I honestly try not to click on Thought Catalog articles when I am on Facebook. Really, I try but I am one of those fishes that bite on click bait. So I end up opening up the article and I am disappointed.
Imagine my surprise when I clicked on an article from Thought Catalog and it made me think deeply. It struck such a nerve that I actually saved it so that I could read it again and again until I was clear on what it had struck.
The article made me rethink the meaning of self-care. I am one of those ones that thinks of self-care as doing calming/relaxing things. My favorite self-care so far has been getting an hour-long massage when I was stressed out this summer. It was glorious. The thing the Thought Catalog article made me realize that though is that self-care should not be about managing stress alone. Self-care should be about designing a life that minimizes stress and encourages self-fulfillment. Read more
I have spent the last couple of days processing what to say in this post. If you are on Facebook, you might have seen the post where I stated that a man referred to me in the derogatory “N” word. He calling me a Nigger is not the first time I have had my blackness muddied in America. His word was hurtful but not as terrifying as the low growls of dog set upon me in the streets of Somerville. Nor was it as soul-crushing as the persistent lack of opportunities I have faced in Boston as a black woman.
One of the blessings of my life has always been that my heritage lies in Nigeria, in the grand Yoruba land. My heritage lies in the stories of my ancestors. It lies in the stories I was told as a child in Yoruba. It lies in the songs that I was sung. It lies in my name. In my ‘oriki.’ My strong connection with my past means that in my present I feel no trauma. I have always believed that I am a first class citizen. Not second…first.
For the longest time, I lived in that bubble in America. I went to schools where I was the token black student. Instead of feeling somewhat isolated, I felt I was special and breathing some rarefied air. In the past few years of living in Boston, I have come to realize that my privilege as the token black kid in class is, in fact, another symptom of my second class status in America. The truth is no matter how many doors open for me because I am special or different, as long as the door is not open for all, discrimination still exists. Where discrimination exists, we all remain victims. And some of us, remain perpetrators or even beneficiaries of such discrimination when we remain passive. The truth is if we are unable or refuse to confront/deconstruct the false privileges of being exceptionally black, then we cannot truly begin to claim equal status.
In this age of nuanced racism, I feel bad for people of color who are unable to process the complexities of racism. Sometimes I see a black person express an idea that is so racist and I cringe. Maybe partly because I have been that person. You know that person that claims to be African, not African-American, because we believe we are somehow exceptional and not black. I cringe because I understand that when awareness dawns, this person who is now exceptional would have to deal with accepting their ordinariness and redefining how they see the world.
The thing that makes a lot of racism, as well as other discrimination, so dangerous is the small ways that they sneak up. The truth is, in this day and age, a very few people have the gall to say that they believe that a particular sub-set of people are second class. Those people who wear their bias openly are actually not the most dangerous. They are annoying as hell. The most dangerous people are the people who have conscious, even unconscious, bias that is not clearly expressed. Those people would send you to a mental home trying to figure out if you have just been slighted or you are being overly sensitive.
While I was processing how to write this post, I was lucky to run into this essay by Kevin Powell. His sentence on the silent neutrality being an accomplice to injustice validated my decision to break my vow not to speak about Trump. Early in the election season when Donald Trump first started his craziness, I checked out. I refused to acknowledge him. Maybe it was my privilege or naiveté, I had a feeling that America the great melting pot would strike him out. So I took a voice of silence and told everyone I won’t speak about him. The truth is I don’t like talking about discrimination and racism. Who wants to be an angry black woman? I have had a group of white friends tell me that I have a chip on my shoulder when I tried to engage them on diversity issues.
As much as I loathe discomfort, I refuse to be a coward. I refuse to be an accomplice to injustice. I refuse to luxuriate in black immigrant exceptionalism. I refuse to confuse living in the ghettos of inequality as being accomplished. I am going to start making more comments about what it means to live in a black body. About how I feel unsafe on the train now because I am not sure what lies behind the eyes watching me. About how I am unable to walk on the sidewalk of my neighbors’ house because they have a dog and I am afraid they might set it on me because someone once did. About how I don’t network in Boston because I am usually the only black person or one of a few people of color in a room of professionals. About how I am considering a second career but I am trying to avoid fields that may lead to the black tax.
