Monday Notes: Talking to Myself (Kwoted)

In 2015, I published my first book called, Kwoted. It is a book of original quotes that would pop into my head during my commute between Jacksonville and Tallahassee. It is only available on Kindle, and aside from glowing reviews from my goddaughter and cousin, I’m not sure what the actual impact was.

Recently, though, it dawned on me that this book was me talking to me.

Setting and Attaining Goals

This first section is heavy on believing in oneself and ignoring everything else, something I used to have an issue with. One kwote, “Remember, you can either perpetuate the status quo or envision a new reality; the choice is yours,” was solely for me. At the time, I was doing what I thought I had to do once I attained a terminal degree…work at a university, even if it meant sacrificing my time and health driving up and down the interstate. Once I realized I could create whatever kind of life I wanted, things changed.

Likewise, this kwote, “If you share your plans with someone and they give you the worst-case scenario, then find someone else to share your plans with” is something that used to be challenging. Whether it was a family member or a friend, I noticed there were two types of responses. Either someone would find 7,999 reasons why my ideas wouldn’t work, or someone would simply say, “That’s cool.” I started spending more time talking to the “That’s cool” people. My life improved.

Relationship Perspectives

Are you surprised that I have a section about relationships in this book? My dysfunctional relationship with my father influenced some of these kwotes. “Learn when enough is enough, for you, no matter what anyone else says,” is something I had to tell myself. This stemmed from years of everyone advising that my dad is still my dad, to convince me to continue talking to a man who made little to no effort to connect with me. Like any relationship, I had to determine when to end it.

There are also a few self-love kwotes in this part because I delved deep into understanding my self-worth and self-love issues. It was imperative that I begin to heal my past to have a better future with myself, which eventually improved my relationship with my husband and others.

Konscious Life Perspectives

From 1989-2014, I’d mostly lived my life on autopilot. I’ve written before about how my marriage had turned into a checklist of achievements. Well, my life, in general was about ticking boxes: attaining college degrees, teaching at a higher level, becoming department chair, graduating from a Tier 1 institution, and on and on and on. Enough was enough. I needed to take control by thinking about what I wanted to do. Section three begins with this kwote, “Sometimes you just need a different point of view in life.” I permitted myself to stop, tap into who I really was and what I really wanted, and then proceeded from there. For me, a “different view” meant a more conscious one.

“Give yourself permission to grow in ways that you value” was definitely to me. I needed to break free from the box I’d put myself in. Was I constantly achieving so that my dead mother would be proud? Was I accomplishing things to prove my biological mother’s decision to give birth wasn’t for naught? I had to figure it out, and I had to break free from the cookie-cutter way I’d learned to live that was based on society and familial values. I had to determine my own ideals and pathways.

Opinions and Judgements

I used to be quite the judgmental person. To be fair, I spent a lot of time with a very judgmental grandmother, and as we know, our caregivers are our first teachers. Eventually, I befriended people like me—judgmental. One friend and I used to sit on the phone and judge the shit out of others, like a part-time job. I’d gotten so bad that other friends called me out on my comments.

So, in 2014, I committed to trying not to judge anyone. Kwotes emerged. “You don’t have to denigrate other people’s choices in order to validate your own” is a passive way I noticed that people judge others. My favorite is “Your view of me doesn’t matter, and neither does my view of you.” This one tends to be controversial, but I stand by it. Once you’re living consciously and confidently, how can anyone else’s opinion (which is typically based on fear) matter? It doesn’t.

Kwoted was the voice I heard when as I struggled in these four areas. Whether it was my higher self, as some believe, my inner being, God, the Universe, or a higher power, it was there, guiding me on my journey to shape the person you know and the blog you read today.

Interested in this book? Purchase here.

Otherwise, as usual, I’d love to hear any comments about the kwotes I’ve shared.


Monday Notes: A Confession on My 25th Year of Teaching

Twenty-five years ago, I began my career in education as an English teacher. However, I didn’t enter the profession out of a profound sense of passion. Here’s what happened:

I began undergrad as a business major: business management, to be exact. However, there was an assessment everyone took to test out of remedial math (Math 109). I took and failed the test during orientation. Then, I took it again and failed at the beginning of Math 109. The university offered it again mid-semester. Failed. And again shortly after, which is when I passed.

