7 Years: Remembering The Child Who Inspired Me To Be A Better Person

Monday, 28 January 2019

Seven years have gone by really quickly. It's been that long since I lost my beloved Keith. Whilst I have been better emotionally in the past three years, last night I couldn't hold back my tears. Partly because I was watching a documentary on the Holocaust (and then watched "The Boy in Striped Pyjamas" after). It was truly heartbreaking. 

The pain of losing someone you love is indescribable. More so if they were a child. Your life goes on after losing them, but somewhere deep in your heart, you know your life will never be the same again. There will always be that hole, that empty space that you know will forever be unfilled. This is exactly where I am since I lost Keith. But despite this painful reality, I continue to do things to remember him- to try and fill in the void, even temporarily because this is how I find comfort. Doing things for Keith certainly helped me moved on from his passing. 

And so, as per tradition, I started my day by lighting up a candle for Keith. I held his favourite toy Meowmeow in my arms and kissed his nose repeatedly- one thing that Keith did whilst thumb-sucking (when he was younger). Then I said a little prayer, before I played his favourite song Lighters by Eminem. This has been my painful tradition twice a year- on Keith's death anniversary which is today, and his birthday which is the 17th of August. 

I wore blue because this was Keith's favourite colour. Then this afternoon, I went to give blood for the 6th time in his memory. I am glad that I finally managed to give blood on the exact day of his angelversary. I have always wanted to do something amazing in Keith's memory because he deserves to be remembered this way. This is why I am very grateful and proud that I am able to honour him by giving back.

Meanwhile back home, my mother, my cousins and my niece visited Keith's grave this morning. In the afternoon, they had a small gathering at home to commemorate Keith's passing.

Although there has been a major change in our household last year, this didn't and will never stop us from doing things that make the 28th of January a K Lighter Day. We remain united in remembering the boy who continues to inspire us in so many ways. 

In fact, I often ask myself whether I would have been this strong if I didn't lose Keith, and the answer is always- perhaps I wouldn't have. Keith is the reason why I have more patience and listen more to people. He is the reason why I am better at managing my anger. He is the reason why I am more understanding and considerate of other people. His passing became my strongest weapon - to rise above all the challenges and to be a better person.

Keith will always be remembered. He will forever be loved by those who knew him, and he is sorely missed.


My First Year As A Ward Manager

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Exactly a year ago today, I walked in to my new work place in my black jumpsuit and 2.5-inch stiletto- excited that finally, after so many years, I no longer have to wear uniforms. Most importantly, I finally found an excuse to wear nice clothes and some heels. Earlier that day, I had my corporate induction and then I was shown around the hospital. Then, to my office. Yes, my office. It was kind of hard to believe that I had an office all to myself. It used to be a toilet I was told. Did I really care? No, because I would rather be in a toilet office alone, rather than share with people whose moods are as fickle as the British weather. I was so excited, I immediately dropped my handbag on top of the drawer and sat on my chair. I wanted to absorb the possibility that this job could ultimately fill in the missing piece in my career. I closed my eyes briefly and then I heard a commotion by the door. It was the ward sister. I stood up to introduce myself- but before I could even extend my hand to her, she got down on one knee and told me that I was heaven sent. It was such a humbling experience, at the same time embarrassing as I wasn't expecting such a respectful welcome. Besides, I have not proven anything just yet- until a few minutes after the exuberant welcome from the team, when a situation arose and I was compelled to showcase my managerial skills, which at that point was zilch. I ran in my heels to where the problem was, and I have not stopped since. Unfortunately, wearing heels had to stop eventually because I walk fast and I love running up and down the stairs, so I realised that I was putting myself at risk of injury considering my clumsiness.

