Why Now?

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I’ve been finding myself in my own head more than ever before. As is usually the case for me, I’ve been burying myself in tasks non-stop as a way to avoid the self-talk, but at times I occasionally slip up. As a result, I’ve been doing some planning of my future and despite coming a long way with getting comfortable with uncertainty, my need for control is what centers me when the uncertainty becomes just too…well, uncertain. The irony of it all is truly my planning of the future when the future itself is constantly changing. The truth of it all comes from my need to think about more tasks that I can take on in the future as a means of validating myself in an attempt to prove myself to none other than myself.

This is one of the many symptoms of my classic case of imposter syndrome and sadly, the more that people praise me (both professionally and personally), the deeper I dive into feeling like I am not the person they think I am and therefore am not deserving of this praise. This week alone, I can count six different occasions where people expressed their predictions that I will go far in life because people like me. As someone who is often told by close friends that I was once intimidating to them, I always chuckle a little inside when people tell me that they really like me. I’m very much like a pomegranate, frustratingly hard to crack but soft, sweet, and fragile once you finally get to the good part. So, while I am flattered at the notion of this validation on six separate occasions this week all I can wonder is: why? Why now? Why me? Is this genuine or am I just being told this as a way to pacify me when I accidentally spill too much about the future accomplishment I hope to one day reach?

Imposter syndrome comes and goes in waves and as I am sure that you can see, it just so happens to be hitting extra hard these days. Almost as if it’s fate, I came across an article about Black women facing increased feelings of imposter syndrome since the increased attention, both genuine and performative, towards Black people in response to centuries-old racial injustice in America gaining so much public attention this year. The article listed the newfound influx of validation feeling overwhelming as we try to parse through the constant praise to determine whether it is real or just another performance, especially when coming from non-Black people in our lives. The article described exactly how I’ve been feeling! It went on to list what the means for America that so many Black women are experiencing this but what it really boiled down to is that there is much work to be done for America and for Aspen. 

This week’s praise might stem from race-based guilt or it might truly be genuine that those around me find my personality and work ethic comforting and nice company. But I may never know which is which. So I need to find ways to talk myself out of this spiral created by Imposter syndrome. On my best day, I carry on with the hope that I can be an inspiration to those around me. I want to motivate others to be their best self and if I am successful in doing that then they must trust me. I then force myself to remember that this trust is built upon the foundation of my honest disposition and/or knowledge-based expertise. I have the charisma. I am reliable and hard-working. I have the degrees. I have the experience. If others see it, then I need to acknowledge it for myself even if that means telling myself over and over again. I have worked hard to achieve my prior accomplishments and I will continue to work hard to narrate the story that I want to tell about myself and my road ahead. 

– Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Back to School Bus Ran Me Over

Written By Cash, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I’m a scientist – by trade, but also just by my life patterns. I like to investigate everything that comes my way, but my absolute favorite form of research is “me-search.” It’s not often that you get to use yourself as a case study when exploring new topics! For this topic, however, I will be giving you all the inside scoop on what they don’t tell you about going back to school.

First, let’s set-up the methods and participation parameters of this “me-search.” I am a 30-year-old woman (who feels like she’s been 90 since she was born, but that’s another topic for another day!) I recently left a pretty successful full-time position where I was moving up in the academic ranks to go back to school and follow my life-dream of getting a PhD. So, now, here we are, in theory,

an old-ass, returning student, who also managed to move countries in the middle of a pandemic. 

These parameters come with a lot of good! But, there’s also many things that have shown up for me in this journey over the past few months. As a life-investigator, I thought it would be important to share just a few results from my “me-search” for anyone who is trying to replicate this personal study:

  1. Exhaustion – you will have double the exhaustion for doing the basic things. As a full-time salaried career woman I was BUSY (like, all the time). I rarely had time away from work, but absolutely enjoyed it. I remember being tired at the end of the day the way any person who worked 12 hours on a project would be. However, going back to school, the level of reading and thinking on this high intellectual level, I was tired after about 2 straight hours. And, when I say tired I don’t mean “I’m about to yawn tired”. I mean the type of exhaustion you feel after running a marathon and your cells are thrusting for energy to recuperate. I couldn’t believe it. The cool thing is, as I’m sure you know, you will get used to it! So remember, the exhaustion will come. But, it’s normal and eventually it won’t be so bad.
  2. Deeper appreciation – going back to school at this age and with the wisdom that I have gained over the last few years, I am so much more appreciative of the systems set up to help me succeed. I remember when I was in undergrad I was almost too cool to see the counselor. BAYBE, trust me I made an appointment DAY 1 when I got here. I forgot how amazing Universities are at creating supportive systems to help push college students to success. I am involved now with these methods of support in a way I hadn’t been in undergrad and graduate school. If you’re going back to school, take advantage of all the things (especially the free things) that are there for you.
  3. Imposter syndrome – is at an all time high – wooh. This one right here?… Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern that individuals experience where they doubt their abilities, talents, and accomplishments (so much so, that they might feel like a fraud in conversations or spaces). To be completely honest with you? I feel like I’m not supposed to be here on a daily basis. It’s just the way the system is set-up to make us feel. But, I want to share a life hack with you that has helped me to work through this mental block. Get a hobby or a job that you’re really good at. Choose something that someone might even call you an “expert” in. As egotistical as this might sound, having the balance of learning new things every day and coming back to something old that makes you feel whole helps to keep feelings of insecurity at bay. My further advice? Don’t mix those two worlds. Have a space where you are a life-student and a space you can go to when you need to fuel your confidence and give back to others. This dichotomous existence helps balance the imposter syndrome and it gives you a way to feel needed and supported when your mind might be telling you otherwise.
  4. Finally, if you are going back to school during this pandemic, find social outlets – I’m the type of person that can do anything alone, school included. I pride myself on being an introvert and a lone wolf, which suits my lifestyle very well. However, this type of isolation that we might feel during the pandemic is just different, and can be detrimental to our overall, long-term wellbeing. Personally, I needed to find “my people” in this new country who I knew were like-minded and could help me to focus on what was really important in my life. For me, this was a solidarity and social justice group at my University. Everytime I get the chance to be in communion with them, I know I am supporting myself and my journey, while intentionally serving others. This space has been instrumental in my own happiness while completing breathtakingly deep-rooted work to create more spaces of belonging and inclusivity.

In conclusion of this “me-search” case-study, I’ve found that going back to school has it’s difficulties and its perks, especially during a pandemic as an older student. However, it’s more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. Being the age and space that I am in now, I appreciate many more things involved in this journey then I believe I would have as a younger me. So, if you’re debating going back right now, do it. And, I hope these little reminders help to ground you, but also to be reminded that there are others out there supporting you as you embark on your own “me-search.”

Cash, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Not Woke, Still Sleeping

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I recently began Hulu’s relatively new show Woke. The story follows main character Keef Knight as he ascends on a journey of “wokeness” following an aggressive incident with the police. Prior to the incident the character was one of very few Black cartoonists and was quite complacent and even disbelieving of the racial injustices around him.

Now I’m only about four episodes into the eight-episode first season but I’ve taken a pause to think more about the show. One thing that I’ve really struggled with is figuring out who the show’s target audience is. The main character is angry, traumatized, yet also invigorated as he navigates his experiences. However, the comedic influence of the show doesn’t always allow for those emotions to shine through. It’s almost as if the show creators didn’t want the main character to be too emotional. They didn’t want to offend anyone by sharing the raw emotion behind a Black man’s realization of racial inequality in the United States. So instead when things get too serious, they will glaze over it with a joke or a talking trashcan to emphasize the impact on the character without fully addressing it. Which really begs the question:

Who the hell is the show for?

The show also relies on a lot of stereotypes amongst the characters to get certain points across. For example, the main character has a well-meaning White hippie roommate who witnessed Keef’s experience with police and therefore tries to be supportive but also grows uncomfortable with some of Keef’s new “woke” tactics. Keef’s relationship with him also seems to serve as a staunch reminder of the ways actions are perceived when done by Black vs. White people. Most notably, the roommate is essentially selling cocaine and marketing it as an energy supplement. Additionally, Keef’s other roommate is a Black man who is courting women by pretending to be celebrities, thus fueling the idea that people think all Black people look alike. Given that the main characters are primarily men, there is also an interesting interface with women. The fact that the main character blew off a Black woman in the first episode when she tried to make him aware of his platform as one of few Black artists in his field only to then need her help when he was overwhelmed by his own awakening was….irritating, to say the least.  

Despite my criticism, I do appreciate the points that the show is attempting to draw attention towards. There is some good conversation to be had about the fact that the show intends to address gentrification, racial injustice particularly towards Black men, well-meaning White friends and family, interracial romatic and social interactions, and broader racial stereotypes. I appreciate the concept and the way the creators attempt to use comedy to address very serious topics, but it seems like these same creators have prioritized the sugarcoating of these issues in order to increase viewership and avoid offending anyone. However, I wonder if doing so has actually led to the show’s demise as it doesn’t seem to meet the needs of any one audience in a substantial way. Woke has so much potential but it really seems like the creators are still sleeping on this one. 

