In 2010 I graduated from the University of Surrey, and worked at a radio station. A little later, my parents encouraged me to do a Master’s degree. I wasn’t keen on it. I finally had something worth being proud of in this job, and it didn’t immediately make sense to me. But I listened, and it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve made. The first day of my Master’s degree I knew I wanted to do a PhD, and my professor encouraged it. Considering I thought I was a failure for so long, applying was one of the most audacious, faith-filled things I’ve ever done.
I made terrible choices the first couple of years of university. I was unhappy on the course, distracted by the unprecedented freedom, and dreams of practicing medicine seemed like a distant memory. The pattern of failure continued, and by this time I had zero confidence in anything I could achieve.
Deep down, I always knew I would live in America. As a three year-old, I was strikingly drawn to the brownstone row-homes and strange accents in Sesame Street. In my childhood play, I would create a world in which many of the characters had Southern drawls. The earliest vacation I remember was a family road trip across the States in 1992. It was an incredible time of laughter and discovery. I had traveled elsewhere before, but it was the first time I would truly take in the environment around me. Everything seemed so big in comparison to London. Big roads, big trucks, big houses, big portions. We would cite moments from that trip for the rest of our lives. From then the seed was sown. There was a big America, with big opportunity and I felt I belonged there.
Recently I was told that someone close to me had given birth to her firstborn. In many African cultures, there is a delay between the birth of a child and the announcement of its name. Often during the period, grandparents, siblings, aunties and uncles (even long lost family members) weigh in on the name of a child. It is then shared to extended family, and friends by way of a naming ceremony, celebrating the arrival of the newborn.
My parents were very intentional with naming me, and I have found that names are either prescriptive or descriptive. I have certainly had enough experiences that require faith, and my name reminds me to look beyond my circumstances and hope in things I cannot see. One of my middle names is “Ayodele”. In Yoruba, this means “joy has come home”, and in my late twenties and early thirties, “joy” has been something that I have found myself craving more than anything.
We all have a unique personal relationship with the word “weight.” For some, it may cast a memory of the stubborn fat around one’s midsection that never disappeared after 27. For others, it may relate to the training, resistance, and conditioning of your physical body - that desire to handle more, lift more and push more. The word “weight” may also represent the heavy load that is felt emotionally, spiritually, or mentally, and walks with us in our daily lives. Regardless of how we frame weight, there is always something we are trying to do with it, knowing full well that it is not sustainable to leave it exactly the way it is.
Words have the power to build or destroy, heal or harm, give life or bring death. With a simple phrase a heart can be transformed, a rift can be prevented and a new possibility can be birthed. Quite similarly, a few words can destroy a relationship, offend a nation and kill a dream.
What we choose to communicate with our mouth is a direct translation of our state of mind. Whether false or true, our words indicate the way we process and the impact we desire to have. They are prescriptive of our actions, which are telling of our character. This is why it is so difficult to trust someone who fails to follow through with their word.
So what are you saying?
“So – what do you do?”
When the small talk has dwindled, there is no more wine to sip, and you’re left with more than 20 seconds of awkward silence – there is a large chance this will be the question that you’re faced with.
“So – what do you do?”
At any stage in your career, this question can be incredibly challenging to answer. Perhaps you are looking for a job, and have to admit that you’re in transition. Or, you may be holding a role you don’t particularly enjoy, or that fails to fully reflect the scope of what you can do. On the contrary, you may be working for an organization that you love, but because you’ve just spent the last ten hours talking about it, you simply want to chat about another topic. Wherever you are on the spectrum, this is a reminder that you were born worthy and you are more than what you do.
The above question is one of the main reasons I dread networking events and large gatherings. I believe the more important question is “why do you do what you do?” This reveals a deeper insight into character, passion and purpose than a simple job description – and is arguably far more meaningful.
The tasks you do between the hours of 9 to 5 do not define you. However, you can define who you are between the hours of 9 to 5.
You were born worthy of the greatest love.
Depending on your circumstances, this may be one of the hardest truths to believe.
This idea that you were born fully deserving of being treasured, loved and honored. This idea that you are amazing just the way you are, and nothing you change externally makes you more worthy than this very moment. This idea that you are enough.
We are relational creatures – designed to commune with one another beyond simple coexistence. We were made to love, and from an early age we form unique bonds that show, shift and shape our understanding of the world. Along our journeys, most of us realize it is not good to be alone and that material success isn’t everything it’s set out to be. We therefore crave “to belong” more than we crave “to have”, knowing true wealth lies more in true relationships.