A Review – Part 1: Books

I’ve been thinking about this series for a long time. I’ve spoken about starting it several times, i’ve thought about publishing different versions, but it just didn’t feel authentic or right. Plus, nowadays everyone has a blog, and I recognize mine is just one of the many, but what makes it worth it are the awesome messages of support from readers I’ve never met but who seem to get why I started this blog in the first place.

So here it goes, an attempt to end the hiatus for real this time.

A Review of What’s Been Happenin’: Books

When I moved to Carrboro. I was scared out of my absolute-freaking mind. The support and encouragement from my mentors, family, and friends, was the security blanket I clung to for what felt like weeks. The bubble of comfort and “safety” I had in Asheville? Was popped without my permission (Or so it felt) and I was in a totally new place, without a clue of how to feel about my least favorite thing in the world – change.

But i’ll get into that later…. this post is going to recap for you all my academic experience for the past year. Which can arguably be summed up in a loud audible sigh.

First, a round of applause for my professors who challenged the mess out of me at UNC Asheville.

Second, a round of applause for my bosses/coworkers who taught me everything I know about professionalism and developed me as a leader, and employee.

Third, for my parents who taught me to be stubborn and raised me with a work ethic that makes me want to roll my eyes at my own self sometimes, but I digress.

What has Graduate School taught you so far?

one year

This is a question I get asked a lot. It’s hard to sum up the amount of notes taken or lectures and classes that I sat through because the learning process changed so much for me in grad school. And to be honest that I don’t think you realize how much you learn in that first year until you’re at work and spit out vocabulary words from your organizational theory course or cite case from public administration law as if it is the most natural thing of life. However, since the post is titled books, here is a quick list that I think sums up the year.

Stop ignoring your local governments like they are antiquated and don’t do anything. They do everything.

I came into my MPA program, not wanting to really go into local government, but rather understand it’s role in whatever career related to housing that I would end up choosing, and what I got instead of guidance on the housing piece was a whole lot of knowledge and understanding about how crucial local government is to everyday life.

And the sad thing is? We ignore them. We ignore it and take for granted what local government’s contribute to everyday life. We don’t understand what public servants really do. We rush to look at the state level (oh NC….ohhhhhh NC….) and the federal level like that’s where it ALL happens when that’s where A LOT happens but not ALL things happen.

From housing, to roads being paved, to public transportation. Safety, making the community look nice, programs for the young, old, and in between. Things are really really happening at the local level, and despite my resistance at first, meeting what’s felt like hundreds of county and town managers (really just dozens) across NC, has really put the role of local government into perspective. So I challenge you, look up your town or city’s official website/twitter, look at what they’re doing. Even if you don’t get involved. You’d really be surprised as to how much is going on.

I can’t run away from math anymore.

Ya’ll. I took budgeting this past semester. Had a phenomenal professor who was patient in every single way you could be patient, and I learned so much about math I didn’t understand before. And maybe it was just the practicality of the course and how I realized I had to actually understand the math she was describing and educating us about, but truth is, I just can’t run from it anymore. It’s been a good streak though. #RIPmathavoidance2012-2016

There are more and more acronyms being created everyday and ya’ll might as well start tracking them.

I’ve been hearing acronyms for things I didn’t realize had acronyms from day one of graduate school. Eventually most if not all were explained to me, but my goodness it was so daunting for the first few weeks. My most salient example however is from my first day of work this summer. I learned a total of 11 acronyms on my first day. ELEVEN. Come on housing world…. do better….

Procrastination is the devil.

All I have to say about this is that my worst nights (and some of the funniest) came from times I procrastinated and I never want to do it again, and am fully aware that come October (that’s my goal) that’ll probably not be realistic but hey… i’m trying.

A lot more goes into your environment than you realize.

This is kind of like the “stop ignoring your local government” lesson, but the planning version. This past year I decided to apply for the City & Regional Planning program, was accepted and will be officially joining in the fall as a dual degree student. However, I had the opportunity to take a workshop in the Spring, and it blew my mind on a weekly basis. Despite it being housing focused, it consistently explored the intersectionality between other policy areas and over time, I realized how interconnected the players that construct the towns and places we live and enjoy on a daily basis truly are.

Sleep. Please do it.

I can’t really talk about getting sleep because I started writing a part of this at 1:30 in the morning  BUT, the first year of graduate school has really taught me to value sleep. Partially because it would happen anyways, and partially because I didn’t like how my body was reacting without it. Sleep matters. Do you best to get it. #tipofthecentury

 

Of course there is more….

struggle story

So 6 items is not an accurate depiction of ALL that I learned, but these six I’ve listed above really capture the year in a nutshell.

