What 2019 Taught Me

2019, how do I say farewell to a year that brought me to the highest of heights and it also brought me down to my knees in prayer? It was a good year, with lots of wins, but it also presented some challenges. Most years have their mix of ups and downs, but 2019 felt a bit more dynamic for me. The ups made me feel on top of the world, while the downs kept me up at night.

Nonetheless, 2019 is a year that taught me a lot. In fact, I believe that this year was a pivotal moment in my professional life, spiritual life, physical/wellness journey, and in my personal development journey as well. I’m happy to see 2019 end on a high note, but most importantly I’m ready to march into 2020 with my head held high, ready to grasp whatever life throws at me.

Without further adieu, here are the lessons that 2019 taught me.

Be yourself.

Many philosophers, motivational speakers, authors, and social media influencers who preach the importance of being your authentic self, but I cannot tell you how difficult it is to do! In a world where society is constantly telling you to be thinner, follow the latest trend, and get entrenched into the latest social media hashtag, it is easy to lose who you are.

At my last job, I did not feel that I could be my authentic self. Every day I wore a mask.  I assumed a persona of how I believed my co-workers and leaders expected me to behave. While it had some short term benefits, I am still dealing with the unpleasant outcomes that resulted from me suppressing my true thoughts and opinions for 2 and a half years. I suppressed who I was because I didn’t think that the real me was a good fit for the role. After leaving the position, I had a lot of anxiety and emotional stress to address.

Professional settings are tricky. The workplace is filled with passive-aggressive antics, but through it all, one must find a way to adopt a professional persona that does not compromise her core personality, thoughts, and beliefs. Any job that prevents you from showing up authentically is not the right job for you.

Therapy is the most rewarding journey you will ever take.

Therapy has become a trend among Millennials and I’m so happy that more people are going! I majored in Psychology in college and cultivated a deep appreciation for mental health. To keep myself mentally fit, I always kept a therapist on standby to help me cope with life’s obstacles. I went to a therapist during college (in 2005); in graduate school (in 2009); while job-seeking (in 2012 and 2013) and then, I took a long hiatus from therapy, until I resumed therapeutic sessions in 2019.

Unlike my previous stints with therapy, I have a well-defined goal. This time, therapy does not happen in a silo, but I actively apply the insights gleaned from each session. It has increased the quality of my relationships with my co-workers and leaders at work; my relationships with my husband and relatives in my personal life and most importantly, it has increased the quality of my relationship with myself.

I acknowledge that therapy is not for everyone. Many who are seeking enlightenment and understand themselves more have turned to self-help books. I believe it’s a good start, but therapy presents an opportunity for a professional to confront your erroneous thought patterns. We all have them, but we are unaware that we do. That’s where your own personal, unbiased, professional can call you on your BS, when needed.

Weight ain’t nothing but a number.

One of the things that I’m proud of this year is joining OrangeTheory Fitness and maintaining an active lifestyle. I completed more than 50 classes this year and I saw some changes in my body’s composition.

I made the mistake of focusing on the numbers on the scale and not my body’s composition of fat and lean muscle. My weight wasn’t changing but I was slowly building more muscle. As I continue with my fitness journey, I’ll be sure to focus on my body composition and not the numbers on the scale.

LastShareCollage 2
April 2019 (On Right) and January 2019 (On Left)

 

Don’t worry about “bad” people getting what they deserve.

Earlier in the 2010’s, I had a boss that treated me unfairly. I can save the details for another post, but let’s just say that his actions were unlawful. I find myself googling her name to see if she’s gotten what she deserves.

Then, I realized that there are some people that may not get what they deserve for another 50+ years. If we sit and wish them misfortune, we are only doing harm to ourselves. Let it go and focus on your own success.

In the words of Queen Bey, “Always stay gracious. Best revenge is your paper.”

Simple vacations are the best.

I feel pressured to make every moment of my day productive. I underestimate the power of relaxation and rejuvenation. I prefer to spend my free time immersed in projects or social events. However, 2019 has shown me the value of hitting pause to reflect on life and its happenings. It’s okay to spend an afternoon curled up on the couch reading a good book. It’s okay to spend the winter vacation in your PJ’s binging a Netflix series or an old sitcom that reminds you of your childhood. It’s also okay to spend the entire day in bed doing absolutely nothing but shifting in and out of sleep. We all need an activity that helps us feel rejuvenated.

Untraditional College Advice for Incoming Freshman

I was a dud in college.

I know it’s hard to believe, but it’s true.

My college was located in a city 30 minutes away from my parents’ house. I stayed on campus to get the “true college experience,” but I often went home during the weekends and even during the week to attend family events or attend my childhood church.

Given that my parents’ lived within a 30-mile radius of my college campus, I did not need to stay on-campus. I could have stayed at my parents’ house and carpooled to campus with Mom each morning since she worked a mere 10 minutes away from my college.

My church was 15 minutes away. Church kept me busy between Sunday service, mid-week service, and “College Night” on Fridays.

Being near my family, my childhood church, and in a familiar environment prevented me from going “wild.” It kept me grounded and focused on my purpose for enrolling in college, which was to make good grades and be accepted into a top graduate school program.

I’m glad I didn’t go “off the rails,” but I regret not embracing the true college experience. College is a holding place between adolescence and full-on adulthood. It’s utopia! You have the best of both worlds. You have the freedom to do what you want (eat icecream for dinner or go to a party on a school night) without any of the adult-like responsibilities (paying rent/mortgage or deciding what life insurance to purchase). You have the metabolism of a teenager, which means gaining the Freshman 15 but losing it by the second semester of your Sophomore year.

The world requires very little from you. One time, I accepted a position at the college bookstore. On the first day of work, I arrived on time, with my paperwork in hand. The manager was surprised that I even showed up. His astonishment came from the fact that none of his other new hires ever showed up to work on their first day. Apparently, college students are not expected to keep their word.

