Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Storm MUST Pass: Staying Strong During Tough Times

I have been living in South Florida for eleven years now so tropical storms are regular occurrences. Every time there is a storm I like to sit inside by a window (when it’s safe of course) and reflect. When tropical storm Isaac recently passed through South Florida  thankfully there were minimal damage where I live. I remember sitting by my window in deep thought reflecting on the storms that I have been through and that  my family and friends have been through. I realized that while problems in life are inevitable we don't have to succumb to the winds even though we may quake at the thunder. Yes it’s scary, intimidating, and more often than not the clouds are so dark that it seems like there is no end in sight. No matter how advanced we become as people we can never control the size and direction of a storm. Sometimes it lands as a category one or unfortunately as a category five, but guess what? The storm MUST pass. At the end of every storm the results are: stronger faith, greater appreciation of life and people, humbleness, and a greater ability to relate and encourage others who are going through their own storms. So take courage and remember He makes everything beautiful in its time.
                                                James 1:2-4

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Endless Possibilities

Taking the Limits Off of Your Life

 As a preteen I boarded a plane for the very first time from the Jamaica to the United States. As a young child, the U.S. represented endless possibilities to me. I remember being captivated by the music videos, television shows and movies I watched imagining that life in the U.S. was exciting and filled with opportunities. The early dreamer in me dreamt of one day living there. By the time I was 11 years old,  I yearned to venture out beyond the beautiful mountains of my island home to the world of my dreams and imaginations. I distinctly remember walking alongside a friend during lunch and looking at those mountains wishing to myself that I would one day see beyond them. As you can imagine, I was super excited when I got the opportunity a few months later after making my wish.

Unfortunately my earliest years in the U.S. were not what I imagined. I missed my mother terribly and was forced to deal with adjustments much too burdensome for a young child. For most of that period, I dealt with messages of “can’ts.” I was told often about life limits that would shape my future. Others would tell me that I needed to adjust and redefine my goals to fit “reality.”

In the summer before my sophomore year in high school, an uncle visited from Jamaica and asked me where I wanted to go college.  I gave him a list that included some of the best universities in the U.S. He told me to go after my dreams.  I sat beaming with pride,  reassurred by his belief in my dreams.

You see, the list and my desire to attend college were far-fetched. Though we left Jamaica to achieve a better life, circumstances I mentioned earlier made that dream appear nothing more than an empty wish. I faced a number of obstacles: there was no money to send us to college; no steps taken to help us secure and prepare for a better future; and silent resignation that our possibilities were limited.

Yet I had drive, determination and divine intervention on my side. Despite my reality, I kept on dreaming and preparing for my dream by excelling in both school and extracurricular activities. In all honesty, looking back I chuckle at my audacity. Where did I get it from?  How did such a young girl decided she would not accept the limits others placed upon her?   Despite admonitions to stop chasing an unattainable dream, despite discouragement to set my sights elsewhere (like considering getting a job after high school), pure determination kept me striving. There were times I was afraid and worried. Times I felt unsure, because I did not have a plan B at all. I was not sure about the “how?” but that very important question did not stop me.  Today I am happy to say that it all worked out. By the end of my senior year, I had applied to six colleges and gotten into all six.  Today I can proudly say that I am a graduate of Columbia University, the number one college on the list I recited to my uncle.

Until now, I haven't really taken the time to reflect and appreciate the gravity of that important lesson from my youth. I admit that writing the above made me tear up a little. I had refused to allow other people and my circumstances to limit me or destroy my dreams. In the face of tremendous obstacles, I kept my eyes on the prize and achieved more than my wildest dreams. Unfortunately, I cannot say that I’ve always adhered to that lesson. There were many times in my life that I had to relearn the lesson and remind myself not to accept other people's limits.

What are you allowing to limit you today? If there’s a goal you would like to achieve or a dream you want to fulfill, do not allow people or circumstances to tell you that you can’t.  People have opinions, but opinions are not facts. Circumstances change, but you are far more than your circumstances.  Operate from a place of “can” and refuse to accept “can’t.” You have to know and believe that your possibilities are endless. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Moving to a New City

Six months ago, I boarded a flight from New York to Los Angeles. Before then I had never been to the state of California much less the city of Los Angeles. Three weeks earlier, I had accepted a job offer in a state and city I had never even visited.   Talk about a life changing decision. 

To say I was excited is an understatement, but like I spoke about in this post, I was also afraid. I spent nights tossing and turning wondering if I made the right decision. I had never even visited  Los Angeles, and I didn't know anyone here at the time, so at times I asked myself "What were you thinking?"  Although I had lived in other cities before,  lived on my own for years  and am very independent, this was different. This was the farthest I would be from everything and everyone I knew.

Yet six months later, I smile, because in retrospect I had nothing to fear.  I am settling in and enjoying Los Angeles. How did I do it?  Here are my tips:

Five Ways to Discover and Meet People in  a New City

1. Be O.K. With Venturing Out Alone
In my first few weeks here, I  didn't know anyone (except my new coworkers) so I often went exploring alone. To be frank, this wasn't difficult for me since I've done it plenty of times in the past. There were times I worried about getting lost (thank God for google maps!), but I've discovered some gems in L.A. through exploring.  I know venturing out alone isn't easy for everyone, but challenge yourself and do it. There's only so much you can discover indoors. 

2. Join and Go to the Events is the website to join if you're in a new city and you want to meet people with similar interests. Through Meetup I've found  groups related to things I enjoy like independent films and art.  I've gotten the opportunity to attend some pretty awesome events and met really great people at the same time.

3. Join a professional Association
This is another great way to meet people. It's also great for networking and staying abreast  of professional development workshops and events in your field.

4. Be Open to Trying New Things
I can't remember the last time I went hiking before moving to L.A. Yet within my first month here, I went hiking in Griffith Park. You know what? I enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to going on more hikes. It's true, I probably wouldn't have gone hiking if I were in New York,  but as the saying goes "When in Rome..." Try new things, you never know what you can discover about yourself.

5. Accept Invitations
"A man who wants friends must make himself friendly," right? Don't decline invitations because "you're too shy," or "you don't know these people," or "you don't feel like being bothered." Ignore the anti-social voice in your head and go out and have a ball. It's so much easier discovering the city by hanging out with a local anyway!

Pictures of some of the things I've done since moving to L.A.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

3 Ways to Stop Your Stinking Thinking

1. Receive More Good
Are you constantly listening to depressing or melancholy music? Are you starting or ending your day watching horrific news? What are you letting in? While you can choose to listen to the music you enjoy and it's good to stay abreast of current events,  moderation is key.  If you constantly expose yourself to music that makes you feel sad or to news stories that cause you to walk around in fear, it’s time to reevaluate your consumption. Constantly exposing yourself to negativity can drain your energy and poison your attitude, what are you receiving?

2. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Negativity only beget one thing….more negativity. Who you choose to spend your time with has a huge influence on the person you are or will become. I don’t think anyone wants to be a Negative Nancy.  Surround yourself with people who inspire you to become the person you want to be.  People who are radiant, driven, smart and goal-oriented will not only brighten your day, they will help to bring out and cultivate your best qualities.

3. Embrace the Lessons
Life is filled with lessons that help us to graduate from one level to the next. Sometimes those lessons are tough, but how you respond, i.e., your attitude can make a world of difference. Complaining or wallowing in self-pity hurts you more than it helps. Choose instead to learn life lessons and focus on solutions if they’re any.  We only grow from tough experienes when we choose to learn from them.