Jealousy and Envy

Daddy issues. Mommy issues. Color issues. Self-Image issues. Body image issues.  Inferiority complexes.  All of these things spew out of our hearts with disdain for others, when in reality we are jealous and envious of what they may have.  I used to see people with their parents and hate the way they took them for granted.  I would think, “If that was my mom, I would…” or “If that was my dad, I would…”  I hated myself for not having those relationships, and I disliked others who did not understand how great they had it.  There are many people who have Daddy Issues, a lot of people who have Mommy Issues, and then the smaller group of us who have both.  The concept of being parentless is so painful and exclusionary at times.  You feel that you do not have an anchor or a home base, because you are not connected to at least one of the people who brought you into this world.

I pitied myself and self-loathed for being a sort of orphan and wore my wounds externally.  I constantly poured salt into my own wounds and made sure that my pain was visible.  I carried myself as a victim of circumstance and clung to the concept of being different for all of the wrong reasons.  All of this boiled down to being jealous and envious of people for reasons they could not control.

Rehashing this sounds so silly, but as a child that longed for connection, it was my reality.  Although I did not battle long with my color issues because I went to a HBCU where I was surrounded by multicultural and multicolored beauty, I did look in the mirror and tear myself apart.  I longed for a sense of perfection that made me say, “You are not pretty enough,” “You are not tall enough,” “You are not short enough,” “You are not skinny enough,” “You are not thick enough,” “Your hair is too short,” “Your face is too round,” and it played out in times of failure as if any of those things were connected to my outcomes.  I look back now and long for my college physique, but at that time I felt that certain aspects of me kept me from achieving my goals.

I am not sure where my epiphany came, but I remember getting into a friend’s car my Sophomore year and she said that I looked different, prettier, happier even.  My inner self had changed and I had accepted me for who I was and that allowed my inner beauty to enhance my outer beauty.  Prior to this moment, I had failed to realize that my self-doubt and criticism of irrelevant things were the only thing keeping me from achieving my goals.  I had nothing to lose, but my personal, self-imposed chains.  The freedom that came with acceptance allowed me to change my energy and attract light with light.  I no longer yearned for what I did not have, but I highlighted my strengths and let them overshadow my weaknesses.

Life is a learning process and it takes time to become the best us.  There is always a better version of us waiting to be tapped into.  The depth and complexity of who I longed to be was tied to many things, but released by the power of love.  I had to love myself enough to know that I was more than enough today, and will be more than enough tomorrow.  I appreciate my experiences more, because I am able to connect with those who may be going through a similar situation.  I can now give hope to those who may feel that the lack of something is a stumbling block, when in reality it can be used as a stepping stone.

Jealousy and envy is more than just wanting someones lifestyle or material items, it can go deeper than that.  The desire to have what someone else has or had will not bring those things to you, but accepting your circumstance will allow those voids to be filled with the things that you need.

You will not get what you want, but you will get what you give.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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Set Your Own Expectations

If we became only what other people thought we would become, many of us would have never achieved half of our accomplishments.  Somewhere through the negative noise and circumstances, I told myself that I was going to make something out of nothing.  Some of this came from positive television shows that depicted the awesomeness of college and success, along with great movies that showed the underdog coming out triumphant every time.  Looking back now, that was a window out of my dark world and into an opportunity that helped create my ambitious spirit.  We become what we see around us.  I was influenced by more than just the images I saw on TV, but by amazing people who used their gifts to love and lead me.

An aunt that I grew up around always expected excellence from me.  My aunt spoke to me in a way that helped me to see the greatness in myself.  I always felt like she was my personal guardian angel, but she used her gifts to support and encourage her friends, family, and students .  Being around her always made me strive for more, despite anything that I was going through at the time.  The seeds of success had been planted by family and teachers throughout my life, but while I was in high school my aunt tilled and cultivated my intellectual, emotional, and social garden.  She did not allow me to make excuses or pity myself.  She helped me to see the lessons in my negatives and taught me how to use them as positives in my future.  She allowed me to speak freely, but did not allow me to retain that bitterness and anger that permeated my soul at times.

These important moments in my life taught me that no matter what others said I would or would not be, what others assumed I could or could not achieve, or whatever things I did not have were not determinative of my success.  When I went off to college, I did not have anyone pushing me to be the best.  The first semester I coasted through and ended up with mediocre grades.  I had to refocus myself, decide if college was where I wanted to be, and step up to the plate to prove to MYSELF that I belonged at Howard.  There were so many times when I wanted to give up, but I had to remind myself that I was built to win and the end result would be worth the sacrifice.

