Leading up to my 25th birthday last week, I took time to reflect on the past year and the lessons I’ve learned through various situations I’ve experienced. This year has been extremely tough in more ways than I can even count. It was my first time dealing with grief in a substantial way, and situations and people (especially the people) really stretched my ability to cope with certain life changes. Things that seemed minor mounted into major setbacks that left me feeling inadequate and worthless at a time when I felt most vulnerable. Those things just constantly lead me back to the tremendous loss I felt all the time. I lost my grandfather last year and following suit, a dear friendship of mine deteriorated, I inadvertently loved with nothing to show for it, and I had to quit my first job. Oh 75% of my 24th year felt like absolute TRASH, and literally lasted throughout the entire year *eye roll*. I was pushed to my limit in a multitude of ways, but was also shaped for my tremendous growth and progress during this year. A midst the emotional hardship, I learned so much about myself, people and life, and I knew in spite of everything I was beyond blessed and learned valuable lessons. So instead of laying out my goals, I’m going try something different and lay out the lessons. In starting this blog, I wanted to create a certain level of transparency that people could relate to and take from, and I know no better way to to do that than through my words. I’ve been writing for quite some time, but I didn’t learn what impact my words could have until this year. In spite of the [growing] pain I’ve experienced, I know that sharing my stories and lessons can help someone else, and just as my life has been changed for the better (IN SPITE of the worst), so can others. If I can pass on the lesson without the pain, I’ve done more than I could even imagine.
"25 Lessons 24 Taught Me"
1. Regardless of the intention, the capacity to inflict pain is still present- Accountability has become so important to me, while it is important to know your role in your own pain, it’s also just as important to be cognizant of how other people attribute to that. This year, I’ve dealt with people who spent so much inside themselves that they rarely stopped to think about how their actions made others feel, and when confronted with it refused to acknowledge their role. The common thread I noticed amongst these different situations was the absence of accountability. It’s important to understand that no matter what the intention may be behind the action, we still have the ability to inflict pain on others. We're so resistant to being seen as wrong that we'll do whatever we can to skew the spotlight, even if that means disregarding the feelings of others or refusing to take any accountability for our role in their pain. Your intention does not excuse the pain or action, it may explain it, but it doesn’t take away from the pain and a lot of times just disregards it. In explaining the intention w/o the presence of accountability, we can inadvertently explain away the pain of others. If someone is brave enough to bring you their pain and lay it out for you, be cautious, take a step back, acknowledge your role, and then explain. Accountability is sometimes all we need, especially in cases where people are brave enough to bring you their feelings. As someone who’s been on both sides of this, it’s important to be cognizant of more than just yourself.
2. Friendships play a major role in growth- Friendships are the most important relationships we have outside of our family, and in a lot of cases friendships are the family we choose. I don’t think we start to learn just how important they are in our development until the foolishness in our lives really starts to hit the fan. In your 20s, for whatever reason, is when everything simultaneously falls apart and comes together, and when it hits you, it hits hard as hell. I mentioned to one of my friends that during this past year my friendships changed my life. You never know just how much support you truly need until you lose people, terrible decisions are made, you quit your job or pursue your dreams, and I’ve had a run in with all the above, lol. This year, my friendships became a pivotal point in pushing me forward. They are the reason I started this blog, the reason I left my job, they snatched me together when I needed it, put me back together when I unraveled, and held the mirror up when I needed it. A lot of the time, they saw me better than I saw myself even at my lowest points. They consistently reminded me of my value and showed me my dreams were real. When I look at my friends I see myself, and they make me strive to be a better friend based on their presence and who they are alone. We’re never taught how to be a friend, we literally learn as we go, but it’s important to nurture and place value into friendships because contrary to popular belief those are the people that truly help shape us. To ya’ll, and they know who they are, I say, love you and thank you for seeing me.
3. Emotional labor is the most important, forget what you heard- The importance of emotional labor tends to be downplayed A LOT given its association with femininity. Given the emotional expectation placed on women and women only, it’s seen as more of nuisance and inconvenience than a value. I’ve learned many things about emotions, but nothing has been more telling than when exerting emotional labor. Regardless of what emotion it is, it takes a lot to feel, especially when feeling for others. I’ve never been more exhausted in my life than when exerting my emotional labor. My emotional investment in others has shown me not only how strenuous, but how valuable it can be, especially when dealing with people who aren’t as emotionally cognizant. Emotional labor isn’t quite as valued as other forms of labor, but we all need to take better care in understanding that common tasks such as listening, holding a conversation, supporting, and loving people take a lot and should be valued just as much or even more than just being physically present. Men especially need to be taught the value of it and how to strengthen their own emotional intelligence because the expectation of it from women without a return on it is getting BEYOND tired.
