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Prepared for Purpose: God Why Me?

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Friends Support Friends: Introducing The Bestie Code

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I am so excited to share with all my awesome followers, The Bestie Code.  My good friend Renee and her two best friends TaVonna and Emma have written this book that talks about building and maintaining healthy friendships with other women in our adult lives.  While it has been said that women (especially women of color) do not get along, their goals is to bust this myth with their real, straight-forward and humorous narrative of how they've managed to have an amazing and successful friendship.

The Bestie Code is filled with many topics that are near and dear to my heart - mental health, spirituality, and pursuing your purpose.  I had some pressing questions after reading a preview of their book that needed answers immediately.  Thank you to Renee, TaVonna, and Emma for taking time out to answer some of the questions I believe many people will have after they read this book and strive to improve their friendship with their besties.

  • As we pursue our purpose, we come up against obstacles that will try to deter and distract us from accomplishing our assignment.  What obstacles did you all face and overcome as you worked to get this book written?

Emma: For me, the obstacle I faced most was time management. I had to balance between work, kids, writing and everything else. I was doing everything on the go from my phone. Also, not being able to agree on things at times. 

TaVonna: I had to overcome my desire to want to write the book, mixed with episodes of bi-polar issues. Some days I wanted to do it, some days I didn’t.

Reneé: I think I struggled most with balancing my current business while writing and formatting the book. I had to really be particular about my time management. At times, I got overwhelmed and had to regroup and remember why I’m doing it all in the first place.

 

  • How did you all learn how to speak each others' "friendship language" (compare to "love language") to be able to have such a strong, lasting friendship?

Emma: Basically we had to make time for each other. The only way you can learn someone is to really put time into it. My friendship language is based on being supportive and loving. I try to love on everybody and love you past whatever pain or adversity you may be having. It’s also based on being understanding. My besties know that I always mean well.

Reneé: Yeah, it just takes time. And A LOT of patience. It goes back to acceptance. Once we honestly showed each other who we are, we all had to truly accept one another. I recognize that I bring a sense of balance to my besties. I am very solution-based and always do whatever I can to help fix problems. I’m probably the most non-emotional one of the three of us, so I’m not really sure what my friendship language actually is. But they find ways to love on me anyway (lol).

TaVonna: Time, patience and wine LOL. My friendship language is words of affirmation. They usually do really good about that. Emma pisses me off sometimes when she responds to a message of mine when I’m having a bad day though. For example, if I message them and say, “I’m so angry because I can’t find a pink shirt!” Reneé will say, “Well, maybe try this particular store.” Emma will say something like, “Just get a purple one.” NO, EMMA! I don’t WANT a purple shirt. (Lol) But seriously though, I’m typically the one that has the most issues and they have a way of bringing me back down to earth.

  • Renee, there's a part in the book that talks about your spiritual journey and desire to have a more intimate relationship with God.  How did you all earn to accept and appreciate where you were in your own spiritual journeys rather than forcing them to do or be like you?

Reneé: Well I recognize that everyone’s spiritual journey is their own. In the time when I decided to get serious about mine, I took time to really dive into my Bible and study. I got very active in my church and refocused my attention on finding and fulfilling whatever mission God had for me. But even still, I was very much present in my bestie circle. I didn’t go hang out as much, but I was always a phone call or text away, I came to birthday parties and other events, etc. I would never try to force someone to journey with me on what is designed to be a very personal. 

  • Oftentimes, it is said that Black women can't support other Black women who seem to be doing better than them.  As you all are successful in your own right, what does it take to keep jealousy at bay so that you can support one another while also motivating each other to do better and dream bigger?

TaVonna: My thing is, you have to know how to stay in your own lane. I do what I do well, and I don’t think anyone can do it like I do. I also can’t design a website like Reneé can and I don’t know music or write the way Emma does. I’m very secure in what I’m good at. We’re all so different, there’s no competition. I want to see everybody win.

Emma: I think what keeps it at bay for me is recognizing how beneficial it is that my friends are so talented and I can pull on those talents. Reneé is in business development so when I need help, I have it. When I’m sick, I can call TaVonna quicker than I can call a doctor, being that she’s a health advocate. It’s a win for me that my friends are good at what they do. Also, jealousy gets you kicked out the group soooo, I need these benefits (lol).