I was so focused on being a “good student,” making good grades and staying out of trouble that I lived a “fasted lifestyle.” I did not do anything that I thought my church folks, my family, or God would frown upon.

If I were given the good fortune of redoing college, I’d do it right. I’d carelessly gain the Freshman 15, go on dates, party on a Tuesday night and sleep through my 8am class, go on Miami Spring Break, and change my major multiple times.

The truth is that the Real World will be there to greet you on the other side of graduation. So, until then, why rush it? Carpe diem! The real world is not expecting anything out of you anyway.

Gain the Freshman 15.

In college, all you have to do is wake up in time to go to the cafe. It’s not always the best food you ever had, but it’s tolerable and prepaid. Eat away!

I was so hell-bent on not gaining the Freshman 15. While my friends were enjoying Fried Chicken Wednesday and all the peach cobbler they could stomach, I was trying to watch my calories and exercise. Little did I know, that 15 years later, my metabolism was going to change. I should have eaten whatever I wanted then.

Go on dates.

I took a vow of celibacy before I started college, so I was scared to have a boyfriend and break my vow. I had two guys who might have been interested in me during undergrad and I screwed up both opportunities with my shenanigans.

The first guy was my friend’s cousin. He was candy to my eyes. He was honestly the most good-looking brother I had ever seen. We exchanged numbers and I don’t know what happened. All I remember is that he never called me again. In those days, it was a sport to scare away men. And I was such a dud, I probably booted him off the phone so that I could read my Bible or pray.

The other guy was an a-okay guy I met at a bookstore. Click here to read what happened to him.

Party so hard that you sleep through your 8am class.

I went to college parties, but I kept my eye on the time. I don’t think I enjoyed the party as much as I could have because I was always so worried about missing my class. I might have been at the party in the flesh, but my mind was elsewhere.

Nowadays, as a 30-something, I don’t go to parties like I used to, but when I do, I make sure I get myself home before bedtime. It’s a practice that’s not much different than my college years. But now is when it really counts, especially for the type of work I do. I cannot go into an executive meeting with a hangover. I should have taken advantage of my college years and slept through the 8am class when the only thing at risk might have been a less-than-perfect attendance.

Go on Spring Break (not alternative spring break, but the spring break)

It wasn’t until my senior year that I went on Spring Break. It wasn’t a traditional college Spring Break in Miami either, it was a Spring Break with a religious organization in California. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad I went. But hearing all about the fun that Miami Spring Break has to offer makes me feel a little jealous.

Change your major several times.

I went to school knowing that I wanted to be a Psychology major. And I didn’t explore anything else. I regret that. I wish I took a Creative Writing class or a Political Science class. I probably would have settled on Psychology anyway, but it would have been nice to broaden my horizons.

To all of you newly oriented freshwomen and men out there, YOLO. There’s nothing on the other side of the college gates but Sallie Mae and taxes.

S&T, tell me about your college experience! If you could redo your college experience, what would you do differently? Let’s chat in the comments section below. 

 

When It All Falls Down

In 2010, I was on top of the world.

New job, a new luxury apartment downtown, brand new car, the attention and admiration of my inner and outer circle. I just celebrated my 25th birthday on a beautiful beach. After 4 years of college and 2 years of graduate school, I finally graduated from student-dom and had entered adulthood. My job was everything I thought I wanted. I traveled for work and I even traveled on weekends. I was living the life of my dreams.

And 10 months later, it was taken away from me. It was taken from me in a matter of minutes. I lost my job. I lost my glamorous apartment. I lost the admiration of my friends and relatives. I lost the pride and confidence that I had in myself. I lost the freedom that I embraced being 550 miles from home. I returned back home, with no job and little money. I was no longer on top of the world. In fact, I thought the world was against me.Continue reading “When It All Falls Down”

Lying with Truth

One of my earliest childhood memories occurred on a playground in summer camp. I was playing kickball and peed on myself at 2nd base.

I was 8 years old, so I knew better.

I didn’t do it because I was engrossed in the game.

I didn’t do it because I had a bladder disorder.

I didn’t do it because I was vying for attention.

I did it because I was shy.

I stood at second base and peed on myself because I was too shy to ask where the restrooms were.

In some circumstances, I’m still that shy kid who peed herself on the playground. I tell people what they want to hear. I avoid conflict. I don’t do anything that could make others feel uneasy.

The 8-year old me only appears during difficult conversations. Most frivolous conversations we have every day — about the weather, a new work assignment, opinions on the latest news headlines – I speak my mind, with little regard to how my truth makes others’ feel.

Take Care of Your Body

But difficult conversations – when I have to confront a friend or respond to a question in a way that may hurt another’s feelings, I am reticent. I imagine the worst case scenario of what could happen if I speak my truth.

Recently, someone asked me to plan her 20th wedding anniversary. I knew it was a big deal for her and her husband. I also know how much work it would require and I was not up for the challenge. But the way she asked – with puppy dog eyes, insisting that I was the best one for the job – I just couldn’t say no.

I am now planning a party I don’t want to plan.

I perpetually avoid conflict. It is a behavior that permeated my 20-something life. I never wanted to rock the boat and make a friend mad at me. So I’d keep my thoughts to myself, letting my them fester within me. Unspoken words have put strains on my relationships.

Now, at 33, I have no time to waste on being phony. There is a goal that I am aiming to achieve. I want to be a better version of myself and I cannot be better if I am not authentic.

The truth sets us free! I am living proof.

In January 2015, I was a Master’s degree holding professional working a minimum wage dead-end job. I had applied to many jobs in my industry, connected with former classmates, friends, former employers, and other associates. I went on more interviews that I could count. I followed all the typical job search tips and still could not land a job in my industry.

