It’s gonna be a why Christmas.

Becki is on vacation this week so I figure I’ll talk to you about a little problem I’m having. What do you do when the main person who makes Christmas Christmas suggests that they won’t be around this December 25th? I’m having visions of waking up to turn on the parade and then damning all joyous MFers who remind me that I’ll be at home, unable to venture anywhere because everything’s closed, trying to pretend I enjoy myself.

The best idea that comes to mind is to take advantage of cuffing season. If I can find a boo thang by mid-December, there’s no reason I shouldn’t piggy-back off of his Christmas. Shoot, I could survive a day knowing that I had boo plans later in the evening.

If by chance, my boo doesn’t want to show up quite yet, I’ve gotta create a backup. When does the next Star Wars movie come out, for example? The movies are always open on Christmas, right? I just googled The Last Jedi and it says December 15th, which isn’t bad because I always see my Star Wars movies more than once.

I was wondering if I could go to the Cavaliers Christmas game, but apparently, that’s in Golden State this year and as good as warm weather sounds, nobody wants to deal with that blue and yellow bullshit. Even if it was in Cleveland, it wouldn’t have worked out. Who would I have gone with? The boo I don’t have yet?

I think the best and only option is for me to go to Paris. Get liquored up, see some lights, and find a lonely fellow. Or Spain, or Rome, or Costa Rica. Does it even matter?

I just don’t want to be home. Writing a blog. About how much Christmas sucks without the ones you love.

Now accepting suggestions and cuffing season applications.

Dreams.

In the past, I’ve envied those people who have a strong sense of what they want to do with their lives. The ones who set out to be a doctor or lawyer or singer even before college and who haven’t stopped even though they know the journey is long and hard. It just feels like those people are so much closer to living their purpose and everyone else is mostly wandering.

To be honest, I’m not totally over my envy and I go between two emotions. One is contentment, where I’m happy with the path I’m on, my career, my environment, my choices. Another is lack, where I wonder if I’m disconnected from my dreams somehow.

I feel lack when I visit my friends’ homes. That’s when I remember that I was supposed to be living alone at this point. When I imagine it, it’s like Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30. She’s got a big, beautiful, well-lit apartment that can host whatever parties or men she chooses. I’m not really a big fan of rotating parties or men through my home, but I guess I envy the option. The freedom is really where it’s at, the freedom to make mistakes, to falter, to learn yourself without the extra protection of a roommate.

I feel lack when someone asks me where I see myself in 5 years. Sometimes I just freeze up. Once, a guy I was strongly considering handing my number asked me that question and ruined my whole night. He could tell I shuttered, so he tried to clean it up, something like, “You don’t have to know what you’re going to do, just what you’re interested in doing.” It was too late, I was so flustered that my self-confidence plummeted and I took my first opportunity to hide. It was like I had been exposed. Twenty something and lost as hell. That’s me.

I feel lack when I see couples who are so in love. If I were totally honest with you, I’d admit that finding true love has been one of my dreams since I was old enough to have one. My favorite characters in Sailor Moon were Serena and Darien for goodness sake! Everyone else likes Mars or Pluto, and I’m just in love with the main couple. Confession: I skip to the extra romantic episodes when possible and struggle to watch the last season where Darien’s basically missing because I just love love. And now I’m just sitting around in this real world like, “where is he?!”

And I have vivid images of me in exotic places. Me at the pyramids in Egypt, me in a rainforest in Costa Rica, me at the Grand Canyon. I’ve never been bitten by the wanderlust bug, I don’t want to be constantly on the go, but I don’t want to live this Earth without seeing God’s greatest creations. It’s frustrating that I’m in a near perfect position to travel with only two things holding me back – a companion and PTO. Or maybe it’s just one thing: guts.

Fortunately, a better part of me realizes that every journey is different and there’s no straight path anywhere. Even though my steps aren’t clearly marked, it doesn’t mean I’m not moving in the right direction.

One of my friends with the nice single apartment told me she wanted a dog, a big dog. Laying right next to me is one of two. My Doberman is one of the greatest gifts God has given me and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her in my life. If that means I have to put a pause on living independently, I can deal with that.