Reneé: I wrote about this in one of the chapters. Jealousy and good friendship just simply do NOT co-exist. As a woman, you have to learn how to find joy and purpose in your own journey, so that you can love your own life and support the next sister in hers. If you find yourself on the wrong side of success and your friend is on the right side, you should be able to ask your friend to help you as opposed to hating on her. You can’t hate and appreciate at the same time. And you have no reason to hate if you know your own purpose.

  • With there being such stigma in the Black community about mental health, was talking about mental health something that came naturally throughout your friendship or did you have to learn how to grow to be open and supportive of your friend as she worked through her mental health issues?

TaVonna: In the beginning it was difficult to talk about my mental health issues, but only because in the past it has been used against me. If I was having a bipolar or manic depression episode, people would ask me if I needed to be checked into a hospital. So I was afraid to share it for fear of judgement. But as our friendship grew, I knew it was important for them to know because they had to understand why I am the way I am sometimes and why I may disappear for periods of time to get myself together. Now, after conversations, I know they have a genuine concern for me, am I okay and if there’s anything they can do for me. There’s been trust built. 

Emma: To be honest, I think with TaVonna, she helped me more than I’ve ever felt like I’ve helped her. She is so strong with how she deals with her issues and it made me comfortable talking about my issues. There were times I had thoughts about suicide and that’s something that the black community won’t talk about. But through sharing her issues with us, it helped me be vulnerable enough to express the thoughts that I’ve had.

Reneé: I honestly think that once she was able to share with us what she dealt with, it helped make much more sense in why she did certain things and it wasn’t hard for me to accept it at all. My grandmother is the most important person on this earth to me, and she is diagnosed bipolar. I have a ton of compassion for those who have mental health issues because of her and seek to be understanding. Her being honest allowed us to truly support her as well as look out for her when we’re conducting business and at social events and such. If her anxiety gets high, we can see it. If she disappears, we know she’s not being fake, she’s likely having a needed moment to herself. It brought clarity and we could all be supportive however she needs us to.

Now that you've gotten a quick teaser of some of the things that were discussed in their book, be sure to pre-order a copy TODAY here and add this book to your collection!

 

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When One Chapter Ends, A New One Begins

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I can remember my first official day at my job. It was May 13, 2013.  I was so tired- I hadn’t slept because I was anxious, fearful, and doubting what was going to happen.  This was my fourth job in almost a year and I almost hadn’t gotten this one because of my work history.  Yet, they were willing to take a chance on me.  The pay wasn’t the greatest, but it provided better hours for me to be able to provide a more stable lifestyle for my daughter so there was no turning this down.  It was time for me to be a “big girl” and get up and go to work.

I believe that God places us in environments that will help us grow, force us to change, and pushes us into our purpose.  But, initially and throughout my time at my job, there were times I couldn’t see that.  I felt I was walking in as a failure.  I had recently failed out of a Masters program and was facing having to pay a large sum of money because I hadn’t completed all the courses.  I felt inadequate as I saw so many people moving up into new positions and I felt stuck because even when I tried to make things work, it seems like I never had the right credentials to be able to advance my career.  I felt weak because it seemed like I was in a constant fight to prove myself, to better myself, and sometimes feeling like a had to be who they wanted me to be when I wasn’t really sure who of who I was but trying to be me (that was a lot J).

But it was through all of the struggles, the fighting, and the tears that I became who I am today.  I learned who really supported me and who was just there to see if I would fail.  I found how to connect my love for Jesus with my career and not be ashamed of it.  And I learned how to stand out for who I am- a black woman making moves in social work.

I know I’m not the only one who has ever felt like, “God why are you taking me through all of this?”  There were so many times I wanted to leave, but I couldn’t because there was still work left for me to do.  I still had some growing to do.  It wasn’t my time to leave yet.  So many times we miss our blessing because we leave prematurely before God brings that chapter of our life to a close.

5 years later, this chapter of my life is coming to a close.  Nervous? Yes.  Fearful? No.  Because I know with new beginnings come new blessings and new lessons and I ready to see what the next chapter of my life has in store for me.

