Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Single Face in the Crowd

Dear Readers,

From the moment that my daughter has been born, it has been just the two of us.  Despite the fact that I was married, and my husband lived in the same house with us, he didn't really interact with us.  So, we gained a sense of mother-daughter camaraderie only seen in "Gilmore Girls" episodes.  I decided to just cement the distance between my husband and I, and my daughter and I moved out, that's when there was more pressure to really make things work.

When you're married, even if your spouse isn't reliable, there's still that notion of "I'm not doing this by myself" that cushions the blow when you're frustrated or overwhelmed.  Even if you don't ask your mate for help, and even if they don't offer it, it's almost like a sense of mind manipulation that you put on yourself to make you feel like you're not alone in the parenting pursuit.

But, when you go down the road of single parenthood, the harsh reality that you're going at things alone is even more palpable.  You can't afford to hide behind a veil of lies anymore.  You know that you're doing this alone.

That was when I found my hero.

People say that you shouldn't look up to someone who is younger than yourself, but I say screw them and their logic!  If there's someone that can help you to stay motivated in times of stress, show your strength when you're weak, or just stand when you want to lie down, it shouldn't matter how old they are.

As corny as this sounds, my hero became my daughter.

We were officially on our own on her 1st birthday, and through it all, she has been an unknowing example of perseverance.

My "Babycakes" (which, she is going to probably hate that nickname, but I love it anyway) will fall from a stool one minute, cry until the pain goes away, and then climb back up.  But, it's more than that, and the common cliche of "she taught me how to get back up when she fell down."  It's the idea that at this moment and time in her life, she is fearless, which is the complete opposite from me.

I think most toddlers are fearless, because they don't have the burden of knowledge.  They don't know that touching an iron that's on will burn them, or running and not looking ahead is a recipe for a face plant into a door frame.  Some children learn, some don't, but as you get older you try to use these past moments of painful teaching to shape your future decisions.

But, it's my daughter's resilience that impresses me the most.

I think about her when I make a mistake, and my immediate reaction is to recoil in embarrassment.  It's the example that she set that reminds me how important it is to ask for help if I need it, and that a skinned limb doesn't mean that I need to spend the rest of my life indoors.  It's the idea that a hula hoop can be a door, or the top of an ice cream cone, or anything else that my imagination can allow things to be.

She unknowingly taught me how to be stronger, fearless, resilient, and more imaginative.  Before her, I was too aware of how things could go wrong, and I would allow it to stop me.  Now, I still know about the results, but I press on toward my goals anyway.

When I finally reach a place that I want to be in life, I hope that she's able to be as inspired by me, as I have been by her.

Stay Encouraged      

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Character Commital

Dear Readers,

I'm going to let you know this now, immediately, before you read anymore.  Yes, this is a think-piece in defense of Drake's dancing in "Hotline Bling."  I know.  I KNOW!  Feel free to judge me, but I felt like I had to do it.

So here's the thing Readers, I'm sort of out of the loop of certain social media trends.  Unless someone expressly tells/asks me to watch something, I won't know it exists until I see an article about it on MadameNoire/Bossip/Huffington Post/Buzzfeed and the like.  Now, I do know what's going on in the world, but when it comes to entertainment news, celebrity buzzes, or media trends, I wouldn't know them for anything.  

When one of my best friends, Jeanette, and I were having a text exchange last night about how AMAZING this season of "The Leftovers" is, (seriously, how AMAZING is this season?!?!  ... Poor Kevin, can never get it right, can he?)  she hit me with the:  "Did you see the 'Hotline Bling' video?!"  

     "Nah, I'll check it out in the morning."  

     "Girl, Drake's dancing, you gotta see it!"

This afternoon approaches, I have some free time and I'm like:  "Oh!  Let's check out the video!"  Before I saw it, I saw some of the Vine memes, so I already had the running them of Bachata music playing in my head when I saw his dance moves.  

However, what I will say that I wasn't expecting to notice was his commitment to his moves.  Usually, you'll see a rap artist start a dance, then taper off, point to the camera, and then nod his head aggressively to the music.  But each time Drake was dancing, he stayed in his zone.  

The thing also about this is that while others might not have liked his dancing, from what I can guess, before a music video airs, the artist, director, and others involved had to sign off on if they liked the video or not.  Apparently, everyone involved loved it enough to make it a form of public consumption.

