Chapter Eighteen: I Choose

I don’t know what to call this phase of my life.  I’m rediscovering who I am and making the connection between the three parts of me.  Who I used to be, who I am now, and who I aspire to be.  I’m filling in the blanks with a pencil because, for the first time in my life, I truly understand that it’s okay to make mistakes.

Earlier this month I drove to Colorado.  It was so beautiful!  I mean the journey, the site when I got there, the way people live.  I had never experienced anything like it before.  I fell in love with mountains that I hope to one day climb.  I was amazed at how genuine everyone was.  I love my city, but anyone from Chicago (proper) knows that we tend to keep our guard up.  That says a lot because I’m always open to people until they prove that I shouldn’t be.  But even in this situation I realized that I’m not as relaxed with others as I thought.

The drive back is what really got me thinking.  

I am horrible at driving at night.  I have glasses but didn’t think it was necessary to get the anti-glare lens.  Everyone speeds twice as much and seems to know where they’re going.  It literally makes me anxious.  Now add that with being on foreign road with little to no lights.  

I was a little pressed to say the least.

There are all of these turns and hills.  At one point I literally hit the brakes because the road was curving and I couldn’t see in front of me.  It was as if the road was leading me to the pits of hell.  I was going to fall off the earth.  

But the road kept going.

Driving at night, for me, is like going through life.  I don’t always see the next patch of the road.  In fact, sometimes I feel like I’ve reached the end and if I take one more step it will be my last.  There are times when I slow down or abruptly stop because I don’t feel prepared or am experiencing too much stimuli to assess the situation.  Sometimes I go faster than I should because the path ahead is clear.

I’m learning to keep going.  Because being stagnant or turning around because of fear isn’t the life I want to live.

This week, I’m going to leave you with another song.  A song that has helped me over the last two weeks to really keep going.  A song that has helped me see the beauty of who I am and who I’ve been.  A song that gives me hope for the person I want to be.

Because you never know where life is gonna take you and you can’t change where you’ve been.  

But today, I have the opportunity to choose.

And I choose to be the best that I can be.

I choose to be authentic in everything I do.

My past don’t dictate who I am.

I choose.

-India.Arie

Continue to be gentle with yourself.

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Chapter Seventeen: Be Alright

There’s always been those times when I needed a breather
When I might need a quick break from being the leader
Cause I’m just human, you gotta feel that
We’re all just here to learn and everyday we are put up to bat
If you feeling down, no you ain’t alone
And if you feeling all confused, no you are not on your own
Don’t stress, yeah we’re too blessed

Someone once told me babe when the tide gets high, you just get low
Hold your breath and take it slow
Yes I might get wet, I might get thrown
But I’ll resurface all on my own

I’ll be alright, be alright
Just go with the tide
I’ll be alright, be alright
I’ll be doing fine
Be alright, be alright
Just go with the tide

Life is full of ups and downs.  Lefts and rights.  Triumphs and defeats.  This could be happen on a small or large scale.  It all depends on the person.

I have difficulty, at times, with accepting my mental health issues.  I have anxiety, mild OCD, and an evolving form of depression.  There are days when I’m proud of myself for overcoming and pushing through the obstacles I’m faced with because of my mental health.  But there are also days when I’m “stuck” and don’t want to own it.  Because, at that time, if I own it then I feel like I’m labeling myself as unworthy of a lot of things.  I’m labeling myself as less than.

I’m more than worthy.  I’m far from less than.  Every day is a fight and as long as I keep fighting, I’m winning.

Today is one of those days.  You know how your day starts off bad?  For me it’s like everything is bloated and moving at a slow pace.  I can’t see past the current moment because I’m stuck in a mess of emotions.

It’s okay.

The Universe will give you want you need, and most times, what you want.  Whenever I’m in one of these moods.  Whenever I’m having this kind of day, this song comes on.  

Okay, first let me just say that Kehlani is life and you need some of her in your music library.  But this song is before she cut a deal.  This song comes from a real place.  This song reminds me that I’m human.  I’m allowed to feel every range of emotion.  I’m allowed to take time to myself.  I’m allowed to mess up.  But in order to keep getting better I have to also remember that life isn’t linear.  The most common theme of my blog, change is inevitable, will always be something I go back to.  So when I’m drowning, I have to learn to swim.  I have to learn to relax and float before life swallows me.