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Lost in the Loss: A Mother's Day Struggle

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As a child, Mother’s Day was always so simple.  Or at least it seemed that way.  I remember I would go to the store, get a card for my mom or my grandma, sign it in my best cursive writing, maybe buy a flower, and give them their gift with a big smile on my face.  Oh the joys of Mother’s Day.

But somewhere down the line, there were no more cards signed in pretty cursive writing.  The smell of flowers made me nauseous.  The smile on my face was a constant frown just at the thought of an approaching Mother’s Day.

Walking through the church doors on Mother’s Day was a struggle.  The sanctuary on this particular day no longer seemed to be my safe space.  It was the place that stabbed at my hurt because I had to sit and listen to the pastor talk about the joys of this day when I was filled with nothing but sorrow.

Pain.

Anger.

Loss.

Filled with so much but yet I was still empty.

I had suffered so much loss.  In my eyes, too much loss for one person to deal with.

How am I supposed to be happy when I feel as if I am less than as a mother because of the loss of my child?  Yes, I know I have two beautiful little girls but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about the baby that I carried in me that died so unexpectedly.  The baby that I was left to bear the pain of that loss alone.  And left to wonder what that child would have been like now.

Loss.

How am I supposed to be happy when I see so many of my people around me celebrating (or not celebrating) their mothers that they can call or even visit and shower and gifts and affection while I’m forced to stare at tomb with my mother’s name written across it?  Yes, I know that I was blessed to have the mother that I had, but that doesn’t change the fact that I long for one more hug. One more call. One more moment with my momma.

Lost.  I had lost so much and was I lost.

I was lost in my loss.  Lost in my pain.  Lost in my feelings of inadequacy of being a mother.

Mother’s Day used to be one of the most dreaded holidays for me until I found peace in knowing neither my child nor my mother were suffering.  When I found a greater love for my two beautiful blessings.  And when I found joy in the memories and the lessons from each loss.

I didn’t lose my baby or my momma, I just gained two angels.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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I Know What You Said, But That's Not What I Heard

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I Know What You Said, But That’s Not What I Heard

The words were like pulling the pin out of the grenade that set me off.  They were a trigger to set off the internal bomb of my emotions.

I could hear you talking but somehow the words that fell so effortlessly from your lips didn’t flow as easily through my ears.  They were painful.  And internally it set off a ball of emotions that took me back to a place I never wanted to be.

Like when you said to me, “You dropped the ball one too many times,” all I heard was “you’re unqualified” and “you’re not good enough.”  It told me that all the times I sacrificed and went above and beyond didn’t matter because in your eyes I was my mistakes and not my success.

At least that’s what I heard…

Or that time when you said to me, “you’ve just got to get over it,” all I heard was “your feelings don’t matter.”  You wanted me to walk in your shoes not realizing those weren’t meant to fit me, they were only meant to fit you.  So while “just get over it” was your coping mechanism, for me it just reaffirmed that my opinion wasn’t meant to be heard.

And I tried to just get past it but then there was the time when you said to me, “You just need some time but I’m sure you’ll go back,” all I heard was “You’re too weak to really stand by the decision you made.”  It was as if you were sent to shatter the little bit of confidence that I had and to keep me in the cycle of catering to the wants and needs of other people while leaving myself unfulfilled.

But I pressed past those words only to be hit with the time when you said to me, “I’m not really upset about what happened but it bothered the people I’m with so I had to say something,” but all I heard was, “I care more about these people’s feelings than I do about yours.”  It was something I should have been used to but those words stung a little bit more this time than they did other times.  Maybe because I never expected you to say them, maybe I felt like we were better than that, maybe it was a harsh reminder that I’ve always felt like other people’s opinions mattered more than mine.

But that's what I heard.

And I know some are reading this and saying, “Well Jasmine, you just misinterpreted what they were saying.  You can’t blame them.” 

