“New Year, BETTER Me”

I’m such a hater of the phrase “New Year, New Me”.

This mantra invades our Facebook posts, and Twitter feeds and it’s always a show of how possibly someone’s life was so bad, that they get to press the “reset” button at the end of one year and beginning of another. As if you’re able to just do a 360 twirl and start brand new.  As if the problems from the year prior can no longer penetrate your environment.  As if everything in your past life led you to this moment.

Yes, striving to be better is great.

But don’t forget where you’ve come from.  Why does the new year have to bring a new you?  Why can’t we strive to be a BETTER us?  Every moment in life is a teachable moment.  And yes, life is not perfect, but that’s the beauty of it.  We learn from the imperfections of life and build upon those experiences.

Those who do not know history are bound to repeat it.

This is not only true in social, political, and historical context, but also in personal context as well.  Give yourself hope, that where you are currently, is no longer where you were.  You are enough.  There’s no reason to undo who you’ve been this year, just to most likely repeat these actions in the upcoming year.  Striving to be better is one thing, but pressing the reset button completely is another.

And if you seem to think that maybe life is bad enough where you need to press the reset button.  I hope that you find your base platform from which you need to build from.  But at the end of this year, I hope that you aren’t posting “New Year, New Me” but “New Year, Better Me”.

 

 

 

 

Reflections of 2017

It’s New Year’s Eve, and for me this is a day of reflection (and later, celebration). I truly believe in the power of reflection as a learning and growth tool, that is necessary for humans to really understand their lives. And so, as I sit on my brother’s couch (who the hell told him he could grow up and have a whole apartment and wife by the way?), I hope to try to make some sense of a pretty rollercoaster of a year and share my learnings with you.

1) I learned that I equate suffering with “goodness” in myself. I am sure this stems from a very conservative religious doctrine that characterized much of my early religious experiences and also from some complex traumatic events. It is unhealthy and damaging no matter how I look at it though. Staying in situations, jobs, etc to prove to people who do not value my well being, that I am worthy or “strong” is damaging. It kills my soul, ups my anxiety, and deepens depression. It also reinforces a faulty idea that I hold that I’m not good enough. It literally kills me. I am still working on how to combat that, but I took some brave steps against that belief this year, and have at the very least, realized that martyrdom won’t make me happy or make others see my worth.

2) Love did not knock on my door this year, but actively dating did teach me a lot about myself. Dating was an integral part of my journey this year. I further refined what I want, who I am in a relationship, realized patterns, and continued to try to understand how to balance doing enough with too much. I learned that no matter how wonderful you are, if a man isn’t on the same wavelength as you, he won’t come around to you. I learned that I bathe in self loathing and blame when rejected, and that destroys my soul. And so I learned to reframe the self loathing a tad more so as to protect my soul from that damage. I learned that I am jealous that I have friends who can easily make men love them, and seem to find beautiful men who are interested, even if short lived or forever. I learned that I hate being jealous, but it is hard. I am not sure if I am anyone’s cup of tea to be perfectly honest, and I also realize my standards are high. I realized that first dates are exhausting and to trust my instincts more, because my intuition is hella good.

3) I learned about loneliness – again. Living in NYC has been one of the most thrilling and loneliest adventures of my life. I’m perfectly comfortable being alone, eating alone, exploring; I actually quite enjoy it! But I’ve missed true and deep human connection, which in all of my travels, I’ve never seemed to lack in. But in NYC, connections seem fleeting, sometimes superficial, and often non existent. I am not used to not having close friends and coworkers around. I have learned or perhaps, deepened, my understanding that introversion has nothing to do with not wanting real relationships and connections, but instead means that in order to effectively reach my full potential and happiness, I must engage in meaningful relationships. I am still really not sure how to do this in a city like NYC, but I’m working on it.

4) I learned a lesson that constantly replays in my head. I am not perfect, can’t be perfect, never been perfect, and shouldn’t be perfect. This lesson is one that I’m always in a constant state of learning. I saw a beautiful quote that said “self care is… learning to forgive yourself for not measuring up to your impossible and damaging standards of perfection.” This is totally something I need to master in 2018. Expecting perfection in work, dealing with my emotions, my body, my health, as a daughter, friend, sister, relationships, and mentor is literally the most insane and hurtful thing I can ask of myself. I am literally asking myself to live in a constant state of shame and depression. I am torturing me. So now that I have learned that, the hard part is learning to extending grace to myself.

