The Official Truth

While reading one of the many professional development books I’m exposed to for work, I was introduced to the  military term “ground truth”, which refers to what’s actually happening on the ground versus the official tactics. One of the challenges I think most worth going after in our personal and even professional relationships is getting to that ground truth.

How can we go on and on in conversation after conversation about how important it is to be honest and “keep it real” when the truth is we’re all a little scared of what real really looks like? Trust is such a premiere feature in our relationships but when it comes to exposing what matters most in order to build it, we aren’t prepared to pay premium pricing.

“You can say almost anything to almost anyone if they feel safe with you.”

Somewhere right now a relationship is circling the drain because the difference between ground truth and the “official truth” is so significantly vast. The official truth is what’s available for general circulation; the “my hubby” blah blah blah on Facebook and the “my wifey” this or that on Instagram. Ground truth is what him and his boys are talking about privately or maybe it’s not even his boys, it’s his new homie with 36DD’s that he’s “confiding” in. Ground truth is what her hair stylist overhears her talking about on the phone with her cousin or maybe it’s not even her cousin, it’s the guy she has in her phone under the name “Spray Tan“.  Ground truth is what’s actually going on. It’s the seedy darker side that we worry, if exposed, our relationships won’t sustain. It’s seldom offered for public consumption and the real shame is it rarely shows up when we need it most -after trust has been broken.

We can keep having these “official truth” conversations with the one we claim to love the most in order to appease ourselves and/or even more likely, to keep up the facade for our “friends” and “followers”,  as long as we’re just as comfortable with having relationships that are as solid as Jell-O is nailed to a wall.


My Open Relationship

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

The kind of relationship I think is ideal is one in which our friendship, with the purest and rawest form of honesty that defines it, is paramount.  I want the truth and all of its ugly details over everything.  I want an organic relationship in which we feel comfortable to discuss all issues/concerns and process them together. What I want is an open relationship –open dialogue that is; a commitment to staying in constant discussion about everything and anything.

 People are mere humans. We make poor choices. We are stirred by various stimuli. We’re carnal by nature. The trust between us should come before our need to mask shame, failure, and disappointment. I want us to master the courage to interrogate reality.  I want for us to be black belt conversationalists. Rumi said “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” This is exactly the field in which I prefer to converse, a field where we do our best to suspend judgement, where we walk and talk with one another, and learning rather than our temper is provoked.

You can talk about almost anything with almost anyone if you make it safe enough to do so...

Love to me is not a form of ownership or possession. It’s a sense of safety and security to feel free enough to share your whole heart and all its desires with someone. The process of communication is what we’re committed to with each other.  It is through our unguarded continuous sharing that we are able to discover deeper meaning between us and strengthen our bond. And maybe perhaps we discover that our mutual interests are no longer as synergized as they once were. The loyalty to our friendship allows us to transition each other separately into the next phase of life’s journey through collaboration rather than confrontation.

Desired Things

This morning I had a real heart to heart with my Mommy (yes I will forever refer to her as that no matter how old I am). I walked away from the conversation feeling really good, not only because of the understanding we were able to come to but because she handed me a printed piece of paper she wanted me to read and think about.

It was just another reminder of the kind of woman I’m blessed to have been raised by. Despite our disagreements on how we see the world, I’ve been fortunate to have a parent that constantly calls me to higher standards and insists on me finding the best quality of life.

You may have read the prose poem below before, read it again anyway, even if just for perspective.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. Yo
u are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

10 Life Lessons to Excel in Your 30s

A friend of mine suggested I read this article by Mark Manson and it’s honestly in the top 2 best reads (for me) about transitioning in your 30s. I struggle with a couple of them daily, but it’s a great reminder.

You can’t ever replace real live advice from those that have been there and only fools learn solely by experience so take a peak.


A couple weeks ago I turned 30. Leading up to my birthday I wrote a post on what I learned in my 20s.

But I did something else. I sent an email out to my subscribers (subscribe here) and asked readers age 37 and older what advice they would give their 30-year-old selves. The idea was that I would crowdsource the life experience from my older readership and create another article based on their collective wisdom.

The result was spectacular. I received over 600 responses, many of which were over a page in length. It took me a solid three days to read through them all and I was floored by the quality of insight people sent.

So first of all, a hearty thank you to all who contributed and helped create this article.

While going through the emails what surprised me the most was just how consistent some of the advice was. The same 5-6 pieces of advice came up over and over and over again in different forms across literally 100s of emails. It seems that there really are a few core pieces of advice that are particularly relevant to this decade of your life.

Below are 10 of the most common themes appearing throughout all of the 600 emails. The majority of the article is comprised of dozens of quotes taken from readers. Some are left anonymous. Others have their age listed.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

“I spent my 20s recklessly, but your 30s should be when you make a big financial push. Retirement planning is not something to put off. Understanding boring things like insurance, 401ks & mortgages is important since its all on your shoulders now. Educate yourself.” (Kash, 41)

The most common piece of advice — so common that almost every single email said at least something about it — was to start getting your financial house in order and to start saving for retirement… today.

