I took the road less traveled now where the **** am I?

Throughout many stages of my life, I was teased a lot for the way I speak. I was told I spoke too proper. I was often accused of ‘not sounding black enough’. I say it was accusations because it made me eventually open my eyes to the ludicrous statement that really makes. How I read that when I was young was “I’m different. I stand out but this is who I am so I just won’t fit in.” How I read it now makes me believe such small mindedness was introduced to box me up. Good thing I hate boxes.  I don’t want to fit in and do only what is expected. Live beyond the stereotype. Once I got older I thought about how those words used to hurt my feelings and was like wait, so I read books and sounded educated so was being smart and sophisticated not acceptable in my community?? Well of course not but that was how I felt. How dare anybody try to tell me that who I am is not enough.

I could launch into how I was raised in tough neighborhoods and even though my family made many sacrifices for me to have opportunities, we struggled at times. I’m grateful for how I was raised and where I come from. Yet It’s unnecessary to launch into those stories because my struggles and triumphs should mean nothing if the reason I am bringing them up is to prove who I am. I’ll pass, thanks.

For me and where I’m from, I made a lot of choices different than the norm. I played golf and made friends with many beautiful diverse human beings and lived abroad and kept choosing less traveled roads.

I accepted myself instead of trying to change who I was. I march to the beat of my own drummer and that’s okay. People can adapt.

I could have forced myself to conform when I was growing up but instead I chose the road less traveled in those days. I chose me over other people’s opinions of who I should be. I have been happy being me ever since. I found empowerment in my voice. I am skilled at knowing what behavior is appropriate in different situations because I have been in all those different situations. Now I hear all the time how people love my voice and how intelligent and mature I sound when I speak. I have been requested as a speaker on many occasions. I did nothing different. It reminds me of a quote by supermodel Iman “I don’t change the way I think; I change the environment.”

Along the way in this life I have taken wrong turns and u-turns but that is the beauty of this life’s journey. The hurtful words I used to hear in my youth don’t serve me. What they taught me was how being uniquely who I am – a beautiful mess at times – was how I would bring impact.

I have been called brave by many people’s definition for the roads I have chosen. To me, I’m just living my life and I’ve got a long way to go in figuring out even more things but I’m glad to live a life that serves me. I have no apology for that.

One of my goals is to poke holes in the boxes we place others/ourselves in. There is no ‘one way’ to speak, dress, travel, work, love or live that dictates who you are or should be. Be You.

It is amazing. I went to the Pride Parade for the first time today and the running theme through much of it was just that — Be You. Tonight I watched the BET Awards and the 3.5 hour show was filled with various entertainers, educators, business people and everything in between. Any award show provides a good examples of those who stand out amongst the crowd as unique. You have something to bring to the table that no one else does. No one has your story. May no one rob you of the confidence to live your story just as you need to.

I heard a young girl say something last week in London that really resonated with me. She said “You’re the person you have to live with your whole life. Make it count.”

So it turns out I know exactly where I am. I am opening up new doors. I am figuring out new paths. I am blazing new trails. There is no formula for life. There is no ‘one way’ to live it either.

Have you ever struggled with being yourself or finding your own voice? How did that impact you?

The best, most challenging thing you will ever give up

I saw Billy Elliot the Musical last night so the soundtrack notes are still pretty fresh in my head. There were lots of plot points in the story line that do not relate to me. I have never been part of a coal miners strike or desired a career in boxing or ballet but the general “Be You” theme that resonates throughout the telling of Billy’s story was great. If you are unfamiliar with the story, Billy Elliot is a kid who decides he would rather join ballet over boxing. His dad, a hardcore coal miner challenged by workplace union issues, is VERY resistant at first until he realizes how dedicated his son is to this path.

The greatest life lesson Billy Elliot the Musical reinforced for me was the importance of individuality. They even had a song about it. That leads me to the best, most challenging thing you will ever give up…the comparison effect.

Stop comparing yourself to others. Sounds so easy right? Well if it were easy, everyone would do it. I know I would but I don’t always. I made a decision months ago to intentionally minimize the comparisons. I still have to coach myself occasionally that I am pretty damn great as I am. The only person I need to compete with is me. Not in a “I am never content or I’m my worst enemy” kind of way but instead to be steadily progressing myself.

You have to give yourself space to be yourself. Give up on being someone else or trying to be like them. Maybe it sounds ridiculous that this could be an issue but that is what it is.

Social media can be a comparison trap that way. Can’t it? Then I gained new perspective on it. I realized that social media is in many ways a chance to put out what we want the world to see. We control the narrative so people show the fab vacays, flawless selfies, best assets, expensive purchases and happy times (mostly). I found myself comparing myself to people I know but in many other cases, people I didn’t know well or didn’t know at all.

