All Articles Tagged "life lessons"
By Paula T. Edgar Esq
I was 24 when my mother, Joan Donna Griffith, was killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. She was everything to me. That Tuesday, she’d gone to work as an assistant vice president and office manager at Fiduciary Trust, where she worked on the 97th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center. To say that her loss was devastating to our family would be an understatement, but as I reflect back on the past 15 years, I realize that my mother’s murder was a catalyst for me. The experience made me realize that life is not promised, and so I could not be complacent, I needed to strive for excellence always. This is a motto that I have carried with me since. I have learned many lessons in the last fifteen years and if I could give my 24 year old self advice, it would be this:
1. Exercise self-care
Losing my mother made me spin out of control in many ways. I drank excessively and made questionable decisions, all before I started counseling. Working with counselors gave me the tools and strategies to navigate through life rather than being resistant or hiding from it. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help, and incorporate practices in your life that keep you grounded, happy, and healthy.
2. If something is not serving you, let it go.
My mother’s last words to me were, “If you don’t love him, don’t marry him.” She was talking about my then boyfriend whom I actually didn’t love, but I was too stubborn and lacked the maturity to end the relationship. I’m not sure to this day if I would’ve ended my relationship if not for my mother’s death. The lesson carried over to my professional life as well: I have had work situations and volunteer responsibilities that have caused me more stress than I care to admit and in many cases drained me rather than helped me to advance towards my goals. Listen to your gut – as scary as it may seem, if it doesn’t feel right, let it go and move on. New opportunities will always be available.
3. Don’t be afraid to own your voice (even if it’s not popular)
Like many of us, I cared very deeply about being liked and many times that required me to make myself small or compromise my authentic self, both in relationships and at work. I now know that personally and professionally, I am doing a major disservice to myself and the people I interact with if I am not showing up as my entire self – with needs, wants, and opinions.
4. Put your cape down: Aim to do good, but forgive yourself when you fall short
I try to live in honor of my mother’s legacy every day. I require this of myself because I know she would’ve wanted me to be impactful in my home, my community, and successful in my career. With such a high standard to live up to, I tend to feel overwhelmed frequently. In these times I have to remind myself that I am human and it won’t serve anyone if I drain myself.
5. Remember what is important and Have fun!
When you have a lot of plates in the air, it can be hard to remember priorities. Above all, my mother’s life and death remind me that there is nothing more important than family and friends. As much as I am energized by the work that I do as an entrepreneur and the impact that I want to have as a leader, I try to always make the time I have with family and friends count. I also make it a point to infuse fun in everything I do because I know life is short – losing my mother shocked me into being present in every day, and making the most out of every one that I get. So each day I try to be present in the present, but always keep my eyes toward the future.
Paula T. Edgar Esq. is founder and principal of PGE LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in professional development, coaching, social media strategy, and diversity and inclusion. A civic leader and President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association, she received her B.A. in Anthropology from the California State University Fullerton and her J.D. from CUNY School of Law. Connect with Paula on Twitter @Paulaedgar and at www.paulaedgar.com
“When am I going to start dance lessons?” my 6-year-old daughter asks me at the park, soon after discovering that her new friend just came from ballet class.
“We’ll see,” I tell her.
“That’s what you said the last time.”
“I know,” I reply.
While she runs back to the monkey bars, I’m left with a horrible feeling in my stomach.
“We’ll see.” I heard that so many times growing up and it always meant the same thing. “We can’t afford it.” Now I’m saying it all the time, sounding just like my mom who didn’t want to make me a promise that she couldn’t keep. But it sucks because as parents we want to give our kids all the things we didn’t have, and when we can’t, we feel like failures.
The other day I was talking to a single, working mom who knows exactly what I’m feeling. She was saying that her daughter’s second grade class would go around on Monday and make all the kids share what they did over the weekend. “It was terrible because kids would feel left out if they weren’t climbing Mount Everest or going to Disney,” she says, adding that she’d tell her daughter to just make something up. “But when we really did go somewhere best believe eeeeeeeeeverybody knew!” she laughs.
