Let Us Feel

By the age of 23, I had been raped three times and sexually assaulted once. I have been verbally abused, discriminated against, and neglected. After a recent event with my family, I found myself trying to convince myself, yet again, emotion could not be shared during this incredibly traumatic moment. Even as I cried and my legs couldn’t hold my weight, I scolded myself inwardly for not being “strong.” Even reaching out for prayers seemed like a weakness. 

We are blessed, as a family, that everything is working itself out and I am blessed as an individual that the severity of my experiences did not lead to lasting physical injury. Still, this most recent experience got me thinking about the practice of grief and emotion in today’s society, particularly among women of color. I began to wonder about our need to narrate the pain we feel, from a break-up to the loss of a loved one, we love to try and control the uncontrollable. Considering all of my experiences, I’ve never had more people ask how I’m doing, knowing what they’re looking for is for me to finally say I’m doing well. I’ve never heard the words “what can I do” more, as if situations outside of human control can be fixed by the human hand. I know, for some, it comes from a place of nosiness and curiosity and that for most it comes from a place of care and sympathy, but it all just feels like micromanaging. 

I think for Black women there is this extra pressure placed on us, as a matriarch in training. We must stay “strong” and centered. We must be the pillar that holds up the home. Some people don’t even realize they’re leaning on us until we start to fall. The most crushing part is being labeled as erratic or irrational when we finally let emotion show; emotions that are a normative response to an unnatural circumstance. Sometimes we don’t even speak on our feelings, we express physically how our bodies are responding (e.g., not eating, not sleeping, etc.) in hopes they can fill in the emotional blank. 

This piece goes out to all my women of color struggling emotionally and standing so tall. We don’t have to be “strong” all the time. We don’t have to be reserved, restricted, or restrained. The world looks at us as superhuman. Research states that women of color are seen by the world as this unbreakable force, not just by other people of color (POC), but by the world at large. We are supposed to be everything to everyone and wear that badge with a smile. But women, sisters, please don’t fall for this ploy. This mask of strength they’ve forced us to wear, it’s killing us slowly (see link below). I write this in total vulnerability, in hopes that at least one woman reads it and decides to feel what needs to be felt. Say what needs to be said. Do what needs to be done, and stops apologizing for any of it! 

Although I put a lot of myself out there, knowing my story is like so many others, it’s still hard for me to feel supported when I don’t feel like I should be feeling down or stressed in the first place. It’s hard for me to let people help me when at times I still think I should be able to handle everything on my own. We go through a lot as women of color: being disrespected, discriminated against, sexualized, and that’s just the start. What I want to make perfectly clear to all readers is that we don’t need pity. What we do need is respect and the space to be human, with a full human range of emotions. We are an impermeable force, AND we are worthy of healing and feeling. Once we allow that in ourselves, we can help change the beliefs of society; support each other, accept each other, and love one another without believing only one of us deserves or can be at the top. 

We must stop teaching this pattern to our young women, encouraging them to suffer in silence. We must want more for them than to live unhealthy, restricted, lives. We must show them that true love of self and others comes from acknowledging and loving ourselves, disregarding anyone that tries to get in the way of that. Lastly, we must stop using the word “strong” as if holding in our emotions makes us impenetrable. True strength is feeling emotions and not being controlled by them. It is accepting emotion and using it as a pillar for growth, not a sign of weakness. We must redefine strength for this next generation…and it starts with us.

Brief Article giving a general outline of how the Strong Black Woman Schema negatively affects physical and mental health: Being an African American ‘superwoman’ might come with a price.”

Statistics on sexual assault and rape among Black women: Black Women and Sexual Violence

Parent’s Day

Today is Father’s Day, and I know all over social media, people will be posting about their perfect fathers and perfect families. Still, today I’m not talking to them. Today, I’m talking to those of us without that masculine figure. I’m talking to the kids with the fathers that didn’t come home and help with homework…or at all.

See, we don’t all get those amazing fathers. Although today, on all social media platforms, it appears like the world got the “American Dream,” in 2019, about 15.76 million children lived with a single mother, a consistent statistic since 2010. As of 2010, 22% of female-female couples had at least one child, with most recent census information showing much higher projected percentages. This means the landscape of the United States is changing. The necessity of the father figure, while important in the role they fulfill, is not as vital as the love within the home and the guidance of other figures throughout life.

I say all of this to say families don’t have to look the same to be impactful and important! When we look at social media today, for some, it will be hard; this reminder of what we lost or never had. This notion is not lost on me. There is a mourning period where we realize our family structure is different. Our two parents, white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and the dog didn’t appear like we believe they did for all the other families. However, for those of us that are fortunate enough to have a mother that loves us with everything she can muster; a grandmother that would lay down her life; an aunt, uncle, and/or cousin that has always been there whenever the phone call came, we are loved today and every day! It’s not formed in the same packaging, but the gift, if we’re ready to receive it, is just as sweet!