Balance of the internet and real world doesn’t always happen. Though not always the case, in many ways life online is like our own version of reality tv. What happens when you know people are watching? It would be crazy not to believe some things our tv housewives, survivors, bachelors and Kardashians have to say aren’t at least a little motivated by the public involvement of others. Which is why it is not fair for you and me to make the comparisons to them or the non-celebs in your life that you secretly admire. And jealousy is just a bizarre form of admiration.

Reminding yourself that ‘being you is okay’ is so important. A great way to maintain balance is to keep up with your friends, family and significant other relationships offline with the care that people use in posting online. Also actually be authentic online even if you just make happy posts. Be the same person on-screen and off.

My personal privacy policy has always been strict but that changes whenever I recognize people in my life who love who I am. They can handle that I am sometimes loud or sometimes quiet or usually sarcastic or an introvert and always a nerd.

I also began to invest more attention in learning who I am, how I am, how I like to communicate, what my love language is, what being a Sagittarius means for me, what my personality type is, what my weaknesses are, what my strengths are and many other things. I should not have to explain why I am the way I am but occasionally people do not understand my differences. I talk when I have something to say. I struggle with expressing myself out loud. I am internally really happy. I get extremely annoyed at rude people. Laughing is my favorite. I smile a lot but get mad sometimes too. I am a curious person that listens intently and questions a lot. Although I also do have bad days, I do not like overwhelmingly negative/dramatic people in my personal space. No shade. I just prefer sunshine over here.

We all get sick quick of the people who make it seem like everyday is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mantras are… Give unto others only what you can afford to reap in karma. Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a battle. Be better to the world than it is to you. Live out good energy and Give good vibes. All solid, tweetable tips to live by.

It takes 21 days to make something a habit. My challenge to you is…Don’t compare yourself to anyone for a week then take it from there for another 7 days. Then another 7 after that. If that means you take a break from your fave sources of online energy, so be it. If you do not know and believe in yourself, no one else is going to. Be you, not anyone else.

How do you practice your individuality?

How to Keep your Closet in Order and your Style on Point

I love second-hand clothes. I would say I am a certified thrifter. I also accept any of my friends or sister’s hand-me-downs that I think I can fit into. I have always kind of operated on the belief that I can make something out of anything I am given. Thus every now and then when I have said yes too much, I end up with a closet full of items that don’t serve me. Maybe you have not been in the exact same scenario but you may struggle with either a closet of too much or too little. I run into both sides of the spectrum. I have an affinity for collecting or purchasing thrift clothes then when I start to pare down my wardrobe, I feel I don’t have anything to wear. So I wanted to share some tips on how I deal with it.

Here are 3 ways to keep your closet in order and your style on point.

1. Wear each item you own at least 1 time this year.

An easy way to do that is start from one end of your closet and go all the way to the other, creating a new outfit for each piece. It will make getting dressed for the day easier, trust me. We all typically do that thing where we go for our favorites and skip over everything else. No more of that. Trying this way will give you a chance to assess every piece in your closet. You kind of have to treat your closet like stores do their merchandise. When pieces are no longer of value, they get discounted until they are either purchased or removed. Stores do not keep items on their shelves forever and neither should you.

If you have the time to take inventory on everything at once, great! If not, just do a piece a day until you have gone through everything. I mean belts, shoes, tops, pants, jackets, skirts, shorts, jewelry, accessories…EVERYTHING. It will feel good when done because now you know what you’re working with.

If the item has been around so long you’re not sure what it even looks like on you anymore, pull out the full length mirror and try it on. Pretend like you’re shopping in your favorite store and trying on something for the first time. You should know within seconds if you want to keep it or toss it. Ask questions like “How does it feel? What did I first think when I looked in the mirror? Does it fit right? Would I wear this in public? SHOULD I wear this in public?

Every time I get into the habit of wearing each item as least once, I have people compliment my outfits. I rarely go on shopping sprees so they are complimenting me on things that have usually been sitting in my closet for months or years. Honestly, if I have an item that I keep on passing over because I can never seem to figure out what to do with it (or I secretly don’t like it but feel bad getting rid of it) and it hasn’t left its spot in a year, I either donate it or throw it out. There is a reason it sits there year after year.

 2. Do a close friend Clothing Swap Party

I love this idea. Ladies and gents can both do it. You can plan an easy get-together with a handful of friends. If you would rather just drop your items off at your local Goodwill or Salvation Army, cool. If you want to get a little more social about it, truly take on the idea of encouraging your close friends to go through their closets too. Share this blog post with them. Make it fun. Have good music, grab a beer or glass of wine, eat good snacks and catch up with your friends in the process. Encourage others to host their own parties by sharing pics on your social media pages. Make it a thing. It is a chance to finally get rid of pieces you don’t need. It also turns this spring cleaning idea from something people dread to something you can look forward to every season or every year.

