I Get Tired Too, Sis.

So, here’s the thing…I mean well. We all do (well, most of us). And I still mess up. Despite being a perfectionist in just about every area of my life, I am a flawed friend. And I am painfully aware of that.  Through unrelenting processes of critical self-awareness, I have learned to admit my flaws in friendship; however, I still struggle to let folks know when I have been affected by theirs.

Most of this struggle comes from my upbringing in a very Southern, Black, Christian family. “Be polite and only show kindness to others. That’s what Jesus would do”.

And for most of my life, I have done just that. I never talked back or became unruly or let anyone (particularly folks that I considered to be my friends) know that my feelings were hurt. However, this self-silencing has never actually stopped anyone from hurting my feelings, whether they intended to do so or not. And until only recently, I have just taken it. Be it misplaced anger, undue frustrations, or just the residual “I don’t care” attitude jabs, I have taken it all in friendship.

However, I have grown sick and tired of being the take it all friend. Yes, I am a counselor by education and training. Yes, my very nature is empathic and I feel everything. Yes, I want to be more like Jesus and understanding of your journey.

But I get tired too, sis.

And I get annoyed. And irritated. And at my wit’s end with all sorts of chaos. Just. Like. You. Life is hard and unfair (especially for Black women who are rarely given their just due), but I am out here trying to make it, just like you. And in my journey towards making it, I am also a firm believer that, in spite of our very human flaws, we CAN be there in sister-ship for each other, without either of us feeling like our presence or gifts or talents are being taken for granted.

I am grateful that I have a spirit that draws folks to me for support in one way or another. I believe that this drawing power (as my granny would call it) is one of the many reasons that God created me. With this awareness, I support you in your frustrations and want to help you heal. I do not, however, want to be your verbal punching bag or your emotional target practice. I will take accountability for my actions and my actions only. I will admit when I am wrong and when I could have done better.

I will not, however, allow folks to treat me any kind of way because I have just taken it in the past. I’m not taking that anymore and neither should you, sis. Tell your folks when enough is enough before it goes too far. You deserve a break, too.

The List

Have you written down the list?

You know which one I am talking about. The list of things you want in a mate.

The wish list of romance. The list of hopes and dreams of love.

I haven’t written that list.

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A few weeks ago I was talking with Dr. Joan about love and whatnot and she challenged me to really write that list out. And here we are weeks later… I still haven’t written the list.

Why?

What is so scary about writing down the things I want and desire and have thought about for a while? I know Brittany is going to kill me for not being on time with my deadline. But I have literally been frozen trying to write this… The struggle is REALLLLLLLLLLL.

Am I scared to write this down and be disappointed that it won’t come to light?

Are the things on my list too lofty? Am I wanting too much? This list is not about salary or credit score or height, but truly about how I want my interactions to be with a partner. Last month I wrote about intimacy and that is easy for me. To be poetic and metaphorical, but concrete, letting it out plain…welllll

So here is this list…. It is not fully a poem. It is just something I need to get out. Shoutout to Dr. Joan for pushing me and Brittany for the gentle nudge to finish. I am writing this list as a manifestation of what is to come. I am writing this list as an affirmation of what I deserve. I wrote this list to face the fear and embrace that it can happen. It will happen. Here’s to love:

  1. I want to laugh. Brother make my stomach hurt from laughing so hard at the nonsense. Let’s make corny jokes that only we know and
  2. I want to pray with you and for you and you pray for me. There is intimacy in knowing that God is a provider for all of our desires and you want that for my life.
  3. I want to dream together. Let’s talk about our passions and how we can help one another accomplish them.
  4. I want to question together. The world, the Bible, all the isms, all the problematics.
  5. I want to have great sex. Like I think about it afterward and gets chills sex. Like you want to please me before yourself sex. Like we try out all the kinky sex. Like we can’t get enough of each other… SEX.
  6. I want someone who wants to travel and experiences new places.
  7. I want someone who appreciates the arts. You don’t have to be an artist (although that would be nice) but appreciate it so we can go to concerts and open mic nights and museums and ish together.
  8. I want transparency. I want us to share and be vulnerable. Even if it is uncomfortable. I want to tear down masculinity with our vulnerability.
  9. I want someone who looooovvvesss to listen to music. Like to the point we can share new music with each other. (Because that’s foreplay duh)
  10. I want someone who is good with money (in terms of budgeting and planning so we can do all the stuff I want to do) I can learn from someone else.
  11. I want someone who is patient. Because I can be stubborn and I can snore. So your patience in those two things is greatly appreciated.
  12. I want someone who challenges me and inspires me to be better. Someone who wants to be in my corner cheering me on. And of course, I would be doing the same.
  13. I want someone who can be social. I am involved in a lot and I be doing a lot. LOL. But if we go to an event, you can mix with folks. If we are with my family, you can mix in with them. (I got a lot of cousins)
  14. I want someone who cares about people. Someone who understands that liberation is in love and daily we should strive towards loving more and more.