There were a few categories this advice fell into:

  • Make it your top priority to pay down all of your debt as soon as possible.
  • Keep an “emergency fund” — there were tons of horror stories about people getting financially ruined by health issues, lawsuits, divorces, bad business deals, etc.
  • Stash away a portion of every paycheck, preferably into a 401k, an IRA or at the least, a savings account.
  • Don’t spend frivolously. Don’t buy a home unless you can afford to get a good mortgage with good rates.
  • Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand. Don’t trust stockbrokers.

One reader said, “If you are in debt more than 10% of your gross annual salary this is a huge red flag. Quit spending, pay off your debt and start saving.” Another wrote, “I would have saved more money in an emergency fund because unexpected expenses really killed my budget. I would have been more diligent about a retirement fund, because now mine looks pretty small.”

Wow! Who knew that saving money could be so sexy and fun?!

And then there were the readers who were just completely screwed by their inability to save in their 30s. One reader named Jodi wishes she had started saving 10% of every paycheck when she was 30. Her career took a turn for the worst and now she’s stuck at 57, still living paycheck to paycheck. Another woman, age 62, didn’t save because her husband out-earned her. They later got divorced and she soon ran into health problems, draining all of the money she received in the divorce settlement. She, too, now lives paycheck to paycheck, slowly waiting for the day social security kicks in. Another man related a story of having to be supported by his son because he didn’t save and unexpectedly lost his job in the 2008 crash.

The point was clear: save early and save as much as possible. One woman emailed me saying that she had worked low-wage jobs with two kids in her 30s and still managed to sock away some money in a retirement fund each year. Because she started early and invested wisely, she is now in her 50s and financially stable for the first time in her life. Her point: it’s always possible. You just have to do it.

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

“Your mind’s acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body’s aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don’t want it to happen.” (Tom, 55)

We all know to take care of our health. We all know to eat better and sleep better andexercise more and blah, blah, blah. But just as with the retirement savings, the response from the older readers was loud and unanimous: get healthy and stay healthy now.

So many people said it that I’m not even going to bother quoting anybody else. Their points were pretty much all the same: the way you treat your body has a cumulative effect; it’s not that your body suddenly breaks down one year, it’s been breaking down all along without you noticing. This is the decade to slow down that breakage.

Step 1: Laugh. Step 2: Eat Salad. Step 3: ????. Step 4: Profit.

And this wasn’t just your typical motherly advice to eat your veggies. These were emails from cancer survivors, heart attack survivors, stroke survivors, people with diabetes and blood pressure problems, joint issues and chronic pain. They all said the same thing: “If I could go back, I would start eating better and exercising and I would not stop. I made excuses then. But I had no idea.”

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

“Learn how to say “no” to people, activities and obligations that don’t bring value to your life.” (Hayley, 37)


Bad Poetry

After calls to take care of your health and your finances, the most common piece of advice from people looking back at their 30-year-old selves was an interesting one: they would go back and enforce stronger boundaries in their lives and dedicate their time to better people. “Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself or another person.” (Kristen, 43)


What does that mean specifically?

“Don’t tolerate people who don’t treat you well. Period. Don’t tolerate them for financial reasons. Don’t tolerate them for emotional reasons. Don’t tolerate them for the children’s sake or for convenience sake.” (Jane, 52)

“Don’t settle for mediocre friends, jobs, love, relationships and life.” (Sean, 43)

“Stay away from miserable people… they will consume you, drain you.” (Gabriella, 43)

“Surround yourself and only date people that make you a better version of yourself, that bring out your best parts, love and accept you.” (Xochie)

People typically struggle with boundaries because they find it difficult to hurt someone else’s feelings, or they get caught up in the desire to change the other person or make them treat them the way they want to be treated. This never works. And in fact, it often makes it worse. As one reader wisely said, “Selfishness and self-interest are two different things. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.”

When we’re in our 20s, the world is so open to opportunity and we’re so short on experience that we cling to the people we meet, even if they’ve done nothing to earn our clingage. But by our 30s we’ve learned that good relationships are hard to come by, that there’s no shortage of people to meet and friends to be made, and that there’s no reason to waste our time with people who don’t help us on our life’s path.

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

“Show up with and for your friends. You matter, and your presence matters.” (Jessica, 40)

Conversely, while enforcing stricter boundaries on who we let into our lives, many readers advised to make the time for those friends and family that we do decide to keep close.

“I think sometimes I may have taken some relationships for granted, and when that person is gone, they’re gone. Unfortunately, the older you get, well, things start to happen, and it will affect those closest to you.” (Ed, 45)

“Appreciate those close to you. You can get money back and jobs back, but you can never get time back.” (Anne, 41)

“Tragedy happens in everyone’s life, everyone’s circle of family and friends. Be the person that others can count on when it does. I think that between 30 and 40 is the decade when a lot of shit finally starts to happen that you might have thought never would happen to you or those you love. Parents die, spouses die, babies are still-born, friends get divorced, spouses cheat… the list goes on and on. Helping someone through these times by simply being there, listening and not judging is an honor and will deepen your relationships in ways you probably can’t yet imagine.” (Rebecca, 40)

5. You can’t have everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

“Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can’t have it all. Accept that.” (Eldri, 60)

In our 20s we have a lot of dreams. We believe that we have all of the time in the world. I myself remember having illusions that my website would be my first career of many. Little did I know that it took the better part of a decade to even get competent at this. And now that I’m competent and have a major advantage and love what I do, why would I ever trade that in for another career?

“In a word: focus. You can simply get more done in life if you focus on one thing and do it really well. Focus more.” (Ericson, 49)

Another reader: “I would tell myself to focus on one or two goals/aspirations/dreams and really work towards them. Don’t get distracted.” And another: “You have to accept that you cannot do everything. It takes a lot of sacrifice to achieve anything special in life.”

A few readers noted that most people arbitrarily choose their careers in their late teens or early 20s, and as with many of our choices at those ages, they are often wrong choices. It takes years to figure out what we’re good at and what we enjoy doing. But it’s better to focus on our primary strengths and maximize them over the course of lifetime than to half-ass something else.

“I’d tell my 30 year old self to set aside what other people think and identify my natural strengths and what I’m passionate about, and then build a life around those.” (Sara, 58)

For some people, this will mean taking big risks, even in their 30s and beyond. It may mean ditching a career they spent a decade building and giving up money they worked hard for and became accustomed to. Which brings us to…

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

“While by age 30 most feel they should have their career dialed in, it is never too late to reset. The individuals that I have seen with the biggest regrets during this decade are those that stay in something that they know is not right. It is such an easy decade to have the days turn to weeks to years, only to wake up at 40 with a mid-life crisis for not taking action on a problem they were aware of 10 years prior but failed to act.” (Richard, 41)

“Biggest regrets I have are almost exclusively things I did *not* do.” (Sam, 47)

Many readers commented on how society tells us that by 30 we should have things “figured out” — our career situation, our dating/marriage situation, our financial situation and so on. But this isn’t true. And, in fact, dozens and dozens of readers implored to not let these social expectations of “being an adult” deter you from taking some major risks and starting over. As someone on my Facebook page responded: “All adults are winging it.”

“I am about to turn 41 and would tell my 30 year old self that you do not have conform you life to an ideal that you do not believe in. Live your life, don’t let it live you. Don’t be afraid of tearing it all down if you have to, you have the power to build it all back up again.” (Lisa, 41)

Multiple readers related making major career changes in their 30s and being better off for doing so. One left a lucrative job as a military engineer to become a teacher. Twenty years later, he called it one of the best decisions of his life. When I asked my mom this question, her answer was, “I wish I had been willing to think outside the box a bit more. Your dad and I kind of figured we had to do thing A, thing B, thing C, but looking back I realize we didn’t have to at all; we were very narrow in our thinking and our lifestyles and I kind of regret that.”


“Less fear. Less fear. Less fear. I am about to turn 50 next year, and I am just getting that lesson. Fear was such a detrimental driving force in my life at 30. It impacted my marriage, my career, my self-image in a fiercely negative manner. I was guilty of: Assuming conversations that others might be having about me. Thinking that I might fail. Wondering what the outcome might be. If I could do it again, I would have risked more.” (Aida, 49)

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

“You have two assets that you can never get back once you’ve lost them: your body and your mind. Most people stop growing and working on themselves in their 20s. Most people in their 30s are too busy to worry about self-improvement. But if you’re one of the few who continues to educate themselves, evolve their thinking and take care of their mental and physical health, you will be light-years ahead of the pack by 40.” (Stan, 48)

It follows that if one can still change in their 30s — and should continue to change in their 30s — then one must continue to work to improve and grow. Many readers related the choice of going back to school and getting their degrees in their 30s as one of the most useful things they had ever done. Others talked of taking extra seminars and courses to get a leg up. Others started their first businesses or moved to new countries. Others checked themselves into therapy or began a meditation practice.

A friend of mine stated that at 29, he decided that his mind was his most valuable asset, and he decided to invest in it. He spent thousands of his own education, on seminars, on various therapies. And at 54, he insists that it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“The number one goal should be to try to become a better person, partner, parent, friend, colleague etc. — in other words to grow as an individual.” (Aimilia, 39)

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

“Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and socially — you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it. Stop assuming you can plan far ahead, stop obsessing about what is happening right now because it will change anyway, and get over the control issue about your life’s direction. Fortunately, because this is true, you can take even more chances and not lose anything; you cannot lose what you never had. Besides, most feelings of loss are in your mind anyway – few matter in the long term.” (Thomas, 56)

In my article about what I learned in my 20s, one of my lessons was “Nobody Knows What They’re Doing,” and that this was good news. Well, according to the 40+ crowd, this continues to be true in one’s 30s and, well, forever it seems; and it continues to be good news forever as well.

