Blog

Happy New Year ✨

hello world, i’m back after a 5 day hiatus from social media. It’s funny reading that because 5 days doesn’t seem like a long time to be away from something, but as much as we consume social media, 5 days is a significant amount of time.

I wanted to unplug from my phone and social media accounts to be more present with my family and friends. I wanted to get in the right headspace heading into the new year.

I came across these new year reflection questions. I wanted to share them with you all because it’s so important to reflect on our past heading into the future.

1) where do you see yourself a year from now?

2) how are you going to get to that place?

3) what’s one thing you want to do more in 2018?

4) what’s one thing you want to do less of in 2018?

5) what is your 2018 mantra?

✨ may your 2018 be full of new beginnings, second chances, laughter, love, and fearlessness.

Happy New Year and Go Dawgs!

Advertisements

my journey to self love

I submitted an essay on self love to an online publication five months ago. My work wasn’t chosen to be shared on their website, but I still had the document just sitting on my computer. Waiting for the day that I’d want to share it on my own personal blog. Well, I decided today’s the day. 2017 has been so good to me. I’ve really embraced the messiness but beauty of life. I’m learning to embrace the journey particularly the one I embarked on in 2016 to truly learn to love and celebrate myself.

It’s been fun, it’s been challenging, it’s been frustrating, but it’s been worth it. Progress is not linear. The journey to loving yourself isn’t a one and done deal.

Anyways, here’s that letter I wrote during the summer. I hope it helps you as much as its helped me. Happy Holidays.
For nearly 18 years I struggled with self love and acceptance. I often felt inferior to other people. I lived my life believing that other people’s opinions of me determined my worth. I viewed the world as my mirror and believed that if the world didn’t like what they saw then there must be something wrong with me. It’s a sad truth to reveal, but it’s a sad reality that many of us face. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been blessed with the best family around who support me with unconditional love and encouragement. And my friends? They’re just as great. I seriously ask myself almost daily it seems, “How did I get so lucky?” I love having the biggest support system- whether it’s a friend texting me just to tell me how much I’m loved or making plans to see me after a long time, I just always feel loved by my friends and family. They constantly remind me how I’m great I am- inside and out.

Yet, I somehow always felt empty. I used to thrive off the affirmation I received, but that high eventually wore off and I would begin feeling low again. I would have a self deprecating monologue on loop in my mind. But this story has a happy ending don’t worry.
I’m going to take you on my journey to self love as 2016 was the year I finally learned to love myself.


I. Accept yourself.Celebrate Yourself. Repeat.
    Despite the positivity and love constantly flowing from my support system, I still couldn’t quite shake these feelings of self hatred that would sometimes deter my journey to self love. I would build myself up only to be torn down by a hateful or rude comment someone may have intentionally or unintentionally said to me. I used to place entirely too much value on what other people thought of my appearance especially. I distinctly remember times growing up when I would feel so confident wearing something only to have someone tell me I looked big or that I shouldn’t dress that way. The thing that always bothered me the most and still bothers is that people are so concerned with the lives of others. People I barely know would feel the need to comment on my size as if it affected them in any way. I used to really feed into this negativity. I would think I looked terrible because someone didn’t like how I looked. It’s a self destructive mindset. Because the truth is, even after you begin to love yourself, people will still find flaws within you. But it’s up to you to be so content and satisfied with yourself that their words are nothing… just merely words.
    I decided I didn’t want to continue living my life according to what other people thought, so I made the decision to begin accepting myself. I began listing the things I loved about myself. I began listing personality traits, too. I realized that my list of things I loved about myself far outweighed the list of things that I didn’t particularly like.I realized that these things don’t define who I am as a person. They’re parts of me sure. But they’re not who I am. I decided not to let them rule or define my life.
    After you’ve accepted yourself, the fun truly begins when you decide to celebrate yourself. I felt celebrated already by the people I love, but that doesn’t compare to the love you feel when you learn to celebrate who you are. Your quirks. Your body. Your story. Your life. I began celebrating everything about myself. I began celebrating just the simple fact that I was in good health. I began celebrating my existence on this beautiful abundant Earth!
II. Embrace your flaws, Choose authenticity, and vulnerability.
    Yeah it’s a lot of fun celebrating your great qualities and learning to embrace them, but what about those insecurities? What about those problem areas that caused you to neglect self love in the first place?
     The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to meet myself where I am. To realize that I am a work in progress. That I’m not perfect and never will be, so I might as well stop aiming to be perfect (or honestly anything close.) I learned to appreciate the progress. To put in the work and value the journey to becoming the person I hope to be someday. Once you embrace your flaws and insecurities, they lose their power and dominance in your life. You tend to take them at face value. You begin seeing yourself as a whole human being who makes mistakes. Give yourself grace. Show yourself kindness when you have a bad day or make a mistake. Remember that you are human and that you are still learning.
    Once you begin recognizing that you are a work in progress, you will begin to value authenticity in your life. You will start feeling inspired to just be yourself. The raw real you. The unfiltered you. The you that sometimes doesn’t have it all together. There’s a power and beauty to authentic people. I personally am drawn to people who present themselves in an unapologetic humble manner. In a way that says “This is me. All of me. Take it or leave it.” It encourages me to be myself. It encourages me to be my biggest fan.It helps me to realize that we all are on our journeys towards acceptance of something in some way. We all have fears and insecurities and it makes life seem a little less scary when you realize that everyone’s a little scared, too. I mention vulnerability because that goes hand in hand with authenticity for me. I’m becoming more vulnerable with sharing my writing. 
III. Progress is not linear. Take it one day at a time.
    Lastly, before I go… it’s important to remember that progress is not linear. Once you begin to love yourself and encourage yourself, your bad days won’t disappear. Your feelings of inadequacy may still show up at your door, but I want you to know that each day that you make the decision to love yourself is a step in the right direction. If you are on a diet and break your
diet, that’s okay. If you gain weight, that’s okay. If you have days when you just don’t like   your appearance that’s okay. Your self love journey is still valid. Take it one day at a time. Share your light with others. Write down accomplishments in your self love journey. Write down mantras that inspire and encourage you. Share them with others on social media or written on a cute note to give someone in person. Find activities, hobbies, or exercise that feels good. Live your best life. Whatever that looks like for you.
Stop looking at other people’s progress as a measure for your own. You are your biggest competition. Be a better you than the day before.You are your home. You are the love of your life- no one can ever take that from you.