And I don’t.  Because when I look back, I now realize that their words were sent on divine assignment. To the deepest places of rejection, low self-esteem and confidence, the need to please others, and the lack of value and worth I had placed in myself.  I needed you to say those words because instead of sparking an emotional response, they started an emotional healing.  So even when I hear those words or something similar to them, I don’t bow down in fear, self-pity, and doubt, but I stand confidently in knowing who I am and whose I am. 

I know what you said, but what I heard was, “Jasmine, you are who I say you are and not who others think you should be.”

I heard Him and His words were the only words that mattered.

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There's A Young Girl Inside

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I’ve tried to hide her. I’ve even tried to deny that she exists, but I can’t fight it anymore.

There’s a young girl inside that never recognized that she was a beautiful swan because she can remember all the times the kids pointed at her laughing and telling her that she was an ugly duckling. The gap toothed girl with the stain on her teeth and thick glasses that no one considered pretty until she traded the glasses for contacts and the braces straightened her smile but couldn’t brighten the negative thoughts of herself that constantly ran through her mind.   The girl who thought she had to constantly fix herself to be who people thought she should be rather than being true to who she knew she was supposed to be.

There’s a young girl inside who felt like she had to dumb herself down because she was intimidated by the success and achievements of her father. So rather than recognizing the greatness that was in him was also within her, she chose to settle for mediocrity, convincing herself that she was a disappointment to the only man that loved her through every moment of life – the good and the bad.

There’s a young girl inside that longs for the conversation that most girls have with their moms during their teenage years about boys, clothes, simply becoming a woman. Longing for the many missed hugs and intimate moments stolen by unresolved feelings that were addressed in the time that seemed to be too little too late.

There’s a young girl who never learned how to love herself so she tried to create love in her own way. Feeling that if she gave everything she had – emotionally, financially, sexually- that would some how create the environment for someone to love her. But it only led to a black pit of depression, loss, and self-hate.

There’s a young girl inside that’s longing to be connected to the Jasmine that exists today. Desiring to come together and let go of the hurt, shame, fear, and guilt that created the divide and come together and share the story of a young girl who overcame every obstacle set before her and became a young woman that was unafraid and unashamed. Living in the present and using the past as the motivation to pursue purpose and obtain a prosperous future.

There’s a young girl crying out God heal me and free me so I can become the woman you’ve destined me to be.

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The Aftermath of Valentine's Day: Is This As Good As It Gets

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Holidays really aren’t my thing.  But out of all of them, I particularly hated Valentine’s Day.  I just never could really understand why I hated it so much.

I don’t eat chocolate (don’t judge me).

Roses die and remind you how quickly the happy memories of the day fade.

Stuffed animals are only cute as long as you’re in a good place with the person that gave it to you.  Otherwise, it’s just an ugly reminder of what was.

Let me say it again, I hated Valentine’s Day.

But I didn’t know why.  That is, until I took a stroll down Valentine’s Memory Lane.

And there they were.  All the painful memories.

Like the year I was so sure I was spending the day with my forever Valentine.  I was in the midst of one of the toughest situations I had ever had to endure at that point in my life and I was sure that this night would help me forget all of the pain that I was feeling.  He vowed to make the day unforgettable and surely he kept his promise.  Candlelit dinner only to be outshined by the text messages that proved I wasn't the only Valentine he had spent his day with.

I rushed out of that memory and strolled a little further to the year where I thought Valentine’s Day would make up for all the hurt I had endured in the previous months with the guy I was in a relationship with at the time.  Steaks cooked just right, double date to the movies, and drinks with friends.  The night ended as “perfectly” as I thought it would, but the passion would only turn to pain when just a few days later I was hit with the reality that while I still being faithful to him after all the lying and the cheating, he was being faithful to his unfaithfulness he had already shown me in the months prior.  I was just temporarily blinded by the bears, gifts, and balloons.

I gathered my composure and decided to stroll along a little farther hoping to bump into a good memory.  Only to run smack into the memory of the cute bear I got sprayed with his Sean John cologne that I thought was the cutest gift in the world.  We weren’t able to see each other for very long that Valentine’s Day (or any other day for that matter) due to our busy schedules.   In our times away from each other, I could hug that bear and smell the scent of the cologne and feel close to him.  But the scent would fade and so would the good memories when you realize that you weren’t the only one cherishing that scent.