“Most of what you think is important now will seem unimportant in 10 or 20 years and that’s OK. That’s called growth. Just try to remember to not take yourself so seriously all the time and be open to it.” (Simon, 57)

“Despite feeling somewhat invincible for the last decade, you really don’t know what’s going to happen and neither does anyone else, no matter how confidently they talk. While this is disturbing to those who cling to permanence or security, it’s truly liberating once you grasp the truth that things are always changing. To finish, there might be times that are really sad. Don’t dull the pain or avoid it. Sorrow is part of everyone’s lifetime and the consequence of an open and passionate heart. Honor that. Above all, be kind to yourself and others, it’s such a brilliant and beautiful ride and keeps on getting better.” (Prue, 38)

“I’m 44. I would remind my 30 year old self that at 40, my 30s would be equally filled with dumb stuff, different stuff, but still dumb stuff… So, 30 year old self, don’t go getting on your high horse. You STILL don’t know it all. And that’s a good thing.” (Shirley, 44)

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

“Spend more time with your folks. It’s a different relationship when you’re an adult and it’s up to you how you redefine your interactions. They are always going to see you as their kid until the moment you can make them see you as your own man. Everyone gets old. Everyone dies. Take advantage of the time you have left to set things right and enjoy your family.” (Kash, 41)

I was overwhelmed with amount of responses about family and the power of those responses. Family is the big new relevant topic for this decade for me, because you get it on both ends. Your parents are old and you need to start considering how your relationship with them is going to function as a self-sufficient adult. And then you also need to contemplate creating a family of your own.

Pretty much everybody agreed to get over whatever problems you have with your parents and find a way to make it work with them. One reader wrote, “You’re too old to blame your parents for any of your own short-comings now. At 20 you could get away with it, you’d just left the house. At 30, you’re a grown-up. Seriously. Move on.”

But then there’s the question that plagues every single 30-year-old: to baby or not to baby?

“You don’t have the time. You don’t have the money. You need to perfect your career first. They’ll end your life as you know it. Oh shut up…
Kids are great. They make you better in every way. They push you to your limits. They make you happy. You should not defer having kids. If you are 30, now is the time to get real about this. You will never regret it.” (Kevin, 38)

“It’s never the ‘right time’ for children because you have no idea what you’re getting into until you have one. If you have a good marriage and environment to raise them, err on having them earlier rather than later, you’ll get to enjoy more of them.” (Cindy, 45)

“All my preconceived notions about what a married life is like were wrong. Unless you’ve already been married, everyone’s are. Especially once you have kids. Try to stay open to the experience and fluid as a person; your marriage is worth it, and your happiness seems as much tied to your ability to change and adapt as anything else. I wasn’t planning on having kids. From a purely selfish perspective, this was the dumbest thing of all. Children are the most fulfilling, challenging, and exhausting endeavor anyone can ever undertake. Ever.” (Rich, 44)

What do you want kid?

The consensus about marriage seemed to be that it was worth it, assuming you had a healthy relationship with the right person. If not, you should run the other way (See #3).

But interestingly, I got a number of emails like the following:

“What I know now vs 10-13 years ago is simply this… bars, woman, beaches, drink after drink, clubs, bottle service, trips to different cities because I had no responsibility other than work, etc… I would trade every memory of that life for a good woman that was actually in love with me… and maybe a family. I would add, don’t forgot to actually grow up and start a family and take on responsibilities other than success at work. I am still having a little bit of fun… but sometimes when I go out, I feel like the guy that kept coming back to high school after he graduated (think Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused). I see people in love and on dates everywhere. “Everyone” my age is in their first or second marriage by now! Being perpetually single sounds amazing to all of my married friends but it is not the way one should choose to live their life.” (Anonymous, 43)

“I would have told myself to stop constantly searching for the next best thing and I would have appreciated the relationships that I had with some of the good, genuine guys that truly cared for me. Now I’m always alone and it feels too late.” (Fara, 38)

On the flip side, there were a small handful of emails that took the other side of the coin:

“Don’t feel pressured to get married or have kids if you don’t want to. What makes one person happy doesn’t make everyone happy. I’ve chosen to stay single and childless and I still live a happy and fulfilled life. Do what feels right for you.” (Anonymous, 40)

Conclusion: It seems that while family is not absolutely necessary to have a happy and fulfilling life, the majority of people have found that family is always worth the investment, assuming the relationships are healthy and not toxic and/or abusive.

10. Be kind to yourself, respect yourself

“Be a little selfish and do something for yourself every day, something different once a month and something spectacular every year.” (Nancy, 60)

This one was rarely the central focus of any email, but it was present in some capacity in almost all of them: treat yourself better. Almost everybody said this in one form or another. “There is no one who cares about or thinks about your life a fraction of what you do,” one reader began, and, “life is hard, so learn to love yourself now, it’s harder to learn later,” another reader finished.

