Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012? Yep, I'm ready...

Oprah, oh how I love thee. You have made the task of mapping out my yearly goals so much simpler with this handy dandy Dreamboard tool on your website. There's a reason you're a billionaire, you know...LOL.

Keeping a vision board (in some form or fashion) is something that I've done for the last several years, and corny as it may seem, it really is effective. Having a visual of the things that you hope to accomplish not only serves as a constant reminder of your goals, but I find that it also serves as an accountability tool. Its so easy to make resolutions at the start of the year, only to abandon them by springtime. I've found that looking at my goals in words and pictures several times a day helps me focus my thinking, and evaluate whether the activities I'm engaging in on a daily basis are bringing me closer to my dreams, or hindering my progress.

For some people, the process of setting goals can be overwhelming. Where do you even start? How do you know what to focus on first? For me, dividing my life into five big areas (health, career, finances, spirituality, and relationships), and setting a goal for each one is the best way to make sure I'm focusing on the things in my life that are truly important. And when I do cross a milestone or realize that I'm making progress towards the things on my board, I find some small way to celebrate, just to keep myself motivated.

So now that my electronic board is complete (I use it as the desktop background on my laptop and home desktop), its time to start working on the one that I hang in my bedroom. The more reminders I have to keep me on track, the better. 2012 is almost here, and its time to put my best productive foot forward.

*In my Waka Flacka voice* OH LET'S DO IT! ;-)


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wait, you've got a baby?!? WTF?!?!?

Facebook can be such a wonderful thing. I use it to keep up with family members, friends, colleagues, and former students of mine, particularly the ones I taught my very first year, who are now juniors in high school. I post words of encouragement on their walls, ask them about their families and schoolwork, and even assist them with homework assignments and papers from time to time. Anyway, as I was sitting at home yesterday afternoon, browsing and checking messages, I ran across the profiles of two of my former female students, both of whom are now juniors in high school. What I found on both profiles shocked me and brought tears to my eyes: both these young ladies are mothers now. My first reaction was to scream out loud "Noooo, not you (jnsert name of former student here)!!! You've got a baby now? What the f#%k happened?" And at that last part, I had to laugh at myself (even as I'd begun to cry), because it was obvious what had happened, and their two small babies were the evidence of it.

At first, I scolded myself for having the reaction that I did. Why did I care so much? Who was I to be upset, or shocked, or hurt that these young women had become teen mothers? I had only taught them for a year, so why was I bothering to still check up on them anyway? I had seen tons of young girls have babies throughout my adulthood, so why did I feel so affected by these two? And then I remembered the time I had spent with them when they were in middle school. I remembered having each one in my English class, and thought about all the potential I had seen in each one of them. I thought about how I had tutored one of them after school twice a week, and how proud I felt when her grades and test scores finally began to improve. I thought about how the other one would come to school way earlier than the other kids, because she knew I got there early, and that was our time to talk about all the rough things she was going through at home. I thought about the life I had wanted so badly for both of them: a college education, a career, options beyond their rural, poverty-stricken community. And its not that they can't ever have these things because they now have children; I've seen several young mothers defy the odds and attain an education and a stable life for themselves and for their kids. I guess what hurts me to my core is the fact that I know the difficulties that lie ahead of them, and I know that the odds are not stacked in their favor. I know how tempting it will be for both of them to just drop out of school, because trying to take care of a young baby and go to school is so hard. And without that education, I know how hard it will be for them to get a decent, well-paying job, thus forcing them into a cycle of poverty and unemployment that they are both all too familiar with because of their own upbringings. I know that society will label them as just another pair of statistics, and dismiss them as yet another addition to the long list of young mothers receiving public assistance.

Even though I felt disappointed, I still sent each one my customary "How's everything going in school, I'm here for you if you need me" message. But for these two young ladies, I added an extra line: "You can do it. No matter what anyone says or how difficult things may seem, you can do it. Giving up is still not an option." I pray to God that that ends up being the case.


