An Open Letter to Aisha Tyler

This afternoon, my heart sunk a bit when Aisha Tyler announced that she and her husband of 25 years are going through a divorce. I do not know either of these people personally and I will not be commenting on this very personal life event. What I would like to do is tell everyone why Aisha Tyler is my spirit animal.

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Source: BuzzFeed

 

I’ve followed Aisha’s career for some time now. I won’t pretend that I am a rabid fan who would stalk her through Comi-Con. Because I would totally do that. But once I caught up with her and gathered enough composure to speak words, I hope that I would be able to share something like this:

Hi, Aisha!

My name is Aisha and I would like to thank you for keeping it classy. It takes such a weight off my shoulders to know that when future employers or educational institutions Google me, and your name pops up instead, they’ll find a smart, funny, beautiful accomplished woman. I am grateful that both of our parents chose a righteous name like Aisha. Did you know it means “life?” Of course you did. You are a Stanford graduate, after all!

I’m not sure why your parents gave you our name, but I think you embody it well. My parents named me Aisha because I was a preemie. Born three months prematurely. As a result, I’ve always been different. I’ve worn prescription eyeglasses since I was 4, have a tracheotomy scar and I’ve always been either underweight or overweight. (No worries, though – I recently lost 70 pounds and I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been in my life!) I also attended overwhelmingly predominantly white schools and speak with a more suburban Anglo dialect. All of these things caused me to be an easy target for bullies, the aftermath of which I still deal with to this day.

From the stories you’ve shared on The Talk, it seems like you’ve encountered some similar challenges. But despite these obstacles, you seem so confident and resilient. You’ve accomplished so much and continually inspire so many. You are the poster child for all that is geek chic!

Anyway, I am so sorry. I’ve just been talking your ear off and there is a line of Archer fans forming behind me, ready to fanboy/fangirl over you. But thanks for listening. I just wanted to share all that with you. Sorry if it’s weird. You just make me proud to be an Aisha. It was nice meeting you!

I don’t know if Aisha will ever read this, and that’s okay. I just want to encourage you to let your influencers know you appreciate them. Whether they are Hall of Fame athlete, a witty culture podcaster full of snark, a patient algebra or a Vietnam era veteran neighbor — don’t keep your admiration to yourself. Let your love be known. You don’t have to be creepy or even public about it. Just a little note, even an anonymous one, of “thanks for being awesome to me” can make a huge difference.

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Slammed

Unseasonably cool chill in the April air, dim tungsten lighting overhead. I weave my way through a sea of maxi dresses, dreadlocks and dashikis. The voice over the microphone grows louder with every step toward the lone empty rod iron chair. I tuck myself between the table and the seat, fearful of being a disturbance, eager to soak up this new experience.

I was at my first poetry slam.

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After years of admiring poets like Staceyann Chin and Georgia Me through my television screen on Def Poetry Jam, I was finally seated among the bleeding hearts and wordsmiths. The odd and the powerful. The oppressed and the unsilenced. Finally, I was among my people!

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Staceyann Chin [Source: Mashable]
But who exactly are “my people?” I am not a militant, Angela Davis wannabe, but I fight for racial equality. I am not a member of the LBGTQ community, but I am an ally. I am not outrageous and outlandish, with a mouth full of metaphors and profanity. I’m just me. A plain old middle-class, Christian black girl from the super-suburbs of America.

As I sat there, amongst the painfully political and the unapologetically black, I couldn’t help but wonder if they saw through my mask. Could they tell that the deep side part and single cornrow of my braids was irritating me because my hair kept falling in my face? Did they know that my wayfarer glasses aren’t worn ironically as a part of my personal homage to Urkle, but that without them… I can’t really see very well?

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Georgia Me [Source: Official Site]

Did they see that my cooler-than-cool swagger as I strolled through the coffeeshop to order my peach blossom tea, was really just my body avoiding a meltdown as I awkwardly slithered my way through the crowd of unfamiliar faces in a semi-familiar place?

