Passing the torch : A letter

About a week before the week before I graduated college (yep I meant to write that) … I “passed the torch” in two organizations that changed my life, and made my college career a revolutionary one. She’s the First, and the Black Student Association. But I’m not going to spend this post being mushy about how wonderful those organizations are, or how much I love the people in them… because that is a whole other post in it of itself.

What I would rather do is write a letter those that I passed the torch to, and any others that might find these words helpful. Those with the torch.

Dear torch holders,

You’re not supposed to have all the answers. Take this from someone who searched for as many as she could and ended up burnt out on many occasions. You don’t have to be 100% sure of what you’re going to do. Take this from someone who doubted herself every single time someone gave her another responsibility, or a new title. Be humble, but take pride in what you’re passionate about. There is what gets you through a lot of times… your passion.

I wish I could put into words how amazing you all are, even those that I do not know who are reading this, you’re wonderful. Being a leader is a blessing and a curse, and I’m sure each of you have already overcome things to get to where you are today.

If you don’t feel 100% confident in your ability to lead then you’re doing something right.

If you feel the weight of it all, already bearing down on your back and nothing has really started yet? You’re doing something right.

If you are more preoccupied with the health and progress of whatever group or institution you’re leading than what your resume or linkedin looks like? Congratulations, you’re doing something right.

In my short time as a leader, I’ve experienced highs and lows, but no matter the point in the journey, I learned so much each and every step of the way. So as I write this I try to imagine what I would have wanted to read before taking on some of my previous leadership positions, and a few things in particular come to mind.

First – Building and cultivating that passion is a process, and you have to remember to take care of yourself in order to take care of your passion. If I could go back and change anything, the only thing I would change out of all the failures and successes, would be the level of self care I actually showed myself. It’s something all leaders struggle with, and as I write to you one week out from graduation, the consequences of not showing myself enough self care are still here with me.

Second- Don’t ever think that being passionate about something is a crime. Go for what you are passionate about, not what you think you should be passionate about. Some of my happiest moments came from doing something I wholeheartedly believed in. Showing solidarity is important. Diving into what you are passionate about truly is even more important… don’t ever support something just because everyone else is doing it. Find your stake in it, and stand on that.

Third- Ask questions. Ask deep questions, ask shallow questions, ask questions period. There is a reason why great leaders always have people to thank, it’s a symbol of the fact that they didn’t do what they accomplished alone, and some of the people in their thank you speeches were the folks that they trusted and asked questions to. Seeking knowledge is important. My mind jumps to my political science and sociology professors that answered a countless number of my questions , and i’m not only a better leader but a better human being because of it.

Fourth- Delegate, Delegate, Delegate. Some will probably laugh that this isn’t at the top of my list, but it’s because I still struggle with it at times. I’ve had the opportunity to admire and observe some pretty wonderful leaders and people over the years, and this piece of advice is something common amongst all of them. Good leaders delegate. They help build other leaders. For those that are too prideful to share something they created with others, take a step back and breathe, realize that the life of your creation, of your passion, of any project, often times depends on others… the others you share it with, the others that help you build it, the others that keep it going once your gone. As a person who struggles with delegation to this day… I don’t know the perfect key to this. All I know is that change isn’t built in a day, nor is it built in 4 years, and so the work must continue, even after you have to move on.

Fifth- Be open to learn from everybody. Learning from others around you both young and old is always a good idea. Leaders are just two letters away from learners. No one knows all the answers. There are folks who have been doing what you want to do for years, sit back listen, and learn from them. There are folks who are young, energetic, and creative, let them speak up, give them a chance, and learn form them.

Sixth – Last but not least, enjoy the ride. Chances are you will not have this position forever. Chances are you won’t get to everything you need to do. Whatever you DO get a chance to do, and for the time you DO have… enjoy it. Look at the people around you, how long have they been there? Are they new? old? Do you laugh with these people? Can you? Do you cry and lean on these people? Can you? If so… do it. Do you see a newbie ready to jump in? Embrace that, help them get connected. Do you have the chance to get to know a fellow vet (in your respective fields or year) then do that. Some of my most memorable times have happened in the last 6 months… with folks that I finally had the fate and chance to spend more time with this year.

And so to those with the torch. Don’t ever think you’re alone. You have folks who have been at it for a while supporting you, folks who just left and are starting over who support you, and you have folks who look up to you and support you.

I sincerely hope that you find your stake in whatever you’re doing and stand on it, you have the torch now, so keep on keepin’ on.

Much Love,

SWC

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Running to & away from the Future

FEELTHEFEARThe feeling in the pit of my stomach...