To my future love: With this list, I will match you with all these and more. I am open to whatever more you bring outside of this list as well. I hope that we have a love that complements the badass people we already are and that with our love we make the world better.  -BCB

How I Learned to Negotiate ​a Higher Salary

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“I’ve never asked for more money. I’ve always just been happy to have the job offer.”

A brilliant young woman of color, Nina, recently said this to me in a conversation about women in the workplace. I immediately began offering her some how-to tips that would help her get past being overjoyed at receiving a job offer and moving her to a place of asking for what she needed to live her best life. But as I began speaking, I was quickly reminded of all reasons I didn’t always negotiate for my own fair compensation, including for the reason Nina stated. Here’s how I eventually learned that as a woman, and especially as a Black woman, I must negotiate a higher salary.

I was just happy to have the offer.  When I landed my first salaried position, I thought I was living large! I had accepted a job that I was indeed happy to have. But I didn’t negotiate a higher salary. Eventually, I found myself routinely behind the 8-ball when it came to savings, retirement, etc. My bills were paid but building any sort of cushion was nearly impossible. Once I realized that it would take me about 2 years to save enough money to cover a single month of expenses, I knew something had to change. So, I did what any relatively evolved young woman does when she realizes something must change. I began by assessing myself.

I minimized my expenses. I really enjoyed preparing my own meals and dwelling in spaces that were styled to make me feel inspired and safe. I shopped at consignment stores learned the difference between clothing, furniture, and decor that was used and that which had outlived its usefulness. I DIY’ed everything from painting my apartment to refinishing much of my own furniture. In short, I was into minimalism before minimalism was a thing…and I loved it. Then I realized that although my mindset had changed to better manage the salary I did have, and I had learned to buy what I needed instead of what I thought I wanted, the one thing I still needed to live the joyous life I desired, was more income. Remembering that I previously convinced myself that I could make it work with the salary I had, I needed some validation that the salary I desired was indeed a possibility. So, I did what any millennial would do when they have a question.

I did some research to determine my value. A quick google search showed me that there was average wage data available for just about every job out there. I realized that some people with the same skill set as me, were receiving compensation well above that average and some were receiving salaries well below it. I was just to the left of that average. I eventually talked to peers who held similar positions, had similar skill sets, and similar levels of experience. I quickly realized that there were 3 key factors that differentiated me from my peers who made more than me for doing similar work. 1) They tended to be male. 2. They tended to be white. 3. They all negotiated the salary they wanted. My experience mimicked data that suggests Black women are paid 65 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. When I realized every job I ever applied for asked about my previous salary history to help determine what they would offer, it dawned on me that not negotiating for a higher salary as a young professional, could have a long-term effect on my finances for the rest of my working years. This single bit of knowledge inspired me to battle the fear that previously left me content with just having a job offer.

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I found the courage by focusing on the coins. The first time I negotiated for a higher salary, I was afraid. I was offered an exciting position that I was indeed happy to have. But this time, that just wasn’t enough. I knew what it was like to have I job I enjoyed but one that didn’t fairly compensate me for my time and talent. I was keenly aware of the emotional labor I performed in order make those around me more comfortable and to feel accepted and valued. I knew the average salary for the position I was offered and (perhaps more importantly) I knew what I needed to live at or above the threshold I set for my life. The initial offer I received was slightly below that threshold. So, I had to ask for more money.

