To celebrate six years in this blogging game, I've penned a letter to my 22-year-old self.
This post marks Day 2 my #NaNoWriMo challenge. Peep my first post here. Today marks the one year anniversary that I've been at my current job. For some, reaching that milestone seems like a pretty decent accomplishment. But for me, it's one that I'm pretty darn proud of, given that four months prior to my hiring date, I was unemployed.
While I was job hunting one night sitting Busboys & Poets, I remember listening to The Eternal Peace LP by Purple Wondaluv (Musiq Soulchild's alter ego) and being completely captivated by one song in particular, titled 'Faith Your Fears.'
The last year has been full of numerous teachable moments, but the idea of "Faith Your Fear" as been one that has quietly stuck with me throughout.
We see the phrase all the time - on t-shirts, mugs, Internet memes. It's our go-to 'Motivational Monday' or 'Wisdom Wednesday' when we need a reminder to persevere, press toward the mark and push a little harder to get the job done. For those of us who grew up in church, Hebrews 11:1 is forever etched on the walls of our hearts. But what does it really mean to take something as "abstract" and "intangible" as faith and use it to defeat the overwhelmingly paralyzing emotion we know as fear?
First, let me give y'all a few definitions to lay the groundwork:
The dictionary defines fear as "an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat."
Conversely, faith is described as "complete trust or confidence in someone or something." Faith is also usually connected to having a strong belief in God or other spiritual practices.
See, both fear and faith require that you exercise how you are going to react to a situation and what you are going to tell yourself during that particular season.
When I was fired from my job last year, I won't even front - I was scared. I had rent to pay, student loans to manage and other obligations that I need to take care of. But there was also a sense of relief and peace I felt walking away from a job that brought me unhappiness, worry and stress. Even within the uncertainty that loomed in the days and weeks ahead of me, I knew deep that another job opportunity would come my way. I actively chose to believe that something greater was coming. I didn't know what it was, but I trusted that
In the meantime, I had to do the work, be proactive, and put myself out there as I waited for my next opportunity. This 'waiting' came in the form of work: writing (A LOT) for different publications, pitching small businesses and organizations as future clients for social media strategy freelance work, and holding myself accountable for the work that I said I was going to do.
Here's the 411 - fear is crippling, anxious energy that keeps us stagnant, stuck, angry and weary of the ways of the world (word to Solange.) With faith, you are obligated to DO. Believing in yourself, in God (or your higher power of preference) and in the goodness of the Universe requires you to act and put all cylinders in motion.
A few weeks ago, I experienced a very familiar feeling at work, where I wasn't performing to the best of my ability and my boss had called me out on it. Uncomfortable and guilty, I immediately started to get down on myself, think of a way out and place the blame on someone else.
But I had to stop myself. After a long and necessary chat with my mom (because, Mama Wideman ALWAYS be knowing) I had to assess the situation, see where my boss was coming from, and take responsibility for the mistakes that I had made and why I didn't execute in a timely fashion. Doing so allowed for me to create a 30/60/90 Day action plan (which I shared to my manager) in which I acknowledged my short comings, things I needed to change and set goals that I wanted to accomplish within the next three months.
It probably would've been easier for me to fold, hold a grudge and chuck up the deuces -- but what would I gain from doing that? Sure, people would have their own thoughts about me (which, I couldn't care less about) but those feelings of defeat and shame probably would've rendered their ugly faces at one point and tried to keep me from flourishing. But I didn't. I had my usual 'come to Jesus' moment, put some things on paper and put forth some effort. Holding myself accountable to the job I've been called to do required me to trust myself and put faith in the work I'm capable of doing.
Currently, I'm reading the book "Letting Go: The Pathway To Surrender" by Dr. David Hawkins. Throughout the book, Dr, Hawkins highlights a number of feelings that we encounter as we travel this pathway of surrender, but the one that has stuck out to me the most is (you've guessed it) fear.
Here's a passage that I highlighted, underlined and put a star by as it relates to fear:
The more fear we hold, the more fearful situations we attract to our life. Each fear requires additional energy to create a protective device until, finally, all of our energy is drained into our extensive defensive measures. The willingness to look at a fear and work with it until we are free of it brings about immediate rewards.
As I sit typing this post in a coffee shop, just hours ago I felt fear because I wasn't going to be able to complete it. But within that fearful moment I had to choose: was I was going to let that fright stop me or work though it so that I could make sh*t happen?
I know it's easier said than done, but in order to become the person you know you are destined to be, you have to first believe that it is possible and then, take the necessary steps to ensure that it will come to pass.
The next time a moment of fear is on the horizon, try these three things to put your faith to work:
- Take a moment and ask yourself, "What is it that's really making me afraid?" Identifying the problem will help you decide whether to avoid it or work though it.