I might be able to afford a big house of my own if I saw myself working my way up the ladder in some cushy, high stakes position. Truth is? I love my job. I get to do a lot of creative projects with kind, like-minded people, and at 5’o clock I get to dump my work brain and get back to my own projects. It’s not going to top the list of glamorous, high-paying jobs, but it makes me happy. Who’s to say that’s wrong?

And while I’m waiting for love to find me, I’m doing an excellent job of loving myself. I spend my spare time chasing the things that bring me the most joy, and I can’t lie, sometimes I’m pretty glad I only have to be responsible for my own happiness (besides my dogs’). There’s a lot I can accomplish while I’m waiting for the right man, and they say you can’t rush perfection. 😉

So, you see, it all depends on your perspective – how you frame things. The very things that could make me feel lost and miserable are the very things that remind me of how blessed I am. Sometimes I dream of the flashier things in life and that’s okay because a little discomfort challenges you. But I’m already on my way to my most important dream, to be happy.

“When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” – John Lennon

Big Bad World – Part 1.

I grew up in the shadows of a steel mill in a roughneck midwestern town. The kind of place where the youth view graduating and getting out as worthy of a lifetime achievement award.

My parents are close to life-long residents of this rustbelt town. This town is the world they know. Their understanding of the world outside the town comes from brief experiences and glum depictions in local newspapers and fear mongering mainstream media outlets.

Several experiences during my teenage years stimulated curiosities to know the world outside of my hometown. I speculated the world couldn’t be as dangerous as the media let on or as scary as my parents seemed to believe. Just graduating and getting out couldn’t be a measure of success. I decided to prove to myself and my parents that the world was not so big, bad, and scary.

Here is my first of three stories from my travels outside of my town that I believe challenge that big, bad, scary world notion.

Warm Welcoming

It was one of those archetypal Russian winter nights in the city of Kazan. The temperature was negative so much that the number stopped mattering. Two feet of snow covered everything. The wind blew so hard that if you walked against it you would get nowhere and if you walked with it you feared getting lifted off the ground.

It was late. I missed the last train to my side of town so I took the last tramvay headed that way. It was roughly a 30-minute ride. I was the only passenger. I sat in the very back with my arms folded tight and jaw chattering uncontrollably. I was as bitter as the wind. The windows were open on the tramvay. I realized I should move up front to get out of the line of the wind but I had nothing left in me. I couldn’t move.

I made eye contact with the ticket collector as I was thinking about moving seats. He was an older man who wore the bitterness of 65+ of these winters in his eyes. He looked tough and tired.The lines of his face persuaded me that he didn’t smile often. As I looked at him he stood. He made his way toward me. I thought maybe I looked at him the wrong way. In my head I rehearsed my helpless-foreigner-trying-to-speak-the-local-language line – Ya nee ponedelnik. That means I am not Monday – this would come across as an obvious attempt at saying I don’t understand. I figured that would quickly de-escalate any confrontation.

Before I knew it he was standing before me and we stared each other down like two boxers at a promo photo shoot. He put his left hand on my right shoulder and with his right hand motioned for me to follow. I didn’t need my phrase; he knew I was not Russian. He turned and walked and I followed. Halfway to the front he turned around and motioned for me to sit in a specific seat. As I began to sit he made his way back to his spot up front. Once I settled into the seat I was met with hot air blown from a forced air vent on the floor of the tramvay. It was glorious.

I shot a look at the old ticket collector. He was already sitting and looking my way with a smile on his face. I smiled back. The bitterness I had entered that tramvay with was blown away by the thoughtfulness of this stranger and, of course, the hot air.

 

Let me tell you about my friends.

My friends are THE motherfucking dopest people I’ve ever. My favorite thing about them isn’t the kick it, or the brunches, or the teasing. (Although I do love those things.) I love how much I grow just from being in their presence.

Let me tell you about my friends.

I have a friend who gets everything she sets her mind to. And that’s not for a lack of hard work. Nah, she decides what she wants and just makes it happen. She’s a natural leader, too – I’m talking sorority, college, post-grad, general life, everything. I’m pretty sure she has what it takes to take over the world and that’s both intimidating and inspiring. I’m just glad she’s on my team.

I have another friend who has grown so much that she’s just able to testify effortlessly. It’s one thing for someone to talk about maturity and strength, and it’s another for someone to tell you about when they were immature and what they learned from it. She’s given me endless truths from morning verses to the push I needed to seriously write, to what to expect in love and what not to settle for. She’s one of the people God works through, but she doesn’t even have to say His name to do it.

