Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Why I choose to bypass plan B

I have a friend who once told me I should’ve had a plan B, C, D…Y, and Z.

Generally speaking, I understand backup plans to be nothing more than roads to some specific destination. They’re supposed to be next-in-line alternatives just in case the shortest and toll-free routes don’t get you to that desired point. Operative words being “supposed to be” because oftentimes they have led me somewhere I really didn’t intend to go.

In a recent Facebook post, personal development coach and founder and CEO of The Happy Black Woman, Rosetta Thurman, also perfectly sums up how plan B actually deters and distracts us from plan A. She writes:

You have a plan A, but you're so afraid that it won’t happen that you spend most of your time on plan B. What’s plan A? Plan A is what you really want your life to look like. It’s all your deepest goals, dreams and desires. Plan B is the ‘secure route.’ It’s that job you hate. It’s the city you’ve been ready to leave. It’s all the relationships you’ve grown out of. The problem with plan B? If you spend too much time on it, your plan A will never happen.

The crazy part is sometimes the detour to plan B is so reflexive that it took a minute for me to realize I was lost.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monday musing: The evolution of Pencil and Chalk

  1. I can’t believe I launched this blog a little over five years ago. 
  2. I’m glad I bought this domain because didn’t introduce me as a boss bish. I’m also glad I didn’t leave it as The Skinny DC Writer because somewhere along the way, I outgrew DC and longed to live in a new city. 
  3. I’m mad that I didn’t actively defend this space, consequently reinforcing outside opinions that my blog is a mere hobby. I never fully articulated that these words construct my writing portfolio, and this writing portfolio is the lifeline to some semblance of a livelihood. 
  4. I’ve accepted that a majority of my fans will be strangers, at least in the formative years, and that many who know me could never fathom that this “little blog” will ever become a serious space or at least one to rival a larger platform. But I’m learning to not internalize it as rejection or discouragement or see it as a reflection of my true talent because in reality, I’m the shit.
    That time Aunt Dee from Moesha retweeted my essay.
  5. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t in a position to remain consistent. But I stretched myself too thin, opened myself up too wide to even more outside opinions of what else I could do rather than fully immersing myself into what I want to do.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

It happened to me: I fell victim to the predator-editor

I want to be proud of my words.

This isn’t a sudden revelation, like an Oprah a ha! moment, but it’s the first time I’ve actually verbalized this sentiment and taken a real stance. I officially started my writing career over 4 years ago after listening to a free webinar hosted by Britni Danielle, former English teacher-turned-journalist-author-speaker, who was testing the market for her paid course, “The Write Pitch.” During the teleclass, she explained how she landed her first byline with no published clips. She assured us that being previously-published wasn’t a requirement. Having a lit pitch was.

A month later I had a paid piece on xoJane talking about how folks love to point out how “skinny” I am as if I don’t already know I’m not a full-figured woman. This piece was republished on Clutch magazine, which prompted me to immediately pitch a piece to the latter about my coarse hair and its addiction to the creamy crack.

Both pieces alone elevated my status from emerging writer to “established” writer, even though my bio was a mere month old. But I garnered attention from Twitter mentions to invitations to host an NYC natural hair event and appear on a HuffPost Live segment.

I wanted to maintain the momentum.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Driving while black: as a black woman with a black man

As a black woman, it’s often unsafe for me to drive alone. I realized this during my first year in very populated Northern Virginia as I drove back to my new apartment from the nearby mall. I went to Potomac Mills after work for whatever unmemorable reason, so time quickly shifted from late evening to dark night while I picked up purchases and dinner.

I approached the first stoplight leaving the shopping center, braking and stopping as the overhead circle of yellow flashed to red. A horn simultaneously sounded from my right. I turned my head to glance at a driver, a male silhouette whom I didn’t recognize, so I automatically assumed his attention-getting tactic was meant for someone else. Yet when I pressed the gas pedal at the green light, I noticed that he trailed me.

He honked a little longer at the next light. This time I took off at a higher speed, but the faster I went, the faster he went, too. We raced towards Dale Blvd – which led to my apartment – breezing past slower-moving drivers who obeyed posted signs and probably chastised my recklessness because they were oblivious to my situation and impending dilemma.

Story time: an outside view of a random traffic stop

“I’ll be back,” my cousin says to me one early Saturday evening.

He rarely left the apartment that he shared with his girlfriend except to go to work or dinner in Washington, DC, which were both only a few miles from their place, or the nearby gym to occasionally shoot hoops. The remainder of his free time was spent cooking Sunday dinners, sitting on the balcony sipping smooth Ciroc and diet cranberry juice, or watching football, “Stebie” J on Love and Hip Hop, and Swamp People on the History channel. He was more of a homebody that an out-in-the-street sort of man, so I expected him back rather soon.

The phone rings barely 15 minutes later. He’s only a few blocks away from home – Arlington. Crystal City, to be exact, which is a majority white suburban neighborhood that houses the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and a slew of restaurants and government contractors. A police officer has just pulled him over, and it sounds slightly more than a routine stop since he needs my help.

“Can you look in the nightstand and get my title?” he asks. “And can you bring it to [redacted]?”

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A bout of Bell's Palsy

“Are you okay?”

I’ve just completed my weeklong “shift” of hostess duties: drafting and emailing a wedding announcement for the local newspaper, ironing crisp white tablecloths and chair covers, and decorating a spacious venue, to be exact. This is in addition to pulling frequent all-nighters for a daily entertainment writer gig and defaulting to a 24-hour nanny role that I never signed up for. So after the nuptials, I sit quietly, observant near the dance floor in figurative retirement.

If I danced, I would’ve sashayed to the dance floor. But that’s not my thing. I don’t like to be watched and scrutinized, and as the tallest person on the dance floor, I’m almost guaranteed to attract more attention that I can ignore. However, being a wallflower was more noticeable, eliciting a countless “Come on!” with each motion of a curved finger elevating my blood pressure five millimeters of mercury at a time. I remain at the front table with the purses, fuming, while everyone else shimmies, shakes, shuffles, slides, and steps across the dance floor. It sways my response.

“If one more person asks me…” I say before exhaling. “Yes!”

No one else inquires about my well-being, not even the next day during brunch when my physical features literally relax.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Story time: A bully dog and a drug bust

“Is he tied up?” my cousin asks me as we stand behind her friend’s car to remove my bags from the trunk.

It’s late. We had left Northern VA less than three hours earlier, enjoying the last official holiday of the summer along with the smoked ribs, brisket, broccoli salad, and spirits that normally complement it every Labor Day weekend. I had asked her to drop me off at another relative’s house. She’s tired, having to travel another hour or so, but she becomes alert to the gruff bark that belongs to the large golden dog next door.

My cousin has a small dog. Gizmo is his name. He’s an oftentimes shaggy, dirty-blonde Shih Tzu, who occasionally tries to get snippy with a select few of her guests. He yaps at those who cross the back yard because he knows visitors normally approach the door from the opposite side. And he senses the inherent fear or dislike that other guests carry with them toward dogs. As those visitors turn to leave, Gizmo jumps up from his rested position and runs them out the door faster than they intend to walk.

“Gizmo, stop it!” my cousin commands. “Come back here!”

But this owner watches us from a plastic chair on his front stoop at 11 p.m. His golden retriever – I think, because I really don’t know my dogs – is tied to a post with a thin, red, maybe plastic cord.

“Yeah, he’s tied,” I reply. “See the strap?”

But inside I’m a little jittery, too, because this dog is huge, much bigger than Gizmo. If he gets loose, we’ll all be severely injured, including the two passengers in the car. But we’re not going out as punks.