Chasing Passions: Won’t You Join Me?

Do you remember the first time you fell in love with something? Not a guy or a girl, but that thing you couldn’t get enough of? That thing which stuck to your bones, bypassing your head and heart to fuse with the very foundations of your being? It was inescapable once. Maybe you discovered it by chance, a discarded thing no one saw any use in, but you saw it for what it was – magic. Perhaps you were born with that thing and discovered it after a little pushing by fate. Few loves come close to that first brush with what will become your passion, for it is that which sets your soul on fire. Eventually, that thing fermented in your chest to become something all-together unstoppable: your calling. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a mixture of Indiana Jones, Batman, and Storm from the X-Men. I was going to travel the world, while making time for some swashbuckling and all of the other things I loved, and no one was going to change my mind about it. Like most children – regardless of location, religion, or color – I wanted to realize my dreams. Little did I know then, dreams are not always easy to live out. 

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I’ve been missing for a while (I won’t be offended if you didn’t notice), taking time to plot out how to get what I want from the foreseeable future. I had the distinct feeling a few months back that I was finally ready to redefine my track, so I took time digging a little deeper into what makes me LaKase. I’d come this far, but what’s next? I wanted to figure out what I am meant to be doing beyond working and carving out time to blog. You can imagine my delight when I found the answer right where I left it – in my childhood. The child I was back then might have been an annoying ball of energy, but she also had a lot of confidence in her own worth. She was definitely onto something when she laid awake imagining herself as a hero and adventurer. That’s when I had a mini-epiphany: would it be so outrageous to tap into that sense of wonderment and passion? I don’t think so anymore.

I have been, and always will be, a storyteller. That’s what I was doing when I acted out the adventures of my heroes, and what I was practicing when I put on puppet shows for my parents. I started writing stories in elementary school, and never stopped. To this day I find fragments of my tales stuck into old folders and notebooks. However, oftentimes the thing we love, the thing that lights up the world, can feel out of reach. People might tell us it’s foolish, or we don’t have the resources to pursue our dreams. For a long time after those first stories and puppet shows, I thought writing was something I would do after everything else, and that it was my responsibility to be reasonable. Surely, there would be time for my dreams after college, after kids, after creating a practical career. Thankfully, life threw me off kilter as it often does, and pushed me back into my old explorer’s chair in front of a laptop.

I think passion is more than a flight of fancy, or a daydream we use to distract ourselves from the rain. At heart, it’s who we are, what we want from life, and how we want to be remembered. Sure, we can’t all be doctors and firemen, but what if we look at the heart of the passion? Under the doctor is a desire to help and heal. Under the adventurer is the desire to explore the world beyond our experiences. When I sat back and took stock of my childhood dreams, writing was the natural progression of the passions I proclaimed to my parents and teachers. So, dear reader, that’s what I’ve been doing. I’ve made space for the re-emergence of my personal purpose in order to reclaim my brand of joy. It’s been hard, but also illuminating.

Here’s how I’m doing it: I stopped thinking about other people’s opinions and started looking for a way to make it happen. The first step is looking at what your dream is, then coming up with a realistic pathway. It’s not glamorous, but it’ll keep you on track. There’s no way around the fact that I’m starting off with a serious edge – I have time, I have space, and I have enough education to do it. On top of that, I’ve made some connections online with excellent mentors. If I had to weigh all of those things against each other, the mentors stand out as the most important step, because you simply can’t change your life without a blueprint. Whatever you decide to do, start there. I did it via Twitter and reaching out to bloggers, however it might be different for you depending on your path. Next, I had to devote time to writing in any way I could. I’m now a contributor to Setting Minda publication dedicated to sharing innovations in fashion, tech, food, and living. Writing for the site has been enough of a confidence boost for me to take writing my novel seriously, which I began this year. My goal is to finish the book,then find an agent/publisher before year’s end. I’ll still be writing here every Monday as well moving forward, because it serves my mental health in unmatched ways.

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It is absolutely imperative to treat this like a job once when you decide to make use of your passions and redefine your path. Take time to do research and understand what it will take so that you aren’t forced to abandon ship. I weighed the emotional cost of this endeavor against the toll of working for other people in unfulfilling roles, but I also sat down with my partner to practically map out how to do this without causing us to descend into chaos. You won’t regret putting in the work to build a solid foundation for yourself and loved ones.

This is a very truncated explanation of how I’m going about chasing my passion, but I’ll go more in-depth as the journey unfolds itself. The point I hope you’ll take away from this post is not to give up on that special thing you discovered, because it has been following you for a reason. You may not land in the career you planned on, but if you trust in the basis of your passion – whatever it may be – you’ll land where you’re supposed to.

 

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What dreams are you chasing today?

 

 

 

How To Bounce Back From A Self-Care Extravaganza

I had the pleasure of traveling across the country to New York City for the weekend with my good friend, Jesse, for a girls’ trip.  We ate great food, marveled at the beauty of human creations in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walked all over the Upper West Side until our feet felt like they’d been stomped by elephants. It was glorious. It was the kind of caring I could only ever dream of, but got to experience thanks to my phenomenal friend.

