Appreciation is the word of the week

Good morning!

A spirit of gratitude and appreciation has been brewing in my soul as of late.  As I continue to make my best attempt at balancing school, tutoring, dreaming big and being awesome, along with all of the demands of taking on a job with the University; I am often succumbed to emotions of doubt, confusion and defeat. While grinding and giving each project my all, there are often setbacks that seem to always arise.  Hurdles that include cancelled tutoring sessions, school tasks that often take up a significant amount of time, assessments that cost more than my earnings bi-weekly, study sessions that require my attention and precious students who are discouraged and need my heavy lifting. I often feel like my energy and spirit are drained at the end of a day and I take a bucket of discouragement home to dump on my kitchen table.  A warm bed seems like the perfect place to lay down my burdens. But my brain goes into overdrive, replaying what I could’ve done better. It is my nagging calendar reminder, preventing me from actually sleeping and is the gasoline to the fire of anxiety that swells.

Immediately after picking up mail from the post office this week, a car backed into my bumper causing minor cosmetic damage to the car.  The beloved Honda Accord now has Milwaukee war scars ‒ well more scars if I include the damage from babealicious plowing into a snow bank a few winters past. The driver of the other vehicle frantically walked up to my weeping Honda and began to spew her sob story.  What I quickly deduced was that this woman was stressed, overwhelmed, upset and slightly irrational. As I exited my vehicle to assess the damage, I peered into hers and saw two beautiful brown children, with fright all over their faces.  Her rapid fire yelling, turned into a muted whisper as my mind contemplated the emotions of these terrified babies. If you ever want to break me down, bring me a child or a puppy, YOU WIN. Before I could collect any of her information (she carried no insurance, the car had no plates, she had no license.  What info she was going to produce is still unknown to me) she’d ran to her get away chariot, jumped a curb as sparks flew from the underbody of her gloriously shitty Avalon and sped off! In shock I did the only thing a rational person in my situation would do. I stood there on the corner of Center and Teutonia and cried.  The Honda and I collectively wept. […]

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Good morning!

A spirit of gratitude and appreciation has been brewing in my soul as of late.  As I continue to make my best attempt at balancing school, tutoring, dreaming big and being awesome, along with all of the demands of taking on a job with the University; I am often succumbed to emotions of doubt, confusion and defeat. While grinding and giving each project my all, there are often setbacks that seem to always arise.  Hurdles that include cancelled tutoring sessions, school tasks that often take up a significant amount of time, assessments that cost more than my earnings bi-weekly, study sessions that require my attention and precious students who are discouraged and need my heavy lifting. I often feel like my energy and spirit are drained at the end of a day and I take a bucket of discouragement home to dump on my kitchen table.  A warm bed seems like the perfect place to lay down my burdens. But my brain goes into overdrive, replaying what I could’ve done better. It is my nagging calendar reminder, preventing me from actually sleeping and is the gasoline to the fire of anxiety that swells.

Immediately after picking up mail from the post office this week, a car backed into my bumper causing minor cosmetic damage to the car.  The beloved Honda Accord now has Milwaukee war scars ‒ well more scars if I include the damage from babealicious plowing into a snow bank a few winters past. The driver of the other vehicle frantically walked up to my weeping Honda and began to spew her sob story.  What I quickly deduced was that this woman was stressed, overwhelmed, upset and slightly irrational. As I exited my vehicle to assess the damage, I peered into hers and saw two beautiful brown children, with fright all over their faces.  Her rapid fire yelling, turned into a muted whisper as my mind contemplated the emotions of these terrified babies. If you ever want to break me down, bring me a child or a puppy, YOU WIN. Before I could collect any of her information (she carried no insurance, the car had no plates, she had no license.  What info she was going to produce is still unknown to me) she’d ran to her get away chariot, jumped a curb as sparks flew from the underbody of her gloriously shitty Avalon and sped off! In shock I did the only thing a rational person in my situation would do. I stood there on the corner of Center and Teutonia and cried.  The Honda and I collectively wept.

I am a highly empathetic person (on occasion).  So as I drove down the street, tears hanging out at the ledge of my eyelids, collecting into pools and kissing my cheeks with warm reminders of my sensitivity, I couldn’t help but think about the women who backed into the car.  My mind thought about the heartfelt monologue she delivered while standing outside of my door. I thought about the kids and how scared they looked sitting in the backseat. My sociologist brain thought about what situations led her to the point where she would operate a vehicle so recklessly with two small children’s lives in her hands.  I felt the tension, the weight, and the pressure she carried as she explained her situation and circumstances. That moment was when I started to be appreciative.

