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. 

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 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.