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.    

Monday, October 12, 2015

Re-Writing Infamy

Dear Readers,

On this great Columbus Day, I feel slightly at odds with how I feel about history, how we perceive ourselves, and what our lasting legacy will be.

As most American children I was taught about Columbus sailing the ocean blue in 1492 on three different ships.  But as you get older, and you learn the truth behind Columbus, his dastardly deeds, and heinous atrocities, it makes you wonder how he was able to score such a sweet deal in the history department?

As an African American I'm already too aware of the fact that the moment I walk into a room, people portray my history and stereotypes against me.  Until I open my mouth by either speaking or smiling, people feel as though they have me pegged.  As much of an onus as it seems, it's almost to a point where it's second nature.  You know that you have the burden of carrying an entire race on your back, and whatever words you say, how you say them, and how you behave is either going to lessen the weight of your eternal luggage, or make it more cumbersome.

But all of that, and more, will be addressed this week, as we dive into creating our legacy and being true to ourselves.

Stay Encouraged!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Unsure Insurance

Dear Readers,

Thanks to the wonder that is DVR, I don't see a lot of commercials.  That was, until I started going to the gym regularly.  Though I've been able to trim inches off my waist line, I haven't been able to trim minutes off of my television viewing.  I finally started seeing previews for movies that I would normally fast forward through ("Wait, Aladdin is coming out on DVD and Blu-Ray?!")  and I began to notice just how many car insurance commercials there were.

I don't know if ESPN has a monopoly on insurance commercials, but I now can recite certain insurance companies' information on command (but I save that trick for all the lucky fellas.  Hey boys!).  But it did make me think about the purpose of insurance, how it can sometimes fail you, and gave me a good blog post idea to end off my "car metaphor" week (you're welcome, readers).

But, all jokes aside, whenever I think about insurance, I always think about the Chris Rock segment from his "Bigger and Blacker" performance.  He explained how insurance should be called "In Case Shit," and if said expletive doesn't happen, then shouldn't you get your money back?!


When I started this blog, in 2009 or so, it was somewhat of an insurance policy for me.  My idea was that I wanted to get acknowledgement in the writing world, but I couldn't do that unless people knew who I was.  So, I started blogging, and being extremely transparent and vulnerable, in hopes of gaining a job.  In fact, when I researched my very first tweet (because I primarily use my Twitter as a means of getting my writing out), it said something to the effect of:  "I'm a very good writer looking for employment.  You should hire me!"

After a few years of gaining some attention, a position as a book editor, and a few very low paying writing assignments, I finally got a company who would pay me a good amount to do what I knew I always wanted to do.  I didn't care how much it was, but it was enough to encourage me to keep writing, and, just like how Chris Rock proposed that insurance should work, I felt like my years of hard work was finally being paid back.

So, I abandoned my blog because I didn't need the insurance policy anymore.  But as I feel like my 2009 is beginning to repeat itself, I realized that insurance policies aren't just for "when things happen."  It's a cushion.  It gives you mental security because if things go wrong, you might not be able to be back in the place that you were initially, but, at least you won't be completely left high and dry.

When I came back and started blogging, I was a little hesitant, because I wondered if I would still feel the joy that I had when I was getting paid regularly for it.

Surprisingly, I did, and more.    

Don't get me wrong, I'm still working and striving to get to a point where I can surpass where I was, but it is nice paying back into my insurance policy, and hoping for the return.

Stay Encouraged, have a GREAT weekend, and see you Monday!

P.S.  Go Cards!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Turning Down the Radio

Dear Readers,

I love this meme, for the simple fact that it's very true.  You know how it is when you're driving down new terrain, trying to find a destination that you've never visited before.  Earlier in your trip you could have the radio on, singing loudly and off-key, even if you've never traveled the first few miles.

But there's something about being on the final road, inching closer to your destination that makes you want to fully concentrate on where you are: the numbers on the buildings, and paying extreme attention to make sure you don't pass your stop.  That's when the singing stops, and you instinctively turn down your radio to "see better."

We live in a very noisy world these days.  It seems like there's always something yelling at you, attempting to not only get, but maintain, your attention.  Our senses are sometimes assaulted with useless pop culture knowledge and celebrity factoids that try to convince you that "this is how you should live your life."  "Your life is not complete unless you portray yourself this way," or "why not follow this common path?"

It can be draining.  Especially if you feel as though going your own path isn't leading you to the form of success that you covet; but other people, draped in their vapidity, are being constantly rewarded.

There's a lot of frustration that can come when you feel as though others, who haven't worked as hard as you, or perfected a talent/craft/business, can appear like things are being handed to them just because.

