(Im)Perfect 10

I’m a recovering undercover over-loving, people-pleasing perfectionist.

Song inspiration: Reachin’ 2 Much x Anderson.Paak ft. Lalah Hathaway

Passing notes was a favorite pastime of mine when I was younger. I didn’t have a cellphone until my sophomore year of high school so you can imagine I did a lot of note passing back in my day. I just recently threw away all the notes I had saved from middle/high school after watching this one episode of hoarders that changed my life (but I digress) I was in the 7th grade when I received a note in the hallway from my crush/school boyfriend. I excitedly opened it in my 3rd period class. It was a letter written in the form of a poem entitled “My Sexy Perfectionist.” Now, I know what you’re thinking: What in the hell does a 7th grade boy know about what it is to be sexy?!? I definitely agree. I was nowhere near sexy at that age but a young boy can dream I guess. I will never forget this note for many reasons, but most importantly, it was the first time in my life I had ever been called a perfectionist. I had absolutely no idea what that word meant. But shout out to homeboy; he may not have known what it was to be sexy at that young age, but he was able to identify a character flaw in me that would permeate my life for years to come.

I am the youngest of six siblings and quite frankly I believe this is why I am a very visual learner. I had so many examples of what to do and what not to do in the eyes of my parent’s approval. I definitely didn’t have to touch the stove to know that it was hot (thanks to my sister Amber) I tried my very best to be under the good graces of my parents. I was a pretty solid rule follower, I liked to help my mom with chores around the house and I did really well in school. My dad has only had to yell at me one time in my life and I still feel like it was super unwarranted (but go off Eldridge) I was always the teacher’s helper and tried my best to be an exemplar student in the class. I would like to say I was the perfect kid, but we all know I’d be stretching the truth just a little bit.

I thought I had figured out a major life cheat code. Just follow the rules, learn from other people’s mistakes and do things differently… Duh!! Me and my bright ideas. What I was actually doing was placing such a heavy burden of perfectionism on myself at a very early age. I was committed to living a life of acceptance instead of authenticity. I was so stuck on doing the right thing at all times that when I had a human lapse of judgement, there was really no need for my parents to punish me because I would punish myself with self-loathing and despair (on top of actual punishment) Every time I felt like I disappointed my parents or teachers, I would vow to go above and beyond the next time to prove myself worthy of their love and forgiveness. In reality, it was never that deep, but my little mind couldn’t comprehend that. So not only did I strive to do every single thing with perfection, I added people-pleasing to the mix which is a dangerous concoction.

If you looked up the definition of doing too much, you’d see my picture right there with a goofy ass smile. I kid you not. I went so hard in everything that I mistook perfectionism for authentic ambition.

This mindset impacted every aspect of my life. In my educational journey, I prided myself on being academically disciplined (besides that one relapse when I almost failed the 3rd grade) When I didn’t catch on to a concept as quick as I’d like to, I’d feel like there was something wrong with me or the way that I learned. I didn’t want to be seen as incompetent in the eyes of my peers. In my personal life, I pushed myself to live up to the expectations of my family and friends. I held myself to unrealistic standards that the people around me could not and would not adhere to because they weren’t necessary. When I would do something to disappoint family or friends, I’d think of any way possible to get back in their good graces; I’d bend over backwards to prove my love and loyalty. So it constantly felt like I was giving more than I was receiving.

Unfortunately, In my love life I actually grew up to be that “Sexy Perfectionist” my 7th grade crush was talking about. I looked real good on the outside but was full of shit on the inside. You couldn’t tell me anything in opposition to what my intention was. I always went above and beyond to make sure that I was the perfect girlfriend. I learned the hard way that you don’t get a Nobel Peace Prize for simply not cheating (who knew?) I had a lot of messed up character traits that would be enough to make any guy that pursued me run in the opposite direction. When confronted with constructive criticism by my significant other, I would become stoic and hard hearted. It was hard for me to hear anything negative because I knew the major effort that I put into each endeavor so if it was misread, then clearly it wasn’t my problem, it was theirs. So eventually, my significant others would just stop telling me when I made them feel some type of way while I made sure to point out every single flaw of theirs. As you can imagine, that did not go over so well in the relationship retention department. In my career, it was hard when I worked really hard on something and felt like it wasn’t acknowledged or appreciated the way that I felt it should be. In my faith, I felt like I had to be perfect to come to God and ask for help. So a lot of the time, I tried doing things on my own because I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving grace. Perfectionism/People-pleasing was kicking my ass.

Again, I am thankful for therapy and for God placing loved ones in my life who were able to help me push past many of these isms. So as I sit here in my living room, writing to those who will read but also to myself, I am reminded that it is okay to be human. It is okay to miss the mark. We can give ourselves grace and room to grow. I used to seek approval of others, desiring to be the perfect 10-whatever that is. Instead, I try to follow a list of Imperfect 10’s (things I work on while giving myself tons of grace to miss the mark) to help me become someone I can be proud of.

London’s List of Imperfect 10’s

  1. Accountability: I try my best each day to take responsibility for my words and actions. I am willing to allow others to hold me accountable without using self-loathing as a defense mechanism when I go against my word or my actions in ways that can be harmful to my boundaries and others around me
  2. Boundaries: I practice creating healthy boundaries within myself and those around me. I practice saying no. I am willing to have conversations about what I will and will not allow and understand that although I cannot control who will or will not adhere to my boundaries, I will stand firm in my commitment to protecting my heart, time, space and energy
  3. Forgiveness: I remind myself daily that just as much as I make mistakes and mess up, others do as well because we are humans-flawed and imperfect. We are all facing our own battles and situations. I practice daily the ability to forgive and show grace to those who have hurt me because I want to be forgiven too
  4. Humility: I wake up each day with the understanding that I do not know it all. I am capable of learning new things and gaining new perspectives until my time on earth is done. There will never be a time where I am a proclaimed “expert,” of life and I am okay with that
  5. Courage: I want to live life without fear as much as possible by examining why something scares and and formulating ways to overcome fear with help from God, family and friends
  6. Integrity: I strive to do the right thing even when there’s no audience or reward to acknowledge my efforts. I want my life to leave behind traces of authenticity, respect and honest ambition
  7. Vision: I never want to stop dreaming. I pray for my purpose to shine through me daily and that new ideas to spring up in me. I don’t want to be discouraged or take rejection so hard when doors/opportunities don’t happen. Instead I hope to be rerouted and wait in excitement for the next window of opportunity to come
  8. Love: I truly believe that love conquers all and if I approach people and situations in my life with love at the forefront, I am off to a good start
  9. Gratitude: Each day I start off with words of thankfulness to God for my life, for new opportunities and for another chance to impact those around me. I even created a gratitude jar where I write down things I am thankful for and open them after 6 months to a year to remind myself that no matter what, there are things I can be grateful for
  10. Patience: I used to want to rush certain processes and now I try my best to go with the flow, trusting that what’s for me is for me and nothing and no one can stop me from receiving what’s truly mine. I strive to get through things, allowing myself to feel and acknowledge each emotion instead of getting over things through avoidance and stoic expressions

I truly believe that many, if not all of the good/bad experiences that we go through are not only for the benefit of ourselves but for others as well. That’s why I do my best to be as open and honest in this blog. As painful and embarrassing as it was to go through these things, I get so much joy in the feeling of release and reflection on how far I’ve come. I hope my words are received with as much love and encouragement as I write them in.

I’d love to hear your thoughts! What’s a character flaw you’ve overcome or are still working on overcoming? Feel free to comment below!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

Black Dads: The Unsung Heroes

Just taking some time to acknowledge and celebrate Black fathers.

Song Inspiration: Champion x Kanye West

As we all should know by now, Father’s Day is some time in June. Each year I remind myself to be on top of finding a Father’s Day gift for the dads in my life and almost each year I wait until the last minute to get something and unfortunately this year is no different. As Father’s Day quickly approaches, I have been dragging my feet on trying to find the perfect gifts for my dads. This brought up conversation around why it’s so easy to celebrate the mothers in our lives in comparison to how difficult it is to celebrate our dads.

