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Denim & Lace: Deaf Girl Adventures

You know those moments where it’s one thing after another, & it’s often the stupidest, most easily avoidable things? That’s me lately. In fact, I keep visualizing that fairground stall with the things that pop up out the hole & you must try to shoot them before they sink back into the hole again. Except, this is real life. “Shooting it” is messy, the prize isn’t an adult size stuffy teddy bear, & most likely you find yourself saying: “I think I’m done, get me off this ride now.”

On Tuesday I did the stupidest thing. I put my glasses down, which slipped without me realizing from where I had put them &… I sat on them. My dad asked me if they broke because of the size of my bum, I told him no, it was because I have buns of steel. I wish my butt was made from steel, but let’s not go there.

You see, I didn’t just break my glasses. I broke my life line. I rarely talk about my hearing, but Tuesday I was confronted with quite a serious issue. I can’t hear, & now I can’t see. My sight isn’t the best, the shocked faces of those who try my glasses on tell me that. You know, just in case eyeballing my laptop keyboard didn’t give me that message. But even still, because of my hearing loss my sight has become my dominant sense. Go figure, our bodies are crazy cool. My level of dependency on my sight is insane… & without it, I don’t just struggle to see, I can’t hear.

I read an amazing quote recently from a lipreading person & I thought it was so perfect:

“There is a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth & read. But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, & I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities & sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile, nod, & say “mmm” & “yep…” as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, & we haven’t gotten anywhere. Sometimes though I get right to the end, & I realize that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. & then I have to say, “Sorry, can you go right back to the start?” & you might wonder, well why were you nodding & smiling & saying yes all along when I didn’t understand. But that’s because it’s how lipreading works. It’s not a lie. It’s the only practical way to do it. It can take a whole minute or two after the speaker finished, that it suddenly comes to me what was said. As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I have an hour of lipreading in me a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for maybe 3 hours, I am WIPED afterwards, & my head pounds. It can literally take me days to recover. This is way I prefer other methods of conversation….”

I WISH I wrote this. This quote is 1000000% accurate. My mum can tell you horror stories of how frustrated I would be after school each day. As an adult, the many “side effects” still exist; like how more days than not I struggle with headaches & feel overly stimulated. But every single day I fight my hearing loss & refuse to bow down to this disability. My ability to cope is a rock. But it’s a rock that’s balancing on a very fragile system of “everything must go correctly in the universe.” Take away my glasses, my rock suddenly free falls.

Ironically yesterday God talked to me a lot about His Provision. How He is strong like denim & tenderly compassionate like lace; & how He goes ahead of us to make a path possible or to soften a heart. So, when the butt snapping glasses incident happened I had a deep sense of peace. It didn’t take away the freak out & the tears but the first thing I did was point out to God who He just said He was, & that I really needed Him to show up because I was massively screwed.

What followed next was: (1) I found an old pair of glasses that are old, awful on the prescription & give me a monster headache but it’s better than nothing; (2) I went to life group later that evening & they immediately spoke encouragement over me when I told them what happened; (3) their offer to help practically was also immediate; (4) a friend from the life group arranged for me to see an optician yesterday; (5) the optician ever so graciously gave me a discounted rate for the test eye & offered to get me free trial contacts to tie me over until I get back to the UK; (6)…

You see 1-5 can be examples of the Almighty Strong Denim God. God the go getter, fighting for us, lining everything up: friends, support, practical help… But point 6 was my highlight.

My friend who organized the appointment with the optician wanted to pay the bill. He’s the kind of guy who is so quick to extravagantly bless people where finances are involved, & normally he won’t take no for an answer. This time around however, when I said no to his offer, he accepted it. It was only later as I reflected that I realized something. I don’t know why he accepted it. Was he strapped for cash? Or did he have discernment & understand the importance of letting me pay? Either way, his actions of lining up an appointment for me & allowing me to pay for myself gave me an incredible sense control in a horrible situation. Not control like pride, but control in the way of a real sense of dignity & empowerment.

You see, as humans we are all trying to reach for the same key things right? Ability being central. Ability to work, be in community, live life to the fullest… Being “disabled” is “simply” a matter of trying to reach for the same things as an able person but having to make significant adaptations to get there. We are a strong group of people; & now that I think about it, that makes us quite powerful I guess. We fight for our quality of life every single second of every single day. Most of us do it “behind the scenes”, taking ownership of our disability & the fight for quality privately on our own shoulders. We so often “just get on with it.”. We fight simply, & for no other reason than because we have a deep desire inbuilt into our human DNA, just like an able person, for connection & intimacy.