5) You get older. The years fly by. You develop aches and pains, your genetic lot of diseases, you have to eat better, move, manage past trauma, parent your parents, pay bills, plan for the future, hangovers get worse, and learn to live with it all. You also get wiser, more confident, develop more fuck it in your system, drink better wine, become more patient, and your sex drive and game gets stronger. Getting older is a blessing and privilege, not extended to all.

6) My siblings are amazing. I know this isn’t true for everyone, but I’m so blessed. I learned to lean on them more. So happy to bring in 2018 with them.

7) I am really, really, really angry. Maybe I’ll write a post about that one day. But I learned I have a lot of pent up rage in my body and mind. I am afraid to express it because it is so strong. I’m hoping 2018 will help me express and manage that.

8) You can be loving your job and career in one second, and the next, be in a state of exploration, trying to figure out what is next? I also learned that my worth is very much tied up in my professional success. I often feel that is all I am good at, and when that part of my life isn’t fulfilled, I feel like a failure. I have spent a lot of 2017 feeling like a failure. But along with that lesson, I learned, you can always make another decision to transform your professional life (or any life). And people will judge you, and that has nothing to do with you.

9) I learned to turn off the news and social media. That there are people who hate me because of my skin and gender, but I cannot indulge in that all the time, as it will kill me. That the world is scary and heartless, but I don’t have to be. And that to be black (woman) and conscious in America is truly being in a constant state of rage, but I have to learn to take care of myself if I want to help others.

10) I only have so much emotional energy to expend. Spend it wisely. Turn off your phone. Spend your time with people who fill your energy account as much as you fill theirs.

11) Despite all my flaws, I’m a badass in my own right. My flaws are not even flaws actually, they are me and what makes me glorious and human.

I plan to to into 2018 with these lessons in mind and do my best to build upon those, while also fully aware that I may have setbacks. But my hope is next year, I can write about a further step I took, a new lesson realized, and a little happier.

May peace and love follow you into 2018.

Happy New Year!!

To the ones I’ve failed

Tonight, my soul is heavy. I know that as far as career paths go, I am on the right track. I love what I do, but it’s tough work. I’ve wrote about it in previous post but if you are unaware, I am a therapist. Therapist, counselor, pain holder, emotion feeler, walk wither. I sit with people in moments when most people run away. I have only been doing this work for a short period of time, but in these few years I have met some amazing people and heard some terrifying stories. I have been touched and I have been forever changed by many people I have come in contact with.

I currently work with adolescents with severe mental health and behavioral issues. I love what I do. I feel like everyone I went to grad school with already knew their niche. They knew what they wanted to do, where they wanted to do it, and with what population they wanted to work with. They even knew their theoretical orientation (I question that I have feared since everyone said I would be asked all the time but have not actually been asked since grad school).

I knew one thing. People always talk about working with “at risk youth.” While that is great work, I always wondered “well what about the kids beyond that. The ones in the risk. The ones doing the stuff. Who helps them?” It was the spark of a passion that I set out to find an answer to.

I did my practicum at the jail working with adolescent males. I have always said I would go back to jail in a heartbeat if given the opportunity! I did my internship at a shelter for pregnant, homeless women. I enjoyed this as well. My first job was at a methadone clinic. Here I met some of the most amazing, sincere, beautifully broken people I have ever come into contact with. Addictions work will forever hold a place in my heart. All of these places led me closer to the answer to my question.

I currently work at a psychiatric residential treatment facility (PRTF). These are the kids that are living the risk. They have stepped beyond “at risk”. They are actively and daily engaging in risky behavior. Some enjoy it. Some don’t see a way out of it. Some have never known anything different. This is my population. (Obviously though the kids in jail also meet this qualification hence the reason I would go back in a heartbeat).

When people describe me, they often use words like calm, steady and they do this motion where they hold they hold their hand out flat and just move it slowly side to side. I think to indicate the calm and steady idea. I used to be offended by this. I now realize it is my greatest strength in working with the kids that I love. These kids have lived in some form of chaos the majority of their life whether internal or external. Most people have not responded to them neither calm nor steady. I can. In a strange way, I thrive in the chaos of my job. Not the chaos of the paperwork or work related drama. But my favorite part of my day is when someone comes to tell me one of my kids is acting a fool on the hall and can I help. I’m not always successful but I try. Sometimes it works. Sometimes the kid is so far gone in the moment that other methods of getting them to calm down have to be implemented. As painful as that is to watch, I stay, calm and steady, to remind them that no matter what…I am there. No matter how mad they get, how much they hate me, how many names they call me, or how much spit they haul my way. I am there.

