Where did you see yourself at 24-year-old? I’ll tell you where I didn’t expect to be at 23, pregnant, planning a wedding and living across the world from the closest people to me; my mom and brother. Like all things we plan and hope for, life did not go accordingly, but before I get ahead of myself let me tell you more about my story.
I was born in Luanda, Angola, for those unsure where that is, its a country in the south of Africa just above Namibia. Due to some life occurrences, too complicated to discuss here, at 8 years old my mom decided to move us (my brother and I) to Canada. The next 16 years in Canada were a bit of a blur, I had to learn a new language, new culture, make new friends, and mature in a society that later on I would consider my own. The goals and dreams I created for my life professionally, romantically and personally, were ones based on what I was exposed to, living in a developed country with access to just about everything. It was a great privilege, which I discovered much later on. I finished University at 21.5 years old, yes the .5 is necessary because I am a December baby, with a degree in Environmental Science, with great prospects for starting my career. I had planned in my mind that I would work, organize myself, date and get married by 27 and a year later start a family, meanwhile traveling as much an I could. What a great dream, right? Once I graduated, we (mom and I) decided it would be best for me to move back home to gain some work experience to then later return to Canada and work some more. Things didn’t go quite as planned, once I arrived in Luanda, it was a definite culture shock, the lack of social conditions, infrastructure, and overall the way of life and thinking of the local people took a while to get used to. After 3 months in Luanda, I was blessed with a job in HR, as a fromTraining and Development Coordinator. Goal number one not achieved, or so I thought. Working is where I met my now husband, he began to show me around the city, teaching me more about the culture, and patiently correcting my then terrible Portuguese (official local language). After a year a half of dating, I found out I was pregnant, goal number two not achieved, or so I thought. Something you should know is that here in Angola, once you become pregnant, culturally you must marry the man. So here I was 23, pregnant, planning a wedding and living miles away from my core family. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed by the amount of responsibility that I knew I was about to face. I got married at 7 months pregnant, and a month after I went to Canada to give birth to my son. So, to resume, I am a newlywed, a new mother, and was about to return to my new home living in an environment I was still trying to adapt to, which was goal number three not achieved, or so I thought. About 3 months after having my son, I reunited with my husband in Luanda, where the largest dose of reality was waiting for me. In a few months time, I would have to juggle being a wife, a mother and working full time, essentially, it was not easy. Let me disclaim firstly that my husband is wonderful and helps out as much as he can, but he was also raised in a culture where men don’t usually do much to help in the home or with the daily duties with their kids. According to my dream, I had managed to go off track and not follow any of the ideas I had set for myself. Now, I’ll be the first to tell you that it created a lot of internal conflict, where on one hand I was feeling blessed for my healthy beautiful baby and my caring dedicated husband, but on the other hand I felt sad because of all the pressure I had put on myself based on my plans and ideas of success which made me feel like a failure.
Until this day I struggle sometimes with what my current reality is, maybe because of my feelings of not being as achieved as I had planned, or maybe because I am sleep deprived of breastfeeding during the night, most likely its a combination, but it is a daily conscious decision to not look back. The best part of how my life is right now is that I noticed that, as much as I like to think I should have been more accomplished and I would have done much more living in Canada, single and without a baby, that’s not actually the truth. Now, I feel a certain motivation, drive, strength, empowerment, than I ever did living in the wonderfully developed, opportunity-filled country as a young University graduate. I am filled with ideas, new hopes, new dreams and new goals, all of this because my life took a turn I never planned on.
So, what’s the takeaway, my dear millennial graduates? Its good to have hopes and dreams and goals and you should strive to achieve them all, but what’s even more important is to be flexible. Accept that not everything will go accordingly, and that is okay because they can go even better. Be kind to yourself as you chase your happiness, be kind to yourself, and most importantly, be open to new situations and challenges, because you never know where it might take you.