Many times we allow others to set expectations for us.  We live up to the standards that are set by those around us.  If the expectations are high and we do not achieve it or if the expectations are low and we exceed them, our success or failures could become a stumbling block to getting to our true purpose.  If you want the most out of life, YOU have to expect more out of yourself and follow your heart, not just simply achieving what others want for you.  People may see you working hard and admire you, but you know if you need to put in more work to get to the next level.  Outsiders may exalt you for what you have done, but you have to remain focused on where it is that you want to end up.  People may laugh at your failures and remind you of where you said you would be, but only bitter people measure your failures against their standard of success. Remain driven, passionate, and ambitious to not lose sight of your dreams.

Expect greatness from yourself.  Walk in excellence.  Speak positively.  Teach willingly.  Live in humility.  Give your all to everything that matters to you most.

Set your own expectations.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Do Not Feed the Fear

I am sure this has been said by many great thinkers and a few books have probably been written on this topic alone, but for me this statement is personal.  I have used this as my personal mantra to step into the unknown and believe that everything will work out.  At every major turning point in my life where I had to make a major decision, I was afraid and feared what I did not know.  Despite the fear that I had or that others had for me, I was able to focus on my dreams and not feed into my fear.

When I got accepted into college and did not have a plan in place to get me from one year to the next, I focused on graduation, making my family proud, and completing what I started.  When I studied for my nursing boards while working full-time, I focused on passing, making more money, and making the past 5 years of my life worth every moment.  When I decided to leave nursing and pursue a legal career, I focused on gaining knowledge, expanding my network, and having access to different opportunities.  You have to have a focus and it cannot be your fear.

As I countdown the days to embarking on a new journey, I naturally have fears that run through my mind as I pack, but I only allow them to rest for a moment.  I think about it and push it out by thinking of all of the great things that I know are coming and can come from this next opportunity.  Many times we begin to discuss our fears with others and allow that negative seed to plant and grow roots in our minds and spirit.  That fear keeps you awake at night, it keeps you from making sound decisions, and it keeps you from stepping into your destiny.

Someone recently told me, “You have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  Although I initially thought that I hate being uncomfortable, I realized it is only when I am uncomfortable that I actually take the risks that yield great returns.  I have been in DC for 11 years and had plans on staying for at least 2 or 3 more. I had to be broken down and detached from my place of comfort, so that my heart would be open for this opportunity.  If I would have been presented with this opportunity months ago, I would have turned it down because I would have been waiting for my ideal job.  My brokenness, my desire to get back working, and my openness to my personal definition of “ideal” is what allowed me to interview for this position and move my entire family there knowing that this was the right decision for us.

What I have learned over this part of my journey is to Fear NOT.  I do not fear because God is with me.  I do not fear because my steps are ordered.  I do not fear because everything is working together for my good.  My faith has sustained me even when my mind could not rationalize my reality.  You have to grow through every season, especially the ones that are tough to get through.  Many people talk about having tunnel vision but never discuss how hard it is to get through the tunnel to the light. As you walk through the tunnel you have to stay focused on the light and not fear the darkness that surrounds you or your situation.

Do not feed the fear.  Let your faith sustain you.  Greater has to come.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Processing the Pain Properly

For the past year I have been looking for the right opportunity that would combine both of my degrees and experience.  I started the search and application process for positions as a 3L, and I just knew that I would be starting a new job soon after taking the bar.  After not hearing back from many of the opportunities I applied for and receiving many rejections, I began to increase my search, get creative, and network like crazy.  Although I felt that I had a lot of support and even a few potential opportunities, nothing seemed to pan out.  At various points through this process I was close to having an interview that would lead to one of my dream positions, and suddenly everything would suddenly fall through.  I could not understand why these things were happening to me, despite all of the work I had put in over my lifetime.  Arrogance.  Here is where I made my biggest mistake.

I wrongfully assumed that just because I sowed in many ways that I would reap my harvest when I was ready for it.  I wrongfully assumed that I did not deserve to go through this lull because I had been doing the work.  I wrongfully assumed that I had the credentials to get me into every door and I should be being recruited, instead of applying for jobs that I probably was over qualified for.  We all know that assumptions are wrong, especially those made about a life that you cannot completely control.

Instead of believing that something greater was coming, I was bitter that it was not here right now.  Instead of focusing on being able to sustain and still keeping things together, I focused on the things that I could have been doing if I was working.  But then I was reminded of why I left my job back in 2011.  I was extremely unhappy, my previous positions lacked autonomy, and I did not feel that I was appreciated or encouraged to grow.  After I realized that I never wanted to go back to being into that type of situation, I sat back and became patient again.