Appreciation blanketing my teary clouded eyes and I felt calm.  I don’t know what led the woman to her circumstances but what I know with certainty is that I positioned myself to be exactly where I am right now.  I made the conscious‒ and maybe even rushed, decision to leave a full-time job to chase a dream. I understood the magnitude of carrying a full-time graduate school course load.  I understood that tutoring was a business that needed to be built upon and that time was needed to nurture the business. I understood wholeheartedly that if you leave a job with little savings, money will deplete and require replenishment.   I knew that I would have to be consistent and prove my abilities for doors to open. While it may drain me and keep me awake, I am where I am, because this is where I chose to be. For that I have to be appreciative.

I am extremely fortunate.  My life and personal circumstances could be completely different.  I am climbing to my destiny and while it’s okay to acknowledge my blisters, cuts and bruises: I must not forget that I could very well be in a trench trying to dig myself out before the climb.  

In hindsight, the battle of the Honda vs. the busted, emerald, Toyota Avalon was a blessing.  It allowed me to put my life and current positioning into perspective. While it isn’t necessarily the most comfortable chair in the cottage, it’s one of the steps between too hard, and just right for me.  Everyday can’t be a good day ‒ the queen of certificates can’t get a gold star everyday. This busy schedule and brain of mine, continue to extinguish the fantasy of a good night’s rest. But I could instead be worried about a laundry list of other things like basic necessities.  

To my provider, babe, I thank you for letting me figure out my path to greatness.  For without your love, support, JOB, and cruel sense of humor none of this would be possible.  

For my current journey, my struggles, the “no’s”, the no-shows, the letdowns, the small paychecks, the few bills, the humble pie, the sacrifice, for my beautiful struggle I am grateful – as I sip my warm mug of french pressed coffee, curated by my favorite barista at my neighborhood home, Coffee Makes You Black.

Welcome back Ashley!

To the loyal followers of the BPUM who have seen me and asked with puppy-dog-eyes, “when are you going to blog again?” This one’s for you! It’s been too long!  As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my first, hot skillet of homemade pancakes to bubble at the center; my fingers and soul itch to blog! How long has it been?  At least before Thanksgiving so that’s almost…November, December, January, February, March, end of March almost April. That’s A LONG TIME!

What have you been doing all this time?

I traveled a little in December and January (a long, long, long road trip from Milwaukee to Cali.)  After that I returned to Milwaukee and the grind of graduate school ‒ if someone would have explained to be at length the process of writing a thesis and conducting research, I would’ve gladly stopped after undergrad!  That’s pretty much what my life has been since mid January. The steady grind of my graduate school coursework (3 classes), thesis ‒ oh yeah and trying to build my tutoring business.

The tutoring business (if it can even be called that) is a constant struggle.  The curse of choosing a career path that leads to a soul overflowing this joy, does not offset a wallet full of air.  In terms of education as a business ‒ a profitable business, I’m not so good at the profit part yet. I have the passion, the skill set, the knowledge-base, the patience, and the drive.  I lack the marketing skills and iron fist. Iron fist? I envision sticking by my policies and expectations and slamming down my fist to depict my level of seriousness.

Scenarios where an iron fist would be useful […]

To the loyal followers of the BPUM who’ve seen me and asked with puppy-dog-eyes, the dreaded, “when are you going to blog again?” This one’s for you! I guess deep in my heart I appreciate the inquiry!  It makes me feel like an R & B superstar whose fans anticipate the new album release.  I don’t have any new amazing verse to drop but I do admit that it’s been too long!  As I sit in my kitchen waiting for my first, hot skillet of homemade pancakes to bubble at the center, my fingers and soul itch to blog! How long has it been?  At least before Thanksgiving so that’s almost…November, December, January, February, March, end of March almost April. That’s A LONG TIME!

What have you been doing all this time?

I traveled a little in December and January (a long, long, long road trip from Milwaukee to Cali.)  After that I returned to Milwaukee and the grind of graduate school ‒ if someone would have explained to me at length the process of writing a thesis and conducting research, I would’ve gladly stopped after undergrad!  That’s pretty much what my life has been since mid-January. The steady grind of my graduate school coursework (3 classes), thesis ‒ oh yeah and trying to build my tutoring business.

The tutoring business (if it can even be called that) is a constant struggle.  The curse of choosing a career path that leads to a soul overflowing with joy but does not offset a wallet full of air.  In terms of education as a business ‒ a profitable business, I’m not so good at the profit part yet. I have the passion, the skill set, the knowledge base, the patience, and the drive.  I lack the marketing skills and iron fist. Iron fist?  I envision sticking by my policies and expectations and slamming down my fist to depict my level of seriousness.

Scenarios where an iron fist would be useful

“I am unable to reschedule your session for the third time this month.  I look forward to seeing you at your regularly scheduled appointment” (slams iron fist).

“According to your service agreement, there is a late fee if you pick up your child late.  The late fee will be added to your bill” (slams iron fist).

