Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Comparison.

"Comparison is the thief of joy." 

I'm not sure who first said it but it rings true. If you truly want to steal your own happiness, compare yourself to others around you. You're sure to be successful at doing so.

It happens so naturally sometimes. It happens before we even realize it. One moment we're celebrating the success, beauty, or achievement of another person and in the next we find ourselves using them as a yardstick for our own lives. It's a sneaky habit, is it not? It creeps up on us before we know it and sabotages our ability to appreciate the good in our own lives.

The key issue with comparing ourselves to others is that we will never be satisfied. That craving to be more, accomplish more, look better... will be insatiable. There will always be someone new to compare ourselves to. A new yardstick, if you will. Imagine the amount of emotional and mental baggage that that creates for one person. You become unable to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty of your own life because you are enthralled with competing with the person next to you.

In order to overcome this issue, you must start from the inside out. It's not a new solution. I'm sure that you've heard it so many times that it's begun to sound cliché. But it couldn't be any more true. In order to truly reach the point in your life where you don't feel the need to compare yourself to others, you must become comfortable with who you are.

And that shit takes work.



It doesn't happen overnight. If you think it does, you may be developing false confidence (but that's a topic for another post). You have to understand and accept that you have flaws, much like everyone else does. A person who accepts their flaws but continues to be and love themselves unapologetically glows. Have you noticed? Those particular people always seem to have an alluring aura about them, something that you initially can't place your finger on but once you realize it later, you can't forget nor ignore it. I appreciate those people. I admire them. Because I am continuously striving to reach that place in my own life.

In an appearance-driven society where everyone is dependent on social currency for validation, I understand that it can be difficult to accept your flaws when every force is telling you to hate them. Don't take lightly the impact that social media can have on your psyche. Be aware of your mental and emotional responses. Acknowledge when something makes you feel a certain way and attempt to understand why. There is no shame in acknowledging your feelings, even if it's due to something trivial you spotted online. This is how you learn more about yourself and the world around you. Take a moment to reflect and you will appreciate it later in life.

We are all on a journey whether we realize it or not. Take time to learn more about yourself and love the person that you are becoming, regardless of what society tells you. Beauty is skin deep.




Monday, June 26, 2017

Cape Town, South Africa 2017!






Today begins my second week in Cape Town, South Africa. It's finally sinking in that I'm really here. I'm really in Africa.

I will be spending 8 weeks in South Africa to intern with a nonprofit organization via an international program, IES Abroad. Last Spring I was the recipient of a $4,500 scholarship from my university's Study Abroad office and this allowed me to participate in this amazing experience. I am beyond blessed to have this opportunity and intend to make every moment count.

The nonprofit organization I am interning with is PASSOP (People Against Suffering, Oppression, & Poverty). It assists undocumented immigrants in South Africa appeal for residency in the country as well as advocates for members of the LGBTQI community. While here, I will be working specifically with the organization's Gender Based Violence Program. South Africa's rate of sexual and violent assaults against women and members of the LGBTQI community is alarmingly high and Cape Town is no exception. Oftentimes these assaults go unreported because victims feel ashamed for the attack. Undocumented individuals are even less likely to report an assault due to fear of being arrested. Refugee or not, all victims of assault deserve the right to report their cases without the fear of persecution. I have been challenged to create a fresh initiative to combat this issue and spread awareness of the prevalence of violence in Cape Town. In addition, I plan to empower survivors to share their stories and use them as tools of prevention for others.

When I first arrived to  South Africa, I felt as if I were in a real-life Sims game. (If you're familiar with the game, you'll understand this connection.) For so long, Africa has been this mystical place in my head, a generalized area full of people with the same backgrounds, ethnicities, personalities, etc. I didn't fully grasp that African countries are as diverse as the States until I arrived here and started talking to everyone around me.

They're real people.

With real personalities. Lives. Various backgrounds. Different stories.

They're as individualized as we are in America.

