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 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 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 Eight: You’re Strong Until You Don’t Have to Be

Striving for independence is something most of us do. We get into situations where we think we can handle things ourselves. We start to think we don’t need help. Some of us start to believe we don’t want help. Like I’ve been going strong all my life, why do I need others?

You do. 

We are all strong. We have all overcome something. Lived through something that should have killed us in some way.

This past week I realized we are strong until we don’t have to be. What does that mean? Does that mean we eventually become week? What happens when we no longer have to have to be strong. 

Slow down. We’re getting there. 

We depend on others until we either no longer have to or until they prove that we shouldn’t. A crazy thing happens at some point, at several points, in our lives. We find someone we can depend on. We find someone we can lean on. And when we find that person, we begin to break down. They begin to let us know they are there for support and, with a little fight, we begin to allow them to be. 

I like to handle things by myself. That’s how I’ve always done it. Every now and again I allow someone in and they allow me to lean on them and vice versa.

Don’t lean too much. Don’t lean too long. Don’t allow others to lean too much or too long. 

I had somewhat of a difficult week. But there was only one person who I felt would make it better. Only one person who I felt I needed to talk to. Only one person who could even begin to catch me before I fell. 

Again, slow down. 

We can’t be fully emotionally available to everyone. We have to find those who are worthy. 

Is this person worthy? Honestly, it’s pending. Do I want them to be? Yes. Does that mean I force them into the position to eventually prove themselves? No. 

Baby steps. Take some baby steps. 

So when we find that person who we feel is worthy. Who can handle us in those weak moments. We let our guards down and we allow them to be strong for us. We allow ourselves to breathe and acknowledge the fact that we are only strong when we have to be. We better understand the weight we carry, daily, due to being strong for ourselves and others. We understand what it means to allow someone to be strong for us when we can’t be. 

It’s scary. But, change is inevitable and you have to find ways to be vulnerable when needed. You have to accept your feelings and find ways to express them. 

Emotions are tricky. They can make you think or feel something that is only true for the moment. But we are working toward those lifetime goals. So each day, find a way to be vulnerable with someone who matters. Find a way for relax and unload with someone who can be strong for you. 

Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with others. 

Chapter Seven: Be Vulnerable

We have become filled with pride, dislike, fluffed up personalities, and hardened by certain experiences. 

Here’s the catch. Things happen to you but they don’t define who you are. 

I was having a conversation with a friend and she helped me understand that I haven’t dealt with a lot of things from my past. I hate being stuck. I hate feeling like I have no room to grow. So even though I knew she was right, I chose to ignore it. 

Just a few days later I was on a weekly prayer call and was told the exact same thing. I thought, wow this is really something I need to deal with. 

It changed my mood. I was going through feelings and situations that I want to be reconciled but haven’t had the guts to confront. I thought by dealing with everything else, or even nothing at all, I was able to continue evolving. 

Understand, evolution can be stagnant. Everything around you is evolving so you think you’re doing the same thing. But really you’re being left behind. 

Deal with your issues. If something bothers you, talk about. If someone offends you and it makes you feel a way, talk to to them. 

I hate being vulnerable, as most people do. It’s like I’m naked in a crowd of people who can see every insecurity and flaw I have and that’s all they can see. Like every breath I take is being judged. 

I hate it. 

But we have to be vulnerable to deal with certain situations. It’s in our vulnerability that we find truth. That we accept everything we dislike about ourselves. It’s where we find overwhelming love for self and others. 

If I can’t acknowledge my weaknesses what makes me think I know what my strengths are? How do we find them? By being vulnerable. 

I’m not saying go out and shed your “clothes” for every person you encounter, in every setting. I’m saying, make your vulnerable moments count. When you aren’t sure. Own it. When you’re afraid own it. When you just don’t know how to make it. Own it! 

Go out and make every moment count, especially the vulnerable ones. Stand in the sun and allow it to kiss your skin, flaws and all. 

Chapter Five: Cleanse

What happened, you ask? 

Transformation. You will see this a lot: change is inevitable. 

Sometimes we need to go through our lives and cleanse them. Whether it be blog posts, people, or things. We have to learn to declutter. To get rid of that which is not necessary and/or harmful. To figure out what harm we are doing and fix it. Even if that means ending a friendship or relationship. 

I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. Especially this past week. Never allow anyone to make it seem like your feelings are invalid. Never treat people like crap and expect them to be okay with it. Never put yourself in the position to have your energy constantly drained. 

Energy is a powerful thing.

Keep shining. Keep flourishing. Keep changing.