But beyond all that, it's the idea of being completely committed to who you are, what you do, trying your best, and putting the finished product out there in hopes of multiple forms of appreciation.

If there's one thing that I've felt like I had to work against, it was being too aware of how people saw me.  I always wanted to make sure that I was the perfect version of myself for others.  Sometimes, having to hold yourself so high is exhausting.  Granted, we should always exude the best image of ourselves to the world, but not to the point where we set ourselves up for failure.

I put off applying for jobs, writing opportunities, and talking to people just because I felt I wasn't good enough.  I was too committed to the idea that I was a work in progress; not yet ready to embrace her greatness, or even pursue it.  

I had to get to a point when I had to erase the (mis)conceptions of how others saw me, and get to the point of being comfortable enough to sign off on my character and present it to the world for public consumption.  

Now, others might not always like it, understand it, or create a medium to mock me.  However, there's a freedom that comes with being unapologetically yourself.  No matter if you do look like the drunk uncle dancing at the bar-b-cue, I bet there will be people doing that exact same dance from this time on.  

Dance on, Drake.  Dance on!    

Stay Encouraged

Monday, October 19, 2015

Under the Big Top

Dear Readers,

I've been a fan of FX's "American Horror Story" since season one, and for the past few weeks I've been binging on the previous seasons on Netflix, while also catching each new episode of "Hotel" every Wednesday.  Last night I finished the finale of "Freak Show" and decided to base this week's posts on the circus.

It's been said once that we're all performers.  Each person wakes up, and attempts to put their best face forward, in a crowd, or audience of multiples, in hopes of doing a great job.  In a sense, we're all actually trapeze artists, swinging from one rung to the other.  Sometimes we rely on the help of others.  Other times we're swinging by ourselves, hoping that we can reach that rung on our own.  If we miss it, or lose our grips, we hope that there's a safety net to save us; something that will cushion our fall, but sometimes, even that's not guaranteed.

But as we stand in front of the crowd, we're all wanting the same thing.  We would all like to be able to swing effortlessly through life, and hear recognitions of surprise, amazement, and confirmation that we're doing a great job.  For those who would like to see us fall, we hold on tighter, and swing harder, hoping to surprise not just them, but ourselves with our abilities to defy our own gravity.  That way, once the show is over, we can feel as though we'd delivered a great show.

This week, let's discuss!

Stay Encouraged

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Lowest Denominator

Dear Readers,

As much as I would like to think that we have complete freedom on who we are, how we represent ourselves, and what our lasting legacy will be, I feel as though this rationale is becoming as lost as tact is.  But the reason why I feel this way is due to Lamar Odom.

Now usually, I try to stay away from social media trends.  Unless it's something that's really important to me, I'll pay attention to it if I can't get away from it, or look into it if it intrigues me.  But this Lamar Odom thing seems to be the glue that is connecting multiple people's ire.  But beyond all of that, it's the fight over what to label him as.

I've never been one who desired to "Keep Up" with anyone, but I do know that Lamar's name has been well versed through multiple entertainment mediums.  Because of this, there seems to be a group of people who only insist that his name is relevant due to reality show infamy.

This is troubling to me because he had a very substantial basketball career, and was someone who rose from a rough past, beat odds, and became known in that world.  However, every mistake that he's made since appearing on a reality show is what's defining him now.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that he has lived his life as an angel.  I'm very aware of the messy relationship triangle that proceeded his marriage, but at the same time, it feels odd to me that his life has been defined along one straight, staccato measure, rather than the over all symphony that he has produced.

I don't know if it's the current time that we live in, that tends to focus on the now, and erasing the behaviors of the past (good or bad), or if it's just human nature that causes us to focus on the negative.  However, it does make me more aware of my current steps, and my future preparations, because once my time is up, and my life is expressed as a retrospective, I pray that my whole story is taken into account.  Not just a few, poorly written chapters.

Stay Encouraged!

Enjoy your weekend, see you Monday!  

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fear of the Repeat

Dear Readers,

Most people are familiar with the adage "those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it."  So, when unpleasant things fall upon us, some of us try to learn from it, or some of us try to avoid the situation ever again.  I fell under the latter recently.