- Create measurable and attainable goals, and keep track of them.
- Remind yourself that you are enough.
Fear is an emotion that is normal for all of us to feel, but it can drain us of the energy we need to do the work. Having just a little bit of faith can change our mindset, help us power though those tough times, and build things that we would have probably never imagined.
Have you experienced a moment recently where you've had to 'Faith Your Fear?' Send me a note and let's chat about it.
Blessed Wednesday, y'all. It's been a minute in a half since I've published a personal post, and I could come up with a million excuses why, but I'll spare you.
Lately, I've been doing a lot of running - and not because I'm training for my first marathon either. For the last several months, I've found myself running from thoughts and feelings that often left me confused, overwhelmed and even doubtful. As a result, I've conjured scenarios (and even uttered some aloud) that seem like viable solutions, but are in fact concrete avoidance to the problems I haven't wanted to face for a very long time.
I know what you're probably thinking: "Chas, but you're always so positive about all of the things. You couldn't possibly have an ounce of doubt in your system!"
Well friend, I'm flattered that you think so much of me, but even the most positive people on Earth have moments when they have no idea WTF is going on.
But once I stopped running, dried my tears, took a few deep breaths and truly assessed the situation, I discovered that what I'm currently experiencing is a transitional shift. Transition from one chapter of your life to the next is one thing, but the idea of moving and growing simultaneously can make your head spin. It's uncomfortable, raw, emotional and has required me to be brutally honest with myself at times. (Can I get a witness, anybody?) From the goals I want to accomplish professionally in the next year, to the type of personal relationships I want in my space, to how I'm spending my time and energy on a daily basis, this season of transition has truly been one of infinite growth.
tran·si·tion: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
shift: a slight change in position, direction, or tendency.
Maybe it's because I'm a millennial, but I've noticed that a number of us are points in our journeys where we're being required to stretch further, hustle harder and flex that faith muscle like never before. Our desires are becoming more apparent, our strengths are showing themselves more boldly and we're recognizing that we have to let go of old ways in order to level up properly.
And you know what we need to do, y'all? Trust the hell out of it.
Because I love y'all and want you to flourish, here are the four things that I've found helpful during this transition process:
- Journaling. Writing has always been my release, but as of late, I've become a lot more intentional with it. Since August 1st, I've made it my mission to jot down my thoughts at least once a day (preferably in the morning) as a way to set the tone for my day. Many thanks to Ashley Coleman's #WritersWriteWLD challenge, I've also been able to deliberately reflect on moments in which I've felt the most broken and to those that have positively contributed to my growth. Writing is a form of healing, and I highly suggest picking up the pen whenever you get the chance.
- Talking about it. With my family, friends and other trusted advisers, vocalizing these thoughts and feelings has allowed for me to paint a picture that is much more positive than negative. If you know me personally, then you know that I have a tendency to kick off my shoes and relax my feet in my head - and it sometimes isn't the hippest be place to be. During this time, I've had to literally push myself to acknowledge my feelings, accept them and figure out the necessary steps I can take to owning my healing process. There won't always be an immediate solution to the tough questions you may ask yourself, and that's okay! Progress is a process, so I've had to be patient. Which leads me to my next point...
- Extending grace + mercy -- to myself. I am my own worst critic. I put the most pressure on myself and sometimes set the bar a little bit too high. But here's the thing - even when I feel like I'm not good enough, I remember that God will never, ever give me more than I can handle. Yes, mistakes, disappointments and failure happen, but that doesn't mean we resort to throwing the most lit pity party of the century. We humans are fragile creatures, and aren't build to always have our sh*t together. As much as I want to be superwoman 24/7/365, sometimes I just need a moment to relax, relate and release. We don't have to chase what's God sent, so take give yourself a break and enjoy the ride.
- Being still. Silence isn't golden for nothing. Taking a moment just to quiet the loud thoughts in my mind and center myself on a daily has been a huge help. I get anxious and tend to stress out about little things, which in turn causes me to want to move (both literally and figuratively.) Enter prayer and meditation. We live in a society that is constantly on the go, and usually to nowhere important. When you make the time to seek peace and quiet, you'll find that clarity arrives much quicker than you could ever imagine.
My dear friend, it's time that we stop running from ourselves and trust the direction in which we're going. Everything we need to create the lives we've always wanted is already inside of us - we just need to tune into it. Silence the noise, faith your fear, and trust the shift that's happening in your life right now.
I believe in you,
P.S. Last night's #WhoRunTheWorld Twitter chat with the phenomenal creator of the #blkcreatives Network Melissa Kimble touched on this very topic. Click here for a recap of the conversation and be sure to share a gem you thought was helpful!
