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Archive for the month “April, 2016”

Phone Down

Erykah Badu has penned a culturally current and on-point song about dating in the age of smartphones and our collective obsession with them.
This is an excerpt of my favorite part of the song:
“I can make you put your phone down
Make you not wanna check that again
I could make you put your phone down
Ridin’ in a drop hair blowin’ in the wind
Baby I will put my phone down
‘Cause when you talk Imma listen
I can make you put your phone down
Leave it at the crib guarantee you wouldn’t miss it
I could make you put your phone down
And it wouldn’t leave your pocket
I can make you put your phone down
Probably wouldn’t even know how to unlock it
I could make you put your phone down
I see your friend callin but forget em’
I can make you put your phone down
Your mama probably think you out there missin'”

I’ve recently been having a string of dates (with the same person, hurrah!) where phone down has been in full effect.
We’ve naturally done this as there is a genuine desire to converse and just get to know each other, and it probably helps that we’re past the age of 30. So both of us can recall a time of being booted off the single landline shared by your entire household, when conversations with “your little friend” have gone on too long.

Alas, things have changed a lot even in the last decade. Our worlds are fast-paced. Our food is fast, our computers are fast, our smart phones are even sometimes faster than our computers. And yet the things that may be most important to us, like the relationships we develop, we try to blow past that too, with the expectation that we’ll gain the kind of trust, closeness and intimacy that can only come from honest-to-God-true put-in-the-work quality time. This should happen naturally of course, but quickly. Quickly is the key. Our collective attention span is crap, trash, ga-bage, basura. And this is probably indicative of the types of relationships we’re seeing come together and then quickly fall apart.

It’s been liberating to spend an entire day with someone, sharing thoughts about all kinds of things, learning about who they are only to glance at a phone for directions to the next location, or a yelp review for a restaurant we’re about to try or movie times at a nearby theater.

Sometimes we fear quietly co-existing with another person. But with the RIGHT person, sitting quietly, letting your thoughts or the last words expressed just linger in the air can be comforting. And it’s very honest. From every snort of laughter, to blush of embarrassment, or pause you take to complete a thought, you’re completely exposed. Distractions have been eliminated and you’ve shown each other how much you value the other person and their time. You’re saying, you are all that matters to me right now. It’s a powerful statement. It’s worth more than thousands of likes.

There was a time where people argued about the value of sitting down each night for a family meal because parents were working and kids involved in different activities. People were scattered. Now, we’re in an age where people are sitting down for the meal (more people work from home, kids spend a lot of time at home) but aren’t truly present because glued to their own individual phones and devices. The premise of connection has always been the same, but the practice has totally switched up.

So go ahead, and put the phone down. You probably wouldn’t miss it. I know I didn’t.

Failures, Set-Backs and Resets

As I get older, I’d like to believe that I’m gradually doing a better job of handling failures and set-backs.

Life tends to teach you that as long as you don’t give up completely, you’ll recover, you’ll readjust and a new unexpected path may open up, leading you to where you were supposed to be.

The failure or set-back is actually trying to put you back on track. It’s sometimes intended to stop you, and give you a chance to reevaluate what’s important, reset then forge on.

It hurts to write this, but I was placed on academic suspension from my grad school program.

I’ve spent the last two years working extremely hard, while working full-time, fighting each semester to avoid academic probation. The times I’ve failed to do this, I always missed the necessary gpa by a tenth or two tenths of a single point. It’s a feeling akin to being an olympic athlete missing out on a medal or the difference between gold and silver being only one point or a fraction of a second.

I’ve heard the saying that when people fail they should “fail miserably.” They should put it all out there.

But how do you console people who fail when they come really close to winning?

I’d already completed more than half of my program requirements.

Three math-related classes, one of which I had to take twice (which resulted in a B+), one of which I got a C+ and finally the last that I’ve failed completely was keeping me from my Master’s degree.

In my heart I hoped that I’d squeaked by.

But the reality was, taking two classes while working was too much for me. An hour commute each way, was taking its toll. The burn out was real as other projects for work began to increase and deadlines loomed.

I found out this information only a day or so after being shaken from a car accident, during which I was not injured or my car damaged.

I attempted to log into my new class that just began and I was locked out of the system.

After making some phone calls and finding an email from my advisor, I was given notice that I was suspended and dropped from my current class.

The feeling was overwhelming. The tens of thousands of dollars in debt that had already accumulated felt like the weight of several large rocks on my chest. It was hard to breathe, the backs of my eyes began to warm and sting with salt-laced tears.

This degree was supposed to be my victory lap.

It was supposed to be my fuck you to the depression I felt in previous years, and the sense of accomplishment I was longing for.

This degree and program represented me returning to a person I once knew. A woman with purpose who was motivated and could face any challenge.

I got used to this identity and the way people would express their admiration for my ability to juggle work and school and go after a dream.

And it felt like it was all taken away.

I do have options. I can and will appeal to the dean and if my appeal is accepted, I could be back in class as soon as the summer under the academic probationary conditions. I probably would not be eligible for financial aid, because I’d been on probation before and was granted an appeal on the condition that I wouldn’t be placed on probation.

Or, I can wait the entire year-long suspension period and reapply to the program only 15 credits shy of graduating.

I was also told that I could try to transfer to another program.

Failure hurts. There’s no getting around it. But being an adult, you don’t have much time to lick your wounds. You have to get creative, and figure out alternative ways to reach your goals, or understand that circumstances may delay your desired outcome. Above all else, you have to protect your sanity and your health.

I’m very disappointed, and I’ve been spending the last few days wondering about what it is that required this abrupt halt in my plans. What is it that I have to reprioritize and reevaluate? What do I have to go back and learn or do just for me?

I asked myself if I deserved to be in the program or if I reached too high. I didn’t study any of this stuff in undergrad, and yet I had the audacity to pursue a Master’s degree.

But I had to stop myself from that level of thinking. I did deserve to be in the program, I did deserve to pursue a masters level degree in this area. But it did make me think about the school and the feeling I had been feeling along the way.

Is this abrupt stop a moment to let me figure out if my current institution really fits me or was I more concerned about the brand name? There were some things about the program and about the lack of connection I felt between myself and the faculty and students due to the nature of it being online and a highly competitive program.

Is there another place where I could transfer and get the type of education that I really wanted and the connection that was important to me, that I thought I could do without? I still have a lot to think about. A lot.

You all know me. I’m not a quitter. But on the other side of 30, with bills and debt, how you execute not quitting, has to be realistic and strategic with self-care at the forefront of every decision.

It was hard for me to write this post, because I have an image of me that I like to present to the outside world. It’s an identity I’ve shaped for myself, that I’m proud of. And in most cases, I’ve always been able to back it up.

I’m still me. And if anything, what happens next will be more of a testament to my true identity. And at the core of everything I am, there lies and will always lie a woman of resilience.

 

 

Wedding Guest-Turned Natural Bridal Hairstylist I’m Freaking Out, Here

For most women, our wedding day seems to be elevated in our mind’s eye as the happiest day of our lives, and the magical day where for 24 hours, we are our most beautiful in our entire lifetime. And it’s usually photographed. We slay. All day. This is non-negotiable.

A beautiful friend of mine is getting married in the coming months and while attending her bridal shower a few weeks ago, she approached me about discussing natural hairstyles for her destination wedding.

Originally, I thought this was a simple conversation and that she already had a stylist in mind, but just wanted other opinions from a fellow natural. So I pulled out my phone and pointed her to amazing sites like Munaluchi Bride. (Their site is gorge, I’m just browsing. No man, but just browsing.)

This is not a drill folks. Here's the style we are attempting.

This is not a drill folks. Here’s the style we are attempting. (Photo credit. My Natural Sistas)

What I didn’t realize was, I was getting set up. The bride’s mother-in-law to be complimented me on my hair and managed to tell the bride not to worry because she would be there to help and so would I. I as in me, the author.

