Am I a Feminist?

Being raised by a woman that is the epitome of capability and strength should have given me an early taste for feminism. However my foundation of faith was more dominant and growing up in church meant traditional gender roles were clarified early on. I liked Barbie and all things girly, and was told that it was a ‘tragedy’ if a girl wasn’t taught how to be a girl from a young age; God made us this way and we need to own our femininity with pride.

And if I’m painfully honest, there was a big ‘damsel in distress’ part of me that wanted to be rescued. It’s what Disney taught us and let’s be honest… Romantic.

Needless to say, Feminism slipped far under the radar of my child-turned-adult consciousness. It went in the same camp as the tree-huggers and all I knew is that it most probably involved daringly hairy legs, which ruled out my interest. It was unfeminine to stand up and fight, after all no one likes a forward-thinking, opinionated loudmouth, do they? Females should be ladylike and making a fuss about anything, let alone women’s rights, is certainly not that.

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When Is Running Away the Right Thing?

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Running away has a negative connotation. We’re often advised to face an issue, deal with it and go through it, rather than escape it. Enduring hard times and seeing things through promotes good character, yes? I believe in this and all the reasoning behind it, but naturally, at my core, I’m a bit of a runner. I’m a little too familiar with giving up and calling it quits.

There are a number of situations where that’s cost me. For example, I wish I never threw the towel in with learning instruments when I was younger, or sticking with languages at school. It was all too hard, so I made seemingly valid excuses and broke up with German and French, and cello, piano and flute. I regret that.

But is it always bad?

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Is Love Earned?

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This week, my friend Cory kindly hosted me on his popular blog where I wrote about my experiences with love. My own blog has been having some issues while I redesign it so I didn’t get to share it with you when the post went live.

So here is the beginning and I hope you will finish reading over at CoryCopeland.net

When I was 17 years old, I had a very unromantic understanding of relationships. I remember flicking through a magazine when a quote from Nicole Kidman caught my eye. Regarding her husband Keith Urban and their problematic marriage, she declared that “you can’t choose who you fall in love with.” I scoffed and thought, “Stupid famous people and their stupid romantic theories.” I believed love had to be earned, and that we all had 100 per cent control over whom we chose to love.

I was guarded and practical due to what I had seen of marriage and didn’t want to experience myself. I thought avoiding heartbreak was rather straightforward. All you had to do was wait for the right person who ticked all the boxes. Then you invested the time into getting to know them and eventually, with much deliberation and thought, you fell in love. Not rocket science, right?

Now here I sit some years later, having loved and been loved, and not sure what I believe.

Continue reading and share your thoughts at CoryCopeland.net

 

Lessons Learned from Aung San Suu Kyi

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Recently I have been learning about and fascinated by Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights activist and politician from Burma (now Myanmar). Suu Kyi has spent 15 years in total under house arrest by the military-junta who have had government control since 1962. She was released in 2010 and was able to physically accept her Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 1992 while imprisoned. This woman, known simply as “The Lady” in Burma, both frustrates and mesmerizes me.

After watching her Nobel acceptance speech, I was left disappointed. It was like I had an itch that was left unscratched. I pressed play and sat back in anticipation for the moment where her voice broke and the pain of the past 21 years would come flooding forward. I was practically weeping for her while I waited for her to join me. I waited and waited as she spoke of the seven sufferings, her experiences and her undying hope of a peaceful world.

I waited for the moment where she displayed that maybe it all was worth it, if only just for this honourable prize of a lifetime. The moment where she thought of her children, now grown, that she had missed out on while imprisoned in Burma. Or her late husband, whom she couldn’t say goodbye to when he died in England in 1999. All I wanted was one sweet tear.

The speech was good, excellent in fact. But no tears were shed. Not one crack of her strong but delicate voice. No emotion, just poise, elegance and passion.

The itch that is still itching is my overstimulated love of emotion and drama, and I was expecting a lot of it while watching this speech. But all I got was an extremely humble woman with a stiff upper lip, who believes her life purpose is to see her homeland Burma as a free country after being under military rule for the past 50 years.

No fuss. No drama. Just a woman on a mission.

These days with media and social networking, we are constantly displaying ourselves. Looking for affirmation. Creating drama. Yet one woman sat inside her home for 15 of 21 years and played piano, meditated and peacefully opposed the oppression of the military. She is a quiet and demure social activist in character, but she means business. She will not rest until there is peace. Her country comes first and sadly this has meant her family has come second, of which I am sure there are repercussions. And I think that’s what keeps her grounded; she had to sacrifice a lot and though she may not regret her choices, she isn’t completely proud either.