“Unfortunately, because you cancelled your session 1 minute prior to its start time, you will still be charged for the session.  I will add the cost to your invoice” (slams iron fist).

Yep, iron fist.  I need it like I need a full snow suit to be comfortable in my house because babealicious keeps the heat on 65 or below

What else…

My hard-working hun-bunz is going great!  Winter is his “slow season”.  The quotations signify that the season is supposed to be slow, but it seems pretty ramped up to me.  Nevertheless, I’ve been enjoying daily snuggle sessions which basically consist of me sitting so close to or on him, that I suck up every ounce of oxygen within a foot of his face.  I like to describe my behavior as that of a puppy.  A new puppy.  As he moves around the house, I scurry behind him.  If I am cooking in the kitchen, I pressure him into joining me.  While he showers, I sit on the toilet and talk to him (well not everyday).  Basically I’m like his sweat, always near and lurking just below the surface.  

Healthy-eating habits

I’m slowly getting back into those.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but umm… I’ve regained many of the precious pounds I shed while in Guatemala!  No worries, summer is coming and I will be some sort of ready.

I’m no more clear about what the future holds for me than I was in Guatemala!  Graduation is in May and I don’t have sequence of next steps yet!  It’s honestly difficult to even start to think about the next when I have loads of things to focus on in the now.  I now know that I am NOT a multitasker.  I am that person who sees tasks piling, and runs for a warm place to snuggle (maybe this is why I’m a newborn puppy).

Juggling is a skill I haven’t acquired, but I can carry one egg on a spoon across the finish line.  As I juggle my egg I anticipate getting back into the blogging world.  How I miss it so!  Blogging was my journal, my meditation, my reflection, my safe-space.  Today I make my return!

Pancakes, a fail but done ‒ they taste perfect but crumble between the slits of the fork before they meet my lip!

Until next time, I promise it won’t be another 6 months!

Shaking off the funk: Ashley we are not a princess

I’ve concluded that the Vtine (theBpum as you know me) is a spoiled, fortunate, truly privileged young whiner!  Yes, it is true, I am one of those people who is so blessed, so favored, that when things don’t go exactly my way I crumble.  “That sounds completely insane right”, I ask with my legs crossed as I sit at my comfy kitchen table.  Drinking my $1.06 Arabian bean, partially burnt (I swear) Mcdonald’s coffee, complemented with six teaspoons of sugar and three Coffee Mate original creamers.   

Being favored and loved deeply is a blessing and a curse!  It has created a little Frankenstein and the more I am favored, the more the little monster inside me feeds and grows bigger (clearly Halloween is still on the brain). […]

I’ve concluded that the Vtine (theBpum as you know me) is a spoiled, fortunate, truly privileged young whiner!  Yes, it is true, I am one of those people who is so blessed, so favored, that when things don’t go exactly my way I crumble.  “That sounds completely insane right?”, I ask with my legs crossed as I sit at my comfy kitchen table.  Drinking my $1.06 Arabian bean, partially burnt (I swear) McDonald’s coffee, complemented with six teaspoons of sugar and three Coffee Mate original creamers.   

Being favored and loved deeply is a blessing and a curse!  It has created a little Frankenstein and the more I am favored, the more the little monster inside me feeds and grows bigger (clearly Halloween is still on the brain).

From the time I was a child, I recall being adored.  First by my parents and family members, then by my incredible church family, and later by those whom I encountered who rooted for my success.  I have been blessed with so many opportunities.  Opportunities that I did not always deserve, but others saw otherwise-millennials are crybaby “give me this, give me that, where’s my trophy” beasts because society has made us this way!

I’ve become so used to doors opening and people yelling from the frames, “come this way” as I’ve stood clueless looking up at the sky, counting the clouds and looking for marshmallow-shaped figurines to glide by in glee, from the hall leading to the door, where the person stood with a bullhorn and neon sign, waving for me to enter and receive.

I am uber blessed you guys.  I have a boyfriend I almost don’t deserve (because he is just that awesome), a family that adores me, a grandmother who is wise and my number one cheerleader, an uncle who loves me like a daughter, a cousin who is an amazing example of what it means to be selfless, while navigating how to also nurture her own dreams and aspirations, siblings who look up to me and appreciate all the things I accomplish while supporting my goals and ambitions, an expansive slew of relatives who are successful entrepreneurs, a flock of Milwaukee leaders who are truly my friends, and still I manage to find a corner to sit in and complain about having to put in the work to be a BAOS (translation: a boss, not just any boss but a woman who is recognized for her great work ethic).  Yes, I want the crown and the glory, but I just want it to fall into my lap and fit my head perfectly, frame my face well and accentuate the golden undertones of my brown skin.  “The nerve,” you think, as you shake your head and roll your eyes at me.  But boy, in this world of instant gratification, THE DEVIL THAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA, and the “participation certificate” I have been groomed to want it all simply because… I desire it.

