Life & Lessons, Note to Self

SELF | “Note to Self” Essay Series

My collection of personal-thoughts-turned quotes, Note to Self, is coming out on 06/20/20. This essay series details the journey behind each chapter.

My natural setting is people-pleasing.

Or maybe it’s not, and I’m just like the rest of you, running around trying not to throw things out of whack because it involves a lot of cleanup.

I constantly think about what I should have said seven years later. I bite my tongue, or I am in so much disbelief that I don’t say anything at all. If I do say something, I say it unconvincingly, or it’s not how I wanted it to come out at all.

I hate this about myself. But I don’t hate myself. And that’s when this question came to me:

How much do I respect myself?

Why do I allow people to talk to me or treat me a certain way if I don’t like it? Why do I not trust every red, blaring alarm inside me screaming, “This is not right”? Why do I take their cues over mine? Don’t I matter, too?

I’ve been told my entire life that being full of emotions is a bad thing. It’s weak, it’s messy, it’s annoying.

But I’m learning that it’s not. I see right through everything and the people who say that are scared of being found out. I understand what’s happening around me at a deeper level. I’ve learned that this is my power.

Like anything that has power, it’s not possible to stay on all day, all the time.

Forgive yourself for the times the lights were off. Forgive yourself for needing rest; for glitching or for losing control. For getting it right 10 times then messing it up the 11th. For missing a step while you stomp to the beat of your own drum.

Then recharge and take inventory of your self-love and self-respect. I succeed at my own advice. I fail at my own advice. I am constantly patting myself on the back. I am constantly putting myself in check. Both are necessary and important.

I have to remind myself not to be a people-pleaser. I have to remind myself to ask for what I really want and ask directly. I have to remind myself to say what I mean, but say it kindly. What’s scarier: never getting what you want or deserve (a pay raise, a date, an answer) or getting turned down? What’s worse: having an uncomfortable conversation and just getting it out into the open, or carrying the discomfort of what went unsaid into every part of your day? Your ego is a monster. Kill it now.

Just last week, I was negotiating and asked for what I wanted. Not once, but twice. It was terrifying. I felt like I was stepping into a fake, more confident, more seasoned version of myself. That’s who we become when we practice. We have to stop being afraid of what we want.

Trust yourself. Learn to hear the sound of that little voice inside. Learn to embrace every misstep and mistake you’ve made. Wipe the mirror down and take a good look at your power, your magic. It’s all right there.

Note to Self can be purchased at bymiabrabham.com. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my life and work! 

This series was edited by the brilliant and incomparable Brooke Long.

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Life & Lessons, Note to Self

LIFE | “Note to Self” Essay Series

My collection of personal-thoughts-turned quotes, Note to Self, is coming out on 06/20/20. This essay series details the journey behind each chapter.

I don’t know how else to put it: life is one huge unraveling.

We are born into a world that’s already been turning, already has its own values and ideas, already has a system.

We are born blank slates. But we become canvases for our family’s projections, our school’s agendas, and our neighbors’ behaviors.

It wasn’t until my 20s that it dawned on me: So you’re just going to believe what you’ve been told your whole life?

The day you sit down and think about this is the day you begin your great unraveling. Who are you? And what have you been taught to be?

As a kid — and even now — I never did what all the other kids were doing just because everyone else was doing it. Still, I had to accept that I am a product of my environment. And not just the one at home.

Yes, I grew up in a house with loving, supportive parents. But what did I learn in school from other kids? From my teachers? From my textbooks? Yes, I like my job. But what am I picking up from my colleagues? My boss? My work? Yes, I surround myself with inspiring and supportive friends. But what are magazines and television shows and movies and the media telling me? That my hair is not beautiful enough? That I’m too proper? That I’m too bubbly? That I’m a prude? That I’m promiscuous? That I’m too loud? That I’m too angry? That I’m too soft? That I’m too sensitive?

The unraveling never stops. There are still things the world tries to teach me, and I have to decide each and every day whether I believe it or not. Furthermore, if I am any or all of those things, what makes them a bad thing? Or a good thing?

During this lifelong unraveling, we meet people who help free us from life’s bindings and others who leave us tied even tighter. Most people don’t mean to make it worse. In fact, they think they’re helping. But the reality is that they’re not quite sure how to untie you because they haven’t yet learned how to untie themselves.

I think we’re all a little scared of freeing ourselves. The possibilities are endless and overwhelming. You might like the same sex. You might want to change how your dream looks. You might not want to be surrounded by the toxic people you’ve surrounded yourself with up until now. We’re all scared of looking stupid or wrong. We’re all being lonely and disliked. Because of this, we’re all scared of changing our minds.

But we’re not the only ones. Someone’s gotta do it first. Chances are, you aren’t the first. And if you are, you won’t be the last. There’s a community out there for you.

During this great unraveling, detours are okay. In this chapter of the book, I write a lot about wrong turns and u-turns and left turns and right turns. After college, I was dead set on moving to Los Angeles. But I got an unexpected call for a job in Washington DC and knew it was an undeniably great opportunity, so I took it. I learned so much. I fell in love with the city; its diversity, its vibrance, its culture. I fell in love, point-blank. I grew closer in friendships. And I can’t help but think that if I never got that call, I would have never been introduced to the city where I’d find myself back in — the one where I would begin designing the life I want.

I have “Leap” tattooed on my right rib cage, where it expands with every breath I take. I’ve decided that no matter what, I’ll always be where I’m supposed to be because I’m going to get to where I’m ultimately meant to end up anyways. I’ve decided to follow my heart while getting there. I’ve decided to take leaps, even if I’m scared. I have to constantly remind myself to breathe and have fun. Life is really just a playground.

Each decision you make should be the biggest and best decision of your life — until the next decision comes along. Trust every part of the unraveling. Be humbled. Uncrumple your heart. Tell your story. By the end, hopefully, we are freed from the tangled yarn that’s been woven for us. Then we can start stitching together the real fabric of our lives.

Note to Self can be purchased at bymiabrabham.com. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my life and work!

This series was edited by the brilliant and incomparable Brooke Long.