So there I was stopped dead in my tracks telling myself this is why I hate Valentine’s Day. Until I realized that it wasn’t any of their faults about my hate for Valentine’s Day.  One day on the calendar cannot erase the pain and lies that had occurred for months.  This one day on the calendar although marketed as a day of love cannot magically change someone’s heart or mind and make them into a perfectly loving human being.  This one day of gifts, flowers, cards, and balloons doesn’t balance out the loss endured from loving someone who wasn’t capable of loving you back.

I had settled for the thought that I shouldn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because all I ever got from it was hurt and pain.  I had convinced myself that this was a good as it gets. 

It didn’t take for me to have a good Valentine’s Day (or even a day or two after) to begin celebrating the day again.  It took for me to realize that I could not expect this one day to fix all of my relationship issues or my self-esteem issues.  It was seeing the worth in myself to know that I was too good to be treated the way that I was and to let me self-esteem be dependent upon this one day on the calendar. 

It gets better when you love yourself. Not only on February 14th. But every day of the year.

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Young & Married: Is It Worth It?

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Young and Married: Is it Worth It?

Every so often when I’m scrolling on social media, I come across a post that asks, “What’s the point of getting married?”  As I scroll through the comments, I see people who have tried marriage before and who went through issues like infidelity and financial struggles and can’t really see how marriage benefited them.  I’ve seen people who argue that marriage is just a “Christian” idea and because they don’t share those same beliefs, they feel marriage is another way to force the Bible and its principles on people.  And there are others who just see it as a piece of paper and another way for the government to make money off of something. 

I remember a time when I wasn’t sure I wanted to be married, too.  October 12, 2014 is the exact date that I swore off marriage, well for the first time.  That was the day I called off my engagement. 

I was broken.

Embarrassed.

Depressed. 

How could this happen to me?  We were supposed to have this BEAUTIFUL wedding. 

Wait, did you say Beautiful wedding?  Yes, I did.  Marriage wasn’t the focus and after looking back was something that we shouldn’t have been working for.  It wasn’t the time for that.  But because I was convinced that we were destined for a great marriage disguised in a beautiful wedding and that blew up in my face I was giving up on marriage completely.

Don’t talk to me about marriage.

Don’t look at me considering marriage.

Marriage was out.

And that was  how I was with my now husband, Chris.  When our relationship began, we honestly just said we would be friends which turned into us being best friends, but I still wasn’t sold on marriage.  Especially when we began going through our own issues.  I almost felt like I was reliving some of the same things I had gone through in my previous relationship and at times I blamed him for things that weren’t his fault. 

And then it seemed like out of the blue something changed.

I’m not sure how or why, but I couldn’t see myself without him.  Even with all the things we had been through, and we have been through a lot.

Birth and death.

Increase and loss.

Love and hate. 

But there was something deep down inside of me that connected with him and it let me know that taking the next step into marriage was worth it.

As I look back, I realize what did it for me.  I stopped focusing on society and all of its standards, timelines, and opinions.  I let go of comparing myself and my relationship to others around me.  I gave up the idea of a beautiful wedding and focused on the beauty of loving God. Then loving myself. And finally loving somebody else.

It’s hard being young and married in a society that glamorizes independence and infidelity but shuns the idea of marriage or tells you that you should wait until you’ve become fully settled in your career, got a bank account for a safety net “just in case something happens,” and have found someone that you think you could spend the rest of your life with.  Or that even says, let go of your morals, values, and beliefs because society says they don’t matter anyway when the divorce rate is so high.

Being young and married is worth it to me because I found love in the deepest way possible.  And that makes it enough for me.

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Dear Love, I Apologize

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Dear Love,

I’m sorry that I used your name in vain.

I’m sorry that I never really took the time to understand the essence of what you really are and instead I used what you are not to define what you are.

I’m sorry that I shunned you rather than embracing you and experiencing the joy, the warmth, and the comfort that you bring.

I’m sorry that I allowed people who had no clue of how to truly use you paint a picture of you that did not capture the very essence of who you are and tainted my perception of what you really could be.

I’m sorry that it took me so long to realize that you are a vital part of my life.

