Moving in general can be a life-changing experience, but moving clear across the country, across time zones, can be somewhat surreal. The after effects can leave you in a constant state of “where am I?”. Your soul will feel unsettled, much like those dreams where your spirit is floating above everything, as you watch the world going on without you below. You want to participate in it all, but somehow, you can never insert yourself into the scene. Everything you know is different, from the scent of your new home, to your ride to work, to even the water you drink. No matter how excited you are for the newness, it can be frightening. So, how can you stay sane?
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In light of the most recent episode of “why having a badge is equal to having a Purge-like murder pass” as well as, “why justice doesn’t really exist”, I was compelled to post a wonderfully written comment-turned-article by an awesome friend of mine. I urge you to pay attention, understand, and hopefully internalize her words, possibly awakening yourselves to a different point of view that doesn’t seem to be oft held by the majority of the people like her. It is because of rarely challenged potential (and actual) racist social behaviors that we are able to be desensitized to its effects when the crimes occur. There will never be any chance of change or progression if we fail to recognize and accept that there is indeed a problem. If you are still not angry, if you still do not believe that there is privilege and prejudice at play, if you are still blind to the effects of both “soft” and “hard” systematic oppression, then you too are part of the issue. Please feel free to share your thoughts and reactions in the comments.
“To My White Friends…” – C.G. Heilmann
When I attended Tulane (2000 – 2004), the Kappa Alpha fraternity held something called “Old South” every year, which was a Confederate-themed celebration and ball. Men in the fraternity rented Confederate uniforms and their dates were expected to rent antebellum dresses. The kick-off event for this day was a march from Tulane’s campus down St. Charles Avenue to Robert E. Lee Circle. This part, I refused to attend. Later in the evening, a black-tie formal dinner and dance was held, which I did attend.
When I was at P.S. 9 in NYC (2008 – 2010), the 5th grade taught a Civil War unit that assigned the students – including children of color – to be Union soldiers and Confederate soldiers. They learned about the “facts” of the Civil War through a reenactment game.
I am ashamed and embarrassed of my participation in upholding white normative traditions, rather than teaching children and ourselves to look at our history and current socio-economic order through a critical lens – asking my white friends to look critically and humbly at ourselves, asking the “why”. Why do we need to control a history, a narrative and a system that continues to hurt and oppress others? Why do we need to hoard all the opportunities, the wealth, and sit in all the places of institutional “gate-keeping?”
This weekend I learned that achieving “whiteness” in the United States is about giving up your ethnic culture, language, spirituality, community, and humanity in exchange for power and privilege, because the melanin in your skin – and the laws of our country – allowed you and your ancestors to do so. In order to right these wrongs, white people can stand up and say that we are ready to give that power and privilege up. That we are ready to stand aside while people of color build their own power and liberation. That we say “black lives matter.”
“Make America Great Again” is about maintaining the racist social order on which this country was founded, in the face of attempts to break that apart, analyze it, and build something else. To my white friends and family, it is ugly, it is embarrassing, it is shameful. It doesn’t feel good and it is easy to get defensive, to say “but I try to do and be right, but I like who I am, but I – and my ancestors – work hard.” But remember, “whiteness” isn’t who you are and it isn’t something you worked for, it is what has been given to you. And as I learned this weekend too, you can’t “do right in a do-wrong system.” That icky feeling in your gut is nothing compared to the violence people of color feel and suffer under every day in our country, and have for generations and generations. And so I am willing to stay in that uncomfortable, icky place…and I hope you’ll join me there.
“Great people do things before they’re ready”. Simple quote, but yesterday morning, during my daily wake-up ritual of opening up social media (don’t judge me), it was the first one I saw, and it hit me hard. It ended up shaping not only the course of my day, but it also impacted my interactions. Maybe there was something in the air, but a lot of my friends and colleagues seemed to have awakened with a restless motivation. You see, the status quo didn’t, and doesn’t seem to working anymore, and being just to be is no longer good enough. So many people expressed that they were living, but aren’t actually alive. The realization that there is more to life hit them just like that quote did for me. Are you feeling it too? Because here’s the thing: that restlessness is a clear sign that you are ready and in need of a change, and that change is imminent.