Take Care of Your Body (1)

Emotionally, I was exhausted. I was lonely. No one could relate to my misfortune and would stylishly blame my mishaps on me. Frustrated and slightly depressed, I shut down, refusing to discuss my job struggles with peers who I perceived to have thriving careers.

In the midst of my turmoil, my friend called one day and challenged me with these words:

What are you doing at that job? You have a master’s degree. You’re too good for that job. Why don’t you return to school and reboot your life?

She went on to say what I already knew. My current job was never going to promote me. If I stayed, I’d never do anything more than answering the door and accepting FedEx packages.

I was angry when we hung up the phone. I didn’t speak to her for several weeks.

My friend, on the other hand, was unbothered. She knew that my hurt was temporary. She knew the truth would ultimately propel me into the career I deserved.

The conversation occurred four years ago and since then, my life has changed immensely.

Take Care of Your Body (3)

I graduated from the program she recommended. I launched a fulfilling career in healthcare administration. My role offers a lot of room for growth. My compensation is commensurate with my education and background. I have the most career fulfillment than I’ve had in a very long time. I am eternally grateful to my friend for opening my eyes and confronting me at my lowest moment.

Truth always pisses me off initially, but after some time to reflect, I usually realize what I needed to do in order to become better.

In the past, I would avoid truth-tellers. They always made me feel uncomfortable.

Nowadays, I seek them. I embrace the truth-tellers in my life. I rely on them to tell me when I am wrong. I rely on them to tell me when I am being a jerk.

I also aspire to become like them, so I can cultivate more meaningful relationships, and perhaps pay forward some of the insight that I’ve acquired from truth-tellers. Afteral,  you have to be cruel to be kind.

So, S&T what’s your relationship with the truth? Are you the truth-teller in your circle? Let’s chat in the comment section below!

Fitness Journey Updates:

Some of you inquired about my fitness journey so I will be sharing my progress at the end of each blog. I have been working out for a total of 10 weeks and quite frankly, the scale has not budged. I gained 2 pounds of muscle and lost a couple pounds of fat. While I welcome a toned physique, I am not satisfied with my progress. OrangeTheory kicks my butt 3 to 4 days per week and I feel that my body doesn’t reflect that. I will spend the next couple of weeks changing my diet. The experts say that weight loss and body sculpting is 80% diet and 20% exercise. I wish I realized that sooner.

Where The Heck Have You Been?!

Hi, S&T! Remember me??

It’s been 6 months since my last post. Apologies for going radio silence on you. I have so many new ideas for posts, but I just couldn’t come back after ghosting you and say, TA-DA New Post! without at least explaining where the heck I’ve been in the past 196 days. So, here goes a list of things I’ve been doing instead of updating my blog. And some other random epiphanies I’ve had along the way.

I’ve moved into a new place.

I knew that buying a home would require some sacrifices. But, I did not know it was going to take over my entire life!

After signing the contract, my thoughts, my energies, and my money have been consumed by my home! And decorating has been a bit daunting. Is this normal? Having a place of your own is a blessing though!

I earned a professional certification.

As if moving wasn’t stressful enough, I started studying for a certification exam during the week I moved. The certification required more than 35 hours of class and more than 40 hours of study, and a 4-hour exam. I managed all of this on top of a full-time job.

I hosted a birthday party for my hubby.

My hubby turned 40 in October and I couldn’t let his special day pass without commemorating it with a birthday party.  So that’s precisely what I did. My budding event planning talent was on full display and I must say it was a huge hit!

I engaged in some eye-opening conversations about mommyhood.

This item deserves a whole post of its own, but I’ll just gloss over it for now. I never realized how judgy moms were of stay-at-home-momssoon-to-be moms, and other women who are trying to decide whether to take a launch into motherhood.

I’ve had so many conversations about his topic and what I’ve discovered has been eye-opening. Stay-at-home moms turn their noses up at working moms for choosing to allow someone else to raise their kids. Working moms think stay-at-home moms are lazy and disillusioned. Some moms look at the not-yet moms like, “What are you waiting for??”

In all the conversations I’ve had with co-workers, relatives, and friends, I’ve discovered that everyone is doing her best to be a good mom. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks, How can I screw up my kid’s life today?

I’ve been mistaken for being pregnant.

Some people mistook my weight gain for pregnancy. Perhaps their desire for me to be with baby were so strong that they somehow conjured up a pregnant belly, but whatever the case is, it has taken me months to recover from their mishap.

A word of unsolicited advice: Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. She may just be bloated or simply gaining weight. Either way, air on the side of caution and do not say anything. It’s better to be quiet than end up with your foot in your mouth.

By the way, shout out to the people who cannot resist the urge to comment on others’ weight. Why has that ever been a thing? I eat a bowl of ice cream and feel myself gaining weight. Believe me. I know I gained weight. And I don’t need you to point it out.

I am back on my workout grind.

Between the move, studying for an exam, working a full-time job and party planning, I’ve had little time to work out. Admittedly, self-care was the first thing to go when life got hectic.

Now, I’m back to working out 3 to 4 times per week at OrangeTheory Fitness. I have social media friends who have experienced some amazing results from the OTF program, so I became a member in mid-December. I’ve been consistently attending morning classes. And get this – I’m actually enjoying my workouts!

I’ve been taking progress photos and can’t wait to share the progress I’ve made.

Other random stuff I’ve noticed during my time away:

  • My mind is overflowing with new ideas and I just don’t know which one to pursue. I feel slightly overwhelmed.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama is phenomenally written. The book made me admire Mrs. O even more.
  • Changing your name after marriage is a pain in the butt.
  • Instead of trying to convince others to give you an opportunity, you have to put on your big girl panties and make your own opportunity.
  • Making friends in my 30’s is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

The next post…

I have plenty more to say, so expect to hear from me soon. I just wanted to pop in and let you know I’m still breathing. I miss you guys! Let me know what you’ve been up to. What’s your workout routine? What are you eating to supplement your workout?