That’s when I figured I needed to change my focus. How was I going to be a business major if I couldn’t do basic math?

I sought advice from one of my aunts, who suggested I become an English major. When I talked to the advisor, she said English education was a better option.

Fast forward twenty-five years, a masters, and doctorate degree later, and I’m still teaching.

I’ve thought about if this one choice was a “mistake.” I mean, clearly, I have a passion for reading and writing, but did I need to become an educator? Maybe I could’ve been an investigative journalist, as my blogging buddy Dr. D. recently observed. Or perhaps I could’ve just begun a writing career twenty years earlier.

I don’t know. Falling into an abyss of what ifs is not good. I do not recommend it.

Here’s what I’ve decided.

There are no mistakes. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices. But our choices are tied to who we are, our level of awareness at the time, and our self-imposed limitations.

Whether consciously or unconsciously, we’re always making choices.

At the time, I didn’t have a home to return to in Chicago, and I damn sure wasn’t going back to live with my grandparents. I just wanted to do whatever would afford me a salary and a ticket toward independence. An education degree did that.

However, I also didn’t know any writers. I’d only seen so-called safe and secure jobs: pharmacy technician, accountant, social worker. I couldn’t conceive of a career in writing, much less pursue a degree that may lead to one. My choices seemed limited.

I know what you may be thinking…why get more advanced degrees in the field? My answer is the same: lack of awareness and self-imposed limitations.

I had no idea I could’ve easily switched to an MFA or even a PhD in English, so I continued the same path I’d begun in 1991: Education.

So, here I am.

I don’t have regrets, though. No. That’s not what this is about. I’m writing this to encourage anyone out there who believes he, she, or they only have one path. Not to sound cliché, but there are infinite paths for living life. Infinite. Think about what you want to do. Research your options. Talk to people who are doing what you think you want to do. Then, make up your own way based on your informed decision.

If what you want to do isn’t reflected in your family or environment, then don’t be afraid to create a life based on what you want. Guess what? That’s what I’ve done over the past seven years.

Today, I own a successful business, with no business degree. I’m a successful writer, without having an English degree.

I’m convinced each of us can do what we want. All we have to do is first believe it is possible.



Behind the Kwote: Self-love

At the risk of sounding totally nutz, I’m sharing with you a letter I wrote to myself in 2014. I’d forgotten about it. And as I re-read the words, the whole experience seems surreal, almost as if someone else really did write this to me. This, along with many other things is what helped me make different choices about who I wanted to be in this world.

Dear Kathy,

First, love yourself more. Self-love is very important. You’ve even quoted Whitney Houston on Valentine’s Day, “The greatest love of all is learning to love yourself.” Self-love is the most important thing that you can learn on this earth. The sooner you believe you deserve love from yourself, the sooner all other forms of love will shine and make sense. Loving yourself will help you feel more confident. Loving yourself will help you open up to the love of others, some of whom have been trying to love you with their whole hearts most of their lives.

Second, you are not perfect. No one is. Sure, you’re perfectly made the way that you are, but you are human, which means that you have flaws. Do not beat yourself up for these human ways. Everyone is born with something that is bound to make them feel bad or serve as a life lesson. You are not the only one with these imperfections. Accepting them will help you complete the first task, love yourself.

self_love_goal_kegarlandThe third, and final thing I want to tell you dear heart is to listen to your instinct. Your inner-being knows what is best. You have feelings that alert you to when something doesn’t feel right. Listen to those feelings from now on. Ignoring them only makes for a more challenging time. And life here on earth is not intended to be that challenging. Remember, you create your experiences by the choices that you make. Make conscious and healthy choices for you, whether it be for relationships or for professional standing.

With love,

~kg

Happy Valentine’s Day! What would you advise your former or future self?

Behind the Kwote: Today’s Choices

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Kwoted. ©2015. K E Garland All Rights Reserved.

