Next Step: Being a hoe? Part 1

I recently said to a friend the next chapter of my life will be called “When I was a Hoe.” I went on to say when you read that chapter, to cut a long story short, just skip to the end, it will say “I’m still a hoe.”

It’s a rather strange way to introduce you readers to myself but I think you will find out I’m a self-deprecating mess and you will love me for it.

Chanel has been trying to get me to contribute to her blog for the longest time. I think I was her first ever editor. I always resisted the urge because I always thought I didn’t have much to say. However the events of the last few months of my life got me thinking, maybe I should find a contructive way to work through my emotions. Since I’m a professional writer I thought why not write it down.

This first post will take you through my ‘hoe’ origins. In the beginning God created heaven and earth, but, if Chanel’s religion is to be believed I came some two thousand years later. I was a smart youngster who did well in school and watched way too much television, so, I got the concept in my head that a guy should have one girlfriend. I found the person I thought was going to be perfect for me.

S.W was beautiful, smart, untamed and best of all she admitted she liked me. She was the first girl to ever do that to me. I was already impressed but now I was hooked. I did all the things I thought should be done in young love – I was about 13. We held hands, we talked for hours about the most random stuff, whenever we’d meet I would sneak a kiss or she would find somewhere to be alone.

But she was also my first heartbreak. The first step on my road to “Hoe-dom” come around next week, I’ll tell you all about it.

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A Goal-den Journey

It felt like just yesterday when I decided I was ready to pursue my Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. Today in my mind but my journey began in May of 2017.

Having defined my goal, I begin reviewing what would be needed to accomplish it. I realized immediately that whilst I would have liked to have gone straight for the PMP exam, I didn’t have enough work experience hours managing projects. I could take the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) instead because it had pre-requisites that I already fulfilled. With that realization, I made a commitment to myself: I would break my plan into two sub-parts with the intent to complete part 1 in July 2017 and part 2 within a year of completing part 2.

My plan started on track but sometimes everything doesn’t work out perfectly. By the time I begin preparations to pay for the CAPM exams, I found an unforeseen issue! The exam body did not facilitate the online exam in Jamaica! Imagine my shock! Based on my initial reading and planning, I had not come across this bit of information! Even the exam facilitator that I had intended to use had not known this. I immediately set out to verify and determine alternative options.

Before long, I learnt that the exam body intended to facilitate the online exam in Jamaica by August 2017. Though I had intended to complete part 1 by July 2017, I decided to wait and took the exam in August 2017. Much to my delight, I completed the exam successful and shifted my focus to part 2.

Part 2 was much trickier! I needed to gain about 1000 project management work experience hours as well as study. At the time, I had just been onboarded to a new project that was beginning to ramp up.

Every project manager will tell you of that one project that totally made them:

  1. Question and redefine all they thought they know and understand about people and projects.
  2. Doubt themselves and their abilities.
  3. Sincerely wish they could walk away.

This was the project for me. I now fondly refer to it as my “hell project” because it was that one project that truly shook me to the core and taught me to never take anything at face value when it comes to projects “trust but verify and verify and verify again.”. Some positives came from it though. It was the project that I put so much effort into that I earned the 1000+ working hours by January 2018.

With that aspect completed, I breathed a sigh of relief and begun preparations to study for my PMP exam with the optimistic goal to complete everything by May 2018. Again, my plans were thwarted because of the amount of effort the project required. I worked truly long hours and by the time my day ended, I was too exhausted and wound too tight to even consider taking up my textbook. By April 2018, I readjusted my plan and shifted my most-likely completion goal to June 2018, factoring in the project’s completion date of a month earlier.

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Lessons from the Little Robe

So lately, my youngest sister and I have been spending a lot of time together. During our teenaged years, we weren’t close but I’ve come to really appreciate our growing closeness. As I get older, I realize that family truly means a lot.

Enough with the sappy-ness. Here are a few lessons I’ve picked up from the younger “Robe”, my bighead-in-crime.