Historically speaking, the roles of fatherhood in the Black community have been tainted by the trauma evoked on the Black family structure that dates all the way back to slavery. En route to America, Black men, women and children were separated from their families with little to no hope of seeing each other ever again. Once in America, Black men and women were separated yet again and sold into slavery, stationed on plantations throughout the country. Eventually, Black men and women had the opportunity to be joined together in marriage while still enslaved. The act of marriage was signified by way of “jumping the broom,” where the marriage ceremony consisted of a broom being laid down before the bride and groom for them to jump over because there was no legal recognition of Black marriages during that time.

Once the marriage was established by the couple, they would typically begin to reproduce and start a family. Although family units were created during this time, they could still be easily torn apart by way of slave owners. The Black man had no control over what happened to him or his family both physically and economically. There was no autonomy for decision making over the Black household. For the majority of Black families, there were no means of economic gain outside of slavery. If a slave master wanted to rape the Black man’s wife or sell his children to another plantation owner, the Black man had no say. If the slave owner decided to sell the Black man to another plantation owner, he would have no choice but to be separated from his wife and children, most likely never to be seen by his family again. This cycle has continued for years post-slavery-just repackaged.

The divide in the Black household post-slavery was further pushed by the systematic disenfranchisement of the Black man. Employment opportunities for Black males were few and far in between, crippling the Black man’s ability to provide for his family. Black men were given jobs that were less than desirable with minimal pay. Desperately in search of economic gain, some Black men took to the streets to find quick but illegal means of income to supplement the need. Which leads me to the incarceration rates in the united states. Although the Black population in the united states is about 12%, Black bodies make up 33% of the prison population. Black males are six times more likely to be incarcerated than any other racial group. Black men also serve longer sentences for the same crimes as other ethnic counterparts. As we also know that historically, Black men have suffered untimely death at the hands of police brutality. Educationally speaking, Black men are more likely to be suspended from school, or disciplined harshly, and the graduation rates for Black men in high school/college are low in comparison to Black women. The societal structure for Black fatherhood has set Black men up to fail.

So as you can imagine, because of historical trauma, among other things that are out of the Black man’s control, Black dads get a bad rep. I just want to be clear: I am in no means making excuses for Black fathers who are not present in the lives of their children. I am just providing some historical context as to why some of these barriers exist in the Black family. I want to take a moment to celebrate the Black dads in our lives, even if they aren’t necessarily our own.

The Black father figures in my life have truly shaped me into the woman that I am today. I just want to acknowledge these men for a minute. My Papa Don, who taught me how to be confident and go for what I want in life with boldness, through his hilarious stories that showed me that chances make champions. To my Papa on granny’s side for teaching me how to give back to my community through acts of service. To my Papa Calvin who keeps me laughing and goes above and beyond for me. There’s no doubt in my mind that he would travel near and far just to spend time with me no matter what we would be doing that day. To my Dad, who teaches me how to take it one day at a time, not sweating the things I cannot control. The one I get my sense of humor from and my bomb taste in music. The one who supported me through college whether it was visits, dramatic phone calls, or financial draining of his pockets at the drop of a hat. To the wonderful dad I was blessed with at age 12. When he came into my life, I was a moody pre-teen who felt like she didn’t need anyone else. He was patient with me, cared for me and loved me even when I tried my hardest to be unlovable. He would be at every game, band concert and award ceremony. He would cook dinner and do laundry all while balancing a full-time job, household chores/responsibilities and being active in the lives of all of his daughters. To my brother-in-law who just gets me. I don’t have to say much for him to understand where I’m coming from. He brings so much peace. He is a dedicated father who loves hard taught me how to be selfless. I am so appreciative of you all and the sacrifices you’ve made for me and others.

So, if you’re like me, and don’t have the slightest clue as to what you’re going to give your dad for Father’s Day, or you don’t have a father in your life due to loss, separation or estrangement, find the nearest dad you know whether it be a friend, neighbor, or other close relative and encourage them today. If you really can’t think of any examples in your life, word to J.Cole give a shout out to Uncle Phil (RIP, he really was a dope father figure). Let them know that they are seen, loved and appreciated and explain how/why. Shower them with support and uplift their spirits. These are the things that money can’t buy.

To my Black Dads: You are seen, you are loved and you are appreciated. Despite all odds, you will overcome. You are equipped with all the skills and tools to care and provide for your loved ones. You are strong. You are wise. You will win. Happy Father’s Day!

Yours in Authenticity,

-London


Drop The Prayer Sis!

Between cuffing seasons, hot girl/boy summers, situationships, friends with benefits, the ex-factor, and friend zones, dating as a millennial should be considered a competitive sport.

Song Inspiration: I Want To Thank You x Alicia Myers
Me looking through my Twitter thread for the specific prayer that produces amazing relationships

A few weeks ago, I was doing my usual scrolling on Twitter when I came across one of my favorite internet couples on my timeline. It happened to be an entire thread about how they first met, leading all the way up until they got engaged and then married. To add to the mix they have the most adorable child with another one on the way. I looked at the entire thread in awe, completely elated for this little family I don’t even know. Among the overflow of “Congratulations!” and “so happy for y’all!” comments in the thread, I saw some other common phrases in many forms: “Sis, what was the specific prayer?!,” or “Drop the prayer sis,” and a bunch of “Lord, I’ve seen what you’ve done for others….” I giggled to myself a little as I searched the rest of the thread looking to see if home girl actually dropped the specific prayer *you know, just looking for a friend* And to my– I mean MY FRIEND’S disappointment, there was absolutely no prayer to be found.

DATING AS A MILLENNIAL BE LIKE

We live in a generation of not being in love and not being together. But we sure make it feel like we’re together because we’re scared to see each other with somebody else.

Doing it Wrong x Drake

I hate to admit it, but Drake said it best. Every time I think about what it’s like to date in this day and age, my mind goes directly to this lyric. There’s so much going on at one time. We often find ourselves caught in some type of relationship hokey pokey- you know the kinda-committed, kinda-not dance. Unfortunately, I know this two step a little too well. I am a lovey dovey kind of woman. I LOVE love. I am the kind of person that dates with the intention that it will blossom into something more, that could eventually blossom into something big, that might even blossom into something bigger like umm idk… marriage. My bad. I definitely didn’t mean to drop the “M” word on y’all like that. Even saying that word out loud makes me feel some type of way. Honestly, dating in this time makes me feel like that word is a figment of my imagination. I hear it all the time though. In fact today my mom casually and unapologetically dropped the “M” word and added in the grand-baby razzle dazzle today while we were driving. In my mind I was like “GIRL, if you only knew…” Instead I just laughed awkwardly and changed the subject.

I wanted to break it down to my mom like this: Relationships or lack thereof in this time period are confusing af. How you ask?! Let me count the ways…

Let’s start with Cuffing Season. Where did this even come from?! It’s that space between the fall and the spring (September-April/May-ish) where we find the urge to want to be cuddled up with someone. If you don’t have a solid foundation once the sundress season hits, be prepared to be kicked to the curb (sorry boo, it happens to the best of us). Next, we have the talking stage. It’s that beginning piece of any relationship that consists of you sliding into your soon-to-be boo’s DM’s whether that be via social media platform or an in-person scenario. You’re honestly just trying to get to know someone, feel them out to see if the vibe is real. In this time, it’s unclear if one is supposed to drop all the other people they may be talking to, or if they should continue to keep it casual and let the other person they’re talking to know that they are also entertaining other people. There are so many unspoken rules or there aren’t any rules at all. This is often where many relationships start and end. Some of us find ourselves in a constant loop of the talking stage with some potential for a good match, all to be let down, going back to square one.