P.S. take a break from the screens every now and then. sometimes social media is exhausting. i take days where i choose to engage more with the world around me and less with the world in front of me through a screen.

if you’ve read this far, thank you! you’re the best.
remember to spread kindness and love this holiday season.

until next time,
nicole

My Summer at a Nonprofit

As I begin to write about my summer, I cannot believe it is already August 1. As my summer comes to an end, I can honestly say that it’s been the best one I’ve had in a long time. I spent many days with my family including going to a family reunion, celebrating my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, and cheering on my cousin as she competed in the Miss Georgia pageant. I celebrated my 20th birthday with a fancy brunch in Atlanta with some of my favorite people. I caught up with my friends, read some great books, and my hometown has simply treated me well this summer. The most memorable experience this summer, however, would be the nine weeks I spent working with a local nonprofit for their summer academy program. This experience challenged me and taught me a lot about Education, children, social issues, and myself. After taking a few days to process this experience, I’m excited to share my journey with anyone interested to read. It may be a little lengthy, so I hope you have about 20 minutes to spare 🙂

I. Introduction
      [Due to privacy concerns, I will not be disclosing the name of the organization in this particular post. However, if you are interested in learning more about their programs please don’t hesitate to contact me via the contact tab or my twitter. ]

Before coming home for the summer, I knew I wanted to find a summer job. I also knew that I wanted to find a job related to Education, so I hoped to find a camp counselor job or a babysitting job. Something with kids so I would serve in an area I enjoyed. During my first three weeks at home, I applied for countless jobs. I heard back from a few, but my heart wasn’t in the right place for those. I really had my heart set on a job at a local summer camp I attended as a kid, but I unknowingly applied past the deadline. I was discouraged, but I kept praying and trusting God that I would find something soon.

I then remembered seeing a posting for the job for which I was later hired. In the posting it said they were looking for someone at least 20 years old. I was only 19 at the time, so I just thought “oh well” and didn’t bother looking into the job. After talking to my mom and sister, they motivated me to call anyways. My birthday would fall during the job anyways, so I was practically already 20. So, I called on a Monday morning and asked if they were still hiring. The receptionist said that she believed they still were, so I came in and filled out an application. A few hours later, the Director called me and asked me to come in that same day for an interview. So, I put on my lucky blazer (yes I have a lucky blazer) and went in for the interview.

I’d heard of the organization and I was vaguely familiar with their mission. The mission of this organization is to help families out of poverty and it’s also a Christian organization, so the organization teaches these families about God and helps them to develop a relationship with God. Upon learning this, I immediately wanted to be involved.

Thankfully, a week or so later I got a call saying I was hired. I want to thank my supervisor, the Program’s director, for believing in me because I soon learned once I began working there that I was the youngest employee. I’m thankful that he found me capable and mature enough to handle this job.