And also, Happy Valentine’s Day! Is it just me or are you not in the Valentine’s Day spirit this year? I seriously have zero plans to celebrate.

How I Coped With The Torture Of A 4-Year Long Distance Relationship

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people who are experiencing good fortune in life claim that they knew exactly how it happened.

You’ve met them. They have the perfect job with the perfect boyfriend and the perfect home. They’ll boastfully tell you how they did it. They’ll tell you how they earned a bachelor’s degree in finance. Then, they completed an internship at Eli and Lilly.  Since they were the “best intern,” they were offered a full-time job as an analyst. “All you gotta do,” they say, “is network and get a great internship.”

They have the same attitude about how they got a man. “Wear pink lipstick and red nail polish,” they say. Men love that.”

They have all the answers. Meanwhile, you’re over here networking and applying to thousands of internships and nothing happens. You’re working a minimum wage job with laughable benefits, a degree that you have no clue what to do with, and a boyfriend who hasn’t worked in 4 years. Continue reading “How I Coped With The Torture Of A 4-Year Long Distance Relationship”

You Haven’t Done What? Since When? & Other Reflections On My 33rd Birthday

Today is my birthday! And what better way to start my 33rd year on this planet than by writing a new post talking about all the lessons I’ve learned. A word of caution: I’m not proud of everything in this post, but as long as it resulted in a lesson learned. It’s all good, right?

Here goes:Continue reading “You Haven’t Done What? Since When? & Other Reflections On My 33rd Birthday”

When 32 Feels Like The New 62 and Other Ways I Know I’m Getting “Old”

I had a ball in my twenties. I was adventure-seeking, fun, and lived by the motto, YOLO.  I was always down for a good party.

On Fridays evenings, I’d come home from work around 6, take a 3 hour nap, and call a friend 9pm to decide where to go. By 11pm, I’d dressed in the jazziest outfit and the highest heels and ready to head out for a night on the town in Atlanta. I’d return at 6am – sometimes later – after a night on the town.

Those days – although 6 years ago – feel like a century ago. My life is different now.

First, I no longer live in the booming party-centric city of Atlanta. I live in a small town in North Carolina. Going out requires some creativity and meticulous planning. But what’s changed the most is me.Continue reading “When 32 Feels Like The New 62 and Other Ways I Know I’m Getting “Old””

To Be A Mom or Not To Be A Mom: That Is The Question

When I was a little girl, the first thing I’d look at each morning was a painting that hung directly across from my bed. It was a painting of a woman and her little girl in a warm and loving embrace. My mom purchased it when she was a teenager, years before she had her first child.Continue reading “To Be A Mom or Not To Be A Mom: That Is The Question”

OOPS! I Did It Again

When I hit the publish button for S&T 7 years ago, I had no idea that I’d meet such a charming blogging community, make new friends, and be nominated for TWO blog awards! In December, Pages of Paige nominated me for the Liebster Award. Last month,  Drifyness and Talking with Tati both nominated me for the Sunshine Blog Award.

Thank you, C!

Thank you, Tati!

I am particularly inspired by C and Tati’s blogs, so an award coming from them means a lot to me. If you haven’t already, check them out! You’ll love them too.Continue reading “OOPS! I Did It Again”

My Abuser

Photo Title

No man will ever love or marry you. There is something wrong with you that’s why you’re STILL single. You’re not smart enough or pretty enough. Look at that stomach, you need to lose that gut. You don’t dress nice enough. Look at you… a hot mess. You don’t deserve to be happy. Your hair is ugly in its natural state; I don’t know why you don’t perm it. You’re not competent in the workplace that’s why haven’t landed your dream job. You’ll never achieve your goals.  You’re unintelligent, incompetent, and critical; I don’t know what your friends see in you.Continue reading “My Abuser”

I’d Rather Talk About My Sex Life

It’s not every day that I talk about my sex life. I’m a pretty private person. In spite of that, there is one thing that makes me more uncomfortable than sharing what I do in the bedroom.

What’s that thing, you ask?

My salary.

When my friends were kissing and telling, I’d stay quiet. I love watching shows like Girls and Insecure that depict carefree relationships among friends who share everything, including the intimate details of their relationships. But for me, questions like, “How was your first sex?” feel invasive.Continue reading “I’d Rather Talk About My Sex Life”

My Husband Was Not What I Wanted

Do you ever look at your significant other and think, “How did I ever fall for you?”

I do.

My husband and I have been together for 5 years and I have my moments where this thought crosses my mind. Now, don’t get it twisted. I love him and all, but it amazes me how different he is from what I thought I wanted in a man. He differs from the qualities I had itemized on my list.

You know, the list. The list women make of qualities they want in a man. I started my list at age 16. Then, added to it as I got older.

By the time I was 27, my list looked like this:

Purple Brush Strokes Packing List

Of course, he had to have a good moral code. No cheating, stealing or killing, but that’s a no-brainer.

I measured men against my list constantly. No man ever measured up – a fact that was clear to my girlfriends.

I was at a girlfriend’s house 7 years ago, in the middle of one of my typical monologues about what I wanted in a man and lamenting about how hard it was to find a “good” one. She was rolling her eyes as I was reciting my list. I wasn’t sure what all her eye-rolling was about.

Me: I’m just looking for someone who is 6 feet tall, has a 6-figure salary and drives a nice car.

Girlfriend: Well, you’re going to be looking for a long time.

Me: “No, I’m not,” I retorted, “I’m not settling for anything less than what I want.”

Girlfriend: O….K….

When my male friend introduced me to my now-husband, I knew he wasn’t the one. He didn’t embody the qualities on my list.