So, today I challenge all of us with unconventional families to celebrate those. Let’s take our moms to dinner. Send our uncles a thoughtful text. Post our cousin and let the world know how meaningful they are to us. Visit our church leader or camp counselor and let them know their impact has changed our lives, and therefore changed the world just a little. 

As kids, we’re born into this world naïve and defenseless, and we don’t always get what we deserve. Just remember, it takes a village to raise a child. Although all our puzzle pieces may look different than someone else’s, our picture is just as beautiful and our journey is just as valid. We are here with our village, and no matter what that looks like, it’s worth celebrating on this Parent’s Day…so I hope we all do!

Words

I love words! I know that’s a weird thing to say, but to me, words are the most concrete and meaningful piece of humanity – up there with emotion and critical thinking. They relay all our needs. They identify our emotions. Even the lack of language or speech says something in and of itself.

For as long as I can remember I’ve used words to describe, create, and imagine; from short stories to poetry. Whenever I’m writing I use pen and paper, or one of my typewriters. These manual mechanisms give me the rare sense that I am holding something beautiful and unique that’s tangible in a way words rarely are. I’ve always carried a book with me wherever I go. I used to sit in the same spot all day and become completely overcome with the novel I was reading, engrossed in the information I was consuming, and excited by the possibility of learning a little more about someone else’s mind. I remember my senior vacation to Puerto Rico I stayed in the room and read, really annoying one of my best friends 🙂 . I’ve always been a nerd, I guess.

I believe in the power of language. I believe in the importance of communication and I just love learning! I love acquiring knowledge of other cultures, of other times, of having the opportunity to view the world through someone else’s lens. I mostly read 17th and 18th-century literature, for its challenging vocabulary and raw truth. I think the simplicity of the time lends itself to only what is real: Flesh and emotion. It’s not dictated by the happy ending we want to have and is honest in a way only real-life can be. Its beauty is in these horrible truths – in the way life is both tortured and magnificent, often at the same time or in quick succession.

Those times when I was younger, spending days enveloped in someone else’s world, faded as I got older. I convinced myself I only had enough time to move through my own life – to use my words for research and academia – and to create and imagine nothing more than a stable life with employment. I was no longer creating these beautiful worlds, nor was I reading about them.

From 2020 forward one of the things I want to do is to make more of an effort to re-engage with my absolute love and passion for words and knowledge. I want to create and share. I want to learn and expand my capacity to empathize through delving into the experiences of others.

What do you want to do going forward (comment below)?

You Don’t Have to Bend Your Wallet to Bend Your Body

Cost-Effective Yoga Practice Applications

My first experience with yoga was listening to my brother talk about how beneficial it was for him, as a professional athlete and someone who is not at all flexible. When I was reintroduced during my training as a mindfulness therapist I was astounded by the personal benefits of meditation. I figured joining physical body movements with mindfulness practice would be a double “bang for my buck.” I LOVED IT! From the very beginning, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been practicing all along!

I think the way yoga, especially in America, is portrayed in media kept me away from even trying it. When you see yoga on social media, or even in a studio, you see people in perfectly curated outfits, stretching far beyond what you think is physically possible for you. Most of them are white women who can afford to pay $25 or more per session, several times per week. It seems completely unattainable and it really turned me off from even wanting to try it – “This exercise just isn’t made for me.”

I felt it was important to make a post like this because I’ve found that yoga is for EVERYONE! You don’t have to be flexible, you don’t have to be rich, and you DEFINITELY don’t have to be a white woman in order to experience the benefits of the practice. Yoga is not about the “fad” it has become. It is about the balance you find within your body and within the present moment that can push you far beyond where you thought you could go. It can lift you and heal you, both mentally and physically, if you truly give into the practice. The health benefits of just learning how to breath as well as decreasing stress and realigning yourself, not just your physical being, with your goals is a priceless gift everyone deserves.

Below there are five yoga applications that work on both Apple and Android devices that allow everyday people to engage in consistent yoga practice. As a poor graduate student, I can’t afford to buy new yoga clothes for every class or even afford the class for that matter, but I can pay $25 a month to have access to Glo.com, which has allowed me to continue the practices I love! I have received no money from any of the below applications, these are simply suggestions on where to get started if you either want to try yoga or want to continue practicing on a budget!

