Slow Burn

Relationships are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get. According to Hallmark, they’re like cheesy late-blooming romances with a stranger from a small town that you never knew you needed. The stories are wholesome where most plotlines are cheesy and follow the same formula of a person falling in love after coming from a big city to a small town for business or family matters. It’s almost a fairy tale ending with the inevitable miscommunication and the hurt making up with the misunderstood, but they make falling in love look quick and easy. Relationships on social media, however, are a mish-mosh of everything from couples who only post their happiness to others who post everything from the conception of the relationship to its death. It’s so easy to get lost in the muck of it because even when the happiness you see is authentic, chances are you’re still sitting there trying to figure out why you’re still single or how to bring the spark back to your once vibrant relationship. There is also the chance that you’re like me in a new relationship trying not to self-sabotage due to unrealistic relationships you saw on TV.

A lot of us are subconsciously programmed to look for our relationships to start with the emotions of happiness and warmth we feel while watching a heartwarming film, TV show, or youtube couple. This warmth is something to desire, but it shouldn’t be everything we seek. In the Black culture, I’ve observed an emphasis on emotional intensity in association with the idea of falling in love. There’s a push in the media to look for immediate magnetism when connecting with a potential partner. Also, there’s almost an urgency to hurry up and find a love that is all-consuming in what I believe to be the worst of ways. Songs like Let it Burn by Jazmine Sullivan and Heat by Chris Brown ft. Gunna speaks of the heat one feels while falling for someone. Whether it is in love or lust is yet to be determined. Alternatively, songs like Burn by Usher describe the pain one feels at the end of a relationship. The common thread of intense emotion seems to be the desired symptom of falling for someone. It is what I call a red flame relationship where everyone can see the heat, the chemistry, and obvious attraction. With these relationships, as easy as it is to see the flame is how easy it is to extinguish it. This misconception that relationships need to start with an intensity of emotion and longing to be with another individual overshadows the truth that most sustainable relationships are built slowly on a foundation of fondness and a desire to get to know someone deeply. It is what I call a blue flame relationship or the slow burn. These relationships are not devoid of emotion, but they have balanced the logistics (the mind) of building a sustainable partnership with the emotion (the heart) required to nurture a relationship. All in all, they’ve counted the cost. If only I had had some of this wisdom in my early twenties.

My early twenties and even my late teens were full of what most would call “chance meetings” which led to short spurts of infatuation. I now call those chance meetings purposeful. They were introductions to key players in my journey to emotional maturity. Every lie I was told and every false hope I held onto in belief thinking “oh, he’ll change” were building blocks because I chose to change my perspective. When he didn’t want to choose me, I chose myself, and when my emotional needs weren’t being met, I voiced them. These choices led to the end of those relationships and I thank God they did! I chose to look at each individual as a teacher and I was determined to learn each lesson so I could move on because my cut off game is quick! But it was through those quick spurt relationships that I cleared my throat chakra, developed my voice and boundaries while keeping my heart open to love. I learned that open and honest communication about core principles and values like faith, child-rearing, and politics are the table our conversations about emotions and shared interests rest on. Being armed with all this knowledge and experience I find myself in a healthy relationship that I know I couldn’t have sustained had I not had those experiences and made adjustments to my mindset along the way.

As I mentioned before, there was a period where I almost self-sabotaged because things weren’t progressing how I had seen them on TV or as quickly as I had seen them manifest in other people’s lives. I will be the first to say I had unrealistic expectations. I was looking for the fiery magnetism and instead found a sweet calm and stability. Let me be the first to say that as an ever-adventurous woman, stability is far from boring. I find myself with someone stable who loves their family, makes me laugh from my core, compliments my personality, and shares my values as well as interests. I have such a fondness, appreciation, and love for this man that I can only attribute to knowing what it means to have had a bad one. These nuances are things that aren’t so readily discussed in everyday conversation about relationships. They are the things we hope to figure out and grow from along the way. Community is important to me, so I hope to inspire conversations among other young women who are as lost as I was and are slowly but surely finding their way. I am in no way an expert on all things love, I’m merely an observer and reporter on the subject and I pray my observations find you well.