Monday, November 7, 2011

A Blessing in Disguise

This has no doubt been one of the most difficult and physically painful weeks in my entire life. Most people who know me already know the story, but for those of you in the blogosphere who don't, I suffered a pretty serious  injury at work (I won't go into all the details, but I will say it involved my head, metal plates, and a school bus door. I know right? You can go ahead and say it, random shit like that only happens to me!). Needless to say, I've spent the last week back and forth at a variety of doctors, out of work and holed up in my apartment trying to recover. Being the undeniably selfish person that I sometimes am, naturally my first response was "Why me?" All I could think about was how painful and inconvenient this whole ordeal was shaping up to be, and how it was unfair that I had to go through this.

But as I spent my week glued to my couch, slipping in and out of consciousness from a cocktail of medications, a funny thing happened.

It became clear to me just how much love I have in my life in the form of family members, friends (the real life and virtual kind) and co-workers that I often take for granted. The kindness shown to me was simply overwhelming: my mother who dropped everything and drove three hours to be with me; my family members, personal friends, Facebook friends, and Twitter followers who kept my phone buzzing and email box full with a constant barrage of calls, text messages, wall posts, tweets, and emails to see how I was doing; my co-workers who drove me to doctor appointments, filled prescriptions, fed me, and even saw to it that my vehicle was safe (because I was in no shape to operate it). I couldn't believe how many people went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. So often, I get so bogged down by all my responsibilities that I forget just how truly wonderful and beautiful the people in my life are. When I was first injured, the school sent someone to pick me up and take me to the doctor. As I sat there and waited, the thought kept replaying in my mind that I was here all alone. My entire family was three hours away, and should I have an emergency (like right now), I didn't even have anyone that I could call right away for help. That thought (along with the excruciating pain in my head) made me sob uncontrollably. But the outpouring of support I received throughout the week let me know just how wrong I was. And I've never been so happy to be wrong :-)

When I felt I had enough,
You never turned away,
You were right there....


Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Like You, but...(I'm Just Not That Into You)

This whole dating scene can be quite a slippery slope that I often don't know how to navigate. With that said, it is no surprise that I find myself with yet another conundrum on my hands regarding the opposite sex. So here's my dilemma. For the last few weeks, I've been hanging out with a gentleman we'll call Ryan (and before anyone asks, he is not a social media friend of mine, nor does he even know that I keep this blog). On paper, Ryan is everything I should want in a guy: intelligent, educated, well-mannered, funny, goal-oriented, spiritual and hard working. As for looks, he's somewhat attractive...no Denzel, but certainly matinee-able. I met Ryan through some mutual friends who were sure we would hit it off instantly. We've been out several times, and I always enjoy myself. The conversation is engaging, and for the most part, everything has been going pretty smoothly. There's just one problem: I don't feel anything. The spark, chemistry, fireworks, butterflies, "je ne sais quoi," (or whatever your preferred terminology for that unexplainable excitement you experience around someone that you're really into) is noticeably lacking. I recall noticing after the first couple of dates that that feeling was absent, but I told myself to stop being silly...Ryan was such a nice guy, surely it would come on its own, right? Fast forward almost a month, and my mojo still doesn't feel the least bit tickled.

Don't get me wrong, Ryan is a really cool person, and I have no qualms about hanging out with him despite my lack of romantic enthusiasm. The problem is that Ryan seems to really like me a lot, and whenever he makes those comments like "You're exactly the kind of woman I could see myself with," I smile very sweetly and find a way to conveniently change the subject. I'm aware of the fact that that strategy will only work for so long. I'm not in the business of playing with anyone's feelings, which is why a part of me thinks the best course of action would be to tell Ryan how I feel and keep it moving. On the other hand, maybe my heart and spirit just need a little more time to warm up to this fella. I don't want to dismiss a potentially right person all because I didn't give myself enough time. (Sigh) What's a girl to do?

