Monday, February 13, 2017

How To Be: 30, Unmarried, and Pretty Happy

Actress Kate Hudson released the book "Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body" early 2016. It includes healthy living and fitness tips. I haven't read the book. However, I am referencing it because I did watch a clip of her on one of those late night TV shows a few months back (probably the Jimmy Fallon Show) discussing the book and she mentioned she included "pretty happy" in the title because it's unrealistic to expect to always be happy but if people can find ways to achieve happiness a good proportion of the time, then that's a win. 

Inspired by that statement, and Valentine's Day coming up tomorrow, I felt led to write today's post. 

Disclaimer: You mustn't be 30 to relate to this post; you can be younger or older. I included '30' in the title because that happens to be my age and the best experience I can reference is that of my own.  

Turning 30 last year came with a bag of mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was leaving the 20s clan and chartering unknown 30s territory which can be nerve-wracking when one thinks of common cultural/societal expectations linked to certain age brackets (e.g. a stable job and considerable income in the bank by 25, marriage between ages 25-27, 2.5 kids by age 29, etc). On the other hand, I was excited at the prospect of new beginnings, new experiences (personal and professional), and new levels of gratitude, joy, and peace I believe can come when one wisely moves into their 30s, 40s, and beyond (cheers to practicing more wisdom in my life). 

The one recurring theme that has grown stronger in the minds of family, friends, and myself is marriageWhen will I marry? Who will I marry? Am I even ready to marry? How will my marriage be? I haven't made "getting married" a priority in the past. I haven't dedicated specific prayers or fasting periods towards finding a husband. The reason being that I've never believed having a joyful and worthy life is directly linked to "having a husband". I've also been put off in the past by ladies I knew that seemed to idolize having a husband and getting married so much that they rushed into relationships that were mentally, physically, and spiritually toxic. 

With all that being said, I'm more aware of the fact that if you want something, you should clearly "say" so -- through mindset, words, and actions. I do actually desire to get married, which isn't a bad thing. I desire to have a husband to enjoy and endure the highs, lows, and in-betweens life has to offer. I desire to have my greatest friend and ally manifest in the form of my lifelong companion. To have these, I know there is work to continuously do. I need to embody the characteristics I desire my husband to have -- courage, compassion, empathy, patience, humility, humor, etc.  I need to be more available and open to a partnership and not operate from an "I" point of view ("I should", "I will", "I need to"). I must accept that no man (or woman) is perfect and those who love us are also capable of hurting us, which means forgiveness is a mandate for every successful marriage. I need to be secure in the knowledge that while I continue to hope for the things I desire, I must be grateful and enjoy the life that I have now. 

Although I might not have everything I want in life, I acknowledge that I have a really GOOD life -- family members and friends that love me with whom I share the greatest stories, laughs, and tears when necessary; a passion for writing and storytelling that brings joy to my soul and provides me with an additional sense of fulfillment / validation as a human being; a steady income that affords me the opportunity to take care of my basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc); travel experiences and memories that remind me how connected humans all over the world truly are in thoughts, hopes, fears, and our capacity for empathy. I have a good life, am really happy about certain areas, not-so-happy about others, and I choose to be grateful for all of it. 

Think of this in terms of your own life and you might find reasons to smile with gratitude this Valentine's season. Yes, you might be single, unmarried, acutely aware of your ticking biological clock, and afraid of the likelihood of ending up alone, depressed, with a litter of cats as companions. I can't promise what the future holds for you. What I can say is that living in desperation with an inability to enjoy your current life because you aren't married is not the best route. 

Engage in your creative / passion outlets more (photography, sewing, writing, tech startups, telling jokes, etc). Laugh more often. Be compassionate and kind more. Eat delicious food more. Travel, when possible. Every day might not be a happy day and every aspect of your life might not currently make you happy. However, if you critically look at your life and see that you have it rather good in most areas and you're "pretty happy" overall, then you're more on the winning side than you realize...and that is definitely something to smile about 😊😊

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Art of Saying "No"

I'm guessing your life is full of people who constantly ask you for some "thing" (money, time, energy, sex, etc). 