There’s a Hollywood film about Suu Kyi, called “The Lady”. I’ve added it to my Lovefilm rent list but after watching the trailer, I’m afraid it’s been “Hollywood-ified”. Her life has been made into a tear jerking motion film, when she doesn’t see it that way. I know she doesn’t, after listening to her on the BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs, as she politely corrected the host any time her situation was presented as sad or unfortunate.

Anyone could argue that it is dramatic, that it’s a tragedy. But Aung San Suu Kyi will go to her grave saying is that she has made a choice every day for the past 24 years to fight for her country’s freedom, whatever the cost. There’s no tragedy, just her choice, and those are her very words from an interview. Simple.

I am both inspired and perplexed by this woman and what we can learn from her. The itch is still there, as someone that thinks family should come first and can’t completely understand her decisions, because I don’t have a whole country depending on me for freedom. It doesn’t mean for a second that I don’t respect her.

My middle name is Drama-Queen and our generation feed off heightened emotions. But Aung San Suu Kyi is the perfect example of someone who has put her head down and got on with it. Maybe we need to do the same, whatever we are doing or working on or believing for. Whether we are trying to save the world or our friend or ourselves, we should just get on with it. Without making a hoo-ha or trying to draw attention to ourselves or our good deeds, and without updating our Facebook status or Twitter feed. Just do it.

But before you do, make sure you share this  post with your friends on social media, yeah?!

Where do you stand, on either Aung San Suu Kyi or my view of our drama loving culture? Do you think we could learn from this woman?

Reputation vs. Character

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Reputations. They are built over time and can take years to secure, but are painfully easy to taint. To have a good reputation is obviously desirable; it gets you friends, romances and jobs. It sets you apart as trustworthy. Your reputation is what lingers once you’ve left a room (hopefully not in the form of odour, but atmosphere).

Reputations are unavoidable and inevitable. If you are consistently late, grumpy or forgetful, you will be known among friends for being this way. If you regularly prove yourself as reliable, people will appreciate that in you and probably discuss among each other your proven reliability with each other. People are watching us and taking notes in their head. If someone cancels on me every time we make plans, I don’t hold their word for much when they say “lets meet up!”.

I’ve always been protective of my reputation, which essentially means I care what people think. I care about how I’m seen in social settings and what people know about my faults, which is never beneficial. We will never please everyone, and sometimes people will form opinions of us regardless of our behaviour. Being too aware of the reputation I am building has meant I’ve struggled to be myself, to have grace for my imperfections and mistakes. To be human.

I’m sure there are some people with whom I’ve earned a black mark by my name. It could have been something I said or did wrong and completely legitimate. Or it could have been a rumour. I remember one instance when there was a misunderstanding and a pretty harsh rumour spread about me. It killed me inside to think that people thought badly of me. When I found out months later, I desperately wanted to make it right; to correct the corruption. But it was too late.

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are and your reputation is merely what others think you are.” -John Wooden

When I think now of that situation, I shrug my shoulders. I know who I am. I know that people can vouch for me. I’m not perfect, but try my best to live openly and honestly. I’ve made some really bad calls, I’ve hurt people and I’ve hurt myself. That has inevitably tarnished my reputation with some people, and it’s a harsh fact of life.

Among other things, I’ve been bothered that I have a broken engagement in my history and worried that it will affect how people view me. To some people I’m the good girl, to others I’m a racy Christian with a past. To myself, I’m all of that and more. Just a girl who’s finding her way, tripping up and getting back up again. I’m a million things to a million people, and you might be too.

By paying attention to my character and how I treat everyone I meet, I will also gain a good reputation. But it’s just a bonus. I’d rather spend my time and energy focusing on my strength of character; on what I’m learning from the mistakes I’ve made and continue to make. Our reputation is something to be mindful of but not strive for. Our character is what we should be really concerned about, because our whole life flows from who we are.

Do you have a reputation for a reason? Do you care a lot about what people think? 

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For the times they are a-changin’

Do you know what is the biggest and harshest reminder that I am fast approaching my mid-20s? Not my slowing metabolism, the introduction of wrinkles on my forehead (my animated expressions are having a long term effect) or the fact that I have now been working full time for 5 years. Though sometimes these things do help me to consider how time has passed and that I’m not as young as I was.