Later that month, I held my first staff meeting. I had no clue how to do these things but I did it anyway. In the end, I found myself preaching in front of my staff. In a trembling voice, I asked them to please be kind to one another. I continued by emphasizing how important it is to help each other out because "no matter how hard the job is if we are working with kind and helpful people, things always become easier". I ended my speech by saying that life is too short to be unkind. Those words have become my mantra ever since, and up to now, I still say it in the middle of the nurses' station at random times. I suppose this is the closest thing I could ever get to achieving my dream of becoming a motivational speaker at TED talks. I left the room feeling proud of myself. Firm, but fair- this was how one of my staff described me after the meeting. She then asked me how I learned to speak that way. I honestly didn't know and I still don't. I think I just have a big mouth and I often speak my mind. But the most important thing from that very first day was that, for the first time in 5 years, I was confident again. I held my head up high from that moment on because I knew then that I could definitely do the job despite my lack of managerial experience.

The first three months were not easy. I suppose I made myself too available to some people- people who sucked my energy out of me. Everyday, I was bombarded with childish complaints about colleagues whom they've worked for years. I realised eventually that they were deprived of attention. No one seemed to have given them the opportunity to talk and be listened to. As someone who I believe is gifted with the ability to listen, I was generous with my time. I was patient and allowed them to talk- until someone became very worried. "There is now a lot of negativity", I remember her telling me. Whilst her face showed so much concern, I was blase about the whole thing. She went on and said, "people never talked, and now all they do is complain". All I could do was to reassure her that it was not negative to speak out. I explained to her that "these people were deprived of the freedom to speak. And now that they have found someone to talk to, they are talking". I realised from that moment that I had to work hard on my staff. I realised that they were my foundation to be successful in my role and so I invested time, energy and positive words in them. 

I lost a few staff in my first 6 months as a manager. I would have considered that a bad thing, however, those people were the same people who have wanted to leave even before I came into post. People who were consumed by negativity and failed to see the good things in the work place and in others. People who said they will not support me. People who were under performing, and people who had hidden agendas. Their departure did not bother me that much because at the end of the day, the right people will stay no matter what happens. Besides, I firmly believed that this was not a reflection of my management. They simply had to go.  

Staff came and went throughout my first year. I can't honestly remember how many nurses I interviewed during that time, but it was exhausting. The problem was that people didn't have genuine intentions. They were not who they said they were during the interview. Some looked good on paper, but couldn't even give a concrete answer as to why they were applying for the job. Most of them said that they were tired of having too many patients as they were always short-staffed. Some were too honest to say that they wanted an easy job. What they didn't realise is that nursing- be it in a private hospital or the NHS, will always be hard-work. In different aspects and in different levels, yes, but they are equally challenging nevertheless. 

I just realised that I have now written four paragraphs about people. This only proves that the biggest challenge of my first year as a ward manager was basically people.

But of course, not all people have been challenging at work. Otherwise, I wouldn't have made it to a year. There are at least five people that I am very grateful for as they have not stopped supporting me since day one. Without their help and support, I wouldn't have survived. My ward sister being one of them. I know some people saw her differently, but I knew from the moment I saw her that she was very capable. Perhaps she was just not given the right support. I owe her so much that I can't stop thanking her until now. Without her unquestionable loyalty, unwavering support and perseverance, we wouldn't be where we are now. My Head of Nursing, whose kind words gave me the confidence that, despite not having a background in management,  I could do the job just as well. Every constructive criticism she gave me only pushed me to work harder and deliver with utmost confidence and efficiency. From the day of my interview, she has empowered me, perhaps unknowingly, to be the manager that the ward needs in order to get to where they needed to be. 

A year on and I believe that I now finally have a robust team. One of my not-so-new nurses has been a blessing. She has proven to be a very important part of the team and with her help, I am confident that we will succeed.

I can't say whether my first year as a ward manager has been successful or not because I feel like I have not done enough. I just hope that my staff feel supported and that they are happy, because I believe that happy nurses deliver the best care to patients. 

As I embark on another year in my managerial role, I remain optimistic that one day, this challenging journey will lead us to where we want to be. There are still a lot of work to be done but I know that we will get there.