A night out with the girls is always a well-needed break from our everyday responsibilities. Lately, I have been in an adventurous mood where all I want to do is go out and experience the extraordinary with people I consider family. That is why, when I discovered this trendy activity called Paint Nite, I knew I had to try it.
To briefly explain, Paint Nite is a group of people getting together at a restaurant and an artist comes in to lead a painting class. The best part is that no art experience is required. The instructor explains step by step what to do, and in the end, you are left with a beautiful canvas painting. Oh, and how could I forget, while you show off your inner Picasso, you are can order cocktails! The event is 19+ but for those who are over the legal age limit, you are able to take your masterpiece home with you and share it with everyone.
The event brings culture and creativity alive on a canvas. The night I attended, the theme was called Italy and the organizers played Italian music in the background. For one night I felt like I was sitting in an art gallery in Europe admiring every moment.
Paint Nite is more than getting out of the house and having fun, it gives you a chance to spend quality time with people that make you happy. The event is also a great networking opportunity because you are surrounded by strangers hoping to have a great night as well. I learned that we should not have to take life too seriously. It is important to be open to trying something new because you might discover a new talent you never thought existed. I am not saying by attending Paint Nite you will automatically fulfill a career in art, but a hobby like this may be an escape that will mentally heal you. Use an experience like this one referencing it to anything you try in life, and make it a means of serenity.
Take a risk to experience more and accept new opportunities because the world is full of wonderful surprises and you are not going to find anything by being too safe. My painting may not be award winning but the memory behind it is priceless. By exposing yourself to new opportunities you are allowing room to grow, whether in your career, health or life in general; you deserve to love yourself and what you do.
Nothing I’ve experienced yet can match the exhilaration I felt while walking across the stage to accept my Bachelor’s Degree. My decision to forego my sight for beauty caused everything to be a blur, except for the red folder waiting for me at the other end. My back was straight, my face was beat for the cheap seats (yes, tickets were free, but I digress). My walk was steady but paced at a notch just under “too fast!” I was a hybrid of a model and soldier; I felt my curls bounce with every step. This was my moment and I was surely going to bask in it, even if it lasted all of 9 seconds. I walked up to the dean of my program and outstretched my right hand to shake his. My left hand patiently waited to accept my degree and an alumni pin (seriously felt like I was in a secret society). “Congratulations”, the Dean said.
And I was off.
It has been exactly a year since then and the thought of that day still brings a tear to my eye. The amount of: hard work, sleepless nights, positive self-talk (in reaction to negative self-talk), money spent, energy consumed, experience gained, missed opportunities, junk food, study sessions, mistakes, achievements and of course, education needed to get through my university years; were all worth it when I slipped on my cap and gown.
That time has since passed. I turned in my gown at the end of the ceremony and my degree. My graduation cap sit at a makeshift graduation shrine in my room. Clearly, this was major for me. But what now? I thought I’d be asking the question sooner; but with a fun-filled summer and the start of a new job, I don’t think my high permitted me to come down and ask this question.
But now four full seasons have passed and I wonder where the next high will come from. Will I land a job or position that allows me to practice theories and techniques I spent so much time learning? Will I attain a salary that matches what a “university graduate” deserves? Surely these feats would be a call for celebration. But what about the smaller accomplishments in my life? There won’t be any applause, champagne in fancy glasses, cameras from five family memories asking me to “look here, now over here!”
How will I know I am doing a good job without the celebration? Are my achievements really achievements without a graduation of sorts to mark the ending of a chapter? Even the concept of progress is now skewed for me… Without a pass or fail grade how will I know to move to the next level? How does one who’s found comfort in the institution of education mark success for themselves after they leave school?
I am still figuring it out.
