What I Had to Go Through

People see you at various points of success within your life, but very few people see you in the midst of the process.  They see you as you enter into a challenge and many times won’t see you again until you are exiting that challenge. All of the tears, late nights, self-doubt, and conversations of quitting are not put on a display for the world to see.  Based on the images of the beginning and the end, many people assume that you have something special about you that others may not have.  Despite this perception and misconception, the only thing that makes me different from the next person is that I went through what I had to go through to get where I wanted to be.

Many times people ask for something and as they enter onto the path to get what they asked for, they self-destruct.  People turn around to go back to their comfort zone at the first sight of handwork, adversity, or stress.  Every person that is extremely successful today had to go through some dark moments.  Even those who we think woke up and had it all, still had to endure life to get to a place of peace, joy, or love.  We measure the success and happiness of others based on the materials that they possess instead of the characteristics that they have obtained.

I try to be as open as possible on here to share that this process is not always pretty.  Many times you try to smile through the pain, but it becomes overwhelming.  I am not perfect, my life is not perfect, and I am not done going through rough times because life will not stop because you remain stagnant.  Although I am in a happy place right now, this place has come with its own set of challenges and sacrifices.  I have wanted to turn back and return to my comfort zone, but my calling and my amazing support system has forced me to push through.

If you are truly yielding to your internal instinct and living life to the fullest, you are going to have to endure some painful moments.  You can never prepare for these moments, but you have to believe that they will pass.  If you get stuck in the middle of your journey, because you feel that your current state is your future state, then you will never make it to your next destination.  We assume that life will wait on us, but know that if a seed is placed in your life and you do not care for it, God will take that same seed and sow it into someone else’s life.

What I had to go through may not be what you had to go through, but we both had to go through something.  As we fight through this life to get to the next level, build people up as they navigate through their journey.  When you tear another person down when they are struggling to get to the next level, you are only removing the rungs from your own ladder and hindering your own progress.  You may never see what  I go through, but just know that I had to go through some things to get where I am.

This thing is bigger than me and because I am only a piece of the bigger picture I must remain diligent and steadfast.  Don’t focus on everyone’s picture perfect beginning and end, respect that there was a process even if you did not see it.  Don’t criticize what others have when those are the exact things that you want.  Get off of the side lines spectating at everyone else’s success and do what you have been called to do.

Your success is waiting on you. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

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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.

Shaming Victims Empowers Abusers

Today was an emotional day for all of the wrong reasons.  I caught wind of some statements made by Stephen A. Smith on his show First Take.  He and his co-host were covering the 2 game suspension of Ray Rice due to his highly publicized domestic violence incident with his wife. Despite very few people knowing the exact details of what occurred in the elevator, Mr. Smith decided to glide into the discussion of domestic violence.  His statements have been transcribed and the two-minute clip is easily accessible.

The words that hit me in my gut were “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions” and “And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen.” followed by  “we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. “Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way.”

I immediately read the entire transcript of his statements again.  I stopped to think about what I just read and decided that there was no way this man could have said these words on national television, so I read the transcript a third, fourth and fifth time.  I wanted to be clear about what was said, the context in which his words were used and to affirm any disbelief that I had of these words being used against victims of domestic violence.

I am not here to discuss the scenario that these comments stemmed from or to discuss how many women “provoke” men to hit them.  I am here to simply say that these types of statements, made by powerful people with platforms, based on extremely complicated & damaging situations are overly simplified.  They are overly simplified by dismissing the severity of a man hitting, punching, slapping, grabbing, shaking, pushing or verbally abusing a woman.  It not only shames victims, but it empowers the abuser.  Everyone is clear on the old saying, keep your hands to yourself, but no one has the right to dismiss a persons uncontrolled temper as simply actions that were caused by someone provoking them.

I shared a piece of my own story of watching my mother being abused as a 2 year old and it took me to a place of pain, because I know a man who used to say that she provoked him.  That something as simple as not speaking loud enough, looking away from him or not being where he wanted you to be, when he wanted you to be there was what provoked him to leave a boot print in her back.  So when a man says that you should not provoke a man to abuse you, I ask how.  How can a woman not provoke a man who has already resolved to abusing her? To controlling her? To making sure she knows her place in this world and in his house? How can she avoid the abuse when she is not working and has children to feed? How can she avoid the abuse when she does not have any transportation to flee from her abuser? How can she stop the abuse when everyone around her is in denial and refuses to help her?

My own story is not one that I share alone, but one that was echoed by many women over my timeline.  This story was shared by men and the abuse their mothers endured.  Domestic violence has left many women dead.  Domestic violence has left many children motherless.  Domestic violence has damaged many people’s self-esteem, life and livelihood.  Domestic violence is not a casual conversation to be governed by a PSA from a sports newscaster.  Domestic violence is not a topic that can be simplified and a general band-aid placed on for your comfort.  Domestic violence is real.

As we speak women are enduring the abuse of a man.  As we speak someone is being murdered for attempting to leave their abuser.  As we speak the search for an abuser who left a child alone while he killed their mother is happening.  Everyday.  We hear the same story over and over, but somehow we come right back to pointing fingers at the victim.  She created this problem.  She stayed.  She is dumb.  She should have known.  She, the victim is not worthy of our empathy because clearly she provoked him.

