Lessons in Adulting: When You Know Better, You Do Better

I sat next to my best friend on her queen sized, pillow top bed, surrounded by a mass of pillows doing what best friends do best, heart to hearts.

Her words stuck.

“As painful as it was, losing that friendship wouldn’t have mattered if you hadn’t learned anything.”

We were rehashing the loss of one of my closest friendships. What had gone wrong. Mistakes made on both sides. The scars it had left. What I learned from it. How I was planning to let go and move on.

I had done the unthinkable. I had written an emotional note ending the friendship. Worse than that, I sent a text. A text saying I couldn’t be friends anymore. The emotional, disgruntled note came later. (A note, might I add, that was written while I was slightly tipsy. Something I highly warn against- drunken notes.)

In 2016, I was a hot mess in more ways than one. 2017 saw a lot of growth, a lot, and boy, was it painful but so good. I grew to be more confident in my talents and gifts. I came to get to know and actually like the woman I saw staring back at me in the mirror. I learned to say no, to set boundaries with other people and to make self-care a priority.

Twenty-Something Advice (for anyone): “When you know better, you do better.”

I am realizing that sometimes, in order to move higher, whether in relationships, friendships, career or love, you have to let go of some things, some bad habits, some old ways of thinking, some hurts, some insecurities. Letting go is the only way to move forward, to improve, to go higher.

My poor decision making has made some of my weaknesses rather apparent. Avoiding confrontation. Check. Writing break-up letters to friends instead of communicating. Check. Holding on to people and things past their expiration dates. Check.

The saying goes, “Old habits die hard,” meaning it is hard to stop doing things that one has been doing for a long time. While this bears much weight, I believe it is possible for old habits to die once you acknowledge that they no longer serve you.

One of my favorite sayings of all time I first heard from Maya Angelou. She said,”When you know better, you do better.”

I know better now. While I’ll never be perfect (and that’s perfectly OK), I know better than I once did. So I am going to do my darndest to apply that knowledge and be a better version of myself. Mark my words- I will never write an angry breakup letter to a friend again. (It kinda sucks for the other person, and it is just really unfair in terms of healthy communication.) I will be more brave in the face of conflict and confrontation and not shy away from it just because it’s hard.

In what ways in your career, relationships or friendships, can you apply the  knowledge you’ve attained through self-awareness? What habits can you let go to move higher? Here’s to moving forward in 2018 to better things!



The Problem With Reducing ‘Best Friend’ to a Hashtag

In today’s social media driven world, there seems to be a hashtag for everything, including the oh-so coveted best friend relationship. There are countless hashtags for denoting who holds the glorious title of “bestie” in your life including but not limited to: #bestfriend #bestie #bff #partnerincrime #bestfriendgoals #friends4life #bffl #bestfriendstatus #bestfriendsbelike #bestfriendagirlcouldaskfor #myperson

You get my point. It’s everywhere. On social media, in pop culture websites, in daily conversation and even in Buzzfeed quizzes. (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t just take that quiz. Your girl loves a good Buzzfeed quiz!) It’s also on your favorite TV shows. Meredith had Christina. Cory had Shawn. Lorelai had Rory. Blair had Serena.

I, too, have had my share of best friends, some friendships where it was more so me wanting the best friend title, some scenarios where the other person led the charge and others where it was a natural, two-way street. In kindergarten, there was Lisa, who I just thought was so pretty, smart and kind. 5-year-old me thought Lisa was the ish, and I knew we just had to be friends.

Flash forward to seventh grade, and there was a new girl. (In middle school, everyone notices a new kid.) I remember her trying to navigate the halls of Bates Academy, a place I had called home for the past six years and knew all too well. I wanted to help her find her classes and make sure she had someone to sit with at lunch. We were best friends for a solid two years, and then, high school happened.