Now my daughter is over on the grass practicing flips that she learned from watching videos on Youtube. Shoutout to Youtube tutorials that can teach you how to fly a plane if you want. But still.
That evening, my daughter and I are walking to Parent’s Night at her school and already she’s asking me what she’s gonna get if her report from her teacher is good. “We’ll see,” I tell her, wishing that this knot in my stomach was the kind that would suppress my appetite because if you’re going to feel bad, you should at least lose weight. I just keep on eating. But I digress.
My daughter’s teacher, Mrs. V., is giving me the report and it’s good. I’m not completely surprised because they’re in kindergarten and just learning to read and write so it’s hard to screw up. But then she tells me that my daughter is a good writer. A good writer? And she gives me a few month’s worth of extra lessons that I should have her do everyday at home to help her build on it. I must be looking at her like she’s a martian because she says:
“You’re a writer, right?”
“Yes,” I tell her.
“It makes sense.”
We’re walking home and I’m thinking about what the teacher said and what it means. Somehow, without even trying, my daughter is picking up on my writing skills. And it does make sense because we talk about writing a lot. I tell her what I’m working on and sometimes she even makes suggestions. I never thought anything of it, but what if I really started teaching her how to write starting now?
Suddenly, it occurs to me that while I’m feeling bad that I can’t get her dance lessons I’m missing out on what I can give her, and that’s a skill that she can take with her wherever she goes. Like a cook who passes on that magic touch in the kitchen, that child will never go hungry, nor will a tailor who teaches his kid how to sew. At the end of the day, my daughter doesn’t have to become a writer, but the point is she’ll have options. That’s how you set your kids up in life. You pass on to them what you know. And that will always come from the heart.
My daughter interrupts my thoughts to say, “Mommy, now that I got a good report what are you going to give me?”
I turn to her and say, “We’ll see.” But this time I’m smiling.
So what about you? What lesson are you passing on to your kids?
A lot of people think that the Love & Hip Hop franchise is pure trash–and a lot of times it is precisely that. Despite the trashiness, I’ve been a steadfast fan of the franchise since the very first season; I just keep getting sucked back in season after season, even as the storylines and theatrics continue to escalate to levels of sheer implausibility for what is supposed to be “reality.”.But if you look (like really look) beyond the weave pulling and other ratchetness, the show actually has some redeeming, dare I say inspirational, qualities about it. However paradoxical it may seem, I’ve actually picked up a few useful lessons from watching this foolery.
- Stand up for yourself
I hate confrontation. In the past, I haven’t been very good at responding to shade. More often than not, my way of dealing with shade was to resort to passive aggressive techniques. But here’s the thing with passive aggression–it doesn’t work if the other person is not good at picking up on subtleties! Sometimes one needs to respond to a threat in very direct terms. The cast members of Love & Hip Hop understand this quite well. Even the more levelheaded cast members like Tammy Rivera don’t take too kindly to blatant shade, as we’ve seen in the latest Atlanta season. A core principle of the show seems to be: don’t let people walk all over you. Having said that, in regular non-reality-TV-show life, not every instigator deserves a drink to the face or a wig snatching–sometimes the best response is a calm and icy one, like something that House of Cards’ Claire Underwood would say or do. Nonetheless, the lesson learned is to defend oneself.
- Believe in yourself
Perhaps one of the most addictive things about Love & Hip Hop is watching people hustling to achieve their dreams in the music industry. Some of the cast members pursuing music have, let’s just say “questionable” talent and/or methods of pursuit, yet they are unafraid to allow themselves to want what they truly want. In my opinion, that’s brave. Theirs are the rags to riches stories that draw in viewers–stories that evidence that there are people who reject the tedium of the 9 – 5 job to wholeheartedly go after their dreams. We root for them and hope that at least a few of them make it so that we too can believe it possible for ourselves, whatever our dreams may be. I mean, even Momma Dee is out here dropping albums for Christ’s sake! If that doesn’t motivate you to get your butt off the couch I don’t know what will.