II. “Enough about the introduction, Nicole! Tell us about the job”
     After a week of training, the children (ages 5-15?) arrived on June 5. We’d be spending eight weeks together from 9AM-6PM. The days were long and the energy was high. I remember being so exhausted after my first day. I honestly thought “1 day down 39 days to go” which isn’t the best perspective to have, but I was very exhausted. I then reminded myself that I have the privilege of working with incredible young people and this experience will be what I make of it, so I made sure to get a full night’s rest that night.
My favorite part of the job was its fast paced schedule. We were constantly moving and I can confidently say that every child that walked through those doors enjoyed themselves. Two staff members were placed together and were responsible for their own group. My co-teacher (who’s also an Education major) and I got the 5-6 year olds! I don’t mean to brag, but we were the luckiest ones 🙂 Our group, though they were rowdy at times, were precious children who managed to put a smile on our faces each day. Also: My co-teacher is the best. We couldn’t of made a better team, so thank you for taking me under your wing if you’re reading this.
Here’s what a typical day looked like:
8AM-9AM- Breakfast
9:00-9:15AM- Energizers
9:15-9:45- Devotion (The chaplain typically lead the devotion, but occasionally, one of us got the chance to lead the devotion)
9:45-10:45- Room time (There were a few themed rooms, such as computer lab and an arts and crafts room, so the kids would rotate to each room throughout the day)
10:45-12:00- Gym Time
12:00-1:00- Lunch
1:00-1:30- Bible Time (My co-teacher and I would alternate leading the bible time for our small group)
1:30-3:45- More room time (We’d rotate through the other three rooms)
3:45-4:45- Dinner Time (Food Insecurity is a serious issue that’s often overlooked. The children at our program were able to eat three meals a day which is incredible)
4:45-6:00- more play time until the parents arrived

*A busy day as you can see! I wanna take a nap just thinking about it!*

But our kids kept us going! They helped us keep the energy up. It was fun being able to come up with my own lesson plans every now and then, such as having them making their own slime, teaching them about various cultures such as French culture (they love Stromae’s song Papatouai now), and allowing God to lead me through this experience. I never thought I was qualified enough to be leading Sunday School lessons, but I thoroughly enjoyed leading “bible time” and teaching the kids about bible stories and how they can serve the Lord regardless of their age.

III. Takeaways
1. No amount of past camp experiences or education classes can fully prepare for your first day in a new setting. Each experience is different as there are different kids each time.
2. Start off a little stricter than you normally would. Because I was the youngest and one of the new people to join staff, I had to earn the kids’ respect. (Also: never tell them your age!) Some of them thought I was 25 some of them thought I was 30. Not too pleased about the 30 estimate haha
3.Variety is good! Some days were quiet movies days, some days we danced to nursery rhyme Youtube videos, some days we played outside, some days we read them stories and did corresponding activities. Keep them interested.
4.Keep it tidy! Start teaching students at a young age to clean up after themselves. Make cleaning fun! We’d have a countdown and they’d race to clean up the space.
5.Keep an eye out for bullying. Believe it or not, it can start in an age group as young as this one.
6. Put trash bags over tables if you’re doing a messy activity! We learned this the hard way after making paper mache masks.
7.Reinforce good behavior! Don’t just focus on the negative. Tell their parents that their child had a good day. Don’t always look to point out the negative.
8.Get to know your kids. Learn their strengths and weaknesses. Learn their stories. They’re humans! Not just children in desks. The sooner you build a relationship with them the better.
9. Little kids freak out about someone taking their spot in line or not being the line leader. It was a headache at times, so you could make it fun sometimes by lining them up by their birth months, height, etc.
10. Get to know their parents.
11. Pour into children! Be their support system.
12. Each day is a clean slate. There were days where I was mentally and physically exhausted. There were days when certain kids in our group were acting out and wouldn’t seem to cooperate, but each day is a new chance to have a good day. Give them grace and try again.
13. Lastly, laugh. You’re not perfect. You’re gonna have great days and you’re gonna have uh not so great days… I remember the kids kept asking to make slime, so I finally gave in and bought the supplies. As we were making it, it just wasn’t turning out right. I put way too much glue and was eyeballing all the ingredients honestly. It was so runny and the kids wanted to mix all the colors… so we ended up with extremely runny dark green “slime”.
We just laughed it off and decided to try again another time.
14. And have fun! Remember why you’re there in the first place. It’s to make a difference in the lives of children. It’s to show them that they matter. To show them that they’re important. At the end of the day, our boss always reminded us that we were basically getting paid to play with kids, so you can’t beat that!

IV.  Closing
     This experience was life changing. I got to work alongside children I may not have otherwise met. I got to see how children in poverty live firsthand and learn their stories. I may not have helped them financially, but I was able to give the kids a place to come and have fun and be a kid. No kid should have to worry about what they’re going to eat for dinner or where they’re going to lay their head that night.

As I reflect on this experience, I began unpacking my own privileges as a black woman who attends college and is able to work. I developed a greater appreciation for my transportation, food, shelter, and clothes. I’ve always been appreciative of my blessings, but we all need to check ourselves sometimes. The more I study Socioeconomic Status (SES) and race issues here in America I realize that the most effective and lasting service in my opinion is forming meaningful relationships with those you are serving. Sure, donations are great and encouraged! Volunteering for a few hours is wonderful and encouraged! However, I believe it shouldn’t end there. We should keep checking in. We should keep serving (if we are able to). Anything counts and helps. Even just giving someone a shoulder to lean on and providing some resources to help them. Our goal is to help people escape poverty. To end the cycle. To provide not just equality but also equity.

This experience put everything into perspective for me. I had a child in my group here one day and gone the next. His family had a forced move because his mother was no longer able to pay the rent. I never saw him again. This challenged me to make sure that I am putting in the effort to get to know these children and their stories.

