Don’t Believe the Lie!: 3 Ways to Combat Imposter Syndrome

TheLieRecently, a friend asked me to help her decide if she should apply for a new job. The description of the job read like it was perfectly designed for her and she was very excited about the opportunity. When I asked why she was unsure, she said “I don’t meet the qualifications in the last two bullet point”. I took another look and noticed that the last two bullets were listed as “Desired but Not Required.” She met or exceed the qualifications in the dozen other bullet points.  So, in a thinly veiled attempt to help her see that she’d make a great candidate for the position, I asked her to walk me through her qualifications for each of the bullet points. After reviewing her qualifications together, she applied for the position.  She has an interview next week.

The conversation reminded of how often high-achieving Black women we fail to give ourselves credit for the amazing things we’ve done but can easily point out the places where we fall short. This is Imposter Syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is when we find it difficult to internalize our success or even view ourselves as unworthy of success. It’s the thing that made my friend anxious to apply for an amazing job she was more than qualified for.  It’s the thing that makes us feel unworthy of success. Imposter Syndrome makes us feel like we must have just gotten lucky instead having achieved success through hard work. Imposter syndrome is a lie…

While talking with my friend about her situation, I noted some tips that are useful in combatting Imposter Syndrome that I’d like to share:

  1. Get Support. A support system is essential to combat feelings of inadequacy or fraudulence. Wise mentors help us develop in areas of weakness and celebrate our strengths. Family helps us remember that we are so much more than the status of our job. Supportive colleagues encourage us to focus on simply doing our best. Sister-friends helps us stay encouraged and celebrate our accomplishments with us. Be careful to graciously accept the support and encouragement when it’s offered and assume it is genuine. After all, you really are worth it so why wouldn’t it be genuine?
  2. Count Your Accomplishments. Imposter Syndrome is often a function of success. Women who have achieved at high levels may be less likely to internalize their success and more likely to think of all they have yet to achieve. But combatting Imposter Syndrome requires us to work toward achieving new goals while not LH-1-Quote-2losing sight of successes we’ve already experienced. After all, our past successes prepare us for what’s coming next. When feelings of inadequacy creep up, try writing a list of several things you’ve done that made you proud of yourself. Read the list aloud several times to help internalize your accomplishments. It’s easier to see yourself as worthy of success when you’re reminded of the places where you have already succeeded.
  3. Try New Things…And Try Again. Sometimes when we try new things, we experience failure. If framed as a learning experience, not as a tragedy, our failures can propel us forward. They create opportunities to learn about ourselves, gain resilience, and try again…or try something new.

Being open to trying new things provides space to challenge ourselves and gain confidence in our ability to adapt and learn when facing the unknown.  These are essential life skills that happen to also combat Imposter Syndrome. So often, we’re so focused on getting the exact job that most aligns with the knowledge we gained in our field of study, we forget about these and other transferable skills we’ve gained as well. Internalizing our own brilliance and getting past feelings of unworthiness is easier when we know that although new challenges will surely come our way, we are equipped to work our way through them because we’ve done it many times before.

I know that Imposter Syndrome and the lie that we’re not good enough, worthy, and 100% capable of achieving the success we seek has plagued many women in the CiteaSista community.  How has it shown up in your life? What have you done to combat these feelings and debunk the lie?  Let’s talk about it!

The Clingy Friend

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had at least one friend whose texts we dodged, calls we ignored, and invites we consistently declined.

We’ve all had that one friend who never quite seemed to “get the hint” that they were getting too close too fast or that we just weren’t that into building a relationship with them.

We’ve all been annoyed, frustrated, and maybe even stopped talking to this friend all together. There are some issues with boundaries here that definitely need to be addressed, but that’s not the kind of clingy friend that this post is about.

This post is about clingy friends like me. *gasps*

For as long as I can remember, I have always had trouble making friends.

My extreme introversion, coupled with my (frequently) crippling social anxiety, often contributes to the following responses when I meet new people: “You seem so unapproachable” or “you act really stuck up.” 

For the purpose of clarity, I want to state that introversion and social anxiety are not synonymous. Dr. Joy of Therapy for Black Girls has provided a brilliant differentiation between introversion and social anxiety on Session 8 of her podcast, found here http://www.therapyforblackgirls.com/podcast/.

Introversion, refers to a person who has to recharge alone/internally in order to feel energized.

Extraversion, however, refers to someone who gains energy from being in a group of people.

Social anxiety, refers to a fear of social situations and interactions, including fears of what people may be thinking or saying about you, or a fear of saying the wrong thing.

While being cautious not to generalize, introverted Black girls/women don’t typically have a large group of friends. In fact, as Dr. Joy would say, that’s probably one of the last things that we would want to have.

Contrarily, we typically have one, two or maybe even a handful of really good girlfriends that we may cling to instead.

