Valentine’s Day Special: “I’m Still Here”

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Well, folks, it’s Valentine’s Day. And instead of talking about more pressing issues like police brutality, global warming, the wage gap, or the incessant news coverage of Donald Trump’s stupidity, I have decided — for the sake of my sanity and the desire to unplug from worldly drama — to dedicate this post to Valentine’s Day.

Now, I’ve never paid much attention to Valentine’s Day. Although I appreciate the concept behind it, Valentine’s Day was just another day for me. I mostly looked at it as a commercial holiday and nothing more. Perhaps, it’s because I’ve never celebrated the occasion with anyone I was romantically involved with. This year won’t be any different. I am single, therefore, it will be just me and my single girlfriends choosing to acknowledge the love we have for ourselves and our friendship, rather than anything romantic. 

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For some, it might sound sad. The idea of single women on Valentine’s Day sounds much sadder than the idea of single men on Valentine’s Day. Lord knows how much pressure our global society places on women to have and keep a man. Women are sent daily signals about how our worth is dependent on a man choosing us and publicly claiming us, which, of course, is complete bullshit. Despite the bullshit, it’s hard to ignore the impact this conditioning has on women and our self-esteem. So when Valentine’s Day comes around, and we are still without a “bae”, it can lead to women feeling sorry for themselves and worrying about their romantic futures. I understand, I’ve had those same worries, not because of Valentine’s Day, but just as a result of running into guys that I never fully connected with.

However, don’t cry for me Argentina, because I am not sad about being single on Valentine’s Day. Not having a “boo” has been the least of my concerns. This past year has been such a learning experience for me. Stepping out on faith to lay the foundation for my own business has revealed both my strengths and my weaknesses. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made great strides, I’ve cried, I’ve doubted myself and the gift God has given me, I’ve met some great people, I’ve considered quitting and going back to a stable job, I’ve cried, and I’ve ugly cried, I’ve considered securing a sugar daddy, and I’ve cried some more. But I’m still here. Granted, I’m not where I want to be, but I’m still here, and I am entering a new level of self-acceptance. I love who I am and that is something worth celebrating.

Growing up, I never had an issue loving myself, but this past year sent my self-love into question. Walking my path as a motivational speaker and dealing with adversity along the way made me question the love I had for myself and my talents. But I have chosen to not only embrace my growing pains, but to also embrace all of who I am: the parts of me that are great and the parts of me that are still in development. I have chosen to see myself in my entirety, proclaim my beauty, understand my perfect imperfections, and love myself again. I choose to love myself unapologetically, and during moments of insecurity, and with more passion than any man professes he can.e88cbf0e412471bc844088ac9b9b5efd--black-women-art-black-girls

I choose me.

I now know that when I thought I was breaking, I was actually shedding the pieces of me that I outgrew. I was having a break-through, not a break-down. I will acknowledge Valentine’s Day and every day henceforth as a day of triumph for self-love, instead of self-loathing. I will toast to this journey, how far I’ve come, and how many times I chose to stand back up after crumbling down. I’m still here.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Cheers! 

 

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Come to a FREE All Women’s Panel discussing Entrepreneurship!

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I have the wonderful opportunity to sit on a panel with these wonderful, creative, business women and share my personal journey of entrepreneurship. The goal of the evening will be to inform and inspire other women who are interested in going into business for themselves. It will also serve as a good networking opportunity!

Please come out! We would love to see you there! It’s free, but don’t forget to RSVP and get your ticket!

Colorism?…But at the Club, Though?

 

 

