Finding Joy in the Imperfection

Perfection.

A lofty, unattainable, always fluctuating bar to reach for.

I am a recovering perfectionist. There has always been a goal, a dream, a next step to look to in my career, relationship status, zip code or bank account. In today’s fast paced, hustle culture, this goal-driven attitude is seemingly a good thing. There’s always #goals for relationships, friendships, career, fitness and dating.

I like goals. I like lists. I love planning. (I love planning parties for friends!) While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with these things, this mindset of always wanting the next thing can be detrimental. Focusing on tomorrow can rob you of being content today.

My friend Kelsie reminded me of this fact. In her not so subtle but loving way (Kelsie is known for being blunt), she showed me myself, that I struggle to be happy in the now. In my first two years living in Los Angeles and the last few months in Italy, there have been a lot of hard things. (Roommate drama, boy drama, a job lay off, friend drama, heart break, cultural barriers.) Adversity has a way of making it easy to long for a new chapter, a clean slate, a better tomorrow.

Here’s what I know:

There will always be hard things. Every season will have its mountains to climb, battles to fight and hurdles to jump. Each and every one. If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “If you are so busy romanticizing what was or will be, then you will miss the brilliance of today.”

Today, with its unanswered questions, uncertainty, hard things, it is beautiful. I challenge you to see that, to see the beauty in hard things.

I know this idea of contentment, of resting and finding joy is counterculture. It also isn’t easy or even normal, especially in the 20s. You are taught to hustle, to strive, to push for more. The irony is oftentimes you romanticize tomorrow hoping for what will be. Then one day, you look back in nostalgia missing what once was.

I don’t know what this season of your life looks like, what hurdle or uncertainty or pain you are facing, but I challenge you to find the joy in this moment. Today, your today, is good.

The things that bothered me a year ago, I don’t even remember now. I know the battles I am facing today will pass too. Instead of wallowing in the lows, I want to find joy in my todays and dance (dare I say, revel) in adversity.

The 20s, like every decade, has its highs and lows. Find joy in your today.

Here are some things bringing me joy right now:

Volunteering with kids

My church family

Friends welcoming me home to LA

With hope,

Stevie

Advertisements

Detroit Women Exemplify Sisterhood and Success

Sisterhood. Community. Tribe. Your people. Best friends.

I pride myself on being a girl’s girl. I love to see women win and to come alongside them and be a cheerleader. Whether it’s the first woman to be the head coach of an NFL team. (Shout out to Jennifer Welter!) Or it’s little girls who tell me they want to be brain surgeons or doctors. (I’m obsessed with hearing about girls pursuing STEM careers.) Or maybe it’s just a friend who has overcome some major adversity, and I’ve gotten to see her battle her demons like a warrior.

I love to see women win.

Yet, for someone who is such a “girl’s girl,” I have certainly had my share of girl drama. I absolutely hate it. Girl drama makes me want to grab my running shoes and throw up the deuces.

You know what I’m talking about it. Those moments when you find yourself with tension with another woman, and you don’t even know why. Even worse, there are the scenarios when you watch a best friendship tether and fall apart.

Actresses Jada Pinkett-Smith and Gabrielle Union recently sat down for a chat on the video series Red Table Talk to talk about women, friendship, cattiness and specifically about their 17-year beef, a feud that neither of them could explain.

As the two women sat down and hashed out the details of their separation, something in my heart healed just watching. In the words of Jada, sometimes women are mad at each other but don’t even know why. Although difficult and uncomfortable, working your way to healthy relationships with other women is one of the most empowering things you can do.

I am not living in a fairytale. I get it. Sometimes, women don’t get along. Personalities clash. Interests conflict. Insecurities cause competition and comparison. Misunderstandings happen. Assumptions are made. Communication falls by the wayside.

I do believe, however, that a woman surrounded by the love and suport of other strong women is nothing short of an unstoppable force. I know five women who embody this idea. Some know them as the “Fab Five.” Others may see them as a clique. I know them as Sharron, Shanelle, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Dajai.