Monday night, I submitted my first graduate school application. Hours before then, at noon, I submitted my first fellowship application. Earlier this evening, I submitted my second fellowship application. Monday night, there was nausea and tears. Tonight, jitters. And I have a feeling all three are not going anywhere anytime soon. And the feeling I have in the pit of my stomach, is beyond fear of rejection, it is rather the combination of recognition and terror. Recognition that I am graduating from college in 4 months. Terror at the fact that no amount of planning mixed with dreaming can truly measure up and prepare me fully for whatever the future has in store.

Excuse my melodramatic tone, but I think today I just realized that this phase of my life…the college phase… is coming to an end. The phase that seemed oh so scary four years ago, is on this weird conveyor belt-like stage until the next phase begins…

Plans can only do so much.

You can plan and plan and plan for everything. You can work hard and be patient. It pays off, it does, but there will always be phases in which you realize you cannot run away. Ironically, we praise the future. We talk about how great it’s going to be. If I had a dollar for all the confidence people have in the future, for themselves, for myself… well I’d have enough money to cover some of these application fees coming up…

We run to the future, thinking that being grown means something easier, fancier, shiny, and bright. We want to make a difference, and yet when those graduate school applications ask us, we tend to draw a blank… Pouting, we fill out how we want to save the world and begin to try to give our hopes and dreams justice in just 500 words, or for the real stressful occasions 1 minute, 250 words, or an elevator ride. And so we find ourselves stuck, applying, studying, waiting, pursuing, stressing, applying, and rinse and repeat… we are strung up in this weird limbo, running away and towards the future at the same time.

Run me back through time.

Writing a dozen essays about your plans for the future will make you reflect a lot about the past. And for the past few weeks of my restful/not so restful winter break, I keep thinking of 10 year old me, and 15 year old me, and 17 year old me. I think of 10 year old me, awkward and growing out of a tomboy phase and into the early stages of womanhood, with no idea of what was going on, and I wish I could appear as myself to my younger self and talk her down from feeling so low and awkward and out of sync with her own spirit. To 15 year old me, I would to her to protect her heart with ferocity. I would tell her to love herself sooner, because the 21 year old would be grateful for it later on…I would tell her to keep her head up… and to rethink the whole bangs idea. To the 17 year old me, I would tell her to talk to her dad more… it would’ve saved her a lot of awkward talks in college.

Running back through time almost feels surreal. You’re running back through the movie that is your life, and then all the sudden you feel like you’re at the credits because you can’t see into the future you don’t know what’s next so it feels so so so so much like the end… and it’s just the beginning… but we don’t get that until after we’ve crossed that line.

But I’m rambling now…sorry….

My point is, whenever a huge transition in our lives is upon us, we get stuck in this limbo.

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And I wish that here I could type to solution to solving that feeling in the pit of your stomach that makes you want to run away and towards the future at the same time…but alas I’ve got nothing.. Only the thought that I think it happens a lot more than people would care to admit.

And maybe if we were more honest with how terrified we all are, it’d be more bearable to get through.

Or maybe if we stopped running for a second, and took a moment to reflect, no word or time limit, on everything that has happened to get us to this very moment and place in time… we would come to have a little more faith in the idea that we’ll make it through.

So to all my readers, whether you’re in my boat applying for future jobs, schools, or new opportunities… hold steady, as steady as you can be. The struggle is real, but we all ultimately have to, and will get through it.

Much love,

SWC

P.S : For my college seniors out there, here’s a really cool bucket list from Thought Catalog “13 things to do your last semester of college…”

When disappointed in the present, look to the future

I’ve always been a dreamer. Not because dreaming has necessarily been my main form of entertainment, but because day dreaming, and dreaming in general has been an escape for me for as long as I can remember.

When I was little I used to have an imaginary dance partner, his name was John and he could lift me in the air. I dreamed this partially because I was an only child in love with dance, but also because I wasn’t that great at it at first so I dreamed up a situation in which I was awesome, and even had awesome dance friends to join me.

Enough about 3-year old me, let’s fast forward…

Right now, some of the buzz words that come to mind to describe my present are along the lines of hectic, pained, and challenging.

I don’t like complaining about how hard life is, I don’t like complaining about how sad or angry or irritated I may be at something, but when it gets to this point, the point it is now, I tend to dream. And the older I’ve become since the imaginary-dance partner days, my dreams have turned into plans, passionate plans that aim to help me cope with the present no matter how wonderful or painful it may be.

The past week has been both awful and wonderful at the same time. From a hit to the heart out of nowhere, a verdict that has shaken me, my friends, a community, and I argue the country to it’s core about some of the dark issues it still has to battle with today, to an amazing 4 days with family that was much needed, and back to an environment that is stressful again, it has been one of the most perfect times to dream, and by dream I mean plan, because I refuse to let my present keep me down and ruin everything.