(Yoga) Glo

  • Over 3,000 classes
  • Has various levels, to account for beginner, intermediate, and well-practiced yogis
    • Has accountability checks based on personally identified goals
  • Has a variety of videos and audio for anything from sleep to grief, or focusing on your back to getting a cardio workout
    • Also includes meditation
  • For $18 a month you get unlimited access to all the site has to offer, compared to paying $25 or more per session at a studio

Yoga Studio

  • Over 130 classes
  • Ranges from stretching to combination classes (e.g., stretching, yoga, relaxation, etc.)
  • Has beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels
  • Has meditation, yoga for back pain, yoga for runners, salutations, and essentials classes
  • Is a free app on Apple and Android devices, with unlimited access to classes

Daily Yoga

  • Over 100 classes
  • Has a variety of levels and keeps track of your personal progress as you complete classes
  • Creates the opportunity to form a community of yogis to help in your quest for peace
  • Classes focus on mastering yoga poses, foundation, and mental/physical health
    • Also includes meditation
  • Is a free app on Apple and Android devices, with unlimited access to classes

Down Dog

  • Over 30,000 configurations (which is different from classes)
  • It can be personalized to your favorite voice, desired level, time limit, etc.
  • Focuses on 12 different areas of practice
  • Is a free app on Apple and Android devices, with unlimited access to classes

Find What Feels Good

  • Over 600 classes with yoga instructor Adriene and select guest instructors
  • Has various levels to account for beginner, intermediate, and well-practiced yogis
    • Has accountability checks based on personally identified goals
  • Has access to vlogs, video series, live classes, and yoga events/workshops
    • Also includes meditation
  • For $9.99 a month you get unlimited access to all the site has to offer, compared to paying $25 or more per session at a studio

The best thing about these apps is that you don’t have to be a yoga expert to own or use them. You don’t have to be a millionaire to practice yoga and you can choose your pace, level of comfort, time limit, style of practice, etc.! Yoga is for everyone, even if it’s not typically described or marketed that way!

Climate Change

As some of you may know, the Amazon rainforest has been on fire for several weeks. This is important, not just because it is the only rainforest left of its size and diversity, but because it is invaluable to humans. Plants reverse the CO2 humans put into the air. Plants remove CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and produce oxygen. Without the rainforest, CO2 stays in the atmosphere and oxygen levels decrease. I don’t know how familiar you are with breathing, but I kinda like it……

When trees burn excess CO2 also leaks into an atmosphere already at its maximum. Considering the growing population of Earth, without the rainforest and other highly forested regions, humans will not have enough oxygen in the atmosphere to sustain our breathing.

However, the burning of the Amazon rainforest is not our only cause for concern (e.g., cruise ships, cattle, over-fishing, etc.). The temperature of the Earth continues to rise (for more information see the IPCC special report on impacts of an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius) and our environment continues to degrade. During the Climate Action Summit, 19 countries (not including the United States) focused on ways to address climate change concerns. Just because the United States is not included does NOT mean we cannot do our part in saving our environment!

Below are 5 simple ways you can help save our planet by making quick cost-effective lifestyle changes:

  1. Close knowledge gaps
    • Start talking: Many people are unaware of just how close to home climate change effects really are. By talking about these issues more often and with examples that apply to those we know, we can help others better understand the predicament we have created.
      • For example: Many believe, if brought back, the coal industry is a reliable source of jobs. However, the negative impact of coal on the environment and human health contradict the possible positive outcomes. It is less widely known that the coal industry is in a decline due to alternative types of energy, such as natural gas. Its revival is not foreseen anytime soon. Jobs can be created by land restoration/reforestation, as well as hydroelectric dams and solar energy farms.
  2. Use renewable energy when accessible. Below are the most easily accessible renewable energy sources
    • Solar energy – A once unaffordable alternative, now made more affordable with increased demand
    • Wind energy – If available in your area, there are steps to help identify if this source of energy is best for you
  3. Eat fewer animal products
    • Documentaries, such as Cowspiracy, give factual evidence on the effects of the overconsumption of animal products. Now, being mostly plant-based for almost four years now, I am obviously biased towards a plant-based diet. However, the facts are that we are running out of space for livestock. We are running out of fish in the oceans. And the greenhouse gases emitted from animal agriculture are contributing heavily to global warming. What I am not asking you to do is stop eating all animal products, but research suggests the consumption of fewer animal products. Additionally, consuming fewer animal products can result in incredible positive health outcomes. There is plenty of research out there to corroborate my claims, but you could also check out some of these documentaries:
      • What the Health
      • Forks Over Knives
      • Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
      • Food Choices
  4. Use fewer resources
    • Water
      • Clean water is at a shortage right now. Most of Earth’s water is saltwater and what remains of freshwater is in short supply due to wastefulness and Earth’s increasing population.
    • Reusable containers
      • Using reusable water bottles, utensils, dishes, and containers helps consolidate waste from non-degradable materials
    • Recycle
      • Reduces landfill waste
      • Reduces energy use for reproduction
      • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
    • Use public transportation/ride a bike
      • Saves money
      • Reduces pollution
      • Health benefits of physical exercise
      • Less erosion of road surfaces
  5. Do more
    • Buy more plants
      • Decreases CO2 in the atmosphere
      • Increases oxygen in the atmosphere
    • Eco-buying when you must make purchases
      • Eco-brands reduce water usage, use of hazardous chemicals, and produce less waste
      • Good on You can pair you with eco-friendly clothing brands
    • Turn off electric appliances when not in use
      • Saves money
      • Saves energy
    • Line drying
      • Saves energy
      • Saves money
    • Tap water drinking
      • Saves money
      • Saves waste from plastic bottles
    • Donating unused materials
      • Recycle clothes, shoes, household items, etc. – Making new use of old materials creates less waste
    • Carpooling
    • Low emission buying
      • Cars that run on non-renewable energy emit substantial amounts of CO2 and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming
      • Buying fewer, more eco-friendly vehicles, creates less waste and lowers greenhouse gas emissions
      • Table of renewable energy vehicles by energy source
Renewable EnergyBrand of Vehicles
BiodieselBMW
Ram
Jeep Grand Cherokee
Ford
Chevy
GMC
Jaguar
Land Rover
Mercedes-Benz
Nissan
ElectricityVolkswagen
Tesla
Smart
Nissan
Kia
Jaguar
Hyundai
Honda
Ford
Fiat
Chevrolet
BMW
Audi
HydrogenVolkswagen
Toyota
Subaru
Nissan
Mazda
Kia
Hyundai
Honda
Ford
GM
Fiat
Mercedes-Benz
Chrysler
BMW
Audi
Natural GasAudi
BMW
Fiat
Ford
Honda
Mercedes-Benz
Toyota
Volkswagen
Volvo
Ethanol
Propane