  • He was only 5’3 (Strike 1)
  • He was a graduate student in a town 2 hours away (Strike 2)
  • He was unemployed (Strike 3)
  • He did not have a car (Strike 4)

“Well, you can be friends with him. Can’t you?” My male friend said.

I didn’t have a good rebuttal. The truth is I liked having male friends. They can take you out for dinner. They can introduce you to their male friends. And if they have a crush on you, you can bask in the glory of being the center of his attention.

It’s a win-win for everyone.

thinking man
SOURCE: comedy.co.uk

So, we became friends. He’d call. We’d talked. And through conversation, I learned more about him: he had taken engineering classes, earned a degree in medicine, and ran a shoe business on the side.

He was knowledgeable about a variety of different subjects. I always learned something new when speaking to him. And he seemed interested in all of my random ideas for excursions: day trips to Savannah, hiking up Kennesaw Mountain, and experimenting with eateries around the Atlanta area.

In spite of the 4 criteria that he did not meet, there were others that he did meet.

  • 6-feet tall
  • Lives in my city
  • 6-figure salary
  • Nice car
  • Intelligent
  • Good personality

When he asked me out on our first date, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. At the very least,  he was an interesting person so I knew I would have a good time. I didn’t want to be rude when he asked, but the question most prominent in my mind was

What vehicle was he going to use to pick me up?

Tony arrived at my home in a 1996 Nissan Altima that was screaming for a paint job. The engine roared through my neighborhood announcing its age to everyone.

“My uncle gave it to me,” Tony explained. “It’s just something for me to get around in until I finish school.”

The car did not fit into the luxury class that I envisioned, but at least he had one. So, semi-check?

mood GIF-downsized_large
SOURCE: MrWGifs.com

 

The item in the passenger seat did fit my category of romantic. He purchased a scarf for my birthday. I mentioned in one of our conversations that I loved scarfs. He remembered! (Check!!)

Our date was fun. If Tony wasn’t sure if he liked me before, the date solidified it for him. Tony became assertive about his feelings for me and wanted us to become more than friends.

I was torn.

On the one hand, we had a good time together, he was intelligent and funny. He was honest. He kept his word.

On the other hand, he didn’t live near me and he didn’t have much money. He also wasn’t six feet tall. In fact, he was very far from it.

How would we see each other or get to know one another if he was so far away? And when he graduated, what if he got a job in another city? Then, we’d be even further apart. And he’s short. How are we going to appear in photos if I wear heels? I was working 20-hours per week at the time, so my paychecks were small. How were we going to get by if we both didn’t have money?

Tony wasn’t taking “no” for an answer.

He insisted on driving to Atlanta every weekend to visit and promised that the long-distance was only a temporary situation. He assured me that after graduation that he’d look for a great job with a decent salary and benefits.

So, I didn’t say “no,” but I didn’t say “yes” either.

I simply waited.

In the meantime, Tony kept his promise and came to Atlanta each weekend. Since we didn’t have much money, our weekends consisted of us going to a park, splitting a meal at Chipotle, or hanging out at each other’s homes.

One weekend, I was invited to a black-tie event at work. Tony had a conflict and wasn’t able to make it. He rearranged his schedule and showed up at the last minute. I was happily surprised.

Girlfriend: Are y’all dating yet?

Me: I don’t know. We’re friends.

Girlfriend: Friends?

Girlfriend: Didn’t you go out last weekend and the weekend before that? Doesn’t he come to town each weekend to see you? Don’t y’all talk every night? You’re dating, Yaa, you just don’t know it.

And that terrified me! I couldn’t be dating someone I didn’t think was the one.

He still didn’t meet all of the items on my checklist, so I did what any girl attached to the persona of her dream man would do.

I broke up with him.

And of course, it was dramatic. Tears. Proclamations of love, followed by the assertion that we could not spend any more time together.

Our time apart was painful. I missed him and realized that my girlfriend had a point. Tony may have been unemployed and lived far from me, but he had demonstrated his commitment to me. Since he was hard-working and intelligent, it was only a matter of time before he got a great job with great pay. So, after two months of unofficially dating, I decided to let go of all the items on the list and give it a try.

That was the best decision I had ever made.

Tony landed a great job 6 months after completing his graduate degree. Unfortunately, the job was in Florida, 6 hours away from my home in Atlanta. We endured a total of 4 years of long-distance before we finally found ourselves in the same city in 2017.

Maintaining a long-distance relationship was not easy, but Tony was committed to making the relationship work despite the hundreds of miles separating us. He traveled as often as he could. He made sacrifices to make the relationship work.

Over the course of our relationship and now marriage, I realize how shallow some of the items on my list were. Who cares how tall someone is? Tony makes me happy and none of those ways has anything to do with his height. The good thing is that I’m pretty petite as well. I’m 5’2, so he is still taller than me. And plus, Tony has such a strong and assertive personality, I often forget his height.

I think about the conversations I had with my girlfriends several years ago and chuckle. I was silly to think that a man that checked each item off my list would make me happy. I had no idea what I was talking about.

Don’t get me wrong Tony isn’t perfect and neither is our relationship. We’re both doing our best to make it work. I am relieved that I didn’t let some silly list get in the way of my happiness.

So S&T did you have a list? How does your partner measure up to your list? Let’s chat below!

StereoTrippin!

HER: (Sigh) I am tired. I don’t think I’ll make it out to the club with the crew tonight.

ME: I hear you. I have to be at work at 8:00am tomorrow, and it is an hour commute to my job in traffic, so I probably won’t make it either. Plus, I don’t really like clubs.

HER: Yeah, me neither. I am getting old. I’m 45, but you’re young. You should go out.