I learned to ask for what I needed. After receiving the initial offer, I spoke with the hiring manager to present and justify my counter-offer, which included an increase in salary and a modest amount of funding for professional development. After a few days, I received a call. They rejected my offer but countered. I somehow had the presence of mind to say that I would think about it and get back to them in 24 hours. I really wanted to cry because, of course, I needed the job. Also by this point, my pride was wounded. I ran through all the possible reasons why I must not have been good enough and all the reasons I didn’t even deserve the job in the first place. Imposter syndrome was alive and well and speaking very loudly. The next day, to my surprise, they called me back with a new offer, slightly above their initial offer and slightly below my counter offer. I accepted.

In retrospect, my negotiating yielded only a small increase. But what I gained in confidence and negotiation experience was worth the small loss. I have since negotiated for more money with just about every position I’ve been offered. Sometimes I was not successful in increasing the bottom line. But most times, I walked away with considerably more money than I was initially offered, simply because I was willing to ask for compensation in relation to my value.

At the end of the day, that’s what the negotiation is about. Value. As Black women, we must ask ourselves if we deserve a higher salary. If the answer is ‘yes’, figure out why and say it out loud until there is no doubt in your mind. Then suddenly, asking for more money becomes the best next right move. And let’s be honest, the answer is almost always a resounding ‘yes’.

The Local Guide to New Orleans

            There are a small number of places in the world where I can see myself spending the rest of my days. Of those places, only two are in the United States, and New Orleans will forever hold one of those spots. My first trip to New Orleans was in 2014 with one of my best girlfriends, and I have been back every year since then. While the rest of the United States (even in Black dominated areas) still struggled with representation of Black folk, New Orleans had Black people plastered on every billboard, in every commercial, and most surprising to me, with their hair in a natural state. The coifs of locked hair were some of the most beautiful that I have ever seen outside of New Jersey, the fros were juicy, and oh, the accents!

When a housekeeper at the Windsor Court Hotel gave me suggestions for where to get good eats in the city, I raised my eyebrow in confusion. “What part of Africa are you from?” I could place most African accents, but this one was different. When she giggled and replied that she had lived in Louisiana all of her life, I found it difficult to believe. Throughout that trip, I found myself whispering, “This is so West African” multiple times, and it is a major part of why I keep returning. The more I ventured away from the tourist areas, the more I fell in love with the city. On to the details, as suggested by the many helpful born and bred women of New Orleans that I’ve encountered on my trips. Without their input, dress code suggestions, and gentle nudges away from food danger, I wouldn’t have seen the true character of the city. Now, I want to share their insights with the CiteASista readers so that you can have a different (and completely accessible) experience than the one commonly suggested online. 

To Eat & Drink

This is why you’re here. My first visit to New Orleans was a major food fail. Most of the business district locations of the popular restaurants in New Orleans leave much to be desired. If you want serious eats, residents make it clear that you will have to bypass the deceptions of Yelp and go into the non-touristy areas. Here’s a list of my favorites:

Eats

Katie’s in Mid City – For brunch and cochon de lait with wait service

Located on 3701 Iberville Street, Katie’s is the one place I always recommend to anyone visiting New Orleans. I was uninterested in beignets until I encountered the meat stuffed version served here, the cochon de lait is tender and juicy, and the specials are always a hit! 

Hank’s Supermarket – For chicken and fish sandwiches to-go

Located on 2634 St Claude Ave, Hank’s is your typical corner store like you’d find in the NY tri-state area. The fried chicken comes highly recommended by residents, but the sandwiches are great as well.

Soul’s Seafood – For seafood to-go

Located on 2732 Lasalle Street, Soul’s is not for the pretentious. These are good eats served out of a no frills outpost in a rather undeveloped area. Just like Hank’s, there is no place to sit so make sure you have a comfy room to take those soft shell crabs back to.

Cajun Seafood – For seafood

The location of choice here is on 1479 N Claiborne Ave. You can find po boys, snow crab legs, boudoin, and you can sit down and eat! Adjust your expectations and don’t come here on a date.

Acme Oyster Bar – for the chargrilled oysters

Located on 724 Iberville St, this is the only food spot on this list that is located in the Bourbon Street area. The draw here is the oysters, but full disclosure, you only get about 6 small oysters for $12. Combine the price with the ridiculous line at this location, and you may end up skipping this altogether.

