Back to the Basics

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Welcome to 2020, another year and another day to be thankful for every person who has followed me this far. Because there are big things happening in the world and well, we’re only getting started.

And I’m starting it off doing something I’ve never done before (on my own, at least). 

I’m trying out my natural hair. It might not seem like a big deal, I mean, for a lot of people it isn’t. But for black women, for all of us who feel as if we cannot be our natural selves in a way that society supports, it takes a lot to grow into who we are and want to be. Hair has a whole lot to do with it.

Here, let me explain.

You see, I grew up looking at magazines and TV shows with women in it who all had silky smooth straight hair. I didn’t see people who looked like me; that says a lot about the world around us. At least, it said a lot to me as a child. 

It told me that I was outside the norm.

From what I can tell, the world around us has taken a turn towards a movement of acceptance, the celebration of differences. But growing up, I didn’t see that. What I saw was a whole lot of insecurity, the kind that you carry with you until it’s something you can’t ignore.

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Now, I’m choosing to face it. Because I want to see what I can do without anything altering who I am, from the way I live my life down to how I wear my hair. There is something to be said for authenticity, right?

I have nothing against relaxed or straight hair; the thing is, I’ve never worked with my own hair in its natural state. I am 21 years old and I have never taken the time to embrace myself as I am. As undergrad winds down and graduation looms five months away, I feel that now might be just the time to do exactly that.

Do you know why?

Because how we look, what we do, the way we own our lives, it defines us. There are so many things that have happened in the last few years of my life that have completely altered my perspective on the world around us. I wrote a book of poems on the way out of high school (check it out here if you haven’t yet) and reading it back through, I am nowhere near the girl who wrote it.

I’m okay with that. Every year of high school, I changed my hair in one way or another. I guess you could say I was trying to find something that felt like me. Each style was something different, something fun—as a black woman, I have a whole lot of options to change my hair up if I wanted to.

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Going back to the basics, going completely natural, is not one of the ways I’ve tried yet. It simply seemed too hard, too complicated. And a little far outside the boundaries of “normal” that I didn’t have the confidence to push. Maybe it’s time to challenge myself a little.

I’m not doing this because it’s a new year and I think I can completely change who I am simply because the calendar flipped another page. Not at all.

I’m doing this because I need to know who I am in order to change myself in the first place; I only aim for the first part of that process. Maybe you’ve noticed in the past couple months—years even—I’ve been doing what I can to get back to the basics. To rebuild the foundation of who I am, the one that’s been breaking and rearranging with every day that passes me by.

Weird that doing so starts with my hair, isn’t it?

In a way, that’s exactly where I need to start. How I look is one of the first things I have ever defined myself by, so I want to take control of that into my own hands this time. I wrote a poem a two years ago, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry, that spelled out how I define myself. From the stereotypes that follow me, the choices I make or the capabilities I hold, are things that can either hold me back or push me forward.

The first line of that poem was all about my nappy hair, how it makes me different. Instead of letting it hold me back the way it used to, I’m going to let it push me forward.

Forward, or right, or left, or diagonally… I’m rebuilding a foundation with whatever I’ve got. Whatever comes next.

So, it’s a new year with the same old me. But the year comes with a few new challenges; I think maybe I can be ready to handle them. Can you?

Here’s to whatever 2020 holds for all of us. Happy New Year.

Another Year, Another Journey


Well, it’s almost the end of another calendar year and time just keeps trudging on to the end of 2019. To kick off this year, I remember calling cancel culture on new year’s resolutions—after all, sometimes they’re great and other times, they’re merely excuses for things we’re going to. Even when we usually don’t.

Anyone else find that to come true this year? I know I did.

But 2020 will be different, right? We’re going to better ourselves and set goals that we can meet and live up to everything we are hoping to… Or not.

The only guaranteed thing about 2020: it’s going to happen. All of us may try to do the best with the time we’ve got left in the year, squeeze in as much time as we can with other people, and just make the most of these last few days. One way or another, the countdown has begun.

And I can’t say I’m ready. I mean, 2020 means graduation—graduation means figuring out my life plans and making a legitimate step into this whole adulting thing. It’s also an election year, a leap year, I turn 22 (whatever that means), it’s the return of a new kind of roaring 20’s, and well, it’s a new year.

All big things.

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Before moving forward, though, I’ve got to admit something: 2019 was an incredibly unexpected year. Unexpected in the way that, there were just so many things I couldn’t see coming. The real start of a new novel, a very different Orientation experience, a minor that seemed to be just what I was looking for, the beginning of the end of college for me, and so so much more. It’s hard to keep track of everything that happens in one calendar year—though you might remember that I basically keep a weekly journal about it online—what I can say is that I’ve learned a lot. 

Now, I get to share that learning with you. After all, why not start the new year on the same page.

This year brings me to 5 main areas of takeaways. It’s been a big one and a hard one for so many different reasons. But it’s another year almost done. So, let’s reflect.


