Nigeria in 10days; Becoming an International Speaker, Pt 1

“If you BElieve it, you can BE it. I BElieved it, so I AM it.”

~ Dr. Lulu®

 

“Be careful what you ask for, cos you might get it.”

I daresay I have become an embodiment of that quote. When I turned 50 in March of 2019, one of my birthday wishes was to become an international speaker. I had absolutely no idea how that was going to happen, I knew no one on any international stage, but I believed in myself, and I knew I not only had a story to tell, but also a message (an urgent one at that) to deliver.

Looking back now, the only ingredient I needed besides having the message, was the belief in myself. Many of you reading this may not know that I quit my regular pediatrician job late 2018 to start speaking on hot topics that affect our youth, particularly our teens. I had initially wanted to only focus on teen depression, but the universe steered me in the direction of bullying, and now specifically to youth suicide. With the help of social media, particularly Facebook, I am slowly becoming the go-to gal for all things concerning suicide in our youth.

As heavy as the topic is, and as difficult as the job of spreading awareness and educating the world on youth suicide is, I knew someone had to do it, and that person might as well be me. Since I love to write, my journey began with this personal blog I started, to share my thoughts and experiences with the world. I also created a website, http://www.teenalive.com, an online resource dedicated to teen wellness, and started looking into how best to get my voice and my face at the venue, at the table and on the menu.TEEN ALIVE logo

Following a suicide attempt by my then 7yr old patient in May of 2018, I decided to quit traditional pediatric practice and start speaking publicly about child and youth suicide. I had no idea how loud, or how far my voice would reach. I had no idea what the process of doing so would be. No idea how the world would receive the information, if anyone would notice, or even care. All I had was a heart full of concern and compassion for my patients and doctor colleagues (amongst others) who were choosing death over life daily.

In June of 2018, following the advice of a business coach, I recorded my very first Facebook live video. It was awkward, it was surreal, it was uncomfortable, but I did it. And I connected to an eager audience that I had no idea was out there. They included family members, friends, parents, teachers, counselors, fellow empaths and many others in between. Propelled by the success of my Facebook live videos, I started entertaining the thought of becoming first, a National Keynote Speaker, then an International Speaker. I knew my message was needed, but I had no idea how urgently.

In October of 2018, I landed my first Keynote speech on a National stage in Charlotte NC. It was for the 6th National Convention of the Black Doctoral Network, I was invited to speak on suicide in young adults. How exciting! I couldn’t believe my luck! I have heard luck defined as opportunity meeting determination and preparedness, so off I went to a very successful first National talk. That boosted my confidence SO much that I returned from that event, a changed person. To prepare for it, I watched dozens of talks on YouTube, listened to many speaking coaches, PowerPoint slide experts, and even listened to a book on TED talks! I designed and created my very first slides, delivered the talk straight from my heart, and boy did I connect with the audience! At the end, I had a long line of attendees waiting to share their depression and suicide stories with me. Through all of that, I noted I did not have a book to sell, as I watched other speakers for the event sign their own books, #wakeupcall.

After that experience, I vowed to have a book to sell at my next speaking event. I had already started working on an idea of a book on teen suicide at that time, but it was still in its infancy and it was taking me a while to get my thoughts together. I hired a book-writing coach and started putting the outline and my thoughts together on paper.A Teen's Life

In November of 2018, I landed another speaking opportunity to discuss depression and suicide in the elderly. I dedicated it to my own aging parents, and had a blast delivering it. I believe that was the day I finally decided I was officially a “speaker,” and that-that first talk in Charlotte, NC was not a fluke. But, I still didn’t have a book!

In January of 2019, my new year resolution was to add the word “Author” to my name. Early that month, I traveled to South East Asia on a class trip with my UTSA Executive MBA cohort. I knew each leg of the trip would last between 14 to 18 hours, so I decided I would use that time to finish my book. As it turned out, the book on teen depression needed a LOT of research which I was unable to pull off on the airplane, so I decided to write a short parenting guide based on one of my more successful Facebook Live videos called “How to Raise Well-Rounded Children”, the book, a bestseller, is available on Amazon.

I took advantage of the couple of afternoons we had to ourselves during the trip, to work on transcribing and writing the book, and I used most of the flight back home to edit it. Upon returning, I found beta readers who gave me their honest corrections and their blessings. With my innate dislike for computers and most things tech, it was an uphill task, but I worked really hard learning everything I could about formatting and uploading a book to Amazon KDP, and by the end of February 2019, a bestseller was born!