I Want To Thank All My Unfollowers

“A fixation with connecting with ‘friends’ online comes with the risk of disconnection with friends waiting for you to be present in the offline world.” 

– Craig Hodges

I’ll be honest with you all, I’m more granola than I am Instagram model. I’ve never been or thought of myself as sexy, or someone who could sell their face or body as some sort of brand. But when I started Be You. I realized I had to sell myself. I had to create this image of myself and be consistent and devoted to it. I needed to make those watching fall in love with the person I am, or the person I wanted them to see.

Be You. being built on the platform of welcoming real-life struggles made mastering Instagram really tough. Be You. is supposed to be a refuge for the different and unique, a haven of sorts where real life can happen and it be okay. I wanted a safe place for people to read about and engage with other people not oversaturated by what’s plastered on the internet.

Somehow through building my brand and trying to find other likeminded souls to travel this journey with me, I lost sight of the Be You. purpose. Yes, I am an internet-based entity, but what really goes on in Be You. happens in the real world. This means I have to be involved in the real world for the brand to work. However, the real world and success on social media very rarely coincide in the same space. I was constantly on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and you guessed it – Instagram.

You’ve read, or I hope you’ve read, about my journey to become more mindful. Now considering all I’ve just said about the devotion Instagram requires, how well do you think I was doing at living in the present moment?  Yeah…… All of my present moments happened on the internet. Liking others photos, leaving thoughtful comments, posting on my InstaStory, and even my movements through the world were marked with “Can you take a picture of me?” So now I’m editing photos and choosing the content. I’m coming up with thoughtful and relevant hashtags and deciding if this place is “cool enough” for a geotag.

And would you believe it? I was popular. The official Be You. Instagram had almost 10,000 followers. Each picture grossed between 400 and 600 likes. The website was booming with people reading my posts and engaging with one another. I was working with brands that fit with my own and I thought I was happy. But living in the moment, moment to moment, non-judgmentally and constantly engaging on social media to make sure you stay relevant don’t fit. They’re two puzzle pieces from two different boxes. I was popular in a world that didn’t exist – or only existed in an invisible, non-engageable, wifi space.

I deleted my Be You. Instagram and I focused on just my personal one. I figured I could slowly and organically re-grow my following through thoughtful engagement and posts. I could be normal, in the real world, and be just as popular. Boy was I wrong. I limited my Instagram time each day to 30 minutes and I lost 70 followers. I stopped posting as many pictures of me in tight outfits, or of me period, and I lost about 160 likes per post. I had restarted and I was being true to myself and my vow to live in the real world, and I was failing at gaining support for Be You.

Come to find out, my failure was inevitable. Instagram orchestrated this type of reception with their new algorithm.