darker_lighter_skin  There’s nothing like going out with your girls: twerking, two stepping, hip swinging, waist winding, all while singing loud and off key to all your favorite songs makes for a truly magical evening.  So, on this particular night,  I was excited to hit the city of L.A. with my favorite dance partners. We decide to explore the busy streets of Santa Monica, and so far, our night was off to a great start–we didn’t have to pay to park and there was no cover charge, which is not always easy to find in Los Angeles.  We stepped into one of the many bars/clubs on the block that was recommended to us and were surprised to hear some hip-hop music playing. The bars in Santa Monica are mostly inhabited by young white people, so typically there’s a lot of house and pop music. So upon entering this particular bar, we knew that this place was probably our best bet and decided to stay.
There we were, dancing our lives away on a crowded dance floor, enjoying every minute of it. We had made friends with another group of black folks from out of town, and one of my girlfriends ended up dancing with one of the guys we met. My friend and this guy — we’ll just call him Dante — had taken a break from dancing and were talking, while I was standing by the wall next to them. Dante motions me over, so I walk to him.  He leans in to my ear and says, “Hey, go talk to my friend over there; he’s kinda awkward. He told me he was feeling you, so you should go talk to him.”  I felt like Dante was just trying to get rid of me so that he could be completely alone with my friend. I was getting ready to tell Dante that I was just chilling and probably wouldn’t go over to talk at that moment, but before I could say anything, Dante continued, “Yea, my sister told me that I should dance with you, but, no dis to you, but I like light-skin girls”. My stomach dropped. My friend and I gave Dante a serious side eye like, WFT??!!

 

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Now, comments like this are not new to me. I’ve heard some black men say how they “prefer light-skin” girls and, normally, I just shrug off their ignorance and keep it pushing. But for some reason his comment was the final straw and I broke. I walked away from them and sat at the far end of the bar trying my hardest to hold back tears. I was really hurt.  The build up of these types of comments had finally taken its toll, yet I was embarrassed that his words had affected me to the extent that they did.

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I was hurt by the fact that it is 2017, and the Black community is still dealing with colorism. The fact that we, as Black people, have yet to appreciate and truly see the beauty of all the hues we come in is extremely frustrating, and the fact that some Black people are completely clueless to the effects of slavery and social conditioning on their romantic “preferences” is enraging. I was hurt because for the first time I really felt unattractive and unwanted. I was unwanted by a black man whose skin was just as brown as mine. It is beyond bewildering. I felt like I had been transported to another world where everyone was asleep except for me. There I was operating amongst zombies who had no idea they weren’t “woke”.

My question is, why did he feel the need to say anything at all?! He didn’t have to continue his spiel. If that is the mindset you carry, then there is no need to say it aloud and reveal your foolishness to the public. He literally told me that the reason he didn’t dance with me was because my skin was too dark. Why the f*%k would you actually let those words come out of your mouth?! Did I mention that his beloved sister was just as dark as me?  I’m sure that he thinks his sister is beautiful, but you mean to tell me that he wouldn’t date someone who had the same skin tone as his sister?!!  I just don’t get it! How could he not see that there was something seriously wrong with his comment

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I was done. Exhausted. Defeated. And at that moment the only thing I wanted to do was go home, lay down, and cry.
Luckily Dante’s friend, Eric, came and sat next to me and started talking to me. Even though a part of me wanted to be left alone, I greatly appreciated him being there, if only to preoccupy my mind with idle chit-chat and to prevent the tears from dropping onto my cocktail napkin. Eric was not like Dante and expressed a great appreciation for all things black. Thank you, Eric. You saved me at that moment with your conversation and you had no idea.
We stayed until the bar closed and then made our trek back home. I didn’t speak a word of what I was feeling to my friends. I wanted to keep the evening fun and light and I thought that I could move past the experience. However, the next morning when I woke up, I still felt the emotional weight of the previous night and I surrendered to that feeling and cried. I told my girlfriends how I felt and they expressed their empathy and said that Dante was an asshole. They allowed me to break and they used their loving words to piece me back together. Thank you to my girlfriends, my squad, my sistas … you know who you are. 636006945613581481-1906458683_image
I spoke to my mother as well, she is always there to remind me of who and whose I am. She was sad that I had to experience the same ignorance she had to endure during her younger years, but she reminded me that there are men out there who see and appreciate my blackness. She said, “Now Beth, if you are woke and can see the beauty in our people, then you have to know that you are not the only one. You have to know that there are other black people — black men — who feel like you do, who see the beauty, your beauty. You have to know this!”
My mother was right, deep down I did know. I know that there are black people out there, black men in particular, who are awake — who see the beauty within the spectrum. I know that there are men out there who would not dismiss me because I have dark skin, but who would be ready and more than willing to embrace me. Thank you, mom, for building me up and for reminding me that there is nothing wrong with me — for reminding me that I am beautiful. Thank you for straightening my spine and helping me to stand tall and proud in my black skin. Thank you for reminding me, that as I stand, I’m helping others to stand too.