These Changes

They say hindsight is 20/20 and as I look back over the year, I can honestly say that things could have gone far worse for me. I am beyond grateful to say they didn’t. This Thanksgiving had me a bit nostalgic remembering all the experiences I’ve had leading me to this point. Most of them were great and some were less than desirable, but they were all memorable and taught me to live from a place of love, humility, and thankfulness.

Take my Thanksgiving experience in 2017. This particular year, I spent the holiday among friends and community I had built while living in a young adult shelter for four months. I had since moved out and found stable housing with a friend, but we decided to spend our time with those we had grown so close to at the Lark-Inn youth drop-in center on Golden Gate Ave. It seemed like any other day where we walked to the center and waited in line to sign in, but instead of walking into the center as patrons, we were entering as welcomed guests. In a way, we had graduated because we got out and were successful in housing ourselves and remained independent. That day, I was thankful for the company and the food, and the freedom we had to move about the city. Most thanksgivings preceding that, I found myself road tripping with my mom and brother to some relatives’ house for a day full of family, meal prep, taste testing, and love and laughter. At Christmas time, the whole ordeal began again, with the bonus of gift-giving and the possibility of snow. It’s crazy how different experiences can be and easily things can change, but with Covid, the holidays are looking so much different this year.

Instead of large family gatherings and friends-givings, many people are sheltering in place or in quarantine alone. I can’t help but think of those I was sheltered with. Are they safe and warm? Did the presence of Covid change their relationship to their circumstances at home? Or are they having to face this hardship alone? The lucky ones are sharing space with our partners, pets, or technology and it’s days like today that I thank God for technology. It gives me peace of mind knowing that people can meet and remain connected to one another in ways we never thought imaginable just a few decades ago. We can see and hear one another in real-time even though we can’t touch one another or directly feel the warmth of their energy. And even though we are separate, I feel like we’re finally understanding the meaning of oneness and interconnectivity. I believe there is the Spirit of thankfulness and love that surrounds us every day and reminds us that all things are possible when we remain united and show love to another.

This year has been a whirlwind for me. I find myself with a new job in a new town of a new state, which usually leaves me feeling somewhat drained and over the transition, and somehow this move felt different. It felt like the end of a cycle I was so desperate to be free from because for the first time in a long time, I don’t feel like I’m homeless or just passing through. I am home. A word which I ascribe to the feeling of security and stability. I don’t use the term home lightly and have only prescribed it to people before this summer, and I am so thankful for the change, which seems to be the main constant in my life. I don’t know the entirety of what the end of this year holds, much less the future, but I believe that facing it with an open heart and an attitude of gratitude- that most people only acquire for the holidays- could carry us a long way.

