Dreaming In The Face of Racism

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 3.47.45 PMRecently I wrote a guest post for the blog of UK author, Siobhan Curham. Siobhan has a new book called Moonlight Dreamers and during an email conversation with her I expressed my hurt over recent events in America. Siobhan invited me to write on that subject and to share how difficult it has been for me to write content to inspire young adults, and encourage them to go after their dreams when their reality is such a nightmare. Below is the post I wrote for her blog:
We learned his name in childhood.
We heard his speech as teens.
As adults, we understand the magnitude of the dream.
The stated dreams of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were many. His most well known dream was that one day, his children would be able to live in a nation where they were judged by the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. That was 53 years ago. His dream, that the creed of all men being created equal would be the foundation on which justice stood, has yet to be realized. The reality of the black experience in America is this: Same Rights, Different Freedoms.
This has been a very tough few days as a writer, as a mentor, as a black American, and as a dreamer. It has been difficult to hold onto my ‘why’, and to write content that teaches and motivates young dreamers, when their reality is a nightmare. I’ve never been anything other than black, so it’s a posture I’m used to, but a weight that never abates. Waking up to new, old news comes with the emotion of fear, the thought of, what if someone I know is next, what if I’m next, and a physical pressure on my chest that makes taking a breath big enough to fill my lungs, feel impossible.
It’s hard to dream at times like these. Actually, it’s harder to be awake at times like these. This week I vacillated between thinking, what’s the use and this is why you must continue. For two days the former thought won me over as my hurt heart, confused mind, and the feeling of helplessness numbed me.
I have returned to feeling, I have brought my anger and fear under submission to rational thought and informed action, and in doing so, a new dream has surfaced.
My work is in service of the ambitious young adults who desire to live up to their potential and to put great work into the world.
Now more than ever, you, the dreamers, need me, and I you; we need each other.
I dream of a peaceful world.
I aspire to be part of the change I want to see in the world.
I long to see young adults grow up in a world where the fear that can arise when encountering someone different is overshadowed by a deep, resounding love for all mankind.
I promise to continue to write and work for you so that my dreams, your dreams, and those of Dr. King’s may be actualized.
I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” –Edward Everett Hale
What can you do?
Speak up; do not allow fear to silence you.
Speak out; use your platform, whether it’s big enough for just your two feet to stand on or expansive enough to hold up many. Do not shy away just because you think your doesn’t voice matter.
Take action; in the UK, US, and elsewhere, use the power you have as a citizen to advocate.
Engage with people you wouldn’t normally befriend. Do not cower from those with an opposing opinions; education can be obtained in the respectful debate.

It’s How You Say It

#COINTRACKER16 (1)Ever been in the awkward position of being within earshot of an argument? Have you ever been hanging out with your friend and their boyfriend or girlfriend and a disagreement starts brewing; or even worse, everything’s fine and all of a sudden your parents start getting into it?
Since you can’t do what you’d love to, which is disappear into thin air, you do what’s second best, you stay out of it. You know better than to jump in or to offer your input or opinion. You do have an advantage though, because as the person not involved in the argument, you aren’t emotionally invested and therefore you listen objectively.
I’ve been in that position before, objectively listening to married friends argue, and among the thoughts that go through my mind are, Why are you yelling? Why are *you* mad? What I usually realize, that they’re too fired up to consider, is that they’re both saying the same thing, they’re just failing to effectively communicate their point in a way that the other can receive it in that moment.
One of my favorite books is Love & Respect by Emerson Eggers. The book is about how women place value on feeling loved while men tend to value being respected. When I hear an argument or find myself in a disagreement with someone, I think about whether the lack of communication and excess of frustration is because someone doesn’t feel heard and/or respected. If that isn’t the case, it’s usually a matter of tone.
You know how it is when someone, especially a parent, tells you something you probably need to hear but they say it in a smart mouthed, nasty, condescending, or belittling manner? It doesn’t matter if it’s the greatest advice ever, when it’s delivered ‘wrong’, it’s ineffective. Many times, good advice falls on deaf ears because it’s delivered with a sour tone.
Sweet Advice + Sour Tone = Deaf Ears
As you know, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. If your goal is to help, inform, or correct, than speak when you are able to do so with a polite and respectful tone. If you’re too mad, aiming to hurt, or don’t quite have the desire to do so yet, then shut up.

