Media vs. Real Life

Wanting to live like those you see in happy movies, surround yourself with nice people and happy images, pretend the world is okay because you are.  However, the world has a way of making its true presence known no matter how hard we work to create peace around us.  The world is ‘good’, ‘bad’ and everything in between.

It is naive to only think of the good but it is also pessimistic to only think of the bad, not to mention draining.

– By Sylvia Ikua

Featured image of scene from The Stepford Wives movie, 2004.

An Alternative Perfectionist Attitude

outside 001

‘This is my earlier work’, that is how I want to considering my work because everything that happens now, in the present, is already part of the past… in the future. Therefore, I interpret that to mean that everything I experience and do in the present is already part of history.

This is not an excuse to stop caring, not have high standards or hold myself accountable for what I do, but it is a logical concept that keeps me anxiety free, at a healthy distance from the aspects of perfectionism that are unhelpful.

I remind myself that I will keep learning and improving, that I should not regard my work and other parts of life with a ‘be all or end all’ outlook.

I now accept that I cannot be perfect because perfection is relative. What one person might consider perfect, another person would surely disagree. I read a quote while trying to find an image for this piece, it said that we should not strive for perfection but for excellence. I liked the way it sounded, then I realised that actually that person had replaced the word perfection with an equally contentious and elusive term.

However, being a perfectionist should not always be seen as a con since there are some major pros to being one. Being a perfectionist means that a person sets and expects a higher standard than most, this can result in them often having a good work ethic, producing and/or doing something to a high standard, they remind and inspire us to aim to do our best.

The main issue that I think most perfectionists have, at times, is that an expectation can often be set so high that it is unrealistic or typically requires painstaking effort to attain. What is wrong with putting ‘painstaking effort’ into what you do? Nothing really, unless it causes a person constant distress. A perfectionist sometimes will push themselves extremely hard, nearing their breaking point, instead of considering a slightly simpler option in their pursuit of perfection.

What I have learnt from my own perfectionist ways, is that being a perfectionist can be good, as long as I do not get caught up in the negative aspects of it. I am working on appreciating this experience that we call ‘life’, I get off my automatic mode as often as I can to enjoy moments, and I love seeing the humour and ridiculousness in things that I used to take oh so seriously.

– By Sylvia Ikua

Featured image of blue sky from a window view, posted on Instagram by @SylviaWik, 2016.

I had a Dream

Orange Sunset

A few years ago, I dreamed that I had achieved everything I ever wanted in life and more. At the end of the dream I saw myself as an older woman, in her sixties or seventies, I was the picture of perfect health.

My young grandson had ran off to another room in my apartment, almost knocking over a vase I had collected from one of my travels. I sighed and placed my hands on my hips, as I did so, the sunlight beamed in from the long living room window and caught my attention. I turned my head toward the window, it was a spectacular orange sunset, and I noted how beautiful the sky looked.

The view from outside my window made me smile and I thought about how beautiful the moment was. I thought suddenly of my life, I had lived a wonderful life and in a way I had achieved my happy ending, whatever that meant.

I woke up. As you can imagine, I was saddened and annoyed to discover that it had all been a dream. I had lived an entire life, completely imagined by my mind, in a single dream. My dream life had been challenging at first, as I tried to decipher my place and purpose in the world, it got better over the years, and soon it became a great life. However, waking up all I thought was, ‘it was all a dream? But it seemed so real!’

In reality – I was twenty-two years old, attending a nearby university and living in my parents’ home. The best part about my situation was that my younger brothers were living at home too. I knew I could find one of them to share and vent about my dream to. Waking up from that dream had been very anticlimactic… I was still processing it. My youngest brother was awake. When I told him about my dream and how I had felt when I woke up, he and I laughed, tears filled our eyes and one or two escaped onto our cheeks. My initial annoyance, and possibly grief, about the dream disappeared.

Later that day, I felt a peaceful warmth as I thought about the dream. I appreciated what my subconscious had shown me. For years I never knew what I wanted to do with my life, while other people my age seemed as though they did, that resulted in me worrying about how my future would pan out.

I knew that I enjoyed writing but I was often warned by others that it was not a realistic or financially rewarding career path. I studied a degree in Education Studies because I knew that at the end of it I would be guaranteed a safe, reliable job in teaching. I was doing really well and on course for a first class degree. When people asked what career I wanted to go into, I finally had an acceptable answer, I told people that I loved children so I wanted to become a Primary School teacher (the former was true).

