One year ago, today, I started this blog. A whole year. 365 days. 52 weeks, 26 paychecks. And I am still here. I used to dream of having my voice heard by strangers. And look at me. The girl with stage fright–the girl who hates attention–is speaking out. I haven’t posted as often as I would have liked to but self forgiveness is the key to moving forward to a better future. I have spent this past year finding my voice and what is that I am passionate about speaking on. In the beginning this blog was about me sharing my story in hopes that others would find the same burning strength that I do through words.
But, if you’ve followed me on this journey, you’ll see that Finding Fenix has been more than just my story. There have been book reviews, author Q and A’s, political views, shared experiences, and topics about what it means to be a black woman in America. Originally, when I was starting my blog, I wanted to call it Phoenix Tears. At the time, I was (and still am) writing a memoir of what would have been the same title. I wanted to promote myself. What better way to become known than a blog? It hasn’t been that simple.
I decided that Phoenix Tears was a little depressing and not catchy enough. I needed a gimmick so that people would remember me. Thus, Finding Fenix was born. And, to my surprise, this last year really has been about me finding myself all over again. Finding Fenix could not have been a more perfect title for my blog.
I am incredibly proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and taking the first steps to put myself out there. I am humbled that 534 people took the time to view my site and read my content. This number might be small now, but this is just the beginning. I want to expand Finding Fenix. I want to brand it.
There will be more content, and more consistent posting from this day forward. Ambition without a plan is just a dream. I’m awake, now. I have so much more to say and I want to share it with all of you.
Thank you for flying on this journey with me. Flame on.
I have lived a difficult life. My struggles may not seem severe to some, but my life has been hard. I have lived a life full of fear because of the trauma I have endured. I have never known a life that was fluid or easy. It was never in the cards for me. I have spent the majority of my life struggling to find ways to be comfortable and content. But it was never for all the right reasons. I never wanted to be comfortable with myself because I was so busy trying to make other people around me comfortable.
My mom passed away when I was two years old and because my family is well-known, every one in the city knew. Parents told their kids. And those kids bullied me. They thought it was funny that my Grandparents were raising me. They thought I was a freak. We were in kindergarten and first grade and kids went out of their way to my make experience uncomfortable. I was the freak with no parents. And no one–not even my family–ever let me forget that.
In middle school, my Grandparents and I relocated to Indiana. Where I was bullied some more. My hair wasn’t right, my clothes weren’t stylish enough, I was too quiet. I wasn’t pretty enough. I remember being grade a C- on the Appearance Report Card. But that grade wasn’t low enough for the classmate who consistently groped me in the middle of my last period art class in 8th grade. I was 13. No teacher ever came to my rescue. My Grandfather had just died and I didn’t want to burden my Grandmother.
In high school, I had trouble adjusting to being back in Rhode Island. At the end of my sophomore year everything around me just started to crumble. I felt myself splitting in two as the familial issues arose. July 3, 2007 is a day I will never forget. My cousins and I call it “The Big Bang.” In Spring of my junior year, at age 17, I was homeless. I found solace in working and playing sports. Circumstances forced my hand and long story short- -I had to live with the source of my anxiety. I developed insomnia, ended up in counseling, and my grades slipped. I started skipping school regularly. Then, again, in Spring of my Senior year, we were homeless again. My Grandmother’s health was all over the place during this time, so I had that pressure on my shoulders in addition to the regular stressors of teenage life.
After I graduated high school, I couldn’t wait to get out of that city. I thought that would be the cure-all for my PTSD and its symptoms. I was wrong. My freshman year of college consisted of going home every weekend to work and living alone in my dorm because the roommate I was assigned didn’t work out. I was always in my room and I hardly ever went to campus events. I stayed on campus to work the Summer of 2010 and it turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done. That Summer I met new people–who I’m still friends with to this day–and came out of my shell. I still went to counseling and my Grandmother’s health was still all over the place. By my junior year, I was working 3 jobs and going to school full-time. I got into a relationship with someone who was older than me and I thought I was in love. That’s what we all think, right? Young and dumb, I guess. At the end of my junior year, I knew that I was not mentally prepared to go back to school in the fall. But I went anyway. And then I had a nervous breakdown. And I allowed myself to break down in front of my Grandmother for the first time. She was spooked. It’s crazy how people are always surprised when the strong person can’t be strong for those few months. She cried with me and told me that she supported me no matter what I did. She let me know that it was okay to take care of myself. Shortly after that, I got out of the mentally/emotionally abusive relationship that I had been in for almost 3 years.
