If It Smells Like Pride and Looks Like Pride, It’s Probably Pride

Honesty moment: I recently realized a personal vice of mine, pride.

My form of pride does not present itself in the typical form, which makes it harder to spot.

I am not like the Kims and Kanyes of the world. The over-indulgent, self-absorbed, selfie-loving, me-focused personalities. It’s a quieter, more subtle kind of pride.

My form of pride is one where I choose to withold things, whether it be my gifts or talents, my emotions- good or bad, my thoughts and opinions. I withhold communication because it’s easier to shut down than do the work of being honest and, most uncomfortable of all, vulnerable. (Yikes!)

I have always thought that steering clear of the spotlight was a commendable trait. I thought it was a form of humility, especially when it comes to talents. I thought it was better to always allow other people to take center stage and for me to step back. I thought this was normal, healthy and even admirable.

I am an artsy person, which makes living in LA such an adventure. It’s a city of creatives- actors, dancers, singers, writers, musicians and artists. It’s such a gift living in a city full of passionate people.

Talking to my artsy peers, I have found that they share a common struggle as me, wanting to withhold their gifts, talents and passions. Why? Because it’s so much easier than putting yourself out there-for ridicule, for rejection, for judgment and to be torn apart by people’s opinions.

I love to sing, but rarely, have I shared this gift. I love to write, but it took almost seven years for me to actively share my blog with people. Why? I did not want the attention but more so, the possible failure that could come from sharing my passions.

Here’s what I am learning- My gifts, my talents, my passions are not for or about me. When I withhold these things from the world, I am limiting what God can do in and through me. Diming my own light won’t make anyone else’s shine brighter. Only by shining do I give other people permission to shine. Only by sharing do I encourage other people to do the same.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Diming my own light won’t make anyone else shine brighter.”

I am still learning that sharing is a part of the human experience- the good, the bad and the not so pretty. I write this blog “Life as Told by an Upcoming Twenty-Something” so I can allow other people into my story, the wins, the losses, the failures and the beauty from ashes moments.

What I know is my story, my life, is not all about me but about the people journeying with me. Humility says, “Hey, this is me- the good and bad. The strengths and weaknesses. I want to let you see me.”

Here’s to identifying pride- even the sneaky, hard to spot kind.

With hope,

Stevie

Advertisements

Cliques, Mean Girls and Old Friends: Revisiting High School 10 Years Later

One of my friends said it best. “So much has changed. Yet, so much has stayed the same.”

Last weekend was my 10-year high school reunion. (For my high school in Michigan. I split my high school years between two states- Michigan and Oklahoma). I woke up at 6 a.m., did my hair and make-up, put on a gown, and hopped on a plane at LAX to Detroit. I went straight from the airport to the reunion.

Fresh 6 a.m. makeup did not last!

Can I just say, I had the absolute BEST time. While I have seen all of my closest friends numerous times throughout the last decade (I lived with one of them and another I came home for her Master’s graduation last year), it was nice to be in the same place at the same time with a big group of my peers.

It was nice to see people I grew up with excelling and doing well. To see them happy made me happy. It felt good to just hug a few necks and swap life stories- even if only for a moment.

Lets call it a nice little pit stop on the journey to adulthood.

I laughed so hard this weekend. Friends recounted old stories, some embarrassing and all hilarious. (Most of which, might I add, I do not remember!)

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody): “Maturity is not something that comes with age. Maturity is a journey you choose to embark on.”

The weekend was well spent. The class officers from my grade did a really good job planning a classy event. It was overall a win.

The only downside- when you revisit the past, you find some things and some people stay in the past. After 10 years since graduating high school, there still seemed to be the cliques, the haves and have nots, the popular and not popular, the mean girls.

I was reminded that not everyone grows up just because time passes. I was encouraged by my peers and friends who have grown and who are doing amazing things, who are working toward a purpose.

I was surprised by others who had not changed at all. I am reminded that maturity and wisdom (taking your mistakes and learning from them and choosing to do better) is a choice.

Ten years changes some things, but some people and things don’t change. I think one of the greatest joys of growing older is just not caring. Not caring about what people think, or about the number of likes on a photo, or who is dating whom, or who is wearing what.

If there’s anything I could tell high school me 10 years ago, I’d tell her, “Care less about what other people think and to use your voice to speak up for other people more. Laugh more and enjoy your friends- not all will be here 10 years from now. Mean girls may always be mean girls, but shake off the haters. Don’t be afraid to stand up to them. Other people’s opinions are not your business. You will attract the type of people you are.”

Cheers to revisiting the past from time to time but always, always moving forward!

In loving memory of one of my greatest friends, Felicia Diane Robinson.

With hope,

Stevie

I Am a Woman- and I Won’t Apologize

I am a woman.

I won’t apologize.

I am black. I’ve got curly-kinky hair and hips that don’t lie. I am a millennial, a twenty-something still figuring it out.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am intelligent. Sometimes I use big words in conversation without meaning to, and I know more about sports than some men. I am a book nerd and always eager to travel and learn. There’s so much I don’t know.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am quirky and dorky. I am one of the clumsiest people I know. I trip on things I see, and I forget things people just told me, but I have learned to laugh at myself. Authenticity is better than pretense.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a girls’ girl. Some of my very best friends are women. I have never had a sister, but I have friends who are like sisters. I cheer them on in their successes and hold their hand in their pain. I try to show up as often as I can, and when we don’t see eye to eye, I try to make amends.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

Some women don’t like me. All women do not get along. This is a reality. Whether competition, miscommunication, or lack thereof, women don’t always like each other. That’s normal. I am OK with not being everyone’s cup of tea.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am fiercely independent. I will probably research how to repair something rather than ask for help. I like to do things for myself. I have no problem moving heavy boxes or fixing a flat tire on my own, but I have learned it’s OK to ask for help too.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am a feminist, but I love men. (The two aren’t mutually exclusive.) I am learning to build up and honor the men in my life up with words. Yet, I will never play small, shrink back or diminish my intellect or value for a man. I believe I am just as valuable as the guy next to me.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman.

I am tough. I have had my share of hard times, loves lost, and friendships fade and come out stronger on the other side. I know it’s OK to not always be OK and that there’s beauty in vulnerability. I am both sensitive and strong.

I won’t apologize.

I am a woman, and it’s beautiful.

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

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

Why ‘Fall In Line’ Is the Girl Power Anthem We Needed

Warning: A “controversial” female empowerment message is coming. Beware!

Ever since I was a little girl, I can remember being told I was outspoken or that I had a “strong” personality. Things like questioning gender-based roles (like why I had to help set the dinner table when my brother got to sit and watch TV) or speaking up about why I did not think a woman necessarily had to change her last name in marriage got me long stares and lots of questions.

I have always lived by the notion that men and women are equal and deserve to be treated as so. I was a feminist since birth without even knowing it.

I remember once when someone from my church in Tulsa told me she admired me for speaking my mind. Little did she know, I struggled with it. I got annoyed at being labeled “bossy” or “fiesty.” Yet, I did not know any other way of existing. To speak my mind, to be intelligent and outspoken, to use my voice for other women and girls who cannot, it was as natural to me as breathing.

Last week, a new song called “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato dropped. I have had it on replay ever since. The two ladies with the larger-than-life voices debuted the song last night at the 2018 Billboard Awards. It was marvelous, empowering, and most importantly, timely.

FallinLine

As the twenty-first century wave of the feminist movement rages on, the increasing push for equal pay and the ongoing exposure of sexual harassment in the workplace comes with the #MeToo movement, this song could not have come out at a better time.

I recently worked as a teacher assistant in Italy, and I did a lesson on Women’s History Month and today’s gender equality movement. I was surprised by my students’ reactions, some of whom did not feel gender bias affected Italy or others who validated the pay gap for women. Despite equal education and experience, women fall behind in annual wages worldwide.

I think my biggest question for ant-feminists is why? Why does the word feminism make you uncomfortable? Why has the word “feminism” become an uncomfortable word as Emma Watson said in her U.N. address? Why has fighting for women’s rights become associated with man-hating (despite real-life feminists telling you that is not what they stand for)? Why are women not as valued in the workplace for their efforts? How can women win the battle for equality without men working beside us as allies?

I am a feminist, and I do not hate men, but I should not have to explain that.

I am tired of watching the list of women affected by rape and sexual assualt grow. I believe that men and women have differences, but those differences do not make men better than women or vice versa. I believe little girls and little boys should have equal access to education and should be equally valued outside the classroom. I believe a woman should be paid the same as her male counterpart in the office. I believe a woman can be feminine, gentle and elegant, while still being strong, intelligent and outspoken.

Check out the lyrics from “Fall in Line” and current statistics on why the gender equality movement is still relevant in 2018.

1-2-3, right 2-3. Shut your mouth. Stick your ass out for me.

40 percent of all athletes are female, yet women’s sports receive only 4 percent of all sport media coverage and female athletes are much more likely than male athletes to be portrayed in sexually provocative poses.- Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sport

March, 1-2-3. Who told you you’re allowed to think?

Women make less than men in every field, in every nation (except Iceland as of 2018).- United Nations

It’s just the way it is.

130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 are out of school.- UNESCO

Baby, it’s never gonna change.

1 in 5 women have been sexually assaulted. –New York Times

I am gonna pay for this.

200 million girls and women in 30 countries today have undergone genital mutilation.- World Health Organization

They’re gonna burn me at the stake.

97 percent of rapists never face jail time.- RAINN

Ladies, I hope you are just as empowered by this song as I am. I hope you know you are worth equal pay for that job you busted your ass to get. I hope you know that sexual harassment and rape culture are not normal, and you have a right to speak up. I hope you know that girls all around the world are still fighting for the chance to get an education (even just to the high school level).

I hope you know that the fight for gender equality is not over. I hope you are encouraged to shine in whatever your field of expertise is and use it to empower other women to do the same.

Because we were not made to fall in line.

With hope,

Stevie

How Life in L.A. Reminded Me of the Value of a Friend

Whenever I talk to friends back home about life in L.A., one thing I always hear myself repeating is the difficulty in making friends.

Sure, meeting people here is easy. There’s more than 4 million people in the Los Angeles metropolis area. With the endless amount of happy hours, networking events and social media professional groups, there’s an endless possibility to make connections here. However, making actual, genuine friends in L.A., that my friend takes work (effort, intention and maybe a dash of luck in meeting the right people at the right time.) Bebe Rexha so eloquently explains how she suffers from the “lack of realness” in L.A. and how friends come and go like the seasons in the song F.F.F.

As I’m writing this, I am sitting in a coffee, and to my left there are two women talking. It seems one has just been laid off (maybe just as recent as today- my creeping skills could use a little more work), and the other is playing cheerleader, counselor and career coach all at once.

Lay-off. Ouch, been there. It absolutely sucks, and it can feel painful, blindsiding, and like a stab in the back all in one fell swoop.

The cheerleader, counselor, career coach friend offered some very wise words to her hurting amiga. She told her she might have to cut Hulu or Netflix for ahwile. (I kept Spotify and Netflix when I lost my job. A girl needs her entertainment in hard times!) She told her of course to prioritize paying rent, but if she ever needed a place to stay, then she could crash with her. She also told her, most importantly, not to isolate herself but to continue to talk to people and network. Only by putting herself out there would she be able to hold her head up and not allow the job loss to hurt her confidence. Only by networking would she make connections that would lead to her next job.

I so wanted to lean over in their conversation and give them both the biggest hug, but considering that I am a complete stranger, I won’t do that. I loved this conversation. I loved this moment in my day (though only made possible through easedropping) because it reminded me of what true friendship looks like.

Friendship shows up in the hardest of times. Friendship offers comfort and a shoulder to lean on when you are having trouble standing on your own. Friendship isn’t concerned about what it can gain or get. Friendship doesn’t give up without a fight.

Twenty-Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Friendship can be messy, hard and stretching, but guaranteed, if after all life’s curveballs, unfair hands, ups and downs, you find yourself with a true friend, you are blessed.”

I think finding true friends in adulthood can be difficult no matter where you live but especially in L.A. With the Hollywood culture, there comes a lot of fakeness, people who smile at your face but whisper behind your back, people who use friendship as an opportunity to promote themselves and their careers.

The irony is that often some of the most real and down-to-Earth people in Los Angeles are the people who are actually from here. The wishy-washy, opportunistic people are often transplants from small town, Midwest or suburbia America who bring their ideas of the City of Angeles with them.

While I love L.A., the wishy-washy culture can make thriving here difficult. Everytime I meet a genuine person, it’s like a breath of fresh air. It seems so rare.

A true friend is a precious gem worth holding onto. Making and keeping friends in adulthood can be tough, but I encourage you to fight for your true friendships and to not be afraid to put yourself out their to make new ones.

With hope,

Stevie