Emeril’s – High end fine dining

Located on 800 Tchoupitoulas Street, Emeril’s is for the person worried about venturing out but wants reliable food. The food here isn’t cheap, but it sure is good.

Drinks

Superior Seafood – For the pomegranate mojito

Located on 4338 St Charles Ave, the mojito is the draw. While they offer a variety of flavors, the pomegranate will blow you away.

Accommodations

            N.O. is a popular destination internationally, and the types of accommodations reflect that. If you need something ritzy, that is absolutely available, but if you need something on the cheap, New Orleans has hostel options that start at $20 per night. I’ve stayed at the Windsor Court Hotel in the business district and the car-or-Uber-fare-needed Sheraton Hotel Metairie with no qualms. If money is not a problem, then you’ll easily secure a comfortable place. 

My 2016 stay required more budget-friendly accommodations, so I lucked out and landed the last spot at the IHSP French Quarter House hostel in a mixed 12-bed dorm for about $30. This was my first “dorm” stay outside of Japan, and the privacy and cleanliness in the 12-bed dorm was non-existent compared to the capsule hotels in Kyoto. If considering staying in one of these dorms, adjust your expectations. Think along the lines of band camp dorms with a bit of drunken naked 21-year-olds screaming loudly at each other in the middle of the night. The Quisby is a newer hostel option with en-suite bathrooms and sturdy beds, so try to book it before the rooms fill up. Essence Festival is just around the corner!

To-Do

If you’re like me, then no vacation is complete without a trip to the beach. Luckily, Biloxi/Gulfport Beach is only an hour away from New Orleans. On the Gulfport side, the water isn’t crystal blue, the sand is unusually sticky, and there aren’t many food options, but this beach will do for a short day trip. You may want to drive further up to the Biloxi side for a more impressive strip of beach, Load up on your chicken and drinks from Hank’s and some seafood from Soul’s and be on your way. 

          If this is your first time in the city, multiple guided bike tours are available for the lone traveler or for a large group. This is the best way to get a look at the contrast between the business district and the rest of the city. During my first tour, New Orleans still bore marks of Hurricane Katrina, complete with large X’s on the sides of homes to signify the result of search efforts in its aftermath. These tours can include cemetery visits, historic churches, and go for an overall “haunted” vibe, so check websites beforehand to find the experience you want. (You will also want to ask what breaking mechanism is used on the bikes. From what I’ve seen, back peddling is not for the unseasoned rider.)

           On my most recent trip to New Orleans, I made a visit to City Park and encountered so many things to do that I spent the rest of the day wandering that area. Upon entrance to the park, you will immediately notice stately trees draped in white. These are most likely live oaks, and the white covering is Spanish moss. I initially found these trees eerie but grew to see their beauty as they shaded me from the intense New Orleans sun. You can bring a blanket and have a picnic here, or take time to visit the New Orleans Botanical Garden and NOMA’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden. This was the highlight of my last trip! 

An internet search will suffice if you are trying to find the destinations that many tourists like to visit, (such as the World War II Museum) but if you are specifically looking for nightlife outside of the tourist area, you can get the local experience at the following:

Autocrat on 1725 St Bernard Avenue – The place to be on Friday nights, complete with food vendors waiting outside to fill you up when the party is over

The Hangover on 2101 N Claiborne Ave – Come here for New Orleans bounce and an all-night experience

Club Caribbean on 2443 Bayou Road – The Saturday night move for Caribbean music

I didn’t have the chance to visit Vieux Carres or Bertha’s (the go-to spots for the 30 and up crowd), nor Seals, Primetime, and Arlines, but if any of you get a chance to check these out let us know in the comments! I’ll be posting a second guide to New Orleans for foodies who have a bit more to spend and talking about a pillar of New Orleans and the Black community, Leah Chase, later on in the year, so be sure to check back in with CiteASista during Essence Festival. In the meantime:

What are your must-dos while in New Orleans?

 

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The water-line at Katie’s during Hurricane Katrina.

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The expansive City Park.

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Spanish moss covered trees.

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At the Sculpture Garden.

 

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At the Sculpture Garden.

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At the Sculpture Garden.

 

Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!?

It’s Okay to Pray…AND Go to Counseling.

“It’s Okay to Pray…AND Go to Counseling.”