4. Being Emotional is my super power- A lot people think because they’ve seen me cry or visibly upset that me showing emotion in a certain moment can be a weakness of mine that leaves me too vulnerable or open. But I’ve learned that those same people who have an opinion about my emotions are the same ones at a loss because they’re not in touch with theirs at all and have a harder time navigating space than I do. Many do not realize my being emotional is directly linked to my ability to connect with others, create a certain level of introspection that not many people have, write and express myself. Having the ability to feel without fear is a magnificent feat that some can only dream of and it doesn’t make me weak, but powerful beyond measure.
5. Parents are people too- In the midst of growing up, we can fail to realize parents are people too. The expectation for being parents is so high, it's hard to remember the person inside each of our parents is very much alive and present. Just as life is a learning process for us, it is twice as much of a process for them. Being our guides, it's easy to forget who they are extends outside of their role as ’parent'. They don’t always have the answers, they don’t always know, and when kids show up they’re learning with us. My parents reminded me, sometimes the things I sought from them, were things they needed too. They're more than who they are to me, and getting older I learned I could be a guide to them as well. You can be their guide, their teacher, their hug, their kind word or encouragement. They have their own experiences that shape who they are and this year I felt like I went through those things with them. 24 taught me my parents were people and while keeping things together for me they still struggled themselves. Both of them have feelings, struggles, good days, bad days, hopes and dreams. I tried to show up as more than their daughter this year, and in doing so made the conscious effort to be somebody for them to lean on, so they have more space to be all of themselves. Try not to forget your parents are people too.
6. “It’s just best to leave the door open”- I’ve learned the hard way that not everybody you meet on your journey is going to be able to travel it with you. Sometimes life happens, people change, and things become different, sometimes you see it coming and other times you don’t. I love extremely hard which causes me to hold on longer than I should even when things have clearly fallen apart. I keep this picture in my mind of where I want to go and who I want to be there. This year I’ve learned it’s just best to ‘leave the door open’ and by that I mean keep in mind people are going to walk out, disappear, or move on. It’s no point in holding on because just as you grow and change, so do others and their path can start to look different from yours. You want to take all those that you’ve come to love with you on your journey, but sometimes you can’t, and that is okay. Letting go is going to be a huge and hard part of growth. You’ll never be prepared for when someone leaves, but ‘leaving the door open’ loosens the grip and allows you to embrace change as it comes.
7. Social anxiety is a thing- A lot of people have probably interacted with me and thought “that there is a girl who loves dealing with people, that girl has got to be a people person!” Well, this year taught me I absolutely am not. Dealing with people and even communicating on a certain level actually freaks me out because people take so much. I’m not a “people person”, I’m a “specific people person” I realized, and I’d rather not be bothered with crowds or talking to anyone I don’t know or want to know, and I’m fine with that, lol.
8. How I feel matters- I’ve been the type of person who constantly puts others ahead of myself. While selflessness can be a beautiful and noble thing, it can also be detrimental to your well being. This past year I literally had to teach myself to value and pay attention to how I feel. Whether it was reacting to how I’ve been treated, picking up the phone, or even going out, I needed to be cognizant of my needs and wants regardless of how it made others feel. How could I possibly expect for people to take into consideration how I feel if I didn’t do it myself? How you feel is your truth, but it’s up to you to stand in it, and at 24 I made the decision to stand in mine. I had to decide I’m not doing anything I don’t want to if I don’t feel like it, and things worked better for me that way.
9. I don’t have time for the BS- I have so much I’m trying to do and accomplish, I just decided I don’t have time anymore. I don’t have time to talk to people I don’t want to talk to, I don’t have time to deal with foolishness, I don’t have time figure out if people like me or not, I don’t have time to chase people around, I don’t have time to play around with people, I don’t have time for people to play around with me, I don’t have time to make everybody comfortable, I don’t have time for uncertainty, I don’t have time for inconsistency, the list goes on and on. The point is I don’t have time! So I just stopped making time for the things I constantly had to question. If it costs you too much time and it’s not benefiting you, let it go.
10. Meet people where they’re at- I’ve reached a place in my life where I’m always looking to grow and change, and I’ve come across people who may not be in the same boat just yet. I’m learning constantly that everybody’s pace, time, and path are all different and we should give others the same courtesy we give ourselves. You just gotta meet people where they’re at in life, not everybody is going to know as much as you do, move as fast as you are, or want the same things, and that is okay, it can be a challenge, but it’s honestly okay, lol. Just keep in mind just as you’re growing and changing, so is everybody else and just as you need compassion and understanding for where you are, so does everybody else, remember that.