There were days when I wished the hours were shorter and that I could crawl into bed and just watch Netflix. I’m not gonna sugarcoat anything with this post. This job was challenging, but knowing that I was stepping into my purpose and hopefully making the difference in at least one child’s life kept me going.

So what’s next?

A spark has been set under my feet to continue serving in my community. I’m excited to see what’s to come.

Before you go,

be sure to subscribe to my blog’s posts below if you haven’t yet! they’ll get sent straight to your email which is pretty cool 🙂
follow my blog’s twitter at: @bloghodgepodge
and take this poverty simulation and please share it with your friends and family!

http://playspent.org/

Thanks,

Nicole

(featured image:https://work4christ.wordpress.com/category/new-testament/colossians/ )

 

Challenge Accepted

Life isn’t easy.
I think that’s a truth we all understand and experience in our lives.
We all face our own battles, obstacles, and just plain bad days every once in a while. Some of us are constantly experiencing adversity while some of us may have some time to breathe in between life’s opposition.

Sure, our trials don’t look the same. Some of us have more privilege than others, but I certainly believe that life has tested each and every one of us.

However…. I believe it’s not about what you’ve gone through, but your response to what you’ve gone through that matters.

I’d say I’m an optimist by nature. I’m the person who tends to view the metaphorical glass “half full.” I’m the person who usually wakes up on the right side of the bed.

It hasn’t been easy to remain this positive for nearly twenty years, but I’ve met some inspiring people along the way whose wisdom I’ve adopted in own my life. Here’s some of the things they’ve taught me:

  • “It’s only considered failure if you give up. If you eventually accomplish the goal, then you’ve still succeeded.”
  • “It’s not about waiting for something to happen. It’s about your attitude while waiting.”
  • “Sometimes we ask God to give us more of certain qualities like patience/faith/trust, but sometimes instead of just getting those things, God chooses to give us circumstances that teach us to have those things.”
  • “Progress is not linear”
  • “Since change scares you, try not to focus on the idea that things are changing. Instead, just embrace the slow transition of life.”

A few months ago, I saw a tweet Chance the Rapper re-tweeted from his manager, Patrick Corcoran, that perfectly sums up my thoughts on challenges:

IMG_7995

I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to embrace authenticity and vulnerability. You don’t have all the answers. It’s okay none of us do, so we should just present ourselves as the raw, works in progress that we are. It makes facing life so much easier and I guarantee you’ll learn a lot more from the people around you.

You can better love yourself and others by choosing joy in the face of adversity. I love the quote that says “Just when you think you’ve been buried, you’ve been planted.” Use this planting time to learn and grow because great things are on the way 🙂

 

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Comparison is the thief of joy. We’re not meant to covet the lives of other people but instead learn to love and celebrate our own life. Life is sweeter when we learn to appreciate what God has for us and only us and use our blessings to glorify His name.

It’s so easy to look at others and want what they have. It might be the new job promotion they just received, their picture perfect family, their good looks, their new car, etc…. the list goes on and on. We may not live everyday thinking these thoughts, but I believe many of us have days when we want what others have and question God for not giving us what they have.

Social media gives us easy access into the worlds of other people. We’re able to see all their accomplishments and blessings almost as soon as they’ve received and achieved them. We begin first admiring their lives, but that admiration (if we’re not careful) can soon turn into jealously. We begin wanting what they posses and soon after the jealousy we begin feeling bad about our own lives or ourselves. It’s a dangerous game to play.

It’s dangerous because we’re comparing someone’s highlight reel to our behind the scenes. I struggle with this from time to time. I’ll be honest and admit that truth. It’s an area of my life that I have been working on improving.

Once I realized that we all have our own battles we face, I realized that social media was creating an illusion of a perfect life. I may see someone at their best, but I have not seen them at their worst. We all have our behind the scenes moments. Our not so pretty moments. Our moments when we’re at our lowest.

I think it’s important to focus on our own highs and lows instead of focusing on other people’s journeys. Instead of competing with other people, we can focus on competing with other versions of ourselves. I can work to become a better “me” than I was the day before. A better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better sister, etc. Our own journey and transformation into becoming who God has called us to be is all that truly matters. We should set goals for ourselves to make ourselves proud not to make other people jealous.

Learning this sooner rather than later will save you so much heartache and will help you not feel inadequate.

The reason I titled this post “Comparison is the Thief of Joy” is because we often miss out on living our life to its fullest potential because we choose to focus on what we don’t have. We choose to focus on how we measure up to other people. We may be happy and satisfied with our own lives, but if we’re not confident and content in what we have, that joy can easily be swayed when we begin comparing ourselves to other people.

The most valuable lesson I’ve learned is that what God has for me is for me only. I can admire other people’s intelligence, beauty, career, relationships, etc without questioning or diminishing the value of my own. I can say “wow, they’re great” and recognize my own greatness, too.

I think a way to eliminate this problem in society is to realize that life is not meant to be a competition with other people.

I challenge anyone reading this to write out a list of things you love about yourself, a list of the ways God has worked in your life, and a list of ways that you want to improve yourself. Focus and reflect on those lists.