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Smile? … But Why??

 

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Cat-calls can be annoying, but, currently, there’s one particular word that I’ve heard men say that really gets under my skin. I stopped by Leimert Park one weekend where there was an event with drummers, music, and food and merchandise vendors — it looked interesting, so I walked through. As I was walking, a man with a beard, long locks and dark shades, blasting music from his speakers, leans over and shouts to me, “Why don’t you smile? Smile.” And like a puppet, I complied and smiled. Immediately afterwards I was like, “Wait. Why did I do that?” Another question to ask is: Why did this guy tell me to smile??
Now, there are those that might say, “Well he meant no offense by it, he just wanted to see you smile. No big deal. Chill out.”

Here’s my response to that: 1. I am very chill … chill to the point of freezing. I am cool as ice. I know that this man meant no offense. However, just because he meant no offense doesn’t negate the fact that his statement was odd and unnecessary. I am not enraged by his comment… simply annoyed. 2. Why does this guy need me to smile??? There I was, happily living my life, minding my own business; yet he felt like he needed to make a suggestion — rather yet, an improvement — on how I should carry myself.

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Now, normally, I would have brushed it off, but he is not the first man to say this to me, and my girlfirends have experienced the same thing. He didn’t nearly leap from behind his speakers to tell the man walking behind me to smile like he had done to me, nor was he an enthusiast passing out fliers suggesting that the whole world smile. He picked me out and decided that I was the one who needed reminding. What’s also interesting is that I have yet to have a woman shout at me telling me to smile, nor have I ever felt the urge to tell anyone else to smile.
So why do men say this to women?

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I’ve thought about it and I have drawn two possible conclusions:
1. Perhaps it’s their way of simply trying to get a woman’s attention, and perhaps even start a conversation with a woman they find attractive.
2. Perhaps a woman who is not smiling really throws off their sexist idea of how a woman should carry herself, and that, in their less-expanded minds, a woman should always be wearing a smile. I feel like this idea stems from the 1950’s housewife image that was heavily promoted during that time and continues to be promoted today. Without ever prioritizing her own wants and needs and the vital self-care that is integral to a happy, healthy life, this woman raises the kids, manages and cleans the house, tends to the husband, and cooks… She does this all with impeccably-styled hair that never seems to have a strand out of place, an hour-glass figure that seems to require no real effort to maintain, wearing a perfectly ironed dress that accentuates her small waist with heels and, of course … a nice, bright smile.

 

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This is bullshit. Guess what, as a human being, I am allowed to experience whatever mood I like and sometimes I’m not in the mood to smile. Often, I’m not overcome by any mood at all and I’m simply going about my day, not even thinking about whether I am smiling or not. I’m just being. If me simply being makes a man feel uncomfortable because I am not accessorized with a beaming smile that would place him at ease, then that is a personal problem and has nothing to do with me. I do not have to smile for anyone. I don’t have to be anyone other than who I am, and I don’t care how that makes you feel.

Therefore, to all the men out there who have made the repetitive mistake of broadcasting this command to women: STOP! We are the ones in control of our emotional/facial expression — not you. So, unless you are on some kind of spiritual campaign to get the world to smile and live in a state of gratitiude, unless you are telling the men to smile as well, then you should take it upon yourself to kindly smile at me and say absolutely nothing, your silence will be GREATLY appreciated. I know it’s hard, but I believe it’s time you experience being seen and not heard …ssshhhh… just smile baby.

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Car Crashes and Resurrections

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There I was, scrolling through instagram, when I saw a picture of my friend, Binna, lying in a hospital bed. She had gotten into a car accident, but was trying to assure us that she was ok — it was just like Binna to say that. She was the third friend of mine who had gotten into a serious car accident that month. When I saw the picture of her totaled car, which looked like it had been stepped on and squished down by a giant, in addition to her hospital photos where she laid there bruised and cut with a fractured rib, my heart jolted. Binna was in positive spirits, but I was frazzled.

