Is touch-typing a necessary skill?

I should have known that not knowing how to touch-type would impede my job prospects. The first time my lack of touch-typing skills stood between employment and me was when I got a job as a content writer at a small printing company. After nine days of working there, the manager fired me for not writing fast enough. Of course, that was not the official reason. But I figured as much because he had been constantly nagging me about typing with two fingers and taking a long time to write stuff up. At that time, I sided with myself thinking that I wasn’t a typist and that I didn’t need to type like a pro. But now, after failing at quite a few writing tests, I can feel how typing with two fingers can slow me down. At one such typing test, I had to write and edit long-form content (1250 words) in 45 minutes! With my mediocre typing speed of 45 words per minute and having to look at the keyboard each time I typed a key (causing numerous typos onscreen), I proved to be no match for what these employers were expecting.

I did try a few online touch-typing training websites, but I started getting frustrated pretty soon with them. I could not keep up and felt like my muscle memory was too strong to break. And then one day, I stumbled upon a cool website which made so much sense (its keybr.com if you’re wondering what it is). Pretty soon, I was totally into it and learnt all the keys in 14 hours spread over 11 days. Of course, my typing speed is way low than it was before I learnt how to touch type. But I believe a little bit of practice will take me where I need to be. My goal is to achieve a typing speed of at least 70 words per hour. Right now, I have an average typing speed of 31 words per minute.

It is a difficult feat to achieve, but I’m glad I got a start.

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Immigrant update: A year later…

A lot has happened over the last year and three months in my life, both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include: me joining and finishing an eight-month professional writing course, my subsequent job search and associated experiences, my husband working for a call centre and then quitting the job, my husband taking a nosedive by enrolling for a full-time IT advanced diploma course, and my kid growing by a year and three months.

In terms of my life as an immigrant, I (or we as a family) have gone through an emotional and experiential roller-coaster. We started off from a place of positivity, then found ourselves struggling with daily realities and now have somewhat found our balance back. By balance I don’t mean financial stability. I mean the ability to see things as they truly are. I now realise that the road to achieve your dreams (or at least your most basic requirements, such as a house) involve a steep uphill struggle. I have to admit, I’ve lost much of the positivity that I had in the beginning. But I do have a realistic understanding of what must be done.

I love it here, I’ve found great friends here. Most of them have undergone the same uphill struggle that we are going through right now. My child is adjusting really well to the country, except for the issues with dryness and blocked nose during the winter. My husband is absolutely zen with how things are going, and he feels positive about our future. Despite living on a meagre income, we still enjoy a minimum standard of living.

Some of the things I’ve learnt as a recent immigrant are:

  1. There are two types of immigrants – those who came on a permanent residency (PR) visa and those who came on a work permit. Those who came on a work permit have to struggle way less than those who come on PR visas. They already have a high-paying job when they land here. Their road to obtaining PR is relatively easy. They are financially and professionally far ahead of their PR counterparts. Those who come on PR, however, have to start from square one. So if you see recent immigrant doing well, it would be interesting to find out whether they came on a work permit or a PR visa.
  2. PR immigrants need to enrol in Canadian courses or programs to begin their career here. This is especially true for regulated professions such as those in the medical and financial fields. But it extends to other non-regulated fields as well. Let’s take my case for example. I’m a content writer. There are no Canadian certifications that I need to take. But my job search before I took the course was significantly less successful than after I had taken the course. I did some volunteering and had a great internship which boosted my chances at getting interviews. Even my husband, who had five years of experience, got very few call backs. Until finally he decided to jump fields and join an IT course (my husband was in talent acquisition before). Its more than just the technical skills and knowledge that you learn. You will learn interpersonal skills that are probably way different than the ones you’ve seen back home. You will also find that your professors could provide you great job references in the future.
  3. Relationship-building is key. Along with joining a course, relationship-building skills are very important in your professional pursuits. No matter how academically and technically qualified you are, if you don’t have people-skills, your career will suffer. You must realise that you’re competing with a well-connected, locally qualified pool of candidates who know this landscape well. Your ability to connect with people is considered a crucial skill, without which employers will be nervous to hire you. They take it so seriously that you will be asked to involve in team bonding exercises during the interview itself. Being open, affable, confident and conversational helps in getting you that extra edge.
  4. Managing expectations can help with the transition. One of the biggest problems that immigrants have are with overwhelming expectations, both personal and social. So many immigrants are initially shocked at how long and arduous the struggle looks like that they immediately turn surly. Couple this with their family’s expectations back home, they really find it difficult to cope. This is my message to whoever wants to come on PR: research your fields, read about the Canadian work culture, talk to people who live here and come with the least amount of expectations as you can carry.

