culture, Epiphanies, Joy, Self-help

What the Yardstick Does Not Measure

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“Don’t let this social media stuff go to your head,” my college classmate Kiare tweeted. Of course, newsfeeds and home pages are awesome. Electronic birthday, anniversary and event reminders are clutch.

But, social media pressures and vanity metrics (like likes, favorites and comments) can keep the online world more aspirational than candid.  My social media snapshots a life stream that does not have an indestructible dam to plug the flow of pain. I spotlight certain aspects of my life and sequester others.

Be clear: Everybody with a Wi-Fi connection is not owed our innermost thoughts or concerns. Our pain is not Girl Scout cookies, seasonally consumable in return for cash and orders. The street committee does not need a primer of our insecurities. However, shaping the narrative certain ways (even through pictures on Instagram) can create a perception that nobody struggles anymore.

Everybody is ecstatic to live lives devoid of worry. Everybody loves like never before. Everybody is always on honor roll. Everybody graduates early and contributes the most esoteric point to in-class discussions. No one worked that unpaid internship compensated in connections and experience. Baby weight evaporates. Cars immediately upgrade. Promotions come early. We are all the most socially conscious (i.e. “woke”), quirky and connected to public figures and celebrities. We all travel more than we work and never juggle a bill to do so. We know literary canons and obscure political facts without Googling. We are post-modern. We are yogis.

I push myself to be honest. I try to propel a positive mindset and slay my personal dragons. Yet to be fair, a few ways I have managed my online image include:

  • Not posting full-body selfies when period bloat puffs my figure.
  • Not posting photos, videos or otherwise capturing in real-time the day my face slid across the dinner table, sobbing over a guy (who I would later delete and block and awkwardly listen to as he begged in-person for a pathway to inclusion back in my life because God is the ultimate headlining comic in this show called life).
  • Untagging, erasing or suppressing pre-braces photos that captured the lone snaggle-tooth that kept my smile from being as Crest-y as I wanted in early adolescence.
  • Generally, locking my struggles in a safe until I am ready to share.

Some people call the comparisons “yardsticking.” Others say knowing what everybody has going on (in actuality or through cyber make-believe) creates F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out). Some say we never actually break up with the past because cyber-creeping (online lurking the social media pages of people, organizations, entities and more) prevents clean slates for new experiences.

I do not advocate telling all of our business to anyone who will listen, read, tweet or subscribe. And still, we can wrestle with a culture that reinforces existential curating over collaboration. We can resist the urge to use another person’s most public accomplishment as the rubric for our most painful one. We can decide if or when a social media reprieve will rejuvenate our spirits.

We can determine the line between honestly portraying challenges and letting hellions invade our quiet space. We can disempower the trolls, emboldened by egg avatars, pseudonyms and hatred. We can support those who support us.

We know that social media is amazing.  Informative. Stressful. Transformational. Dangerous. Global. Unifying.

We should also know to live as fully as possible, share with care and honor universal auntie advice:  “Do you, boo-boo.”

Freedom, Gratitude, Joy, Peace, Self-help

Here’s 13 Things I Appreciated About 2013

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The year 2013 bids us adieu. As exciting as it is to see this year end, it’s also inspiring to see what 2014 will bring. After finishing my New Year’s resolutions, I opened the Word document of my 2013 ones.

Let’s be real. I did not review resolutions consistently all year. Or monthly. Or weekly. I went for what I knew. I gave my best efforts. I worked hard. Grace covered me.

In no particular order, here are 13 of the many things I’m appreciative of about this year:

•My friends are a kaleidoscope of compassion and companionship. Everyone does not live, look or believe similarly. But, they all provide something necessary and beautiful to my life. I pray that I do the same.

•I performed a poem in class. I hadn’t performed (a.k.a. “spit”) since 2011, the year I graduated from college. Glad to know that case law, legalese and such didn’t rob the kid of her flows.

