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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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

Heartaches & Heartbreaks: Friendship–People Change & So Do You

I believe that friendship is one of the most beautiful things on this planet.

Several amazing memories with some of my greatest friends

Several amazing memories with some of my greatest friends

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 (Above: Only some of the amazing people in my life I get to call friends, there are many many more not pictured here.)

To find someone that you can laugh with, hang around, be comfortable around, grow with, talk to, and just bond over the things that make you both yourselves…I think is pretty cool. Now to some, that sounds like a relationship, and that’s because that’s what friendships are, they’re relationships, sans-romance.

I’m not using this post to talk about how friendships are unromantic though. I’m here to talk about change. If you’ve read a few of my most recent posts, you’ll notice that I’ve discussed change A LOT. That is because one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned these past four years that has tied into each of my previous entries, has to do with CHANGE.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a minute… because I’m not exactly sure that this lesson has been as clearly indicated to me as the others has… and I think this has to do with the fact that this has been one of the hardest things for me to learn.

And that is simply: People  change.

Humans grow attached to things and people and places. Some more than others. I am the type of person that gets attached to people more so than places…and I used to think it was the other way around, but when I truly think about what makes me happy in an environment that I’m in, more times than not it is the people surrounding me.

My friends are a great example of that.

I’d like to think that I’m a friendly person. As such, I’ve been blessed to meet and interact with some pretty phenomenal people. Some on a deeper level than others, but phenomenal people and interactions nonetheless. What I am continuing to learn and forget and re-learn though…is that people change. And it is NOT always our faults or because of something we did. It’s not about us. Life isn’t a circle that surrounds us… we are a part of the grand circle of life… and I don’t mean to ramble here but I think that we tend to believe that once we have a friendship that gets to a certain point, that we’ll not have to work as hard. Not because we don’t want to necessarily but rather because we assume it’ll last it’ll just work out because that’s how great friendships are.

BUT… because friendships are relationships, OF COURSE we have to put effort into them.

It’s one thing to say “hey let’s hang out” and then another to put forth the effort and say that and then actually see that statement through.

Now you might be wondering at this point, okay okay I get it, put effort into this, but where does the people changing part come in?

I think the answer is always. It’s always because if you take a moment to self-reflect and see how far you’ve come in the last month, weeks, days even… you’ll notice that there are things that have changed about you possibly big, probably small, but it’s change. That’s the whole point.

Now take that realization that you’re changing. And apply it to everyone you know. Apply it to your friends.

Since change is always going on within us and around us, we have to be conscious of how it might impact our relationships with our friends. Whether it’s a heartbreak, someone moving away, someone leaving school, someone focusing on something else than being social etc…. there are tons of things that can influence our friendships.

The beauty of it is, that each of these things, cases, or situations are opportunities to be there for one another and strengthen the friendship.

Forgive me if that sounds all lovey-dovey but it’s true. You can’t expect to gain and maintain trust without some work being involved. You can’t expect the comfort and getting along to stay there just naturally. There’s communication involved, a give and take and give give and take take involved.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on friends. I believe that I could be a better friend and strive to be a better friend whenever I can.

Over the last three years I’ve lost friends and gained new friends and grown closer to people for a variety of reasons. And the one thing if anything that was consistent was change.

Think of it in the way that seasons are changing. Don’t assume everything revolves around you. Put effort into your friendships, they’re worth it.

The heartache & heartbreak in all of this is reflecting on friendships lost that might have gone better if more effort was put into cultivating it…and also in the adjustments you make when distance, or time conflict or other situations get in the way of a once comfortable routine… it hurts to change when you try and make your friendships be the one thing that doesn’t change… it hurts because friendships for a lot of folk are part the core of their stability. I know that my friends are very important for my stability. They’re my peeps. And part of what makes me me. So I’m trying to appreciate them and be grateful for our friendships for as long as they exist.

 

Ultimately true friends new or old will be there, and you should make sure that you will be too.

Friendship, in all its awesomeness, changes. And so do we.

 

Heartaches vs. Heartbreaks : Your Dreams & Plans vs. Life

I know at some point you all are probably tired of hearing me rant and ramble about New York. This time is going to be a little bit different. I’m going to try and explain to you why my dreams pull me in that direction in the first place, and how life and my plans have changed alongside my dreams.

I stepped foot in New York City almost 8 years ago. The only way I can describe that initial feeling? It took my breath away.

The pivotal feeling NYC gave me was similar to the feeling I used to feel when being on stage dancing-Alive.

The city lights, bustling people of all shapes, sizes, personalities and complexions, made me smile. The aromas from garbage and sewers to italian food and McDonalds intrigued me so much.

And then I saw the purple flags….discovered NYU. Thus my dream of moving to NYC as soon as possible was born

nyu

When you first get an idea or first become passionate about something, the possibilities are endless. It seems as if nothing can stand in your way. And oh, what I would give to have that optimism every single waking day of my life. When I first decided NYC was the place for me, I chose the route that seemed most realistic. School. I would go to NYU live in the big city, learn new things, meet worldly people and BOOM. Dream come true. Right? Wrong.