I think I have done good work. My job is a thankless one. Most days I can thank myself and see the work I’ve done. I’ve never received gifts or thank yous from kids who have left. I don’t expect them. I don’t think that determines whether or not I’ve done good work either. I have sewn seeds. Add that to the list from earlier, seed sewer. For some I have been a support they’ve never had, for some I’ve been an advocate, for others just a listener, and I may have taught a couple of them a thing or two. They have taught me way way more.

But

Sometimes I fail. And not in a sense where I think I have done a terrible job. That’s usually the first thing people say. “You aren’t a failure. It’s not your fault.” Of this I am aware. But I have still failed them. Or the system did and I was a par of that. No matter what I did or didn’t do, could or couldn’t do, no matter how much I cared or how much I wanted to help. I couldn’t. Not in the way I had hoped, not in the way I believe I could have if given the opportunity.

There are two that stick out and hurt me daily. For these two I have cried many times. I have questioned myself. I have sought supervision. I have prayed. There will be a place in my heart for them for all eternity. I will always wonder “what happened to them” and I will always fear that the failure of the system may result in deadly consequences. To them, I apologize. I also thank them for teaching me more about myself than I could realize was possible.

Soul # 1. You will forever be skip-bo, white people eating steak pink in the middle, origami hearts and butterflies, this place, fingers, walls, doors, yelling, pain, I love you Ms Ashley, and same names. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Soul # 2. You will forever be ginger bread men, toddlers, tantrums, anger, counting, shoes, Ms Ashley you’re fat, spitting, helping, basketball, 100% effort, hurt, small steps, bad words, always move forward never backwards, and Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang. Thank you. I’m sorry.

Tonight. My soul is heavy. My fear is, it will be this way for a long time. My fear is, no one will understand. My fear is, no one else will see the importance in helping.

The Tinder Experiment (final update)

THE EXPERIMENT IS OVER!

I’M OVER IT!

SO OVER IT!

IT’S DUMB!

20151017bbtinder.dd381

Ok Ok, it wasn’t dumb BUT, to be honest, I’ve never really legitimately dated.  It’s always been this whole “hook-up” thing, and then I’m like “hey I like you” and then they are like “Hey, I like you too” and then down the road…say like 3 months I find out that this probably isn’t what I wanted to sign up for and then I’m back at square one.  So this has really been kind of hard for me.

It’s been about  a month since I started “The Tinder Experiement” and I think that this is a long enough time to report back on my initial findings.  Things during the experiment were both good and bad. Before starting this I would swipe like a mad-man waiting for a match to happen.  Over time, I no longer stressed out about matching with people, nor did I freak out when people didn’t really text back immediately. It gave me a reason to be patient.  I wasn’t feeding off that instant gratification of matching with a million people and always having someone to talk to or respond to.  I focused on talking to 3 people at a time and as time went along my urge to swipe significantly decreased and honestly, I just stopped caring about matching with other people since I was spending valuable time getting to know someone else.  Maybe this was just an overall good way to ween myself off of the dating app completely.

Well… I thought…

The best thing about this experiment was realizing that vetting these guys by actually reading through their “About Me” profiles and being a little more critical about who I swiped right on due to the “only matching with three people at a time” rule has proven to be a tad effective. I’ve not matched with any fuckbois at all, and I’m able to have genuine conversation with people who want to learn more about me.  I just don’t feel like I’m wasting my time when logging onto the application.  It’s a great feeling.

With the Pros though, there are Cons.  Those mostly being that you get a lot of boring guys, and you can’t really avoid that.  Also, people may be busy, or just don’t use the app as much and that’s understandable, but you would think that if someone wanted to talk to you and found you interesting they’d talk to you more often.  With this said though, having the boring guys around has made it easier for me to not be addicted to Tinder and keep in mind you can always unmatch and keep it moving.

There’s no real say on if this is a bust or not, but if I compare it to how I used to treat Tinder, there would probably be a lot of wasted time and conversations in my message queue.  I’ve realized that I don’t have time for that so right now, I would say a slight success.  I’ve met a few genuine guys who just didn’t work out due to personality mismatches, mostly. I’m kind of particular.

