Chapter Nine: Level UpĀ 

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. 

Chapter Five: Be Specific

We all have needs and wants. But we often confuse the two. We need food, water, and housing. We want the best of all of those things. Sometimes we think if we can’t get the best we shouldn’t get anything. 

Needs over wants. 

You have to start from the base basic need in order to build up to the best of that need. 

So be specific. 

We put things out into the atmosphere. We ask God/the universe for so many things. We say, “I really want to find a better job.” Or, “I neee to pay my rent but I don’t know how I’m going to do that this month.” We put intentions out there without really following through or believing. 

When I was 17 I moved out of my aunt’s house. It wasn’t the best situation, but I admit that it could have been worse. I prayed for a way out for almost three years before my prayers were answered. 

Side note: be patient. 

Years later I found myself in an unhappy relationship. I had given so much. When we invest time and energy into something or someone, it’s hard to let go. (You don’t owe time or energy to anyone but yourself, just so you know.) I prayed for a sign that I needed to let go. That it was okay to let go. Not even twenty four hours later I received that sign, but I ignored it. 

Side note: be open to the answer, whether it’s what you want or not. Be ready to follow through. 

This past year, after spending so much time working two jobs, I prayed for a full-time position. I started landing interviews but didn’t have any offers. Then I prayed for a full-time position doing something I was passionate about. I landed more interviews than before and received some offers. I finally accepted a position that would allow me to obtain the experience I need for my desired field. 

This is why I say be specific and be ready to follow through. 

I’m a morning person and have been since the dawn of time. The position I accepted is second shift. That entails me going to work in the afternoon and getting home just after midnight. BUT it’s full-time. 

I put all my prayers and intentions into finding a full-time position in this field, but I forgot one the most important factors-time. Had I added that to my prayers and intentions I would have probably landed some type of dream job that I didn’t even qualify for. 

Things happen the way they happen because of our intentions, actions, and what we need, not want. 

I need the experience and I love the job, I just would have preferred a different shift. This just means I have to reset my intentions and work towards them. 

Be as specific as you can when you pray, set intentions, or begin manifesting. Be patient with the process. Trust God/the universe with timing. When you ask for something make sure you’re prepared for the answer. And make sure you’re ready to follow through, even if that means standing still. 

Chapter Four: Choose Fewer Battles

We have the ability to choose who and what to fight for. We can choose which people, situations, and conversations to put energy in. 

Here’s the kicker: because we can choose, we should choose less. 

You don’t have to attend every argument or engagement, nor do you have to engage in every person’s existence. 

Choose fewer battles. 

I read this once and it stuck with me because I get invested easily. You could tell me about what your expectations are for the coming week and if I see you again I’ll ask about it, ready to give encouraging words and help. This leads me to be in situations I don’t too much care for and then I have the greatest internal struggle trying to let it go or reconcile the fact that I get invested without trying. 

But we have to choose battles that are worth it. We have to choose battles that make sense. We have to choose battles that will help us be better people for ourselves and those we love. 

The most important thing we need to learn is when to no longer invest in a battle. 

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about getting another job. After obtaining clearance to start I had made up in my mind that I would work two jobs. Let me just tell you now that my mind was made up but my body was ready for the fight. 

After working an eight hour shift, getting nearly four hours of sleep, and going through an entire 13 hour day (twice in one week by the way), my mind had to let go of that dream. 

I enjoy staying busy. But I don’t enjoy not getting rest or time to myself. 

Today I put in my notice for a job I love, but does not allow me to do what I love. Today I decided that I had to choose fewer battles. I was unprepared for days a time, not getting enough rest, and even forgetting to eat. These are all essential things. 

With everything going on within the last week, somehow I still found time to myself most mornings. I found that having that time allowed me to function better, even if for only ten or twenty minutes. 

So in addition to choosing fewer battles, take that extra time and meditate or just do something that brings you joy. 

Choosing fewer battles doesn’t mean you’re giving in. Doing so means you’re setting yourself up for better. It means you’re saving that energy for things and people that matter. It means you’ll never regret the time and energy you put forth by thinking it was wasted. 

Choose yourself. 

Chapter Three: Occupy Space

I’ve always considered myself to be an introvert. Over the years I’ve adapted to the term ambivert because I’ve never fully gone over to the other side of the spectrum. Only when I’m with close knit friends and family am I over the top and mistaken as an extrovert. 

Tuesday night I attended a great event. The beautiful ladies of Party Noire came out and partnered with Open TV Tonight to throw one of the smoothest events I’ve attended in quite some time. It was all about #BlackJoy and being comfortable in spaces to express yourself. To be you, unapologetically. 

The feels!

They put together a great mini documentary that perfectly portrayed who they are and why they do what they do. The amount of brilliance, happiness, peace, positive energy, and hope in the room full of POC and Queer people was… incredible. 

Occupy space. 

One person asked how do you create and occupy the space to be yourself like that of Party Noire. 

The answer was simple. If you have a hand full of friends, ask them to invite a handful of friends and so forth. Use the space you have- your living room, basement, backyard- with like-minded people to evoke those feelings and energies. 

Occupy space. 

I attended this function alone. I was quite unsure of myself. I was unsure of how to occupy space in that space. I find that in these cases I attempt to make myself small. Instead of occupying whatever space my body and energy feels it needs, I take from whatever space it already has. 

Occupy space. 

Had I allowed myself to completely relax and not worry about space, I would have enjoyed the event even more. 

Don’t fight the space your body and spirit naturally occupies. Because by the end of the event or day you’ll find that you’re physically tense and angrily trying to unfold yourself. 

Don’t put yourself in tight spaces. Occupy space. 

I could give up. I could say, hey I went and  it was great. Even afterwards I found myself wishing I had allowed myself to be. I longed for a do over and even talked myself out of future events. 

I’m an ambivert and I don’t know how to occupy space. But I’m learning. I needed this to learn. So as I expose myself to different situations and people, each time I will get better at being. 

Occupy space. You’re growing in so many ways, in so many directions. You need to allow your body and spirit to do what they want.