Begin Again

Begin-again

“Blood shot eyes, bruised knees, sweaty forehead, she wipes her brow and presses on. Past the obstacles. Past the hurts. Past the failed relationships and friendships. Past her own mistakes. She dusts herself off and decides to keep going.”

My life has looked a lot like this lately. A lot of having to choose whether or not I will press onward or allow the circumstances around me, in this current (temporary) season to define me and my future. Life has required a lot of, as so eloquently put in Taylor Swift’s hit song, shaking it off. (Sorry, TSwift will be referenced again in this post but there’s a purpose, so keep reading.)

Life is like that sometimes– rough. Just plain, old hard. There’s no pretty or eloquent way to word it. Life can be hard sometimes and I think in your twenties you are rudely awakened to this harsh reality, on a weekly if not daily basis. To be honest, a lot of things, including blogging have been difficult lately. Because when life is rough, it is almost innate for me to want to run away or crawl in a ball in the corner where no one can see me. Continuing to write through what has been one of the hardest years of my personal and professional life, has felt nearly impossible.

But here’s what I have been realizing, it’s the hard stuff that makes us strong, wise, better. Like gold being refined in fire or a diamond being cut, drilled and polished, sometimes to get where you are going and to see the end result, you’ve got to go through hard things. I think the trick is whether or not you allow the things you go through to define you. Whether it’s financial woes, work stress, a heartbreak, a loss of a loved one, an illness, whatever unexpected turn life has taken for you, it is your decision whether or not that thing defines who you are and who you will become.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

Baby steps they may be, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

Here’s my advice and one word to keep in mind through hard seasons: RESET. According to Webster, reset means to set again or to adjust or change the reading. I want to challenge all my fellow twenty somethings reading this, that when life is crappy, reset. Hit reset in your mind. Begin again.

So you lost your job or that friendship fell out or that guy broke your heart….allow yourself to feel how you feel. Be angry. Be sad. Be disappointed. Be real about it, but don’t stay there. Take some time to yourself, gather your thoughts, reevaluate and take from it what you can. Learn. Then, begin again. Dust yourself off and begin putting one foot in front of the other. Baby steps they may be, but baby steps are still steps in the right direction.

One last thing before you go, here’s an awesome video of encouragement along the lines of beginning again by none other than Taylor Swift. Enjoy!

-Stephkt

Advertisements

Lessons Learned from Cinderella

cinderella

“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

Finding A Voice Despite the World and Momma’s Opinions

havingavoice

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

Playing Small is Easy, Standing Out Takes Guts

courageHave you ever played small for fear of standing out? Maybe you know the answer to something at work or you have a talent or skill that is needed for a project, but instead of owning it you shy away from being noticed? Well, if you answered yes, don’t feel bad because I am right there with you. A friend recently brought to my attention that I, too, play small. Instead of owning my gifts or my knowledge, I often times choose to keep quiet. I choose to play small and pretend that I do not have the skill, the know how, or talent because it keeps things simple. I don’t have to be noticed. I don’t have to be brave or confident. Playing small is easy. Standing out takes guts.

Why do we do this? As twenty somethings, we want nothing more to succeed, to excel, to win, whether it be on our career paths or in our personal lives. We want success, but then why, oftentimes do we stray away from it?

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):

“Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson

The answer to that nagging question of why do we sometimes play small is simple: fear. That ugly monster inside our heads that tell us if we try, then we might fail. That constant nagging voice that tells us not to speak up at work for fear that we may be wrong. That dreadful feeling in the pit of our stomachs called worry that is concerned with what people will say if we succeed or fail.

Well ladies and gents, I’m here to tell you that the fear might always be there, but the cool thing about fear is that it is just an opportunity to practice courage. The more you practice stepping up, the smaller that little nagging voice of fear will become. You have a dream, take it and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You cannot let the fear of striking out prevent you from trying. Truthfully, that is what the twenties is all about: trial and error. Feel free to explore, to wander and to mess up at times but don’t play small for fear of failing. Who cares what people think? Take that job interview. Start that business. Try out those night classes. Raise your hand in the next office meeting. Share your ideas and your pitches with your boss. You never know? You being bold about your own talents and expertise might just encourage others to do the same. Your next success story could be right around the corner.

-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

Color Outside the Lines

colorpencils

Crash and burns, falling outs, mishaps, mistakes, failures…..

The twenties are  full of them. If this decade could be nicknamed anything, then I’d name it trial and error. You think when you are a kid that by your twenties you’ll have everything figured out. WRONG!!! So miserably, terribly and wholeheartedly wrong.

In your twenties (and for a matter of fact, every chapter of your life), you are bound to fail at something. Maybe you got that degree but didn’t land your dream job right after college. Or maybe you never finished college. Maybe your love life is a mess and that relationship you thought would be always and forever suddenly ended. Maybe you had to unexpectedly move back in with mom and dad. Maybe you set a personal goal for your twenties that you failed to reach. Maybe you dropped the ball and have more mess ups than you can count. If so, welcome to your twenties.

Here’s what I’ve been learning: Mistakes are bound to happen, but whether or not you rebound from them, that is up to you.

Thinking about my own mishaps and blunders in the first half of my twenties, sometimes I cringe from embarrassment and other times from pure horror. But then I stop and think, maybe there are lessons to be learned from them. Maybe these mistakes are all a part of a masterful painting called my life, where the mishaps blend so gracefully into the strokes that make the masterpiece.

Twenty Something Advice (for Anybody):
“No one ever discovered anything new by coloring inside the lines.”

Thomas Vasquez

Something else I’ve been learning: Don’t last your past failures stop you. Whether your mistakes pertain to career, relationships, or personal goals, don’t let them stop you. The twenties are all about learning. So keep learning. Keep trying. Keep going. Keep making mistakes and keep learning from them. That, my friend, is what we call progress. Otherwise, you will just be living in fear.

Writing this blog every week for me is a constant “putting my foot in front of the other” thing. In the early days, there were definitely a number of posts that weren’t so good and that I would deem as mistakes. Sometimes I wonder if people are even reading. What if no one cares what I have to say? But I write anyway. It’s an act of faith, to keep trying and doing something I am passionate about despite any shortcomings thus far.

Forward motion. Growth. That is probably the best thing we can ask for in our twenties. So you had your heart broken once upon a time. Say yes to that date anyway. Ask that girl out for coffee anyway. Didn’t get the job you imagined? Get some more experience and apply again. Or better yet, apply to another position you are just as passionate about and qualified for. To be great, you must first dare to make mistakes and blunders.

I am sure Picasso colored outside the lines a few times as a kid before he ever mastered his art. Do the same. Make mistakes and learn. Try again.

-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.

imgres - Copy

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