I’d love to hear what other people have to say about it. If you’ve watched it or are planning to start, let’s talk about it!

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Vote or Die?

The year is 2004. An election year. Republican George W. Bush was up for reelection that year running against Democrat John Kerry. Wearing a tall white tee, that read “Vote Or Die”, Hip Hop mogul, Sean “Diddy” Combs appeared on a number of television shows encouraging young people between the ages of 18-24 to vote. He’s quoted here (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/2004/11/09/vote-or-die-well-they-did-vote/ba387147-3025-44ea-b287-7504fc10c37e/) saying that wearing the slogan on the shirt was a fashion statement and a way to make voting cool. He understood the importance of exercising your right to vote and that the power of our votes go beyond the federal elections. Elections matter on the local and state level as well. Bush won the election that year.

The year is 2020. What a shit show. From the tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, to the COVID-19 Pandemic, to the heightened racial pandemic, to the death of Chadwick Boseman. 2020 dealt us a hand with no spades, jokers, or face cards to save us. This presidential election is probably the most critical out of any election the U.S. has had. The current white supremacist-in-chief is up for reelection in just three short weeks against former Vice President Joe Biden and his running-mate, Senator Kamala Harris, a Black and Desi identfiying woman. The current white supremacist-in-chief is the nasitiest, dirtiest, trashiest person ever. He’s up there with Adolf and Lucifer himself. Not only has he had a hand in killing over 211,000 Americans with the way he and his administration downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic, he has now directed and starred in a satire Vaudeville play about contracting the virus himself. All a ploy to steal this election. He knew he was going to lose in November so he is doing everything in his power to stay. What’s wild is, his narcissism and his blatant hatred for everyone who isn’t rich and white, is still allowing him a running chance to win again. 

People, we’ve seen and heard the horrible things he says about immigrants, Black people, LGBTQ people, women, and other marginalized groups. He’s got children and families locked up at the border all while green-lighting illegal mass sterilizations on the women who are being held captive. He “claims” he’s done more for “African Americans” than “any other president in history” and yet, he won’t defund police departments that are systemically racist that murder Black people at higher rates than whites. Instead, he calls for more “law and order” and threatens states who want to defund their police department. He’s seated over 50s judges across the nation and all of them are white men. He’s selected a white woman new supreme court justice who wants to overturn Roe v Wade that protects women’s right to abortions. He’s the one who gave the American people $1,200 ONE TIME during this pandemic like that $1,200 one-time payment was enough. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their family members, homes, and so much more and he thought $1,200 was enough. 

HE GREEN LIGHTS WHITE SUPREMACIST ATTACKS ON PEOPLE OF COLOR!

He supports white terrorists on American soil. Justice for all doesn’t mean a damn thing when you don’t have money or white skin. And all he does is lie. If you choose to sit this election out, you are casting a vote for the white supremacist-in-chief. If you are undecided about who you are going to vote for, I urge you to do some research but really keep an open mind. No, Joe Biden is not the savior. He’s done horrible things (we’re looking at you ‘94 Crime Bill). But if we want stability back into our country and an opportunity to bring dollars back into our community and build some unity, he and Senator Harris are who we have and who we NEED. It is literally life and death at this point. I am terrified that if he wins again, it will be detrimental to Black people, LGBTQ community, women, and other people of color. 

This past Sunday, I went to a concealed carry class because I am scared for my life being a single Black woman in Florida. I feel that if the white supremacist-in-chief in wins again, white terror organization members are going to pour out into the streets. If they do, I need to be able to protect myself. Hell, even when Joe Biden wins, I feel like the same will happen. This election is life-or-death and the time is now to make the right decision and vote 45 out. I don’t see how anyone with morals can support him. We are past the point where you justify his “policies” being for you. Forget the policies, you really can vote for someone who can literally change the course of this nation with the click of his pen? He’s already wiped out anti-racism and diversity trainings that teach the true history of this country. He’s trying to save Columbus Day like Columbus didn’t cause genocide and the enslavement of Native people of this land. He’s the ringleader of terror. If you support him, how can you sleep at night knowing what he’s done, is doing, and will continue to do to harm marginalized communities.

When Joe Biden wins, that means Kamala will be 2nd in command, and we’re one step closer to having a Black woman lead this country and we all know things will get done when a Black woman is in charge. Vote Biden/Harris, and get some of your student loan debt paid down or forgiven. Vote Biden/Harris because this is what we need for the time being.

I’m urging all eligible people, please, check your registration deadlines, vote early, drop you mail-in ballots off at secure locations, vote early on Nov. 3rd. Do whatever you can to help save our lives. Help save us from the anti-Christ we have in office now.

