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,



Don’t Give Your Power Away

confidenceI have always been a “wear your heart on your sleeves” type of gal. I am still deciding if that’s a good or bad thing. This trait has been a strength at times and my achilles heel at others. Most recently, it has served as the latter.

So here’s the scoop: I recently spotted my ex-boyfriend at the mall. Not just an ex, but the ex, the one that broke my heart and left the pieces scattered on the ocean floor for me to reassemble. The ex that was my first love. The ex that, at one point, I never thought I’d be able to get over. To keep the story short, I did one day, with much time and effort, heal from the wounds of that relationship. I have moved on. So what’s the big deal?

I am a very honest person, i.e. the description “a girl who wears her heart on sleeves” in the opener. So when I saw not only the ex that I haven’t spoken to in three years, but his little sister, his little brother, his best friend, and to top it all off, his new girlfriend, all at the mall where I work a part time job, I inwardly and outwardly was FREAKING out. My heart not only dropped to the ground, but before my brain could even comprehend, my entire body dipped down to hide behind a fixture of clothing. A few expletives were definitely said.

I take wearing your heart on your sleeves to a whole new level. My first instinct was to go into defense mode. Yea, I am over this guy, but so what?! Do I really want to run into him, his family, friends and girlfriend at my job, a job that I am not all that proud of? The answer to that is a sure fired no. Then, I started thinking and questioning myself: Why am I acting this way? Why am I allowing someone and something from my past to affect me? How can I cower and cringe at the sight of one person? How can I allow another human being to have that much power over me?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

No one has power over you unless you give it to them.

It probably took me a good thirty minutes to recover and get my act together. Yea, I was shaking in my boots, but I gave myself a little kick in the rear, reminded myself that no person, past or present, defines me and I decided that only I determine who and what has power over me. I’m pretty sure my ex and his group of friends and family didn’t even notice me, but maybe one day we will cross paths again. The next time, I would only hope that my response would be better.

Here’s what a lot of bumps and bruises in my twenties have taught me: Nobody has power over you, unless you give it to them. So guess, what? Don’t give it away. I can laugh about my recent mall debacle and about how ridiculous I acted. If I could go back, I’d tell myself to breathe and remind myself not to let other people affect me so much. I have just as much the right to breathe and walk this Earth as the next person. Never should I let another human being make me want to go into hiding.

I know the twenties can be rough, but I hope you can take some encouragement from the fiasco that I call my everyday life and be reminded to not cringe, cower or hide for anyone. Don’t allow people to have power over you. You are not just a twenty something at the bottom of the totem pole. You are a twenty something with endless possibility. Keep your head held high.


Finding A Voice Despite the World and Momma’s Opinions


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

Twentysomethings and Self-Acceptance

I am quirky. Quirky would be a understatement actually.

I trip walking up steps most days. Sometimes, I trip over nothing at all. I love to sing (and some say I sound good), but I rarely sing in front of people. I fluctuate between being an introvert and extrovert. I have a really feisty interior hidden beneath an extremely, soft exterior. Winter is my favorite season, but, yet and still, I despise wearing cold weather clothes. If I could wear a dress every day of the week I would. I prefer not to wear high heels (otherwise I might trip more than I already do). I am extremely book smart but can be pretty naive to the world around me. To top it off, I am bowlegged, flat footed and duck footed. Basically, my lower half does not function properly.

Saying all this to say, I am one quirky individual. At twenty four years of age, I know myself better today than ever before. And you know what? That is absolutely, positively wonderful. It is probably the most gratifying feeling I have ever known and the best gift the twenties have brought: feeling comfortable in my own skin.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Don’t try so hard to fit in, and certainly don’t try so hard to be different. Just try hard to be you.” Zendaya

Do you remember what you were like as a kid? In high school? What about college? If you were anything like me, then perhaps you struggled with your confidence. I remember times where I would change or adapt who I was in order to fit the mold of what I thought I needed to be. The funny thing about being a twentysomething is frankly, we don’t care! We don’t care about what’s cool or what people think we should be. We are too busy figuring out dating, our next career moves and how to pay off student loans and bills. Time spent on other people’s opinions becomes frivolous.

The twenties is a decade of stark juxtapositions in everyday life. In all the blunders and the mess ups that this decade brings, it also brings a lot of lessons about acceptance. You become assured in yourself, your talents, your quirks, and even your downfalls. You own them. You take ownership, and eventually, pride in the person you are and the person you are becoming, and you don’t apologize to anyone for being that person.

imagesI am more confident now at 24 than ever before. Confident enough to accept myself, flaws and all. Confident enough to respectfully decline the criticism and critiques of people who may not like me or what I bring to the table. Confident enough to bend and change when people in my inner circle come to me with honest concerns and insights.

Besides accepting myself, this time in my life has also taught me the beauty of accepting others for who they are, as they are, right where they are. No use in trying to change other people. I’ve come to find that trying to change another person is a lot of wasted energy.

So here I am. A twentysomething. At the shore, peacefully and quietly, as the day begins to dawn on something beautiful: self acceptance and acceptance of other people. It’s a good place to be. I hope that you find yourself in a place of self acceptance. Don’t waste another second trying to be something or someone you’re not. Authenticity is a beautiful thing.


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

Power Thinking

Call me a delusional, dreamer or a head in the skies type of girl, but I am of the belief that I can do anything. You may think the whole “You can do whatever you set your mind to” mentality is for fortune cookies or only something that parents and teachers tell children as they are growing up. I would like to challenge that mindset and any thought or fear in your head that tells you, you cannot do something. If no one has ever told you, you can do absolutely ANYTHING. You can have what you want. You can go where you want to go. You can become the person whom you want to become.