It can be exhausting trying to go down a path that seems right, but being very aware of the infamous detours, the loud outside noises, and the glaring lights that seem to want to grab your attention from the road that you're traveling.

Taking an occasional mental fast from all of the celebrity gossip and internet hogwash is necessary for me, because if I immerse myself into it too much, I begin to compare myself.  I begin to wonder "what's wrong with me, and why can't I get a good footing?"  That then begins to morph into:  "What's so special about him/her/them?  They didn't do anything special!"

There's an even level of asphalt that I like to travel down, that allows me to acknowledge someone else's success, but still focus on attaining my own.  But the moment I begin to go down a bumpy road of feigned indignation and trying to account for someone else's achievements, that's when I realize that I've began to travel off-course.

There are a lot of secrets to traveling successfully through life, and one of them is to tune out the unnecessary noise.  Focus on the road ahead of you, and make sure that you're hitting every correct turn and detour that will get you to your destination.  That way, when you're getting closer, and you turn down the radio to see better, you can focus on making sure that you didn't miss your stop.

Stay Encouraged.  


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

The Long Ten Minute Trip

Dear Readers,

Have you ever had one of those moments where you completely underestimate how long a particular action is going to take?  That was my issue yesterday.

After my daughter got home from school, and ate her meal, we were off to go and buy some sriracha.  I estimated that this trip was going to take no more than 10 minutes.

The ride there was quick, finding the sauce was easy, but the way back home was irritating.  I'm assuming there was an accident, because police were blocking off the street and redirecting us.  As hard as I tried to see the results of what I thought was a collision, I didn't see any car debris.  The road seemed clear enough to drive from my vantage point, but we were still being redirected.

Once we took our slight detour, my sense of time was once again assaulted by the lack of driving of the person three cars ahead of me.  We would sit at green lights as the person continued to hold up traffic.

Because my daughter has a (bad) habit of repeating everything I say and I do, I decided to just enjoy the scenery while mentally giving this fraud driver the most epic, expletive-filled, tongue lashing I could.  About twenty-five minutes later we were pulling back into the driveway, and I felt irritated that my short trip took longer than it should.

That's the problem with time, our estimations of it, and how we feel when we don't master something during a certain expectation.

Growing up, time was always really important because I grew up in a somewhat big family.  My parents had four girls, our aunt moved in with us, and for about seven years we all shared one bathroom.  So time seemed like it was constantly of the essence, and if you wasted any of it, people weren't shy about letting you know it.

But on top of that, since we know that our time on this Earth is so short, there can sometimes be the growing pressure to want to hit certain milestones and conquer certain life plans at a certain age.  If you miss that time, there's a sense of failure that might haunt you, which is something that I'll be honest that I struggle with.

For years you couldn't have told me that I wouldn't be living my life's plan by the time I was in my early twenties.  I felt like I came from a pretty good family, followed a safe course that would lead me to where I wanted to go.  But, I'm not there yet.

As happy as I am for my friends, it can sometimes take extra effort to not compare myself to them as they have wonderful jobs, buy homes, and take wonderful vacations, while I sometimes feel like I'm on the longest journey to get hot sauce.

But like yesterday, I have to remind myself sometimes that though I can't see what could be stopping me, or understand why things are going as slow as they are, if you do keep on moving, you will eventually make it to your target destination.  Yes, it would be nice to get there quicker, but at the end of the day, if you make it home with your sriracha, you met your goal.

Stay Encouraged


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Stickin' It To The Man

Dear Readers,

Can I be frank with you?  People who drive stick shifts are some of the cockiest SOBs around.  What am I basing this off of?  Me.  Ever since I've started driving my stick shift I've been poking out my chest a little further and swinging the stick into the correct gear shift like nobody's business.

Now, don't get me wrong, it's not that I feel entitled.  I've always been a pretty great, and safe driver, and I can't just erase that awesome-ness.  No, I still follow the rules of the road, but now there's a sense of smugness that seemed to develop once I finally got the hang of driving my car down.

Driving a stick is almost like developing a heightened sense of driving, because your normal starting and stopping protocol now involves a few extra steps than it did before.  So, instead of watching just the car in front of you, you're watching for the car four cars ahead of that one.  You are watching everything, just to make sure that in case the person in front of you stopped short, you were already prepared for that, because if you aren't your car will throw you in a jerking frenzy that seems to announce to all other drivers:  "Hey!  I have no idea what I'm doing!  Look at me!"

But on top of all that, I realized that there were certain parallels to driving a stick and going through life's journey.

First, you can't skip steps.  Along with developing a cocky attitude with driving a stick, you also develop this added sense of responsibility of knowing that you are ten times more likely to ruin your car than anyone else.  Shifting into those gears, at the right time, at the right pace isn't just an egotistical art form, it's a necessity.  Because if you shift into the wrong gear, your car will violently let you know.