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Life & Lessons, Note to Self

LOVE | “Note to Self” Essay Series

My collection of personal-thoughts-turned quotes, Note to Self, is coming out on 06/20/20. This essay series details the journey behind each chapter.

I always say that my parents ruined love for me. Not because they are the worst, but because they are the best. They taught us to never go to bed angry at someone you love. They kissed good morning and good night, they held hands around the house, they danced in the kitchen, they laughed at everything, they always sat next to one another at the dinner table. My brothers and I never saw them fight; they kept their battles private because they knew that love is the war that wins. They respected and were patient with one another. Most importantly, they showed us love by loving us, their kids, so deeply and unconditionally. What they had, and have, is so real. I found myself never wanting to settle for anything less.

Much like the majority of the romantic experiences I’ve had in my life, I debated if I could even title this chapter Love. I didn’t have a serious relationship in high school or in college. I was focused on school, my family, my friends, my future, myself. I didn’t want to waste my time on anything I didn’t think could last. The times I did find something I thought was worth keeping, the feeling was either completely unrequited or I was kept in the crossfires of their oscillating feelings or fear of commitment before being let down. I wish I could say “I’m kidding” when I say to you, I really thought something was wrong with me because of it.

And then someone walked into my life and proved me wrong.

Here’s what everything before him taught me: heartbreak molds you and love isn’t something own. You just can’t make someone feel something, even if it seems like all the signs are there. Even if they do, and you’re lucky enough to experience that, you can’t make them stay (or be less shitty). I mean, you can. But people own themselves. You can’t control another person, therefore, you can’t control love. We are all just renters. We can only enjoy our stay.

Here’s what he’s taught me: everything is worth it when you find someone who feels like home and wants to build a home with you, too. We did our first year living in the same city, the second and third across the country, and the fourth, together once again. It was easy because we knew we wanted to stay together. It was hard because experiencing life — the good and the bad — without someone you love day to day is excruciating. But we knew we had something special. Love is not only a beautiful, beautiful feeling — but is also a choice. It is lovely to find someone who says Hey, I want to stick around. Let’s dance in the kitchen. Let’s be each other’s shelter. Let’s be each other’s adventure. Let’s kiss good morning and good night. When we do fight, let’s do it with our weapons down and hearts in our hands. Let’s rent this thing together.

Note to Self can be purchased at bymiabrabham.com. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my life and work!

This series was edited by the brilliant and incomparable Brooke Long.

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Note to Self: People
Life & Lessons, Note to Self

PEOPLE | “Note to Self” Essay Series

My collection of personal-thoughts-turned quotes, Note to Self, is coming out on 06/20/20. This essay series details the journey behind each chapter.

People are made up of a million little stories, so it makes sense that I’ve gathered a million little stories about people.

My lessons surrounding people, particularly those whom I’ve had the pleasure and displeasure of meeting, can be summed up into one sentence: we are simultaneously amazing and shitty.

Notice I say “we.” I am one of you.

I’ve spent all 25 years of my life taking note of how others move through this world and being as conscious as possible about how I do, too. I’ve found it true that different places hold different types of people. Your surroundings influence you to be your best or your worst.

I’m not an anthropologist (I should be in my next life), but here are a few types of people I’ve studied and placed in my field notes.

There are the people who won’t like you no matter what you do. It’s okay. You’re not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. My therapist revealed something groundbreaking to me earlier this month: there’s no need to defend ourselves. People are allowed to have their opinion of you. That doesn’t make them right.

Next up: there are the people who do like you… a little too much. They like you so much that they a) want to be just like you, and/or b) want you to be as miserable as they are. I’ll get back to you on how to deal with this one… I’m still figuring it out.

Then, there are the people who like to give… a little too much. And by give, I mean advice. Watch out for the people who like to explain more than they like to explore.

Of course, life wouldn’t be complete without the people who love to take. I say it poignantly in my book: Everyone wants something from you, but you can’t give them everything. You’d be empty.

I would be remiss not to admit that I, too, have the ability to suck. As a sensitive human, I have walked my life on eggshells trying not to hurt other people because it’s been done way too often to me. But if I do hurt someone, I try my best to apologize. Truly apologize. Not that I’m sorry you felt that way bullshit. But I’m so sorry I did that. I’m so sorry I said that. I was wrong. Why is it so hard for us to do this? I think it’s important. I’m learning. You should, too.

It all boils down to this: hold onto the people who don’t make you feel like shit. I mean, those are low standards. That’s the bare minimum. But start there.

Have you taken inventory of the people in your life, lately? Who makes you excited? Who brings out the good in you? Who is thoughtful? Who makes you want to dance and sing and smile? Them. Focus on them.

When you feel like there’s only so much of you to give, give it to the people who view friendships and relationships as a two-way street. For the ones who don’t… thank them and move on. For the ones who do… thank them. Then stay.

There’s one type of person I haven’t mentioned yet, and I’ve saved it for last intentionally. These are the people who are walking through the dark. It is raining for them. It is cold and wet. It is hard. Be sunshine. Be warmth. Be shelter. You don’t have to know someone deeply or be sure you’ll see them ever again to make an impact on their lives.

We have the ability to be bad. We also have the ability to be so, so good. So what’s it going to be for you?

Note to Self can be purchased at bymiabrabham.com. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my life and work!

This series was edited by the brilliant and incomparable Brooke Long.

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Life & Lessons, Note to Self

DREAMS | “Note to Self” Essay Series

My collection of personal-thoughts-turned quotes, Note to Self, is coming out on 06/20/20. This essay series details the journey behind each chapter.

I grew up with a dad who loved going to the movies. Every once in a while, if I put down my pencil long enough, I would allow him to take me to the theater to see a superhero film. I remember being taken by Halle Berry’s Storm and her immense power, and later, by Mystique and her shapeshifting capabilities. I remember being particularly terrified of the latter; her yellow, laser-focused eyes bright against her scaly blue skin, her intensity, her mystery, her complexity. I would shrink into myself watching her, but I also couldn’t stop watching. I was mesmerized.