Maybe you work in corporate America, and you spend the majority of your days attending mindless meetings. You know, those meetings that aren’t held out of necessity, but more so because you had an empty spot in your calendar? And you end up spending those meetings daydreaming, unfulfilled, disenchanted, disillusioned, and disengaged. You find yourself starting to wonder what the point is, and whether there is truly more than what you wake up and do, day in and day out. You have ideas, you have dreams, but you don’t feel like it’s the right time to go after them. So instead, you sit in your meetings and push the daydreams out of your mind, because you know, security and responsibility and all of that. But of course, when you’re ready, then you’ll make the right move. However, at which point do you decide you’re ready?
That’s the issue many struggle with. Everything has to be done at the “right time”. I’ve realized though, that the right time doesn’t really exist. Tomorrow isn’t promised, yet we constantly push everything to that day. Recently, a friend of mine who was jaded in her corporate role, decided to take a chance and follow her passion. She was afraid, even terrified at times, and she needed somewhat of a push. She definitely wasn’t ready, but she decided that not being ready wasn’t a good enough reason anymore. Don’t get me wrong; she does admit it can be difficult at times, but the most important part is that she’s happy, fulfilled, and feeling as if she’s being true to herself and her heart.
If it scares you, yet thrills you…if it makes you want to curl up and hide away in a safe comfort zone, but the thought of NOT doing anything is more daunting, then chances are, it’s time for you to explore it. Maybe you can’t take the risk, maybe you’re afraid to jump, but if you take that approach, you’ll fail at it 100% of the time. Sometimes, the fear of trying is trumped by the fear of never knowing. Make today the day you try.
It’s very easy to run away from and avoid the reality of our lives. It’s even easier to harbor hatred and feigned indifference, than it is to examine ourselves and determine the role we’ve played in the demise of something that was once deemed important and beautiful. Hatred is not a clear-cut emotion, but is typically a mask for something deeper, usually deep-seated pain and hurt. When people hate, it is because they are too emotionally immature to deal with the heartache they’re experiencing, the hurt they believe is caused by another person or situation. In actuality, no one can make you feel anything you don’t want to feel. Your emotions are your responsibility, and you ultimately have the control over how they are expressed. But how do we wade through our insecurities and elevate ourselves in a way that causes anger and hatred to be fleeting emotions, that aren’t allowed to take up residence in our souls?
Practice self-love. This sounds so simple, yet so many people don’t know how to accomplish this. I sometimes blame it on our modern society and the new cultural expectations we seem to have. We are so dependent on the acceptance and love of others that when we don’t have it, we feel empty inside. We constantly seek the approval, the love…the admiration of others, and when it’s not reciprocated, we tumble down the rabbit hole of despair. You, and only you, have the power to create and manifest your own happiness. How much you love yourself should not be contingent upon how much someone loves you.
Do NOT mirror emotions. This is a difficult one for me, personally, because I am an empath by nature – meaning I sense and feel the emotions of those around me quite easily. If I walk into a room and there are people being jovial and lighthearted, my first inclination is to do the same. On the flip side, if I’m sitting next to you, and you are angry, chances are, I will find myself slowly getting angry as well. My soul tends to be a little emotional sponge that wants to share in the experiences of others, even when those experiences are detrimental to my well-being and alter my mood. You have to be extremely cognizant of this in yourself, which I am still learning to be. It takes a LOT of extra work, but if I’m being attacked with negativity, I actively remind myself that I have control over my feelings and cannot allow infiltration by the hurt party. Count to ten if you have to, but do NOT match their emotional level. Your spirit will thank you.