Or as Renee, 40, succinctly put it: “Be kind to yourself.”

Many readers included the old cliche: “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and it’s almost all small stuff.” Eldri, 60, wisely said, “When confronted with a perceived problem, ask yourself, ‘Is this going to matter in five years, ten years?’ If not, dwell on it for a few minutes, then let it go.” It seems many readers have focused on the subtle life lesson of simply accepting life as is, warts and all.

Which brings me to the last quote from Martin, age 58:

“When I turned forty my father told me that I’d enjoy my forties because in your twenties you think you know what’s going on, in your thirties you realize you probably don’t, and in your forties you can relax and just accept things. I’m 58 and he was right.”

Thank you to everyone who contributed.

Sometimes You Gotta Lose, Or Do You?

I headed out with my girlfriends this Sunday early evening, to celebrate one of my homey’s birthdays. It was Sunday Soiree’s 1 year anniversary at Martini Bar and I knew for sure it was gonna be a great night. I was exhausted from my daughter’s birthday running around, but I had to go out; I love  good live music. I wasn’t disappointed. This little, short, firecracker got on stage and started performing some throwback goodies. I was shocked at the power coming out of this tiny Latina’s body. She was amaze balls! Her name is Jai Rose (pronounced Jay) and she inspired my post today (girl can sang).

Her first set was on fire with some Anita Baker and Sade favorites, sounding oh so smooth. I was at the bar catching up with an old friend and of course helping myself and my girlfriend to his drink tab. Jai was beautiful background music to an evening filled with girl chit chatter. She finished her first set and the DJ  got things going with some good dance music. I of course went in, as did my friends. We were having way too much fun. Jai later came back up to do her second set. She opened with saying that someone requested her to sing Fantasia’s “Lose To Win” and asked the crowd if that would be okay. I’m not much of a radio listener as I’m usually some place where I don’t know the local hot radio station. I think I might have heard the song once before, but I wasn’t really sure what was so significant about the song that someone would ask it be sung live. The crowd’s enthusiasm and screams let Jai know they wanted to hear it. So the band begun the prelude and Jai opened up her mouth and the sound that came from her voice box gave me goose bumps. I sat down, jaw opened, and listened for the first time to the actual lyrics. If it weren’t for fear of looking absolutely crazy I probably would have bawled so hard my waterproof mascara would run.

“Have you ever, needed someone so bad, but he aint willing to make it last? Sometimes you gotta lose to win again. If it makes you cry, cry, cry, and all you do is fight, can’t get no sleep at night, sometimes you gotta lose to win again.”

We’re taught from a young age that losing is a bad thing (unless of course it’s weight loss and even that has it’s limits). Losing a game, a match, or a race is a bad thing. Losing an item is irresponsible. Losing your hair-line or your edges is horrific. The loss of a loved one is tragic. Losing a friend sucks. Losing a relationship or a marriage is the end of the world. The idea of losing has us so focused on winning that we exhaust ourselves many times in a losing battle. I think we’ve missed out on a completely new perspective.

I don’t believe we can appreciate things and people having not experienced going without. For many of us our parent’s survived tremendous “loss” so we can have better. Our generations’ relentless pursuit of happiness is a result of knowing real sadness. I once worked at what I thought was my “dream” job. I was laid off for the first time in my life after 2 years of hard work and plenty of salaried overtime (which if you don’t already know is unpaid), and I remember thinking I will never work at a job where I’ll be this happy again. Mind you I was only 28 at the time, but in my 28 years of life that was the first job I felt like I had a “work family” and they discarded me like I was trash. I laugh out loud now at the thought of how devastated I was, but at the time I didn’t know life could be that rough and didn’t know what losing that job meant for my future.

The only man I ever lived with, I dated exclusively for several years and when I decided I didn’t want to marry him or be in that relationship anymore, that decision came after a lot of misery and pretend-for-our-friends-and-family happiness. I wasn’t sure how I was going to afford my lifestyle on one income instead of two, but I knew that household was a toxic environment for me and my self-esteem. I was terrified to take that step toward the door and felt like I was a horrible person for tearing my family apart.  What would people say about me? I was 28 (that was a rough year for me filled with a lot of loss) and I didn’t want to be a single parent, but also knew one happy parent was better than two very angry ones. The girl who was scared to stand out on her own and walk away from “him“, and cared so much about the scrutiny of others regarding my decision to leave, is a stranger to me today.

This year has come with its losses too. I feel like in the last couple of months alone I’ve had to take several painful “Ls”. I’ve learned to push forward and smile brighter to mask the hurt, but the dark feelings and bad memories don’t  just go away. And so when Jai got on that mic and sang to what felt like me and her alone in that room, she moved me. I realize now, looking back, that I’ve gotten over some real bull sh*t in my past. I’ve done it with hopefully some grace and fortitude. I believe my character and sense of integrity is stronger for it.

