An Unexpected Visit Home

Friday, January 27, 2017

This Tuesday morning, I received a text message at 5 am, but instead of reading it, I decided to cling to my pillow a little longer. 30-45 minutes later I awoke to the news, one of my beloved uncles had transitioned. Immediately, my cousin and I texted back and forth. Shamefully, I didn’t have his number saved. From there I spoke with my cousin in Chicago, Memphis and then my mother who had gone to the hospital to be with my uncle, his wife and children.

School that day was unusually good. I found myself crying in my morning class as my students consoled me, ignorant of what happened. My second class seemed to have been sensitive and supportive again, without knowledge of the circumstances.  And my third class, they joyfully pushed me to work, hard.

I thought about my uncle. How goofy and funny he was. How he and his family had been on my mind constantly the past few weeks. How I’d felt ashamed that I hadn’t really talked to them recently. How I had gone home to visit without spending much time at all with him and his family.

As I checked online for airfare, I quickly realized the short notice trip would be more expensive than I could afford. Megabus is almost worthless from Nola being there are only 3 destinations, Memphis not being one of them. I was reluctant to drive, knowing I’d be extremely tired upon my return and teaching; you have to reserve the much needed energy to expel in the classroom.

Greyhound was the choice. I figured I could read, write and think without having to be too too concerned with the road. Did I mention when I’m not driving I often get motion sickness? Unless, someone I trust is driving.

This week, school had been extremely chaotic, and the children haven’t been the cause. The adults have. Standing between women, who can’t squash a disagreement from three years ago and continuously go back and forth, was the cause of many headaches. Including the fact I had my own ideas to meditate on, a part of me embraced taking Friday off for my travel home to Mississippi.

Friday morning, I clung hard to my pillow again. Unlike me. I didn’t have a friend to take me to the bus station, so I reserved an Uber. Running late, I missed my 8:50AM bus.

My Uber driver and I talked for a few minutes about his football career at a school in Mississippi, a beautiful, sweet woman he’d met and foolishly let get away, and how once his divorce was finalized, he would find her.

Talk about disharmony, I was feeling it. Though I was ready to accept the consequences of my being late, the employees of greyhound went out of their way to accommodate me.

After some consultation, a driver agreed to allow me to ride with him to Baton Rouge.

The bus driver and I talked about his home, Nigeria, some customs and how they differ from America, and how he hopes to soon one day settle and have his own family. He, too, said he wasn’t ready to settle when he had the opportunity.

As I made my way home to see my family, I thought about the poem I was writing and would share at my uncle’s funeral, how I’d missed opportunities to love on my Uncle and other family members, and how often we exist in the same space without actually connecting with one another.

I love him very much. He was the first loved one (that I really knew) I’ve had to transition. My first real encounter with death.

I anxiously traveled down the long country road to my grandparents rural and modest estate. There were cars everywhere, family and friends everywhere. Sad occasion but grand gathering.

Going into the house, I was initially afraid to look anyone in their eyes, scared of what I’d find. People were strong. I knew I had to be. My uncle was one who loved laughter and fun.

We must take time to connect, to love, and to appreciate the ones we love. Let’s not be so consumed with our own lives that we neglect to revel in the now. 

 

 

Reflections of My 1st Teaching Experience

Listen to me read this post by clicking  here:

Reflecting on my first semester teaching at what some people would consider one of the worst schools in New Orleans, I feel like a survivor. There were many days I wanted to quit, but I had no peace and I kept coming. I was afraid. Afraid that I was unequipped to be with my students needed. Many times I was there before the sun, on the weekends and on holidays. The children I worked with were difficult to say the least but many of them were in difficult situations. And though often times the energy of that building was depressing, those students were survivors too. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep thinking about my students. They were tough. They were strong. They were fighters. Fighting to survive at home and unfortunately fighting to survive at a school that subjectively seem to be set up to perpetuate the status quo. My kids were fighting for attention. Fighting for consistency. Fighting to be respected and ultimately to be loved.

