Tag: Living

Get The Hell Out Of Here!

June is National Outdoors Month (insert applause here)! It is a special time to celebrate America’s Great Outdoors. National leaders for years have issued proclamations recognizing this month as Great Outdoors Month, a time when America celebrates its natural treasures. This recognition highlights the benefits of active fun outdoors in our magnificent shared resources of forests, parks, refuges, and other public lands and waters. Proclamations generate widespread media attention, encouraging millions of American families to move outside, and prompting public discussion of important issues linked to outdoor recreation including volunteerism, health, and outdoor ethics.

A truly American idea, the State and National Parks of this country represent our natural heritage. North and south, east and west, they stretch from the edges of our maps to the hearts of our cities, covering nearly one-third of this nation. This June, celebrate the natural wonder and outdoor spirit of America by getting outside during Great Outdoors Month. Once you come outside, you’ll never want to go back inside. Click here to read more about Great Outdoors Month 2014.

‘National Get Outdoors Day’ prepares for its 7th exciting year!Participants from federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and the recreation industry are again teaming up to host the 7th annual National Get Outdoors Day (GO Day) to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun at sites across the nation. On Saturday, June 14, 2014, these diverse partners will offer opportunities for American families to experience traditional and non-traditional types of outdoor activities. Prime goals of the day are reaching currently underserved populations and first-time visitors to public lands, and reconnecting our youth to the great outdoors. Each GO Day event will offer a mix of information centers and “active fun” areas – places where guests, and especially kids, can use a fishing pole, go geocaching, help pitch a tent and more. The sites will provide photo opportunities with characters like Smokey Bear, Woodsy Owl and other interesting creatures. Many sites also feature areas that focus on other aspects of healthy living, including sustainability and good nutrition. In addition to the GO Day events, participants will be invited to nearby follow-up activities called EchO events occurring throughout the summer, which include introductions to mountain biking and fly-fishing, hikes with rangers to see wildlife, kayaking and rafting and much more. The pilot effort of National Get Outdoors Day was launched on June 14, 2008. Building on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other important efforts to connect Americans – and especially children – with nature and active lifestyles, the USDA Forest Service (FS) and the American Recreation Coalition (ARC) agreed to lead an inclusive, nationwide effort focusing on a single day when people would be inspired and motivated to get outdoors. GO Day partnered with federal, state and local agencies, key enthusiast organizations and recreation businesses to create a healthy, fun day of outdoor adventure aimed at reaching first-time visitors to public lands and reconnecting children to the outdoors. Last year, 138 official GO Day sites across the nation welcomed thousands of new faces to the joy and benefits of the great outdoors. GO Day is an outgrowth of the Get Outdoors USA! campaign, which encourages Americans, especially our youth, to seek out healthy, active outdoor lives and embrace our parks, forests, refuges and other public lands and waters. For more information go to National Get Outdoors Day.

So get up & get out this month!



To learn about National Outdoors Month visit:

American Trails
Fun Outdoors
Get Outdoors USA
American’s Great Outdoors

In Our Hearts Forever, Dr. Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


Asthma In The African American Community

It’s still Asthma Awareness Month! Although I’ve discussed this topic before, this time I’d like to focus on asthma in the African American community.

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lung airways. With asthma, the airways are inflamed (swollen) and react easily to certain triggers, like smoke or dust mites. When the inflamed airways react, they get narrow and make it hard to breathe. Common asthma symptoms are:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Wheezing — a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe
  • Shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air)
  • Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
  • Faster breathing or noisy breathing

There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment. Anybody can get asthma, but it is seen more often in African-Americans. More than 3 million African-Americans have asthma. African-Americans go to the hospital emergency room more than whites because of asthma. They also are almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than whites. Asthma most often starts in childhood, and it is a top health problem for African-American children. Asthma is a leading reason why kids miss school.

Here are some discouraging facts about African Americans who suffer from asthma:

  • Asthma has a genetic component. If only one parent has asthma, chances are 1 in 3 that each child will have asthma. If both parents have asthma, it is much more likely (7 in 10) that their children will have asthma.
  • Ethnic differences in asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality are highly correlated with poverty, urban air quality, indoor allergens, and lack of patient education and inadequate medical care.
  • African Americans are three times more likely to die from asthma.  African American Women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women
  • African American women have the highest asthma mortality rate of all groups, more than 2.5 times higher than Caucasian women

Asthma is more common and more severe among children; women; low-income, inner-city residents; and African American and Puerto Rican communities. In general, these disadvantaged and at-risk populations experience above-average rates of emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and deaths that are much higher than differences in asthma prevalence would suggest.