Spend so much time focusing on the positives that you won’t have time for comparison and envy.

It’s a process, but I guarantee it will be worth it.

oh, and before I go: Life’s timeline doesn’t look the same for everyone. We’re all meant to do things at our own pace and at our own stages in life. Life wouldn’t be nearly as fun or interesting if we all completed the same steps at the same time.
If it takes you an extra few years to earn your degree, congratulations!
If you don’t want kids or want to wait later in life to have kids or get married, congratulations!
Life’s your own journey and we’re all just along for the ride.

Until next time,

Nicole 🙂

10 min thoughts

“it’s almost friday” i remind myself every week…. the thought of the weekend gets me through the week.

instead, let’s live for every day. every day can be friday if you want it to be (seriously).

life’s not meant to be survived. it’s meant to be lived.

find what that looks like for you.

i was joking with a friend and we joked about how we schedule everything in our day except when we sleep basically.

that started to make me uncomfortable, so instead i’m scheduling what i can and not pushing myself.

treat yourself. rest before you are tired.

sometimes i take mental health days to take a break from my responsibilities and instead plan what my week will look like, call a friend and catch up, or watch a movie.

the pomodoro technique has become my best friend in college: set a timer for 25 mins, take a break for 5 mins, repeat 3 more times, and after the 4th 25-minute period, you can take a 20+ minute break.

i’m also in this place of reflecting on this quote i read: “we’re letting things that don’t matter take priority over things that do”

^ reflect on that, if unproductive energy needs to be removed from your life then by all means (for yourself), cut back on some things.

i figured while i wait for this bus on campus- i could type some thoughts. so here they are. hope you enjoyed reading them!

happy thursday!

-nicole

 

 

monday musings

 

1. It’s okay to be yourself. I recently added that little mantra to my blog because I’ve always supported and admired authenticity. For years I struggled with the need to be liked by everyone and I often felt that I did something wrong when someone didn’t like me. I learned that it’s okay to be yourself. It’s okay to be comfortable in who you are as a person and comfortably exist in who you are.

2. Lean on the people you love. For the longest time, I tried to appear to have it all together and I wanted to be the one other people came to with their problems. I didn’t want to unload my problems onto anyone else. I finally realized how self-destructive that mentality was and I have become more intentional when I ask people how they are doing and I hesitate to say “I’m fine” when they ask me. I am learning to be honest and lean on the people I love for support.
Next time you ask someone how they are doing take time to actually listen to their response.
Text your friends and check on them every now and then. It means a lot. Make time for the people in your life… especially your parents and older relatives. You can learn a lot.

3. Take care of yourself. Your body is your home. It’s been with you since the beginning. Treat it with kindness. I don’t always eat the healthiest, but I am learning to take care of myself. I’m learning to eat healthier but still enjoy the food I eat now.  Find some form of exercise (if you are physically able to) that you enjoy. It could be walking, playing tennis, dancing, etc. You’ll thank yourself later.

4. Learn for the sake of learning. I know school is tough for most of us. I’m not a huge fan of it these days. I’m constantly tired. But I realized it was the work that makes me dread school. I do enjoy learning though. I enjoy most of the content I just don’t enjoy drowning in deadlines. I enjoy learning new things. Knowledge is valuable and important.

Make learning fun! Watch game shows and learn cool facts. Read, read, read. Listen to others more. A quote I found says that when people talk they are repeating things they already know, but when people listen that’s when the learning takes place.

5. Believe in something…. and stand up for your beliefs. Whether you decide to follow a religion or you chose not to- find what you believe. I believe you shouldn’t let anyone decide that for you. It’s more genuine and meaningful when you have those epiphanies on your own. Find what you’re passionate about. Whether you’re super into politics or you couldn’t care less, figure out what do care about. Learn and grow in those identities. As we grow, we may even change some of our identities as we learn from the people around us. Remember to always stay tolerant and open minded on your journey.

Also, fight for what’s right. Fight for everyone to have safety, equality, and equity in this world (in whatever way that means for you). Don’t stand for the mistreatment of any human being. Stay woke. Stay updated on what’s going on in the world around you.

6. Don’t go chasing love. It will find you every time I promise. I am a firm believer that people are placed in your life for a reason. I do believe that you will meet your ‘person’ someday. It’s important to get to know yourself and figure out what you want and refuse to settle for anything less. Once I realized I’d rather be alone than ever settle for anything less than I deserved, I began finding comfort in being on my own.
Sometimes the greatest love is the love we receive from our family and friends. Don’t forget to appreciate their love while you’re looking your soulmate.

7. Do what makes you happy and no one else.  It’s sad to say but I mostly get negative reactions when I tell people that I plan to teach for a living. I get kind words and encouragement too don’t get me wrong. However, I mostly get told to prepare to: live on a small salary, be underappreciated, and have kids wear my patience thin. But I don’t mind it. My heart is full and my face still lights up when I work with children. I always knew it’s what I wanted to do. I used to teach my stuffed animals in my room. I used to brainstorm lesson plans I’d someday use in my classroom. I am excited and humbled by the opportunity to teach young people and I can’t wait to get started.