Two solutions I am trying came from Lisa Nichols and a meme, seriously. According to many of Lisa Nichols’ videos on Youtube, we as people tend to focus too much on the “macro wins” in our lives. These our end goals. For example; buying a home, having a book published, saving a certain amount of money or getting a certain amount of clients to support your business, may all be what we will mark as the moment to celebrate, relax or just breathe a little bit. What Lisa Nichols advises though, is to have 10 “micro wins” that will lead to your “macro win”. These are considered benchmarks and they will keep you from feeling overwhelmed by all it takes to finally reach your macro win. She states that having these micro wins established will help to keep you on the right track and organized in terms of where to go next.
A meme I once read said, “celebrate the small victories”. And this automatically made me think of the common expression “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!”
This means if you’ve taken steps in the right direction, acknowledge your commitment to getting that task completed. Say you are looking to have your first novel published. Have you done research on publishing houses who have published books similar to yours? Cheers! Have you put your research down on paper? Cheers! Have you completed your first five chapters? Cheers! Now, this is not to say that you should totally slack off after hitting one milestone, but you should give yourself some credit for the work put in. Progress is a process and focusing on the finish line may sometimes have us feeling dismayed and as if we aren’t doing enough.
Have you experienced this? After graduating, or just in general? I’d love to hear some of the tools you use to mark your progress. Or let me now if you’ve tried the tools above and how they worked (or didn’t work) for you. I know success is sweet, but sometimes stopping to smell the roses on the way there, isn’t so bad either.
“Some of the best lessons that you learned came wrapped in sandpaper” -Lisa Nichols
If I had been full time instead of part time in school, I could have graduated about two years earlier. I would probably be living on my own right now, if I would have just educated myself on personal finance. Maybe I’d even have a car. And that guy… The one that made my heart flutter and inspired me to write again; I should have moved to his city. We’d probably be together- engaged even. What if I would’ve quit my old job earlier than I did? What if…
I could go on like that all day if you’d let me… Or if I did not have progress to make. Many people I know probably could too. They probably do. And I hope they are reading what I am about to write: Please stop doing that! Please stop regretting the leaps you did or did not take. Please stop feeling guilty for what you did, or said, or thought at one time or another. Please quit blaming yourself for where you are or are not in life. Take accountability yes, but please stop beating yourself up. Forgive, forgive, forgive yourself! I know it is easier said than done, but it is vital that you flip the switch on how you process your past, if you’d like to make accomplishments in the future.
The first reason is because you are human. As human beings we work with what we have and this often times determines our next step. We have to pay bills; so we stay at a job that’s not so rewarding but provides a steady paycheck. We keep a job with consistent pay so we can live; so we lighten our course load at school so we don’t burn out (and because school is not cheap). This is what we do. We find a way to make a way. And then we get through. Acknowledge the fact that at the time, that thing you did – whatever it was, was the right choice for you given what you had to work with. And this brings me to my next point.
The second reason you should stop dwelling on past “mistakes” is because you were not who you are right now. The mindset you have, your rationale and your wants and needs are not the same as they were 5 years ago, 6 months ago- or even yesterday in some cases. You are not the same. You have been through things since then, you have learned lessons from your actions, both good and bad. So now what seems like the worst mistake ever was once the best decision you could have made, but because now you’ve seen the outcome, your opinion has changed. Right now, you are like a defeated general looking over a map and pin pointing everywhere your soldiers should have went or every move they should have made, because the war is over. And like the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. Now let me give you one more thing to look at.
You only know where you “went wrong” because you have since learned from your experiences. I can confidently say that at least 75% percent of your biggest regrets taught you one thing or another about life, money, love, family and last but not least, yourself. Take a few moments to think about some of your regrets. Now think about how you now maneuver in life because of the lessons you were taught. Some were hard lessons, I don’t doubt it. But hard lessons or not; it happened, you cannot change it, so why not make some lemonade?
Sitting in the past not only keeps you from prospering in your future, it makes you neglect your present. Who are you now? What good are you doing now? And why would you ever let yesterday, keep you from today? Or tomorrow? You are worth more than your mistakes. You are not the sum of your failures or accomplishments, but the sum of the lessons you learned from both.
