I am on the next part of my adventure as I bring my 30 days of self discovery to a close. I am on Amtrak headed to Durham, NC where I will spend a few days until I head back to Charlotte. I am sitting in the cafe car and this post was inspired by an adorable little boy wearing a Spiderman shirt around 5 or 6 years old. He is caramel, with big brown eyes and a short haircut. He is traveling with what appears to be his mother and two sisters. He is soft spoken and attempts to lay on his sister. His "mother" tells him that he can lean on her if she grants him permission. Positive parenting. He curiously asks her what it means to lean. She laughs and moves from her seat to show him. She gently takes his head in her hands and leans it towards his sister's shoulder. The "mother" smiles and then returns to her seat and captures the moment on her camera phone. His sister appears to be around 11 or 12 and has thick sandy colored natural hair that is in a ponytail and braided down the middle of her back. She doesn't seem to mind him leaning on her but ignores him at the same time.
I later discover from listening to their conversation, that the woman is actually their aunt. She gets up to take the little boy to the bathroom and he asks her curiously, "Is the train going to derail?" She responds gently, "no" and laughs again. I thought to myself that this was a very interesting question. Why would he ask this question? Did it come from a place of fear? A place of curiosity? What did he know about derailment? Had he heard about it on the news? Had someone in his family told him about it? And then in a flash, I thought about how this was such a metaphor for where I am in my life right now.
past tense: derailed; past participle: derailed
cause (a train or trolley car) to leave its tracks accidentally.
"a train was derailed after it collided with a herd of cattle"
* (of a train or trolley car) accidentally leave the tracks.
"the trolley cars had a tendency to derail on sharp corners"
* obstruct (a process) by diverting it from its intended course.
"the plot is seen by some as an attempt to derail the negotiations"
This is how google defines derail. I am derailing my life in so many different ways at this moment in time. Obstructing my life by diverting it from the course of complacency. I'm dissecting everything I know to be true and questioning everything in relation to what I have been told over the years. I am digging deep, questioning my relationships, my beliefs and attempting to get to the core of who I really am. It's not pretty, it's painful and it's life changing.
We are all vibrational. When we are vibrating at certain frequencies, we attract similar vibrations. For example, when we are operating on the vibration of being victimized, things will show up in our lives that cause us to be a victim. We will continue to question why we are being victimized but rarely do we take time to examine this, take responsibility and figure out why we are operating from a victim mentality. This is not self blame, this is taking a hard core look to see how we developed this mentality and what we can do to change it.
It is said that whatever we are experiencing during our birth is what we attract in our lives. From the time we are in the womb. I want to heal myself so I am doing all the work I can to do so. I sent my mother a message and asked her to describe in detail the situation surrounding my birth. How she felt during the pregnancy, the delivery itself and anything she could remember about me in her womb. I haven't read the response because I am on a train with people and don't want to cry hysterically in front of strangers. I don't know what her response entails but I know she was 18 and pregnant. That, in itself, is enough to make me cry.
When I am ready and am in a safe space I will read it, I will take note of everything that transpired for me to take my first breath. I will see how the universe conspired to make sure the sperm from my father married the egg from my mother and created a whole human being.
I am in awe of all of God's creations as I pass by trees, bodies of water, flowers, animals and buildings on this ride. I think about the individuals that God gave the idea to build houses, trains and cars and create businesses. I think about all the individuals on this train whose lives are connected as we ride together to our destinations. We are all just a speck in the universe however we all have an important role to play. Do you know how amazing you are?
Thank you for taking this time to spend with me.
Please know that in today's blog post, I will be rambling. Mostly for my own deep need for expression. There are so many guidelines as to how things should be done, including writing a blog to garner the attention of readers. We often get too caught up in who is paying attention to what we are doing. A lot of times, people are paying attention that you aren't even aware of. They don't comment or like, however they read, take the information to heart and act upon it. Those are the people I am attempting to reach as well as those that may like or comment but haven't even taken the time to read. All are welcome.
My intention for this blog is provide insight on my thought processes, offer inspiration and let people know they are not alone in their quest for that "missing something" in their lives. If am able to do that for just one person, I have succeeded.