Dear Love,

I hope that you will forgive me.

I hope that you will fill every part of my being to the point where your aura is felt by everyone who is in my presence.

I hope that this is just the beginning of a relationship that will last for eternity; where my knowledge of you will grow deeper & my faith in you will never waver.

I hope that I can share you with someone who knows the true meaning of who you are and will help me paint a new picture of you that captures your essence and the beauty of who you really are.

I promise I’ll never give up on you again.

Dear Love, I need you.

Please accept my apology.

Sincerely,

A Woman Who Knows Your Value

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How Can I Get Through The Not So Happy Holidays?

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The Not So Happy Holidays

For some, this is the most wonderful time of the year.   Turkey and all the fixings. Christmas tree decorating. Present wrapping. The joy of seeing your kids and family members’ faces as they open their gifts on Christmas morning. While many bank accounts may be empty, many hearts are full from the joy that the holidays bring.

But for some, the holidays aren’t such a joyous occasion. The holidays are a reminder that another year has gone by and a love one isn’t there to celebrate.   Some are trying to scrape up every penny, nickel, and dime they can find just so their children can have just one gift under the tree. While some are celebrating, others are hoping and praying that they could snap their fingers and be past the holiday season.

Getting through the holidays can be rough, but it is doable. Below are a few quick tips to help you get through this holiday season.

  1. Remember the real purpose for the holidays – the holidays shouldn’t be about how much money one can spend or even the number of gifts that are under the tree. The holidays are time to show how thankful we are for and to give more than we receive. The holidays are about celebrating the gift of life. When your remember this, your holiday will have so much more meaning and be less stressful.
  2. Don’t disconnect from people – Whether you’re missing your loved ones or just can’t seem to get in the holiday spirit because of life circumstances, now is not the time to disconnect from your family and/or close friends. Family and friends can be a good source of support and encouragement. They can help change your mood and even take your mind off the negative thoughts you’ve been having about the holidays and help you focus on the positives.
  3. Create your own traditions for the holiday season – Don’t get caught up in feeling like you have to do stereotypical things during the holiday season. Family dinner not your thing? Do a Friendsgiving potluck or a night out on the town. Missing a loved one? Do something in their honor. Make the holidays your own so that you can keep your spirits lifted while remembering the true meaning of the season.

I pray that each of you has a wonderful and happy holiday season – Jazz Lynn

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I'm Changing...

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They say the only thing consistent in life is change. But for some reason, we fear change. We become so comfortable with staying where we are that we are unwilling to obtain greater even when we are dealing with life’s worst.

2017 has been the most rewarding yet uncomfortable year in my life. When I entered the year, I was firmly rooted in my comfort zone with my walls built up around me. And out of nowhere it seemed like God came in with a bulldozer, tore those walls down, pulled me out, and put me in situations I had never faced before, connected me with people I would have never thought I would have a conversation with, let alone share parts of my life story.

I’m changing.

And I’m human. So I questioned God.

“Why Me?”

“Why Now?”

“Why like this?”

Simply “Why?”

And the answer He provided was “If I didn’t force you, you never would have done it.”

Comfort breeds complacency. My comfort zone was a place of stagnation – no growth whatsoever.

But, I’m changing.

And it’s a process. But I’m embracing it rather than running from it – the good and the bad. Nothing changes if nothing changes and I wouldn’t be the woman that I am now had I stayed where I was, connected to the wrong people, and doing the wrong things.

I liked who I was because I was used to her. But, I love who I’m becoming because she is the me no longer controlled by fear, the opinions of others, and the stereotypes of this world.

Unapologetically, I’m changing.

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Do You Know Who You Really Are?

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We are living in a time where everything is a #goal...#relationshipgoals...#careergoals...#bodygoals...but instead of wanting to achieve our own goals, we want to obtain the perceived identity of what those people are portraying.  So much so that we lose who we are to become something we aren't meant to be.  I'm not saying you shouldn't aspire to be better or that you can't look up to others.  But what I am saying is figure out who you are, what you want  out of life, and what drives you and go after it.  There's only one you.  You were designed to be unique and not a copycat version of someone else!

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