Regardless of our well intentions, we were growing up and changing. With that came changes in our friendship. At the time, I remember being sad at the distance between us even though I saw her every day at school. Looking back, I realize it was growing pains, new school, new classes, new clubs, new friends. We were naturally growing apart, and it was no fault of hers nor mine. Today, she is still one of my oldest and truest friends.

Later on, I made a best friend in high school, a friendship so genuine and pure. My dear friend Felicia and I met freshman year of high school and gradually we reached best friend status. Beginning of junior year of high school, my parents moved my brother and I to Oklahoma. I was devastated (cue dramatic teen angst), not only because I was moving cross-country half-way through high school but because my best friend was sick.

Felicia was in cancer remission when I met her freshman year. She wore scarves around her head and had the biggest smile you can imagine. Sophomore year, she opted for a short, curly fro, but the contagious smile stayed the same. That first year when I moved to Oklahoma, Felicia and I talked all the time. She sent me a voicemail singing Happy Birthday, and how I wished to this day that I still had it. She had the most beautiful voice.

The summer before senior year of high school, I came home to visit, and Felicia was in the hospital. She was sick again. Yet, she didn’t want to show it when I was there. She tried to be strong when I visited, but the chemo made her so tired.

16-year-old me didn’t know what to do. I sat quietly in the hospital room watching my friend rest. My mind flash backed to sophomore year when Felicia came and found me in the girls’ locker room to tell me the cancer had come back. We stood there, and I held her as we both cried. I didn’t know what to do for my friend but be there.

In the fall of my senior year of high school, Felicia passed away. Although I knew she wasn’t hurting anymore, my heart ached with the thought that I wished there was something I could have done to help her. I still imagine her singing sometimes. Her voice is so comforting.

Losing Felicia changed something in me when it came to friendship. I felt a little more guarded, like I couldn’t use that word lightly. At my new high school in Oklahoma, I made a lot of really good friends, many of whom gave me their “best friend” trophy title. I couldn’t reciprocate it though. I never refuted when they called me their best friend. I smiled and accepted it, not wanting to hurt their feelings.

Yet, in my head, I would ruminate with questions: Is this person my best friend? What does that mean exactly? Do we know each other well enough (I’m talking the good, the bad and the ugly) to use that title? Is this just another fleeting friendship that won’t last? If someone calls me their best friend, am I obligated to reciprocate?

College happened and again it was a new place, new people and new friends. I have never been the type of person to gravitate toward cliques. I look for individuals, the people who stand on their own two feet, the people who know who they are and who aren’t afraid to be that person. I made a friend who was exactly that freshman year of college, and we became inseparable.

We were one in the same, fiery, smart, independent girls with the “sweet, girl-next-door” persona invisibly tatted across our foreheads. We laughed together, cried together, prayed together, traveled together, refused to shop together (because we both hated spending money on things), saw movies together and talked about guys, career aspirations and our faith together.

This friendship meant so much to me. This was the first friend I ever shared with about my mom’s illness, the friend who saw me through some of my hardest and scariest days. The friend who I ran to when I needed to feel safe. This friend checked every box on my list. We were by all means the best kind of best friends.

But then life. Oh, how life and time can change things. We grew apart, and I had to learn to let go and trust the process. I had to learn to forgive myself for the things I did wrong and to forgive her. We recently spoke for the first time in six years, and even though it’s been so much time, it’s funny how some people leave such a deep imprint on our lives.

She just graduated from med school. I remember her and I stressing in undergrad, me about getting a big girl magazine job in NYC and her about pre-med classes and whether or not she would be a doctor. It’s been six years. Yet and still, my heart was elated to see she had accomplished her dream. Talking to her felt like coming home after a long trip away.

Two weeks ago on June 8, it was National Best Friend’s Day. (Another Hallmark created holiday to make us spend money.) It and recent friendship growing pains have left me wondering what a best friend truly is and if it is OK, in fact, if you do not have one. One of my friends always makes me laugh with her disbelief in the idea of having a best friend. I used to label her a cynic, but lately, I’ve been starting to think if maybe she is right, if maybe the “best friend” label is something so pressured and pushed upon us that we often feel incomplete if we don’t have it.