This is also true when it comes to trying to define your own level of success.  In this life of constantly comparing yourself to others, and seeing people's fame/infamy broadcast and seemingly rewarded in front of you, there can sometimes be a pressure to want to go faster than we should.  Though you might feel like you're cruising, something under the hood could be warning you that your attempts at driving in a gear that you're not supposed to be in is about to abruptly stop your journey.

Second, life will let you know when you need to shift.

While driving an automatic, there's more freedom to driving because your car does all the work for you (you lazy bastards... sorry, cockiness again).  But while driving a stick, you can only go as fast as you will allow your car to go.

So, even if you have your pedal to the floor, if you're still in only 2nd gear, you're not going any faster than 25 MPH or so.  That's because in order for you to proceed, you must shift higher.

There are a lot of times in life that we're actively in a low gear, looking to go faster, but feeling very hesitant to shift upward.  Why?  Because with that new gear comes a larger responsibility.  You're moving faster, and sometimes we feel as though we're not completely ready to feel that speed yet.  But, we're bored, in the current gear that we're in, and we'll rather complain about going too slowly than actually shifting to make a change.

Though it can be scary, and though you might want to stay in 2nd, you're never going to reach the goal you want to reach in the time that you'd like if you keep hesitating.

Finally, cruising will only take you so far.

If you're driving too fast, and decide to slow down, you can shift into neutral; the car will continue to go until either it stops, or you shift back into a gear.  There's a freedom there to allow the car to move itself while you plan your next steps.  However, just like in life, if you don't begin to execute the plans that will help you to accelerate, you're going to stop.

Progressing in life is due to hard work, and not just resting on your laurels.  Because the moment you stop working, stop striving, stop improving, that's when your momentum begins to decrease.

I'm saying all of that to say this:

We all have to travel the roads of life, in hopes of one day achieving a goal before we reach our final destination.  Though we might have plans of how we want to get there, there will undoubtedly be detours, closed roads, and we will sometimes get lost on our travels.  However, as long as we can take the time to navigate, and find a route perfect for us, the only thing that is truly stopping us is how we chose to go down that road.

Don't allow yourself to constantly ride your brakes while you're looking for your destination.  Also, don't always attempt short cuts, because you might not be built for that terrain.  Finally, the world caters to stick shifts, so move out of my way when you see me coming!  ...Sorry, cockiness again.  I'll leave on the road next time!

Stay Encouraged..


Monday, October 5, 2015

Shifting Into Gear

Dear Readers,

A funny thing happened one night while I was on my way to the store.  My car broke down.

But not just broke down, Little Wanita went into that big parking lot in the sky, and refused to come back down.  After selling her to the junk yard, and getting a very small amount, that didn't nearly cover my own happy memories of us sailing down multiple highways, I let her go.

Losing your first car is such a weird experience, but it wasn't until I got my second one that kind of threw me off guard.

My second car was a gift that I wouldn't drive for nearly a year.  Why?  Because it was a manual.

At first I thought:  "I got this!"  I hopped in the car, with my mother by my side, and I remember my enthusiasm promptly disappearing as the car shut down six times before I could even pull out of the driveway.  As she tried to tell me what to do, and after the car shut down multiple times at the first stop sign, began to roll back on a hill, and had an elderly woman give me the finger because my car was jerking too hard and wasn't going fast enough for her, I was like:  "Nope!  I'm done!"

This car, that was at first a symbol of love and hope, became a conduit of fear and failure.  Each morning I would wake up, look out the window, and see it... mocking me.

It only got worse when my mother started gleefully driving around, calling it her "weekend car" while I sat, sadly, in the passenger seat as she sang loudly out of the key.  Though I was happy for her (sarcasm at EPIC proportions), I felt so disappointed in myself.

There were moments when one of my parents would feel sorry for me, and attempt to help me, but it usually ended up with the car stopping in the middle of the road, me muttering:  "Okay, Kendra, calm down.  Okay Kendra, calm down," while they yelled:  "KENDRA, COME ON!!  LET'S GO!"

But finally, I was able to conquer my fear, and Lorelai and I have became a new dynamic duo.

It's crazy to think how something that used to fill me with such trepidation has seemed to become an extension of myself, and helped to shape the way I see life, others, and my own journey.  This week, we'll discuss that.

Stay Encouraged!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Down In The Dumps

Dear Readers,

One of my biggest strengths, and concurrent weaknesses is that I'm very solution oriented.  This trait wasn't innate, I had to develop it.  In the past, when bad things happened, I would sit back, listen to some "Why Me?" music, and cry in the shower (the tears blend in with the water so well).  Well, I wouldn't cry in the shower, per se, but I would stop being productive, and bum around while I spent time trying to figure out what went wrong.  There was no solution finding during this time, just lots and lots o' pity parties.

