…is going on?
We were friends for a decade and a half. Fifteen years is a long time. We’d friended our way through childbirth, divorce and international relocations. If you’ve been friends with someone for this long, then you know the laughs, tears, secrets, and experiences that can accumulate. There are too many to count.
That’s why breaking up was difficult. I felt its dissipation at least three years ago, but I thought it would pass. I figured if I gently expressed my new journey to her then, she would understand and join me. That’s not reality. Everyone cannot walk beside you on your path. Everyone is not supposed to.
And you know what? I’ve learned that it’s okay if they don’t. Equally important, I’ve become a little more conscious about who I am in friendships and what I want in those relationships:
I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist. Friends listen to one another during their times of need. I get it. However, if all our phone calls include me listening to you and your problems, then that’s not a friendship. That’s a therapy session. Asking me to be your part-time counselor is not fair to me or you. Also, I’ve discovered that my tolerance level is low when it comes to this. Some people find this cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. I empathize deeply. I take whatever you’ve revealed to me and literally feel your emotion. When it’s traumatic, it weighs heavy. Until I learn to let go of others’ issues, I need my friends to seek therapy, instead.
I want my friends to grow. Is this fair to say? You all know I’m always seeking growth, physically, spiritually, academically, whatever. If you’ve known me for any length of time, then I’m probably not the same person you first met. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying I want a friend who is a mirror image of me. I don’t. But if we’re friends, then I want to know that you care about your own well-being and that maybe, you and I will help one another get there. Here’s the tricky part. Growth begins with self-reflection. And self-reflection requires looking in the mirror and being honest with oneself. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t make someone self-reflect.
I want my friends to be non-judgmental. For real. I’ve been singing the non-judgment song for about four years. Now, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still screenshot the occasional text to a mutual friend and wonder “what in the world is wrong with her?” But not always good people. Other people’s business is not often the topic of my own conversations. That’s because I’m too busy doing #2 ^^^ self-reflecting and growing. If the purpose of you reaching out to me is to discuss when someone else is going to get her life together, then you and I probably don’t need to connect that often.
Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few girlfriends. The main reason is because I’d never thought twice about who the person was when we met. It was more like, you like eating out and partying? Me too. Let’s get together and do that, and then we became friends. The end of those friendships forced me to process how or why we became close. I’ve determined the answer is usually rooted in the energy surrounding me at the time. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.
For now, I’m wondering, have you ever broken up with a friend? Did it bother you? Have you thought about what you want in a friendship? Do you have long-lasting friendships? If so, how’d that happen?
After George Floyd’s death, the first thing I did was search for a way to be more active in my city. My journey began with contacting the editor of one of the Black newspapers. I was taken aback by three things: 1) every other one of her words was a cuss word; 2) she denigrated Black citizens by calling them “lazy”; and 3) she was dismissive of White people. Even though my decision was pretty clear, I slept on the meeting I was supposed to have with her and decided it wasn’t the best place to use my skill set and talents. I also reached out to a civil rights activist that I’d once interviewed to ask how I could be of help, but he never returned my call.
I’m sharing these situations because I want you to know that it wasn’t easy just because I was Black and motivated. Even in the midst of everything, it was challenging for me to find a solution that was a good fit. That’s when I took my own advice and joined Color of Change. What has been reinforced in each meeting is the importance of unity and direction. Thus far, we’ve been asked to use an app to be sure that people are registered to vote (at the least). I’ve also learned about how specific organizations are connected to why Black people do not receive justice when murdered by the police. I’ll discuss that later.
Next, I decided to lean into hard conversations centered on race. Part of this includes speaking up when I feel someone has made a statement that seems to fit in the covert or overt racist category. For example, when an IG acquaintance posted about how her church fed police as a way to demonstrate “unity” during global protest focused on how police were killing Black men, I asked her a simple question: Has your church supported the BLM movement? Her answer was a disappointing no that she wholeheartedly stands by, but I feel better having broached the subject, as opposed to ignoring it altogether. And I don’t have to assume where she is on the subject. It’s quite clear.