Time Does Not Stop

Even when it feels like it does, or feels like it should, time is one of the few constants we have in our world and it stops for no one. On things like a quarter system where classes are hard and ridiculously fast paced, it can be great because it’ll be over soon enough. Or, it can be terrible, when you just can’t keep up. Life itself is kind of like that. While there may be no way to stop time or make it pass any slower, we can always find ways to make it pass a little easier at least. How? Just breathe. When things are hard or blurring a little too fast around you, that’s okay. There’s no way to avoid it, and we don’t have to. Find your people, hold onto the support I hope you have, and let the time pass—don’t try to stop it. You can’t. Just breathe through it instead.

Very Little is Guaranteed

I’ve made a lot of empty promises to myself over the past year, from saying “oh, I’ll start waking up earlier in the mornings” to “just one more Netflix episode.” The thing is, unless I do something about it right then and there, I can’t guarantee it will happen. No one can. Sometimes we get busy or traffic picks up or life does instead; the only things that make a difference are the actions we take right now. Earlier this year, I was planning to spend the summer in SLO, and I finally decided to take my rabbit with me. We were going to spend the whole summer together, me and my white ball of fur. Plus, Nick. Instead, she spent one night with us and I woke up to Nick telling me he had to leave for work but there was something wrong with her. Parasites—kind of like good intentions, they stick around for a while until they’ve taken up enough time and enough life to have done their job. Meanwhile, your plans never get fulfilled. So, stop planning. Start doing.

Life Happens

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There are quite a few words we can substitute here for “life” and I think we all know a good amount of them, they’re all the same. The good, the bad, the everything in between, it all can show up whether we plan for it or not. A pop quiz, a bad hair day, heart attacks, downpours, a car accident, a kind gesture, cancelled class… Nothing is off limits. Not us, our lives, the lives of those around us, and definitely not the way we see the world. I’m not sure there is any way to go into a year with the same mindset you leave it in, too much happens for that. I used to think that I was healthy, that my friends were healthy, my parents were invincible, and good things happen to good people. Well my health, jury is out on that one, a few too many young friends have been lost to be qualified as healthy anymore, my parents have their own lives beyond me or my siblings, and things—good or bad—just happen. Some of it is out of our control, however, how we react to it all will always be our choice. When we can, we handle it with grace.

You Get Out What You Put In

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This one goes exactly as it sounds—if you put in fifty percent of your energy to something, it isn’t like interest that gathers over time. You only get fifty percent back out. In WOW this past year, I gave everything I had to the program because it mattered to me. All of my time, energy, tears, and work was returned to me not through credit but rather through people. Those people mean the world to me and I am lucky to have them. I only ended up with 20 Orientation Leaders I care about endlessly because I gave each of them as much as I could. In classes, my grades were only as good (or bad) as the time and effort I put into them. Sometimes, like Spring Quarter, things are not ideal. I pulled a class load on top of work and Orientation that no one should ever do—I knew that when I went into it even when I had little choice. But I passed all my classes and pulled through some incredible, hard, life-changing experiences. I would never take any of it back. I put everything I am into this past year of my life and I’ve gotten an entirely different me out of it. To me, that’s a year well spent. 

Give Credit Where It’s Due

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I would say that this is about appreciating the people around you, but really, I’m actually talking about appreciating yourself. No matter what 2019 looked like for you, you have made it through all the way through to today. I know that I’ve worked incredibly hard, as have so many people around me, and we deserve to recognize that. Because it hadn’t been easy. As a matter of fact, this has actually been a very difficult year for so many people I love and there is no way to deny it. I don’t want to. How we get through these years make us who we are. Our reactions, understandings, musings, growth… All of it is what defines us as people regardless of class, race, gender, ethnicity, culture, aspirations, or anything in between. So, it you’ve made it this far, don’t forget that you deserve to look back and understand why. Understand how much you had to do with the you that exists in this very moment. Give yourself credit where it is due to you.


Whatever this year has been like for you, take a minute to look back at it. It’s been a long one, one that flew by in some ways and dragged on in others. But a lot has happened, for all of us. And we’ve made it through another decade, I think that warrants a retrospective appreciation.

Once you look back, sit with it, and then it’s time to move forward. Because here comes 2020.

Becoming the Game Changer

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And just like that, it’s a new calendar year. Did you spot the differences in the layout? If you did, let me know and I’ll tell you a secret. But like I said, here we are in a new year and I would say my resolution is to actually write 2019 on my papers consistently for the next two weeks but I know I’d break it so there’s no point.

That’s the thing about resolutions, sometimes we make ones we know are impossible for us to meet, just to see if we can make it happen anyway. There’s got to be a better way to do this.

And well, there is. One with with a whole lot less pressure too. It’s not exactly a resolution, but more of a plan. Hear me out:

Take it step by step, each one something you can reach from the last. And keep doing it until you get to where you want to be. Then do it again. And again…

I say this because I know that I have my own tendencies to set goals for myself that I really want to reach, but oftentimes the bar is set a little too high. So when I fail, it’s almost too discouraging to keep trying.

I forget that sometimes it isn’t about changing yourself to be “good enough” to reach that goal, it’s about changing your expectations—change the goal.