8. “Do it Afraid”-Joyce Meyer. I’ve learned to be fearless. I’m still working on it, but I believe taking a small leap is the first step. Moving to Athens to go UGA was something I did afraid. I was scared to leave my close friends and family behind. I was nervous to be a black woman on a predominantly white campus- “what if people aren’t nice of me?” “what if i feel like I don’t belong on UGA’s campus?” were some thoughts that played on repeat in my mind. Going away for college excited a lot of people and it excited me too, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified. That’s mostly why I decided to come here. I wanted to push myself because growth happens when we push ourselves. Growth happens when we defy even our own expectations.
Writing on this blog is also something I do afraid. I was nervous to share my first post. I try to write with a layer of vulnerability. I want you to feel as though you know me (or at least parts of me) through my writing. That’s a very scary thing to do because I’m subjecting myself to criticism, but I am also sharing my passion with the world. I learned that agreeing to try something is the hardest part. It’s all downhill from there.

9. Forgive others and love them unconditionally. That expression “hurt people hurt people” holds so much truth. When you neglect to forgive someone, you’re holding on to pain, anger, bitterness, and all those negative feelings. It takes maturity and courage to forgive someone when they’ve hurt you. It’s easier said than done, but you’ll thank yourself for it later. We’re not perfect. We all fall short. I’ve learned to forgive the people in my life when they hurt me (intentionally or intentionally).

10. Show that same grace you give others to yourself. The scariest realization for me was realizing that I was my own worst enemy. I was constantly aiming for perfection and getting upset when I made a mistake. I found that forgiving others was easy, but forgiving myself was difficult. I struggled to accept myself flaws and all. I’m learning to give myself grace. I’ve learned to appreciate the journey towards the woman I want to become. I’ve learned to accept being a work in progress and know that I can love myself during the process. I’m learning to be my biggest fan. I’m learning that progress is not linear. Progress has ups, downs, zigzags. As long as we get from point a to point b, that’s all that matters right?

11. Love yourself + love others + love life. I’ve learned to stop apologizing for who I am. I’ve learned to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. Once I began loving myself, I inevitably learned to love others better. I learned to love with intention. I appreciate the amazing people in my life for who they are. I’m using my journey to inspire and help other people. It’s uncomfortable talking about my insecurities, but if anything, I want to thank anyone who’s ever called me fat, ugly, annoying, awkward, etc. A year ago I wouldn’t have even addressed that, but today those words don’t bother me. They made me realize just how much I needed to love myself more than ever. Life is bigger. God is bigger. Life is too beautiful for this whole self-loathing thing guys. No one can make you feel inferior without your permission!
It’s a long journey to get to this point but I promise you it will all make sense one day.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for sticking with this. This whole blog thing in general really. My writing is always a bit of a long read.

It’s been fun and I’ll be here for as long as you’ll have me!

Happy Monday. You’re all awesome and beautiful people.

Use today to reflect on a list of your own lessons you’ve learned.

until next time,

Nicole 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

socializin’

It’s safe to say that I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I love the idea of social media and the opportunities it gives me to connect with the world around me. I love getting to see what my friends are doing whether they are in the same town as me or they are hundreds of miles away. However, I can also admit that I am a bit addicted to social media.

I found myself spending entirely too much time scrolling through Twitter or watching my friends’ stories on Snapchat. I began realizing my attachment to social media about a year ago and it began making me feel uncomfortable. However, I didn’t really change how I used social media.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to change the way I viewed social media and also limit my use of social media. It’s been challenging and I am still getting in the groove of working on it!

“So, why do you have issues with social media, Nicole?”

1. Dependency

Simply put: I’ve become dependent on social media. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I immediately grab my phone and check all my social media accounts. It’s become a mindless routine for me. I’ll even scroll through Twitter, close the app, forget I just checked twitter, and check Twitter again five minutes later. Scary right?

I tend to find myself picking up my phone to avoid awkward social situations. If I’m with a group of people I don’t know very well or having a conversation that has reached a standstill, I’ll pick up my phone and scroll aimlessly. It’s become a crutch for many of us in social settings.

I feel the first sign of boredom and I immediately look to the world of social media for entertainment.

2. Validation

Our need for instant validation through social media is the main reason social media began making me uncomfortable. I realized I was looking to my followers for validation whether it was through likes, retweets, comments, or the number of followers I have.
Once I realized my own need for validation, it became more obvious to me when other people on social media were looking to others for validation, too.

What I mean specifically is: feeling validated because you got a bunch of likes on a picture you posted or feeling validated by the number of followers you have.

Once I began college, I started frequently posting my accomplishments (mostly on Facebook) as a way to keep my large family updated! It felt good having many people congratulate me on my good news. It feel good being rooted for and supported. Yet, I began feeling very arrogant. I began feeling that I wasn’t humble. I began feeling that I was bragging on all my success and not giving God the glory He rightfully deserved.