I have another friend who actually reminds me of the best parts of my mom. She’s transparent with her emotions to the point where you can almost always tell when she’s happy and whens he’s pissed, and if you can’t tell she doesn’t hesitate to tell you what’s what. But what’s even better about her is that even when she deals you hard truths, she loves you relentlessly. Plus, she’s the most polite person I’ve ever met.

I have another friend whose primary purpose may be to lift women up, but she doesn’t even know it. She just goes about her days bringing women together, conquering male-dominated arenas, and inspiring others to do the same. Her latest project? Motivating her friends by email. Why? Because she can. Because she’s a super star. Because the challenges she’s faced in her life have taught her that women need support and she’s willing to be that for others. She’s especially talented at connecting with you on an individual level. She can be in a sea of friends and still make time to figure out what’s wrong and remind you that nothing’s unconquerable.

Two of my friends are the most genuine people you’ll ever meet. One radiates joy everywhere she goes, but it’s so sincere it’s crazy. You’d think she was made without real feelings because she doesn’t seem to let anything bring her down, but then she’ll surprise you and draw you in with some real talk. I’ve wanted to be her friend since my first days in college and I’m blessed to say I am.

The other can see the silver lining in any situation. I tease her for it, but she truly has a gift. She could have a million of her own problems, but she’ll still be focused on ways to improve your life, your thought process, your feelings. It’s not that she works at it, it’s just her default reaction to any type of adversity. “How can I make this better?”

I could go on and on, but I wanted to kick off the week by giving thanks. Thank you, beautiful women, for changing my life for the better. It brings me more joy than I’ve ever let you know.

The Power of Habit.

In college, I needed an excuse to study people and their behaviors so I minored in sociology. Now, I read books like The Power of Habit and go, “That’s fascinating” in the nerd voice that lives inside my head. I immediately knew I would like this book when it started to remind me of Malcolm Gladwell’s books. I enjoyed reading Tipping Point and David and Goliath because Gladwell makes points about behavior by sharing actual stories. I neither enjoyed psychology nor history, but somehow marrying the two with social patterns makes it all interesting. Now let me convince you.

Consider the story of Eugene. Something happened to Eugene and he lost his memory (coincidentally, I can’t remember what happened to his memory). He could remember everything up until he turned 50, but all memories beyond that age came and went 50 First Dates style. The book illustrates this beautifully by describing the conversations he has with people. He would look at a computer and make a remark about how he used to work in technology and how computers used to take up a whole room. Then, he would pause and look at the computer and make the same remark about how he used to work in technology and how computers used to take up a whole room. A few moments later, he would look at the computer and make the same remark about he used to work in technology and how computers used to take up a whole room. (I have to admit, I would have hidden the computer after the second time.) You would think this is a guy that can’t find his way around his new house, let alone the neighborhood, but you would be wrong! After completing the routine of going about his home and his neighborhood, he could eventually navigate both unattended. Unfortunately, if you asked him how to get to his kitchen, he still wouldn’t be able to tell you. Apparently, habits can drive behavior even when memory is on holiday. Fascinating, right?!

The book uses this and many other stories to describe the process by which habits are created. First, something cues the behavior. For example, around 3’o clock the author would crave chocolate. Then, the routine occurs. The author would go get chocolate. Finally, there would be a reward. The author would eat the chocolate. Me and the author have much in common.

I learned a little about basal ganglia and parts of the brain, and our inability to differentiate between good and bad habits, but our ability to delegate actions to habits to minimize the amount of effort we exert making decisions. But that’s not as fun as the stories. The stories will change the way I feel about certain products, companies, sports, and people for years to come.

