Chapter Twelve: Find Your Root

Why do you do the things you do? Why are you the way you are? Learned behaviors play a key role in figuring out the answers to those questions. 

About a week and a half ago two important things happened. The first was my twenty-seventh birthday. The second was my friend graduating from her master’s program. Well two months ago we decided to celebrate them both simultaneously. I wanted to go to Miami, but was open to other locations. A month later nothing solid had been put into place. I had basically given up on going anywhere or doing anything. She started to really look into locations and prices. She chose New Orleans and I was upset. I wanted to go but how could I when this was so last minute?

After some back and forth I agreed and purchased my plan tickets. I still had some reservations because I felt like I wasn’t prepared. And I was still a little angry because people know that I am a planner. 

The day before my birthday I spent time on the lake front. I did some yoga and laid out. I felt so much gratitude. I saw twenty-six as the year of reflection. Twenty-seven had to be the year of manifestation. 

After I left the lake front I went to see my mom at her job. We talked about my plans to go out of town and what I had done that day. I invited her to come do yoga with me. I said we could plan be night before and she said, “You know I plan my life in advance.”

That’s when it dawned on me. I said, “Yes I know. And you’re my root. My friend wakes up and goes places while I wake up and plan to go places months from the day.”

Guise, we gotta live life. 

A learned behavior. I learned that planning is essential, so much so that I was unable to budge without a plan. That day I thought about all the learned behaviors that make me who I am. While I wouldn’t change who I’ve become, not every behavior is good or positive or beneficial. I realized that in order to really tackle an internal problem like this, I had to figure out when it started. Why it started. I had to evaluate how it could be holding me back from achieving greatness. 

We went to New Orleans. While I may not have found my great great great great great great grandmother, I found a feeling of excitement, opportunity, growth, and belonging. The tours we went on. The people we met. The history we learned. Every aspect screamed, “find your root.” 

Who am I? Who will I become? What will I achieve? The answer is limitless. I am limitless. I will be limitless. And I will achieve unimaginable levels of greatness. 

But first, I have to find my root(s).


📷: jywilson

Chapter Eleven: Don’t Drown

You ever have that feeling when everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, feels overwhelming? You start to hate your job. Everything relationship is in shambles. You feel yourself outgrowing the life you’ve built but don’t know how to make a change.

We’ve all been there. You just gotta keep swimming. 

I haven’t really slept in two weeks. I toss and turn. I stay up super late. I wake up feeling like Lady Death. I feel like I’m not reaching my full potential at work. And don’t even get me started on relationships. There are people who believe that your dreams and the way you sleep are reflections of how you feel about life and how it’s happening. I’m one of those people. So it all makes sense. 

The other night, in the midst of tossing and turning and going in and out of sleep, I had one single moment of clarity. In that moment of clarity I head a voice, Thee Voice, saying, “Don’t drown.”

I’m a literal and figurative person and like to make the two correlate when possible. So when I woke up the next morning I responded, “But I can’t even swim in real life. How am I suppose to stay afloat in this?”

Trust. 

We have to trust that by making a decision to do or not do something, we are putting ourselves one step closer to our goals. It’s not to say that your decision will always be right. But just by making one, imagine chess pieces moving on a board. Some decisions will be easier than others. 

So trust. Trust that God, Allah, the Universe, has your front and your back. 

You got this!

Chapter Ten: It’s Not Only About You

Life isn’t linear. There are different directions, dimensions, lives, all working at the same time, in some way with each other.  You cannot possibly believe that the world and its inhabitants are here to observe you, a single being.

Here’s a great way to check yourself in this situation. If someone asks a question or says something and you interject with how it’s relevant to you, every time, even when your response isn’t warranted, you need to reevaluate the way you see your position in life. 

I’ve encountered countless people who do this and honestly, they have all been miserable. They are constantly trying to force everything and everyone to revolve around them, and something on the inside fractures when they see that not happening. 

Stop working against yourself. 

You have to interact with the different spaces you find yourself in. You have to learn to care for others, outside of yourself. There is a time for everything. A time to be selfish (in relation to putting your self care above the needs of others because you need to get yourself together first) and being self-less. 

Think about that. We are quick to get angry when things don’t go out way and slow to rejoice when things do. That’s because we are always expecting the worst. Expect nothing but the best and rejoice either way because something greater is always in the mix. How do you expect to handle huge blessings if you can barely handle small ones?

Life isn’t only about you, it involves you. Instead of focusing on the first part of that sentence, focus on the second. Figure out how to work with it. Figure out how to procure the best from every interaction. It doesn’t have to be tangible. It could be a lesson, a new way of thinking, a transference of bomb energy. 

“What you create for you, no one can take from you. -Jhene Aiko

Create your life. Manifest your destiny. Work with the world to make that happen.

Chapter Nine: Level Up 

I have a close friend who is really like a brother to me. He’s been through hell and back but that hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of thee most inspirational people I know. He’s had some beautiful babies, been through a divorce, took a pay cut with a new job, and worked two jobs five days a week. He did all of this while still managing to stay humble, pay his bills, save, and provide for his family. Now he’s a supervisor at both jobs. He just bought a car. And was able to move to a better neighborhood. 

