Are You Living or Are You Existing?

IMG_6160

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!!

IMG_9498

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.

Daily Checklist

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?

 

 

Setting Up A Seat at the Table for a Glass of Lemonade

This year I’ve found myself heavily immersed in the Knowles doctrine with Lemonade earlier this year and now A Seat at the Table for the later half. I found myself connecting with both on a spiritual level. I appreciated the evolution of a woman scorned in Beyonce’s Lemonade and from that I found that it’s okay to have the feelings that we have without falling privy to the Angry Black Woman stereotype. For the first time, I didn’t see Beyonce, I saw a woman. A woman dealing with grief, breaking unhealthy patterns, heart break, bitterness and still CHOOSING to transcend. Still choosing to turn those bitter lemons into something sweet.

5e6f4255-dc48-4ad8-858b-ce91a1e0db19

I listened to A Seat at The Table feeling proud. Proud that a woman released a 21 track womanifesto on taking up space and creating our own ish. “What can you bring to the table?” I brought the damn table! I got my life this weekend at the neighborhood bar in Jersey City when they decided to play “Don’t Touch My Hair” and all the white folk was staring like “what is this?” Go off. My hair stands up and my skin rises a little when I proudly proclaim, “this shit is for us…”

Far too often, I hear women saying they’re waiting for their seats at the table. For any of us, at any given moment in our lives, that table has no many different meanings whether you’re trying to find your footing in your career, get a handle on your love life, or just be a different person than you were last year, I say, f**k that table. I’ve gotten to a place in my life where I’m tired of waiting, expecting, and anticipating. I realize I can set up my own table and pull up my own seats to that table and brew my own lemonade.

I was sitting in the coffee shop on Saturday, reading a book and reflecting and I thought about how tired I am. Like emotionally and physically exhausted and I thought about my emotions in particular. I thought about how I’m just so disappointed in people these days and I decided in that moment that I don’t have to be.

So I’m brewing my own lemonade. I’m not waiting for life to turn those bitter things in my life into something sweet, I’m doing it myself. I’m not waiting for someone to give me a chance. I’m creating my own opportunities.

tumblr_oehpaqhfau1u1vglno1_1280

So I leave you with this:

  • Think about what you want to be
  • GO BE IT!
  • Think about what you want to do
  • GO DO IT!
  • Think about the things you need
  • GO GET IT!

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.

FullSizeRender (20)

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.

rally

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.

13606809_10154034996551997_616105216093282453_n

…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.

main

What can you do with what you have?

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.

16298929_1385205894857568_6583625509985627314_n

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

Living My Spiritual Truth

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.

img_2885

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.  Continue reading