The reasons for these disparities are complex, but cannot be attributed to genetic differences alone. Economic, social, and cultural factors—ranging from lack of access to quality health care to differences in health beliefs between patients and their doctors—add to the greater asthma burden among these groups. Individuals within disadvantaged populations also may face substandard housing and work conditions that place them at greater risk for frequent and prolonged exposure to environmental allergens and irritants that worsen asthma.

Bridging this disparity gap is a challenge. It will require innovative and sustained efforts at multiple levels to translate, tailor, and deliver effective asthma care to diverse populations in line with the recommendations of the EPR-3 guidelines and its companion GIP Report.

All stakeholders involved in controlling asthma have a role to play in reducing asthma-related health disparities.

*Sources include:

Women’s Health

National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America

AA Asthma

The 31 Most Unfortunate Typos Of All Time*

1. This headline on a flag-disposal story:

2. This banner:
3. These instructions:

5. This nerve-inducing prescription:

7. This romance novel (wait for it):

8. This book opener:

9. This bargain:

10. This grocery ad:

11. This caption:

12. This receipt:

13. This chyron:

14. These signs:

(Snopes says this is real.)

15. This come-hither sign:

17. This menu offering:

18. This church bulletin:

19. This recipe:

20. This headline:

21. This Tom Daley Instagram fail:

22. This tribute went awry:

23. This weather forecast:

24. This regrettable error:

26. This Mitt Romney app:

27. This yearbook ad:

This yearbook ad:

28. This Sesame Street caption:

30. This George W. Bush-ian slip:

31. This:



 *Originally published on Buzzfeed. Edited for brevity.

How Often Do You Really Need to Shower?

How often do you shower?If you don’t shower much – but generally keep that information to yourself because of the negative stigma – you’re not alone. Following hot on the heels of the no-shampooing hair care revolution, some folks are taking the logical next step: If no or reduced shampooing results in healthier, shinier hair, what about skipping soaping up the body?

Unlike the modified hair-washing schedule, which tends to elicit commentary about shampoos and parabens, conditioners and hair-drying time, skipping showers altogether seems to bring up plenty of other opinions on the subject. Many people who do shower every day think that not doing so is inherently wrong and unhealthy. It’s assumed that people who don’t shower on the regular are stinky and/or greasy and maybe even visibly dirty – and it certainly can’t be good for you.

But considering that it has really only been the last 100 years or so that people have bathed more than once a week (Saturday night baths were the norm for most of American history), daily showering is actually not objectively healthier or better; and in fact, one of the most common reasons that people cut down on showering is actually for skin-health reasons, not laziness. As far as being actually physically dirty, most of us who don’t work outside or aren’t otherwise involved in daily work where we might get covered in dust, dirt or grease probably don’t get any real dirt on anything other than our faces and hands most weeks.

Also see: 5 natural deodorant alternatives

What’s behind the links between health and less showering? People with skin issues have long noted that forgoing daily showers can help with eczema, and plenty of others think that it is actually healthier overall, for similar reasons that not washing one’s hair can make for shinier, less-frizzy hair. The natural body oils that lubricate and protect the skin get washed away by warm (and especially hot) showers paired with soaps that strip the skin. Without those oils, the skin is more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses, and can also look and feel dry and uncomfortable. Because the body wants to keep the skin in healthy, protected shape, frequent washing can even encourage the body to overproduce oil, leading to a viscious cycle of cleansing and oil production. Many people have found that when they stop washing hair and skin as often, after an adjustment period, the body naturally decreases the amount of oil it produces and less washing is needed.

Of course, how often you shower depends on your level of activity, how healthy you are (if you work out often and eat healthfully, you naturally produce less body odor) and what you do for a living. And, I would add to that list: It depends on the season too.

Also see: How the rest of the world brushes their teeth

Confession: I only shower three times a week, and I wash my hair on one of those occasions – but that’s just because it’s winter. In the summer, I shower every day, but most of those are just rinses in lukewarm water, sans soap so I don’t dry out my skin. The drier, colder air of winter saps my skin of moisture, and since I use only natural products, keep active, and don’t eat much processed food (and it’s cold), I have almost no body odor. You can also shower briefly, as I do, and lather up only the areas that need it on a daily basis (we all know what those are), protecting most of your good skin oils from being washed off, while still enjoying a couple minutes of shower time. You can also wash with oils, which is a popular and growing treatment for dry skin. I do this too and have noticed that since I started washing with organic coconut oil (yes, oils will clean, check out the site dedicated to oil cleansing for an explanation), I feel refreshed, moisturized and smelling great – I add a couple drops of sweet orange or rosemary oil as I love scent.