As a socially anxious Black woman, the thought of entering new spaces of friendship can be emotionally and mentally exhausting. “What are they thinking about me? Will I fit in? I want to make friends but I also want to stay at home. What if they want to go somewhere and I don’t? Being around people (especially people that I don’t know) is tiring! They aren’t going to like me. Everyone thinks I’m boring because I like to stay at home. So, I’ll just stay at home and not worry about it”…

If this perpetual cycle of internal “what ifs” sounds somewhat familiar to you, then you probably understand what it’s like to cling to a few friends at any given time.

The thing about introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women, though, is that we don’t use the word friend lightly.

Due to the time and mental energy that we expend when meeting new people, in addition to the time that we spend fighting against those internal “what ifs” about our social anxiety, we can’t afford to cling to the wrong person. It’s exhausting.

The process of trying to silence our socially anxious brains without seeming disengaged or uninterested in an already socially awkward situation (for us), further complicates the friendship-building process for introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women.

Further still, while probably not intentionally malicious, hearing statements like, “well, I do have other friends” from our extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends, doesn’t help us to build friendships, either.

Of course we want our (few) friends to make connections with other dope Black women and shake up the world. Of course we want to be a part of your sista-scholar network. Of course we want to sprinkle #BlackGirlMagic over the world with you.

However, as introverted and/or socially anxious Black girls/women, it’s just harder for us to navigate those spaces with our extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends.

We are drawn to your light and the fearlessness with which you can enter new social situations and freely be yourself. We don’t expect you to hold our hand or to only talk to us in social settings; we just want you to show up (on time) when you invite us somewhere, and PLEASE don’t leave us hanging!

More importantly, sometimes we just need a little extra assurance that you’re still going to be there, as our friend, when the dust settles and the summer parties fizzle out.

So, if you’re an extroverted and/or non-socially anxious Black woman, let your introverted and/or socially anxious Black girl-friends know that you appreciate the intentional time that they are willing to dedicate to building and sustaining your friendship.

Conversely, if you’re an introverted and/or socially anxious Black woman, let your extroverted and/or non-socially anxious friends know that you value their willingness to share one-on-one time with you, as well.

After all, there’s enough Black girl/woman friendship to go around for us all.

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Rates of Colon Cancer Increasing Among Young Adults

It’s no secret that millennials and the younger half of generation X have been impacted by shifts in the work place thanks to recent recessions, trickle down economics, and shifts in company culture to value the profit over the employee. I’m not even going to start on the hot mess that is the American Health Care Act (AHCA) also coined as #trumpcare. To add insult to injurty, a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute published by Siegel et al. has shown some alarming data on the rates of Colorectal Cancer among young Americans.

 

Though incidence of colorectal cancer (CRC) have been quickly decreasing overall since the 70’s, young(er) adults (<55 years old) are experiencing increased rates as high as 3.2%.This is an alarming trend because CRC is most commonly found in older adults and the recommended age for screening in asymptomatic adults starts at 50. It is likely that because screening for CRC does not occur until later in life, CRC cases in young adults are being missed and not diagnosed in the early stages. Though not expressed explicitly in the paper, this might be an even bigger issue for the young African American population.

CRC starts as polyps, which are typically benign but can become malignant over time. So if polyps are caught in time they can be removed before they become an issue. However, there is currently no screening protocol in place for young adults.

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There are a number of risk factors for CRC. These include obesity, physical inactivity, long-term smoking, overconsumption of red or process meats, low calcium intake, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption and low intake of fruits and vegetables. Many of these risk factors are modifiable, especially for young adults. Increased exercise, healthy diets including increased amounts of fruits and vegetables, as well as intake of whole grain fiber and decreased consumption of red meat can reduce the risk of CRC.

Overall, African Americans have a slightly higher rate of CRC in the U.S. (4.7% AA females, 4.9% AA males vs 4.3% Non-Hispanic White females, 4.6% Non-Hispanic White males). In fact, doctors recommend African Americans begin screening earlier at age 45. The 5-year relative survival rate for CRC among African Americans sits around 59% (2005-2011) and is smaller than that of white counterparts (67%, 2005-2011). The decrease in survival rates among AA reflects differences in treatment, socioeconomic status, and co-morbidities. This might be something that black millenials and gen X folks might want to keep an eye out for more than their non-black counterparts.

 

So what is the cause of increased CRC in young adults? The study didn’t look into potential causes. However experts say the increased rate is not because human papilloma virus (HPV) but could be a combination of an increase of risk facts (obesity, sedentary lifestyle, etc.) and a decrease in fiber consumption.

The increase in CRC rates in this population puts a heavier burden on this generation to have access to quality healthcare in addition to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It is more important now than ever to monitor your health and see a doctor when you are not feeling well. Maybe, write, call, email your local congressman about the AHCA while you’re at it too. In the meantime, try to get a few extra steps, eat more fruits and vegetables, and make small healthy changes. If we start to make changes now, maybe the numbers will start to go down for us young adults too.

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Social Class & Social Media: Why Everythang’ Ain’t What It Seems With Travel Posts

Hiking!

