Remember to See the Forest for the Trees

One of the many beauties of life, is the fact that we’re constantly challenged. We are challenged to do things which may not show benefit for years to come. Those challenges  are not meant to break us, they are meant to make us both stronger and wiser.  If we approach life’s “not-so-fun” moments with a different mindset, handling those situations becomes much easier.  We simply must remember to see the forest despite the trees. When something’s overall appearance seems detrimental, expend your energy on what’s really important.

Am I saying that you are not going to be disappointed or discouraged at times in your life even with a conscious effort to see the forest for the trees?  Heck no.  However, your reaction is crucial!  Feeling upset can come at any moment, but should not last for but a moment.  For example, an extreme case may be mourning the death of a loved one.  That may be a wound that never completely heals; I just would not want to see that mourning rob you of  living. In a less extreme case, maybe you’re upset about something that just did not come to fruition as you expected.  Don’t dwell on it and just take it in stride.  There is an even greater opportunity that is going to present itself.  Let that thought alone provide you peace.

We have to understand that without the rainy days, we would not appreciate the sunny days.  Without the days that seem like nothing is working in our favor, we would not appreciate the absolutely terrific days.  If we did not know struggle, how would we appreciate the achievement and accolades that are the result of hard work? There are so many things in life that are symbiotic, which means we have to find a way to appreciate even what doesn’t feel or look appealing on the surface.  There is always something bigger and of greater importance in what looks like a negative season/experience.

Do you see how important it is to have a positive mindset in life?  If we begin to teach our minds to be able to see at least a little of the good even when we see mostly bad, it will not only get easier, but we’ll also get faster at distinguishing the good.  No life isn’t going to be easier, but just implementing a mindset that triesreally hard to see the forest in spite of the trees,  life will be easier to manage and understand.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What intrigues me the most about reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was that he knew his assignment on this earth. Although he knew it wasn’t going to be an easy assignment to accomplish, he didn’t shy away from his purpose. His sacrifice and dedication to making this country, this world, see that NO ONE should be judged by the color of his or her skin, was to be admired.
Today, I charge you with this question: Are you living out your assignment or are you shying away? I guarantee, that if you choose sooner rather than later to take on that assignment, you’ll touch the lives of many. If you don’t know your purpose just yet, reflect on it today.

New Year New Me: Don’t Take It so Literally

Before we entered 2014, per usual, everyone was reflecting on the past year. Whether it was Flipagram or Statigram, reviewing 2013’s highlights filled the timelines of all my social media platforms.  Along with the new year, also brings New Years resolutions and the phrase “New Year, New Me” tends to get thrown around quite a bit.  However, this year, many folks were bashing the idea of that phrase.  They claimed, “You’re not gonna change, so don’t even say that you will.”  I would like to argue that the phrase “New Year, New Me (NYNM)” in this sense, is being taken too literally and delve into what I believe that person is really trying to express.

First, we have a tendency to take things literally far too often.  The tendency to do this increases even more, when we are going to criticize someone/something.  We are creatures of habit and when someone or something changes, there’s going to be some folks who don’t like that change or flat out discourage it.  Don’t listen to the naysayers.  Change is good, healthy and in most cases very necessary.  If you have a bad habit, there is something that you need to do differently in order to stop that bad habit.

I believe the person using NYNM is really trying to say that the new year will look different for them because of what the past year taught them.  They’re trying to say that some poor decisions, minor mistakes, and bad habits should be left in 2013. They’re trying to say that there will be a valiant effort made towards being a better “me” in 2014 and that’s nothing we should bash—it’s to be encouraged!
We spend far too much time criticizing and not enough time lifting each other up.  Challenge yourself to be better than the person you were yesterday.  That’s the only person you have to compete with—you should be your biggest critic.  As LeBron James would say, “Strive for Greatness.”

Thanks to 2013

Overall, 2013 was absolutely amazing, but it did have some “shaking my head” points. I wanted to share the five things I’m taking from the year. 

