When I had a scheduled job that I went to everyday Monday through Friday I would often say, “I can’t wait until I can just wake up and write, nothing else.” I couldn’t wait for those work from home days where I could just sit in my PJ’s and write or get dressed up just to go sit in a cafe and type like one of those hipster kids. I thought it was going to be sunny days, outfit of the day posts, free as a bird in the spring and summer. I thought the winter was going to be cozy and easy and relaxed, working from home, but I didn’t anticipate becoming a couch potato, nor was I prepared for the constant cabin fever outbreaks. I wasn’t prepared for the endless…or what felt like endless days since my schedule was completely flexible, and I wasn’t prepared to lose days of the week since Mondays felt like Tuesdays and Tuesdays felt like Fridays and Fridays felt like Wednesdays…you get the point. Don’t get me wrong, working from home has it’s pluses until you find yourself calling upon the Justice League to help you fight the laziness that’s holding you captive in bed. It’s easy to lose motivation, to not feel like doing anything at any given moment and it’s easy to find yourself on the brink of insanity in the walls of your home. So I had to think outside the box to come up with some things to keep me sane when working from home.
Create a creative space that’s conducive to creativity.
How’s that for some dope alliteration? But I found that working from home was most unproductive for me when done in my bedroom. A bedroom is a place associated with rest and relaxation and I always found myself sprawled out on my bed lounging and aimlessly surfing the web more than I was being productive. So I went out and got a little table and a nice accent chair and decorated a nice space with colors and art to keep me motivated and away from my bed. It also gives me something to look forward to because I’m excited to sit in my colorful chair in my colorful corner. *sings* “in my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to be…” Of course Brandy sung it better.
Get A Change of Scenery
I spent the past week in Baltimore visiting and touring the city with my significant other, but work had to continue because deadlines were still approaching. Even though I was working on the same content, I felt a fresh sense of renewal doing it from another city in another state. I sat by the harbor jotting notes in my Moleskine while taking in the scenery of the harbor, I toured the inside of an art museum, I walked a college campus and I was also a couch potato in someone else’s house, but the point is changing locations even if it’s as small and simple as walking to the local cafe, coffee shop or library or sitting in a park can make all the difference in boosting creativity, motivation and certainly combating cabin fever.
Step Away from the CPU…and nobody gets hurt!
No, but seriously in the words of OutKast, you got to get up, get out and get moving. Sometimes cabin fever comes when we refuse to unglue ourselves from our screens. You find yourself having a brain fart and writer’s block and you’re just stuck. The best way to remedy that is to close the laptop, put the computer on hibernate and go do something else for a bit. Finish a workout DVD, fold some laundry, catch up on a missed show episode, make you some lunch or better go and buy you some lunch, take a walk, call a friend, etc. Sometimes you just need a mental break.
Create a routine
If you didn’t have a 9-5 schedule at an office job and you were told to work around the clock would you? No? So why do it at home? Even though you’re working from home and can do so whenever you please as long as deadlines are being met, that doesn’t mean you work all day. Create a routine and set a specific amount of time aside for work just like you would at a regular office job including lunch and bathroom breaks. When the work day is over, the work day is over.
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!!
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.
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?
Erykah Badu’s song “Bag Lady” released in the year 2000. I was only in the 5th grade and I would ride the bus to and from school on the other side of my city, but I remember the bus driver would always have the radio on and it would always be on the soul and R&B stations so on our way to school and on our way home from school the bus would be full of kids singing along loudly, not fully understanding what these songs were actually about.
I remember listening to “Bag Lady” literally thinking it was just about women carrying too many bags. Like the kind you see struggling to catch the bus, with a bunch of groceries or shopping bags, but as I got older I began to understand the figurative meaning of carrying bags. We as women tend to carry a lot of them and often times when we’re told to let them go…we don’t know how.
Sometimes as black women it’s hard for us to unpack the luggage we carry because often times its not our own but someone else’s so we don’t even know it’s there. But it is and it affects us and those around us deeply. If you’re one of those women it’s time to start doing some self-checking on the state of your mental and emotional well-being. If you haven’t done so, now’s a great time to start. Who’s bag are you carrying?
There are times when I’m around certain people and my entire attitude just shifts. I find myself easily agitated, complaining and upset and it’s really unnecessary for me to be feeling that way. There are times when friends are going through a tough time and while it might be ideal to be there for them, their energy is taking a negative toll on you. It’s okay to let all of that go. It’s also okay to be there for them without taking on their baggage. It’s possible.
Don’t burden yourself with someone else’s baggage. Women we are often guilty of doing that. We absorb the burdens of our children, our family, our friends, our significant others and we carry them with us. We can’t resolve them because we don’t even know that the death of your friend’s grandma’s sister’s cousin is stuck with us. You don’t know that your best friend’s boyfriend’s financial issues are now your burden because she talks about them whenever you’re around each other. You don’t know that any of it is there simply because it isn’t yours, but it’s there. We are the original empaths, but while we’re emotionally investing in others, who’s checking on us? Who’s bags are we carrying?
So in the words of Ms. Badu “let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go.”
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.
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.”
“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”