On Having a Plan

My least favorite question that I get asked by friends and family members when I tell them that my contract with my current job is over at the end of June and I’m looking to make a career change is, “So… What is your plan? What kind of jobs are you looking at now?”

I don’t know if it’s the noncommittal millennial in me, but as soon as this question is proposed, I just shut down. I hate this question so much because I can never give people the answer that I know they’re expecting. They want me to stay I have a five point strategy. They want me to say I care deeply about a 401(k) retirement fund and health benefits and stability. (I do actually care about health benefits.) They want me to say what we are conditioned to say: I am looking for X job in Y industry to work at for Z years. They want me to stop being so imaginative and creative and idealistic… and settle into firm, reality-based adulthood. They want me to settle.

The problem is… well, there are lots of problems with this.

First, I don’t have a plan. Well, I don’t have the kind of plan they are expecting. I want to work in any combination of the media, entertainment, communications, and/or creative fields. My work experience is primarily in youth development and public health. Yes, finding a new job will be difficult. Yes, I have thought about that (and think about it everyday). No, I am not willing to settle for something else.

Second, for the past three years, I have mainly looked at jobs within the non-profit world, focusing on youth programming. I know non-profit youth programming in a Biblical way. We are very intimate. Although I’ve always wanted to work within a company that better utilized my writing and creative passion/skills/talent, I never really thought much about what that would look like manifested in a search for a 9-to-5 job. So, I’m not quite sure what type of job I am looking for. I know I’m looking to work for a company or organization that contributes meaningfully to people’s lives and our larger world. I’m looking to work for a company that has a work environment and culture that I would fit well within. I’m looking for work that is engaging, challenging, rewarding, and educational. I’m looking for work that would allow me to truly use my abilities and skills to get things done successfully. I’m looking for work that I won’t get sick of in a year or two years.

Third, I am not 100% sure the things I want and how I envision my life fit within the same structure of the 9-to-5 office gig. Do I want health benefits? Absolutely. Do I want to be 65 without any financial ability to take care of myself? Definitely not. Do I want to security that comes from getting a decent paycheck every two weeks? Duh! But in the past couple months, I’ve been really wondering if the “normal” way of being an adult and having a grown-up life is the way I want to live. And I’ve been trying to figure out where this pressure came from to live this certain way?

I definitely never want to disappoint my parents. I don’t want them to feel like I can’t take care of myself, so they’re obligated to take care of me. Or have them feel like they raised a daughter who is irresponsible or immature. And I’ve never been one for “The Struggle is Real” kinda life. As I love to announce to the homies, I’m a bougie bitch. I don’t expect things to be rose petals and unicorn magic forever. But if one does not have to eat ramen or live in a studio apartment with an air mattress instead of a real bed, I’m all for the life that is struggle-lite.

I feel like there are options if you want to be a responsible grown-up, while still pursuing the things you love and are good at? Right? That’s a thing! People do that! But it seems like the possibility of it happening are slim to none most days. And that sucks. Because I don’t want to settle. I don’t want to bunker down into a life that was prescribed to me, because it was the “safe” choice or the “practical” choice.

 

On Groovin’ To My Inner Rhythm

As the illustrious and prophetic Ice Cube once said, Today was a good day.

I had fresh-pressed juice and tea/coffee with my life coach/spiritual guru, Monique. A couple weeks ago, she text me to see how I was doing. I stopped seeing her last summer, as I was transition from full-time to part-time work. She is one of those people that I know will be in my life forever. She’s an incredible woman—passionate, spiritual, intelligent, funny, and so insightful.

Whenever I see her, I know (a) some real shit is gonna happen and (b) I am going to have a good-ass day. I say the former because our discussions always open up something within me, so I end up having to do some processing and self-work. And the latter because she’s so wonderful and compassionate, it’s an honor to be in her presence. Plus, she really listens to me.

I gave her a brief review of how I’ve been feeling since September. I explained to her that I haven’t been depressed necessarily, but I have been in a personal “winter”. She understood what I was saying, relating it to her own personal winter that she’s currently experiencing. I was trying to explain to her that with quitting my job in a couple months and turning 25, I’m on the cusp of trying to get my shit together. Not that I believe I will have my shit together at 25… but that it’s more about listening to myself, making decisions for myself, and doing good things for myself. Not in a self-absorbed way, but in a “I’m a grown woman! I can do whatever I want!” way.

I explained to her that I’ve come to realize that I’m not very good with being fully present, nor am I good at really listening and following my own inner rhythm. She was surprised when I said this. But I explained to her it’s because she’s an individual who is very in-tune with her own rhythm and being present in the moment. When we finally parted, I feel like that was my unofficial assignment for the next few months or so: To learn how to be obedient to my inner rhythm.

