The Dog In the Fight

harry-1248025Have you ever seen a dog dawning the ever fashionable Cone of Shame, barking and clawing at the window as neighbors pass by the house? If not, let me paint a quick picture.

The dog is super excited by the foot traffic outside his home and just wants to romp and frolic and play. But alas, he swallowed the squeak in his squeaky toy, which had to be surgically removed. The result of said surgery is that he must stay indoors and wear the goofy looking conical contraption until his stitches are removed and his belly is healed. Meanwhile, he waits by the window and goes absolutely ballistic because he just wants to be out there in the sun or rain, with people and pets and fire hydrants and…

The last few weeks, I have felt a lot like this dog. I’ve wanted to get out for coffee dates, business meetings, birthday parties and photo shoots (because… we fancy…). I am pregnant with ideas and overcome with inspiration when I read about awesome new tech ventures or talk with my enterprising acquaintances.

I spend my weekends alone in coffehouses, scribbling ideas and sketching plans I’ve yet to execute. I run into friendly faces I’ve met through networking events and over-hear firsthand accounts of protest rallies and grassroots movements.

While my intentions are nothing but genuine, my reality causes the appearance of flightiness and unreliability. All of these great ideas and neat opportunities are hampered by one health struggle after another. Parties are called off by hives, business meetings canceled by facial swelling, and social engagements ruined by other, more vague but no less impeding ailments and responsibilities.

In the ultra hip neighborhoods, I attempt to keep my composure when I encounter an influencer so I listen conspicuously and smile coyly. But inside, I am screaming

TAKE ME WITH YOU!!!

Of course, I don’t want simply concede to riding the coat tails of my peers who are making strides and changing the world. I want to make my own strides and affect my own change. Not because I expect some kind of accolade, but because I feel like I am fairly unqualified and uninterested in doing anything else.

But what does an aspiring change-maker do when their body is effectively a straight jacket restraining many of their goals and dreams? How do you live out what you know is your destiny, presenting reliability and consistency, when every day is a fight for internal stability? How do you ride the waves of momentum that come your way when leaving the house some days is a struggle in and of itself?

What is a to do when she just wants to fight for the rights of others but her own body insists on fighting itself?

I guess I continue to educate myself and prepare for the moment I finally get to bust through that door, cone free, to romp and play and innovate and help right along with all of the other dogs looking to change the world.

Until then… Here’s a moody Frenchie in a hoodie…

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Photo Credit: Gratisography

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The Inconvenient Friend

As millennials go, my life is pretty unorthodox. I don’t live in a gentrified neighborhood with a rescue dog. I don’t have a yoga body or belong to an adult kickball league. I live at home. Actually, I live in my aunt and uncle’s home. With my parents. My mother, a victim of dementia. My father, a survivor of two strokes and a heart attack.

If that weren’t wacky enough, I am also a quasi-employed, unlicensed non-driver. I suffer from social anxiety disorder and depression, and the next of 40+ surgeries is just around the corner.

As you can imagine, all of these things make me very popular with my peers. Sure, people think I’m nice. They just wish my life weren’t so… complicated.

In a nutshell, I am the inconvenient friend. That friend who is really nice and well-intentioned, but ultimately unable to contribute her fair share to the relationship. I am the girl who would be so great if only she made a series of changes to better accommodate her hip “friends.”

Every weekend I mourn a little for the life BuzzFeed tells me I should have.

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Source: Google Books

I shed a tear or two for the failed social interactions and never-had dates, all casualties of my inconvenient life. “It’s not fair,” I say aloud to no one in particular. “I don’t ask for that much. All I want to do is wear some fringe while wandering aimlessly around a festival every now again. I know my ‘friends’ are attending these things, but no one is inviting me. It’s my own personal interpretation of Mindy Kaling’s book.”

One lonesome Friday evening, there was a listening ear to my weekly wonderings. My father asked me what was wrong, amid my frustrated listing of reasons my friends have effectively ghosted me. I whined that the lack of inclusion makes me feel devalued but that I refuse to beg anyone to spend time with me, especially not full-grownish adults. He stopped me mid-rant and asked “what about your closest friends? How do they make you feel?”

Subtle spin on a stock psychological question? Perhaps. But I entertained an answer nonetheless.

After giving his question some sincere thought, I rendered a response. “Well, I guess, they make me feel loved… without judgment.”


The last week or so, I’ve repeatedly found myself on the receiving end of some really sound advice:

Let go.

Three of my girlfriends, my mother, and a book all told me to let go. But let go of what exactly? Relationships? Expectations? Society’s definition of success?

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Source: Disney

As millennials, we are accused of arrested development. Spoiled, entitled brats with various strains of Peter Pan Syndrome. But this millennial is ready to grow up. This woman is ready to let go of conditional relationships and society’s prescribed expectations of who she should be. She is ready to navigate life in ways that may not always be popular, or hip, but that will ultimately equip her with everything she needs to change the world!