Life can be overwhelming, and your personal health will suffer without proper care and the only way to ensure wellness is to maintain balance. The importance of a balanced lifestyle prevents any illness and disease that can arise from not taking care of your mind and body.
This may be a challenge but will be beneficial in the long run. Trust me, being a student I have realized that the only way to simply get through the week, it is crucial that I take some time out of my day to chill out. It may have taken a few mental breakdowns to figure out that stressing out impacts my well-being, but it is never too late to get on track.
Imagine working hard every day and not being able to enjoy it. It’s a total tragedy to live every day only to go home and start all over again with little motivation and enthusiasm. You have the ability to undertake everything you desire you just have to organize your time.
Follow these tips and I promise you, you will be wondering what it felt like before you didn’t have balance in your life.
Relax, Refresh and Recharge
Make a commitment to have some you time. If you’re treating your body like a machine on overload then you must take out the batteries and rest. Take note of all aspects of your life work, play, relationships, etc. By simply organizing your weekly schedules using day planners you can visually see how to go about your day, and fit in a 10-15minute break.
Also, make some time to visit friends and family and enjoy the love that surrounds you. This can be done by fitting in a lunch/dinner date or even spending a fun night out.
After organizing your life (which btw takes time so do not be discouraged – have a routine and stick to it), go through your weekly schedule and eliminate the non-essential activities. Ask yourself, does this benefit me? Will I need this in the long-run? Your life, your decisions.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to get a good nights rest. Not only will you be relaxed, but sleep is an advantage to better health. Staying up late attempting to finish something will end in nothing but a disaster because it will be rushed leaving you exhausted. Being well rested gives you more energy to get more done in a calmer manner.
Remember that you are only human and can only handle so much before crashing. Do not believe that there is a certain way of living, know that being empowering and kind will be the best thing for yourself. Treat your body well and I assure you, you will see results. Feeling beautiful makes you beautiful.
In 2017, I made a promise that I would attend more events within my lovely city of Montreal. This past Sunday I attended Brown Beauties Brunching by Four Brown Girls. The concept is to provide women a place to network while empowering women and highlighting female entrepreneurs. This was their 3rd brunching event and it definitely won’t be the last.
The event was held at building 3737, which is owned by a black entrepreneur and all businesses within the building are black owned! The event was divided into two rooms, one with food and drinks and the other with Canadian vendors. Some of the vendors were Artizans, who sold jewelry, hair products and natural juices. Inhairitance, which is a well-known natural hair salon. Toronto’s own Karlyn Percil was present with her must have success planner. This was great as it opened my eyes to see how many black owned businesses exist and are accessible.
The main event was the discussion panel which consisted of Camille Dundas from CTV Your Morning and ByBlacks.com, Model and founder of Born to Rise Aiesha Robinson, founder of Salon Inhairitance Abisara Machold, founder of !Nu.I clothing Vicky Joseph and comedian Dorothy Rhau. These ladies displayed the true essence of black girl magic, they revealed their struggles within their career and personal life. From Aiesha dealing with Vitiligo, Abisara feeling like an outsider with her natural hair while growing up in Austria and Camille second guessing hair choices to in order to be accepted as a journalist with a mainstream audience.
As women, I think we can all relate to these stories of working hard to prove ourselves in the workplace. Trying to find a balance between being professional while not losing who we actually are in the process is a struggle that many of us face. We watch what we wear, what we say, how we react and as black women we are always questioning our hair choices – natural vs. weave, wigs or a perm. There’s so much that we go through that it can definitely put a strain on us.
Overall, I truly enjoyed the event, from women randomly complimenting each other, seeing people purchasing and interactions with the vendors. By the end of the brunch, the panelists made sure that the women left empowered, knowing that we as women are enough and that we are beautiful just the way we are.