But wait- there’s a thin line between the talking stage and actually dating which we like to call situationships. Situationships are usually undefined and uncommitted. They can be based on comfort or convenience and vary between short term & long-term. College hook-ups are a wonderful example. You may only be together when you’re in school & when summer break hits, you say your goodbyes, but keep in touch because you know welcome weekend comes around quick and you don’t want to miss a beat. There’s an even thinner line between the talking stage, actual dating and situationships which are known as… you guessed it- friends with benefits!! You find that you may actually vibe with the person, get along well, but don’t want to make the relationship commitment. I mean why would you need to change the flow of things by adding a relationship title?!?! Or, you may find yourself strictly in the friend zone which is where all these relationship concepts go to die.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this semi-new and exhilarating concept of living a hot girl/boy lifestyle not only in the summer but all year long *Thanks Meg*. In this phase of life, you have no attachments to anyone or anything. I like to call this the “I catch flights, not feelings” stage of life. You do what, and who you want– when, and however you want. I would like to think that this is a stage of confidence and taking control of your life, but it often turns out to be a crazy roller coaster of unstable actions and emotions. This stage is definitely not for the weak hearted. It’s a constant cat and mouse game of who can play who, or who can do the most without catching feelings and falling in love. It can be exhausting no doubt.

WAIT A MINUTE: How could I forget the ex-factor?!? You always have that one ex that’s trying to make things right for the 100000000000000th time. Depending on the season in your life you may or may not entertain their advances. Nine times out of ten, you end up entertaining your ex against your better judgement and end up regretting it. But hey, such is life… See you in a few months big head.

IF you can successfully move past ALL of these stages, you unlock a more serious dating situation. You may even call this a stage relationship. At this point, you probably have texted your starting five line-up saying that you think you may have found something worth giving up the late night “you up” texts for. Even though you still may be a little unsure, you take the risk anyway hoping that it works out for the best *I just realized that sounded real Will Smith from Hitch-like, but its the truth* You start to spend more time with this person which could lead to something more promising, but if it doesn’t you’re back at square one, hoping that you can at least get back three of your starting five line-up *depending on how long you’ve been in the dating stage this could prove to be a difficult feat, but possible.*

So mom, this whole “M” word thing is not as simple of a goal as you’d think.

RELATIONSHIP GOALS

Now, back to this prayer that nobody seems to be finding… I often find myself and other women making these kind of comments often. We see couples like Ciara & Russel, Will & Jada or my absolute fave Michelle & Barack, and can’t help but ask ourselves how in the hell do they manage to pull this relationship stuff off and make it look so effortless. There’s even a book about it (Thanks to Pastor Mike Todd of Transformation Church). Thankfully/hopefully we don’t have to look too far to find relationship goals in our real lives. It could be our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, other family and our friends. I love hearing stories about their relationships. It’s like they’re unlocking a secret code to this relationship stuff. I’ve gotten my fair share of relationship advice and the most obvious and real sentiment is that everyone’s relationship is unique and how they love each other works for them. Each love story is so special because it unravels how those individuals discovered each other and learned how to love. They’ve all had their fair share of ups and downs, but they found someone willing to weather those storms.

So, I asked my mom how she managed to find my amazing step-dad and without her knowing any context to my question her answer turned out to be a PRAYER!!!!! When I tell you I was so ready to hear about how she asked God for the perfect man and then would list all the qualities, her answer made me stop and think. She said: I asked my dad this same question a long time ago. I said dad, how do I find a good husband? He said that I needed to pray for myself. He said that instead of spending so much time praying for the perfect partner, pray that you yourself would be someone that you’d want to marry.

As confusing as that sounds I immediately thought of that 3 Stacks line in Green light “If I were you it would be me that I’d go home with.” I had a big reality check. A lot of times we pray prematurely or seek a partner with qualities we don’t even possess! How many times have you heard someone say, I want a boss who makes six figures and drives a BMW, but they themselves don’t even have a job? Or I want someone that knows how to cook/clean, but they themselves don’t know how. If you want your future partner to be good with finances, first pray that you learn to handle your finances well too (secure that savings account or make goals to improve your credit score). If you want your future boo to be compassionate and in-tune with your needs, first pray that you’re that kind of person in your daily life-showing love and compassion to those around you. If you want your future bae to love kids, pray first that you’re able to have the patience that comes with interacting with children because honestly, most of us don’t. If you want your future sugar booger to know how to cook and clean, pray that you’re also willing to learn new things and take a cooking class, or finally learn how to do your own laundry. The list goes on, and it looks different depending on your wants and needs.

The best part about this kind of prayer is that if all else fails, and you still can’t seem to snag a boo out of the deal, you were able to manifest a better version of yourself simply by investing in you first. That my friends, is what I would consider a prayer worth trying. So wherever you find yourself in this dating timeline, I encourage you to take a minute to stop and pray for yourself- that you become the best version of yourself for you, and that all your hearts desires will begin to surround you as you grow. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and where you stand in this millennial dating timeline or your thoughts on dating in general!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

An Ode to Self-Care

self-care /ˌselfˈker/

The practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. The practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress

Song Inspiration: Cranes in the Sky x Solange

So we’re going through a global pandemic, constant reminders that our nation has a long way to go in achieving true social justice, the severity of climate change, and a resurgence of sexual assault experiences and allegations being shared across almost all social media platforms. YIKES is an understatement. I wanted to do a quick but meaningful check-in on the current status of our mental health because I consider y’all my family and I care about you! The issues that we see unfolding around us are extremely important, and require our attention, but I also think it’s important to know when to step back and take some time to replenish yourself. I just want to take a moment to talk about the importance of self-care, especially through stressful situations.

I started my self-care journey on February 14th, 2019. Prior to that, I was struggling, BAD. I had graduated from an accelerated master’s degree program the summer of 2018 and started working two jobs during that fall. By September of 2018, I was waking up at 6 am to start my full-time job from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm and then picking back up with my part-time job from 4:30 pm until 9:30 pm during the weekday and a few hours on the weekend. I was working a total of 70 hours a week. While balancing my work load, I tried my best to keep up with my relationship, friends and family while struggling to take care of myself. I began to distance myself not only because of my crazy work schedule, but also because of the internal battle I was having with myself about how to utilize my free time when I actually had free time. I wanted to spend time with family and friends but my body was physically tired and my mental state was crumbling slowly but surely. Although I tried my best to mask how I was feeling on the inside when I did choose to spend my free time with my significant other, family or my friends, I felt like I was the furthest thing from a joy to be around. It felt like I was a walking zombie, like I was drowning in broad daylight and nobody could see. At the same time, I was afraid to talk to my friends and family about what I was experiencing because I felt like they had other things going on and didn’t want to add the “burden” of my problems on them.

I went into overdrive and my energy would spiral from being really happy and feeling good about life to really sad and frustrated with what was happening around me. It took a major toll on the relationship with my significant other. It felt like we were walking on eggshells with one another each time we were together and eventually we started seeing less of each other. With unaddressed mental and physical health concerns, daily life struggles with work and school and a stack of other issues that were lost in that black hole, our relationship was torn apart. In that moment I felt like I had lost control of everything. I thought I was doing my best to multi-task and stay balanced within my jobs, and in turn I was neglecting eating and sleeping. I thought I was trying my best to keep up with my family and friends but I would find that I was going weeks, even months without initiating an interaction and if I heard from family and friends, I would cut the conversation short.

After getting to a point of true helplessness, I decided to take the first step of getting my life back on track. I researched personal counseling offices and made my first appointment. It was a brave first step, and after a little over a year, I can honestly say that it was the best decision I could have ever made for my life. Now don’t get me wrong, therapy is not an easy process and it definitely was not fun digging deep into the aspects of my life that I had buried, never to be uncovered again. It changed my outlook on a lot of the experiences I’ve had in in life and it helped me gain a sense of strength and confidence that was missing. I have been able to be at peace with my past and have gained a sense of hope for my future.I have restored relationships with my family and friends and I have changed the way that I approach the work that I do. Therapy opened up a new avenue of my life that encouraged self-care at all costs and I am so thankful. Unfortunately, all good things eventually come to an end. Although my time in therapy was extremely life-changing and I enjoyed the experience, I had my last therapy session at the end of May. I didn’t view it as an ending, but as a beginning of a new, healthy chapter of my life.

As awesome as I believe therapy is, I understand that this isn’t a reality for many people. I would like to share some self-care activities with little to no cost that helped me practice consistency with loving myself and taking care of my needs, even in the midst of trying times.