It's hard to say no when you're a people pleaser. It's hard to say no when you feel a sense of expectation or obligation. It's hard to say no when you desperately desire to be liked, loved, or validated by another human being. 

Once upon a time, I found saying "no" to be a much-dreaded task; now, I find it utterly liberating. 

To be clear, I don't expect any of us to say "no" to everything -- that would be extremely selfish. To cultivate a spirit of gratitude and generosity, we must also be willing to "do unto others as we want done unto us", which means saying yes to requests and opportunities to serve (volunteering time and energy to varying causes, helping others with problem-solving needs, etc) when possible. The key is learning how to balance your yes or no responses appropriately. 

It's easier to know when to say yes -- a health emergency in the family and money needs to be pooled together for medical bills; a friend applying for new job postings in need of people to list as references on his/her CV; a supervisor asking you to complete a work task clearly outlined in your job description as part of your responsibilities. On the other hand, it can prove much more difficult to know when it is "right" to say no. 

With that being said, instinct is a wonderful thing. 

I have learned to rely on it much more now than I ever did in the past. When someone asks something of me, I usually take a moment to check within myself to determine if my initial reaction is an easy yes and I feel at peace. If I don't and instead feel conflicted or unhappy for a prolonged period about it, then 9 out of 10 times it means I should respond with a "no". I give a great example in the post STORYTIME: How I Almost Got Expelled From University when I should have responded with a no, not yes. 

In many instances, a "no" is required for ones physical, emotional, and mental health / wellbeing. 

The truth is you cannot be everything to everybody; you're only one person. This truth will not always sit well with folks and that is A-OK. There will never be a time when you can please all people; the more you try, the more frustrated and resentful you're likely to become. Now I can't tell you when or when not to respond with a yes or no in your life; however, I can tell you that from personal experience, the sooner you start exercising your "no" muscle, the more courageous and happier you'll find yourself to be, with your sanity intact...ideally :) 

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Monday, January 30, 2017

How To: Survive Getting Fired From Your Job

There are only a few things worse than hearing these three words at the workplace: "you are fired". As a gal whose had the honor of hearing them uttered my way in the past, I can tell you that the experience is not pleasant; however, it is one packed with life lessons that if acknowledged, can prove extremely beneficial to one's path of success. So, for anyone who has recently had to endure those faithful words, I'm highlighting 3 steps in this post that will hopefully provide you some guidance on how to not only survive being fired, but also thrive from the experience. 

Most people don't get fired for "no reason". There is typically an action, attitude, behavior, or combination of all that leads one to getting "axed" by an employer. In my case, it was definitely a combo deal. My firing experience dates back to that fateful time in my life when I was working as a cocktail waitress in a local New Orleans nightclub. It is important to point out that I was miserable at the time. I was not happy to be working there (it was not my dream job by any means) and as a result, my attitude and behavior was poor. I was impolite to rude customers, paid little attention to client requests which meant I mixed up drink orders a lot, and on several occasions refused to clean up the floors at the end of the night when requested to by my co-workers/supervisor. It was no surprise to me that after a few months, I was let go. I did not have the right attitude while working there and my behavior reflected that. Sometimes, a firing is an unfair occurrence; sometimes, it is actually earned. 

There is a silver lining in every cloud. While getting fired from a job can create a sense of financial insecurity and stress (which is understandable since you still have to pay bills and eat), it is important to also look out for the opportunities in every situation -- to develop your skill set or improve your physical and mental wellbeing. When I was let go, I did a few things during my unemployed time period; I started studying my Bible and learning how to hear / listen to the Holy Spirit, I began volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank in New Orleans 2-3 days a week (working in the kitchen packaging after-school lunches for inner city kids from low-income households), and I also joined a screenwriters meet-up group in the area (we were a group of 6 writers that met once a week to discuss books we'd read on the art of storytelling and critique each other's writing samples to help one another improve our story crafting abilities).