Should I give up, or should I just keep chasing pavements? 
Even if it leads nowhere? 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Secret #1: Be True to Yourself

Today I took a field trip to one of my favorite places on the planet: Barnes & Noble! (I realize that answer may be more than underwhelming to most of you, but thousands of books and a Starbucks under one roof turns me on...don't judge me!) Anyway, I picked up a book called "The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die" by John Izzo, Ph.D. At first I just picked it up because the title sounded slightly intriguing, but once I started flipping through it, I couldn't put it down. The first secret the author mentions is following your heart and being true to yourself. Initially, I found myself thinking "Duh, who doesn't know that in life you should follow your heart?" But as I continued reading and reflecting I realized that while I had heard this nugget of wisdom time and time again, I couldn't honestly say I was applying it to every aspect of my life. According to the author, the key is to "live with intention" and consistently and regularly ask yourself three critical life questions:

1. Am I following my heart and being true to myself in every situation?
2. Is my life focused on the things that really matter to me?
3. Am I being the person I want to be in the world?

Before I could answer any of these questions, I had to pause and think about exactly what "following your heart" means. It could mean doing work that suits your deepest interests, being true to yourself in the kind of life you choose, being honest about what you want, and taking time to listen to the small, inner voice that tells you if you are missing the mark of your deepest desires. After pondering all these things, I realized that for the most part, I am being true to myself and focusing my life on the things that really matter to me-making a difference in the lives of young people, giving back to my community, and challenging myself to grow physically, mentally and emotionally.

While I can definitively say that I'm being true to myself in all these areas, my personal relationships could use some work. I find that in my relationships with others (family members, friends, and romantic partners) I'm not always true to myself. Many times, I've found myself settling for situations that ultimately don't line up with my deepest desires for myself, because I'm trying so hard to satisfy the other person. Somewhere along the line, my psyche adopted the idea that it is better to ignore what's in my heart than risk having someone walk out of my life. But the more I think about it, the more I recognize that following my heart is an urgent journey, and the people who really belong in my life will gladly go along for the ride; the ones who don't will eventually be left behind in the dust.

And to think, this whole epiphany began with a book and a cup of coffee...see why I love Barnes & Noble? ;-)


Monday, August 29, 2011

Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day

As an undercover poet, I love reading and listening to good poetry. To me, the power of a good poem is its ability to paint a unique perspective of those emotions and experiences that are most difficult to express. For the last few weeks (probably since my 28th birthday) I've felt this dull throbbing inside me that I can't really explain. Somewhere between anxiety and control, restlessness and satisfaction, frustration and contentment, doubt and assurance, and motivation and apathy is me. Its not a feeling I give voice to often, mostly because its so hard for me to find the right words to convey it. While doing some reading the other night, I ran across one of my favorite poems by one of my favorite poets, "Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day" by Nikki Giovanni. It almost brought tears to my eyes because it seemed to say all the things that I couldn't seem to find the right words for. After reading it several times, I felt myself sighing with relief. Once again, Ms. Nikki had hit the proverbial nail on the head, and reminded me of why she has a way with words like no other.

Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day
Don't look now
I'm fading away
Into the gray of my mornings
Or the blues of every night

Is it that my nails
   keep breaking
Or maybe the corn
   on my second little piggy
Things keep popping out
   on my face
    of my life

It seems no matter how
I try I become more difficult
     to hold
I am not an easy woman
     to want

They have asked
      the psychiatrists   psychologists    politicians   and
      social workers
What this decade will be
       known for
There is no doubt      it is

If loneliness were a grape
      the wine would be vintage
If it were a wood
      the furniture would be mahogany
But since it is life      it is
       Cotton Candy
            on a rainy day
The sweet soft essence
       of possibility
Never quite maturing

I have prided myself
On being in that great tradition
     albeit circus
That the show must go on
Though in my community the vernacular is
   One Monkey Don't Stop the Show

