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Archive for the category “Taking Care of Yourself”

Lunch Time Walks: Good for the Heart and Soul

It’s no secret that taking a walk is good for you. Being situated in the heart of D.C. makes it even more enticing to take the long way back from grabbing a bite to eat. It also makes you feel better about the french fries you ordered.

Anyway, as of late, as my contract winds down over the next two weeks, I’ve been taking walks at lunchtime to help clear my head. I like people watching and making up stories in my head about where they are going, the kinds of jobs they have, if they are in love or if they feel a little lost like me, wondering what’s next.

I like to look at the kinds of outfits women are wearing, and I smile if I see a woman rocking huge naturally coily hair, with confidence. I notice tourists and families trying to navigate their way through the Nation’s Capital, visibly patriotic and in awe that they are steps away from the President’s house. I totally get it.

Folks walk down the street with a sense of purpose, but unlike New York, it doesn’t have the same wild, aggressive energy, where you hardly even have to walk; the crowd will just push you along the packed sidewalks.

Sometimes, I recognize a pace or even the look in the eyes of the professional bureaucrats I see on the streets, and it looks like they are looking for a few moments of peace and escape too.

And so, we walk. And so, you may see people heading back out for coffee or an iced tea around 2 or 3, just to take a break from it all. That has to be the reason why I can literally walk out of one Starbucks and see another in my line of vision only one foot out the door another block up.

There’s nothing wrong with taking a break to escape. To think about things that make you smile, or consider what your next move is. I’ve been appreciating these moments to take a walk and take in a city that’s been good to me for quite some time now.

Oddly enough, while I take my walks, I hear Carrie Bradshaw’s monologues in my head as she speaks of New York. I switch out her voice with mine, and I wax on about the District, the buildings and the people I see. I walk taller and let the breeze flow through my dress. I allow myself to imagine and slow up the pace. I’ll be back to work soon enough.

Afternoon Tea Is a Sweet Indulgence

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of tea.

I blame my mother. She’s always good for making the perfect cup and she’s passed down that preference to me.

I pride myself on the fact that I can make a great cup of tea for my guests, and I love watching their faces when they take that first sip.

I also love how having a cup of tea with someone opens the door to wonderful conversations in a relaxed environment. Time and time again, I’ve put on a pot of tea, or introduced someone to some of my fancier loose leaf teas and hours later, we’re still sitting there talking and having cup after cup.

To me, having a cup of tea is just like lighting a candle, burning incense ,or playing music. It sets a tone for relaxation and comfort. It’s something you can enjoy alone while you collect your thoughts, or do something creative, or get to work. It’s something you can share with others. My teas are not just an indulgence, it’s an act of self-care and it’s an opportunity I use to love on the people in my life.

Well, when a former co-worker of mine wanted to hang in downtown Annapolis this weekend to catch up, among the very nice places she recommended for us to have brunch, she also offered up Reynold’s Tavern, a very lovely tea house.

Since I had never had formal tea at a tea house and my collection of loose leaf teas is growing faster than I can drink it, I jumped at the chance.

I have to say, we really enjoyed ourselves and had a great conversation about the writing process and the emotional journey it takes to write, secure an editor and go into the publishing process. I haven’t gotten as far as her, (she is a brilliant historical fiction novelist) but I do know what it’s like to start a novel or a book and be parts obsessed with it and also feel completely insecure about the whole thing.

There was an extensive tea menu, we both had teas that were based on Jane Austen characters, and they were sooooo good.

There’s something extra special about drinking from a tea-cup and resting it gently on a saucer or taking the infuser out of the pot and just letting the tea rest.

In between all of these actions, there’s discussion and there’s nibbling from the three-tiered serving set.

The tea was delicious, so much so, we each purchased some to take home. I was in love with my crab and shrimp Quiche and light salad and really enjoyed the small desserts.

As I get older, I appreciate these kind of old school ways of gathering and socializing. This goes right up there with meeting with my book club and sharing ideas and feelings with other brainy people who are passionate about books, and what’s going on in the world.

In a time where it seems the ratchet is revered, it’s nice to dip away to another place in time and visit a place like Reynold’s Tavern in the heart of a historic city, and be ladies and gentlemen of leisure.

Work, School, Book Club Too?