So I started thinking about the people I’ve called best friend throughout the years. I think back on the names and faces of past and present friends who have made such an impact on my life. Some who have left scars and others who have helped heal them.

Twenty-Something Advice (for anyone): “Your value does not depend on your #bff status. A best friend is a rare and special gift, not to be taken lightly. It is not a one-size-fits-all prototype.”

There are the friends who have called me out on my crap and pushed me higher. There are the friends who have helped brushed my hair back on tipsy nights and others who have held me as I wept, heartbroken about some guy. There have been the friends who have helped me hold onto hope during some really hopeless times. There are the friends who I have had so much fun laughing with that we never ever remember to take photos. There are have been the friends who’ve exchanged music with me and helped me expand my own collection. There have been the friends who have been there through breakups, job losses and the pains of adulting.

I believe in best friends. 100 percent. I have seen it exemplified by other people’s friendships and have felt it myself. People crave companionship, in the form of family, love and most importantly, friendship. I believe it is a rare and special thing.

I also believe that sometimes we crave best friendship so much that we hastily throw the phrase around without understanding what it really means to be a best friend. Sometimes, we use those words without truly taking the time to get to know a person, the good and the bad. Sometimes, we shuffle through best friends as if they are disposable. Sometimes, we get caught up in the cultural phenomenon of having a “bff” because we want to feel included. We want to belong.

I jokingly tell my closest friends, “You know this friendship is real because I get on your nerves at times and you get on my nerves. You know my bad parts, and I know yours but we still love each other.”

Friendship is not something to be feigned nor is it something to be taken lightly. When we reduce a best friend to a hashtag, cute Instagram captions or a photo on Facebook, we in essence minimize the value of what a true friend is. They are someone who loves you at your worst, who isn’t afraid to be honest with you even when it’s hard, someone who forgives you, someone who shows up for your biggest accomplishments and on your hardest days. They are your biggest, most loyal supporter. A best friend is so much more than just words. It is action.

If you don’t have a best friend, then that is perfectly OK. In no way does not having a best friend make you less valuable or worthy. Perhaps, you had a best friend, and the friendship is no longer working. If you have done all you know to do, then it is, in fact, OK to let a best friendship go. You can value the friendship for what it was and yet hold it with open hands. A friendship ending or growing apart doesn’t have to break you. You can choose to learn from it.

Out all of life’s treasures, I believe true friendship is the best gift you can ever give someone. (After all, it is free, and I love free things.)



With Arms Wide Open


I’ve heard time and time again that there is nothing new under the sun. (Actually one of my older posts was exactly about this topic: https://stephkt.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/nothing-new-under-the-sun/)

One word of wisdom that I am realizing the importance of is about living with your arms wide open. You know that saying, “If something or someone is yours, let it go. if it is meant to be, it will come back to you.” My dad once gave me this wise bit of advice, and I let it fall by the waist side at the time. Knowing me, I probably disregarded it because as a twenty-something of course I KNOW EVERYTHING! (sense my sarcasm please)

In my 22 years of life, I have had a number of things pass me by. Whether it be relationships, friendships, jobs, colleges I was applying for, in my life some things, well a lot of things, have seemed to slip through my fingers no matter how hard I tried to hold onto them. Being the control freak that I formally was (and am currently growing out of), I tried to force things and people into my life that weren’t meant to be. Looking back, the harder I tried to fight for these things, the more they seemed to evade me.

Here’s what I have learned: Life is just as much about holding on as it is about letting go. It is important to balance the two and to know the difference. While you are fighting and struggling to hold onto that relationship, maybe you are missing the lesson you need to learn from it. Instead of holding onto to that friendship that seems to be falling out, let it go and open the door for new friendships to take its place. Instead of seeing not getting that job or into that university as rejection, just know that there is something else out there for you.

