I remember the first time I knew I was black - I was five years old and a group of kids in my kindergarten class were going to play Power Rangers. I called Pink Ranger and another little girl looked me in the face and said I couldn't be Pink Ranger, because Kimberly was white and I was black. The next year I couldn't go spend the night at my best friend's house, because her father didn't want a black person in his home. I had a complicated relationship with my blackness for years. I spent years not understanding or accepting my blackness because I wasn’t sure where it left me in the world.I wasn’t black enough to be black and I wasn’t white enough to be white. For years, I identified with white culture, and I wanted to fit in with whiteness - I was a baby goth and a complete nerd, things heavily identified with whiteness. I didn’t identify with black culture - I hated church, I didn’t like Tyler Perry movies, and I wasn’t into hip-hop music. However, Black culture is so much deeper than that, andthe media didn't/doesn't want people to know that. Unfortunately that superficial glance was all that was fed through the media for years and, that’s what people saw, that's what I saw. Blackness is bad. Blackness is sad slave movies. Blackness is ghetto and loud and harsh and less than. I thought I could not succeed and be the person I wanted to be and be black. No skinny ass emo goth boy would ever date me, love me, because of my blackness. I was always told that I was smart for a black girl, pretty for a black girl, talented for a black girl...and that clearly meant my intelligence, beauty, and talent would never measure up. But then I got older and I read books by Zora Neale Hurston and bell hooks. I took Sociology and Black Studies and Theater classes with professors who understood blackness. I listened to A Tribe Called Quest and watched films with Sidney Poitier, and really listened to, not just heard Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. I voted for Barack Obama. I began to de-colonize myself. I reclaimed my blackness. I am the great-grandaughter of a man who was born a slave and died the owner of the largest farm in Louisinana. I am the grandaughter of a man who only had an eighth grade education, the man who laid the blueprint that Century City Mall still sits in, the man who was awarded five metals in World War II. I am the grandaughter of one of the Rosie the Riveter's and COGIC royalty. I am the daughter of Acquanetta - top of her class in law scool, an ordained minister (who was ordained when women just didn't do that) and biblical scholar, mother to three brilliant successful children. I am black. We are in a golden age of black media - positive and deverse portrayals of black people abound. And when I walked out of the theater after seeing Black Panther the first time - my god, how I cried. I didn't just cry for me - I cried for the little girls who get to go to kindergarten this year and get to be Nakia, Okoye, or Shuri on the playground and no one gets to say a damned thing to them about who they can be and what they can do. Wakanda Forever!
So. It's my half-birthday. I know to most people it's not a thing, but it's totally a thing to me. I will take any and every chance to look back and reflect and assess. For the past two years I've written myself a letter and sealed it for the next year. Since my next birthday will be a landmark - I'll be turning 30 - I thought I should publish this year's letter. I was inspired by Evan Rachel Wood's piece about turning 30 for Nylon, and found myself echoing a lot of the lessons she learned in her twenties.
I'm in the last six months of my twenties, and this decade was nothing like I thought it would be, but it was both the best and worst one yet. I learned a lot. A lot. I went from being a dumb kid to being a decent adult and pretty soon I'm actually going to get good about sticking to a budget, calling my family when it's not a holiday, and eating my vegetables every day - it's a growth process folks. Poor attempts at humor aside - these are the big lessons I learned. These are the ones that kicked my ass and made me cry and made me wake up and changed me and made me into the person I'm proud to be today.
Build Good Relationships and Start With Yourself There are a ton of platitudes about how you have to love yourself first - and they're all true, even if they are corny as fuck. It's damn near impossible to really be there for someone else if you're not attending to your own mind, body, and spirit first. It isn't being selfish - it's necessary for your health. Furthermore, if you don't the wrong kind of people will leech onto you, exploit you, abuse you, and make it that much harder to take care of yourself and those that you care about. I am an empath. I love people and I always want to help people. When I was younger, I was a fucking garbage dump for people who didn't give a shit about me - just what I could do for them. I had a series of codependent relationships with narcissists and selfish people. When I was finally able to cut them out, I realized I needed to turn my emotional intelligence inward and care for myself the way I cared for those people who had broken my down. I built myself back up. I, now, have the best relationships I've had. I invest in people who invest in me. I have a much better bullshit meter and I can tell when someone just wants something from me and doesn't want me.
Go Places Alone Take time for yourself. Get comfortable being by yourself. Be your own friend. Don't miss that concert or that movie because no one wants to go with you. If you can't be around yourself and feel good about it - you can't really feel good about around other people. Being introverted and an empath - I need to be alone. Being around too many people literally exhausts me. I need down time after social gatherings; I can catch people's shit and hold onto it like it was my own shit. I treasure my alone time - but I had to grow into that space. I had to truly be left alone by people I thought cared and learn how to be okay being with only me.