Maybe everyone could see right through my artsy-fartsy veneer to the plain, boring nuget center. Or maybe not. Maybe I fooled them all. Either way. I think I’ll come again. Maybe I’ll speak my words. Maybe they will listen. Maybe we’re all just square pegs trying to fit into round holes, bouncing from one adventure to the next, that we may finally find the place that we belong.

Teardrops & Tealights

Moist, wrinkled chicken drumstick in my hand, snot pouring from my nose. I try to steady my shivering haFrench trlnds and focus my blurred vision through hot tears. Careful not to draw my own blood as I prepared the poultry meal, but overcome by a wellspring of pain.

A quiet touch on my shoulder attempts to comfort me, but the sobs only grow deeper, longer, louder. My father calmly says “I love you,” and I return the sentiment between intermittent gasps for air. I begin to list off all of the reasons he has found me in such a state.

For the third night in a row, I’ve watched as some aspect of my mother’s declining health was on full display. Delusions of betrayal, revolving trips to the restroom at all hours of the evening, continuous pain emanating from multiple parts of the body at once.

It hurts. I hurt. My mother is suffering and watching her pseudo-exist in this state is draining.

While in Barbados, my mother made marked improvements in her health. She was more active, more relaxed and the most alive I’d seen her in years. But almost immediately upon return to the United States, we have seen a steady regression and the results are discouraging.

Being back Stateside has had its ups but lots of downs. We went from living a life of relative comfort (and even enjoying relative luxury) to crashing with family and searching for new ways to survive.

It’s not to say that we are without blessing or that every day is shrouded in defeat. But the days are long and the nights are longer. My mind is weary. My body is tired. My light is dim.Tea Light

But I still have a light. Some days it shines brighter than others, but thank God… it is still here. And I refuse to let sickness and circumstance snuff it out. So I will shine. I will glow. I will burst into flame above the eye of any storm I meet.

I am more than a conqueror.

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 37-39

My Life In Facebook Apps

I’ve always been a proponent of the literary concepts of analogy and metaphor. Life gets messy and sometimes we need simple, less complicated images to help us make sense of what it’s all about. Aside from the hokey pokey.

Recently, God has revealed to me how life is a lot like a collection of Facebook Apps. For my purposes, He used the example of Candy Crush versus Cookie Jam.

If you’ve ever been on the social networking site Facebook, then it’s pretty likely that you received a jellybean shaped life request from a friend for an addictive little game called Candy Crush. This game took the nation (or dare I say, the world?) by storm a few years ago and is still pretty popular today.

The object is fairly simple. Match at least 3 “candies” in a row or column to break whatever surface lies beneath. Each time you succeed in breaking a surface, you are congratulated by hypnotizing dings and bloops, stimulating the pleasure centers of your brain. With its constant attaboys, invitations to “Try Again” if you’ve failed, and opportunities to level up, the game has become highly addictive for some people. While I am not one of those people who became addicted to an online game, I – ahem – certainly see how that can happen.

Like many things in my life, I was a late adapter to this game. I didn’t have a smartphone for awhile and my PC threatened to implode if I tried to play the game online. So, as with most popular movements, I was missing out. Once I upgraded my tech resources and began playing games, I quickly noticed a disturbing pattern: I was dreaming about Candy Crush.

What prompted these dreams? Well, while I do not have a degree in psychology, I strongly believe that my in-game achievements are used as placeholders for real-life advancements.

Recently, my family and I returned to the U.S. after a stint abroad in the Caribbean. It’s a long story, so I’ll spare you the bureaucratic details. Suffice it to say that we took a chance, it was lovely, but it ultimately did not work out.

So now, we’re back Stateside. Back to where we started from. Back to the rat race and keeping up with the Karda– Joneses. Every day is filled with job applications, résumé edits and phone interviews. Meanwhile, medical expenses mount, health declines, and the desire to have a “normal” life for me to have a “normal” life increases.

So back to Candy Crush. Another component of the popular match-three games is the occasional visit down the wormhole. A side excursion which allows you to earn extra points and tools. These little games within games are neat departures from the typical school of play, but they are often more challenging than the original game and can create more stress.