  • Creating a self-care check-list: First and foremost, check-in with yourself!! Make sure you are prioritizing your mental and physical health by checking off some basic boxes like eating, drinking water, sleeping and bathing. Then prioritize your list by what you need in that particular moment
  • Sleeping: Finding a good sleeping schedule, especially with my workload has been helpful. there are times when I feel like I am missing out because I need rest, but I remind myself that in order to be my best self, I need to show my body kindness and let it rest
  • Keeping up with your meds: If you take medicine routinely, set an alarm to ensure that you’re taking your meds on time and when you’re supposed to. I recently started taking vitamins and it holds me accountable to eating because I have to take the vitamin with a meal
  • Setting healthy boundaries with others: As you’re processing your emotions and feelings, take time to set boundaries with others. Don’t waste time arguing with an internet troll, or feel like you have to educate the entire Facebook platform on racial bias. It’s okay to say NO! Be honest about your energy levels when others ask you to participate in activities and be mindful that it you are not obligated to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable or crosses your line of security.
  • Showers/baths: Showers are one of my favorite ways to practice self-care! You can turn up the music and have a private concert, try a new skin care routine or a new shampoo. I have natural hair so I make shower time on wash days an entire event! Baths are always nice for total relaxation. Dim the lights, put on your favorite movie/show, grab a book to read or listen to some music.
  • Talking to God/reading my Bible: Those who know me, know that my faith is a huge part of my life. I have spent each day for the past 8 weeks taking the time to pray, meditate and read. It has given me such a better outlook on my life and a sense of calmness that I just can’t explain.
  • Journal/Blog/read: If writing is your thing, try journaling your thoughts/feelings day to day or week to week. In my quiet time, I like to journal my thoughts. If reading is your thing, try finding a virtual book club to connect with people across the country who have a shared love for books. I recently started this blog as a form of self-care and keeping up with it has been the best!
  • Cooking: I love to try new recipes! I search Pinterest, Twitter and other food blogging sites to try new foods and dishes. Doing this allows me to take healthy risks and it reminds me that it is okay to make mistakes and to start over.
  • Cleaning: This may sound weird but cleaning/organizing is a form of relaxation for me! I get such a satisfying feeling from seeing the before and after images of the cleaning projects that I do
  • Painting: I am not so good at it, but that doesn’t stop me from trying! I love doing Painting with a Twist. It is calming to watch it all come together
  • Exercising: I love yoga and cycling! Go for a walk! If you can get outside and get active, do it! It’s getting warmer out which makes this experience that much more enjoyable
  • Listening to Music: Music has a way of connecting us as a whole and reaching us in more ways than one. I am always down to be put on to new music and to share with others
  • Spend time with family/friends: Block out some time for positive human interaction! My friends love me and understand me so it is always nice being around people who love you and have your best interest at heart. You’re then able to drop your shoulders and truly relax!
  • Limit your screen time: This one is pretty tricky to do since for the last few months we were on a stay at home order. Although it is important to make sure you’re up to date on current events, make sure to take time away from your social media handles and news outlets.

I know that times are hard. I am here to encourage you to keep your head up. If getting out of the bed each morning is a victory step for you, celebrate that! Take it one day at a time. I’m rooting for you, wherever you are. We’ll get through this together. With that being said, check in with me! How you feelin? What are you doing to address your needs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on self-care during this time and how we can support each other!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

Still We Rise

The man who stands for nothing, will fall for anything -Malcolm X

Song Inspiration: Don’t Don’t Do It! x N.E.R.D ft. Kendrick Lamar

It was November 7th, 2014. I was at a Walmart in my college town with one of my best friends. We decided to share a shopping cart because we didn’t think that we would grab a lot of items as a whole. Me being my typical self, grabbed way more than I had anticipated and as we headed for check-out realized that I had more items than the 20 or less lane was asking for ( I told y’all, I’m a
strict rule follower). So, we decided to unload her items first and that I would move to another lane. As we were unloading, a middle-aged white man who was in line behind us looked at us in disgust and proceeded to sigh extremely loud for everyone to hear. He abruptly moved to the other side of the lane to stand behind someone else. We ignored him and kept unloading our cart. He turned to us and said “You people have NO SHAME AT ALL do you?” At that point, my friend and I looked at each other in confusion because he couldn’t possibly have been talking to us. He then said, “You black bitches need to take your asses back to Detroit!” He claimed that we were probably going to pay with a bridge card and said that we were an inbred race and that we needed to take our asses back to Africa.

I was fully clothed, but never in my life had I felt so naked, so exposed. This man knew nothing about us. He didn’t know where we came from, or that I was going to school for or that I had friends and family that loved me. It didn’t matter. As we stood there and listened to this man spew out hateful words, it felt like an out of body experience. There were people around us, yet no one said a word, not even the cashiers. As I left the aisle to get help, my friend continued to argue with the man as he continued to yell out obscenities. I couldn’t find a manager anywhere. I remember in all of my panic, I just froze. I could hear him and my friend getting louder as he hurled threat after threat upon our lives. He used threatening words against us and was able to walk out of the store with ease, groceries in hand. I didn’t want to buy anything from the store, but I was too afraid to walk out into the parking lot knowing that he could still be out there and God only knows what he could’ve had in his car. My friend on the other hand, proceeded to follow him out of the store, making sure he knew she was not the one to play with (she is still this much of a bad ass). She came back into the store and claimed he was gone as she quickly put her switch blade back into her purse.

We stalled out in the store for a little longer before going out to my car. Once we got to the car, I tried to unlock my car, but my legs began to feel like jelly and I started to lose my balance. My friend caught me just as I began to fall and we stood there in the parking lot, in the rain holding each other up as we cried. I will never forget that day. That man got to go home and sleep peacefully, while spent the weeks after that up all night, crying. He took my peace of mind. I didn’t want to go out in public. I attended a PWI which didn’t make it any better. It felt like if a white person on campus, in my classroom, in the residence halls or the cafeteria even looked at me funny, I was going to throw hands. I was on the defense at all times. I was terrified. Would I ever feel safe enough to do normal activities like shopping? My sense of self, my sense of safety and my sense of peace was in shambles.

WE

Bettmann/Contributor

This is not a new concept for Black people. This is just one of thousands of examples of experiences that Black people go through on a daily basis. As we have continued to see, experiences like these can lead to untimely death. Since the Reconstruction Era (post slavery), my people have endured caricatures and stereotypes that have played into mainstream America’s conscience overtly and covertly. These portrayals served as means to justify our treatment as being less than, and as tools to deny us of our humanity, (see: Uncle Tom, Mammie, Sambo, Jezebel, the Brute and the Picaninny). While these outdated terms change to reflect certain times in history, the spirit of these caricatures remain and are embolden on the fabric of mainstream American society like irremovable stains.

These harmful stereotypes often led to mass hysteria in white American society which induced lynchings of thousands of Black people. It is estimated that over 4,000 Black people were lynched in the South between 1877 and 1950. These lynchings usually occurred outside of the judicial framework of due process and more along the lines of hearsay; however, there were always more unfortunate exceptions. In 1891, Joe Coe was lynched by over 1,000 people in Omaha, Nebraska for claims of assault by a 5 year old and her mother. Instead of due process, community members took matters into their own hands by breaking into the jail where Joe was held, and brought to the victims house to be identified. The mother refused to give sworn testimony that she did in fact know that it was Joe who had committed the crime. The vigilantes brought him back to the courthouse where they proceeded to beat and drag him through the city streets where they hung him from a street car wire at an intersection. There are a myriad of other cases that are similar to this over the course of American history.

The Civil Rights/Black Power Era’s were fueled by police misconduct/brutality against Black people among other major issues with such as housing and education inequalities, voter suppression and segregation. Take Bull Connor, who was the Commissioner of Public Safety for Birmingham, Alabama for almost three decades. He directed the use of fire hoses and police attack dogs against Civil Rights Activists-child protesters were subjected as well. Connor infamously allowed the The Freedom Riders to be viciously beaten by the KKK without police interference. He cited that there were no police officers available at the time because they were visiting their mothers for Mother’s Day. These are only a few examples of countless known and unknown cases of police brutality which has fueled major disdain and distrust for the legal system in the Black community.