On top of everything else going on in my life, working full-time, being a graduate school student, I’ve added a book club to the list.
It started off innocently enough. Some very smart, sweet, creative and conscious women from my former job had been meeting with each other to discuss books and art and culture and to just unwind and share goodies (hand-made and store bought) for some time.
A dear co-worker of mine mentioned that they were reading one of my new favorites “Americanah” and I was very curious about the perspective of this very diverse group of women. So I crashed the party.
After having a very wonderful time– they were excited to see me since I’d recently left that job– I was invited to return anytime and to read the next book.
So despite homework, assignments, class and work, I took on the next selection, which was massive “The Goldfinch” and although I stayed up all hours of the night to complete it in time for the next gathering, I enjoyed the book a great deal, and enjoyed talking about it with this group even more.
Our next meeting is coming around the first of the month and have I started the book yet?
Of course not. I plan to this week for sure.
Should I be taking on any other extra activities, common sense says no, but my intellectual and creative side says yes.
For some reason, it’s worth it to me not only to read these books, that I may not have otherwise selected for myself and voluntarily spend a Saturday morning being the youngest in a group of women of different backgrounds and cultures, married and single, mothers and childless.
It enriches my soul in a time where I’m racing to get things done. It allows me to slow down, and be nurtured by other women who’ve been there and done that and who get my yearning for education and beautiful things and humanity.
I enjoy how they show pride in all of the things I’m trying to accomplish and encourage me that I can in fact, pull it off.
They are like doting aunties who want me to find Prince Charming, but are relieved it’s not an obsession. They understand how important the expanding of my mind is to me and they share that vision in their own personal lives.
I appreciate their honesty and confusion about issues of race and sexuality and what it is to be a woman in the world. It’s refreshing to discuss these things in a civilized way with people who are outside of my usual circle.
What I appreciate the most is knowing how different we are, but seeing just how similar we are too. We are curious, we love sweets, we appreciate art and music and culture, we love books and we love talking about them.
The most wonderful thing about a great book is the tangential life discussions and real anecdotes that arise from a fictitious character’s struggle or triumph.
As a black woman, I’ve often stayed away from book clubs because many black women want to read books by only black authors. I can understand why. When you escape, you want to be in a world that looks like you and talks like you and thinks like you. For me, I only want that sometimes, and not every book by every black author is good. So what excites me about the book group I’m in is the value the non-black members place in reading books about black people as well as people of all races, genders or sexuality. Their acceptance of Americanah, made me more interested in their book choices that involved non-black characters because I was confident, they were simply picking really great books, period. When they suggested books by international authors, I knew I was in the right place.
Reading great books makes us smarter, makes us critical thinkers, exercises our imagination and gives us access to worlds that may be impenetrable in real life.
The book club is just as essential as my studies or my job because it feeds my soul. Staying up later to do some extra reading is only a small sacrifice to make for what I’ve gained in return as a human.

If You Are Excessively Tired, It’s Not In Your Head

I know that I’m under a certain amount of pressure these days. I’m working very hard to do well at a new job I really enjoy and I’m a grad school student. I spend a lot of my free times going over lectures, attending online live sessions, working on papers and projects.

But this semester something was different.

Three weeks ago I got sick at work. My throat felt like it was closing up and I had a lot of serious allergy symptoms.

Me being me, I thought nothing of it, went to get my go-to remedies, orange juice, Vietnamese chicken pho (soup) and took claritin before heading into the work site that was the source of these symptoms and taking nyquil at night.

But even as some of the allergy symptoms started to ease, I was growing actually more tired and more fatigued. I lost interest in my school work and didn’t care and couldn’t complete all of my work and at a certain point I just gave up hoping if I did miss a class to sleep all night, I’d wake up the next day, take a shower and feel like my normal self.

I’d wake up the next day begging God to give me enough strength to get out of bed to take that shower and make it to work. I didn’t want to be sick, I had too much to do. I couldn’t afford it. So, I’d eventually get up after an hour of praying and willing myself to get up and take the shower. The normal burst of energy I feel when I take showers had zero effect. I was dragging myself through my morning rituals, doing just enough not to look absolutely crazy when I headed to work.

Being a natural hair girl, you often have to take a lot of time to style your hair. No energy to do that. I had to keep my styles as simple and basic as possible, from relying on bobby pins and rolling my hair as neatly as possible into buns, or wearing a scarf to run errands.

My friends noticed that I wasn’t doing too well either and kept urging me to see the doctor. It’s pretty horrible that I’m working on my Masters degree in Public Health, killing myself to work on projects about helping people become more healthy and I’m completely worn down. So I went.

I went yesterday and my doctor confirmed I had swollen nodes, post nasal drip and left over congestion from the two weeks prior. She said she wanted to do a blood test to rule in or rule out Epstein Barr virus. My excessive tiredness, seemed to suggest that this virus may be the culprit as to why I was experiencing an abnormal tired that just wasn’t my usual. I told her I knew I couldn’t have been crazy or acting dramatic because I’m the person who often has a lot on my plate and I can push through usual tiredness, get the job done and still get up in the morning.