Shift Happens

I’m in no way suicidal, but I contemplated stepping in front of a subway car once. It was about a year ago to the day that I stood at the yellow line of the Sunset Station in Los Angeles and thought, “What the hell am I doing here?” I felt purposeless, and therefore useless and hopeless. What I’ve come to understand now is that hopelessness and extreme discomfort is a sure sign that things are about to change. Crazy right? I find that the more popular topics regarding manifestation and taking hold of the very things we’ve been praying for don’t cover the pain that precedes the reward.
In the past five years, I’ve become a very self-aware woman through much trial and error. To be self-aware is to know oneself and to break it down further, it means to become both the participant and the observer in your own life. You thus begin the process of truly understanding who you are by observing how you respond or react to things; what triggers you. As a natural observer, I’ve learned that doing nothing is as much of a response as taking action. I have trained myself to use my hyper-sensitivity and awareness to my benefit by checking my intentions, identifying and sitting with my emotions, setting boundaries, and applying everything I’ve learned to manifest the life that I desire. Unlike the application, these lessons were easy to learn and they prepared me to see the hard things to come, 2020 for example.
The whole year has been a Wizard of Oz moment; the pandemic, senseless deaths resulting in social unrest, and Trump are all a part of the tornado. We’ve just landed in a strange land where we all celebrate that Trump is no longer in power, but now we have another quest: to get back home (the new normal). All in all, we’re not in Kansas anymore, but there are still issues here. We have a new President-elect, but there are more reports of the virus resurging, police are still abusing their authority, and the energy of the collective conscious is heavy. With the election being over, there is a weight that has been lifted, which frees us to focus on other things, even while some of us aren’t willing to address those other things. Up until a little while ago, I was among the unwilling. I was tired of having nothing to do and the way I’m wired, I get tired from doing nothing so sheltering in place has been hard on me. The more active I am (physical or mental), the more energy I have. To get my energy back, I began running again and started to look into creative remote work, while dreaming about my ideal life. It involves finally acquiring a passport and traveling internationally. Whether I travel alone or with company, I don’t care, I want out! My dream life also includes being wealthy, married with children, a dog, and a well-furnished van behind the house for cross country road trips. This dream has been edited time and time again, but now I feel I am acquiring everything on this list. They weren’t kidding when they said pressure creates diamonds because I’ve felt the pressure of instability and loss and I’m finally seeing the glimmer of perfect manifestation.
I’m here to report that answered prayers can be overwhelming and scary and that’s ok. The key is to feel the pain and fear and progress despite it. I have a high pain tolerance as a former athlete, but my emotional pain tolerance was low. The pressure of being homeless on the streets is a different type of pressure from having to live in a young adult shelter with difficult personalities, and I’m not referring to the shelter patrons. The pressure of living with strangers as roommates is a different type of pressure from living with the family members you dislike. However, nothing beats the pressure of not knowing your purpose, and the day I stood waiting for the train, I felt utterly lost and overwhelmed. This wasn’t the first time I’ve felt this feeling, but it was certainly the first time I pondered calling quits. I didn’t feel hopeful about the future or content with the present. I felt alone, but I want you to know you are not alone.
Looking back from where I sit now, I’m glad I didn’t give up because I’m finally catching glimpses of my purpose and what I want to do in this life. As much as I complain about it, sheltering in place has provided a wealth of time for me to observe my journey to this place of peace, wholeness, and emotional healing. I am not alone. You are not alone. Be sure to check on your friends and family to remind them they’re not alone. We are all collectively working toward the life we want to lead at our own pace, so don’t make comparisons, take notes, make adjustments, and live your best life!

The Election is Over, What Now?

On Saturday, October 31, I voted for the first time in my life. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences I’ve had to date. Upon arrival, I was inundated with pamphlets to read outlining each candidate. At the voting station, there were so many names on the ballot that I was unfamiliar with even after having done a bit of research but I ultimately knew that I needed to contribute to this election. When it was over, I felt relief. More so than how I felt on Saturday, November 09, 2020, as I watched President-elect Joe Biden give a speech that spoke to the state of our nation and how he would be a president for all people. Never before has such a promise been made on such a global platform. Hopeful as his words were, they left me with a lot of questions: Will this stance of unity be sustainable throughout his presidency, and what is his definition of unity? Does this unity come at the cost of our voices? And my main question is, what is our role/responsibility now that the election is over?

The roles of President and Vice President have been laid out for Joe Biden and Kamalah Harris by their predecessors, yet I feel their priorities are being challenged to evolve while the roles of the people are changing as well. To successfully progress toward true unity and civil justice, we must re-evaluate the roles we play in society in the movement toward racial equality in ideal America. I’ve observed a variety of roles in my life: The Instigator, The Foot Soldier, The Spectator, and The Scribe/Storyteller. The Instigator fans the flame of chaos, which causes strife and rifts amongst the people. The Foot Soldier is one to take to the streets protesting in a manner that could be either peacefully or violently. They can also participate in financial protests, where they are selective with their circulation of money. The Spectator, from my observation, has a lot to say, but no substantial contribution to a resolution, but a Scribe, is an observer who records and makes a report of their findings. I am the latter.

Now that most of America are at home, we’ve had much time to evaluate where we stand on a lot of issues and how we want to participate in them. There’s been protest after protest in the streets and Blackouts across the internet where people refuse to spend money or feed into the hatred and nonsense. I’ve seen more clips of people speaking out in public hearings this year than ever this year alone, but I find myself among those who sit back and observe and write and tell stories about the things we see and feel from the collective conscious. There was a time where I questioned the value of this and my value. Then I was reminded of great writers, comedians, storytellers like Toni Morrison (God Help The Child), author Tomi Adeyemi (Children of Blood and Bone), comedian Dave Chappelle (Sticks and Stones), and artists such as Childish Gambino (This is America and It Feels Like Summer) who are constantly giving social commentary on life as they see and feel it. The storyteller is no less on the frontlines and the foot soldier, we just function in a different capacity. We remind the people of what was and pose questions about what needs to be done in the present for our future.