VOTE OR DIE

AND FOR GOODNESS SAKES…DON’T VOTE FOR Kanye, either. Ugh!

❤ Queen T

Let’s Talk about Death, Baby.

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Yeah, I know. It got dark real fast… But honestly, this is something that’s been weighing heavy on my heart and mind for the past month. 

There’s been a lot of death going around these days. Whether it’s someone you know, like a close family or friend, a friend of a friend, a highly regarded celebrity. I’m sure you can name at least 3 people that you know who have died this year. 

I’ve always had a passive anxiety about losing someone close to me– there’s something a bit unbearable about the possibility of waking up one day and the person you adore and love being taken away from this Earth where you can never see or talk to them again. Throughout my life, I hadn’t really experienced or been exposed to death that much. It was always an older relative or a distant cousin– but no one super close. 

There was that one time I lost an elementary school friend and I took it real hard. Other than that, nothing crazy. 

Losing Kobe at the beginning of the year felt really close to home– he’s my husband’s favorite player and felt very much like someone we knew on an intimate level. I saw my husband cry and mourn the loss of this person whom he idolized and looked up to most of his life. 

Then, last month I lost my uncle– my mother’s brother. It was a semi-unexpected death and devastating to my entire family. When I found out he died, I was in the middle of class about to give a presentation. Then shortly after, Chadwick Boseman. Then my aunt-in-law. Then RBG.

My uncle was my second father. He lived directly across the street from us (like I could literally see his backyard from my front yard) and pretty much raised me throughout much of my childhood. 

My uncle was such a gem, too. He was a hard ass on the exterior but such a sensitive being on the inside. He would give me and my cousins money for each “A” we made on our report cards. He would take us to see Monster Jam and The Harlem Globetrotters every year. He bought us bikes for our birthdays and would even throw us on the front of his four-wheeler and drive us around town on occasions. 

I would have just as many (if not more) presents under the tree at his house for Christmas as I did at my own house. And if I ever needed anything, he was there in a heartbeat. 

When my uncle died, I experienced immense fear and anxiety… mostly for my family because I had no idea how we would handle this devastating loss. Most of my fear stemmed from the fact that I’ve never really seen my family navigate or discuss death and was skeptical about how we would get through this together. Another piece of that fear was for me… because I didn’t know how I would handle his death… how I would get through it. 

I tried to go through my history and find some sense of confidence that I would be okay– find a conversation that I’ve had with someone about death to provide some sense of understanding or comfort… but I found nothinG. i realized I couldn’t find anything because there was nothing there.

No one has ever had a conversation with me about death. And I’m not talking about the “what happens when you die conversation” but the “how do we navigate/make sense of this” conversation.

We don’t talk about it… at least in my family we don’t

We’ve been socialized to put our heads down and “be strong” through losing people because “that’s what ________ would want.” Although, if you’ve ever lost anyone, you would know that there are periods of the grief process where you don’t feel strong at all… where you feel like you’re the weakest, most vulnerable you’ve ever been. 

The fact that we don’t talk about death, grief, and loss enough is most surprising to me because we are all going to experience them one way or another… they are literally the most guaranteed, certain things– things will change and people will die. So, why is it so hard for people to talk about it when we all have to go through it?

There are specific support groups for people navigating grief and loss. But, if you ask me, the world should be a support group for grief and loss. There is a shared humanity in experiencing death, but people are so often left feeling alone and isolated in their experiences like no one else can relate to that pain. 

We can all relate to that pain. 

I am a firm believer that the more we talk about and communicate things, the less scary and mysterious they become. For me, death has always been this dark and confusing thing, this monster that I never wanted me or my family to encounter even though I knew it was inevitable that we would.

Throughout my own grieving process, I’ve found talking with others most helpful. Talking about the loved one I lost, talking about my feelings, talking about my fears, and letting someone else bear witness to my pain. The more I was able to feel my way through it, the less intense things felt for me. And I was only able to feel my way through it because the people around me allowed space for that. 

I guess I’m writing this as a way to break the ice and call out the elephant in the room, so to speak. In my time of intense grief, I searched so desperately for answers on how to navigate it and what it would look like. I often questioned if the way I was feeling was “normal” and if there was a better way to handle losing someone.

On top of grief, it doesn’t make sense to also feel alone and confused in your experience because, like I said, we’ve all either been through it or will go through it. So, let’s be more supportive of each other through our journeys of navigating death. Go beyond the usual “sorry for your loss” comment and get down in the trenches with people– it’s easier to get out with someone cheering you on and letting you know they’ve been down there before than it is if you have to figure it out alone.

Normalize talking about death. Normalize expressing pain. 