Lesson #1:

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Wind down. Be silly! Be sillier! If you feel like singing at the top of your lungs to some of your favorite lyrics, do it! Let down your hair and just embrace your silly inner child. Don’t hold back because the crowd is watching. They are all awaiting a similar permission to be free. As we Jamaicans would say “be fool fool and nuh watch nuh face.”

Lesson #2:

Be unapologetically you. Sometimes I spend a lot of time time trying to fit into the image that people have of me. To my mother, I’m the responsible daughter who factors her family’s needs into all decisions. To my coworkers, I’m the one who always delivers, sometimes at the expense of myself. To my friends, I’m the one with the advice who seems to always have it together.

Honestly, being all that all the time is exhausting. One of the things I’ve come to recognize is that despite putting your all to meet others expectations, you will still end up not meeting all. On top of that, people will forget all the great stuff you have accomplished, the moment they think you slipped up.

The best strategy then is to live for you. Be you! Live for your expectations! Anything else is just pure madness.

Lesson #3:

Use the brakes. This one will always be a joke between us. My first driving lesson, I took a corner and panicked when I realized there was a car on the curb that I couldn’t bypass quickly enough. My sister kept yelling “Brake! Brake!” as the car connected with the one on the curb. Over time, I’ve come to utilize the warning “brake” in my daily life.

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Lonely and Alone

This one is tough guys. This one is hard to write. Last week, much to my amazement, I heard myself saying, “I’ve changed this year. I feel much lighter.” It was strange but I’ve never thought much beyond the changes that I had felt in my gut needed to be made. Neither did I examine the emotional reasoning behind logical actions such as leaving my former church. I guess you could say that in that moment, examining the situation too closely would have revealed truths I was in no way ready to handle. It was time for a self-discovery.

As I thought back on last year, I could clearly hear myself questioning the reason why I had so many people around me but only few realized I was stressed and unhappy. A lot were quite happy to add more drama to my plate. I looked deeper and realized that at that moment in my life, unhappiness was too mild a word, I was depressed.

Acknowledging depression is a hard pill to swallow because when you generally think of depression, the image of the girl with the bright aura and smile doesn’t readily come to mind. Instead, we generally visualize the emos, dressed in black, sullen, and looking for all the world to see “depressed”.

I remember a few years ago, I saw the story of a young woman who was dead in her apartment for two entire years before any noticed. I remember thinking, “How could that situation have happened? Didn’t she have friends, family, neighbors, etc.” I am afraid of getting there. Dying and no one noticing. At the time, I thought to myself, that could never happen to me. I have way too many people around me.

Yet, last year, I remember sitting down in church and on the choir, and wondering how could I be surrounded by so many people and still feel so alone. Aren’t these the same people who hugged me on a Sunday and called me “daughter”? Why did I feel so alone?

Why was my phone full of church contacts who, for the most part, only called or messaged me when they needed something? Why these numerous contacts only seemed interested in the wide white smile but none took the time to look beyond and see the sadness in my eyes? These were the persons I prayed with. These were the persons I sang on the choir with. These were the persons I joker around with. These were the persons I spent a large percentage of my free time with. These were the persons I thought of as friends yet when I needed, no one knew me enough to see.

Where were all my friends? Why didn’t my family notice something was off about me?

Honestly, I felt betrayed by God too. Where was He when I was internally screaming loudly? Begging Him for a physical sign that He had heard my cry? Begging Him for someone to speak directly to me, to my feeling during one of the Sunday messages. Where was He? Why didn’t he give me the sign I needed?

I can remember thinking to myself, “So many people but only a handful.” It was amazing that despite me knowing so many persons, only a few thought to check if I was okay when I went MIA. Even fewer thought to push deeper when I gave my regular “I’m okay” to the general polite question, “How are you?”

A part of me recognized that I wasn’t needed. I didn’t want to be in such an environment where everybody looked but few really saw. I recognized I couldn’t stay. My mitigation action was simple. I let go of my “BIG” church and a lot of acquaintances. I chose a smaller church and began focusing my energies on building strong relationships with the few friends who have shown themselves as being worthy of the title. I gave myself the permission to be free of the things I didn’t believe in at heart and focused on ensuring my emotional health. Eventually, I felt lighter.