  1. If you spend less time on Instagram they reward you by letting fewer people that may be interested in your content see it.
  2. If you change your caption they penalize you with less exposure.
  3. If you’re a normal person with normal person pictures then you don’t get as much publicity.
  4. If you’re a business account (which Be You. is because it’s a personal blog) and you’re not the most popular then people won’t see you, unless they follow one of your hashtags. My assumption is this hopes to promote “businesses” to pay for posts to be promoted.
  5. If you’re on Facebook (which I’m not anymore) then you get privileges from the two programs being owned by one company.

I’m sure there are many more, but those are the ones I found most consistently.

For normal people like me: A graduate student, with basically no expendable income, that doesn’t have time to constantly engage or create the most beautiful content to constantly supply the internet with, and definitely wants to get this doctorate sooner rather than later……it can be really tough! I don’t want to spend money to promote a post. I don’t want to spend, or more accurately, waste valuable time from my life devoted to internet “friends.”

But you do start to feel like maybe something is wrong with you, especially when the purpose of the content is authenticity. The interaction and posts that were working before are no longer working. Your platform, the one you were proud of before, is no longer intriguing to people. This is what caused me to go looking for reasons. What I found was your typical Black Mirror type trickery. Instagram takes your engagement and subsequently decreases your followers, to increase your personal engagement with the app by banking on your desire to gain that engagement back. Confusing, I know.

Well Instagram, even though you’ll definitely win the war with the masses, you’ve lost this battle to Be You. I hope they lose a few more battles along the way because there is nothing like being a part of this beautiful world. Even with all of the negativity and current political turmoil, when you have people that love you and true appreciation for the beauty and ingenuity of this world moments are priceless.

I think I’ll keep my “picture perfect life [versus the one] you lie about in your captions.”  

“Don’t Tell Me to RELAX”

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Audre Lorde

It’s interesting how our perception of being a grown-up, when we’re young, means freedom. Freedom from our parents, their rules, their house, etc. We spend our entire youth trying to “grow-up,” just to realize while we have more money than we’ve ever had, we also have more responsibilities and that work rarely ever takes days off.

Be careful what you wish for…am I right!?!

What would be an interesting twist is if adults kept that same sense of freedom, and viewed their different life circumstances as more opportunities for self-care, rather than more opportunities to gain more opportunities (you follow me?).

We measure success not by how much peace we have, but by how much we have to show for it. We measure our lives in external variables: Cars, homes, appearance, and in the world of academia and research, publications.

I found myself struggling with this desire to be great at what I do while maintaining an internal sense of peace. It wasn’t because I don’t love what I do, but because I wasn’t finding time to enjoy where I am. My days were filled with “trying to get there,” instead of “look at where I’m at.” I never stopped to enjoy my accomplishments before moving to the next thing. I never gave myself that extra boost or an “You know you’re amazing right?” I just kept moving and I kept depleting my engine. Before I knew it I felt like I was running on fumes.

What hadn’t occurred to me, in looking towards my future, was taking care of myself in the present. With how fast paced our lives are in this era, I know I can’t be alone in this! But it’s not that easy to just switch-up your life and give-in to self-care. Your mind wants to keep going. It wants to keep moving and working. We’ve programmed it that way. It took me a while to be able to truly start saying “NO” – BIG GIRL CAPS – to projects, take breaks throughout my day, plan vacations after each semester (even if they’re mini, on my grad school budget), and make an effort to reconnect with the creative side of myself that I love so much. I had become so focused on one part of myself that other major parts of my personality hit a standstill.

But if there’s one thing I know for sure in life, it’s that we don’t get second chances to be who we were yesterday. We have to pay attention to who we are now and really make an effort to enjoy ourselves, our lives, our loved ones and friends while we still can. Pushing things off until tomorrow, or next week, next month, or year pushes things to a future we don’t control and can’t guarantee. You don’t have to drop your dreams or your work ethic to just take a moment for yourself.

If you’re having trouble even knowing where to start you are not alone! Take a look at these 12 Self-Care Tips for Busy People, by the Young Entrepreneurs Council (YEP).

While you may resonate with all of the above, or many, you may also resonate with none, or very few. Don’t give up though, self-care is not a one size fits all process, so keep putting yourself first and keep trying things, because we all deserve a little peace sometimes ☺️

The Grad School Broke Code

Going to grad school is a doozy. You have to do a lot of work for very little pay, and most programs are a minimum of a year long. I know my program is looking more like 5 or 6 years, so what does someone like me do in a situation like this? After all, if you know me or you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you probably know I do like to enjoy the finer things in life – I mean, really, who doesn’t, but as a grad student it can get really tough! So, what I’ve done for my new grad student peeps is list off my Top 10 ways for you to stay on budget and in style during your graduate school career!

Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.31.13 PM.png

  1. PRIORITIZE!!!

This may be the most important thing you do for your budget during your grad school career. Figure out what you like to do and the things you are willing to spend money on. For example, I know I like to live in nicer places and I like to have nice clothes. Anything that is not rent or clothing, in my head, counts as unnecessary spending. Now, also keep in mind you’ll need to budget for necessities like your groceries or that time you get a flat tire that’s not actually a flat tire, but now you have to pay the mechanic for checking anyway (true story), but we’ll talk more about that next.

 

  1. BUDGET

Staying on budget has never in my life been my strong suit, so what I did was get an app to help me – because, naturally, technology is the answer right? I got an app called Mint. I used it to clock my spending and in which places I spent what for three months. I then went through all of my purchases and charted where I was spending the most unnecessary money. THEN I finally built my budget. The app allows you to both build a budget and track your purchases (it does this for you!) This will help make sure you are staying on budget. When you are getting close to overdoing it, it will let you know, and when you have overdone it, it will let you know that as well! So, figure out your priorities, track your spending, and build your budget.

 

  1. EAT IN BULK Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.07 PM.png

So, what exactly does that mean – no, I am not condoning binge eating, I am simply informing you that cooking a large amount of food at one time is a GREAT way to save money.

1) As a vegan I have to go to the grocery store more frequently because most of my food needs to be fresh, but the plus side is that my items are less expensive – an orange for 49 cents, a tomato for 35 cents, so on and so forth. No, again, I am not advocating for veganism [although it does help the planet, your health, and your wallet 😉 ] what I am saying is that you should try and buy fresh, and ONLY what you need.

2) We all know only buying what you need at the grocery store can be like eating only Cheese It (no, I have not been vegan my whole life – I have had a Cheese It – or 86). What I did to help make sure I only bought what I needed was, first, invest in a cookbook and look up some great cooking blogs. Each week I sit down and go through my cookbook, Thug Kitchen, and see if there is anything in there I feel like eating the next week. If not, I simply hit the blogs. Then I compare the ingredients I already have to the ingredients I need to buy and make a list. Then I make sure the items I need will fit my budget.

*Vegan and vegetarian meals typically have very few items per meal anyway, so that always helps!*

I know this seems like a lot of work, but it’s really not! Once a week take 30 minutes to build your meal for the next week. The rest is just cooking and storage!

 

  1. DIY

So, the “old Alexis,” as I like to call her, would rather pay someone to do something really well than even attempt to do it herself. “New grad school Alexis” just does it herself until it turns out really well! DO THIS.! You would not believe how much money you spend buying things that you could make on your own.

Buying the ingredients for bread is cheaper than buying the actual bread (that is if you’re buying bread that is healthy for you in the first place and not incredibly processed. Processed foods are often very cheap but will have a dramatic negative impact on your health, so be warned!). You can do the same things with yogurt, parfaits, soups, dried fruits, juices, smoothies, sparkling water, and the list can go on for days! For example, I bought a juicer and I now get my juice for the same price as I buy the oranges, or apples, or berries. With websites like Amazon, which can help you find the cheapest options for the best value (discounts on prime for students), you’re juicing in no time! So, learn to do things and put in the effort!

 

  1. PATIENCE Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.55 PM.png

When you like really nice things they typically cost a lot. I wouldn’t say I search for nice things, I would say I go in a store and the things I happen to like just also happens to be the most expensive thing in the store. A talent really – not useful – but a talent nonetheless. The way I cope with this in grad school is patience. If I see something that I like I will save a little money at a time until I can afford to buy it. For some, taking the cash out of your account every two weeks may be the ticket, so you don’t spend it. For others, transferring money to your savings account may be the best way not to spend it. It’s dealer’s choice, but what is FOR SURE, is that buying it flat out is the quickest and easiest way for you to GO BROKE.! All good things come to those who wait, so get your waiting pants on and TAKE. A. SEAT.

 

  1. IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

When you do your budget breakdown you’ll realize that you spend the most money on the smallest things. You probably don’t even think about gas, or that pen you lost last week, or that snack you got because you left yours at home *rolls eyes* (another true story), but those things add up. You have to remember that you may need to buy a book, go to a conference, go to a training, or buy a new blazer when you spill make-up on yours *rolls eyes to the back of her head* (yet ANOTHER true story). You have to have extra money in your account for unforeseen circumstances, but you won’t have any money left if you’re not careful about the miscellaneous things that you buy. Five dollars, ten dollars, twelve dollars, hell one dollar, adds up over time, so budget for miscellaneous and PAY ATTENTION when that warning comes that you’re spending too much.

 

  1. PUT YOUR GRANNY PANTS ON AND SIT DOWN 

You no longer have the luxury of going out every weekend with your friends. This is a fact. Just sit down and stare at the wall for a minute while it sinks in. YOU’RE POOR. That one drink at the bar that turns into five drinks can no longer happen. The twerk team is on sabbatical, so sit down and put your granny panties on.