Is there a class, course, or training you can register for during this period to help increase your knowledge and implementation of a particular skill or speciality (e.g. if you are interested in filmmaking, signing up for a screenwriting or directing course would be a great route to take)? Is there a weekly workout class at the local gym you can join to help you get more physically active? Are there personal development books you've been planning to read that you can now pick up and finish? Is there an organization or cause you've always wanted to volunteer your time to? There's no time like the present. 

I know it's painful. I know it seems like a setback. I know you might feel like the wind has been knocked out of you and the future looks bleak from your vantage point. Good news? There is always hope that tomorrow will be better than today. Getting fired from a job does not define your existence unless you allow it to. At first, I felt like a failure when I was fired -- I wasn't even able to keep a simple waitressing job. I allowed myself to wallow in self-pity for a little while (a few weeks or so). Afterwards, I told myself that wallowing was going to keep me in the same spot I already despised and if I didn't do something different, I'd be there for much longer than I'd prefer. So, I began actively participating in my life by taking the steps mentioned above (reading, volunteering, developing my writing skills, etc) and reciting Bible verses and positive affirmations to myself daily (e.g. "For God uses all things to work for the good of those who love Him AND are called according to His Will" - Romans 8:28).

You have the choice to do better -- to have a better attitude when it comes to dealing with people and diverse working environments, to learn more about the industry you desire to be in so that you can eventually position yourself as a valuable asset within it, to work hard when you are assigned a work task or responsibility, and to be grateful for each day God has kept you on this earth clothed, fed, and breathing. You have the choice to get back into the "game" of life more determined and hopefully more skilled than before. One great step to take is actively searching / applying for job openings in your field of interest and attending networking events in your area.  

And there you have it -- my tips for surviving getting fired from a job. 

Have you ever been fired from a job before? If yes, how did you handle it? If no, how do you think you'd handle it? 

I'd love to know. 

Until the next post, folks. 
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Thursday, January 26, 2017

15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako

Happy Thursday, folks :)

Here's the second post in the "15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako" series; with questions in pink and answers in blue. Read, enjoy, and leave your answers to the questions down in the comments section below. 

Q1. What's one book that positively shaped your life?
A. The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. It reshaped my thoughts, mindset, and even the words / language I used. Speaking of that, a dear friend gave me a second copy as a gift recently -- I should read it again. 

Q2. What's the last book you read?
A. The Smart Money Woman by Arese Ugwu -- really good read. I fell behind on reading in 2016; cheers to picking back up in 2017 :)

Q3. What's the next book you plan on reading?
A. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 

Q4. What's the worst job you ever had?
A. I once worked as a cocktail waitress in a nightclub dealing with rude customers and their never-ending drink orders, plus the routine coughing bouts I had to endure since it was a "smoking allowed" location and everyone felt the need to light and puff their cigarettes / cigars on a nightly basis. Oh, the agony. 

Q5. What would be a great first date idea?
A. Going to the theater to watch a live broadway play in New York or going to a Cirque du Soleil show in Vegas (with dinner included of course)

Q6. What are you most excited about these days?
A. Attending more women-centric social events and revamping the "Get CRAZY" series on the blog :)

Q7. What's your favorite TV show from the last 5 years?
A. Luther (showed on BBC) -- one of the best acting performances I've seen from Idris Elba to date. I still need to watch his performance in the movie Beasts of No Nation.

Q8. Favorite award shows to watch?
A. Emmy's, Oscars, BET Awards. 

Q9. What's your favorite restaurant in Abuja?
A. Hmmm...I'll say Tulip Bistro in Wuse II. I really love their Chicken Ceaser Salad and Louisiana Chicken pasta (my homage to New Orleans a.k.a "The Big Easy")

Q10. Favorite blog for career women?
A. Career Contessa. 