Repeating ‘Bad’ Behaviors

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The last post was an abridged version of a behavior cycle. We discussed how we first become triggered, then we act out our bad habit, and then we are rewarded. But this topic is one of those things I wish I would have known when I was younger, so I wanted to go into more detail about it in hopes that you’ll learn and recognize it about yourself earlier in life.
One Thursday my friend Vanessa had a rough day at work and because she was so busy, she didn’t eat lunch. She was stressed out about the situation, the rough day, and she was stressed out about not taking care of herself and eating. She started thinking about how much she resented her job and her boss for how much work she had and she had some negative thoughts about herself, including how dumb she was to not stop and eat. She started feeling dumb, sad, and disappointed in herself and she wanted to make herself feel better in the moment and for her, chocolate always made her feel better. (Even though she was trying to eater healthier and lose weight.) To make herself feel better in that moment, she planned to stop at the store on her way home for some. She set herself up for quick fix success by heading in the store’s direction, instead of heading toward home when she left work. While walking there, she convinced herself that she deserved some chocolate because of the day she had. She walked into the store and bought her chocolate and while walking home, she ate it. After the first bite she had an “ahhhh” moment of release and by the last bite she had promised herself that the next time she wouldn’t fall into the chocolate trap again. A week later she ended up doing the same thing again, and that time she felt even worse because she’d broken a promise to herself.
That’s the cycle, we go from triggered to promise to change in seconds and we repeat the bad behaviors we so baldy want to stop. For Vanessa, it’s chocolate, but for you it could be drugs, shopping, overeating, sex/pornography, stealing, lying, etc.
The way to stop repeating the bad behavior is to practice being aware and slowing your mind down. As soon as you feel triggered, acknowledge the negative thoughts, unpleasant emotions, and even the urge to want to use your go-to vice, and leave things there. Easier said than done, but it doesn’t take long to form a new, better habit. Once you become a pro at that, you can go deeper into the why.

How To Change Your Bad Habits

I had a conversation with a friend today in which she shared that she was tired of things being the same in her life. She is frustrated that her life today looks the same way it did last year. Along with other small goals, her 3 main goals last summer were to save more money, to lose weight, and to move into a place of her own. This summer, none of those main goals have been met and while she has had a year of learning, of overcoming, and of growing as a person, her life ‘isn’t where she wants it to be’
You are what you repeatedly do.
So if what you repeatedly do is make excuses, give justifications, choose laziness, or take the convenient road or the comfortable path, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that your life doesn’t look the way you hope. Hope does not equate to action and only action, habits, good habits result in meeting your goals.
Our minds work in cycles, something sets us off, (the trigger) we respond with an action (the habit) and we benefit by doing so (the reward). In my friend’s case, she sees new shoes she loves (trigger) she tries them on (habit) and then she purchases them (reward). Or maybe she’s hungry (trigger), she heads to a drive-thru (habit), and she receives her meal within minutes (reward).
So how do you change your bad habits?
Set yourself up for success. If you’ve ever set a goal to accomplish something that takes time, isn’t always fun, and requires work, you know that preparation is key. If you want to lose weight and decide to start going to the gym you don’t wake up one day and just head there, you prepare. You find a gym, buy a membership, make sure you have workout clothes, and you put a firm start date and time in your mind to go, as well as know specifically what you’re going to do when you arrive. On start day you are prepared, you know that mornings will work best for your schedule so after you wake up and have breakfast, your next move is to head toward the gym. The trigger is you waking up and dressing for the gym. The habit is that as soon as breakfast is over you get in the car and drive straight there and the reward is a completed workout and the rest of your day to yourself.
The good news about changing your bad habits into good and productive habits is that when the rewards are things we want, like losing weight, or seeing our savings account balance grow, we tend to do them more often.
So no matter what you want to change in your life, whatever bad habit you’d like to rid yourself of, begin by inserting a new behavior and forming a new habit. The routine and the reward will eventually happen without you even thinking about it. The most important part is the red arrow, the time between being triggered and doing the habit. Prepare by have a fresh goal and a positive and healthy habit in place.
Concept based on Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.

Why ‘Privilege’ Bothers You

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If you’ve never had to raise your voice an octave to sound less abrasive, if you’ve never had to overact your movements when in a store or when leaving a store empty-handed to show to whomever is watching you that you’ve done nothing wrong, you probably can’t relate.