Every day we face separation, isolation & exclusion in every area of our lives. And maybe that’s why it’s so powerful when someone comes along side us individually & communicates: I see you. Remember what I once quoted? “Intimacy: Into Me You See.” So yes, whilst we can fight & do what we need to do, we also understand how precious being connected is. I don’t know if I can describe what it does to our souls. There is LIFE. You bring someone life, real tangible life when you communicate they are seen & not alone. It’s easy to do the obvious surface level seeing but the deeper seeing is a whole different ball game. It can be a friend reminding another friend to not cover their mouth with their hand when they speak to me, or it can be the honor of a wish to let me pay the bill.

This is the tender compassion of God. Lace. I, the LORD your GOD will provide for ALL your needs. Both Denim & Lace. He meets us in the practical, & He meets us in the heart stuff. He doesn’t just care, He sees. Me, Akila Knight, a speck on planet earth, who is currently trying to ass crunch her way through life is Seen.

grougrou

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To Die Or Not To Die

Nearly two weeks ago I went out for dinner with my friends & as we sat around the table I couldn’t help, yet again, thinking how blessed I am to have this amazing community. Unfortunately the moment was slammed with another thought, “The last time I had an amazing community of friends my brother died. Why do I have this community? Who is going to die this time?

Lately I’ve been very aware of fear in my life. It’s like my heart is conflicted in a beautiful tension of feeling paralysed & breaking down walls or lies. Let me give you two battle grounds where this is going on.

Firstly, I love my community of friends here; so much so that I made a decision to be very intentional about not letting anything happen to it. For example, our group has guys in it. The fastest & surest way of division happening is to like someone & they don’t like you back.

So I purposely set out to make sure no guys could pick up a signal of interest from me & misinterpret it. In fact I was so set on doing this that it was a surprise to me last Sunday when one guy said to me, “But I thought you didn’t want to be in a relationship. You keep saying you don’t want anything to compromise this community & family.

I realised then that I can think I’m communicating clearly but what I’m communicating may not be what people hear. I do want to be in a relationship, but I’m afraid. I’m afraid of loss, of rejection, & I’m afraid of losing my best friend (at least you should be BFFs if you’re dating them?! Haha).

After Mike, after my last relationship, after saying goodbye to the UK… I’m not closed to relationships at all, but my heart is fragile to loss & change. This community is my family, I’m scared that too will go away. Yet, if a guy does come along in my life, I do want to be brave enough to jump in.

The second battle ground is this. One of the coolest things about this group of friends is they give me so much permission to be myself… I know what I’m about to say is going to sound like a complete contradiction but bear with me… however, the deeper into community I get, the more this seems to be challenged.

I’m still figuring out who I am. Especially post Mike. A lot changed once he died. Especially the way I see the world, people & life. Certain things became more meaningful & I became a lot more intentional. I like deep conversations, I like encouraging people to be greater versions of who they already are, I like asking people how they are really doing… But in order to do that I first must be vulnerable. Even if my vulnerability is simply asking the question. No matter how great or small the vulnerability, it’s direct contrast is rejection.

The constant threat of rejection is exhausting but lately the consequences of vulnerability seems more intense. Like recently things have happened, or comments have been made to me that were not supposed to be negative but Satan has used it to cut deep into my heart. The thoughts going around in my head subsequently are:

“You drain people Akila”, “People want to laugh & deep stuff doesn’t refresh them”, “Akila people can only handle you in small doses”, “Akila people push you away because you are too intense”, “Akila you are too emotional”, “Akila you think you are trying to treat people the way you want to be treated but really you are just broken.”

I don’t want to be any of those things that are in my head. That wasn’t what was supposed to happen. I didn’t ask for Mike to die. I didn’t ask for me to change. I don’t want to drain people. I don’t want people to only be able to cope with me in small doses. My heart feel so raw, shaken & vulnerable thinking this could be.

Tonight, before church, I was trying to put on mascara without crying it off & I was talking to God about all this. I said to God, “I want to me just me. I want to be real & intentional. I want the deep conversations. I want to genuinely know how someone is doing. I really love & care for people. Even if people can only cope with me in small doses, I don’t want to change because this stuff matters to me, this is how I show people they matter to me.”