Q11. What are three things in your bag you don't leave home without?
A. Lipgloss or vaseline, my ID card, and my cell phone. 

Q12. Chocolate or Vanilla?
A. Vanilla abeg...although I'll always make an exception for the German Chocolate cake with Coconut frosting (the Betty Crocker mix is too delicious for words).

Q13. Android or iPhone?
A. Either one -- never had an iPhone though. 

Q14. One life lesson you are constantly reminded of?
A. Change is inevitable whether you like it or not. If I can come to full terms with that, then I can attain a heightened level of peace. 

Q15. An important act of courage you're practicing more of?
A. Saying "no". 

Monday, January 23, 2017

3 Money Mistakes That Lead Women Into Debt

Happy Monday, folks :)

I mentioned in the 2016 Recap and 2017 Action Items post that one of the books I read last year was "The Smart Money Woman" by Arese Ugwu. It was an entertaining and educational read. I picked several financial wisdom nuggets from that book and added to the ones I had already learned over the years. Today's post is close to my heart because I know many women struggle when it comes to good money management practices (I myself was awful at it for a good period of my life). I am not a financial management expert however, I want to share 3 money mistakes I've made in the past that you'd do best to avoid. 

I was quite terrible at this. I had no account of the money I spent -- how much, to what product or service, when, why, etc. I operated under a pseudo safety net, assuming that since I considered myself a "modest" spender then I was probably always fine and anything I spent money on was fine; which wasn't always the case. Many months, I ended up spending more than I expected I would, on many items that were unnecessary, and couldn't account for several of the expenses. An expense tracker is essential (you can do this the ol' school way by paper and pen or by using an excel spreadsheet or any mobile app that can support this). Once you start tracking your expenses, you will be able to properly assess how much money leaves your account daily, what specific itemsbills/luxuries/etc you spend it on, and most importantly what your major cost drivers are (the things you end up spending the most money). If you keep up with this practice, it will be easy for you to review this information at the end of each month, notice poor spending habits / unnecessary purchases, and commit to better money choices in future. 

Now this is funny. This is for us "high time chicas" that have falsely deluded ourselves into thinking that budgets are too boring and restrictive, and we can do "bad all by ourselves" without them -- oh no, senoritas. Budgets are an essential part of good financial management. It is necessary to setup a monthly budget that clearly outlines how much of your income goes to bills and basic amenities, how much goes to your savings account (in the event that an emergency - health or otherwise occurs - and you need immediate cash support), how much goes to your investment account (if you have one for stocks, property, or business investment ventures), and how much you can afford to set aside for "luxury" spending (dinners at fancy restaurants, Malaysian hair, etc). Budgets help you create structure and organization when it comes to your money -- helping you to prioritize "needs" first and then "wants" second. Everyone benefits from keeping budgets. Whether your monthly income is N40,000 or N40,000,000 -- you need a budget (moreso if you are one of those of the "upper echelon" whose earnings make it much more tempting to spend frivolously). 