My hope is that over time i’ll be able to change and grow from all of it, but for now I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

So, that’s why i’ve broken up this series into four sections: Books, Pugs, Stresses, and Joys.

We’ve covered books! So be on the lookout for Part 2: on Pugs coming soon.

 

As always, Much love!

SWC

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To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror

I try not to make my posts specifically for males or females, in hopes of appealing to as many people as possible but after this weekend…I feel moved to write this for my ladies out there.

This weekend , I was told I was beautiful more times than I’ve actually felt it in the past few months.

And I smiled and blushed as best I could to mask the weirdness I felt from being called beautiful.

Every night this past weekend this rolled around in my head… and I asked myself over and over again why was this so hard for me to accept? And why were these words so unfamiliar or alien sounding to my heart ?

I don’t take time to truly look in the mirror… I actually kinda avoid it

When I look in the mirror I’ve chose more times than I care to admit , the flawed path of perception instead of the positive path of perception. And it’s been chipping away at me constantly. It’s so normal to me I didn’t realize that the chipping away was still happening. It was happening even on a good day. Even during a great weekend.

I don’t intend for this post to be a stereotypical, you need to have higher self esteem type of post. Rather I want it to be an alarm of sorts that makes you stop, and even if it’s the first time in a while or just the first time today… Look in the mirror and take the positive path.

It’s important to do this because there is a million other things fluttering about you that can be negative or are there to get you down… And it occurs to me that your own mind and heart’s perception of yourself should not be one of those things.

You shouldn’t be against yourself.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror, I know. I understand. I’m struggling as I type. But take a moment today and recognize the beauty. Don’t wait for someone else, no matter how great they are, to tell you and then have a mini crisis in your head because you can’t even see your own beauty.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror. These magazines don’t know you. These fashion trends and flashy pop culture ads that tell you to look a certain way don’t know you. They don’t know that mini skirts are an issue for you because you’re too tall,
Or that high waisted shorts are redundant because your torso is as short as you are and you have curves.

To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror. If you wear your emotions on your sleeve don’t be ashamed of them. They’re a part of you, and as my favorite Pinterest quote says:

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To the girl who doesn’t take time to look in the mirror, stop for a second and just take an inventory of how you feel. Try and figure out if that negativity is still chipping away at you… Don’t let it get to the point where there’s nothing left to chip away at.

This weekend I felt beautiful every day for the first time in a while… But even I know I can’t rely on the words of another to keep this feeling alive.

So join your own team, be on your own side… try and take the time to truly look in the mirror.

Much Love,

SWC

Identity Project Conclusion

It has been quite a journey. I never thought that something as simple as a new hairstyle would cause me to think and learn as much as getting box braids did.

I have been thinking about this end post for quite some time…thinking about what I could put in it, what big fireworks I could set off through words to make sure this really ends with a bang…but then I realized that this whole process was the beginning of something.

I walked into this hairstyle really thinking :

*This is a huge change

*I can’t pull this off

*How am I supposed to look at myself in the context of my racial background?

And I believe that this process touched on each one of those. It was a huge change, for me. Sometimes just when you think you’re figuring out who you are and what you like to wear, or more specifically…how you like to wear your hair, something like this comes out of nowhere.  My entire life up until my third year of college, I hated my curly hair. I remember day dreaming as child and always having long flowing hair, never curly hair. And now, at 20 years of age I find myself constantly searching for ways to take care of my hair better as I try and decide on a consistent regiment to make sure I don’t let my curls down.

Some might think, oh it’s just hair. Well this is where my racial background comes in. My whole life my hair has been a challenge for my mother and I. We’ve learned that relaxers and perms are just too strong for my hair. We learned that heavy oils make me look like a wet dog. We learned that I can’t just put Garnier Fructis or Suave products in my hair and call it a day. Why? My hair is as mixed as I am, and it deserves the time and energy, and variety of products that take care of each interesting gene that went into creating it.

Ironically enough, my dad wanted me to keep it curly the whole time. Point for dad.

Some of what I wished I could have done differently in this process was:

Learn how to take care of my braids BEFORE I actually got them…I wanted to wear my braids for two months, and only barely got to  a month and half before the frizz was just uncontrollable and there was no way I could really re-do them because I also had no clue how to do that either.