As I’m trying to figure all this out with Jesus a thought came to me, “Akila they’re not running from you, they’re running from vulnerability.”

Later after church I shared my fears with my life group leader & she gave a really beautiful illustration of a needle with thread. The needle point of vulnerability is so sharp that it can be painful for me & for others, but the thread that the needle brings is community.

Community is so much bigger than just a group of people hanging out. If God is the heart then community is what He uses to pump life into our souls. Life that fills our being with purpose. Life that He uses to demonstrate His love, His freedom, His truth. Community is life. Messy, beautiful, adventurous, living life. But it’s His life, & He gives it to us. He calls us to be our Brother’s Keepers.

This fear malarkey is hard core to address, but once upon a time when I was 14 years old God told me, “Akila I made you for people.” I want to be faithful to that calling. It’s my heart, it’s how I’m wired. What an incredible joy it is to be called my Brother’s Keeper. I’m not confused about this, but the fears bury this so that everything dumped on top causes confusion & disunity.

I don’t have a conclusion to this blog post as this is still a journey. But I do know that I don’t want these fears to kill me. I don’t want to change the root of who I am. I do want to grow. I do want to walk in freedom rather than fear. & whilst I’m trying to move away from acceptance in other people’s eyes, I really do hope I can be a good friend to people.

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Why I Paid Off My Student Loan And How I Did It

Hey All!

So as most of you know, I paid off my student loan?! “Good grief why would you decide to do something so radical and how on Earth did you do it?!” Good questions. Since I’m genuinely serious about helping out my fellow student peers I’ll be completely honest. And part of that honesty is to speak ONLY from my own experience. Each student, whether post, current or prospective, has their own life circumstances and those without a doubt need to be taken into consideration when discussing finances. Many will say I got lucky, and to many I will say “You’re the one who has control over your debt.” But ultimately, it comes down to what are your values.

So why did I pay off my student loan.

Personally I believe there are rights and responsibilities. I have a right to education but a responsibility to my government and country to pay what I owe. I live in a country where the government thinks it’s great we have opportunities to learn but they have said it doesn’t come free. I took out my loans, ticked all the boxes and signed the contracts saying I want the money and yes I understand the conditions. From the minute I even contemplated university at the age of 14 years old I know this would be the way I would be able to receive my education and what was expected of me.

Over the course of my life I have probably spent more time moaning about taxes, lack of jobs, limited housing, elderly care, health care systems, benefit cheats and goodness knows what else than any other subject. Maybe not… but daily I have commented or had lengthy discussions about how I don’t have what I want in life. Every 4 weeks I see nearly a 1/3 of wages disappear. Doesn’t seem fair really. I worked so freaking hard for it.

But then here’s the other way for me to look at it. Why should I take thousands of pounds from the government, contribute to the country’s national debt and then complain when they can’t give me what I want. Actually, it’s not about what I want. Why should I demand all my life for this and that, and then expect YOU to pick up the pieces. In fact, demanding what I believe is my “right” and not being humble enough to accept my rights in life comes with responsibilities makes me a no more than a hypercritic.

On top of all that, my loans impact my savings, my mortgage, it adds 20 plus years of stress… Why in my right mind would I want to do that to myself? When it comes to a mortgage, yes, it is affected by my loans. My parents looked at getting simple £80,000 house as an investment. They looked at putting the mortgage in their name, and then in my name. My monthly mortgage repayments would be nearly double what they were expected to pay simply because I had a loan in my name. But please, don’t take my word for it… Go down to your bank and look into it all yourself.

Others told me I should put money aside as savings, earn interest on my savings, which would in theory give me more money and in theory pay off my student loan faster. I did my research on that too. I went into Nationwide, RBS, HSBC and NatWest branches to discuss the many different ways I could save. The options are limited at best. The highest interest rates on accounts only allowed you to put a certain amount of money in it and only at limited times. E.g. £150 once a month. I wanted more flexibility. Even then, the best interest rates were only around 3%. The same as what my loans were accumulating. But what people have never mentioned to me is 3% interest on a £150 payment is very little in comparison to 3% on a £15,000 loan. My savings will never catch up to my growing loans. Let me put it very simply: £150 over 12 months is £1800 in savings. Let’s say for argument’s sake the 3% interest is added at the end of 12 months, I have earned £54. Now, add 3% interest on to my £15,000 loan, my loan is now £450 more. 9 times more than I earned. Like I said, I will never ever catch up doing that.