- Don’t judge a book by its cover
I was always told to never judge a book by its cover but every once in a while I need to be reminded of this, and watching Cardi B on Love & Hip Hop was one such reminder. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Cardi B, she is a saucy lady from the Bronx who started off as an Instagram personality before she landed a role on the New York show. Cardi B is a little rough around the edges (or at least that’s how she was depicted on the show) so I was quite surprised and impressed by her appearance on the Love & Hip Hop New York Season 6 Reunion show when she cussed out Peter Gunz about the shame that is the Peter-Amina-Tara love triangle.
In previous seasons it seemed like the focus of this love triangle was mainly on the women fighting over Peter and their poor decisions, but Cardi B turned the spotlight onto the common denominator in this mess–the core problem: Peter Gunz. It was about time that the man in the situation also got his fair share of demonization for his part in the fiasco. Cardi B’s got her head screwed on straight and sees things for what they are–not quite what I had expected from the loose cannon we saw earlier in the season who tried to kick out a window of an SUV outside of a club. Also, Cardi B has proven to be quite the talented rapper–her mixtape is on point! Well played.
At the end of the day Love & Hip Hop isn’t really all that bad for your brain… at least this is what I tell myself whenever I plonk myself in front of the TV to watch another scene of Joseline Hernandez squawking at Stevie J about something ridiculous.
I don’t often participate in Facebook’s “challenges.” Mostly because the word challenge is misused. It’s basically just an opportunity for people to either brag about their life or give the people they know a chance to brag about what they know of their life. You’ve seen them, the people of Facebook created the one where women in relationships were challenged to celebrate their men. There are the ones that ask your friends to share their first memory of you. There are challenge where you reveal 25 things no one knew about you (which I did participate in) and one where you have a dollar and have to “buy” the relationship characteristics you want your partner to have.
This is no shade or judgement. I do enjoy reading most of them. But these days, I mostly use Facebook to talk about news and ideas.
But there was one particular on I kept seeing pop up on my newsfeed that caught my attention. It’s this Transformation Challenge, likely known by a couple of different names. For this one you’re supposed to compare you first profile picture with your current one. Perhaps the initial goal of the challenge was to see how much you’d changed physically. But the more it started spreading, the more people thought about the mental, emotional, and psychological changes that had taken place as well.
And while I had seen the pictures compared side by side with one another, it was this deeper level of introspection and authenticity that appealed to me. I thought about my own two pictures, vowing to compare them in my head before I wrote a post about them.
When I did, I recognized just how much I had changed, the lessons I had learned. And I realized that was indeed worth sharing.
So here’s mine.
For some reason, Facebook doesn’t record this as my first profile picture. But I know it was because this was taken by my sister Vanessa during my college orientation. A couple months later, when she and my parents left me in Missouri, it was her who told me it was time to start a Facebook page; something I had been avoiding, and we chose this picture. I love my before picture because it reminds me of my fear.
The entire summer before I went off to school I was so nervous that I lost my appetite. I ate but, literally for three straight months, I was never hungry. It got so crazy that I had an endoscopy to make sure that I was ok. Nothing was wrong with me, physically. I was just so mentally preoccupied that food became obsolete. The mind is strong, y’all.
This second picture was taken, five years after I graduated college, right outside of the office of what was my dream job, where I’m still employed. I still love the actual work of the job but when you get what you want, you see things you never considered. Aside from the makeup, locs, and accessories, the woman on the left is more confident and able to stand on her own. (The day this before picture was taken, my sister informed the family that she was my crutch. Facts.) And this woman on the left is a LOT less scared. There are very few things I fear now, very few. I arrived at this place mostly because the woman on the right learned that God’s got her. There’s something about being away from home, away from familiar that causes you to rely on God in different and new ways. And that’s when things start really poppin’!
(And on another, entirely different note, I want to make it perfectly clear that I’m not bleaching. Lighting, photo retouching, and time of year make a huge difference. So y’all think about that when you accuse Beyoncé of whitewashing.)