It’s a debate that I find myself having every few months with my (very Christian, very southern) Black family. Any conversation about mental health and healing in my family usually ends with the age-old adage, just pray about it. Or, “you can’t pray and worry, so which one will you choose?” I hear you, grandma, but life hasn’t been that easy. I can certainly pray and try not worry, AND I need to go and talk to somebody.

As a mental health practitioner (shout out to all of my National Certified Counselors!) and a counselor educator-in-training, I know the value of having a relatable, reliable, culturally-conscious counselor in your corner. However, with the history of exclusion and cultural invalidation in counseling praxis, there really is no wonder why Black folks, particularly Black church folks, have an aversion to seeking a counselor or helping professional. Further, within a socio-historical context, counseling and mental health fields have been excruciatingly white. White practitioners, white practices, white diagnostic tests…nothing about the traditional (read: western, colonized) process of doing therapy seems appealing to folks from collectivistic groups. #CounselingSoWhite

In Dr. Joan’s most recent post, Therapy for *This* Black Girl, she beautifully outlined some of the systemic and pervasive issues and barriers that Black folks have experienced with seeking access to counseling services– e.g., affordability, location, availability of culturally-conscious clinicians, the mystifying of the counseling process, and so many others (I am becoming a counselor educator to address these issues, by the way).

To be honest, if your counselor is really worth their salt (and if they are obeying the Counseling Code of Ethics), they will be actively seeking ways to include your Indigenous/faith-based practices/values into your healing process. In fact, because my faith tradition and practices are so salient to me and my healing, I will only see Black women counselors who share my faith background. Disclaimer: having a counselor that shares my cultural, gender, and religious affiliations and identities is a requirement for me; there are plenty of counselors who may not share your faith-based values or other social identities, and are ready, willing, and able to meet your needs.

Sis, contrary to what Pastor-nem may tell you from the pulpit, counseling is NOT where your faith goes to die. If you need confirmation in The Word, Proverbs alone is full of references towards seeking wise counsel, advisors, consultation, and guidance (see Proverbs 11:14, 12:15, 15:22, and 19:20-21, just to start). I am of the conviction that Jesus was indeed, the very first counselor, and He has called a select few to be helpers in the healing process. Because of this conviction, I resist any undue feelings of guilt, shame, or like I’m being a bad Christian, because I believe in (and actively seek) counseling services while practicing my faith.

The reality is, I can AND DO talk to Jesus AND MY THERAPIST. The two are not mutually exclusive. For all of my Black Church girls who need some extra healing, please know that you can be a devout Christian, knowing/believing that God won’t fail you, be FAITHFUL, and still talk to (a trained) somebody who is adequately prepared to help you. So, IF you can afford it, have the access, and can find someone who meets YOUR requirements, please do NOT feel guilty for seeking a counselor to help you on your healing journey. Pray on it, listen for God’s response, and get the help that you need (and deserve). It IS okay to pray…AND go to counseling.

Unleashing your Inner Child to Master Graduate School

Last week, a few articles discussing the importance of being more child-like regarding professional life were highlighted in my blog subscription emails. This post will focus on the “Adulting is Killing your Vibe–Master these Toddler Moves Stat”  from Shine and “8 Reasons Thinking Like a Child Will Make You Happier” from Mental Floss stood out most. Both blog posts provide tips detailing the importance of going back to your child instincts in your adult life. I found both articles inspiring and decided to try being more like 5-year old Jessica, particularly in regards my graduate career.

I reviewed recommendations in the blog posts and selected the following:

  • Be unapologetically carefree (8 Reasons Tip 1& Shine Tip 3),
  • Wander more (8 Reasons Tip 2),
  • Be impulsive (Adulting is Killing your Vibe tip 4),
  • Be more decisive (8 Reasons Tip 7), and
  • Look for new experiences (8 Reasons Tip 8).

I completed this challenge for almost two weeks and here is what happened.


I became more adventurous and carefree. This change was a combination of tips one, two, seven and eight from Mental Floss and tip three from Shine. In an attempt to reduce my concern for other’s opinions, I worked on 8 Reasons Thinking Like a Child Will Make You Happier tip 1 (Stop caring what people think of you) and tip 3 (be your carefree self) from Adulting is Killing your Vibe. My concern for other people’s opinions of me is already pretty low in my personal life; however, I do worry about my professional brand when committing to tasks. I feel like my name is on the line and any wrong move could tarnish my reputation. So, I gave it a try. Applying this attitude to my graduate career reduced my stress and it was unexpectedly rewarding. I was still productive but my focus shifted from worrying about how projects, reports and my presentation could influence my professional future to being happy with completing tasks.

