Are You Living or Are You Existing?

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I woke up this morning with a heart full of gratitude. I thought about all of the doors that are opening for me. I thought about my purpose and the passion that I’ve been chasing. Truth is, everything that I’ve been doing is coming full circle from my desire to work with teens and teen girls and my desire to be a writer…the webs are connecting. Finally. So I took an opportunity recently as a full-time high school teacher with KIPP NJ. I figured it would definitely help my writing and speaking skills, it would most certainly help me to understand a huge portion of my audience when it comes to the books I have prepared: teens, and it wouldn’t hurt to be able to fund those published author dreams in the process. Yes, I am still writing for Madame Noire, Upscale Magazine and editing for Black Girl Magik, so imagine the stretching that’s about to take place come September. Yikes!

I see often on social media “I know I wasn’t born to just pay bills and die.” My question is…what are you doing in your life so that you aren’t JUST paying bills and aging? Ask yourself are you really living or just existing and what can you do so that you can fully start to appreciate your life in it’s entirety? For me, it lied in financial security and freedom. I am literally a starving artist. My plate is always full, but my bank accounts are also always near empty and I knew that in order to fully embrace my life again as I had when I was in Newark…I had to change my perspective on things. I quit my job in October 2015 because I hated it there. I was at a place that only allowed me to exist and trying to live often left me broke and hungry. So I figured, hey I’m going to pursue this writing thing full time…in the meantime until I finally figure out my place. Well, I found it…let the living commence!!

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Anyway, lately I’ve been connecting with some pretty awesome and inspiring people who dream beyond their 9-5’s, but who also know that they need their 9-5’s in order to live their dreams. One guy, in particular, named Stephen talked to me about his daily checklist and how he holds himself accountable in all aspects of his life. As he was talking, I found myself writing down what he was saying. I wrote down every question on his daily checklist and I thought for someone who realizes they are existing and wish to start living, this is a great place to start.

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Now, these questions might do absolutely nothing for you, but the most important thing is that you’re asking questions about your life because when you ask questions it means that you’re curious and when you’re curious it means that there is still room for growth and when you’re growing, you’ll never find yourself in the same spot every single day existing.

Are you living or are you existing? Are you dancing or are you holding up the wall?

 

 

Am I Doing My Part as a Social Activist?

Many of you expressed regret for not attending any protests over the weekend. Many of you expressed that you had no desire to attend a protest, but you still want to be an advocate for social justice and do your part as an activist in your communities. I’m just going to say that if you didn’t attend a protest or stand on the frontlines…that’s okay! I came across a recent post discussing that how as writers, artists, and creators, it is our job to speak about these things, but at the end of the day, in my opinion, they are just words. I’m more interested in how those words are received. I’m more interested in the actions behind those words, so yeah I can write a blog post about social injustice, police brutality, and political warfare again racism in the hopes that they will inspire you to get out there and do something or I can just show you the best way I know how.

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When most people think of social activism, they only see this…

There were a plethora of protests that took place in Jersey over the weekend and I could’ve taken a train to get to any of them, but instead I was at the public library assisting with a kid’s book club in Trenton. It dawned on me, that change began right there where I was at.

I thought about the kids. The next little girl that will walk in my shoes when she gets to the age 26 or the next little boy who will celebrate his eighteenth birthday in the years to come. Don’t get me wrong, I will fight for my brothers and sisters. I will fight with them, but for the people who don’t know how to do their part, I say start right where you are. For me, it was at that library, helping those children read.

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…not this…

Maybe protesting isn’t your thing, and it doesn’t have to be, but you’re really good at organizing workshops and programs for different audiences such as children, or teens or other ethnic groups. Maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe you’re a lawyer or someone interested in practicing law and you’d like to teach a compliance workshop or a “know your rights” class. Maybe you’re a doctor and want to discuss the mental and physical effects of protesting. Maybe you’re a teacher and want to teach an educational class on diversity and tolerance to small children. Maybe you’re a chef and you do your part by providing food and drinks for people who are protesting. Either way start wherever you are with whatever you have and that’s how you can do your part as a social activist.

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What can you do with what you have?