  1. Life sure ain’t always easy, but it’s amazing! One of the things I think our society has gotten better at because of Instagram, is not taking everyday things like morning sunrises and moonlight nights, for granted anymore.  People are beginning to see that the ordinary is actually extraordinary and taking time to capture those unforgettable moments.  Who would have thought a piece of technology would make us appreciate our breathtaking surroundings? 
  2. With a few deaths that hit close to home this year, from my grandfather’s to Trayvon Martin’s, life is precious.  People say ‘carpe diem’ and “life is a gift,” but do they really live that way? Some days I do and some I don’t. It’s time to really begin ceasing the days I have and making the most out of life. 
  3. My skin color will always be seen in so many eyes as less than, a threat, and even worthless.  In many ways, remnants of the mindsets of those in the 50s and 60s still exists.  It’s both alarming and disappointing. This is what drives me to be educated.  Although being educated doesn’t necessarily make me safe from ignorance, it does give me the opportunity to help with whom I come into contact.  I may not be able to change the world, but if I can reach just one person, then that’s something. 
  4. The importance of loving myself. Songs like Roar by Katy Perry and (not enough people listen to) India.Arie’s song Life I Know, really struck a chord with me.  If I learn to love Elise’s weaknesses, flaws, and downfalls, then I won’t be so susceptible to doing things that I’ll regret later.  Mistakes are bound to be made, but when you make it a second time, that’s a choice.
  5. Don’t go rewinding scenes that don’t deserve a second viewing.  Being the empathetic person that I am, my feelings often get tangled up in situations that don’t end up working in my favor.  It’s important to acknowledge that about myself.

No New Years resolutions for this girl. I just like to take time to recognize what I have improved on over the past year and what needs to be worked on in the year to come.  Always take time to reflect about what’s most important to you, set short-term and long-term attainable goals, work to achieve them and watch yourself become a happier you. 

How to Handle Life’s Pop Quizzes

You were up all night writing a paper for your literature class and barely got up in time to make it to your 10 o’clock biology class. Just a few sips into your grandé Starbucks coffee, your professor walks in and says the two words every student dreads: POP QUIZ. Not only were you just giving yourself a pat on the back for simply making it to class, now you have to figure out how you’re going to get a least a 70% on this quiz. We’ve all been there, right? Well, I’d like to argue that life has pop quizzes too. Although there might not be a grade attached to each quiz, whether we pass or fail them determines how often we are tested. Let me explain.

I travel to and from work over an hour and 10 minutes everyday, five days a week. Everyday, I ask the Lord for traveling mercies. On my way back from work and still about 45 minutes from home, OnStar tells me my tire pressure is depleting. I got a flat tire. I called AAA and they said because my mother (whose name it’s registered under) wasn’t with me, they couldn’t help me. They transferred me to Turnpike assistance, I told them where I was, and they said someone would be out right away.

There it was, right in front of me, a pop quiz. No one ever knows when a flat tire is going to happen. Would I be upset at myself for running over something that punched a hole in my tire? How would I react when AAA says they can’t help me out, be angry or upset? Where would my thoughts go while I was awaiting the arrival of the towing company service, positive or negative? How I chose to react would determine: 1. how long I’d be inconvenienced 2. and when the next quiz would be. Then, all of sudden, I just started laughing.

I knew it was the day’s test that I had to pass. I passed because my reaction to the situation wasn’t “Woe is me,” but instead “It could have been so much worse.” My point is this: No, you can’t prepare for life’s pop quizzes, but you can, however, determine your reaction. Life’s pop quizzes can be few and far between if you only react with a mentality that looks at the positive in the situation and not dwelling on the negative. That is the ingredient to determining whether you pass or fail.

I encourage you to react positively instead of negatively to your next “surprise inconvenience” and see how quickly you are delivered from the situation. Then, when you do react positively, think back to the last time you were inconvenienced and I bet it will be difficult recall. Good luck on passing your next quiz!

An Under Par, but Understood Underwood

On this past Thursday night, many people around the country were in front of their televisions anticipating an event that had not taken place in over 50 years. One of the most famous and beloved musicals was produced live on NBC, The Sound of Music. We got, what I’ll call an appetizer of what was to come at The Macy’s Day Parade and it seemed great, but when it was time to delve into the main course, they forgot the meat and potatoes.

If we are being honest, their tactic worked; they got a big name person, so that we all would watch and that we did. We all know that Carrie Underwood has this amazing voice and those who know of her vocal talents, would follow her to the moon and back. But in this performance, she didn’t shine amongst the stars.