I believe it’s time to listen before it’s too late. I was reminded of a post by Will Smith about how we must L.U.V. one another while watching a British GQ interview with Actress Michaela Coel, ‘If you don’t show it, it can be erased’. She said our responsibility is to now understand one another and Will said we must Listen to Understand one another, not just to respond. And we must Validate what we have heard before responding. It’s time for the youth to sit down and have a FaceTime chat with their grandparents to see what they had to endure, and what they chose to do in the face of injustice. It’s time to re-evaluate how we want to approach the matters we still face today and count the cost. It’s time to research sustainable alternatives for living because the Earth is growing weary of our excessive misuse of resources. We must decide on what we want and move unwaveringly. This planet is our responsibility. Our families and our neighbors are our responsibility and we mustn’t shirk them, but embrace them. Have you embraced your responsibilities today?

This. Is. US.

There’s been a sense of urgency and quiet desperation in the air these past few days. People are sitting on pins and needles holding their breath, praying for a hopeful turn out regarding the election. I’m writing this without the foresight of who has won the election, nor do I care. I have this nagging thought that no matter who wins or loses, things aren’t truly going to “go back to normal” or change at a national level if the people aren’t aware and willing to do the work that needs to be done on an individual level first.

This morning I felt the desire to scroll down my Instagram feed, as lately I have felt withdrawn. For weeks my timeline has been inundated with voting propaganda, celebrity endorsements, Biden memes, etc. and the whole thing is a turn-off. Because even if Biden wins and Trump is no longer in power, realistically it’s going to take some serious time to uproot the entanglement America finds herself in with racism and economic disparity. As I was idly scrolling, I came across the feed of @theshelahmarie who posted about Eddie Glaude who is an American Academic and the James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University. What he said in this interview was profound.

To paraphrase, Glaude said that America is not unique in its sins. It has this willful ignorance that protects our innocence. He blew my mind when he relayed the fact that the Tea Party wasn’t about economic populism, but about demographic shifts. They were upset about becoming a minority, so they raised hell. That sounds much like alt-right groups today, huh? Glaude continued to say racism is the ugly underbelly of this country and the country has been playing politics on this hatred. “It’s easy for us to place Pittsburg, Charlottesville, and El Paso on Donald Trump’s shoulders.” He hit the nail on the head for me, when he said that Trump is a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us. I will take it further and dare to say he is a manifestation of karma we’ve had coming as a nation and if we don’t change things now, this will happen again and again. A never-ending cycle of hatred. You may agree to disagree, but simply put, Glaude said “This is us.”

That statement alone shook me because it was jarring and controversial, and it causes a need for self-introspection as well as introspection of the collective. What was our role in all this? Did we educate ourselves enough? Did we fight enough? Did we sage before we left the house, or offer up thanks before our feet even hit the floor? And where do we go from here? I feel like we’re recovering ground in our search for truth amid all this fear-mongering and blatant propaganda. The collective is feeling the pain from the loss of loved ones, rage from the lack of justice, and fear of the unknown. The possibility of things being left open-ended can weigh on the collective consciousness, so do your part and check-in with yourself and make sure your mental and spiritual health is up to par, then check on your friends and family to offer support where you can. Support your local Black-owned businesses to generate circulation of wealth within your community. Support Black-owned businesses in general. The floor has opened to mental, spiritual, emotional, and political questions. Your voice and opinions matter, so keep the conversations going and remain open to understand others. There is as much space to disagree amicably as there is to agree. We have to set the standard and remain firm because it starts, is maintained, and ended with us people. We’ve made it this far together, and if we continue to lay the foundation and build one another up, we will thrive.

Why Do I Feel So NAKED?

Have you ever had to have a conversation with someone that you dreaded having? I bet you wished you could skip the whole process, or that they could read your mind, thus taking the pressure off of you. Unfortunately, things don’t happen that way. People may be perceptive enough to sense when something is wrong with you, but chances are high that your friends aren’t mind readers, so how could they possibly know what’s bothering you if you don’t communicate that to them clearly?