I’ve found that when we see or hear ourselves in something — even if a little piece — we react. I was both scared and amazed because I saw myself in Mystique; I was both scared and amazed by my own ability to shapeshift, too.

My first love was reading and writing. My mom likes to remind me that at my third birthday party, as soon as I unwrapped my first book, I refused to open anything else. In elementary school, I would write books by way of computer paper on my living room floor, then bind them with a stapler. I would write and put on porch plays for my parents; talk my friends into starring in skits with me. Then in middle school, I began doing theater and started putting my stories on YouTube with a video camera. This was life-shifting for me. It birthed me into the world and the power of online sharing. I unintentionally grew a sizable following. I met people who became friends all across the world, and still are. I was asked to host digital content for various events and outlets, and I was getting paid. I was making videos that were entertaining, inspiring, and educating. I decided this is what I wanted to do — make content I felt passionately about.

My parents told me I could do anything I set my mind to… after I got a college degree. So I went to college and learned about how television and film shapes our minds, and how representation matters. I was taught to respond to “What’s your dream job?” rather than “What do you want to create?” or “How do you want to create impact?” I had to decide how I could turn my many dreams into one career. I had to figure out how to become something attainable, and who I would work for.

During college, I passed on the opportunity to study abroad and interned in Los Angeles instead. I was dazzled with the city of dreams, screens, red carpets, and awards. In my head, it was the only place I could shine, and shine big. I became fixated on it. So I finished school, spent one year working in Washington DC, then moved.

I was accepted into a prestigious entertainment program that’s harder to get into than Harvard, then went on to work for a network that is a household name. I was living what many would consider the dream. It was fun and amazing and glamorous, it truly was. I met amazing people along the way. I loved that our content entered people’s homes across the country and made them laugh, but the longer I stayed in LA, the more I questioned if I was happy and fulfilled.

I was surrounded by the dream, but I wasn’t sure if I was actually living mine. Everyone seemed to want to be something else. I wanted to be something else. God has given some people the tenacity and patience to wait for their dreams to unfold. But not me. I didn’t like the idea that I would have to wait around for someone with money and power to make my actual dreams come true — my dreams of writing my own stories and creating my own content. Instead, I was writing stories and creating content for someone else. And for money that I could barely live off of. And in a place where I was far away from many people I loved. Furthermore, I started disliking the idea that even if I did wait around and got that green light from someone else, that I would have to compromise too many other aspects of my life and values. I fell in love with the idea of following my dreams and, without knowing it, fell further out of love with the dream itself: making an impact through storytelling.

For so long, I defined myself as the girl who moved to follow her dreams and this was my identity. At what point did I begin to believe I had to go somewhere else to make my success tangible or to “make it big”? That I could only succeed in one way and in one place? That I had to hand my ideas over to a studio or network to validate that they are worthy of being told? Why, in this day and age, when the whole world is my stage? Was it my idea? Or someone else’s? At what point did that become the story I was telling myself?

I hit rock bottom at the start of my second year in Los Angeles. I was in between jobs and leases, sleeping on an air mattress on my brother’s floor, constantly crying in bed and in my car and to my mom on the phone because I was unhappy and didn’t know what to do next. But rock bottom gave way to the top.

One day, it hit me: You will do your greatest life’s work when you stop seeking greatness and start pursuing truth.

I realized I had been equating notoriety and fame with success. I didn’t want fame. I wanted to be successful. So what was success to me?

I began thinking about my purpose. I realized I was important as I was and important with what I had; I didn’t have to wait on someone to realize my potential. I realized that I could make waves — in the way that I wanted — wherever I went. Not just where it looked best or cool. I had to believe in my every want for my life, even where it didn’t pertain to my career. I had to believe that I would be okay no matter what. I had to believe in my own intensity, my own mystery, my own complexity. I had to believe in myself. I made peace with the fact that I was living out one awesome version of my dream: the one that checked an incredible box, fueled a tiny part of my ego, and was a wild, memorable experience. It was time to do what I thought was “the next right thing,” as Glennon Doyle says. So I packed my bags and started chasing the next thing that made sense to me, even if it wasn’t as shiny or pretty to everyone else.

I came to terms with the fact that my dreams had morphed into creating content for a big, cool company; I adapted the goal of working for someone else, and for the best and brightest of them. That’s not a bad thing. I did it, I loved it, I left happy. But I’ve since gotten back to my root definition of success: to write and create my own content, on my own terms, on my own time and schedule. It’s reaching the following I do have and will have. If notoriety and fame is a byproduct, so be it.

During my two years in Los Angeles, I learned a lot of lessons. Sometimes you feel real confidence when you have faith you were put in a certain place or position for a reason. Other times you have to fake it. I learned you can dislike a certain job, but that it doesn’t make it any less important for your life or your journey right now. Most importantly, I learned that dreams aren’t just about your job or your career. It’s about how you want to wake up in the morning, and who you want to wake up with. It’s about what you want to see when you look out the window and when you’re walking down the street. It’s about how you want your life to look when you think about it as a whole.

As we evolve, our dreams evolve. We think we’re chasing one big thing, but in reality, we’re always and only ever chasing kaleidoscopic pieces. Your dreams will take different shapes across your lifetime; they may even subtract or multiply. What we should chase is purpose, not places.

When I really think about it, it’s a lie that Los Angeles was always the plan for me. In high school, it was New York. In middle school, I never even wanted to leave my hometown. So who’s to say I won’t be in Los Angeles again? Or live in New York? Or London or Chicago or Texas or Virginia Beach? But for now, I’m living my next ultimate, radical dream. I still don’t know exactly what I want to be. But I know what I want to create.

I was, and still am, scared and amazed by both my ability and yearning to shapeshift. Every few years, how I want my life to look changes, and the rug slips out from under me. I’ve learned that when the rug goes flying, it’s easier to just sit down and ride with it. Or, you know, stand and ride it like a surfboard (life is as fluid as water, my dude). That little tug? It’s your calling. It’s probably headed in the right direction.

Dreams are shapeshifters. We are shapeshifters. That, my friend, is our power.

Note to Self can be purchased at bymiabrabham.com. Sign up for my newsletter here and follow me on Instagram and Twitter to keep up with my life and work!