ME: I went out a lot when I was in college. Now, I don’t really like hip-hop clubs. When I go out, I prefer to listen to reggae and African music.Continue reading “StereoTrippin!”

Damn Girl. Get Your Shit Together

Valentine’s Day is over, but today, I have a treat for you.

Last month, Paige of The Pages of Paige, and I had a strategy and brainstorming conversation on how we can grow our readership and reach our blogging goals. Through our conversation, we noticed one thing we had in common. We both loved tuning into the blog, Damn Girl Get Your Shit Together each Thursday and reading unsolicited advice for shit that we didn’t even know we were doing wrong. We were impressed by her style and growing community and wanted to know how she did it.

Damn Girl Get Your Shit Together (DGGYST) is a lifestyle blog with content on everything from beauty hacks, money, health, and relationships. Within the first couple of sentences of reading one of her posts, you will be hooked. She’ll have you cackling in your office cubicle, nodding your head in agreement, or pausing to re-evaluate your life. She’s insightful, funny, and her tell-it-like-it-is approach to her posts makes her blog engaging.

Oh, and did I mention that this chick was kicking ass and taking names?

Her subscribers have grown quickly within her first few months of blogging. Her community, the DG Army, is full of other diverse and engaging bloggers from all over the world! She is a self-proclaimed community-builder who strongly believes in empowering other female bloggers.

In the fall of 2017, DGGYST launched a hilarious comic blog called Insomnia Girl. A blog that I find myself enthusiastically anticipating its updates each week. I even share the posts with my husband and we both share some good laughs.

She wrote a post on the importance of asking for what you need and the struggles women encounter when asking for our needs. So, I put on my big girl panties and did exactly that. I asked Paige to help me compile a list of questions that we had been dying to know about her and how she’s been able to grow the blog so quickly.

I am so happy she agreed to answer our questions! So, kick off your shoes and relax your feet. Read on below to hear from Tiara, the girl behind Damn Girl. Get Your Shit Together.

Tell us your story about how and why you started Damn Girl.

Growing up in the foster care system and on the streets, I took a very different path than my contemporaries. Its been a very painful experience to see the people that I love fall into the same lifestyle that they hated as children or teenagers, or even young adults. I started Damn Girl because I wanted a space to give the advice I wish I could. I absolutely don’t give unsolicited advice in real life, because among other things, it is ineffective.  Damn Girl is a response to the pain that I have felt in not being able to help the people that I love.

You hinted in your post, “Eight Weeks Later” that you might have had another blog before this one. Please tell us about that blog.

Damn Girl is my first blog but I worked on it for almost a year before publishing.

The name of your blog and tagline – Unsolicited Advice for Shit You Didn’t Even Know You Were Doing Wrong – is brilliant. How did you decide on it?

I wanted people to know what they were getting into right from the start lol. My posts come from the heart but they are not sugar-coated, and I feel like my title and tagline are a constant reminder to stay true to my real voice.

Tell us about your creative process for creating blog posts for DGGYST. How is that creative process different from Insomnia Girl?

I post every Thursday, except for on holidays, and I take my inspiration from real life struggles that I have had, or that my friends and family are currently experiencing. Insomnia Girl is actually the contents of my bedside table notebook. I have been writing them down for years, and recently filled the entire notebook and thought “well, shit, why not see if anyone else finds this as ridiculous as I do”

Why did you create Insomnia Girl?

I have PTSD. I like to joke that all my crazy comes out at when I am asleep. I sleep walk anywhere from once a week to every night, and have found myself in a load of unsavory situations. I once woke up completely naked on a different floor of my apartment building with a toothbrush in my mouth. Insomnia Girl is a prep for my book on my experiences as an adult sleepwalker.

One of the things that drew me to you and your blog was your tone of voice, your insightful advice, and your accuracy! How did you develop your voice? Where does your insight come from?

You know before you post a comment on anything online and you stop and question how that makes you sound? Damn Girl is the absence of that little voice. It has been incredibly liberating to just say exactly what I mean, no double checking necessary. The Damn Girl readers make me feel understood because they accept me, exactly who I am, filter free.

The other thing I find admirable is that you’ve cultivated a community. Walk us through the networking strategies and other tactics employed to get such a large following.

I am an obsessive community builder. When I was 22 I had six of my friends buy a tri-plex apartment so that we would all know who are neighbors were, could split the downpayment, the bills, everything. My first car was a community car before zip car was a thing. I have a Costco group where we all buy the 6 pack of chickens, and the 100 pound bag of spinach and divy it up. I do meal prep with people on the same diet as me.  I have been accused of being fiercely independent but thats not true, I have always felt that things can be accomplished best together. I have a very tribal nature.  I have that same approach to Damn Girl. For every one hour I work on DG, I put in five hours of supporting other bloggers.

You are invested in your community, but you run two blogs. Tell us how you structure your day.

Because I had such a head start with DG and especially with Insomnia Girl, it free’s up a lot of time to do the networking. Preparation Preparation Preparation!

What is your overall vision for DGGYST? Your 2018 goal?

I would like for DG to continue to connect me with amazing writers who are on the same path as me. I eventually would like to use Damn Girl to promote a few of my projects. I am working on several books and want to ensure that they are received well.

Say you’ve met a young lady who has started her blog, but is having trouble finding her voice, her niche, and growing her readership. What would you tell her? What resources, classes, or websites would you refer her to?

This is such a great question and I’m glad you asked this one. My best advice for cultivating your voice to write exactly what you want to say first. Write a no holds bar of your message for every post, and then add in the details.

“On Writing” by Stephen King as one of the best books I have read that has helped with my writing. As far as growing your readership you have to find a small team of other bloggers to build you up. Find blogs that you admire, have a similar following, and connect with these people. Write them, follow them, promote them. We have this idea of a cut throat” “competitive” environment and that’s bullshit. It is our nature to want to reciprocate. I find that anyone featured in my sidebar are really on board with networking, promoting and supporting other blogs. But here are some awesome bloggers to get in contact with for community support.