After going into a really important meeting, I was feeling like I was flying.  I proudly walked over to my car, Lorelai.  After sending some hopeful and encouraging text messages to my friends and family who cheered me on, I got in Lorelai and started to back up.  When I went to shift into first gear, the stick shift wasn't in the normal groove that it needs to be to go into the gears.  The stick shift would only go back and forth, with a sense of ease that began to seem like a middle finger to all of my previous positive thinking.

For about twenty minutes I spent time trying to figure out what the problem was, before AAA arrived.  Right when three people came to help me move my car, my last ditch effort at finagling with the gear shift allowed it to go back into the necessary groove to finally get my car to move.

After thanking everyone for their help, and driving away with my tail between my legs, I parked my car back home and began to fear Lorelai.  Once again, she became a symbol of fear and unpredictability, and I felt like I was the only person to blame for her betrayal.  Did I shift too hard?  Was I not as gentle as I should have been?  Did I actually pull it out?  All of these things were essentially saying:  "Et tu, Lorelai?"

So, understandably, my next few trips driving were slightly hesitant.  Because I didn't want to cause the stick to come out of place again, it was as if I'd forgotten how to drive my car, and I was a manual neophyte.  While on the road, I could smell my clutch burning, see the hand on the RPM meter rise and fall like rain drops (or tears, either one), and instead of actually shifting into gears, I would inadvertently end up in neutral too many times than I would like to admit.

Instead of remembering the solution to the problem, I was too busy worrying about not having the problem happen ever again.  The issue with that thinking/acting/driving, was that it was beginning to create another host of car problems, especially if I continued to drive the way that I was.

On my way back home, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that though the other day's car folly was frustrating, and embarrassing, I couldn't allow it to stop me from getting back on the road.

Knowing the mistakes of the past can definitely shape the decisions that we make for our future.  But, worrying about those mistakes can be just as detrimental to our future than not learning from our past.  Once you allow your fear to stop you from letting history repeat itself, that's when you stop making history, period.

Stay Encourage.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Paradigm of Others' Propaganda

Dear Readers,

It can be somewhat of a daunting experience to grow up, not only with other siblings, but particularly, siblings of the same gender.  The issue that comes with it is that you will undoubtedly be compared and judged against your siblings.  This is what happened to me.

I was born the third girl out of four sisters.  From the moment that I could talk, it was very apparent that I had a speech impediment.  I had a stuttering problem that I had to go to speech therapy to get over.  But like the overwhelming pressure that comes with first impressions, it's even worse when that first impression is with your family.  Because, like in other scenarios, when a person's first impression of you is cemented, it's hard for them to shake that.  So, though I grew out of my stuttering problem, for years I was still treated as a child who had it.

People were cautious to engage me in conversation, and their own ignorance of what my speech impediment meant to my intelligence (which was nothing) played against me.

So I was raised always hearing:  "Amber is so witty!"  "Kelli is so intelligent!"  "Kayla is so brilliant!" ... "Look at Kendra, isn't she pretty?"

I remember always sitting back, in my encouraged silence, just wanting to engage in the conversation, prove to others that I am more than what they thought I was.  But, no one ever wanted to give me the chance... well, except for my father.  He always gave me the option to speak up, no matter how long it took me to work through my words, and in actuality, I'll always be indebted to him for it.

But for years, there was always that fear that I didn't have anything to offer, outside of my appearance.  My elementary teachers, who taught my two older sisters before me, would openly ask in front of me:  "Amber and Kelli is so smart, and intelligent sounding.  What happened to you?"

Even though I knew I had more to offer, I began to buy into others' rhetoric about me.  I began to downplay my own intelligence due to some warped version of allegiance to them, because I didn't want them to seem dumb.

When being introduced to new people, my family would spout out a false decree of who I was, and I felt so much pressure to live up to it.  Even though I knew it was a lie, there was so much pressure to be who others felt like they'd conjured me to be.

It wasn't until my freshman year of high school.  I went to a different high school from my sisters my freshman year because we moved, and my sisters' high school allowed them to do one more year there.  So, for the very first time in my life, I didn't have someone else speaking about me, my personality, my thoughts, my actions, my life.  I was allowed to just be me.

From that moment on I took the opportunity to write my own history about  myself.  I was unapologetically Kendra.  The words that defined me were my own, and the images that people saw were illustrated by me, not the false propaganda of others.