Me the author who experiments on her own head, but rarely ever attempts to work on others because, well, I’m not a professional and I don’t want to be responsible for jacking up anyone’s hair on a regular day.

But in this case, I’m being drafted to work wonders on a nervous bride who wants to enjoy the sun, sand and watersports all week, doesn’t like weaves, and doesn’t want to wear braids (which is understandable, because it’s usually associated with vacation styles). I’ve seen elegant braids, but I get it.

So, I took a deep breath and told my friend that I would help. But we’d have to be strategic. There were a variety of unknowns: The humidity in Mexico, wedding nerves and a high pressure situation.

We needed to select a hairstyle that could be done that day, that was sleek and could hold up to the elements, but allow my friend to have the freedom to enjoy the resort like her guests, and not have to sleep in some awkward position during the night so her impeccable style would “keep.”

We scoured pinterest boards and swapped ideas for twists and buns and styles where faux kanankalon ponytails could easily be added and then removed.

Then I devised a plan where she’d come by my house and we run through the process to see how long it would take to work on her hair, what products we liked and if the ideas we saw on pinterest were completely unrealistic.

She stopped by last Saturday and we were all set to go. I was extremely nervous and I told her that I was and that she really had to be honest with me about whether or not she liked her hair and not to think about the work or the time involved. We want to be able to get it right and make the process smooth for the day of which will already be stressful. So she agreed. And she had a good laugh at my whiteboard that outlined our game plan and our challenges.

I work in project management. I think these things out.

So off to work we went, she shampooed and conditioned her hair and agreed that she could do that in the shower the day of.

Section by section, I took the blow dryer and pulled each section taught to perform the tension method to stretch her very coily hair, that’s quite similar to mine in texture. As we went along, I realized my friend had crazy shrinkage and soon her hair was reaching her shoulders as I worked.

To cut down on the inevitable frizzing I twisted each freshly dried section and added some oil.

We played old 90s music and talked about the wedding, my dating life and other things. It made me miss the old days of spending entire Saturday’s at the salon with my mother and my sister growing up. There is a kinship between women when we go through our lengthy beauty rituals and share them, especially around special moments like getting married, Easter Sunday, graduations and proms. There is an essence of black girl magic.

As I worked through each section, my confidence would build. I’d be less timid working around her head pulling her head closer to me so I can get a better look or angle or be able to part the hair just right.

I’d compliment how strong and healthy her hair is, and how incredible her shrinkage was hiding so much length and thickness. I think that made her feel better too.

We looked at the hair adornments she brought with her and ones she was interested in online.

And after two hours of blow drying and one hour of styling, slicking hairs down and adding some hair to the bun for high drama, I told the bride it was time to take a look.

During our first attempt, she found using two ponytails was too much hair and too much high drama. So we tweaked it.

Her face was very still.

I was very nervous.

We looked at the YouTube video two more times.

I put on the finishing touches and we went to the mirror. I advised her to stand with her back to the bathroom mirror and hold the hand mirror out in front of her to see our handiwork.

And finally, a slow smile. It felt super slow.

Still nervous, I reminded her she could say she didn’t like it if she really didn’t. And that I wouldn’t be offended and to speak now so we can make adjustments (like find another stylist, a professional. A non-me stylist. Lol). And she said that she did like it.

It appeared as if she was imagining the makeup and the dress. Then, we added one of the hair adornments, and her smile became broader.

She was seeing it come together.

And so was I.

Seeing her relax boosted my confidence and I exhaled.

We clocked in officially at 3 hours. And discussed her schedule on the wedding morning that involves her time for makeup with the resort salon and the best time for us to start her hair and get her to the altar on time. We made mental notes of all of our favorite hair tools and products. I warned that for the liquids, she go ahead and pack it with checked luggage.

And now we have a happy, natural bride with one less worry, thanks to the trial run.

But we still have a very frightened, wedding guest-turned amateur natural bridal hairstylist.

Wish me luck y’all.

And speaking of the beautiful connection between friends doing hairs. Check out this video of Lupita Nyong’o explaining how she used to braid her friends’ hair in college.

 

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