STILL

Unfortunately, I don’t have to reach far back in history to explain that this is still happening to Black people. It is with a heavy heart that I write this post. In the midst of all that is going on with a global pandemic (which is also taking the lives of Black people at alarming rates) we find ourselves grappling with yet another senseless killing of a Black man by law enforcement. George Floyd, a resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota was recently killed by one police officer, while three other police officers watched and did nothing. It was over suspicion of a counterfeit $20 bill. Unfortunately, this isn’t a new story see: Michael Brown, Laquan Mcdonald, Eric Gardner, Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Botham Jean, Amadou Diallo.

You can hardly do any normal activities while Black. For example, Botham Jean was at home, watching tv, about to enjoy a bowl of ice cream, when his life was taken. Breonna Taylor was in her home, minding her business when police officers enacted a no-knock warrant, busted into her home and proceeded with gunfire. Ahmaud Arbery was going for a run when his life was taken from him. Christian Cooper was in the park bird watching when he was falsely accused of threatening the life of a white woman. We could be barbecuing in the park, playing on the playground, hosting a lemonade stand, swimming in our backyards, or walking home from the corner store- I can’t make this up. I haven’t even touched on the complexities of the intersectionality of Black subgroups. Being Black in America is tough and having to continuously defend our right to exist is exhausting.

RISE


Image: REUTERS/Darren Ornitz

I could go on for days, but I’ve tried my best to explain on a condensed scale the overwhelming magnitude of racial injustice in America, if you couldn’t already tell. I feel that it is my responsibility as a Black woman to spread awareness on issues that affect my community. While there is no simple solution to this incredibly complex reality that permeates our daily existence, I believe the first step is educating yourselves on why these things are happening and understand that these are not isolated incidents. These things are taking place in your country, your state, your city, and your neighborhood. Black people all over are angry and are hurting . I encourage you to take the time to educate yourselves on these issues and then find a way to be a part of the solution. Do not be a bystander. Speak out against injustice. Do the right thing even when it seems scary and you may be uncertain of the outcome. Remember, your silence speaks volumes.

As for the man from Walmart so many years ago, wherever you may be: I AM STILL STANDING. You may have thought that you broke me down, but I am still here. I know who I am. You tried to break my spirit and my strength. I know now, that that was the enemy working through you to get to me. I was placed on this earth to help others and show God’s love. Nothing and no one is going to stop me!

Yours in Solidarity,

London

The Parent Trap

You ever swear up and down that you wouldn’t do that annoying thing your parent(s) does, or used to do & then one day, it happens?! When we find ourselves becoming more and more like our parents for better or for worse

Song Inspiration: Exactly What You Run From You End Up Chasing x Tyler the Creator
Physical representation of what it looks like when you find yourself picking up traits from your parental figure(s)

If you ask anyone in my family, they can quote a notorious phrase from the book of my mom. One of my least favorite lines was “Everything that belongs to me…Let’s Go!!” She’d usually say that whenever we were at a family function or a group gathering of some sort. I dreaded hearing that line because it always seemed to happen at the height of my fun, like right in the middle of a game of tag or hide and seek. She timed it so perfectly. I later realized that the call to round up my siblings and I was equivalent to that feeling you get when all the lights in the club turn on while the DJ announces last call for drinks at the bar. In my recent adulthood, I found myself saying that same notorious phrase from my mom one day when I was leading a group of my students on a field trip as we were getting ready to go, and I couldn’t help but laugh.

When talking to my friends and family, we often crudely joke about the scars our parents have left on us from childhood all the way into adulthood. There are definitely isms that we have picked up on from our parents that we’d hate to admit are true. We often categorize them as “mommy or daddy issues.” I mean how many times have you done something in your personal or professional life and thought to yourself, this is something my parental figure would do? Face palm. I will admit, adulthood has humbled me in ways that I could have never imagined. As much as we run from the things we despise the most about our parents, I’ve found that sometimes we tend to turn into our parents by doing those very things. It’s almost inevitable. So how do we take even the most challenging or hurtful situations we’ve faced with our parental figures and turn them into something we can grow from, and finally heal those scars for the benefit of our lives and those around us?

Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever do they forgive them.

Oscar Wilde

My mom and I were always extremely close. I am the baby of my sibling group, born six days before my mom’s birthday and I always credit that to why we used to bump heads when I was growing up. I always wanted to be by her side. When she would be in bed minding her business, watching tv, I’d crawl up next to her and just lay on her. I used to hate thunderstorms as a kid so when they’d hit, I would hurry downstairs to my mom’s room and hop in bed with her. I found the most comfort when I was next to my mom. My mom and I have this special telepathic kind of connection. We are often able to communicate things with just a look. I can recall many times when my mom and I would have conversations about things that were on our hearts and minds and then the conversation would come up again when we were sitting in a sermon at church or while listening to the radio. We would look at each other and laugh. I spent the majority of my childhood working to make my mom proud and then one day that theory came crashing down.

Have you ever had a fight with a parental figure that you just knew you couldn’t come back from? That happened to me at the beginning of my senior year of college. My mom and I had gotten into the worst fight I could have ever imagined. It was so bad that I ended up giving my mom the silent treatment for months. During those months of silence, I struggled a lot with who I was. For so many years I had lived my life with the idea that I was living up to my mom’s expectations. I was a safe kid, even all the way through to adulthood (probably too safe when I think about it). I made it my business to keep a 3.0 or above while in school, I didn’t drink until I was 21, I wasn’t a huge party person, and I wasn’t having sex because my plan was to save myself until marriage. I lived my life with tons of caution because I feared disappointing my mom who was the one person I wanted to impress the most. The fight that we had crumbled my entire world. I can’t remember much from that day but I do remember my mom telling me that I was selfish and that she was very disappointed in me. Me, selfish?! How dare she say something like that?!

Up until that moment I had felt like everything I worked so hard for was all a waste. I lived my life on the straight and narrow all for my mom to feel as if I had done the exact opposite! Y’all, I didn’t even jaywalk! (I still choose not to, if I can help it) That’s how much I tried to live life by the rules. My mom’s statements really made me question everything about myself, like would I have been a good student had I not feared disappointing my mom? Or how many more risks would I have taken had I not been afraid? Would I ever feel comfortable jaywalking?!? It made me question how I would’ve turned out if I hadn’t been so hard on myself for the approval of my mom. I was so hurt by my mom. It felt like we would never be able to recover from this big of a blow.

The months that went by without contact with my mom were hard. My mom would text me occasionally, but I wouldn’t respond. She would send messages through my significant other, and I wouldn’t respond. When I needed help, I would reach out to my grandparents or my older sister. Weird flex, but I had actually gotten pretty good at ignoring my mom; I was determined to be able to survive without her. I will never forget the day that my mom brought all of that ideology to an extreme halt. I was working my shift as a cashier at Meijer when all of a sudden my mom popped up at the grocery store! My mom pulled up on me! The audacity!

“You can’t just ignore your mom, London.” Those were the first words that came out of her mouth while I just stood there in shock. First of all, I definitely could, and she was hindering the process by showing up! I had gone so long without speaking to my mom that I honestly thought I wouldn’t have an encounter with her ever again. I brushed her off and told her that I couldn’t talk to her because I needed to get back to work. With a sly grin on her face she said okay and then walked away. I thought that I had gotten rid of her until she popped up in my check-out lane! This woman drove an hour to ambush me and now she’s buying groceries too?! She was not going to give up! I checked my mom out and then asked my supervisor to take my 15 minute break. In those 15 minutes, I learned so much about my myself and my mom and who she had truly raised me to be.

Although I had been known to be extremely hard on myself, I had been an ever harder critic toward my mom. I was stuck in the notion that my mom could never change, that I would always see her as someone who hurt me and nothing else. Contrary to my own popular belief at that time, my mom was a human who wasn’t perfect and made mistakes. As much as I was hurting, I too had hurt my mom in ways that I could not see. We both could have handled our fight differently and I could see that the distance between us was hurting my mom just as much as it was hurting me. I started to break down the places in my mind that wouldn’t allow the idea or thought that my mom could undergo change no matter what her past consisted of.

