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. 

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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. 

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.