Category Archives: London

Fake it ’til you make it

The phrase ‘Fake it ’til you make it’ has never been more truer to me. I’ve been going through some turmoil for a while and I’m sad to inform you that I’m still going through it.

Uncertainty of the future makes everyone feel a little anxious or paranoid, but I think I’m at my peak. I’ve gone on about feeling lost, feeling pressured and especially about living up to expectations. But somehow in the past, I’ve soldiered on and found a way to get through it. But now, I’m truly at a loss. I’m out of ideas and I’m tired of hoping that things will get better. What if they won’t?

It’s hard to explain my situation without having to go into too much detail. With this being an anonymous blog, I’m wary of saying too much… what if someone I know reads it and figures out it’s me? I know that wouldn’t be the end of the world, and I also don’t talk about anything scandalous on here. For once, this blog post isn’t about marriage!

I mentioned in my previous post how I feel like I’ve been on some kind of emotional rollercoaster. I’m not someone who typically cries in life. When it comes to movies, yes, I will be a ball of mess every single time. Anything cute, adorable or sad happening in movies will make me feel things like as if they’re real. But when bad things happen in my real life, I do get upset, but it’s not often that I cry about it.

Recently however, that has all changed and I wanted to talk about it. A lot has happened in my life in the last 6 months, and I have no idea how time has flown so fast. After having a big old cry, I just felt numb.

And now time for some real talk. I’ve been in denial of my situation for months, and at the back of my mind I’m always thinking it’ll all work out. Something’s got to give. Everything will be fine. But the truth is, it won’t be. And because it’s easier to be in denial than face the truth, I’ve just buried my head in the sand. I don’t talk about it with anyone, I pretend that it’s all going well and things are looking up. I spend a lot of my time and energy pretending that there isn’t a problem. I’m using social media to paint a picture that tells the world and my followers that I’m having the time of my life. But in actual fact, little do they know how I really feel. They only see what I want them to see; a lie.

I’ve avoided talking to anyone about the difficulties that I’m having. Even those closest to me have been given the friendly version of the response to ‘how’s it going?’. Then all of a sudden the other day, I just felt overwhelmed and I couldn’t take it anymore. I was messaging a dear friend of mine who I don’t get to speak to very often and I just spilled. I don’t know what it was; maybe the genuine kindness and concern. I just told it as it is and the waterworks started. I am an ugly crier, so it’s probably for the best that it didn’t happen face to face.

I felt a sense of relief, but also a tiny bit of dread. I don’t want people to feel sorry for me. Or even start asking me if I’ve done this and that. Of course I have! I have tried everything and it still hasn’t changed anything. I just want them to either give me a solution that I haven’t already thought of, or just be silent and listen.

It’s an amazing feeling when you know you have some incredible friends (and family) who would do anything for you. They will help you out in whatever way you need. But I’m also a person who is too proud, or even ashamed, to ask for help. I haven’t relied on anyone for anything in my whole adult life, and it’s something I’ve always been really proud of. How can I start now? The thought of taking them up on their kind offers makes me feel sick to my stomach. But if I don’t, in some messed up way, it may mean the end of my dream of living in this big, wonderful city, and having to face the parents.

You’re probably reading this and thinking ‘woah, what could she possibly be talking about that would make her do the exact opposite of what she believes in and always goes on about?’ Well my friends… that is for me to know, and hopefully for no-one to ever find out.

Until then, I’ll simply smile and pretend it’s all going to be ok. I’ll just have to fake it ’till I make it.

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Insecurities about marriage

I’ve been in a weird place for a while. In my previous post I mentioned some of the things that have been bothering me lately. But I wanted to talk about some things that haunt me during the day and night, and that’s my insecurities.

It’s no secret how much I dread talking about the ‘M’ word that is marriage. It’s inevitable; it’s part of culture, society, religion and life! I know it’s expected of me to get married someday, and the truth is I do want to get married. But there are so many thing’s holding me back, and they all come down to the insecurities. So I wanted to give a breakdown on some of the areas of my life that I feel these insecurities come from. Get ready for a long and bumpy ride.