A third thing I’ve done is begun attending our homeowners’ association meetings. The more I thought about it, the more it made sense. How can I say I care about a community (e.g., our city), but not be active and care about a microcosm of that community (e.g., our neighborhood)? Guess what happened? During the meeting, I witnessed firsthand what some White women think about breaking laws or rules, and how they end up being the proverbial “Karens” we’ve seen in videos. For example, a board member’s response to college kids caught swimming in the pool at one in the morning was to call the police. Her response to people who are able to walk onto our property because there’s no gate at one entrance was to call the police. I was surprised. One of these activities is illegal, and one is not, and the consequences of calling the police depend on who the police or perpetrators are. I plan to address it from a place of concern in a letter to the Board.
The last thing I’ve done is educate myself. While some White people have been reading up on racism, etc., I thought I’d learn a little bit about two topics: voter suppression and the Fraternal Order of Police. I’ve written about voter suppression here. But FOP was new to me. Basically, elected officials sometimes take donations from the FOP. When they do that, then it makes it easier for policemen to cash in on favors, and more importantly for union leaders in different cities to speak unfavorably of the victims (unarmed Black people), as well as to deny that the killings are racially motivated. The FOP literally shapes a specific narrative. You can read more here. These two concepts have been enlightening to me, and at the least I’ve been able to share what I’ve learned with my social media community.
I think that’s about it.
What have you done since George Floyd’s death? This is more of an accountability situation than it is bragging. Plus, we can help one another do more than we’ve been doing.
If you haven’t done anything, then that’s fine too. I mean it took me eight years and several more deaths to be more involved. But one thing I realize is the only way we can do better is to actually do better.
Most of you know me to be a “reasonable” person, so I hope you will listen to this story with your “reasonable” person ears:
July 11th my 18-year-old daughter texted me and apologized for not coming home in time to drive with Dwight and me to help her sister move. Her best friend had been kicked out of the house and she and another friend went to help him. The three spent the night together at the first friend’s house.
July 12th she sent a frantic text to me saying she’d reconsidered all of her 18-year-old choices and would be doing something different with her life. The reason why? The best friend’s dad was in the ER with COVID-19.
Cue wtf responses.
July 12th my daughter’s best friend supposedly had an expedited test (48-hour return) because he was in contact with his father.
July 13th my daughter was able to be tested because she’d been in contact with the best friend. Her test was due back within 6 to 10 days.
Prior to this, I had planned a solo trip to another part of Florida for some peace, relaxation, and solitude. Shelter-in-place, etc. had gotten the best of me and I needed to leave my home. The trip was planned for July 17th-20th.
Part of my trip would include stopping and spending the night with my goddaughter, whose friend had also been staying with her. I’d decided to alert my goddaughter of the happenings and let her determine what she wanted to do. We’d wait for my daughter’s best friend’s test results to plan next steps.
Are you still with me?
Time moved slowly. While you’re waiting for a COVID-19 test, you’re supposed to self-quarantine.
Because my daughter lives with us and her best friend had been to our home, Dwight said that should include us, too. I agreed, but I wanted to take my trip…just saying.
July 17th came. My daughter, husband, and I had been home 5 days by then. Neither my daughter nor her best friend had received their results. I decided I was still going on my trip. My goddaughter said it was fine to stay with her. (Just for the record, I offered to stay at a hotel). We wore our masks at the restaurant, as required, and she made breakfast the next day. The friend stayed at least 6 feet away from me…for the most part.
July 18th I left my goddaughter’s home, headed to my vacay spot, and received a text from my daughter. Her best friend was positive.
His dad was back home and building a new porch for their home. I also found out his father had been coaching high school basketball this whole time. Why? His family needed money.
My goddaughter’s friend was supposed to go back home with her parents. She decided not to in case she’d been exposed. My daughter still hadn’t received her results. I briefly had a thought: what if our whole family is asymptomatic? What are we to do…remain in the house socially inactive, until a trusted vaccine surfaces?
Oh…and my daughter was supposed to begin a new job, but they told her to wait two weeks.
July 18th-20th I had a great time on my solo trip. I sprayed Lysol in the hotel, wore my mask, ordered to-go, socially distanced, and otherwise relaxed.
July 21st my goddaughter’s best friend was tested.
July 23rd my goddaughter’s friend’s test was negative. She was safe to travel to her parents’ home, so she did.
July 24th (11 days after her test), my daughter received her results: negative.