But there’s one area of the body you should never skip washing multiple times a day: your hands. As John Oxford, professor of Virology at Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry told the Daily Mail, “As long as people wash their hands often enough and pay attention to the area of the body below the belt, showering or bathing every other day would do no harm. Even twice a week would not be a problem if people used a bidet daily as most infectious bugs hang around our lower halves.”


 *Originally published on Yahoo.

May Is Asthma Awareness Month!

Each May, thousands of organizations across the U.S. join together for Asthma Awareness Month (AAM) in an effort to increase public awareness and improve the lives of children and families with asthma. Be part of this national effort to get asthma under control in communities nationwide!

What is asthma? It’s an incurable inflammatory disorder of the airways. Picture this: You’re short of breath, and you’re trying to fill your lungs by sucking air through a tube the diameter of a plastic coffee stirrer. That’s the helpless, panicked feeling a growing number of people with asthma have experienced . . . time and again.

Asthma is chronic . . . it can be life-threatening . . . and it’s one of our nation’s most common and costly diseases. And the severity of asthma — as well as the frequency of asthma “episodes” — can be influenced by exposures to allergens and irritants in the environment, both indoors and outdoors.

Asthmais one of the most common lifelong chronic diseases. There are 26 million people in the United States living with asthma, a disease affecting the lungs, causing repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing. Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage asthma successfully to reduce and prevent asthma attacks, also called episodes.

Asthma affects people of all ages and backgrounds. In most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to cure it. Certain factors may make it more likely for one person to have asthma than another. If someone in your family has asthma, you are more likely to have it. Regular physical exams that include checking your lung function and checking for allergies can help your healthcare provider make the right diagnosis.

Successful asthma management includes knowing the warning signs of an attack, avoiding things that may trigger an attack, and following the advice of your healthcare provider. Using what you know about managing your asthma can give you control over this chronic disease. When you control your asthma, you will breathe easier, be as active as you would like, sleep well, stay out of the hospital, and be free from coughing and wheezing. To learn more about how you can control your asthma, visit CDC’s asthma site.

With your healthcare provider’s help, you can make your own asthma management plan so that you know what to do based on your own symptoms. Use your asthma medicine as prescribed and be aware of common triggers in the environment known to bring on asthma symptoms, including smoke (including second-hand and third-hand cigarette smoke), household pets, dust mites, and pollen. Limit or avoid exposure to these and other triggers whenever possible. The important thing to remember is that you can control your asthma.

To learn about how CDC supports state asthma control programs, see our Success Stories from CDC’s National Asthma Control Program, National Center for Environmental Health, Division of Environmental Hazards and Health Effects.

How to help reduce asthma episodes

Start with an Allergen Control Plan:

  • Work with your regular doctor or clinic to figure out which allergens affect your child the most
  • Concentrate on controlling those allergens
  • Start with the easiest, least expensive options, like working to remove “triggers” in the home — especially the ones that most affect your child

Put your plan into action:

  • Set up your room-by-room cleaning plan — starting where the person with asthma sleeps
  • Wash bedding and curtains
  • Dust and vacuum
  • Clean windowsills and frames
  • Wet mop floors
  • Remove stuffed animals (or enclose them in a cabinet)

Get educated about asthma:

  • Learn as much as you can about asthma
  • Ask your doctor or clinic for asthma education information and a written asthma action plan
  • Join an asthma support group. Studies show they can help you set and reach your goals
  • Keep an asthma diary to track asthma episodes
  • Work with your doctor or clinic to determine other steps you need to take — such as removing carpeting from your home

Want To be More Active With Asthma Awareness?

Join the asthma awareness Twitter chat

Join the NHLBI’s Asthma Awareness Twitter Chat with U.S. News on May 14 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT. Follow the chat using the #AsthmaChat hashtag.

Join the “Get Asthma Aware” thunderclap

Join the NHLBI’s “Get Asthma Aware” Thunderclap by May 6 to pledge your voice to learning more about asthma. Thunderclap is an online action site where users can share the same message at the same time on social media.

Across the country, national organizations and local coalitions are working together to provide strategies and solutions for asthma sufferers and their families. Click on the resources below for more information:

asthma 2

My TV Comforts Me

The TV is my shepherd I shall not want,

It makes me lie down on the sofa.