It has been a very challenging first year. There were times when stress got the better of me. I broke down at least twice because life's demands became seemingly unbearable. But the challenges I faced in my first year as a ward manager left me with some valuable lessons that inspired me to be a better manager and most importantly, a better person.

I guess one of the biggest lessons I learned during this journey is the fact that experience becomes insignificant when you were born to do a job. And with this comes authenticity and pure intentions.


2018, Thank You For The Roller Coaster Ride!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

If I have not said it before, New Year is my favourite time of the year as it gives me the opportunity to reflect on the life that was and to look forward to the life that will be. 2018 was indeed a roller coaster ride of emotions, but I remain grateful because those emotions provided me with valuable lessons to be learned. I guess it is fair to say that 2018, you gave me false hopes at the beginning, but then you gave me the light in the end. 

So, how did my 2018 go? Well, I documented my journey in my instagram account, so here are a few of my musings that best describe the year that was:

1. Because we have each other, it's good vibes only.
- J and I had some minor health scare at the beginning of 2018. As minor as it was, it gave us emotional instability and some degree of physical challenge. I came to a point when I felt like I couldn't do anymore, however, I was reminded that J and I were in this together. The support that we had for each other during this challenging time was remarkable, and this helped us maintain the positivity and get through the challenges successfully.

2. Because tea makes everything better.
- I have witnessed through the years of living in the UK that people get offered a cup of tea when they are upset. Although it didn't make sense to me at first, I started drinking tea whenever I felt down and somehow it made me feel better. Since then, tea has become my comfort, like a dear friend really. :)

3. It's how you make other people feel and the difference you make in their lives that matter.
- I suppose a huge part of my 2018 was making a difference in how people, or shall I say women, think and feel about themselves. I suddenly became this woman who empowered other women without even realising it. It actually feels good to know that I am capable of doing this, especially in this world where women have the tendency to pull each other down. 

4. One day the stars will align and everything will go back to where it was before.
- Last year, there was an unfortunate situation that I wished never happened. This left me heartbroken most especially because for the longest time, I thought I was managing to keep things together. I was deeply hurt and disappointed to be honest, but I remain hopeful that one day, things will (again) fall right into place. For now, I  take comfort in my belief that some things are meant to be broken to give room for other things to be fixed. Whatever that is.

5.There is no challenge bigger than you if you have the courage to face it.
- I suppose it is easy for me to say this now because I have gone through a fair share of very challenging situations in the last 7 years. And honestly, if I didn't have the courage, I wouldn't have overcome those trials.

6. The bad things you say about other people say nothing about them, they actually say more about you.
- Some people are plainly miserable and they often only feel better when they pass judgement to other people. This somehow gives them confidence and makes them feel superior than the other person. But actually, this is not the case. It just shows the kind of person they truly are and I mean it in a negative way.

7. What other people don't realise is that- I don't give a sh*t!
- There was a day last year when someone asked another person in my face, "what do you think of Cristine?" Before the other person could open his mouth, I answered, "I don't care about what he thinks of me" before continuing in a lower voice, "because I don't give a sh*t!". Yes, honestly. Other people's opinion of me became insignificant the day I was portrayed really badly for doing something good.

8. Always follow the path that will lead you to your happy place.
- In other words, always follow your heart. Good things happen when you do. Trust me. :)

8. Happy and Proud.
- Despite being one of the most emotionally challenging and physically demanding years, 2018 will always be a special year. It was the year I took on the job that I knew nothing about. There were times when I doubted myself due to my lack of managerial experience, but I was constantly reminded by my deputy and my boss that I was doing a good job. I am happy with what I have achieved so far and proud that I managed to survive the year with flying colours. I will write about this soon. :)

10. Choose the right person to travel with.
- Travelling can make or break any relationship, so better choose the right person to travel with. As much as possible, choose someone as passionate as you. However, someone who may want different things will work, too (perhaps even better to be honest). But yes, travel with someone who embraces your imperfections, who generously gives you a space when you need it, and who prioritises things for the common good and not merely for themselves. Most importantly, travel with the person who has the ability to keep an open mind when things don't go the way you expected them to. For ravelling is all about seeing the best in every inconvenience, every wrong road taken and every moment of bad mood. After all, no travel is perfect. You just make the most out of it.