A truth that I want to live by is to love well and live my life with open hands. I want to show up every day, pursue my passions, love others well, give my all and be willing to let go. This is not an excuse to not fight for things. I fervently believe in fighting for family, friends and love, but I also firmly believe in loving with arms wide open, giving my all and being willing to let go.

Will you join me and live this life with open arms and open hands?

Here are two great songs about that topic:


The 21st Summer

So tomorrow, September 10, is my 22nd birthday. I have no big party or dinner planned.  No night out on the town with the girls.  Yet and still I am very excited for tomorrow. I get to celebrate my life!! I have grown to realize the beauty of each day and it’s simplest gifts.

Life is like a novel. It is full of chapters and scenes.  Different characters grace the pages. Some come in and are quickly gone, while others leave a more permanent impression. We are the authors of our happiness and thus determine whether or not our days, or chapters, will be filled with love, light and hope.

This past year has been one of many ups and downs for me. My senior year of college brought a lot of changes, some harder than others but all worth the lessons learned. I have come to the reality that while everyone gets older, not everyone actually grows up.  Maturing and learning is a choice.  To really take time to have self reflection and have that “man in the mirror” moment that Michael Jackson so famously coined in his song, takes initiative and self discipline.  It means acknowledging and coming to terms with truths about ourselves, that although not always pretty are nonetheless worth the facing, accepting and changing when applicable. Learning and maturing isn’t easy, which is why everyone does not do it. To say the least, this year has been a humbling experience for me. I have had to face my own ugly truths, lost friends, gained friends, gotten closer to my family and God and been pushed more than I thought possible.  In the end, I know that it is all worth it.

As the quote by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross says,

“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss and have found their way out of the depths. These people have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Here are some of the lessons I have learned this year.  This past summer has given me a lot of time for self reflection and to just be still.  Aaaaah…… be still.  Those words are so powerful.  If you have never really done that, just sat and stared at the clouds or the stars or listened to the rain or said a prayer and waited to hear from God or to feel peace, I suggest some major “be still” time for you my friend.

Along with the things I have learned, I added some of my favorite pictures from this past year below! I hope these things are of some help! They are simple but have meant a world of difference in my life this year and have helped me gain perspective.

Lessons Learned

1: The power of my thoughts (the power of positive thinking). Your emotions are dependent upon your thoughts.

Dog walking at the Humane Society

2: The importance of having self respect (confidence and love for yourself) as a woman. “We must learn to fight for ourselves the way we fight for our own children.” Ann Curry

My 21st birthday with my very two first friends in the state of Oklahoma

3: To put your hope in God alone. Titles, relationships amd material things fade. God is the only constant.

The Helmers, my adopted grandparents and OSU alumni

4: No one has power over you unless you give it to them. You choose your response. Women are powerful.

My sorority little sister and I at OSU Homecoming 2011

5: In relationships and friendships, learn to listen. Really listen to the other person. Communication (open, honest, and real) is a must. Don’t fight to be right. Fight for resolution. To have a friend, you must learn to be a friend.

Myself and the Office of Multicultural Affairs Misses for 2011-2012

6: Stay close to the source of your identity and worth, which is God. Time with God and in his word is a must.

Me and one of my oldest friends, Dajai, in Michigan to bring in the new year

7: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Allow yourself to feel and to hurt, to be sad, to smile, to fall down and to laugh at falling down. Give yourself time and space to grow.

Oklahoma State’s Founding Dance Marathon Executive Team

8. Love your family.  They are your built in team sent from God from birth. Hard times and fights may come, but don’t let momentary feelings ever stop you from appreciating the people in your life.

Meeting my godsister for the first time!

Here are some more photos from the year:

The Sarah Smith of the University of Central OklahomaErica DeLoera, a great friend and future L.A. fashionistaStudent Alumni Board 2011-2012Gameday working in the suites!The final two contestants for the Miss Black OSU 2012 pageantHalloween 2011 The Student Alumni Board 2012 Graduating Seniors