My mom raised me to be introspective. Although, I understood all too well the pain that she had caused me, I also realized how I had made her feel when I was in a hurt place. She raised me to show grace and display forgiveness. Then with that, empathy began to grow for the both of us. Of course nothing major was resolved in a 15 minute conversation, but my mom’s bold move to break the ice was what was needed for us to develop an entirely new relationship.

My mom knows I collect mugs, so when she pulled up on me at my job, she bought me this mug. It’s a constant reminder of that day and the relationship we continue to build

I find that I still use the things I learned from that day in so many aspects of my adult life now. My mom was bold enough to pull up on me to finally have some sort of discussion and I use this same method when I advocate for the students I work with. Whenever my students aren’t hearing back from a college rep, or the financial aid office I always suggest that we “pull up” on them by going to the school, on our day off, or find a way to physically connect with someone in person because that has proven to be effective the majority of the time. I am able to empathize better with those around me as well which has helped in both my personal and professional life. I am not completely there yet, but I try to be the one that breaks the ice when at odds with others. I take a step back and try to see the situation from the other person’s point of view. I make sure that the other person is able to express what they are feeling and know that they are heard, even if we don’t see eye to eye. I am able to counsel my students when they are struggling with personal relationships because I understand that healing is a lengthy process but I know that it is possible to come back from situations that seem impossible to salvage. So yeah, some days I come across situations that remind me of how similar I am to my mom, and it makes me smile.

Do you have Mommy issues, Daddy issues, or both?! I challenge you to think about the things that make you similar to your parental figure(s). What are some of the things you’ve picked up that have made you a better person? What are some of the things you picked up that you’ve had to change or would like to be different? How have you used some of the worst moments in your relationship with a parental figure(s) to heal or change your own life trajectory? I’d love to know your thoughts!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

Because The Internet

My eyes are green, because I eat a lot of vegetables. It has absolutely nothing to do with your recent social media post. When social media and real life collide for better or for worse.

Song Inspiration: Phone Down x Erykah Badu
Art by Sharmelan Murugiah

Do you remember your first interaction with the internet/social media? Where my AOL people at?! MY AIM chat folks?? Dial up internet peeps?! The infamous Clippy, from Microsoft Word scholars?!?! Floppy disk homies?!! Y’all still with me? What about Myspace–y’all remember Myspace, right?? Of course y’all do! You had the opportunity to have your own customized background on your page, you were able to have a profile picture with a quote of your desire, you could limit your friends to top 5, 10 and even 25 (If you were in someone’s top five, you were exclusive, basically VIP) and most importantly my favorite part was that you could pick a song to feature on your page which was the introduction to people knowing the bomb taste you had in music. Nowadays, we just subtly restart a song when our friend hops in the car and hope they vibe with it just as much as we do.

Some fun facts about me (which I recognize might not sound like a huge deal if you’re not a millennial): I grew up without internet in my home, I didn’t get a cellphone until I was a junior in high school, I didn’t get a laptop until freshman year of college and I didn’t get a smart phone until my sophomore year of college. So as you can imagine, I was pretty behind in the technology realm! My first experiences with social media came via my friends and other family outside of my home. I remember my mom refusing to let me make a Myspace page because of my age and the hidden dangers of online predators. Of course I made one anyway (sorry mom!) It was a need to feel included on a bigger platform, a need to be in the know about things I wasn’t privy to.

Although we’ve come a long way from the Myspace days, we’ve advanced to the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and so much more. I am a firm believer that we can, and do utilize all of these platforms for good. We are able to spread awareness on important issues and raise money. We find jobs and form networks. We are able to showcase and market our skills and talents. We connect with friends and family all across the globe. We use these platforms to celebrate, encourage and even grieve with one another. Social Media is one of the biggest spaces that connects all of us and can help us find common ground with those close to us and even complete strangers (like this blog!)

“We’re all self-conscious, I’m just the first to admit it”

Art by Ben Fearley

However, I think many, if not all of us would agree that social media has taken or can take a negative toll on our lives. We live in a society of instant gratitude and approval. We can become more worried about how our lives look on social media than how we actually live them out daily. Honestly, it took me a while to come to terms with the negative ways that social media had impacted various areas in my life, and I’ve had to take my fair share of breaks from social media just to get my mind right.

Friends: How many of us have them?

I think it starts with the task of finding friends to follow on social media and then the anxiety that comes behind the thought of “what if they don’t follow me back?!” Followers or lack there of can mess with your ego. You may start to wonder if you’re liked enough or if you should be doing something to make yourself seem more likable. It’s also that fear of missing out. How many times have you gone out with your friends–even when you really didn’t want to, just because you didn’t want to wake up the next morning to scroll and see all the posts of your friends having fun and making memories without you? Bonus points if your friends left you out of the plans purposely and then you discovered via social media that they were all together without you.

On Instagram, straight flexin

In my dating relationships, I would harp on social media so heavy. How many of us have posted a picture of ourselves and really only wanted the validation or compliments from our significant other and they just neglected to acknowledge your fineness or the effort that you put into your entire ensemble?! The frustration is real! I used to be so pressed about what my significant other would like on social media. It became even worse when social media sites started dry snitching. I would be on social media, minding my business and then BOOM: So and so has liked such and such’s picture on *insert social media handle here* (Deep spiritual sigh). There is something about the male species and social media that I will never quite understand. I’ve heard a thousand times over from men of all walks of life say men are visual creatures,” so when they like certain things or images on social media, it’s simply just that: a like. Plain and simple. It was visually pleasing, so I liked it (insert eye roll here.)

I used to feel so insecure about it though. My man was liking pictures of half naked women, or women who looked nothing like me in any sense and it made me feel like I wasn’t enough, or that even though my partner was with me physically, he desired to be elsewhere. I wasted so much time thinking about it that it created extra stress in my relationship. It was like walking on eggshells. Then one day it hit me: Would I feel any different about it if my man was liking pictures of women who were more like me? Women who had the similar drive, kind hearts were encouraging, approachable and fine too?! I think I would have had an even worse melt-down low-key! Previous London’s thought process is cringe-worthy. Thank God for a growth mindset!

And then there’s the controversy of posting your significant other on social media. Some people find it completely necessary, while others don’t. I used to be the kind of person who would like to be shown off. I wanted my partner to post me every now and again to acknowledge that we were together and to celebrate milestones such as birthdays, holidays and other exciting moments. I used to put so much pressure on my significant other to post us together because I believed that if people knew we were together, it would reduce the risk of infidelity or sneaky activity or that people would be able to see how happy we were together (LOL at how naive I was).

The harsh reality is that the only person you can control is yourself and even if your significant other could post you every single day, sing your praises and put you on a pedestal, they still have a choice in whether or not they will honor the commitment that they made to you. We’ve seen it happen one too many times. We all know people (or have even been those people) who are in full blown relationships but are also doing other things outside of the relationship that would be considered extremely shady. Relationships to me are about action. Whether I am posted or not, I need to be able to feel secure about where I stand in a relationship over anything. I could go on about this forever, but bottom line is that although I personally believe people in relationships should have some type of social media etiquette and it will look different in each relationship should they choose to have them. I also had to understand that there are just some things that aren’t worth fighting over and social media is one of them.

Keeping up with the Jones’s or the Kardashians or Neither?

Social media has way of making us feel like we aren’t doing enough. Social media had me looking at my own life like I was doing something wrong. I put so much pressure on myself at a young age. When I first graduated from college, I was so excited to complete such a major milestone. Then I went on social media and saw that people who I graduated with were buying houses, friends my age were getting married and having kids and all of a sudden an accomplishment that I felt was so major, became so minuscule in my eyes. It became so bad, that I felt that I was no longer genuinely celebrating with my family and friends when they did something amazing, because I felt inadequate in comparison.