This series was edited by the brilliant and incomparable Brooke Long.

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Photo by Michelle Tiffany
Life & Lessons

25 Lessons @ 25

Today, I am 25.

On the edge of 24, I actually tried to write a list much like the one you’re about to read. It started out as things I’d learned over the last year, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it because I didn’t know if I believed all of it anymore. I was living at a fork in the road, experiencing contradicting wants for my life. I erased them all and wrote this (so goth):

This is the most uncertain I’ve ever been in my life. Every reality seems like there’s another reality to contradict it. A lot of the things I found to be true just five years ago have changed. I don’t think I have the hindsight or authority to KNOW right now. There’s kind of something sweet about that. But I’m just going to ask questions right now. Maybe at 25 I’ll be able to answer them.

The divinity of reading this note the night before my 25th birthday sent chills down my spine. Here I am, 25, in a better headspace with the ability to confidently confirm some of my own questions I had written down just a year ago. I didn’t even realize I wished the answers into existence.

Rules and resolutions are made to be broken, and goals are fleeting. This is why I’ve always had an affinity for lessons. Lessons stick. They teach you about the past in an honorable way, while still pointing like an arrow towards the future. Lessons remind you of how strong you are and how much you’ve overcome. They humble you and gently ask you to do better and be better. I’ve found that many things in this life aren’t yours for keeping, but no lesson can be taken from you. And this year, as I blow out the candles, I’m remembering what I’ve learned over the course of my short lifetime.

These are the lessons that ring clear over and over again. These are the answers I have right now. Hold on tight. It’s detailed, it’s long, and it’s raw as shit.

1. Keep some things for yourself. There’s something to be said about keeping something — one thing, anything — for yourself. Whether that be a memory, a moment, a hope, a secret, an idea, a dream; it’s more meaningful, more beautiful, more intimate. I believe that we’re meant to share with one another. But not everything needs to be shared with the world. Some things remain sweeter left unsaid.

2. Revel in every stage. I remember being a child, playing in our wooden treehouse with the infamous big yellow tube slide alongside my neighborhood friends, looking around, and thinking, “Wow. I am never going to get this time back.” That moment, so specific yet so ephemeral, changed my life. Throughout middle school, high school, college, even now — I’ve done my best to stick with this mindset. It’s gotten harder, especially when that quarter life crisis hits and you’re questioning everything. But despite the frustrations, the obstacles, the “scaries” — live this stage in your life like you’ll never get it back. Because you won’t.

3. Don’t rush anything. Regrets are unavoidable. But I’ve found the best way to decrease the chances is to do everything on your own timeline. I can’t stress this enough. From a very young age, I never understood why everyone wanted to grow up so fast. I played with my Barbies as long as I could. I delayed wearing makeup and shaving my legs until I felt the desire to. I didn’t have sex until 22, when I was ready. Now I can’t speak for anyone else — this is just my story. No one age is right, so do you. But make sure you’re doing it because you want to. Not because it makes you cool or because everyone else is doing it. Enjoy your time until you feel it’s time.

4. Be yourself. I have to be completely and bluntly honest. In a world where it’s apparently hard to do, I’ve never really understood this, because to me it’s the most simple thing in the world. If I tallied up the #1 question I received over my lifetime, it would be, “How are you so happy all time?” It’s because I’ve never pretended to be anything but myself. People teased me for acting “too white” (not a thing, btw?) since middle school. People have called me too ambitious, too loud, too excited, too bubbly, too EVERYTHING. It’s not always easy. But changing myself sounds too exhausting. I’m lazy.

5. Don’t hold yourself to one dream. When I moved to Los Angeles, I remember stepping out of the car and feeling my heart sink to my stomach. “This is it,” I thought. My whole life I dreamed of this and here it was, at my toes. I was scared, because I did it. Now what? When I moved two years later, I was terrified I’d be viewed as someone who “settled” because I didn’t stay. Don’t listen to the voices in your head trying to box you into one idea or one vision you’ve had for yourself. You are allowed to grow. You are allowed to change. You are allowed to have more dreams.

6. You don’t have to make bad decisions just because you’re young. You’re allowed to make bad decisions. But don’t intentionally make destructive decisions just because you’re young. I’ve accomplished a lot of what I’ve set out to do, and honestly, I credit it to a few things: 1) Amazing parents 2) Always having my eyes on the prize, and 3) Valuing doing the right thing.

7. You don’t have to be hasty in making decisions, especially emotional ones. I’ve messed up a lot over the last year by making small decisions too quickly (Overbooking? So guilty). Give your brain the time it needs to process. As far as emotional decisions, I think I’ve hurt a lot of people — and myself —by deciding how I feel too late. I realize now that “deciding how I feel too late” isn’t the issue. It’s the ability to communicate how I feel once I do. Ownership of that is important. I’m trying to get better.

8. Sunlight is restorative. It’s best remedy in the universe. Close your eyes and soak in it for a minute. It’s yours. It’s mine. It’s ours.

9. Real friends don’t just cheer you on from the sidelines. They play the game. The people that hold you close… hold them even closer. They aren’t just in your corner. They are in the trenches when you have to go to war. And you do the same for them.

10. Pit bull on the outside, Golden Retriever on the inside. In 2017, I did an entertainment program where I had to rotate departments. One of them was the most fake, non-inclusive and unpleasant work environments I had ever experienced to date (to put it in perspective, think Mean Girls x5). But I had a supervisor who told me this and it helped me get through it. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this one.

11. A good movie or a good book is hot soup for the soul. It warms you from the inside out. Seek out amazing stories, and seek them out often. Most of them will be lukewarm. But every once in a while, you’ll experience one that makes you remember why humanity is so beautiful.

12. Flower and plants make everything a little better. Real ones. Fake ones. I put them everywhere and it’s honestly made me a happier person in general.