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Think of it this way. Throughout most of my life (that I remember), I’ve always been pretty reserved and not necessarily quiet, but more a watcher than a player. As great as it is to have that quieter or more preserved side when it’s useful, it can be kinda boring and maybe lonely. After all, people usually seek out the exciting or fun ones, not the wallflowers.

Last year, I set my goals on changing that, just a little. Not necessarily changing me, but letting what I’ve learned mold me into someone more capable of becoming who I want to be.

It wasn’t going to happen overnight and it definitely wasn’t going to happen in some huge and/or public grand gesture, I had to start small. So I did a mini version of CCE WOW with our Polycultural weekend (PCW) and somehow committed myself to the Black Student Union’s dance routine in the process. In retrospect, there was a bit of a grand gesture in there with the whole dance on stage, under the bright lights, in front of everyone thing… But the hosting part with PCW was a baby step for me, a step that let me meet a lot of people, my voice get a little bit louder, and I found myself in the middle of things a little more often than not.

I couldn’t stop there.

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So I set a new goal: WOW. It went wonderfully, as I hope you all know (if not, you really should catch up), so I kept stepping a little higher and higher the next time. And well, I’m still stepping so that counts for something. This time, I’m just changing the direction a bit.

The goal for 2019 is simple, yet somehow bigger than any I’ve set before.

Just like I had to be the one to push myself to make the grade or get involved or join that club or apply for that job, this year I am letting my life become the epitome of what each of these have in common.

I’m going to be my own game changer.

Sometimes, we rely so much on other people, we look for things we hope can help us fix something perceived to be broken, something that can be better, when it really comes down to us doing it ourselves. We have to stand up and do what needs to be done, even if it’s against our own bad habits or what something used to be.

Because sometimes, sometimes a plan works and you can keep raising those goals every time you stepped up to the last one. You become just a little more of who you want to be for it, whatever that looks like to you.

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But other times, life just happens, whether or not we’re ready for it. You can’t plan for that. More than just a plan, remember that no matter what you do this year, live for yourself. Be ready to take what you’ve got and make it into whatever you can.

Be ready to change your own game.


If you’ve got any plans or any resolutions this year, I want to hear it! Feel free to shout them out a little in the comments and I’ll hype you up if you need it. Good luck and I’ll see you on Tuesday for Poetry Place. Happy new year.

A Resolution for Something Better

annie-spratt-178364.jpgWelcome to 2018, a new year and a fresh chance to accidentally write the wrong year on all your dates for a while. But maybe this year we can get the hang of it a little faster.

New year, new us right?

Except not really. Every year, I seem to share this sentiment more than the last when I consider the idea of starting over. As much as a new year doesn’t truly mean that we have a completely clean slate, even I can’t deny the fact that it means change.

This year is fresh chance to try again. A new start with resolutions of exercising more, getting better grades, spending more time with the right people… The list goes on. But aside from the hope we all seem to hold of something better, these are all good things, I think there’s something that truly needs to be focused on this year.

We need to focus on ourselves.

nathan-lemon-482951As the countdown came for the new year, I watched the time tick closer to the end of my teenage years. Not just that, but in watching my brother’s graduation and the people I always saw as little freshman in high school coming into their senior years… Time is something we have no control over; I knew that, but that doesn’t stop it from flying by.

So instead of focusing on the big pieces of our lives that can change who we are, I wanted to focus in on the little ones for ourselves.

Like trying to be a little kinder this year.

Volunteering more or holding doors, smiling at strangers.

Think about the people who matter to you in this life, remind them of that.

And remember the singular, fragile lives we all hold— try to spend every day doing something worth living for.

Because this is a new year, not quite a blank slate but still a reason to give yourself a second chance (maye a third or a fourth).

I believe it should be a year of self-love, not just taking baths every night and treating yourself while you can, but truly appreciating who you are. With so much technology in our faces and social media showing what people want us to see, especially in my generation, we can lose sight of our own brilliance.aaron-burden-143101

We forget our own worth.

I think sometimes people get so caught up in their jobs or worries or responsibilities or friends that they forget this: every one of you should be a priority in your own life.

At times, that means slowing down. Whether you’re in college, you’ve got a demanding job, or you’re simply in a position where you can work too hard, maybe you should do the opposite. As I’ve said before, burnout is real and it truly affects every aspect of your life.

If you need to slow down do it— this means taking less units, calling in sick, springing a random day-trip… Whatever you need to do to get yourself where you want to be, do it. This isn’t a year to hold back.

This is a year of taking every step that we can towards a healthier and happier population.

With a world that holds 4.7 billion people, I can’t deny the rise of mental health issues and unhappy people around me. That doesn’t mean we can’t do our best to change it. The thing is, that change starts with you. And me. With every one of us making eduard-militaru-133851.jpgan effort in our own lives to being better.

This is day 5 of 365, with a little time left to make yourself genuinely smile at least once today. If there’s something you want, something you need to do, there is no time like the present to get started. Because this is a new year, same old us, but still a chance to change who we are becoming. For today and the next 360 days, here’s to our journey towards a better version of ourselves.