New Year, new possibilities

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With Aicha

Someone I know has a favourite expression; ”new day, new possibilities.” She really believes in this, she is a devoted Christian and her husband is a pastor in a local church. All of us are always very busy at work so we don’t often have time to speak about personal matters.

When I have bad days I must admit that her favourite expression irritates me, it gets under my skin somehow. Is it this easy, that a new day is giving us new possibilities? Do you feel that when you wake up in the morning? In a way it is a matter of mindset. When I speak with my pupils I never use that expression, not directly at least. I think that’s why this expression gets under my skin, because it is so sapient.

(Did you know that word before? I had to look it up, haha. It means someone who says wise things but in an annoying way)
Writing articles is really a good way of improving my English vocabulary! My Swedish vocabulary is rather large as I have read so much over the years, but it was a long time ago since I studied English. Still I feel that I can express myself so much better in writing than verbally. When I write I have time to think, finding the correct words either in my memory or in my online dictionary. I use an app on my phone where I can translate from English to Swedish or vice versa. I can choose several other languages in this app. I wish I had the possibility to translate into Wollof or Mandinka so I could learn more of those languages. I only know a few words, but that should be one of my promises for this New Year. I forgot to write that on my list on the former article. Oops! Suddenly I’m side-tracked, seems like I am writing more like I’m thinking. Before I go back to my original topic I just want to share some interesting information I found a while ago
I have for many years believed that there is something wrong with me because I’m unable to hold one thought in my head at the same time. It is hard to focus on only one task; no matter if it is something practical or something I need to ponder. Then I found this:
From a website called: verywellmind.com
”INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, and judging) is one of the 16 personality types identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI, referred to as the “Advocate” or the “Idealist,”
People with INFJ personalities are creative, gentle, and caring. INFJs are usually reserved but highly sensitive to how others feel. They are typically idealistic, with high moral standards and a strong focus on the future. INFJs enjoy thinking about deep topics and contemplating the meaning of life. The INFJ type is said to be one of the rarest with just one to three percent of the population exhibiting this personality type.”

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is the most famous personality test in the world. It was created by the two amateur psychologists Isabelle Myers and Katherine Briggs. The test is based on the principles of the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. The test is mainly used for getting to know oneself and how to best make use of different personality types at a working place.

For someone who has this kind of personality: INFJ, it is hard to focus on one thing at a time because we can’t! We are creative, which means that we get so many impulses from our surroundings so how can we choose where to begin and where to end? It takes time to learn that skill, but it becomes better as we are maturing.

We are intuitive, which means that we pick up even the smallest signals from the people that surround us. We tune in on their emotions and that is not always a good thing. It can be hard to stay cool in a heated situation for an INFJ person, because we automatically tune in on the other person’s emotion level. If that person is upset it takes a lot of self control for an INFJ person to not lose its temper. I know! Been there, done that! Let’s look at the opposite side, shall we? If the person is giving us romantic signals we tune in there too, haha. Sounds nice, don’t you think?
A person with an INFJ personality is introverted which in some societies is characterized as a negative skill. I find it strange because big decisions need to be based on facts and you can’t find that in a hurry. Fast decisions can often be based on shallow facts or perhaps even beliefs. Extroverted people tend to make decisions in haste. They have an inner speed that is moving them forward at any price. What we need in every context is people of both kinds; both extroverted and introverted. The first kind needs to be there to move the process forward when the second one has a tendency to think too long. I can appear to make hasty decisions, but they have actually been planned for a long time in my mind. It’s just that it appears to be hasty just because I haven’t implemented my plans with others. My plans are so clear in my mind, but as I haven’t shared them with others it might appear as my plans are coming”out of the blue.”

Two characteristics left: feeling and judging. An INFJ person is emotional, we feel strongly for ourselves as well as others. Psychology is a topic that many of us have studied; it is helping us to understand both ourselves and others. Tuning in on someone else’s emotions can cause distress if we can’t find a way to distance ourselves from the overflow of information we get just by interacting with others. While writing this I suddenly realize that I have often referred to an expression I use: ”taking one step back for reflexion”. That is typical of an introverted personality type, to stop a while to reflect. Our society holds such high speed that it is tiring for an INFJ person. We need to withdraw for a while to let the soul catch up with the body. I really like to be surrounded by people, but I do get tired and I need to rest. At work I seldom go to the staff room for a coffee break and some chatting. Not because I don’t like my colleagues, but because I need to rest my mind between the lessons. I have a lot of pupils in every class and I teach a subject that can become rather noisy so I need to rest both my mind and my ears.

My pupils are teenagers and they live in a constant overflow of their own emotions and growing bodies with hormones bouncing around like crazy grasshoppers. All of you who remember how it is to be a teenager can remember that it wasn’t easy to control the emotions. That is normal for a teenager, but I am surrounded by around 330 teenagers five days a week so you can understand that I have a lot to deal with.

Sometimes the teenager’s emotions are working like a filter that stands in the way for the information I am trying to give them. Something might have happened at home or at recess and that is shadowing everything else that is happening around the teenager. He or she doesn’t hear what I say or misinterpret what I have said because s/he was thinking of something else. Rather annoying many times, but by studying the human psyche it gives me a deeper understanding of the person in question.

If I am in a bad mood, sad or in pain it is easy to confuse my own emotions with those I pick up from others. It takes time to learn the technique to separate the emotions, but it is doable.

It takes awareness to not become a victim for one’s emotions; it requires some distance combined with contemplation. Some people believe that being emotional is something negative. As long as there is a healthy balance being emotional is instead positive. Emotional comes from the same source as empathy – the ability to understand what someone else is feeling even if you haven’t experienced the same yourself. It comes with a true will to understand one another, to see beyond what is shown and to hear beyond what is said.

Let us look at the last characteristics of an INFJ personality type; judging. Sounds serious and perhaps even a bit pompous, don’t you think? It makes it sound like an INFJ person is standing there, pointing with one finger, telling people what they do wrong. Hmmm…..when I come to think of it, that is exactly what I am doing. I can be rather tough when I am telling my mind, no matter if it is in my articles or IRL. For my defence I must say that I am not pompous. I don’t point at mistakes or faults just because I’m a busybody. I point at them because I care. I care about people and I care about the Gambia. I love the Gambia, I hope you have understood that by now, but there are things that need to be changed so life can become better for everyone. I am a toubab, but my love and respect for the Gambia and the Gambian people is genuine.
My advantage is that I am on a distance from all the commotion. I see, I hear, I study and inform myself. I don’t want to write about things I don’t understand, so therefore I do a lot of research before I write my articles. This is important for me and I learn a lot during the way.

Keeping a distance is helping me to be neutral. I don’t have a family in the Gambia to take into account. I don’t have a lot of sisters, brothers, aunts and uncles who are trying to influence me in one way or another. You all know that it is not easy to live in the Gambia, trying to be neutral when people are sticking their noses in every business possible. The Gambia is a very small country and people talk all the time. This is for better and for worse.

For better – because you are never alone. People speak with you all the time and they care about you.
For worse – because people talk about you and discuss what you are doing. They have opinions about everything, even matters they don’t understand.
From this very long side-track let us go back to where I began: ”new day, new possibilities.” Perhaps my colleague is right, perhaps that is the mindset we all should have. It is giving us new chances when we spoiled the old ones. When you read this article we have began a new year which comes with new possibilities. Are we willing to take them, do we see them or do we walk on as usual? The path we know is boring, but it feels safe because we have been walking it for so long. What about taking a new path? What about looking at new possibilities and see what they can give us? Many of you might ask yourselves WHY, but I ask instead WHY