Career: If you’ve read any of my earlier posts, you’ll know how much my career means to me. I’ve worked hard to fight for my right to have one. Even though my family is in no way against girls working, whether they realise it or not, they’ve never really been one to encourage girls to be the best person they can be. They’d rather you opt for the option where you ‘act like a girl’ and do any job that doesn’t require too much commitment, therefore resulting in an ‘easier’ life all around. And because ‘you’re a girl’, you’re supposedly only doing this to keep yourself busy and get some money to put towards your wedding…

I fought for my right to go to university – my dad wanted me to just get a job locally because ‘What’s the point? People only go to uni to then get any odd job afterwards anyway’. I fought for my right to do my placement year in London. I fought for my right to move to London for my graduate job. I have been fighting this good fight to make a name for myself over the last couple of years and develop a successful and fulfilling career that I could be proud of. I wasn’t doing it for anyone else, I was doing this for me. So what does this have to do with marriage? Well, everything. Even though it’s been a little while since I graduated, I’m still at the early stages of my career. The stage where you have to work your butt off to be noticed and so I’m nowhere near being a leader in anything just yet. How can I put my career on the back burner and make marriage a priority? Because trust me, looking for a life partner is like taking on a second job.

I called my mum yesterday and she asked what I was up to. I gave her a generic response, as you do, and said I’ve just been busy working. For some reason that really annoyed her and she took that as an opportunity to start having a go at me. ‘When are you going to be “unbusy”? You need to quit your job and become “unbusy”. When are you going to sort your life out? You need to think about these things seriously now!’

Wow. There goes feminism and girl power down the drain. Thanks mum.

I know she doesn’t mean it in a bad way – she’s only being the typical bengali mum that she is and thinking about how I’m getting old and soon no-one will want me (which is probably true). But I’m finding it harder and harder to explain to her that, right now, my career is the most important thing to me. I know I have to realise there is a point where I can’t put my career first, and that’s usually after marriage when you’re then expected to have a home and children to fill it with. I’m just in such a funk with work at the moment, how can I focus on anything else?

Money: This slightly links to career. But when I moved to London, I was just so happy to have a job away from home that I accepted whatever salary they gave me. This was tough because it was barely enough to survive on and I would consistently have to dip into my credit card to make ends meet. Slowly my pay increased, but that wasn’t enough to save, it was just enough to start paying off my student overdraft and credit card interest. A few years down the line, I was able to clear most of it, then a holiday mishap happened (it’s a long story) which led to even more debt. So then finally, I landed this amazing dream job, I even negotiated an awesome salary (woohoo, girl power!) and managed to clear pretty much all of my debt. But things on the work front is a bit shaky right now (another long story) and this is where I’m at. I’m not in debt, but I also don’t have any savings. I know you didn’t need to know the ins and outs of my financial history, but the point is, life is so unpredictable. I don’t owe anyone any money, but it doesn’t mean I have the ability to magically save anywhere close to enough money to pay for a wedding. How am I supposed to do this AND find a life partner AND get married in the next 2 years (or so)?

Appearance: This is probably the hardest thing for me to talk about and the most insecure area of my life. I’ve always said I’m a realist on this blog. I don’t make ‘negative’ comments about myself for attention or because I’m trying to make out that I’m ‘uglier’ than I actually am. And this is why I find this the hardest thing to talk about because people always come up with the same kind of response to ‘comfort’ me, and you know what? I hate it. Literally, please don’t say these things thinking it’s the right thing to say, because actually, it makes me lose respect for you. Look, I’m not saying I’m an absolute monster, but I have many insecurities for a good reason. A lot of guys think they care about the person on the inside more than the outside, but let me tell you this, they are absolute liars, whether they know it or not. Everyone cares about the outside, we all do. I’m not saying you don’t care about the inside too, but don’t kid yourself in thinking that the outside isn’t a big deal, because it is. I am saying this because I have ‘experienced’ it.