Enter March, my 50th birthday. I decided to host an event for parents and teens, called Dr. Lulu's PYT SA Family-2Dr. Lulu’s PYT (Parenting Your Teen) Workshop, in San Antonio, Texas. I had never done anything like that before, and I was naturally a bit anxious and a lot afraid of what the reception would be like. I wanted to have an event where parents and their teens could come together and learn how to communicate better, to avoid most of the issues that arise and often lead teens to take an unwanted turn. I hoped for 100 attendees, my speaking coach called it ambitious, but I called it dreaming big. My younger brother told me when I first consulted him about my dreams to start a speaking business that, “if your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough”, I listened, and I heard him. My dream was to host the event in up to 5 cities across the United States.

I graduated from my Executive MBA program in May with honors! I then spent the next few weeks working on planning my second PYT Workshop, this time, in Lancaster SC, where I once owned and operated a pediatric practice. It happened early June. My attendance was double that from my first, and I was overjoyed. I had speakers, poets, dancers, and breakout sessions. My heart was full, and I was encouraged to continue my quest to do a 5-city workshop event.

Later in June, an opportunity to guest-speak on a virtual international stage presented itself, and I jumped in with two feet! My audience was online and scattered across the globe. That was my first taste of the international stage, albeit virtual, and I loved it! I knew then that my original dream to speak internationally, live on a stage, was going to come true. I just had to work diligently towards it. June also had me speaking for the first time to a room full of Nigerian Physicians as a Hot Topics guest speaker!Anpa suicide talk.PNG That singular (unpaid) opportunity has opened so many doors for me!

By July, I had hosted my third installment of Dr. Lulu’s PYT, this time in Dallas, Texas. And August had me doing another one in San Antonio to round up a total of 4, one less than the original 5 I had planned (not too bad). But July was also a very special month because, it was the month that welcomed my podcast, Suicide Pages with Dr. Lulu, now available on up to 10 different platforms with nearly 3000 downloads as I write this. In keeping with my mission to create awareness for suicide in youth, I mostly interview people who are “talking their walk” with suicide, suicidal ideations or suicidal attempts. I talk with everyone and anyone kind and brave enough to share their stories with my audience.

In September, during one of my Facebook Live videos, I interviewed a young woman who is the CEO of Africa’s Mental Health Matters. A non-profit organization dedicated to spreading awareness for mental ill-health in Africa. Ladies and gentlemen, that is how I received my official invitation to be a guest speaker at their second annual convention on Mental Health in Africa, to be held in December 2019, in non-other than Lagos, Nigeria! BOOM! #InternationalSpeaker!Naija 6

November was a very special month. It marked my first ever grand rounds teaching opportunity! I was the guest lecturer at Richmond University Medical Center at Staten Island, NY. This was a ripple effect of my talk in DC, and it was never even on my to-do list…but it was sooooo welcome! I went to NY, dressed in my signature red, NY!and killed it on that stage! That already yielded follow up lecture AND, a second invite from another department in that same hospital…#success! I also started working diligently on finishing up my second book as a matter of urgency in order to have it ready for my trip to Nigeria in December.

All this while, I have continued to speak at schools: to teachers, counselors, PTAs and students. I guest speak at civic events across the state of Texas. I guest blog, and interview on radio stations, TV stations and podcasts across the country, and, I am currently looking at an opportunity to produce my own TV show in San Antonio, TX. I trademarked my brand name, Dr. Lulu, and I opened my own private practice where I only attend to high-risk teens in a direct primary care (DPC) model. Oh, and I finally completed the book on youth suicide! It’s called “A Teen’s Life.” I pulled it off, just prior to traveling overseas for my international speaking gig! It is available on Amazon and on my website: www.teenalive.com/books.

I am writing this blog to encourage someone out there to not only dream, but dream BIG! My ultimate goal is to become the United Nations’ speaker on Youth Suicide. That position does not currently exist, but, I am claiming it… I ask you to set goals and work towards them. Have an open mind, be committed and stay positive. Take feedback and allow yourself to edit your journey (as frequently as needed) along the way. Reach out to as many people as possible, and… stay… focused! Look at failures and disappointments as opportunities and building blocks, not obstacles or roadblocks. Resist the urge to allow self-doubt and negativity to come in. Don’t listen to the voices inside telling you-you are not good enough, cos they will come in and get comfortable if you allow them. Continue to forge ahead with determination, an attitude of success, AND UNWAVERING SELF-BELIEF.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this story, where I discuss my trip in full detail. See you then!

