By Indie Authors for Indie Authors.

Category: Essays (Page 1 of 2)

The Original Refugee

 

 

The Original Refugee

by Alpesh H. Patel

 

BAM! It hit us like a brick wall. We had to leave the country with only clothes on our backs. NEVER would we have thought this could have happened to us of all people. Whether you were high, mid or low-income earners—every Indian had to get out of Uganda.

General Idi Amin forced us out—everyone. Our mother country India laid the responsibility for the Ugandan Asians squarely on her Majesty’s UK Government. The UK was the only place that took us in and every ex Ugandan Asian will tell you that this was the best thing that could have ever happened to us. It was a blessing in disguise.

It was a tough time for my parents as only my mum and my brother and I could enter the UK as my father had no UK rights so we basically separated for a few years until he could get his British passport . So for the first few years it was all down to my mother to not only work in three jobs but also have some time for us . I was only 6 when we came to the UK so I simply cannot recall how I felt . One thing I do know is that I never experienced the pain of hunger as my mum always had a plan to put food on the table

We are the Gujaratis and we come from a lineage of India’s greatest Merchants—we know how to SELL well. Maybe its in our DNA or something, but we have it in us to be commercially minded. Even more so when we became refugees to the UK and we had to resort to commercialism just to survive. After Uganda we had no choice but to stick together in a very harsh, unwelcoming, and cold London in 1972. We were first in a holding facility near Heathrow airport and then about 10 of us moved to Colindale in London . My uncle had found a cheap 3-bedroom place for rent. We all started from there. In fact, he bought that place and still lives there. That house is special for so many of us . But alas everyone had a complete family except us—it was just my Mother, my brother, and myself. We were on our own and we had to fend for ourselves.

This is the basis of our Entrepreneurial streak—fend for yourself, survive at all costs, continue and march forward regardless of the circumstances.

We had to make something out of nothing and, hence, for me that created a very healthy sense of dissatisfaction with the status quo. This propelled my long entrepreneurial journey and adventure with my first bite of fledgling Entrepreneurship encountered in the Souks of Morocco . I used my Gov grant money to basically get over to Gibraltar then ferry over to Morocco, where I acquired leather goods to sell back to students in my University which was the University of Hull in Yorkshire. The hustle bug hit me at a very early age!

“What is hustling?” A question recently asked of my partner, Buki Mosaku, and I by Will Barron, founder of Sales.red, a podcast going out to over ½ a million sales people. In that context a big question, but with a simple answer nonetheless.

To me, hustling is a make-something-out-of-nothing-mindset with a great sense of urgency. Daring to go where others fear to go. Creating something of value and reaping the rewards in the process. It’s the stuff in between that fuels entrepreneurial and intrapreneurial dreams! One of my first businesses was selling Mobile phones to China. I was one of the first guys to sell phones to China back in 1990. I then moved over to Hong Kong to be closer to my buyers and by the age of 24 I had amassed US$1M.

This is part of my DNA.  It is why a refugee by the name of Sir Mo Farah is the most decorated athlete in British history and it is why my great grand father sailed thousands of miles in search of prosperity, eventually founding the Odeon Cinema chain in Uganda. The difference with me and other refugees is that we were forced into exile; so I encourage refugees to embrace their double diversity of being a refugee as an opportunity and see it as an adventure, preferably an entrepreneurial one!

There is a famous saying “when life gives you lemons make lemonade”. Once you get a taste of the life that you can have with a bit of money, everything changes, sometimes at the cost of proper career planning, which I never did—the Hu$tle does truly come at a cost!

I had always tended for myself and always walked on the edge. My risks taken were not to be looked upon in a light manner. However, I have always felt comfortable with risk. We risked our lives to set up in the UK—risk is part of what makes me whole. It is this risk that has enabled me to overcome FEAR (“False Evidence Appearing Real”). The problem with people in general and many refugees is we become too scared to do something new or something risky. We fear the worst and place more emphasis on the bad side of what may happen instead of reversing that thought pattern and focusing more on the good side of what may happen.