What I found most inspiring is that my words, my journey were able to help some of the people who read it. And that’s pretty cool. I encourage you all, not necessarily to take part in this challenge, but do look at the two pictures and think about how far you’ve come.
For a little over two years, Madamenoire’s parenting editor Kweli Wright has been a wonderful source of inspiration. A few months into becoming a published and paid author, she pushed me to become a professional. When I would write from an objective point of view, she would send an email back telling me that the best way to establish a voice is to take a side and be divisive because it will pay off in the long run. With no formal journalism experience, she would send me online classes that I could take for free. Out of the clear blue sky, she once sent me a text message asking me if I had any editorial experience just to pick my brain; knowing that it would plant the seed for me to think bigger. If there was an editorial position she thought would be a good fit for me, she would send it my way, telling me “Get over your fear of improper grammar usage,” and that I’m ready. She had virtually given me carte blanche to pitch and write about whatever I wanted to, trusting my abilities all before meeting in person.
This morning, Kweli struck again when she posted a link on from Scarymommy.com on Facebook entitled 10 Things I Want My Daughter To Know When Things Get Real. As the father to a little girl, I felt compelled to read it. The whole list are all things that I would love for my daughter Cydney to know as well. But as a father, number two stood out to me the most.
Know the Difference Between Desire and Value
I am a single parent to a five year old whose mother passed away while she was an infant. Cydney looks at me and sees a superhero who even when he scolds her can do no wrong. Even if her mother were alive, I’m daddy: her first love. Even if her mother were alive and we were together, as her dad, this is a lesson that is most applicable coming primarily from me. My daughter has seen me date (she always wants to come along and will give her approval or disapproval in their face), look, and act in a manner that she sees Disney princes do on television. It is part of the foundation that instills value into her.
As a verb, desire is defined as to “strongly wish for or to want,” with synonyms being covet, yearn, want, aspire to, and so on. The verbal tense of value means “1) Estimate the monetary worth (of something. 2) Consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of,” with alternative verbs being assess, appraise, appreciate, esteem, and respect.
To be desired is a wonderful thing. We all want to be wanted and coveted to some extent. There is nothing wrong with aspiring and position one’s self to be yearned and lusted after a little; as well as giving into our desires as well. It drives us all. I want my daughter to indulge a little. If life’s best teacher is experience, I want her to give into a little to it…because this makes for a life worth living. Life is hard; but learning along the way is most of the fun. To desire something is the root of finding value in something and someone.
Value comes in three phases: appraisal, assessment, and investment. Based on one’s desires, we see something we like, decide decide if it is something worth acquiring, and then endow it into something worth more than it was when we originally wanted it. Be it professional, social/interpersonal, and in love, I want my daughter to sought to be valued.
At five-years-old, she is raw material that I, loved ones, and her teachers are investing into her becoming the best person that she can be. Before entering kindergarten, Cydney Milner plays soccer year-round and has her own podcast, because I want to invest into her interests and things she has already displayed exemplary talent. It costs time and money to do these things; but even if she winds up doing something else with her life, at a young age she is beginning to learn her worth.
There will be boys and men. As much as I would like to take credit for my child’s good looks, she is as gorgeous as her mother was. Being pretty will only lead to her being desired. If she puts too value into her looks, she will find it difficult for someone to look beyond that. We all desire nice things; but very rarely do pretty things appreciate with time. My baby girl could be a beautiful Bentley…
Chad Milner is a New York-based writer who founded the blog Single Dadventures, where he pens his (mis)adventures with his daughter, Cydney. He regularly contributes to Madamenoire, as well as various websites, giving insight on parenting, dating, relationships and music from the perspective of a young, single Black father. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
By Nadine Graham
Back in the 1980s, New York City had a real homelessness epidemic. Whether it was a Saturday afternoon spent in downtown Brooklyn or a trip into Manhattan for school clothes, I would tear up in my grade school years, tugging at my mother’s hand. “Ma, he said he’s hungry,” I’d state, pleading with my already harried mother as we rushed by. “Maybe we could give him some change, Mommy. Do you have some?” At times, she obliged.