What advice do you have for bloggers who want to monetize their blog?

I would say first to get your head on straight. Wanting to earn some money doesn’t make you the devil. Bloggers work so hard and it is ok to get paid! That being said, start with an Amazon Affiliate account. Only promote products that you would tell your friends about in real life, that you use, and love. I think about these Produce Crisper things that I use, it makes my vegetables last like….5 days longer, and I consider it my duty and a public service to tell people about them! lol! You will find it easy to write compelling product suggestions when you feel genuine excitement about a product.

I struggle with how much of myself to share on my blog. How do you balance the art of revealing enough about yourself so you are relatable, but keeping some things to yourself in order to protect your privacy?

I was on the phone with one of my favorite bloggers, Lyz-Stephanie from I Wanna Be A Lady and we were talking about this just yesterday. I joked that I wasn’t going to put up a photo because I wasn’t sure people would want to take advice from “This nose” lol. I never wanted the blog to be about me, I wanted it to be a resource. I realized a few posts in that I could never be the effective resource I wanted to be, without qualifying myself. I try to do a ratio of 1 to 5 with my posts. one fifth about me, and the rest pure information.

Besides The Skinny Confidential, what other websites, books, podcasts, influencers and/or resources do you draw inspiration from?

Jenny Lawson at The Bloggess for sure. She is such a funny woman, has two New York times best sellers and my blog Insomnia Girl is actually featured in the sidebar of her website.

What do you do for fun?

I am a professional ballroom dancer. Dance is a huge part of my life and I like to go out salsa and swing dancing several times a week. I have an awesome group of friends and we get together several times a week for poker nights, brunch, and we all cuddle up and watch “The Good Place” ( so good) every Thursday night.  I also sew, read, paint and cook almost everyday to give my inner introvert her happy time.

DGGYST on Social Media:

My Little Secret

When you meet me in person, you’ll think I’m the most jovial, outgoing person you have ever met.

I’m the co-worker who remembers everyone’s birthday and insists that we all go out lunch to celebrate. I’m the one at a party who can strike up conversations with strangers. People who don’t know us would think we’re long lost friends. I’m also the assumed host and coordinator of social events that occur within my circle.

What can I say? I’m pretty awesome.

What would surprise you about my social-butterfly ways is that I am very awkward.

I hate talking on the phone because I’m afraid of that long pause in between conversations that always occurs.

During casual office chit-chat, I never know when to end a conversation. I constantly worry whether I ended it too soon. I may also spend the majority of the exchange planning an exit strategy.

awkward bc me

If I know I’m going to meet someone for the first time, I find out everything I can about them so I can identify talking points. I learn their profession on LinkedIn, hobbies on Facebook, their address on BeenVerified, and their upcoming wedding date from their registry on The Knot. But when I meet them, I freeze, trying to decide how to initiate a conversation that doesn’t make me appear like a crazy-online-stalker-woman.

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Well, there’s no point in hiding the truth.

Today, I’m going to tell you that I am that crazy-online-stalker woman. I’m a social butterfly, but constantly struggling about how, when, and where to let the social part of me fly. I’m fun. I’m upbeat. I’m sociable, but I’m also awkward. And I’m sharing with you, S&T, the moments that make me feel the most uneasy.

Seeing a co-worker at the grocery store

It’s Christmastime and I’m doing my shopping in preparation for guests. I’m walking through the produce section and listening to an automated voicemail message from my doctor’s office. I see a familiar face, but I’m so busy making sure that my appointment is secured that it doesn’t register that the familiar face belongs to my co-worker.

I see him again in the bakery section. We talk for awhile and part ways.

But then, I see him again in the canned goods aisle. I can greet him again but what more is there to say to a co-worker at a grocery store? So, I stand in the middle of the aisle, looking lost. I secretly plot my next move. Should I walk past, acting like I don’t see him or re-route so I can avoid him altogether?

I choose to re-route my journey and add 20 extra minutes to my shopping experience.

i have no idea

Ending the obligatory office chit chat

I’m on my way back to my cubicle when I bump into my friendly co-worker.

“Cute shoes,” I say.

“Thanks,” she replies. She then continues to tell me where she got them. Then, she tells me about her weekend and that cute thing her 5-month old did this morning. Five minutes later, we are still chatting, but the conversation is tailing off and I’m getting tired.

awkward bored.gif
Via Buzzfeed

My level of obligatory office chit-chat meter has been filled and now, I want to get back to my cubicle and continue listening to my podcast playlist.

So, what do I do?

I look at my phone, pretend that the red Facebook notification is informing me of something urgent. I take three steps back and hope she follows my cue. I’m done hearing about her identity-crisis-ridden cat who thinks she’s a dog.

gotta-go-fast

Ending a phone conversation

Call me a millennial cause I hate talking on the phone. I rather approach a questionable stranger on the street than pick up the phone and call someone. I rather eat a bowl of oysters then call someone on the phone. I’d rather go road cycling in 30-degree weather than pick up a phone and call someone…

Okay, you get the picture.

Before I call someone, I always rehearse what I’m going to say. If I know what I’m going to say, then I can prevent that awkward pause. The person on the other end doesn’t have to think, Why is this freak breathing in my ears? So I like to be prepared.

tenor.gif
Tenor

But, after the smoke — I mean conversation —  clears, and it’s time to get off the phone, I often struggle with how to say goodbye.

Here are the options I consider:

a) K, nice chatting with ya. Gotta go. Bye!

b) I’ll call you back.

c) I got a call coming through…

Option C for the win! It never fails.

So, S&T, you’ve heard me discuss my little secret. Have you found yourself in any of these awkward situations? What did you do? And does anyone like talking on the phone anymore??? Let’s chat in the comments section!