After a few years, I realized how detrimental this behavior was.  I learned that no matter what was going on in my life, the world didn't stop for me.  So, after a while, I stopped wondering "why me?" and switched my thought processes to "now what?"

The reason why this is seemingly a problem is because other people tend to think that due to my "okay, let's fix the problem," mindset it causes me to ignore my feelings.

This is something that my parents are thinking I'm doing once I didn't get into any of the writing programs that I applied for.

When I first found out, I spent about a day or two feeling sorry for myself.  "Don't Cry Out Loud" never felt more true to me than that time.  (*sullen spirit fingers*)  But, after a few days, I came back to my solution oriented self and started contemplating how to fix my current situation.

But this current situation was hit with a double whammy; the cushion that I had in a steady paycheck while pursuing my full-time writing dream was gone.  Time is of the essence, and making means became the first problem to fix.

Due to that, my parents are worrying that I'm lowering myself and my abilities to accept a job that doesn't engage in my talents.  However, though my family might not understand the steps that I'm making, my mind is on a constant state of finding a solution to get to where I want to be in life.  Though I might have to take a slight detour and clean a few toilets temporarily, it doesn't mean that my dreams have been flushed down them.

There are times when you want to feel sorry for yourself, but the fact of the matter is that in order for you to be victorious in life, you have to be able to stand when you want to crawl;  move when you desire to lay down, and be strong when you want to feel weak.  I'm not saying to ignore how you feel, but also take the time to try to focus on your next steps, because at least during that time, you'll be able to work toward your solution.    

Stay Encouraged and have a great weekend.  


Thursday, October 1, 2015

ESPN: Writing Wrongs

Dear Readers,

So much has happened since I last left you.  Within those two years, I've been finally been able to make progressive steps toward my divorce (which will be finalized in November, thank you!), and I had a few birthdays come and go.

For a while, things were really looking like they were coming up Kendra.  I'd applied to a few really great writing jobs, with excellent social mobility, and I just knew I was going to get hired.

I was going to find out by my birthday in late September, so until then, I was claiming those jobs (one in particular) as if it was my own.

You have to understand, I grew up in a Christian household where we were taught that "life and death is in the power of the tongue."  So, whatever you say, you will receive.  But we were also taught that "faith without works is dead," so I didn't just rest on my laurels.  I studied, and made sure that the materials I submitted were ah-mazing.  For months I went through them, checking them to make sure that they were not just suitable for this particular company, but would be something that would make them say:  "YES!  LET'S HIRE HER, AND MOVE HER TO OUR LOCATION!"

I.  Was.  Encouraged!

Even after one of my main writing jobs let me know that due to budget cuts they couldn't renew my contract, I felt fine because:  "I know I got this job!"

Then... I found out that I didn't get the job.

Within a week, I felt I was at a loss, because... "What just happened in my life?!"

For years I was moving toward my goals, and then everything just seemed to crumble in a matter of emails.  I felt lost, and extremely embarrassed, because whenever people asked me about my future plans, I would announce waiting to hear back from my "promised" job.

It was never in a means of wanting to brag, but it was in the vein of:  "put what you want out into the universe and it'll come back to you."

But nothing came back.

I began reassessing my life, and trying to figure out what went wrong, and was my ambition just camouflaged delusion?

Writing was the only thing that felt completely natural to me.  It's more natural than breathing, and now I was in a position where I questioned everything.

But that's where ESPN came in.

After four years of holding on to my baby weight, I've finally started making some steps to get it off of me.  For a few months I've been consistently working out, and I just added an extra 30 minutes of treadmill time so my weight loss won't stagnant.  But, I needed something to keep my mind off of my huffing and puffing.  Though the music was encouraging, my eyes needed something to look at besides the treadmill's timer.  So, I started watching ESPN.

There's something strangely comforting, but non-committal about ESPN, that allowed me to zone out of my work out, and zone in on the sports.

I've never played sports before, and a lot of my life was predicated on the finality of either succeeding, or failing.  But, ESPN introduced me to the idea that no matter how late in the game it is, you can always turn things around.  From last minute catches in baseball, to Reggie Miller's amazing 8 points in nine seconds play in 1995, I learned that though things might not look as bright as they did, it doesn't mean that it's the end.

There's always plays, catches, saves, and points to make, and it's not over until the final bell rings.  I still have time, even if things didn't turn out the way I expected them to, it doesn't mean that it's all over.  I'm still in the game, and you are too.

Stay Encouraged.