A friend of mine, who is more like a little sister, found herself pregnant with someone who she probably wouldn’t have consciously chosen to father her child. Her mom didn’t understand how it happened. She questioned how her daughter could have gotten pregnant, especially considering all of the twenty-something years of sage advice she’d provided. Her friends were disappointed; many of them had planned out their lives, as some of us do when we’re younger. They’d determined this wasn’t the path hers should take. I listened to each judgment and tried my best not to add my own. While everyone attempted to figure out how this happened, the answer seemed so simple to me: today’s choices determine tomorrow’s experiences.

It wasn’t just true for my friend’s unplanned pregnancy; it was part of my story as well. I was trying to figure out how I ended up with a road trip sized commute to work. The answer was the same. Reaping what you sow isn’t a new concept. But it seems every now and then we wake up wondering how did I get here, in this space, with this experience? The reality is whatever you’re focused on today will build future benefits or future challenges. So, it’s best to get in tune with who you are and what you really want so that you’ll be able to make conscious decisions with which you can live.

Behind the Kwote: Your Own Biggest Fan

This was one of the first kwotes I created. Many friends and family call, text or inbox me for advice and encouragement. Listening to someone with my whole heart and then offering what I think will inspire them is inherent for me. In fact, a former student asked if I was a high school cheerleader because of how much I stand behind and uplift others.

biggest_fan_2Well, there came a time during my 360-mile commute that I felt I had no one to reassure me. Even a cheerleader needs encouraging, I posted to FB. I couldn’t think of one person who I could turn to that would offer words of motivation. If I called my grandmother, then she’d remind me of how dumb I was to have taken the job in the first place. If I talked with my husband, then he would remind me that this was a choice I made, regardless of his early warnings. If I spoke to anyone else, then they would try to solve the problem for me and that wasn’t what I wanted or needed at the time. I wanted someone to tell me, “Hey! You can do it! You’ve done more challenging things in your life. This is no different.” I found that the only person that was going to tell me that was, ME. Consequently, this kwote was born.  Cause, guess what? Every now and then, we all have to dig deep and find that inner strength. Trust me; it’s there.

Behind the Kwote: Your Journey

journey_zero_explanationThis kwote popped into my mind after I’d announced to several people that I was leaving my tenure-track position at Florida State University. There was no visible job prospect in April 2015, but my intuition had spoken and I was listening. Even though my instinct was clear to me it wasn’t to others.

My cousin’s response, “Are you crazy?” Mind you he’d asked me the same question when I announced the commute.

My best friend at the time replied, “What??? Now I can’t say my best friend is a professor at FSU!”

My daughter’s reaction, “Are we gonna be poor?”

My aunt’s email, “So what if you’re the only Black person? Since when did that become a big deal?”

My friend and university’s alum, “What? Why?”

This is just a small number of people and their opinions. But in my mind, there were far too many and I didn’t feel as if I owed anyone an explanation for decisions about my life. With the exception of my daughter, none of these people would be affected by how I generated income. This kwote helped me to see the truth.

kwotedbyBLOG

Oftentimes, this time of year prompts reflection and a sense of renewal. But sometimes we neglect to follow our hearts and inner voice because we’re worried about what family and friends will think about our new paths. Let me tell you something. They’ll be just fine! Now, let me ask this question. If you don’t follow your intuition, will you?

kwoted

Behind the Kwote: Gratitude is a Way of Life

gratitude

Here in the States, we pause and give thanks on the third Thursday in November, typically with our families. My family, immediate and extended are no different. You can find any one of us sitting around a table of food, perhaps holding hands and thoughtfully announcing what we’re thankful for. But remove the holiday, and I’m not convinced the sentiment remains.

Take my cousins for example. No matter what birthday or Christmas gift I sent, they never used to call to say, “Thank you,” or even text an appreciative message.

Similarly, my brother and sister-in-law rarely thanked me for the birthday or Christmas gifts I’d send to their four children. Even if presents blatantly came from me, without Dwight’s knowledge, my brother-in-law would call or text my husband, unless he heard these words: That came from Kathy, man. Then, he would reach out and thank me.

I wasted hours, days, weeks fixated on solving this “dilemma.” If I held the door open for a stranger, more than likely the person would mutter, “Thank you.” If I gave a coworker a going away card, then the colleague would probably say, “Thanks!” But some family members? Nope.

I was hurt.

I was hurt, until I began keeping a gratitude journal. Here is where I began writing five things I was thankful for each day. I was hurt, until I completed a gratitude meditation. Here is where I learned to be grateful. I was hurt, until I spent 30 days expressing gratitude to friends and family who’d positively influenced my life. Here is where I learned to stop seeking external gratitude.

It took about five years, but now, I live a life of gratitude. Consequently, Thanksgiving is meaningless to me in terms of giving thanks. I give to whomever I can, as often as I can, with no expectation of verbal reward.

What about you? Are you more thankful on Thanksgiving? Is it important to hear the words thank you? Does it matter?

Behind the Kwote: *Flawed

flawedI’ve spent the majority of my life in shame. I was ashamed of being adopted. I was ashamed that my mother had a terminal illness. Then, I was ashamed that my dad gave up his parental rights. I was ashamed that I had to move to a small town my senior year and graduate with 25 people I didn’t really know. I had developed eighteen years of shame.

Once I began undergrad, I unconsciously created my own shameful experiences. Lovers and sexual indiscretions piled up. At that point, the shame covered me. But I kept it hidden.

So there I was, carrying and hiding decades of shame. I doubted that others had similar challenges. Everyone looked so perfect to me, with two loving parents and crystal clear paths paved with luck and fortune. Around 2004, I attracted more authentic conversations. Former students, friends, family, and coworkers opened up to me about their pasts and presents.

Boy, was I wrong.

Everyone else felt just as crappy as I did. They hid it, like me. Consequently, I began to reflect not only on my own, but also other people’s experiences. Rarely do friends and family want to share their innermost feelings for fear of being judged. For fear of being shamed. What is this cycle we’ve created? We live in shame and don’t talk about it because we don’t want to be shamed.

Once I figured this out, I wrote this kwote as a reminder: Don’t worry; the person next to you is flawed too!

*Disclaimer: Typically “flaws” refer to outward appearances, but I use it here to discuss so-called inward flaws.

Black in America

It’s a great time to be African American. Just check your television listings. It’s like this:

I mean really. We have a well-rounded array of representation:

Black-ish

Luke Cage

Scandal

How to Get Away with Murder

The Get Down

Queen Sugar

Empire

Atlanta

A friend of mine called it a “renaissance of black culture.” I agreed. It sounds nice. Poetic. Artsy.  A “renaissance of black culture” makes me feel good, until the next unarmed black man is gunned down by police. I can laugh at the upper-middle class woes of the Johnsons, until the next #BlackLivesMatter call to action. I’m considering buying a bullet-hole hoodie like the Luke Cage characters. The satire hasn’t escaped me. I watch Annalise, her students and her clients get away with murder, just like the police in my country. I admire how Duvernay wove BMike’s art and his message about police brutality in the last Queen Sugar episode. And even though I loathe Empire, I’m glad there are actors who look like us on television to serve as entertainment, until someone chokes, shoots or hangs another person who looks like me in real life.

Yep. It’s a great time to be African American, as long as you’re on television.

 

Behind the Kwote: Be You

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My sister-in-law and I have different personalities. Our one commonality is being married into the same family. The last phone conversation we had stemmed from a final attempt at building a long-distance relationship, so that family events wouldn’t feel like two strangers meeting for the first time. This is how it went.

SIL:     Kathy, you’ve always been rude and mean to me.

Me:      Really? How was I rude and mean to you the last time we saw each other?

SIL:     You didn’t say anything to me and you didn’t want to listen to my advice about Kesi’s hair.

Me:      You’re right. I didn’t say anything because whenever I do, then you call me rude and mean and when I don’t say anything, you still call me rude and mean. But, it’s funny cause you always tell me to be myself.

SIL:     <sigh> Well, I’m not going to tolerate rude behavior.

And she shouldn’t. But after lots of overthinking, it seemed that my SIL wanted me to be myself in ways that pleased her. The 2011 visit we’d discussed is when I tried something different and said very little. I thought it would keep conversations peaceful.

However, it backfired because in essence, for me to speak few words is not me…at…all.

Our phone conversation revealed how I’d stopped being myself to appease her for no reason. Her perception of me remained. From that day forward, I’ve learned to be myself, regardless of others’ positive or negative opinions.