I am still on my self discovery trip to DC. I am constantly in a mode of self discovery and to keep it real, sometimes it can be isolating. Not lonely, isolating. I do not own a TV and rarely watch unless I am visiting family and friends. I am not completely sans TV access considering I have a smartphone. I do love documentaries and movies and have watched more than my fair share since I have been in DC as my friend has a TV and Netflix. I watch Power and The Ozarks but sometimes they get too dark for me and I have to take a break.
Do you know how difficult it is to attempt to have conversations with people that spend the majority of their time watching the news? I have no idea what's going on especially currently being a social media break. I have had people tell me "You have to know what's going on in the world" and I think to myself, you mean the propaganda they are feeding us on a consistent basis in the form of fake news? You mean the fact that we can't even think for ourselves anymore? If I am feeling froggy, I actually say it out loud. And their response is usually something like "You are actually right, the news is so depressing, but I need to know if 45 is going to get us blown up." I know that my opinion is unpopular and some may even consider it ignorant, but I'd rather just randomly be doing something I love and get blown to smithereens than to be sadly sitting in a corner anticipating my demise.
I am NOT in any way judging you if you love watching the news. I completely understand the need to be "connected." I would be hypocritical to say it's a waste of time because I have wasted more than my share of time scrolling on Instagram seeing what people are doing in their lives. It's the same. I have no idea if what these people are posting is fact or fiction. And the sense of excitement you get when you find someone that enjoys watching your favorite show and sharing thoughts on what's going to happen in future episodes is exhilarating. But I am on a quest to unplug from that type of connection. I want something more. I want to make connections around vibrations, energy, spiritual liberation, ancestry and love. And sometimes that can be isolating.
Plot twist. The quest to make these new connections can't be done without looking at the harsh realities of how we have gotten where we are as a people. I visited the National Museum of African American History & Culture over the weekend. I didn't have tickets so I had to go to the 1 pm showing and the museum closed at 5 pm. I spent almost all of my time, minus the time I spent in the cafe having a $10 lunch of mac and cheese and potato salad on the first floor of the museum. The first floor is actually four levels and it is emotionally draining. I almost cried several times and rushed through the majority of the exhibit for that reason. PRIVILEGE. I am sure the people that were actually going through the things that I saw wished they could have rushed through it. I had to check myself. It started from the 1400's telling the story of how slavery began. It covered slavery, segregation, desegregation, affirmative action and more. The thing that gut checked me the most......a pair of baby sized shackles. I almost lost it. And thinking about it now brings me great sorrow.
There were people of all nationalities at the museum and as I left one question plagued me. Why do they hate us so much? Every ounce of that exhibit showed an extreme hate for black people and how the people in power manipulated that hate for their own gain. The majority of the footage that I saw in that exhibit could have been taken recently. That's the saddest part. The next day after visiting the museum, I saw Blackkklansman. Yes, it was overload.
I won't bore you with a thesis on race relations. They have already been written. I will just pose this question for those who think that racism has been exacerbated since 45 took office or that it's just propaganda to cause friction between the races. If social media or the news didn't exist would racism still exist? If your answer is no, you are privileged. You are privileged to never have experienced it first hand and you are fortunate. I have experienced it first hand and I have biases wrapped around those experiences. I wasn't even aware of those biases until I traveled abroad to Ireland. Being the only person of color in 98% of all the places I visited I found myself focusing on it consistently. At one point, while shopping at the mall, I wondered if they would think I was stealing. even though every Irish person I encountered was nothing but kind to me.
DC has definitely offered me a different perspective. Every person I have encountered since I have been here has been kind, friendly and welcoming. I cannot say the same for Charlotte. I have spoken to people and they have looked me dead in my eyes and not parted their lips, people have let doors close in my face and haven't offered any gratitude when I have held doors for them. Over the past several days, I have seen groups of people of different nationalities having meals together, walking down the streets together, an abundance of interracial relationships, people have held doors for me, said "thank you" when I held doors for them and struck up random conversations with me and it feels good. Have I found my tribe? Should I move to DC?