 

While working with my students I experienced stress, depression, and a loss of energy. I gained an invaluable experience, a motivation, a resilience and an understanding that I was unaware of before. I learned that the system was flawed. I learned that there were many teachers that were worn out, miserable and negative. And lets not mention the politics involved.  Though we have to deal with a lot as teachers, we still have beautiful students facing unimaginable circumstances that deserve everything we have to give them, especially our love and our positivity. There were times it seemed the kids hated you and completely opposed structure, but the fact is you have no idea what they deal with when the exit those school doors. I just hope that there was something I did or said that let them know that they were loved, there was hope for the future and they had greatness within them.

 

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Sitting in the living room of my grandparents home in Chulahoma, MS @ 1AM. Thinking about the next chapter of my life.I’ve just spent a year in New Orleans, LA, away from all my family and anything that even resembled comfort. Didn’t do as much as I thought I would’ve creatively and experienced professional and romantic disappointments. At the very least, I can say I learned somethings and gained some invaluable experience.

Change, it’s inevitable and imperative to growth. We should not only embrace it, we should anticipate it. This place, where I stand, I feel like I’m walking down a dark dirt rock road with a flashlight at night. I feel somewhat numb, because until now I didn’t see where I’d taken any strides forward. For a minute, I felt like I’d wasted a year doing almost nothing. But to believe that, would be to be completely ungrateful for the wonderful things I was afforded to be included in.

I understand that change is coming. I’ve been isolated from everything I cling to, everything that comforts me, my loved ones.

In this time, I must grow spiritually and personally. Learn to deal with things semi-alone. Leaning on Jesus. A woman on an Island, God and myself. Sure, you always need other people; but, I believe this is a time in my life that I need to be alone. She needs to be established. I’m being called to become a stronger, wiser, more independent yet still dependent woman. I love it. For the first time in a while I feel I’ve gained a little bit of clarity. A street light just came on! 🙂

The Importance of Professionalism

Have you ever hired a person to do a job and they didn’t deliver? Were you left with the short end of the stick? How did that make you feel? Or maybe you left someone else wanting more?

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Professionalism is one of the most important qualities you can find in a person these days. Some may even say more important than talent or ability. Sometimes I wonder if people aren’t being professional because they simply don’t know how. Before your start to do business, it is vital that you understand the practices that are common to that industries professionals. These are a few reasons why we  should strive to be more professional, especially if we are in business for ourselves.

1.        It is a reflection on your and/or your company

2.        You want to deliver exactly what you promised.

3.        Being professional will get you more jobs

Your reputation precedes you. If you’re known for being late or not giving your best ability, people will talk and they will tell.  “I hired with her one time and she did absolutely nothing she said she was going to do.” The saying, “bad news spreads like wildfire” is common for a reason.  You don’t want that person to be you. No one wants to be known as a liar. It’s simple, don’t commit to something you know you can’t do. If you’re going to be late, call in advanced. Like you, people seriously value their time. Don’t waste theirs or yours. If you’re asked to do something, and you agree, deliver! And last, communicate. If there is something wrong, it is good practice to always have open lines of communication. I’ve seen many relationships (professional and personal) get strained and eventually disintegrate because people weren’t sharing semantic space. When you don’t tell someone how you feel, your opinions or what’s causing a hindrance in your performance, you leave them to assume and speculate. When people assume they almost never assume the best.
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People sometimes don’t remember exactly what you said, but they remember how you made them feel. When you deliver the goods, people feel good. They’ll always associate you with a good feeling. Sometimes those feelings can even cause a person to remember things better than they were. They can rest assured, if you’re on the job, it will be done and it will be done well.

When you establish a good working/professional relationship with someone they will share that as well. Anytime they need your services they will come to you. If they know anyone else who need your services they will refer you. Happy clients equal more clients. More clients equal more relationships and partnerships which equal more work.