I woke up today thinking, “Ashley, damn, black people do really get sunburn (my forehead is peeling from an amazing 6 day birthday trip to Key West, FL).  What am I going to eat for breakfast?  Don’t check Instagram, don’t check Instagram-5 minutes later I was on it for AN HOUR!  Are you really 100% committed to this tutoring thing?  Did you honestly think it was going to be easy-to be completely honest, yes I did (puffing out my chest).  Now that you see that it isn’t, what are you going to do?  How can you create a market?  Do you really want to work a job?  Are you going to get to said “job” and start acting entitled and like you don’t want to be there?-No, I don’t want to work a job.  Yes I am going to act like I have a sea salt covered saltine on my shoulder because I’m not using every ounce of my energy to grow my own dreams.  Are you in a position to continue building without making a consistent, livable wage income? (Long hard reflection).  No. Ash, we aren’t in a position to continue at this rate and maintain.  What chu gon’ do Ash?  1. Get off of Instragram-I am honestly considering a hiatus from social media because I am not controlling it, it is taking over (I am melting, melting).  But really, I am not getting depressed and jealous as I did in the past, it is just a trap and I feel pressure to keep up with maintaining it and growing a following.  It doesn’t feel healthy and contributes to my decline in happy hormones 2. Get out of the bed 3. Take a bath 4. Go get coffee 5. Blog 6. Find that Beyoncé Album, turn it on, REPEAT, crank up the volume, all your neighbors are AT WORK, MAKING MONEY (sad face-mentally slapping myself out of it) 6. Make another set of flyers 7. Call Digicopy, get them printed 8. Go to the coffee shop, ask to post it 9. Follow-up with potential customers-crap my forehead looks worse now that I’ve washed my face 10. HOMEWORK!  11. Keep reflecting on how blessed you are 12. Find a meditation or yoga class-I need intrinsic motivation.  I keep relying on other things or activities to motivate me and this could be why I dip between happy and “the world is crumbling around me”.

It is so easy to get down about things not going according to plan.  Worrying about money will put you at the lowest of lows and you start to lose focus (at least I do).  I can’t produce good work, stay true to my product and the brand I am building, or even appear content if I’m worried about a bill.  But if I don’t work this dream until the wheels fall off, I won’t be able to make money.  We all have highs and lows, but I was sitting at a low and setting up furniture in a space of funk.  I can’t be succumb to  feelings of worry and doubt.  I must continue to WORK for what I want because contrary to what I have internalized, I am not owed favor.  

Good morning!

A fresh 30 year old’s letter to her 20-something self

Ashley, young, glorious, courageous, curious child
You have grown
Grown into a confident, honest, humble, vulnerable being
Twenties were fun, spontaneous, reckless, painful, disappointing and full of meaningful experiences
You made it and now stand on the other side, reflective and grateful
You’ve learned patience, understanding, compassion, love and how to walk away
You’ve experienced heartbreak, shame, sorrow and forgiveness
Been uncertain about who you were and your worth
Allowed others to define you
That doesn’t work so well young dreamer […]

Ashley, young, glorious, courageous, curious child
You have grown
Grown into a confident, honest, humble, vulnerable being
Twenties were fun, spontaneous, reckless, painful, disappointing and full of meaningful experiences
You made it and now stand on the other side, reflective and grateful
You’ve learned patience, understanding, compassion, love and how to walk away
You’ve experienced heartbreak, shame, sorrow and forgiveness
Been uncertain about who you were and your worth
Allowed others to define you
That doesn’t work so well young dreamer
We partied, Patron your equivalent to water
Walgreen, your MAC counter
Foundation never matching quite right
Eye shadow reminiscent of a Halloween costume
Thank God for YouTube, minimalism and your late twenties
More shots than we can recall
We worshipped the porcelain God, visited the throne faithfully
Paid tithes of vomit like a committed member
Lived with no regret
Regret but you convinced yourself that it was all a part of the journey
Love
Damn you loved
The idiots, the abusers, the promiser, the leech, the jerk, the prince charming, the ones you didn’t deserve
The one who saw more in you than you saw in yourself-swallowing the lump of guilt
You love hard young romantic
Love was painful, a high you constantly longed for, sat in, fought for and went chasing again
Love, the drug of choice
Breaking hearts and collecting pain to carry along and savor later
Your badge, young sweet savage
Your worked hard V-tine
Graduated from undergrad after a few academic probation threats
Worked twenty-’leven job
Quit ‘em all
But you’re a millennial-it’s normal
Now you thirst for more knowledge and seem to be on a path of fa eva’ schooling
Your dreams are being painted into existence young genius
You were fire
Tongue a torch
Attitude of a young diva
That was a lot of work huh?
Apologizing after reflection sucks
But the cloud moving from overhead, revealing the warmth of the sun absorbs well
You were generous
Giving
Giving every piece of you until you were left with fragments of what you wanted to be
Selfless fool
Honesty
Honest, your strongest attribute
You wave it like a white flag
Warm water to wash away the damage
You’ve grown so much, yet still stand in between doorways trying to figure out what next look likes
Waiting for signs
Signs you struggle to identify and listen to
30-year-old Ashley hugs you
Deeply
Embracing all of you
Loving the pieces of you, you hated
Loving the wounds you licked in the dark, hiding from the world
Loving the hurt you sang and hummed away
Smiling as we recall inside jokes
Grinning when we look at old pictures
Cheering when we win
The glorious twenties, led us here
We have traveled
Fell in love with exploration and thirst for the next adventure
We have taken the road less traveled
We have committed to being true to Ashley and living intentionally