I travel a lot. As I took some time this morning to reflect on just how often I’m away from home, I found myself overcome with guilt and at one point grief: who died and said I deserve such a good life? I know I feel this way because as a woman and Black woman especially, I’ve been socialized to prioritize and center the experiences and journey of everyone else over my own. That there’s an expectation from people who are not me that I spend my labor, love, and money on giving back rather than taking myself on trips. Some of you might be scratching your heads right now, for the Black women I’m writing to–this is an all too common experience.

Beyond coming to grips with the fact that travel has irrevocably changed who I am at my core, I also realize how transformative my trips are because I often opt to visit places beyond resorts and beaches.  Allow me to be clear: this is not a diss to folks who solely vacation in those spots. Where you take your trips is your business, I’m simply happy that you’re going. But I write this to highlight the fact that I’ve learned so much about myself because I’m often in spaces where few women and Black folks travel to. I’ll never forget the faces some of my friends made when I told them where I planned to take my mother for her birthday. A few were mortified.  But I have a strong belief that if I expose myself to things beyond the beach, that if I commit to the Black Outdoors experience even sometimes, I’ll be a better woman because of it.

Abu Dhabi

For a while, I would downplay how often I was able to leave home to see places, people, and things I may not have otherwise. I grew up working class and my family never took family vacations as I’ve come to understand them since going to college. Some days, I’d feel ashamed of the fact that I’ve been able to travel so much despite doing so at such inexpensive prices–which I wear proudly because you don’t keep money if you’re always spending it.  I’ve also struggled to reconcile that somehow, the life I’m showing doesn’t align with the life I’m actually living all due to the fact that I’m in graduate school with survivable-adjacent income.

I am fully able to admit that I am enormously privileged to have the means to make my travels possible.

In fact, my last few months of travel since quitting full-time work and becoming a full-time graduate student have been all about big travel with small money, as my idols at Million Miles Secrets call it.

Hawaii, a couple days ago. Picture by Tiana (featuring her husband Justin).

Over the last six months, I’ve found myself in Barcelona, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Columbus, San Antonio, Amherst, Salt lake City, Park City, and most recently Kona and Hilo, Hawaii where I’m writing this post from. Writing down the places I’ve traveled to since December has made me keenly aware of the  ways in which my Instagram and social media pages may lead people to believe that I somehow have tons of money out of nowhere when the reality is that I’m both savvy and privileged enough to maintain the life I want to live despite my graduate student status.

My trips at a glance:  

  • My plane ticket to Barcelona was $275 roundtrip. Even less for the AirBnB for the week which was split with a close friend.
  • I stayed in San Antonio and Columbus for academic conferences which meant roommates and university funding. One friend even covered the room entirely with her pro-devo and allowed me to crash with her. I bought both plane tickets on points.
  • My ticket to Abu Dhabi and Dubai was 400 RT and I paid even less for a rental car and hotel for the week after splitting with a friend.
  • My Amherst trip was a business venture: All expenses were fully covered.
  • Salt Lake/ Park City was a trip for my mother’s birthday. Half the plane tickets were paid for with points, half with cash and the Waldorf we stayed in was under 200 per night due to a Hilton special which I split with my baby sister as a gift to our mom. Approximate cost for a 5* hotel and 3 first class seats: 650 each.
  • I paid 15.00+/- in taxes for my Kona/ Hilo trip and am sleeping in my friends’ guest room after bringing them a house warming gift and using miles for the ticket.

In addition to the savings outlined above, I often received free meals and drinks for trips that involved Hilton hotels due to my status with their loyalty program…

Baby sis and mom in SLC.

All of these trips were made possible in part due to three things:

  1. Awareness of how to find inexpensive tickets;
  2. credit cards and loyalty programs to attain and redeem miles; 
  3. And, the wherewithal to figure out how to balance the two. 

 

I have 21 credit cards. Yes, 21. It takes an unfathomable amount of time each month to pay all of my bills because I try to make sure I spend at least something on all of my cards to show that I responsibly manage my credit. But these cards have been a large part of the means from which I travel. Of the cards I have, there are a few that I use most often.

Selected cards & their rewards when I signed Up: 

  • Hilton Amex (75,000 points sign up bonus)
  • Hilton Citi (50,000 points sign up bonus)
  • Delta (50,000 points sign up bonus)
  • United (50,000 points sign up bonus)
  • Southwest Plus (50,000 points sign up bonus)
  • Southwest Premiere  (50,000 points sign up bonus)

I tend to use these cards most because I’m able to directly see the return on my investment in card ownership. For instance, I use my Hilton Citi card to pay my rent which means thousands of points per month on an expense I already had, my Hilton Amex for all hotel stays as I *only* stay Hilton brands, Delta and United on other monthly expenses, and my Southwest cards in rotation between the others. The benefits of these cards beyond being able to accrue and redeem points and miles also shows up through lounge access, bonus points, free drinks, and early access to concerts and shows thanks to my card membership.

Dubai.

