#Alonetogether – The Bright-Side of Quarantine

I will be very honest right now, before the quarantine, I thought I was going to burnout. Life was happening too fast. A lot of change in both my professional and personal life all at once was hard to process. I remember one day, waiting for the train in the hustle and bustle of the morning, I was probably late, and thinking to myself, how can I slow down? I daydreamed of possibly taking a week off, just to focus on me. About 2-weeks after that, shelter in place in New York City was mandated. While being sensitive to all of the uncertainty and turmoil of COVID-19, the complete pause in work and life was just what I needed. Thank you, Jesus.

I welcome this much-needed break to get in touch with myself again. I am so grateful for this time to just be. I love working from home. My commute was insane, crowded trains, every single day can wear a person down. I love spending time with my dog. I love zoom calls with my friends. I’ve been able to carve out time to read and write; My last post on this blog was in 2018…two years ago! I also listen to music and watch the Verzuz battles without guilt.

Speaking of the Verzuz battles, I am obsessed with them. The battle between Babyface and Teddy Riley...Babyface won in my eyes, but Teddy had hits. The battle between Johnta Austin and Neyo…Johnta won hands down, but I was reminded of all of Neyo’s hits. He should’ve played “Say It,” that’s one of his better songs. Clearly, I only care about the R&B battles, but I’ve followed the others as well. There’s been a drought of good R&B music so it’s nice to see it get some notoriety again. Jamming to DJ D-Nice on the weekends brings such a smile on my face and a real sense of community. I’ve literally added 50-songs to my Apple Music playlist because of his sets. I also had time to discover new artists, who I know will be my favorite, like Doja Cat. Her sound is a breath of fresh air. Would I have had time to listen to her latest album three times in one day before this? Probably not, but I did today.

Watching TV and movies without a care in the world is now one of my favorite past times. Below, I share some of the TV shows and movies I’ve watched in the last month.  Trust me, I have more, but was trying to limit my list (will share my suggestions more often). Unorthodox on Netflix was probably my favorite. Only 4-episodes but it packed a punch and left an impression on me. I’ve always been intrigued by Orthodox Jews. Especially since I grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Tiger King was so insane, I had to pick up my jaws a few times while watching. Awkafina is Nora from Queens, is hilarious. Her grandma reminds me of mine, just an Asian version. Malcom X was such a powerful movie. I believe it was one of Spike’s best movies. Everyone is throwing shade at #BlackAF but I actually loved it-Bring on Season 2. Twenties, is such a dope show. If I was ever to write a show, it would be similar vibes.

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I say this all to say that we are in this together. This is such a unique time of being still and we should really utilize it to tap into who we are and who we want to be when we survive this season of quarantine. Use this time to stay home (if you can and as much as you can), allow yourself to dream, practice discipline, take online classes, utilize youtube and other resources for fitness, practice boundaries with working from home and not allowing it to seep into your personal time, connect with family and really appreciate the value of life.

 

The 52 List Project – Journaling

The 52 List Project is a book that I rediscovered during this season of quarantine and it has served as a form of self-care, intentionality, and a means of escape. In 2018, I purchased it in hopes that I would complete it at the end of the year. However, from the looks of it, I’ve only completed up to week 24 and then I put it down to collect dust. Revisiting this book during this time was actually therapeutic. I was able to review all of my hopes in 2018 and reflect on how much my life has changed since then. Now, I have all intention of completing the book to my best ability. I never realized how powerful creating lists about your life, hopes, and dreams could truly be. Below are some of my favorite prompts from the book thus far. Please take the time to answer the below questions for yourself.

 

#TimesUp A Woman’s Fury (My Story)

Times UP Tracee Ellis Ross
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It was the first warm Saturday in April, after a viciously long winter season. My friend and I were at a bar, enjoying the weather and a tropical drink. The vibrations in the packed restaurant were high, everyone had the same idea to get out of the house and enjoy a delicious dinner. We stood at the crowded bar because the wait for service was over an hour and the bar seats were taken. Engulfed in my friend’s story, I shook my head in agreement with her as she spoke and then I heard someone say “Excuse me.” Before I even turned around, I was shifted out of my place and moved to the side by someone. It was a man, trying to get the attention of the bartender. I do not know what was worst, the fact that he said excuse me, while shifting me to the side or that he physically shifted me. I was livid. I questioned if I was PMS’ing because I got so mad. I’m usually pretty calm and understanding about these situations, especially considering how packed the restaurant was, but I was angry.