As the famous poet Kovie Biakolo says:

Look around you and look inside you. How many people do you think are settling? I will tell you: a hell of a lot of people. People are settling every day into okay relationships and okay jobs and an okay life. And do you know why? Because okay is comfortable. Okay pays the bills and gives a warm bed at night and allows one to go out with co-workers on a Friday evening to enjoy happy hour. But do you know what okay is not? Okay isn’t thrilling, it isn’t passion, it isn’t the reason you get up every day; it isn’t life-changing or unforgettable. Okay is not the reason you go to bed late and wake up early. Okay is not the reason you risk absolutely everything you’ve got just for the smallest chance that something absolutely amazing could happen.

 

I simply was not fine to be just OK. Things had been OK with us in Uganda and it got snatched away. My mum always says, “Life can change in a blink of an eye. Never take anything for granted.”

It is this that then led me to explore international markets and have a global business experience spanning four continents over the last 30 years. I am proud of what I have experienced—some good things, but mostly lots of failures. It has strengthened my resilience and it has made me turn more inward to actually address the fact that your greatest friend is YOU.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. Its jumping off a cliff trying to build a plane on the way down. Most people will crash and burn. I got knocked against the rocks many times by the headwinds but somehow I did build a plane and land intact albeit scarred for life but then again what a journey!

If this is the life you want—risk, thrill, adventure, the unknown—then the big TEST you have to pass is being able to step outside of your comfort zone and agree that just being OK is not good enough. As refugees we must rise to the challenge and test of standing out in a positive way. Eventually it all comes down to how prepared we are to handle these TESTS.  I am now… are you?

 

 

Alpesh H Patel Award winning Entrepreneur and Author

 

About the Author

Alpesh H. Patel is an award winning Global Entrepreneur and has been featured in more than 50 media outlets including CNN, CNBC, BBC, Forbes,GQ and Huffington Post. Alpesh runs Peshmode Ltd, a UK based Advisory and Business Consultancy specializing in Go to Market Strategies, Entrepreneurship, Intrapreneurship and Results orientated Sales solutions. He has been dubbed as one of the first Tech Innovators to come out of emerging markets and has worked with industry giants such as Visa, Vodafone, Western Union and Uber

Alpesh is a Public speaker and has appeared on several panels such as The Titan Academy, The GSMA ,The African Leadership Network and The Wharton Africa Conference.

He is the author of new book Tested out now on Amazon and Apple iBooks. It is available in Kindle, EPUB and Print. Published in the UK by Peshmode Ltd. For more information see www.peshmode.com/testedthebook.html.

Mindfulness and The Unseen in Parables

I-5 Sunset

 

by Stanley Siegel

 

Life is full of mysteries many of them emanating from what we, as humans, are incapable of seeing.

I watch my dog Max survey the word with his nose as we take our long walks around the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. A few blocks from our home, he finds his favorite wall to sniff where he will spend as much a time as I will allow him. I’ve come to see the wall as “Doggy Facebook.” It seems every dog in town pees on it, leaving their scent with its encoded biography of the dog’s life. I stand patiently as Max “reads” everyone’s contribution to the wall, applying his heightened sense of smell to make discoveries not visible to me by my limited sense.

It is by much the same method that I read and interpret parables. I “sniff” the story out, at first relying on logic to make sense of it at the rational level. I am as focused as Max, parsing the details of the narrative. But my logical mind can only take me so far. When it fails to comprehend a story’s paradoxes, the intuitive mind I’ve cultivated after 40 years of practice as a psychotherapist, takes over the job. My thoughts turn inward, sifting through all my relevant knowledge and experience. Like a search engine, I dig deep into my unconscious, accessing its database of archived stories that share similar themes. I compare the unassembled metaphors, symbols, and prescriptions expressed in the subtext of the parable with those in these other narratives.

