Finding Your Passion

I’m a believer in spending time doing things that matter.  We should be seeking to make an impact in this world.  My Pastor, Calvin Duncan (@calduncan5) always says, “Successful people add value to themselves.  Significant people add value to others.”  I want to live a life of significance.  It’s the driver behind my constantly re-evaluating my priorities, and is the reason why I embarked on a leadership journey a couple years ago called Leadership Quest.  Through that journey, I discovered my passion for community involvement, which is children, and specifically, impacting children in Richmond’s public education sector (k-12).

I think everyone should find what they’re passionate about and pursue it.  And so, for today’s post, I’d like to introduce you to my older brother, who is passionate about combating Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking.  He’s written a great article about why he got involved, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it with you (with his permission, of course).  So, please check out “A  Call to Men:  What will your story be?”

What are you passionate about?  Share it with us in the comments!

Trial and Error

Newsflash: kids don’t come with an instruction manual.

How many times have we heard this? And despite understanding this, nothing makes that statement more real than having a newborn. I’ve been second mommy to two wonderful girls for the past 6 years. They’re now 10 and almost 17 (gasp), and I’ve been “figuring it out” every step of the way. They have very different personalities, and I’ve been able to learn them and what does and doesn’t work for each over that time. So why does life with Itsy feel so different?

Well, Itsy can’t talk yet. She makes sounds (which are adorable), but there aren’t yet words for her to communicate what she is thinking or feeling. When I met the girls, they were already able to do that. So now, I really do just have to “figure it out.”

Today marks 8 weeks on this mommy journey with Itsy. (Side note, I can’t wait until she turns two months next week and I can stop expressing her age in weeks). Each day, I’ve learned something new about Itsy. For example, she’s a loud sleeper. She grunts and moves in her sleep, and I used to think she was waking up, but no, she’s just a busy, loud sleeper. I’m guessing that will make her a wild sleeper later, but we shall see. She also likes to see everything and can mimic some things I do. I was showing her the sign for milk yesterday, and it seemed like she was imitating me, only she was hitting herself in the chin in the process. It was funny.

But sometimes the figuring it out gets hard. Like when she’s crying and we can’t figure out why. Or how all the books/experts/parents tell you you will learn your child’s cry, and they still sounded the same to me. Are you hungry? Wet? In pain? I dunno, they all sound the same. But then, over the past week or so, they did start to sound different. And now I’m starting to get the needed responses right. It’s all just a matter of trial and error.

Isn’t our life like that? Try things out, and figure if it works for you, or not. That requires going out of your comfort zone, sometimes feeling helpless and lost. But in those moments of discomfort, you find what can become familiarity, and ultimately discover your real purpose, your true path. Hmmm, I hadn’t really thought about it that way before. Maybe there are some “trial and error” things I need to explore in other parts of my life. How about you?

Re-evaluating

I periodically take some time to step away from my day to day life and re-evaluate.  It’s an exercise in re-evaluating priorities, looking at what’s taking up my time and then figuring out what needs to be removed from my life in order to align to my priorities.  At least that’s how it normally goes.

As you know by now, I am out on maternity leave.  I’ve been blessed to be able to take 4 months off from work, and am really enjoying the time, for a myriad of reasons.  I love spending my days with my Itsy, getting to know this little bundle of joy the Lord has blessed us with.  I enjoy not having the normal hustle and bustle of life thrown at me constantly.  And frankly, I enjoy not really having to figure out what to wear each day.  Well, not dressing up.  I actually take some time to figure out what to wear daily, and am typically changed at the end of the day because Itsy has spit up on my shirt one too many times.  Ahh, the joys of motherhood!

During this time of leave, I’ve started re-examining and re-evaluating my life in a different way.  I’ve entered a new chapter, a new journey, and with that comes shifting priorities.  The constant go-go-go pace that I previously kept has got to, for the sake of my sanity, if nothing else, slow way down.  Thoughts that consumed me daily (How’s this project going?  When will this thing happen?  Am I being productive enough at work/home/community?) no longer take up space in my brain.  I actually feel like I’m thinking more clearly than ever before (except in the middle of the night, when I can barely stay awake long enough to nurse Itsy).  It’s like there’s nothing but time and space in this head of mine (not that it’s empty, or my brain cells left, just to be clear).  There’s just an inexplicable calm and peacefulness that is allowing me to really think clearly for the first time in a very long time.

I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I’m always down for the ride and the journey.  I do encourage people to take time to really clear their heads, though.  We move at such a hustle and bustle pace all the time, we forget to “Stop, Collaborate and Listen.”  (A prize to the first person to put in the comments where that came from). Well, not Collaborate.  Unless it’s just in your quiet/prayer time.  But I digress.  We have to stop going through life, and start being purposeful about everything we do.  So take a step back, take a break from it all, and ask, “What am I supposed to be doing?” and sit still long enough to hear not just the answer, but the “how.”

Happy resting!