We have sat in quiet spaces and listened to the soul speak

You will forever be a part of what makes me Ashley
The twenties were lived, exploited and enjoyed to the fullest
I rest a kiss on your forehead and walk into 30 ready for the next chapter
Appreciating and never forgetting the many lessons we’ve learned
Good-bye twenty-something

We had an amazing run kid

You will forever be a piece of who I am

Millennial “my life is hard” rant

Why didn’t anyone tell me life as an entrepreneur was so hard!
Nobody speaks about the adversity of struggling to build a brand and a business
Nobody is on Instagram with a sad face and a bank account statement with a negative balance
No one is making the tough decision between going to dinner and staying home to eat the same dish you’ve been making with slight modifications for the past month.
No one explained to me that the money I had saved up was actually NOT going to be considered savings once I quit a full-time job.
The warmth and comfort of a full-time job is soothing. Familiar. Going to bed knowing that a check will welcome you every other Friday whether you deserve it or not is like sniffing heaven. […]

Why didn’t anyone tell me life as an entrepreneur was so hard!
Nobody speaks about the adversity of struggling to build a brand and a business
Nobody is on Instagram with a sad face and a bank account statement with a negative balance
No one is making the tough decision between going to dinner and staying home to eat the same dish you’ve been making with slight modifications for the past month.
No one explained to me that the money I had saved up was actually NOT going to be considered savings once I quit a full-time job.
The warmth and comfort of a full-time job is soothing. Familiar. Going to bed knowing that a check will welcome you every other Friday whether you deserve it or not is like sniffing heaven.
My locs hit the cold entrepreneur pillow at night and my brain goes into “get this money mode” trying to figure out how to navigate this inflatable raft (with a hole in it)
THIS CAN’T BE LIFE!
The internet is not my friend
I’m still learning how to market my business and attract customers who are interested in PAYING FOR MY SERVICES!
Education is important right? Why isn’t my phone ringing with anxious parents? I’ve been a teacher and seen the tragedy that is a report card, soaked in tears as I explain what we can do to support the student and what shared responsibilities we need from them. Do I have enough money for the bill? Is it not ringing because Sprint has decided that I’ve requested one too many payment arrangements?
Is this healthy? Should I always be contemplating when I will get my next check? That’s it, I need another source of income.
Yep, I’m going to find another steady source of income while attending graduate school full-time – barely able to maintain my sanity as it is, while trying to run a functioning business in the evenings and on the weekends. But it isn’t really functioning all that well so can I even use the word functioning to describe it?
Interviewer for a new job: When are you available to start?
Me: Well…. I can start in two weeks, however I can’t work past 3 PM
I also am unable to work on the weekends
I also need time off to travel throughout the Winter months
so can I just come in when it is convenient for me? Maybe once or twice a week?
I look at jobs online almost daily.
I try to find positions that aren’t too demanding (where I can leave work, at work-and do a little homework while I’m there). Then I get excited when I see positions that fit my skill sets and fulfill my desire to do what I’m passionate about. Excitement quickly turns into a sad faced emoji, the one with the tear. Sad face-with a tear because if I take on a commitment that requires all of me, I can’t pursue my own dreams with the same level of enthusiasm.
(falls out onto the cold, ceramic-tiled kitchen floor next to a spaghetti stain. The floor needs to be mopped as I type this complaint letter to the God of spoiled millennials; but who has time to mop when you’re struggling to do the things that are a necessity like shaving my armpits-a free activity I enjoy, it’s like a free trip to the spa).
It’s crushing to want something so BAD and have to work at it! Why can’t I just have impressive ideas that become reality. Can’t I just go viral and have a highly successful private tutoring company in a fully stocked and highly attractive children’s bookstore and art studio, with a super smart, highly productive, hyper educated and helpful staff (as I squint my eyes, wiggle my long, unmanicured fingers and yell TADAA!) I think I’m working at things but I don’t really know what I’m actually doing, and figuring it out is HARD! Where is the answer key dammit!
No really. I feel overwhelmed, tired, and like I slowly am going to morph into Eeyore. I am starting to feel slightly discouraged, like an ugly troll is sitting in my belly slowly blowing out the flame that burned inside me a month ago. It stops to take a breath once a week or so, then continues to blow and spews drops of troll saliva with each newly recharged breath. I bet this troll would be awesome in a gospel choir, it could hold all the long notes.
Can I just go back to Guatemala and start all over again.
What I need:
A check in the mail
A mentor
Clients
Clients that pay not just clients who enjoy what I can do
A network of support
A check
Another check that can pay for a marketing campaign