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Amelia, Yours truly, Jesse
A happy tourist (Me)

The trip also got me thinking about what comes after something so great. What do we do with ourselves after the dust settles and we must return to our regular lives? You might not be flying for hours, spending money wildly, and luxuriating in a hotel like an heiress, but what if you take all the time you need to replenish your defenses only to come home feeling even more spent?

Taking care of ourselves can be just as exhausting as running our bodies ragged in the normal days of our lives. So, I would like some of my tips for bouncing back in your return to normality. I’ve been incredibly fortunate in my access to travel, self-care, therapy, and wellness options, and I have found that even with the best of times I still need a little help finding my equilibrium. Below, I’m listing my tried and true habits for not only maintaining the good vibes of self-care, but also maintaining healthy expectations for who I’ll be afterwards.

Sleep!

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Disney

Sounds obvious, but is it something we let ourselves do after vacation? Or after a yoga session, or a hike, or a round of face masks and Judge Judy? Nah, didn’t think so! Think of it this way: you’ve just pumped your body full of that good stuff, like endorphins, adrenaline, and other sciencey things. Thus, your body is going to need to power down. I hate to sound like Morpheus in The Matrix, but at the end of the day we’re all walking and talking batteries. We need to recharge even if we’ve just been doing another form of powering up. Catch some zzz’s!

Ease back into your routine

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I know most of us use the weekend for our self-care extravaganzas – it’s just the way our work lives function. We feel guilty missing work, so we hold out until Friday evening to get down to business. That leaves us with going back in on Monday to face the monotony. This goes counter to everything we’re taught, but I would challenge you to not take on big projects right away, or act like the superhero you are first thing Monday morning. You’ll be feeling unstoppable, no doubt, but you’re going to be regret biting off more than you can chew. This isn’t about avoiding work all-together, but rather not falling prey to the urge to do it all. Take your time.

Don’t throw all the internal work out the window

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This is really the tough one for me. I was super zen in New York, but that’s easy to do when you’re far away from responsibilities, stressors, and a regular routine. I was able to unwind and be introspective without being bogged down with the minutiae of life. When I go back I was understandably tired and sore from walking, then flying for 6 hours, but I was instantly unhappy when I set foot through my front door. So, what gives?

Well, I think I was looking for reasons to be stressed out.  If I were to go deeper, I would discover I was hunting for reasons to rob myself of the goodness that felt unearned. Self-sabotage is real, especially after something bigger than what you normally allow yourself to have.  So remember this, first and foremost: You have earned the good things that you get. We deserve the cakes, face masks, rest, hikes, movies, hours of conversation with loved ones, vacations, therapy sessions and joys of this life, no matter what.

Whether you be traveling far, or taking a weekend for yourself at home, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest without worrying about what comes next. We’ve got memories to make, after all.

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What The F*%! Is Feminism And Why Do We Need It?

I hope you enjoy this final post for Women’s History Month 2019! It has been a pleasure for me.

Few labels elicit the reaction that springs out of people when you call yourself a feminist. It will go one of two ways: they will scrunch their faces up in disgust, or they will look at you like the second coming. I would like to argue that both reactions are totally outrageous, because feminism should be natural to us all. The first reaction is borne of not truly understanding what feminism is and how it helps us, while the second reaction is a result of being isolated in your feminism. If we dive into educating ourselves, both will be eradicated.

So, let’s dive in!

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Washington Post

 

What is feminism?

Let’s be frank with this one: feminism is not about hating men! This is the first and most formidable wall I come up against when I encounter people who don’t want to identify as feminists. If anyone tells you they are a feminist, and that they hate men, then they are engaging in misandry. Feminism is about equality. It’s the belief, in simplest terms, that women should be afforded the same opportunities as men. We should not be overlooked or discriminated against based on sex, nor should we be considered second-class citizens. It’s not about hate, or ruling the world, or the subjugation of anyone who doesn’t identify as female. Easy enough, right?

But, feminism doesn’t just affect women, it also changes the landscape for men. When women have freedom to choose their own paths, to be the masters of their journey, it flows into the lives men have the right to lead as well. Everyone wins as we break down restrictive gender roles.

Why do we all need it?

Feminism is self-care for us all. Through this shift we are not only healing the cultural landscape, but also redefining what lives we have access to. Where women once had to ask permission of their fathers and brothers to marry, drive, own property, work, go to school, and so forth, many of us now have those rights without male intervention.  Our world is more powerful when we help one another to become free.

Feminism tells us that we’re all worthy of healing. Being believed. Having access. Shaking the table. Each and every single one of us – regardless of gender- has a right to joy. So, the next time someone tells you they are a feminist, remember this and consider joining them in the struggle.

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Some further reading if you would like more information on feminism:

We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie {here}

A Brief History of Feminism, by Patu and Antje Schrupp {here} 

History of Feminism {here}

“The Waves of Feminism, and Why People Keep Fighting Over Them, Explained” by Constance Grady {here}

The Power of Representation

Can you remember the first time you felt like you saw yourself in a character? Who was it? In what medium did it occur? And can you still feel how important that moment was?