I decided to share this anecdote for a few reasons:
- The only narratives we’ve had are those of people dying, which I do not take lightly. However, like many things in this society we don’t seem to realize there’s a range of stories. We’ve been led to believe that we can either catch COVID-19 and die or stay home and not die. But there are many in-between situations. I’m not saying we should remove our masks and visit the nearest bar. I am saying we should begin to make decisions based on our respective perspectives and states.
- Being critical of the world is different than being judgmental. I’m critical of the consumerist, capitalistic society we’ve agreed to participate in. Unfortunately, the entire world relies on businesses being open. However, I do not have any judgment about my daughter’s best friend’s father having to work a job to support his household. I just don’t. I do think we all have personal responsibility. For example, if I had a basketball-playing son, he would’ve sat this season out.
- I know it’s fun to point fingers at those Florida beach photos, but testing is a huge problem here. Around Day 5, when my daughter was restless, I asked her a rhetorical question: How is anyone supposed to do the right thing? If my life (and others’) depends on a positive/negative test result, but it takes 11 days to receive…how can you expect an adult person, who may rely on their minimum wage job to pay rent to make the “right” choice to stay home and self-quarantine?
Finally, I hope you saw yourself in one or more of these situations, kind of like a real-life John Quinones What Would You Do if you were any of us? I’m looking forward to any comments.
kg ~ 7/27/20
Following your intuition can be a scary thing because many of us have been taught to listen to family and friends, walk with the crowd, or attain external validation instead of listening to ourselves. We’ve literally been taught to not trust our gut instinct, which can sometimes be detrimental because we end up living by someone else’s rules, as opposed to our own.
If this is you, here are four ways to ease into following your intuition:
1: Be impulsive. A blogger once asked me to differentiate between intuition and impulse. I don’t remember what I told her, but today I have an answer. Being impulsive has a negative connotation. No one wants to be impulsive. Impulsive purchases can create debt. Impulsivity can lead to destructive lifestyles. Romeo and Juliet were impulsive and look what happened to them! See how we’re shaped to believe a thing each and every moment?
But what is intuition, except knowing you should do something right then?
If you’re not used to following your intuition, then I suggest making a small, impulsive, low stakes move. For example, have you ever felt you should call a person? Go ahead and call. Have you ever talked yourself out of buying a piece of clothing in a new color? Go ahead and buy it. Making low stakes moves will build your confidence and pretty soon, following your intuition will become second nature.
2: Don’t overthink it. After you’ve decided to do something, you may feel inclined to overthink it. Don’t.
I have done quite a few things in my life without thinking them all the way through. *The latest idea was the Mental Health Matters interviews. My initial thought was I’m not equipped to answer readers’ questions about mental health issues; I can only write about myself and how I’ve handled these concepts. Wouldn’t it be cool if I invited mental health experts to discuss one issue with me in a brief amount of time? That was it. That was the idea. The next thing I know I’d compiled a list and was interviewing experts and having videos edited. The editor then asked me if I wanted an audio for podcasting, too. My answer? Sure. Next I found myself figuring out where to upload audio versions of the interviews.
When I shared the idea with Dwight, he gave me the slow blink and said, “So you’re going to have a podcast now?”
“Maaaybee,” I laughed. That leads me to the next way to follow your intuition.
3: Don’t listen to others’ opinions. There are two reasons why I would suggest not listening to other people’s opinions. The first is if you don’t have supportive people in your life. Instead, you have naysayers. You’ll know who these people are by their past responses. For example, if you’ve told a friend about your idea and their response is why would you do that or how would you do that (but not in a helpful way), then this is the beginning of a subtle naysayer response. The second reason you may not want to listen to the folks around you is because of the opposite. They will have a million different ways for you to enact your idea. Don’t use WordPress. Use Medium. What about Tumblr? Other people’s opinions may send you down a rabbit hole of self-doubt and non-productivity, which could lead to never manifesting your idea.
If you need advice about how to make your idea a reality, then use Google, read a book, or take a class. The only exception to this may be if your friend or family member is someone who has done what you want to do. I say may be because that person will still only speak from their experience, which could be totally different than yours.
4: Adopt a playful view of life. Most of the time I view life as a playful experience. When I conceptualized and edited Daddy, I thought of it as playing with other people, you know, like when you were a kid? I envisioned being in a room with the other women and pretending to be authors who were writing a book. And now, I thought, we’re going to go around the country and tell people about the book. Doesn’t that sound like fun? With a little planning and agreement, it happened. We actually did the aforementioned things and impacted lives at the same time. Trust me, pretending is not just for children. Kind of like being impulsive, we’ve been told it’s not something we should do as adults. But not imagining, pretending, and playing are for adults, too.