I could not continue the conversation with my friend. I just stared at him. My friend catching the cue stared at him too. He must’ve felt our ice-cold eyes on him because he ordered his drinks and then proceeded to tell the bartender, “Whatever they are having put it on my tab because clearly, they stopped talking when I came around.” With a straight face, I said, “You touched me. You literally shifted me.” He replied, “I was only trying to order, I’m sorry sweetheart.” I rolled my eyes and he called me mean. He said my friend clearly was the nice one.  I was angry at that moment and I didn’t know why. He offered to buy us dinner but we declined. It was a girl’s night and we were enjoying each other’s company. Later on, when he was done with his dinner, not only did we finally get a seat at the bar, but he approached us again. I was able to explain to him how offensive his gesture was. I tapped him on his side, since I couldn’t physically shift him, because he was bigger than me, to illustrate how invasive he was to my space and my body. He finally agreed that I was right and moving forward he would be more aware of it. It was a happy ending to a complex history of objectification and patriarchy. The next day, I questioned if I overreacted. Then I heard Tracee Ellis Ross’ April 2018 TED Talk and I realized the root to my anger. In it, she refers to a similar situation that happened to her friend at a post office:

“This fury was not my friend’s alone. Her fury was ignited by lifetimes of men helping themselves to women’s bodies without consent…There’s a culture of men helping themselves to women, and in this case, in a seemingly innocuous way, where a woman’s body is like a saltshaker: ‘Get out of the way so I can get to the fries.’” –Tracee Ellis Ross

It’s sad that it took Tracee Ellis Ross’ speech to give me permission to feel comfortable with my reaction. She gave me permission to not only be angry but furious and to revel in that fury because it’s generational and it’s a compilation of the fury of my ancestors. The fury of the women before me who had no agency over their bodies…their bodies! Yes, my personal anecdote may seem innocuous and I probably would have never written about it had I not seen this TED Talk, but #TIMESUP

If Issa Was My Friend… Insecure Season 2 Episode 1

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Photo Cred: The Atlantic

The season 2 premiere of Insecure was like soul food. Issa’s character awkwardly over thinks herself into crazy situations, setting her expectations high and leaving her disappointed; similar to what I do on a daily basis, especially when it comes to my love life. As the twists and turns of the episode unfolded, I found myself shaking my head and screaming at the screen “No girl.” Not from a place of judgment but from a place of understanding. Been there and done all of that.

Thus, If Issa was my friend, was born. My Iyanla senses want me to get to the root of Issa and Molly’s decisions this episode. I want to be apart of their friend circle anyway, so this is technically, me, bringing the idea of having Issa as my best friend in my head to life. See how that works?

If Issa was my friend, I would’ve told her, “No! Don’t sleep with Lawrence. They always come back but that doesn’t mean you should give up the goodies as soon as they do. He’s just not ready.”

Breakups are rough, especially when the woman is the one who cheated and is at fault for it. Some guys in these situations, develop these self-righteous attitudes like they are so much better than the cheating woman. They act as if they are so disgusted by the presence of this woman. Even if the guy wasn’t so innocent in the relationship himself, something happens to his ego when a woman cheats; his ego is crushed and he pretty much changes.

This is what we are seeing happening to Lawrence. Lawrence loved Issa but now that Issa betrayed his trust, he’s unforgiving. My only issue with this is societal double standards that are in favor of men when they cheat but not when women do. When a man cheats, the woman is supposed to forgive and get over it. Which in most cases we usually do. Society tells us to accept the reality of a cheating man because “MEN CHEAT.” Whether that is true or not, we have desensitized cheating for men, but have not done the same for women. When a woman cheats, the consequences are grim. The men in these situations are not as forgiving and they are conditioned to walk away from the situation without any chance of reconciliation. Lawrence’s first instinct wasn’t to forgive Issa, it was to hurt her as much as she hurt him. It was to sleep with other women. Not once was it to hear Issa’s pleas of forgiveness. I am not condoning cheating for men or women, but I think the standards for each gender should be equal.

Issa created an awesome plan to show Lawrence that she’s living her best life by throwing a Wine Down party. She thought he was coming over but he, in turn, sends that disappointing text that he wasn’t going to make it. The feeling of defeat on her face was a little sad. Getting disappointed by an ex that you love and so desperately want to make amends with is always rough. But he eventually came around.