I haven’t really spoken about it on the blog and it’s probably a post I will write about soon, but not so long ago, I decided to give online dating another go. I tried it a few years back, hated it and never wanted to try it again. But I did it again, and hated it all over again. That’s a story for another day, but I’ll tell you one thing that did happen. This muslim dating website gives you the option to have your photos on private and allows you to give access to this photo album if someone makes a request. So naturally, most people choose to have their photos on private. So I re-wrote my profile and was being upfront and honest, and hopefully it came across genuine and refreshing. I’m a strong independent lady, I don’t want to fool a guy into thinking he’s going to get that perfect little housewife (although, I am a damn good cook, but that’s not the point). So a few guys contacted me, and I got chatting to one and I’m like really nervous… what if this is the one? I read his profile, he seems cool and normal and likes similar things as I do. It’s weird. We message back and forth with some banter and it’s nice. Then he respectfully asks if he could request access to my photo album and I’m like, oh god, here we go. I say sure, but I tell him how nervous this makes me feel. He laughs it off, saying don’t be silly. I bet you can just imagine what happens next. He takes one look at my photo and never messages me back ever again.

Now, there are 1,001 things I want to say about this whole exchange right now, but I don’t want to go off topic, but I will just tell you a little bit. Look, I totally understand and respect that everybody has their own taste and sometimes that spark just isn’t there. I didn’t expect the guy to fall in love with me, far from it actually, but I wanted him to have the decency to message back and in a polite way say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. Don’t get me wrong, I would HATE him regardless, but I would hate him just a tiny bit less if he had the courtesy to respond, rather than him just disappearing off the face of the earth and leaving a girl hanging. That’s just rude and really not nice.

The point I’m trying to make here is, I know I’m not everybody’s cup of tea, and yes, I hope there is someone out there who thinks I’m alright. And to my credit, I actually used my personal social media profile picture which got over 80 likes and 25 comments! None of my photos have ever had that type of response. This goes to show there is a reason why I have these insecurities. I’ve said it before, I’m not your typical Bangladeshi girl. I’m not slim, slender, skinny, thin, trim or any other adjective the thesaurus could come up with. It’s something I’ve been insecure about my whole life, and have tried to change and not had much success in, but that’s a story that I won’t depress you with today. I’m also not conventionally pretty. Don’t get me wrong, I can make an effort and whack on a whole load of make up and look half decent, but let’s just say, the face and the shape match. I get compliments about my ‘pretty’ eyes all the time, and it’s something I’m really happy about, but that’s where the list starts and ends really.

Confidence: When it comes to many things in life, I will be your champion as well as mine. I am confident about so many things, especially my career. I may be in a bad place right now, but I have faith and confidence that I will achieve my dream and that in turn will help the money ‘roll’ in. However, appearance is something I do not have confidence in, which in turn doesn’t give me much hope when it comes to marriage. It’s all to do with taste, and I do not have control over that. I know there are things I can do to start feeling more confident about how I look, but until I am happy with myself, how can I put these insecurities aside and look for happiness in marriage? No-one else can do this for me, and with my mother on my case all the time, reminding me that I can’t afford to be picky, can you blame me for feeling this way?

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Where do I belong?

So a lot has been happening in my life over the past few weeks. So much change. I’m yet to figure out if it’s a good or bad thing. But I realised I feel like I’m at some kind of loss. Maybe a crossroad in my life?

I’m at the turning point in my career… looking for the next suitable opportunity. I’m a single, Bangladeshi, muslim girl on the wrong side of 25. I don’t have any significant debt. I don’t have a partner. I’m mortgage free and not trapped in a contract in my London flat. I have nothing tying me down… except this invisible pressure.

Pressure that I’ve put on myself to prove that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. Pressure to show people that I’m doing extremely well. Pressure from my parents to save money for my imaginary wedding, find a husband and settle down. Pressure to get serious about religion and become a better muslim. Does this list ever end?

But all I can think about these days is how I want to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life in London. It wasn’t where I was born or grew up, but it’s always felt like home. It’s where I’ve always felt like I belonged. It’s where I’m most comfortable, it’s where I can breathe this fresh (but somewhat polluted) air of freedom.

Yet, I feel like I need a break. For a very long time now, I’ve wanted to have the opportunity to live and work abroad. It’s my dream, it’s all I want in life right now. But I know that’s unrealistic, and it makes me feel sad. I mean, you just have to read my list of pressures above to figure out why.

My parents would go mental and summon me to move back home. They will demand I sort my life out and get married in the next few months. They will treat me like I’m incapable of making my own life decisions. I will regress back to being that angsty teenager, fighting for my rights. In the end, I will be the one losing out, and risk having the freedom I have in London yanked away from me.