Thus the concept of:

-When disappointed in the present, look and plan for the future-

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The fundamental word here isn’t really dream. It’s hope. In the darkest depths of your present. You have to find the tiniest light. Find it, grab it, care for it, grow it, and let yourself hope.

I think the world would be an awfully darker place without hope. Not having hope is an indication of giving up I think…and I believe there’s that part of everyone that hates giving up.

And I’m not saying that by planning out your future it will in any way shape or form make the present better, or will it secure a particular order of things for your life, but it could be your light. Hoping and dreaming have been two of the things that have gotten through some moments I had no idea if what I was dreaming-hoping and planning for was even realistic and accurate, but so what. I did it anyways.

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The ultimate goal here is to remind you if you feel lost. If you feel insecure. Unloved. Unimportant. Tired. Drained. Stressed out. Any negative thing. Or have anything making your present not so bright? Dream anyways. Hope anyways, and plan. Go to bed with that mind that’s probably racing 500000000 miles per hour, and wake up as refreshed as you can with a purpose.

I do not intend to make this post seem like I have this down to a science, OR that I have my own mess together, because I don’t. And trust me, it is and feels like a true true mess… And if your present is as challenging as mine is right now, you’ll understand that even in this awfulness right now, it’s better to live-love-forgive-forget-try and hope for better, plan for better… it’ll be another piece of your artillery to get you through this long fight of life.

Much love,

SWC

Stopping to Collect the Beautiful Moments

This past Monday night I sat in a lounge/restaurant with two of the most hilarious phenomenal people I know and laughed. I laughed harder than I’ve laughed in what feels like a really long time.

Something about the laughter, the great food, and the drinks, the fact that it was a Monday night and that these two awesome women were by my side made the craziness I’ve been feeling surrounding me lately, simply go away. It was like our presence plus the laughter and great queso dip made the crazy stress say “alright I’ll go away”.

One simple beautiful moment of freedom

I think that I’m guilty of half the stress I am experiencing. And let me tell you why. It’s not because I do too much (kinda) or that I don’t know how to balance my time. It’s because I’ve been allowing myself to sink so deep, so so so deep into every negative emotion that I’ve hardly been able to enjoy the truly beautiful moments.

I’ve been stressed from the moment I stepped back into class in August, but I assume that because I’m over-involved, am a senior, and projected to be on her way to greatness that I cannot show weakness for one single second, and that my friends, is so very stressful.

I’ve been sad, I’ve had my heart broken this semester, and you’d think it gets easier but it really really doesn’t.

I’ve been angry, finally after so long of letting things slide I realized that I can be angry and how to be angry but now it’s so simple to be angry and I’m passionate about way more than I thought I was and I get angry (because I care) about way more than I thought I would.

I’ve been self-conscious. Gaining weight instead of losing weight when you’re trying to lose weight is such a downer, and I’m not getting into the whole confidence self-image talk right now but it is stressful and anxiety-inducing to have your body changing into a shape that you’re finally strong enough to love but you’re just not there yet.

And all of this I say not to solicit pity or sympathy or attention…but to be honest and express the fact that this, ALL of the above, has contributed to a chronic funk that has BARELY allowed me to truly enjoy my last fall semester of my undergraduate career.

So when I cam across this quote, by who I’m not sure (thanks Pinterest) It made me stop, and realize this all over again.

You have to STOP and collect the beautiful moments.

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I’ve had a few beautiful moments this semester.

  • Learned how to help people register to vote
  • Started my 3rd year tutoring some phenomenal kids in Asheville
  • Started my Senior thesis (not always beautiful but it’s on something I care about)
  • Finally had the courage to get highlights (took like 2 years ya’ll, I’m not a very good rebel)
  • Wrote my first newspaper article
  • Turned 21
  • Went on an amazing date
  • One an award that led me to meet other people working to change the world and make a difference.
  • Grown closer to people because our time together consistently is winding down.

So, I say all of this to say, that life is full of beautiful moments we don’t stop to collect often enough. We lie and wallow and swim in the depths of negativity before we choose to do the same in positivity. And why? Because it’s easier? That makes no sense. Negativity just  makes things harder. I suppose we’re wired that way though, the more stress the more we wallow.

I’m not saying to not be stressed, that’s impossible, especially in this day and age, I’m saying take a moment, at least once each week and collect the beautiful moments you didn’t bother to collect as they were happening.

That laughter, that margarita, and queso dip made me feel freer than I’ve felt in a while. But that was just one moment. One of many that have happened, and many that will happen. So just don’t forget to pause. You never know how free you can truly feel until you do.

MAHGIRLS

Taken in October 2014 : Capturing a Beautiful Moment. (Left to Right : Harper, Me, Leigh)

 

Much Love,

SWC