Be aware of your feelings. Pain can be a confusing place. Someone says or does something we perceive to be cruel, and the first thought an emotionally immature person has is to “get back” at them. Did you know that the more supposed revenge you seek, the more negative energy you bring on yourself, and the more horrible you feel (Unless of course, you are a completely narcissistic person who is incapable of taking responsibility for your actions and their resulting consequences)? There’s supposedly a very thin line between love and hate, but that’s because the line is a fallacy. Hatred does not exist without love, period. It is just the level that reveals itself when you are unable to cope with the pain that occurred within that love. Instead of dealing with the underlying feeling that is making you lash out, you instead blame any and everything in your life on the person you thought caused it, and you try to hurt them to match what YOU feel inside. Meanwhile, because they’ve matured and actively practice the art of self-love, they’re just deflecting all of your attacks with grace while continuously praying for your peace. Stop attacking and become aware of what you’re really feeling. If necessary, see a therapist.
I realize that a lot of this may seem simpler than it is, because the level of passion behind the emotion you’re feeling may seem larger than life. Unfortunately, the truth is, you can’t run from your feelings, no matter how far you try to escape. Continuing to try to cause hurt to others, instead of focusing on your own healing, tends to hurt you more in the long run. Or, in some cases, you end up causing residual hurt to those around you, and those closes to your targets – and then they begin to build resentment within their hearts. Stop trying to actively breed a home of negativity – if you continue, you may wake up one day and find there’s no one left to lash out to.
One of my very best girlfriends sent me a wonderful, inspiring short video this morning. It was a video of Steve Harvey, and in it, he was discussing how important it is for us to decide to step out on faith and take that “jump” towards fulfilling our purpose in life. I loved it so much that I shared it with other friends, who immediately stated that it was just what they needed this morning. For Millenials like myself, life can seem like one endless sequence in “Groundhog Day“. We get up, we slave away at work (usually without taking a lunchbreak or any sort of break), we stay there well past quitting time, we rush home, cook dinner, get some gym time in, shower, fall into bed, and prepare ourselves to do it all again the next day. We comment on how quickly the days, the weeks, the months, the YEARS fly by, and lament on how we don’t feel fulfilled. How if, we just had more time, or more money, or more focus, we would be living the life of our dreams. We stare lifelessly at our work computer screens, we feel our souls dying with each meeting request that pops up on our Outlook to fill our day, and we complain. And we make excuses. And we do nothing. So how do we begin to get out of this sick cycle?
I believe the first key is to start taking just a little bit of time for yourself each day. No, I don’t mean that you should take thirty minutes to scroll aimlessly through your Instagram feed, admiring the false lives of others (that’s called procrastination and distraction). I mean really take that necessary “me” time to get to know yourself. Start by making a list. What is it you would do if money and time weren’t an issue? What makes you sing in the morning? Do you get excited when have time in the kitchen to really put something amazing together? Maybe during all of those meetings, you’re sketching amazing pictorials on your notebook. Or you’re active imagination is creating a telenovela of the fictional lives of your coworkers. Essentially, where does your creativity seem to be sparked?
After you’ve taken this time, and made this list (or, if you’re like me, your visual guide), start figuring out how you can begin to fit these things you love into your daily life. Maybe, instead of taking your cell phone in the bathroom with you at home (we all do it, don’t be coy), you bring a notebook to start outlining your plans for your new interior design company. Set real goals for yourself – S.M.A.R.T.E.R. ones – that are attainable. The key here is to get everything down in writing, so, when you feel unmotivated, you can have your own positive words written down to reignite your passion. For me, it was easier to map out my yearly goals on my vision board, and then I could figure out which ones I could expand on and tackle first. Your priority is to be intentional with what you want out of life. The things you want aren’t just going to appear out of thin air, no matter how much wishing and praying you do. Prayer means nothing without action, so you MUST ensure that you aren’t just sitting there hoping for miraculous deliverance.