I started reevaluating the way I presented my accomplishments. I now ask myself: “Is this to update people who have been on my journey and also to give glory to God?” or “Is this to pat myself on the back and make myself look good?” If my answer is yes to the latter, I opt out of posting whatever the accomplishment may be. I’m choosing to text or call people personally and share big news instead of immediately feeling the need to tell the world.

As I grow more confident in the woman I am becoming the less inclined I feel to post things on social media for compliments or validation from others. 

3. FOMO (fear of missing out)

This one’s probably up there with validation for me. Snapchat specifically comes to mind when I think of FOMO from social media. Snapchat stories allow us to post these cute videos updating our friends on what cool things we’re doing! I enjoy watching other people’s stories on Snapchat more than I enjoy posting my own. Snapchat stories have a way of inviting me into the moment as if I am really there. It’s a more personal experience than any other social media platform.

However, I often find myself experiencing FOMO. It usually happens when I’m having a quiet night in and I check Snapchat and see some of my friends hanging out together seeming to be having a lot of fun (… without me)! I start to wish I was there too and I begin feeling sad that I’m alone when I was just fine chilling at home before I got on Snapchat.

It’s a dangerous game to play.

4. “Don’t compare your behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel”

Social media gives us the chance to give our friends and family (and even strangers) a glimpse into our lives! It truly is our very own highlight reel. We only post the good parts of our lives. The monumental moments. The achievements. The good hair days. The “instaworthy”outfits. The amazing vacation photos. The fun night downtown.

We begin comparing ourselves to the people we see on Instagram. We find ourselves wishing we were as photogenic as them or living their cool lives. We all find ourselves falling into the comparison trap every now and then.

My wake up call  was realizing that I only feel the need to compare myself to others when I’m looking at social media. Something about social media gives this added illusion that we live perfect and beautifully candid lives. We all know that’s far from the truth.

We don’t see people’s vulnerable moments. We don’t see their “behind the scenes”. We’re giving these often false images of who we really are.

I think that’s the cool part of social media- choosing what we want to share with others.
I just think it’s important to remember that no one’s lives are as perfect as they seem when we scroll through social media.  We’ve got to practice self care when scrolling.

“We’re putting on a face that we want people to see but it isn’t necessarily the honest face of who we are and we’re basing our self-worth on how many retweets we get, how many likes we get, how many followers we have, how many friends we have, and for me: social media and the way we interact and what we prioritize in culture is really fascinating to me right now”- Mark Foster, Foster the People

5. It’s just unhealthy

I love social media and plan to continue using it (in moderation). I think we all need to alter our own use of it to create a healthier relationship with social media.

I personally find that I began checking my phone when I was hanging out with my family and friends. It’s rude. There’s no denying that. I am working to avoid having my phone out when I’m hanging out with other people.

I also try to spend less time staring at screens. Whether it’s for school, for work, or for leisure, I spend 80% of my day staring at a screen. Okay honestly about 90% of my day staring at a screen. I know that’s not good for my eyes, so I’m trying to take a break from staring at screens every once in a while.

Also: I have the worst sleeping habits. I’m a night owl by nature, but an early bird due to class. I find it hard to wind down for bed because my mind is always still wired and wanting to read something, write something, or check social media. I’m working to combat this by not using my phone an hour or so before I plan on going to sleep.
*I’m still failing at this one, but working on it*

I want to spend more time experiencing the world around me and finding other things to fill my time.

I recently “unplugged” for an entire day and it was awesome. I turned off all my notifications for social media, deleted or hid some of the apps, and didn’t check them all day. There were times when I found myself wanting to check them out of habit, but I survived. I felt great not feeling tied down to social media. I felt more productive. I felt less FOMO because I couldn’t care what my friends were doing because I had zero clue what they were doing.

I’m currently thinking of other ways to redefine my use of social media, such as, limiting my use to once a day or taking an unplugged day once a week.

I hope this gets you thinking on your use of social media and its role in your life. It may be playing a bigger role than you think.

sidenote: since writing this in march, i turned off all social media notifications and my phone is on do not disturb most of the time. I only check my social media once a day usually near the end of the day and I’ve just been more intentional with my use of social media.

until next time,

nicole

unapologetically black

Hey y’all :)) this is my first post that is getting sent to my subscribers’ emails so that’s kinda exciting!

When I first created this space, I didn’t even know what I would write about. I just knew I wanted to share my thoughts and have my voice heard. I didn’t want to speak over anyone. I didn’t want to appear to have all the answers.

Instead, I’m here to speak out on issues that matter. I’m here to spread positivity, knowledge, and love.Sometimes it seems that doing something positive is more exhausting than rewarding, but I would not have it any other way.

   Something that’s been on my mind heavily lately is my identity as a black woman. My identity as a black woman has been challenged, broadened, strengthened, and has grown over the past year. I wanted to share a piece of my journey with you all and what it means to be a black woman to me in 2017.

i. OREO

Ah, yes I’m sure many millennials are familiar with this term. To those of you who are unfamiliar with this term it refers to someone who is “black on the outside but white on the inside.” Growing up, I mostly had white friends and some of them would throw this term around in casual conversation. They would tell me I didn’t “act black” or that I was an oreo. I could never quite understand why it bothered me originally. The more it happened and the older I’d gotten I realized why. I realized it was because I wasn’t allowed to be authentic. I wasn’t allowed to be me because that defied what they knew a black person to be. Their definitions of black people were built on stereotypes. This oreo comment was a microagression. Many of my classmates associated a black person with sass, anger, speaking a certain way, acting a certain way, and dressing a certain way.