It will be fine.

A lot is changing for me right now.  A lot realizations are happening on different levels.  At any given moment, I may be a mess.  

But I’m not giving up.  And that’s what I want you to take away from this.  It will be alright.  You will get over and through whatever you’re going through.  And you aren’t alone.

Also, don’t forget to be gentle with yourself.

Dear No One,

I’m none of the things you thought I would be. You can say it’s because of you or you can admit it’s because I was never yours.

You planted a lot of hateful seeds. Like you tried to set me up for failure. But I spent my childhood building up a fortress against your attacks.

So thank you for being everything I didn’t need. For being everything I didn’t want. And for being the darkness so that I could find everlasting light.

Dear No One,

I remember wanting to be just like you. You were (hashtag) goals! I never really had anyone to look up to and it seemed that you entered my life at just the right time.

You were the best at everything and required nothing but that.

And then I came along lol.

I’ve never wanted to be the best. I’ve never cared to be the best. I never will be the best.

But that’s okay. I’m okay with being who I am. And that took a long time.

I love and respect you for all that you’ve done.

Maybe one day I will love and respect you for letting go.

Dear No One,

I remember hating you. I remember thinking you would mess everything up. Or maybe I would mess everything up. I had never had anyone like you in my life so I didn’t know how to adjust.

But you’ve remained warm and caring and always remind me that you’re there.

Thank you.

Dear No One,

I used to bargain with God. I used to pray for your safety. I used to ask Him to bring you back so things could go back to how they were.

Then I had to pray to stop hating you.

I get it now and I choose to believe that you did this out of love. Knowing what you could and couldn’t do, you chose the best option for me.

So now I don’t pray for you at all, I just wish you well.

Dear No One,

It’s been too long. Every year I search for you. Every year my heart gets heavy wondering if you’re searching for me as well. And every year that goes by are filled with tucked away memories I hope to share with you one day.

I’m sorry I didn’t fight for you. It took me too long to realize that children are anything but weak. That children can change the world. That children change people. That children are more than capable of making a difference.

I’m sorry and I will never stop looking for you and loving you.

Dear No One,

You’ve always been supportive and I’ve never had to question our relationship. Maybe we were really meant to be related. I’ve always admired you because you’re one of the sweetest and most outspoken people I know. You loved that part of you early on and it’s made you my sheroe.

Dear No One,

We were close. But the longer I stayed away the more we drifted apart. I needed your love, but I needed me more. So now when I see you, I recognize our history and that we may never have a future.

Dear No One,

I love you. I’ve loved you from the moment we formally met. I’ve loved you since the first time I saw you smile and heard you laugh. I’ve loved you from the beginning and I fought it because I didn’t want it.

You have helped me explore parts of myself I was afraid to even acknowledge. You have helped me stay grounded. You have taught me more things than I can count.

You are the breath of fresh air that I needed and free spirit I needed to help me explore.

If I have to lose you now at least I know what it means to love, be loved, and be free.

Chapter Sixteen: Keep Choosing Yourself

I've never really fit in with anyone or anywhere.  Today I'm totally okay with that.  However, when I was younger I clung to people and things that seemed to fit and accept me.  I refused to let go because it always felt great when I felt chosen.

Years went by with me feeling this way.  My adolescent years were crazy plus more crazy with a little crazy on top.  The internal struggle I went through, just to accept myself, was beyond tiresome.

We won't go to the dark places today.

Over the last seven or so years I've learned to be okay with who I am.  I've learned to make decisions for myself.  I've learned that it's okay to be weird (or as I used to say, creatively different).  Y'all I was weird before it was cool.  All this "in" stuff now used to be territory you did not discuss with others because you'd be labeled crazy real quick.

The more I began to choose me, the more people and things I realized served me no purpose.  I've lost a ton.  I've lost people who I thought would be there for the rest of my life.