I didn’t think of the OBSTACLES.

The first wall that presented itself was in fact the very same method I thought I’d gain entry to NYC by. School. I didn’t get into NYU. I was utterly devastated. Felt as if I’d done something horribly wrong, and that all my hard work had been for nothing. All hope was lost.

(insert dramatic pause here…)

Then I came to UNC Asheville. And because the memories, experience, and feelings I have about this school could be its own blog post i’ll save it for another time…but basically, I found my place. The place that I was supposed to be next… and now almost 4 years later, 8 months or 243 days away from undergraduate graduation I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 

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You see, we have this idea of what our lives are supposed to be like. To some degree, we assume that by planning things no matter how specifically or generally we do it, that this plan ensures that what we want to happen will be what happens.

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will

 

I would never give up the people I have met, interacted with , and learned from these past few years. I’ve learned new things, done big things, and met some worldly people. Just like I wanted right? 

So not getting in the first time around? Necessary. Didn’t kill my dream. In fact, the time spent away from NYC resulted in a few things for my dreams and I:

  • Helped me realize that I didn’t have to choose a career right away but that it was okay to choose a direction.
  • Why I actually wanted to go to NYC, and NYU in the first place
  • I had a lot of growing to do before I could take on this big dream the right way.
  • Allowed me to discover a new passion, which is fatefully stationed right in the big Apple and has allowed me to see NYC in a new professional light.
  • Taught me to appreciate home more than ever.

So obstacles? Are not all that bad. There are a lot of things that would have gone much much differently if I’d have gone to NYC right away.  It’s hard to imagine life that way now, because of all the wonderful things that have happened since.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

If you ask me what I want to do now I’d tell you graduate school. For what? Public Administration. Where? NYC. Why?

Pause.

Why? Is the question that trips everyone up. It is the question you can’t really contest, because the answer is yours. Why do YOU want to do this? Why is this the route YOU want to take?  I highlight the YOU part because when you really sit and think about this why question you realize how many other people have placed a stake in YOUR dream…. versus the stake you have in it. If the stakes other people have in your dream are bigger than your own? Technically it isn’t your dream anymore.

When I first wanted to take on NYC. I wanted to be a lawyer. I was going to go to NYU, learn everything I could. Go to Law School, do it again, and then work for a big firm in which I could find some way to impact housing laws and policies. Looking at that now almost makes me cringe a bit. Why? Because it was far from what I truly wanted.

Now? I would like to pursue a master’s degree in Public Administration or Public Policy. Why? I want to better understand the way policies and organizations interact with one another, how they can work together better, and how I can use the skills and knowledge taught in these types of programs to begin my own organization one day that is able to provide a substantial public service and collaborate with not only other non-profit organizations but local, state, and federal organizations as well.

Now, look at that, versus being a lawyer? The difference is huge to me when I see it laid out before me.

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan

 

The difference ultimately lies in my path. Either way I’ve always known that I want to make a difference, and that I wanted to contribute something to the world. It took the past few years for me to realize that whatever I do, I need to be rooted in it, I need to be intrinsically motivated. I can’t let the big flashy lights and beautiful scenery of NYC be the defining factor of why I want to go there. And to be honest, that’s what it was at first. It’s hard to admit it, but I didn’t know anything about the city, all I had to go off of was the pretty sights and scenery.

I’m grateful that i’ve been able to go to NYC three times in the last 3 years. That I found an organization that taught me to see NYC in a new light. It’s still bright and shiny, but I am not ignorant to its challenges and flaws. 

Is it still my dream to go there for school? Yes. I honestly, want to go to NYC period. It would be the ultimate blessing, and challenge for me. And I am okay with that.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.

Sometimes, life says no. Since I believe in God, I see it as God, saying no. It doesn’t happen to us to push us down, and that I think is the hardest thing to accept.

When I first applied to NYU, I was terrified, second guessing myself, worried, a bit unprepared to be honest…and I would not have admitted ANY of that to you or anyone. Now, knowing what I want and being able to see it more clearly, recognizing the benefits in the obstacles that have been presented to me, knowing how to answer the question WHY? and realizing that plans aren’t always going to work out the way I hope they will… have prepared me more than ever before to take on the next big step towards my dream.

When your dream gets placed on hold it hurts. It is a definite heartache. When it doesn’t happen when you think it will, it can even feel like a heartbreak. What heals that pain though, are the four lessons that being away from NYC have taught me:

Lesson 1: Plans don’t always work out the way you hope they will.

Lesson 2: A part of achieving your dreams, is truly knowing the answer to the question: WHY?

Lesson 3: Knowing what you want is sometimes more powerful than a detailed plan.

Lesson 4: Learn to dream, prepare, and plan, and live life along with the opening and closing of doors and presentation of different obstacles.

 

I hope that whatever your dream is, you continue to fight for it. I also hope that if you recognize that it isn’t your dream anymore you can let go of it as peacefully.

As for my dream? NYC i’m coming for you. NYU?

 

Round 2, let’s go.

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Much love,

 

SWC