8 Reasons Thinking Like a Child Will Make You Happier also discusses the importance of being decisive (tip 7) and tip 4 in Adulting is Killing your Vibe recommends that you take more impulsive chances and see where it takes you. Typically, I am indecisive. I take my time making decisions about invitations because I consider everything else I have going, which usually results in me not doing what I want to do because I prioritize other things. Following the guidance of this recommendations increased my network and community engagement. I noticed a spike in my social activity. I started saying yes to more invitations for networking opportunities and creating some. Forcing myself to say yes to more social opportunities was probably the best part of this experiment. My network has increased, and more people are helping with my job search. I made new high profile contacts in various organizations, which have resulted in new unique opportunities.

Basically, I stopped boxing myself in. This meant speaking with my supervisor about working from home, coffee shops, parks or other places I felt inspired to work. These subtle changes in workspace resulted in unplanned creativity with projects and reports. It also helped me think outside of my office and our network for partnerships and how my colleagues and I interact with the community professionally.

Overall, being more kid-like in my professional and academic life has yielded excellent results. I suggest that you take time to read the articles and select the recommendations that are relevant to your graduate school career. If you try these suggestions, leave comments about what worked and did not work for you.

3 Things I’ve Learned From My Long Distance Marriage

My husband and I have what some might call a non-traditional relationship…

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We were high school sweethearts who ended up going to different colleges and managed to keep the relationship together. You might be thinking what’s non-traditional about that? Well, let me tell you. After graduating from college my husband, then my bf, got a job in our home state of NJ and I went to get my masters degree in D.C. at George Washington University.   About a year and a half into my two-year program, we got married with the intent that I would move back home after graduation. I then got accepted into a Ph.D. program in Georgia. I moved to Georgia with the idea that he would get a job in Georgia and be down within a year. I knew job searching might take some time and we weren’t strangers to long distance, so what were a few more months, right?

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Well after not being able to find adequate employment in Georgia, what seems like a million arguments, many visits and 4 years, we still hadn’t moved in together. We were coming up on our 5th year of marriage and I was coming toward the end of my Ph.D. journey. We just moved in together full time for the first time after our 5-year anniversary in October after I wrapped up the research portion of my Ph.D. I tell this story to say that I could probably be considered an “expert” in long distance relationships and marriages since I did both for a cumulative total of 12 years. So when #CiteASista asked me to write a post on what I have learned through all of this, I couldn’t really say no, could I?

But first, a caveat: Neither me nor my marriage are anywhere near perfect. There’s still a lot of room left to grow as flawed human beings… 

Nevertheless, here are the top 3 things I’ve learned from my long distance marriage/relationship:

First: Communication is king, queen, prince, and princess:

Createherstock Black Love Neosha Gardner 62When you are in a long distance relationship communication is the most abundant resource at your disposal. Between Facetime, texting and phone calls you can ALMOST forget your significant other is thousands of miles away. But this goes deeper than you think. I was a person that relied heavily on facial cues and body language to gauge the tone of a conversation, but that isn’t always an option when long distance. Over time, I have been able to hear the subtlest changes in tone and have a general idea what my husband is feeling and so can he.

Second: Everything isn’t meant to be said: My husband and I would call each other at least 3x a day while long distance, in addition to texting and occasional video chats. Our arguments would get pretty vicious and when the only thing you have at your disposal is words…. let’s just say mine have surgical precision if I’m trying to hurt your feelings. But words also cut deep and when you can’t rely on physical closeness to help bridge the gap after an argument you realize that everything you say has a LONG LASTING effect. Over the years I have learned that even though I’m probably right and I could really win the argument by saying a bunch of true but not nice things, in the long run, its not worth it. Some of my friends can tell you this was a HARD learned lesson.