What we saw happen on that couch was not an act of love. That was a quickie. Let’s not get it twisted. Issa opened a door for a friends with benefits situation. Lawrence and Issa are not back together, just yet. Lawrence is not looking at her in a loving way, although he still has love for her. She’s a sexual object now, a release for his pent up anger and that kiss on the cheek at the end was a slap in the face. I know we’re supposed to believe that he’s coming back. I know that cringe-worthy smirk on Issa’s face at the end of the episode means that even she thinks he’s coming back, but he’s not. Not yet. He’s hurt, his ego is bruised, and he still has to unpack some of those feelings. Sometimes men jump prematurely into situations with other women to deal with their hurt. Lawrence is now with Tasha who seems to uplift him, despite her messing with the chances of him and Issa getting back together. Issa, however, is going to have to figure out how to live life without Lawrence in the meantime and iron out all of her issues so when Lawrence does finally come back, which he will, she’s ready for the relationship that they both deserve. If she still even wants that.

#ByKyPodcast The 3 P’s (Patience, Process, Purpose)

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Patience-Process-Purpose, are the three lessons I learned in the last couple of years navigating my life but more specifically, my career. I was discouraged for some time but at the right time, God came through and answered my prayers for the direction I wanted to go in my life.

Patience: Sometimes we need to humble ourselves in times of frustration. We need to take a deep breath and realize that although we are in a situation we don’t want to be in, it’s only temporary. So be patient, let God work in your life until your blessing is harvested.

Process: You learn the most on your journey to success during the process. You have to enjoy the moment, it makes you resilient. Learn as much as you can during this time and put your trust in God that you’re going to be fine in the end. Spend this time learning your passions. The process promotes growth.

Purpose: Isn’t this the goal? Sometimes we have to go through everything we do before God reveals to us what our purpose is. Keep believing.

Follow my podcast on Itunes Lifestylebyky and Soundcloud 

Inspired by Memoirs

The word memoir used to sound like the most boring thing ever when I was younger. I stayed away from those types of stories. But within the last year, I’ve read more of them and it has grown into one of my favorite types of narratives. I think there’s something so inspirational about reading someone’s story (dead or alive) and learning how they navigated life. Life is full of ups and downs and we don’t have an instruction manual for it. Sometimes we all get confused about our place in it or if we will ever achieve our goals, but when you read how others navigated their lives and see that their situations were no different from yours it gives you a sense of hope and sometimes may even inspire you to take risks and go after dreams. I am one of those people who google the age of celebrities that I admire to compare where they were at my age. I know this is an odd thing to do, but I do it, to make sure I am on the right track. Most times I realize that I am, but there’s always that extraordinary person who’s killing it in their teens or twenties. For me, some of the key elements of really good memoirs are:

  1. Transparency: I love memoirs where the author is transparent about their life and their mistakes. No one wants to read a memoir that they can’t relate to.
  1. Started from the bottom: I love memoirs that take you on the journey of life starting from the beginning. Society and social media tend to show you what success looks like without showing what it took to get there. I like when authors take you on the journey from the bottom up and not just the “up”.
  1. Evolution or Growth: As humans, we are constantly evolving and growing. I love memoirs that show a person’s growth. If you are the same way at the beginning of the story that you were at the end, something is wrong. Life should always push you to be better, greater, stronger. We are constantly learning and evolving and I love memoirs that illustrate that.

Some of the memoirs that I read recently have all three of these characteristics:

Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X

Assata An Autobiography by Assata Shakur 

Redefining Realness by Janet Mock 

The Education of Kevin Powell by Kevin Powell

My Voice by Angie Martinez 

A memoir that I am looking forward to reading this year is Foxy: My Life in Three Acts by Pam Grier. I absolutely love her and I know she has a powerful life story.

What are your favorite memoirs?

By Ky Books: The Mothers by Brit Bennett

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The Mothers: A Novel

Religion. Suicide. Abortion. Sexual Abuse. Failed First Love. Grief. Depression.

The book The Mothers does not hold back on the issues it addresses. But although these topics seem heavy, the author Brit Bennett does such an excellent job with her writing and character building that you don’t feel weighed down by the story once it’s over. It feels real.