Check In and Ask Yourself Hard Questions I had a theater teacher who made us "check in" every time we gathered for class or rehearsal. Just one or two words about how we felt. No explanation, no qualifications, no judgement. Check in with yourself and always ask yourself two questions: “What am I feeling? And why am I feeling it?” Answer as deeply and honestly as you can. And don't judge yourself for the answers. Adapt, change, adjust, but don't judge.
Say I Don't Know and Ask for Help You don't know everything. You can't. It's literally impossible. Tell people you don't know if you don't know - and then volunteer to figure it out together. Don’t be afraid of asking questions—any question, anytime, to anyone - be curious, be childlike. There aren't dumb questions - but there are assholes, and do you really care about the opinions of assholes?
Be Authentic and Honest and Speak Your Truth and Trust Your Intuition Be honest. Just be honest. It doesn't matter if it isn't necessarily the nicest thing you've ever said, but lying spares no ones feelings - least of all you own. Say no to people often. Tell the truth at all costs. That extends to how you dress, how you act, what jobs you take, what people you spend time with. Be authentic in all of those things and let who you are deep down inside show in your words and actions. Speaking of deep down inside? Listen to that voice deep down inside and let it guide you. It knows what's best for you. The more honest and authentic you are, the easier it is to hear that voice. Don't make people guess, don't let them assume, don't play games, don't think they can read your mind - BE. HONEST.
Own Your Shit Everyone has shit. Traumas. Ticks. Quirks. Fears. Insecurities. We all have shit. Own your shit. It's your shit. Claim it and be freed from it. Don't use it as an excuse for anything. Don't try to pretend like it's not there, even though everyone can smell it. There's no air freshener that's gonna cover the smell of that kind of shit. BE. HONEST. You've got shit. We all do. Own it, before someone tries to take it from you and use it against you. Yes, there are some monkeys in the jungle who are going to try and throw your shit and their shit at you. But if you own your shit, they can't throw it at you. And if they try and throw theirs at you - well, you've been handling your own shit, so you'll know just how to deal with it.
Success and Money Success means a lot of different things to people. Your own meaning of success will change. The truth of the matter is - it's not an exact science, no matter what you call it. It's luck, and skill, and timing, and preparation, and talent all thrown together. Some days you're gonna feel successful and some days you won't. The most important part is to define it for yourself. Money is not success. Money isn't real. If you get caught up thinking too much about money - start singing the old Prince tune, "Money don't matter tonight, and it sure didn't matter yesterday. Just when you think you you've got more than enough, that's when it all up and flies away.That's when you find out that you're better off makin' sure your soul's alright. 'Cause money didn't matter yesterday, and it sure don't matter tonight."
Social Media Isn't Real Your Instagram feed is not an accurate representation of your life - no matter how authentic you are on it. Neither is your Facebook wall, your Twitter feed, your Tumblr blog, your Snapchat story, your LinkedIn profile, or your personal website. They're snapshots. They're a curated highlight reel. And that's true of everyone you know. Don't you dare lurk on her Instagram profile and start comparing yourself to her. It's not even 180 degrees of a full circle. It's all fake.
Don't Be Ruled By Shoulds There's no magical age that you're going to turn and everything is going to fall into place. Life just doesn't work like that. Stop thinking that you should be married by that age, or you should have that kind of job or you should feel some type of way about certain news, or you should whatever the fuck. Those are all just as real as social media - they're fake as fuck. You move at your own pace and you do things when they feel right.
Texting Texting is a highly fallible form of communication. Don't have important conversations over text message, call them or meet up. Don't get goaded into text arguments. Things get misconstrued really easily. Don't confess your feelings over text. Do take screenshots and keep receipts. Especially if you know shitty people. And we all know at least a few shitty people.
Learn How To Swim and Stop Waiting To Do The Thing Everyone is scared of something. Sometimes we can get so scared about something bad happening we get paralyzed and do nothing and bad things happen anyway. That's life. Bad things happen. Sometimes we worry about them so much we cause them to happen. My worst fear was drowning. I was so terrified of drowning; I never learned how to swim. That makes a lot of sense, right? I learned how to swim in my twenties. I'm still not a strong swimmer. I'm still very tense and scared in water, but I won't drown. I know that much. I stood up to my worst fear. It made standing up to the little ones that much easier. I don't need to be afraid some boy won't text me back - I fucking know how to swim. Stop being afraid. Stop waiting to do the thing because you're afraid - whatever the thing is. Just do it.
Better to Remain Silent and Be Thought a Fool than to Speak and Remove All Doubt One of grandfather's favorite sayings and one of the truest. Don't speak just to fill the air with noise. Make people earn your words. Take a few moments and think before you respond.