It’s so hard to explain this to people outside of the culture. These people will tell me that I shouldn’t be listening to my parents and should do what makes me happy. And that my parents can’t tell me what I can or cannot do. I really wish it was that simple. There will always be consequences and the possibility of them disowning me (if I really pushed it that far). And I know this may sound absurd, but it’s not easy to not care about what your parents think. There’s always this feeling of wanting their approval of the choices you make in life. It’s a losing battle in my case.

I spoke about it with my siblings today, about how I feel like it’s the right time in my life to give living and working abroad a shot… and they just laughed in my face. Like ‘oh here we go again…’, which actually hurt my feelings. They think I’m ridiculous because I work too much and am nowhere near close to finding someone, let alone get married. They think I’m silly for having these hopes and dreams and that I should focus on settling down. I really felt let down; I feel alone.

So why is it, that despite being in a good, commitment free life, I feel like I’m at a loss? Why is the good always overshadowed by this pressure hanging over my head? Why do I care this much about what others think? Why did I ever think that the people who are meant to be my nearest and dearest, would actually care about my feelings?

There’s nothing stopping me from taking a leap, yet I can’t move. I have all of these questions that I can’t seem to find answers to.

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Lonely in the city

I have an extremely busy life in London. I’ve secured the dream job and I love what I do and the people I get to meet along the way. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because it seems too good to be true. Don’t get me wrong, it’s damn hard work and involves working extremely long days, but it is amazing.

However… I do still feel lonely. I am constantly surrounded by people. My diary gets booked up day and night with meetings and events – sometimes even 2 months in advance! Yet, I feel alone.

Yesterday was Eid, and because it was mid week, I didn’t really see the point in booking the day off. I wouldn’t be able to go home to see my family because I have to work this weekend, and it wouldn’t be worth a day trip.

It’s a really sad and horrible feeling, when it doesn’t even feel like Eid, but you see the photos and messages everyone is posting and it makes you feel weird because you’re the only person who isn’t celebrating. I came home late and ate dinner on my own – leftover Indian take away. Woohoo. Eid Mubarak to me.

It got me thinking though… when will this loneliness end? Because of the fact that I am so busy all the time, I don’t really get the time to stop and think about this. I am usually too tired to think at all after work. But if I had a partner to come home to, to eat with, to talk to… I would not be feeling the way I am right now.

This topic of finding someone has come up several times recently. It’s made me feel on edge. It’s just such hard work and people keep telling me to sign up to online dating. UGH. It’s such a time consuming activity that it feels like a part-time job! My actual full-time job takes up all the spare time I have, so when would I have time to get another part-time job?

Why is it so hard to meet someone just by coincidence? Why doesn’t that happen anymore? Surely that was the only way people found their partners in the past. So what has significantly changed to make this so much harder?

Quite recently, a family friend’s daughter got married who happens to be my age. This put all my red flags on full alert. Surely this was going to be a trigger that was about to be set off. My parents went to the wedding, so they know this girl is my age. So this could only mean trouble…

But weirdly enough, they didn’t make any comments (not in front of me anyway!). I think the thing that freaked me out is that my siblng who is younger than me basically told me that marriage is something that would ideally be on the cards for them in the next 2 years…

2 YEARS! How am I meant to find the time to look for someone, find a decent guy, get to know them, fall in love, get proposed to, save all the money I have for the wedding… and everything in between? The pressure is on and I feel sick. I want to find someone, but I also want to progress my career and solely focus on work. I really need to sort my life out. HELP ME.

Muslim Blind Date – The Introduction

So fast forwarding 2 years from when I started this blog, a lot has happened. The London life zoomed past me without me even realising that all of this time had passed.

So I am no longer in my early or mid-twenties, which is very upsetting. So as you can imagine, the pressure of marriage is pretty high right now. I tiptoe around the subject, especially around my parents. They don’t even care about all the other things I’ve achieved in my life since I moved to London, because that’s not important in their eyes.

Last summer (or was it the year before that? I can’t remember to be honest) I gave into this pressure and signed up to an online dating site for Muslims. It was pure torture. The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable and caused me so much stress. But I’ll save that story for another blog post – it seriously needs it! After that experience, I felt like I had been put off the online dating scene for a while. It just wasn’t for me at that point in my life. I kept this quiet from my mum as well – I didn’t want to give her any ideas! But the downside was that my mum thought I was sitting here idle thumbed with no care in the world about finding a suitable partner to marry.