For some odd reason, I subconsciously thought that everyone here would be devoid of humor, style, spunk, class... I didn't think there was much I could relate to them on besides being from the continent. But I have come to realize how much I've generalized Africa and stereotyped natives in so many ways. I feel embarrassed for doing so but I realize that this is just the impact of America's public educational system. I was never fully informed about each African nation nor encouraged to do my own research until just recently (in my undergraduate experience). For years, 'Africa' has been lumped together as one large area with nothing peculiar nor spectacular about it. And now I have seen the truth for myself.

I am naturally a people-watcher but it's become even more intensified since I've arrived here. I find myself getting lost in the conversations of others several times a day. On the public bus, in the cafe when I'm buying lunch, on the street when I'm shopping... I don't always understand what I'm hearing but I still enjoy watching their faces, learning their expressions, their norms... It's amazing to see people who externally look just like me but once in conversation, we are worlds apart. I enjoy the diversity and I thrive on it while here.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

It's Just Hair, Right?


What does your hair mean to you?

Is it just an accessory? An additional form of expression? Something to add a little flair to your aesthetic? 

Or does it hold a deeper meaning for you? Is it a political statement?

I've encountered this discussion across several platforms, in several circles, and the responses always vary. Not everyone values their hair the same way because the manners in which they've come to love it differ. For some women, hair is just what it is. Hair. And for many others it's much deeper than an accessory due to life experiences that have taught them to feel that way. I would argue that neither opinion is necessarily right. I, nor anyone else, is in any position to police women's hair. However, I always am intrigued by the explanations behind ladies' responses to the question. 

For me, my hair is both. It's funky, it's fun, I love to play and experiment with it. However, there is a part of me that views my naturally kinky hair as a political statement. Anytime that I sport an afro I feel as if I'm resisting traditional norms of beauty. And I feel this resistance because I always have conflicting feelings about it. Despite being proud of it, I still feel self-conscious because a part of me still longs to wear hair that is acceptable. Normal. Sexy. Deep down I realize these are superficial feelings that I ought not take heed to, but sometimes I can't ignore the thoughts. 

I want to feel beautiful and for many years I have been conditioned to believe that my natural hair is not that. 

My relationship with my hair is steadily improving. The beliefs that I have had about it are deeply rooted, seeded in my childhood. When you have been conditioned to believe things about yourself for so long, it can possibly take years to recondition yourself to feel differently. And that is where I currently am. The more that I learn about the history of African-American hair, its treatment, and political significance across time, my opinion changes--more positively at that. I am realizing that much of the ideas I have had about my hair stem from this history and this in turn, helps me to embrace it more. In the meantime, I plan to continue celebrating it--every kink and every coil. 


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy New Year (and all that stuff)

Happy New Year!

I'm finally back.

....and I'm better. 


Or at least I intend to be for 2017. I mean, don't we all? Within each of us is a minute smidgen of hope that just maybe we'll manage to get ourselves together in the new year. There is something refreshing about entering a new year, as if all of our transgressions magically dissipate once the clock hits twelve. 

I toss around ideas of new year's resolutions in my mind but ultimately I know that nothing will get better. And that is not a pessimistic opinion; that's a fact. Because I know myself. I've been knowing myself for a little over two decades now so if anyone is an expert on me, it's me. 

I realize what my strengths are, acknowledge my weaknesses, and understand how my mind functions under pressure. I realize how easily tempted I am to be suckered into mediocrity once I'm comfortable. I'm already aware of how I react when I tend to let myself down. And I know exactly what to do to uplift my spirits all over again. 

The beginning of a new year has nothing to do with any of it. If I'm truly committed to change any area of my life, I will make it happen any time of the year. 

One mistake that I refuse to make is convincing myself that I cannot do something because it's too late. That I need a new year to have a fresh start. That I just can't commit to it out of nowhere. That I have no control of the path my life is heading in. That is pessimism. 