Say Sorry and fucking mean it when you do. Correct your wrongdoings. You are going to fuck up. Everyone does. You don't have to BE a fuck up, though. And don't expect an apology in return. You usually won't get one.
Dance. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. You don't have to be good. "Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. Great dancers are great because of their passion" - Martha Graham. And when you dance, whatever gross energy you're carrying around - leave it on the dance floor.
Sing. It makes you feel good. It keeps you healthy. It gives you a voice when you feel like you don't have one. Sing in grocery stores and the shower and your car and at concerts and when you're dancing. Sing it loud and play your music louder.
Forgiveness Forgiveness is really just understanding. Put yourself in their shoes for a second. Understand why they did it. And let it go. You wouldn't have done it that way. It hurt you. It's also over. If you want to keep them - you can't keep punishing them. If you don't want to keep them - carrying that bitterness will only hurt you.
Be a Vessel. Fill yourself with love and kind words and thoughtful actions and carry them to everyone that you meet. If someone is struggling, carry them. Give them food, or a cup of coffee, or just a few minutes of your time. Be someone safe for those that you love. You will always need a vessel, and you even when you feel like you have nothing, you will need to be a vessel for someone who has even less than you do.
Pay It Forward It's as simple as it sounds.
Read Reading captions on social media doesn't count. Read goddamned books.
Travel Even if you can't afford to go far, go somewhere. Broaden your horizons. Accept invitations, go outside of your comfort zone, be open.
Our Thoughts Become Reality So think good, empowering, helpful thoughts. It's hard. You might have to lie at first. But, tell yourself good things about yourself. Think happy thoughts for others. Be thoughtful and watch how your life changes.
Show Up and Be Present Don't give anyone half attention. Show up and be present, or don't go at all. Don't be on your phone when you're out with people, don't be half engaged. Be all the way there and be around people and things you feel comfortable showing up and being present for.
Imagine Life Without When you start to get frustrated - say in traffic or in line at the grocery store - imagine life without your dependable car, without the money to pay for groceries, without the time to buy yourself healthy foods, without the reason to have somewhere to driving to. Then take a few deeps breaths and check in and ask yourself if you're still frustrated. Repeat until gratitude replaces frustration.
Never Forget That You Used To Ride The Bus You came from somewhere. We all did. Some of us came from the hood and used to ride the bus. Some of us came from acne covered faces and headgear style braces. You weren't any worse than anyone back then, and you're not better than anyone now.
Quit Your Goddamned Job If you're unhappy there - leave. Success is circumstantial and money isn't real, remember? Your health is more important in the long run.
Write Everything Down Write down your appointments, and meetings, important phone numbers, grocery lists, etc. If you tell someone you're going to text them, set a reminder. Don't trust your brain to just remember. Write shit down, and hold yourself accountable to your word. You are only as good as your word.
Eurocentric Beauty Is Fake Blonde hair, blue eyes, and slim figures aren't the end all be all of beauty. Beauty is honestly deep inside. The prettiest looking people are sometimes the worst. Embrace yourself. embrace your inner beauty. Embrace your ethnicity and things that are unique to your people and your family. Honor your ancestors and love your body. It's got to carry you through this life and that's going to be so much easier if you aren't fighting with it every step of the way.
Eat That Thing Donuts are delicious. Eat the fucking donut. Go for a walk in the afternoon. It'll balance out. Stop depriving yourself.
Be Patient and Believe Sometimes life sucks. Be patient and believe that it will stop sucking. Eventually, you'll be proven right.
Dream Don't sensor your dreams. Thoughts become things and dreams are just fancy ass thoughts. Look back at the dreams that have already come true.
Have Courage and Be Kind
And that's it. I turn 30 in six months. I've never imagined what my life at 30 would look like. When I was much younger and much more self-destructive - I didn't think I'd live to see 30. That is a hard truth to sit with and admit, but it's the truth. I didn't allow myself to look that far ahead and really think about what it would mean, I had no concept of this part of my life - because I was either unrealistic and assumed that adulthood just meant marriage and kids - or because I didn't think I'd still be here. I don't know what the next six months are going look like, let alone the next ten years, but goddamnit, I can't wait to see it actually happen.
Until next time.
Okay. Confession time. I am not feeling the Christmas spirit yet. It's only December 5th and it's been super warm and sunny in Los Angeles (go figure), but that usually doesn't stop me. By Black Friday I am usually blasting Christmas music in my car until January 1st, buying gifts, spending extra time with friends and family, going over recipes for holiday get togethers, etc. And I'm just not feeling it yet.