Here are the highlights:

  • Shampoo and soap don’t need to foam, but out of habit, we expect it to and feel that it is less effective if it doesn’t.
  • Febreze was not a success in the smelly houses, because people whose houses smell often don’t notice the fact their house stinks. There’s no cue. Febreze became popular among people who simply enjoyed freshening their home.
  • Tony Dungy spurred the Buccaneers and Colts to Football stardom by teaching them to react habitually. Instead of wasting precious seconds deciding where to move, they learned who to tackle before the QB even knew he was passing the ball to them.
  • The key to Alcoholics Anonymous’ success is faith, but not in the way you’d think. The community provided by AA helps bolster the belief that others can live without alcohol. Belief can be a key element in changing a habit.
  • One ALCOA CEO used a single keystone habit to drive profits for the company. The habit was having a great safety rating. The results trickled down to improved efficiency, communication, and manufacturing.
  • Bad habits can go horribly wrong. In a hospital where the doctors berate nurses for questioning them, costly mistakes can (and did) happen, like cutting in the wrong half of a patient’s brain to remove a hematoma.
  • Target predicts shoppers’ habits using algorithms that are so powerful they can predict whether you’re pregnant and how far along you are. One father got huffy at Target for sending his teenage daughter ads for baby items. Target knew what was up before he did.
  • To promote the song, Hey ya!, radio stations played it between “sticky” songs, songs that sounded familiar and didn’t incline listeners to change the channel. Habitually, we tend to ignore what’s unfamiliar.
  • The Civil Rights movement was propelled by social habits. Rosa Parks wasn’t the first person to refuse to give up her seat. She wasn’t even the first person to refuse in Montgomery that year. But she was the first person with strong enough community ties to spur widespread outrage and support. Additionally, out of habit, pressure from acquaintances can drive us to act. When a newspaper posted that all blacks in Montgomery would be participating in a bus boycott one Monday, all blacks assumed that was what everybody else was doing.

Looking at this list, I’m impressed at the number of unique examples of habits in action the author was able to draw from. He winds the book down with a brilliant conclusion that answers directly to the title. What is the difference between a man who is acquitted of killing his wife during a sleep terror (when his mind is not conscious) and a woman is held accountable for gambling away all of her family’s money? The woman was aware of her habit, therefore, she had the power and the responsibility to change it. If you want to do the same, you can follow this three step process:

  1. Identify the cue, routine, and reward for a habit you want to change.
  2. Experiment with other rewards.
  3. Log the location, time, emotional state, other people present, and immediately preceding action when the habit occurs. This can help you identify the cue.
  4. Apply an alternative routine and reward to the cue.

This book was both creepy and inspriational. The creep factor is especially high with Target and other companies who know my entire life and manipulate my habits to their financial advantage. But it also seems very possible to create a lots and lots of positive habits in my life simply by changing one keystone habit. Change is good.

Ratchet wit yo friends.

Sometimes I just wanna get ratchet with my friends. I laugh thinking about the surprised face people get when they realize I turn up with the best of them. I think my mom is just now starting to get it. Recently, I took her shopping at Rainbow and politely told her that I was looking for some tight jeans and something to lift up my boobs in case I had too much side cleavage while I was jamming to trap music.

Most times you’ll find me sitting by myself writing, reading, or eating. I think my coworkers have learned that I’m friendly enough, but I’ll happily choose my own company more often than not. When I do go out with friends it’s typically things like brunch and baseball games. It’s only occasionally that I get the opportunity to get ratchet. You can say it’s a bit of a special event.

I’m excited because, this weekend is a special occasion. It’s time to turn up with my sorority sisters and I’m super ready. The plan? Pack a really big bag, drink til’ I can’t feel my feet, take mass selfies, and “pop it, flick it, drop a pin, send a location.” I have whole playlists dedicated to these times. Admittedly, my playlists are relegated to a bunch of oldies like “Freek-a-leek” and “Go Head,” but I’ve recently added “Rake It Up” to the rotation. Special events like these get me hip to the all the turn up music: “RIP,” “Birthday Cake,” “679,” “Caroline,” and “Floatin,” to name a few.

Turning up has been one of my favorite pastimes since college. Before then the most exciting party I’d been to was prom (and watching everyone “Superman that ho” was actually painful). My freshman year of college, though, I experienced my first icebreaker. I bought a corset, grabbed some friends, and stepped into the student center. There was a sea of black people and DJs who rotated more “Gucci bandana” than “Crank that” and more Gucci Mane than Flo Rida. It was just different. Then came the after party. Oh, I loved the after parties. Going to someone’s apartment or house and swapping sweat with sexy strangers? I lived for it.