I hope being impulsive, not overthinking, listening to yourself, and adopting a playful view of life helps to guide you toward a happier and more intuitive life!
*Update: My latest impulsive act was co-creating a petition to stop Florida public schools from reopening in August. If you’re concerned about this issue, then you can view and sign the petition here: Safe Return for P-12 Florida Teachers.
Have you ever seen Cast Away with Tom Hanks? Remember, when he started talking to the volleyball and called it Wilson, the name of the ball manufacturer?
Well, after sitting on the patio for so many weeks (due to shelter-in-place orders), I’d named the lizard that lives there, Escobar. I was going to name him Larry, but my husband and daughter thought that was cliche, so Escobar it is. Here are some photos:
I thought we were co-habitating and he was getting used to me being out there so much, until he puffed out his little neck. I learned that this means he’s trying to intimidate me because he thinks this is his patio, it’s mating season, or a host of other reasons lol Either way, now I just take pictures of him.
I though he just liked chillin on this chair, which seems to be his favorite, but that’s just me putting my human being understanding on him. Lizards actually have to sunbathe to “raise their internal body temperature and stimulate their metabolism.”
Did you establish any out of the ordinary habits since being at home more?
I began a tenure-track position at a Research I university August 2013, a month after Trayvon Martin’s murderer was acquitted. Our academic year began in one of the university’s ballrooms with announcements of new faculty, food, and light banter. I was the only black face at our round table. I’d grown used to being the only, but this felt different. I remember chit-chatting about inconsequential topics so minor that I cannot recall the slightest detail.
I remember wondering if I should ask any of these white faces what they thought about Martin’s death or his killer’s acquittal. After all, we were scholars. I remember wondering if this incident mattered to them at all, not in a Black Lives Matter way, but in a we live in the state of Florida and this just happened in Florida type of way.
Instead, I remained silent, returned to my office, and prepared my syllabi for the semester.
That August, I taught a class that was at an integral phase for my students who were studying to be teachers. The class was right before their internship semester. Strict guidelines had been passed down from the previous professor. Students could only miss two classes. The consequence? They’d fail and have to wait an entire year to re-take the course. Rigidity was important because they’d be student teaching the following semester and had to learn the importance of punctuality and attendance. They were two semesters away from being professionals after all.
Long story very short, there was a student who missed more than two classes, and because I wanted to follow the rules I was given, I failed her. The day she realized I wouldn’t budge on my decision, she stood in the hallway demanding to be seen even though my office hours had ended. She stood, with her face inches away from mine and yelled. She’d made such a commotion that the office secretary came out and asked if I was okay.
“Yes,” I replied, my voice no louder than a whisper.
The girl left. I gathered my belongings and left to teach class. I wondered if any white, tenure-track professors had ever been yelled at, in the middle of the hallway, in front of their offices at this Research I university.
I never asked. Instead, I taught, wrote my grant, and prepared to conduct my study, in addition to having to participate in several conversations that reached the dean’s office about why I should change my mind about this student’s grade.
Other bothersome events occurred at this university, like the girl who placed an online order and had a Jimmy John’s sandwich delivered to class…while I was teaching.
There was the time the same girl screenshot an email she’d sent to me to prove she’d completed an assignment. I noticed the emoji she associated with my name – an alien. According to her, she’d used that alien emoji for “all her professors.”
There was the time I was supposed to have a mentor. I asked for a black woman, someone with whom I could identify and navigate this particular university’s world. My assigned mentor was black and female, but she was not tenured. At the time, they didn’t have any black, female tenured professors in our college. She confessed that she had little to offer me by way of advice; she was just trying to keep her own head above water.
There was the time my white colleague asked me to speak to a black student about her use of Black English. I was tasked with placing her on probation if she didn’t learn to use “standard” English. How is she going to be an English teacher? my colleague asked.
And, there’s the story of how I got this specific job in the first place. Spoiler alert: it was tied to Affirmative Action.
Since we’re all having moments of introspection and authentic conversations centered on race, I figured I’d share this partial list of how systemic racism manifested for me in three short years at a place I’d least expected it, the highest rated university in our educational system.