What I'm trying to get across to you, Dear Readers, is that there are going to be times when people falsely paint you into a circle, but once that paint dries, it's up to you to either stay in it, or truly move about, taking your own steps, and following your own path.

Don't allow the words of others to dictate how you should behave, especially if it's something outside of your true nature.  Because, just like the purpose of this blog, and the sociological theories that preempt it, I learned that the only person that can write my life story is me.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Foreseeing My True Reality

Dear Readers,

I have to suppress the urge to see certain reality show contestants as figures in psychology experiments.  When it came to science, I was always fascinated with experiments and the scientific method, and seeing the results; and reality television does most of the work for you.

In the shows that I care to watch (which is actually dwindling down now.  I don't know if it's due to age, maturity, or just not giving a crap anymore, but I only find myself watching two reality shows a year now), for the most part, you are watching people in a contained environment.  You hypothesize how they will behave through said season, and then you watch the results at the end on the reunion episodes.

But that's not where it ends for me.  The true results come a few years after their run on the show has ended.  You can see who has transitioned back into regular life, or who is still clamoring, and attempting to hold on to their infamy by the strength of their own fingernails.  Some are able to claw their way back up, and hold us hostage by their shenanigans, while others are trying to hide the fact that they have been waiting, hoping and planning for their reality television come back, and they are doing whatever they can to stay in the limelight.

Now, while it might come off as I'm judging these people, I actually appreciate the vulnerability that they have to allow their lives to become a story arc and then dissipate on their inevitable return.  But on a more honest keel of my assessment, is the fact that... I was almost one of them.

Back in college, during my Myspace days, I was gladly enamored with, what I like to refer to as, "The Golden Age of Reality Television."  Those days were when "Flavor of Love," "I Love New York," "Rock of Love," "Real Chance of Love," and other shows ruled the VH1 universe, and yes, I was there for it!

About month after the first season finale of one dating show, I got a message in my Myspace inbox from someone saying that they were casting for the second season.  Apparently they liked my look, my interests (as told on my Myspace), and would love it if I could fill out an application and come to Chicago to one of their casting calls to see me in person.

At first, I didn't take it too seriously.  But when I told my boyfriend at the time, he got excited.  During that time, they would sometimes invite the exes of the current contestants, and to him, it would be HIS opportunity to be on television.  After that conversation, I immediately decided that I wouldn't do it, but for two days he kept on pressuring me to do it.

He kept on trying to show me the allure of their "fame," and how I could get money doing "appearances," and how people would really read my books if I had an audience from a reality show.  I'll be honest, there was a time during that 48 hour period that I seriously contemplated it.

But then, I began to realize how indulging in a few moments of reality television glory might change the course of my life that I'd been working on for years.

First, you can't control your surroundings, or the people around you.  You're stuck in a house, with no outside stimuli, and the constant appearance of cameras in your face.  Most of the rooms don't have doors, and any alone time you have is extremely rare.

Second, other people's need for camera time.  A lot of people on those shows know that if they create conflict with other members, then it'll get them more camera time, and I couldn't see myself being used a pawn for someone else's "glory."

Finally, there was the fear of just only being regaled as "that reality star."  Any thing that I would try to do after would be predicated on my reality show "fame."  I feared that even if my writings would be worthy of Pulitzer Prizes, I would come off looking like a reality star just trying to extend my 15 minutes of fame.  I didn't want that.  I wanted to be judged fairly on my writing ability, not for the person people saw on television, in a controlled setting, with very little stimuli thrown my way.

On the third day, I sent a message back declining the offer.  Once that season aired, I remember watching it, and occasionally wondering if I would have actually done it, how would I have reacted in those situations, tests, and altercations.  I wondered if once it was over, would people know me for my potential, or for the personality that they either loved or hated?

I now wonder how I would behave with the lights fading, and the allure of the glare being out of reach?  Would I continue to pursue it in an upstanding way, or would the need for attention overcome my faculties, and I would lower my own standards just to stay on the lips and fingers of people?

There's not a doubt in my mind that I chose the right path to go down.  I wanted to be able to create my own destiny, on my own terms, in a way that I had complete control over.  Though it would have been a very interesting experiment to partake, I rather enjoy my own controlled environment.

Stay Encouraged.