Pledging my sophomore year amplified my development in more ways than one. I became a better leader, a better organizer, a better friend, and a better turn up queen. In the weeks immediately after I pledged, I learned how much greater going out can be when you have a group of friends with the same purpose. My sorority sisters would link up, get bad, drive across town, and turn up. Easy.

I was always the youngest and that held me back a bit. I didn’t drink more than a jello shot before I turned 21, and I was still a tadpole in the party game. I thank goodness that in my time after college I had more outlets for the other side of my personality. I have one friend in particular who took me under her wing. We went to apartments, we went to straight bars, we went to gay bars. She was the first friend to get me to dance on a bar and to ride a bull, and I thank her for that. Now it’s nothing but a thing, but I had to start somewhere. Today if I have it in my mind to kick it, best believe I’m prepared.

So, it’s safe to say I’m hype for this weekend. I asked my sorority sister what I should wear and she said “ratchet classy.” I got the message. My bag is overflowing and I plan to give it all I’ve got. I don’t always party with my friends, but when I do, you could say my other side comes out.

I Am Not A Cat Lady: Worrywart.

Along with countless lessons about cats, I also learned a decent amount about myself during my six months with Henry and Albie. Some of this new self-knowledge was positive (for example, I now know that I have progressed from “light sleeper” to “can sleep through some amount of cat-inflicted face-petting without waking up with a scream”); most, though, was not. For instance, I learned that if I ever acquire pets of my own, there’s a very good chance that I will be SUCH a nervous mess of a mother.

My anxious style as a pet parent actually caught me off-guard: in some of my earliest work experiences, I served as a babysitter, softball coach, and camp counselor. I generally enjoyed all of these roles, and despite the fact that they required me to be responsible for the lives of others, I don’t recall dealing with extreme levels of nervousness about it. However, my 5am panic attack over a sleeping Albie’s apparent “death” and a series of other over-the-top reactions proved to me that caring for felines brought a very different type of caretaker out of me.

For starters, I once caught Albie sitting in a corner on the floor. Albie rarely sat still for extended periods of time, so his choosing to do so on the ground instead of on the cat tree, my bed, or my couch sounded an alarm in my mind. I called him over to the other side of the apartment and even popped open the treat jar; neither prompted him to move, so my conclusion was that Albie had broken one of his legs when I wasn’t looking. After a couple dozen worry-filled seconds passed, he picked himself up and successfully lept onto my bed. His movement shouldn’t have surprised me…but alas, it did.

Then there was Henry’s attempted exploration of my apartment building’s hallway: I had just returned home from a marathon shopping session. My arms were loaded with grocery bags, so when I finally managed to unlock my door without spilling any of their carefully-packed contents, I was somewhat irritated to see Henry staring up at me in the doorway. Sure, it was cute that he was greeting me, but how was I supposed to open the door and squeeze through it with all of my bags while also preventing Henry from escaping into the hallway, then sprinting to who knows where? To mitigate my fear, a logical move might’ve been to carry the bags in smaller, more manageable batches; instead of doing that, I decided to power through the doorway while using the bags to barricade Henry inside the apartment. Not surprisingly, the curious cat was able to sneak past my groceries and set foot into the never-before-seen hallway. My immediate reaction was to loudly state, “Henry! Go back inside! You don’t live out here!” and try to figure out how I could usher him into the apartment without spilling any of my groceries; meanwhile, Henry just looked at me, mildly confused at my frazzled look. Not exactly the reaction I expected from him, but despite his apparent lack of interest in sprinting away from me, I still dropped the groceries in the hallway and snatched Henry off the ground as food began spilling out of the bags.

Most recently, there was the time that I held an on-again, off-again staring contest with Albie for the entire hour or so that I spent getting ready for work. When I initially made eye contact with him that morning, I noticed that he only had one eye open. Instead of accepting the knowledge that Albie was just waking up and, like humans, he was probably just having a slow morning where he wasn’t yet ready to stare down the world with both eyes, I grew concerned. I didn’t want to get too close to inspect his closed eye—my closeness would’ve resulted in more cat hair on the outfit that I had already meticulously lint-rolled—so I just watched him like a hawk. I continued to creep on Albie during breakfast, while I brushed my teeth, and as I finished packing my backpack for work; still, my intense staring was met with only a one-eyed glare. When he finally returned my gaze with two, wide-open eyes right before I had to leave, it became clear that nothing was wrong with his vision. When hit with this realization, I broke into a relief-filled happy dance.