Armed with this information, I stretch out on my living room couch, close my eyes and engage in the process of focused visualization before I write a single word. Parables have archetypal themes that transcend culture and time. Ancient, present and future conflate in an Einsteinian moment, Like Max, I use my sixth senses as I tap into what Carl Jung called the “Collective Unconscious,” my mind and spirit aligned, body at rest, I am at one with the universe. Interpretations flow to me in this state of relaxation.

Returning to the rational world, I construct exercises based on the most meaningful interpretation, bringing the lessons of each parable to life in practical ways based on strategies I learned as the practitioner and from my personal experiences with self-improvement. The practice of reading parables will change your mind and, subsequently, your life, perhaps even without your awareness. They will bypass the logic of your rational minds sinking deep into your unconscious. Like the wind, they sweep across the river of negativity, with enough power to change the direction of its current, giving you a new direction for life. The exercises, if followed, will further repoint your behavior.

Together these processes realign body, mind and spirit and allow for greater well-being as a writer and in your broader life.

 

About the Author

Stanley Siegel is a psychotherapist, author, lecturer, and former Director of Education and Senior Faculty member of New York’s renowned Ackerman Institute for Family Therapy. With nearly 40 years of experience in the field of psychology, Stanley has developed a bold and unconventional approach to psychotherapy that has led to his most recent book, Your Brain on Sex: How Smarter Sex Can Change Your Life. Stanley has taught at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Adelphi University, and the University of California, Berkeley. Additionally, he was the founding director of the Family Studies Center in Huntington, NY, and has served as a consultant to hospitals and mental health centers throughout the country. His newest book, The Secret Wisdom of Ancient Parable, is available now. You can follow Stanley Siegel on Twitter.

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

Your Thighs Are Huge

I’m excited that Nothing Any Good can be utilized as a platform, not only for assisting writers throughout the writing process and promoting their works, but also as a platform to explore new works from up-and-coming authors. Despite what some might think, I don’t believe writing should always be done in a vacuum. Having a community with whom to share essays, short stories, and musings is a valuable commodity for writers. I’m pleased to bring you a heartfelt essay by Sarah Warman.

 

indie author running

The author–Sarah Warman–running a 5k.

 

Your Thighs Are Huge

by Sarah Warman

 

I was basking in the sun on the Delaware beaches. I had just completed my first 5k and had even won my age group. In between dips into the ocean, I found myself discussing my accomplishment to a man and woman who had also ran the race. I told them how I was so excited to complete my first 5k because I had been a sprinter in high school and at one time could have only dreamed of running three consecutive miles.

That’s when he blurted it out, “Your thighs are huge.”

I didn’t get upset or mad. I just felt perplexed. I didn’t know how to respond. For his part I think it was a foot-in-mouth, not-meant-to-offend comment. But it still left me feeling confused. No one had ever told me that my thighs were huge. It wasn’t like they were out of proportion with the rest of my body or I had to search the mall for pants wider in the thigh. Was it a compliment? I wasn’t sure.

 

“I’m worried that young girls will see those images and think; “I need to have the ‘thigh gap.'” I’m here to tell them, “You don’t need it.”

For a while there’s been a trend circulating the Internet called the “thigh gap.” This bothers me. It doesn’t bother me on a personal level, but it bothers me because I think about the young teenage girls that are bombarded with images of the “thigh gap” and other so called “ideals.” I was fortunate to spend my high school years without social media and constant reminders of what I should expect myself to be. I’m worried that young girls will see those images and think; “I need to have the ‘thigh gap.'” I’m here to tell them, “You don’t need it.”

As a teenager I was fortunate to have positive experiences playing team sports including volleyball and basketball and also running track. My coaches never cared about my weight. How high could I jump? How fast could I run? It was our performance that mattered, not our appearance. I never had any concern over my weight or my clothing size. The only thing I cared about was if I was improving at my sport. But usually when I was good at my sport, I felt good about myself.