11. Don’t give if you can’t get- Sounds simple enough right? Well, it's not. I’m a giver, I love to give sometimes to my own detriment, lol. Though giving is good, it can cost you dearly when the wrong people catch wind of your giving nature. I learned the hard way that though we should give as much as we can, many people do not deserve what we have to give. People tend to like to use others as resource, but in the same breath cannot give anything themselves and in those cases you need to be able to protect yourself. There are people who see the benefit of you, but not the value and it’s so important to know the difference regardless of where your love or allegiance lies. What you have is valuable, so of course people would want it for free without putting in the work. Know your value, know your worth, and charge (or cut people off) accordingly...
12. Lost can be experienced in a multitude of ways- I lost in real life, love, friendship and otherwise. They all happened simultaneously as well, and in the midst of it all I wanted to snatch each of my eyelashes out one by one, lol. I realized people don't have to pass for you to feel grief or loss. Once I realized grief is all encompassing, it made it easier to stop denying the pain I felt. They were different, but I stopped treating one like it was bigger than the other because honestly it all hurt the same. Leaving can come in a bunch of different ways, but it can all still hurt the same.
13. Listen to your gut (God-consciousness)- 24 was a test and renewal of faith in not only God and the process, but myself as well. I started leaning on God more this year and took various steps to strengthen my closeness to Him. In doing so, I started to trust myself more in allowing God to guide me to where I needed to be. When I made more important decisions, the feeling in my stomach during those times got stronger than ever before. My dad told me whenever you got that feeling it was your ‘God-Consciousness’ speaking to you and to listen to it. If you ever get that feeling and you feel like something is a bad or good idea listen to it, that’s God speaking to you and it won’t steer you wrong.
14. Everyone has the capacity to inspire- It’s hard to imagine myself as someone for people to be inspired by. I feel real regular all the time. Even back when I performed a lot and people would come up to me, the word ‘inspiration’ never came to mind ever. But this year more than ever I’ve realized just as the people who’ve inspired me, I have the capacity to inspire others as well. It doesn’t matter what we’re doing or how insignificant or singular we think it is, somehow it’s important and anyone can be affected by it. We, as individuals, just have to believe in how powerful our impact can be.
15. Self-care is essential- In order to be the best we can be and meet our full potential, we MUST take care of ourselves. What do I mean by that? Well you know how we take care of others, family, friends and jobs? We have to do the same for ourselves. You have to make sure you’re nourishing yourself, reading, doing things that make you happy, spending time alone, and exploring, you have to take care of you first and foremost before you can take care of anyone else. That can look like a multitude of things like cooking for yourself, going shopping, washing your clothes, taking a nap, or listening to your favorite music are all ways of caring for yourself and nurturing your well being. We tend to forget about ourselves in the midst of our daily lives, but self-care is the best way to replenish the value in ourselves that we constantly put into other things and people. Don’t forget that you matter, take care of yourself… It’s the first step towards having other people value you.
16. It will come, do you in the mean time- If there isn’t a harder a lesson in the world than learning to have patience, then I don't know what is! My God it’s so hard to have patience living in a world where things have become so instant, everything is now, now, I NEED it NOW, lol. It’s hard, but if there’s anything 24 taught me it’s that things take time and we need to have patience. 2016 has been nothing short of pressure cooker for me, I mean I’ve felt as pressed as a panini maker in many of the struggles I’ve experienced this year you’d think I was a whole sandwich, lol. But in taking a step back and trusting God, I’ve realized that I can’t control anything but my reaction to things. I have a lot of anxiety especially about things that are not in my control, but I’ve learned to combat it by doing other things in the mean time. While I was looking for a new job, I took time to do things that made me happy and contributed to my other goals outside of just financing them. I tried my best to enjoy my time off and did free things, lol. In distracting myself with different tasks, things began to fall into place once I stopped worrying so much. I just trusted that things were happening the way they were suppose to and they would work eventually, I just had to be productive in the mean time.
17. Live for you- This year, as I stepped further into myself I started to finally live for me. It was incredibly challenging up until this point and I realized I had been living for others whether if it was to gain praise, anticipate opinion, or get the approval of others, this entire time. Back in May, I took a risk and went to see the Formation Tour, I wasn’t a part of the Bey Hive, but Lemonade slowly but surely made me into a silent stan, lol. I was going back and forth with myself before buying the ticket, I had had so many doubts and fears about going, and it made me extremely hesitant. But then I told myself “I don’t have any kids, I don’t have no man, I can literally pay off this ticket at the next credit card cycle, and overall I just want to go!” With that I clicked pay, and in that moment I realized for once I made the conscious decision to do something for me because I wanted to, not because of anything else, but because of me. From then on I just started doing whatever I wanted (within reason, lol), and I’ve never felt so alive. So however or in whatever way you choose, live for you, the feeling on the other side of that is beyond amazing and your confidence just mounts from there.