At the core of this story is an abortion that beautiful Nadia Turner, the main character feels like she must have. She doesn’t confide in anyone including her boyfriend, she’s just hell-bent on getting one. This book tackles the choice women make when they either have an abortion and pursue the rest of their lives and their dreams or become a mother. The idea is that both choices come with costs and for Nadia, having a child would mean halting her dreams of going to college and becoming successful to stay at home, where being home meant dealing with grief and depression that her heart could no longer take.

I would identify this as a coming of age story that is representative of reality; not those coming of age stories where characters jump in lakes and try to soak in the last real summer before adulthood. This story hits home for several reasons and really illustrates the reality of young adulthood for some people. It tackles real-life issues while intertwining religion and often time the hypocrisy of it. I don’t want to give too much away, but I liked this book, I didn’t like the ending that much but I enjoyed reading it overall and loved how the author developed such powerful relationships that may or may not withstand the test of time.

If you’re into podcasts, For Colored Nerds on iTunes has an amazing interview with the author Britt Bennet who gives further perspective into the narrative of this story.

By Ky Books: Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Americanah is the best book I have ever read. After 27-years of life and reading, I finally have a favorite book. I’ve been searching for it all my life and finally, it’s here! The book follows the lives of Ifemelu and Obinzie, two lovers who first meet in a secondary school in Lagos, Nigeria. The couple eventually separates. Ifemelu moves to America to go to school, while Obinze moves to London in search of work. They are smart, charismatic, and hopeful in Nigeria, but their new lives as immigrants in these sensationalized countries prove to be hard.

This book illustrates the power of first love. It’s a love story at its core, but a culturally important book that explores race, immigration, navigating adulthood, education, relationships, culture, culture clashing, assimilation, and so much. Like I said, this is the best book I’ve ever read in my life. Check out the below concept trailer for the movie:

By Ky Books: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

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Another Brooklyn: A Novel

Jacqueline Woodson wrote a beautiful coming of age story,  set in Brooklyn in the 70s which felt familiar to me. Her main character August is telling this story of her childhood as an adult. She’s a successful archeologist but has to come back to Brooklyn because of her father’s death. Seeing an old best friend triggers memories of the borough that made her who she is. The story is charming but very short. It deals with themes that include grief, friendship, poverty, religion and so much more. If you’re interested in a short read that feels like soul food, this would be it.

Lessons I’ve Learned While Changing Careers

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Media Mogul. I wrote the words on a yellow post-it, with a black sharpie and pasted it on my bed frame so I could be reminded of my goal every day. But I was not moving towards that goal as an Executive Assistant to a financial tycoon on Wall Street. I was moving him towards his goal. It felt comfortable. I was safe. I was liked by everyone. I had job security. That was the scary part. The scary part is that they always thought I would be there. That I would be content in my role for the rest of my life. That I wouldn’t think more of myself. Or that I didn’t think more of myself. That I didn’t have the same goals as the CEO of the company. That when I sat in his chair while he wasn’t in the office, it felt comfortable, like I deserved to be in the corner office too. But I would never become what I wanted to be in the financial world. I knew it early on that it wasn’t for me. Greed; The money hungriness; The conservatives; The biases; The glass ceilings; The white collars; The suits and slicked black hair; The façade; The boredom; The numbers; The yelling and screaming; The perfectionism; The microaggressions; The lack of women or minorities in “the room.” It just wasn’t for me. And yet I stayed and endured for 5-years. 1,825 days. During that time, my emotions were filled with ups and downs. At first, I was excited to even have a job. Then I realized there was nothing to be excited about-Then I had to humble myself. Then I was promoted and was excited again. Then I realized I wasn’t being paid enough; I should’ve been making more doing the caliber of work that was required of me. I kept the office going. I kept everyone sane. I was a perfectionist; even if it meant staying at work until 9pm. I did more than what was required of me. I worked long and hard. I waited for my boss to ask me “What do you want to do with your life?” I wanted him to invest in my future just as much as I invested in his. But the question never came and the reality hit me that it was time to move on.

Lesson #1: It’s so important to have a boss that knows your goals and pushes you to get there. It’s important to have a boss who doesn’t want to see you doing the same thing in 10-years but wants to see you grow. It’s important to have a boss that believes enough in you to include you. A supportive boss can do wonders for your career. Be wary of the ones that are not. 

If my boss wouldn’t mentor me then someone else would have to. Eventually, I found just the person. A woman and a lawyer. She had a successful legal career in the financial sector and when she started at my company we bonded over our shared Pisces astrological sign. This woman saw something in me and pushed me like no other. She made sure I applied to jobs every week and took me out on lunch dates to encourage me. I never had a mentor before and I soon realized God was saving someone special for me when I needed her the most.