But the real stinger and flashing red light that things are changing is my Facebook newsfeed. The news of engagement, weddings, pregnancy and then finally, birth (such a drawn out process, honestly!) I am happy for them, and I’m not saying that while simultaneously shooting daggers, I genuinely mean it. These stages are beautiful and a reflection of human development and growth. Eventually, intentionally or not, we expand our lives by starting families. I am in full support of this, especially since it involves men and babies and I like these two things.

Except, I’m not doing it yet so nobody else should be. Or that’s how I feel anyway.

I got into a committed relationship when I was 19, and most of my friends were still single and being “young”. I was young obviously, but lived a more settled and mature life. Though I was happy, there was an element of FOMO because I fell to the wayside of the fast moving London social scene. Now, I’m single at 23 and while a couple of my best friends are also unattached, a lot of people are paired up and if not engaged/married already, the aisle is in sight.

The problem is, kids, is that I’ve gone and done it the wrong way around. After being in happy-couple-land for a few years, all of a sudden I had no boyfriend and a lot of spare time. I was like “heeey where my gurlz at, let’s go out yo.” And they were like “ehh I’m gonna stay home with ______ tonight” and I was all “oh no, I’m too late, I’VE MISSED THE BOAT!” And then I died. Okay maybe not, but I realised that life had moved on and things had changed without me noticing. While talking (moaning) about all this to a fellow single friend recently and jokingly (seriously) abusing everyone for moving on with their lives (“how dare they”), she made a really good call. It was a refreshing slap in the face, if such a thing existed; “Yeah but imagine if we all stayed the same! How boring!”

How right she was. I wouldn’t wish ‘the same’ on anyone, particularly in such defining and amazing years as our twenties. If absolutely nothing – not your friendships, job, goals, motivation, beliefs or relationship status – has changed at all in the last five years, then dare I say it, you’re doing it wrong. If you have not developed, grown, challenged or expanded your mind in any way, that’s a problem. Life is about evolving and hopefully becoming better (not bitter) through experience of people, culture and occupation. Whether it’s from stacking shelves at the supermarket or working in parliament; it’s about learning. If it’s through recovering your broken heart or taking a risk with the person you fancy; it’s about using your heart.

This is why I am genuinely pleased to see my friends getting hitched and knocked up; because they’re taking big and beautiful steps in the grand picture of life. Steps that aren’t always easy, and that sometimes challenge their very core. They are growing. The selfish part of me cries out for our old friendship when they didn’t have such responsibility, but if all of my friends were still single and as selfish as me, I would be worried for all of us.

Whether people want to admit it or not, marriage and children changes the dynamics of friendship with singles. I’m a quality time person and 100% brutal, so I have considered just replacing every friend I have lost to the Family Epidemic (save yourselves!), but it turns out that they are too amazing to lose. Well I’ll be darned, it’s true love. So what I’ve learned in my early experiences as ‘the single friend’ is this: the friends that are worth it will make the time for me, and I can support them by being flexible and understanding.

Honestly when it all comes down to it, I just want to be the best friend I can be, regardless of whatever stage that we’re in. To share in their experiences and do life with them, from talking weddings to which crib to buy. I may not completely understand (“your baby needs to be fed HOW often?”) but I do care and I have a part to play. While I’m not quite there yet, I’m learning so much and am incredibly blessed by the families in my life. Plus, they love hearing the tales of my awesomely pathetic love life, so it’s the perfect trade-off!

I love babies and I love husbands, even if they are not mine. In the next five to ten years, things will change even more for my friends and I. I’m up for it, and I know one day it will be me that’s making the big decisions.

I know I’m not the only one in this position! Put your hand up if you share any of my thoughts. Do you have any advice for singles or couples on how to be good friends to each other, despite the different stage of life? 

Why I Don’t Read Newspapers

In London there are two papers that circulate daily on public transport – the Metro for the morning commute and the Evening Standard for the return journey home. They are both free and read by millions of people. I haven’t opened either of them for at least a year and I am never tempted to, no matter how enticing the headline or pretty the cover photo (Kate Middleton – girl crush).

There are two reasons that I don’t read these papers and have no desire to. The first being that they can be incredibly exaggerated. I saw this when they recounted the details of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake that devastated New Zealand. As I was keeping up to date with the facts through the NZ Herald website, I could see clearly that the London papers were loosely throwing words and numbers around to make catchy headlines. This made me irate.