DSC M29Third: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger: Let’s be honest here, marriage is hard AF. Married people who live together get into their fair share of arguments but at least they have make-up sex to fall back on. Long distance marriage is HARD. SUPER HARD. It’s not for the faint of heart. But I really feel like through all the rough patches of our long distance marriage we really have come through better people and stronger in terms of our relationship for it. Between learning how to fight fair (most of the time), understanding that communication is gold in any relationship and enduring not seeing each other every day, I feel like I cherish being with my husband, even more, now than I would have if we would have done things more traditionally.

BONUS! Its O.K. to do your own thing: I was only asked for 3 things so I’ll be quick. Being long distance through the majority of my relationship has allowed me to continue to grow myself as a person, foster invaluable friendships and do my own thing A LOT. Now, I can do things with my spouse and enjoy it, but I cherish the time with friends because they had my back when he wasn’t around and really became a great support system. I know it is easy to get wrapped up in your romantic relationships but friendships are SO important. It is 100% ok to reserve time for your crew and have your own interests and hobbies that don’t include your spouse.

Ok, that’s my $.02 about long-distance marriages. Are you in a long distance marriage/ relationship? Thinking about starting one? Let’s talk about it in the comments!

Therapy for *This* Black Girl

Content warning: “Profane” language, and mentions of disordered eating.

It’s true: I love the podcast Therapy for Black Girls created and curated by Dr. Joy. Her work is a ministry in my life. I’ve known her since my time as a master’s student at the University of Georgia where she and another Black woman mental health professional co-hosted a sista circle in what was the African American Cultural Center (now Multicultural Services and Programs).  To say that I was excited when she dropped the podcast series is an understatement. I knew it would be good. I didn’t realize that it would be the encouragement I needed to take action in my own life.

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On my last #TravelingScholar road trip, I played episode after episode of #TherapyForBlackGirls. I found learning, affirmation, or loving conviction in each episode. Dr. Joy reminds us in each episode to enjoy the conversation but to seek our own personal services as needed or desired. I had known for a while that I needed to return to counseling. Life had been doing what life does *shrug*, and I knew I needed to work through some things. Some folks might call my issues self-actualizing/higher order Maslow issues, but I know myself well enough to know when a sista needs help. I’m a helping professional by training (Go Student Affairs!): I can see the signs.

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The issue was that I, Dr. Joan, needed to get out of my own head and go sit on a therapist’s couch. As qualified/credentialed, loving, compassionate, knowledgeable, and equipped as my friends are for supporting me, I needed to do some mental and emotional labor that would work best when aided by licensed, professional help. Between my disordered eating habits, major life transitions, ongoing grief, and relative uncertainty about major life decisions, your girl needed some help. I found someone who met my criteria, made my first appointment, and haven’t looked back since.

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The process has been appropriately challenging and supportive. My therapist is a direct and loving communicator, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’ve already done some liberating work. Apparently, I’ve got some guilt and shame hiding in my life and said shame and guilt undergird my perfectionism #WhoKnew. My therapist sends written prompts between sessions to continue the work until we meet next. I share passages from my personal journals (plural) with them. I don’t hide with them. They can’t help me if I’m what my friend’s five-year-old son calls “a liar lying a lie”. They call me on my bullshit because they don’t know Dr. Joan. They know Joan: a person who sought them out to make progress with/deconstruct/understand/redefine/build anew some of the things that needed more attention. I don’t have to put on with them. I can (and do) speak hard truths that are in direct conflict with each other, and there is room for the tension. They remind me that I am the expert on my life and that they are simply a trained guide for the journey. I am (re)minded of my own truths. I simply get to be.

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This post is my attempt to share my experiences with and understanding(s) in why I chose to return to counseling as a means of encouraging folks to seek assistance who are able and willing to do that. What we not gone do is use this post to guilt folks into therapy or shame folks for not (continuing to) seek(ing) professional mental health services. There are a host of reasons why a person might be unable or unwilling to seek therapy. I recognize the immense privilege in having health insurance to cover most of the associated costs of professional help, having access to a culturally compatible professional, and not having a history of poor counseling experiences. I shared all of this here to add to the words of people who labor to end stigma related to mental health and mental health services.

So, Basically… Therapy is working for this Black girl *insert praise dance*. I am working through shame, guilt, and perfection and returning to the fullness of love that I am. I’m a Black girl, and I go to therapy. There’s no shame in my game [see what I did there ;)].