By the time I survived to the weekend, I could not get out of bed at all.

While I take comfort in getting closer to a reason why I’ve been feeling so bad, I don’t want to claim having EBV. It’s not even something that can be treated. You try to manage it with lowering stress and a more healthy lifestyle. But you will have episodes of extreme fatigue. This has been the worst. Last year there were about two times in the year where I felt extreme fatigue and had difficulty, but just brushed it off. The level of tiredness I’ve been feeling over the last two weeks could not be ignored. So while I was tired of family and friends asking me if I’d seen the doctor, I’m glad I went because it gave me back some control instead of just feeling bad and feeling helpless.

We just have to wait and see what the blood test reveals. My doctor recommended a B complex vitamin to take daily, however I won’t see improvement in my energy for three days. So I’m still struggling a bit right now. I’m also taking an antihistamine and a prescription grade nasal spray. So we’ll see how things go over the next few days.

I really appreciate the love and support 29tolifers have been giving me on the blog and on twitter! You guys are absolutely the best.

Do you know anyone who has Epstein Barr? How do they manage it? What lifestyle changes did people have to make to improve their lives?

Season of Single

There have been plenty of pastors and older, wise married folks who have said, “Don’t rush into marriage. Learn how to enjoy your season of single.”

Most of the time, women, myself included have plugged our ears and started singing “la, la, la” because we wanted to be in love so badly. And what’s the highest height of romantic love? Getting married or so we think.

At 32, being in school and working and really having to prioritize my time has made me kind of realize that I’m nearing the end of my season of single, so I need to make it count.

All of my resources, my time, my money, my energy, my fun time, vacations they belong to me!

This is going to be the only time in my life where that is the case. We all know that I’m still on the fence about children, but I’m very interested in being married someday. I’m going to be sharing resources with someone. Even if he makes more than me or equal or whatever, I’m going to be sharing my resources, I’m going to be accountable to someone else.

I was just talking to a friend about how hectic my schedule is and about to become. I’m going to the Art of Cool music festival in Durham, NC next weekend; I have my 10 year reunion at my university; I’m going to attend a wedding in a city and state I’ve never been to in June and oh yeah, I’m still doing school. A good friend of mine is itching to go to Greece in the fall, and honestly, I’m ready to pull the trigger and do it.

This stage in my life is for ME. Now all stages in your life should be about you, but no other stage than right now is about me or will ever allow me this much freedom, even though it feels like every moment is accounted for because of my school and work schedule. The strictness of my schedule has actually opened me up to LIVING in my free moments. Even making the decision to take out thousands in student loans to go back to school, that was a conscious decision I made for ME and no one else. There’s something special about saying, I’m worth this. It’s going to work out because this is a part of my purpose. This is necessary. I’m already appreciating the benefits and what being back in school is doing for my mind and my self-esteem. I keep telling people this was the time to do what I’m doing. I wouldn’t have appreciated it the way I do now, I wouldn’t have a razor-sharp focus on why this is so important and so worth it if I did it any sooner.

I’m taking deep breaths and in my spare moments when I’m relaxing, I’m truly doing so. I may actually go off to Spa World in Va. and veg out for a few hours over this weekend to recharge since I’ve given up my Massage Envy membership.

It’s about me now and I get it. I fully get and appreciate it and it doesn’t feel selfish or wrong. I don’t feel guilty about it and while thinking about love and a future with a great person does hang over my head from time to time, I can say I’m happy right now and I’m happy alone. DID YOU HEAR THAT UNIVERSE? IM HAPPY WITH WHERE I AM AND WHO I AM RIGHT NOW!! Everything belongs to me right now. My money, my time. It’s my world. I have full autonomy to do exactly what I please with it. I’m learning to value how liberating and powerful that is, because this too is a season. This won’t always be the case. And when my season does change, I want to know that I took full advantage of every resource and moment and spare time and extra dollar so I won’t walk into my new season with any regrets. I can accept the joys that come with the next.

 

Silencing the Noise

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have already heard that I quit Plenty Of Fish.

Like, I quit for real, for real. I didn’t just hide my profile and take a little break from it, I took myself out of the game completely.

There were a few times before where I thought about deleting the profile, but I’d get pulled in by another message from a new guy showing interest. Even if I wasn’t interested in them, it still made me feel wanted. So for that reason alone, even though I was getting pinged all day and all night because I had the app on my phone, it was a form of validation that I had been wanting that I, was indeed desirable.

The trouble with Plenty Of Fish is I’m not the only one.