I share all of this to say: I realize that social media shows only the fruits of my labor, not the work behind the scenes to make this all possible. I often wonder how many of us look at people’s social media and make judgments or ask questions of how. How is this person able to have this when I don’t, when I work just as hard. The answer is probably privilege. In my case, it was the privilege to spend hours upon hours and years upon years taking the time to wade through all the drama to learn how to effectively use social media, credit cards, and points and mile programs to make my dreams come true.

SLC

I wouldn’t trade everything I’ve learned for the world and in fact, I’m taking time this summer to share all of my tips and tricks with all of you for a nominal fee so that I can see other Black women out here traveling and enjoying the world the same way (details forthcoming).  That said, I hope you’re all reading Loni’s column on Travel and Leisure as she and I initially bonded over much of what is presented here and that you all will take some time to pause, reflect, and then go for your wildest travel dreams. You’re worth it and you don’t have to live vicariously through someone else’s Instagram to do it.

Out of My Comfort Zone: Four Days & Three Nights in Japan

I never had my sights set on exploring Japan until I spotted an unusually low $600 dollar non-stop round-trip ticket from Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (NRT). I knew that my next long weekend would be Labor Day, so I booked the ticket months in advance and downloaded Duolingo to learn some Japanese. I let time get away from me and I didn’t start doing serious planning for my trip until about a week before. This ended up costing me some money, but hopefully you don’t make the same mistake if you are traveling to Japan by following my suggestions below. Everyone else, skip ahead!

Whether you are staying in Japan for 3 days or 3 weeks, you may want to look into purchasing a Japan Rail Pass if you are planning to travel to several areas of  Japan. The catch with the pass is that you can only purchase it outside of Japan. The official website with all necessary information and pricing can be found at http://japanrailpass.net/en/about_jrp.html You will need to purchase an exchange order for your rail pass through a travel agency or the airline that you fly with if they offer it. Japan Airlines offers the exchange order only to customers that are flying with them. Upon arrival at the destination airport, you will need to head to the Japan Rail Pass office to hand in your exchange order. You will get the Rail Pass in return.

An ordinary 7-day rail pass for an adult cost 29,110 YEN ($240). If you take the express train round trip from Narita Airport to Tokyo, and then take an additional trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, the pass will have already paid for itself. I did not do any of these things, and so my travel was very limited and I ended up paying more than the price for the 7-day pass for my 4 days of travel.

On the recommendation of my brother, I decided to not book a hotel until I was on the ground. Japan is a remarkably safe country with reasonably priced accommodation, so my plan was to wander freely and then sleep in whatever city I found myself in for the night. Wandering isn’t exactly luggage friendly, so I stuffed a backpack with all the essentials that I’d need for four days of travel as well as a flat iron for my hair. I’d opted to leave my natural hair straightened for the trip.

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My deceptive “cargo” backpack. More on that later.

This was a mistake. From the moment I landed in Narita until the time I flew back out, I experienced humidity unlike any humidity I had encountered before. My clothes felt sticky, my face looked greasy, and my hair would morph into a lifeless puff within 5 minutes of being of outside. Aside from that, I quickly fell in love with Japan and the people. My companions for this trip were my Lonely Planet Tokyo guide on my phone and a super cool and compact Skross international adapter for charging. I left my laptop at home to prevent myself from trying to work while on vacation, and this was probably the best choice that I made regarding the trip.

All prices below are in Japanese Yen. Exchange Rate: 1 USD to 111 JYP

Saturday
Narita Express train to Tokyo – 3000
Train from Tokyo Station to Shinjuku – 200
Accommodation: Ladies 501 Capsule – 4600
Horrible sushi dinner at place I will not name – 4700
Toiletries – 2000

Approximately $121

I landed in the night time on Saturday evening and knew that I’d need some time to adjust to the +12 hour time difference. I needed a nap immediately. Tokyo was the first place that I wanted to explore, so I took an express train from the airport in Narita to Tokyo proper, and then transferred to Shinjuku. After studying my Lonely Planet guide on the trip, I decided that I’d try one of Japan’s famous capsule hotels just so that I could have the experience. Capsule hotels offer little pods for guests to sleep in and not much else in the way of amenities, but if you just want to sleep, it works. The hotels are typically separated by sex, so I made the trek to the closest “Ladies only” hotel, paid 4600 to sleep there for a few hours (the price changed based on the hours that were needed), left my shoes at the door as required, and anxiously rushed to see my pod.

It was…quaint. The air smelled of stale cigarettes and there was a level of grime within the pod hotel that I wasn’t too happy with, but I was too tired to turn back around.

I expected some minimalism, but I was caught off guard by just how small my pod was. Somehow, my pod was still equipped with an outlet, a TV, and a privacy curtain for keeping fellow guests out of my sight. I hid my charger and phone under my pillow to tour the facilities. The toilets had all sorts of fancy buttons that I didn’t quite understand, but I eventually figured out that one button heated the seat, another button shot water from the toilet, and yet another played music. I had a good giggle before I decided that people were probably waiting to use the bathroom so I moved on to the bathing area. When I entered the showering area, I was confronted with the stuff of nightmares. The showers were communal, and I don’t mean freshman year dorms communal. Everyone showered out in the open and entered into the onsen (similar to a Jacuzzi, but even bigger) in the nude. I hurried back into my pod and considered my options. I could try to find another place to stay close to midnight, or I could get over my fear of being naked in front of people and seeing other people naked so that I could take the shower I so desperately needed after a full day of flying. After more self-talk than a person should need, I decided that I needed to get over it and stick this one out.