How do I know this?  I haven’t always believed in myself. In fact, I have struggled with insecurity, fears of rejection and not being good enough for as long as I can remember. Then life happened and with it came some important lessons that have forever changed the way I look at myself.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“The thoughts you think will create the life you live. Choose wisely.”

Three years ago, I competed in a pageant at my university. I am not exactly the pageant type. I am not tall, skinny and have never been a beauty queen. I am probably as ordinary as ordinary comes. I am a tomboy at heart, dressed in a girl’s clothes. I like to shop but don’t do it often. I would much rather rock climb or go to a basketball game than sit at home and paint my nails. I rarely wear makeup and I can count the number of times in my life that I have had a mani/pedi on one hand.

So what possessed me to go out for a beauty pageant? The summer before my junior year of college, I interned at a local newspaper and had the opportunity to interview several pageant winners for news stories. I was amazed at the humility and down to earth nature the ladies possessed. I was also impressed by the large amount of scholarship money these girls had won through competing in pageants. These girls were ordinary just like me. I remember thinking, if they could do it, then so could I. So that next semester when the opportunity to compete in my university’s pageant was presented to me, I took it.

Fast forward a few months later, after fundraising, shopping for dresses, working on my platform and exercising like crazy, it was the night before the pageant. I was afraid. In my head, I was already defeated. The other girls competing in the pageant were more popular than me. They were pretty and poised. They had the ideal pageant look. I was literally shaking in my boots, and then a text arrived.

A friend of mine was competing in another pageant the night before and she won! One of our mutual friends text me the good news. I remember being so happy for my friend, but I wasn’t at all surprised that she had won. I knew she was going to win. My friend was beautiful, not only on the outside but on the inside too. She was kind and outgoing. She was hardworking and giving. She was talented and well spoken. I believed in her, and then suddenly, it hit me. Why did I believe in my friend so much but did not have the same confidence in myself? Why didn’t I believe that I could win? Why didn’t I believe in me?

Imagepageant24The weight of that moment has stuck with me. I realized then that if I wanted to win, it was up to me. This applied not only to the pageant but with everything in life. I had to change my mentality. I had to start looking at myself as valuable. I had to see myself as enough. I had to start believing in myself the same way I would for a friend. So I told myself, “I can do this.” The next day, butterflies and all, I packed up all my dresses, my makeup and my costumes, and headed over to the auditorium. I felt calm. I was at peace. I was strong. I understood that my task for the day was just to be myself, to pour my heart on that stage and give my all. If the judges and the crowd like it or hated it, so be it, but I knew who I was and that was enough for me. My head was in the game.

I believe my last minute change of thinking caused me to win that pageant. Just by changing my thoughts toward myself, I was able to do something that I didn’t think I could do. I have seen this to be true so many times throughout my life.  When I started college, one of my goals was to intern at a magazine in New York City, but I had no idea how I was going to afford it. A few years later, I was living in lower Manhattan working for one of the top magazine publishers in the world.

I could tell you story after story about how the power of the mind changes things. The truth is the thoughts we think will create the lives we live. So if you want something, I challenge you to make it happen. If you have a dream, go after it with all that you have. Don’t let fear or insecurity stop you because fears are only as real as we allow them to be. When those old thoughts of not measuring up come to your mind, say this, “I can do anything.”

– Stephkt

20 Something Advice from 2013

There’s only a few more hours left until the new year! There is something exhilarating about the beginning of something new. The end of one thing and the beginning of the next is refreshing, empowering, enlightening. New starts are what life is all about. If 2013 was a great year for you, I hope that carries over in to 2014. For those of you who would say 2013 wasn’t your greatest year, I hope you can take whatever lessons you might have learned from the lows and use them to become a better version of yourself in the next year. Here are some of the best lessons I’ve learned this year and wise words that were passed my way. Happy 2014!!

2013 Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody)

Don’t ever let failed attempts get to you. Work ten times harder to succeed.

“If you aren’t at least a little afraid that you’ll fail, you haven’t aimed high enough.” Rachel Millner, Levo League

Be open to the opportunities that present themselves to you. You never know where life will take you.

The choice to change is yours in every moment.

Be hungry to succeed, not thirsty for attention. The most accomplished people keep low profiles for a good reason.” Lauren Maillian Bias, Levo League

In order to grow, you have to be challenged constantly.

When you leave home, you miss family, friends and familiar places. It’s hard but you grow, and that is the best part.

“Do the best you can with what you know and when you know better, you do better.”  Maya Angelou

“Surround yourself with dreamers, doers, believers and thinkers. Most of all, surround yourself with those who see greatness in you.” Edmund Lee

Every situation perceived properly is an opportunity for healing.

When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow.” Shauna Niequist

An educated woman is an unstoppable force.

If a pair of shoes doesn’t fit today, they won’t fit tomorrow. Neither will that guy or that job. Don’t settle.

“Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it.” Charles R. Swindoll

It’s good to be successful and take care of business, but make sure to enjoy life too.

When it comes to your career, refuse to put yourself in a box.

You have to flexible and open. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Woody Allen

We are each a product of our environment. But there comes a point when we have to take personal responsibility for who we have become.”

Be persistent. Nothing that is worth doing is ever easy.

Some of my favorite memories from 2013

Have the best New Year’s Eve. See you in 2014!

– Stephkt