If you’re like me, the answers might be manifold, because you had to piece together images to arrive at a close-enough snapshot of who you are, or were, when you starting searching those characters out. I had to rely on several characters to begin to see myself, starting with Princess Leia, and I ended up with a mixture of women who were imperfect, but fierce and loyal. Being able to watch them on TV or read their stories in comic books made me feel less alone in a confusing world. With the added confusion of being Black, a girl, a survivor, and admittedly weird, and it was even harder to feel seen. That’s why it has been so life-changing to discover characters who not only look like me, but share some of my quirks.

I want to talk about representation today, not  because it’s a buzzword of the moment, but because in many ways it has saved my life.

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What is representation?

Representation is a term that’s floated about quite often, but I’m only now becoming aware of how powerful it is in the shaping of lives and dreams. When we talk about representation we’re calling for media industries from books to movies make sure stories about different kinds of people are not only told, but also accurately portrayed. I think a lot of times those in positions of power think slapping a Black bestie in a flick is good enough, but, alas, that will not do.

Representation means that the writers, crew members, directors, producers, actors, artists, EVERYONE, aren’t all coming from one place and looking the same. It’s greater than Black and White, and all-encompassing. Representation means a kid in Uzbekistan can see someone on screen who looks like them, or a woman in a wheelchair from Harlem has access to Harvard. Boiled down to its most concise meaning, representation just means that everyone should get a chance to claim their seat at the table.

Why does it matter?

I believe it matters for a simple reason: when you see yourself in heroes, whether they be in academia, or leading a movie,  you start to take chances on yourself. You start to believe in your worth, where you might have otherwise given up. Being able to see myself in various characters across the spectrum of media has allowed me to redefine what I can do. I don’t have to be relegated to the wings in this life due to my appearance or where I come from.

Even better than that, is the truth that representation breeds more empathy. By listening to the words of people from various backgrounds we are opening ourselves up to see beyond the differences, to get to the heart of what makes us all the same. Our world is made richer when we are able to look at someone else and see what we share.

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Hidden Figures

How can we help?

Things have gotten so much better, but we’ve got a way to go. Many of the stories we champion are still quite one-sided. They lean towards straight, cisgendered, able-bodied, and white-passing. But the world is round, just like we like it, and full of all kinds of stories that don’t belong in a perfect box. To ensure representation doesn’t slow down, we have to invest in people who are doing it right, i.e. putting our money where our mouths are, and divesting from things that aren’t down with the plan. I read books by authors who tell unique stories, go to movies with casts that reflect the world as it is, and invest in other pieces of art by those who might not otherwise be seen. Additionally, I do my best to turn the people in my life on to those things as well. On the flip side, I pass on projects that are dedicated to holding up progress. It might seem small, but every step counts.

I hope this post helps to embolden you to seek out different kinds of stories, and people, to further your own growth. Being able to find slivers of myself across mediums has been life-changing in untold ways, and I think it can be for you as well. Let me know in the comments the first time you saw yourself in a book, movie, scientist, or comic!

 

Self-care 101: Journaling

I may be just a little biased about this, but I think writing is one of the coolest ways to take care of yourself. It only costs as much as a pen and paper, you can do it anywhere (within reason), and no one can do it like you doThere’s truly no downside.

In my opinion, If you don’t have access to therapeutic services keeping a journal is one of the best ways to get your emotions out in a healthy way. It goes beyond the bubble baths and face masks to help you get to the root of your emotions in order to grow, which is imperative on this journey.

The benefits of journaling

There are so many benefits that go along with keeping a journal. From improved confidence to beefing up your memory, the practice of wrestling with your thoughts is worth the time it takes to get it done. By putting your emotions down on paper – both good and bad – you’re freeing up your mind to start healing. Instead of keeping everything bottled up, only to explode at inopportune times, you’re carving out a space to be unfiltered and honest. We’re more likely to open up when we aren’t going to be judged, so what better place than a book no one gets to see unless you trust them to read it?

How to get started

Journals don’t have to be what they were in the past. Sure, they can be pretty, leather-bound books you save up for, or they can be your thoughts scribbled in a $2 notebook. You can do it digitally on your phone or computer if you please, as long as you carve out time to sit and let your mind flow. Your journal is your safe zone. It’s your place and your time to work out the knots messing up your day, or to gush about how fantastic your dinner was. It’s your reward to yourself for doing the damn thing.

I do think it’s important to acknowledge that writing isn’t easy for everyone, no matter how much you’ve been forced to do it in school. For many of us writing was a task,or sometimes a punishment for bad behavior, so it’s understandable if you can’t relax enough to let the emotions flow. Here’s a tip: if you approach your journal with the mindset that no one will see it – like no one, not even your cat – the process can become exponentially easier. Don’t worry about grammar, how your script looks, or if it even makes any sense at all ; this is purely for the release of your emotions. You can do it however you want to do it. It doesn’t matter if you want to use bullet points, write in short hand, or draw – it’s all the right way! As long as you are giving yourself freedom to be unfiltered you are going to flourish.

With that said, why not give journaling a go this year?