Most people are terrified by the mere idea of being vulnerable with someone. More so emotionally than physically. From a very young age, we begin to develop emotional defense patterns, also known as “5 Personality Patterns” according to Steven Kessler. We can either shut down, become flighty, neglect/project our own needs onto others, or become quite aggressive when feeling threatened emotionally. These patterns can come into play when we are given critiques we were unprepared for, as well as moments where we are the ones giving the criticism. Generations predating Generation Z, did not grow up with TED Talks and other resources that we have today. We coped as best we could and communicated with as much emotional maturity as we had available and adapted as more information was provided via life research or life experience.

One thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that there are some self assessing moments where we have to have conversations with ourselves that cause us to self correct and self soothe and there are others where we take the resolutions of those internal conversations and share those findings with those who are directly impacted by the issue at hand. Just the other day, I had to have a conversation that I felt in no way prepared for.

For about a week I had been feeling at ill ease with the state of a situation, but didn’t fully understand why. The more I sat with myself, quieted my mind, and let the thoughts and emotions flow, the clearer the root of the issue became in my minds eye; I was being triggered in the present by somethings I hadn’t dealt with from the past. It took me having a moment of clarity on the couch to see what my subconscious was trying to communicate to me. The kicker is that the communication couldn’t end there. This situation called for me to identify the issue for myself and share that information with someone else. Thankfully, the person that I had to communicate my feelings to hadn’t seen me in my distraught state of mind until I myself had identified the problem first. I gathered every bit of courage that I could muster, hid my face under the readily available blanket, and began to spill the contents of my heart. It was by far the most naked I’ve ever felt in my life. Vulnerability is like sitting that dream where you’re nude in a classroom of your peers, but they see all your emotional flaws. I don’t mention this to scare you, but to prepare you because the results were beyond worth it. I got a strengthened bond, they got a deeper understanding of me, and my fears were quelled.

The key thing in moments of vulnerability is that the person you are communicating with validates your emotions and respects you, because you respect this person enough to share your thoughts and fears with them. Surround yourself with people who value your emotions and respect you and your boundaries. Moments of vulnerability are few and far in between, but they produce gems that should be shared with loved ones and cherished forever.

Minimalism: Less Is Indeed More

This may sound like a humble brag, but I was a minimalist /essentialist before it was cool, which was long before I even knew what it meant to be a minimalist. To me, being a minimalist is a lifestyle. It means living with things you really need and minimizing what distracts us from living with intentionality and freedom. The process usually entails placing all of ones items into one place categorically (clothing, paperwork, knick knacks, etc) and making decisions about what you need and what goes. My introduction to the lifestyle didn’t come from word of mouth, or the internet, but from sheer necessity.

I needed to travel to California for grad school on a tight budget, means means I flew on Spirit airlines, and there was no room for luggage in that budget. I also felt it was time for a fresh start and clean break from the east coast. Hence my need to minimize my belongings and pack the necessities. I also felt that it was time for a fresh start and clean break from the east coast. The majority of my belongings were already in storage bins, so the hardest part was deciding what would make the trip and how to say goodbye to the rest. After much debating with myself, I settled on what to pack:

  • Chambray top
  • Printed shorts
  • Navy blue short sleeve
  • Denim jacket
  • Coral crop
  • Printed maxi
  • Striped jumper
  • Cream tie neck blouse
  • Cardigan
  • Sandals

What I wore on the plane was a white tee, blue flared jeans, a kimono, slip ons, a black hat, and slip on shoes. I had unwittingly created a capsule wardrobe. However, I still didn’t feel prepared for this journey, and the truth is I wasn’t. I didn’t have warm enough layers for the cool desert nights heading into the fall. I felt unprepared in so many ways, but little did I know that my clothing was the least of my concerns. Most people still believe that they are being judged by those in their immediate circle of influence, and if you are, maybe you need to make some changes there. I was of the mindset, like so many others, that it takes having a plethora of options in my closet to feel ready for the day and I discovered very quickly that this isn’t true. In reality, all these options can leave you feeling overwhelmed.