I want to go so much deeper into my own story, but to wade in those very dark waters would take me to a place I am not ready to go to.  To all of the men that decided that verbally abusing me on Twitter would convince me that all women provoke men, know that I am unbothered and will not waver in standing up for victims of domestic violence.  If you know me, than you know I do not play.  If you do not know me, come for me when I did not send for you on a topic that is too real to me, and you will find out quickly that you cannot stand toe to toe with me on a topic I have experienced and can back up with numbers.

This is the beginning of a deeper conversation.  One that many of us are afraid to have because although the wounds are not visible, for many, they still remain.  To those who have endured abuse, survived abuse, know someone who may have even died, I pray for you and know that you cannot be silenced.

If you are a victim, you should not be ashamed.  Shame on your abuser. Be you.  Do you.  Tell your own story.  On your own terms.

 

 

No More Obligations

 

NeeNee and Papa

Married for 49 years and 10 months

When you finally feel like you have life under control, something comes and knocks you right off of your feet to remind you of how unpredictable life can be.  My heart had already sensed that a tragedy was going to strike, but I knew that I could not change it so I tried to brace for it.  You cannot brace for death, no matter how many times you tell your self that death can be easier than life because your family member does not have to suffer anymore.

Last Wednesday morning was a complete whirlwind.  I received a call from my aunt that my grandfather had suddenly become ill.  Although they had not pronounced him dead, I knew in my heart that his battle on this side was finally over.  I began to cry and try to figure out how I was going to get home on such short notice and then the second call came, informing me that my grandfather had a massive stroke and that he was not going to recover from this one.

In those last few minutes of his life, my family rushed to get everyone together to say their last goodbyes.  I sat at my desk and tried to be apart of that moment through the phone as my family gathered at his hospital bed.  I got a short glimpse at him and said goodbye and I love you through blinding tears.  Within minutes he released his last breath and his soul was set free to the other side.

Then the tears began to flow even more.  The wails of grief rang through my silent house.  I began to contact my other family to inform them of my grandfather’s sudden departure.  And the stages of grief immediately set in.   DENIAL.

This could not be real.  This could not be happening.  This could not be happening right now.  Not during my bar prep.  Not when I didn’t have a plan to get home.    Not while our family was already dealing with so much else.  Not right now.  Not today.

As the hours passed and I decided that I could wait no more, I jumped in my car, prayed and set forth on my journey home.  I arrived into a whirlwind of emotions.  Everyone was dealing with this sudden lost of our patriarch in their own way.  The next few days was a roller coaster of moments.  Some preparing for my Papa’s farewell, while others were full of tension and distress.

I remained emotionally stable for the most part but all my built up strength crumbled onto the notes of Safe in His Arms in the service that paid homage to his life.  The reality set in that my grandfather was gone forever.  I could no longer call him and ask for advice about my car, talk about current events or update him on Baby Adam’s new achievement. I never got a chance to repay him for his many sacrifices and self-less acts that made me the woman I am today.  He always believed in me and my dreams.  He never wavered in his love for any of us.  He had a heart full of unconditional love spread evenly across each child, grandchild and great-grandchild.  He did everything he wanted to do, which was to simply care for us and give us better opportunities.

As I stroll through the last four stages of grief, staggering back and forth between depression and acceptance, I am comforted by the words No More Obligations.  These words were shared a few months ago at a memorial service for a professor who had passed away.  His friend shared these words of comfort with us and they never left my soul.  So I embrace the fact that my grandfather has No More Obligations.  No more appointments, no more medications, no more leg braces and wheel chairs.  No more dependence, no more restrictions, no more stress or strains.

As I deal with this loss and the minor set back in my study schedule, I am comforted in knowing that God has placed another guardian angel in my corner to guide me along the way.  Grandparents are special people.  Grandparents are even more special when they step into the shoes of your parents.  And for that, I am grateful.

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

Papa Thinking

Never Complained. Just loved and lived.

Why Me?

This is the question I used to scream in the darkness of the night as I endured abuse, neglect and hunger.  The question I asked God right after my father would tell me that I would never be anything when I grew up or that I was fat, stupid or dumb.  A question that lingered every birthday, Christmas or major event my mother was never present at.  I used to ask this question time and again but I would only hear silence in response.  I never received an answer until I stopped asking.

I asked Why Me while in pain and many times while experiencing joy.  I never felt that I should be where I was, good or bad.  I felt that I should be somewhere else, that this life was not my own, that I should not have to be going through this or too unworthy to be experiencing that.  But then one day I woke and stopped asking Why Me and started to live in the moment.  I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I stopped apologizing for my past, present or future and I stopped feeling worthless.  I was supposed to endure and survive, I was supposed to excel and succeed, I was supposed to be an example to others.  Asking questions is great but your questions may prevent you from hearing the answer.

If you are not happy where you are, do not ask why me, but instead watch, listen and learn.  You are there for a reason, you are there for a lesson, and you are there for someone else.  So many have sacrificed their lives, livelihood and their safety so that we may be where we are today.  It is not an easy concept to accept but it is a truth we have to live, own and use to empower.  Instead of asking the Creator Why Me, ask yourself Why Me and you will see you are the only person prepared for the job.

I am using my past, pain and purpose to change the world. That is why he chose me because He knew I wouldn’t give up, I wouldn’t back down, and that I would take this world by storm! I only heard the answer when I stopped asking the question.  Be you.  Do you.  Live in your truth.  Tell your story.  On your own terms.

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