How to Position Yourself for Positivity

12342360_10153550358556997_1380704423291471423_nThis morning, I got an email from “Life According To Her” and the first line was “Deja, simplify what complicates your life. I thought it was a timely email because for the last week I’ve been in a really great place, but before that I found myself increasingly overwhelmed. I found myself having multiple breakdowns (the struggle got real) and I wanted to share a message with you all on positioning yourself for positivity because I literally had to remove somethings to tap back into that clear and free head space I felt slipping away from me. I just didn’t know how to articulate that message to you and I didn’t think I should until I had finally positioned my own self for positivity (gotta practice what you preach right?). So this post has sat in my drafts for a week now, but that email prompted me to open this and share it with you ¬†through one of the most consistently complicated things in my entire life: math.

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I know you’re probably like where are you going with this Deja, but trust me…it’ll make sense soon. So math. You’re in pre-K and then Kindergarten and you’re learning your numbers. You learn how to count to three…and then ten and before you know it you’ve learned how to count to 100. Pretty simple right? But then you transition to first grade and then second grade and you’re learning how to add numbers together and subtract numbers from each other. It’s still pretty simple although you might stagger a bit on borrowing and carrying those tricky multiple digit numbers, but then you get to the fourth grade and you start to learn how to multiply and then divide those numbers and suddenly you realize things that were once so simple (such as counting) are starting to get more complex and complicated (imagine the person sitting in Calculus 4 right now). Well folks this is often the model for our lives as well. So in order to simplify those complicated things in our lives we have to use the order of operation. You guys to remember the order of operation right?

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So here is my Order of Operation to simplify your life:

Create a Morning Routine

I’ve never really had much of a morning routine in place. I’d usually just wake up when I did, and worked when I felt like it until I met my deadlines for the day. More recently, since I’ve begun school and work full time while juggling deadlines, I found that going to bed every single night at the same time is crucial. I trained my body to wake up with the alarm and even before the alarm in the mornings. If I’d like to have a chill and mellow day, I’ll throw on some acoustics to usher me into a relaxing day. If I’m looking to have a energized day, I’ll play some EDM and dance my way into the workday.

Having a morning routine sets the tone for the rest of the day.

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Complain Less

There is nothing I hate more than someone who only texts me to complain about their day. Or someone who constantly complains about the job they applied for. Or someone complaining about whatever. Have you noticed that when you spend so much time complaining you’re actually stewing up negative energy that affects not only your entire behavior but the mood of the people around you? When you complain less, you become more optimistic. You become more grateful. So moving forward…here’s an activity whenever you feel the urge to complain about something, write it down and think about how you can turn that complaint into gratefulness?

School is hard y’all. This week of orientation has been extremely intense. The hours are long (8am-5pm), it’s information overload and full of cramming, but if I walked around constantly talking about these things people would look at me like well…why are you even there? Truth is, I’m there because I want to be, so should I be complaining about it? NOPE! Instead I should be grateful, optimistic and see the challenges as growth areas for myself.

Balance Out Your “Yes’s” and Your “No’s”

In January rather than creating New Years Resolutions, I decided to make 2016 my Yes year ironically, this was before I had a chance to even read Shonda Rhimes “Year of Yes.” I said yes to every single opportunity that fell into my lap and found myself burnt the hell out and I decided that sometimes…just sometimes…saying no isn’t always a bad thing. Learn to balance out your yes’s and your no’s. Not everything warrants a yes. If you don’t feel like doing something, say no. Saying yes, when you should say no will eventually lead to whatever you said yes to becoming a burden and what worst way to complicate your life than having something dangling over your head that you don’t even want or aren’t even interested in?

Less Time Online

Since starting this new job and school. I haven’t had much time online. Today is the first day in a week that I’ve actually opened up my laptop and it’s to complete this post. I realize that I have more energy and time for life when I’m not spending so much of it behind a computer screen. There’s less room for negativity to filter it’s way in by sifting through newsfeeds and timelines and dashboards. Now I’m not saying completely disconnect, but limiting time online definitely increases productivity in other aspects of your life.

Fill Your Life with Those You Love

As cliche as this sounds…and believe me it’s pretty cheesy, but love is why we’re here. It’s why we exist to spread and receive love. So surround yourself with friends, family, even things that make your heart full.

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Doing all of these simple things sets you up for a positive lifestyle. When you have less to complain about and more to love, when you begin each day in high spirits, and when you are able to find balance between things that benefit you and things that would just be a burden later, how can you not help but love the life that you’ve built?