I was in an uncomfortable position growing up concerning my identity. I loved alternative music but I also loved rap music. I felt that I was too black for my white friends and that I was also too white for my black friends. I struggled with this for most of middle and high school.

However, the problem wasn’t just with music. It was feeling that I couldn’t embrace who I was- all parts of who I was: my voice, my fashion choices, my music tastes, etc. without being questioned on my blackness.

Finally, I accepted that I just never will fit into a box. I don’t have to act a certain way to fit society’s expectations of me. I can listen to bands like Vampire Weekend without having my “black card” revoked. I can continue talking as I’ve always talked without fear of being told I talked “white”. I wasn’t aware all white people talked the same. What a concept.

ii.  discomfort

Another feeling I experience as a black woman is discomfort. I feel discomfort when I am the only black woman or black person in a space. I feel discomfort watching non-black people comfortably use racial slurs.

I feel discomfort when I don’t see representations of myself in the media. I remember subscribing to Seventeen Magazine when I was in middle school. I was so happy to have Seventeen sent to my house every month. However, I soon realized that most of the girls in the magazine were white. There was little diversity. I remember their attempts to be inclusive. They’d have an “African American beauty” section which was about only five pages in a 70+ page spread. I got the message. The magazine wasn’t originally created for girls like me. I eventually cancelled my subscription because I felt I excluded from one of the leading American magazines for preteens.

I’ve felt a lot of discomfort (sometimes on a daily basis) these past nineteen years as a black woman, but thankfully many people are still pioneering and changing the game.

I am so thankful for artists such as Issa Rae. Her humor and approach to the portrayal of being an awkward black girl appealed to my high school self. I loved her Youtube show “The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl” and I am so proud that she has her own show (Insecure) on HBO now. Janelle Monae’s music also helped shape me into the woman I am today. She encourages me to be an “electric lady”. If you follow me on Instagram, that’s why I have a lightning bolt next to my name. Just a small reminder. Being an electric lady means defying labels, remaining authentic, and embracing your blackness.

iii. “What if America loved black people as much as they love black culture?”-Amandla Stenberg

Black culture. It’s everywhere. Seriously. Ju Ju on that beat. NaeNae. Dabbing. Rap music. Slang words. Black people have contributed a lot to pop culture over the years. From dance crazes to music to fashion.

I think the most interesting thing has been the fashion industry’s treatment of black women. Many magazines will choose to shoot a white woman wearing tan bronzer with her hair in braids, lips drawn on to appear fuller, etc instead of choosing a black woman to be photographed. I’ve noticed the popularity of some hair styles or beauty trends that originated in black communities but they are not given the credit until a white woman makes it “trendy”.

I noticed that people love (idolize even) black celebrities, musicians, athletes, etc., but they seem uncomfortable when those same black icons speak out on their oppression or experiences as a black person. You can’t see these people as objects for your entertainment and forget that they are black people with living breathing stories. 

If you’re going to enjoy black culture, I believe you should be standing alongside us in our battle against systemic oppression. Speak out on privilege, positionality, and just plain injustice you see.

iv. Unapologetically Black

So here I am now. I’ve felt it all. I’ve gone through discomfort growing up as a black woman, but I am choosing to embrace my racial identity. I’ve dealt with blatant racism, micoaggressions, etc. I wish I could’ve told my 12 year old self that I can be anything I want to be. That I can be outspoken without being called sassy or loud. That I can listen to any music I like. That I can speak out on issues concerning me as a black woman. That I can love myself despite what others may think.

     Pro-black is not synonymous with anti-white. Black pride is finding joy simply in being black. It’s about learning to appreciate the beauty of being black. Being black means resilience. It means still fighting when many of the systems in place still work against you. Being black means embracing being different. Embracing your melanin. Embracing your hair. Embracing your features (our noses and lips specifically) when a westernized standard of beauty tells you that you shouldn’t. Being black means remaining hopeful.

I am so thankful for artists like Beyonce, Solange, and Kendrick Lamar who find beauty in the struggle. Their voices inspire and encourage me to keep going. They encourage me to shine. I’m thankful for the black students who paved the way for future students like me to attended Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs). I’m thankful for my family who taught me from an early age to work hard. I’m so proud of my family of strong black people who’ve gone on to become doctors, nurses, educators, school administrators, and entrepreneurs.

so where do i go from here?

I’m going to continue learning to embrace my roots. I’m going to continue defying people’s perceptions of what a black woman should be. I’m a musician, I’m a writer, I’m a college student, I’m an amateur yogi, I’m a concert enthusiast, etc.

I will not let society tell me who I will be.

until next time,

Nicole

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: