Lessons Learned from Cinderella

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“Be kind, and have courage.”

Last month, Cinderella captivated the hearts and minds of moviegoers across the country. A bestseller in the box office, Cinderella proved that the goodness and purity of heart seen in age old fairytales never go out of style. I walked out of the theater feeling more hopeful than I had in a long time. I felt motivated to face the giants in my own life, to keep trying when circumstances around me seem bleak, and to hold onto my smile even when life doesn’t play fair.

Ella, the main character, is born into a seemingly picture perfect life. The safe haven of her home is held up by the pillars of love, consistency and safety that her mom and dad provide, but Ella’s world is shaken when an unexpected illness suddenly takes the life of her mother. On her death bed, her mother gives her a last bit of wisdom, words that will stick with Ella the rest of her life and drive the plot of the movie: “A great secret that will see you through all the trials life has to offer…..Be kind, and have courage.”

So simple and concise, yet powerful: Be kind, and have courage. Ella did not know it at the time, but these words would carry her through some of the most trying times of her life, her father’s marriage to a gold digging woman, the death of her father, and the mental and emotional abuse of her stepmother and stepsisters.  In the end, Cinderella is able to rise above the circumstances surrounding her because of the faith she chooses to hold onto.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Be kind, and have courage.”

I know it sounds silly and super simplistic, but today’s advice for us twentysomethings is based on a fairytale. Fairytales, after all, do have important lessons we can all use some reminding of. The decade known as the twenties is full of ups and downs, ebbs and flows. We make a lot of mistakes and go through a lot of challenges during this period of our lives, but I believe if we can learn to get back up as much as we are knocked down, we would master the art of life. Because that is what life is all about: getting back up!

What does it take to get back up after a rough season of your life? Courage. What does it take to not grow angry, bitter or hardened? Kindness. What does it take to hold onto the childlike awe and wonder of the kid in you that used to believe in the magic of fairytales? Courage. What does it take to forgive when people treat you in an unfair manner or when the hand dealt to you isn’t fair? Kindness.

So have  courage and be kind. It will see you through a lot of the troubles that your twenties and life, in general, will bring your way. Be encouraged!

-Stephkt

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The Twenties: A Happy In Between

middleroadLife as Told by an Upcoming, Twenty Something is usually a place where you can come for great advice, a kick in the rear, a companion to tell you, “Yes, I know the 20s are rough, but you can succeed!” This is a place to come find encouragement and hope for another week in your tumultuous twenties.

It’s all about the motivation here, but today I am going for a different vibe, a good laugh because we all need one. If you have ever felt old in your twenties, well here’s a video that will reassure you that you are and make you laugh out loud at least once: Do Teens Know 90s Music?

I can only watch the video once because I start to feeling like I am a day over ancient. The part that gets me is when one of the girls says, “My sisters played it. And they’re like really old, 20s, 25.” To a girl who is 24, going on 25, that was enough to make me feel like I need to hang it up and go register for the AARP.

Funny thing about your twenties is that we constantly get mixed messages. Thirty somethings tell us we are babies and have so much to learn. Teenagers think we are ancient and have fallen off the face of the Earth.

Well, here’s some good news: You are right in the middle where you should be. Yes, you have survived high school, your teenage years and many of you have survived or almost made it out of college. You have taken your first steps into the real world and look at you! Adulthood doesn’t look bad on you, but yes, you do still have a lot to learn. You are reminded of this by your weekly, if not daily, mishaps and blunders that leave you wanting to crawl up in the fetal position or on the phone crying to your mother.

But here’s to you kid! You are making it. You are surviving and taking the curve balls that the twenties bring your way. Remember it’s all ebbs and flows. The twenties are just a happy in between so enjoy while it lasts. One day when you’re thirty something, believe it or not, you will miss the uncertainty and adventure of this time.

-Stephkt

Finding A Voice Despite the World and Momma’s Opinions

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My voice. The thing that I have been fighting to find the last four years. Speaking up for myself. Saying a decisive yes or no. Telling someone when I do or do not like something. Asking another person to stop. Telling someone that they have crossed a line and have gone too far. Asking for more. Demanding respect, honestly, graciously, without pretense. Asking to be seen, to be heard.

The twenties for me have been all about finding my voice. It has been the most painful uphill battle I have ever walked through. You see, sometimes on the journey to find your voice you bump heads with people along the way. Sometimes when you speak up, people don’t like what you have to say. People may get offended. They may get upset. They just may not like you.

Speak up anyway. It’s the hardest and yet most encouraging lesson I have learned in my twenties thus far. Speak up anyway. You see, by not speaking you are only doing yourself and the world around you a huge disservice. People will never see you for who you really are until you learn to speak up. Of course, speak up in a way that is still respectful to other people, but don’t fear speaking up simply because they may not like what you have to say.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

People will never see you for who you really are until you learn to speak up.

I was recently reminded of this when a friend (also 24 years old) text me, disgruntled and upset, because her mother told her she was too loud. She goes on to tell me that her mother gets on to her and her oldest sister a lot actually- my friend for her loudness and my friend’s sister for her curly hair. This is probably something more common in black culture, but oftentimes women from older generations will deride or be critical of a young, black woman for wearing her hair in it’s natural, curly state.

I laughed when my friend text me. My first thought was why does her mother’s opinion affect her so much and make her come undone? Funny thing, my mother has criticized me for both things, my hair and my supposed loudness.  I remember, like my friend, being frustrated by my mom’s words and opinion of me. After much thought, I decided to respectfully disagree with my mom’s opinion and own my truth.

I have an older brother and never once have I heard him being derided by parents for his loudness. Neither my brother nor I are particularly loud people (neither is my friend). Yes, in the occasional heated moment of passion or humor, we can be loud, but we are not loud people in general. Maybe because of my femininity or my age, I was told to be more quiet. To be meek and mild. To be lady-like. As far as my hair, I guess people my mother’s and my friend’s mother’s age do not like the volume, the texture or the curl?


I say this with all respect to older generations and to people of my own generation with differing opinions, but I DISAGREE. I like my natural, curly hair. I think my friend’s sister’s hair is just lovely in it’s natural state. And yes, sometimes I can be loud. In my 24 years of life, I am sure I have had more than one loud moment like most people. But I am not going to allow someone’s opinion of me to make me feel like I must keep quiet. That a more quiet me equals a better me.

These are just small examples of a bigger idea. The twenties are all about growing, changing, becoming better, finding who you are meant to be. How can you do that if you are worried about coloring inside the lines? How can you do that if you are worried about momma’s opinion and the opinions of those people over there? You can’t. You have to fight to find a voice and you have to fight to keep it.

My personality has always tended to lean toward being a people pleaser. So for me this idea of finding my voice in my twenties is monumental! It’s huge! It means speaking up for myself and others. It means being brave. It means having the courage to not back down and to not quit. It means being bold enough to say, “Hey world! This is me! I am here! I matter!” I hope you will join me on this journey of finding your most true, authentic voice, unapologetically.

– Stephkt

The Beauty and Burden

Remember when you were in middle school and went through that phase of crazy hair, braces and acne? In the grand scheme of your life, the twenties look a lot like those years when you were growing out of childhood and slowly emerging to the world through the grit and grim of puberty.

THE TWENTIES, a.k.a. the awkward years

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Maybe a little elaboration will help you see my point. The twenties is the time when you are becoming an actual adult. You know like…..pay your own bills, buy groceries and cook meals all on your own. The first few years of this decade of your life are most likely spent in college, where you are not quite an adult, still living off the perks of financial support from parents. Then, you graduate and are thrown out into the real world to fend for yourself. You struggle to swim on your own for awhile, but eventually you find a way to keep your head above the water. Career, dating, relationships, friends, family, locale…..everything is constantly changing and the ball is in your court. Decisions are yours to make and you’re constantly having to learn how to deal best with the hand you have been dealt.

The twenties can be described best in two words: disastrously delightful.

The dichotomy of the two words are perfect for what comprises the twenties: a lot of mistakes made, unforgettable experiences, lessons learned, new opportunities, broken hearts, beautiful places, uncomfortable changes, interesting people, and growth. The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly. That’s what the twenties are all about.

The other day I caught myself wishing for what’s next, a more certain season, where I had it together more often, made more money, was more established, lived in a city that I loved and the list goes on and on. I was wishing for a different season when life was easier. I quickly realized that the twenties, although not perfect, has a beauty of it’s own. In the midst of all it’s ups and downs, all the pitfalls, all the cuts and bruises, the twenties brings a lot of good too. If anything, it brings growth.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”  Shauna Niequist

Every season will have it’s beauty and burden attached to it. It would be a shame to miss out on all the beauty that the time in your twenties has to offer just because it doesn’t look like what you thought it would. I’d much rather look back on these years of my life and remember making the most of them, rather than being stressed out over bills, worried about my dating life and always waiting on what’s next for my career.

So you’re in your twenties and it gets pretty awkward at times. Welcome to a wonderful season of growth and growing pains. There’s beauty here, only if you’d open you’re eyes to see it.

– Stephkt

The Simplicity of It All

The twenties are such a fluid time, full of change and ups and downs. I am a bit of a nomad myself. Change, spontaneity and adventure seem to fit me pretty well, but I had an a really humbling epiphany recently. In the hustle and bustle of the twenties, the rat race of career, marriage and the climb to success, it is important not to forget what matters. It is important to value the little things.

So maybe you’re not catching my point yet. Am I saying that career, relationship and finding your place in the world shouldn’t be your focus in your twenties? By all means, no. What I am saying is that it should not be your only priority.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“In the hustle of life, don’t forget to stop, look around and say thank you.”

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to volunteer with a group of young adults at a senior citizen’s living facility. I met the sweetest lady named Jean. She was dressed in a red polka dotted blouse, red cardigan and navy pants, with a beautiful smile to top it off. Although Jean had a hard time with her short term memory and kept asking the same questions, she also couldn’t stop telling me how much she appreciated seeing our group’s smiling faces.

Jean explained that when you live in a senior’s living facility, you don’t get outside as much as you do when you’re young. You miss the sway of trees, the brilliance of the sun and the scent of flowers. She also told me she really appreciates interactions with people now more than ever. Her living facility has three meals per day: Breakfast at 7:00 a.m. Lunch at 11:30 a.m. and dinner at 4:00 p.m. She is promptly downstairs for every meal. I can only imagine in her best outfit and with her big smile.

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Jean, my best friend and I at lunch

Jean taught me an important lesson: to value the little things. In your twenties, it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of the world around you and not stop to really appreciate all you have. So you may not have the perfect job you’d imagined back in college. Be thankful that you have a job. So you’re single yet again for another Valentine’s Day. I’m sure you have plenty of family and friends who love and appreciate you.

So what, you’re life isn’t perfect. Welcome to the club. You still have a lot more life to live. Jean reminded me the value of a grateful heart and the joy in appreciating the littlest things. I know everywhere you look, people are encouraging you to speed up and get ahead, but maybe just take a moment, stop, look around and breathe it all in and appreciate what this season of your life has to offer. You should literally take time out of your day to smell the roses around you and gaze at the stars. An appreciative heart is always a full heart.

– Stephkt

2014: Leave it to the Breeze

hopefulI was sitting with a friend for coffee a few weeks ago (because, of course, that is what twenty something year olds do in their free time). Amidst all the holiday jitters of upcoming travel, seeing family and friends, gifts to be bought and things to get done, we started reflecting about this past year.

2014, oh what a year it has been! Full of adventures, new things, new people and many, many lessons learned. As my friend and I sat over our chai, taking in all of 2014 for what it’s been, we started talking about what we’ve learned.

The biggest lesson this year has taught me is to let things go. Whether it be friendships that just no longer fit anymore, past relationships, career struggles, mistakes made or even my pride, I have learned and am still learning the power of the statement, “Let it go!”

Feel free to bust into the Disney anthem at any point in time while reading this. Let it go. How poignantly simple those words are! Let it go. Yet and still, it is not always the easiest thing to do. Let it go. Something about the human brain (at least mine I know for sure), but it likes to hold onto things and people.Let it go. It is something this past year has taught me again and again. Let it go. I can look back on this last year with a smile, knowing that I have learned to let go.