•I’m freelance writing. It’s unpredictable. Yet, I am grateful for every chance to see an idea to fruition and be compensated for it. I studied communications/journalism in undergrad; however, some people have a disposable mindset on content curators. They think blah-blah-everyone’s-a-journalist-or-writer-nowadays. So, when editors honor the value that specialization brings to publications, everybody wins.

•Which reminds me of how I started 2013. Finding out that the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education picked up one of my columns for HBCU Digest.

• The Duval County School Board voted unanimously to change the name of Nathan B. Forrest high school. People in Jacksonville, Fla. decided not to keep a slave-trader and KKK Grand Wizard’s legacy alive via the name of a training ground for developing minds. My hometown has lots of remaining work in terms of inclusivity and progress, but this is a start.

•My high school teachers welcomed my visit and let me speak to their classes. The students seemed intrigued by my message. It was wonderful.

•A professor I have a career crush on thanked me for my contributions to the learning environment. ‘Twas when I learned of an academic high. Acadorphins? Endorphidemia? Ok. No more jokes? Next bullet point.

•School is better. Things click more. Interdisciplinary advocacy, here I come.

•People have patiently helped me when I’ve been in tight spots. Real-time reminders that no one is an island unto him or herself.

•Black and brown girls are shining. While celebrities, beauty queens and successful women can be triggers for some, they fuel me to become self-actualized. Everyone doesn’t have to know my name. I just want to answer my calling.

Anyway, Rihanna constantly does her thing. Erykah Badu models for Givenchy. Beyonce’s album. Miss America. Miss France. The world is abundant. There’s enough light for everybody to catch some rays.

•My family is a blessing and safe haven from chaos.

•I’m halfway through law school.

•And finally, you’re reading this. Thank you.

Safety, love, light and laughter to y’all. Feel free to share some of your gratitude list. Bring on ’14!

Freedom, Health, Joy, Love, Self-help

Oh, boy. She chooses joy. ;-)

Full disclosure: In between my usual  fashion, national, global and marginalized community reads, I am also into self-help, Law of Attraction, Handel Method style goodies, and the occasional uplifting Bible verse.

With that being said, it is always something. A friend, a foe, a romantic interest, a bill, a familial issue, a misunderstanding.

There is always a reason to choose chaotic interpretations of life. There will always be something, and that fact is neither a negation nor an excuse.

Sometimes it is an opportunity to take more time for and with oneself. Other times it’s a wakeup call. Sometimes it seems like a quintessential sucky situation that only makes sense a few life markers later. Even with our troubles we can choose joy.

The alternative: philosophical plate tectonics. Mad shifty, yo.

Figure out what works for you. For some, conceptualizing the temporary experience of life in terms of a larger, collective body is helpful. Feeling kept by a power greater than our understanding provides solace for many. Others believe that such is scientifically unproven hogwash.

And that’s fine. Everyone should not believe in God, although doing so suits me. Humanity is not helped by advocates of monolithic understanding, worship and/or existence. Free will keeps our kind spicy.

I’m pretty proud that a series of recent occurrences reminded me that I control my happiness, destiny and decisions more than any other force, voice or noise.

People throw shade. Life reroutes ships. We question the waters. Still we sail.

Taking offense to ideological differences is not helpful because people bring their frame of reference, which includes experiential knowledge, privilege, biases, successes and shortcomings to everything that they encounter. It is far less about us and more about them.

Owning other people’s issues is inappropriate. And applying one’s own logic to a dissimilar individual rarely begets peace or understanding.

Baby steps. Sometimes backwards. Sometimes away from the chaos. Sometimes to the mirror. Sometimes three hops this time. Reverse!

Life will not always be  quality conversation, eel and avocado rolls, good wine, room for dessert and tan lines (or your version of happiness), but if we actively seek, appreciate and revel in joy, perhaps, it won’t seem so evasive.

It is an exciting time. Do things loom or bloom? Your choice.