Seriously, the worst thing about Canada is not the winter, but the amount of expectations that you carry as a new immigrant.

Screen-time Struggles!

I started giving my kid my iPad and mobile phone to watch when he was about a year old. This was the time when he started showing pickiness in eating. It was a harrowing time for me, like any other parent. I wanted my kid to eat more. I asked myself (against all the blaring sirens in my head): What could go wrong?

Well, what started as an innocent curiosity, became a full-fledged addiction.

I was happy in the beginning. He was eating better when he was watching his favorite nursery rhymes. He started learning the nursery rhymes by heart. He also learnt the alphabet, the numbers, the shapes and colours in no time. When I needed him to remain distracted, even in public, I could just fish out my phone and put on a video, and he would stay glued to the screen.

All the while, I heard, read and witnessed horror stories of children turning into little monsters due to excessive screen-time. But I kept denying that I had a problem. My kid wasn’t a monster (yet).

Fast-forward to when he turned 2 1/2 years. The following factors opened my eyes:

  1. Worse eating: Despite the initial spike, my kid’s eating began going on a downward spiral. He was pickier than ever. He would cry for the screen even to eat his favorite food. When he went to the day-care centre, he wouldn’t eat properly because he couldn’t get his regular ‘distraction fix’.
  2. Temper Tantrums: Even though I took his temper tantrums as normal behaviour during the “terrible twos”, I knew that it had to be curbed in some way. Going out with him was an absolute nightmare. He would throw tantrums in the middle of the road! He would fall on the ground and writhe like a snake. Imagine being that parent, when all those judging eyes are on you! Apparently, the screen started losing its charm with my little fella when it came to behaving in public places.
  3. Impatience: This goes hand-in-hand with temper tantrums. But impatience is a much larger issue. It was affecting his patience to play, to learn new things, to overcome challenges etc. He would just give up after trying a little – a scary thing to watch when he was just two years old.
  4. Warnings from people: Friends and family started showing their disapproval when they saw me giving my son screen-time, expecially during his meals. They told me that eating shouldn’t accompany bribes, especially something as addictive as screens. I saw how parents who caved into their kid’s screen demands suffered as a result of it.
  5. Speech impairment: My main concern was his speech impairment. He knew nursery rhymes by-heart, but never spoke very many words outside of it. He struggled with expressing his needs. He couldn’t say some of the basic words that his peers could say. He was ‘babbling’ a lot – while this meant that he wanted so badly to talk, he didn’t have the vocabulary to express his thoughts.
  6. Other developmental issues: What does it mean if your toddler screamed and cried for screen-time when he was bored? That he doesn’t want to play with normal toys. Playing with normal toys develops motor skills, eye-hand coordination and creativity. He had reached an age when he should start learning to brush his teeth, to put his clothes on and to eat by himself. Screen-time was a huge barrier to all this.

One fine day, I took the giant leap of taking away his screen-time altogether. I was expecting a hurricane to hit, but only a small storm swooshed over us. He became a little confused for two days. But then he came back to normal.

Of course, this meant that I had to get creative… a hell lot more creative. By goodness’ grace, I found out that my toddler gets competitive when it comes to food. Sly me! I would pretend to eat his food, and he would cry and snatch it away from me, and eat it himself. For now, that seems to work everytime.

Slowly, but steadily, my toddler and I were overcoming all the cons that screen-time brought with it. His apetite is improving, and so is his temper, speech, creativity and motor skills.

Taking on the Terrible TTT

TTT stands for Toilet Training a Toddler.

For me, parenting is one dreadful prospect after the other. And potty-training is one of the worst. The thought of toilet training my two year old gave ME irritable bowels for almost a year.