If you feel offended, confused, or annoyed when you hear the words ‘white privilege’, if you’re tired of the conversation and would like to just stop hearing about it, you’re probably the privileged. The people who get the option to not think about race, are the majority. Minorities don’t have the luxury of tuning it out and turning it off, because they live it every day.

I read a story about a lady who sat in a classroom of her multiethnic peers and while discussing race and privilege, she said that she didn’t think about race when she didn’t want to and she didn’t understand why other people don’t just do the same or stop talking about it. Her professor simply said to her, “that’s exactly the point. THAT is privilege.” The lady started crying and for the first time she realized that part of her privilege is that she gets to not think about race or anything involving race when she wanted to and could choose not to when she didn’t.

For the umpteenth time, the privilege discussion, white privilege isn’t about blame. The conversation or topic doesn’t exist to make people who didn’t get to choose their ethnicity or skin color feel bad. It’s simply a matter of making those people aware that two people, both born in America, are entitled to the same unalienable rights, but that they have different freedoms.

Fortunately, we live in a time right now where things are better than they were for our grandparents. We also live in an age where we can begin and continue conversations with people all around the world who are different from us. We can begin to break down barriers by simply reading an informative blog post, and we can be catalysts for change. Being a minority is a full-time job on top of everyday living, that only minorities understand. The privilege conversation shouldn’t bother you, the need for the conversation should bother you. Heighten your awareness to the injustices and listen. It’s not an attack on who you are, it’s an attack on a system and society that functions on an uneven playing field.

Same rights, different freedoms.

Why You’re Ugly

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I used to work with a guy who thought he was the absolute best thing to ever walk the earth. The dude had a hard time understanding why not every woman who came in contact with him didn’t fall at his feet. To me, he wasn’t all that attractive to begin with, but once you got to know him, it didn’t take long to figure out why exactly he didn’t garner the female attention he thought he deserved. He was ugly. He didn’t look ugly, he was ugly.

His internal beauty, his attitude, and demeanor made him ugly.

He was a prick to say the least, so any ounce of cuteness or attractiveness he had going for him dissolved when he spoke or when you observed his actions.

Beauty is always about more than looks. The things people consider when they determine whether or not someone is beautiful are things that we had nothing to do with. None of us had any say in our eye color, nose size, height, nothing. So the things you can control, the things that you say and do, those are what make you ugly.

Your internal beauty far outshines any combination of facial features that others may deem beautiful.


COINTRACKER16Track your coins!

In case you didn’t know, ‘coins’ is slang for all money, not just the metal coin. “My money’s funny” and “My coins aren’t right” are just ways of saying you can’t afford it. So this is your end of quarter reminder to be hyper-aware of how and on what you spend your money. Track your coins, whether you’re using cash or debit, and no matter how much or how little of it you have. Keep track of what you’re spending your money on and how much of it you’re spending instead of saving it.

By now you know an adult who has spent more than they saved, gotten themselves into debt, or avoids phone calls because they know it’s someone calling looking for money they are owed. Hopefully, you aren’t that adult. I learned my credit card lesson and about debt the hard way when I was mailed my first card right after high school. It took me years to recover from being so financially illiterate and not knowing how to handle money and the truths about credit cards. I don’t want that for you.

I know that money is one of those subjects that schools are just now starting to teach about in depth and I’m glad about that. But I also know that there are a lot of things that many of you dorks don’t know and I want you to avoid learning them the hard way. So here’s a #protip from me:

ALWAYS SAVE FIRST (even if it’s just $1, save before you spend). Pay your bills, buy necessities and a few wants, give some away to people or organizations in need, and save everything that’s left. Get hype about seeing the number in your bank account increase instead of being hype about what you can buy.

A #protip from financial advisor Dave Ramsey that I wish I’d of known sooner:

“Staying away from debt means you’re finding other ways to pay for stuff and saying no to what you can’t afford. As a result, your wealth will grow through saving and investing.” “Over time, growing your wealth and eliminating your debt will mean you have a lot of money and not a lot of bills… it’s a lot better to have a high bank account balance than a high credit score!”

#cointracker16 = track your coins starting this year. Track your spending, cash, debit, gift cards, etc., no matter how much or how little money you have.