So the pressure got more intense and my mum used every opportunity she got to lecture me. You know the usual – hurting the family reputation by being an unmarried single girl living away from home; being a burden on parents (even though I didn’t rely on them for anything), stopping them from fulfilling their duties, not saving money for my imaginary wedding, oh and that I was causing her to develop some kind of depression because of all the stress she was putting on herself. Quite lovely eh?

I’ve been able to somehow ignore all of this for a while, because… London happens! But then the other day, I got the most random message. Out of the blue, an ex-colleague asked me how I felt about going on a blind date with her Bangladeshi friend, who I knew absolutely nothing about. I’m not going to lie, I did freak out a little… or a lot. I have never dated before, let alone go on a blind date! How do they even come about? Well… apparently like this!

I messaged my closest friends and they all freaked out too – more out of excitement rather than panic, unlike me. Whilst I got a brief description of the guy (his age, background, hobbies, etc), I freaked out even more. I was scared more than anything else – this was a world that was completely alien to me. My friends were telling me to just do it, what’s the worst that could happen? And I knew they were right; there was no pressure on me to actually marry the guy – just to meet him. So after a day of panicking, I plucked up the courage and gave the go ahead, so she messaged her guy friend who got back to her pretty much straight away and was up for meeting me.

OH MY GOD.

I had so many questions going through my mind… Did I really want to do this? Will this guy like me? What does he know about me? What even happens on dates – is it like the movies? What do we talk about? How do I dress? Where do we meet? And most importantly, how the hell am I expected to greet this person?

I think out of all the questions, the last one is the one that’s stressing me out the most. If I was meeting a friend, I would greet them with a big fat hug or squeeze. But what about when it’s practically a complete stranger – a Muslim male who could potentially become ‘somebody’ to me – how do I make a good first impression? Do I shake his hands? Do I go in for a gentle hug? Or do I just do an awkward on the spot wave and say hi? What am I supposed to do!?

I meet new people in my job every single day and have to be able to do a pitch on the spot – that seems so much easier to me now compared to this!

So my friend asked the guy to choose where to meet and I was asked to suggest a weekend when I am free. And now I just have to get myself there, looking half decent, to be wooed or to woo the guy myself. This sounds like hard work and I am freaking out. It’s not even the thought of keeping a steady stream of conversation going, because my friends and I know very well that I could talk for England. But it’s everything else that goes with it.

I don’t fit the typical Bangladeshi girl mould – I am not that pretty, or skinny, or really religious and I don’t wear a headscarf. I’m sure I could add so many other expectations to this list. But with this being a blind date, this poor guy doesn’t even know any of this. When I shared these thoughts and feelings with my friends, they just didn’t get it. Instead they got annoyed with me for thinking and saying such things about myself because apparently I’m an incredible person. But they are my friends, they have to say these things. I am a realist and not delusional, so I do tell it as it is.

I have no idea how to cope with these nerves or this weird type of stress. It’s so strange to me… Somebody help me!

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Never Good Enough – Part 2 My Reality

Continuing from Part 1 of this story where I was talking about Cultural Expectations, I wanted to tell you about the point in my story where my life changed forever.

Eventually when I hit the age where my parents started to think about my marriage prospects, that’s when the drama started.

My dad never wanted me to go to university. In fact, he told me to just get a job, because after all, people only went to university so that they could get a job afterwards, so that was the same thing apparently. This made me even more determined to go to university, especially as that’s what everyone else  was doing and I wanted to show him that I could do this too. He wasn’t happy with my choice because he didn’t feel that the subject I wanted to study was worth going to university for – Business. Of course, if I wanted to be a doctor, that would’ve been a whole different story.

He then gave me an ultimatum – study close to home and commute, or I don’t go at all. I don’t know how, but once again, I was clever enough to put a ‘get-out clause’ in this agreement which he would come to regret later.

I completed university with a placement year working (and living) in London – my get-out clause. Getting that wasn’t easy either, I still can’t believe I did it. But it turned out that this was the point where my life changed forever and I started to realise there was more to life than I knew. I was able to support myself completely knowing that I didn’t have to rely on my parents; I had freedom and breathing space; I matured and made friends with people from all walks of life; I took on great responsibilities at work and excelled. But most importantly, I became a strong independent woman (cue Destiny’s Child)!