13. It’s okay to shut off for a little while. I don’t trust anyone who says you should know what’s going on in the world at all times. That thinking is what led the 24 hours news cycle driving our society insane. WE DON’T NEED IT. Turn off the news. Shut down your laptop. Let your phone die and leave it like that for an hour or two or ten. Don’t answer your texts. You have the right to be in your own head, and your head only. With that being said…

14. Take yourself on dates. I had a social-psych professor in college named Eric Pappas. At the beginning of the semester he told us to hold one Saturday for a full day field trip. We trekked to campus the morning of and when we got there, he told us there was never a field trip planned. Now we had a whole day to do nothing. We were allowed to do anything, but we a) couldn’t do anything productive, b) couldn’t use technology, and c) had to do it alone. So I took myself to the Harrisonburg International Festival I saw flyers for, and it was the best day of my life. I danced with strangers, learned about different cultures, was on my own time, and made all the choices myself. Some of my favorite memories since are the things I’ve been brave enough to do alone. Concerts. Comedy Shows. Brunch. Walks. Beaches. When you let go of how weird you might look, you can pretty much never have a bad time with yourself. The best thing I’ve ever done (and have to constantly do over and over) is train myself to hear my own voice again.

15. Make a three month plan. When I was in a really bad spot last year, my mom gave me really great advice. She told me I had three months. In that time I could mope and dwell, or I could make a plan that would get out the hole I was in — whatever that looked like. When I get to the end of those three months, I could start over in a different direction or keep building momentum on the same track. These boundaries gave me motivation. In turn, the universe started sending blessings my way. Three months is the perfect amount of time. It’s also my favorite number, just saying.

16. You can always make a u-turn. My family-friend Cherese once imparted this wisdom on me. So many people don’t leap at all because they’re afraid they will be wrong. But they forget they one thing about our friend called life: you’re not ever really stuck.

17. Work ethic gets you far, kindness gets your further. I work like a mad woman. But I also try my hardest to be kind while doing it. Selfishly, I want to have good vibes where I spend most of my time, but it naturally makes an impression on others, too. My favorite boss ever told me that “I’m a breath of fresh air.” I don’t know why, but this stuck with me. Be the kind of person others want to be around… it just… helps.

18. Sometimes you have to put certain dreams on hold. A coach named Kim once told me: Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you need to do it. Some of the best concepts need to marinate.

19. Do! More! Yoga! Breathing more deeply, stretching my body, and quieting my mind has done wonders. I’m not good at it? But it makes me feel good.

20. Stand up for yourself. Know your value. Fight for it. I can think of a number of times I have felt taken advantage of or talked down to or walked on or even underestimated. A lot of my life I feared fitting the “angry black woman” stereotype if I was upset, so I bottled my frustrations up. But one day, I stopped letting people step all over me. I started commanding respect. I’ve had people get really mad at me for this. Confrontation is not easy. But at the end of the day, you deserve to be treated how you want to be treated. You deserve to feel comfortable. You deserve to take up space. Period.

21. Close your eyes and make wishes. It doesn’t just have to be on candles. Don’t be afraid to ask the universe for the things you want. It’s uncanny, but everything I’ve written down over the past three years has come true. And things that haven’t, they’re coming.

22. Love is more important than anything in the world. When I moved to Washington D.C. right after college, I remember telling my mom, “I’m not looking for a relationship. I’m going to LA in a year, it’s pointless.” And then the most wonderful man walked into my life. We knew it was different, that it was special, so we stayed together for two more years — even across the country. I can’t tell you the amount of times I questioned if I should “break it off” just… because. I should be out hooking up and staying out all night, right? But every night I missed him. Every day, I wanted to come home to him. And it scared me. Then one day I realized: INDEPENDENT WOMEN CAN BE IN LOVE. I had my dream job but I was still so sad because something huge was missing. My friends. My family. My love. At the end of the day, people are what you will remember at the end of your life. Love on yours well.

23. You can have your cake and eat it, too. You’re not a bad person for wanting more; for wanting the best. Yes, it will come at a small price. But in the grand scheme of things, the big outweighs the small. Don’t listen to what anyone says: design the life you want. I personally think you can have all the things that mean the most to you. It’s the people that are too scared to that don’t.

24. Trust your instincts. This one is really hard for me. I struggle with the idea that I don’t know enough. I doubt myself often. Yes, yes, take advice. But I’m learning that only you know what’s best for you in any given moment.

25. Follow your heart. If you follow your gut, you might be listening to fear. If you follow your heart, you will never regret your deepest desires. To this day, it’s never led me astray.

Hello, 25. This is our year. I’m claiming you.

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Life & Lessons, Open Letters

On Decisions | Open Letter Series

Dear Friend-in-Transition:

Today I took myself to breakfast. I sat alone, I thought alone, I ate alone. On the way there, I didn’t turn on the radio, or music, or a podcast. At the table, I didn’t pull out a book or my phone. The funniest part is, by choosing to be alone today, I felt less lonely than I have in a long, long while because I was finally with myself.

Every year around this time, I’ve been in transition. Every. Single. Year. Without fail. After graduation, I moved to Washington DC. After a year in Washington DC, I moved to Los Angeles. After a year in Los Angeles, I decided to change jobs completely. And here I am this year, about to make another huge decision. I laugh to myself because I often feel like I’m living a hero’s journey full of choices and decision and bravery, although I don’t feel like a hero and I definitely don’t carry a sword. Maybe I should.

It’s always the same set of feelings. Excited and hopeful. Mostly nervous, terrified. I think through every possible outcome and doubt every single one, then wait until the very last minute to choose. Somehow, it’s worked out great for me so far. But this time it’s different. It’s different because for the first time, I’m not running away from anything. Not a job I’m not passionate about, not people I can’t seem to cut off. Everything is going great for me, but I feel inexplicably compelled to go; to leap into something that doesn’t promise instant or traditional success and that doesn’t look pretty on the outside. Something I could fail greatly at. And I think that makes this time the hardest of all.

After breakfast I walked a few blocks on Ocean Avenue. I stopped to stare down at the beach from the overlook. I had no clock, no timer, no where to be. I wished life was like this. But then I remember it is.

I started walking down the two-mile ramp to the sand and stop halfway when I remember my beach blanket is in my car. It crosses my mind that I would have no where to sit and would’ve walked a long way for no reason. But it also crosses my mind that I may stumble across something to sit on, even if it wasn’t the ideal beach lay-out I was envisioning.