I remember a time when I was broke. My monthly income barely covered my bills and I was penny-pinching for dear life. Beforehand, I had been a "stunter" -- frequenting restaurants on a daily basis, clubs every weekend (with their overpriced entrance fees and drinks -- $10 for a Long Island Iced Tea!!), splurging on weaves because you know I had to have my hair "laid", and buying items at random for the heck of it. Of course, I kept all of this up with my bandwagon of "merry go lucky" friends. However, things change when a bit of broke-ness sets in. You begin to realize that many of those "friends" are only willing to stick around when the drinks and dancing nights are plentiful. Many of those "friends" are not willing to provide anchor and support when you are drowning in financial debt -- they might even assist you in plunging further. Good news is, I accepted this lesson swiftly. When I noticed my pockets were becoming abysmal, I quickly changed my spending behavior. I cut down restaurant trips to once a week (if that), removed club outings completely (you'll be surprised how much money you save if you're not buying new outfits each week or paying entrance fees or buying drinks), and controlled my itch to buy unnecessary items because I wanted them. The great news is that during this period I was able to filter out the quality friends from the "merry go lucky gals" and still found ways to have fun and enjoy myself while being money-cautious (indoor dinner and movie nights with friends, free event outings around town, etc). If you're currently stuck in "stunter" mode and feel there's no hope out of it, please know that it is in your best interest (peace of mind, no debt) to free yourself of this form of bondage; and if you're worried about losing those "richer" friends, the question you should ask yourself is: are they really my "friends" if I feel the only way to keep them is to lead myself into debt?

There you have it folks. 

Any additional financial management tips you know that have worked wonders for you? 

I'd love to know...and then also implement. 

As for the length of this post -- KAI. I know I said more "short and concise" posting in 2017 but clearly it will be a little harder than I anticipated. 

Pray for me.

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Friday, January 20, 2017

15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako

Happy Friday folks!

Starting a new "15 Questions with Adaeze Obiako" series on the blog. Will throw these in from time to time as a bonus post for the week -- questions in pink and answers in blue. Read, enjoy, and leave your answers to the questions down in the comments section below :)

Q1. What is the first thing you thought about this morning?
A. How much I take the grace of God in my life for granted -- I don't deserve it. 

Q3. What is your morning routine?
A. Hitting the snooze button on my phone alarm at least 3 times before getting out of bed, rushing to i. brush my teeth / shower ii. do my makeup / hair and iii. pick out / iron my clothes (which I should have done the night prior -- I clearly need a better morning routine.

Q3. What do you usually have for breakfast?
A. I normally skip breakfast since I'm rushing to get ready in the mornings (see answer above) and don't have any time. On a good day, it'll be a bowl of Cornflakes or Rice Krispies cereal. 

Q4. What was your first reaction moving back to Nigeria from the U.S.?
A. "Haba! What is this 'no air con in taxi's life' really all about?" -- might be a tad bit spoiled. 

Q5. What's the best way to spend a Saturday in Kano?
A. Probably taking a morning trip to Sabon Gari market, going for lunch at the Lebanon Club, and watching a move at the theater in Ado Bayero Mall -- none of which I regularly do. Kai. 

Q6. What's the best part about living in Kano?
A. When I find out, I'll let you know :)

Q7. What was your first pet?
A. Never had one. Not an animal lover -- a wee bit terrified of cats and dogs.

Q8.What's your favorite beverage?
A. A nice, chilled glass of Sprite -- in an effort to limit my sugar intake however, I stick mostly to good ol' H2O and only drink Sprite 3 or 4 times a year. 

Q9. Which historical figure would you share a glass of Sprite with?
A. King Henry VIII. I'm pretty much fascinated by his life story -- worth a Google search. 

Q10. What's the best way you decompress after a stressful day?
A. Overeating and watching a funny movie (e.g. Horrible Bosses with Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston, and Jason Sudeikis -- hilarious!)

Q11. What's your go-to song to listen to when you're feeling nervous about a public event or presentation or speaking engagement?
A. There's No Easy Way Out by Robert Tepper -- soundtrack to the Rocky IV movie, which I love.

Q12. If your life was a song, which one would it be?
A. Bittersweet Symphony by The Verve

Q13. What's one beauty secret you swear by?
A. Washing off my makeup at night before going to bed -- currently using Neutrogena Deep Clean Invigorating Facial Scrub.

Q14. What's your favorite fashion trend of all-time?
A. The Little Black Dress or "LBD". Classic. 