Fast forward a year or so, I was working at a group home for teenage girls and found that I loved working with kids. But I paid a price for it. I worked there for 5 years and I was assaulted and injured. I worked 40+ hours a week. A few years later and my Grandmother’s health starts to decline and I decide that it was time for me to move back home to help her out. The very same day I began moving my stuff back into her house, was the day she died. She had no idea I was even moving back home. It was a surprise. I self medicated with sex and alcohol–but ended up back in therapy because I found that I wasn’t coping in healthy way. It has taken me two years to come to terms with the fact that she is gone. I have my moments, but I am not in the deep abyss that I used to be. Two years later, and I got the courage to leave a job I loved because it wasn’t good for me–mentally–anymore.
My whole life I have lived in some sort of fear. Always afraid of what people think about me and how they perceive me. I have difficulty forming relationships because ultimately, I believe that people will leave me. The way each of my parents did. The way most of my family has. I fear being lonely so I put up these walls–brick-built–so no one can get in. I thought it was safer this way. But in hindsight, it hasn’t been healthy. It hasn’t been easier. I’ve just made it harder on myself. I don’t like crowds and I don’t like being touched so I used to stay in the house all the time. But there is an entire world outside waiting for me to explore. So now I spend my days living and exploring. I want to live my best life.
I say all this because someone out there needs to hear this the way I needed to hear this 10 years ago. IT GETS BETTER. But ONLY IF YOU WORK FOR IT. You create your happiness, it doesn’t just fall into your lap. The fear of missing out on your dreams has to be greater than the sum of your other fears.
Present day, I help homeless families find stable, affordable housing. I still work a lot, but I enjoy what I do. And every day off I get, I am doing something that scares me. I want to be fear(less). Fear less. If you told me 10 years ago, that I would be where I am today, I would have laughed. I came close so many times with thoughts of suicide. But I don’t allow those thoughts to permeate my self talk. I have learned that you have to trust your fear. There is a reason you are afraid. But some fears have no reason other than preventing you from living your whole life. I don’t really care what people think of me. I still get anxious in public, but I don’t allow it to prevent me from living my best life.
I am so grateful for all of the experiences that have shaped who I am today. Without fire and ashes, I couldn’t be the Phoenix that I am today. They key is to persevere. Rise above your fears and self-doubt and let that fire push you to your full potential. I’m not where I want to be, but I thank God and the universe that I am not where I was 10 years ago.
You ever just get so overwhelmed with things in life and just think to yourself, “what’s the point?” Or maybe you’ve given up your dreams because your current situation doesn’t necessarily allow you to fulfill them. Maybe you’re someone who starts projects and never finishes them. Or maybe you’re like me and you have all of these major ideas swimming around in your head and there is so much to sort through it’s just hard to get your thoughts on paper. Or maybe you feel like because you don’t have a big enough following on social media that you won’t get enough exposure for people to buy into your Brand and what you represent.
And if you’re anything like me, you aren’t willing to pose half naked for an iPhone photoshoot for likes. Maybe you’re good at makeup but you don’t have the time to devote to it full time. Maybe you have a lot to say but no one wants to listen because you don’t present a certain way.
Maybe you just want to be able to spread good vibes and inspiration in multiple formats. In theory, Social Media should be your playground but you’re too scared to take a risk and move out of your comfort zone. Who would want to follow you? What is your message? What are you trying to bring awareness to? How are you any different from any other page?
Life has shown me that I’m the person that people remember for negative reasons or they just don’t remember me at all. Despite the fact that I have made conscious efforts to change who I am perceived to be. To outsiders, I appear to be your average woman. But deep in my heart and soul, I know that I am not average. Why? Have you read anything I’ve written? I have a story to tell. I am a product of strength, wisdom, and melanin. I want people to see what life has done for me. I’m not where I want to be, but I am damn sure glad that I’m not where I used to be.
I want to share my passion–I want to touch people’s’ lives. But how do I do that with stage fright? How do I do that when I am the Incredible, Forgettable?