Loss is the balance to gain, and as hard as it is in the moment to believe, the end is really just some form of transition.  I’m competitive at heart and my pride has me determined to win, sometimes at any cost. I take losing pretty badly. But, maybe it doesn’t have to really be a “loss” at all, like my cousin Tem told me “we never really lose, we either win or learn” and if that’s the case I’m okay with that.

(Jai sang it WAY better…)

Hold On, I’m Going Home

There’s only so much I can take before I need to recharge. My home base (which I’m pretty sure you can tell by now is Toronto) is exactly where I go to do that and of course it doesn’t hurt that Caribana Weekend was my date of choice.

My girls and I left South Florida at the crack of ass and made our way into the city eventually (I’ll save you my MegaBus banter, just know I’ll be flying directly moving forward if I can help it). I arrived exhausted (that can happen after 18 hours of cheap travel), but I knew I came to be renewed and needed to be outside even if just breathing to make sure that happened. Of course I made new friends, you already know I live for that, but it was what one of my new friends shared with me that’s inspired me to write.

In his patient and ever relaxed tone he expressed to me that I seemed to be conflicted. The idea wasn’t a foreign concept to me, but it wasn’t one I arrived on my trip at the forefront of my mind, and here was this total stranger (well not really a total stranger, since by the time he shared his thoughts with me we had already hung out a few times) calling me out about it. What I understood from what he told me was that I don’t need anyone’s  approval to be and do exactly how and what I feel like inside. He continued, that as long as I need “their” affirmation I’m going to experience internal tension.

I left that lengthy conversation wanting to be intoxicated immediately, and given everything that was going on, that wasn’t hard to do. In my sobering moments since then, I’ve given a great deal of thought to his words. As much as I’ve always been a wild child, the affirmation and approval of others is something I need more than I admit. My decision-making capabilities rely on the opinions of all my advisers (and the size of that circle can fluctuate depending on the subject). I’m terrified of making a bad choice, I think I’ve made enough of those and if you’re reading my blog posts you’ll probably agree. I feel like if I ask enough people and something goes wrong, at least I wasn’t the only person that thought it was a good idea in the first place… group think.

Well, a new me emerges again. I’m not really interested in popular opinion as much. At the end of the day I’m the only one who lives with my good or bad decisions and I’m becoming  comfortable with those choices not having to be ones my friends and even family necessarily agree with or approve of. I suppose these were some of the steps I missed on my way to being a grown up.

Thanks for the advice my new friend, hopefully you enjoyed my home as much as I always do. You guys made this trip exceptional!

Happy Birthday Me!

Every year on my birthday I sit and reflect on the previous years of my life. I look into my personal choices and try to figure out what decisions I could have used sharper thinking with, and then I reflect on where I’ve come from and where I will never go back to. As I sit here in my comfy townhouse inside my gated community of beautiful sunny South Florida and think about where it is I’ve been, tears well up inside me. I think about LeBron James’ victory speech after winning the NBA championship for the Miami Heat a second time last week Thursday and his words continue to echo inside my head. Sentiments I’ve had for years, but only shared with my closest of friends: “I’m not supposed to be here”.

Well, I may not be an NBA champion, but I feel the same way myself; I wasn’t supposed to be here.

I was born on June 25, 1981 at 3:38pm in the afternoon in North York General Hospital Toronto, Canada. Mommy says I was born late, but I always believed my birthday was right on time. I like to think of myself as her Christmas in June.

My mother, a single parent while still in school, got her opening into Metro Toronto Housing when I was 18 months. 4301 Kingston Road was where I shared a one bedroom apartment with my mother until the day before my 10th birthday. That’s when an opening became available for a 2 bedroom in the same building. It was in that 2 bedroom apartment I would grow into an adult and ultimately at 19 bring home my son to live there too. Like clockwork as a single mother, I put in my own application for housing and joined the list of other women repeating their mothers’ cycles until I got that phone call in April 2002, just before I turned 21, from US Citizenship and Immigration Services and decided I was ready to get the f*ck out of there.

I wasn’t supposed to be here.

I remember having to walk up the stairs to my apartment when the elevators broke down and the stairwell smelling like urine. I remember the “base heads” that I would pass on the route home from school Mommy warned me never to take (I’ve been determined to do what I want for sometime now). I remember crossing six lanes of traffic to go buy cigarettes for my friend’s mothers at the convenience store, Variety Kings, across the street at 8. I remember the purple ribbon I wore around my neck that held my mother’s most prized possession, the latch-key to our home. I remember the frost bite I would get waiting in the bus shed for the Scarborough 86, the Morningside 116, and the Lawrence 57. I remember the domestic violence my mother would forever mediate with our neighbors. Hell, the only picture I could find online of my old apartment building was one with police cruisers in the front. I laugh a little inside at the people here in my “new” life who don’t believe I grew up poor let alone in a housing project. It’s my beautiful reminder that how you start has nothing to do with how you finish.