PS: “You are enough”  ~ Dr. Lulu®

BB

 

7 Things Your Teens Can Do This Summer (To stay busy and out of trouble)

Dear Blog,

“What time is it? The time of our lives. Anticipation. What time is it?” Summertime. School’s out, scream and SHOUT!” A familiar tune from High School Musical-2.

Yes, it is summer time, and time for our children to come home for a break, as they ascend to the next phase of school. If you are a parent of sons like me, you are dreading the incipient refrigerator raids and perpetually empty pantry as a result of their constant snacking and eating. And just like me, you are also reminded that there is a 2-3 month break between now and next school year, and you are filled with dread about what to do, and how to fill in that time with meaningful activities for them.

Well, worry no more! Here are my tried and tested, no-fail ideas for activities for your teens. I have used these tricks for nearly 10yrs as my sons have transitioned from middle to high school, and now to college. However, my sons are very different, so some of the ideas had to be modified for each child, but for the most part, they worked.

Relax

Since they are often just returning from a stressful school semester or year (whether you are home-schooling or they are in traditional schools) I often allow them to take the first week or two off to de-stress, rest and relax from the drama of school work. This short period of downtime comprises of sleep, eating, more sleep, their assigned housework and whatever else they like to do to entertain themselves. As you can guess, it’s mostly video games to their cell phones, listening to music and back to video games…ugh! Because two of my boys play musical instruments, they are often also rehearsing their various musical instruments.

man sitting on red suede sofa holding black android smartphone
Photo by Oladimeji Ajegbile on Pexels.com

We often have dinner together as a family, and just talk. We talk about school, what they learned during the entire year, and simply catch up on each other. No electronics are allowed during this “sacred time”. This is usually the most fun time for me, in particular. I do miss them a lot when they are gone, and even the youngest who is still at home is mostly “gone” during the school year because of his homework obligations, extracurricular activities and an early bedtime. So, we try to enjoy each other this first week.

This is also the time we call grandparents and extended family members to catch up on them.

Self Care

This is something very important to me. As a pediatrician, I always ensure my patients schedule their annual physicals during the summertime when school is out, to avoid missing out on school. The appointments can also be made earlier in lieu of school closing if you like. In addition, the doctor’s offices are not often as busy because most folks are out of town on vacation. This is when you want to schedule them for their vision, their dental, general well-child exams, and get updates on their vaccines and other minor issues that might have come up while they were in school.

Since I have sons, this is also the time to get their own personal hygiene taken care of. They get a nice hair cut for the summer, refill on their allergy medications or any meds at all, and get new clothes if needed for those who have had a growth spurt during the school year. I do realize some parents wait until the end of summer to do the back to school shopping, and that is also fine.

Read a book or two

As an avid reader, this is one activity I don’t compromise on. Luckily, most middle and high schools often have summer reading assigned to the students, and that is a bonus for my children. I require as a rule that my sons read for 2 hrs daily, for every 2 hrs of video games they play! They absolutely hate this, but they still do it. What I often do is, take them along with me to the library or make them go to the library for 2hrs daily. It ends up being fun for them, but not before they have complained a lot. Reading in the summer also helps keep their academic skills going. This way they don’t forget some of the stuff they were taught during the school year.  Summer reading is somewhat more fun because the teens have the freedom to pick whichever book they like to read and read at their own pace. We often block 10am-12noon for reading, that way, we all read together, and it becomes a bonding activity at the same time.

photo of girl reading book
Photo by CARLOS ESPINOZA on Pexels.com

Finally, they have to do a book report on the books they have read, and we have a day or two set aside to discuss the books them. Once in a while, they want to re-read their old favorites, and I allow them, as long as they read.

Volunteer

For those of you who know me, you know that I am very big on volunteering. It is one of my most enjoyable past times. Teens could volunteer at home, or in a more structure set up like the regional hospital. Helping others, not only builds empathy, but it also builds compassion, mindfulness and a healthy dose of kindness and gratitude, and helps your teens learn the value of giving back to the community. These are a few of the guiding principles I discuss in my brand new Amazon bestseller, “How to Raise Well Rounded Children” available on Amazon or on my website.

photo of woman using her laptop
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

I believe that volunteering not only builds character, it also opens one’s mind up to experiences well beyond their personal imagination, and will ultimately help create a much better world for you and me. If you have not tried volunteering yet, do try it. Register your age-appropriate teens for various volunteering opportunities. Check this list for ideas of places you could all volunteer this summer. Remember, these experiences could also last into their adult years, so go for it.