If I don’t respond, the person on the other end really isn’t going to be heartbroken, he’s just going to click on another profile and try again. A catchy profile and some cute pics didn’t make me special. Inboxes full of faux admiration didn’t either.

I actually hated when dudes off the bat would call me sweetie, or love or gorgeous. It felt so… ugh. It felt so phony.

This weekend, I had a bunch of crazy revelations.

Somehow my good ex hit me up again on Friday night when I was doing absolutely nothing. So I started talking about dating and how difficult it’s become. I complained that it’s at a point where everyone is dating like robots, following a script.

Simply he just said, “You ain’t gotta. Do you.”

I don’t know why what he said seemed to just shoot through me like lightning, but it was so simple. It made so much sense. I don’t have to keep going on date after date. Introducing and reintroducing myself to men I’m really not that interested in, but trying to be “open-minded” too.

That message kept ringing true at not one, but two church services this weekend. The focus was on women in both. Both talked about loving yourself and giving things up so you can receive God’s blessings which may or may not include a man.

I had a thought today about Idols. I posted on twitter that “One way or the other, God will remove your idols. You determine how drastic He has to be in order to get your attention.”

Plenty Of Fish was becoming an idol. It was consuming a lot of my brain space. It was causing me to either be excited about people I knew nothing about or completely aggravated with people I knew nothing about. I was expecting people to be accountable and ready-made after one date. I’d be surprised if I didn’t hear anything from certain guys with whom I had great conversations. I’d replay what I’d done or if I wasn’t attractive enough.

But it all boils down to this, we are all out here doing the same thing. We are evaluating people on highly superficial levels and not taking the time to build. The possibility of the next, better person that you may be missing out on always seemed on the horizon and one click away. But that’s not real life.

I’m about to devote two years of my life to a master’s degree. I devoted four to college and 10+ to being a writer and reporter and editor. Cultivating anything takes time and effort. I have friends of 20 years. I know everything about them and they know me. It’s scary, but look at all the time it took to get to that level of mastery in my friendships, and I’m still working on them and giving to them and nurturing them.

One year of online dating and the revolving door of men wasn’t going to get me where I wanted to be. It was a great social experiment in what’s out there, but I realize right now, it’s not where I need to place my focus or my energy.

So I deleted my page.

My mind instantly got quiet again. I wasn’t turning over in the middle of my sleep when my phone started to buzz, or checking messages at a stop light. I wasn’t spending time “man shopping” when I was bored, looking at profiles hoping that there was some coded language my Mr. Right used so he could find me.

I didn’t have to be disappointed anymore.

I could focus.

Even today, I’m realizing the dating site was taking a lot of my good energy and brain space.

My good ex did remind me of how confident I used to be. He told me things like putting on weight or how I wear hair was not going to matter. And I was confident. I just have to get back to that again. I knew the first place to start was silencing the POF noise.

I’m not knocking the site at all. I think it does open the door to help you meet people you may have never otherwise met. But as I review the last year of online dating, people are either not quite serious at all, or they are so serious, they come of desperate and scary. Online dating pushes you to the extremes of non-committal or super clingy. You can’t even truly be you. You are always on, you are always auditioning for someone’s affections.

And nope. I don’t want to do that. Not anymore.

So I said a prayer. I said I wanted to give this up and not look back and whoever is for me, he’s already out there. It’s time to stop worrying about it and it’s time to let it go. It’s time to let go of my insecurities and shut up the NOISE, most of which I’ve created in my own head that has been limiting me.

Noise was making me settle and noise convinced me I was widening my net and not being picky or stuck up. But noise was causing me to entertain folks I really didn’t see any kind of future with at all. I tricked myself into thinking it was a numbers game and that it was science. The right guy would have to come around if I kept putting myself out there.

Well, putting myself out there made me lose valuable energy. Putting myself out there led me to making rash decisions.

I need my head space. I need it for things like work, and school and my family and friends. So right now, I honestly don’t feel like I took a loss, deleting my profile. I reclaimed space in my mind and soul.

I decided that if there were men in my phone who managed to have my number and we still keep in touch, I will be nice. I won’t press them to ask me out, I’ll let them ask me. If I feel like sending a text or saying hello, I’ll send one.

Sometimes you have to lose to win, as Fantasia said in one of her songs. I’ve never found myself leaning so much on God and my faith, or praying as often or looking at the little things to help me see other things more clearly. God is in the details.

When I was at EssenceFest and heard Iyanla Van Zant speak, she kept saying, “Do the work.” “You’ve got to do the work, beloveds.”

She is right. God didn’t let me marry the wrong person for a reason.