Sometimes though, she either didn’t have the change available or she wrinkled her slim brown face into a frown. “Nadine,” she sighed once in her Jamaican lilt. “Everyone out here in the street doesn’t want money to buy food.” I pushed on, “What then? What do they need the money for then, Ma?”
As I got older, I learned for myself. I was able to differentiate between someone that was hungry from someone whose high was wearing down. I learned quickly as there were times when I would keep my mother’s pace, rushing along 34th Street, never breaking our stride, even as we were cursed for not dropping a few coins into the hands of someone sitting in the crevice of the adjoining buildings.
I started taking the train to school in the ninth grade. It was a long trip from East New York, buried deep in Brooklyn almost to the Brooklyn-Queens line and transferring trains all the way to Coney Island in South Brooklyn. I left the house at 6:30 am daily and ran into quite a few homeless people before making it to first period. Some were drunk and asleep in their urine soaked clothes, others were loud and intimidating, even to my teenage self — who believed I was tough enough to ‘handle whatever.’ I had been told by a number of adults by that point — the Vietnam War had stolen the lives of many folks on the street, although they were still breathing and moving around. Others had a rough life, demons to deal with, addictions… “Show compassion,” they said. “But be careful.”
I had flashes of my youth in my mind. I was the same little girl whose eyes pooled whenever me and my ma walked by someone on the street or in the train station, alone and destitute. Two weeks ago, I saw it again in my oldest daughter, all the way in her hometown, miles and miles away from my own. And felt my heart melt.
Atlanta is like NYC in the 1980s with homelessness. Same exact situation — if not worse. As an early Valentine’s Day gift I decided to treat my girls to an evening of fun and junk food at the circus. We gorged ourselves on popcorn and cotton candy for three hours. We laughed, danced and took selfies. On the way to the car, parked a block away, I told them both to put their hoods on. It was below 30 degrees that night. An older man, wrapped in a blanket, crossed our path. “I’m sorry ladies,” he started. “But would you happen to have any food left over? Anything? I’m hungry out here.” I quickly responded, “I’m so sorry. We don’t have any food at all.” “Aw,” he said. “That’s alright. Y’all have a good night.”
Within moments, I was warming up the car and scolding the older one for being absentminded and dropping her wallet while we were at the circus. “I don’t understand why you have to stuff that little purse full of stuff you don’t need every time we leave the house,” I shook my head. “What if that man that found your wallet wasn’t as honest as was? Hmm?” I looked at her for a response. She wasn’t facing me and I heard a sniffle.
Then I was worried. “What’s the matter?” The younger one looked completely bemused.
“That man…,” she turned, only partially though. I could see her face wet with tears.
“What? The homeless guy?”
“Yes,” she dragged it out, near sobs now. “He was hungry Mommy. And it’s cold outside.”
“I know baby,” I said, voice softening. “We didn’t have any food though.”
“I had this little bit of popcorn left though,” she lamented, full-on crying now. “I could’ve given this to him.”
“That’s not food though honey. That wouldn’t have done much, if he was hungry.”
I couldn’t believe it. Already, my kid — my first baby — is at that point of recognizing that everyone doesn’t have the blessings we may view as being simple in life. A full stomach, a warm bed when we’re sleepy. She’s compassionate, willing and somewhat able to feel for someone else’s misfortune. She cried for about 10 or 15 minutes, face straightening, then crumpling up all over again at the thought of the homeless man, I presume.
“It’s important to do what you can for those less fortunate, when you can babe,” I offered. “I think you’re old enough to volunteer now though, on the weekends. Lend a helping hand. What do you think?”
It was the only thing I could’ve said to get her to stop crying. “I think that’s good idea Mommy.” Then she drifted off for the rest of the ride home, still wearing a worrisome frown in her sleep.
When you settle in to watch a Lifetime biopic, you’re taking a risk. Especially if it’s about the life of a beloved Black woman. But when the family or the person whose story is being told has a hand in the telling of that story, there’s a good chance that things will go over well. See the VH1 TLC biopic and now the Lifetime’s Toni Braxton: Unbreak My Heart.
