Posted in Life

Looking For Myself in My Fears

Fear! Do Not Enter!

My own advice to a fellow blogger jumped back at me.

I decided I have to follow my own words of wisdom, no matter what.

What are you afraid to do? Usually, what you are afraid to do, ends up being the very thing that liberates you. And through liberation you find yourself.

I’ve done a lot lately that scares me.

I’ve taken random trips to unfamiliar cities. I’ve booked a vacation even though I’m uncertain about getting the time off from work. I’m designing a website for a friend. I’ve submitted articles to online magazines and websites. I’ve become more active in my blogging. I’m officially beginning my journey as an entrepreneur.

All of these things I’ve been scared to do. But I knew I couldn’t stay where I was, stuck and miserable.

I’ve basically been held captive in my own house lately, because of fear.

Fear of running into people that I know from my past.

Fear of failure.

Fear of having to make new friends.

Fear of not having enough money.

Fear of not being good enough.

But at what point do you say ‘enough is enough’? Are you really living if you’re constantly afraid?

Life is full of changes, ups and downs. Will you let life dictate to you what happens? Or will you decide to get up, get out there, and make some moves, in fear?

Some of the best decisions I’ve ever made in life, have been made with a healthy amount of fear.

Fear, lets us know that something is bigger than us. Acknowledging this is huge. Nothing worth doing in life, comes without fear.

If you find yourself stuck, if you’ve lost your way, ask yourself, ‘what am I afraid of?’

I’ve found lately, that as I’ve been looking for myself, I’ve found myself in my fears. I’ve had to push myself out of my comfortable rut, and get uncomfortable. It’s definitely a process. There are times where I have moments of paralysis, where it feels like I am unable to move. Instead of shrinking, or backing off, I allow myself to feel that fear, and then let it fuel me.

Are you afraid to quit your job and chase your dreams of being a business owner? Are you afraid to move to an unfamiliar place, because it’s, well, unfamiliar? Are you afraid to show your face in public because of of past failures, mistakes, and choices?

Let that fear propel you forward.

The last time I faced my fears? It led me to one of the greatest adventures I’ve ever had in my life. Looking for myself in my fears could most possibly be the best thing I’ve done in my  ongoing quarter-life crisis. If you’ve lost yourself? Find your fears. Pinpoint them. Allow yourself to feel that fear, then move past it. 

Posted in Cleveland, Education, higher education, Life

I Love College: How Community College Changed My Life

I knew at the age of 4 that I was going to college, when I found out that my mother didn’t get to finish. I had already resolved that I was going to finish what she started.

How did I even know what college was? I don’t remember how I knew, I just knew that going wasn’t an option, it was something I was going to do, by any means necessary. What I wanted to be when I grew up changed a million times, but the decision to go to college did not. Where I ended up, was the last place I expected to be; yet, it ended up being the greatest blessing of my life.

After high school, I went away to Hampton University. My father had suggested I stick closer to home for the first couple of years of college, but like all kids with strict parents, I just wanted to get away from home and from my parents. Depression surfaced shortly upon arriving at Hampton, and the combination of depression and homesickness proved to be more than I could handle without a support system. I packed my belongings midway through first semester and moved back home.

I sat out the rest of the semester but decided to begin college again, at the local community college. The last place I said I’d ever attend college. No, I was too smart to be there, I thought. I remembered the jokes we told about community college in high school in my honors/advanced placement classes. ‘Tri-High’, or ‘Tri-Again’, we called it. I had no idea that I’d blossom the way I did, at community college.

The first year at community college was an adjustment. The second year was when I began to hit my stride.

A uno game, along with an urban sociology class, brought me out of my shell. I found a group of friends that became my second family. I met my now husband. I loved my classes.

As time would go on, I excelled in and outside of the classroom. I assumed leadership positions on campus and the community college quickly became my home away from home, my refuge. Community college gave me the confidence, the support I needed to succeed. Classes were small, allowing for us to get to know our professors. They knew our strengths and weaknesses, and they often pushed us to excel beyond our own beliefs. I didn’t even know I liked math, until my summer math professor pushed me to do my best each and every time. The first time I had ever gotten an A in mathematics, was in his class.  I found out I loved economics, sociology, political science, psychology, and english. And math. Community college reminded me how much I love learning. By the time I finished my associates degree, I was happy to be continuing my education, but sad to be leaving. I absolutely loved that place. I loved the experiences I had there. 