All things considered, I blame my Nervous Nellie pet parenting on my lack of prior experience around cats. I had lived my share of skinned knees and temper tantrums, so whenever I saw kids of the human variety encounter these and other issues, I knew that they would be able to make it through. With creatures of the four-legged variety, though, I still have no clear idea of when I should go into crisis mode.

Brown sugar high.

As I’ve mentioned before, I feel like there are whole chunks of my past missing. Nothing overly traumatic, just a bunch of things my mind didn’t care to remember. It’s frustrating because I want to take part in the nostalgia I see most people with. I want to talk about where I came from and how I did things as a youth that set me up to be the person I am today, but nope, my family will have to share those stories. What I can talk about, though, is the music.

Lately, I’ve been listening to this one Raphael Saadiq song over and over and over. It’s called “Be Here” and features D’Angelo which makes it absolutely delicious. If you know anything about R&B or neo-soul, you can probably guess that this song didn’t come out recently and you’d be right. This song came out in 2003. Let’s all collectively realize that 2003 was 14 years ago.

Still, I cling to Raphael Saadiq’s voice and the vibes as if I’m in danger of losing them forever. There’s a whole genre of music that the world forgot, but I somehow held onto. In my mind, I’m still excited about Javier Colon’s first album Javier (2003, before his big win on The Voice). In my mind, I can see the music videos for Musiq’s “Halfcrazy” (2002) and Carl Thomas’s “I Wish” (2000) and both make me want to close my eyes and nod my head with the “ugh, this song is everything” face. (I also have vivid memories of trying to catch Musiq’s lazy eye in that video.)

Image result for gif halfcrazy

I remember my first trip to Atlanta – actually, I don’t, but I do have vivid images of riding in the trunk of the jeep by the disc changer listening to Face2Face (2001) over and over again. (Face2Face is admittedly a stretch from neo-soul as it is from everything Babyface, but I still mess with it hard.)

I named my Tumblr account “World Outside my Window” (2002) after the Glenn Lewis album that changed my life. I can listen to that album from front to back. And one of my favorite songs randomly is Kindred the Family Soul’s “Far Away”? That song gets an extra round of applause for kicking up the beat and still making me feel something.

Image result for gif listening to music

And we can’t forget the ladies who held it down. Angie Stone hooked me with both Mahogany Soul (2001) and Stone Love (2004). Alicia Keys wasn’t completely sucked into the black hole of time, but I think the best parts of her were. Every time I see someone with their hair braided forward I wonder if they remember the Songs in A Minor era (2001). Many of the songs on that album were the realest. “I think I’m jealous of your girlfriend, although, she’s just a girl that is your friend,” or “listening to you will leave me lonely, that’s not what I’m tryna be.” Even better, let’s talk about Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun (2000). Except we can’t because every second of it is magic.

Oh man, let’s take it back to the late 90s then. What about Eric Benét and Maxwell?! True to Myself (1996), Urban Hang Suite (1996), Brown Sugar (1995)Baduizm (1997), and The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1996)?! Classic!

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Somebody, please bring this music back! It’s funny – as soon as I wrote that I thought about Daniel Caesar’s “Get You” and Khalid’s “Location.” There’s stuff out there, but it’s uncommon. I love Trey Songz, but sometimes it’s nice to listen to music that’s about real emotions and not just getting “pretty wild when you take it off.” The songs I’m talking about are underground or hidden deep in Apple Music playlists. The neo-soul movement used to be everything, but now black artists either sex it or stay hidden.

At least I got this down because now we have to talk about it. Now we have to acknowledge that there was a time when people weren’t completely detached from their feelings and we loved it. Because it was real. And even if we can’t bring it back real R&B and neo-soul, at least we’ve got the memories. I’d love to play them for you some time.

Jim Crow 2.0

A few years ago when my president was black, I already had several years of practice rethinking racism and white supremacy.  Like Neo in the Matrix, there were some very basic rules of my reality that Mr. Obama seemed to break. Let’s face it, many people like myself never expected a black family to inhabit the White House. I knew the ascent of Barack Obama didn’t mark the end of racism, but it did mean that the game had changed.