You would think that we already knew all there was to know about Toni Braxton. But the biopic revealed a couple of nuggets of good information like Toni not being able to talk about the fact that not only did she sue LaFace and Arista; but she couldn’t talk about the outcome of the case, (She won.), for ten years. We learned the severity of her health struggles, saw the shift in her family dynamic when her father’s infidelity was revealed. And we gained a bit more insight into the reason her marriage to Keri Lewis didn’t work out. But more than just tea, there were also some pretty great lessons we can learn from Toni’s trials and triumphs.
Check out five take aways from the tv movie.
Take Your Shot
In the very beginning of the movie, Toni and her sisters sing for LA Reid and Babyface. Unfortunately, the duo had already signed a girl group and they were only looking for a solo artist. And they wanted Toni. Yikes. It was a tough situation to put a young girl in, especially the eldest sister. But it was Toni’s father and brother who encouraged her to go for it. Her father, Michael, reminded her mother Evelyn that she too was offered an opportunity to sing professionally. Like her daughter, she was in a group as well. And out of loyalty, she turned the opportunity down. And her husband asked And how many shots did you get after that? Silence. Opportunity doesn’t always knock twice. And while Toni vowed to help her sisters, which she most certainly honored, she stepped out there on her own. Imagine what would have happened if she hadn’t.
When Toni first signed her record deal, Pebbles and LA kept talking about her artist budget. Everything was taken out of her artist budget. The clothes, the shoes etc. And while Toni had initial questions, after a while, LA Reid, told her that they could talk about all of that later. They certainly would talk about it later but not until the damage had already been done. Much of it was unavoidable but had Toni asked more questions, she might have had a better understanding of what could possibly happen.
Speak Up For Yourself
What I most admired about Toni, throughout the biopic, was that she stood up for herself. When she didn’t like what the musicians were doing to a song, when she wasn’t cool with the direction they were pushing her, whether she was ultimately right or wrong, she spoke up. And most memorably, when she learned that her finances had taken a hit, instead of cowering away, defeated, she sued the record company to (she thought) clear her name and and when she and Babyface reunited, she told him she wasn’t there to just do what he said anymore.
Listen to Your Body
Though she was diagnosed with Lupus until much later, Toni had been exhibiting symptoms of the disease for years, almost from the time she began her career. But she kept ignoring it, pretending like it wasn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, things had to go from bad to worse before she finally started listening.
Keep Fighting for Your Dream
Just when Toni became disenchanted with the music industry for the last time, she announced that she was retiring. But with the encouragement from some huge names in music and a push from her friend Babyface, she went back to it. And after the release of her comeback album, she and Babyface won a Grammy.
By definition, gratitude is an emotional state cultivated by the act of consciously saying “thank you” for the good in your life. Being grateful for what you currently have puts you in a better feeling state. This makes it more likely that more positive experiences will come your way to be grateful for. And you’ll be in the headspace (or heart-space) to receive it and say thank you for it.
Most parents begin teaching their children manners early on, encouraging them to say thank you when appropriate. This is a great start. We can go even further to encourage gratitude as a part of our children’s daily lives and ultimately their mindset and way of viewing the world.
Here are four ways to get started today:
Say Thank You To Them
Modeling is key for teaching children. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not apply. Their young, impressionable eyes are always watching. Therefore we must show gratitude to instill it as a value in them. This ranges from saying verbal thank yous to each other, and to those who provide you a service. To writing thank you notes, and ensuring your children write thank you notes or give “thank you” phone calls when they receive gifts.
In our house we don’t practice a specific religion. So when we sit down to dinner, in lieu of grace, we go around the table saying what we are grateful for at the moment. This is a practice you can start with children as soon as they can talk. We make it age appropriate for our one-and-a-half-year-old asking her “What are you happy about?” or “What makes you happy?” and her responses range from people, to a certain toy or an animal. We’re starting the mindset of gratitude early. Many families add this on as a practice before or after grace at each meal.