I cringe showered for about 30 seconds before I realized that I probably looked ridiculous, so I relaxed and forgot all about the other women in there with me. I then lowered myself into the onsen and discarded my discomfort as an older woman slid in next to me. As the warm water soothed my aching limbs, I decided that I could probably do the communal shower experience again if needed. By the way, if you were considering ignoring the “no tattoo” rules for some accommodations and onsen in Japan, the nudity required in the onsen is a nice way for you to get busted. I suggest looking for tattoo friendly accommodations.

At some point in the night, I realized that Shinjuku (the area where the capsule hotel was located) was in the red-light district. Suddenly, the sketch atmosphere in the hotel made sense, and I decided it was time to move on. Tokyo itself didn’t seem to be my speed, and after a truly awful sushi dinner in the tourist area, I decided to skip town and make my way to Kyoto. I downloaded the Lonely Planet Kyoto guide and took a long peaceful rest for the night.

Sunday

Roundtrip Train ticket Tokyo to Kyoto 27500
Crab Bento Box 1400
Green Tea Parfait 1600
Dinner at Sutadonya 1200
Massage 7500
McDonalds 480
Accommodation – Kyoto Hot Spring Hatoya Zuihokaku Hotel  11000
Accommodation – 9 Hours Capsule 2600
Accommodation – Nagomi Ryokan Yu 7700
Approx. $450

I woke up early to make my way back to Tokyo Station for my trip to Kyoto. This trip took place on one of Japan’s famed bullet trains, among the fastest trains in the world, leading to a total travel time of about two hours. I found another capsule hotel for the night while on the ride and made the booking online. A young woman came through the cars offering food and drinks, so I grabbed a crab bento box as breakfast. The bento box turned out to be somewhat of a normal part of the day for many business people while I was in Japan. During rush hours, mobs of people would quickly grab and pay for Bento boxes on their way to their trains in an automated fashion. I wanted to see what the fuss was about for myself, and it was pretty good for packaged sushi! It was light years better than the food-poisoning-served-with-a-smile that I encountered in Shinjuku.

With my belly full and accommodations booked, I sat back and focused on the scenery outside of my window. Everything looked so green and lush! The architecture on the homes was magnificent and I kept thinking about how lovely it would be to actually live in Japan.

One thing that was prominent throughout my time in Japan was the attention paid to presentation, especially when it came to food. As I stepped off my train and into Kyoto Station, my eyes fell on a poster for the most delicious looking ice cream I had ever seen. I don’t even like ice cream, but the photo was so alluring that I hunted down the shop selling it and asked for “that thing that’s on the poster.” It turned out to be matcha (green tea) and vanilla ice cream, with matcha jelly, matcha mochi, and matcha macaroons. Absolutely yummy!

Upon leaving Kyoto Station to make my way to the capsule hotel, I noticed a stately entrance to a hotel called Kyoto Hot Spring Hatoya Zuihokaku. From my short time riding into Kyoto, I knew that I wanted to stay there for duration of my trip, so I booked the Hot Spring hotel for my final night and set off to find the 9 Hours capsule hotel. As I made my way off the main street, the roads became narrow and were paved with pretty stones. Tiny, unusually quiet cars drove carefully down the roadways and the sounds of bells from bikes politely signaled when I was in someone’s way. Kyoto was undoubtedly charming. I ended up making another booking at a lovely guesthouse that I stumbled upon called Nagomi Ryokan Yu. I’d have my own room and share a shower with other guests, but that was far more privacy than the offerings at 9 Hours hotel.

Kyoto is known for being home to multiple temples, so I opened my map and set about finding all of them. Little did I know, these temples (over 1,000 of them) were still active places of worship. After accidentally interrupting one too many services, I decided to give up on the temples that were embedded within the city. I rented a bike, zipped around town for a while, and then took a much-needed mid-day nap at 9 Hours Capsule hotel. These capsules had doors that could close, not curtains, but they were hot and muggy. The futuristic capsule just didn’t cut it, so I knew that I’d made a good call by booking the ryokan. I dropped my things off in the guesthouse and headed back to the shopping area to look for food.

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Sutadonya in Kyoto.

After eating entirely too much at Grand Menu restaurant, I began the walk back to my ryokan in the nighttime when I saw the.most.amazing.thing.ever.

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THEY HAD WINE IN VENDING MACHINES! Right on the street!

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I quickly fed the machine all my coins just to see if this was for real. Wine? From a machine? And you can drink it outside!? Japan is so far ahead of us in the game.