There are a number of things that I would like to devote more time to in 2017 but most importantly, I plan to be realistic. I'm only a mortal being; I cannot accomplish it all and I accept that. However, that will hinder me from at least trying. 

What are some things you'd like to accomplish in 2017?

Monday, June 27, 2016

But First Let Me Rant.☝



First and foremost, this will be a rant. I apologize for it not being inspirational as many other posts are but feel free to check out some other uplifting content up above.

Earlier today, I was riding the local bus home when I overheard a conversation being held behind me. I didn't immediately turn around; just imagine how awkward that would've been. But I continued to listen for a minute or so and it was downright disgusting.

The conversation was held between two middle-aged white women. Not the most attractive individuals to look at but who am I to say. They were talking about a lady that was sitting diagonally from us on the opposite side of the bus. She was African-American, appeared to be middle-aged herself, and was completely oblivious to the conversation being held about her. Thankfully. She was sporting a pixie cut that for some odd reason, made the white women uncomfortable. 

"She may as well shave the rest of it off...."

"The least you can do is use a hair spray to add volume to it..."

"...it's bad enough it's spiky already.."

Just a few snippets I heard from the exchange. I tried to ignore it for a second or so but it was alarming to me that they had the audacity to speak about this lady openly. As if she were disrespecting them simply by being there. It was a self-righteous attitude they both evoked and that's what bothered me the most. 

Granted, I didn't speak up. I honestly didn't know what to say and I'm a non-confrontational person. But I wrestled with what-if's the entire ride home after they stepped off the bus. 

This self-righteous attitude is not new; we're all too familiar with it. It lives and breathes with us every day in different manners. In some ways it can be less obvious, in others it's very blatant. Even though I'm a native of the South, I've never encountered blatant self-righteousness on behalf of a white individual. It's always been subtle. Call it southern hospitality if you'd like. 

Since moving to Kentucky, I have noticed that attitudes here appear to be much different. Perhaps it's just been a matter of the types of people I encounter or the areas I venture into. But whatever the case may be, it has consistently put me on edge. And after overhearing that conversation today, I was pushed off it. The fact that some individuals feel entitled to belittle others who don't look or live like them still baffles me. In many ways, I feel it's due to the culture of Louisville. Many people do not ever have the opportunity to venture beyond Kentucky; this is all that they know. I firmly believe that isolation breeds ignorance. When isolated in this area for years at a time, their perspective is so narrowed that anything beyond it is odd/disrespectiful/disgraceful/ugly/unprofessional, etc. People don't accept what they do not understand and clearly these women don't understand Black hair. 

In order to prevent myself from taking things so personally, I always attempt to understand the motives behind a person's behavior or thinking. Not that they are justified by it, but doing so helps me realize situations from the perspective of other people. Ignorance is pervasive nowadays so you can only imagine how difficult of a job this is. However, I see the value in it. I would rather try to understand someone's point of view (even if I disagree) rather than getting upset over it. Otherwise, I'm only modeling their behavior. And that's just not what I do. 




Saturday, June 18, 2016

#PrayforOrlando ♥


Anytime that a large number of people are killed or murdered, it impacts me in some way. It doesn't matter whether the incident occurred in the States or abroad. My spirit is just affected by the sudden loss of innocent lives, as I'm sure that yours is as well.

When I initially received news of the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, I knew it was tragic but the devastation of it did not hit me right away. It wasn't until the victims' identities were revealed that I truly was heartbroken. There were some victims that were middle aged, but a great majority of them were fairly young. Some even younger than I am. And that deeply disturbed me.

I imagined how they must have set out that night, not imagining that it would be their last evening alive. I imagined the passions they had, the aspirations, and dreams. I imagined their families and how their loved ones would attempt to continue on without them. And it was very frustrating to reflect on because in a matter of minutes, all of that was unjustly stripped away from them.