I was a consumer behavior researcher, for a hot minute during my graduate school days. My research work dealt with the relationship between intention and behavior. One of the most important things I learned is that intention precedes behavior. Intention, for the most part, is within the full control of a person. Behavior is influenced by a series of factors that are not necessarily within the full control of a person.
Understanding and acknowledging the relationship between intention and behavior is an important part of living a guilt-free life, in my opinion. Sometimes we intend to help but we are unable to help. By understanding that which is beyond our control, we are able to let go of the guilt of being unable. I am reminded of this a lot when I volunteer on Mondays. This past Monday I was leading the shift when an older couple came in. Neither one of them could have been younger than 80. They were both almost frail but sort of full of life. They had stopped at the office to see how they could help.
There are many ways you can help a campaign. Not everyone is able to do everything. The older couple that came in were unable to help much because neither one of them couple could complete basic tasks on the computer. They both felt so guilty and kept apologizing. I kept trying to reassure them that their intention in coming to help was much more important than the fact they were unable to help. The fact that we are using a computerized system is beyond their control. As such, they shouldn’t feel guilty.
Personally, as much as I intend to help the campaign, I can’t do everything. Sometimes, I can’t do anything. Sometimes, I am unable to volunteer for more than 3 hours at a time. Sometimes, I feel guilty about leaving people behind and going home. I know this guilt is irrational. One of the things that I am working on is letting go of irrational guilt.
I have started spending a lot of time thinking about my intentions. What am I intending to do when I go to work in the morning? I intend to help customers have a wonderful shopping experience. However, if a customer asks me to answer a question and I am unable to answer it, does that mean I have failed for the day? No, it means that the question is beyond my volitional control as such I am unable to follow through on my intention.
By focusing on my intention, I have also been able to recognize my limitations. Yes, I would like to help. But, no, I am unable to help. I am learning how to say “no.” In the past, I would edge my bet and say “maybe.” Saying “maybe”was a way of not having to acknowledge my limitations. But “maybe” really was a way of delaying the guilt. Now, I am honest. I say “no.” By saying “no,” I set myself free and I am able to do the best of that which I can.
I am a big Marie Forleo fan. I discovered her when I was living in Ibadan, Nigeria and I was wondering what the next step in my life should be. I have kept up with watching her videos every now and then. For some reason, I saw her Facebook post on her interview with David Bach and it stuck with me. I was really interested in watching the interview because of financial curiosity. This interview was really enlightening about finances but the biggest take away for me was at the end. The final segment of the interview covers Mr. Bach’s sabbatical from his job for 18 months. This got me thinking about my own life. Read more
I am different. I am an original. And like everyone else, I am here to take up space in the universe. I do so with pride.
-Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’
Just finished Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes! OMG! This woman just changed my life. There are a few pivotal moments in my life. One of them was the moment when I realized I was not crazy or weird but an introvert. Recognizing my introversion set me free from the burden of trying to be like everyone. It allowed me to create my own space and celebrate me.
It is funny and powerful that a couple of days ago I was writing on Facebook about how I am learning to occupy space in public by watching men in the gym. I have always struggled with the idea of taking up space in the world. I have tend to favor hiding away from the world, both literally and figuratively. As a child and as an adult, if there were too many people around, I like to hide. As a child and a teenager, I hid in my books. I took books with me to parties with my sister and read in a corner while every one mingled. It was my thing. When I first moved to Boston and lived in a house with young adults that favored house parties, I liked to hide in my room and lock the door. They must have thought I was the strangest person ever. I have been struggling with the idea of needing my own space but wanting the intimacy of sharing space with others. I have never felt like I had the social skills to succeed out in the world. I am awkward. Sometimes, I feel ugly and self-conscious. I say the wrong things. I can be too passionate among people who would rather that share anything concrete. Sometimes I experience temporary deafness and I can’t hear what is being said. In my own world, with my own room and within my own imaginary world, my flaws are not fatal. So I choose to hide.I feel like Year of Yes is really about how to balance the need to be within yourself but still make space to be with others. Reading about Ms. Rhimes’ social anxiety was so relatable but encouraging. If she can break out of the box, so can I. I can learn to be social and connect with others.