The last two years have been especially hard.  I've gone back and forth with who I used to be and who I needed to be.  I was trying to hold on to -ships I knew weren't healthy.  I was holding in feelings and making myself crazy.

I lost more people.

It's a weird feeling to lose so many people and to initially panic but then realize you still have yourself so it's all good.  I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror.  I have to be proud of myself.  I have to be my biggest cheerleader.  I have to have my back at all times.  Yeah, it's cool if someone finds their way into my life, but I know that doesn't mean they're staying.  I have to be okay with that.

No more, people are here for a reason and a season.  That's a given.  What we need to learn is how to let go.  Let go of others without losing ourselves.

So we have to keep choosing ourselves.  It will make others angry.  It will make them leave.  It will make them give you ultimatums.  It will hurt.  It will hurt like hell.  But we choose ourselves today so that we don't regret it tomorrow.

Chapter Fifteen: Take Risks

I got a new job. Let me tell y'all about how it all went down. Let me tell y'all about how I'm sitting at work thinking about the risks I took and will have to take.

Guise. Take risks. Take all the risks, within reason.

In June I got a car. No, I didn't wake up and say, "Man, I need me a car." For a couple of months I had been talking about it. For a couple of weeks I was looking for a job. Every job I was confident in required me to have a car. Every job. I refused to go backwards sooooo I got a car. Happy Birthday to me!

So here I am, applying for jobs and then bam! I get a phone interview… on my birthday of all days. I'm psyched. I'm like bam, bam, bam!

The week I got back from New Orleans I had an in person interview. A week or two later I shadowed.

Y'all, I basically had the job.

But I had no idea there would be a waiting game.

I had to go through a background check and reference check. Easier said than done. The background was quick. The reference wasn't. There was miscommunication with who to contact and when. I was in limbo for almost a month.

All the while I'm wondering if I should just apply somewhere else.

So I had a rough day at work (the old gig) and took a day off. It was just before my "weekend" so it set me up to have three days off instead of two. Well I ended up taking an additional day off because I just… couldn't.

Y'all, it's totally acceptable to take a mental health day. It may not be universally accepted in the United States or within your company, but mental health is important.

Anyway, I returned and was called into the office for a meeting with my boss. She thought I had abandoned my job. She put me in the category of everyone else who says they aren't that person. I've never given her a reason to think I was.

So I sat there faced with the decision to put in my two weeks. I hadn't received the job offer I was waiting on, but I knew I pretty much had it.

So I took another risk. I put in my two weeks.

I walked out of there so confident. I was thinking about how I'm not appreciated. I was thinking about how I work in social services and it's a problem that I called off to take care of my mental health. I was thinking about my worth.

I was confident as hell!

So I went home and continued to float on this cloud.

The next morning I woke up freaking out! Why would I do that? Yeah I know my worth and all that jazz but what about my bills? I had just got a car. Rent was due. I filled out about eleven applications that day.

I was hounding the human resource department about the process and going back and forth with them with references and contact details.  I was put in contact with the head of HR and was told that she would personally look at things.

A week later, a week before my last week, I received a call with an official job offer.

I was excited and relieved!  In the back of my mind I knew I had the job.  I had known it since the first interview.  But to have confirmation is what I needed.

I took two major risks over the last two months and feel great about them.  I have to keep reminding myself that you can't just sit back and wait for life to happen, you have to make it happen.  Sometimes, as much as you want to plan, you just need to do.  I'm learning.

So I say with confidence, take risks!  Now, don't go out there and go crazy with it.  Take risks within your means.  Understand your situation.  Understand what you need and want and what needs to happen for it to all come together.

You got this!

 

sidenote: I wrote half of this post on my phone and the other half on a computer.  For all the people out there who are cringing at the inconsistent space between my sentences, I am too.  I'm just not going to go back and fix them.  I'm cool like that.

Chapter Fourteen: Full Circle

I have quite a few pet peeves. One of them being when people change and others make the comment, “Wow you did a complete 360.” Wait, so you’re saying they didn’t change at all? 

For the record, it’s 180. You have turned your back on who you used to be or things you used to do. 

