Sunday, 1 November 2015

Humbly rose from Poverty to Doctorate

I stood in the audience on my graduation day and for the first time, my eyes welled up with tears as the whole auditorium applauded and shouted words of congratulations to persons they did not know or might not have seen before. For the first time, it was impressed upon me the meaning and size of my accomplishment. I am Dr. Rose-Ann Smith. I never thought that I would have gotten this far, but I had to for  myself and my family. I wish to share my story to you and really do hope that it will encourage someone to press towards their dreams.

I grew up in the small village of La Croix in Mesopotamia Valley in a home to a father who was an alcoholic, but a good father to us. His last name is Diamond, but it in no way suggests  'riches'. After all, my memories served to remind me of the one bedroom house in which myself and brothers grew up with the outdoor wattle and daub kitchen and outside bathroom and toilet, otherwise called a latrine. Later, that home became a two bedroom and we had what was called a 'hall'. I later learnt that the proper name for it was a living room, but then it would seem that only the rich had living room and country people who were mostly poor, had a hall. We did not have light or water so we had to 'droge' water from a stand pipe and a kerosene lamp, candles or a flambo served as light in the night. My mom sold food crops in the market, then she worked at a hotel to clean rooms and make up bed and later as a cook. My life was simple, but for most parts I was contented and outside of the impact of the alcohol that my father drank regularly, I believe that we were happy.

When I looked at my family, I saw and felt the struggle. There were single parents finding it hard to support their kids, but they tried. I saw alcoholics, gamblers, ganja smokers etc etc. Some viewed us as thieves but for most, we were poor people who will not amount to nothing. It appeared as if all our parents and grandparents were uneducated. However, when I listened to stories about my family, I realized that we weren't dumb. Instead, poverty had prevented all our parents from reaching beyond primary school. Sometimes they had to stay away from school to work on the farm or only go to school half day. Roast grindy and sugar water was breakfast or lunch for some. I looked and see how the impact of being poor was trickling down to my cousins. They were dropping out of school. They lack motivation and drive and who can be motivated on a hungry belly. I remembered seeing family members eating boiled banana and butter for lunch/dinner because that was all that can be afforded. I never went hungry, but I remember having to borrow money to buy chicken or to go to school. When I heard people saying, even today, they do not eat chicken back, I do not comment. Rather, I can only thank God for the little protein I got from it growing up, and reminisced on how sweet it was in pelau or stewed down with some roast breadfruit. Yes, chicken back was dog food for some, but it was quite a popular meat in our house. Will I eat it again? Of course and proudly too.

Today, I look at my family and I am proud. Our past is not our present. I am proud because a generation rose up that wanted something different and we were supported by a family who wanted differently for their kids. I am proud of those who learnt a skill even though they did not get their subjects. I am proud of those who finished with their many subjects and who decide to rise beyond. I am proud to be the first to attend university and the first Doctor of Philosophy in my family, to witness the first Attorney-at-law in my family, Saskia Diamond. I am proud to have my cousin Dominique George studying medicine and a brother doing his bachelors in Social Studies Education. I am proud to see both of my brothers becoming great musicians. I still get goosebumps when my younger brother, Brent Williams sings and I am amazed at his lyrical skills. They never went to a music school, but taught themselves to play many instruments. I am proud of the police officers, pastors, coast guard workers, government workers, carpenters, masons etc etc. But most of all, I am proud because when I looked at the crop of us who succeed and is succeeding, I realized that we have all put God first. Let us continue to pave the way of success for our family. Dream BIG!!! Let us not pull down or look down on another, but let us motivate each other. Let us not be selfish in our acts, but live lovingly with each other, edifying our brothers and sisters above ourselves. Let us continue to pray for each other, especially the younger ones who are just getting started in daycare and primary school. Remember always the distance from whence we came and in every thing, let us give thanks to the Most High God. We are Diamonds, Williams and Catos and We are out to make a difference for our families and with our families.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

When you begin to seriously job hunt, you will hear talk about two sets of skills. These you will definitely identify during the interviews with sometimes the interviewers being more interested in who you are other than what you have accomplished academically. Soft skills goes beyond your academic accomplishments. It is about interpersonal skills which are important in your interaction with others.

At the beginning, this was strange to me. You have the skills for the job so what is the big deal with these soft skills? I have learnt overtime the significance of these soft skills. Firstly, there are so many persons competing with high degrees that you need something to give you the edge. However, it is more than just getting that edge.