I Am Not My Hair

In 2006, India.Arie released a song titled, “I Am Not My Hair.”  The purpose of the song is to remind people that the person is defined by what is inside, not by the external.  Contrary to how many use the song, it isn’t an anthem to run away from pressing, relaxing, or otherwise chemically altering your hair.  It is, however, a song to say, “Be you, be free to be you, in whatever form you choose.”

Oh no, not another natural hair blogger.  NOPE.  Not I.  Remember, Better Part of Me is about my ongoing journey to find the best of who God created me to be.  And today, that topic is hair :-).

I love my hair long.  I’ve cut my hair three times in life. The first time, I was in high school when my hair stylist thought I pointed to a different photo and cut my hair into a short bob (let’s not discuss that in detail, okay?).  The second time, I was in college, and had spent my freshman year looking for a hair stylist.  You’d think that would be easy in Atlanta, but alas, it wasn’t, and hair suffered the consequences. While it appeared that I had a lot of length, the crown of my head was no longer than 2 inches.  Shoulder plus length in the back, and 2 inches in the center.  Really though?  The last time I cut my hair was about 4 years ago.  I wanted to do something different, so I cut it short.  And it was cute, but I really hate having to work to do my hair, so it quickly became annoying.

Earlier this year, I decided to go quasi-natural.  For those that don’t know, “going natural” means you stop using chemical products (like relaxers that make my hair go from tight coily curls to bone straight) and just let your hair grow in its natural state.  I said quasi-natural because I’ve seen my hair texture and I’m not fully ready to embrace it, so I wanted a little something in it to help the curls out some.  I put a weave in my hair briefly (*gasp*, I know a bunch of you who know me are like, whaaaaat???), then, when it was time to take it out, I decided, I want to cut my hair.  All of it.  Off.

My hair stylist didn’t believe me.  I never want to cut my hair. And yet, I was ready to cut it all off. So I did.  And I learned something about myself in the process.

I’ve lived most of my 34+ years of life with long hair.  There’s an attitude, sometimes diva-like, that comes along with that long flowy hair.  There’s a confidence.  At least, I thought it came from the long flowy hair. Then I did a photo shoot this weekend and realized the attitude, the confidence, it came from within.  I forget I don’t have long hair, but I toss my head around and back as if I do.  I feel more empowered, more confident, and more sure of myself than I ever have.  Nope, it’s not the haircut.  The haircut became an outward expression of who I am on the inside.  Defined by who God says I am, and that’s all.  And that makes me happy, confident, and empowered.

Whoever you are, embrace it.  Embrace it wholeheartedly; living your BEST life, being your BEST self, and letting the world see you, in all of your beautiful glory!

Photo taken by Pete Taylor of PTaylor Images (www.ptaylorimages.com) (c) 2012

Live Your Life

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I took a sabbatical from Facebook (“fb”) because I felt like it was becoming a time suck.  Too much time spent on social networks, not enough time spent on other things that are important to me.  I rejoined the world of  fb earlier this week, but haven’t really been on there much.  Why?  Because my sabbatical taught me a few things.

First, you have to live your life, not tweet or fb about it.  I joined fb to reconnect with friends and family who are scattered literally throughout the world.  It helps me stay in touch with them without feeling like I’ve missed a beat.  Through fb, I’ve become closer with some of my cousins, who I used to only see every other year at family reunions.  I’ve reconnected with childhood friends, and have even met new family members.  It’s become a platform for my husband’s book and for this blog.  it is a great way to connect.  What it is not, though, is a way to live life.  How can you kick it with your friends and really enjoy the time if you’re constantly on your phone tweeting, updating fb statuses and commenting or re-tweeting?  And no, I’m not pointing fingers at you (but if the shoe fits, wear it).  I’ve been guilty of the same thing.  Which is why I’m writing about it.

Second, who cares what time you went to bed or woke up?  I mean, really?  Does EVERYTHING need to be tweeted?  Do you realize that social networks have become a recruiting tool for companies?  So do you really want everyone to know that the Thai food you ate last night didn’t agree with you?  Or that, in a moment of frustration, you said some rude things about your boss or your job?

Finally, who you are in social networks has quickly become the definition of who you are as a person.  And we all know people who are one way online and are nothing like that in real life.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen tweets of, “People need to remember that some of your followers know you in real life.”  That person that brags on how much “swagger” they have (can we retire that term, by the way), really has none.  People that have things don’t brag about them.  I’m just saying.  Your FB and Twitter profiles are your brand.  So what does your brand say about you?  If you were to read your status updates as someone who didn’t know you well, what conclusions would you draw about yourself?  Sure, we shouldn’t care about what others think of us.  But there’s one flaw in that:  we live in a world where first impressions are often lasting.  And in this digital age, the first impression can often come online.

I was out of the country last week in Ireland.  It made it difficult to update people, and frankly, I didn’t want to.  I didn’t want anyone to know that I was out of the country, they had no reason to know where I was or what I was doing.  Those who needed to know, knew.  When I got back, I hung out in DC at the Nation’s Classic game between Howard and Morehouse.  It was like a mini-homecoming for me.  Yes, I tweeted, but largely because it helped me connect with folks that I went to college with who were at the game.  If you look at Saturday’s timeline, it’s filled with random questions like:  “Where are you?” “Where’d you park?” “What time are we meeting up?”  But I lived, I laughed, I had fun.  I even managed to take a few pictures.