I can’t remember the last time I had a “thigh gap” or if I ever had one. If I was standing on that beach today hearing about my “huge” thighs I’d probably have a response. I’d say how my thighs are one of my favorite body parts. I’d say how even when I gain weight they still look strong and in shape. I’d talk about how they enable me to walk stairs of an observation tower to enjoy a wonderful view. I’d mention how they could walk for miles without getting tired or even squat over one hundred pounds. I would add how they have carried me over 26miles without collapsing and gave me more confidence than I ever knew I could have. I would say they make me feel grateful and proud, and that’s something no one will ever make me feel bad about.

 

 

This essay originally appeared August 15, 2014 on the Huffington Post.

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

 

Indie Author

Photograph taken by Andrew Warman

About the Author

Sarah Warman grew up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, raised by her parents who met in the steel mills of Pittsburgh. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering Technology she moved to the eastern shore of Maryland so she could take walks on the beach whenever she pleased. After spending five years as a migrant, Sarah and her husband returned to their native Pittsburgh where they reside with their rescued cat. Her writing has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thought Catalog and her personal blog, Lunges, Long Runs and Lattes. She recently self published two ebooks including a book of essays entitled, Don’t Forget to Write and a short story entitled Seeking Vegas.

 

On Mental Illness

mental illness

If you’ve decided to read this, you’re most likely in one of two camps when it comes to mental illness. Either you are going to completely agree with what I’m saying here and you support increased dialogue and understanding surrounding mental illness. Or you’re sitting there thinking, “Really? More mental illness talk?” And you disagree completely. Those are two of the three main camps I see making up the general public, (the third being the people that are oblivious to it and are highly unlikely to be reading this right now).

Mental illness is a topic that is discussed from time to time in our culture, but quite honestly, despite how often it may be discussed, it is still a topic that is misunderstood. Yes, this is website for writers and indie authors, but you might not be surprised to learn that there are a lot of writers with mental illness. (Or maybe you are surprised. If you are, just hang out with a bunch of writers for twenty minutes. You won’t be surprised anymore.)

Awareness has grown in recent years. There was an onslaught of ADD and ADHD diagnoses in the ’90s. There have been a great number of recent stories documenting heartfelt struggles with PTSD from veterans of war. (Have a look at Soft Spots by Clint Van Winkle if you’re looking for a book suggestion.)

Some recent pop culture references have even brought awareness to the subject as well. Silver Linings Playbook shed light on the difficulties of bipolar disorder, both for the individual dealing with it, and his family and friends close to him. The character “Crazy Eyes” from the hit show Orange Is the New Black presents both a tragic and comedic character with mental illness. (Her nickname alone, though, is clear evidence of how we tend to treat people with mental illness.)

We have only just begun to scratch the surface as a society. Despite the public discussion of mental illness becoming more common over the last ten years, the public understanding of the topic has a long way to go.

In Jenny Lawson’s recent bestseller Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things, she lays out how this misunderstanding often plays out in real life:

I can tell you that “Just cheer up” is almost universally looked at as the most unhelpful depression cure ever. It’s pretty much the equivalent of telling someone who just had their legs amputated to “just walk it off.” Some people don’t understand that for a lot of us, mental illness is a severe chemical imbalance rather than just having “a case of the Mondays.” Those same well-meaning people will tell me that I’m keeping myself from recovering because I really “just need to cheer up and smile.” That’s when I consider chopping off their arms and then blaming them for not picking up their severed arms so they can take them to the hospital to get reattached.

Mental illness

Looks like Bear has a case of the Monday’s.

This passage from Lawson is illustrative of a common misconception surrounding mental illness, (while also being very humorous). There seems to be an idea that people that are mentally ill are either bat-shit crazy and will likely end up in prison or homeless, or they aren’t that mentally ill and just need to try harder. I’m not sure why we have this misconception or where it started, but it needs to change.