Because things will only remain dark until we shed light upon them. 

Be that light.

This post is dedicated to all of the ones we’ve lost. May they live in us and through us for as long as we are here.

Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Finding My Way Out of Limbo

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I recently found myself indulging in a newly released teen romance drama. The movie wasn’t exactly groundbreaking but ever since I watched, one quote stuck out to me: “Adults are just scared kids who were lucky to make it out of limbo alive”. The movie, although centered around young love, focuses on the trauma that we experience in adolescence and the ways we carry that with us over time. It poses the argument that society as a whole does not spend enough discussing the deep emotion that we are capable of experiencing in our youth. 

The quote stuck with me because I’m intrigued by the representation of our youth, particularly our teen years, as this “limbo” that we must fight our way out of to reach adulthood. Even though I’ve done a lot to live the dream of “adulting” I feel like there should have been some more fanfare into this idea of adulthood or at least a better marker. As a new dog mom, I certainly have some responsibility now. Plus, I also have a couple bills that certainly feel like an “adult” problem when I read those statements. But I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily started some life changing new chapter in my life, no matter how much I tell myself I should. 

So, I’ve given some more thought to this idea of limbo as a time marker these past few days. I connected this with the fact that I started regular therapy a few months ago. After hearing from several friends about how helpful it can be to just have someone to share with and unpack life happenings, I finally decided to give it a go. I realized that even though I’ve spent the past few years working jobs that at times require me to serve as a makeshift therapist of sorts, my advice is a hell of a lot easier to give than it is to take for myself. 

Despite being transparent when I do share, I am a rather private person. I’m largely an internal processor and I don’t like to share how I’m feeling or what I think because I don’t want to burden others. So I’m very calculated and intentional about when I share, how much, and with whom. I have spent so much of my life absorbing the feelings of those around me with very limited skills on safe release of those emotions and my own ones which have compounded over time.

Therapy is exactly that — a safe release. Therapy is me talking about myself, my experiences, and my reactions to those experiences almost nonstop and surprisingly, it’s quite refreshing. 

If I were to rate the experience, I say 100/10 recommend. The first few sessions consisted of me going through nearly an entire box of tissues as my therapist asked me about things that I 100% spent most of my adolescence repressing but it was probably for the best. She is very good at letting me talk and letting me come to my own conclusions. Several years of helping others means that the things my therapist tells me often confirm what I already know about myself, but sometimes taking action to put myself first means that I need to hear those things from someone else.

My parents still cringed and then brushed me off when I told them therapy could be really helpful to everyone in our immediate family to unpack years of pent up feelings. Mental health has always been a sore spot for them and they have thought of it as a way to “get better” when someone has a mental health concern. I don’t see it like that as I recognize that making regularly scheduled time for someone to listen to you in the good and the bad times can be somewhat cathartic in essence and you don’t necessarily have to wait to do that until you are in crisis. Nonetheless, I at least appreciate them considering the possibility, even if only for 60 seconds, and not trying to shut my suggestion down completely. Thankfully on the other hand, I’ve also had friends who are very excited for me and some who I have even referred because they are interested in also pursuing regular therapy.

After the thought that I’ve given it, I’ve decided that this concept of limbo goes hand in hand with our mental health. It doesn’t have to be this metaphorical battle that we claw our way out of in order to reach adulthood on the other side of the cave. In fact, many of us still might even be in limbo when we reach adulthood. I have found that talking to someone through the anxiety and stressors that I experience on a day to day basis, some of which I’ve known for most of my life and some that are new, can be very productive and liberating. It gives me hope that I one day move on from limbo, gradually and casually, in order to find myself in a place that I envision myself in the future.

After the thought that I’ve given it, I’ve decided that this concept of limbo goes hand in hand with our mental health. It doesn’t have to be this metaphorical battle that we claw our way out of in order to reach adulthood on the other side of the cave. In fact, many of us still might even be in limbo when we reach adulthood. I have found that talking to someone through the anxiety and stressors that I experience on a day to day basis, some of which I’ve known for most of my life and some that are new, can be very productive and liberating. It gives me hope that I one day move on from limbo, gradually and casually, in order to find myself in a place that I envision myself in the future.

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

The Will to Survive

 

Written By Ca$h, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

Now, ya’ll. I have some pretty big news that I had hoped to be sharing on the other side of some country lines… I’ve been accepted to study in Canada this fall as a student in Social Psychology. I’ve been planning this change in my life for months and have been counting down the days until this challenging, yet exciting transition would be happening.

Today, as of Wednesday September 2nd, none of the plans that I’ve been working on have gone the way they should have. I start classes on Monday and I am not in Canada.