I’m single right now for a reason, not just to work on myself or take on bigger goals I would have never considered if I was someone’s wife right now. I’m made for a purpose and I’m working all of that out. The pain I’ve felt makes me more compassionate to others and it makes me qualified to love folks in a more real, mature, honest and even non-judgemental way. In the way a grown woman has to decide to love HER man. The one.

I used to pride myself on loving people through stuff even if it took all of my energy.

I was doing it wrong.

I had to learn that I had to put on my life-preserver first before I started helping others and that it is perfectly ok to do so. You aren’t supposed to deplete your entire energy loving somebody. Giving and receiving love in itself should energize you. The person you’re loving should love you enough not to allow you to do that. And they won’t allow you to do it. People who love themselves for real can recognize love in a number of forms. And they can recognize when and if they aren’t pulling their load and they want to pull their load. People who love themselves want to pull their load because that means they are living up to their own expectations of themselves and how they want to treat important people in their lives.

Maturity. Self love. Wisdom. Discernment. I want all of these. I continue to pray that the man I’m supposed to be with, God give me the vision to see him clearly and not get bogged down in the noise. I want to hear God in my choices. This is no exception.

 

 

 

 

No Ma’am, Birthdays After 30 Are So Worth Celebrating

A co-worker of mine recently had a birthday. I consider her a peer in a lot of ways. She is also a young thirty-something like me. She started at the company about a year or two before I did. And we both worked very hard, were early adopters to switching hats from straight up writing and editing to the tech side of publishing and I think she’s a super cool person. I admire her grind. Sometimes we just give each other a knowing sigh on days folks are acting a plum fool.

She also celebrated a birthday this month, and I wished her a happy birthday and asked her if she did anything fun.

And with a straight sad face, she said, “After 30, there’s not much to celebrate.”

The “urban” side of me was wanting to say, “Girl, bye.”

Or:

“Lies you tell.”

tamar braxton the braxtons gif from theofficialstacey.tumblr.com

However, I simply smiled and said, “Girl, what are you talking about? The 30s are great!” We were walking and parting ways to our desks by then.

But the look of defeat on her face, and such words of defeat made me sad for her.

Here she is, this pretty girl, who is married to a well-off man, seems to be a doting step mom, very physically fit and has accomplished really difficult grueling physical activities like marathons and such, who seems to be so unhappy.

Just because you are pretty and fit and well off, doesn’t mean you have bad days. I totally get that. But right in that moment, I said a little prayer for her.

I thought about a conversation with one of my dearest best friends and we discussed getting older and said we looked forward to being senior citizens traveling together and sexually harassing young waiters when we’d go out to eat. We were looking forward to when it’s socially acceptable to talk that ish and folks let it slide.

But for now, warts and all, we agreed our lives so far have been filled with blessings and opportunity. We were relieved we’ve learned from our mistakes. And while we both traded stories about being single and how we can’t seem to find men who suit us, there was still a quiet confidence we shared about being grown women that we can be proud of and that our families can be proud of too.

We may have had a regret or two, but overall we were blessed to catch the lessons that accompanied our not so wise decisions. And that’s cool. That’s the silver lining of bad decisions, the lesson, the scar that reminds us, “girl, don’t do that again.” The reminder of our pain and consequences gives us a knowing twinge in our tummy when we are about to enter dangerous territory. As someone past 30, I appreciate developing that sixth sense through the dumb mistakes of my 20s.

You all know, that for some reason this year I really wanted to celebrate my birthday and I’m not one of those people who want to do something every year. But I felt good about who I am and where I am, and I wanted some friends around to have a good time. And we did just that. I wore something that made me feel good and we had a blast.

Every birthday is worth celebrating, whether it’s a quiet observance at the house, spa day or moments of reflection or flinging yourself out of an airplane, or buying a bottle at the club.

Everyday is worth celebrating. Even if you are past 30. Girl, get your life! I’ve never felt so self-aware, EVER. I’m so excited that I’m really getting to know me, and that I’m less and less afraid to say no to others and say yes more and more to myself.

Vision Boards May Be A Window to the Subconscious

Over the weekend, I sat down with a friend. We had wine, we caught up and we made vision boards.

My friend had already started one and it seemed like she could never finish it, and well, it was time for me to make a new one.

Hers was filled with images and words dealing with marriage and babies.

Mine said absolutely nothing about marriage or babies, or rings or wedding dresses. My board seemed to be more about self-esteem, encouragement, fitness, travel and me starting grad school next month. I did mention love and faith and spirituality, but nope. Nothing concrete about relationships. Which is odd, because it’s a prevailing thought in my mind, day in and day out.