Been more prepared for the negative reactions. I truly wish that I could have been more prepared for when strangers felt moved to say how they preferred my curly hair to my braids. By more prepared I mean I wished that the times I responded with just a smile, I would have said something clever, and revealing of the fact that I loved my braids, AND I loved my curls, and I didn’t really appreciate their comment especially since they were basically a stranger.

I wish that I would have tried more styles.  I know that I had this blog series all planned out in my mind and one of the biggest posts was supposed to be filled with all the styles I tried. But, life got in the way, and complete cluelessness really….I had not only no idea how to take care of my braids but how to experiment with different styles, hence the four styles I rushed to attempt in the last post.

What I ultimately took away from this…

I’d love to think that I’ve become more comfortable with myself and am now perfectly content with who I am after this series. But I know it isn’t that easy. For the past three years and most of my life  I’ve struggled with weight insecurities, hair insecurities, and racial identity insecurities. It’s taken this series to make me realize that I have actually made some progress in all three areas. Before I came to college I didn’t think i’d be the type to experiment in anything. I never really have, change is very uncomfortable for me, it hasn’t really been that good to me as far as track records go and all…but I realized that experimentation is important, in whatever way you need it to be.

I experimented with my hair. It taught me not only how awesome my hair can be, but that there is more to it, and more to me than a big curly poof or long and straight. I learned that the braids allowed me to step out of that and be different, just when I thought I couldn’t reinvent myself anymore. But that’s what has been so fun about it all. For a month and a half I was trying something new, something I don’t do often due to my fear of change and all. In the process, I’ve realized that my multi-racial identity is even more important to me now than it ever has been.

At times I find it hard to be vocal about things I’m passionate about. So I hide behind social media posts, this blog, and writing. But when your experiment is on top of you head and you have no choice to be vocal, what better challenge, or rather opportunity to explain to complete strangers why I got braids, and why it was a big deal. I would say to them:

I’m exploring my racial identity… why? Because my childhood was filled with the protective bubble my parents lovingly built around me, and when I came to college that bubble was shattered and I had to be strong and act like I knew exactly who I was racially at a school where I fall into the minority no matter what part of me you breakdown.  The braids are a symbol of a sojourn I had to take from the curly-straight battle in my mind, an escape that allowed me to fall in love with myself a bit more… through understanding I am not confined to what society describes my racial identity to be , but what I make of it.

So in closing I just have a few more things to say:

I am very proud of my parents for falling in love. It sounds strange, but I have always respected them for breaking the mold in both of their cultures and families and marrying one another. Because  of their decision. I’m here. And I see my identity and my existence as a responsibility. Not only to myself, but to them. I couldn’t have asked for two better parents to raise me. They protected me and educated me in a way that taught me that skin color, and race should not be a category by which we exclude others from anything. Sadly enough, the exclusion, known more infamously as discrimination rages on today.

I had people look at me much differently with braids. Putting the compliments aside. The number of males that looked at me fluctuated. Interestingly enough when I first had them school was still in session and the number of white males that paid me attention dipped a significant amount from its already low numbers. Adults of color saw it as “oh finally!” and were part of the only demographic that treated it as a normal thing. Attention from Black males spiked, as well was from younger Black females that would connect with me by asking two questions 1: How long did it take to grow/braid your hair? 2: What products do you use? The dynamics in reaction between different racial demographics and their varying age groups also took me by surprise. But more importantly, it made me even more aware of the color of my skin, and my racial background every single day.

Race has never been on my mind as much as it has been this past year. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but I’d like to point out that it hasn’t always been voluntary. Sometimes it felt as if I had no choice but to join the fight, but to represent, but to identify as one and not the others. And to that I say I’m done. I’ll choose to uphold and represent my multi-racial identity. For my creation was a beautiful challenge filled process in it of itself. It took a fiesty Colombiana from Yarumal, Colombia to take the biggest jump of her life and risk it in the states. She left behind her family, and everything familiar. And then It took a goofy, calm, and intelligent African-American/Creek Indian man who chose from a young age not to see color as a deciding factor of love…to come together, struggle, start a home, build a home, lose a few, stay strong and keep going to make me into the young woman I am today. I am all of that, but not just that.

My race is a part of who I am, but it isn’t all of me. I’d like to think there’s more to me than being in the minority. I’d like to think there is more to me than my hair or whichever style I choose to style it in. I

The identity project has proved that to me. It’s been a long time coming ..