I don’t have these answers. But I will. All in good time.
I’m a loner. Always have been. I feel more comfortable being alone. There could be several reasons for that. I’m an only child. I never had siblings to socialize with. Sure, I had cousins, but that isn’t the same. Back in the 90s, if you didn’t have a mom and a dad–you were picked on and bullied. I never had many friends. I have never known how to talk to people. I’m inherently uncomfortable around strangers. I make it a point to find as many ways to avoid human contact in public as possible. I don’t know what it is. Sure, it’s anxiety. But is it more than that?
I have already established in previous posts that I don’t trust easily. There are reasons for that. It’s been a long journey to being 26. A long, painful one at that. I have walls up but they serve the purpose of protecting me from potential pain. Life has taught me to what I hope to be an excellent judge of character. I am hypervigilant. I don’t miss anything and my memory is both a gift and a curse.
As humans, we try to pretend that we don’t care what people think of us. But that school of thought is ridiculous. The truth is that everyone judges everyone. Judgement is a fundamental element in natural selection. The difference is that some of us are compassionate enough to find the strengths in someone’s weaknesses. But then there are those of us who ridicule and criticize. That’s the difference between a hater and a supporter.
I have tried damn hard to pretend that I don’t care what people think of me. But if I am being honest with myself–I care. I care because I want to be good at being a good person. I want to be genuine, authentic. I care a great deal about social justice and people who have less than I do. I even care about people who have more than me. I care about people. But I can’t deal with being around people all the time. Where is the sense in that?
My theory is that I have a habit of taking on other people’s’ stress–their issues. I internalize and empathize to at some points to a fault. I have learned that about myself. And the best thing I can do for me is to learn how to say no. I’m trying to teach others like me the same.
I have spent many years trying to find my own identity that is me to the core and not layers of others. It took a long time to get here, but I think I have a pretty good grasp on who I am. The issue I seem to be having is convincing other people that I am who I say I am. As I’ve stated in other posts, people like to use the terms “bitch,” “selfish,” and “rude” as adjectives to describe me. In my heart, I KNOW I am none of these words.
I see myself as a product of my experiences. I have been heavily influenced by the way my Grandparents raised me. I am independent because that is what I was taught to be. I am wise because of my life experience and my love of books and all things educational. I am compassionate and for the most part, pretty damn understanding. I care about the environment. I care about people. I’m not an animal person but I appreciate them. Honesty and loyalty are real for me. I am real. I am very direct, and most times I get criticized for it. Because no one likes confrontation. I am not afraid of the truth or its delivery. If you ask me something, expect the full, blunt force of the truth. Nothing less. I am funny. I love to laugh; and what better gift is there but to spread joy? I have feministic views. I love women. Especially black women. I am true to my roots with my natural hair and melanin. I want us all to succeed. I will always tell a woman how beautiful she is, that I like her outfit, or anything that will uplift her. Empowerment is important to me. Both for men and women alike–no matter what background. I do a lot of selfless things daily but I never get recognition for it.
Clearly, I know who I am. But do other people see me how I see myself? Logically, I know that there are bad people who are well liked and that there are good people who are overlooked. I also know that “nice” does not necessarily mean “good.”
I asked people who knew me personally on Facebook if they thought I was a good person. Because, validation.
M: I believe you are a good person because you are a good advocate for other and yourself. You don’t go out of your way to harm others. You are not purposely cruel. You are kind, smart and loyal. You might not show it but you are a big (whispers) softy. You carry the world on your shoulders. And no one knows. Not because you are evil, cold or unkind but because you have learned a way to survive. DO NOT and I mean it DO NOT let the way people PERCEIVE you, DEFINE you. You have gotten this far because you have successfully (even if at times it felt like a failure) navigated thus far. You are a strong Sail in the middle of a Hurricane.
A: You’re nice and fun. You have a good head on your shoulders and you tell it how it is.
K: They should you are kind, caring, helpful. You have a beautiful soul. Others should know that just by having one conversation with you.