So once we pointed out those differences in our boards, I went back to my house that night thinking, dang, I want love. So what’s up with that? Maybe I should be MORE specific.

Maybe I should devote a vision board strictly to love and relationships.

So Sunday, I put on some music, broke out the art supplies and old magazines and I got to work.

The border of my vision board, I wrote all kinds of words that I think are crucial to a happy, healthy, mutually beneficial relationship.

It seemed like I focused on the concepts of partnership, trust, honesty, courage, friendship, having fun together, traveling, trying new things, passion, respect.

I finished my very nice-looking board, and once again. No marriage, no mention of the m-word. No babies. I only used the words family and home. I cut out no photos of brides or babies or dresses or rings or flowers.

I did cut out a photo of a man and woman kissing and the woman was wearing a ring. The only other images I cut out were of a couple relaxing and sleeping together cuddled up in a hammock and another couple on a beautiful island, having a special, romantic dinner.

So after I finished, I looked at this board again surprised at my choices.

I don’t think it was conscious. I strictly wrote down things I felt, things that were most important to me and I cut out words and images that spoke to me, so that’s what made this exercise even more eye-opening.

What can I take away from this?

Do I want to be married? Ever?

Yes, I think I do eventually, but not now. I clearly need to feel completely secure in my next relationship and my focus is on building, building, building, feeling safe, feeling loved, feeling appreciated. I put down all of the things I knew I needed. And maybe in the past I hadn’t taken the time to really, really delve into the things I needed. I just hoped the person I was with could give me those things whether they could or couldn’t and I went along with the program. Maybe in the past I didn’t know all of the things I really needed.

Do I want kids? Ever?

If you’ve read my blog, you know I’m on the fence about having children. So it’s still a big question mark.

I’ve been telling a lot of my friends about the vision boards, and they’ve all been very interested and asking me how to do it. So here we go. There’s a number of ways you can go about it.

When I was working on my tee-shirt company and preparing for the GRE those were goal-specific.

I put down goals, and even deadlines for those goals. And I’d cross things I completed off. I’d paste words and pictures that were related and inspired me.

The boards I made this weekend were general. But I do think that the more specific your board, the more you can analyze it and drill down what you need to do in order to accomplish whatever your vision is. My general board showed me that I really want to be more physically fit, I want to do well in school and I want to travel and I want to be happy and feel good about myself.

The love board showed me a lot about myself and what I expect from a partner, which in turn might be a great thing to share with a guy who may actually have a chance. That board can serve as a reminder if any man I’m dealing with is lacking in certain areas, then I can articulate what I want and need.

So my suggestion is, for whatever kind of board you make, break out old magazines, glue, stickers all of that good stuff. Be relaxed and comfortable and devote some time to it. Don’t rush. I may have worked on my boards for two or three hours. If you don’t finish in one sitting, that’s okay too. I prefer finishing it so I can take a good look at it.

My friend made positive, affirming sentences out of some of the words and phrases she cut out. That’s also a good idea. The point is to pick out things that really stick out to you. I like taking things from magazines because you can’t predetermine what folks put in the magazine. What you see and how you apply it to your vision will be very unique to you and you’ll cut out certain words and certain images because it says something to you that someone else may not see.

So hey, if any of you make a vision board, please let me know how it goes and if you see something in it that you didn’t expect. This was really enlightening and it was a lot of fun and relaxing.

 

32 to life??? Coming Soon… Real Soon

This blog is called 29tolife. I started it when I was 29, because I was on some kind of journey to 30. I was full of hope and promise thinking 30 would magically unlock doors into who I REALLY am.

So in just a few weeks, I’ll already be 32.

So has being 30 been magical? 31? Yes and no.

This blog has allowed me to examine myself and my situations that come up in such a raw way, I feel alive. I feel. My voice has sound. I’ve never been this self-aware in my entire life. And for those of you who have been rocking with me since the beginning, I really thank you. I’ve shared things with you, that I haven’t shared with others.

Or by telling you first, it gave me just enough courage to speak my mind when necessary, face-to-face, eyeball-to-eyeball.

Maybe being in my 30s was the most insightful, raw, real, emotional, life-affirming time, because I shared it. Writing this blog exposes me.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

But it strengthens me too. It allows me to be bolder in my real life everyday experiences, and reminds me my voice has a sound. Which means, it’s meant to be heard. My thoughts and my ideas have value. My words can help folks and my words can cut down. How can I be responsible with my words, and still express myself in the ways that are necessary to me?