And another check for a printer and office supplies
Can these things just show up in the morning under this cold pillow that won’t let my weary brain stop planning, worrying and worrying some more? I have jury duty in two weeks and am elated! Jury duty equals a check! Pick me please! Yes I am highly conservative, no I’m not black, yes I think that criminals need to be punished to the furthest extent of the law. Did I win? I’m going to be the juror that drags it out so I can continue to get paid. This is that steady source of income I was talking about.
It sucks that my first blog after a short hiatus is this. But this, is life. So often we dress up reality. Turning over the burnt biscuit to expose it’s golden flaky side for the Instagram post. Well my shit is burnt and I’m showing it to you. Plus, I can’t afford my therapist right now so you guys will have to suffice.

Until next time!

Friendship Hurt and Forgiveness

Forgiveness has always been a hard thing for me.  I’m perfectly capable of muttering, “I accept your apology” through a fake smile and a church hug.  True forgiveness is where I fall short.  Moving beyond the fault, continuing to build a relation without harboring thoughts of anger or fury.  The trusting, sharing of myself and my life experiences.  Maintaining the bond and growing closer part, I don’t actually do.  I’m a professional pretender. […]

Forgiveness has always been a hard thing for me.  I’m perfectly capable of muttering, “I accept your apology” through a fake smile and a church hug.  True forgiveness is where I fall short.  Moving beyond the fault, continuing to build a relation without harboring thoughts of anger or fury.  The trusting, sharing of myself and my life experiences.  Maintaining the bond and growing closer part, I don’t actually do.  I’m a professional pretender.
I lackadaisically am your friend.  I accept an invitation to hang out from time to time, I show up to your kid’s birthday party with quality children’s books and clothes, I meet your new boo and keep my comments on their worthlessness to myself.  I’ll take pictures with you, letting you stand so that your good side is emphasized.  I’ll even borrow my belongings and money because I’m just that nice.  We can go to brunch and enjoy mimosa after mimosa, laughing and smiling while you post pics on your quality time spent with your BFF while doing that ridiculous looking “lip syncing the words of a song playing in the background” to Drake No New Friends.
But I never truly let it go.  I never reopen myself again fully.  I only share with you common information. Never delving too deeply into any information that could be used to ruin me.  Never giving you the power to hurt me again.  I have a problem with forgiveness.
I was raised in a household where we didn’t have friends.  My stern mother’s motto was “you don’t have friends, you have acquaintances”.  We didn’t attend slumber parties, stay overnight at anyone’s home aside from family members, invite people over our house or buy necklaces from Claire’s with the two equally divided curved semi-circles, shaped like hearts to share with our best friends.
My mother tried to drill in us that we were each other’s best friends.  That idea didn’t work out so well because as much as I love my siblings, I don’t treat our relationship as I would a “best friend” situation-ship.  We are each 2 years apart and in the eyes of my siblings, I am the anchor.  I am the example.  I am the sibling to call if you are in a bind and need support.  I am the “few extra dollars in the bank that can be spared”, the “come over and look at this” the “fam, what chu’ doing?” plea for assistance.  In my role as the big sister, I feel it my responsibility to show the kiddos my best me because I know they are watching.
In my anti-friend household, the only relationships we were allowed to cultivate were familial relationships, and those established at church.  It took a while, but in my teens I grew to be friends with others.  Once they learned that I wasn’t “little miss perfect”, we were on a good path.
I nurtured these relationships by being nice.  I had not learned how to be a friend so in my mind, friends were nice.  I carried this behavior into my late teens and adulthood.  Being a friend meant spending time together, talking for hours on the phone while simultaneously learning one another’s breathing rhythm.  Sharing your most private secrets.  Crying on each other’s shoulder.  Going to the club and turning up together.  Rolling up one’s sleeves and going to bat for one another.  It was basically the same as being a sibling, in my mind.  That was the only close relationship I had to compare it to.
Because I invested so much of myself in these early friend relationship, if they backfired and slowly burned to bits, I was devastated.  I had shared the most intimate details of Ashley and in exchange felt like I was laid out and covered in a fire-extinguishing blanket to stop the burning.
Even after these overly dramatic, earth shattering occurrences I could be given a half-hearted apology and be back in the game.  Back in the game, as the ultimate pretender.
It is so hard for me to forgive because when I share myself with someone, I’m giving you all of Ashley.  If we were on a blind date I’d be the perfect woman!  I’m kind, generous, a good listener, I tip nicely, I look amazing in front of your parents, I cook well, I clean up, and smoothly transition from an evening of TURN UP to a sanctuary and even a choir stand.  I’m a keeper!
When someone whom I’m entrusting my heart to rips it out of my chest and while it’s palpitating for the last time, takes a bite, then pours Sriracha on what’s remaining and takes another chomp, then allows it to digest and poops it out to be drowned in human-waste sewage land, I am devastated!
I try to continue with a friendship because like forgiving a lying, conniving, cheating boyfriend, “I do want that old thing back”.  But it’s never really back, because I’m still hurt and feel like at any moment you will return to your wicked ways!  Once you’ve been hurt, deeply, forgiveness is a joke!  How can I continue on and pick-up a friendship where we left off before you decided that our friendship wasn’t valued enough to be respected?
Yes I know… I know… nobody is perfect, blah blah blah.
And I’m not asking for perfection.
What I am asking for is a trusting relationship where my pain is not opened up for the world to enjoy at the cost of your temporary gain.  Friendship hurt, is the worst hurt.
I have clearly been thinking about my friendships.
I have all of… 2 people of whom I deeply consider friends.  I’m not talking about “Oh hey girl how you doing?  You look amazing! Let’s do lunch or coffee, what’s your number?”
I’m talking about ugly cry
talk me off the ledge
girl you won’t believe what bae did
what chu doin?   I’m coming over right now
what yo’ mama cook
girl let me tell you the stupid thing I just did
girl I know you said you love him but…” friend.
One, I’m pretending with so we’re more like passive brunch friends.
Forgiveness is something that I have to truly work on!  I want to stop pretending.  So here’s my start, right now, today.
I forgive you for hurting me.
I realize that when someone is hurt, they say and do things that hurt others.
I accept the apology you gave me even though I didn’t think it was grand enough nor did it is cover the full scope of what you actually did to hurt me so deeply.
If I am going to allow you to call me friend, and I respond, I need to stop pretending.
I do love you, but I am scared.
Scared to be my authentic self and share my pain with you because I’ve seen what you did with that power before.
I forgive you and am willing to start again and truly be friends.
If I feel that I am being taken advantage of, or that the friendship isn’t serving me a purpose I will share that with you so that we are able to both make adjustments to do better.
I forgive you.