While working with him I saw his struggles. We laughed and talked. He gave me some of the best advice. He motivated me. And he continues to do so. 

A few weeks ago he shared a picture of a list of goals he made a while back. The amazing thing about it is, these were long term goals to achieve over a span of years. When he bought his car he was able to check everything off on the list. Everything. That means all his hard work and sacrifices weren’t in vain. Every time he chose to keep going, even when he didn’t want to, put him one step closer to achieving his goals. 

Sometimes we want to fast track our success because we are too busy watching those around us. By doing so we start to feel incompetent or like we are being left behind. You have to remember you’re in competition with yourself. The part of you that wants to give up. The part of you that doubts your moves, thoughts, and actions. 

When it’s time to level up, you have to do it at your own pace or you’ll end up sabotaging your future. 

My brother Jason is one of the greatest examples I can give you. He used to tell me all the time that there are ways to get what you want, right and wrong, but if you’re going about it the right way you’ll have nothing to worry about. If you go about it the right way you’ll have to push beyond those moments of despair and believe in yourself. Believe that God has you and will make sure you’re covered. You have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror, and in some cases, choose to set the standard for your kids. 

So level up the right way. Go at your pace. Don’t become consumed with what your friends are doing or what your parents think you should be doing. Be consumed with being better than you were the day before, the month before, and the year before. Be consumed with progress. 

Thanks to my brother for giving me permission to share some of his story. Thank you for being you, unapologetically. And thank you for always inspiring me to realize my growth, especially when I think I’ve been stagnant. 

Chapter Eight: Breathe

I’ve always been obsessed with the sky. When I was younger I lived in Las Vegas and we used to sit on the roof at night and stare at the stars. When I moved back to Chicago those stars weren’t visible. Thankfuly the sun has always done some crazy beautiful things to make up for it. 

No matter what the sky looks like, I’m always able to look up and breathe. I breathe when I’m nervous. When things aren’t going well. When I’m overwhelmed. When I’m happy. I breathe just being able to appreciate the beauty of the day. 

Find your thing that makes you breathe. That makes you slow down. That makes you appreciate life. Find your thing that keeps you grounded, even if it’s something above you like the sky. 

Sometimes we meditate with the moments we take. However, if you’re like me, you don’t get a lot of quiet moments throughout the day. Find your thing and breathe. Deeply. Fully. Happily. 

Chapter Seven: But

Think about the last time you told your story. Think about the last time you tried to explain yourself. Think about the last thing you did and why. 

Did any of  those situations include additional details using the word “but”?

My god grandfather was a great man. I’m constantly reminded of him and how everything he taught me applies to every aspect of life. The past week I keep thinking about his lesson on the word “but.”

“But” cancels out everything you said that came before it. “I wanted to help you, but I had to work.” “I wanted to do the right thing, but I was afraid.” In the same light people say, “I’ve struggled a lot, but God got me through it all.”

No matter what your intentions are, using that interjection cancels out whatever you meant to do or say.

I can’t even pretend like I haven’t tried to find a way around this. 

I’ll keep it short and sweet this week. Cancel out the negative, shed light on the positive. 

When you’re thinking of what to do or say and you find that you’ve hit the “but” part of it all, think about what you’re really setting out to accomplish. Try using the words “and” or “instead.” And as you find different words, realize the transformation being made. You’ll end up transforming the way you think, which will reflect in actions, and in words. It’s a great way to check in with what really matters, and who. 

Chapter Six: Emotional Rollercoaster

The last two weeks have been hard. I’ve been learning lesson after lesson, but never took the time to let everything sink in. 

When you take time for yourself, make sure you’re using that time to also reflect. Yes, it’s important to do something that makes you happy and relaxes you. But as you relax or begin to enjoy your time, think about the day or the week. Realize your feelings about events that have happened. 

I forgot that part. So I went through the ups and downs of being emotionally overwhelmed. I felt paralyzed. Like I had to allow myself to feel, for every moment I overlooked, all at the same time. 

It’s exhausting. 

People leave. People let you down. Sometimes you let yourself down. When this happens, it’s often hard to control our reactions, whether we be sad, angry, or disappointed. 

I searched for ways to be active and present for myself, even though I felt like I couldn’t. One article stated that we must acknowledge our feelings so we can control our response to how we feel. For we cannot control how we feel, but we can control how we allow ourselves to act in response to them. 

So acknowledge how you feel, especially when you don’t want to or feel as though you can’t. Come up with a game plan now, so you won’t have to search for one on the spot. 

What’s my game plan?

I’ll try to think through my response. What’s going to be the healthiest and most fulfilling way to respond to this anger or sadness? How do I make sure I don’t take it out on others, even if they are part of the problem? Think. Breathe. Solution. But most importantly, save the solution for last. 

Be gentle with yourself.