Brandi’s GOLDEN rules! ;-)

I’m 30!

I’m looking forward to seeing how my life unfolds in this next decade.

I’ve done amazing things in my twenties: climbed a waterfall in Jamaica, served on a national board of directors of a wonderful organization, charted a new life in a new city, discovered news passions, became a published writer etc.

I’ve also experienced some not so great things, but I don’t want to kill this vibe so I won’t focus on that. I will say that I’m thankful for everything that has happened because it taught me something about myself and about life in general. As I head into this new chapter of my life, I’m more self-aware and comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been. I hear it only gets better!

I’ve compiled a list of things that I’ve learned over the years. It’s certainly not in chronological order nor is it an exhaustive list. I hope you enjoy and can relate to a few of my GOLDEN rules:

1. There’s hard work and then there’s heart work. Take inventory of your heart and your motives to make sure you’re on the right track. Both are needed to truly be successful and maintain that success.

2. Being happy for others doesn’t take away from your blessings.

3. It’s not important to always be right: peace is better than pride.

4. Find your voice and speak up.  Advocating for yourself = POWERFUL

5. You teach others how to treat you based on what you allow and/or won’t allow them to say or do to you.

6. Forgive. It’s not for the other person—it’s for you.

7. Don’t date ‘potential.” That sets you up for disappointment every time.

9. If you did settle and have dated “potential,” then forgive yourself and move on from that situation because you know what you DON’T want.

10. Love is an action verb.

11. You don’t need to respond to everything. Choose wisely.

12. Keep God first in everything you do.

13. Life is about choices. Think about the choices you make and take responsibility for them.

14. Do your best, pray, and God will do the rest.

15. It’s just nice to be nice. Be a blessing to one person every day.

16. If you’re not pursuing your purpose then you’re not truly living.

17. If somebody doesn’t want to be in your life then let him/her GO.

18. Be honest with your friends but please say it in love. It’s not always what you say, but it’s how you say it that truly makes a difference.

19. Don’t look crazy in the eye. Stole that from my friend JM. It’s so true!

20. Find your personal style and embrace it. Express yourself!

21. Take time to reflect on the obstacles that you’ve overcome in life. It keeps you humble.

22. Pay it forward. Somebody was there to help you so make sure you’re doing your part in helping others advance.

23. Be on your grown man or grown woman and just own up to it (whatever “it” is). You said it, apologize for it, talk about it and move on with life.

24. Sometimes singing and dancing in front of the mirror is very necessary.

25. Respect your body—don’t just give it away to anybody. Sex is too deep for all that!

26. If somebody tells you that they don’t have time for you, then remove yourself from that situation A.S.A.P. That’s an excuse because people make time for those things that are important to them.

27. Go to therapy. Make it a part of your annual check ups. It’s good to check in on your mental health.

28. Be fearless. The worst that can happen is nothing.

29. When a women’s fed up / it ain’t nothing you can do about it—thanks Kells! LOL.  The real #29 is that there are more types of love than romantic love. That’s just one type of love, but there is also familial love as well as friendships. Don’t concentrate solely on building romantic relationships that you forgot about other relationships. Invest in ALL your relationships.

30. Love yourself and enjoy the life you’ve been given. I wished for so long that I had another person’s life. But the truth is that the grass is not always greener and other people have problems too. We all do! You only get one life so make the most of it—even during the difficult times.

What are some of your golden rules?

Are you happy?

“Are you happy?”

That’s a loaded question—one that my father has been asking me (bless his heart!) since I moved back to Chicago. I guess my introverted nature presents as unhappiness. Maybe he thinks I’m unhappy because I left Washington, D.C. to be with him. Maybe he thinks I am lonely or bored.

I began to ponder what it truly means to be happy. What is happiness? Is there a universal concept of happiness? What does it look like? Our culture is obsessed with being happy. We search high and low in hot pursuit of this elusive “happiness.” I love the Crunk Feminist Collective’s analysis of the privileged nature of happiness and happy endings:

“In our capitalist culture we learn that happiness means owning material things, having material worth, being in a traditional relationship, and feeling like you are worth something. It seems like we are always working towards happiness as the reward for hard work, patience, and endurance (sometimes suffering).  We never think about how happiness is a commodity that is bought and sold to us if we are gullible enough to think it can be contained and owned and held for longer than the moments we achieve it.  Companies offer us happiness in a bottle if you can afford it.  If you don’t have the money then you have to settle for hand-me-down happiness, whatever is left over after the well runs dry.  Some folk go broke trying to get to happy”

After reading that, I can’t think the same way about happiness. I can no longer buy into the hype. Instead, I focus on challenging myself, pursuing my purpose with my God-given talents and counting my blessings among other things.

So when my father asks me if I’m happy, I say no. I’m not happy…I’m content. I’m no Bible scholar, but I always refer to what Paul says about being content:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. —Philippians 4:11-12 

Like Paul, I’m learning to be content whatever the circumstances. That doesn’t mean I don’t strive for excellence, but it does mean maintaining a good attitude despite what is going on in my life. Sometimes it’s about enduring through the painful moments, but still finding the strength to face another day. And other times it’s about celebrating what I like to call the “small victories” in life.

 Life is unpredictable, but it’s also short. I don’t want to spend it in pursuit of a fleeting and deceptive emotion as happiness. I want to live the life that I’ve been given and make the best of it. 

Father’s Day Reflections

This Father’s Day was bittersweet. After many years of being in Washington, D.C. during Father’s Day, I’m home with my father. However, the reason I am home is quite devastating. About two weeks ago, I learned that my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. I quickly rushed to Chicago to be by his side as he fights this disease. I never imagined that I would have buried one parent and be the sole caregiver (during this time) for the other at the age of 29.

I’ve jumped head first into the caregiving role—it is exhausting. There is no doubt that I am where I’m supposed to be, but I’d be lying if I said it has been easy. I’ve been here for four days and I’ve been juggle cooking, cleaning, paying his bills, accompanying him to doctor’s appointments, washing clothes, etc. As a person who needs “me time” quite often, I have to take it when I’m able. I definitely enjoy those walks to Target or to the grocery store where I can clear my head or staying up late to write because it’s quiet. It’s hectic but there is no place I’d rather be.

He needed me here and, honestly, I needed to be here. Ironically, his sickness accelerated my return to Chicago (I planned to leave in early-September). It broke me free from the “cycle of misery” that I was living with in D.C. Obviously, I didn’t want to come back under these circumstances, but it was time. I was so miserable. I struggled with depression, battled emotional eating, entered bad/destructive relationships, sought gratification in the wrong areas, cried in random places, etc. I don’t know how to further emphasize that I had been a “hot mess” for quite some time. I tried to hide it as best as I could, but I’ve always been transparent with my feelings so I’m not sure I did a good job.

This journey is not going to be easy—it just began—but I know this is right. This feels right. Living in D.C. no longer felt right. More importantly, I couldn’t imagine him going through treatment alone while I was thousands of miles away. It’s a lonely existence sometimes. I don’t have my network of friends here like I do in D.C. but I keep moving. I need to be there for my father and that is what I’m focusing on these days.

I’m thankful for God for the strength to do this because I’m definitely not able to do this on my own. I pray for patience quite often! I also thank friends who have reached out to me and prayed for me. As I’ve previously stated, it’s hard but even in the midst of this storm I feel peace that I’m doing the right thing. I’m here standing with my father and we’re fighting this together. It’s not a matter of me being a good daughter—it’s a matter of doing what’s right. I don’t know if people assume that I wouldn’t come back to be with him, but in my mind there was no other option.

My father has provided for me, instilled wonderful values in me, taught me the importance of putting God first, pushed me to follow my dreams, set the standard of how men treat me and loved me unconditionally. If I can do take care of him during this time of need then that is only a fraction of what he’s done for me. I know it will never compare but I’m so glad to have this opportunity to be there for him.

Write On: Redirecting My Focus after “Listening” to My Circumstances

People often thank me for the transparency that I express in my writing. I don’t know any other way to be— I keep it all the way REAL (sometime a little too real)—and that certainly translates into my writing. I think that anyone who writes or does any type of artistic expression needs to know that being transparent in your craft allows you to connect with your audience in a very tangible way. I enjoy connecting with people this way and I hope people enjoy reading it.

****************************************************************************************

I’ve been on a path to become a writer my whole life. I was nine years old when I wrote an award-winning essay. Since then, every choice that I’ve made has been strategic in utilizing my writing skills. I did all the right things to align my passion for writing with a fail-proof career trajectory that would (in theory) lead me to the pot of gold known as success. I majored in English, continued to strengthen my writing skills, completed writing-focused internships, graduated with a master’s in communication, and landed a job in communications.

I thought this was the path that I needed to take. When I came to D.C., I had grandiose dreams of excelling in communications. Sadly, that has not happened. I’ve actually realize that this field is not foe me: I don’t enjoy talking to reporters, I am not good at writing press releases, and it’s too stressful for words. I’m competent in communications, but certainly not exceptional. It took me along time to realize that. I tried to force it for almost five years. I had a come-to-Jesus-moment when I realized that communications may not be my calling, but there are other areas where my gifts flourish. I think it was really hard for me to accept that because I have this self-imposed pressure that I need to be good at everything. I had to realize that sometimes I’m going to be mediocre at some things and exceptional at others. Trying to be good at things that don’t come naturally is exhausting—you can’t force it. If you continue to try to force it then it will make you a very unhappy person. Trust me. 😉

So now what? After soul-searching, crying, praying, talking with friends and mentors, complaining, crying, panicking, crying (did I mention crying?) I went back to the basics: writing. I LOVE writing. I experience real joy when I write. It comes naturally to me. I’ve “stumbled upon” so many writing opportunities. I’ve randomly pitched publications and been picked up. I’ve received countless writing opportunities through social media. I never set out to be published, but it just happened.