Larchmont is one of the best neighborhoods in L.A., so I decided to not be a loser and hang out on my own for longer. I stopped into an independent bookstore. I try to make it a habit of visiting and buying things from independent booksellers when I can. I love me some Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I have seen one too many amazing treasure trove of books and letters die because of them. I don’t know what was in the air today, but I ended up spending $85 on books… despite being hella broke.

One of the books I bought was The Only Astrology Book You’ll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk. I have a love/apathy relationship with astrology. I believe like all forms of divination/philosophy/religion, it serves to help us have a greater understanding of ourselves and a sense of belonging within the Universe. But those weekly and monthly horoscopes in Cosmopolitan are a bunch of bullshiiiiit.

That being said, I am very much a Cancer. This book is cool, though, because it also talks about your Moon sign, your Rising sign, and all the other things in your birth chart. I read up about myself and tried to interpret some of the other stuff in my chart. But then it got too complex, so I gave up. (There’s a lot of math in astrology. I don’t fux with math like that.)

I think with it being Easter tomorrow and we’re finally full-swing into spring, I’m feeling that urge to connect to something greater and bigger than myself. I definitely believe in God. (I like to refer to myself as a proud panentheist). And I think spirituality ultimately serves to bring us closer to God. But I think that can come in different forms. Today, it was learning more about astrology. The thing I like about astrology is that it allows me to realize everything is interconnected and interdependent. We truly are part of one big whole, one big tapestry.

Between meeting with Monique and reading up about the different planetary influences on my life, I think I got to groove a little bit with my inner rhythm today. Part of being in an extended personal winter has meant that I’ve felt disconnected—from myself, from my friends and family, and from the world as a whole. But today, I felt a little more connected and clear about my shit.

Woohoo!

5 Small Truths to Carry with Me Always

This morning, I had a mild anxiety attack.

This is a crazy week for me. I’m coordinating an event for my job. It’s the biggest thing I’ll do with my youth all year—it’s basically the culmination of nine months worth of work. On top of this, I’m still not sure what I’m doing with my life come July 1st. And my body has been all sorts of raggedy for the past month.

I woke up this morning and I could just feel it all rolling around beneath my skin. My chest was tight. I felt scared and hyper-sensitive. For a moment, I just curled up in a ball on my bed. I didn’t cry. I didn’t curse all the million and one people who’ve been getting on my last damn nerve. I just breathed in the fetal position until I felt sane enough to take a shower and start my day.

I’m trying to remind myself that even on days like today, I’m not as hopeless and mixed up as I believe myself to be. I know more than I think. I have a few answers, even if they’re not to the questions I’m currently asking.

1. I have so much to be grateful for.

My second favorite past time is bitching and whining. (The first is watching TV on my iPad.) I’m really good at complaining about things. I’m always quite entertaining when I do it. But when all is said and done, I don’t have that much to be upset about. Even when I’m having shit days like today, I try to remind myself of what I am grateful for… even if it’s the small things. Today, that list has included: I got to spend my Saturday afternoon at the beach and put my feet in the ocean. Game of Thrones premiered last night and it was amazing. I got paid on Friday, so I can make another dent in my credit card bill. I made nachos last night. My skin is probably the clearest it’s been since high school.

2. I don’t owe anyone an explanation about who I am or the choices I make.

I sometimes feel like I’m always trying to prove why I am the way I am, or why I do the things I do. Especially in the last year. After a while, it becomes annoying. And then exhausting. I don’t think I’m that much of special unicorn, but I do know that I process things differently than most of my friends and family members. At this point in my life, I’m going through some shit and I’m tired of pretending otherwise. I’m also tired of justifying my decisions to others. I do what I do. Mostly what I do doesn’t affect other people, so back off.

3. My body is my responsibility.

I weigh 267 lbs. I am only three pounds away from what I weighed when I started Project Love Yoself in December 2012. This is embarrassing. But it’s also my responsibility. I own all 267 lbs. of this flesh and sinew and blood and hair and brown skin. If I choose to eat ice cream and french fries, I get to do that. If I choose to skip out on my birth control pills sometimes, I can do that. If I choose to work out for an hour, I can do that. In the same way that I’m free to do with this body whatever I please, I am also obligated to take care of it. Right now, I’m not doing so well with that. But no one else has to pay it any mind.

4. Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt.

I love asking other people what I should do with my life. Right now, I’m having a really hard time making decisions. So I want folks to make them for me… or at least validate the thing I kinda want to do, but am not so sure about. The problem with this is that there are a lot people don’t know jack-shit about anything, especially my life. And even if they do know a lot about me and my life, I am the person who has to actually live it. I can’t wait on others to approve of what I want to do.