I was 18 years old when I had my first real encounter with the police. Driving with my mom in the passenger seat and my baby sister in the back, the police officer's cruiser was facing north as I was driving west down Dempster Street in Skokie, Illinois. The moment we passed him, my mom knew that he was going to pull me over.
"I bet he saw that I don't have my front license plate," my mom said. "That's exactly why he's pulling you over."
For weeks, I repeatedly told my mom that she needed to get one of my uncles to install her license plate to the front of her car so this problem could be avoided, but it always seemed to drift to the back of her mind.
So when I signaled to pull over after seeing those flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror, I immediately copped an attitude, which in retrospect, was a very bad idea.
"Hello Officer," I said ever so coyly.
"License and registration please," the white male officer said without hesitation. "Young lady, do you know why I pulled you over?" the officer asked.
At this point, my blood began to boil because in my heart of hearts, I was convinced that he really didn't have sh*t else to do but pull over a car full of black women on a summer day. Immediately, I felt threatened and did what I deemed best – put my guard up on the defense.
"You pulled me over because the front license plate is missing," I said, 'tude already on a thousand trillion. "But if it's really that serious, I can pull it out of the trunk and put it in the mirror."
I hadn't realized that I had turned up so quickly, but the cop sensed my attitude immediately and didn't take to kind to it. I clinched the steering wheel at 10 and 2, but that didn't prevent my eyes or next from rolling simultaneously with disgust.
"I actually pulled you over for failing to signal, but if you don't watch your tone, I'll have to put you under arrest!" he barked at me. It was clear that he and I were NOT getting along.
As the cop walked away to run my license, my mom slapped my arm so hard that I didn't even bother to flinch because I was so tight.
"Girl, if you don't stop talking back to that officer!" I could tell that she was not only angry with me, but really surprised and disappointed as to how I was talking back to authority during this routine traffic stop.
Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, I was taught to respect the police, for they were friends of the community who had taken an oath the protect and serve. They visited our schools, patrolled our streets and even stopped by our local parks for a game of pickup basketball. But as I got older and saw countless images of family members, friends and other black people handcuffed in the back of squad cars or treated unfairly by the police, that "friendly and helpful" facade began to fade.
It's not that I don't trust the intentions of law enforcement - I know that they are positioned to protect and serve. But I'm unclear as to why they're always targeting us specifically.
After discovering that my record was clean, the officer returned with my license and registration. "I'm going to let you off with a warning," he said. "But you really need to work on your attitude."
Never in my life had I had felt so humiliated, so threatened and helpless all at the same time. In my 18-year-old mind, I had done nothing wrong, but I knew that this encounter would change my perspective on the police for the rest of my life.
Almost ten years later, I look back on that situation and think that in the present day and under different circumstances, I may not have gotten off so easily.
Like me, Sandra Bland was pulled over for failing to signal as she switched lanes in Waller County, Texas just one year ago.
Like me, she knew that she was indeed operating her vehicle lawfully.
Like me, she asked (with what I like to call purposeful curiosity) why she was pulled over.
But unlike me, she was alone, which unfortunately resulted in her being violently snatched out of her car and man-handled by two policemen. She was then arrested but three days later and died in police custody – leaving the world with so many questions as to why police brutality against African Americans has become our society's commonplace.
To be a black man or woman in this country means to be faced with challenges on a daily basis. From the right to attend predominantly white institutions to getting adequate funding for our brilliant business ideas, we as a people have to constantly jump over hurdle after hurdle to prove that WE ARE ENOUGH. Just because our complexions come in beautiful shades of brown, does not make us less educated, qualified or intelligent. Through her own platform, #SandySpeaks, she shared daily positivity with her followers about the power of using your voice. Sandra knew her rights, and because she was a THREAT to the two policemen who treated her so unjustly, it cost her her life.
These last few days have been a lot to bear emotionally and mentally. I've felt a cycle of numbness, heartbreak, helplessness, anger and sadness. But in these instances, it always causes me to reflect. I've checked up on loved ones (especially the black men closest to me) and wondered where do we go from here as a nation and as a community.
But even with the current state of race relations in our country, I still remain hopeful. I'm proud AF of my blackness and will never allow anyone's ignorance to make me think that I don't belong here. If there's anything from the tragic loss of black lives like Sandra, Alton, Philando, Trayvon, Michael, Laquan, Rekeia and so many others, it's that we can no longer be silent about the value of our lives in this country.
Yes, the work will be difficult, tiring and push us beyond our limits, but it's absolutely necessary. We must lift our voices together, stay alert, support each other and demand justice – not just right now, but for the sake of our future sons and daughters. Change will come gradually, but not if we don't use the tools and resources at our disposal and our unique voices to challenge the broken system.
We must continue to say the names of the dozens of black lives lost to police brutality, and never forget the lives that they lived.
#BlackLivesMatter – they always have, and they always will.