Twenty Something (Advice for Anybody):

There is beauty in knowing when to hold on, just as there is freedom in knowing when to set something free and leave it to the breeze.

Looking over my resolutions from January, I can certainly say that 2014 did not go exactly as I planned. I’ve seen friendships come and go, my career plans get put on pause, and some unexpected surprises, like my brother moving in with me for six months. But that’s life folks! It doesn’t always go as planned. It rarely ever does.

In the midst of all the chaos and the ebbs and flows, there has been so much good. Let’s not forget the good. Here’s some of my 2014 highs: I got to travel to Europe for the first time and survived a 12 hour flight! I ziplined, sampled wines, and traveled to four new states. While I may have lost friendships and had to learn to let some people go, I also gained a close friendship with an old friend, who I am so grateful for! A true friend is worth their weight in gold! I’ve gotten to do more work in the magazine industry from freelancing, to helping out at photoshoots and writing/editing.

It’s been a good year. As we step into the new year, I hope you too can look back on all the good 2014 brought you. For the more painful parts of your 2014, I hope you can take lessons from mistakes made and learn to let go. Holding onto old things just weighs you down. Trust me, I know! Don’t carry that weight in to 2015. Learn to let things go. Show yourself some grace and leave it to the breeze. You’ll be glad you did!

P.S. If you are tired of hearing the overplayed version of Let it Go from Frozen, then try out James Bay’s Let It Go. You can thank me later!

Happy New Year!

-Stephkt

The Twenties: A Time to Deal

Aaah the twenties! Such a formative decade, full of ups and downs. Full of growing pains. This blog is all about chronicling my life as a twenty something and my lessons learned. Hopefully, all you twenty somethings can relate to the embarrassing moments, life lessons, love mistakes, job woes and friendship growing pains, I divulge each week and that you find them to be both entertaining and inspiring.

Awhile ago, I heard someone say something that piqued my interest. They said something along the lines of,” Your twenties are a time to work through all the issues you’ve developed since childhood, grow and learn how to take the good into your adulthood.”

Here’s what I took from that statement, your twenties are a great time for counseling, whether unofficial or official. I don’t say this in humor or in jest. Get some counseling, whether with a professional in an office with a leather chair and polished furniture, at the foot of the bed with your head in your bible or in long talks with a trusted friend. Start learning to deal with things now. Whatever that looks like for you, start processing through the last twenty something years of your life and deal with stuff.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Your twenties are a great time for counseling, whether unofficial or official.”

Between the ages of 20 and 29, you are kind of in the in between. You’re no longer legally a minor, bending at the word of whatever adult is in charge, but you’re not quite an adult yet either. You’re still figuring out how to balance work life, bills, travel, family and friends. You’re taking baby steps, but steps nonetheless, on the road to becoming a full fledged adult. Why not use your “in between” to take the stuff that’s happened to propel you forward?

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the sun.”  Whether you are a spiritual person or not, you can still find some relevance in this statement. This verse and really this whole chapter explains that there is a time for everything under the sun. I guarantee you, as a twenty something year old, you probably have your share of baggage, little secrets and parts of your story that aren’t so pretty. There’s a time to deal and to tear down old walls, and that time my friends, is now.

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Each of us has a story. Maybe your childhood was all bunnies and roses. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe college for you was full of nothing but studying, acing classes and volunteering in the community. Or maybe it was full of heartache, wreckless nights, and stories you may never feel quite comfortable sharing with your future spouse. Whichever is true for you, it’s okay. It really is.

The best service you can do yourself and the world around is to use this time in your early adulthood to grow, to mend, to learn how you think and why you think that way, to understand your triggers, to reflect on how your parents’ shortcomings or struggles may have affected you, to heal from past hurts, to figure how who you are and who you want to become.

On the path to becoming who you are meant to be, you have to first deal with the person you have become. Take sometime to reflect. Take a little rest and relaxation to deal with what life has handed to you. Sometimes reflecting back helps you find the strength to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

– Stephkt