There are so many moments in the book where I had to stop and take it in. So many life-affirming moments for me as a black woman, both personally and professionally. I am not exactly breaking ceilings in the work that I do but at the same time I am not exactly surrounded by role models who look like me in the work that I do. I like that Ms. Rhimes is not afraid to speak openly about what it means to be in a room that is often filled with ‘others’. I never realized the concept of the ‘other’ until I moved to the California at 16. At community college, I was underage, a non-drinker, non-driver, nerdy student in a campus where everyone thrived on being cool. Perhaps the greatest flaw I had in those days was my inability to be black. I was called an oreo more than once; looks black, acts white. I didn’t understand what that meant then, I still don’t fully get it now. To me, I am who I am. Color never had anything to do with it.
I know that I need a year of yes of my own. I don’t think I say it enough but coming to United States, especially Boston, made me yet broke me in more ways that one. I lost my innocence and optimism in Boston, one racist incidence after another. I think I allowed myself to be made small, to be told not dream, to accept that in many ways I can’t be the type of success I always dreamed I wanted to be. Some would say I did not try but I dare anyone to walk into a room where no one looks like you, sounds like you or understands you and still feel comfortable. I have been doing some of the work in preparation for my Big 30 but reading Year of Yes makes me realize that I need to do more.
I need to open myself to more things that scare me. Nothing scares me at the moment like dating does. Putting myself out there is like asking people to judge me and tell me if I am worthy. But the thing is that the dream for me has always been marriage, children, the house and maybe a cat or dog. My dreams have nothing to do with traditions of being an African woman. They have everything to do with the need to love, to care, to have my own tribe and to create a home. So as scary as dating seems, nothing seems scarier to me going out of my 20s that a life spent alone without a home, a place and a people to ground me. Ms. Rhimes says dreams don’t come true by dreaming but by doing. I need to be live life more fully in lusty pursuit of impossible dreams. I need to be a doer.
Be a doer, not a dreamer.
-Shonda Rhimes ‘Year of Yes’
Reading Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes, I can tell already, is going to have a huge impact on how I look at what it means to be an introvert. I have laughed, I have cried, I have had deep thought and really shallow thoughts reading this book. I have paused and raced through this book. I have felt the magnitude of this book. I have gifted out this book. I have recommended this book. I recommend this book.
Does anyone ever have the problem of having too many dreams? Please, only real humans should respond to this. I am not looking for the super-humans who have 12 careers going concurrently without a hair our of place. Now that I have cleared that up, let’s get back to the issue at hand.
Lately, I have been thinking that I want to do more with my life. I signed up for classes that I think would benefit my career in the long run. I started working out. I am trying to eat healthier. I am also trying to get back into some of the things that I let slide like my writing, my food blogging, etc. But the thing is that I feel overwhelmed.
Yes, I know it probably because I am trying to make so many changes in so little time. I get that. There are some things that I am doing that actually make me feel better about my life. My burgeoning exercise routine has me feeling positive generally about life so I am glad I am making that change.
However, even positive changes take up time and commitment. I feel like I don’t have enough time in the day to do what I need/want to do. Today, I was supposed to finish some coursework on my classes but I remembered that I had some writing to attend to. Plus I wanted some relaxation time. By the time I was done, I have no time left for the class. And I feel like this ‘oops, I got something else’ is going to spiral out of control. Then I will be back to my chronic lack of follow through.
Alright, I getting the sense that I need to breathe before I become too overwhelmed. Does anyone have any suggestions for having too many dreams, too little time?
I decided that I wanted more for my life so I decided to do something about it. Learn something new. Pick up some new skills, stretch myself in ways that I am afraid to. I signed up for classes on Coursera. I actually reached into my pocket, paid the class fees and started learning. 4 hours of learning later or so, I feel like I have reached the most logical point to give up. Fuck all my aspirations, hopes and dreams. Forget about my life time. In this moment when I feel uncomfortable, I have reached the logical point to give up. I could spend my whole life complaining about why I don’t feel satisfied instead of pushing myself to do something new.