Start looking for activities that you enjoy that don’t cost money, or are a minimum cost. I know I like to drink Grey Goose, so for me, going out can get quite pricey if I haven’t budgeted to do so. What I do now instead is have movie nights with friends, I go to coffee shops, which are less expensive than drinking alcohol because when you drink coffee your decision making isn’t impaired and (for most) you’re not at risk of buying way too many coffees lol. I go for walks at the nature trails we have here in Lawrence, or take my dog to the dog park. I may venture into the city for a day and window shop (I HATE WINDOW SHOPPING, so I’m probably just walking around the city being in the city atmosphere – I won’t lie).

The bottom line is you can’t go out as much unless going out is one of the things you prioritized in your budget – THEN GO WILD. For those of us who did not prioritize it, it doesn’t mean you can never go out, but it definitely means you have to plan it more than you used to, and that’s ok, because when the time comes it will be JUST. AS. FUN.!

 

  1. BUY A DAY PLANNER Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.42.44 PM.png

Hell, buy a life planner. Just start planning. I’ve always lived a heavily planned life. I think it has the most to do with being in competitive sports when I was younger and having several different practices at several different places, as well as trying to keep up with school work. If you’ve lived that life with any activity or hobby, then you know!

Trip down memory lane – off track – but the point is that your life is more structured now. You can’t just do what you want when you want. Well you can, but you’ll likely flunk out, or get kicked out, whichever comes first.

I love traveling, so traveling is a high priority of mine, but I also know that I need to plan a minimum of 6 months in advance in order to be able to go anywhere in the manner of which I want to go there. This means, I like going nice places and being able to afford to do nice things while I’m there. If I plan my trips in advance, then I can save slowly over time without it being a huge hit to my budget. So far I have Miami, Vegas, and New York coming up and two trips to California already under my belt – without missing a beat!

 

  1. I LIED

You will miss a few beats, at times. There will be times when everyone is going out, but you understand that you have a budget you need to keep so you don’t go. No one loves to be left out or feel like you’re missing something, but it’s a feeling you’ll need to get used to. And get used to saying no.

I am a yes person. I will typically say yes unless I am ill, and even then, I will probably make a way to do whatever it is. This journey, however, has taught me that I HAVE to start saying no, it’s no longer an option. At first, I felt crappy – really really crappy! Not putting in on something that everyone else can afford to do, just because even $5 out of place may throw off your budget is incredibly difficult. You feel just like a stupid Steve – just a greedy/selfish person and it sucks. Over time though you begin to realize that if you make an exception here then you’ll find a reason to make an exception there and there and over there and way down there, and then before you know it your budget is TOAST – crispy and charred. All I can really say to help is that the sooner you start saying no the easier it will get over time.

 

  1. THE CLICHÉ

I’ll end with a plug for minimalism, which I bet no one is surprised at – As it gets easier to say no over time, it also gets easier to get used to having fewer entities in your life (clutter, if you will). I used to have a bunch of stuff and when I say the cliché is right – it. Is. Right. – Less is truly more. We live in a society where the more you have the more status you have, and seemingly the better you are as a person, but that’s not at all true! We all buy into this idea of self-worth based on how much we have, when really, it’s all about the quality of what we have. This goes for relationships as well as material items. Having something of quality will end up staying with you for life, whereas having a lot of things and continuing to add, will only end with you being broke and lonely – and no one wants that!

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*I have no affiliation with Amazon or Mint, and everything here is based only on my personal experience*

No. I’m Not An “Oreo” I’m Black

August 21st, 2017

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s been a while guys, I know, but please bare with me as I go through this transition. I’ve moved to the mid-west – been a city girl all my life – and I just started my PhD coursework and research. To say I’ve been a little overwhelmed trying to get everything in order and organized would be an understatement. I will say though that the minimalist work I did in the months prior to this move made everything go A LOT smoother. I never managed to get any more clothes, because I’m still having trouble 1) shopping in my new price point and 2) figuring out what exactly it is that I want to wear. But as far as other materialistic objects, I’ve paired down quite a bit to the bare minimum. I have a new dedicated yoga, meditation, and study area, and a kitchen big enough to make all sorts of new yummy vegan treats, so I’m excited to show you all everything that unfolds in the future!


On another note, a more serious note, I want to talk about the recent and ever present state of this nation. For those of you outside of the United States, I’m sure even you are familiar with the state of civil unrest we have been thrown into in the recent months. On one hand I find pain in this revelation and the uprising of these groups, but on the other hand I am thankful that people’s eyes have been opened to just how terrible minority groups of all kinds are still treated.

