Write here, write now

This has been a long time coming. Since my last blog post I have started a new job and goodness me have things been busy. I’ve felt bad every time I look at my blog to see I haven’t written anything for yet another month. I’ve looked back over the months and years with a fondness of what I’ve been writing – there really are some trite posts on here though! Two years ago I was blathering on about saying no to meetings. What was that about?

I read somewhere that writing is like any other muscle. It is easy to lose strength without continual training. It’s so very true. I’ve been spending a lot of time lately writing for others – for brands, for people, for events – and forgetting to gather my own thoughts here. Here are a few things I’ve been thinking about lately:

Brexit 

We’re living in a very tumultuous time where the world is being split quite clearly down the middle. Liberal inclusion vs. conservative partisanship. I’m more interested in the day-to-day impact of this and I feel it every time I get a taxi through work – aka not an Uber.

Any taxi driver I’ve had through a mini cab firm has almost ways brought up Brexit. From the driver taking me to the Sky News studio a few months ago to the one taking me to a talk at a leading law firm. Brexit is a natural topic of conversation and we always fall on different sides of the fence. Me: Remainer. Driver: Brexiteer.

What it shows is a very clear split in where the virtues and flaws of the European Union have been shared. I was lucky enough to learn about the foundation of the EU at university – namely through post-war Germany and the importance of a political union of peace – however this wasn’t the case for all. Is it any wonder, then, that we are where we are?

What’s more concerning is the role of the press in fueling hatred.

Diversity

I am always thinking about diversity personally and professionally. It’s inextricably linked with Brexit in my opinion. Diversity of thought, of gender, of race – these are things that are extremely important to me.

Being part of PrideAM has been an absolute privilege and looking back on our first anniversary I never thought I’d see a day when I’d be hosting a panel with a drag queen among others at a leading advertising agency. To me that is a sign that things are changing and I feel hopeful about the change we’re going to see in the coming years.

Technology

Working in the technology team of one of the world’s best PR agencies is a dream come through. I have the rare, and excellent opportunity to spend my working days thinking about how companies around the world are changing – so many wishing to become a technology company or working to integrate technology into their day-to-day operations. Whether that’s through new processes or looking at how to partner with innovative start-ups, the role of technology in our lives is fascinating.

Almost every single facet of life has been changed by technology throughout the decades. I recently read (well, listened to) Aziz Ansari’s excellent Modern Romance on recommendation from a friend and his research into how technology has changed courting, dating, romance, weddings and raising children is well worth exploring.

I went through a short phase of feeling completely overwhelmed by it. Are we forgetting how to connect with people? Are we losing the art of conversation? People said the same about landlines and televisions, so we just have to adjust and stay true to being human.

Just a few things to write here, write now. In two years’ time I imagine I’ll look back on this post and wonder – goodness, what was I on about?

What Ramadan has taught me about understanding

The 27th night of Ramadan is revered. It is understood to be the night the first verses of the Qu’ran were revealed to Prophet Muhammed. It’s called Laylat al-Qadr – the Night of Power.

Many Muslims head to the mosque to pray all tarawih (extra prayers during Ramadan) and yesterday for the first time in a few years I decided to do just that. I went along to the Inclusive Mosque InitiativeInclusive Mosque Initiative‘s prayer evening and 9 hours after leaving I am still floating.

We spent the evening praying, in dhikr (a Sufi form of devotion where you repeat prayers and the name of Allah) and discussing reasons why we were there. It was incredibly powerful and massively different to my usual Friday nights. It gave some headspace and time to reflect on what’s happened over the course of the past 27 days. Forget dervishes, my head is whirling.

Looking back at my first diary post, I mused about the changes in my life – new home and a different working pattern. How trivial compared to the events of Orlando, Jo Cox and then Brexit. To work through those on zero energy, dropping a couple of waist sizes along the way, has been a challenge. The really important thing for me during Ramadan is to reflect on what things are like for others. So I’ve been thinking, what was life like for the shooter, Omar Mateen? What was life like for Jo Cox’s murder? What is life like for those who voted Brexit? Constantly going counter to my own status quo has brought up a range of emotions and feelings. Were they justified? Were they sane? Were they understood?

It’s the last question I get stuck on. Omar Mateen was not understood. I took to writing about it, was invited onto Sky News and organising a big gay iftaar to do my part in making sure that something like that doesn’t happen again. Reports are now coming in that there was no evidence that Mateen was gay and so the question remains – was he driven by homophobia that had been ignited within Islam? Is it okay that this homophobia means that 49 people are no longer in this world as a result of his actions?

Trying to understand Brexiters has caused a lot more inner turmoil. As a native Londoner and someone who has lived in Germany, I am pro Europe through and through. But as I drove out to Calais I saw the vote remain signs turn to vote leave as we crossed the M25. I saw the 4,000 odd people in The Jungle and heard about their journeys across Europe. It’s a massive failure on behalf of politicians. They are not from the people, for the people. Like in any business, if the management is so disconnected from its workforce, there will be an uprising. Brexit is just that. Cameron, Gove, Johnson. They’ve all failed to get out of the bubble and understand what’s happening on this island. And now we have the result, two of them are failing massively at being what we need so sorely right now: a leader.

Yes articles appear that it’s not binding. Article 50 might not be invoked. And thousands have taken to the streets of London to march but quite simply – we are where we are because as people, we were losing the ability to understand others. We’re fed by an algorithm of news that is based on a Britney Spears song: Gimme More. Enough is enough. Have a conversation with someone who has an opposing view. Have that conversation in real life. Look them in the eye and understand where they’re coming from. The internet is ruining us otherwise.

Every day we have a need to understand others. I remembered that yesterday as the bus was terminated at 4am. Why? Because a pale-looking gentleman threw up on the bus two stops before mine. I could have gotten angry. I could have tutted. I couldn’t have shouted ‘get out of my city’. But I looked at him and understood that he just had too much to drink. And it’s not surprising why. Britain is in an uncertain and scary place and as a young person, it’s hard to see the promise. But together we have to get through it. And understanding is the only way through it.

The best-laid plans

My intention was to write a post a day during Ramadan. It was a noble intention – to keep track of my feelings and thoughts as the month progressed.
And then Calais happened. Last weekend I found myself in ‘The Jungle’ – a refugee camp in Calais where there are over 3,000 refugees and migrants trying to make their way to the UK. It was an eye opening experience. One that made me realise that my struggles – on the grand scheme of things – are nothing compared to those of the people I met. I also realised that the way the ‘migrant crisis’ is portrayed in the UK media does not take into account the full nuance of what’s happening. Yes, these people left their country. Did they have a choice? The answer to that is subjective. What it does mean is that we – as a human race – need to pay attention to the fact that decisions made in board and cabinet rooms have a real impact on human lives.
Just as I thought I’d get back to my fairly banal musings, Orlando happened. I want to say it has sent a ripple through the Muslim and LGBT communities, but it’s really sent a ripple through the world. The equality and peace we thought we were reaching has been undermined. An earthquake to the otherwise stable ground of liberalness. The shooting then triggered e-mails, phone calls, interviews, appearances, photos and events. It’s fair to say it was truly a whirlwind. So much for the simple daily diary.
It’s made me learn that no matter how good your intention might be, life happens. And when life happens it causes upheaval. Through all of these events I feel so very thankful for what I’ve got and what I’ve been given. It’s caused a big readjustment in the way I think about things.
We’ve reached the half way mark of Ramadan. This is the time I find the hardest. I can’t remember life pre-fasting and a life post-fasting still seems quite far away. Onwards!