I decide to keep walking, feeling adventurous. I’d sit on top of my bag, or even on my jeans in the sand. What’s the worst that could happen?

When I get to the bottom of the long and winding ramp, the cement transitions into beach. Right there is a little cafe with beach chairs sprawling across the sand — one that I couldn’t see from the overlook. They were perfect and comfortable and cute and even better than my old ratty blanket in the back of my car. I sat there for hours in total bliss.

I could have written you this letter to tell you how I’ve dealt with change in the past, or how tough it is now, or that we’re going to make the right choice. All of that is true. But both you and I already know all of this. The decision is already made. Our hearts knew the instant it was presented to us.

Instead, I wanted to tell you this story. The story about how I took this confusing, noisy time to be finally be alone, to be grateful, to be present, to thank God for all that was and all that will be, and to love myself before the beautiful storm begins. I wanted to tell you to take the ramp, to pause and look out over everything you’re creating for yourself, and to keep going. Something you didn’t even know existed will be there waiting for you. Something spectacular; something quite possibly greater.

PS. The blanket will always be right where you left it.

In this Open Letter series, I tackle various life topics by writing a letter to an anonymous and real friend who is going through it firsthand. My hope in writing to one is that it resonates with and helps all. This letter is for you, too. If you would like a letter, please email bymiabrabham@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading, sweet friend!

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Life & Lessons, Open Letters

On Heartbreak | Open Letter Series

Dear Broken Friend:

I remember the day I found out. The exact moment, actually. As fuzzy as it all was — I still can recall it as clear as day. Walking to work, breaking down on the crosswalk. The gray brick building with tall white columns crumbling in front of me, the sky falling. When a heart breaks, there’s no way for it to not sound dramatic. Because it is. When you give someone a part of you and they hand it back mangled and unrecognizable, it’s hard for the world not to turn on its head.

I wanted to drown in the pain. I know we’re different and you like to move on by keeping yourself busy, but I wanted to sink in it. I wanted to devour it and savor it and have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I wanted to wrap myself up in it like a blanket; I wanted it to protect me and keep me warm. I wanted to feel and feel and feel because it’s all I knew for months and months — feelings. It was then I discovered the opposite of loving someone isn’t heartbreak — it’s feeling nothing. In him breaking my heart, I was still connected to him. It was his last gift to me. If I let it go, that meant that I was letting him go, too. Everything about him.

Do whatever you need to do to get through it. Some days I imagined us together again in two years just to make it until the end of the day without breaking down. Some days I forced myself to recall his lips on hers just to remember how much I hated him. Some days I reconjured the hopeful memory of his hand on my lower back under the soft neon glow of the rooftop bar, repeating the things he said to me over and over in my head. Some days I couldn’t listen to certain songs without crying for an hour. Some days those songs were all I wanted to hear — and I still cried. Some days I needed to see him, so I did, and then regretted it. Other days I wanted to kiss someone else to forget, so I did. I didn’t regret that. It doesn’t matter what you do — as long as you don’t do anything destructive and stay true to you. But do whatever the fuck you have to do. Heartbreak is a war.

But each day it becomes more bearable. The little things he said, you won’t be able to remember. They turn to dust; a speck in your universe. Then one day, while you’re busy minding your business and picking up the pieces, someone else will come along when you least expect it and make you feel loved. Truly, deeply loved. Don’t wait around for it. But look forward to it.

I say all of this because I’ve found that sometimes someone else’s story is exactly what we need. We don’t need serious advice or someone telling us they know exactly how we feel. We just need to escape. Not into something annoyingly happy, or even more depressing. We just want the opportunity to feel something outside of our own pain and still relate to it. To be alone, but not feel alone.

I know he was supposed to be the one. But none of that matters right now. Now. Now. Now. Be here with me now. Hold my hand. I got you, babe. You can make it through this.

As you know, there’s no step by step guide to healing and putting yourself back together. You will wonder how you could have been so dumb; you’re not. You will try to get him back; don’t. You are allowed to be angry. You are allowed to be furiously sad. You are allowed to be — at last — relieved. You will feel it all. And as one of my favorite books Tuesdays With Morrie says, don’t stop yourself from feeling any of it. Let the pain flow through you and out of you; let it run its course like a cold. Emotions are thin and fleeting. The bad ones will go. The good ones will come. And soon, you’ll feel like you all over again. And a new adventure will begin.

That day, I dried my eyes before stepping into work. I forgot they were still red and my face, puffy. My boss took one look at me and it was like she knew. “The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever — I promise.” She was right. It gets better. Great, even.

In this Open Letter series, I tackle various life topics by writing a letter to an anonymous and real friend who is going through it firsthand. My hope in writing to one is that it resonates with and helps all. This letter is for you, too. If you would like a letter, please email bymiabrabham@gmail.com.  Thank you for reading, sweet friend!

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Life & Lessons

Cheers to the new, and to the year.

This is not your typical New Years post.

For starters, it’s not January 1st.

In fact, it’s fourteen days after the new year has begun. The buzz of newness has probably already started to wear off for most of us, and the hangover already seems to be kicking in.

But for me, the party is just beginning.

This year, I decided not to make or take any resolutions seriously in the first few days of our new slate. I’m learning something: keeping score before you’ve started the game is dangerous. We are creatures of habit, yet we can’t seem to stay on track when it comes to the things we want the most for our lives. I thought to myself: maybe I should walk on the playing field before I run the play.

I chose to start January 1st, 2018 as any another day. New year, same shit. The only difference is that this go-round I let the thought of resolutions and goals and wants and plans whisper a melody in my mind without hanging on to any one lyric, and without turning off the music either. I didn’t cling to or claim the first “I want to go the gym three times a week” or “I want to make more videos.” I typically write everything that crosses my mind down, but I wouldn’t even let myself near a piece of paper in these first few weeks. I wanted to let the possibilities ruminate in the room of my mind; I wanted to see which desires would emerge as the truest of the true.

And I think we have a winner.

Err, winners.