Q15. Who is your favorite fictional fashion icon?
A. Holly Golightly from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's

Monday, January 16, 2017

STORY TIME: How I Almost Got Expelled From University

Once upon a time, I was an undergrad in the University; specific for this story, I am referring to my sophomore year in Uni. I had a dear friend at the time - let's call her "Jessica". When I was sick, Jessica would buy me medicine and make sure I had food to eat. When someone was inconsiderate or rude to me (a cashier at the local Walgreens pharmacy, a catty or mean girl or classmate, etc), Jessica would step in and put that person in "check". When we were walking on Bourbon Street (a local tourist attraction in New Orleans) one night and the strap on my sandal broke, Jessica gave me her sandals and decided to walk the rest of the way back with my broken one. She was that type of friend. 

One day, we were chatting in my dorm room and Jessica mentioned her struggles in math class and how terrified she was of failing the course. Her only chance of passing the class was dependent on her getting an "A" in the upcoming final exam. I remember the next moment perfectly; Jessica turned to me and asked if I would help by taking the exam as her on the day. The teacher wasn't scheduled to show up on exam day (he would be sending a random graduate assistant to stand in) and the G.A.'s job would be to simply sit and monitor the class during the exam and collect the exam papers at the end, as well as check each student ID to match the name on the ID with that on the exam paper. I was against this idea from the get-go. I told Jessica "no" several times. I had never done such before and didn't intend on starting then. But, she pleaded (to the point of tears) and eventually my concern for her as a friend outweighed my sense of reason. And since we were both dark-skinned girls that sometimes got confused for one another by strangers, we figured I could easily pass off myself as her, using her ID. 

Exam day came. I showed up to the class, noticed the random G.A. at the front of the room ("thank goodness...I don't know this person", I thought), sat at one of the desks and proceeded to take the exam as "Jessica". Things seemed okay at first. I had taken the class in the previous semester and had gotten an "A" in it so I knew i would breeze through the exam fairly easily -- and the exam questions proved I was right. I answered all the questions without hassle, felt confident I was about to secure my friend an "A", and just as I was about to round up the last question, the unthinkable happened -- another G.A. came into the class to replace the former one. Problem? This G.A. I knew. She was an international student and we had seen each other once or twice beforehand at the International Students Office. I knew this wasn't good; there was trouble. So, what did I do? Something quite silly -- I decided to test my luck anyways. As the designated exam time came to an end and she asked all the students to submit their papers, I walked up in line and submitted the copy I had. She smiled at me (because she recognized my face) and asked me for my ID, as expected. I gave her Jessica's ID, hoping she wouldn't give it much thought. Wrong. She scanned the ID, gave me an odd look, and asked me to step aside. I was shaking inside. 

I don die

After everyone else had turned in their exam papers and left the class, she called me back over and asked me what was going on. I said nothing. This is where the grace of God comes in. She looked at me and said something to the effect of "I know you are not Jessica. I don't know why you did this but it was the wrong choice. I am supposed to report you but I won't. I won't because I've seen you before, you are a nice girl, you always smile when we cross paths, and the consequences of reporting you could cost you everything at this school. Please, don't do this again." And then she proceeded to tear up the exam paper and marked Jessica as "absent" on the attendance list. All I remember after that is continuously saying "thank you, I'm sorry, thank you, I'm sorry" through a sea of tears and then I left the class. 

I made a stupid choice that day and did not walk down that path again. What I learned from the experience though are things that still serve as reminders in my life today that: 1. the grace of God is undeserved -- I deserved to be reported, possibly suspended/expelled but I wasn't 2. mercy begets mercy -- the G.A. that didn't report me performed a merciful act that day and she may never know it, but her action had a huge effect on my life and has led to many instances where I have shown mercy to others in return 3. always count the opportunity cost of decisions -- I loved my friend (and still do) but was my friend passing that math class worth me jeopardizing my position at that school, potentially getting expelled, disappointing my parents, wasting the money they worked hard for / invested to get me enrolled at that school, and more? 

The answer is no

Until the next post folks :)

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