When I finally saw her and asked her about the accident, she only spoke of the good things that happened as a result of it. I told her that there was no doubt that there was a divine hand on her life and I’m sure she felt so blessed to be alive. Binna said that she was definitely blessed. She spoke of how the accident changed her; she claimed that she wasn’t the same person anymore, and that she couldn’t conceive being who she once was. Of course I asked her what she meant by that, and, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have asked her to explain such a loaded experience in that rushed moment, but I just had to know something. I could see it was a little challenging for Binna to quickly sum up everything she meant by that comment, and I could see her trying to find the right words. All she could muster up to say in that moment was that she just loved herself more. Not that she didn’t love herself prior to the accident, it’s just that the love she felt for herself now was deeper than it once was, and the things that she used to stress over, she now finds irrelevant, therefore, she no longer stresses over it. There was an appreciation for life itself, for simply being, that she was awakened to.

There was something about Binna saying that she loved herself more that really struck me. I envied her. I wish I carried that same deep love and awareness that she spoke of. Don’t get me wrong. I do love myself, but I can also be pretty hard on myself and readily harp on my self-perceived flaws and countless mistakes. But Binna seemed to be on a different level. She was calm and at peace and happy — un-frazzled. I salivated for the same thing.

Binna’s story is not the first one I’ve heard where someone has had a near death experience that makes them infinitely more grateful for life and for themselves. It’s a shame that life has to be nearly taken before we gain an appreciation for it. I’m on a quest to gain that same depth that Binna now wades in, just without the near death experience lol. However, talking to Binna pushed me one step deeper into that realization. It appears as though her “accident” had a ripple effect and stirred me while I was apparently sleep walking. I’ll take it as one of God’s many signs telling me to chill the f*&k out and take note of all I have to smile about.

Thanks Binna.

Inauguration 2017: What does the future hold?

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There I was. Lying on my bed… watching netflix. Determined not to look at the tv or turn on social media because watching the votes come in would send me into a frenzied state of anxiety. But i couldn’t resist texting my friends every once in a while for updates. And finally, our greatest fear came to pass. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. The entire world was in silent shock. I was in disbelief, immovable. I didn’t cry or scream or curse the tv out in protest, all I could do was lay there. I felt like a deflated balloon, there was no air left in me. Sleeping was the only option I had, so that’s what I did.

The next day I went to work. I was a zombie —functioning but not present, walking with a cloud overhead. Some of my co-workers felt the same, they were also sleep walking, a few even cried. Nothing made sense. How could the same country that voted for Obama — twice— vote for Trump? Their campaigns were completely different, one rallied support with love while the other rallied support using fear. I was dumbfounded

I wasn’t under the illusion that racism, bigotry, stupidity, and misogyny was a thing of the past, I knew how very alive it was/is, and that there would be plenty of people who would rally behind Trump. I knew that there were people who were too engrossed in their own interests to be swayed by common sense and would, therefore, support someone whom they really didn’t care for, but whom they knew would protect their interests. I knew, understood, and respected that there were people out there whose opinions may conflict with mine. However, I thought we had progressed much further than to allow this man — someone who has no real plan of action, no experience in politics, and is extremely under qualified and hot-headed to govern a nation such as ours — into the oval office. Despite the friction and disagreements amongst citizens, I figured this would be a no-brainer. I was wrong.

That day I felt the weight of the nation’s disappointment, I felt the fear and the restlessness of not knowing what the future would hold. I don’t even think Trump supporters were that thrilled, nor could they honestly attest to feeling as though our country was now in the best of hands. No matter what side you were on: democrat or republican, Hillary or Trump, I don’t think anyone genuinely believed that Hillary would lose.

People tried to ease their dismay by saying that most of what Trump proclaimed during his campaign was just hot air that could never come to fruition. But, thanks to social media, Trump never shied away from exposing himself and continuing to spout his ignorance and arrogance.

January 20th is days away and it’s hard to mentally accept that Trump will be sworn in as our next president. I am terribly sad to see Obama leave after doing such a great job and always remaining calm, composed, and classy even while addressing his critics. He stayed steady and focused. I’m going to miss him and Michelle and all that they stood for, which was the unity of our nation and an acknowledgement that at the end of the day we all want the same things: health, happiness, safety, equality, financial stability, and the freedom to live our lives as we see fit.

