Sometimes when someone asks how I’m doing, and I don’t want to get into details, I’ll say “You know, highs and lows.” Well, 2017 was a lot of lows. I’ve said repeatedly this was the worst year of my life. Yet, as I look back on the year, I’m beginning to wonder if that was hyperbolic, as much of what felt terrible about 2017 seems darkly humorous now, like I was the protagonist of a low-budget, poorly written horror movie. May there never be a sequel.
Inspired by the trend of #2017topnine photos on Instagram, and my homie Evita’s annual tradition of a year-in-review blog post, below are my 2017 top nine, in no particular order.
- Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi. This is the best fictional book I’ve read based on the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Gyasi ambitiously writes about seven generations of Ghanian and Black Americans, and manages to do so in a cohesive and impactful way that forces readers to confront how much has been lost to slavery, but in a new way.
- Who Fears Death & Home – Nnedi Okorafor. I love African sci-fi and Nnedi Okorafor is one of my favourite authors. I read, and re-read, several of her books this year, and these two shone the brightest.
- The Woman Next Door – Yewande Omotoso. I thought a lot went unwritten in this novel, and there were several issues that could have been dealt with in more detail, but I appreciated that it focuses on apartheid through the lens of elderly women who are developing new understandings of themselves in post-apartheid South Africa.
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Work in the Quest For Work You Love – This book reaffirmed for me that discipline and consistent work towards a goal can take you much farther than sheer talent, and gave lots of data to back that up.
- Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most – A former boss recommended this to me as the best book she’d read to help her become a better manager. It has great frameworks for having tough conversations in the workplace. I actually did not make it to the last page, but I read enough to know it gave me some of the best workplace-related material I read in 2017.
Blood Money – Protoje
Love Galore – SZA
Keep You In Mind – Guordan Banks
Your Spirit – Tasha Cobbs Leonard x Kiki Sheard
Albums I Listened to From Top to Bottom, on Repeat
- CTRL – Sza
- Sounds From The Other Side – Wizkid
- SweetSexySavage – Kehlani
- Stony Hill – Damian Marley
- Chronology – Chronixx
- How To Get Away With Murder (We mere mortals really do not deserve Viola Davis.)
- This Is Us
- Brooklyn 99
- The Good Fight
- Am I Allowed To Like Anything
- Harvard Business Review’s Ideacast
- NPR’s How I Built This
- Myleik’s Teele Podcast
- African Tech Roundup
- The TrailBlazers’ Podcast
- Mine (which I’ve been recording – coming Jan 2018!)
- Dreams and passions can become stale and updated. It’s important to constantly reassess one’s version of success. Let go of them when they no longer serve you. Don’t let them stifle the new things you want to do.
- It is incredibly odd that grief is one of the few things that is guaranteed to affect everyone yet no one prepares us for it. You would think that would be a mandatory part of everyone’s curriculum.
- Conversations with friends from childhood have a warmth and intimacy that is largely unrivaled by conversations with friends gained in adulthood. We have better conversations with lifelong friends because they know the real us, the versions of ourselves that existed before we unlearned honestly and vulnerability.
- We spend a lot of our time modifying our behavior for people who do not care about us, and are busy addressing their own insecurities.
- People will get mad at you because what they want for you is not what you want for yourself. You can treat them with compassion, but ultimately that misalignment is their problem. You cannot spend your whole life explaining your priorities to people who are not willing or able to comprehend them.
- You have to continuously communicate who you are and what you are about. Otherwise, your brand may be a version of you that no longer exists.
- You cannot become the best version of yourself without a growth mindset.
- If your friends are not in your target market, there’s no obligation for them to support your creative or entrepreneurial endeavours.
- Home can be a space you have not created yet.
Being invited to participate in UNESCO’s symposium on the future of Education for Sustainable Development as an education expert. This involved being flown to Durban, South Africa, and spending time with students, teachers, and residents of two different townships near Cape Town, to determine how UNESCO can support the redesign of global educatin systems to promote the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It’s very gratifying to be “found” by strangers based on my work.
Co-facilitating the SDG panel at YouthConnekt Africa – Rwanda’s preeminent conference on. The panel featured Liberia’s Minister of Youth, and I got to have a great conversation with him about Liberia’s education system which I have been following for quite some time. (They have been taking some unorthodox and heavily criticized approaches over the past couple years.)
Getting a surprise gift and speech at our staff Christmas party from the most junior members on our team 🙂
Ringing in the new year in Tanzania with my cousin, who was the first family member to visit me in Africa, 3 1/2 years into living here.
Going to Lesotho and seeing snow in Africa for the first time.
Having the best girls trip ever in Mombasa, Kenya with some of the flyest women on the planet.
Randomly ending up in Durban, South Africa at the same time as their International Jazz Extravaganza, and getting to see Jamaican jazz maestro Monty Alexander perform as one of the headliners.
And that’s a wrap on 2017! What was the best part of your year? What are you looking forward to in 2018?