I told my sister I was starting classes online. She told me she was afraid for me. I have been diagnosed with chronical lack of follow through. I have no willpower. I hate being uncomfortable. I would rather do the same thing over and over again then be uncomfortable. Haven’t you heard? I ate the same plate of food from a restaurant for a week because I was afraid that I might hate everything else. Why ruin a mediocre life with adventures when I could be just okay? Just okay paying my bills, just okay intellectual simulation, just okay lifestyle. I could tell my mother every phone call that I am grateful for the just okay life. Alihamdulilahi for the just okay.
I think it is probably a sin to confuse complacency with gratitude. A very thin line it is but there comes a point when saying “I am grateful for what I have” becomes a sin because you are refusing to push yourself just further. I think I have reached the logical point to quit just okay. I am done. I am going to put on my big girl pants and get to work.
This is one of the hardest things I will probably do. This is probably the most rewarding thing I will probably do. I feel like at 29, I am ready to let go of my inhibitions and become more than just okay. I want to see in myself what my mother, father, sister, mentors and friends see in me. I want to be more than just okay.
I have never really been a frivolous spender. Okay, I think what I mean to say is I never thought I was frivolous spender. I was not buying anything outrageous. Most of my splurges were on food items. I am a self-labeled foodie and I take pleasure in new recipes and taking food pictures.
Even with all the spending on food though, I thought I was doing well. My savings account grew and…then stopped growing and would go downhill again. I would do clean outs of the kitchen and find food hiding away that I had forgotten I bought. Somehow, I started seeing all the signs that I needed to put my spending under control and the best way to do that was to say bye-bye to my card.
My beloved debit card is one of my most precious possessions. A quick swipe and I could buy almost anything I wanted. That bag of fancy rice I dreamed of making into a pudding. The cheese that I just had to have for one meal of grilled cheese sandwich to be forgotten later in the back of the fridge. It all seemed okay because it was 10 dollars here. Another 15 there. One weekend, between here and there, I spent 200 dollars and I could not really account for it. This was one of the big red flags for me.
Last summer, while I was in one of my melancholy sessions, I confided in a co worker that my financial future was bleak. I have never been one to stress out about money. I have been lucky to have parents who encouraged me to view my success in life beyond finances. But at the most basic level, I still yearn for things like knowing that I have enough money to see me through an emergency without having to call my father. I want to be able to buy a house sometimes in the next few years, with or without a significant other. I want to dream of vacations and know that they are within grasp. These are things that I know to be only possible if I am financially responsible.
After years of skimming articles and feeling superior because I felt that I had a grasp on my spending, I took the time to read the book suggested by the co-worker. It is called Total Money Makeover. The book advocates for living a cash only life. I read that advice and I thought to myself, “I am good at math, I will just tally up how much I spend and set a limit on my spending.” Then I got a credit card to help build my credit score because I have been smart enough not to have credit cards. But now that I had the goal of buying a house, credit history seemed like a smart thing to build.
I have a very limited balance on my credit card on purpose. Even with the limit, I realize now that I abused that credit card. I would spend money on my credit card against my future income. Then spend my debit card as well. So while I was able to pay off the card every month, my savings account suffered for it.
After taking another look at my savings and realizing I was in the low phase again after a high at the beginning of the year, I went back to Total Money Makeover. I decided to do a cash only lifestyle. I am currently on my second week.
One of the things I did before starting my budget was figure out how much my monthly bills are, how much income I have coming in each month and what my weekly spend is. I wanted to set a realistic budget for myself.
One of the perks of being on a budget is making better food choices. I would rather spend my money on a banana than candy. I am baking cookies at home instead of spending money on the fancy cookies I like. More importantly, I feel proud of myself. I no longer feel ashamed to open up my account each day. Before I would see transactions and wonder what they were for. Or I had buyer’s remorse. Now that I am dealing in the absolute currency of cash, I just don’t buy because I see in my hands how much I am spending. The other day, I calculated what percentage of my weekly spend a bag of fancy cheese represented. Knowing that allowed me to walk away. I am also teaching myself to save for little items as a reward or positive reinforcement for good behaviour instead of just buying.
Ultimately I have learned from saying no to things that I absolutely don’t need all the things I thought I did. I want them and one day I can have them if I remain financially responsible.