What I Learned Hosting My First Girl’s Empowerment Summit

I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for a while since I’ve decided to go back to school and pick up a new profession (teaching) and during that time I saw it as an opportunity to really give back to an audience I’m truly passionate about: adolescent girls of color. I wanted to create a brand and organization that would allow them to fully understand that they are in complete control of the direction of their lives. As women, we are often told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and where to do it so much that there are times when we stop and wonder if anything we are doing is because we genuinely want to do it. So on January 28, 2017 I launched Curate Your Life, a girl’s empowerment and enrichment organization that focuses on sisterhood, leadership, social justice, wellness, and media literacy for teen girls of color, but the idea was birthed in June 2016 and there were a number of lessons learned along the way.

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Community is SO Important

I knew that this wasn’t something that I could do on my own and be effective at the same time, so I built a community of professional women and organizations who would see and understand my vision. The day of the launch, I didn’t realize I would be doing so much running around and improvising when things were absent, but the community that I built was there every single step of the way. I just asked them to show up and facilitate workshops, but they’ve become family with every “You got this Deja.” or “I’m proud of you Deja” or “Tell me where I can help Deja.” Even my mother came and catered the event with my grandmother. I say all of that to say, you are as strong as the tribe you build and God blessed me with an amazing one. Continue reading “What I Learned Hosting My First Girl’s Empowerment Summit”

Reclaiming Self

Let’s rewind to about…two weeks ago…I’m on Thanksgiving Break spending the week in South Jersey with my family (I think Trenton is Central Jersey, but it’s debatable). I’ve just finished my third month of being a full time teacher and goodness knows I could use this break. As we (teachers) clocked out and say our good byes and engaged in small talk about what we had planned for the holiday to which we all agreed on “sleep” being the highlight, we set out…going our separate ways, closing the doors to our classrooms and checking out mentally.

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Yes! I thought to a mental break…a break away from teaching AND being a grad students. On Thanksgiving Break, I didn’t eat myself into multiple food comas, in fact, I barely ate (I had a Mexican food craving rather than Thanksgiving food..so what…fight me if you don’t like it) because I barely got up from my cozy bed at my parent’s house. I turned off work emails, but not my personal email account because you know…sometimes in the midst of all the junk mail, I actually find some cool shit in there somewhere. WHAT WASN’T COOL however was an email that I had gotten from an ex. YUP, you read that right…this year makes THREE years since we’d gone our separate ways so WHY IN THE NAME OF THE GOOD LORD WAS HE SENDING ME AN EMAIL?!?!?!?!? In summary, it was an email “seeking atonement” for his wrongdoing and telling me how proud he is of the woman I’ve become…and for a second, the old Dej that would’ve replied back in anger with some snappy and petty comments ALMOST surfaced, but then I realized how much I didn’t need that apology. The past three years in his absence have been about me reclaiming myself and my identity. It was about examining those six years and reflecting on the person I WAS when I was there, what I liked about myself when I was with him and what I didn’t like and during those reflections I realized that the things I didn’t like about myself when I was with him heavily outweighed the things that I did like about myself.

So I kindly responded telling him not to contact me again (I mean if I changed my number and blocked you on social media sites, why did you think email was the next best route?) and added his email to block sender with the help of several tweets and emails to the person behind the Google gmail social media account (I’m tech savvy, but sometimes I have a slow moment..sue me).

Point of the story is there is a purpose behind every. single. thing. that. happens. to. you. in. this. life. GOT THAT?! Every. single. thing. It’s an opportunity for you to RECLAIM YOURSELF!!! Even when you’ve fallen off, just experienced a horrible break up, got laid off from a job, or found yourself deep in the muddy swamps of unemployment…it’s an opportunity for you to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix (channeling my inner Dumbledore) and that’s exactly what the hell I did and you betta ZOO IT TOO BOO BOO.

xoxo

Today’s Message is Brought to You by “Why”

FullSizeRender (19)If I had to sum my week up in a few words it would be stressful, anxious, exhausting, and exciting. On Wednesday, I accepted a job offer that required me to go back to school to get a second Master’s degree through a residency program. I immediately got excited because I’m one of those weird people who loves school and what’s even better is I don’t have to pay for it. BUT everything came at me so fast. So this week was filled with phone calls, signing contracts, filling out forms, requesting transcripts, tying up loose ends and preparing for my first day of classes on Monday. This week presented so many hurdles. The icing on the cake was damaging the screen on my phone to where it was unusable. Things were piling up. I was getting overwhelmed. I felt myself drowning, so I had to shut everything down and take a walk….multiple times this week. As I took those walks, two options wrestled in my mind. I can cut the stress, say bump this job and grad school or I could just stay exactly where I am now: juggling a million deadlines, losing sleep, working hard and still being broke, living at home with my parents. “Touching” thirty, that last option didn’t seem to appealing.