Like many black kids, my parents prepared me for a world full of racists and racism. Both of my parents are racially black and ethnically African-American.  My dad was born in the south and my mom is a northerner. The half-assed history lessons I learned in school painted the picture that the south was racist and the north was not. The notion that racism had a geographic origin was in direct conflict with what my parents and other elders shared with me from their own experiences.  In northern city’s, you wouldn’t find separate bathrooms but you would find people that were violent and disrespectful toward black people that dared to patronize white establishments and subsequently the bathrooms within them. The north didn’t have structural racism, physical signage or spaces designated to prevent black people from causing white folks social discomfort. Instead, the north exploited the ever present de facto segregation and allowed the status quo to justify apartheid in public service, business, and recreation.

Same shit different smell.

The south was honest and unapologetic in its racism. It was a parallel and unequal society that was publicly funded and the divide was crystal clear for all to see and acknowledge. The KKK and groups like them were an auxiliary police force that imposed capital punishment on a whim and often for public amusement.  The muted accounts and inaccuracies of high school history books taught most Americans that racism was the exclusive province of the south and the KKK. They also excused northerners from the immorality of Jim Crow. The north didn’t need to parade its racism. The embedded prejudices of the people was a painful underwire that provided extraordinary support to the bosom of hatred. Civil rights victories exposed the southern way as unsustainable. It was the northern formula that provided the model for Jim Crow 2.0.

Civil rights didn’t abolish racism; it forced the confederacy to accept the northern brand of racism.  The Klan may have been the invisible empire, but the north was teaching all Americans how to perpetuate invisible racism.  It convoluted the simplicity of understanding totalitarian racial intolerance by introducing the idea that its easier to discriminate against most by tolerating some. Racism as it turned out became increasingly difficult to illustrate when some, a few, rose to ranks previously forbidden by law or intimidation. It also provided a clever rhetorical trap: how can America be racist with a black president?

While it is a widely held mainstream believe that racism is bad, racist are now reclaiming the word racism. They are using it to describe anything and everything that is advantageous to non-whites. They are dismissive of factual history and unwilling to except the fact that centuries of discrimination cannot be eliminated in a few turbulent decades. Today my president is white, again, and making it ever harder to even approach discussing the subject of invisible racism. The emergence of the Alt-Right and the 24hr new cycle’s obsession with throwback racism is providing easy moral high ground for some and camouflage for others. For the two steps forward we took electing Barack Obama, we are taking two incredibly large steps back by even having to have a discussion about removing tributes to the losers of a centuries old war.

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Love yourz.

I have to testify to y’all real quick. I woke up this morning in LOVE with myself and I know people say that all the time, but I finally feel like it’s really real. I’m the most awesome person I know.

For years of my life, “love yourself” has been an unattainable affirmation. I always associated it with broken-hearted women and a number of other people trying to act like they’re above their hurt feelings. Unfortunately, most people who say “I’m my own best friend” and “I love me more” stay buried in their bullshit. I don’t blame them, though – it’s hard to train yourself to love yourself when years have been spent learning how to do the opposite.

I’m in my mid-twenties, and only in the past year have I been truly in love with myself. I think changing what you speak is a start, but you can’t be successful until your mind begins to change. You know it’s real when you look in the mirror and smiling is a reflex.

Lately, I’ve been blessed with some alone time and it’s in those moments I get to really face myself. Once upon a time, the quiet times were the worst times. Confronting myself was like waiting for an avalanche to hit – you can only let so much build up before it comes crashing down.

But let me tell you about this weekend. This weekend I was in the house smiling at everything: my dogs, my space, my reflection. I walked around half-naked because I could and I blasted my music so it would match the volume of me singing at the top of my lungs. My thoughts were things like, “Girl you hit that note,” Your abs are fire even after that prime rib,” and “Wow, you’re really just having a good ass time right now.” I thought about how I’m doing at work, the time I’ve spent building friendships, and my commitment to my personal goals. It finally sank in, I’m really proud of the woman I’ve become.

I think the key to loving myself was becoming someone that is easy to love. It’s hard to be happy with myself when I’m not living up to my potential – when I’m living out my fears instead of my dreams. And today, I’m not perfect, but I’m doing the best I can. There’s nothing more I could ask for.