The nearby university was overwhelming. Suddenly I found myself in classes with 150 other people, with professors who didn’t care like the ones I had at community college. I returned to the community college to take classes and gather my bearings, and had the most amazing experiences of my life.

I was a big fish in a small pond, and I loved every minute of it. I had access to professors who were leaders in their fields, I had access to college deans and even the president of the college. I had opportunities available to me that I would have never gotten at the university, such as getting to be Editor-in-Chief of the campus newspaper, without having been on staff previously. Or going to New York City to a college journalism conference. Or getting the community college to sponsor my trip with United Way’s Alternative Spring Break program three years in a row. Or appear on local cable television representing the college with two other college newspaper editors. The community college was where I found out that I really could do anything I put my mind to.

Now that I have my degree, I want to give back. There were several professors, club advisors, the dean of student affairs & her staff, as well as my newspaper advisor who made college an unforgettable experience for me. They set the tone on campus, with the programming, the teaching, the advising, and really made being on campus a refuge for me of sorts. There were times when my home life was rather challenging, trying, but I knew that being on campus, involved in activities and excelling in the classroom was an oasis for me. I learned so much, inside and outside of the classroom. That community college was home for me. I knew it every time I stepped on campus, I never wanted to go home.

I hope that someday, I can help make a college campus a home away from home, a refuge, a place they can go to find peace, find themselves, and become better, especially for disadvantaged/first generation college students. There were things that my parents and family didn’t understand about me being in college, that my mentors and advisors and professors often did. To me, college is all about preparing young adults for life after receiving their degree and helping them become engaged adults ready to contribute to society.

I know that it’s a must, that I give back. I look back at my community college experience fondly and believe that everyone should have a college experience as amazing as the one that I had.

Posted in Faith, Life

The Comparison Trap

No more looking back

Comparison, I’m coming to find, is the ultimate stumbling block in our own success and maintaining perspective.

I’m not just talking about comparing yourself to your peers and counterparts. I’m talking about comparing yourself to your ideal life and what you dreamed/thought your life would be at your current age when you were younger. We all have those dream lives that we had planned out as kids or teenagers.

I can tell you right now, at times, my current life looks nothing like I dreamed it would be as a kid, and it often leaves me unfulfilled [as far as ideal location and career goes ] but it’s no reason to beat myself up about it. It’s tempting to compare my ideal life to my current life, instead of problem solving and making the best of my situation now. It may not be perfect, at times I find myself disappointed & feeling like a failure, when I know that my track record proves that I’m far from that. I just am not where I thought I would be.

Comparing your ideal life to your current situation, often causes us to forget how much we’ve accomplished thus far. Even if you feel as if you’ve accomplished nothing, it is most likely not the case.

Perhaps you aren’t where you thought you would be at your age. That’s okay, not many of your peers are either. You’re not alone. A delay is not a denial, a detour is not a deterrent. No path is ever straight in life.

We’re definitely not the first generation to encounter trials and tribulations in our formative adult years. Things may not be how you thought they would be, but comparing your ideal life to your reality might be one of the worst things you can do. 

Resist the urge to compare. Enjoy the ride, hills, bumps, detours, curves, u-turns and all. At the end you’ll overcome, and maybe even have an awesome story to tell. If you do nothing else, celebrate all that has happened up to this point. Celebrate the fact that you’re a first generation college graduate (or maybe you’re continuing the great tradition of higher education in your family or proudly serving our country). Celebrate joining the workforce, even if it’s not your dream job. It’s a stepping stone. Celebrate your personal growth & coming into your own as an adult. Celebrate life as it is now, what is to come that is unknown, and try to avoid the comparison trap.

Posted in Life, Relationships

What About Our Daughters? Corporal Punishment

Me and My daddy, Easter 1990

‘Fathers be good to your daughters

Cause Daughters will love like you do

Girls become lovers

and turn into mothers

so mothers be good to your daughters too.’ -John Mayer, ‘Daughters’

It was a normal Friday on twitter and facebook. Until this story broke about Creflo Dollar being arrested for battery.

Allegedly, he choked his daughter and slammed her to the ground after he told her she could not attend a party and she struck him first. He later told the media he was disciplining her.

Emphasis on allegedly, because we really don’t know all the details. But it brought folks out from all sides of the spectrum speaking on corporal punishment.

Not surprisingly yet surprisingly, many black folks came out in support of Creflo, justifying the ‘discipline’.