A2: I think you are a great person. Maybe to some people they just need to get to know you better. Once they get to know you, you make people laugh, and you are a great person to talk to. You give people compliments. Everyone has bad days, it doesn’t mean they are bad people. Keep being you
D: Um, obviously. Your line of work proves that alone. Plus, I’m only friends with good people 😝. The fact that you care whether or not you’re a good person proves it too. Assholes don’t care about the impression they make on people.
I am not someone who opens up easily to others. Like I said, I have no idea how to talk to people unless there is a situation where I feel comfortable or the awkwardness is mutual. The point I am trying (and I think failing) to make is that I want people to see me as a good person. I could give a damn if they like me or not. But you will respect the fact that I hold my own and I am AM A GOOD PERSON. I don’t have to be liked. I don’t need a lot of friends or followers. I just want who I am and the movement that I represent to be respected.
People will never understand me fully. I have accepted that. Like M said, I have many layers and it takes a special person to be patient with me and discover the richness and purity that resides in my soul.
As a young black millennial, I have been making efforts to consciously read more books based on the black experience. I read a lot of books, but most of the time I’m reading about people and places I can’t wholly connect with. I have only read a handful of books in my lifetime that I could relate to. I have been searching for more opportunities to read black authors and books that contain black characters.
I have been a little out of the loop in terms of new releases and I stumbled upon an advanced reader’s copy of Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give by chance. A co-worker told me she found an ARC I would like that was based on the Black Lives Matter Movement. I was intrigued. I took it home and attempted to read it. At first, I couldn’t get into it. Not because the writing was bad, or the subject didn’t peak my interest, though. I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to read a lot of the same types of books for a while. It just so happened that at the time I tried to read this–back in Jan/Feb–I was waist deep into a pile of thrillers. I couldn’t focus. Eventually, I got off the thrill ride and was able to pick up The Hate U Give.
Starr Carter is a sixteen- year -old girl who finds herself navigating between the world’s the Hood she lives in and the suburban Prep School she attends. Starr’s world comes crashing down when her childhood friend, Khalil, is shot and killed by a police officer. Starr is the only witness and everyone wants answers as to why an unarmed teenager was shot and killed by the police. Khalil’s case makes national headlines and the black community is furious. They want justice. Starr finds herself blurring the lines between who she is at her school and who she is at home. Is she betraying black men by having a white boyfriend? Is she betraying her Hood by wanting to get out?
I can only describe the experience I had reading this book through the perspective of a young black woman. I found that I had to read this slowly and deliberately. I had to put it down several times. Either I was too enraged, to hype (slapping my knee and hollering in agreement), or just grieving for not only the characters, but the black community as a whole.
In my opinion, this book gives a daringly accurate account of the black experience. Although I didn’t grow up in the Hood personally, I experienced many of the things Starr, her family, and her friends experienced.
“Williamson Starr doesn’t use slang–if a rapper would say it, she doesn’t say it, even if her white friends do. Slang makes them cool. Slang makes her “hood.” Williamson Starr holds her tongue when people piss her off so nobody will think she’s the “angry black girl.” Williamson Starr is approachable. No stank eyes, side-eyes, none of that. Williamson Starr is non -confrontational. Basically, Williamson Starr doesn’t give anyone a reason to call her ghetto. I can’t stand myself for doing it, but I do it anyway.”
Starr is remarkably intelligent and insightful. She is aware of the power of presentation when it comes to “fitting in” and not wanting to be stereotyped. I still struggle with maintaining both sides of myself. As a kid, I was taught how to speak so that white people could feel comfortable–but it’s never been comfortable for me, just like it isn’t comfortable for Starr.
Starr’s family is one example of what a family looks like growing up in a poor community. I enjoyed the fact that Angie Thomas incorporated gangs, alcoholism, and blended families into the story. It made it that much richer in substance. These are issues that aren’t necessarily exclusive to the black community BUT for the purpose of this story, it worked. I loved the dynamic between Starr and her parents. Her father, Maverick, is an ex-con/former gangbanger and has educated himself and his kids about how to deal with the police. I can recall having the same talk with my Grandfather as a kid.
As for Starr’s relationships with the kids at Williamson Prep–it’s what I would expect from a teenager. It’s difficult as it is, trying to navigate friendships in high school. But when you had the media and the pressure of social injustice–something is bound to happen. I, for one, was ecstatic when Starr molly-whopped Hailey. She deserved it.