This post may be my last about race for a while, so I want to be clear.
Some black people will not encounter police brutality, but we will encounter white people in other spaces that weren’t initially created for us.
Subsequently, it’s important for two things to happen: 1) black people should speak up and be explicit about what we need, and 2) white people should understand systemic racism and determine how to engage in anti-racist ways.
For the latter, I think a great place to begin is with paying attention to the black people in front of you.
Trayvon Martin was shot on February 26, 2012. Over a year later, Jamie Foxx appeared at the BET Awards in a red t-shirt with the slain teenager’s hooded face. I thought his silent statement was brilliant, so I ordered one and wore it around Jacksonville, hoping to raise awareness and concern about the case. Two weeks later, his murderer was found not guilty of any charges. I tucked my folded t-shirt away and deemed wearing it ineffectual.
Then, Mike Brown was killed by a police officer and left to rot in the street on August 9, 2014. #BlackLivesMatter was active and I’d begun using it, in addition to #MichaelBrown. But the grand jury decided not to indict the officer.
A little over a year passed and Tamir Rice was gunned down by a police officer in a Cleveland park. I created a social media posts and included #BlackLivesMatter and #TamirRice. Later, I found out that Laquan McDonald was killed by a Chicago police officer around the same time, but the video wasn’t released. More posts. More hashtags.
The murders and associated hashtags rolled out quicker than I could grieve: #SayHerName, #JusticeForSandraBland, #BaltimoreUprising, #FreddieGray, #JamarClark, #PhilandoCastile occurred faster than I could post. And I began to wonder if hashtagging was enough. I mean, unarmed black people continued to be murdered whether I tweeted my anger or not.
So, I stopped.
Last month, a video of two white Georgia men seemingly hunting down a black, male jogger surfaced three months after the incident. #AhmaudArbery became popular, and because his birthday was May 8th, supporters ran 2.23 miles and posted #IRunWithAhmaudArbery.
Similar to when I wore my red t-shirt to raise awareness about Trayvon Martin eight years ago, I scrolled and wondered if this was enough to effect change. *Wouldn’t it be just a matter of time before another defenseless black person was killed?
But, what more could I do?
Smith is an advocate of social media activism, but she agreed to provide additional ways that we can all be more active in our communities.
Vote, especially in local elections. Smith says voting is important. I mean we all saw what happened when African Americans rallied around one candidate for the 2008 and 2012 presidential election but voting for president isn’t the only office that’s imperative for our livelihood. Every aspect of American life is, in some way, shaped and governed by who represents us senatorially, congressionally, statewide, and locally. Who becomes sheriff and who is elected judge is important, especially when they are racist, anti-black, or represent racist ideals and can dictate how black citizens are policed.
Unify. Organize with likeminded individuals. Smith says, “Our greatest strength is our unity.” Organizations can be international, like Black Lives Matter, national, like the Players Coalition, or locally affiliated, such as the Color of Change in your city. Check the organization’s About page to see if it is aligned with your own core values. Organizations such as the ones listed are constantly and consistently supporting issues important for communities of black people. If this is where your interests lie, then there’s a place for you to help.
Support local activists. “You don’t have to be on the front line,” says Smith. “That ain’t everybody’s mission.” If you’re aware of an activist group in your area, then reach out to them online. Many times, their website lists ways that you can help. For example, Color of Change in my city is hosting an event to help “women returning to society from incarceration.” They are soliciting people who’d like to be a part of the host committee and all I have to do is complete a form. Perhaps, you don’t have time to devote in person. Smith says we should consider donating money or supplies or watching activists’ children. Connect with them and see what the activist needs.
While social media activism has its merits, such as garnering widespread awareness in a short amount of time, it is also important to be active in the in-between spaces. Voting, unifying, and supporting local activists are three ways to be involved before there’s an issue.
*I wrote this and planned to submit it to another platform a week before George Floyd was killed but held off and wrote Fire, instead. These days, I literally cannot write fast enough to inspire change.
Today, I share a conversation I had with Kotrish Wright, MSW centered on PERFECTIONISM. She shares 5 strategies we can use to move past procrastination, and subsequently past those debilitating thoughts that swirl around in our heads. It can be viewed on YouTube or listened to on SoundCloud or Apple Podcasts. I hope this brief discussion helps us all to become healthier versions of ourselves.