This may be odd, especially to people like myself who try to find balance and find symmetry in everything, but the resolutions that reoccured, protruded, and rose high above the others don’t match and don’t quite make sense in regards to the traditional “New Year Resolution” narrative. These resolutions were what my heart was singing very clearly through all of the mess. So I listened.

Here are my three resolutions:

  1. Read one book a month. Feed your mind.
  2. Celebrate the small victories.
  3. One thing at a time.

Like I said, they’re a bit strange. They go from detailed to abstract, and they might not make sense upon reading them. But there’s something quaint about that, at least to me. They are special little snowflakes; they are mine. I will explain.

I used to love books when I was little. I was a very bossy child (still am) and I would insist on reading my books to my parents rather than the other way around. My mom loves to tell me this story about my 3rd birthday: how when I unwrapped toys and Barbie dolls I was overjoyed, but when I opened a book it was all over. I couldn’t stop flipping through the thing. I didn’t want to open any more gifts. And after the whole thing was said and done, the first present I picked up again was the book. Nothing else was as fascinating. This still rang true on my college graduation day when I did the same thing at 21 and my mom reminded me of this story. “Nothing has changed,” she said. During college you get your fair share of books, but the “fun” reading was reserved for summers only. When I graduated, I read a book here and there. But this year, I want to make it a realistic priority. My soul misses the words.

I have an issue with always living in the future. I’m always planning and plotting my next project, my next hang-out, my next job, my next problem: the list goes on. But this year is about the victories — and very specifically, the small ones. I think there’s something so beautiful about celebrating the small stuff. And I’m going to need it to get through this year, because it’s going to be a tough one. I just moved across the country away from the love of my life and my family to chase my dreams (that I’m not even sure of anymore). I’m not too keen of my job. But I have to keep it in perspective to keep myself afloat. Every day is one step closer to being reunited with a loved one. Every day is one more page I’ve written for my web series, or my film. Every day is one more day I have the opportunity to meet someone special or make a connection. Every day is one day closer to something. I’ve found a loophole around always anticipating what’s next: tricking myself into living in the present to make for a better tomorrow.

Finally, I need to start taking things one by one. I’m guilty of taking on too much. Not for anyone else, but for myself. I try to start five projects at once, see four friends in a week, and do a million things in a day. Not. possible. In fact, I always end up neglecting all of it because I’m so overwhelmed. One of my very good friends used to tell me all the time, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I know that’s disgusting and weird and you’re like “Who are you, you freak,” but it’s just some metaphor that he’d heard (OK?!). And it makes sense. But for a person like me who thinks BIG, I don’t have one elephant. I never have one elephant. I have five. Lined up down the block. And for me, I just need to take each thing in my life one at a time. Dive in, make it whole and give it my all, then move on to the next. No matter how hard it is, or how long it takes. It’s better to get one thing done than to get nothing done at all.

Now that I’ve given you full insight into the thought process behind my resolutions, here are my two-cents on making yours for this beautiful, promising year:

Make it specific. 

If you are going to choose something concrete, such as the gym or a specialty diet or volunteering or listening to more podcasts — make it specific. Avoid the words “more” or “a lot.” Choose. Declare. One time a week. Three times a week. Every other week. Once a month. Commit and repeat.

Make it general.

You know I love a good contradiction. If you’re going to choose something abstract, make it general. I guess that’s sort of a given, but that’s the point. Think outside of the box. Don’t be afraid to make your resolution(s) a mantra or a motto. That’s fun AF. You can attribute it or place it onto anything and everything into your life.

Write it in pencil.

If you’re a writer like me, try this with me: write your goals in pencil. You can write it big or small; on a whiteboard covering an entire wall or in a notebook tucked away under your nightstand. This sounds silly, but I swear pen can sometimes mess with your brain. It’s so scary!!! It’s so permanent!!! Well flip the script. Write it in something erasable. This way, you know you can change or adjust it whenever you want and it’s not as daunting. Which brings me to my next point.

Be kind to your progress.

We live in a world that fears commitment. I think this is mostly because we aren’t committing to the things we actually love. But the catch is, even when we do it’s still never easy. That’s why it’s a commitment. But trial and error is a real, true thing. Be kind to your progress. You have to try something to know it’s not really what you want to do or what your heart desires. That’s okay. It knocks down one possibility and moves you closer to the one that will actually move your soul and change your life. Don’t be afraid to change, adjust, or make a new resolution. Heck, try out one thing a month. But once you find the thing that you really do want to hold on to, don’t quit. Even when it gets hard.

Happiest of days to you. Wishing you all the love in the world this new year. Go get ’em, tigress. xx

YOURSTRULYMIA

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Life & Lessons

14 Things I Learned From My Last College Spring Break

What is known to be the week of unimaginable amounts of alcohol, major sun burn, and bikinis so small your 13-year-old sister shouldn’t even be able to fit into them turned out the be quite the opposite for me—unless you count the bathing suit bottom I’ve had since middle school, the sun rash on my inner thigh, and the single spontaneous shot of tequila we took on the strip. After catching up with a few high school friends in DC, I traveled south with three of my college friends to spend the week kicking back on the beach in Clearwater, Florida. It was my first and last tropical spring break, but believe me, it was no Panama City. There were lots of old people and ice cream shops. We watched sunsets next to families and shared peanut butter and jelly donuts and went on walks to nowhere. The wildest party we had was falling asleep after too many crab legs. But we laughed a lot. We even cried a little. We talked, and sat in silence, and smiled, and made memories. It was a wonderful time.

My favorite part about getaways and vacations (aside from the fancy stationary pens they leave you in hotel rooms) is the brain space it grants you. Staring at the sea and the sky makes you think. I did a lot of this. Staring out a car window also makes you think. I did a lot of this too. Also—I’m just a sappy, thinky person. So naturally this blog post makes a lot of sense. Here’s a run down of what ran though my brain this past week. I hope you get as much out of these moments and realizations as I did, or even come to your own truths. Let’s start shallow, like the questionable pool at our three star motel.