Ava- Of Course

Not you too, sis?: Taking Advantage of Fellow #BlackGirlMagic

As a co-founder of #CiteASista and one of five founding members of #SisterPhD I am no stranger to spending a lot of my time working towards (and on) supporting Black women.

My research is about Black women.

My life’s work is on centering and supporting Black women.

I work, every day, so fewer Black women have to suffer the ways that I have…

W.O.R.K.

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It’s in everything that I say about myself. And while so many of us have no idea who we are outside of work (and that’s another post entirely) for those of us who love the grind, need the hustle, and appreciate everything that comes with it, work is an integral part of who we are… But In watching last week’s Grey’s Anatomy episode and looking at just how much the Dr. Miranda Bailey’s and Maggie Pierce’s work, I realized I and many of my girlfriends do the same… Sometimes to a fault… And I’ve found it difficult to have real conversations about what it means when we take advantage of each other. Afterall, it’s easy to tell a classmate or coworker you dislike to stop messing around or that you’re #ReclaimingYourTime, it may not be the same for a friend, though and especially another Black woman as we try to coalesce and support each other in the name of sisterhood.

 But what about times we need to?

The other day,  a friend and I vented to one another about our frustrations with co-writing, working, and doing projects with other Black women because it was starting to feel like people were taking advantage of our labor and work. I was crushed when a friend and sister of mine thought it okay to “let me work my magic” on a joint project as if the skills I’d be employing at that moment weren’t things I had to learn. I texted her back, “additional labor, sis” as a means of pointing this out. And while this particular friend was receptive and I was able to push her to see she could do more of the heavy lifting WITH me, some friends simply are not as amenable.

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So what do we do when we feel like fellow Black women are asking us to join forces on school and work projects only for them to slack off every time? What does it mean to trade being bamboozled and used for your knowledge by non-Black women, for Black women who do the same and offer little in return? eh… QTNA, amirite? Let me admit right now that I don’t have all the answers to these questions and certainly not any definitive ones. When I tweeted to ask about how you tell friends you feel you’re being taken advantaged of, most people said something along the lines of address it directly. But not everyone, friend or not, can take this kind of feedback.

I will spend my last breath, dollar, and give the clothing off my back for my fellow Black women. Period. Full stop. End of story.

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But I also want us to be able to hold each other accountable and to have difficult conversations so that we can become better, stronger, and more prosperous friends for having done so. And while I won’t pretend to have all the answers, I want to be a part of the solutions. I want my friends to call me in, love on me hard, and help me be better even if I am initially combative or resistive to it because while my brain may not want to hear it, my heart will know I need to feel it.

So, here are three ways we can start to protect our Black Girl Magic together:

1. Name It/ Point it Out

Although we often have a sixth sense and can say pretty much anything without talking to each other in meetings when ridiculousness is at play, this is not always the case within our own friendships. Sometimes we have to name and make plain the fact that we are feeling taken advantage of to our sisters– this means creating space for one another to talk it out in meaningful ways. Taking a moment to name it can prevent any issues with holding one another accountable for things we do not realize we’re doing and enable us to move forward in manners productive for everyone involved.

2. Set Boundaries

Sometimes, sistas need to know what you can and can’t do. I despise group work because I always end up doing most of the work. These days, I simply do not have the time to control every single detail imaginable for a smaller project. By setting boundaries, we can make clear our expectations for engagement before we get to a point of having to have the difficult conversation, and be sure the collaboration we’re envisioning is one that can take place, to begin with.

3. Set a plan for Reevaluation

If you’ve done one and two but still find yourself struggling, you may need to reevaluate what you have in place. Letting those close to us/ we work closest with know that there have been shifts in our priorities and that we need to adjust can help lessen the tension and ultimately the load. By reevaluating our priorities, we can choose to move forward or stop the things we are doing. Not every project has to have us (control freaks/ overachievers) at the helm. Sometimes we have to let go of control and trust that others will see things through. Besides, if it all falls apart because of someone else, that’s on THEM– not you.

Protect your energies, time, and space at all cost– even if this means having to sit another sister down. It’s okay to say no and hold one another accountable– it’s not okay to make someone feel as though people are taking advantage of them.

What do you all think? What ideas and plans do you have for holding yourself and your sista friends accountable? What strategies might you suggest I employ? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think!