Why am I sharing this? Well, this month’s blog post was going to be a beautiful rendition of transformation. I was going to touch on what change looks like and how will power, planning, and gracious grit go into life transitions. I was excited to talk about preparation and using mindful practices to make great decisions. Instead, I’m going to be touching on something quite different. Yet, as I am writing this I realize that much of the same characteristics are needed for both the joy that I expected and the reality that we are experiencing. 

Coronavirus happened to us. We all came across some sort of life pause or change. For me, this meant that the plans that I had created to make my transition as easy as possible were futile. This meant that the money that I had saved for the transition from a full-time mid-management position back to a student was used as a safety net. This meant that the months of gathering paperwork, supplies, and travel preparations were put on hold indefinitely. This meant paying for my condo and my uninhabited apartment at the same time. This meant moving my mindset from the will to achieve and having the will to survive.

The will to survive is not always what we see in the story lines. American media tells us that we as main characters in our own odyssey go on epic life quests that determine our resilience and our capacity for heroism. We are shown these extreme fight scenes, death, and life destruction that the main character must go through and survive in order to come out on the other side better. And in a way, we start to believe that the only time that we are allowed to be the hero of our survival story is by defeating some large ethereal quest that the universe has placed before us to make us stronger. 

In reality, life isn’t some epic story that has grandiose plots. Truthfully, it is just what it is. We go through a bunch of small things that tear us down all the time and too often we don’t acknowledge that sometimes the smallest things make the biggest breaks. Over the past few months, what I have realized from this time frame we are in is that life just sucks at times. There will be periods in our lives where we can’t overcome the obstacles to be our own heroes. Sometimes, it gets to a point where all the small things we endure put us in a position to decide that the only thing that we have to give the world today is this breath – is just another moment to be present. And truthfully – Why are we not celebrating that? 

When I had to change my mindset from achieving a grandiose goal to surviving for the current time being, I don’t mean that I gave up on joy, creativity or the beautiful things in life. I mean that I had to make a choice in what mattered to me right now. I had to sit back and think about what resilience really looked like. Was my happiness and worth tied to getting to Canada? Or, is just waking up to fight another day going to be good enough for me. That distinction is something that I am happy to be cultivating to carry on deeper into my life. In times where it seems that we don’t have the big things to celebrate – the joy of a move, the change of a job or career, the excitement of a relationship, can we just celebrate waking up? Can we just celebrate our breath? Can we celebrate our will to survive the next moment, hour, day? It won’t always be like this. We will have exciting goals that give us pieces of purpose. But, true grit, true resilience, and true joy really does come from finding the constants in the smallest forms of life. I hope today that this post just reminds you that whatever you did today – even if it’s just waking up, you are celebrated for!

Ca$h, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

 

Black Creativity: The Art of Survival

Introducing our newest writer: BREIGH!

Written By Breigh, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

In times like these (and I mean times that feel chaotic, hopeless, tragic, uncertain), I often find myself wondering: “How the hell are we going to make it through this?” 

Times are hard, y’all. But as I was watching the OG Kings of Comedy one night, I found the answers to all of life’s problems delivered to me through Steve Harvey. 

In his skit about the Titanic, he said: “If that movie would’ve been about Black people, wouldn’t have even been no movie!” 

And have you ever heard a truer statement in your life?

But seriously, it made me realize that no matter the situation, Black folks always find a way to make it through and out. I mean, come on now, imagine Black people on the Titanic. 

It’s because Black people are creative af. 

My definition of creativity is literally creating something out of nothing— or taking something good and making it great. Thinking outside of the box.

The evidence is painfully clear. We’re pros at it. 

Let me provide you with some receipts and you can use yourself as the subject of your own experience. 

Take for instance… struggle meals. Don’t act like you’re too above this and haven’t had to make gourmet ramen noodles numerous times in your life. Personally, I add a little soy sauce, vinegar, chop up some tomatoes…. Bussing. What about you? 

Oh, and my favorite creative expression from Black people is the infamous Fabuloso in a pot over the stove… 

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I feel bad for you. But I’ll explain so that you can  indulge in this greatness as well… 

So, instead of buying candles or some other smell-good device, Black people take fabuloso (the all-purpose cleaner) and simmer it in a pot over the stove. Ugh, I can smell it now. 

If I’m not driving my point home yet, think of hairstyles, clothes, cars, dances, art, music, food…. WE are creativity; creativity is US. 

For centuries, Black people have had to learn how to make something out of nothing which has allowed us the opportunity to continue to survive and thrive in this country and this world. Our ancestors literally created an Underground Railroad that wasn’t even a railroad… come on now!

