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As I write this I am bedridden and wrapped up in three blankets with tissue scattered everywhere taking sips of warm Echinacea tea in between typing battling what I call the Kindergarten Cooties. If three years ago you had told the girl chasing writing deadlines, attending press parties, and following the social elite entertainment circuit that she would find happiness in a classroom teaching small children, she would have laughed at you…maybe even choking a little bit. That girl was and is me.

I graduated from Rutgers University-Newark with a Bachelor’s in Journalism and Media Studies. I walked across that stage with an internship from Shape Magazine and W Magazine under my belt with some recommendations as well as a Lifestyle blog that I managed on Tumblr. I was ready for the lavish, the fun, the challenges of the deadlines, the bylines and headlines. I was ready to see my name in print and online, but reality had soon set in and there I was thrown into a career path I was not prepared for. The freelance gigs came more than often and I saw the silver lining of being able to build up a cool portfolio, but the solid, salary on-staff positions were far and wide and there I was making a full time job out of applying for every single journalism job I could find in New York City with Sallie Mae tapping at my door.

During that time I began freelancing for Madame Noire and Saint Heron and both came with awesome perks that included music release parties, press parties, networking events in the city, and tons more. I knew that I could name drop and gain access to several different events with my best friend tagging along as my plus one, I mean come on I freelanced for Solange Knowles and Armina Mussa. I even ended up freelancing for Upscale Magazine, Blavity and the Huff Post. I was in the thick of it and I was happy for a bit. Train rides between Jersey and New York City soon began to break my pockets as my FOMO syndrome heightened. I needed to be everywhere and in everything. I needed to find stories to submit so that I could make some money and keep money coming in, but as a freelance writer what they rarely tell you is there are times when you don’t get paid on time and that happens often. In networking and speaking with other freelancers I soon learned that in addition to freelancing they also had full-time jobs in completely different fields because like me, they too needed a stable and comfortable means of income. In 2012 I decided to go back to graduate school for education. I thought why not teach and write?

During my graduate studies, I picked up a part time job as a teen program coordinator for The Boys & Girls Club of Newark where I worked for two years. It was an afternoon to evening job that allowed me the time to write in the morning and do my class readings. It also allowed me the space to stay out late at night in the city and not have to worry about waking up early for work. Working at BGCN, I realized there was a serious issue that our education system was not addressing. I could not understand how students in high school still could not write simple paragraphs or even simple sentences. As a writer and someone who’s passionate about the written language I realized it was something I wanted to spend a great deal of my life doing. I wanted to take something that I am great at and use it to help others so I began to freelance less and less until I didn’t want to do it anymore.

The thing about purpose though is that it always tends to meet you at a crossroads. Here I was teetering between a career in media and one in education and trying hard to find a way to merge the two. I didn’t want to give up the NYC parties and social scene, but I also found myself feeling less fulfilled by it. I realized I didn’t care about entertainment or celeb news as much as I did the thrill of being on the scene. I thought that education was such a boring career choice and folks would sort of look at my funny for choosing a common career over one that came with status. I thought without media I wouldn’t mean anything anymore, but I was wrong. I’m going into my fourth year as an educator and I am proud to know that high school students I once taught or worked with are now in college, studying abroad and doing good in the world. As a high school English teacher, I taught 150 students a day. I had the pleasure of impacting 150 students a day!!! Now as a kindergarten teacher I value their innocence, I know that everyday when they step foot into my classroom, I am responsible for preparing them for the next thirteen years of their lives.

Throughout my career in education I’m always focused on ways I can provide enrichment that speaks to the needs of the whole person. So yes, in the grand scheme of things I want to make sure that I am teaching my students in a way that is growing their brains, but I also want to provide them with life tools that will prepare them for the world socially. I started Curate Your Life in January at the high school I was working at in the form of a one day summit chocked full of enriching workshops that spoke to the teen girl population because I noticed that there was a lack of life skills offerings at the school I was working for. I thought if my school was lacking it, what other schools are as well, so I branched off and started Sisterhood Sessions which are hour long small group life skills workshops that I’ve hosted at after-school programs, at Saturday schools and within school districts as part of their 21st Century Learning programs. I also branched off and started one that spoke to college age and working professional women called You Ok Sis: Newark as a way to offer a safe space for us to come together after work and bond and vent and celebrate one another as WOC.

My life has shifted so much when I found myself at that crossroads and deciding to take a risk on a road I was unfamiliar with. Goals have become less superficial. My life has become more purpose driven and selfless. I’ve transformed from the girl chasing social status, the social elite, the fast pace party scene to the woman grounded in herself and the social good that she’s doing in the world even if she have to fight them while dealing with the kindergarten cooties.

It’s Friday and there are approximately 5 hours left in my work day before spring break. As I sit in the emptiness of my classroom, I reflect. Going into the last of the first quarter of the year, I reflect on all of my accomplishments, new opportunities, blessings, abundance and the amount of gratitude I feel for it all.

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As I am planning an 8-week curriculum for Curate Your Life, I came across a quote by Audre Lorde that screamed to me. It spoke to me so loudly that I was overwhelmed with that feeling of certainty you get when you know you are exactly where you need to be and that you are about to catapult into something super great. The speaking got easier. She said:

“The speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.”

The speaking got easier. I swear to y’all it did. Curate Your Life was never a vision. It wasn’t even a dream. It was something that just happened when I started to speak and literally stopped trying to plan my path and just let it happen the way it should. All of the right people came into my life and all of the wrong people left. I’ve never been more certain in my life about my life and as Audre said, the only thing more frightening than taking risk and living my truth is not living my truth and playing it safe.

In order for the speaking to get louder sometimes you have to be very still. Sometimes you have to stop talking. Sometimes you have to stop moving and be..very…quiet…I’ve done a lot of stopping and standing so far this year so that I could listen, so that the speaking could get louder.

I didn’t give this vision to myself, but I have fallen in love with the vision that was given to me.

I say all of that to say, be quiet sometimes. Just stop and listen to what’s being spoken to you and it will get louder. So loud that it will be impossible to ignore.

xoxo

1480969527417I grew up in a family that was and is very much rooted in Christianity and the church. My father was recently “installed” as the pastor of the church I grew up in. My mother is now a first lady and missionary. One of my grandmothers is a church mother, the other is an evangelist. My uncle is a Pastor and my aunt is a first lady as well…you get the point because the list goes on. As a kid, I was active in Sunday school, the youth choir, the junior usher board, and the youth ministry programs and activities, but as I got older, none of it felt authentic to me. It was as if I was programmed to practice Christianity because that’s what my parents practiced and their parents and so on, but I never felt like I belonged there. I felt fake. I felt like I was going through the motions.

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When I got to college, my first couple of years, Christianity and church were the last things on my mind. I was in a new environment completely free from my parents who didn’t wake me up every Sunday morning to get dressed for a long day in church. I felt free. I felt liberated from it all. Somewhere along the way, I tuned into all the background noise telling me I needed to be in church, and I needed to read my bible and I needed to pray and there I was feeling guilty because I wasn’t doing any of those things. So once again, I found myself in church, and attending campus small groups during the week trying to fake it until I made it. I pledged a Christian sorority and found myself with more questions than answers trying to reach a standard I really didn’t care too much about in the first place. I got tired and burnt out from trying to keep up. So I stopped.  (more…)