It leads me away from the Scriptures,

It damages my soul.

It leads me in the path of sex and

violence for the sponsor’s sake.

Yea, though I walk in the shadow of my Christian responsibilities,

there will be no interruption for the TV is with me.

The cable and my remote control,

they comfort me.

It prepares a commercial before me

in the presence of my worldliness.

It anoints my head with humanism,

my coveting runneth over.

Surely laziness and ignorance shall

follow me all the days of my life.

And I shall dwell in my house

watching TV forever.


(From the book of Couch 1:1-10)

–       Author Unknown

Couch 2

Why ‘Nice’ Should Be Banished From the English Language

Anybody who knows me well knows that I hate the word nice. Ironically I very rarely use the word hate, but when it comes to nice it’s the perfect adjective.

There’s a deeper point to my dislike for this word – it comes down to the power of language and how that impacts the type of life you live. If you’ve ever heard those people who just sound like they always have problems in life I challenge them to look at the language they’re using.

You’ll find words like “I can’t, it’s not fair, I’ll try, maybe someday, and it’s not possible”. Or how about “Never, ever, always” as in “I’m never going to be rich”, “I’m always having bad luck?” No wonder they’re getting nowhere, just look at what they’re telling themselves every day.

In this post I will attempt to explain how to lead a more fulfilling life and ensure you are talking the talk and walking the walk! You’ll find your clients will love you more too when you start using powerful words that attract them to you.

My mission if you should you choose to accept it

Since 2006, I’ve been on a mission to ensure people think twice before they say “Oh, that is a nice dress” or “We went to a nice concert” or “Isn’t it a nice day?”.

I still get emails or messages to this day from friends I admonished years ago about using the word nice, who finally understood what I meant and have tried changing up their lingo for the better.

In my mind, of the million or so English words in the dictionary there could not be any word more bland, boring and overused than nice.

I mean let’s face it when you ask your friend how their date was and they say `Oh he/she was nice’ you know straight off they were nothing to write home about. If someone goes to a show and they say it was `nice’ it doesn’t inspire me to want to go.

Nice often means lackluster. And in some cases I get that nice is the most fitting word to describe something. But in general – in my world anyway, if you use it around me I will pull you up on it.

The background story to my aversion to nice

This story is actually pretty funny and I often explain it to people who wonder why I react so strongly when they use nice. After hearing it they often understand where I’m coming from.

My friend who lives in New Zealand asked me a question back in early 2006.

F: “Nat, can I ask you a question?”

Me: “Sure. What’s up”

F: “So you know name shall remain nameless, well we finally hooked up last night. She’s liked me for ages and well, we were drinking and one thing led to another…”

Me: “Wow really? And how was it?”

F: “Well it was good but I think I screwed up. After we had sex she said ‘Oh my god that was amazing, how was it for you’ and I replied ‘Oh that was really nice’ Anyway she flipped out on me”.

Me: “Oh _____ you didn’t say nice did you? That’s like the biggest insult especially in bed”.

F: “But it’s all in the intonation, I said really nice!”

Me: “It doesn’t matter, it’s still the worst thing you could say, it means it’s nothing to write home about. I mean you could have just made some satisfied sound like ‘mmmmmm’.”

F: “Hmmm, I see your point”.

The Power of Language

Ok so that may not give you the full picture but basically from that moment on I started listening out for how frequently nice was used in everyday language. I was surprised at how often it came up in conversation even to describe something incredible.

So over the last 5 years I’ve been attempting to understand the deeper meaning to this and I’ve come up with some results and conclusions:

  • We are lazy. We use common words because it’s easy
  • We only know and use 10% of the words in the English language (made % up but close to true)
  • We don’t express our passions enough in our everyday language
  • We are used to using words that don’t inspire anything

This is a problem for several reasons. You are what you think. You are also what you say. Listen to people like Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Richard Branson or any other inspirational person.

Their everyday language is supercharged with powerful words like `juiced, victory, empowering’. They demand attention. They state their position in no uncertain terms. They change their mood and mindset through their use of words.

I’m pretty sure Richard does not say “It would be nice if we could get someone into space on Virgin Galactica some day’.

If you tell yourself everyday that you’re fat or lazy or not good enough – guess what that’s what you’ll start to believe.

If you tell yourself you’re amazingly talented, that life is wondrous, that you are extraordinarily lucky then you will be begin to believe this and will adjust your mindset accordingly. This will in turn lead to you living your best life and inspiring others to do the same.