Mental illness does not equal a crazy person. Depression does not equal someone who is perpetually sad and needs to cheer up. Anxiety does not equal someone who is nervous and needs to relax. We seem to understand that people that suffer from, say, cancer suffer within their own experience that is not necessarily comparable to another person’s experience. We also seem to know that someone with diabetes, for example, learns to balance the quality of their health through exploring different regiments of diet, exercise, and medication. For some reason, though, we haven’t extended these understandings to mental illness. We seem to quickly label someone with mental illness and place him or her into a box, but those labels couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

Depression ≠ Sad
Anxiety ≠ Nervous
ADD ≠ Stupid
ADHD ≠ Hyper
Schizophrenia ≠ Crazy

 

Over the holidays I was visiting the mother of a close friend who passed away a few years back. His mother, who I love and respect, commented that she was in the middle of reading my book. After telling her how surprised and grateful I was that she was reading it, she replied that she really liked it, but said, “I have a bone to pick with you.”

“Oh yea?” I responded. She had my full attention. Every author knows this experience of wanting honest feedback, but fearing the worst.

“You’re an amazing young man,” she said, ignoring the fact that I’m about as middle-aged as you can get. “We love you. Why do you write something like that? Why do you write something that,” she paused, “dark?”

Included in my recent book Pieces Like Pottery is a short story called “Dies Cum Anxieta”—translation A Day With Anxiety. This is specifically what my friend’s mother was referring to when she was asking about writing about something so dark. Most everything in Pieces Like Pottery is fictional. This story is probably the closest to reality, although it is still fiction. Here’s an excerpt:

 

I put some waffles into the toaster and begin slicing a banana. I refill her sippy cup with whole milk and lay the feast before her on the table as I strap her into her booster seat. She beams at me with glee.

“Nana.”

“Yea!” I say excitedly. “Ba-na-nas. Wa-fuls. Milk.” I point at each item in front of her as I sound them out. She lunges at a waffle and begins eating, giggling.

I start the coffee in hopes it will shake the rest of this sleepy haze from my brain.

Bananas and waffles? Really? Your wife would have made something way better. Your wife is so much better at this. How are you a parent? Your daughter probably hates that she’s stuck with you.

The coffee finishes brewing, and the coffee-maker beeps. I pour myself a cup and take a sip.

“Dada. Haaahhhttt,” my daughter says, pointing to the coffee cup in my hand.

My God, she is wonderful. How did she get so smart? I notice three banana slices on the floor around her. She smiles at me and then not so innocently says, “Uh-oh.”

Soon the three of us are racing around finalizing our morning routine. I hug my baby girl and give her a kiss on the forehead. I hug my wife, and we kiss for a moment before our daughter separates us. “That’s my mama,” her look says to me. Message received. We venture in our own directions—my wife’s off to drop our daughter at daycare before heading to the company she owns and runs; I’m off to walk to my desk job.

Your wife thinks you’re disgusting. She settled for you, ya know? You do know that, right? She barely tolerates you. Did you see that look she gave you after she kissed you?

I sit down at my desk to begin my day.

 

I wrote this as a small depiction of anxiety, yes, but also what I believe is a universal experience of self-doubt, fear, and shame. (If you’ve never had an experience with shame, congratulations. You should be in the Guinness Book.)

So my friend’s dear mother says, “You’re an amazing young man. We love you. Why do you write something like that? Why do you write something that…dark?”

While I know plenty of people who would dispute her claim that I am amazing—who needs enemies with friends like you, right?—I understood her point. What she was saying is that I am a joyful person who loves life. She was saying that often times I love to be in social settings and I am happy being around people. So why would I say those things to myself? (Ignoring the fact that this is a work of fiction, I guess.)

But herein lies the rub.

I am joyful. I do love life. I am inquisitive and have a tremendous love of learning. I am social and love spending time in the company of others. I have a happy life, but that doesn’t mean I am free of mental illness, nor does my mental illness mean I am incapable of a robust, happy, and fulfilling life. My friend’s dear mother meant well and I don’t resent her question one bit, but it is indicative of how we as a society handle mental illness.

mental illness

My two-year-old daughter’s sticker creation. This is how I feel some days. And those are the good days.