In retrospect, I wondered how I got to the point of being depressed and yet no one or myself seemed to notice. The answer hit me. I was always the one who could fix it. Most of my acquaintances believed that I always had it together. I didn’t need help, instead, I was the one capable and always willing to offer the assistance. It just didn’t cross their minds that maybe I needed help of a different nature.

Guys, I hope my blubbering makes sense. I want to call you to action. I came close but I escaped from the clutches of depression. Don’t be one of the persons who looks but do not see. Care enough to stop and take the time to see beneath the surface. Care enough to ask deeper questions.

XOXO,
Chañel.

I Don’t Even Like Wine!

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I guess you can say that the cat is out of the bag with my post title, huh? I remember the first time I had wine…my initial thought was “who in heaven’s name would drink this horrible-tasting stuff?” Well, hello, it’s clear that I did for years… Fabulous toast to my idiocy…?

After my first experience, everytime I found myself in a social setting, I opted to fit in, be polite and have what everyone else was having. Before I realised it, it was considered my drink of choice and I found myself buying wine to relax after a long day at work. Despite this, my tastebuds protested everytime I decided to take a sip but I kept at it! While some were better than others, acquired taste is a myth (well except for coffee)! It was simply a long journey of taste after taste! Acquired taste, my ass! 😂

Well, one day I woke up! As I held a glass in my hand, I asked myself, “why the hell do you keep having this stuff when it’s obvious you don’t enjoy it…?” I had no answer.

I realized something though. I had developed this attitude towards quite a few things in my life. I did them for the sake of acceptance or just to fit in… Like the times I:

  1. Kept silent about something because everyone seemed to be on a different wavelength and I didn’t want to be the dissenting voice.
  2. No longer recognized myself but clung to the version of the person everyone expected me to be while I slowly felt like screaming inside.
  3. Refrained from saying no although I felt like I was constantly being taken advantage of.
  4. I refrained from voicing how I felt about the action of others because it offended others or resulted in argument that I couldn’t foster the energy to fight about.

All these are done at a cost to myself! These costs added up! Everytime I bit my tongue, I embraced another aspect of timidity and lost a piece of myself! Everytime I said yes when I wanted to say no, I lost the opportunity to do something I really wanted to do. Only to do something I had little desire. And everytime, I chose to cling to a older version of myself, my evolved self screamed a bit louder.

There has to be a tipping point though. I had to seriously ask myself: “How much of myself was I willing to forsake and sacrifice in order to fit in?” Mine took a while to come but when it did, I realized that there was no law that required my continuous agreement with everyone but myself. If I didn’t like something, I had the power to either accept it or walk away. I also realized that I didn’t have to be loud to be heard because my actions spoke volumes. The hardest part about coming to that conclusion was taking the first step. And even after the first step, it is still not easy when everytime you are faced with a situation where you are forced to make a decision about putting forward something the majority would agree with or putting a foot forward and being willing to say what I think and feel. It’s hard to consciously chose you!

Step by step. Day by day. I have decided to choose me. Be true to myself. Will you join me on my journey of truth?

XOXO,

Chañel.

Self-Honesty

I am an hypocrite. In fact, if many of us should stop and think about it, we are very hypocritical when it comes to being honest with ourselves. By extension, we become hypocrites with God and others because frankly, in order to be honest with God or others, you must first be honest with yourself.

I look back on some of the years I once deemed as the best of my prayer life. These were the years I spent talking to God about others and their problems. I never spoke to Him about myself beyond the face value stuff. Back then, I believed my prayer life rocked as I spent time loading on the godly platitudes, raising prayer requests and reciting all the lovely turn of phrases I had heard during service at church. I was a living-walking modern-day hypocritical Pharisee.

