11 Things I Learned in 2011

On December 31, 2011 at 11:48pm four friends and I stood in 40 degree weather hugging ourselves to keep warm and waiting for the Peach to drop. Five Points neighborhood of Atlanta was crowded that night. I didn’t know what my friends or the hundreds of other Atlantans were feeling about 2011, but I was more excited about saying FAREWELL to 2011 than I was about saying HELLO to 2012. 2011 was a hard teacher. In fact, she was the toughest  teacher I have ever had in my entire life, but luckily, I’m a good student: I studied and took good notes. Since I’m a generous person, I’ll share them with you, so we can both walk into 2012’s classroom, prepared to tackle whatever lesson is thrown at us.

Here’s what Professor 2011 has taught me:

1. Be humble or be humbled. 

The year 2011 taught me that humility is a trait that I need to cultivate. Humility is the understanding that everything in life – houses, cars, family members, friends, significant others, money, jobs, and even life itself – can be taken from us in an instant. It’s accepting the people in your life and uncomfortable situations with a grateful heart. When things are going well for us – promotions, high-paying jobs, expensive cars, beautiful homes, healthy children – we have a tendency to take our blessings for granted. But if we take a moment, step back and imagine our life without our family, without a relationship with a significant other, without our money, without our jobs, we will realize how truly precious our life is.

In 2012, I urge you to take a moment to be grateful for life and its gifts; never leave it up to Life to humble you. Trust me when I say: it does not feel good when Life has to humble you.

2. Love yourself. Accept your flaws.

“You’re mad because of that?! Geez, you’re so sensitive!” are two phrases that I have heard more times than I’d like to admit. It burns my ears each time I hear it, possibly because there’s a hint of truth in those statements.  The slightest joke or comment can offend me at times. Confronting the offender is not easy for me to do, so I’ll hold a grudge against the offender, putting a strain on the relationship

While sensitivity has it’s down sides, it can also be a positive trait. My sensitive nature is the reason why I get along with different types of people from different walks of life. Friends, family members and even strangers have come to me for comfort or a listening ear in their times of trouble. I give people the benefit of the doubt, even when there’s hardly any benefit in the doubt. The drawbacks: people won’t tell me the truth for fear that I will become offended and I have to hear that disgusting phrase  I articulated earlier. I acknowledge the good sides and the bad sides of being a sensitive person; it is my strength and my weakness, but I’m okay with that.

In 2012, I will continue to work on developing a thick-skin, but in the meantime Scribbles & Tostitos readers, allow me to re-introduce myself, “My name is Yaa Yaa and I’m extremely sensitive. Please plan accordingly.”

3. Do what you feel is right for you. 

Have you ever noticed how many people offer advice? Seriously, everyone is a Dr. Phil or a Dr. Phyllis. If I had a quarter for everytime someone gave me unsolicited advice, I’d be a wealthy woman. (To be fair, I’m guilty of offering advice that wasn’t called for too; I am working on this.) Silly me, I was trying to follow every piece of advice I was hearing and it practically drove me crazy. I woke up one day angry at him, angry at her, and ultimately angry at myself for following such faulty advice.

Today, I’m a wiser woman. My 2012 mantra is “Yaa Yaa does what’s right for Yaa Yaa.” My parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, or uncles, even close friends won’t understand the choices I make, but that’s okay. It’s a lonely road but at least I’ll be able to sleep at night without holding grudges towards good-hearted people who didn’t know how to solve my problem.

Do you know what the most bizarre thing about advice-givers? Typicallythe advisor takes no remorse when their “great idea” doesn’t unfold the way it should. In fact, they’ll say to to you in an inaudible tone, “Why did you listen to me?!”

4. Don’t take it personal. 

Everyone in life is fighting some sort of inner battle. Most times people are so engrossed in their battle, that they’ll lash out at you, the innocent bystander. When it happens, know that their ugly comments have little to do with you because people will often project their own problems onto the others. Ignore ugly comments, bad attitudes, backhanded compliments, and other gestures that people use to harm you. It’s not about you; it’s about them.

5. Life is about the journey, not the destination.

I am looking for a job. The job is the destination and my search is the journey. And what a journey this has been! At one time, I was so focused on finding a job that I wasn’t enjoying this season in my life. Sun up to sundown, I was on the Internet replying to postings or editing cover letters.  One day, I looked up from the computer long enough to realize that some gainfully employed people envied my life. I am around family and close friends; I don’t have to deal with workplace drama; and I have free time that most gainfully employed people wish they had.