A number of years ago I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. However, my diagnosis merely elucidated, for me at least, the fact that even though the medical field’s awareness of mental illness is far beyond that of the public at large, even the medical field still has tremendous room for growth. I do have anxiety, but it is only a piece of the puzzle that is my mental health. It’s called a spectrum for a reason. I like to think of my “illness” as the Buri Cocktail—an appetizer of ADHD, a main dish of anxiety, a garnish of OCD, a side of depression, and some addictive personality tendencies for dessert. (Wait? That’s not a cocktail? Aw man. I’ve been making drinks all wrong.)

In my immediate family only one generation removed, there is a whole host of mental illness—including ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, hypochondria, OCD, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, to name a few.

(I should point out that the number of relatives, only reaching back to my great grandparents, exceeds 100. There are 36 immediate cousins just on my mother’s side of the family. So we’re not talking about all these things in just a half dozen individuals—that would be crazy! What can I say? Us Midwestern Catholics have large families. We love our sex and booze, and hate our contraceptives. It’s the Catholic way. Hey, it gives lots of hands to help out around the farm. Note: I did not grow up on a farm.)

With all the history of mental illness, our family reunions don’t sound like something you would like to attend, right?

But this is exactly the point—the family reunions are fantastic. I know a lot of non-family members that do want to attend our family reunions. The love and the joy is abundant. There is no differentiation between those of us in the family with a mental illness and those of us without. There is not a designated gathering for high-functioning, jovial family members that sing and dance and have fun, and another designated gathering for us crazies. (It’s ok. I can call us crazy. I didn’t convert to mental illness for the jokes.)

 

This is what we as a society need to understand about people with mental illness: I am not my mental illness and my mental illness is not me.

In a recent review of my book, the reviewer called out “Dies Cum Anxieta”—the story excerpted above—as a story to which she could not relate and that the character seemed like a sad person. I’m not going to lie, that was a hard review to read. I am fine getting negative reviews. I have had a reviewer publicly say the book was terrible after only reading roughly ten pages of it. I had a reviewer call me blasphemous and anti-religious, despite the fact that I, the person and the author, am not the book and I am Catholic, and despite the fact that the book has spiritual and religious themes throughout. I didn’t mind these negative reviews at all. Each person has the right to their opinion and any good book should have negative reviews. If it doesn’t, it’s probably not a very good book.

 

We need more dialogue without fear of being labeled. Until then, let’s at least all agree not to tell someone with depression to just cheer up. Or someone with anxiety to just relax. Can we at least agree on that?

The reviewer that said she could not relate and called the character a sad person, though, that one was hard for me. I guess it just reaffirmed for me how misunderstood mental illnesses are, and it made me sad for those lovely individuals who suffer from their own form of mental illness far more significant than mine. The reviewer said that she could not relate, but we don’t need to be related too. We just want to be understood. We don’t want to be dismissed simply because of our mental illness. We want to be loved, not for who we are when we’re at our best, but loved for who we are. Full stop.

Each person’s journey with mental illness is unique. Each person’s health plan for their mental illness is unique and, just like a cancer patient or a diabetic, that health plan needs to be constantly adjusted. It’s not just a matter of cheering up or calming down. If only it were that simple.

For myself, I try to watch what I eat, (although my wife eats far more healthy than I do, so I could be better at it). I’ve found my diet has a tremendous impact on my mental health. I also pray and meditate. I try to exercise often, but again, I could exercise more. I find help in medication and therapy as well. These things all help maintain things, but they don’t fix it. They’re not a cure. The chemical imbalances still remain and some days are better than others. And some days are worse. Much worse.

We need to reach a point as a society where we can discuss mental illness without fear of judgment or worse, fear of the assumption of exactly how that mental illness defines us as a person. We need more dialogue, dialogue without fear of being labeled. Until then, let’s at least all agree not to tell someone with depression to just cheer up. Or someone with anxiety to just relax. Can we at least agree on that?

 

 

Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.

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