And would literally have hidden messages about the Underground Railroad in the songs they sang right in front of their “masters.”– COME ON NOW! 

It’s been what has kept us afloat

It’s been what has kept us hopeful. 

It’s been what has kept us vibrant.

It’s been what has kept us alive.

So, today I challenge you to tap into that gift that you already have–That which was gifted to you from your ancestors.. And use it

Don’t just rest on your creativity when you are in survival mode and have no other options. Tap into it with each and every chance you get, because that’s what it’s going to take for you to thrive in this world. 

Proactively tapping into your creativity can look many different ways. For me, often times it looks like thinking through “similar” or “normal” circumstances with a lens of curiosity of if I should approach this differently than last time. “What would happen if I did A instead of B this time? I’ve always done B.” 

Another conversation I have with myself is: “I know A has never been done like this before, but I wonder if this will work.” 

But my favorite is: “People are always doing A, I’m going to do B and see what happens.”

Think outside of the box. 

The box that the world puts you in. 

The box that society puts you in…

The box that your family puts you in..

Your friends…

Shoot, even yourself. 

Think outside of all that and finesse your life like you finesse these men and these wigs. 

May your creative juices continue to flow and water the seeds to help you survive, grow and thrive in this life. 

Breigh, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

I May Destroy You: A Whimsical Discussion of Society’s Darkest Topics

Written By Aspen, – Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

A few months ago while watching Insecure, I found myself constantly intrigued by the pre-show advertisements for the show that would be debuting in the next time slot. The show sounded scary and I hate to be scared but it was created by Michaela Coel. Coel has been one of my favorite actresses and creatives ever since I watched her show Chewing Gum (based on her stage show Chewing Gum Dreams), a British sitcom starring Coel as the main character Tracey Gordon who was endlessly forming schemes to try to lose her virginity. The show was hilarious to say the least and something that never lost its fun factor even on my third or fourth re-watch. Since then Michaela Coel has found herself in more serious work such as Black Earth Rising and Black Mirror but this latest work has the menacing title of I May Destroy You.

I decided to give it a try solely based on my love for Michaela Coel. I watched the first episode when it aired and it soon became clear that the show is centered on the reckoning and processing of a sexual assault incident experienced by the main character (played by Coel herself). Although I am not caught up on the show due to life, I am looking forward to watching the two episodes that I missed soon. Each episode that I have watched thus far tells a different story both, past and present, that adds more context to what you already know. It highlights the millennial experience through commentary about social media use and the often discussed concept of self care to address real-world topics including sexual assault, the debate around misreporting, masculinity and stigma surrounding sexual assault reporting amongst men, a shortage of resources and lack of justice for sexual assault survivors, and the range of emotions and reactions felt  not only by someone who has been sexually assaulted but also those they disclose to.   

The show is groundbreaking as it will make you laugh, cry, and question your own life experiences in a 30-minute block. Michaela Coel’s push to center people of color while also subtly emphasizing the ways that intersectionality plays a vital role in their experiences is beautifully interwoven. You soon realize that each of the characters is processing their own unique experience and the disclosure of the main character’s experience has a rippling effect on each of their own lives. It really highlights a sense of community and the different areas in life that we can find community and what that may mean in different contexts.

Coel’s work as an actor and creator continues to floor me and I look forward to seeing how the series continues to unfold over the next few weeks. Although some serious content warnings are warranted I highly recommend this show to anyone who is looking for a realistic approach to navigating some of these topic areas, many of which are still not discussed enough in our day to day.

Aspen, Official Contributor of The Crowned Series

75 Pounds Later

 

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Give yourself grace

 

When COVID came and disrupted everything we’ve ever known, I found myself more isolated than ever. I was feeling the effects of living alone and feeling unmotivated at the beginning of quarantine. Usually when I’m feeling overwhelmed my body has a physical reaction. I either can’t sleep very well at night and lose my appetite or I want to stay in bed all day and eat everything. At the height of quarantine, I was the former. I was restless at night and all I consumed was a smoothie a day, a mango, and maybe something solid every day for two weeks. On top of that, I found myself destressing by working out for at least two hours every single day. Before I knew it, I was down 11 pounds in less than a month. I wasn’t trying to lose the weight, it just happened. I was officially the “smallest” I’ve ever been. Actually, the cover photo for this post is a visual of how small I was/am. 75 pounds later and it still feels weird that over the last 7 years, I lost this weight. I recognize that people can lose that much weight in a year’s time or less by my journey has been an up and downhill battle with depression, an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, and self-esteem. This is not the first time I’ve written about my struggle with weight but I felt this piece was needed.