I’m finding in my 30s minimalism has been growing in importance. What do you want? What do you need? It seems like those questions are the first two I’ve been asking myself across situations and they apply. They fit and once I’ve answered those questions, I’m well on my way to solving my problems or figuring out the resources I have or need to get, to get the job done.

In my 30s focusing on what’s important to ME has seemed to be on the forefront too. I’ve learned in my 30s that focusing on me isn’t necessarily selfish, which is what folks would have you believe. Especially as women. Be a team player, sacrifice yourself for others that is the noble thing to do. And being a team player, standing up for people, nurturing people is an excellent thing, but when you are weak and tired and lacking strength because you didn’t say no one too many times or didn’t take the time to acknowledge what you wanted, you help no one. And you feel used and abused and mad because no one is bending over backwards to take care of you.

I don’t want to be a tired, haggard, bitter woman. I want to bring light to people I encounter, and if they need me, I want to have my strength to do a good job, but not to my own detriment.

I talk a lot about love and relationships in this blog, especially romantic ones, but in my 30s, I don’t think I’ve appreciated my friendships and relationships with family as deeply as I have in recent years. I’m very thankful for that.

When I started this blog, I was in a deep pain from the ending of a relationship.

You’ve seen me battle with my feelings toward my ex and the roller coaster ride I’ve voluntarily gone up and down with him on. I do believe I’m healed. Even on the days where I’m not so sure, three years later, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s without him.

You’ve seen me struggle with all sorts of characters and realize what kind of man I want and don’t want. The mistakes have been many.

I’ve traveled a little, and I’ve learned about new passions and interests. And at the age of 32, after being out of college for a decade, I’m going to take the jump and go to grad school. I’m not sure if I would have been as inspired to do it, if it wasn’t for sharing my thoughts and fears and frustrations with you on this blog. It may have become yet another dream deferred.

There were lots of things I used to fear. Talking about faith. Talking about sex. Talking about my mom, and her struggle with mental illness, talking about my flaws.

And by golly, on this blog, I’ve done all of that. And you listened. And you shared your thoughts too and affirmed me and the random thoughts that sometimes haunt me at night and greet me in the morning.

Being in my 30s, I want to live. I want to be hopeful. I don’t want to be jaded. I want to learn from my mistakes. I want to be proud of where I’ve been and who I am right now in this moment. I have high hopes for 32, because I’m taking chances this year. I’m stepping out of the comfort zone and I’m allowed to be proud of myself for that.

Will my love life come around? We’ll have to wait and see.

As you’ve seen with the blog, every time I open up my arms, (and sometimes legs) filled with hope, someone lets the air out of my balloon and I have to start all over again.

But maybe that’s part of the lesson of 30. The lesson of life. That if you opened your eyes today, and took that conscious breath, you are starting all over again. There is something still in you, your spirit is not broken enough not to try again, not to run full speed towards the football like Charlie Brown. Life is precious. Don’t stop running.

In your 30s you think about all sorts of things, your health, your mortality. The mortality of your beloved parents. You see them aging and you get a little ok, a lot scared. You see your children or nieces or nephews growing up, a very clear sign that you are indeed getting older, moving along in this world to make room for those yet to come. So what are you doing while you are here in the now? In the precious beautiful now?

I think having the opportunity to be old is a blessing. And I want to be a happy, healthy, spunky old lady that looks back with no regrets and has the best stories to tell her descendants.

I’ll be 32 soon. That’s not old. But it ain’t 16 or 21. And Thank God.

It’s 32. And it will be whatever it is, just like 30 and 31. I’ll just be glad to see it and take what it will bring.

I don’t think the content of the blog will get dull in this next year. As long as I keep living and as long as I’m me. And yall know me… It’s never dull.

Creatives and the Cost of Living

People often think that being a writer, a journalist, a creative and artist is sexy. 

And the people themselves, we are sexy. How we create, that’s very sexy too. However, the life of writers and people who chronicle humanity through whatever medium, has a lot of pain and struggle that goes along with it.

Folks joke about the pained, struggling artist, but there’s truth to that. The grind keeps creatives humble, and even if they do reach massive success, being a creative knowing there is no cap or no limit on creativity, if they are true to their art or craft, they will keep stretching and reaching and changing things up to try to be the best at what they are doing.

I was able to do a lot of leisure reading and I came across two very interesting, yet different stories on two types of creatives living and working in New York City.

The first article I came across was about how folks from all over the world come to New York City in hopes of becoming writers, working in the publishing industry or fashion or whatever, working a second job they didn’t love to pay rent in a small apartment with about five other people.

But these days, with the average apartment costing $3,000 a month, folks wanting to move to NYC to follow their dreams often find the dream is harder to reach when you want to actually eat and have a half way decent roof over your head in a safe-ish, crime-adjacent, neighborhood.