Have you ever felt some type of way about someone else’s successes in areas that you’ve struggled? Social media can make us feel some type of way about regular life things like fitness lifestyle and even career changes. How many times have you scrolled to see someone’s before and after picture of their weight loss journey while you’re demolishing a family size bag of Doritos and suddenly felt terrible? Or how many of us look at celebrity, or Twitter/IG/Youtube famous couples that we admire and think to ourselves, “Oh wow, so and so is extremely thoughtful! Meanwhile, here I am-I can’t even get a text back!”? I’m definitely guilty of that one more than I’d like to admit. What happens when you scroll and see that person who’s in the same field as you, or has the same skill set as you, thriving in the same way you’d like to be, but aren’t? Have I reached your “ism” yet?? My pastor always says, “if you can’t say Amen, just say ouch.” Ouch.

I used to ponder hard about the old phrase, “The grass is greener on the other side.” For many years I was looking toward other things or people to fill voids in my life that they could not fill. I made it the responsibility of others to boost my self-esteem, my confidence and my ego. Then with time, that little green monster of envy for what others had, quickly turned into self-loathing. So here’s the thing: As cliche as it sounds, the grass is only green where you decide to water it. I was neglecting to water my own grass and so yeah, I could see how someone else’s lawn could look way better than my own.

All those moments that I spent stressing about social media really boiled down to the fact that I was not humanizing the things that I was seeing. Behind every post was a deeper story. I had no idea what people had gone through to get to where they were at because people are more prone to post the good moments over the struggle moments. I was so absorbed with what I didn’t have or hadn’t achieved that I wasn’t taking the time to genuinely celebrate myself nor the people around me. Over the years, I have had to learn this lesson the hard way. I had to take many hiatuses from social media until I could get my mind right. When I made the decision to truly invest in nurturing and growing myself, for myself, my mindset started to change. I was able to truly celebrate milestones with my family and friends without feeling insufficient.

Have you ever gone through a certain struggle, and then are thankful that you went through it because you’re now able to help someone else with that same struggle? That’s how I feel about this topic. I am thankful to have gone through these experiences because now as I am teaching my students about making decisions for their futures, I am able to take a more personal and relatable approach. This is special to me because the students I work with now have been surrounded by technology their entire lives. They are so caught up in social media presence and appearance that it hinders how they see themselves and their abilities.

When working with my students, I use the example of the horse who wears blinders on both the left and the right side of their eyes. The trainer does that for the benefit of the horse so that it doesn’t get distracted by what’s going on around it while on it’s journey to a specific destination. Likewise, all of our journeys to get to a desired destination are individual and unique and inspiring. Our journeys may not look the same as our best friends or our close family, but that doesn’t make them any less significant. Some of our neighbors may actually have greener grass, or pretty flowers or even a few trees, but that’s because they took the time to water, nurture and focus on what was important to them in their lives. I encourage all of us to practice taking a break, putting our phones down and taking some time to water and nurture our internal grass as we travel to our specific destinations, making sure to and enjoy the pit stops, detours and stop lights along the way.

I would love to hear your thoughts on social media. How has it helped you? In what ways has it hindered your progress? How do you keep healthy balance between your life on social media and your real life?

Yours in Authenticity,

London

Go Shawty, It’s Ya Birthday!

All I want for my birthday is for outside to open *AND to see my friends AND for Miss Rona to be gone AND student loan forgiveness for everybody but at least for the essential workers AND world peace* Is that too much to ask??

Song Inspiration: Birthday x Twista
Birthday, but make it Quarantine

Everyone who truly knows me, knows how much I LOVE birthdays! I love everything about them: decorations, surprise parties, presents, birthday cake and ice cream (bonus points for ice cream cake) – the whole deal! My work friends crowned me with the official title of Birthday Fairy. I am the person who gathers others together to decorate offices, plan surprises and host little office parties. I am the friend that will help set up and tear down. I’ll make party favors, greet guests and make sure everyone is comfortable and having a good time. I love birthdays so much that I’ve made it a tradition to sing happy birthday to my students in class when it’s their special day! They get to pick which version they want: traditional Happy Birthday with the ole cha-cha-cha razzle dazzle, the Stevie Wonder rendition or Feliz Cumpleanos.

I understand that not everyone is a birthday enthusiast like myself and although many of my birthday gestures are seen as over the top or embarrassing *especially to my students*, my main goal is to let the people around me know how special they are to not only me, but to others around them- that they matter and belong no matter what it feels like in their everyday lives. I always conclude my birthday songs with “The world was made a better place because so many years ago today, you were born, so thank you for being here!” As my birthday approaches, I started to think about how I became this way, and then it dawned on me: my mom was the original Birthday Fairy and I’ve just picked up on the foundation she created so many years ago.

When I was younger, I would start planning my birthday on January 1st (my birthday is in May). My mom would say (as calmly as she could) “London, give me until March. We can talk about your birthday in March.” March of course was still way too early, but I am so appreciative of my mom obliging me. My mom is the real MVP of all my birthday memories as a child. Her birthday is six days after mine yet she would spend SO much of her time making sure I had the most unforgettable birthdays. My favorite memories would be of my mom and I sitting on the porch mapping out my perfect birthday bash. I had a theme literally every year. She would listen to my thoughts and bring each party to life with her own little twist on it from the decorations, to the food and the party games and gift bags. One of my favorite birthday party memories was the day after my birthday sleepover. My friends were packing up, getting ready to be picked up, when my mom noticed something fury poking out of her flowerbed. She convinced us to put on gloves and try to get it out, and we pulled with all of our might. It turned out, my dog had planted a dead squirrel in the flower bed! I remember the look on my friends faces. It was a mixture of shock, fear and comedy. We screamed and laughed so hard! I had some of the best birthday parties as a kid.

To my momma, the original Birthday Fairy: Thank you so much! Your ability to create something amazing out of a thought or an idea will always be impressive to me. You are celebrated and appreciated. Because of you, I get the opportunity to share with others that same love and care that I was shown, especially on their birthdays. I love you!

This time around, as I celebrate my 26th birthday on Tuesday, May 12th, I wanted to share some of my favorite birthday memories over the years that I have shared with my friends and family.

Despite the current circumstances, I am excited for year 26! I have learned and have grown so much and I am so thankful. I thank God for another year of life and another opportunity to share my gifts with the world! Cheers to 26 years!!! Share with me your favorite birthday memories, what you did, or what your plans are (if any) this year for your special day!

Yours in Celebration & Authenticity,

London

Y’all Gon’ Make Me Lose My Mind

If I’m asked to show my face on this Zoom call one more time… When “I’m just here so I don’t get fired” becomes a daily quote to live by

Song Inspiration: Party Up (Up in Here) x DMX

I used to start work at 7:30 AM and now I find that I am barely dragging myself out of bed before the start of the 9 AM Zoom meeting. Why am I so disgruntled when I get to have a couple extra hours of sleep? I think the major difference is that we were once able to separate home from work. When I faced a tough day or when I worked with difficult people, I would remind myself that outside of the work establishment, none of those issues or people were a concern to me. I could leave the trials, tribulations and people at the workplace and go home to find peace, relaxation and comfort.

At work we give so much of ourselves to others that home seems like the only true place in which you are free to be yourself and now, unfortunately even our home space has been compromised. I don’t know about y’all but I don’t take inviting folks into my personal home space lightly. I personally vowed to never have some of these people know that I even existed outside of our work environment, let alone know what the color of my living room is! As we’ve begun to settle into our new (high-key invasive) norm of Zoom calls, FaceTime and Google Meet as a remedy for workplace interactions, it’s imperative that we continue to find creative ways to set work boundaries while protecting our energy, our time and our space so that we can keep our composure… and our jobs.

Energy

What are you giving the majority of your energy to? As I have shared before, a big hang-up of mine has been my battle with perfectionism and people-pleasing. I have found that I put a ton of energy into making sure that I had other people’s seal of approval. A lot of the times I would put unnecessary pressure on myself just thinking about the high expectations of others, without even giving them a chance to express it. This only increased when I entered into the workforce. As a black woman in a predominantly white workplace, I spent a lot of time trying to prove to my supervisors and coworkers that I was a valuable member on their team.

