6 Times I Got My Life Reading “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Today was the perfect day for some much needed R&R (reading and relaxation) time. So after watching a few episodes of Bob’s Burger on Netflix, I decided to disconnect and tackle the books that I had gotten in a recent book haul on Amazon. I finished the final chapter of the mystery book that took me a month to read and decided that I would dive into some of the great works Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read Half of a Yellow Sun a few years ago and hadn’t had the opportunity to read any of her work since so I was excited when I got my hands on a copy of “We Should All Be Feminist” that was originally adapted from one of her famous TEDTalks.

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So I found me an awesome sun spot in my room, made me a huge cup of warm chai and prepared to have my life handed to me. Although, I do wish it were a longer read, her words did pack a powerful punch and it was really interesting to see how “feminism” showed itself in so many different ways culturally whether in America or in Nigeria. So in between sips of chai, I found myself with a bulk of yellow stickies making notes and sticking them in between the pages I wanted to read over and over again. Here are six times I got my life, snapped my fingers and let out a “yaaaaasssss” as I read along. Had I been at her TEDTalk, I’d have probably been that one black woman doing that.

“We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable. We spend too much time telling girls that they cannot be angry or aggressive or tough, which is bad enough, but then we turn around and either praise or excuse men for the same reasons. All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.”

“But by far the worst thing we do to males–by making them feel they have to be hard–is that we leave them with very fragile egos. The harder a man feels compelled to be, the weaker his ego is. And then we do a much greater disservice to girls, because we raise them to cater to the fragile egos of males. We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller.”

“A Nigerian acquaintance once asked me if I was worried that men would be intimidated by me. I was not worried at all–it had not even occurred to me to be worried, because a man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.”

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“We use the word respect for something a woman shows a man, but not often for something a man shows a woman. Both men and women will say ‘I did it for peace in my marriage.’ When men say it, it is usually about something they should not be doing anyway. Something they say to their friends in a fondly exasperated way, something that ultimately proves to them their masculinity–‘Oh, my wife said I can’t go to the club every night, so now, for peace in my marriage, I go only on weekends.’ When women say ‘I did it for peace in my marriage,’ it is usually because they have given up a job, a career goal, a dream. We teach females that in relationships, compromise is what a woman is more likely to do.”

“Some people ask why the word ‘feminist?’ Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that? Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general– but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem that should acknowledge that.”

“Some men feel threatened by the idea of feminism. This comes, I think, from the insecurity triggered by how boys are brought up, how their sense of self-worth is diminished if they are not ‘naturally’ in charge as men.”

If you didn’t get your life after reading those quotes, or if you weren’t prompted to get your own copy then I don’t know what else to tell you, but it sparked something in me. She made it a point to make feminism a universal cause. We should literally all be feminist just as we should all read this book!

Next Up: “Americanah”

Trying to Build Rome in a Day

One of the most cliche sayings is “Rome wasn’t built in a day…” and I swear to you guys, patience has become a daily struggle for me. I often wonder when am I gonna finally stop trying to make it and just make it already?! I realize why I haven’t made it yet though, my life has been full of so many detours some that life has caused and others I’ve caused myself. I hate struggling…I mean who does right? But, I’ve noticed that I tend to jump at the first thing that comes along that seems like an outing from my struggles, but that thing usually turns out to be worst than what I left and full circle, I always find myself back where it all began.

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Struggle is good. Being uncomfortable is good. They both create the motivation to keep going towards what you should. I was having a conversation with a friend and I told her I feel like giving up sometimes and she asked me why. I said because it seems like the things that I want are so far out of reach. She told me to remember my mission, she said remember why you quit your job and went back home. In doing so, I had to ask myself are the things that I really want for me or are they just someone else’s things for me? It was a tough question to grapple with, but it’s been on my mind all week. I quit a job in youth development and education and moved back home to focus on my writing which included two fiction manuscripts (still writing), this blog and the other media sites I write for in the hopes of building a portfolio dope enough for a magazine company to actually hire me full-time. So why was I pulling all-nighters, spending money on study guides and sitting through a three hour exam, twice to get back into the same field I had left, the same field that made me unhappy eventually? Because I got tired of struggling, but I wasn’t even enthused about it. I wasn’t even excited about the whole process.

Joyce Meyer once said patience is not the ability to wait, but how you act while you’re waiting…for me it’s panic, stress, anxiety and overwhelming anticipation, but in retrospect all the times I have faced extreme struggle they have also simultaneously been associated with some of the happiest times as well. I’m learning to see each new opportunity that I land, each blogging, speaking or writing gig that I get as a brick contributing to the building of my Rome…because after all it wasn’t built in a day.

So I challenge you all to look at the bricks that’s laying your foundation.

 

 

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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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