We all line up
    at some midway point
To thread our way through
     the boredom and futility
Looking for the blue ribbon and gold medal

Mostly these are seen as food labels

We are consumed by people who sing
    the same old song       STAY:
                                                  as sweet as you are
                                                  in my corner
Or perhaps                                just a little bit longer
But whatever you do                 don't change baby baby don't change
Something needs to change
Everything   some say   will change
I need a change
      of pace      face     attitude and life
Though I long for my loneliness
I know I need something
Or someone

I strangle my words as easily as I do my tears
I stifle my screams as frequently as I flash my smile
       it means nothing
I am cotton candy on a rainy day
       the unrealized dream of an idea unborn

I share with the painters the desire
To put a three-dimensional picture
On a one-dimensional surface

-Nikki Giovanni

Saturday, April 30, 2011

10 Years? Man, I'm Getting Old!

Today, I'm travelling to Charleston for my 10 year high school reunion. I can't even believe I've been out of school that long! It feels like the years between 17 and 27 flew by me in a whirlwind. When I think back about myself at 17, all I can do is shake my head. What a naive, self-absorbed, bright-eyed little narcissist I was! I thought I had the world all figured out, and if you had asked me then what I'd be doing at 27, I could rattle off a list of accomplishments without batting an eyelash: I'd be a successful television news anchor on a top-rated station, married to the most gorgeous man who ever lived, with two kids, a big house, and a little puppy named Snowflake. In short, I thought I would have it all, do it all, and be it all. And like most peopole, I was sure that once I possessed "it all" I would live happily ever after. What a difference a decade can make. Today, I don't possess any of those things...no television news anchor job, no house, no kids, no husband, and no Snowflake. But what I discovered over the last 10 years is so much better. After travelling down a long road filled with ups, downs, highs (and I do mean highs, thanks to a long love affair with Cannibis sativa), lows, achievements, disappointments, heartbreak, and even a stint in rehab, I discovered something so much better than the life I thought I wanted at 17. I discovered my purpose and my passion. Every morning I get up fully aware of what my Creator put me here to do: to inspire, encourage, educate, empower and motivate young people. I thank Him everyday for the vision that He has placed in my mind and heart, which is to eventually step out and open my own school. And every single day, He places the right people and opportunities in my path to bring me closer and closer to making that dream a reality. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I get frustrated that certain parts of my life didn't materialize the way I wanted them to, but when those moments come, I have to remind myself of how truly fortunate I really am. Most people I know live their lives day in and day out with no clue as to why they are here or what they have been called to do. And while they may have the house, the car, the man/woman, the kids, the money, etc., deep inside, its still not enough to make them happy. Happiness is elusive, but I've come to find that joy is knowing who you are, where you're going, what you're here for, and enjoying the journey and all the people you encounter along the way. I may not be happy all the time, but at 27 I'm getting all the joy I can stand. I'm glad to know that after 10 years, I've finally learned the difference.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Damn, That's Me....

On my way home from school today, I got tired of listening to the foolishness on the radio, so I decided to pop in a CD. I wanted something different that I hadn't heard in awhile, so I dug out my CD book, flipped to the back, and pulled out the soundtrack to the movie "Waiting to Exhale." As I was listening, I began to remember how much I loved not only the soundtrack, but also the movie and the novel. I can remember being in the seventh grade when the movie premiered, and seeing my mother, aunts, and every other grown Black woman I knew flock to movie theaters, and bump the soundtrack on repeat. Thanks to Blockbuster and BET re-runs, I've seen the movie a million times over the years. Driving home listening to the soundtrack, my mind began to wander and I thought about the plot and the characters. There was Savannah (Whitney Houston), the woman with the successful TV career who hopes and believes her married lover will leave his wife for her. And who could forget Bernadine (Angela Bassett) who set her husband's car ablaze after finding out he was leaving her for another woman. There was Robin, another successful career woman who decides to stop being her man's sidepiece, but then can't find a decent man of her own. And finally there was Gloria (Loretta Devine) who ends up getting with her neighbor after her son decides to travel around the world. For these women, breathing was a metaphor for feeling comfortable in a committed relationship with a man. As I continued listening, it occurred to me that this wasn't the same story I had seen and heard when I was twelve. Back then it was just some story about a bunch of bitter women who had to stick together because men had done them wrong. At the ripe old age of 27, I could see myself in just about all these stories. "Damn," I said out loud to myself. "That's me."