I see the difference in how my clothes fit because most things are too big. However, sometimes when I look in the mirror, I don’t see what other people see. I spend hours nitpicking at all the flaws I feel like I have. Oh, my stomach is flat, cool. But I don’t have a rounder butt. My thighs are still big. It’s the little things like that, that are not healthy at all. People always ask me how I lost the weight and tell me how great I look and I always tell them to practice self-love before going on a weight loss journey. Losing weight means nothing if you can’t give yourself grace and honor for the progress you’ve made. I want people who are looking to become healthier to really take the time to center themselves and fill themselves up with positive affirmations. And then believe it. No “body” is perfect. Even the woman we see on social media who we think has the perfect body doesn’t. But confidence and self-love is what those women really possess. And hell, they probably have imperfections they deal with that we don’t know about either.

I offer a few suggestions on losing weight the healthy way for those looking to start their journey. These are the things I did at the very beginning to jumpstart my weight loss 7 years ago. These are the things that worked for me. We are all different and our bodies react to things differently. Take these suggestions and make them your own. But remember to love on yourself first.

  1. Do your research:  It is important to research and talk to your doctor about ways to manage and lose weight. Don’t jump into trendy diets you see right away. Some diets in hindsight are not healthy and you can potentially gain the weight right back. When I first started losing weight, I started out on weight watchers. I figured that was an easy way for me to not “diet” but track and assign points to what I ate during the day. I also did not have to give up all of the foods I liked to eat. I only increased my intake of vegetables…I greatly disliked veggies. I also went cold turkey on drinking soda. That actually wasn’t hard at all. To this day, I don’t drink soda. I’ll maybe have a coke in a mixed alcoholic drink like 4 times a year…maybe. Even then, it makes my stomach hurt a bit. 
  2. DRINK. WATER. ALL. THE. TIME: I can’t tell you how many people I know (GROWN PEOPLE) who say they don’t drink water or don’t like water. Water is literally the key to losing weight. Water is actually all I drink. I don’t buy juice, I don’t ask for a lemonade at restaurants, I don’t stop to get a sweet drink if I’m traveling. I crave water lol and my body will let me know when I haven’t had enough. I typically drink a gallon a day. Some of you may not be there yet. Start out with a reusable water bottle and set a goal to drink that by a certain time of day. As you work on increasing your water intake, it will start to become second nature. Also, when you drink more water, you’re helping your digestion and more bowel movements and those aid in weight loss.
  3. Intermittent Fasting: My good friend Cash recommends intermittent fasting to jumpstart weight loss but she only recommends you do it for two weeks and then eat 6 small meals a day. When I intermittent fast, I don’t consume anything but water before noon and I try to ensure I only eat up until 7pm. (Some days it’s hard because I do binge eat when I’m sad). That is not me saying, eat for 7 hours straight. I’m saying to be mindful of what you’re eating and then do not consume anything after 7pm besides water.
  4. Eat until you’re full, not finished: We’ve heard our entire lives to finish everything on our plates. Sometimes, that can lead to overeating and one of the main causes for an unhealthy lifestyle. If you are a person who has to eat all of their food, put smaller portions on your plate
  5. Exercising: I excessively exercise. Everyone doesn’t have this kind of time or patience. It is important that if you are physically able, to get up and do some kind of physical activity during the day for 30 minutes. Maybe it’s yoga, or a walk, or a bike ride. Whatever it is, do it. If you can spend time binge watching a tv show, get down on the floor and do some crunches or do some at home workouts while you’re watching Hamilton or Black is King on Disney+. Whatever workouts you decide to do, make sure you stretch before and after. I have an unhealed knee injury from running 3 miles a day last year and I tore my meniscus. Even after I had surgery, my knee is not the same. I can no longer run and I often have swelling and popping around the knee area. It’s a horrible thing that I live with daily so please take care of your joints. Lastly, switch up your workouts sometimes. Find some new at home workouts on youtube or hit up a friend to give you different options.
  6. Find 2 things you love about your body: EVERY DAY. Look in the mirror and instead of looking at what you don’t like, make a conscious effort to highlight the things you do like about your body. And then talk to yourself about them. “Wow, my lips are really full and beautiful”. “Okay, thighs, y’all looking real juicy and sexy!” You have to pour into yourself and show yourself unconditional love before you expect others to pour into you and show you love. 

Understand that this is a journey. Trust me, it’s not an easy one. There will be times when you’re traveling and it’s difficult to stay in a routine because you want to try new things in new places. Just do it. And get back up on your routine when you get back home. Give yourself GRACE. The more you stick to it, the more it will be easy to get back up when you slip up.

 

❤ Queen T