In my life I’ve been called “basically white,” or an Oreo (white on the inside, but black on the outside), as if being educated and carrying yourself well was something only white people could do. I’ve been followed in stores. I’ve been made fun of for my hair, body, and clothing choices. I’ve been used as a “badge of achievement” from guys and friends that thought having a token black friend or experience was something to brag about; using me to validate their lack of racism or even their dominance over my race. I’ve been called names. I’ve been assumed to be stupid. All of this simply because my skin is brown. Although the above examples are my personal experiences, experiences like these happen to many minority groups every day. This struggle is a daily one, for ALL of us, not just the African American population. Many people either don’t even know their being offensive, or truly believe discrimination is a thing of the past. Don’t fault these people, because it was hidden well for a while from everyone that wasn’t a minority but wasn’t necessarily a racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc.

I think what many people fail to realize is that this country only works if we all work together. We failed the Native American people when we came over here and stole their land, and are still failing them today. We failed the African Americans when we stole them from their countries, families, and lives to become slaves, and still enslave them today with certain laws and legislation. We’ve failed the Hispanic population by exploiting them for labor, and looking at them only for the perpetuation of modern day slavery. We’ve failed the lower income community by providing them with fewer education opportunities. We’ve failed inmates by treating them like lab rats and not human beings, and providing them with very few skills to get out and live successful and productive lives. We’ve failed the transgender community by allowing them to be kicked to the curb by the military. We’ve failed women by refusing to pay them the same amount as a man for the same level and quality of work. We’ve failed the Jewish community by continuing to segregate and berate them even decades after one of the most horrible ordeals in world history. We’ve failed future generations by putting profit over the environment and health, and setting them up to be unhealthy in a world where they can’t even breath or eat natural grown vegetables. I could go on and on and on like this…the point is, that WE. Are. Failing.

This country can’t function without everyone that’s here, and the different expertise and knowledge we ALL have to offer. This has become way more than politics. This has become about the way we treat people and value them. This is about making sure everyone is valued equally. This has become about the character of the nation, not the president. As the late, great, Martin Luther King Jr. once alluded, all we want is to live in a nation where minority groups can be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I think many hide behind politics to justify their intolerance, and for those people all we can do is pray. However, for those who really value people of all shade, shapes, and sizes, one thing we cannot continue to do is stay silent. Silence has only served to prolong the problem under the cape of ignorance, but has never truly worked to abolition it. Fight for your peers. Fight for your friends. Fight for your family. But most importantly, fight for YOU. Fight because you have had enough. Fight because you care for others and value them. Fight because you know there’s a problem and it’s solution has been a long time coming. Fight because the content of your character allows you to see past the mirror and into a future of true peace and joy. Fight with words and peaceful protest. Do not fight with anger, resentment, and violence, but fight.

Just one person can change the world, but the message gets a lot louder with more voices. And together we can accomplish anything!

Nothing Worth Having Comes Easily

June 19th, 2017

Moving has to be one of the most stressful things to do in an adult’s life. You have to pack up everything you own, organize how to get it from one place to the next, find a new place to live, organize leaving your previous location and transferring all of your services; I could keep going on for a very VERY long time – but I won’t! What I mean to say is that it’s exhausting, and if you’re familiar with Be You. then you’re familiar with my journey to minimalism, so this has brought a whole new shade of shitty to the situation.

Even once you’ve given away most of your material items, or you think you have, you can’t really be sure until you have to move them. Once I started packing it hit me like a dump truck that I either had an obscene amount of stuff or, well, I guess I just had an obscene amount of stuff *sigh*. As a very organized and meticulous person I like to start the move-out process a full month, to month and a half, before I actually have to be anywhere. So this whole month I’ve just been basically throwing things away. It turns out that although I had given away a lot of my clothing I still have a ridiculous number of shoes and other miscellaneous items. It also turns out that I have literally kept every piece of paper I’ve ever been given or printed since 1912, so who really has room for all of that or a place to keep it properly organized?

I feel like most of this moving process isn’t just taking things from one location to another, but deciding what really matters to me. Again, I am faced with not what on the outside matters to me, but this time, what on the inside matters to me. It has turned out to be a completely different experience than when I was deciding which shirts said “Alexis” versus the ones that didn’t. I have to decide which parts of my life are important to me. Which things hold the most emotional and practical value? The question isn’t who do I want people to see me as on the outside, but who do I want to be on the inside? And some days I just don’t know, and I sit on the floor looking at everything out of its place and wish I could just go back and never begin the process. But if there’s one thing I have learned in what seems like the longest 23 years ever – with a sample size of 1 opinion – is that there is nothing in this life that’s worth having or achieving that isn’t, at least at the beginning, and most of the time even at the end, a monumental pain in the butt…And remembering this I continue on my journey. Until next time, my friends – Be You.