I realize that I may never see another black president in my life time, and I highly doubt I will see a woman as leader of our country. There will definitely never be another President Barack Obama. I know that what I witnessed 8 years ago was nothing short of divine destiny. I’m not saying Obama was perfect because none of us are, however, I don’t doubt the workings of a higher power on his behalf. How else could you explain a black man becoming the leader of the free world?

I’m just trying to soak up these last few days, and I decided that I will not be watching the inauguration. Watching it will only solidify a nightmare that I have been trying to fight off, it will become real then. Although I will not be tuning in, I, along with the rest of the nation, and the world for that matter, will be paying close attention to what is happening in Washington D.C. The nation is prepared to call Donald out on his inevitable bullshit and to express their opposition. It can be scary not knowing what the future holds, but I feel as though people will pay more attention to politics now. Unfortunately, people don’t pay attention or take action until their personal interests are being threatened. And now that so many people feel as though their personal interests and rights are in jeopardy, perhaps we will grow more unified as a nation.

In the end, I hope that Trump’s attempt to use hatred as a divisive tool, will outrage all of us enough to band together and defend the progress we have made as a nation. It would be incredibly disheartening to take steps backwards after all the pain and hard work it took to move us forward.

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Chadwick School Daze

 

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This week I had the honor and pleasure of returning to my old high-school to deliver a presentation to the senior class. I attended Chadwick School in Palos Verdes. It was surreal stepping back in time and returning the campus that had such an impact on me. I uprooted all of those old memories. Thinking about all the good times with my friends, in addition to, all the stressful moments we shared. Chadwick was the place that challenged me and forced me to stretch, to grow, to think, and laid a foundation for who I am today. It was an honor to be back.

Speaking to the senior class and sharing my story and life lessons from my book,
My Quarter-of-a-Century Life Lessons, was an experience I will always cherish. While speaking, I saw myself in them. I saw all the doubt I once had, the fear, the worry as to what the “Real World’ would bring. Would I be successful? Would I be ok? It brought me tremendous joy to affirm their questions and say, “Yes, you are going to be just fine.” It felt good to be used as a source of encouragement and reassurance for them.

I was also touched by those students who came to speak to me and ask me individual questions. I wasn’t expecting to be embraced to that extent, and they all echoed the same appreciation for my words, for my honesty, for my advice, and for reaffirming their success.

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I went into the lecture hall not knowing what the result would be. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be received. I only sincerely hoped that I could provide them with something beneficial that they could take and carry with them.

What ended up happening was even better. I very much wanted to be a blessing for them, but they were the ones who blessed me. Karma is real. You get back what you put out. And the same warmth that I gave to them, they returned 10x that warmth to me. It helped to re-affirm what I am here to do, which is to use my words to teach and uplift others. You never know how your words can affect someone. How a smile, an embrace, or simply listening can help ease the weight of the burden that someone else is quietly hauling. I was reminded of all this that afternoon. picsart_12-01-08-47-42

I know what my purpose is…I guess I’ve always known. Thank you Chadwick.

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Girlfriends

After weeks of trying to schedule a time to get together, tonight I had dinner with two friends of mine. While sitting at the table, drinking my jamaica and devouring a plate of the best fish tacos I’ve ever eaten, I was reminded of how important it is to have good people – good friends – in your life. People who will encourage and support you. People who love you enough to be honest with you during the times when you are avoiding the truth. I feel so blessed to be encased in such a loving circle – to be in the presence of those who want to lift me up and pull me out of the abyss of my own negative thinking and remind me of how wonderful and special I am, and who will hold me accountable to the values, standards, and expectations that I set for myself.  I was reminded of how important it is for me to be in the presence of those who don’t waste time and energy criticizing, judging, or speaking harshly about other people, but whose conversation focuses on how to better themselves. Where the purpose is to laugh, and to share with the intent of gaining insight one needs to make better choices.  More specifically, as a woman, it re-affirmed the importance of having good girlfriends in my life. Let’s face it, no matter how many times you try to explain it to them, sometimes men just don’t get it, and I need to be able to engage in dialogue with those who will understand. For a long time, I felt as though I didn’t have many people in my life that I could confide in and now I do.  I continue to pray for God to place the right people in my life, and it’s a good feeling to know that God is not simply listening to me, but is responding as well.