Class started today and I am back at it again. This time pursuing an Associate's Degree in Marketing. On May 17, 2018 I graduated from Central Piedmont Community College with an Associate's Degree in International Business. I was strategic in completing this program in 2018 because I wanted to graduate at the same time as my nephew, Evan (Mallard Creek High School class of 2018). I wanted to share this moment with him and show him that no matter what is going on in your life, if you set a goal and work towards it, you can complete it. You can find pictures of our joint graduation photo shoot captured by Michael Maxwell at the end of this post.
I am a depression survivor and have worked hard to maintain my mental health since my diagnosis in early 2000. At one point, I was even suicidal and will share more about that in future posts. I am a HUGE advocate for therapy as it was one of the tools that saved my life during that difficult time. I knew I would need help to stay mentally healthy during my return to school. My therapist was pivotal in helping to realize just how monumental this task was for me. I never gave myself credit or celebrated my victories in life. I would complete one task and simply move on to the next task. She taught me how to move past that behavior. I am forever grateful for Natasha Oates. A few months before graduation, she had me make a list of all of challenges I had to overcome to get to where I was and read it aloud. I honestly was shocked at all that I had encountered and pushed through to get to that point. Here are a few things that were on my list.
1. Third time really is a charm. Prior to returning to college, I had dropped out of school three times. First from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in 1991, (AGGIE PRIDE!) second from Central Piedmont Community College in 1992 and lastly from Cosmetology School several years later. Yep, I am even a beauty school dropout.
My stint at A&T was simply a matter of unpreparedness and bad timing. I had never been away from home, never been exposed to that amount of freedom and just wasn't ready to enter college. I am so thankful that they developed the Gap year. I think quite a few students can benefit from taking a year off before going to school. I always tell people I majored in partying and minored in shopping. In college I developed a bad drinking habit and bad credit.
When I returned to CPCC in 1992, I still wasn't ready. I was working by this time so school wasn't a necessity in my eyes and I still wasn't quite sure what I wanted to be when I grew up and that still hasn't changed. I did well in classes but I lacked focus.
Years later, when I finally discovered my talent for natural hair, I decided to go to Cosmetology school to get my license. The problem was that I loved natural hair but HATED everything else I would have to learn in cosmetology like relaxers and roller sets. I wasn't learning anything that would benefit in my career as a natural stylist so I dropped out and went on to become not only a successful natural hair stylist but a two time salon owner.
2. Surgery happens. During the final year that I was in school, I had to have two separate surgeries and was diagnosed with gallstones. My thoughts are that stress increases the amount of pressure placed on our bodies and I was under a huge amount of self imposed stress. My first surgery was in January for a kidney stone that was found during a trip to the emergency room. If you are unfortunate enough to have had a kidney stone, you understand the amount of pain that I endured. I suffered for 8 hours prior to going to the ER because I thought it was just a bad case of gas. As it got worse and worse, I knew something was wrong. The ER doctor said it was too large to pass, so I would have to have surgery.
Ironically, that surgery led to my second surgery. The surgeon said I had a cyst on the one ovary that was left from a previous hysterectomy and that I needed to see an OB/GYN about it. I wasn't experiencing any pain at all in association with the cyst but decided to follow up anyway. The OB/GYN said the cyst was huge and that the ovary needed to be removed. I had a study abroad planned in June so I asked if the surgery could be postponed until then. She agreed and the surgery was scheduled for July.
In June, one week before my flight to Ireland for my study abroad, I was taken to the ER again for excruciating pain in my side. Diagnosis: Gallstones. The doctor told me that I would have to see a specialist when I returned and that I could not drink alcohol in Ireland. He was from Europe and knew Ireland's reputation for pubs. I agreed and decided to just give up drinking permanently.
I am happy to report that the gallstones disappeared, my surgery went well and I am the epitome of good health.
3. Pressure bursts pipes and creates diamonds. Life happens and if you aren't careful, it will wipe you out. Amidst all of the challenges, I graduated with honors and a 3.9 GPA. I was the first person in my immediate family to graduate from college and as Evan starts college today, I hopefully will not be the last.