Tell everyone to bring their plastic bin or plastic bag full of clothes destined for goodwill. You can make free swaps outright or take the idea further and each person charge between 25 cents to $1 or something reasonable for each item. The money collected at the end of the night can be used to buy everyone a scoop of ice cream or if you’re really into changing the world it can be donated to a charity everyone loves.

The Clothing Swap Party gives you a chance to finally have access to some of the gems you always wanted from your friend’s closet. It also makes room for new clothes you may want to purchase from your favorite store in the near future. During the party, you can even include a mini fashion show with your friends and get inspired by new outfit ideas. The next day, one person can take any leftover items to the local thrift shop donation drop.

I will never forget the day my mom gave me a pair of shoes she had held onto since the 70s. In her mind they were outdated. In mine they were gold. They were wood clog heels, brown leather design on top with an ankle strap, clearly a decade piece that could not be easily replicated even by the greatest fashion designer today. Buying a shoe like that today could easily cost two to three times as much. I loved those shoes so much and wore them out. The leather really began to fade. I walk hard so the heel began to get worn down. Eventually the holes to make the shoe strap tight became just one, the strap became weak and eventually broke. I was so upset because I loved those shoes and I paid $0 for them. I knew my window for wearing them had just draw itself shut.

Which brings me to my third and final point, know when to…

3. Let It Go

Sometimes sending things to the trash is acceptable. Thrift stores and charities ask for new or gently used items for a reason. No one wants what has been damaged or destroyed or broken or really used. I threw moms heels away but eventually got other shoes that became favorites.

Just last week I finally tossed my fave Steve Madden flats. It was beyond time for that. Here’s when I knew all hope had been lost on keeping them. Over a few months I began to notice the glue was getting weak in the right shoe. My foot was starting to protrude against the fabric but I clearly wasn’t ready to let go so I kept wearing them. Then the glue gave way and it was obvious so one day I had this not so bright idea to use my hot glue gun to put the shoe fabric back together. I used too much on the stitches and if you know anything about craft store hot glue, it dries hard. My toes were aching every time I put the shoe on, trying to keep a straight face at work. Some may ask why I didn’t just take them to a shoe repair shop. I happen to know myself well enough to know that would never have happened. I would have been too lazy to make the effort then the shoes would have sat in my closet for an eternity because I just didn’t want to let go. Last week, I threw them away with sadness because they were great while they lasted yet relief because now they’re not just around taking up space.

I have a few other shoes now that I’m like that with. “Once I break them in, it won’t hurt anymore.” Well no, because they were a size too small to begin with but they were cheap and cute so I got them. Meanwhile they never leave the house because I can’t walk more than a couple of hours without being in crazy pain. I never use them and I won’t miss them when they’re gone. Plus now I have an extra space to fill with something I do like and will use! Actually, as soon as I wrote my draft notes for this post, I went in my closet and threw those shoes in my donation bag by the door. Do you have a shoe, an outfit or several that you feel the same way about? What are you ready to let go of?

Maybe your closet is not overflowing. Have you ever work up like…I have nothing to wear! Or stood in your closet wishing for a whole new wardrobe?

I am a strong believer in working with what you have because you probably have more than enough. Sometimes it just may take some creativity on your part to try something different with what you already have. This goes back to my first point. Use what you have. Consider getting out of your old habit of pairing the same pants and shirts together every week. My office environment is business professional so to mix up my outfits I sometimes take a dress, put a pencil skirt over it to get a new silhouette. Now I have a whole new outfit.

Fashion trends cycle. We all know that right? How many times have you seen aviators, boat shoes, high-waisted pants, combat boots, colored or distressed jeans come back in style? It truly is a cycle and your style shouldn’t feel the need to follow many of the rules fashion dictates. I say wear what you want to wear as long as it makes sense to you. Your style should be about you, not other people as much because they will have opinions regardless.

Style evolves by learning what you want or don’t want. You get inspired by seeing what other people wear and figuring out what you like and what you want your style to say. Style can evolve with age or income too. If you understand anything about branding, you may realize what you wear is part of your personal brand. Not that what others think of your style should solely influence what you wear but you determine how you want to be represented.

Your style is part of your resume to the world before you’ve had a chance to speak. Being clued in on who you are helps you understand how the way you dress can affect the way others react to you. You can express who you are through what you wear. Confidence is key here because people judge. That’s what people do and whether it’s fair or not is not the point but because you know they judge, it is important to be conscious of how you want to represent yourself to the world. Style has a decent amount of influence on how you’re perceived so my last piece of advice is know you are and dress accordingly.

Which of the 3 tips will you try this week? I want to hear your progress and how this post helped you get your style or closet in order. If you have any questions along the way, be sure to write me in the comments section.