“That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
This book is a must read. For educational or motivational purposes, you choose. But you must read it. I mean REALLY read it. Marinate with it and let it sit. Let it be uncomfortable. Let it scare you. Allow this book to make you angry, let it make you cry. If the only thing you take from this book is that having a voice and an understanding of how to use it appropriately, then Angie Thomas has done her job. It’s up to US to make the changes happen.
The question you are asking yourself shouldn’t be “Am I racist?” It should be: “what am I doing to stop the spread of hate?” In ALL forms. Thank you, Angie Thomas, for writing OUR story. I REALLY hope the message isn’t lost when this is made into a movie. Five Stars!
I come from a long line of people who are afraid to or don’t otherwise know how to let things go. I’m talking material things, feelings, relationships, that ratty old sweatshirt that belonged to Eddie n’ them back in the day. You know, the kind of people who think that cutting people off because of old grudges is productive.
I grew up with the idea that possessions can have value the same way that people can. Let me explain. My Grandmother was a pack-rat–she was a lightweight hoarder. She had so much STUFF. Picture this: a 150 year old victorian duplex with ten rooms on either side filled with as much victorian furniture she could find. She was a collector of antiques and spent a lot of her spare time yard-saling or perusing through the isles of the local thrift shop. Then there were those family heirlooms that she refused to get rid of because cousin so-and-so got it from great-great uncle what’s-his-name. When we moved from our big house to a smaller house in the midwest, we had to downsize and it broke my Grandmother’s heart to see the things she kept close to her for comfort disappear.
As a kid, I came to understand that family was important. Those big dinners, sleepovers, and bike rides meant something. They meant that we were bonded. Or at least that’s what I thought at the time. I think that these are some of the reasons why I have struggled with the divided band of relatives I have today. When I was younger, I was taught that “blood is thicker than water.” But as my experiences have changed and my view of the world has transformed, I believe that loyalty and honor make you a family, blood just makes you related. But that’s another conversation for a different time.
Like my Grandmother, I have the habit of holding onto material possessions that I connect with positive memories or emotions. I have allowed myself to become complacent in relationships that were not good for me. I stayed at jobs I couldn’t stand because it was convenient for whatever reason and I was comfortable with that. I have lived the majority of my life afraid to let go. Of things, possessions, relationships, etc.
I was bullied a lot as a kid and I can only think of a few friends. More often than not, whenever I would develop an attachment to these friends, someone else came along to “steal them away from me.” I didn’t like sharing my time with other kids. Eventually, my friends thought I was annoying, creepy, or just “not cool” enough to be associated with. So I was left alone and bullied. I would write notes to my former friends begging them to be my friend again. It never worked. And I looked like a loser begging for people to talk to me.
As I’ve grown up, I have learned that nothing changes if you’re comfortable. Everything happens for a reason. There is a lesson in every struggle. Somewhere between my adolescence and into my adulthood I have figured out that it’s okay to let go. I have purposefully walked away from the people, places, and things that were not beneficial to my journey to happiness. I had to let go of the thing I kept close to me as a security blanket. Letting go was difficult, but boy has it been worth it.
I made a goal for myself that 2017 would be my year. Mind you, I say this every year and nothing has ever changed. But this time, I made changes and accepted my struggles for what they are. I let my past family issues go and was able to gain some sort of closure. I moved out of an uncomfortable living situation and into a new apartment. Most importantly, I got a new job.
I had been at this particular agency for 5 years and hadn’t had a raise in 3 years. I was looked over for promotions. I wasn’t being paid for the amount of work I put in each day. I never felt supported by my peers or my superiors. I stayed for so long because the job and location was convenient and familiar. But I was killing myself for nothing. It felt like there was no one there that believed in me, my vision, or anything I had to say. I got uncomfortable enough in my predictable world at this agency that I knew it was time for me to go. So I applied for other jobs and I left. Would you believe that my former supervisor never said goodbye or good luck? I was there for 5 years. Apparently, it didn’t matter.
I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining–because I am not. I just want to point out that the people, situations, or things that we think are valuable to us may not reciprocate those feelings. But letting go teaches us to put one foot in front of the other. It teaches us that we are stronger than we know. Letting go has been liberating for me. In retrospect, I was terrified of letting go because I am comfortable with familiarity. Not anymore.
