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?