Lesson #2 I used to be jealous of people with mentors because I never had one. What was wrong with me that no one wanted to be my mentor? But a mentor is not a fairy godmother. They’re not going to just appear. I had to “court” my mentor. A few weeks after meeting her, I asked if she would take a walk with me to tell me about herself and I would do the same. She said yes, and the rest was history. I realized she would be a perfect mentor after our walk. But I had to take the initiative and make the first step in building our relationship.

So as I prepared to change careers, there was one more kick that happened that pushed me like no other. When I say push, I mean set the fire in my back. That was me finding out what others were making in the same position. I also confirmed this by simply googling the average for what someone in my position should be making compared to what I was making. It amazed me that I could work so hard and still not be paid for the work I was doing. But I didn’t speak up. My boss and I had a relationship where I revered him like a father almost. I didn’t know how to confront him about my pay so I just wallowed in my misery. I was literally taunted by it at least twice a month. He paid for my lunch and I received bonuses but that didn’t count when my salary was not where it should’ve been. I needed to make the move. But first I had to decide was this really about money? Or was I seeking a job that I was passionate about?

Lesson Three: Money or Passion? I applied for a hedge fund in the midst of my anger and got an interview. I later declined the interview. I made a decision to myself a long time ago that I would not sell my soul for money, my salary, or material things. My career would have to make me happy and would not feel like work. It would feel like I am just doing what I loved. So yes, I declined an interview for a job that started at 115k because it was just like the job I had, maybe even worst. For some people, even some friends, they would call me crazy but that’s what separates me from a lot of people. My happiness far outweighs my salary pursuits. My next job would just have to make me happy and pay me what I deserved!

I needed the motivation to apply to jobs consistently. Job-hunting is really tedious. I tried everything, including using spreadsheets, keeping track of what I already applied to and what I didn’t apply to. I applied to jobs every-Thursday bi-weekly from January to August. I remained consistent. If Thursday was a day where I had an event, then it was pushed to Friday or the weekend but I never stopped. I went on Linkedin and searched for jobs on there too. Linkedin is really a powerhouse. I reread my resume and cover letter every other week, making adjustments as the months progressed. I didn’t hear from anyone and I began to get anxiety. At work, I was getting anxious and panicked. I hated my job and it was beginning to show.

Lesson Four: Stay Consistent!

It was in August that I received a call for an interview. During the interview process, my side gigs came up a lot. I do a lot of things on the side in addition to a 9-5. I blog, podcast, produce, direct, read, volunteer, etc. Never in a million years would I have guessed that these side projects would separate me from other candidates. Initially, I started them to fill a void that I was feeling at work. My work was unfulfilling, to be honest. But then, it became a part of me. I’m a blogger. I’m a podcaster. I directed a documentary. All of these things shaped me into who I am and separated me from the pack. Some people look down on side projects. They call it mere hobbies. They say it’s not worth your time and to focus solely on your 9-5. But I disagree. Your 6 to 10 hustle is what you can call your own. Your baby. Your passion project. The unique vision that will exalt you into your destiny. It’s these projects that take me one step closer to my dream and ultimately landed me a position at my dream company because a couple of months later, I got the job!

Lesson Five: Passion projects/6-10 hustles, are so important. I’ve had people question why I spend my time doing what I do. I had people doubt my side projects. I’ve had people who I couldn’t reveal any news on these projects because they didn’t understand. I’ve had people question why I would ever work for an up and coming travel platform for black millennia’s for free? I’ve had people question why I would ever volunteer my time as a Sunday School teacher from 7AM -3PM without pay? I’ve had people question all of my ventures and I never cared. It will take some people longer than others to discover their passions and destinies. Some may always be too afraid to uncover it. But I don’t want to ever live my life that way. Never underestimate an idea that you have in your heart or a talent that you haven’t uncovered since childhood. It may be the key to finding purpose in your career.

I say this all to say, figuring out what you want to do in life is hard work. Gaining the courage to leave a secure job for a career in an totally different industry is scary. But you’ll never know if  success is waiting for you on the other side of the door if you don’t try. We have to believe in ourselves enough to know that we will be successful and that our lives will have purpose. We have to catch ourselves when we are secure and complacent and push ourselves for more.