5 Life Lessons I Learned During 2018

2018 represented my 25th year and what a year it was! Based on the pronouncements of my 17-year old self, this should have been the year I got married and completed my second degree. My seventeen year old self was wrong and wronger lol. It’s a good thing I learned long ago that, things don’t often occur the way we planned them however, leaving them in the hands of the Author as He works and fulfills on His timing, no matter how impatient I become, is the better choice. Despite things not occurring as my idealistic 17-year old self would have planned, 2018 was a fulfilling year of self-sufficiency with some crucial lessons to learn. so, here goes, 5 lessons I learned during 2018:

 

Lesson 1: Not everyone’s opinions should be needed or heeded.

I recall the first time I heard the quote “a wolf does not concern himself with the opinions of sheep”, I thought I understood it until I realized that I wasn’t living it. An acquaintance bluntly (getting a taste of my medicine is not an easy pill to swallow) pointed out that I concerned myself too much with the opinions of persons who weren’t the subject matter experts. It took months for me to stop seeking or heeding the opinions of persons not qualified to give it. When I achieved this, things changed.

The truth is, whenever you step out to do something, two things will happen:  you may doubt yourself and everyone will want to have a say, especially if the move you are making goes against the norm.

Take the opinions of subject matter experts (the wolves) with a grain of salt and ignore the sheep!

 

Lesson 2: Trust your instincts

This year, I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, which focused on recognizing and trusting the subtle but critical messages that your subconscious sends to your consciousness. In all honesty, this year, if I had trusted my gut, a lot of things would have turned out differently. It is also a bit painful when I realize that the primary reasons I didn’t trust my gut were because:

  1. I got caught in the web of analysis paralysis
  2. I focused on my responsibilities and caught up in the moment
  3. I focused on my conscious interpretation of the circumstances and outcomes I could see.

Faith requires seeing, not with just your eyes, but deeper…sometimes beyond the physical.

Listening to your subconsciousness requires going with your first instinct even if you don’t have physical plausible explanation as to why. Trusting your instincts requires you to be attuned to yourself enough to hear the subliminal messages that your mind communicates. I like to think that our subconscious is just another think that God uses to guide and warn us.

I find it amazing that God equipped each of us with our own personal alarm system. It’s a pity we don’t listen!

 

Lesson 3: Know when to walk away!

Know who you are and what you need.

This year I chose to walk away from people I loved who were toxic for me. I turned my back on things I didn’t believe in and people who didn’t believe in me or refused to invest me. I left my fears and doubts and anything that was not good for me behind!

If anyone had told me that the key to meeting Mr. McDreamy (can’t help my Grey’s Anatomy reference) was to go off on a cruise, I would have packed my bags and gone on holiday without prodding in early 2017. I met and clicked with Mr. McDreamy in late 2017. We invested in early 2018. To me, he was perfect…at least for a few months. While we aligned on a great many things, I soon realized that there were critical areas of misalignment. McDreamy was willing to wait for me to change my mind. I wasn’t! Especially when it came to what I needed or the things that defined me. I wasn’t willing to gamble with that on a whim, so I walked away.

Walking away is a hard and constant struggle but totally worth it.

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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.

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.

Dating Outside the Box

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If you have been following my blog, you should be aware of the yearlong dating challenge I undertook last year March as a form of breaking my three-year dating sabbatical and stepping out and putting myself out there again. This challenge was an immense success and resulted in stories like the ones described in Dating the Dozen and the internal tumult of My Perfect Mistake.

“Did the experience make me better?”, many asked. Yes. It taught me the importance of knowing who you are and what you have to offer as an individual and to not be swayed by the thoughts and perception of others, even if it means walking way from someone who came to mean a lot to you. This experience taught me to walk away from situations that made me feel less than who I am. Most of it, it taught me to be comfortable in my own skin and to laugh, have fun and enjoy the companionship of others, if only for a moment. There is no crime in budgeting time for FUN!

Now, a year of dating equivalents to A LOT of dates! We certainly won’t get into numbers…

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There are two things that persons who have been following my progress want to know:

  1. Where do I find the guys?
  2. What do I do for my dates?

We will leave #1 for another time but I must answer #2 because the follow-up question to that normally focused on whether or not my dates and I went to get drinks or a meal. Well folks, anyone who knows me knows that I am not a foodie. A lot of food gives me anxiety issues if I don’t have help…. so… if my dates were just based on eating, I would have a problem.

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So, here you go! 12 fun activities that I have done in the name of dates:

  1. An evening out Painting and Sipping – This activity gives you and your date a chance to have a bit of relaxing competitive fun. Plus, paint, brushes, bad artists, cheap wine and good company is a good combination to spark a little chemistry and give an evening to remember.Image result for paint and sip gif
  2. Go picnicking in the park – A picnic has been on my bucket list of date ideas for like…forever! Can you imagine my excitement when that wish was fulfilled? Throw in a movie as dusk approaches and chocolate and you will have what can only be described as perfection. If you are not a fan of movies, put on some low music and talk/dance…
  3. Do karaoke together – I don’t recommend doing karaoke with someone who is a stiff-shirt especially if he can’t sing or take a little good-natured ribbing. Karaoke, good company and drinks are a great way to have a very memorable night.Image result for karaoke gif
  4. Shopping for ingredients and then cooking a meal together – I never thought going to the market and supermarket could be fun until I made a date of it. It took it back to caveman days of foraging for food to make a meal. Once the foraging is over, you and your date get a chance to do accomplish something together. Who knows, if you are lucky you might just end up doing a food fight.
  5. Going hiking – If you are a person who loves nature, this is perfect for you. There are a lot of wonderful spots to go hiking. Personally, I prefer afternoons because it is cooler and that also gives me the opportunity to see the sun set.
  6. Doing a 5K together – There is nothing like bonding while running/walking for a cause. and joking about dying during the process. While I did a 5K, you and your date can spend an afternoon volunteering for a cause that you are both passionate about.Image result for 5k gif
  7. Going for a walk and exploring a spot you are both interested in – Throw in some Jackie back, good company and laughter and have yourself a marvelous time
  8. Building a playlist together – If you are both music lovers (I am average), a great date is to have a music face-off that results an a playlist. It’s fun when you are trying to up the song your partner just played, especially if you both like music from different eras. This becomes a great keepsake….well if the date goes well.
  9. Going to a fair/theme park – If you have a big inner child, like me, going to a fair or theme park is a definite “MUST”! Try every ride, every slide and every attraction possible! Do not stop until you are done!
  10. Taking a dancing class – This experience was the one I found the most uncomfortable because I am not much of a dancer. However, taking a salsa class is something else when you have relaxed and become engaged with laughing and dramatizing every body bumps and toe steps! I can honestly declare that in the end, my beginning discomfort was worth it! One of the best dates ever! Bad moves and all!Image result for bad salsa dancing gif
  11. Going to a concert – Personally, I don’t like concerts that have too big an audience of sweaty people who are all up in my space. But there is something to be said about bonding while grinning ridiculously and screaming the lyrics of some of your favorite songs. Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it… My personal favorite happens to be any concert that has a steel band. I have a ridiculous partiality to steel bands :).
  12. Having the person teach you something they like to do or via versus – like how to play pool… I totally never realized how fun learning during a date could be.

You should have noticed by now that I have not mentioned “Netflix and Chill” or some of the common date outlets such as going to watch a movie. The point is, there are many creative date outlets. Get dolled-up or dolled-down, put out your best personality and go out with the intent to have fun. A date is what you make it.

Do you agree? What are some of your favorite date ideas?

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.