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Do you see locs in this picture? 🙁

Monday
Sushi off street by Ryokan 1200
Fish Stick 1200
Souvenir bowl and chopsticks 3800
Souvenir tea cups 1500
Souvenir notebooks 1500
Zara 18000 (fuzzy sweater, black cardigan, yellow and black sweaters, blue top)
Dinner at Donguri 3500
Approx. $273

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The next morning, I had what was described as a traditional breakfast at the guesthouse. Rice seemed to be prominent in the morning, and at this point I decided that Japanese people must be distant cousins to Nigerians. Breakfast was centered around a small piece of fish, and there were all sorts of sides meant to be eaten with the rice. I couldn’t identify one of the sides, but it tasted good so I kept at it…until I noticed it had eyes. Anchovies 🙁

I took a walk around the little streets and immediately noticed that the smell of cooked fish was all over. It seemed as though every home had cooked the same breakfast that I had just enjoyed myself. I basked in the smell of morning breakfast being cooked as I headed over to a park full of numerous temples that were open to visitors. Early on in my walk, I ran into a woman and her husband rolling up sushi and selling it out of a shop attached to their house. Although my Japanese was nonexistent, I was able to communicate that I wanted one of their rolls and packed the delicious treat in my bag for the long walk to Kiyomizu-dera.

The first scene I encountered when I reached the park were loads of school children. Children fill my heart with so much joy that I shed a few tears as they sang songs with each other before getting myself together. I watched as they interacted with deities, performed rituals, and laughed with each other before I tried to map out how I would visit the most temples in the park. At the summit of the park’s mountain, gift shops and opportunities for prayer were offered. In one corner, there was a bucket of water with little stacks of paper people off to the side. There were instructions to write a prayer for someone on the paper, and then to dissolve it in the water. I wrote a prayer for myself, placed it in the water, and I truly felt like everything would be okay as I watched it dissolve. Something about being in Kyoto had roused something in my spirit, and I felt incredibly at peace.

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Paper people prayers.

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A deity that gave me slight pause. Lol.

As I descended the mountain in the park, I noticed my exhaustion and headed back to my ryokan to collect my things. After a quick nap, I made my final move to the Hot Spring hotel for my last night in Kyoto. The Hot Springs stayed true to its name as it was equipped with two floors of onsen, separated by sex, and each floor had cold and hot water onsen along with communal showering areas for cleaning off.

I walked one last time to the main shopping area in Kyoto and spent too much money in Zara buying items that I had never seen back in New York. Souvenir shopping and all of that temple walking inspired my appetite so I ended my trip with dinner at Donguri complete with black sesame ice cream for dessert. This ice cream was even better than the green tea parfait! I’ve been looking for this flavor ever since I got back to the United States. Good food is always the perfect way to end a trip.

Tuesday
Bento boxes 3200
Train from Tokyo to airport 3500

After just about every trip, I feel sad when I’m leaving. As I struggled with my now broken backpack (that bag was NOT meant for travel) and several bags of clothes and souvenirs to board the train back to the airport, I didn’t feel sadness as much as I felt like I was leaving home. I literally felt as though I had found my people. Kyoto is a germophobe’s dream, everyone was pleasant, respectful, and considerate, and the city was scenic to say the least. Although I felt large in comparison to just about everyone there, and the prolonged stares and giggles from high school girls made me more than a little self-conscious, I felt like Kyoto was where I was meant to be. Next time, I am staying for at least a month, booking a ryokan in advance, and getting a rail pass to travel all over the country!

My Relationship is Over, but I Still Have Work to Do

Over the past year, several of my #sistascholars have experienced breakups to varying degrees. Given the pain and frustration I’ve watched them deal with, I felt it necessary to discuss healing and growth within the break-up process too. To illuminate ways in which heartache does not mean the rest of the world stands still with us. After all, I, too, experienced a breakup within the last year, so I consider this piece both healing for me and helpful for others.

Being in graduate school is a journey that can only be understood by those who have experienced it themselves. When we read about people who liken it to undergrad 2.0, we know those folks have not pursued formal graduate education and if so they did it without taking the process seriously. Even then, everyone’s experience is different. Given the fact that relationships are difficult in and of themselves, adding the graduate school layer can lead to a different kind of stress when things go awry. pexels-photo-236229.jpegLast month I wrote about maintaining a relationship while in graduate school. But what happens when things simply do not work out? The work that we do is extremely draining mentally and emotionally. Many of the women I know in this space are doing work specifically related to our Black womanhood. Attempting to grieve the loss of a relationship (because it can be a grieving process) makes it very difficult to perform that work when it is directly tied to our experiences and the work reminds of us the pain we are enduring.

We are in pain. We question ourselves and our ex-partner’s motives and intentions. We question how we even let ourselves get involved with that f*ckboy in the first place. We worry if we will ever get married if we will ever be able to keep a relationship. The sh*t hurts. The whole process of love to heartbreak–the emotions listed here and otherwise. Sometimes, all we want to do is wrap up in our bed under a nice cozy blanket, drink some wine, binge watch some Netflix, and cry until the ducts are dry. But, what is a woman to do when there are final papers are due in a week? How do you manage if the break up happens in the middle of comprehensive exams? When a manuscript is due to an editor? When you have to teach a class tomorrow? Your dissertation is due to your committee? When you’re a new faculty member on the tenure clock? All of these things continue and as the deadlines pile up we have to rise to the task even when our hearts are broken. So how? How do we show up when our primary support is no longer there? How do we find the joy that was once our own?