Woman pain, over a man also hurts sort of deep so I’ve gotta do some forgiving for that as well.
Ladies, I forgive you and ask for forgiveness.
When woman I is somewhere near the realm of love, they make decisions that would otherwise be unfathomable if they were in their right mind.
I’m certain that at one point we were both listening to the same guy tell us different versions of the same lie.
In those moments, it is so easy so listen to the devil who has your heart, over the chick that’s telling you what you know is the truth.
I forgive you and ask for your forgiveness.
I am woman enough to acknowledge my role in the classic Ricki Lake drama and am beyond it all now.
Although I may from time to time think a petty thought, I am human and am still working on that part of me.
I wish you well and hope that whatever you’re doing, it brings you happiness.
A scorned woman is a horrible sight to see.
I honestly wish you well-I said it twice because I repeat myself when I really mean it
& hope that you find the love
P.S. protect your heart girl, it’s a sacred vessel.
#SheJumped, I’ve gotta do the work if I wanna be better

 

Thirst Trappin’

Now that I have launched a website and am building a presence online, I engage deeply in the alternate world of social media.  More than I had ever before.  Social media is a beast and can boost the average MILF into an Instagram Vixen.  Social media turns “the funny guy” into a movie star and a D list celebrity.  Social media turns a starving artist into an appreciated master of their craft.  A single post can redirect the path of your life, mentally prepared for the changes or not.  A beautiful woman coming into herself can slowly begin a life of compromise. […]

Now that I have launched a website and am building a presence online, I engage deeply in the alternate world of social media.  More than I had ever before.  Social media is a beast and can boost the average MILF into an Instagram Vixen.  Social media turns “the funny guy” into a movie star and a D list celebrity.  Social media turns a starving artist into an appreciated master of their craft.  A single post can redirect the path of your life, mentally prepared for the changes or not.  A beautiful woman coming into herself can slowly begin a life of compromise.  You and I have open access to the World around us in a way that wasn’t possible when our parents were children.  The power to mold your social media persona in your hands.