As a business owner, you want to see your business grow. You want an environment that will encourage customers. You need people who will make your customers feel welcome and not drive them away with their snobbishness. Have you ever gone into an organization, where you feel like you are being ignored even though the person at the front desk stares you right in your face from time to time or it appears that they have to finish their conversation with their friends whether on the phone or in front of your face before they finally ask how they can help? How about the way they address you after they finally engage you, as if you are a bother and it is not their job?

Outside of this, a business/organization leader needs a team that works well with each other. If they don't, you will spend time trying to manage those issues, precious time that you could have spent investing in making your business more profitable. Even the leader himself needs those soft skills to lead. Who wants a person who talks down to them? Every time you see them you are on egg shells, not out of respect, but fear. Have you ever spoken to anyone who after they finish, you feel like if you can move mountains and you are ready to accomplish the goals of the organization? How about the opposite...a person whose very presence depresses you and by the time they finish speaking you are angered, hurt, just want to go home and never come back, but you just have to because you need the money. In the latter, persons are working, but the organization is not growing and if it does, it is slower than the pace it could have been, had there been a better working relationship amongst the team.

Hard skills are easier to accomplish and sometimes people beat their chests having accomplish these, but they can can never be great leaders until they master the soft skills. According to Investopedia, hard skills are learned and perfected over time, while soft skills are harder to acquire and even change. This is because the soft skills has to do with who we are which determines how we interact with others, rather than what we know. Anyone can acquire the hard skills and maybe even better than you have, but those soft skills is about your PERSONALITY.

So if you are playing a major part in any organization or maybe even a minor part, but some how it appears as if no one likes you, everyone has something negative to say about you and clearly do not want to work with you, assess your soft skills. How well do you work with others and engage people? Is it all about you or are you also interested in them, what they have to say, the role they are playing etc etc While the problem may be them just teaming up against you,  it might just be linked to your interpersonal skills which are yet to be developed. Soft skills are just as important and may be even more important, in some cases, than your hard skills.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Marriage Survival

A few days ago, my husband and I attended our church couple's ministry. It is a ministry I hold close to my heart because I see it as being very significant for married couples and thus far it has opened my eyes to several things. I like that the fact that our couples are open and even as each shares about their marriage (the good and the bad), they are happy in their marriage and they are on a quest to see their marriage last forever. This is important.

I often asked how is that a person can be with each other for years and within a year of marriage they are divorced? How is it that can people can  divorce only after one year of marriage? It is clear that there are many underlying factors resulting in this, some of which may be present even before the wedding took place. However, what I learnt recently in the couple's ministry meeting is that marriage takes work and it takes investment. Those were the words of my pastor as we planned our annual couple's retreat and it starts at the very beginning. The persons whose marriages have lasted 25 and 40 years and have gone all the way to until death do us part, their marriages was not without their problems, stress and sacrifices.

I have learnt that you can have endless love for each other, but still divorce and even when commitment may be present, you can be unhappy. Situations/problems at times take a toll especially after a child/children are born. You are so much into your work and by the time you get home, you are either too tired or you are spending time with the kids, but no time for each other because as adults we feel we can survive. After all, we love each other. Although I am no expert, it is clear to me that if you want your marriage to work, you have to invest time and money in it.

Time for intimacy- Not simply time for SEX, but time to connect on a spiritual, social, emotional level. This may involve simply cuddling and talking. It may involve giving nice massages to each other. This is an alone time so children cannot interrupt. Hence, you might have to wait until they fall asleep, leave them by some grandparents, have a nanny look after them or at times, you may need to do this outside your home for example at a hotel (hence the money). What activities do we often plan to keep our marriages alive?

Time for Planning- Where do you see yourselves as a couple 5 years from now? How do you intend to get there? What sacrifices or investments will be involved?

Time for Forgiveness- Sometimes we cannot move on because we cannot forgive. For some, forgiveness can only happen if we move out (divorce).

Time to Focus- This is something I practice in my marriage especially if I get angry. I have never ever spoken to my husband at the point in time when I am angry at him. For one thing, a lot of times too many negative thoughts are going through my mind of all the words I can use to hurt. It is during heated arguments stirred by anger that persons say things that they often regret and also do not mean, but simply saying them to get under each other's skin. Still words hurt and at times, they sink in and remain with us for years. You remember when you say this or that? So what I do is focus. Why am I angry? Should I be angry? Is it too petty? Can I or should overlook this? During this time, I also reflect on all the ways he has been good to me and how many times her has done something to anger me (something I picked up from one of Tyler Perry's movies :)). But it works for me. At the end, I always smile because I have a great man in my life who has done more to make me happy than he has ever done to upset me. I pray that this continues :). Then I am ready to talk and express to him in cool words, why I am angry and all of the time, thus far, we resolved whatever and move on in our wonderful marriage.