So as of right now I think I’m hanging up the online app dating hat.  Even after going through hundreds of profiles and matching with about 20 guys, I’ve still not found that one that’s for me.  I can admit though, that this experience overall, has been the best experience I’ve had on Tinder for sure.  Just takes time.  What’s next?  I’m not sure.  Maybe I’ll just be content “loving me” and “getting to know myself” as the married and boo’d up people say. *Rolls Eyes*.

 

 

My Safe Place

There’s this safe place that I have…It’s located in my home; The living room to be exact.

When people think of the term “safe place” it’s usually thought to be a place where someone goes to be isolated. To not be seen.  Somewhere to get away. And yeah, this one is kind of like that, but this safe place, is just a little different. It’s a place where I am technically isolated, but I’ve decided to share it with the world every so often.

Now, there’s only one time a week where I crave this safe place, and that is on Fridays.  Somewhere between 12p and 4p my body starts to shut down to the work week, and becomes pretty much uselss. But somewhere between 4.30p and 6p Eastern time I regain my energy. Driving home, I begin to feel the joy of having two days not worrying about anything. I stop by my favorite beverage store, Frugal MacDoogal down here in South Carolina. Then head home, and once I’m in comfortable clothes, I pour up a glass, Say “OK Google, Play my Dance N Shit Playlist”, hold my hand up as to say “aaaayeee”, and start moving my hips in the most uncoordinated way imaginable.

No one is around, I’m comfortable being by myself, and dancing how I want without the stares of others. Letting the troubles of the week fall by the wayside, and I’m reborn again. Ready for the weekend;  Which may involve hanging out with friends, or could involve not doing a damn thing at all.

At first, I used to just go home and start doing it just to get all of my frustrations out. But over time its become therapeutic.  Then I used to talk about it on Facebook often. Then I started Snapping it on SnapChat. Looking goofy af.  Then I started posting it on my Instagram Story, and it’s just become a thing that people ask me about on a regular basis now.

I haven’t had a solo dance party in a while though. Maybe today will be the day. If so, I invite all of our ATOTC friends to join in with their own dance party.  I actually make specific playlist to dance to and have shared them with you all below, but if you don’t like mine, Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, whatever tickles your fancy can hold you down. But if you’re interested in mine and you have Spotify, here they are!

(Click the images to be taken to the Spotify Playlist)

DNS  DNSTE  DNS90s

DNSLE  DNSAE

Dance N Sh*t – Consists of just a random hodge podge of up beat songs that tend to get your body moving to the beat.

Twerkable Edition – Is full of the classics like “Back Dat Azz Up”, and “Shake That Monkey”. If you looking to shake your booty, this the playlist for you

90s Edition – Songs we used to hear at all the parties growing up.  The songs that just reminded you of the good times during your childhood

Latinx Edition – This playlist will have you definitely moving your hips. And if you don’t know how to move your hips, just sit there and bounce up and down in your chair

AfroBeat Edition – Some of the hottest songs from the Afrobeat genre that you will most likely want to chill out to, but can also get your shoulders swaying if you don’t watch out.

Happy Listening and Happy Holidays!

Boring (A Poem)

No one knows how to be bored anymore

People are constantly looking for thrill and excitement

In the next adventure, the next drink, the next hit, the next person

No one wants to just…be

Especially if that means being bored

When I was little this was my favorite quote

“I’m bored”

And in true Dad fashion I would hear the response

“Hi bored. I’m James. “

My aunt once told me that I would never gain weight because I couldn’t stay still even when I was bored

I wish I could be that kind of bored again.

When I was younger my sister used to make up the most wonderful games to distract us from our boredom

Can’t touch the floor,

Barbie games that took longer to set up than to actually play,

Walking on clouds,

And her favorite

Mushed bananas. Where she convinced her bored little sister to smother her feet in lotion but some how we always ran out of time the moment the roles were to reverse.

I would quickly become un-bored the moment my mother reminded me there was always something that needed cleaning.