I graduated at the ripe age of 46 so please know that age is only a number. It doesn't matter when you start or when you finish. If you have the determination, you can accomplish anything. Now I am back in school again to obtain another degree. I chose an additional Associate's degree because I only needed 8 classes to meet the requirements. It was a no brainer. I am not sure if I will continue on to obtain a Bachelor's degree but I am open to the possibility if a school offers me a full ride. I just enjoy learning. College is not the end all, be all and I am glad that I had the opportunity to figure out what worked best for me.
Thank you for taking time out of your day to share these moments with me. What challenges have you overcome to complete a goal that you really wanted to achieve?
If you read my blog post from yesterday, you are aware that I embarked on a self imposed 24 hour silent retreat. The "retreat" took place in a friend's apartment that I am staying at in DC. The picture above is my view from her apartment. This 'retreat" consisted of 24 hours of silence. No TV, no music, no phone and internet access limited to only items related to reading and writing.
I didn't have any expectations for my day except for one. I figured I would probably sleep most of the day away from sheer boredom considering there is only so much reading, writing and meditating you can do. I was wrong. I actually didn't sleep at all. However, by the end of the day, I was tired and I went to bed at 9pm. I slept like a baby and was up at 5am! I thought this was surely some kind of miracle because one thing you should know about me is that I LOVE SLEEP. I have been making a conscious effort to get up at 5am though (more about that in a later post) so this was a win. As I maneuvered through my day I learned quite a lot about myself and had some A-ha moments. Below is a list of things that I learned.
1. Being silent is harder than being alone. On any given day, we are communicating in one way or another. Talking on the phone, talking to people we encounter as we come and go or texting a million times a day. I like to spend time alone but outside of daily meditation, I don't spend much of my time in silence. I am usually listening to an audiobook or music while surfing on Instagram. I don't own a TV but I sometimes watch Netflix on my phone. (I am a documentary lover). All of these activities involve some type of distraction. To be in silence for 24 hours, except for the sounds outside my window, was more difficult than I imagined and allowed me to have empathy for those who cannot communicate. Being in silence can be very isolating and very freeing at the same time.
2. I talk to myself alot. I didn't realize just how much dialogue I have with myself on a daily basis. Yes, we all live inside our heads and have conversations with ourselves but I literally was talking to myself out loud yesterday. I caught myself 3 times and by the fourth time I put my hand over my mouth and thought "shhhhhh, silence!" I wondered just how often I talk to myself out loud on a regular basis without even noticing it.
3. Solitary confinement needs to be abolished. As the day passed, there was a moment that I thought about prisoners in solitary confinement for some strange reason. I thought about how they are confined to a small space, with no view, in silence. How it would be easy for a person in that space to lose their mind. I thought about Shawshank Redemption and how determined Andy was to escape. Not only from the confines of the prison but from the confines of his mind. The other prisoners seemed to have adapted to the fact that they would be in prison and didn't know how to live outside of it. We saw this from Brooks committing suicide. This is only a movie but one I am sure most of you have seen several times. I thought about Kalief Browder and how he was imprisoned for a crime that he didn't commit, was subjected to solitary confinement and committed suicide once he was free. More than likely part of this was because of the abuse he suffered at the hands of those in prison with him, but the other part was probably from the abuse he subjected himself to mentally. I spent my day saying affirmations, praying and meditating. I am a positive person so I could imagine that if you were not positive, the crazy things that would go through your head. The reinforcement of those negative thoughts over and over again.
4. You can accomplish a lot in silence. I had to find ways to keep myself occupied throughout the day and by the end of the night I was astonished at all the things that I had done. I read "Your Invisible Power" by Genevieve Behrend and "Kehinde Wiley; The World Stage: France 1880-1960." Part of this book was in french so I enjoyed seeing how much french I recalled from high school. I also cooked breakfast for myself, washed dishes, did a load of laundry, meditated, prayed, worked on my website, wrote a blog post, worked on an online course I am enrolled in, reformatted my resume, wrote a cover letter and applied for a position that I am interested in. (Prayers up that I get it, if it's meant for me.) I never would have gotten half of these things done if I was on Instagram scrolling or getting my Netflix and chill on.