There are a bunch of articles that have been floating around about this very problem.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/new-york-1percent-stifles-creative-talent

http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2013/12/expensive-cities-are-killing-creativity-2013121065856922461.html

And in these articles, the authors suggests to young creatives to look outside of New York.

I actually agree.

I cut my journalistic teeth in cities like Washington, D.C., Detroit, and all over the state of Mississippi. And in those places, especially in Mississippi, I worked on my craft and was able to live very well due to the low cost of living. (Two bedrooms two baths for $525 and yes, this was in 2005, thank you very much)

No. Those places did not have the hustle and bustle of NYC, but in their own rights, they had very real individual, identity which makes all of those places near and dear to my heart. So don’t count them out.

Creatives are now flocking to Detroit and to the south in places like New Orleans, creating thriving creative communities, building their reputations and portfolios and enjoying less expensive housing, food and living expenses, and from there, if they want, they can make the big jump to other places.

Speaking of preparation and planning and starting small. I was struck by this story. http://fashionista.com/2013/12/keija-minor-brides/

Keija Minor, Editor-in-Chief of Brides Magazine, well, she wasn’t a poor upstart when she left a six-figure law firm salary to become an intern for a small travel magazine, but she employed planning and starting small to get her dream job in the publishing/creative world. Her humility was the most refreshing part of this.

I also felt this way about NBA basketball player Rajon Rondo, who took his internship with GQ very seriously. I tip my hat to people who have more than one passion or interest and have the guts to take the time to nurture that, even if they are really good at what they are already doing.

Minor was already well-established and by normal, regular working people standards, well off and highly successful. But it took a lot of effort and dedication to decide to squirrel away enough money to pay her mortgage for one year, while she looked for and secured an internship with a publication. Most of us can’t take such a leap strictly for financial reason and you know, needing food and shelter. 

I had a good laugh to myself because Minor expressed some of the sacrifices she had to make. Splurge purchases were a no-go during this time. 

“The same week I left the firm, I saw the new Marc Jacobs handbag, the Stella bag, in Barneys. I called my best friend and said, ‘Remind me why I’m doing this?’ ‘Because you want to be happy,’ she said. I did not buy the bag — I later did — but I never had another moment.”

I laughed because folks who are not as well of as her would be lamenting to their homegirl, “Yeah, no Starbucks for me this week… or EVER.”

Or, “Oh no, I’m not hungry. I got this ramen. It tastes DOES better with hot sauce.”

And while I’m poking a bit of fun at Ms. Minor, it made me think of micro ways us regular folks can take risks to with proper dedication, planning and determination.

In the movie “The Great Debaters” one of the young debaters quotes his dad who always reminds him, “We do what we have to do, so we can do what we want to do.”

Ms. Minor, and the gazillions of people who work jobs they dislike, but with purpose do just that. They see the bigger picture, and most importantly in that picture, they don’t see themselves where they currently are forever. There is an expiration date.

And for Ms. Minor, I presume that date was when she secured enough for her mortgage for a year as well as her living expenses. Go girl. Suze Orman would probably give you dap for that.

2014 is going to be a year of the grind for me, and strategic planning. I need to get serious about a number of things I took for granted and get back to the days of old where I had a worn planner that I wrote every little thing down in.

A good friend of mine had reminded me of that planner that held together one of the most hectic years of my entire life. I’d actually forgotten that I was, “that chick.”

Well that chick is about to resurface.

A wonderful friend of mine is about to set out on a journey and live a life-long dream of living in New York. She’s also a creative. I read the first couple of articles, and I was sincerely worried for her. I even thought of sending her the articles, not to crush her dreams, but just out of concern.

Then I stopped myself.

My friend did step out on faith and I believe in having faith and knowing sometimes that’s really all you need. And if I believe in faith, I believe my friend has the faith that it takes to pull off such an effort.

There was no point in making a friend who was already a bit nervous about such a drastic change more concerned. And I certainly didn’t want her to think I wasn’t supportive. She was preparing for this, doing her research and she secured an apartment. So that makes me even more confident she’ll be just fine. That was the hard part, in my opinion.

I didn’t want to write about New Year’s Resolutions, or promises. I don’t want to be the first person in the gym today. I may just work out at home. I don’t want to bum rush the grocery store to buy nothing but veggies. But I do want to make incremental changes that will last.

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Let’s just do our thing this year. Let’s feel good about who we are. Remind ourselves of how far we’ve come, and allow ourselves to dream. And once we dream, we can plan, and once we plan we can do.

So let’s do, shall we?

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