It wasn’t until I did some major research in graduate school that I learned that I wasn’t alone. Black women in the workplace often adjust their behaviors to accommodate their non-black counterparts. As indicated by Hall, Everett, Hamilton-Mason (2012, p. 216): “African American women change the way they think of things or expectations they have for themselves, or they alter their outer appearance. They modify their speech. They shift in one direction at work each morning, then in another at home each night. They adjust the way they act in one context after another. They try to cover up their intelligence with one group of friends and do everything possible to prove it to another. They deny their sadness and loneliness.”

As you can imagine, this way of living can be very damaging. I was convinced that my counterparts didn’t want me to succeed, which was caused me to go into overdrive. I had to refocus my energy if I was going to navigate the workforce successfully both physically and mentally. I work on protecting my energy daily. I started to hone in on my skills and talents. I tapped into the things that made me passionate about my field of work and I let my work speak for itself. I was blessed with the opportunity to be linked with other women who I could share my thoughts with and who encouraged me. I had to learn to drop the weight of worrying about unspoken expectations. It takes a little time to stop worrying about things that are out of our control, but it’s possible. Don’t let others approval, recognition or lack thereof deter you from your purpose. Find what you’re good at and do it well. You’ll find so much inner peace that it won’t matter what anyone else has to say. Focus your energy on what’s going to help you be a better version of yourself each day. Do what you can and celebrate those things. Give yourself some grace. Again, I work on this daily.

Time

How is that I find myself running out of time more now than when I was able to get out and physically be at work? Our current situation has left us in a time loop. Sometimes I forget what day it is, let alone the time! It seems like our employers have also fell into that same thought process. Don’t let your job dominate your entire day! I work with high school and college students who already live on their own unique time schedules, so I had to establish a new schedule that would prevent me from working until 9:30 pm or later each day. In my time frames I’ve included space for me to do something outside of staring at my computer screen like taking walks, doing yoga, reading, praying, exercising, or calling friends and family to catch up. I spend my shower time singing and attempting to learn the newest Tik-Tok dance (and failing). I’ve been put on to new music and have recommended music to others. I’ve tried new hair styles and learned some new make-up techniques. Remember to use some of your time each day to focus on pure enjoyment.

Space

This is a major component for me. I am super protective of my space. Since I can remember, I’ve always spent time setting the scene for any space that I was going to occupy. In my childhood home, I would reorganize my bedroom furniture often. From middle school all the way through high school, I would spend our orientation day setting up my locker with magnets, photos and trinkets so that when I arrived to school on our first day back, it would have been as if I never really left. As someone who hasn’t lived at home since leaving for college, I have always liked my space to feel nostalgic, like home away from home no matter where I was. Cleaning is my zen so during this time I’ve been able to deep clean my apartment. I’ve been able to reorganize my closet spaces, my pantries and cabinets. I finally put up pictures and fixtures that should’ve been put up a long time ago. Take care of your space! I’ve seen my friends homes and apartments and it’s inspiring. One of my best friends loves plants and flowers so her apartment is filled with beautiful plants that she tends to. Put together that bookshelf you’ve been meaning to work on. Reorganize one of the rooms in your space, or take something away.

What are some of the work related struggles you face during this time and how have you dealt with them? Have you ever been doubted in the workplace because of your age, or your experiences? Do you have work friends that help you get through the day? How are you keeping your cool and protecting your energy when frustrating situations come up? Feel free to comment and share! I’d love to know your thoughts!

Yours in Authenticity,

London

Young, Gifted and Broke

Somewhere between “I need to save money” and “You only live once, treat yo self”

Song inspiration: Can’t Tell Me Nothing x old Kanye

Do you remember when you received your very first paycheck? How old were you and what was the job? Think about how you felt when you opened it up and saw the amount. Nine times out of ten you were probably geeked even if the amount was laughable. What did you end up spending your hard earned money on? I started working when I was 14 years old and was making basically no money at all, but I remember feeling so accomplished. You couldn’t tell me nothing! The feeling of being able to buy my own things with my own money instead of depending on an allowance seemed like a dream come true. I was finally able to answer a question that was as old as time: Yes mom, I actually DO have McDonald’s money! A while back, I had a conversation with one of my students about his job and he told me that a favorite pastime of his is to stay up late on payday to watch his account balance change when the direct deposit hits! I felt the same elated feeling when that stimulus check recently dropped (Can I get a witness?!).

How many times have you spent money on things you didn’t really need? It may be too many to count! Have you ever had a hard time balancing the fun stuff in life like traveling, shopping and dining with responsibilities like rent, car notes, student loans and other bills? Do you ever get a check and then days letter wonder where your money went? The feeling of payday is unmatched, but honestly what happens after that paycheck drops is the real conversation.

Wait til I get my money right.” A hard lesson in money management

The hardest lesson I had to learn in money management was when I landed my first job out of undergrad. I took a job as a College Adviser making $32,000! As someone fresh out of school who was used to making minimum wage at an hourly rate, I was ecstatic! I thought it was my big break! Momma, I made it!! That year I was able to afford an apartment and a new car without a co-signer! At that moment I felt like I was my ancestor’s wildest dreams (A HUGE reach, I know-but I was really feeling myself). Soon after experiencing some of the best financial endeavors of my life, I hit some major financial snags that took me a couple years to recover from.

That year was the first year I did my taxes by myself and was able to claim a refund. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I had filled out my taxes incorrectly (me trying to be grown and not ask for help) and actually ended up owing $1000 back to the IRS later that year. Additionally, the money from my College Advising position was tax free because it was a grant funded position considered an independent contractor. Of course I decided against doing the logical thing which would have been to sit down with a tax adviser and figure out how much money I would have needed to save per check in order to be able to pay my taxes off with ease come tax season. I was too busy indulging in the benefits of money at amounts that I had never experienced before. After taking care of my monthly rent and student loan payments, I would spend my money however and on whatever I pleased. Two tax seasons came and went and I ended up owing almost $6000 in back taxes. Yikes is an understatement! I spent two years after that first job out of college working to repay my debt while I managed being a full time graduate student with the obligation to keep up with bills. I literally set myself up for disaster. Like my mom would say, “A hard head makes a soft behind.”

I was blessed with the opportunity to live rent free while in grad school which reduced my expenses tremendously. My previous student loans were deferred and I was able to work while in grad to reduce my debt. When I graduated from grad school, I was fortunate enough to be able to retain three jobs- one full and two part-time. It was exhausting both physically and mentally but it worked. I had to sacrifice certain aspects of my social life, which wasn’t too difficult because in grad school you basically have no life. I also had to cut back on my favorite beauty regimens such as the nail and hair salons, opting to do them myself instead of spending the money. Over the course of those two years, each payday felt more like another opportunity to redeem myself. I had to start from scratch and learn the basics of money management in order to stay afloat. Thankfully, I was able to repay my debt and start fresh, but it did not come without extreme hard work and discipline and with helping hands from family and friends.

If you’re struggling to find that fun/responsibility balance, or would just like to practice better saving habits, I would suggest prioritizing and setting realistic goals for yourself.

  • Create a monthly budget so that you can get a visual of where your income is going.
  • Find a budget app! Budget apps are the most petty and helpful tools you can have. They help you save money while throwing a little shade when you’re about to buy something you know you don’t need. Many of them allow you to check your credit score for free!
  • Make sure you’re taking care of the things that are needs (rent, utilities, car insurance) before your wants (salons/barber shops, travel, shopping).
  • Find ways to reduce your cost of living without totally eliminating your self-care regimens by finding free/reduced cost alternatives to things you would normally pay for.
  • If you absolutely need to, I would suggest picking up a second job. This is my least favorite option because it’s time consuming, both mentally and physically, but if it’s a temporary fix it can prove to be beneficial.
  • You may need to sacrifice some of your leisure activities, but it is definitely worth it to watch your savings account grow!

I by no means have this budgeting thing completely mastered but there was definitely beauty in the struggle that I had to go through. I came out of that situation more conscious of my spending habits, and learned to be creative while still practicing self-care. Special shout-out to my bffs who kept me centered and made sure I was still connected to the outside world! Can you relate? If you’re down to share, tell me about a time or times where you’ve had a money mishap! How did you recover and what did you learn? Do you have any other money tips? Feel free to comment and share!

Yours in Authenticity,

-L