The other thing I find hard to stomach is how totally depressing they are. One day I read that in one week alone, four people had jumped under trains to end their lives. It was in a tiny box at the back of the paper and I imagine not many people would have taken much notice, as it’s a common occurrence in London. For the rest of the day my heart was heavy for these people that desperately wanted to die and had succeeded. For their families.

I am incredibly impressionable and a seeker of the truth. This is precisely why tabloid newspapers, trashy magazines and gossip sites do not bode well with me; because I cannot take the words as truth. It’s merely hearsay. For factual accounts and reporting on current events, I watch the TV news or read the BBC news website. I prefer to spend my commute reading a novel or listening to music. Occasionally there is a positive news story that brightens our days, but it’s more often a negative dictation of the world we live in. I simply do not want to start my day with bad news, not ever.

When I gave my life to God, I stepped into the light and committed to a life of truth. To telling the truth and living the truth. I haven’t done either of those perfectly since and I will stuff it up again in the future. Why? Because I’m a human and sometimes, I want to hide from the truth. The truth is hard but it is also how we find freedom and growth.

The media of this world don’t believe that.They believe in getting unflattering pictures of celebrities, making money and glorifying gossip. And if current events tells us anything, it’s that the future is hopeless. I believe something different; that there is hope in this broken and dying world and that it doesn’t end here. If we look only at politics, poverty, the economy, human condition and the earth’s lack of sustainability, we’re all doomed. That’s what the news tells us. I am realistic yet hopeful for what is unseen.

I hear so many people say “sometimes I just want to switch off and read trash! I don’t want to think too hard”. Everyone is different and I am particularly sensitive, I’m aware of that so I do what works for me. However, I think that there is no harm in guarding our minds. Consider today; what are you reading, who are you watching, what are you thinking about during the day? We are influenced and can be easily swayed.

I’m hopelessly hopeful and a lover of the truth, and that’s why I don’t read the newspapers.

Do you read newspapers? What do you think of the media that we read? Share your thoughts in the comments. 

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Dialogue with a Persistent God

God never gives up on us, but if we’re truthful, sometimes we give up on Him. Whether it be an intentional or conscious decision, it happens and our dialogue with our engaging God falls to the wayside. Sometimes for simple reasons, like our busy schedule. Other times it’s rooted in anger, fear, confusion or defiance. In those cases we take out our problems on God and when we don’t find the answers we need, we block Him out and set out to find them without Him. It’s the easiest way to deal with it, right? Give God the silent treatment while we lick our wounds or try to come up with a solution on our own.

My experience of these wilderness times, of which there have been two this year alone, is that it’s a lonely existence. I was created to be connected to the God who made me. Who knows me fully and loves me wholly, despite myself. During these low and uncommunicative periods I don’t really ask anything of God. I just carry on in my own independence because it wouldn’t be fair to only talk to Him when I need something. I mean He’s not a bloody genie, right?

Well, in my most recent bout of tantrum throwing and silent treatment, the joke was on me…

It had been more than a few weeks, maybe even a couple of months, since I had really given God the time of day. I was stuck because I so wanted to pray for my friends that were going through tough situations, and I wanted to reach out to them, but I didn’t feel I was in a position to. How could I share about a God that I wasn’t even talking to? And though I didn’t think I could pray for myself during this time, could I pray for others? Is that allowed? I was struck with sadness and confusion, so I wrote. I put it down in my journal with simple words. I didn’t pray but I reached out in a very passive way.

I didn’t expect anything but I got it off my chest. Then God did that thing He does; He showed up. During my work day a friend sent me an email with words that she felt compelled to share with me. Her encouragement could only have been God, for she relayed to me such specific encouragement that was so incredibly relevant, and that she couldn’t have known that I was struggling with. She lives in a different time zone, half a world away, and she was able to speak into my life. She stepped out in faith when I was being stubborn with my own.

When I’ve felt so far away from God and felt that He wouldn’t be able to find me if He tried, He’s spoken to me in the very way that He knows I will listen. In the two bad phases of this year, he spoke to me through people and they were spot on every time. People that are overseas and know nothing of what I’m going through, each time. He speaks in a way I can trust, and in a way that cannot be doubted. He knows what I need.