1. Phones suck.

I don’t understand why we are addicted to distraction. I don’t know why we choose the people on our screens over the people right in front of us. I constantly evaluate whether I am going to burst from the amount of news and entertainment and blogs and emails and updates that I want to (and feel like I have to) read. But when I put my phone away for an entire day while we were here, I remembered what it’s like not to question any of that. And it rocked.

2. Phones rock.

I love sharing my experiences and thoughts with the world. I love being able to take notes when something cool happens and email them to myself so I can write blog posts like this. I love capturing moments with lenses, and seeing what my friends are up to on the other side of the world, and being able to let my parents know I’m safe. I hate Apple maps, but I am grateful every time I open it that I don’t have to unfold a blanket-sized paper one. Thank you, technology.

3. Walks are the best.

I forgot how much I love these things! You get active! They generate thought!  You see cool things! You smell the roses! They make you feel like typing sentences with exclamation marks!

4. So is the sun.

Sunshine doesn’t fix everything, but it fixes a lot. I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so weird and unmotivated lately, but then I remembered it’s because I’ve been spending the past month with my head in a hood stomping through snow and cursing at the cold. Sunshine feels good and it reminds you to be grateful for life. It recharges your soul. When there’s sun, take advantage of it. Where there’s sun, go. I like to think of it as a natural medicine or herb or drug. Get the D. (But use protection, specifically sunscreen, thank you and you’re welcome)

5. Things can be mended. 

Bad things happen. People will hurt you, intentionally and unintentionally. But I know two things. One, people make mistakes. Sometimes really big ones. And two, people can change. I know these things because I’ve done both. The second was a result of the first. Humans suck, and you and I are not excluded. But humans can also be really great, too. Forgiveness is hard, but it is important. And I’m still learning. The third thing I’ve learned may be the most important, and that is that things can be mended. Broken friendships and relationships get better with time (key word is time). But know that while some things fix themselves, a lot of things things don’t fix themselves—at least not at first. It involves communication, and effort, and proof that that person is not just trying to make things better for the heck of it, but that they actually want things to be better.

6. Mending looks different every time.

No scar or crack heals or gets filled in the same way or in the same amount of time. I’ve learned that you can’t put an expiration date on hurt.

7. Some people just won’t get it.

Every situation is unique. Some things mend differently than others, and not everyone will understand. And it’s not your job to convince them.

8. What people think of you is not a reflection of you.

It is a reflection of themselves, or where they are at in their head or day or process. I’ve discovered that when people are being rude, it’s usually because something has happened to them. If a person says something mean, it’s because of an experience they’ve had or a perception they’ve created in their reality that isn’t necessarily true of your reality (Thank you, The Four Agreements). When someone is acting annoyed or irritated, they are dealing with emotions they may be handling or hiding. I know that doesn’t really make what they say or do any better or less hurtful. But it helped me stop questioning myself and my actions when I realized this. There is something that person has to figure out for themselves. Let them, and you go on with yo bad self.

9. Sometimes what other people think of you is a reflection of you.

Are you noticing patterns?

10. Your parents are your ultimate teachers.

Stop right now and go thank (or give thanks if they are no longer with you) your parents for being them. I don’t care if they are or were the best or the worst—they provided you with a foundation for your life to mold and learn from. I am infinitely grateful for mine. I have realized so much about myself and my habits; who I want to be and who I don’t. How your parents raised you and where they raised you is a part of your life story—more than you even know. I realized this while talking to my friends this week. This is my moment to tell the world that my parents are fantastic, fantastic people. I love them not only for giving me life, being in my life, and providing for me in life, but teaching me what I know and how I know it.

11. Nature is talking to us.

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m 21, and big waves freak me out. But I noticed something: the big waves were never as scary as I thought they were when I swam straight into them, or turned around and rode with them. But they were always scary when I ran away and hope they didn’t hit me. Nature is always trying to tell us something. Catch my drift?

12. Seagull attacks are a real thing.

A seagull literally took a bite out of my friend’s sandwich. I couldn’t make this stuff up, folks. But what was really fascinating and infinitely less upsetting was the evening we watched a 12-year-old boy play with a flock of seagulls by leading them with a single Cheez-it. Magic. At first I was terrified for his life, then I laughed with him, then I was transfixed in pure awe. It was one of the most beautiful things I have seen a very long time. I felt liberated through this little boy; he was having the time of his life. He was so innocent. So free. The most amazing part is that he was in control, and he didn’t even know it. This made me think about my own life.

13. The times you feel the most lost, you never actually are. 

This is a common theme in my life, because I’m graduating and I’m scared and sad. This would not be the first time, but I’ve realized that this is probably going to happen a lot in life and I am okay with it. I started thinking of all the transitionary periods in my life. I look back and realized I got through all of them. Every single one. And the best part is, when I think about where I am now, every “next” stage turned out even better than I imagined it. I felt lost, but now I realized I never actually was. I was just scared. The plan for our lives is already mapped out, and even better than we know. A friend told me “If you don’t feel lost, then you are safe. And if you’re safe, then you will never grow.” Fear is a sign that you are putting yourself out of your comfort zone, and that’s where all the good stuff happens. Guess what? Everything is going to be okay.

14. Light follows.

Just like the seagulls, light follows. Or at least—that’s what we thought. We watched the sun set every night. The first evening, I noticed the reflection of the sun in the water created a path of orange light leading straight to my feet in the sand. I smiled to myself. A sign from the universe just for me, right? The second evening, my friend Meredith said something about it. I told her I was thinking the same thing yesterday, and we shared the moment. The third evening, we noticed the path of light led back to us yet again. All of a sudden, it was not cute anymore. I walked down the beach to solve the mystery. As it turns out, the trail of sun traveling across the water directly to my feet followed me wherever I went. It followed everyone. I was pissed! This was supposed to be a sign, what the heck! I returned with the bad news. They gasped in horror. Then we laughed for a long time. I felt so stupid. We were mad the magic wasn’t ours. But then I realized that wasn’t true. The magic was ours; it everyone’s. And that made it even more real. The world doesn’t revolve around me. It doesn’t revolve you. There’s enough light to go around.

The world is a big place. But the sun will find and follows us wherever we go.

YOURSTRULYMIA

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