That’s when I started taking advantage of my free time. I started this blog; I started spending quality time with my niece and nephews. I started writing more and reading books I’ve always wanted to read. I started learning more about my field of global health and development.  Now, I can say that I am truly enjoying my journey. Like any other journey, my journey has it’s twists, turns, bumps, and occasional stop signs, detours and dead ends, but I laugh, I cry, a reflect, and then I move on.

6. You teach people how to treat you. 

People will only do to you what you allow them to do to you. You set the standard and if someone doesn’t live up to that standard, then there you must enforce consequences. A consequence may be your absence or a candid conversation. Simple as that. Women who say that their boyfriends don’t treat them right, I say shame on the guy and then shame on her. If a guy isn’t doing right by you, then women, you have the power to change it.

7. If you can’t change the situation, change your perspective.

After I had item #6 down pact, I quickly noticed that there are some people who are “unteachable.” These people might come in the shape of a supervisor, family member, or spouse; you’re going to have to deal with this person no matter what and they are NOT going to change. You can’t “punish” them. An open discussion with this person is not always feasible. When you’re faced with an “unteachable,” #7 comes into play: change your perspective; change the way you look at them. Look at the good side, focus on the positive and overlook the negative.

8. Family members are angels on earth. 

I don’t know one person on this planet that can support me like my family does. I have a mother, father, three brothers (two older, one younger), two nephews, one neice and two sister-in-laws, a loving grandmother and a grandpa. I also have numerous cousins, second cousins, fourth cousins, and adopted cousins. Each person, in their own unique way, has been there for me in my time of need. They have encouraged me when I just couldn’t find the strength to continue with the journey; they kept me grounded when I thought I was too cool for school. They have even drove 30 miles from Marietta to Spelman to bring my favorite snack (Tostitos), so that I’ll have something to munch on while pulling an all-nighter. Each person that I have the honor of calling family are my Angels on earth.

9. Silence is golden

Oprah shared some wisdom with her Facebook fans in September. Although I found everything she said inspirational, there was one piece of advice that struck me. She said, “Each day spend quiet time alone and listen to that still small voice within you.”

She didn’t specify who that “still small voice” belonged to because at the end of the day that doesn’t matter. Christians would call it the holy spirit, others call it God, some call  intuition, while others call it their inner voice. Whatever you call it, I’ve found that when my life becomes hectic, when I have tight deadlines, when my e-mails are piling up, and when my task list becomes long, I just bury myself in the workload and get in done. Oprah challenged me to stop, and listen to that still small voice within me.

Each day, I try to set aside quiet time. For me, quiet time is not prayer time, it’s not the silence I hear while driving alone in my car; it’s not the pause I hear on the phone when my cell phone company puts me on hold for 20 minutes. My quiet time occurs right before bedtime; I’ll sit up in bed, focus on a spot on my wall and let my mind wander. I’ll listen to my thoughts, I’ll search for negative thoughts and for positive thoughts. A funny thought will enter my head and I’ll laugh of course,  but when all my thoughts are gone, I just listen. And I let that voice say whatever it needs to say. It may sound strange but this activity has helped me tackle my bout of insomnia and helped keep myself at peace when things went haywire.

10. High standards yield less options

Many women are asking themselves, “Why am I still single?” The media has capitalized on this question, distorting it to read, “What is wrong with women (especially Black women) who are single?” Of course, there are a few women who have a severe personality flaw that taints their love life, but most of the time women who are single have high standards. Women, when you have high standards, you’re going to have less options. If you want a man – any type of man – then lower your standards. You’ll no longer be single, but good luck in your relationship with the guy you’ve attracted with lower standards.

11. Less money results in less problems (sometimes).

Flipping through the channels the other day, I came across Mase & P. Diddy’s old music video entitled “More Money, More Problems.” I chuckled at that ridiculous costume that the rappers were wearing and then I thought seriously about the concept “More money, more problems.” I thought about my life when I was working and I think about my life now. When I was working and had extra money, I was always trying to find an excursion: NYC, DC, Houston. You name it, and I’d salvage enough money to get there. Oh the mental calculations I would endure to determine if a trip was financially feasible. In those days, planning a trip was stressful.  Traveling was stressful; making arrangements and activities for my destination was stressful; trying to find time to travel in the midst of a hectic work life was stressful.

Nowadays, I don’t have that form of stress. I don’t travel because I can’t afford it. When Expedia sends me deals to my favorite destinations, I don’t even open it. No need to spend hours scheming on how I can force an weekend getaway into a strained budget. I just don’t go. I have money for bills, food, and other essentials and that’s about it. And surprisingly, I am content with the travel hiatus (although I hope it doesn’t last too long).

2 thoughts on “11 Things I Learned in 2011

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