Carrie was a newbie to both the musical and acting scene, thus making her vocals her only saving grace and even her vocals were not the glamorous showcase in which we are accustomed. Being a huge fan of hers since American Idol, it was difficult for me to watch her sink and not swim. However, Carrie has my utmost respect for trying something new and foreign to anything she has done since being in the limelight. I don’t know if you knew this, but people tend to talk about you whether you are doing good or bad. People want you to ‘stay in your lane’ and ‘stick to what you know,’ but has anyone ever grown that way? If we never stepped outside of our comfort zone and tried on something new, we would always be the same person we were yesterday and that’s not what life’s about. When we go through new experiences, there will be some we will get through with flying colors and for others, the exact opposite. This was an experience Carrie went through (in front of millions of people mind you), that did not produce flying colors, and that’s okay with me. Now that she has done this, if she wants to do it again she: A. Knows what she needs to work on B. Can get the best coaches money can buy to help her. There it is in black and white.

I had high hopes because of what I know Carrie Underwood is capable of and even though those hopes were let down, she still made me proud. I think it’s evident the lesson I’m taking from Carrie: Have fun trying on something new even if you look silly doing it because no matter what, you learn a little more about yourself. I hope this is what she took from it as well.Image

State of The Opinion

Opinions are a dime a dozen.  Everyone has one and we love to talk about what we believe to be true.  Because I value the art of good conversation, people’s opinions on different issues interest me, whether it be concerning the touchy topics like politics and religion or Android vs. Apple. It is through these kinds of talks amongst our family and friends and even sometimes complete strangers, that helps us to arrive at some type of understanding on someone else’s views other than our own.  Just think for a second. How many times have you talked with a friend and within the conversation said, “Oh wow. I never thought of it that way.” You may not remember a specific instance, but I am sure you can say it has happened to you more than a few times. 
 
You do not necessarily have to agree with what that person believes to be true, but appreciate that there is always another way to look at something.  Looking at something differently can be enlightening, refreshing and worthwhile! I love examples, so let me provide you one: poetry.  One of the reasons I have always admired poetry is because what I take away from a particular poem, does not necessarily mean another person is going to take away the same thing. Why? Because what we bring to that poem are our life’s experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and you guessed it–our opinions. In other words, our interpretation of something may be similar, but the way we word it (and even feel about it) will most likely be different. And by you saying it differently, I can say, “Oh wow. I never thought of it that way.” See why I love the power of words?
 
So never be afraid to state your opinion, but at the same time, don’t be afraid to change it either.  Arriving at a different opinion on something means you learned something new and we should attempt to learn something new every single day.  The world would be a better place if we didn’t judge one another so much and simply tried to understand and value others opinions. My belief and what I find to be true may not be the same as yours, but I still respect what it is you believe; My opinion and how I interpret a situation is something you may disagree with, but you should still honor my right to have that opinion. 
 
Lastly, my hope is that after reading this, you are encouraged to listen with more of an open mind and heart because you never know what you may hear that helps you understand this world and more importantly your neighbor just a little bit better. 
 
“Which do you want: the pain of staying where you are, or the pain of growth?” –Judith Hanson Lasater 

Exerting Worthwhile Energy

Before diving into what has me irked today, but ties into what I am going to discuss, I really am beginning to think that I should study social media and the way people interact on these forums. It is all so fascinating to me.  Someone is eventually going to begin (or already has begun) studying the kinds of online personas that are present on today’s world wide web and social media platforms (that’s a blog post still in progress).  From the quiet in “real life” person and very loud online person (meaning you see updates from them constantly) to the person who simply retweets celebs and parody accounts, I am intrigued by them all.  What I want to discuss in this post, are the hundreds and thousands of people who take special time out of their day to make rude comments on celebrities social media pages. 

If you despise that musician, actor/actress or athlete so much, why on earth are you on their personal pages spouting off?  Yes, freedom of speech, but people really take it too far.  Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but it is not always necessary to share your ignoramus two cents.  Yes, public figures are allowed to be (and a lot of times should be) scrutinized, but there is a distinct difference between poking fun and unnecessary meanness.  LeBron James and Justin Bieber both are the two whose Instagram comments alarm me the most.  These are very, very successful and high profile celebrities who are making more money than the people leaving those comments will most likely ever see in their lifetimes. But yet, people are constantly making fun of LeBron’s hairline and Justin Bieber’s clothing. The researcher in me would love to find and interview these people and really challenge and ask them the most important question of all: Why? By leaving that comment, do you feel better about yourself? Why are grown men commenting about a 20 year old’s jeans anyway? Think I’m exaggerating? Please take a minute now (or after reading this) and scroll the comment section on their pages or any celebrities for that matter.