One day, I received an invite for a new match-three game called Cookie Jam. While the concept is nearly identical to that of Candy Crush, I’ve found that the play is easier and I’ve yet to have any dreams (or nightmares) about this goofy time-waster. Maybe because I’m more successful at the game, that need to succeed at something is satiated and corresponding anxiety is quelled.

Now, Cookie Jam is a less popular game. The graphics aren’t as slick, the music less entrancing. But I like it. It works for me. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it meets my pedestrian needs. I may not have many people to talk to about it and I’m not sure I even want people to know I play it. But a game is a game. And if I must play a game, then sometimes I have to choose a game the works best for me, at which I can excel. I can’t compare my platform of preference to anyone else.

I’ve found that the same is true in life. Since returning “home” I’ve been pursuing a career in the hot, sexy, glamorous world of startups. After all, I am a millennial living in the Metro Atlanta area. I am supposed to work for a trendy startup company with unlimited vacation days and in-office happy hours (locally brewed beer included).

StartupSo I go out and get the all-important perfect startup interview outfit, polish my résumé — I even enrolled in a coding class! I apply for startup after startup. Rarely do I hear back. If I do, it’s either in the form of a rejection letter telling me I am great, but others were greater; or sometimes, they want to have a “casual chat” on the phone. Rarer still, after the phone “chat”, I am asked to come in for an “in-person meeting.” [Note: These companies often avoid calling anything preliminary an interview. I guess we’re trying to keep it chill? Super cas’?]

I press my bright pink pencil pants from my aforementioned 3386437_1381716248194-47res_500_500startup ensemble, get my hair and nails done and head to whatever gentrified co-working space houses the next big thing in technology. The interview begins. The interview ends. I interviewed well. I killed it. They loved me, I loved them. The only thing missing was the big purple dinosaur.

A few days go by. Nothing. I think Should I follow up at the risk of appearing dimpatient? Just as I am about to hit send on my subtle nudge email, the phone rings. It’s them! My heart and breath stop as I eagerly wait to hear the words “We think would make a great addition to our team and would like to offer you the position.” Instead, the voice on the other end informs me that while I interviewed very well and did nothing wrong… they’ve chosen to go with another candidate.

Disappointed and confused, I thank them for their time and consideration and hope they will keep me in mind for a future role. [Click.]

This pattern of rejection is becoming all too familiar. Yes, rejection is part of the job search. ‘X’ number of résumés sent out – ‘y’ rejection letters – ‘z’ interviews = ‘n’ number of companies that may offer you a job. But as searching for a job in and of itself is a full-time job, it can be hard not to let your morale drop to an all-time low. You just want a little reward for all of your hard work.

Observing my frustration, my father made a very good suggestion. One that in my earlier years, I would not have wanted to hear. He said “You are veering off of your path. You started out in a social services space and ended up pursuing careers in technology, et cetera. I know you want a job and those are the jobs that seem hot right now, but you need to stick with your strengths. The last thing you want to become is a jack of all trades and a master of none.”

Stick with your strengths. The last thing you want to become is a jack of all trades and a master of none.

This advice was hard to hear because I thought I had devised a master plan to get a cool job; a house in a hip, gentrified neighborhood; and the acceptance and admiration of my peers. But my dad reminded me that life isn’t about those things. Not for me, anyway.

Just like my relationship with Facebook games, I’ve had to reassess my career platform. While the tech startup world is exciting and cool and the game that everybody is playing, it just doesn’t work for me. I don’t excel there. I do excel in spaces where I get to help people. Where I get to tell stories. Where I get to be authentic to who I am.

So, just as I have done with Candy Crush, I will forgo the tech trek and pursue instead social solutions. I don’t know how long it will take me to level up and there may not be many boosters along the way, but at least I am reassured of my purpose and I can have peace during my journey.

Promotion: Rooted Woman

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Photo Credit: RootedWoman.com

 

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Wearing: Healed by Rooted Woman

 

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