I wasn’t made in a vacuum. While I believe anybody can truly have anything they want if they want it bad enough, I realized a long time ago I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for some truly awesome people. A friend said, “Give them flowers while they’re alive to enjoy it…” and today on my birthday I have one for each of you.

Raisha and Gail, my first friends ever, thank you for growing with me. Raisha, you’ve allowed your home and parents to be mine too and while we can’t choose our family you picked me to be a part of yours. You don’t know this, but my personal development journey began with the honest conversation we had the summer of 2004. You checked me as a grown woman, and I’m forever grateful. With each birthday we get closer and closer to being “Golden Girls”. Keisha, I’m your namesake. I don’t remember what life is without you. My childhood memories make me laugh out loud because of you. You’re the godmother to my two babies and I know you love them like they were your very own. Thank you for making our friendship so easy. I would bottle your laughter and zest for life in a jar if I could. We’ve always been a tag team and I’m the luckiest girl in the world to be your best friend. Joanne, although we were labeled “mean girls” I know that’s not the real truth. Mean girls don’t ask a total stranger standing alone in 9th grade to come sit with their friends. We’ve been sitting together ever since. Our quiet conversations alone about my fears, relationships, and learning to love myself are moments I’ve always kept between us, but I want you to know how much they’ve meant to me. You walked me through the delivery of my son and had me laughing through labor pains. Your transparency about your Christian walk remind me of how human we really all are and I love you for that. Jeremy, every girl should have a friend like you. At some of the most awkward and unstable moments of my life as a young girl you reminded me (and continue to) that being exactly who I am is good enough. Wescott, someone once told me “what’s understood, doesn’t have to be explained” and that has certainly been the case for our friendship, thank you.

Dana, I met you as a naive, wide-eyed young woman and both personally and professionally you schooled me like you knew me your whole life.

Your generous spirit has taught me the true meaning of friendship. Thank you for sharing your best friend Chantal with me! Kike, you picked up where Mommy left off. The standard of integrity you’ve raised me to as an adult has been nothing short of a damn miracle. While the warrior ready for battle continues to exist in me, the armor isn’t as heavy. Thank you for helping me unpack my baggage. Rennee, we left our home countries as young girls, and have grown into this new place as women together. Your silent support doesn’t go unnoticed, sometimes the quietest cheerleader is heard the loudest -thank you for finding a way to say things in the most simplest of terms. I can only hope to one day be so gracious! Roselyn, it’s a beautiful thing that comes together when a person understands the impact of authenticity. Thank you for being reliable and consistent -two words not many people can describe their friends as. This cathartic existence I have here online is courtesy of you Ghana. Being my friend isn’t easy, and yet you stand by me pushing me to new heights. Chief Keesh is the vision you saw for me. I’m grateful for our friendship. Marlon and Patrice, our conversations could go on forever if we allowed it to. Our time together is cherished. Thank you for appreciating my insanity. Luther, your gentle giant nature has taught me to be humble. You’ve taught me that life and those we love shouldn’t be taken for granted, and while I usually always have something to say, you’ve taught me that more can be said through my silence, thank you for loving me as your friend despite my faults.

I honestly feel like I won the lottery of families. I have no idea how I came to be blessed with such amazing kin, but God himself knows, I’ll do anything for my cousins. They’re the only siblings I know.

Robert, Susan, Temra, and Cathrina you guys are my original day-oners. I don’t know how to do this thing called being “grown” without you. In a time when dysfunction in families is celebrated in the media, we continue to grow closer as a unit. Our individual relationships continue to give me answers to my journey and laughter seems to be the only coping mechanism needed. I’m grateful for the bond we have and wouldn’t trade you in even for a fresh pot of stew peas and rice. Uncle Michael and Uncle Raymond, you’re my uncle, brother, father and friend all wrapped into a neat package. I know I just told you about your significance in my life on Father’s Day, but I wanted to include you again today too. Uncle Raymond your sacrifices for me don’t go unnoticed and I hope to one day stay true to my word about that red Ferrari.

I’ve experienced my share of sadness growing up. Moments where I would often times feels that the pain I was experiencing emotionally was too much to move past. Through it all I believe God saw it fit to send His favorite angel to be my one and only Mommy. There would be no celebration today if it weren’t for her.

My mom, is the most beautiful person I know. While I know now as an adult and young woman that she is not perfect and has her own share of burdens to bear, she sure comes pretty close. My mother never once made me feel like I was a second priority to her (with of course the exception of her grandchildren). Her focus with me was forever on character building and aligning my inner beauty with my outward look. Mommy is a tiny woman, but she has always been so powerful to me. She’s the bravest person I know. Sure we fight and argue but that’s one of the things I love most about her, she’s always allowed me to have a voice. I was always warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Food was always accessible and stability and safety was what she fought to create. With a wardrobe that could compete with any Nordstrom rack, my mother made single parenting look good. I’m grateful today for our friendship and I pray we have many more birthdays to celebrate together.