I was recently engaging in a conversation with someone about the incident and we brought up the idea of how much better the world would be if no one felt the need to police the lives of others. What if we had no desire to monitor and control the lifestyles that other people choose? Of course the lifestyles shouldn't involve direct harm to anyone; nothing that can interfere with the livelihood of other human beings. But I'm sure you understand the gist of my perspective. Life would be much more peaceful if we all were content with allowing others to just live as they pleased. Although we may not agree with the sexual orientations or identities that other individuals choose, it is ultimately beyond our control. Or, it ought to be.

Although I do not consider myself a member of LGBTQIA, I do believe that everyone has the right to live and love as they please. In no manner was the perpetrator justified in the act he committed. More Christians should realize that to advocate for the civil rights of a people does not necessarily mean you advocate for their sexuality.

In other words, to admit your grief over the lost lives does not mean you must identify as gay, lesbian, queer, etc. It is possible to be in support of equal treatment of a people while disagreeing with the things they do.

It is my hope that nothing of this caliber will occur again, in any respect. My heartfelt prayers go out to the families mourning the loss of their sons, daughters, uncles, and fathers. As a Believer, I feel that although there any many things in life we do not understand, we have a divine connection to the One who understands all. Through this connection, we can find the strength we need to move forward with love and bring along all of our sisters and brothers, including those still fighting to love who they choose.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Introversion.

One of my most favorite YouTube personalities is EvelynFromTheInternets. (Just click her name to visit her channel). She's quirky, like me, just more funny. One of her videos that I was watching today (which I'll post below) approached the topic of introversion vs. extroversion. And in the description bar, she linked her viewers to an incredible TED talk by Susan Cain titled "The Power of Introverts."

Above is Evelyn's video, as you can tell by her darling expression. 

...And here is Susan Cain's TED Talk, The Power of Introverts. It's 19 minutes long but the information enveloped within it is well worth it. 

I was intrigued because I have always classified myself as an introvert since becoming aware of the term. I know that no person is solely introverted nor extroverted but I realize my personality and tendencies seem to align mostly on the introverted end of the spectrum. 

I could really relate to Susan's childhood story that she explains in the clip because I, too, had some of the same experiences. I was an excellent student for the majority of my childhood but my social skills weren't up to par in comparison to my peers. I was deemed too quiet, too shy, too reserved. Sometimes even as an adult today, I'm labeled with these words as if they're a bad thing. I'm told I need to get out more, live a little, don't be so uptight. It makes others uncomfortable for me to be so content with silence, solitude, and my own company. Unfortunately, they have never considered what my idea of comfort may entail. 

Being an introverted individual has its own social challenges, but compile that with being a dark-complexioned, African-American female. To those looking from the outside, it may seem trivial. What does race or skin tone have to do with an introverted personality? 

To put it simply, a lot. 

I've often felt that others expected me to have a grandiose personality because of my appearance. Being reserved and soft-spoken as an African-American female seemed to surprise many people I've met and I believe this is due to stereotypes placed on dark-skinned women. We're more aggressive (supposedly), louder (supposedly), more violent (supposedly)... There's a plethora of stereotypes associated with being a darker complexioned Black female. However, I never truly fit into those cookie-cutter personas other people readily held for me. And that didn't necessarily put them at ease.

Introverts in general are very misunderstood individuals. Society caters to the extroverted personality so very few take concern for us. As Susan mentions very early on in her video, many classrooms nowadays have done away with traditional school desks and have replaced them with tables--promoting "collaborative teamwork"(as if that is conducive to every student's learning). Those of us who reject those norms are seen as troublemakers and outsiders. It's not normal to want to retreat, be alone, and seek solitude for true productivity. And I believe there's truly something wrong with that. 

There are some of us who perform best when collaborating with other people. Teamwork motivates us to focus more, challenge ourselves, and become more productive. And that is perfectly okay. However, there are also some of us who function in the opposite manner. Being forced to engage in group efforts makes us less focused, less disciplined, and less motivated. It creates the exact opposite effect on us. We need the freedom to move at our own pace, with our own ideas, and solely with ourselves. That is how we craft the creations that truly represent who we are.