Thankfully, midway through my degree my dissertation proposal received a fail grade, my tutor was shocked since he had remembered recently awarding me a first in another of his classes. Every repressed emotion and thought I had about not wanting to continue my degree hit me, I did not even want to redo my dissertation proposal. Soon after I decided to leave university, I felt that I had let myself and my family down but I was certain that particular degree and path would not fulfil me.

After I left university, I gave myself an ‘unofficial gap year’ to consider what I wanted to do with my life. I worked full-time in retail for less than a year, the arduous work and long hours made me appreciate my former university life. I learnt a lot from my co-workers, not just about work, they told me about their lives and why they worked in retail, and some were university students or recent graduates.

The majority of my co-workers told me that they did not plan on working in retail ‘forever’, their career aspirations varied from engineers, scientists to architects and journalist ect. They were an interesting bunch. For years, I had assumed that people who worked in retail wanted to work there and solely wanted to pursue retail or hospitality careers. When I told my co-workers my story they urged me to go back to university and attain a degree, especially while I was still young, the whole experience offered me a reality check.

While collecting my thoughts, I remembered a comment a lecturer had written on the front page of an essay I submitted before I dropped out, she wrote in red ink that she had enjoyed reading my essay. This particular lecturer was feared by all the students, she was intelligent, outspoken and rarely liked the essays we produced, so I could never forget that comment. She did not agree with all of my points, nevertheless she had enjoyed reading it.

That lecturer reminded me that I had loved writing that essay for the pleasure of it because I loved writing and sharing my ideas! I had held that comment in my mind for a long time, it popped into my thoughts a year later, while I was considering applying to study a degree in Creative Writing. I did apply and I got a place at a London university, where I am currently studying.

Studying a Creative Writing degree was a goal of mine. I have since learnt that achieving your goals is not always the happy ending you might imagine it to be, meeting goals does make you feel happy and proud but it also brings with it unforeseen challenges. As I say today, problems are always challenges, and challenges can be resolved in one way or another!

I have felt much happier, more alive studying Creative Writing. If my life could be summoned up in a puzzle then studying Creative Writing would be represented by a large puzzle piece. However, this goal does not define my entire life, even though it has solved some things, it does not fix everything. It does not
necessarily predict my future, I think it provides a path for me to walk, jog, run and (occasionally) dance on as I figure out everything else.

I sometimes worry that I am not good enough and I will not live a good life, whatever I perceive that to be. I do not recommend this… but I think I had asked my mind enough questions about where my life was headed before I had my dream, that it finally said, ‘here, take this. Do and get from it what you will’.

A few months after having that dream, I decided that I would believe in it. One day, I will be that content woman reflecting on her life, and smiling as the sun sets on her, in more ways than one. I know that the older Sylvia got to where she was by deciding what she wanted from her life, working hard and staying focused on her goals. I am still figuring a lot of things out. I’m continuously learning and evolving, I hope to become that woman in my dream and to feel her warmth.

I am now at a point in my life where I can and I am able to experiment a little in my life and try out some of the exciting ideas I have been brewing up for the last couple of months. I think trying out these ideas will make me happier. I will need to keep reminding myself that failing and making a couple of mistakes is part of life, no human being has ever been deemed perfect. Perfection I would argue is a myth, if not relative.

There are always lessons to be learnt in making mistakes and failing, but surely, that will not be all I will be doing! I will also be succeeding and doing things right, all of which will help me grow and enrich my life. (This is not only my hope for myself but for of you too, dear reader.)

By Sylvia Ikua

Have a wonderful day! 😀

Never be Afraid, be at Peace.

You have to find your voice, stand your ground and not let others intimidate you with their words or actions.  God is always watching your life, witnessing everything that unfolds, so never feel afraid.

Isaiah 41:10 says ‘So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand’.

Have faith in God.  What seems like a difficult, dark time can become a positive, invaluable life lesson if you’re open to seeing it as such.  When things start to get better you realise the beauty and purpose that lay in that lesson or those lessons.

Be at peace, everything is unfolding as it should.

Have a great day, everyone!

By Sylvia Ikua