And finally – and this is the most important part – share your plan with someone you truly trust. My friends and I are very good about motivating and encouraging each other on a daily basis. Of course, positive reinforcement is great, but what’s most important is that it makes us accountable to the goals and aspirations we have set. One of my friends had a great idea last year to text each other one small goal we had for the day, and at the end of the day, we either checked in to say we completed it, or the other friend would check in to find out if the goal was met. Life kind of got the better of us and we fell off a bit, but it helped us to feel accomplished even when the days weren’t going the way we wanted. It is essential for you to connect and engage with like-minded people, because negativity is a poison that will hinder you from your progress.
It’s so easy to blame others for the lack in our lives, but no one is responsible for you but you. You are the only person who has ultimate control over your progression and your destiny. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is to stop the blame game, and to accept responsibility, whether good or bad, for the choices I’ve made in my life. When you begin to see the light in every dark place, you gain power and understanding in reaching your ultimate purpose. Like Steve said, sometimes you’ll make that jump and the parachute won’t deploy immediately, but sometimes trying is better than not trying and never knowing how strong that parachute could have been.
What a difference a year can make. For the past couple of months, I have spent considerable time reflecting on the things that have affected me over the last twelve months. I’ve made some bad decisions, I’ve lost people I loved, and I’ve gone from someone relevant to a stranger in the eyes of others. Relationships and friendships I thought would stand the test of time are virtually non-existent, and I’ve willingly welcomed the removal of others whose energy and motives weren’t genuine. I’ve learned so much about myself, and people, and some of this I may have observed and commented on before. My top four takeaways this year were:
It truly is okay to put yourself first.
I am notorious for doing too much, of being unable to say no to others. I’ve agreed to things I didn’t feel like doing, gone to events I know I didn’t want to waste my time on, I’ve even literally made myself sick trying to be everything to everyone. In the end, I realized that all of my concessions and compromises benefited few, and hurt no one but myself. My focus for this coming year is to become more comfortable with that nefarious “n” word – no. We get so guilty with the notion of putting ourselves first, because somehow believe it means that we’re neglecting others. As it’s been said before though: you are useless to others if you’re putting your well-being and sanity last.
It’s time to stop looking backwards.
Ah memories. Don’t we all just love them? I feel as if I’ve spent a disproportionate amount of time reexamining the past, at the way things were, and trying desperately to revert back, or at least create some semblance of that “comfortable” space (by the way – comfort isn’t necessarily a positive). All of that nostalgia caused me to miss out on the blessings I’m experiencing now. I didn’t allow myself to be fully present. Even when it hurt, I had to come to the realization that things will never be the same. What’s done is done, and the people from my past that have come and gone aren’t supposed to be in my future. While memories are great, I can’t let that wistfulness be a part of where I’m going. My journey is just beginning.
Judgement and expectation are the first steps to disappointment.
What do they say when you assume? That you make an a** out of you and me? Old saying, but still true during these times. People will behave in ways that will make you question how well you really knew them, and have you questioning the authenticity of their character. I foolishly placed unrealistic expectations not just on my friends and family, but also on those who didn’t owe me anything in the least. This idea of expectation is truly something that comes from growth – experience that leads to real wisdom. In the end, the only person you can hold liable for expectations is yourself.
I am stronger than I ever dreamed.
I can recall touting my strength, speaking of my tribulations and feeling very proud of how much I’d accomplished in my life, despite a myriad of obstacles over the years. This year did an amazing job of putting those humble brags to the test. My character was tested, my faith was shaken, but I still managed to rely on not just myself, but primarily my God/Spirit to get me through so much. When you are being attacked from what seems like all angles, it is very easy to place the blame on others, to hate, to become bitter, to be angry – to be weak. The simplest thing I could have done this year was to block myself from feeling and giving love. I’ve come to realize that strength isn’t in how vengeful you can be, but in how loving you can continue to be despite every attempt to essentially annihilate your spirit. Only love can drive out hate, and only a strong person can continue to love when met with negativity. I will continue to love those who consider themselves my enemies, and pray that they will elevate themselves and realize the beauty within their own souls.
