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The Start of a New Book

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I’ve been writing about new beginnings and new chapters for a while now :-). I often post these pieces around the New Year, my birthday, or times of major transitions – I’ve had a few of these since starting this blog. But this season of my life is what I calling an entirely new book.

I relocated a little over three weeks ago and have spent the bulk of my days getting resettled, finding my way around my new city, and creating my new home. All the typical emotions of starting a new venture accompanied my move: fear, excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty. But I am pleased to report that my time here has been incredibly fulfilling. People are nice – I didn’t realize how much I missed that. More often than not, everyone takes an extra moment to add a personal touch to customer care and share a bit about themselves. The scenery is beautiful. This is my first time living so close to the beach and I love it. In an effort to not take my proximity for granted, I am trying to commit to a minimum of extended weekly visits just to sit and enjoy – so far I’ve exceeded my goal :-). My neighborhood is peaceful. I’ve enjoyed getting out on the nature trail for long bike rides – the trail is accessible so no need to drive somewhere with my bike … just to bike. I have been forced to slow down. Things move A LOT slower here. It took me a while to realize that many people are moving at a different pace. At first it was annoying and I am sure these moments will arise again, but in the meantime I have decided to embrace it. I drive a little slower, I move into my days at a different pace, and am I working on releasing expectations around how quickly others respond to requests :-). I am grateful. I recognize that everything about me being here is amazing and exciting – a blessing of all sorts. I am grateful for this opportunity and look forward to sharing more as I transition to my new appointment this fall. In the meantime, here are a few of a couple of my favorite pictures from the beach <3.

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A Little More Than …

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Graduation

It’s my graduation week and to say I am excited is an understatement to express all I am feeling this week. I’ve had more moments than I anticipated when I am overwhelmed with joy, but just as many moments when my eyes fill with tears and I can’t quite place the emotion or sentiment. What I am reminded of is that anytime you – I – see someone walk across the graduation stage, their experience is much more than earning a degree. Albeit important, the degree may be one of many things I and others like me reflect on during times like this. When I think about most are the sacrifices related to time and resources, the late nights of reading, writing and revising, and all the hope – without any guarantee – of what I wanted to be on the other side of my degree attainment, it’s easy to place all the unexpected sentiments. These last few years have been so much more than attending class and checking off degree requirements. They represent a belief that if I made minor adjustments and sacrifices, I would be better positioned to spend the remainder of my life doing what I love professionally. This season has been filled with saying “no” to spontaneous travel, or an impromptu get together with friends, or a community service commitment all because school-related deadlines lingered. It’s been a time of uncertainty, grief, emptiness, accomplishment, triumph, and exhilaration at the same time! I am ELATED to end this season of my life and genuinely excited about all that is ahead. I am excited about the new position I will begin in the fall, as well as looking forward to having some much needed down time this summer. I am grateful for the journey. But whenever you encounter someone who has an advanced degree, please make sure to take a moment to congratulate them – know that their return to school required much more than attending class and performing well on exams. Please don’t undermine their accomplishment by asking about when they’re going to have kids, or get married, or any other obscure standard for success. Celebrate them! Love on them! Give them a hug … I am sure they need it!

Sincerely,

Dr. …

Fertile Void: Life After …

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She Beleieved

For those of you who have followed my blog, you may recall that 2017 marks the 5th year of its existence. 5 years since my life drastically changed in more ways than I can recall. And 5 years since I recommitted to living out loud, starting with returning to school to pursue my passion of working in higher education. 5 years since I traded in the tangible rewards of a stable job with benefits for a passion pursuit with anticipated endless rewards. Throughout this time I’ve written through the ups and downs of my journey – the sacrifices and rewards, along with major shifts in every area. It’s been both the most exciting and exhausting 5 year-period of my life. And then it happened … exactly 3 weeks ago I accomplished what I know will remain one of the greatest achievements of my life – I successfully defended my dissertation and was announced as Dr. Me J! The moment I had been looking forward to, pressing towards, and focused on for much of this leg of the journey. A moment I will never forget and am working earnestly to continue to find small ways to celebrate.

Some say reaching the milestone of a successful defense is much like a wedding ceremony: months or even years for some are spent planning, organizing, saving, and deciding. But within a few hours the party has come and gone, everyone returns home, and it seems like your big event went by all too fast. For those fortunate couples, your life has changed in other ways. Maybe you are taking a fabulous honeymoon vacation, or moving into your first home, or welcoming a new addition to your family. Perhaps you are changing your name or relishing in the joy of having a forever-partner. Or maybe the thought of having new family members, opening gifts, and looking at wedding pictures serve as reminders of your new normal. I’d venture to say my defense and completion of the doctoral program parallels the experience of having a wedding in many ways. I have made small steps towards my dissertation for the last 5 years. It has been a labor of love and a body of work I am extremely proud of. I’ve spend endless hours writing, editing, researching, and refining. I’ve sacrificed attending events, celebrating major achievements, and spending money elsewhere as writing deadlines loomed or I was simply limited financially by having a part-time income.

When my big day finally arrived, a wonderful village of friends and former classmates stayed around to congratulate me after everything was official. Another close friend took an extended vacation to be with me throughout the week, forcing me to stay in the moment and not rush along to the next thing. The weeks that followed have been filled with SLEEP, catching up with friends and family, and wrapping up this semester of teaching. I feel like I have a whole new life in every way imaginable! It is wonderful to be able to sleep in without guilt of missing a writing deadline. It’s liberating to not check email obsessively as I wait for feedback from my committee. And it’s exciting to know that this is just one major milestone of many – I have so much to look forward to over the next few weeks and months.

