Are You Living or Are You Existing?

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?

 

 

Accessing My Struggles & Why I’m Okay With Giving Up

Accessing My Struggles & Why I’m Okay With Giving Up

I recently came across a quote that read “Self-talk is the channel to change behavior” and it got me to thinking about some of the struggles I deal with on a spiritual level that affect my entire lifestyle from work to relationships to my overall well-being. I’ve been trying to come to terms and really figure out what I want to do with my life and at 26, I feel like I should be well on my way, but I’m not. I’ve found myself working at so many jobs that’s left me feeling unfulfilled. I’ve found myself in so many unhappy and dead end dating situations. So I had a moment where I thought about it all. I spoke them out loud. I had a conversation with myself and I decided that if I was going to struggle, it would be because I’m taking risks and working towards something that I love rather than struggling to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. I had to access my struggles and ask myself am I struggling because I’m being stretched? Is it because I’m put in a vulnerable position to learn and grow from or is it because I’m trying to force a lifestyle that I have no business in? For any that fit the category of the latter, I realized it’s okay to wave the white flag or throw in the towel.

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Most times we hear you have to stay strong and see things through which in turn implicates that giving up and quitting aren’t admirable traits, but in my opinion, it takes a special kind of courage to walk away from situations that no longer serve you well especially if you’ve gotten into a routine or a complacent place in your life. Sometimes it’s even hard to recognize those safety nets for what they are because they feel right in that moment but in the long run they aren’t.

Giving up isn’t always a bad thing. When your heart is no longer in something, walking away is okay. When your situation becomes unhealthy, it’s okay to give it up. When it’s changing you for the worst and pulling you away from the things that you love, it’s okay to say “no more.” When better doors are opening up and your intuition is leading you down a different path, it’s okay to want the finer things in store for you. We have such a twisted perception of what it means to give up that we often times don’t see giving up as a mean to also gain so we find ourselves stuck. We become stuck in dull relationships, accumulating years without substance. We find ourselves stuck at dead end jobs without promotions, growth or raises. We find ourselves taking up pew space at churches that no longer feed us spiritually. We become just another woodwork to society and that’s no way to live. I’ve learned to wave my white flag when necessary and be okay that I did it. I’ve learned to walk away from situations without regret because I know that I did the right thing. I realized that everyone isn’t going to like every decision I make, but the life that I live is mine alone therefore, doing what’s best for me is always a good decision.

Trying to Build Rome in a Day

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

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”

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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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?