It seems that my circumstances have been trying to tell me something all along, but I was trying to prosper and advance in something that I’m not meant to do. I’m meant to write. I love engaging topics that I’m passionate about through my writing, being analytical, spreading awareness about albinism, etc. Thankfully, I have not been neglecting my gift even though I was trying to advance in communications. I thought it was the only way to utilize my skills, but now it’s clear that there are other ways. I don’t regret my years working in communications. I’ve acquired great skills that I use often and that are transferable to other areas, but I’m definitely happy to no longer pursue opportunities in this area.

I’m still working on figuring out this “writing thing” as a profit-making career. I know I’ll probably need to work a day job as I pursue this and I’m fine with that. Along this journey, I’ve also found that I enjoy event planning. So I’m making several leaps at the same time, but I’m not scared. The good thing about this “writing thing” is that it has taught me to become fearless.

Questions to ponder: What are your circumstances telling you? Where are your gifts leading you? What dream did you abandon to realize your real purpose?

Learning to Love

“When you really take the energy to pay attention to your relationship. And really put your all into that relationship and love him in a way that your mama didn’t teach you how to love a man.… Sistas listen…treat him like a king if you want to be treated like a queen—it works. ”

 ~Monique (the comedienne) 

A few days ago, I watched Monique’s interview where she talked about a variety of topics including her dramatic weight loss, the cancellation of her late night talk show on BET, love and relationships etc. Her comment above is in response to the interviewers questions about her “open” marriage. The open relationship was her idea because she was constantly on the road, but it backfired when “she realized the king she had at home” and decided to preserve her marriage.

 The part that intrigued me the most is when she spoke about learning to love a man the way your mother didn’t teach you. It resonated with me because what I know about love didn’t necessarily come from my mother. She gave me advice on how to deal with men and carry myself around them, but there wasn’t anything in particular that I learned from her about how to love a man. Do parents have a responsibility to teach us how to love a man or woman?

I think parents do more modeling (observational) than teaching (intentional) when it pertains to love (or lack thereof). In many ways, what is modeled before us is inherently teaching us about love (both positive and negative). Sometimes there is a clear line of distinction. For instance, I do not look to my parents’ marriage as a healthy model for love (what they modeled). However, my expectations about how I am supposed to be treated by a man come from the standards that have been set by my father (what he taught me).

 I think it’s definitely possible to learn about the nature of love from your parents, but learning how to love a man or woman is unique to the individual. It requires navigating through relationships and realizing what works or doesn’t work. It means not viewing love through the lens of the broken relationships that abound in families. It means not looking to society’s distorted view of love as the standard. It requires some soul searching to discover the ways you experience love, and in turn, show love to others. All those factors combined with putting in the work and energy that Monique was referring to influences how you love a man or woman.

Stop Giving….

“Stop giving”

That was a recent text from a family friend. Here are the series of texts that led to that response:

Family Friend (FF): Hope you enjoy your long Easter weekend. Hope you meet the love of your life soon…(additional stuff not related to this post)

Me:  Thanks for your message! I think I’ve given up on meeting the love of my life. I just want a fulfilling life. (additional stuff not related to this post)

FF: You are too young to give up. My cousin’s daughter married at 42 and is having a baby at 44. Life will happen. Love you.

Me: LORD! That’s a lot in her 40s. I just don’t know if I will meet someone of quality who will do the work. I always end up giving more of myself. It’s exhausting. Love you too!

FF: Stop giving. (additional stuff not related to this post)

Stop giving. That has really stuck with me. What would it be like if I stop giving? I’m a giver at the very core of my being. I’m not sure if I don’t know how to stop giving.

I’m a giver. I sometimes don’t like that about myself but it’s in my nature to be a giver—I give of my time, my resources, my love, my talents, etc. Like I love hard, I give equally as hard. I don’t give to necessarily receive to win the affections of people. I give out of my being because I have so much to share and offer.

To be honest I’ve shut down. I’m shut down from men. I’ve shut down from friends (I’m currently not friend shopping). I’ve shut down from people. I don’t trust anybody at this point. I’m just tired of giving so much of myself and people not giving in return.