5. Ain’t nothing to it, but to do it.

I want to be a writer. I know this now. I want to earn my living as a writer. I could write copy. I could be a blogger. I could be a TV writer. Sometimes, I think I may even be a decent journalist. At this point, it doesn’t really matter what I write as long as I write. But to make the mental, emotional, and behavioral transition from someone who wants to be a writer to someone who is a writer seems impossible most days. I feel like I don’t have the experience necessary to get the jobs I’m interested in. I feel like I don’t have the talent to apply for grants, submit my work, or freelance. However, my excuses and my fears are running thin. As I’ll be 25 in three months… and I don’t want to waste any more time doing work that’s not enjoyable or purpose-driven. At some point, I’m going to have to say, “Fuck it!” and send my little crappy-ass essays and poems out to someone’s online publication and hope they like ’em.

 

Today was a rough day. I have faith that tomorrow will hopefully be better. And if it’s not, I’ll just curl up in my little ball at the end of it and watch some Friday Night Lights. Isn’t that what real thugs do, anyway?

A Black Girl Who Is Single and (Almost) 25

I just read this post on “janky relationship experts” by Awesomely Luvvie and it gave me all of the life.

My name is Michelle. I will be 25 years old in three months and 12 days. And I have never been in a “formal” relationship. On my private blog/online journal, I’ve written quite a bit about the really fucked up situation I was involved in during my first two years of college. And I’ve written a lot about how I’m trying to move on from that situation. And what it’s like being perpetually single when so many of your close friends and relatives are getting married, having children, or at least being sexed up on the regular. I may or may not transfer some of those posts over here one day.

But what I’ve hated even more than being the kind of girl-I-mean-grown-ass-woman who watches reruns of One Tree Hill and YouTube vlogs (like this and this) to curb her epic loneliness is all of the super wack and fucked-up advice I’ve received over the years. Whether it was from friends, elders, magazines, website, or books… I would say 90% of it has been garbage. And all of it has been pretty unkind to Black Women/Women of Color, women who do not seek to serve traditional gender roles, or women who choose to be recognized as whole human beings.

I won’t lie. I yearn to be in a committed, long-term partnership. Hopefully of the life-long, legally recognized kind where I get tax cuts and health benefits. I want to have a family. I want to buy a house and a car that will haul around my brood using environmentally sustainable technology. I want to have a big-ass wedding to flaunt our extraordinary love to all my friends and family… and to prove to my mother that, once and for all, I am not a closeted lesbian. I have wanted these things since I was a little girl.

I didn’t expect to be single well into my mid-twenties. I thought by now I would’ve been on a first date, experienced a few make-out couch sessions, and have brought home at least a couple boys to introduce to my parents. It hasn’t happened. Depending on the day, I’m varying levels of concerned/torn-up about this. It ranges from delightfully indifferent, as I ain’t got the time or the patience to put up with bullshit… to incredibly sad and wallowing in my “4ever alone” self-pity.

However, I don’t want anyone telling me how I should feel. Or what I should do to “get a man”. Especially when my (online) dating legacy in the 21st century is that I’m a Black Woman, and ain’t nobody really want me. Because the point has never been about “getting a man”. This isn’t about me thinking I need a partner to be happy or complete or successful or fulfilled.

I come from three generations of women who were once married, but learned how to handle their business and thrive on their own. Momma. Grandmomma. Great-grandmomma. I have seen how hard divorce has been on them. But I have also seen how much more vibrant and whole they were in themselves when they left marriages to men who would never give them the shared life they deserved. (No hating on my daddy; he’s a good man.)

I want to be partnered because life is supposed to be shared. Because despite not having been in an exclusive-boo-thang kind of situation before, I have been in love. It’s wonderful. I want to have children, and I believe children should have the opportunity to grow up in a two-parent home. I want to be partnered because I’ve seen really great relationships, and it seems like the BEST thing in the world. I want to be partnered because I want to build a life with another human being to learn and grow and laugh, for better or worse. I want to have regular sex with one person in the context of a committed relationship. (Sorry if that’s TMI.) And I want to be with someone who will do all the inconvenient shit I hate and vice versa—I’ll cook if you’ll drive; I’ll handle taxes every year if you make sure our home is fumigated.

What I don’t want? I don’t want to be told that I can only get a man if I look a certain way. I don’t want to be told that I can’t make more money than my partner… or be smarter than my partner… or feel like a whole person without my partner. I don’t want to be told to lower my standards, so I can be loved by some triflin’-ass Joe Schmoe. I don’t want to be told I’m responsible for waiting to possibly transform some scrub into a worthy significant other. (I am not your mother.) I don’t want to listen to anybody who is using the Bible or The Rules or any other ancient, culturally-questionable text as a source for their “expertise”.

If I marry, it’ll be great, I assume. If it’s not, welp… I know a thing or two about divorce. If I don’t marry, I won’t die. I won’t shrivel away into a spinsterdom populated by too many cats in my hoader’s apartment. I’ll have fun. I’ll be a really shitty aunt until my nieces and nephews are in their teens, because I truly believe the only small kids I’ll ever like are my own. I’ll travel a lot. I’ll get to decorate my home the way I want, with no compromises. I may adopt some cats or some kids, or both.

I’ll be all right. Just like my momma, and the women before her, taught me.