Boredom

No one knows how to be bored anymore

Constantly seeking the next great adventure

The next drink

The next hit

The next person

You bore me, swipe

You’re boring, swipe

Oh you don’t want to go out every weekend and get totally wasted

Boring

Swipe

No one knows how to have boring conversations that lead to tears and catharsis

Me and my friends recently spent hours that felt like seconds at a Mexican restaurant showering each other with love and praise

Lifting each other up

Allowing each other to be vulnerable

Allowing each other to…be

In these moments that passed too quickly I was not bored

My hope however is that the next time either of us feels boring

The next time either of us feel less than

The next time someone tells me I won’t find love sitting at home knitting and being boring

The next time one of us looks in the mirror and doesn’t see the fierce goddess that she truly is and just feels boring

The next time one of us considers that life might not be worth living due to loss, or feelings of less than

The next time one of us is bored

My hope is that we remember this night

That it brings a smile to our face

Tears to our eyes

Hope to our hearts

Joy to our soul

Life can be boring

But I…I am not bored

The Oppressor can not be Oppressed…

This is the same as reverse racism. Sure, if defined in text, can be explained simply.  But this is simply NOT a simple issue.

Now, let me preface by saying this; You all know, I’m not the best writer, and I don’t speak much on social things because I’m just not that good at expressing my thoughts and how I feel completely.  I tend to have incomplete thoughts and also tend to not get my point across properly at times.  BUT! Know this. I know what side I stand on. And this here thing…I’m not standing with.

Look at the following image.  This image comes from some training material about workplace harassment. Note: This training was not generated from my company, but sourced out from another training resource.

reverseOpression

Now…

Being an African-American male, living in America, working in Corporate America.  My first response is exactly what the “contestants” in the image show.  TRUE TRUE TRUE MOTHERF**KING TRUE!

Why?

Because the oppressor cannot be oppressed.

What does this mean? Someone who benefits from racism cannot suffer from racism.

Now, being that this is a training resource, to be politically correct and whatnot about this, the answer to this question is False, by definition.

BY. DEFINITION.

But that’s just the problem with this image.  You cannot just simply paint a black and white picture for this.  In most cases, a non-minority would not face any type of racial harassment, due to the fact that he/she is white.  Putting it in perspective on a high level (we’ll get to a lower level, deeper conversation a little further down in this post), a non-minority person would never have an issue with this. I can never in my life recall any time any of my white friends suffered from ANY type of racial harassment, and I have a LOT of white friends.

Who in the HELL thought this was a good question to put in training information in the first place?

The company I work for, at the corporate level, is probably around 75% White.  Keep in mind that this is just an estimation, so I know I’m wrong on the actual percentage, but I’m probably close enough.  If you look at only my office within the company, and go deeper to my specific department, that percentage is even higher. With my team undoubtedly being >85% white, as I can count the total number of African-Americans on one hand. If I include other minorities, I think I may get up to 10 total, but not much higher.

So this image here, in all it’s glory assumes that white people are subjected to suffer from workplace racial harassment.  Which, sure they can, at a definition level.  But how? Tell me when this would most likely happen? This picture screams to me that “white people have it just as bad as black people when it comes to racism”, which that could not be any more wrong. As mentioned in a wonderfully created movie “Dear White People“, there was a line stated that Black people can’t be racist.  Why? Because black people can’t benefit from it.  White people, on the other hand has benefited from racism for CENTURIES.  Black people and other minorities are at a disadvantage EVEN BEFORE THEY ARE BORN, because of the color of their skin. Yet, I’m sitting here looking at a video of an African-American man, asking a question about if it’s True or False that a non-minority in the workplace can be a victim of racism.

Excuse me sir…Let’s not…

Even the white “contestants” has more sense than that.

And I can already hear the moans and groans of white people all over America right now because they speak words of how everyone is equal and racism isn’t a thing anymore and we won’t “let it go”.  I implore you to read my blog post from a while back about Growing up an “Oreo” in America.  This is a minority’s reality.

Resources like this perpetuate the idea that racism can be played on both sides, but that’s just not true.  And for this to be in training material for a pretty big corporation that hires thousands of people, It makes me sick.  Then I think about how many companies are using the same training resource.  This is just a form of institutionalized oppression, spreading the idea that you can be racist toward white people, and that’s just not true.

For years, black people have had to have shows like “Black-ish” and networks like “BET” and celebrate holidays such as “Black History Month” or “Juneteenth” to show our greatness. Why? Because of racism.  Because we needed somewhere to go to celebrate our culture, our greatness of who we are, because white people kept us from showing how great we were.   White people don’t have these things, because they already control all of it.  Their culture bleeds throughout every facet of life.

So I ask you to read the question again and if you think that someone can be racist towards white people.  I urge you to think outside of the black and white box.  Stand back, take a look at your life, and ask yourself, if you’ve ever suffered from or was ever at a disadvantage because of racism.