At what point is it punishment, and at what point is it abuse/domestic violence?

I called my father to ask why he stopped putting his hands on my sisters and I before we reached the teenage years, and he replied ‘because I knew it would be more effective to punish you in different ways.’ And those different ways for us involved grounding, the revoking of privileges and things that we held close to us.

I’m pretty sure Creflo didn’t plan to put his hands on his daughter…but even if my parents FELT like it, they never did it.

At what point do we in the black community, decide that we might want to change the way we discipline our kids if there’s a chance that the law can intervene and tell us that the way we discipline our kids is illegal?

Just questions I have. Just saying that this doesn’t sit well with me, mistake or not. And it wasn’t okay for her to hit her father either, if that really did happen.

It becomes problematic when a man decides to hit a woman/young woman/girl, whether it’s his kid or not. Particularly because I’m thinking of the size factor. How much a man weighs, how tall he is. And how much smaller a girl is to him. A man doesn’t know his own strength, quite often. And that is scary, even problematic to me, coming from a daughter’s standpoint.

Discipline doesn’t have to always be physical. I think a conversation is necessary in the black community about how our kids, especially our daughters, are disciplined. I think a conversation is necessary for how we love our sons and raise our daughters. I know kids today are facing much more, becoming more violent. But from a daughter standpoint, I knew that it was NEVER okay to put my hands on anybody, family or not. So, if your daughter becomes violent, chances are, that MIGHT reflect on you as a parent.

I can’t tell anyone how to parent, because I’m not one. But I can say, I hope that at some point, alternatives to the traditional physical corporal punishment, especially between a father and his daughter, emerge in the black community.

Posted in Cleveland, Education, Life

What If? My HBCU/PWI experience

I still remember my first day at Hampton like it was yesterday, when my parents dropped me off. I met my roommate, a girl from Brooklyn, moved my stuff into our hot stuffy fourth floor dorm room, and went to the store to get a few things I had forgotten. It was either that day or the next day that I went to VA Beach with my family, then they dropped me off at Hampton and drove nine and half hours back to Cleveland.

I was cool for the first few weeks, then depression and homesickness set in. I had a rough time adjusting. I ended up dropping out and moving back to Cleveland. I would later finish both an associates and bachelors degree and have a decent college experience, but I sometimes wonder ‘what if’? As in ‘what if I had stayed at Hampton’?

As I look around and see many of my Hampton/other HBCU (historically black colleges and universities) graduates doing great, while many of my friends who graduated from non-prestigious Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) without connections are struggling to find jobs, I wonder if I should have stuck it out with the HBCU experience.

Yes, I had some amazing experiences in college, with Alternative Spring Break, with the programming board at community college, where I met my husband. Made some awesome friends at community college, and a few at university. But I was feeling quite lost and like just another number at the university.  Had I known then what I knew now, I think I would have transferred to a different HBCU.

I look at the invaluable network & connections my HBCU counterparts have. I look at the course offerings available to my HBCU friends, as well as their required reading. They didn’t have to deal with the institutionalized racism we had to deal with at the university level. They were privileged to have certain experiences that black students at PWIs miss out on. I feel like I missed out on that through attending a PWI.

There were definitely benefits to attending my university. I saved a ton of money, and graduated with far less in loans that I would have if I’d stayed at Hampton. I was able to interact with a variety of different races and cultures on a daily basis. I was exposed to many different opportunities that I wouldn’t have had if I’d been anywhere else.

But when I have kids? I would prefer they attend a HBCU, or a PWI with a strong African-American community both on campus and through its’ alumni as well. I want them to benefit from networking opportunities, internships & career opportunities, scholarships & fellowships geared towards HBCU students & graduates. I want them to experience that HBCU culture, as there is nothing comparable to it.  If they obtain a full ride to a non-HBCU school? I won’t be mad. I do want them to at least consider an HBCU for their post-secondary education though.

I don’t regret my PWI experience. I just wonder what if. If I ever do graduate school, if the opportunity presents itself, I’d love to attend an HBCU for a masters degree.

Though at the time, I was too young and distracted by personal issues to appreciate it, I learned a lot in my short time at Hampton University that sticks with me to this day, . I realize even now, I have more in common with my Hamptonian friends than I do my friends who finished college with me at the PWI. Even though I earned my degree at my PWI, I will never forget my HBCU experience and I will always have a soft spot for my ‘Home By the Sea.’