As I post online every other day and interact with my friends and few followers, I can’t help but note the brown beauties killing it on the screens I stare into.  Black girls are embracing their natural hair, hips, curves, and culture in waves.  White girls can’t get enough of our dance moves, lips, thighs, backsides, hair and EVERYTHING ELSE.  This is the time to be “a happy black woman” and everyone is riding and exploiting this train.  As “black girl pride” and “melanin” are taking over hashtags and branding campaigns, it seems that thirst trappin’ is what generates likes, followers and fame.  For this post, I define thirst trappin’ as the act of alluring men or women with sexy pictures or content to cause others to publicly profess their attraction and boost one’s social media fame.

Thirst trappin’ is a norm.  My feed and timeline are literally full of nearly naked women with their faces cropped out.  If you consider the attention these posts receive compared to posts of clothed women uploaded at the same time, the naked woman wins every time.  And why wouldn’t she in a society that’s drowning in sex.  The songs we listen to, advertisements we subconsciously internalize, television content allowed to enter the privacy of our homes.  Everything is selling oversexualized messages.  The beauty industry makes millions on anything they can conjure up to make you feel sexy and in return you share your sexy with the world.  As a teacher, it is devastating for a generation when the average reading level of an entire 8th grade class is that of a 4th grader, but they understand the power of exposing and sexualizing themselves online as their parents like and share said posts. We are breeding sexy illiterate children.  Babies are lost because these babies don’t understand that the effects of social media posts are long lasting.  They don’t have the privilege of making the same mistakes I made as a child with no worry of my irresponsible actions ending up online.

I am not lumping all youth together and understand that many socioeconomic conditions effect the development of children.  I can say that many of them have social accounts and are not oblivious to what is posted and fed to them on a daily basis.

I am an educator and I have figured out that my life’s passion is youth.  I stepped away from the classroom but never away from the work of building, loving and nurturing the youth who’ll be in charge when my time passes.  I refuse to thirst trap because I’m not a part time example.  These babies are watching me all the time.  We have enough people who openly remind us that they don’t want to be role models to children starving for a way out.  I understand the significance of having a woman of value and substance in my life and don’t want to send conflicting messages to impressionable children who see me as the standard.  I know many who don’t allow children to follow them on social media.  For me this isn’t the case.  Although I’m not perfect, I want my students to see that I conduct & present myself identically online, as with everyday interactions.  I can’t tell a teenage girl, who operates on what she sees is real, to “do as I say, not as I do”.  I refuse to sit before trusting parents as they scroll through my social media and see everything but the wisdom I try to plant in their children.  I don’t want to be a hindrance to those who witness the Goddess radiating from within me.  While I share images and thoughts, I hope to inspire, motivate and encourage, not distract.

Although I’m not yet my partner’s wife, I have a commitment to him.  I’m committed to our relationship and the union we are building.  What’s under my clothes, I’m sure other men imagine.  I don’t have to help them with that.  I send a clear message that I am a beautiful confident woman.  Naked images of my sacred temple is not how I want to be defined and circulated.  Think about the words I leave and clear message I send.

It becomes easy to pretend that children don’t see and internalize our actions.  It is simple to deny friend requests from parents and the children I’ve taught.  It appears easy to separate my online self from the authentic Ashley.  That’s the lie we tell ourselves.  Perception is real, especially when dealing with children who still grapple with what real is.  Real is the lasting effect on my students seeing me naked online.  Real is the look on a child’s face when you break their heart and look no different from what you preach.  Real is a pregnant child who can’t distinguish reality from illusion and ends up making a life-changing decision.  Real is a cycle of babies parenting babies and using their “assets” to generate fame and notoriety.

When I see stunningly beautiful women with 7 Million followers in dresses that cover only their vaginal region, it breaks my heart.  Everyone knows black women are beautiful beings; who are you convincing, yourself?  We all do what we think is best for us given our unique situations and I can only hope that I always remember who I am and from whom I am a descendant of.  I am smart, funny, charismatic, thoughtful, poised, silly, dedicated, loving, a song-bird, a woman whose body is a vessel and a brain to be used to its fullest capacity.

I am a woman who understands that actions hold greater value than the words that form across my tongue and out of my lips.

Am I ever tempted to post a picture that exposes my temple and entices others to lust?  Now that I am 29, know my purpose and am living intentionally, No.  I have a purpose.  I will be great.  I want to walk into spaces and if my body is a thought, it’s a mystery.  I lead with my character.  I listen, deeply.  I talk, purposefully.

I do not judge women who choose to do otherwise because again, we all make decisions based on our best interest.  I just want something different for myself.

I want to be remembered for my beautiful mind although I understand that my body is amazing to behold, yet sacred.
Each woman is entitled to do as she wishes with the body she has been blessed with, or purchased nowadays.  As for me, Ashley Valentine won’t be thirst trappin’.  If you lust, you do so without me planting and watering the seed.