Michael Ukaegbu – My final salute

My Final Salute

Shades has been a place I’ve called home for just over a year now. However, within that year I feel I’ve grown and aged so much that It often feels like much longer. I’ve made friends. I’ve made connections. I’ve made memories; ones that I don’t think I can ever forget. When I first joined Shades, I had just started my second year of university. I had heard about Shades from a friend who was working for them at the time. She had convinced me to apply for the role after numerous attempts, all attempts that I had previously Ignored due to fear of rejection and my own feeling of inadequacy.

I remember my interview; I think it was the first professional job interview, minus part time retail jobs, that I had ever been to. Immediately I could tell this wasn’t the set-up I was used to. four people on one side of the table. Aisha, Melodie, Andrew and Jay. 1 person on the other side of the table. Me. I remember immediately thinking that I should never have come, my nerves had completely got the best of me. As I fumbled through my interview bit by bit, I realised that they didn’t have the dragons den personalities I were expecting, but simply were all just lovely people and were extremely friendly. That sentiment and attitude, was something I continued to receive throughout my whole time at Shades, there was never a time where I didn’t feel welcome, or I felt disrespected.  Even in situations that were more serious, you could always tell there were warm intentions behind them.

My nerves didn’t stop once I had passed the interview however, they followed me throughout the first couple months and often affected me so much that they then grew into anxiety and depression. If you ask me what the cause of it all was, I’d say I’m not really too sure. I always had the feeling of not being smart enough, or my writing not being technical enough, or good enough to go on the Shades of Noir site. Maybe because this was my first real venture into the creative world; and for the first time my work would be out there for the world to see; or maybe it was the fear of tarnishing the Shades of Noir reputation, to be honest I really just don’t know.  Although it was a really hard time for me, I think I needed to go through it. Because of the continuous praise Aisha and Melodie gave us for our achievements and the personal connection they built with each one of us, and how I continued to churn out writing even in the hardest of times, after a while my anxiety began to slowly get chipped away with each new piece I wrote. As my anxiety continued to crumble away, a new much more confident Michael could be seen. A Michael that wasn’t scared of the unknown anymore, of the real world, a Michael that had faith in himself and his abilities. In terms of personal growth, the greatest thing that I received from Shades is definitely confidence; one that will now follow me throughout whichever avenue I decide to take in life. I’m not scared to leave my comfort zone anymore, I’m now brave enough to try anything even if it’s something I would’ve been scared to try before, as that’s pretty much what my time at Shades consisted of; doing things I never thought I’d be doing. When I first joined up, I thought it was strictly writing content, and nothing else, but the truth was I’d be doing so much more. Through Shades I’ve been able to do things that any student in my position could only dream of doing: I’ve learned about the different struggles people face, the use of pronouns, theories such as Intersectional Feminism, increased my portfolio a hundred-fold, planned an event, chaired an event, produced a ToR zine, communicated with artists from all around the world, attended all types of events and met all kinds of interesting people; all within just a year. I remember once when Aisha was saying that she wants Shades to prepare us and make sure that when we finally move on, we’d stand out wherever we go and ensure that we have the tools needed to be successful. The next time I apply for a job anywhere, I’m sure I won’t be riddled by the same nerves that got the better of me this time last year, I’m sure I’ll be confident enough to do pretty much anything and everything.

Shades of Noir was really a blessing that I never thought I’d experience, sure there were times where it may not have felt like that, but looking back it was truly a time in my life that I can only be thankful for; a time that I will refer back to throughout my career. It felt like I was part of a family, a family banded together by a just cause. I’ll never forget my time with Shades and the things I’ve taken from it. I’m so thankful for the team members I was able to meet and work with; and I’m thankful to Aisha for giving me this opportunity and seeing something in me that I couldn’t see for myself. Thankyou Shades of Noir for this past year you’ve given me, you’ve had such a key role in this past year that my time with you will always be something I look back to. Thankyou.