That last sentence may sound a little over the top but try it. Who wants to live an ordinary life where things are nice and safe and bland and dull and boring. Not me.

By the way a wise person once said:

Owing to the vibratory power of words, whatever man voices, he begins to attract.

So tell yourself you will be rich and powerful and happy and fulfilled and you shall attract that, `one day’ at a time – even sooner if you believe in your spoken word.

And while I’ve had several friends berate me on my use of superlatives I’d far prefer to use these over nice any day because that’s how I think, that’s how I see my life, that’s how I operate and it’s why I’m positive, optimistic and blessed.

Someone pointed that out to me on Twitter the other day when they said I always sounded so positive about life no matter what – that’s because I am. If you don’t hang out with people who see the best in most situations and use words that make you feel invigorated, optimistic and excited then I suggest you take a look at your current company.

I realize that life gets in the way, it can often suck, things go wrong, you get crabby, stuff doesn’t work out and shit happens. But if you choose your words wisely you cans surpass all of these trivial moments and turn them around for the better.

What words do you use too frequently that aren’t helping you to have a different outlook on life and feel more grateful?


*This article was originally published on The Suitcase Entrepreneur.

Autism, Like Race, Complicates Almost Everything

In honor of Autism month, I thought I’d share this article –

Children have tantrums. They yell and grab at things that they should ask for nicely. And when a child has autism, like my son, these episodes can be epic: toys hurled across a room, screaming fits that last hours, and flurries of hitting that get triggered by even a minor change in a routine.

But when my son screams at his therapist and tries to snatch Magic Markers from his hands, I gasp. I think of Trayvon Martin.

I’m black, and so is my son. And even though at that moment he’s just 5 years old, I know that an angry swipe at a white man’s hands could get him killed one day.

At some of the toughest moments with my son, this therapist has been a sanity saver … for me. A middle-aged white man, he has the warm, easy manner of everyone’s favorite uncle. For my son, he has compassion and endless patience. But at times he’s told my son NOT to do something, and my son has not only done it; he’s also gotten physical.

My instinct is to snatch my son up and hit him with everything I have. But I don’t. I watch while his therapist waits for him to get the hollering and grabbing out of his system. After 10 minutes, it all quiets down. But I’m still holding my breath.

Generations of black parents have had to have the talk with our sons, the explanation that while they have a right to do everything a white kid does, exercising those rights under the wrong circumstances could be fatal. And a transgression like the one he’s committed against his doctor — one that might get a white child arrested — could get him killed. It’s hard to explain, and hard for many boys to understand at first.

My kid still doesn’t quite understand that he’s expected to answer to his own name or deal with a broken toy without screaming. These are not social graces; these are skills that most kids develop in their early years with no special training: looking people in the eye, or saying hello, or sitting still in a chair. He has to practice these things several hours a week with a team of therapists, at home and at his special school.

It’s costing a fortune, but he’s getting better. Many parents of autistic kids don’t have my options. They don’t have the money, or the understanding employer, or the family and community support that I do. Or, what’s most heartbreaking, their child’s condition just doesn’t respond to anything they’ve tried.

Most of our days now pass without problems. And when my son has a bad moment or a meltdown, he’s surrounded by caring people who are trained to coax him into using his words. They know not to grab his arm or shout or make sudden moves, and that it might take two or three times for him to respond to a question. But I know that black boys like my son, even the young ones, don’t get the benefit of the doubt in real life.

So what do I do? Take him out of the day care where he’s cared for like a son? Tell his openhearted teachers to treat him with a little less tenderness than they do the other kids, to help him toughen up? Or the next time he gets physical, have his therapist grab him by both wrists, and tell him sternly to keep his hands to himself?

Autism, like race, complicates almost everything, especially questions of who’s privileged. Almost everyone with a child on the spectrum is living with constant anxiety, and navigating from one crisis to another. When I’m with parents of kids with autism or other disabilities, I feel like I’m in one of those zones where race doesn’t matter as much. Autism is its own identity; the parents and our children, we are a People. There are conversations we have with each other that we can’t have with anyone else.

All of the parents — white, black, Latino and Asian-American — have to grapple with indifferent or hostile teachers, worry about cops who think their kids are acting strange or suspicious. They’re fighting to create a place for their children to thrive in a world that views them as worthless or scary. And there’s that fear — the one that I used to think only black parents really understood — that you could do everything right, spend every dime, minute, ounce of energy on your child, and it still might not be enough.