As I navigate this thing we now call “adulting,” I realize that my path will be unorthodox. It won’t look like the path of my peers. It may not include a gig at a trendy tech startup. There may be no mid-week, underground dance parties at ultra-exclusive speakeasies.

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Aisha at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

I may never get to deliver any awe-inspiring TED Talks.

Or maybe all of these things will happen and my life will be the quintessential millennial dream come true. But I refuse to allow the quality of my life to be defined by some ethereal counsel of cool.

I think my life will be a good one. It will be disappointingly normal and uneventful. It won’t be insta-worthy. But it will be filled with love and good intentions.

I will get my driver’s license. My role will shift from caregiver to employee. Or entrepreneur. I will own my own home and open it to friends and family in need of refuge from the messiness of life. Maybe I’ll get married and we’ll have some kids. Maybe I’ll fly solo. Perhaps I’ll get a dog.

I will let go of relationships that have ultimately run their course, and I will pour into anyone willing to put up with my lack of cool. I will sharpen my skills and hone my crafts and use them whenever and wherever I can to brighten at least one little corner of this place called Earth. I will make some mistakes, of course. But my mind will be open, my heart will be happy, and my life will be… good.

When Words Are Too Much

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When tragedies occur, people often search for words to accurately describe their feelings while sensitively protecting those most severely affected. Over the last few weeks, many sad events have transpired. Most recently, the mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, where 50 lives were lost in an unfathomable act of hate-fueled violence.

As the news broke early Sunday morning, and people around the world began to awaken to the shocking (if not surprising) news, people quickly took to their cell phones and laptops to express condolences, outrage, fear, grief, and – in some particularly despicable cases – even arrogant I-told-you-sos.

Many of the passionate, heartfelt responses were timely and apropos. They embodied the author’s feelings and emotions, acknowledge the hurting victims, and some even called for action (stricter gun control, immediate blood donations). Some tweets, posts, snaps, and streams, however, were ill-timed, inappropriate, or just plain tasteless. Of course, some of the posters stand by their heartless and ignorant statements, but I also suspect that there are a few who simply posted in haste. Their stream-of-consciousness response to scattered thoughts and unmetered emotions pours out in combinations of words that could cause more harm than good.

My social media responses have been subtle and slow to come. It was tempting to immediately post my opinion on the events that took place, not because I felt the urgent need for my voice to be heard, but for fear that my radio silence would be viewed as condonance or apathy. I found myself questioning the validity of my voice as someone who is an ally of both the LGBTQIA+ and Islamic communities, as a Christian who loves all of these people.

While silence can certainly be deadly, misspoken words may wreak havoc. As a writer, I want to use my voice to inspire and to provoke thought. I also want to behave responsibly, focusing on the heart of the problem without allowing myself to veer off-course into psuedo-political shouting matches.

I want people reading my words to know that the thoughts I express come from a place of deep love and respect. I do not proport to know how my friends and family who are part of the LGBTQ community feel or what they experience in times like this. Nor do I claim to begin to understand the complex feelings Islamic brothers and sisters have in these moments.

Wherever you are, whatever your thoughts, feelings, and emotions please know this:

There are people who love you. People whose faith is founded in love and who are wholly committed to living out that faith in both word and deed. I am one of these people.

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.

Life Lift: Part Two – Technology Tuesdays

TuesdayThe tech tunnel. We’ve all been there. You decide to “just check something real quick” on Facebook, and the next thing you know, two hours have gone by and you’ve done nothing but alternate between watching cute cat videos and Insta-stalking your ex.

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Every few months, we vow to leave social media forever because it is stupid and wastes too much of our time. But then someone invites you to a party and tells you you can find all of the details in the Facebook invite. And… we’re back at square one.

It is no secret that a lot of folks could employ a bit more self-control and restraint where social media is concerned. If we did, I am sure the world would be a much friendlier, happier place. But this kind of progress doesn’t happen over night. That is why I use “Technology Tuesdays.”

Tech Tuesdays are set aside specifically for personal screen time and social media use. Many of us use technology and even social media in our daily work lives, so it is unrealistic to avoid these innovations all together. But it is important that we learn to balance our use of tablets, phones, computers, and televisions. One way to do that is by designating one day a week to the bulk of your digital usage. This decision will allow you to stay connected without being consumed.

Feel like one day per week just isn’t enough time for you to “pin, post, tweet, snap, tag, check, and share?” Then choose one day to conduct the majority of your digi-business, and allow for one hour per day online the rest of the week. Select a specific time — say noon to 1pm — to allot to answering personal emails and wishing Facebook friends a happy birthday. Once that hour is up, drop the phone and back away from the keyboard. Except on Technology Tuesdays. Then you can tweet your heart out!