I look back now and laugh because I realize that in those instances I treated God as an acquaintance. I also spent a lot of time running from myself. But how could I be honest that I did not love all my neighbors? That there were some persons I truly disliked despite trying hard to find the good in them? How about areas of the Bible that I struggled to obey? How about church rules that I disagreed with and felt really strongly about? How could I acknowledge my struggles to myself much less voice them to God or anyone else? How could I bare my soul to God when I didn’t have the courage to bare it to myself? It was far easier to pretend that everything was hokey-dokey than be the sole representation of imperfection or voice of dissent. It was far easier to pretend to be the perfect Christian. Everybody else seemed to have it together, why shouldn’t I?

Those years helped no one. I know they certainly didn’t help me or my relationship with God. One of the reasons I love King David is because of his brutal honesty to God about his nature, even in moments when he is not quick on the uptake. It takes a lot to be able to acknowledge that you have messed up or that you were wrong or that you are not perfect and need help. Moments like those require you to be brutally honest with yourself and humble enough to make the acknowledgement.

Frankly, that’s the way I want to live my life. I choose to be an active participant in my life over the casual observer. I choose to be introspective and insightful. I choose to be more than the regular indoctrinated Christian. I choose to be honest with myself, God and others. I choose to live a life of honesty.

I would like you to join me in making a commitment to ourselves:

We will take the time to discover our true feelings and be honest about them to ourselves so that we can be honest with God and others.

XOXO,
Chañel.

Complaining…

As my vacation came to an end, I spent long moments reflecting. These moments were quite different from the first half of my vacation. Those were days I spent on a cruise mingling, making new friends, enjoying the entertainment and exploring new locations. These were all activities designed to feed my outgoing side. The only times I took for deep introspection were pre-dawn when I religiously got up to catch the sunrise. These were some of the most beautiful sunrises I had ever seem. As I stood on the ship’s deck and gazed at the sun rising from the horizon, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of God for His majestic works.

My latter vacation days were totally different. I spent hours on introspection as I thought about who I am and my year. I guess you guys can call this my year in reflection post. For the first time in many years, I can honestly say that I cried a lot this year! I cried during movies, I cried when I felt hurt or overwhelmed and I laughed until I cried. The difference though was that I ensured that for each of those moments I cried, I found even more powerful and soul-cleansing moments to laugh and smile about. So even though I cried a lot, I also laughed, smiled and played a lot.

I have a confession to make. This year, especially towards the end, there were many times I felt tired and ready to give up. I had some serious lows.

  1. Early in the year, my sister and I met in an accident with a Leyland truck on her way to drop me to work.
  2. My youngest nephew ended up in the hospital twice this year.
  3. While learning to drive, I hit someone’s car.
  4. I lost a close friend.
  5. I had my first failure to effectively close out a project. 
  6. While dealing with the ending craziness of that project, I received news that my grandmother was in the hospital and could have died. 
  7. While dealing with the craziness of the project, I got ill. My anemia started acting up to the point where I shivered constantly even in warm weather and fought waves of nausea and dizziness. As if that wasn’t enough, I also had to deal with issue that had affected me emotionally. In truth, #6 and #7 left me an emotional wreck.

In those moments, I can truly understand if God felt a little exasperated with me but through it all, He patiently taught me to focus on the silver lining that existed in each dark cloud.

  1. Both my sister and I escaped the accident without a physical scratch. We were alive! The car got fixed!
  2. My nephew is home, happy and well. None of his illnesses affected him long term.
  3. We got the man’s car fixed although he was a bastard about the issue.
  4. Maybe that friend was not supposed to be a part of my life beyond that point. My life now has less drama.
  5. The project gave me a lot of experience that I can use to effectively build my career. I also got a chance for a do-over.
  6. My grandmother is now home and recuperating.
  7. That period gave me the chance to see what I am made of. Despite being ill and feeling intimidated at times, I was not built to break.

You are not built to break either. Don’t waste time and energy complaining! Even in the darkest of storms, you can find the light. After all, with storms come the lightening. Loves, you are stronger than you think because it is in your weakness that you will find God’s strength.

XOXO,
Chañel.