11. Once in a while, it's nice to give back.
- Until last year, I used to do some volunteer work for Alzheimer's  Society. Unfortunately, my current job is rather demanding, hence I can't go back to volunteering just yet. For now, I am giving back by donating blood twice a year. I actually do this mainly in memory of my dear Keith.

12."Don't worry, I've got your back."
- It is always reassuring when someone tells you, "I've got your back" and actually mean it. Sometimes you don't even really have to say those words. It should naturally manifest in your actions- that is if you genuinely love and care about someone.

13. Resilience. It is what will help you get through it.
- On Christmas Eve, someone sent me a random message to say that she admires my strength and my resilience. To tell you the truth, it has not been an easy journey getting to where I am now. Initially, I asked too many "whys"- which one of my religious friends disputed. In the end, asking "why" helped me find the purpose- of my existence and of everything that has happened in my life- good or bad. I never let failure define me. I picked myself up as quick as possible, as many times as I needed to. I did things to help me grow - things that I thought I could never do. I learned to let go of people I loved as soon as I start doubting their loyalty. It's tough, but this is the only way I know in order to learn, grow and thrive in the face of adversity- and I believe I am doing it right.

14. For the love of  food.
- Food has always been a huge part of my life.:) So last year, J and I planned to have a better food experience, and we did exactly that. In 2018, I ate a lot of good food, went to some amazing restaurants in London and in Italy, and had the most unforgettable food experiences ever!

15. Perspective. A good one.
- Life seems to be easier when you put things into perspective. It has been a good and helpful mental exercise for me in the last few years.

16.  No matter what the challenges, the only way is forward.
- I have gone through enough life challenges to be able to say this.  But seriously, no matter how overwhelming life can be and no matter how much difficult situations have shaken you, try to let go and keep moving forward.

17.  Self-reflection makes you a better person.
- Self-reflection is the only process I know  in order to connect with myself deeper. It helps me understand my emotions, feelings and actions better. Whenever I am in doubt, or feel that I have done something wrong, I reflect on how I can make positive changes. Self-reflection is the process I follow to achieve continuous self-improvement basically. It has provided me a better understanding and appreciation of all things that surround me.

18. One day, one person will question your character, but it's okay. Just remember the more than one person who can vouch for it.
- I am not going to deny that at one point last year, I considered quitting my job because I was no longer sure whether it was worth sacrificing the good character that I have maintained all my life and the good reputation that I have gained through the years. This was all because of one person. At the point of quitting, I realised that she was only one person. There are more than one person who can vouch for me. This gave me the the strength to carry on and the confidence to remain where I am.

19. Always be kind.
- I have always been a kindness advocate but I became more inspired to be kind when a then 5-year old labelled me as "the kindest in the family". I mean, if a kid said this about you, you got to live with it. But seriously speaking, being kind is the least thing you can do to other people and it is not difficult. One random act of kindness a day, can make someone truly happy.

20. All is well that ends well.
- Before Christmas, I went through something that almost broke me. I was trying to deal with it silently but one day, I broke down because I was feeling helpless. I almost gave up and was ready to accept the fact that our family will forever be broken. But God probably heard my rumblings because something happened which turned things around positively. There were tears and anger on my part, but who am I not to forgive and give people second or even third chances? 

I may have had a roller coaster ride last year, but it was a memorable one. I remain grateful for all the blessings that were bestowed upon me - most of them I didn't even ask for. I am thankful for all the people who stood by me for the entirety of the challenging year. Their love and support helped me get through the hard times.

In 2019, all I am asking for is love, peace, happiness and good health for all the people I love. 

I remain a work in progress and therefore, there will always be a room for betterment in 2019. 

Here's claiming a purposeful, confident and fulfilled 2019! 

Happy New Year!


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