This propelled me forward in to a deeper and more intimate relationship of dialogue and studying. Our God fights for us and is always looking for ways to speak to us, whether we are playing our part or not. I have been so humbled and amazed at how patient and persistent our Father God is and that He doesn’t give up on us. If you have gone quiet on Him, reach out in the only way you know how. Or don’t. Either way, your silence won’t last long because God will follow you to the ends of the earth.

If there is anything I have learned from those seasons of little or no dialogue with God, it’s that His love for us is relentless and His faithfulness trumps our disbelief every time. So remember that even if you give up on him, for a day or a year, He will never give up on you.

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How does God best speak to you? Do you ever struggle with your faith and keeping up consistent dialogue with God? What happens when you doubt?

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Giving Yourself Time to Grieve

I am very excited and honoured to be guest posting on Cory Copeland’s blog today. Cory is one of my favourite writers and he discusses Love, God and Life with brilliant humour and touching sincerity.

I started to give my writing and this blog more attention when I was left reeling at the end of a relationship in September 2011. However I never talked about it here and wrote about every other topic instead, so as to respects others’ privacy and because I was still in the thick of it.

The break up was incredibly difficult and took me a long time to get over, possibly longer than society would deem acceptable. This is what I discuss today; grief and moving forward.

Start reading below and then click through to Cory’s blog to read the rest.

*****

When I broke off my engagement just over a year ago, I prepared myself for the worst. “Micaela, this is going to be really super hard and for a long time. I don’t know exactly how long, but just go with it because it won’t last forever”. That was the sound advice my head gave my heart, and my heart nodded and took a deep breath. Together they were united and ready for battle against the war of confusion, guilt and sadness that I was facing.

Finish reading over at CoryCopeland.net

Is Your Career Worth More Than Your Reputation?

I’m not a dog-eat-dog kind of girl; it’s just not my style. I am ambitious but I won’t stamp on anyone to get up in my career. Viciously fighting my way to the top while trampling people underfoot does not compute in my mind. I don’t think it’s ever worth it and my reputation is more important to me than anything.

Yet I live and work in one of the biggest financial hubs in the world, steaming with people fixated on conquering the next rung of the never-ending ladder of success. It’s nasty and I despise it. I am in the middle of the city posing as one of them but deep down, I’m not at all.

Maybe I’m naive or innocent to think that motivation and hard-work are enough to see one do well in their life and career. That you can only leave one mark on the people you meet in this world, so it may as well be a good one. That business doesn’t have to control you or ruin you, selling your human compassion and generosity along the way. And that it will all pay off because our reputations last longer than any job or position.

I just so happen to think that I will do well by being genuine, honest and kind while aiming to be successful in my field. I may not make it to the top, but that isn’t necessarily what I want. Getting to the top means a lot of sacrifice. I’ve been working in corporate organisations for three years and I’ve seen first hand that the main thing that gets sacrificed is also the most important thing: people. Family, friends and colleagues.

It also means working your butt off and maybe even shoving some people out of your way. And what for? A sense of purpose, which I understand, but usually the greatest motivator that I can see is money. More money. Too much money. It is a never ending pursuit because the more we have, the more we want. Even I have fallen into this trap.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting we all sit back and give glitter, hugs and sunshine to our colleagues. I myself have been considering that I need to prove myself as a professional and not be walked over. I’m young and impressionable, and have been taken for a ride in the past for this very reason. Experience is the best teacher of these things, unfortunately.

Healthy competition is a great motivator to push forward, but with too much of it there’s no time to get to know anyone; to have an impact, to connect, to bless. I always think of America’s Next Top Model in relation to this, and how the girls can be downright horrible to each other, and defend their bony ass honour by saying “I’m not here to make friends”.

So why are we here, in this game of life? To succeed at a job, to get married, to have kids, to buy a house, to get rich… The list never ends and there’s nothing actually wrong with it but if it comes at a cost to our character or the people in our lives to obtain it, that’s a problem.

When all is said and done, our character and reputation is really all we have. Without a fancy CV or resume, without earthly awards or accolades, we only have what people can testify about us. We have our reputation which lies in our integrity. What would the people you work with, that you spend most of your time with, say about you?

Who you are and the impression you leave on other people is your resume for life, so make it a good one. You won’t regret it.

I will work hard, respect my colleagues and run toward my goals, but I won’t be tripping anyone up along the way. I’m just not cut out for that sort of high-flying career, after all, I’ve got my humble street cred to protect.

Do you struggle with this in your profession? How do you deal with it? Are you more competitive than I am?