Now here’s the other thing. “Why pay your loan off Akila when you could just wait 20 years and it’ll be wiped off?” Let me ask something, when have you ever said “I believe what the government tells me?” You may then say “But both you and those loaning you the money have signed contracts”… Yes we have. Does anyone absolutely 100% know what they’ve signed up for? With all due respect, the government is NOT going to loan out millions and millions of pounds and simply wipe it off. In fact I heard student loans have put the country in nearly a trillion pounds of debt. Even those earning over the wage threshold won’t have paid back much of what they owe. Would you allow that to happen if you loaned out all this money? No, I’m 99% sure you wouldn’t. 6 months ago it even hit headlines recently that student loans will be sold off to loan repayment companies.

There is absolutely nothing certain in life except death. It is mathematically, scientifically and economically impossible for anyone to guarantee “here’s your student loan, good luck paying it off and after X amount of years we’ll wipe it.” If our economy collapses, what’s stopping the “contract” from being revoked with “sorry guys, we’re desperate, you owe us, cough it up”? Retirement changed, taxes changed… You can’t even have an empty bedroom in your home anymore. The government is always threatening and finding ways to stop giving us money and take more money away from us. Of course, I agree this might all be speculation but like I said, why in my right mind would I want to put myself through the stress of uncertainty?

So here is how I did it.

Half way through my final year at university my loans stood at around £15,000. At its peak the interest my loan was earning was over £39 a month. When my final loan instalments came in I realised I didn’t actually need it and so paid that and some more back. That was £3000 which dropped my loan to around £12,000. My interest was still £15 a month. Over the next year I was on 0% interest and so didn’t pay anything off. Then January 2012 I decided that whatever came into my bank account I would use 10% to pay off my loan. For 7 months I was unemployed and on Job Seekers, £5 a week doesn’t sound like a lot but it added up. As of August 2012 I started working for a supermarket and still every month when I got my pay slip I took 10% and paid off my loan. Again it doesn’t sound like a lot but again, it does add up.

All this time while I was taking 10% and paying off my student loan, I also had 6 other savings funds. After I paid my parents for the rent, took £100 for myself to live off for 4 weeks (food, petrol, entertainment, clothes, hair, make up etc), and took 10% to pay off my loan I then put 10% in each of these funds. Why did I do this? Well for example, one of my funds was for a car. Eventually I was able to pay nearly £2000 for a car, insurance and tax without batting an eye lid. For me I chose to do things like that so that I always had the money there when I needed it rather than panic about when I needed it. And you know what, I lived a full life for how “little” I lived on. I went on holidays, I bought clothing, I went to the cinema, I had takeaways, I had nights out… I was never without because, in my opinion, I played it smart. So in November 2013 I looked at my savings and looked at my wages and decided to go all out. Like a game of Poker, I put all my chips in. But unlike Poker knew I couldn’t lose. I took any money I had in those funds and used the entire lot to pay off all I could of my loan. And then over the next months I paid rent, took my £100 and put all my wages towards my loan. By April 2014 I paid off the entire loan.

Like I said, each person has their own circumstances. I paid rent but for the first year it was very little. It increased by 100% the following year. I live in an area where it’s possible to have a car and I’m not paying for sky-high travel costs. My job at the supermarket was fantastic in that I worked hard and got myself opportunities to go from 16 hours at £6.34 to 39 hours at £8.30. Yes I was very blessed and very lucky. But don’t forget at one point I was unemployed and had a lot of debt. I don’t believe for one minute that taking control of ones finances is limited to those with money. Whether it’s student loans, mortgage loans, money lending loans… I believe it comes down to values.

I know that is, for many, provocative but I genuinely believe if you really want to get out of debt you will do what is necessary. But it’ll only happen if it’s a real value to you to do so. Your desire to be debt free will trump whether you have a take away once a week or once a fortnight. It will trump buying a move when it first comes out to waiting a couple of months. It will trump whether you spend £20 on clothing each month or £100. I never ever thought I could do this but I did. And so can you. The 10% rule can be applied to any loan and any saving! I may literally have “zero” in my bank account, but I sure as hell have zero debt in my name also 😀

If you want advice or help with your finances there is a lot of support out there!

CAP (Christians Against Poverty) – https://www.capuk.org/

HM Revenue & Customs – http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc/problems/debt-help.htm

StepChange – http://www.stepchange.org/

 

Over The Finish Line!

Over The Finish Line!