5. The ego is cantankerous. I had plenty of time to think yesterday. During those thought processes, I realized how difficult it can be to combat the ego. It wants to be in charge. It wants to be seen, to be heard, to be the center of attention. I found my ego caused me to continuously read over my blog post to make sure there were no mistakes. My ego made me question whether or not I could have the position that I applied for. My ego created a whole dialogue around how any one would see my blog post since I was on a social media hiatus. Honestly, I wanted to slap the shit out of my ego. I said to my ego that mistakes happen and that if my writing wasn't perfection, who cares? I released my fate with the position I applied for to God and the Universe. If it's meant for me, there is no way I won't have it. And I laughed at my ego because there is a such thing as auto post to social media so even when you're on hiatus, you can still post. Death to the ego. I know that is just wishful thinking but with continued work, I think I can get close to alleviating ego's attempted grip on my life.
I was anxious to turn my phone back on this morning to see if I missed anything. Guess what? I didn't. I had informed my loved ones of what I was doing so no one texted me during my 24 hour retreat. My ego questioned that too. But I told my ego that they respect me and my wishes and that is why no one reached out to me. Overall, the 24 hours was enlightening and something that I think I will incorporate into my life at least once of a month moving forward.
Have you ever taken time off to be silent? If so, share your experience in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you.
I’m back! If this is your first time reading my blog, welcome! You are unaware that I used to be an avid blogger. Life happened and I haven't written in a while. It’s been way too long. I lost access to my other blog login so all my old blogs are lost to the internet Gods. Such is life. Fresh starts are always a great way to rediscover who you are.
I’ve missed writing and hopefully those of you that are returning have missed reading about my adventures. I’m on the path to my greatest adventure yet! I have been a natural stylist for 18 years and owned a salon with my best friend, Kelley. Kelley and I decided to close our salon on August 1 so that we both could pursue our heart's callings. I am officially retired from natural hair care. It has been a crucial part of my identity for years and now my spirit wants to do something different. I honestly believe that my angels (yep, I believe in angels) were waiting for me to retire so that they could show me all the wonderful things in this next phase of my life.
So, what’s next?? I have no idea and I’m ok with that. My goal is simply be, grow spiritually and tap into the divine path that was created for me. I started the journey by taking a self discovery trip to Washington, DC. A childhood friend invited me to apartment sit for her while she is working in Martha's Vineyard. The timing was divine. I will be here until September; reading, writing, meditating, praying, sight seeing, connecting with old friends and day tripping to NYC.
Today, I decided to take a day of silence. For 24 hours I will not speak, listen to music or watch TV. I will not text or even have access to my phone. The no access to my phone part was super scary for me. Self doubt crept in and I started to question myself. What if something happens to someone I love in the next 24 hours? How will someone be able to get in touch with me? No phone for 24 hours? Are you crazy? What if someone needs your advice or needs helps or what if someone dies???? I light weight freaked out for a few seconds then I took a deep breath and calmed down. I am not a doctor so I cannot provide medical care for anyone. The people that may need my advice will just have to figure it out on their own today. And if someone dies, I hate to be blunt, but, they will be dead. I cannot save them. I am not equipped with that power. There is nothing I can do about that. I believe that everything happens just as it should and that all will be well.
So, now you are freaking out reading what I just wrote, questioning me and yourself. Wondering if you could ever do such a thing and asking yourself what the hell I am going to do for the next 24 hours with no TV, music or phone? I am going to sit with myself, meditate, pray, read and write. I am going to listen to the sounds of the city outside my window. I am listening to a child screaming on a playground as my friend's apartment is located next to a daycare center. I can see trees and a cathedral in the distance. I hear cars passing in traffic, people talking. horns beeping and the motor in the refrigerator humming. Sounds I would not be privy to if I was on my phone or preoccupied with other activities. I am simply going to be.
Thank you for taking time out your day to be with me. If you are compelled, tell a friend. Let's take this journey together.
Depression survivor that discovered the power of positive thinking.