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In the professional world it’s all about building relationships. People like to work with those they enjoy being around. You have to decide before you even start working, what kind of relationship do you want to have. One that’s strong, pleasurable and profitable? Or one that’s frustrating and draining. You get out what you put in.

Comment below and tell me about a time someone lost your business because their professionalism disappointed you.

Don’t end up on the casting couch!

 

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It was 2010 and I was a 20 year old senior in college. I was sitting in a somewhat uncomfortable Jury meeting with three people who all served, at some point or another as my professors, directors and mentors. It was tense and certain parts even a little hard to deal with. One of my professors asked that I submit a written code of ethics. They all agreed about their concern that I could potentially end up on someone’s “casting couch”. While, initially it was a bit offensive I later understood what they were trying to communicate. In my mind, me ending up on someone’s casting couch was NEVER an option, and it hurt a little that people I thought knew me well were unsure of that. They felt that I was naive and while this term was used to describe me a lot I regarded it with the deepest resentment. In my mind the word naïve was synonymous with foolish and unintelligent. I am a seeker of knowledge and curious by nature so I didn’t take too kindly to this stigma. But that is an entirely different story within itself.

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In the process of doing this assignment I gained an understanding. When you don’t stand for something, you can and will inevitably fall for anything. If people don’t consciously think about what they will and won’t do to get the things they want, they could end up doing things they never thought possible. Things that could cost them money, assets, relationships (professional and personal), their self-respect/dignity and the list could go on to infinity.

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When a person is strict about what they will and will not do and what they will and will not accept it is evident in the very essence of their being. That alone will cut out majority of the bull, however there are still some people who want to push the boundaries.
I challenge you, make a conscious effort to think about this. What are you not comfortable doing, even if it means you gain success, money, power and relationships? No matter what industry you are in, doesn’t matter what your dreams are. Don’t compromise, not at all! Don’t end up on your version of the “casting couch”.

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Taking care of your instruments

Would a painter leave his (or her) easel sitting out in the rain? Would a violinist not take the utmost care of his (or her) violin? When something is your livelihood you guard it, almost with your life. Being a creative performer my instruments are my voice, my body, and my mind. I have to nurture these things in the same way mother would her child.

As an actress, spoken word artist and speaker; it is very important that my voice has variety. Can it be strong when necessary? Can I project my voice to the last seat in a venue? Can I be heard and more importantly can I be understood? Do I need to work on my articulation, pronunciation and enunciation? Do I know how to use the right inflection and intonation to effectively get the point across? Can I correctly master dialect? Can I completely drop my own dialect? It’s important that I exercise my voice by doing warm-ups and other exercises. It also important to protect myself against illness by being properly nourished and wearing the proper attire during cooler weather. It’s also very important that I don’t damage my vocal cords with excessive or years of drinking and smoking which has been proven to be harmful.

My physique is also a very important part of my business. I need to have endurance, stamina and agility for times when I need to dance (and don’t mention singing simultaneously). My walk and posture need to exude confidence. No director wants to work with an actress who constantly needs affirmation and can never fully commit to a physical action because she isn’t exactly comfortable in her own skin. When you don’t love your body, it’s painfully obviously to everyone else. (Especially if your job is to study human behavior and body language.) Nobody will listen to a motivational speaker whose posture says, “I’m unhappy” or “I’m depressed”. These things are very important. I work out because I want the best instrument possible. I eat healthy because I know it’s essential that I remain energized and in good health. Eating healthy not only gives you energy but it helps your body function at it’s peak, grows healthy hair and beautiful skin that doesn’t age as quickly.

Everyone in the world has to use their mind and brainpower. Being able to quickly think critically and creatively is important. Having an interesting interpretation, a vast imagination and impressive memory is essential for cold readings, auditions, writing poems, plays and speeches. Being a creative thinker helps you get yourself out of unpleasant situations. Being innovative puts you steps ahead of your competitors. I train my brain by constantly reading and learning new things learning how to think positive and by doing creative visualization and memory exercises.