These girls embody sisterhood. Five women with more than two decades worth of friendship under their belts collectively, lots of college degrees and even more ambition.

Their story is inspiring and one worth being told. So often you hear stories of women tearing each other down (especially with women of color.) Stories like their’s, of enduring female friendships, deserve more shine. I am so happy to have grown up with them and watched their stories progress. I am even more excited to share their story and talk about the importance of female friendship.

Shanelle Covington

ShanelleCovington

Pharmacist
B.S. in Brain, Behavior and Cognitive Science, University of Michigan; Doctor of Pharmacy, Hampton University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Overachiever
I’ve always strived for perfection and basically if I don’t reach it, the world is over (more specifically when it comes to school and grades) Sometimes, I just never feel like I’m not doing enough in life and always want more. This can be a blessing and a curse lol”

Your friend group in three words:
Loving, loyal, motivating

Sharron Sanders

img_28661286572177.jpg

Lawyer
B.A. in Psychology and Communication Studies, University of Michigan; Masters of Jurisprudence in Legal doctrine and analysis, Michigan State University; Juris Doctor, Michigan State University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Comedian
“I am definitely the silly/crazy friend in the group. I always aim to make my friends laugh and have a good time.”

Your friend group in three words:
Supportive, loyal, ambitious

Jasmine Spratling

img_2520627640091.jpg

Mental Health Therapist
B.A. in Psychology, Bowling Green State University; Masters in Clinical Mental Health, Walden University; Currently completing a Ph.D. in Human and Social Services with a focus in Mental Health Facilitation, Walden University
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Fashionista/Protector
“Of course one of us has to know how to dress! However, besides that I am also the friend who comes to the rescue when things go wrong.”

Your friend group in three words:
Sweet, funny, encouraging

Jazzmin Taylor

JazzminTaylor

School Psychologist
B.A. in Psychology, Michigan State University; Ed.S. in School Psychology from The Chicago School of Professional
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The mom
“It’s funny because I’m the youngest in the group, but I’m also the most laid back and responsible (in my opinion.)”

Your friend group in three words:
Ambitious, successful, silly

Dajai Livingston

img_048111550023273.jpg

Certified Nurse Midwife
B.S. in Nursing, University of Michigan; Master’s of Science in Nursing specializing in midwifery, University of Michigan
Self-proclaimed role in friend group: The Socialite
“I’m always meeting new people and mingling. They tell me I always know someone. I also make sure that when we all hang out we have a good time. I bring positive energy to the group and always make sure that if something isn’t right I talk to whoever is in charge to resolve the issue. I am the one who will ask for the manager and get us a free meal.”

Your friend group in three words:
Beautiful, ambitious, driven

Tell me about the dynamic of your friend group.
Dajai: Our friend group started at Detroit’s Renaissance High School and evolved freshman year of college. We each have different relationships with one another. Shanelle and Sharron have been best friends since elementary school. Jasmine, Shanelle and Sharron were all “Bates kids” (an elementary/middle school in Detroit). Myself, Jasmine, Jazzmin and Shanelle became close on our high school’s cheer team. Myself, Jasmine and Jazzmin were in midnight golf our senior year and became even closer. We all had times when we hung out during high school, but freshman year of college the five of us had a girls night in Ann Arbor and the annual get together became mandatory.

“We each have different relationships with one another.”

Sisterhood8

What has life been since graduating from high school?
Jasmine: Life after high school has been full of ups and downs, but I am continuing to learn from all my experiences for my personal and professional growth. After Renaissance, I headed straight to Bowling Green State University sadly without any of my best friends by my side. I went even further away after college and moved to Chicago for a few months to begin grad school. Then, I moved to Atlanta, which is where I have been since 2013. Living in Atlanta has been an amazing experience and I absolutely love it! However, being away from my family and my girls is the hardest thing. Since the beginning, we have always uplifted one another. Our circle of friendship goes beyond the norm, and at the end of the day, we are family more than anything. I feel that has also been tested since some of us separated after high school, but it’s like no matter how far we are from each other, our friendship continues. I love my girls!

“At the end of the day, we are family more than anything.”

Sisterhood5

In society, women are often pitted against one another, especially black women. What does it mean to have a solid group of female friends?
Jazzmin: This group is so full of positive energy and encouragement with anything any one of us decides to pursue. We are all good with providing one another with advice. Believe it or not, having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself. That’s why having friends who are always there to uplift you is so important!

“Having the support from my friends provides me with the confidence I don’t always have in myself.”

Sisterhood

What does it mean to you to be a part of a group of girlfriends who has been friends for so long?

Shanelle: Having these amazing women in my life is truly everything!! It’s sooo important to be able to have people in your life who you can truly trust and know without a doubt will always have your best interest at heart. Seeing them succeed just makes me want to push harder and do more. They are so inspirational in their own individual ways. I never feel alone or like I don’t have anyone to talk to, which is so essential with the way I stress over everything lol. It’s a blessing just to have one person to count on. I don’t know what I did in life to have a whole group of women who I know will always be there for me.

“I never feel alone.”

IMG_0739

How do you guys maintain your lifelong friendship?
Sharron: We don’t always stay in constant communication. We are adult women with our own lives. We all have that understanding, but if one of us needs something, the rest are always there. Also, we have our group chat that we use to communicate. We could go a month without talking, and then, randomly someone will post a meme and the chat is lit again.

“If one of us needs something, the rest are always there.”

IMG_5133

Tell me about how you all deal with rivalry, disagreements and the natural misunderstandings that happen in friendship (particularly with women).
Sharron: I’m really at a loss for words. I can’t really think of a time where this has happened. The personalities in our group really suit each other well. We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other. If there is a disagreement, then we talk through it. I’ve always seen other “cliques” where girls would act like sisters but then talk about each other behind their backs. Having a tight knit group of friends that I know have my back no matter what, means a lot.

“We don’t fight. We don’t compete with each other.”

Sisterhood1

How have your friends impacted you personally and professionally?
Jazzmin: Whenever one of us starts a new project (grad program, job, etc.), there is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group. When one of us is going through something, we are all their to empathize with that person and be a support system. We all live in different places, but we stay connected via our private group chat and that works for us. Our group chat often turns into therapy sessions. They also turn into random, silly girl talk. We always try to get the full group together at least once a year and every time we do, we pick up exactly where we left off.

“There is nothing but love, encouragement and positivity given from the group.”

I hope you are encouraged to love your sister friends, your tribe, your people. I also hope you are encouraged to reach out to the woman who maybe you have had a falling out or enstrangement with. Because women are powerful, and when we stand alongside one another, we only get stronger. If there’s anything the 20’s has taught me is that life is hard and unpredictable, but it is brighter with true friends doing life with you.

“Real fierce and fearless women celebrate and compliment other women, and we recognize and embrace the notion that their shine in no way diminishes our light and it actually makes our light shine brighter.” – Gabrielle Union from the Essence Black Women in Hollywood event

With hope,

Stevie

Reverse Culture Shock: Adjusting to Life Back in America

I touched down in America almost exactly a month ago, Monday, May 7 at 1 a.m. I hit the ground running.

My friend (shout out to Dilara!) picked me up from LAX in the wee hours of the morning. I stayed the night at her place, and the next morning, I picked up my car and started unloading things from my storage unit into my new apartment. (Side note: Some of my Italian friends were so intrigued by American storage units, which one lovable Italian character I met referred to as “garages for your things.”)

Since being back in America, I have felt all the feels. (For my Italian friends reading, no that is not proper English. The feels just means a lot of emotions.) I have felt excitement to be home, exhilaration to be back in Los Angeles (the city I love), nervousness for the job hunt, fear of starting over (four months away from L.A. certainly feels like starting over), stress, newness, uncertainty.

Like I said, I have felt all the feels.

I left L.A. and took on the challenge of life abroad after a year of job hunting and experiencing major burn out. I am reminding myself that starting over is not a bad thing. A fresh start, a new chapter, a second beginning can be an amazingly beautiful thing, a gift. I am back in L.A. ready to do what I love and create impactful media and write! (Gah, I am such a words nerd and I love it!)

Since returning to the states, there have been a number of “very American” things that have stood out to me like a sore thumb after living in Italy. Reverse culture shock is real people. Even though I am American, there have been several things, some good, some bad and all funny, that I have had to adjust to.

-The fashion

It is impossible to live in Italy and to not have Italian style leave an imprint on your personal closet. Since living in Italy, I am obsessed with neutrals and blacks, clean, crisp lines and simple but eloquent looks. When I arrived in New York in May, the first thing I noticed about Americans is that we literally wear anything. Flip flops, Ugg boots, leggings, running shorts, over-sized tees. We mismatch all of these items together and call it fashion. Americans dress more for comfort and less for style. While Italians are always stylish (even when they do not try.)

– The food

My body has literally been rejecting food. American food has so much sugar, additives and hormones. You hear people talk about how bad American food is, but it wasn’t until leaving for a long-period of time and returning that I actually understood. American food tastes so different- the texture, taste and flavor- from food in Europe. I could eat pasta every day in Italy. That is not a thing in America!

– Friendly strangers

My second day back in Los Angeles, I went to my favorite coffee shop and a man greeted with a hello and a smile. This man was a complete stranger. Now this may sound unexciting, but I felt my heart do a mini cartwheel. In Piemonte, the region of Italy where I lived, the culture tends to be more aloof and distant. People don’t tend to smile and make eye contact with strangers. Of course, none of this is to be rude, but it’s just not normal there. The people of northern Italy are not overly warm or friendly. So if a stranger smiles at them, they are more likely to be concerned than see it as a greeting. It is nice to be back in America and to have strangers on the street smile, make eye contact and speak to me.

– Understanding the language

It is funny to be back and completely understand what people are saying. I got used to walking around Bra or to coffee shops or the train station and speaking the little Italian I knew. I learned to tune out words because I did not understand most conversations happening around me. To hear conversations from a distance that I completely can understand was a bit of a shock. It has also made ease dropping a lot easier!

– Not being stared at

One thing I always laughed about is how I often got stared at in Italy. While I’d love to think it was just because people thought I was pretty, it more so had to do with being a foreigner and speaking English. One thing I have had to adjust to in America is nobody looking at me, like at all. I’m just another person walking by. It’s quiet ironic!

– Driving

I did not drive for four months- FOUR! For the three months I was in Europe and the month before that I traveled around America, I had the pleasure of being driven around by others or taking public transportation. In Los Angeles, all you do is drive! My parallel parking skills have suffered a lot since being gone. I also have grown unaccustomed to L.A. traffic. (It’s a beast!) My road rage has grown in my time away most definitely.

How I have changed since living in Italy:

– I understand the value of speaking different languages.

I am currently working on fluency in Spanish. I was super impressed by the Italian people I met who were fluent in English, French, German or some other language. Language is a powerful tool in connecting people. It’s a big world out there, and I realized how much I am limiting myself by only speaking one language. I want to connect with as many people as possible and part of that is learning languages.

– I have learned to question my country’s leadership and the importance of being politically active.

Even though Italy is currently going through a rough political climate, one thing I respect about the Italian people I encountered was their willingness to question government and political leaders. They even question American government. “Why is gun control such an issue in America?” is one question I got a lot. I realized in my time away, often Americans are more focused on patriotism and loyalty that we neglect to educate ourselves on issues and to hold our leadership to ethical and altruistic standards. Americans get a little lazy when it comes to politics, and we lose sight of facts, research and questioning.

– I love Nutella.

I had my first taste of peanut butter (which is super American) the other day. And oh my! Nutella is leaps and bounds better.

– I talk with my hands.

When I am excited for something, annoyed or confused, I watch my hands automatically fly in the air. Italian people talk with their hands. They use big gestures, and they talk fast and with lots of passion. The hand gestures that used to make me laugh, I now find myself doing.

I am more aware of how much we let go to waste in America.

In Italy, every home I visited, the families recycled. There was a section for plastic, paper, food and waste. Also, no light was left on or used unnecessarily (like in the middle of the day when the sun is out.) I have never been one to leave a light on (hello, light bill?), but now I am super aware of conserving energy and how much we let go to waste here in the states.

– I want to travel more.

Even though my time in Italy wasn’t picture perfect (because what in life is ever perfect?), it was an adventure! I would do it again in a heartbeat. I plan to go back to Italy. (I didn’t see Rome or Sicily!) I also want to travel to other countries. I’ve got the travel itch, and it needs to be scratched!

My time in Italy challenged me in so many ways. It definitely taught me a lot. I will always hold my experience and the beautiful country of Italia close to my heart.

Check out these photos from my last week in Italy:

img-20180513-wa00021903566445.jpg

Daniela sent me a goodbye photo from Bra!

img-20180424-wa000153870957.jpg

Nicanor came to visit Bra and showed off his Italian skills.

20180504_172730-11032333827.jpg

Nicolo tolerating my need to take a selfie in the middle of the street.

img-20180504-wa0008404749434.jpg

Daisy planned a goodbye lunch for me with all the professors.

20180503_172119355109606.jpg

The empty halls of the Licei di Bra on my last day as a teacher assistant!

20180504_200529265240440.jpg

We went for aperitivo (basically an American happy hour) on my last day in Bra!

With hope,

Stevie

Twenty-Something Tycoons: Erikka Yvonne’s EYCO Agency Is Home to Top-Notch Digital Branding Services

For the month of May, the Twenty-Something Tycoons series will focus on twenty-somethings who are heading their own businesses in honor of the 10-year reunion for Detroit’s Renaissance High School, class of 2008.

In today’s social media and internet driven culture, making a company stand out amongst the crowd can seem like finding a needle in a haystack. Detroiter Erikka Yvonne launched EYCO Agency, a full service branding and advertising agency, to help solve this problem. Erikka and her team are putting their creative skills to work to provide memorable and noteworthy online branding and design services.

Yvonne4

Here’s what Erikka had to say about EYCO Agency:

Tell me about your business.

EYCO Agency, Home of the Creative M.O.B., is a full service Creative Agency that provides branding and advertising strategy services. We work with brands to attract the right audience and create a lasting impression. We help to craft the message and elevate the experience. We believe insight, strategic vision and impact are the core of every life-changing brand.

How did the idea for your business come about?
During my undergraduate career at Grand Valley State University, I found myself being the creative mind behind events and graphics for all the organizations I was involved in. Once I graduated, I found myself facing rejection after rejection for agencies in the metro Detroit area! After some time, I decided I wanted to create a home for young creatives like myself to do what we love most- create!

What separates it from similar businesses?
My team is comprised of young creatives in similar situations like me. After college, they lacked the needed experience agencies wanted. Our team has both the passion for our clients and the drive to see them win!

Describe your business in three words.
Creative. Transparent. Human.

ErikkaYvonne3

Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
In 10 years, I want EYCO Agency to have pop up locations in other major cities! I want those locations to not only house the staff but to be an off-site home to teach high school and college students graphic design, branding, social media assistance and more!

Who is your target audience?
Innovators- The people who tell stories or share content that is important and special to you. This includes authors, bloggers and even vloggers!
Creatives – This includes visual and fine artists, graphic designers and web designers!
Lifechangers – The people who want to connect deeply with the hearts and minds of others to spark something good. This includes nonprofits, philanthropists and motivational speakers.

What advice do you have for high school students thinking about starting a business one day?
Just go for it! Don’t let the unknown or fear of failure stop you. You’ll never know what you can accomplish if you don’t go after it!

How have you grown or changed since joining the entrepreneurial world?
Man, my faith in God has increased tremendously, as well as my confidence in myself! There’s a certain level of comfort I had in life when I was working a 9-5 and that all changed when I became a full-time entrepreneur!

For more information on EYCO Agency, visit the website or email Erikka at erikka@eycoagency.com .

For more interviews with interesting twenty-somethings, click here.
With hope,
Stevie