I want to live my life having taken risks. I don’t want to be afraid of change. I want to experience something new everyday. I know it’s hard, but sometimes you just have to let it go. But, you have to know when to let go. When it isn’t helping you grow in a positive way it’s time to walk away. If the passion is gone and you aren’t challenged properly, let it go.
Think about it: do soldiers hold onto grenades after pulling the pin? No. They let it go because it is detrimental to their well-being to hold on. So let go. Live your life. Be you unapologetically, and most of all, BE HAPPY.
As I’ve said many times before, I LOVE a good thriller. Anything psychology or crime related. My favorite TV shows and movies all revolve around psycho killers and sociopaths. Think: Law and Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, Hannibal, etc. I have always been fascinated by the criminal mind and mental illness. This fascination has extended to my reading activity. After reading Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl a few years ago, my craving for psychological thrillers has been insatiable.
A year or so ago–when I spent a lot of time at Barnes and Noble before working there part-time–I discovered the intriguing cover of Lisa Gardner’s now NY Times Best Selling thriller Find Her. I had never heard of Lisa Gardner or read any of her books, but the cover and description sucked me in. I was not disappointed. Find Her is a crime/thriller hybrid about surviving/coping after being a victim of a gruesome crime. Anyway, when I saw Right Behind You hit the shelves at work I knew that I had to get a copy. Not just any copy, but a signed copy. Thanks to working at at Barnes and Noble, I heard that Lisa would be at another store in my state. Rhode Island is an hour in any direction, so I thought it would be worth the troop. I missed the discussion beforehand, but I was able to chat briefly with Lisa, get my book signed, and take this awkward picture with her.
In my feeble attempts to get a friend to read this with me, it ended up sitting on my bookshelf for a month after I bought it. Eventually, I got impatient enough and started reading it on my own. I didn’t really need a reading partner, did I? I didn’t really think so. I dived in headfirst and immediately became submerged in the plot. This one was immediately relatable to me.
In Right Behind You, we learn that retired FBI Profilers Quincy and Rainie are about to adopt 13 year- old Sharlah May Nash who hasn’t seen her older brother, Telly Ray Nash since he murdered their parents to save their lives. The Nash siblings endured abuse and neglect from their drug addicted, alcoholic parents. Telly had to beat his drug enraged father with a baseball bat to save his baby sister. Now, eight years later Telly is the main suspect in what appears to be a vengeful killing spree. Is he the killer? Is Telly on the path for revenge?
I hate reading reviews with spoilers, so I refuse to give any details that give away the plot. But I will tell you why I loved this book so much. I work with kids in the system so I have an understanding of the trauma that causes kids to be removed from their parents. Telly and Sharlah’s case is one of many examples. With that, the trauma they endured I have seen first hand in the faces of my clients. Telly became the parentified child when he cared for his baby sister. Even through the abuse, Telly proved his resilience when he was taking Sharlah to the library and reading to her. Sharlah handed Telly that bat to save both of them. These are the reason I love working with kids–their resilience.
Now eight years later, we learn that Telly has struggled with his identity and the kind of man he wants to grow up to be. Is a hero? Or is a he a zero? I have had the privilege of working with kids who have been subjected to endure situations out of their control in which they were exploited, abused, and/or neglected. I have seen kids come from darkness and make it out on the other side. In some ways, I’m one of those kids, too. Perseverance is a beautiful metamorphic process.
Gardner wrote this both thoughtfully and provocatively. Reading this from my point of view, she captured the emotions and struggles that kids in the system must face. Furthermore, she captured the importance of bonding and the difficulties that foster children and foster parents struggle with. What does it take to be a family? When do you know you’re a family? These are questions where I feel Gardner hit the nail on the head. She took her time developing this plot and telling this story.
I haven’t read any of the other Quincy and Rainie books, but I can see how these two profilers have influence and understanding of the human condition. Quincy and Rainie put a lot of emphasis on the importance of being able to bond. In my line of work I have seen kids who are still able to bond with staff and mentors. I have also seen kids that are unable to bond–these are the kids most at risk of resorting to crime. There was decent balance of good and bad in Right Behind You. It wasn’t rushed, it didn’t ever stagnate, and I was exhilarated with every page.