To many people this seems like too much work or maybe like huge sacrifice. I say create a paradigm shift. Have fun with it instead of viewing it as work. Enjoy it. A wise man once said, “don’t judge your success by what you have but by what you gave up to get it”.

What’s your instrument? How do you train and hone your skills?

The Artist Pledge

The ability to create is truly a God-given gift. God, the master creator, has given us all a part of himself. When a painter paints his energy he goes into every stroke of the brush.

Artistry’s purpose is to move you; inspire you; entertain you; persuade you; provoke an emotional response. Nowadays there are too many “artists” content with the profit that comes along with promoting promiscuity, violence, materialism, womanizing and drug abuse. Although art is a reflection of society, it should aid in it’s progression, not contribute to its regression.

Do people not know that the content they pushed into the world directly affects individuals, especially a young and impressionable one. Let’s use our divine talents to uplift others, realizing that this life isn’t all about you.

If you are reading this and you’re a writer, musician, instrumentalist, singer, rapper, poet or an artist of any sort I dare you to join this pledge. Pledge to inform, educate, lift the consciousness, inspire and entertain our audiences!

Making a commitment too YOU,

Many people will take care of commitments to others and neglect their own (not saying that you should follow through with your commitments). We see it all the time and the person we are looking at just might be looking back at us in the mirror. The mom who uses all her energy to care for her children and husband but has nothing left for herself. The man working crazy hours when he’d rather be home bonding with his children or working on opening his own business. We can kill ourselves to be there for other people and employers; can we put this much effort and commitment to ourselves.

You may have wanted to write a book, take a vacation, go to the spa, start a business but time and lack of energy has talked you out of it.

When we want or need something, we have to take full responsibility of making it happen, no one else will.

Yesterday after church I decided I to fast. I wasn’t going to watch TV,eat, listen to music, use the telephone or Internet. I needed some time to exist without noise, without any outside influence, spend some time with God. By the end of the night I turned on the TV and ate some chicken salad and crackers. I completely broke my commitment to myself and more importantly to God. Well the cracker I was eating broke off one of my teeth. My tooth scratched my tongue all night and I can’t consume solid food for at least 30 hours, maybe longer. (I have a dentist appointment tomorrow) I’m sure this would have eventually happened, (Not saying this was a punishment or anything) but it certainly sucks that it happened now, like this. I’m going to take it as a lesson learned. I constantly make commitments to myself and God but I rarely keep them. From now on, I will follow through on these commitments the same way I would for a job or a friend.

When you compromise on your own commitments and goals, you’re compromising yourself.

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I recently made a verbal agreement with a businessman, in which he volunteered to compensate me for a 2 hour drive I hadn’t planned on taking. After the trip was completed, he never mentioned anything about gas money. (Neither did I)

When you tell someone you’re going to do something, you should do it. The recipient should not have to ask you OR remind you. As the old saying goes, “you don’t have to twist someone’s arm to do something they say they want to do”.

This brings to my attention how important it is to mean what you say, and say what you mean. Being a person who was once a prisoner of my own words, I would often not live by that principal. Whether that meant not calling when you said that you would or simply not telling someone they offended you, when they did. I was most afraid of offending someone (Even though they obviously didn’t care for my feelings)

If people can’t trust your word then they can’t trust you. You are undependable. Whether it’s accurate or not, your reputation often times precedes you. You don’t want to be known as a liar or an untrustworthy person.

I’m sure, at some point in life, we all have been guilty of not taking ourselves seriously. (If you don’t take yourself and your words seriously no one else will) I pledge to put thought into all of my verbal commitment and things I say in general. If I’m not going to call, I’ll say just that. (Hopefully they’ll be a nice way to say it) If I’m feeling something that needs to be shared, I’ll share it. If someone asks my opinion, they’ll get my honest opinion. (In a polite manner of course ) And because I’m not perfect and for some reason I can’t follow through, I’ll be courteous enough to give the heads up.

(But seriously I don’t like it when people commit to something they have absolutely no intention of doing)

What are your thoughts?

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