Maybe I need to adjust my expectations or know whom to give the appropriate amount of myself to. I’m not sure. This is where I am right now. I’m aware of my feelings and I own them. I’m not trying to stay in this place forever but I need to take a time out from giving. What does this look like? I’m extremely intentional in the people that I invest in right now. I’m sticking to my inner circle of close friends. I’m very protective and not willing to let new people in my life.

If you’re not investing in me then I’m not investing in you. I’m not interested in being in large groups for long periods of time. I’m taking “me time” as needed. I’m also just really careful about opening up to people as I’m in a fragile state. (I know that this is totally ironic that I’m writing all of this for people to see but writing is different. As a writer, you it’s necessary to provide a certain degree of openness to connect with others.).

During this time, I’m learning about boundaries and how it relates to giving. I want to be able to have open communication about giving in my future relationships/friendships. Let’s just put it out in the open. I don’t want to get to this exhausted state without doing some work to prevent it.

I know being shut down is an issue—it happens. I’m prone to it because I’ve been hurt a lot in life. However, I don’t want this to be a common practice or a way of life. Guarding your heart is a very wise  but there is a difference in that and being shut down. We’re made as social creatures and quite honestly I know the value of social interaction. I also think that I can’t fulfill my dreams being closed off to people because they are central to what I want to do in my life.

So I’m just taking this time to heal, keeping it in prayers and receiving the love and support from those that I treasure. These issues are very prominent in life as I’ve recently had a deep conversation about this with my bestie the other day. I also went up for prayer after church and the thing the minister focused most on was HEALING FOR MY BROKEN HEART. I wholeheartedly received that prayer as tears rolled down my cheeks. I know that this is something I need to deal with.

Will I stop giving? Yes, for the time being but I don’t think I’ll never be able to stop giving.It’s not who I am.

The Power of Rejection

Hello! I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a long time. My bad—I’ve been crazy busy. I’m still posting. 😉 I’m loving my journey to 30!! I’ve learned so much about myself—growing and being challenged daily.

***********************************************************************************

Rejection—the mention of the word evokes very powerful emotions. It’s something I know very well. I’ve experienced rejection in my home life, in the professional sphere, and at the hands of so-called friends. I’m not alone. I know many (if not all!) people have and continue to struggle with rejection.

There is another side to rejection though. I’ve learned in my almost 30-year life journey that rejection can be empowering (stay with me here!). It is powerful because you can reject those things that are not aligned with your feelings, circumstances or expectations.

Actively rejecting others’ (and societal) expectations and standards for my life has been freeing because I’ve spent most of life trying to live up to others’ wanted me to be.  It was both unrealistic and exhausting — I lost myself in the process.

I’ve also learned that you don’t have to accept the things that people say to you. You have a role in it too—don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself because you are your best advocate.

Here are some things I actively reject in my life:

Pressure to get married and/or have children: As I approach 30, there is a part of me that wonders if I’ll ever get married. Then the other part is clearly not in any rush. Why the pressure?  Self-imposed pressure? Societal pressure? I reject it. If it’s one thing that I’ve learned from others’ experiences it’s that marriage and children don’t solve your problems. I reject the pressure. There are things that are really out of my control but carrying the pressure of when I’m going to get married is not one of them. I’ve also learned in my late-twenties to live with intention, which means to be active and present in life. I have dreams and a purpose and I’m in HOT pursuit of those things. Obviously, I’m human so I do have moments when I question or wonder why marriage hasn’t happened for me but I also think about the bigger picture of why I was placed on this earth. Then I think that I better get to work because I have a lot to accomplish!

Those who believe that my experience isn’t valid: I’m a Black and I have albinism—one can’t exist without the other. I recognize that it is human nature to want to put everyone in neat “identity boxes.” I know that is tricky for people because my identity is complicated. Recently, I had a conversation with somebody who was questioning an aspect of my experience as a Black woman with albinism. I was explaining to him that I do get sexual advances that relate to my albinism (some men find it to be a fetish). He said I receive those advances because I’m a woman and that the albinism was a lesser factor. I reject that. I know what I’ve experienced. I’m not going to argue with anybody about what I’ve been through. I don’t owe him an explanation about my life and what I experience.

Other people’s negative words: Let’s face it—words are powerful. I don’t think that sometimes people really think about the things they say. People have said hurtful things to me at various points of my life. Unfortunately, I’ve internalized a lot of their negative comments. However, as I’ve grown older, I try really hard to reject the things they say. It is a struggle because of the power that words carry, but I make an intentional effort to counter those negative words with positive thoughts and words. Sometimes I’m instantly successful at this and other times it takes more time than I expected. I know it matters though that I’ve actively seeking to reject people’s negative words.