Pee

I had already been making my boy pee in the bathtub when he was 18 months old. I used the bathtub because apparently running water would make him want to pee. I slowly started to condition him to pee to the ‘shhhhoo’ sound, which I would make with my mouth. So peeing was almost okay. (Gradually, I had him peeing into the toilet bowl. But this came much much later. Almost a year later. Till then he was pretty much peeing in the bathtub.)

In the beginning, he would indicate that he wanted to pee by holding his ‘wee-wee’. He wasn’t much of a speaker at 18 months. I had to be constantly watching out for this indication. If I ever ignore, he would pee in his pants.

Poop

Encouraged by this development, I wanted to have him poop in the potty. Honestly, I was tired of washing off poop from his pants and his body. Sometimes there would be too much poop, sometimes he would poop four times in a day. I had even stopped diapering him at home as part of his toilet training.

Not only was I tired, I was wary. All the other kids seemed to have been introduced to potties way earlier than my kid. My mother would say that she got us all pooping in potties at six months!

At 18 months, my son saw his first potty. We got an expensive one, which in hindsight seems like a total waste now. At that time, a lot of changes had been happening in our lives. We had permanently left Dubai. We landed in India, and were suddenly surrounded by lots of people. We were living in a house with lots of space, and a huge back and front yard as opposed to the tiny flat in Dubai. My son was totally distracted. He wasn’t eating well, because his primary focus was to play, unleash his curiosity and enjoy his new freedoms. This was probably the worst time to get him to sit on the potty.

We struggled badly. He hated sitting on the potty. It came to the point that he would suppress back his poop, and he would get constipated. My mother-in-law, seeing my anguish, suggested that I take a break from this routine.

Fast forward 3 months. We landed in Canada, and we were slowly going back to our ‘life in a tiny apartment’ mode. For the first 3 or 4 months in Canada, my son was pooping in his diapers. By this time I was thinking of enrolling him in a day-care program so that I could go back to school or look for work. I knew that it was high time he took to the potty.

We bought a second potty. The first two days, we got him familiar with the potty. I showed him some potty training videos. And voilà! He started sitting on the potty without a problem! It was unbelievably simple!

Nevertheless, we still have accidents. He still isn’t very excited about the potty, and if he had his way, he would still be pooping in his pants. He is yet to tell me when he wants to poop. Its been more than two months since his introduction, that he has been pooping in his potty, except for a few times when he has been out.

He now goes to a day-care where he is actively potty-trained in the toddler program. In September, he will officially be a pre-schooler. Hopefully he will be good on his own before he reaches school.

Why I Want to Write

I want to write because that’s the only thing I believe I can do well. I was never good at math or science. I was never good at remembering dates of battles or the names of obscure leaders. The first people to point out my ability to write were my English teachers. When there came the question of choosing a vocation, I knew I didn’t look forward to a life of cooking three meals a day and keeping house. So I chose to write.

I am always wandering around with ideas clamoring in my head. If they are not let out through some channel, it feels like a suppressed bladder. Or even worse, like suppressed gas. Writing helps me relieve this suppression. Sometimes, in a fit of inspiration, I grab my phone and rapidly jot down stuff in my note app. If I have no access to writing, I talk to myself. So naturally, I could relate to the mind of a writer.

I would normally think twice before calling myself a writer. The label seems too accomplished for someone like me. With two failed blogs and a career that refuses to take off, along with a toddler who has an uncanny aversion to me picking up a mobile device or a letter pad, I have very little to prove myself. But I have always wanted a place inside the writer community, however peripheral it may be. Hopefully, this blog will be the beginning to a successful foray into my dream job.

In today’s age, everyone is obliged to write properly. It has become one of those everyday things just like addition and subtraction. If you have a social media account, you probably have an opinion about everything. If you want that opinion to be heard, you need a good hold over language.

But there is a difference between writing properly and writing well. The difference lies in seeing things creatively. In being affected by simple things. In being able to bring out to the world the magic in those simple things. In short, proving to us that we are still humans. Good writing, and art in general, reminds us that we humans are not doomed just to run the rat race that we run everyday. It shows us that we can experience a whole new level of consciousness filled with happiness, awe and inspiration.

It is, hence, a high aspiration to write well. And despite the nagging self-doubt, that is what I aspire to do.