who else  could tell it? Along the way I learnt to share the stories of others, stories I believe need to be told. The right story at the right time in the right ears can inspire a revolution.

I believe in the power of the Black Panther movie – not to catalyse a movement, or change the status quo but to spark thought and ignite a flame in the minds of people. Especially young people. To show them a different future, a different present, to show them possibilities they may not have considered, and to widen the horizons of their imaginations. Isn’t that what stories are for? They make us believe in things: magic, science, each other.

Ryan Coogler’s depiction of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s comic book king is making waves all over the world. The images of afrofuturism and black empowerment are phenomenal and people are responding in unexpected ways. In the U.S. and Ghana for example, grassroots campaigns have been started to give underprivileged children the opportunity to watch Black Panther. After Frederick Joseph successfully raised more than $30,000 to take Harlem kids to see the movie, the Black Panther Challenge took off online and people from all walks of life have picked up the gauntlet.

Black Panther showings in Jamaica began with flash in the pan fanfare when the well-dressed well-to-do thronged the theatres for an exclusive premiere. The movie continues to be wildly successful with shows sold out for weeks to come and three simultaneous viewings at the cinema in Montego Bay. Some of us have gone to watch Black Panther more than once – a privilege afforded to few. Let’s share some of that privilege. I propose a venture equally as exciting as the initial premiere, with more lasting impact. Let’s go back to Wakanda, with kids this time, so that the younger generation can see the superhero we never had growing up. Let’s get kids to watch this movie, just for the fun of it, and see what happens.

Back to Wakanda is a social activism campaign to raise funds for teens and adolescents in Montego Bay so they can watch Black Panther even if they can’t afford a ticket. We are starting with the Mandingo Youth Club in Mt. Salem.

We’re looking for sponsors and donors to help this idea come to fruition (non-cash contributions also accepted). Did you watch Black Panther once, twice, three times? Are you ridiculously good at planning stuff? Do you have links with people who can help this campaign thrive? If you’re interested in donating or just being part of this venture reach out to me here on WordPress, or on Facebook, Instagram or by email at stephenson.robyn@gmail.com.

Let’s make this happen!

P.S.
We accept donations via cash, Paypal or bank transfer!