I am so grateful for this time and after attending the Female Faculty of Color Conference last week, I am working intentionally to operate in a space of “Fertile Void.” Although I still have work to do – tasks to complete – I am focused on relaxing, resting, slowing down, and being present. One of the speakers at the conference described this as a time when we are ripe with possibility – fertile – but not filling the space with new projects. I am remaining in fertile void for as long as I can. Thanks for taking the journey with me J.

How My Friends Taught Me to Be Flaky as F*(! … and I LOVE It!

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flaky

I opened my first email account when I was a freshman in college and didn’t start texting until nearly a decade later. I grew up in a rural town so no one used RSVPs – you just stopped by, showed up, or gave your word. I share these things because I learned much of my etiquette around corresponding via email or text messages and the value of RSVPs: 1) much later in my life; and 2) mostly in the professional arena. This timing shaped how I view email, including the form in which I send emails. It shaped what, how and with whom I send text messages. And it absolutely shaped the value I placed on giving my word, verbally or via an RSVP. However, it didn’t take long for me to learn that the same value I placed on these things was not shared by others. I’ve received numerous emails with no greeting or salutation at all – simply a question or statement. I’ve had colleagues who I have a strictly professional relationship with text me late at night or on the weekends. And I’ve more than my share of experience with folks saying they will attend an event and showing up significantly later than the start time or not showing up at all. Naturally, this used to upset me and sometimes it still does, especially when someone’s RSVP requires me spending money to reserve a spot for them. But this last year has taught me get comfortable with being flaky as f*(!.

My new lease on life is in no way an excuse for me to disregard others’ time or my commitment to complete a task. Instead, it has forced me to separate business commitments from personal commitments. No, I can’t wake up and just randomly decide to take a week off from work. But I can decide that a social event I previously committed to attending no longer fits my schedule and respectfully inform the host of the change. On a very minute, but important level this change also allows me to ignore the need to reply to every personal email, text message, or phone call I receive – which is not a practice I exercise as freely in the professional arena. I have friends who reply to text messages weeks later or not at all; family and friends who never check email, much more take a moment to respond to them. The ironic thing is many of these very same people will obsessively text and/or call me if I do not respond to a message from them within what they consider to be a reasonable timeframe. BUT I’ve opted to stick with my new leaf and do as I need, when I need to – especially as I am working earnestly to balance all that comes with finishing graduate school. *Note to all: We are ALL busy juggling multiple things so your level of busyness is not an excuse to dismiss the commitments others have as well*

So thank you to all my flaky friends 🙂 – I’ve learned a lot from you. You’ve taught me that changing my mind, disconnecting from my phone, and engaging with the social world when desired is an act of radical self-care. Thank you!

Hello February …

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february

I thought about writing several times in the month of January. I sat with my laptop ready to put “pen to paper.” Clearly, my efforts failed. Between working on my dissertation, putting some effort into post-graduation plans, and simply trying to keep up with current events my blog took a backseat. I can’t guarantee that February will be any different but I am here to extend thoughts of love, hope, well-being, and healing to you and the world. February, please be good to us. ❤

Saying Good-Bye to 2016

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Image result for grateful

It’s almost time to say good-bye to 2016 so before I head out for vacation, I am posting my last blog for the year.

I started the year out in Hawaii – one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited – spending time with one of my most amazing friends. This trip created the tone for the year: intentions were set, wishes were cast, and my actions were aligned with my goals for the year. Albeit rocky, 2016 was a great year! As I scrolled through photo album on my phone, I was reminded of just how blessed I was during this year. From professional conferences and publications to an abundance of quality time spent with family and friends to so many chapters of my life ending – including finishing up my doctoral coursework 🙂 – this year was a wonderful one. I retreated more than ever and am now preparing to heard to my 3rd retreat for the year :-). I traveled; I celebrated; I cried; I laughed; I loved … real hard; I danced; I rested; I renewed and re-found me. I fell in love with my life all over again, remembering that I have the power to decide at any moment that “this is not how my story is going to end”.

As the year comes to a close, I continue to take moments to give thanks for all the ways that I received love, light, and favor.  In addition to all the memories that were created, I must say that 2016 has been my launching pad for what I anticipate to be an even better year in 2017! I look forward to sharing my world with you in the New Year and I hope that somewhere along the way, I inspire you to CREATE your best life.

Happy holidays and Happy New Year! #grateful

Thank You Sweet October

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renewal

After a whirlwind of an ending to the summer, October was incredibly good to me :-). I started off the month with a much needed retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, NC. For three days and two nights, I had the pleasure of fellowshipping with an amazing group of women as we chatted, journaled, colored, reflected, affirmed, and were renewed. I had the most invigorating massage – my very first experience with the ABHYANGA technique. Needless to say I left Boone feeling like my mind, body and spirit had undergone an overdue and much needed tune-up.

The next week welcomed an opportunity to present at the 17th Annual Engagement Scholarship Consortium in Omaha, Nebraska. It was such an honor to receive support to attend the conference, network with prominent scholars in the field, and to learn about what others are doing around the country as it relates to community based participatory research (CBPR), engaged scholarship, and community collaborations.

The third weekend of October was one big celebration with people I have known – and loved – for nearly 20 years now! It was my undergraduate institution’s homecoming and I was very intentional about spending time with my friends and extended family as much as I could. It was food for my soul.

So here I am … saying good-bye to October, but also saying “thank you”. October brought laughter, joy, celebration … hope, inspiration, and REBIRTH. November, you have to bring your A-game :-)!

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