The Greatest Lie Millennials Believe

Welcome to S&T’s #TBT! This week’s post is an official throwback post from 2015. I’m considering whether to re-release old posts on the blog every first Thursday of the month. Let me know your thoughts in the comments section! 

I remember when I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real. I thought to myself:

Now, why would I ever believe that an oversized man in a big red suit fit down a narrow chimney with Christmas? How exactly did he fit? How could one man fly 24,901 miles in 24 hours around the world delivering gifts to 9 billion children? And how did he travel on an object intended for snow? Could he have at least rented a private jet?

giphy-downsized (3)

But I did. And if you’re honest, you did too.

In fact, we’ve all believed menarche at some point in our lives. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but we millennials have endorsed yet another lie.

We believe that if we follow our passion, then the money will come. Money’s not important as living our dream life.

Now, I’m not saying that money is everything, but to the person who invented this quote, have you ever not had any money?

Have you ever been broke? Now, I’m not talking the Awww-man-I-can’t-afford-to-eat-at-a-five-star-restaurant-broke, I’m talking the I-don’t-have-money-to-eat broke. I’m talking the should-I-pay-rent-or-should-I-buy-my-children-food broke.

I’m talking the I-can’t-attend-your-birthday-party-because-I-have-$10-in-my-account-and-can’t-even-afford-to-pay-for-gas-to-get-there broke.

giphy-downsized (4)

I’m talking BROKE without the “K” or the “E.” You’re so broke, you’re BRO. Can’t even afford the last two letters of the word.

Continue reading “The Greatest Lie Millennials Believe”

I’m Trying To Be Great But My Body Won’t Let Me (Part II)

In last week’s post, I discussed the challenges I’ve had losing weight in my 30’s. I gained 10 pounds in one year and when my belly was bulging from the cute outfit I had chosen to wear in my engagement photos, I decided to make a major change. I needed to be back to my normal size by August for my wedding. I encourage you to catch up here, if you haven’t already.

Caught up?

Great! Here we go.Continue reading “I’m Trying To Be Great But My Body Won’t Let Me (Part II)”

I’m Trying To Be Great But My Body Won’t Let Me (Part I)

Imagine this.

You’ve spent the entire day getting ready for a huge event. Your make-up is perfect. Hair’s on-fleek. Outfit’s snatched. You feel like a million bucks. You do your Naomi Campbell walk into the event. Strutting your stuff. You stop; grab your phone and take a selfie. You look at the photo to admire your beauty and what do you see?

A strange man in the background making a funny face in your picture. He just photo-bombed your selfie. Now, the photo you thought would embody your moment has now resulted in minutes of aggravation as you desperately crop the weirdo out of your image.

giphy-downsized
Source: Giphy

And that’s how I feel about my body.

I’m over here, kicking butt at life: meal planning, exercising, and getting my beauty rest and my body refuses to lose weight. It acts like it’s allergic to weight loss.

I used to be a nice size. I’m 5’2. When I met my husband five years ago, I was 27 years old and 126 pounds. That was my natural size. No gym or counting calories needed. I simply ate when I was hungry and stopped when I was full. And I’ve always been a potato, rice, bread and pasta lover, so I ate a lot of that.

On the rare occasions that I wanted to lose weight, I would put forth minimal effort: fast for a couple days or maybe follow a juice diet for 2 weeks. And BAM! I’m at my goal weight.

But those days are gone like audio cassette tapes.

My body started to change when I turned 30. That year was an eventful one. I relocated to North Carolina and enrolled in a graduate school program. My days were long and filled with studying, writing papers, and completing group projects. Snacks were my late night companion. Exercise and I grew further apart. I gained 10 pounds in one year.

I was the largest I had ever been. Clothes that I had been wearing since college couldn’t fit me anymore. Suddenly, I had a muffin top. To lose weight, I turned to my go-to smoothie diet. I lost 2 pounds in one week, but I was having weird indigestion issues. Issues I had never experienced before in all my years of crash dieting. I was forced to resume a normal diet, which for me, consisted of carbs and sugars. The indigestion went away, but the pounds – they returned immediately.

Pounds Coming Back On
Source: Indigy.com

I didn’t have time to worry about losing weight though. I was focused on finding a new job. I was also on an unintended shopping spree. None of my old work clothes fit anymore.

My heart broke each time I tried on an article of clothing at the mall and it was too small. Forget finding clothes that were cute; I just wanted something that would hid my love handles!

I did not like what I saw in the full-length mirror anymore. My eyes had always been a source of insecurities, but not my body. My self-talk was terrible.

“If you’re unhappy, babe, why don’t you just lose weight?” My then fiance (now husband) asked.

It’s a novel idea.

But, I couldn’t do it.

It’s not because I didn’t want to. It’s because I didn’t know how. I was a foreigner in my new body. I didn’t know what it needed. What used to work (fasting, smoothie-and-Tostito diets, juice diets, etc.) no longer worked. Such diets would now result in debilitating headaches or weird indigestion issues.

Oh, and then there was exercise. I didn’t have money for a gym membership, so I relied workouts on YouTube, but I was miserable and unmotivated. When my alarm would sound in the mornings, I’d ask myself, What’s the point? And go back to sleep.  

can't get out of bed
Source: Piceland.com

The last straw was on New Year’s Eve in 2016. My fiance and I were taking engagement photos. I had been shopping for the perfect outfit all week and my belly bulged from each of them. My wedding was 8 months away and I vowed that I was not going to walk down the aisle looking like the Pillsbury DoughGirl.

So, I had to change…


Stay tuned for Part II, where I discuss what I did and what I learned in my journey to lose weight for my wedding day. Oh, and follow me on Twitter @scribsandtosts. See you next Thursday!