I love the start of a new year, because it provides us with the idea that we can start over again and be renewed. Our past isn’t erased, but it also doesn’t define who we are today, or who we will be for the rest of our lives. Take a moment this week to truly reflect on your experiences this year, and promise yourself that no matter what, you will give your all to make the coming year your best yet. Above all, send out love, and you’ll not only receive it, but you will gain knowledge and self-awareness. Be a better version of yourself in 2016, because your story is far from over.
I feel as if I haven’t written about relationships in a while, and the inspiration hit when I was having a discussion with a friend on the way home from work today. We were dissecting something I’d read that examined being attracted to and attracting unavailable people (both physically and emotionally), and ultimately, forging faux-lationships with them. Either the person approaches them, expecting them to be receptive to their advances, or, they find themselves drawn to those who are either in relationships, married, or just not ready for committment. This topic can be a little heavy, because people feel judged if they’re currently in them, or have been in them. I truly believe that, for the majority of people, they don’t go out actively seeking unavailable people. If anything, they like to believe that they are doing quite the opposite – avoiding them, ignoring them, or rejecting them. Every once in a while though, one of them finds you and somehow senses your internal unavailability as well, and BAM!, you’re sucked in. Against your better judgement, you engage in behaviors and activities that make you question your moral compass, all the while asking yourself how you allowed yourself to end up in such a situation. Understand that you are not a bad person, and there are a few reasons why this is happening to you (before you read them though, end that toxic relationship!).The convo caused me to do a little bit of further research (cough-cough Google) to find out why this “phenomena” keeps occurring.
People meet you at your level of broken-ness. This point was brought up in an article I read on Huffington Post, Why Do I Keep Attracting Unavailable People. It discussed how a fear of committment within two different people can somehow draw them to each other, because they recognize attributes, almost subconsciously, in each other. I’ll bring it back to something even more simple: misery indeed loves company. For some strange reason, we tend to believe that others in our dismal situation will somehow give us space to improve on ourselves. In reality, that broken energy is just being pushed back and forth between the two people. Instead of addressing their wounds, they’re feeding off of each other, and as a result, never completely heal themselves.
Having someone who’s unavailable gives you space to be unavailable as well. We all probably know of someone who has been/is a side dude or chick, and seems to be comfortable in that space. Sure, they complain about always being alone at night, and not being able to parade their love out in public, but for the most part, they’re happy with the situation they’re in. They claim that it’s easy, that it doesn’t require much from them, that it’s better than a full-fledged relationship. But guess what? It’s NOT. Not easy, and surely not better. If anything, it feeds the painful parts of you with more pain, and keeps you immobile. You get stuck putting enormous amounts of energy and life into something that shouldn’t even have come alive. Sure, you’re busy, and it seems like a quick fix, but we all make time for the things we deem important. When you find an available person that you’re really feeling, best believe you will do everything in your power to make room for them in your life.
You have daddy/mommy issues. Okay, hear me out on this one. I’m not suggesting that you need to go see a psychiatrist asap or anything. Many of us, especially if you grew up where I grew up, didn’t have the healthiest of home lives to mimic or learn from. Some of us had absentee parents, and whether we want to admit it or not, that dynamic has shaped our relationships. We’re afraid of getting deeper, of truly entrusting our love with someone else, so being in the faux-lationship is the best possible option. It allows us to relieve ourselves of having to be vulnerable and potentially being hurt, but you know what else it does? It also prevents us from being open to receiving the love we truly crave. Holding on to that which isn’t ours serves as a repellant to what we should be embracing, what we deserve. Yes, it’s great that you can live in a fantasy world that doesn’t require you to struggle in the deep end from time to time, but for how long? At what point do you decide that the shallow end just doesn’t fill your soul?