I was rotating the same fourteen items of clothing in my closet for twenty-one days of grad school until my FAFSA kicked in, and no one was the least concerned with how my pieces were being rotated from day to day. Sometimes I wore the same shirt or bottoms twice in the same week, and I wasn’t given a second glance. I was so pleased to learn that people aren’t as shallow as I once thought they were. I was also surprised by the ease I had when creating outfits for the week. I didn’t really spot the difference until my FAFSA cleared, I bought way more clothes than I needed, and getting dressed became overwhelming once again.

I look back over the years and I see how the experience impacted my purchase habits, wearing habits, and style. I learned to purchase items with intention, and actually stick to my guns about what I want, instead of settling for something because, it’s cute, it’s there, and it’s cheap. Cheaper isn’t always better. I may have started this journey because of necessity, but it is maintained by a desire for sustainability. It’s taken much trial and error with purchasing and styling, but my belongings reflect my life accurately now. I’m a remote-working homebody who runs a lot of errands, so my wardrobe is about 55% loungewear, 30% errand worthy, 10% athletic, and 5% going out. I have so much more peace of mind now because the items I have were purchased or traded with intentionality and they reflect who I am. My experience is by no means an overnight success story, but these little pieces have contributed to who I am today, and it is an honor to share that with you all.

WHO ARE YOU?

I love how life imitates art and vice versa. Leave it to a TV series to ask the deep questions. The question of “Who are you?” has become prevalent in my life lately. It’s shown up in “The Gift” on Netflix, which is a series about an artist who sets out on a journey of self discovery and how her work ties into her ancestry. Many times in the first episode alone she was asked, “Who are you?” and as simple as the question was, it required her to question all she knew about herself and where she placed her self value. She began to pull at loose threads in the stories her parents would tell her about herself and her ancestry until her vision of herself began to crumble, and she had to find out who she was in the midst of chaos, much like this new generation of high school and college students today. They are forced to face themselves in self isolation and quarantine in the midst of a pandemic in one of the most crucial election years.

COVID-19 (C-19) has presented the ultimate Tower moment, where life as we have known it has been flipped on its head. Prior to the virus, many had plans to go to college or take a gap year and essentially live their best lives. They were probably looking forward to taking the road most traveled by: higher education, which leads to good job with benefits, meeting and marrying the love of their life, and retiring well off. Financial stability, love, and good emotional and mental health, this is the American dream. It’s also the misconception about adulting; that at some point we will have everything together. I think we’ve almost accepted that we’re not perfect and that things can fall through the cracks. If only we could extend this grace and wisdom to the youth…

I look back on most of my life, and I see that I equated who I was with what I did and was only happy when I was excelling at it, whether it be in academics or athletics. I defined myself by a summary of my accomplishments and goals not knowing who I truly was. I was a track and field athlete in pursuit of the olympics from the age of sixteen. My need to run was so engrained in me from the age of eight that I didn’t know who I was without it. I didn’t want to know who I was without it, but there came a day when I had no choice but to walk away from that piece of my identity. I was twenty two with no identity and even after acquiring a Masters degree in Film and Media, I took on the identity of “grad student filmmaker”. I was still seeing myself through the lens of my actions and valued myself according to what I was doing. It’s a common trap to fall into, and it wasn’t until everything was stripped from me that I truly saw who I was and what I brought to the table. It is my hope that the youth don’t have to lose pieces of themselves to find themselves the way I did. I hope they find themselves through joy and that they excel at everything they put their minds and hands to with support from their parents and guardians, so adults, please put yourselves in remembrance of a few things:

  • You are their first teacher. They learn how to respond to success and failures through you.
  • Tell them you love them, even when they’ve done nothing but sit on the couch watching Naruto all day. It shows that you see them, even when they haven’t necessarily done anything.
  • Validate their emotions, even when you feel they are in the wrong. Everyone is entitled to their emotions. It is our responsibility as adults to facilitate and aid them in navigating them.
  • Affirm who they are in the home before the world gets a chance to.

One of my favorite quotes is, “we are our ancestors wildest dreams”. It comforts me to know they are out there supporting my journey. How much more of an impact will your words have on your children with you present being a present force in their lives? They may or may not know who they are, but when you facilitate the journey with love, you’ll be amazed at the discoveries you make together.