I had been Savannah, in love with a married man who made promises that he couldn't keep. I had been Bernadine, completely compromising who I was and what I wanted for almost a decade because I was so in love, only to have the person lie, cheat, then turn around and marry someone else. While I didn't set a car on fire or sell any personal possessions, I certainly did get revenge in the most hurtful way that I could think of. And I had been Robin, smart, driven, and on top of my game professionally, but seriously dense when it came to choosing the right man. But I did recognize one difference between myself and these women (other than the obvious fact that my story was real and theirs was not). Rather than throw a pity party for myself after each failed attempt at love, I chalked it up to a lesson learned and moved on to the next one. And day by day I learn to fall in love with the woman I've become, and the woman that I'm striving to be.

As for the opposite sex, who knows...maybe I'll get to breathe by the time I'm 30 ;-)


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Anatomy of Regret

So I was having a conversation with a good friend the other day, and he asked me a question that I hadn't really considered in a long time. You know, one of those questions that makes you pause, furrow your brow, and inevitably leaves you speechless because your mouth can't seem to put all the thoughts racing through your head into words. 

"If you could go back in time and change one moment that you regret, what would it be?" 

What a loaded question! And in trying to formulate an answer, a barrage of mental pictures from the last 27 years flooded my mind. In my mind's eye, I saw episode after episode of careless decisions I had made, people that I had hurt, and worse of all, people I had allowed to come into my life and hurt me. "Are you sure I can only choose one moment?" I asked, knowing this would be a nearly impossible task, considering all the dirt that I had done, and all the shady individuals I had rubbed elbows with over the years.

"Yep, just one," was his reply. I sighed heavily, trying to narrow a mountain of poor judgment calls, bad choices, destructive habits, and toxic relationships down to one single moment. For the sake of advancing the conversation, I finally gave an answer. "I regret the moment I ignored my intuition and decided to stay in a particularly unhealthy relationship just because it was comfortable and familiar."

And that was that. My friend gave his reply, and we eventually moved on to another topic of conversation, but the question nagged and tugged at my brain for days afterward. I kept thinking about all the things in my life that would've been different if I only done this, or said that. If I had only left this situation, taken that job, not developed that habit, said no to this temptation or that, not allowed certain people to enter my life, where would I be right now? I thought about all the times I had been so careless with my life and the lives of others and what the end result could have been, and I became overwhelmed. The weight of all the things I wished I could go back in time and repair became too heavy, and before I knew it the tears came. I gave myself a few minutes to cry, before deciding I'd had enough. I dried my face and got busy doing something else so that I wouldn't have to think about it any longer.

Then a funny thing happened. I went to church that Sunday, and my pastor's message was all about the assignments that God gives us for our lives, and how He can use every imperfection and shortcoming that we have to fulfill His assignment for us. I started thinking about all the many regrets that had been weighing heavily on my mind in the previous days, and in that moment God led me into a moment of epiphany. There was not a single decision, choice, relationship, or experience that I should regret. I needed every single one those moments-no matter how reckless, how painful, how dark or how destructive they may have been-to make me the woman that He has called me to be. A woman whose assignment is to change lives through education, compassion, and empowerment. It was my duty to not only embrace those imperfect and painful moments that I had come to regret, but to use them to help me connect with the many young people that I came into contact with every single day. I started to cry again, but this time my tears were tears of gratitude, thanking God for taking my ugly past and using it to create a beautiful present, and radiant future.