Gratitude journaling is the daily practice of logging what you are grateful for. Social media expert, and mom of 3, Daphne Leblanc suggests you “write down one thing you are grateful for in your day, as it not only reminds you of all the things you have, but seriously changes your perspective and mindset. It forces you to think positively.” There are many ways to begin gratitude journaling, whether it be writing one item on a post-it each morning, or a full list in a diary before bed. The key is to make it a daily act, so it becomes a habit.
There’s An App For That
When dealing with older children and teens, gratitude journaling may seem like too much “work.” Luckily there are many free apps that you and your children can use to record what you’re grateful for during the day. Some apps will even remind you to enter what you’re grateful for in timed intervals.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is easy. Consistency is key. Try the tactics above and you’ll notice all the good around you, and be mindful of when more experiences pop up for you give thanks for.
Danielle Faust is the founder of FitNoire.com, a wellness site by and for Black women. She is also the voice behind the parenting/lifestyle blog OKDani.com. The mom of two is a certified life and wellness coach based in south Florida.
Beauty is, quite literally, pain as I discovered growing up as a Black female with natural 4B/4C hair. I’ve suffered the pain of sitting in salon chairs for countless hours getting my hair braided. I’ve gritted my teeth as I’ve gingerly laid my head of fresh micros onto my pillow, and anxiously awaited the painkillers to kick in. I’ve had super tight cornrows that pulled my face up so much that the mere act of blinking would shoot pain up my temples. I even once had an allergic reaction to the hair dye in my weave which incited an angry red rash and unrelenting itch all over my scalp.
Enough was enough! I finally took mercy on myself and shaved off my hair – all of it. But apparently, even a shaved head was too high maintenance for me. You see, I’m so lazy that a trip to the beauty shop every two weeks to get a trim was a far too burdensome task. So, in search of a long-term solution for low cost and low maintenance hair, I decided to lock my hair in August 2012. What I thought then was just another hairstyle I was trying out, turned out to be an amazing (and sometimes trying) journey full of unexpected life lessons. It’s only fair that I share some of these lessons with you.
Lesson #1: Patience is a Practice
Admittedly, I jumped into locking my hair without doing much research beforehand. I naively thought that I’d have mature locks after four months and that my hair would grow at an exponential rate. I hadn’t even heard about the budding stage which is arguably the worst stage of the journey because the buds are not particularly visually appealing. During this stage it wasn’t uncommon for non-dread-heads, especially, to give me unsolicited advice on how often I should re-twist my hair to “get rid of the bumps.” “No, the bumps are good!” I’d try to explain with no success. Those months were rough. Fortunately, my ignorance kept me on course because I was convinced that I was just a month or two away from mature locs.
By month six, my locs at the front still hadn’t completely locked and it was around that time that I resigned to the fact that there was no amount of salt water spray that was going to give me the quick result I’d been hoping for. I just had to wait. The act of surrendering myself to the process and patiently observing my hair transform over the subsequent months brought me to a new level of awareness in my everyday life. I became progressively in tune with my internal patience levels and how to check them.
I used to think that people were either innately patient or impatient, but I’ve since come to realize that patience is a skill that we practice over time. The front of my hair finally locked after a year and today I continue to practice patience as I wait for my hair to pass shoulder length.
Lesson #2: Embrace Change
Over the three years that I’ve had my locs, the texture of my hair has changed, the size of my locs has changed, the length of my locs has the change, the color of my locs has changed… The loc journey is a constant evolution. Each month my hair looks different and I discover new things that I can do with it. On the flipside, change also means that I lose the ability to do certain things with my hair that I used to do.
My loc journey serves as a reminder that nothing in life is permanent. Over the last three years I’ve become more optimistic in challenging times because I know that change is inevitable. My loc journey also inspires me to maximize my enjoyment of the present and to be more appreciative of what I currently have because who knows what next month will bring.