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The “how” partially depends on the type of person you are.

Can you compartmentalize and get sh*t done during crunch time, then let it out when crunch time has passed? If so, do your thing and apply the rest of this later. For those of you out there like me, this is not our process. As a Black woman who finds herself very in tune with what’s happening around her, I feel EVERYTHING very deeply. There is no concentration in these moments. So, for the those of us who are not so good at compartmentalizing our feelings, I feel the need to share a few ideas that may be helpful on our journey to healing:

  1. Allow yourself to feel it. All of the things listed above can wait just a little bit. We know, it doesn’t feel like it. We know, comps and the diss are defining pieces of graduate education… And still: one day of letting yourself be in your emotions is not going to ruin you. Go ahead and wrap up in your blanket with your wine and favorite snacks and just cry it out. Crying is healing. It can be a release of all of that pain that is built up.
  2. Carve out time to get some work done and make it very focused and intentional. Have specific tasks that you would like to get done in that time. Utilize a space with minimal reminders of what you’re going through. I personally prefer public spaces so that I am not tempted to crawl back in my bed. Once your work time is complete, take some more time to emote if you need it. Repeat this until less and less time is spent on the emotional healing process and more time can be devoted to work. Just remember to adjust for your programmatic needs!
  3. Lean on your village. I don’t know a single woman who has never been through a breakup. There’s some wisdom there. pexels-photo-197465.jpegLean on the women who support you most and let them be there for you. Let them know what you need. Do you need them to just be there and feel their loving energy? Or, do you need them to tell how much of a f*ckboy he was and how great you are? Whatever your style, express that and let them be there for you. Allow your friends to drag you out of bed, to the beach, to the pool, to that party, to a place that can be one of happiness and joy if only for the moment because you deserve to experience these things and it’s the role of our friends to help create these memories. This is especially true during the tough times.
  4. Go see a therapist! A therapist can help you work through those thoughts and emotions in an unbiased, supportive, healing way. And if you can, try seeing a Black woman– even if this means online/ phone only forms of support.
  5.  Finally, understand that it takes time. Cliché, I know… But there’s a reason people say it. It will take you longer to heal if you try to push it down and pretend that everything is ok. Acknowledge your pain and figure out healthy ways to ease it. Breakups are difficult, especially if you planned to spend your life with this person (e.g. broken engagements). Know that you are strong enough to get through it, but you’re also allowed to be vulnerable and feel the pain of that loss. Your emotional well-being is as important as (if not more so) this degree or career. Take that space for yourself. Lean on your village and do not be afraid to seek the support of a professional.

Remember there is no right way to heal. Allow yourself to enjoy the presence of friends and family, the joy of solace, and the immense relief that comes with cry. If all else fails, remember that joy cometh in the morning–maybe not a morning this week, this month, or even this year. But it comes. And it will be yours. You will know what it feels like again, because you deserve to.

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Peace, love, and blessings my sistas!

4 Questions To Answers If You Want To Start A Side Hustle

Deciding to become a full-time student has major benefits in that I can (in theory) spend more time on coursework, research, and other opportunities. However, the full-time student pay can be a little sad. Financial aid, for the most part, only comes in loans. Fellowships and the few scholarships available for graduate students are scarce and highly competitive. This can be frustrating and leave you searching for answers.
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I’m sure you have also seen a lot on social media about people having side hustles to make some extra money to supplement their current income. Millions of posts and videos about how people are making 6 figures in one day and how you can work from anywhere and make tons of money. Sure, there are some people who have found a get rich quick scheme and for everyone else, that’s just not reality.

If you are thinking about starting a side hustle, then you have to be realistic in what you hope to accomplish. Having a side hustle can definitely help supplement your current income; it will also require a lot of time and effort on your part. It will not be easy and it is not for the faint of heart.


My first two years being the doctoral program, I was making less that $1,000 a month. Paying rent, utilities, food, and other basic needs could not be fully covered with that income. So I started looking for other ways to make some money.
I found  A LOT of information; some useful but most of it trash. Many of the “business gurus” make most of their money from people like us searching for information about how to start a business. They give a few ideas, make them sound pretty, prey on your ignorance, and then leave you hanging more confused that when you started.
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I even searched out other Black women who started their businesses thinking that they were more trustworthy. These women say all the right things, talk to you about how they know what it’s like to know that you are destined for more and that you just need someone to show you the right direction. The Business Guru tells you her story about how she was in a job she hated or how her supervisor did not appreciate her or EVEN how she was a graduate student. She did three simple steps and instantly gain financial independence overnight.
Truth: building a side hustle can be simple. Simple does not mean easy though. It takes time, patience, tears, and persistence.