With my renewed patience I began to process my pain.  I realized that I needed to be humbled.  I had to begin to understand that I was not above growth.  I felt that I was doing so much that I did not need to grow in any area of my life because I was DOING things.  I did not have to pray more, focus more, read more, balance more, love more or think more.  I did not feel that I had to be fixed because I had made it this far being who I was.  Once I started to process my pain, I realized the agony came from me pushing against the process instead of learning as I endured.

It is hard to tell someone to enjoy the pain.  It is not easy to convince yourself that these feelings of depression are only temporary.  I acknowledged that these feelings are normal but I allowed them to consume me.  I allowed my situation to take over my outlook.  Even when I was able to come up for air, something would happen that would make me feel that I needed to stay under in order to survive.

When I began to take control of the things I had power over, I started to feel better.  Updating my financial spreadsheet and creating a debt elimination plan helped me see that I was not too far under or behind to catch back up.  Reconnecting with my friends and having very frank conversations about my personal struggles helped us all to see that we are all going through and growing continuously.  Finally, not being so hard on myself for being upset that I am unemployed was an okay feeling to have and there should only be an issue if I ever lost the desire to work despite my dreams and aspirations.  This feeling of uneasiness pushed me to continue applying, to continue asking for help from others, to continue exposing my vulnerability and need for others to survive.

For all of these things I am grateful.  I am still processing my current pain and hope to go through my next valley with a better mindset.  I am growing and growth is a beautiful thing.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Law School. Check. Bar. Check. Job…

Everyone has their life planned out in their head to work out perfectly at every stage of their life.  Once we finish high school we plan to get into the college of our choice without having to worry about how to fund our education.  After we finish college we plan to land the perfect job that pays great and makes all of those late nights, exams and stressful moments worth it.  We plan to grow at our jobs or obtain all of the skills we need to get a better job and build our career.  After enjoying our early 20s we decide we want more and go back for an advanced degree to open even more doors.  After obtaining our post-graduate degree, we plan to walk into our dream job, make a difference and save the world.  Many of these plans work out but we are never prepared for the bumps along the road.

Many of these things were possible pre-recession and actually happened for a lot of people who are only a few years my senior.  Those of us entering into the market post 2008 experienced many unplanned bumps that derailed many of these well-intentioned plans.  Throughout undergrad, I was able to obtain jobs fairly quickly and build up my resume.  I  landed my dream job out of college.  I left that job and immediately started another job in DC.  I went back to law school thinking that we had passed over the roughest part of the downturn and we have, but the market will never be back to the pre-recession glory of jobs and opportunities galore.

I left my job as a bedside nurse so that I would have more autonomy over decisions that were being made in healthcare and for my patients.  I loved my job but I did not like the politics.  Politics in healthcare harm patients and undermine the mission and values of the healthcare industry.  I left my job because I wanted to be happy and I decided that my next job would be something that I loved, doing what I love and building up to my forever job.

This mindset kept me from applying to just any job, taking just any salary or just doing something to get a check.  I made great money coming out of undergrad, so I know that I cannot make any less than that, but additionally I know my value.  The issue is getting others to see my value and getting the position that will allow me to use my skills while growing as a health care advocate.  I just want to be happy and to grow within an organization.  It sounds simple but I know that it is so much more complex.

Everything does not work out as planned but that does not mean that we made any missteps or should have done anything differently.  We have to believe in the good times and bad times that our steps are ordered and the desires of our heart will lead us to the right place.  I am not here to just build my resume but to actually achieve my goals of changing the world and improving the healthcare industry.  This time is just a test of my patience and to see if I will stick to my guns or fold under pressure.  I know the right opportunity is coming and when it does, I will be glad that I waited.

Throughout life we can plan with the best intentions but bumps will come, foreseeable and unforeseeable.  Through these moments we have to hang on tightly and stay focused on our end goal.  Having a support system in place is vital and helps to maintain your sanity, stay encouraged and stay the course.  After you have checked off all of your goals and one remains, know that the last check is coming in due time.

Focused. Check. Patient. Check. Grateful. Check.  Job…soon to be checked. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

Job Seeker (Entry level risk management, healthcare policy, healthcare advocacy, healthcare law): www.linkedin.com/pub/irnise-fennell-williams-jd-rn/52/304/b60/

If I Listened to Society, I Would Have Never Succeeded

Children like me are not supposed to graduate from high school early.  They are not supposed to go to a great college or university.  They are not supposed to finish and get their dream job.  They are not supposed to get dissatisfied with their career and go back to a great college or university for a second degree.  They are supposed to have a baby out-of-wedlock but they are not supposed to marry their child’s father.  Children like me are not supposed to own a home, complete a second degree and have opportunities to choose from.