The only Christmas song I've really listened to and been able to get into so far has been Maroon 5's version of "Happy Christmas" by John Lennon. This song has always hit hard for me, and I assumed it would again particularly because of our current socio-political climate. However, the other day all it made me think of was my own personal war. I have spent the majority of 2017 building on the hard self-work I did the past two years and really relishing that the hard part is over (for now). That I don't have to fight myself at every turn, that I can build and maintain healthy relationships, not just with other people, but with myself as well. I intend to further that work through the end of the year and spend this last month of 2017 focused inward, so I can outwardly represent at my best.
So - here's a few things that I'll be implementing the next 25 days to end this year on a bright note:
- Start creating a strategy for 2018. I'm not sure what I want out of next year, and I know that this year played out in a completely unexpected way (I was maybe over ambitious in my goals), but I want to at least get a loose plan of what I'd like to accomplish - make resolutions early, plan some things for the blog, etc.
- Embracing FUN! The Holidays are stressful as fuck, but they can also be full of fun and love, and I intend to embrace both with my friends and family.
- Read – I signed up for a trial of Kindle Unlimited and goddamnit, I am going to read at least two more books before this year ends.
- Give up being critical. I overthink and over analyze every minute detail. If you don't believe me, ask my mom or Phoenix. I want to let go, just a little bit the next few weeks.
- Turn up my empathy dial. The Holidays can be HARD for a lot of people, for a number of reasons, and I am going to open my heart and be there as much as I can for whoever needs me.
- Not holding onto resentment, letting go of old grudges, and clearing the slate. The Holidays bring up a lot of old memories for me - but I will not allow them to make me sad or bitter. It's over. It's done. I don't have to forget, but I can forgive for my own peace of mind.
- Letting myself be swayed. Going with the flow and landing wherever the wind leads me.
- Practice being spontaneous! I am a grade A control freak. I am going to try and let that go this month.
- Getting away and seeking something different. I'm doing some new things with new people this month and I am excited to implement just a few small changes - new tattoo shops, new day trips, new nights out with new friends.
- Trusting my intuition. My gut has been delivering some strong messages recently and I plan to listen more closely.
- Exuding optimism. Talking affirmingly, choosing the focus of my words carefully and re-framing the way I share what I feel. Again, the Holidays can suck, and I won't contribute to that negative energy this year - even if I'm currently feeling a little Grinch-y.
- Connecting to my elders. Spending time with my family is tantamount to me this time of year and I realize I need to be better about reaching out to certain members.
- Praying. I will definitely be spending time communing with the universe and opening myself to whatever it wants me to know.
In other news - the past few weeks have been great. I know I basically fell off the face of the earth (aka this blog) during Fall - but it was a magical few weeks and I was fulfilled and joyful. I hope you were too.
I'm going to close this out with the November playlist AND my Christmas playlist - hopefully you can get some enjoyment out of it and maybe I'll start listening to it soon.
Well. It's officially been fall for a week. I feel...happier, freer, lighter. As I've mentioned to anyone that will listen my whole life - autumn is my favorite season. Hands down. I had a lovely summer this year; I really, truly did. Several trips, more than enough concerts, precious memories made with cherished friends, but now it's time for all things pumpkin - dusk, scented candles, hot cider, sweet potato pie, and everything scary and beautiful.
As always, self-reflection is on my mind. In this season of harvest, what is my personal harvest? What have I brought into manifestation this year? How can I celebrate myself for hard work completed this year? My personal emotional harvest has been bountiful this year. I've really invested in the relationships that are important to me; I've taken time to discern which relationships feed me and what relationships allow me to feed into them. I am so emotionally fulfilled and nourished. Last fall I ended regular therapy with my therapist - we both agreed I was ready to move on. I have taken special care to make sure that my mental health is still a priority, since I'm "on my own" now. I feel better than I ever have as an adult. I've spent this last year nurturing myself; and I can see the results - not just in my relationships or my outlook, but in little things; like how often I'm able to do the things I enjoy, the size of my waistline, how rarely I feel the need to vent, the way others respond to me and my energy. I've manifested many things this year; work I love, more opportunities professionally and socially, my "ideal" body - my life is the closest it's ever been to what I imagined my life would be like as a child. How will I celebrate? I practice gratitude every day for at least five minutes morning and night; I never want to lose sight of the things I have. I will spend this season reveling in my bounty.
This fall I'm really focusing on just enjoying life - it's been a really weird year, I think we can all agree, and I'd rather end this year on a high note with optimism for what's ahead than go all Game of Thrones "Winter is Coming". I'm thinking a lot about texture - chunky sweaters, smooth faux leathers, soft velvets - and translating those textures into actions and emotions. Giving warmth and softness to those I love. Lots of writing. Warm drinks and pastries. Tricks and treats. Sad new wave songs. Old movies. Really focusing on what I love and letting everything else fall away like an old crunchy orange leaf. Settling in for the winter ahead.
What are you looking forward to? Feel free to hit the comments.
Until next time.
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