However, if you’re still wanting to know more about how you can do it, then please keep reading.


4 Questions

What problem do you solve-
What problem do you solve?
Business is all about identifying a problem and providing a solution(s) for that problem. What are you trying to solve for people? Do you help people fix their credit by helping them to manage money better? Do you know how to help people manage or eliminate their anxiety and depression through meditation? Once you figure out the problem you solve, decide how you can best solve that problem.
What problem do you solve- (1)
How can you solve their problem?
What is your gift? What will people pay you for? You could offer a service like a career consulting or transcription services. Maybe you make handmade items like blankets or t-shirts. Whatever you do, make sure that it can bring value by solving a problem. The problem does not need to be earth shattering. It just needs to help make someone else’s life easier.
What problem do you solve- (2)
Who do you want to help?
How would you describe the person who needs your help the most? Going back to the problem, how does your customer experience this problem? Is she having a hard time paying her rent every month because she likes to eat out instead of cooking at home? Do they need to find a new job but their resume needs updating? If you know WHO needs your services, then you know your customers. This doesn’t limit who can buy what you’re selling, it helps you to market to the right people who NEED what you’re offering.
What problem do you solve- (3)
Why should they choose you?

“People don’t buy what you do; they buy why do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” Simon Sinek. In short, people are more likely to come to you and buy from you if they feel a connection to you. A simple way to connect with you is to know WHY you are in this business. This goes back to the problem you are solving. Why does this problem need be solved by you?


These questions are the foundation of your business. Don’t get caught up in building websites, creating logos, or figuring out a business name. Those things do not matter.  They help later once you actually have a business. If you focus on these things first, you will never get started or make money, which is the point right. Your website is pretty, shiny, and new but if I don’t know what you’re selling, how can I buy?
There is so much more I can tell you about starting a business. My goal with this column is to continue to share my knowledge with you. Building a business is hard enough without people trying to take advantage of you. Yes, I do believe people should be compensated for their work. However, I do not believe people should overcharge for trash effort. If you pay for help, then you should actually get help.
Building a side hustle does not have a magic formula to it. You just have to do the work and keep doing it over and over.
Until next time!

My Doctoral Journey Began With Two Words…

“I Promise…”

Those were the last words I told my Uncle as his lifeless body lay on the hospital bed.   It was New Years Eve and I came home from New York to celebrate with my parents.   What was supposed to be one of the best nights of my life quickly became the worst when we received a call that my uncle had been rushed to the hospital.  On the ride to the hospital, I said a silent prayer for God’s will to be done.  I never thought in a million years that God’s will would be to take my uncle away from us.  My parents let me out the car. I went into the hospital to asked for his room, but this time was different.

They sent me into a room where my aunt, uncle’s girlfriend, and pastor were gathered.  Without saying a word, I knew he was gone.  The sequence of events that followed felt like a dream to me.   One by one, family members came to find out that my uncle didn’t make it.   While they all went to the room where my uncle’s body was, I stayed with his girlfriend.   I couldn’t bear seeing my uncle like that.  How could this be happening?  Things got even tougher when my grandparents came into the room.  No one was there (or was able) to tell them what happened,  which left me facing the hardest conversation of my life.  “He didn’t make it…” was the only thing I could get out.   The way they looked at me shook me to the core.   It was as if my words took a piece of their heart out.  I literally saw their hearts breaking right in front of me. That was painful.

While the family when in the room with my Uncle I still stayed outside of the room still confused and scared to see him.  Finally, I went in there and we all just stood around him, some crying, some praying, and there I was quiet and staring at him praying this was a dream.  Finally, my Grandmother looked at me and said “Life is like a vapor…”  and looked back down at him rubbing his hand.  While people began to leave I still couldn’t move.  I asked the members of the family who were still in the room to give me a minute with him alone.  When they stepped out, I stepped closer to him with so many thoughts going through my head.  I touched his hand and he was still warm which sent me into a state of denial and all I could say is “Move… Please Move… Please… Please Uncle Arnold… Move… Please…”  Tears streaming down my face I realize that he would not move.  It was at that point I thought about coming home from my first year back in school, after getting kicked out (I’ll share that story at a later date).  I saw my Uncle during Christmas break and he asked me “How are your grades this semester?”    I replied, “I got a 3.6 GPA!”   He gave me this look of such pride and shook his fist and nodded his head.   That reaction spoke volumes to me and is a constant motivator for me.   As I stood by the hospital bed and looked at his lifeless body I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “I Promise You, I will set the bar for our family, I Promise I will get the highest degree attainable and make you proud… I Promise You… I Love You… I Promise…”   That was 8 years ago, and so far I have kept part of my promise.   I’ve attained my Master’s degree and I’m proud to say that  I got accepted into the Doctoral Program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and will be graduating soon. I have learned so many things along the way and I excited to share this journey with you.  Every month will cover areas that will be encouraging, informative, and downright hilarious.  So whether you’re getting your Doctorate or considering it; welcome!

~LaShaundra