I thought about all the things the first option would afford me. For starters, it would give me the financial freedom that I need at 26 years old. It would help me comfortably pay my bills, enjoy my life and fund my dreams, but most of all make a direct impact on the next generation who’d be filling our shoes. I mean that’s all I talk about anyway right? I thought about why I had decided to do this and the stress started to fall away little by little. I just needed to remember why.

So today’s message is brought to you by the question “why” because the question why is the beginning of your soul searching journey, your curiosity, and your need for answers. It is one of the most important purpose driven questions you can ask yourself at any stage of your life.

German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche once said, ‘He who has a why can endure any how.’ Knowing your why is an important first step in figuring out how to achieve the goals that excite you and create a life you enjoy living (are you living or are you existing). Indeed, only when you know your ‘why’ will you find the courage to take the risks needed to get ahead, stay motivated when the chips are down, and move your life onto an entirely new, more challenging, and more rewarding trajectory.

But what happens when you ask “why,” but haven’t received an answer? You start to feel like your life has no purpose. You start to feel like maybe you’re just here to exist because at this point, there is nothing extraordinary about what you’re doing and you have no idea what you even want to do beyond that. Well, I am here to tell you that you are wrong and that finding your “why” requires more than just one question, but it’s not has hard as you think…in fact it’s probably been right in front of you all along. So let’s clear up that vision shall we? 

In life we have the things that we want and the things that we need and there are times when they just don’t overlap. Sometimes they are completely on different wave lengths and you find yourself being stretched in two different directions, but they are BOTH contributing to your growth in positive ways. So naturally you’ll try to find some middle ground in all of it, but you still haven’t been able to figure out your “why.” I was in that same place a few months ago and there are times even when I’ve moved on, I’ll find myself back at that place.

Through all of that searching and questioning and thinking, I came across an article by author and leadership guru John Addison on “How to Find Your Why in Life” in Success Magazine. I wrote down all of the questions he ensured would help (you guys know I love questions) and decided to answer them for myself, but now I want you to answer them for yourself.

What is your definition of success?

Notice I said “your,” meaning what do you need to do and achieve in order for you to say that you have a successful life. I don’t want to hear what other people have or do that makes them successful because you’re not them. So if you’re about to tell me your definition of success is to have a Lambo, huge mansion, loaded bank account, I’m going to assume you’ve been watching MTV Cribs (does that still come on?). So think about that.

What are you passionate about?

I often come across articles and interviews with successful people who share advice and tips on how to turn the things they’re passionate about into their careers and the one thing that they all have in common is they never grow up…or at least on the inside…I mean dream wise. You get it. Remember when we were kids, we literally wanted to be everything even if it didn’t make sense at the time. We were innocent and naive and that’s what made our dreams so pure and vivid. As you get older, you realize you need that type of dreaming in your life again even if it doesn’t make sense to others.

You might be passionate about collecting a certain type of toy (like Treasure Trolls)…or you might consider yourself an candy connoisseur…they sound childish, but are they really? Anyway, the things that you are passionate about are literally compasses to finding your “why.” They’re pointing you in the right direction so pay attention.

If money were no object, what would you do?

In my last post, I talked about needing financial freedom in order for me to stop existing and to really start living. Money isn’t everything, but as a dreamer and someone with a load of passion projects cooking, having financial freedom would do a great deal for me. So if money weren’t an object, I’d be able to focus more on building my brand. What would you do if money weren’t an object for you?

Finding your “why” doesn’t have to be like climbing Mount Everest. It just requires you to pay attention to the things that you respond positively to and the things that make you happy. Trust me, everything ALWAYS comes full circle.

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