Lesson #3: Freedom
Initially when I locked my hair I was obsessed with ensuring that my parts were perfectly spaced boxes, but what I found was that the more I tried to manipulate my hair, the more I weakened my roots. I remember being up late one night researching how to fix weak locs when I honestly asked myself why I was fighting with my hair. If my hair wants to tangle, let it tangle! And so it was then that I started to semi-freeform and haven’t looked back since. My hair is at its healthiest, edges are on fleek, and finally I am free from being a slave to my hair! I no longer live in fear of pool parties and unanticipated thunderstorms, and I blissfully swim in the ocean unencumbered.
My locs are my outward expression of my desire to live a free and authentic life. When I look in the mirror, my locs challenge me to uphold my integrity in my intentions, decisions and actions. I love my locs.
by Barbara Verneus
This year my daughter Glorious-Zoelle Shaddai turned one on June 17, and I threw us a celebration—that’s right, us!
I had so many mixed emotions about becoming a mother, but I celebrated making it through my first year. I celebrated that I did not lose my mind. I celebrated that I was blessed with an amazing being of a daughter. I celebrated being blessed enough to be surrounded by a community of people who love and support my daughter and I. And most of all, I celebrated how the Lord was with us every step of the way.
In 2013, when I first learned I was pregnant, I became extremely depressed, lost my job, and had an ugly dispute with her father, who was not present for the entire pregnancy and who wanted nothing to do with us. I was totally miserable and saw nothing to be optimistic about in my situation; I went from being a lively, carefree spirit to a confused and suicidal shell of that person. As my due date approached, I wondered if I should keep her or give her up for adoption.
But once I saw her, my life and perspective were turned upside down. It felt surreal: I was a mother to this tiny person with such a giant spirit. I couldn’t believe it. I was still overwhelmed with emotions and feelings of inadequacy, but I was a mom. Glorious-Zoelle has balanced me in ways I never thought she would, and she’s taught me so many life lessons in the last year:
My daughter exposed the reality of my mortality. I now know that life is nothing but a snap of the finger, and because of that I choose to live a fulfilling life by any means necessary.
I’ve learned that every action I take affects the future of my daughter. I’m working on finishing my masters in counseling to become a licensed professional counselor. I want to provide a financial foundation for my daughter’s future and so I can spend more time with her at home. I’m creating an environment where she never has to question her identity, her dreams, her visions, wants or future.
After becoming a mom, my shortcomings have come to the surface—and I have no other choice but to deal with them head on. Glorious is always watching me and her pure heart and innocence demands it from me.
Glorious-Zoelle has redefined my ideas of revolution. We live in a world filled with hate, inequality, racism, misogyny, and so many other indecencies and sufferings. It’s a world that wants to corrupt her innocence and power. If I can help her realize that she is powerful, then she will not let anyone or anything limit her. And as I fight to do this for her, I will also fight for those very souls I come across through the various work I do.
My daughter has taught me you can still have joy and happiness in your season of grief and hardship. She has encouraged me to realize the magnitude of my strength and she has taught me that I am more powerful than I think.
She has helped me let go of what I can’t control and helped me assess what is important enough to keep in my life. I’ve learned to let go of what is not worth our time because time is one of the most valuable assets we have.
My daughter has given me a focus that makes the possibilities for us endless. I am confident and assured in the things I am now pursuing; there is not one bone of self-doubt in my body. If I fail, I just learn from it, reassess, and readjust because success is inevitable.
She has revised my view of my own beauty. She is my reflection and I AM BEAUTIFUL.
She has taught me how to be patient, kind, and understanding in ways I wasn’t before. I am learning to forgive more, including myself.
I am able to cherish my time and my space. When I’m with my daughter, I’m able to stop and enjoy that very moment with her because every moment with her is precious.
She has renewed my relationship with my first love: Christ, who is also teaching me to trust and hope in love again, guided by wisdom and discernment.
And because of all that she has taught me, I will fight to protect her, teach her, and love her as long as I am allowed to. She is my sunshine.
Barbara Verneus is a doula, family health advocate, and mother of one based in Philadelphia. She’s in the process of completing her masters in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family.