18. Ain't nobody thinkin’ about us- As worried as we are about what other people think with the surge of unsolicited opinion on social platforms, I’ve learned that in REAL LIFE people truly and honestly are not even worried about you. I like to be prepared for any and everything to avoid whatever embarrassment may come my way, but sometimes in preparing for outside opinion we fail to realize that other people have their own lives and are not even worried about us like we think they are. Get off ya high horse, do what you want, I promise ain’t nobody thinking that much about you.
19. Love yourself- Nobody else knows you like you do, and there’s no one else like you. Please love yourself…<3
20. Introspection is key- Introspection means to examine or observe one’s own mental and emotional processes. In this life, it’s so easy to get caught up in everything and with the rise of tech you can access others in an instant. But do we ever take the time to think about our own processes and journey through this life? This year, I’ve taken more steps towards getting to know myself better and relearn who I am as a person. As a human being, I’m constantly growing and changing and it became important to me to take as many moments as I could to reflect. Many don’t realize or even take the time to, but the key to many successes merely starts with knowing yourself and that process starts with introspection. Remember to always take time to learn yourself and reflect, it definitely makes decision making 100x easier, I can tell you that from experience.
21. Happiness is in any moment- We spend so much time looking to be brought happiness, we forget about the inherent moments of joy that happen to us on a day to day basis. You’ve got to be able to find joy in moments rather than in just people and things. I constantly find joy in the smallest things, it’s almost obnoxious, lol, but it truly keeps my spirit in tact. Hearing the beginning of my favorite song while my playlist is on shuffle, smiling at strangers on the street, laughing at corny jokes, landing a good joke, finding a good YouTube video, or getting a hug are all things that I don’t seek, but rather just take joy in. Try to find joy in any moment you can, I promise your spirit will thank you.
22.There’s something on the other side of everything- When we’re in the depths of our struggles, it feels as if there’s no relief or ending in sight, but an important thing that I learned is that there is something on the other side everything whether we realize it in that moment or not. Whether it’s a lesson or reward, know that the strife isn’t for nothing.
23. If I don’t want to, then I’m not doing it- I’m just not doing it period, point, blank. I’ve learned it ain’t my job to please people or feed the egos of others, so if I ain’t feeling it I don’t do it. Just remember you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to, and it’’s up to you not to do it.
24. Pain can visit, but don’t let it stay- When we’re in pain we have a tendency to let pain in and let it overstay its welcome. Whenever I’m hurt, I definitely have a habit of holding on to the pain rather than letting it go because I use it as a reminder of things that have happened. I forget that while it can remind me, it doesn’t have to consume me. It’s okay to be hurt or in pain, and people who tell you otherwise have some serious issues of their own. It’s when we wallow in that that the pain becomes an unhealthy problem. Give yourself time to feel and work through your hurt, it’s only natural. Allow the pain to visit, but don’t allow it to stay…
25. Divest yourself- Sometimes you just need to remove yourself, whether its time, money, or energy, you just need to remove yourself for the sake of your well being. I use to spend so much time wondering why people felt like it was okay to play around with me and my feelings? I would get so tired of it. But then a ridiculous young man that I talked to during Grad School inadvertently gave me the best advice in the world. I was crying to him telling him I felt like I was trying so hard with him, and in turn he told me, “If you feel that you’re trying too hard, then just stop.” It hurt my feelings initially, but he was actually right. From there I got out of my feelings, deleted and blocked him. Without knowing it, that set the tone for how I dealt with people and things that did not benefit me going forward, and I slowly began the process of divesting myself. A lot of people think I’m playing, so I just show them better than I can tell them just how serious I am about my time and energy. You don’t have to value me, but I do and you will not suck me dry of my resources. My favorite thing to do is give a slight read, block you, and leave you with radio silence on the end, lol. If it costs me any parts of my well being, I block it, and divest myself. We need to protect our light at all costs, and if it doesn’t benefit me that’s my first step in letting it go.
It was still an extremely difficult year, ALL THEE WAY around, and I’ll be honest I have been waiting for it to be over since last December, but in spite of that, it was a year of major growth, change and opportunity, and it taught me a lot about myself and what I want going forward. I’ve built stronger relationships and opened new doors. My 2016 has had its proverbial wig snatched several times, and by several I mean 27, lol. I hope in sharing my lessons you see the growth, heed the lesson, feel the authenticity and you’re able to take something with you that you didn’t have before. In the Qur’an, it says “Leave places, things, and people better than you found them…” In reading this, I hope it leaves you better than when you found this post.
Thankful for another year, may the blessings and growth be plentiful and the GLO’up be merciless to those who’ve tried me, lol. As you can imagine, God is still working on me, but I can proudly say I’m making progress.
Until next time...