Last week it rained. Man, it rained. It came down like buckets and trucks. But for some reason, on my way home, I glanced up at the sky as the rain began to slow down, and I had to stop and take some pictures. It wasn’t until I was looking through them that I realized it was a street I lived on as a child. 

You ever hear the expression, “You don’t know my story?” Well, as overused as it is, believe it. 

Stay with me because this is going somewhere, I promise. 

The building in this picture is, and has pretty much always been, a senior citizen building. It’s not great but it serves its purpose. My great-grandparents lived here for what seemed like forever. When I used to visit I felt like I was in an episode of The Jeffersons. 

Well one year, when I was nine, we stopped visiting and we just… stayed. I continued to go to school in the suburbs but had to be picked up and dropped off every day by my cousin who would drive from the south suburbs to the city. I started to miss a lot of days in school and only showed up field trips. My grades were poppin tho!

Anyway, the following school year I was transferred to a school in the neighborhood. I hated it. Everyone made fun of me because I “talked white” and “thought I was better than everyone else.” These people didn’t even know where Riverdale was! I barely made friends, but when I did they found out where I lived and made fun of me. They refused to be my friend because I wouldn’t- couldn’t- answer the question of why I lived there. 

We weren’t supposed to live there. My great grandmother got sick and that was what I was told to say, but I couldn’t keep saying we lived there, even though we really did. Turns out, we didn’t have anywhere else to go at the time. 

The rest of this story doesn’t really matter, but I’ll wrap it up by letting you all know that we moved back to the suburbs almost two years later when my great grandmother passed away. 

Y’all, I live five minutes away from this street now. When I moved in last year I didn’t think about it until I was on my way to work one day and decided to take the bus. We drove right pass the street and I was just like, well shut my mouth wide open. 

So much as changed for me since then. The neighborhood has changed. 

Change, is inevitable. 

Two years ago, when I moved back home, I had an interview. The day I stepped back into the city, it was pouring (okay clearly rain is becoming my thing). I had to take the quickest shower and head straight over to a school basically on the other side of the city. 

I got there and I began looking around. Something felt… familiar. I kept looking and touching things and feeling. 

We walked into one of the classrooms and began the interview. It hit me. I went to that school! 

You don’t know my story. 

For the first three years of my life I lived in Altgeld Gardens. It’s where most of my family lived. It’s where my father died. It’s where my grandfather died. All the memories! Okay that seemed morbid but it’s the truth. 

Now, I didn’t get the job, but leaving there made me feel like I was doing something right. What I’ve experienced, what makes me who I am, didn’t keep me from being greater than what was constantly presented to me. 

When I tell y’all my life has been coming full circle the last two years, buh-lee me. Every time I wonder if I’m doing this right or even why I continue to try, I’m reminded that it could have been worse. Based on how I grew up, it should have been  

I don’t have a lot of things figured out. But knowing that I’m not going backward or being stagnant is something that continues to drive me every day. 

Chapter Thirteen: Which Side Do You Want to See?

When I started this blog I had no intention of ever showing my face. I wasn’t ready for that type of connection. I wanted to be seen and understood for my words instead of other parts that make up who I am. 

It was difficult not to reveal my preferred pronouns. I felt that to make a better connection I needed to reveal ethnicity and sexual orientation (see tags). But my face? Nope. Never. 

But there I was, in a moment if pure bliss, love, and abundance. I had no choice. 

I aim to be transparent. I aim to encourage. I aim to be all that I am, unapologetically. I won’t be the same person I was yesterday. I won’t react to the same things today the way I reacted four years ago. But as long as I remain true I know that I’ll never doubt or regret what I’m doing. 

The title of this is not to ask you which side you want me to show. It’s to tell all who read this that I won’t refrain from showing each side. You have the luxury of treating me and this blog like trail mix. You can take and leave what you want, when you want. I, on the other hand, have to live with every shade of my being. 

I’m eternally grateful for the journey of understanding and accepting myself and being able to share it. 

My advice to you is to do the same. Don’t fight or hide parts of you that you may not accept (yet), and that others may disagree with. You are uniquely you and those who are meant to experience you, because you are an experience, will appreciate every part.