Social networking is cool and fun.  It helps bridge gaps and reconnect people.  But don’t be fooled.  It can’t be a substitute for life.  So please, live your life, don’t just tweet (or fb) about it.

Taking the First Step

Yesterday I tweeted this quote: “‎The first step to somewhere new is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are.” ~JP Morgan

Surprisingly enough, I came across the quote while cleaning out my desk at work.  No, I haven’t switched jobs or anything like that.  At my job, it is common to move buildings or offices, and this is one of those times.  Our floor is being reconfigured and my team is moving to a new location (across the floor) next week.  But, I digress.

The quote was on a stack of cards I found at my desk, and it really resonated with me.  I’ve been feeling overwhelmed (AGAIN).  I mean really, who keeps repeating this experience?  I’m over it.  Like my Pastor reminds us often, “To get what you’ve never had, you have to do something you’ve never done.”  Well, it’s not that I’ve never had a calm, underwhelming life.  I just sometimes get in over my head and don’t do a good job of managing things.  So, this weekend, I tried some things that I hadn’t done before.

First, I deactivated my FaceBook account.  Not impressed?   I am.  I have over 750 fb friends, and yes, I do actually know all of them.  In fact, I periodically did a purge of my friend list.  Don’t be impressed by the numbers, I’m not.  FB friends are mostly acquaintances and family members.  My real friends, like those closest to me, can be counted on two hands, and that’s intentional.  In any event, I felt like FB was becoming a time suck, and I needed to do something about it.  So. Saturday morning, I posted a status warning my fb friends that I would be deactivating the account by the end of the weekend.  Here’s what’s crazy:  an hour later, I wanted to pull the trigger.  But, I waited.  I waited a whole 8 hours.  Then I pulled the trigger and hit deactivate.

It’ took me a couple of days to get used to not having a Facebook account.  It has now become very freeing.  Like REALLY freeing.  Which also tells me I spent waaay too much time on fb.

Second, I cooked Sunday for the whole week. This doesn’t sound eventful to most of you, I’m sure, but I am, by no stretch of the imagination, the woman who works all day and wants to cook dinner for her family when she comes home.  The thought alone wears me out.  And yet, I have a responsibility to do something. So I opted to find a balance.  Sunday afternoon, I invested about 3 hours of my time into either fully cooking or prepping meals for the week.  Some meals were frozen, others put into the refrigerator.  Granted, the week is only halfway through, but there is still food in there and I’m feeling really good about the lack of stress I feel in the evenings.  I don’t have to do anything but take out what was prepped and cook it (which takes SO much less time), or my husband can start dinner (or warm it up) before I get home.  Do you have any idea what a stress relief that is??

Lastly, I’ve cut back significantly on the television watching.  Why?  Another time suck.  Granted, today I’ve been posted in front of the tv because of the earthquake here in Richmond (can you believe we had an earthquake???).  But I’m committed to this very limited television thing.  I’ve already seen an improvement in my productivity, and that makes me happy.

I think I’m on my way to moving out of the zone of overwhelm.  What’s funny is it has only taken a few tweaks.  That’s it.  A little advanced planning, a little discipline, and voila, less stress!

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, or just need to make some changes, I encourage you to take an assessment and then take some basic steps to make changes.  After all, the first step is deciding you’re not going to stay where you are, right????

Clean Your Closet

This past weekend, I cleaned my closet.  Now, I know, that sounds like something uneventful.  Perhaps for some, but not for me.  It took me a total of 8 hours to clean the closet.  I went through every article of clothing, every purse, every item hiding in the closet until I had purged it fully.  I left no stone (or item) unturned in that closet.  And, in the midst of my 8 hour cleaning spree, I had a revelation.

I realized that I had been allowing others to define things for me, without defining them for myself.  Take my closet, for example.  It was full of clothes that were given to me by other people, or things others thought looked cute on me but I had never really been quite sure.  In my closet were items I was holding onto for nostalgia sake, and waaaay too many t-shirts.  I had several “I’m going to fit into these again one day” dresses, suits, etc.  And as I kept working, I wondered where the clothes were that expressed who Rasheeda really is.

Well, 8 hours later, the results were in.  Here were the clothes that represented me

And this is all that I purged, or rather, donated to Goodwill:

Now, this may all seem silly to you, but it was a pretty significant moment for me. I’ve been going through a lot of growth and changes this year, and particularly in the recent months.  I took everything over to Goodwill immediately (well, the next day), because I didn’t want to change my mind on anything.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take some time to figure out what I like, what I really like, and rebuild my closet with those things.

For me, it really was my closet that needed the purging.  But for someone else, it could be anything:  your career, your spiritual life, your love life.  Take some time, hours, days, whatever it takes, to do a very thorough inventory, clean out the things that you need to, and purge them for your life.  The “closet” may seem empty, but that emptiness can be the most fulfilling emotion you’ll ever experience.