I am glad that I took this personal challenge on and decided to write about it. And as my voice gets stronger, I know i’ll grow even more confident in being able to use it to explain who I am, as I continue to learn who I am. The identity project doesn’t stop here. It’ll be a lifelong series.

 

 

2014-04-18 23.10.41  photo 4  10015163_10203852268850922_8513402065772627601_n Photo on 6-4-14 at 6.15 PM #2 Braids at 1 month Photo on 6-6-14 at 9.57 PM Photo on 6-7-14 at 12.23 PM #2Snapshot_20120103_1

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for reading this portion of my life long identity project  🙂 Your support and comments are greatly appreciated.

Feel free to comment below and suggest what else you want to read about!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Project: Part 3 : Self Appreciation

The braids have taught me a lot, but one of the things it has shown me especially in the most surprising ways. It might sound weird that a hairstyle can teach you how to appreciate your self and help your self esteem grow, but it’s definitely true. Think about it. How cool is it, that one- you have to learn to love yourself and hold on to that everyday. A part of that obviously is not only loving what’s on the outside but understanding what’s on the inside too. Now hair, seeing that it’s on the outside has always played a huge role in my own self esteem journey. Up until less than a year ago, I hated my curly hair. Couldn’t stand how unpredictable and uncontrollable it could be. Hated that not only was it not straight but it wasn’t even a cool afro, and had this strange rainbow arc shape to it most days and the curls would only listen sometimes. Then, I realized that my curls are MINE. They are a part of me. And they are the result of my parents. They are what prompt people to ask “what are you?” “what are you mixed with” or my favorite, “are you puerto rican?” and they have been there through the heat and awful hairstyles, waiting patiently for me to fall in love with them. Then there’s my hair when it’s straight. You might say, what? how could you not love straight hair since you hated curly hair? Well, the straight hair only hid my insecurities about my curly hair, but did nothing about my insecurities about my straight hair. I spent years wishing my hair was longer, flowed better, had a different color tint to it, wouldn’t frizz up after working out, would listen to me the same way it listens to the hairdresser who convinces it to be silky soft and thin thread-straight. I still found reasons to hate my hair, even when it was straight. Then these braids happened. After a semester saturated with race theory and matters of race relations more so than any other semester or point in my life, these braids happened. Once again, I wanted to change my hair. Not however, to hide anything. For the first time it wasn’t to hide my curly or straight hair. It was to discover something. Or rather someone… That someone is me. College is supposed to be this time where you find yourself. I’m still looking. Proud of it too, because as many curve balls as life has thrown and continues to throw at me i think it’d be counter-productive to be 100% set in my ways. I took on these braids as an experiment, symboling a cry to the universe to please help me learn more about how i felt about the hairstyle, and aspects of being multi-racial in the first place. Pretty heavy for a hairstyle. i know. But it worked. I’m not done exploring and learning about myself in this multi-racial context, but I’ve grown to appreciate myself and my identity a bit more. How cool is it to have such flexible hair that i can in one way represent my culture, change into another texture altogether for convenience or style, and then yet again to another to learn more about myself. That’s pretty great, but in order to really appreciate it you have to continue to fall in love with yourself. I never understood that much until now honestly. But it takes a lot of love just to keep your own mind, heart, and soul going. It’s not just about those who love you like your parents, your friends, co-workers, church family etc…Loving yourself begins with YOU. Everyone else is icing on this wonderful cake. Pardon the cheesy metaphor but I really believe it. It’s hard to think of a time where I haven’t had to talk myself into getting up in the morning to go on another long day of work, school, meetings, projects, practice, etc… And I know everyone in some way, shape, or form can relate. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate myself before the braids, because I did, and I do, and am still learning how to do so consistently. But getting this new hairstyle took me completely out of my comfort zone. Didn’t know how to take care of them, how to style them, how to wash them, how I felt in them, for at least two weeks…and then something flipped. I made the best of it. I bought larger hair bands to accommodate all that hair. I bought oils and tried to listen to the credible sounding youtube videos that I found. I tried. I took care of myself, and I grew to love the braids, but also to understand myself and how I feel about my hair and self in general. Truly these braids have been a confidence boost. An experience. And a way for me to cut my morning routine down by 15 minutes (best part of the mornings). My hair is still my hair, braids or no braids. And it’s exciting to get to continue to learn how to appreciate all the different facets of myself, but inside and out.     Hang in there for the last two parts! One on the styles I actually tried, and my final rant about what this meant for my identity as a whole. Thank you so much for reading up until this point!   Much love, Stephanie W.C