*Article originally published on NPR.

Don’t Pray For Patience & 4 More Lessons I’ve Learned

I used to pray for patience.

I used to ask God to please, please, please make me a more patient  woman/girlfriend/friend/daughter. I used to ask for it every time I prayed, which was daily.

And then I stopped.

After getting hit with situation after situation that strained and stretched what little patience I had–I mean, nothing teaches you patience like losing a job or having a baby or being a teacher or trying to wait for somebody in prison–I realized that praying for patience was akin to playing with fire.

Because God does not come off the mountaintop and shower huge heaps of patience on your head. Instead, he sends you situations that test and expand your ability to be patient. And sometimes they hurt.

Lesson learned.

Nothing forces you to look back over your life and find the lesson in things like getting older.

In a few weeks I’ll be entering my Jesus year (I’ll be 33), which has made me acutely aware of the trajectory of my life.

In year’s past, I would survey my accomplishments (or lack thereof) and regret not doing things differently, but I quickly learned that trying to change the past was completely futile and the only way I could possibly look back and NOT regret things was to chase my dreams whenever I had a chance.

So that’s what I did.

Three years ago, I dreamed of becoming a writer. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew that if I didn’t try, I’d look back, yet again, with longing and regret.

So I stepped out on faith, taught myself to be a freelancer, and eventually left my teaching job to pursue writing full time.

Looking back on my decision made me feel a little nostalgic.

As I approach another birthday, I am once again looking for the lessons I’ve learned throughout the years. Because my story often mirrors yours (and vice versa), I thought I’d pass on my hard-earned lessons to you.

Lesson # 1: I was never a victim.

Lincoln Anthony Blades, the man behind the hilarious and brutally honest blog This Is Your Conscience, recently wrote a book called You’re Not A Victim, You’re a Volunteer, and he’s right.

Far too often we look back and bemoan the things that have “happened to us,” instead of taking responsibly for our hand in whatever misfortune we encountered.

For instance, for years I wondered why past relationships seemed to fall apart, why guys couldn’t recognize how dope I was, or why they decided to repeatedly act an ass, until I realized I was a willing participant in the foolery. I couldn’t be totally upset that my feeling were disregarded because I was too afraid to speak my own truth and be real about what I wanted. I wasn’t totally to blame, but I was no innocent bystander either.

When we try to sanitize the truth to make ourselves look better, or like the victim, we strip away our agency and our ability to act. Unless you were attacked at random, you are not anybody’s victim sweetie. Remember that.

Lesson #2: I’m not better than anyone else.

I just finished reading Marianne Williamson’s book The Divine Law of Compensation and in it she writes, “All of us are special and none of us are special.”

The idea that none of us is any more or less special than the next person really hit me in the heart.

I’ve had my share of advantages in life. Despite growing up in the hood, I lived in a relatively stable household, went to private schools, and was never subjected to many of the soul-crushing things my peers had to deal with. Because of this, at times, I’ve behaved like a snob and looked down on those whom I either felt sorry for, or felt like they should have known better.

But the older I get, the more I have come to realize that we are all connected. And while I may have turned up my nose at someone for their lack of whatever, someone else was turning up their nose at me.

I am not better or less than anyone; none of us are. The fact that we try to place ourselves, or others we rock with, on pedestals is not only problematic, but it’s limiting.

A person’s worth isn’t defined by their bank account, their degrees, their clothes, or if they can properly conjugate a verb. Our value resides in our humanity. And if we saw each other as humans first, many of our issues would probably fade away.

Lesson #3: Ask for what you want.

This is huge, and I won’t lie, I still struggle with it. But if you don’t ask for what you absolutely want and need, especially from others, you won’t get it. Ever.

In the last few months I learned that I couldn’t rely on someone to just know what I want, need, and expect from them; I have to tell them straight up. No insinuating, no hints, no mentioning other people’s situations hoping they’d extrapolate what I needed for myself. I just had to be real and put my cards on the table.

Although it can be scary to verbalize exactly what you want not knowing if the other person is willing to give it, being honest eliminates confusion and miscommunication, while giving you a clear idea of where you stand and if your feelings are being valued.

Lesson #4: I am magnificent.

This needs no explanation, only a reminder. Daily. Each of us is already magnificent. A work in progress for sure, but an exquisite one no less.

What lessons have you learned throughout the years? Share them in the comments section below! 


*Originally published on BritniDanielle.com