I’ve come to the end of my rant… you know Cancers lean on the emotional side. In the words of my cousin, I’m in the season of jubilee. I’m thankful for my blessings. I’ve had my winters of gloom, and today I’m just so thankful for my season of glee. While I battle with feelings of not being worthy of gladness I know I won’t always feel like I do right now, so I embrace and share my happiness with you.Today my heart is full. In my 32 years of wisdom, I want you to know that pain is a tool for growth. Use it to weed out the toxic energy and dig deeper into yourself to fight for your joy… if you wait for it, it’s coming in the morning.

Happy Birthday MeeeEEeeeeee!!


Father’s Day

There’s a definite divide on Father’s Day between those who have great relationships with their dads and those who don’t. Those whose fathers were leaders in their households and those who didn’t even know who their dads were. For many years, Father’s Day was a day of shame for me. It was the day I wondered why I couldn’t celebrate all the wonderful memories I should have with my dad. It was the day that I wondered why I wasn’t good enough for him to make the kinds of sacrifices my mom had seemingly made with ease.

Don’t get me wrong, my father was “around”, he would drop off  “drug money” (that’s what Mommy called it) for me from time to time, but time was all I wanted with him. When we did spend time together it was at the race track. Those were pretty good days. He would let me bet on the horses and keep the money I won. He told all his friends he would pick me up on his way to the race track cause I was his lucky charm. I was so happy he needed me. He came to one of my track meets, but told me I ran so fast he missed the race. I remember thinking, I should come in 2nd next time just so he could see me run.

I decided in May 2011 that I would love my daddy from a distance and I haven’t spoken to him since. Every Father’s Day after that was a sad one for me, cause I wanted to call him but my disgust and disdain for him wouldn’t let me. There are certainly plenty of stories I could throw into the pile of “Shitty Memories With Dad”, but where would the beauty in that be? Today I decided to celebrate all the men in my life that stood in his stead. My uncles that have loved and supported me emotionally and financially. My grandfathers who both stand today at 6’3″ in 100% good health and inspite of their own shortcomings were always providers for their family. I celebrated that his absence allowed me to grow in a household of peace with an inordinate amount of love and affection. My mother was never conflicted between the love for him and her love for me. It was just us and just us was more than enough.

Although my father is the only man ever to break my heart, I realized today that life broke his heart too. I imagine that he realized a long time ago he didn’t have it in him to be more than what he was. Perhaps he made the ultimate sacrifice and stepped aside to give me the best opportunity to flourish (at least that’s the version of the story I choose to tell myself). I know for sure I can’t love ALL of me without loving him too and I wouldn’t be who I am if my dad wasn’t who he is…  for that I’m exceptionally grateful.

Happy Father’s Day!

Pretty Little Liars

I’ve been a busy little Chief these last couple of weeks. Between traveling for work and keeping up with my social affairs I forgot to release my thoughts that have been trapped inside me.

Here’s what I’ve been wanting to say: lying is a sickness. Yup, after all this time, that’s all I got for you.

I absolutely hate adult liars. Seriously. They repulse me. Too melodramatic? Not at all. There’s no reason any grown man or woman should feel the need to be dishonest with someone they claim to care about. None. The truth can always be discussed. It’s negotiable, it has perspective that can be seen. The truth, has an amazing freeing power to it. It’s simply a beautiful thing regardless of how ugly the message it’s carrying is.

But lies, lies are the clouds to clear skies. They’re the unkept closet that haunts you to be cleaned out. Lies are the Petri dish of deceit. They are our personal prisons, and arguably the single most destructive action to any relationship . For me, they are always the straw that breaks “the camel’s back”.  I go hard in more than just the paint for mine, but I can’t do anything with or for a liar.

We all know that what we do in the dark comes to light right? But there are some among us, that gamble on that small percentage they might get away with their bundle of bull shit. It’s too bad. I hope that gamble was worth it.

I’m learning not to be as disgusted with liars; most of the time their lies were first told to themselves.

His Footsteps and Mine

“Play another slow jam, this time make it sweet, on a slow jam, for my baby and me.”

Why did we stop slow dancing? When did it stop being the highlight of the party? Women stopped putting their hand in his. Men stopped pulling her close and forgot the steps to the routine. We stopped slowing down enough to dance with each other.
There was a time we stayed until the lights of a party went on because we wanted that chance to slow dance. It was how and when the courtship process began. It was our way to inhale each others scents and stain our memories with nostalgia.

But now, now we dance in independent, isolated, single routines. Our dances don’t require a partner. They don’t require someone to lead. Our moves are to our own beat, our own rhythm. When the slow jams come on, it’s to clear the room. The dance floor is left empty… just like our hearts.

If I could get the chance, just one chance to slow dance again, I’d let him lead, and I would follow. I would let him pull my body close to his, let my breathing slow down just enough to hear his heart race in anticipation. I’d look up into his eyes, and lock his gaze. Our foreheads would meet, and in that moment, all that would matter is his footsteps and mine…