If I listened to society’s message about being black, motherless, fatherless, poor or a mother before I planned, I would have never succeeded.  If I listened to society’s message about the value of an education at HBCUs, I would have never fought to stay at Howard every semester and would not have went back to Howard, declining scholarship opportunities at other law schools.  If I listened to society’s message about balancing a family and your dreams, I would not be investing all of my free time into making my dreams turn into a reality.

Society has a way of shaming, demeaning and humiliating women, mothers, poor people, minorities, working parents, those who are not sexual conformists or sexual purists, and anyone who attempts to advocate or speak up for these groups.  The messages that are highlighted in mainstream media, backed by “policies” and shown through biased images oppress, silence and discredit these groups. The instant and ease of access to social media, video recording and outlets that connect millions of people together have only begun to shed light on the truth of who we really are and who we can become.

YouTube videos, blogs, Instagram and Twitter hashtags have connected people from different walks of life who have endured similar experiences.  These mediums have allowed us to see that many of us are more alike than we are different, that we are powerful and we are beautifully complex and interesting. We have been exposed to amazing people with unique backgrounds, survivors of horrendous crimes and minorities who are making a difference in their communities locally, nationally and internationally.   We are beginning to accept that poor people are not the enemy and breastfeeding in public should be supported and not shamed.  We are applauding working parents, stay-at-home moms and dads and those who chose to do what makes sense for their own families at that time.  We are beginning to accept that civil rights should be equally applied to everyone despite who they love.  We are respecting the talent and value of a person despite their sexual identity.

The exposure to the possibilities of life and the truth of our existence has transpired because we have stopped listening to society.  We have taken control of our stories, the images we consume and strengthened our power by rejecting the limited scenarios that we have been offered to choose from.  Our power is to be feared.  An open and aware mind cannot be controlled.

They said I would never make it.  They said I should not go to college.  They said I would not finish college.  They assumed I would never find a job.  They thought I would become like my mother.  They wished that I would give up.  They hoped I would stop believing. Their words, thoughts and wishes did not work against me because I did not listen to them. I have succeeded because I did not allow them to define my success.

Stop listening. Succeed.  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

When Taking Risks Leaves You Broke

I take a lot of risks.  I just live.  I think about something I want to do and I do it.  I always pray about it, do a balancing test but in the end even if the good outweighs the bad 51% to 49%, I am going to go for it.  Going to college was a risk.  Taking a job in Baltimore while all of my friends were still in DC was a huge risk.  Moving back to DC because I couldn’t take Baltimore anymore was an even bigger risk.  Leaving my job to go back to law school…RISK!

Although these sound like calculated decisions, which in many ways they were, in many ways they were not.  I have given all of my furniture away and slept on the floor of a family members house, slept in an empty apartment, went without cable and TV and much more because I am more risky than calculated.

Many times this decision has left me broke.  Prior to law school, I always paid my bills on time and lived off what I had left.  I worked ridiculous amounts of overtime so I could at least enjoy my weekends regardless of bills, but my risky decisions have left me in tears many nights, trying to figure out how I was going to pay for something I needed.

Surprisingly, I have never had to go without.  I am the Queen (ask my Twnnie) of getting random checks in the mail. GOD PROVIDES.  I have amazing friends who always come through in the clutchest of moments and now I have a supportive husband who is self-less and extremely humble.  But I am still hard on myself for not being the perfect saver.

Through this apparent self-pity party I realized that despite all of my many risk, everything has always worked out.  I received a grant for two years to pay for my undergrad loans.  When I moved back to DC, I met amazing friends and expanded my support system.  Law school was one of the best intellectual experiences I have ever experienced thus far.  My options in life are limitless and this is just the beginning.

I really am writing this post to remind myself that everything has always worked out.  That these anxiety attacks are the work of the enemy because there is something greater to come.  One day I will be in a position to help little girls like me and more importantly, I possess more in life than money can buy.

I want to be that person who has the suggested amount of savings, can lend people money without ever needing it back, and can live without ever being broke.  At this point, I know it will take time, patience, and a financial adviser (one is already on speed dial).  But I am happy, I am blessed, I have no regrets and I have done everything in life that I have ever wanted to do and will continue to take risks in the future.

Don’t be so hard on yourself and don’t focus on your imperfections.  If you were perfect you wouldn’t need God, your friends or anyone else.  It takes time to build an empire and your steps are ordered.  See the past 27 years of your life (insert your age for mine).  Be you.  Do you.  Tell your story.  On your own terms.