Get that summer job

Beginning around the age of 13yr in most states in the US, most teens can start working. It could be around the home as babysitters, dogsitters, mowing the lawn, or other odd jobs to get paid by their parents. As they get older, the type and complexity of the jobs change and before you know it, they are older teens working in the corporate world.

I love the idea of teens working for pay, be it minimum wage or more organized pay because it is often their first taste of adulthood. It is also the best way to teach them responsibility, time management, money management, and independence. It is the ideal introduction into their employee or entrepreneurial future. While my eldest son just qualified to drive uber 3days ago when he turned 21yr, he has been holding down 2 jobs at Stanford since his early days as a freshman. Though reluctantly, he worked at Pizza Hut as a young teen, and that helped encourage his immediate younger brother to also seek employment at Pizza Hut in his high school days. Both sons are well versed in money and time management today, thanks to an early work habit. Not to be left out, my 14yr old youngest son was actually employed at his middle school this past school year as a football referee.

The money earned from work can be used for their own personal needs or saved in the bank, invested or used to help out their parents. One thing I made sure I did for each of my sons as soon as they turned 18yr was to open up an investment account for them. The accounts are funded by their own employment earnings. If you are not doing this yet, I strongly suggest you consider it. In all, working as a teen has much more benefits, than not.

Travel

Whether it’s learning a new language by immersion, learning how to save and budget money,  drawing up a functional itinerary, becoming independent and responsible for oneself, or learning about and experiencing different cultures, (foreign) travel is the ultimate way to spend a summer. It could be a study abroad program as part of a college or grade school curriculum, or a family vacation, or simply traveling together with friends. Either way, teens can learn a lot about the world at large by actually experiencing it. They develop critical thinking skills, tolerance for others, communication in foreign languages, and an open-minded world view.

woman laughing
Photo by favachofotos on Pexels.com

As a teen, I studied French in high school and got a rare opportunity to travel to Togo, and Benin Republic, two neighboring countries to Nigeria where French is the Lingua Franca. I also got traveled to Germany, the United Kingdom, and Greece as a young adult. All these countries shaped my life and my personality today. More recently, my children and I have visited Canada, The Bahamas, and Mexico. My eldest son toured Europe with the Stanford Orchestra last summer and came back a changed man. He sang praises about Europe and can’t wait to go back when he is older. His brother will sign up for a study abroad program with his Architecture class from Texas Tech next academic year. All three children have visited Nigeria numerous times.

I cannot overemphasize the power of travel to the developing mind. I am almost inclined to declare that “the traveler lives his or her life twice as much; first as themselves, then through the people, they meet in the course of their travels”.

Hang out with their friends

Summertime is a time for reconnection with (old) friends. Your teen should be allowed to travel with or simply hang out with their friends (vetted or not). Good friends balance you out as much as bad friends do, and teens can actually learn a lot about themselves through their friends.

four men sitting on platform
Photo by kat wilcox on Pexels.com

Case in point: My middle son is already home from college. He asked to go hang out with his friends a few days ago. I let him take the car. He returned within an hour. Puzzled, I enquired about his early return home. He explained that his friends had decided to hang out at the pool and drink alcohol at 5pm in the afternoon! Since he does not drink alcohol, he opted to return home. I was filled with so much pride and admiration for him. He made the right call. The safe call, all on his own. He chose to not hang out with his friends that afternoon because he “knew they were going to eventually get drunk and he did not want to be around them”.

Having friends and feeling connected to a group gives teenagers a sense of belonging and being valued, which helps develop self-esteem and confidence. Friendships also help teenagers learn important social and emotional skills, like being sensitive to other people’s thoughts, feelings, and wellbeing. A teen’s friends can be a powerful influence, positive or negative, and the teen must know when to say no to the negative influences of such friends.

In all, allow your teens to live their lives out loud this summer. You have done most of the hard work, the rest is on them. Remember to listen to words said and unsaid, and in all things, live your best life as a parent, so they can emulate you, their first and most important teacher.

Toodles 🙂

“You become the choices that you make, so choose wisely” ~ Dr. Lulu