This was when I realised I wanted more from life. Don’t get me wrong, I never forgot my roots or did anything during that time to disrespect my parents or tarnish their reputation. But I just wasn’t willing to settle for a mundane life back home with my parents without goals and aspirations to have a better life. My mission after university was to find a job in London and move out. I did not want to be stuck in a small town full of narrow-minded people. But once again, my dad was not happy about this. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t find (and didn’t want to) work in our town. Little did he know that I had not applied for a single job in the surrounding area. I also didn’t sit at home and do nothing over this period either, I worked full-time, either by doing all the overtime I could get at the retail job I’d had for 5 years, or by temping for an agency.

Then trouble started to brew. There were a few girls around my age in our community, all a year or so younger than me, who started to receive marriage proposals and eventually ended up getting married in the space of about 3 months between each other. My parents started to worry as I was older and yet unmarried (even though I was still only 22 at this point). This frustrated me a lot because I knew I was nothing like them. They’d barely made it to college, let alone university. None of them had even worked a day in their lives, sitting at home like princesses, whereas I had done all of this. I felt outraged that my parents were putting me in the same box as these girls and comparing me to them. I also felt insulted that they didn’t take my career aspirations seriously. Any time these topics came up, they’d upset me so much to the point I could not argue with them and just wanted to burst into tears.

Then one day, my younger siblings and I came home to find my parents sitting in the living room together which rarely happened because of my dads working schedule. Little did I know that they were planning to have ‘the talk’ with me. My dad asked one of my siblings ‘So, when are we going to Bangladesh?’. To which the response was ‘Errr… never’. Then he said ‘Oh but *Culture Clash* is going’. I looked at him and said ‘What?’. He said ‘Yeah, we’re going’. I turned to him and said ‘No, I don’t think so. And even if you tried, there is no way you could force me to get on that plane’. What you may not know is that when parents want to take you ‘back home’ at this age, it generally is with the intention to get you married off.

At this point he started to get annoyed, but this is when my mum took over, waiting in the sidelines ready to (verbally) attack me. She basically told me how I am not getting any younger and that if I had any chance of getting married it would have to be soon before I got too old. May I remind you that I was still only 22 years old at this point. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden they were getting all hot tempered about this – what had brought this on? Then it got really sour. She said that I wasn’t pretty or skinny enough to be picky…

Yes, you read that right.

I know I shouldn’t have been shocked, after all, they are my parents and they have never hidden the fact that they don’t think I’m pretty like my older sibling, who by the way is 3 years older than me and got married at the age of 21 to a freshy which was completely by choice, no forcing whatsoever.

I have to admit, they really got me where it hurt. If that wasn’t bad enough, when I decided to speak up for myself, the most hurtful things were said to me in return. I told them that I did not want the life of my older sibling, who clearly wasn’t happy and struggling to make ends meet. To which she replied that my happiness wasn’t important… their’s was.

Yes, you read that right too.

She went on about how marriage isn’t about being happy, it’s about compromising. I just couldn’t believe what my ears were hearing – how could my own mother say these things to me? How can a mother not want her own child’s happiness? How have these people got so blinded by this ridiculous culture that they don’t realise how absurd those words coming out of their mouth sounded? I was in disbelief.

That night I cried myself to sleep. I felt numb. It’s at that point when I decided enough was enough. If they didn’t care about my happiness, then I would have to find my own happiness away from them. I got myself an interview in London the following week, I was so distraught with everything going round in my head that I was barely able to prepare for my interview. So I did all of that on my train journey up to London using my smartphone and a notepad. I was so nervous going in, but then something came over me and I had an incredible interview… and I got offered the job within half an hour of leaving the place.

I couldn’t believe it. I took the job of course! In a space of a few days, my life had turned around and I could finally get off this roller-coaster of emotions.

And I have never looked back since. Moving to London just over 3 years ago was the best thing that has ever happened to me and this was only possible because I fought for my happiness. And even though my parents and I still have so many differences and issues, in a weird way, I am closer to them now than when I was living at home. There is always drama going on, but my thinking now is that I need to pick and choose my battles wisely, ideally one at a time, because that is the only way I can make change happen.

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