In this country with so many freedoms, it seems so petty to not follow the old school rule of not saying anything at all if it’s not nice.  People truly never cease to amaze me.  Everyday I am amazed by the prolific ignorance that and sincere hatred that people have in their hearts.  Why am I going to bother you if I don’t like you and/or whatever it is you represent?  I wish…I really wish people would take the energy they use on pointless endeavors and put it into something that breeds results. If that miracle ever took place our economy would be resuscitated, the government would not still be shutdown (or even better never shutdown in the first place), and folks would know that Obamacare and The Affordable Care Act are indeed the same thing. Folks, we have got to get it together. We have to begin to care about the important matters going on in this crazy world around us.  Either we stand by and let it happen or we make change. Which will you choose?

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

America The Beautiful and Ignorant

Last night, an Indian American was named Miss America. However, not every American saw this as something beautiful. Very racist tweets were posted about Miss. Nina Davuluri, 2013 Miss America, soon after her crowning. Because of her Indian descent, some decided to make the 7-11 jokes, some said she was not really an American and others went as far to say that 9/11 was days ago and we let her win. Try to fathom for just one second that there are actually adults who believe that someone is not American just because he or she is of Indian descent. Those too, are most likely the same people that believe race was not a prevalent issue in the Trayvon Martin case. This may be a news flash to some, but we do not live in a post-racial society. Yes it is 2013, but race and diversity issues are still running rapid.

As Americans, we are allowed to be ignorant–ignorant to and about so many of the basic concepts of humanity. So many are oblivious to the forever lingering race issues that will continue to plague this country because everyone is afraid to discuss things that really matter. It is disheartening to know that a lot of people could tell you more about their favorite sports teams and television shows than the issues taking place in Syria. WE ARE A SPOILED PEOPLE! We can choose to not pay attention to the news and what is really going on in the world around us. There are not enough people willing to educate themselves. Why?

For once, non-white skin color was not a strike against a person. She instead was judged on her performances, her speaking skills, and other talents. Oh my! What if we lived in a society that did not judge people based upon the color of their skin and instead judged them on what they have to offer? Did we not just celebrate the man who had that ‘dream’ 50 years ago? Do you understand that a woman of Indian descent being crowned Miss America is exactly why this country is (supposed to be) so wonderful? That’s Martin Luther’s dream coming true!

Yeah I am proud to be an American, but I would rather not be associated with so many of us [Americans]. I am not discounting the great strides we have made as a nation, a country and a people. However, there is still great progress to be made and it seems to be moving at a snail’s pace. Ask yourself what you can do to educate yourself and those around you about any of the prevalent issues. You never know who is listening or who you will encourage to do their own research. “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge.” Don’t let it be you.

Honestly, Just Be Honest

Why do people not believe in being honest with one another? The first thing that comes to mind is that the truth is scary. It doesn’t always feel good or sound the way we would like. Usually, it’s something that stings your whole being and takes a little while to comprehend and maybe even some recovery time is necessary. Because let’s face it. It’s hard to see yourself. I always say, “The easiest place to see yourself is in the mirror and even that doesn’t show everything.” In other words, we need and have friends and family members in our lives who should tell us about ourselves, in order to be the best person possible.

Just think about it. What if our guardians and elementary teachers never taught us how to share? We would probably not have many friends or significant others in our lives. For example, in college you share a room with a roommate and maybe even one day share a life with the person God created just for you. So thankfully there were people in our lives along the way being honest with us about the importance of sharing. Sharing is the foundation of many, many things in this life. Am I making sense?

There have been plenty of times where I have tried to go around the mulberry bush in order to say the truth, so that it didn’t ‘sting.’ But I try my best to tell the truth because even if it hurts, honesty trumps being untruthful. There is a way to tell the truth without being hurtful or harmful to someone. Be mindful of your words and how you would want someone to say make you aware of something. Being untruthful comes with more baggage than simply telling the truth. Untruthfulness comes with lies, hurt feelings, and maybe even a loss of relationship/friendship. And instead with truthfulness comes, true feelings, and an overall better understanding of that person or persons.

So remember the rule you have heard thousands of times: Honesty is the best policy. If you care about someone, whether it’s like or love, be truthful about your intentions with him or her. Emotional scars can last a lifetime. Don’t be the person that someone regrets befriending or even worse, loving. In order to be better than the person we were yesterday, we have to be honest with each other and more importantly, ourselves.