2020 Vision

(This blog post was originally written in January of 2020, and due to a lot of life happening I did not post it on time. I decided to keep this post pretty much in original form, with a few revisions. The words still hold true, even in April.)

Now that 2019 has come to a close, I am beyond excited about the fresh start that 2020 will bring. Beginning a new year + a new decade feels like the start of something new, would you not agree? But in order to make room for the new things, you have to walk away from the old.

If you are like me, you probably had to let a lot go to close out the year. Despite whatever cliches people claim they do not follow, I always use the end of a year as an opportunity to shed things that are no longer serving me. Be it clothes, shoes, food, or even relationships, it all has to go!

2019 was a rather strange year for me in terms of my relationships with others. I suffered a lot of unexpected loss, honestly. My uncle passed in April, which set a series of events in motion that changed me tremendously and set my world on fire. You see, family has always been very important to me, but my family environment had become very toxic. (I know this is a term that has been so overwhelmingly used in 2019, so bare with me.) In addition to the usual, run of the mill family issues, we were sweeping some deep rooted issues under the rug. The rug was so lifted off the ground because of all of the chaos swept under it, that I finally reached my breaking point.

So I broke. As a result, so did a few of my non-familial relationships. During a time when I needed people the most, the ones I thought I could count on were no where to be found. And when the dust settled, I was met with a lack of empathy + a ton of dislike that had been hidden for so long.

So, I had to sit down and have a conversation with myself about how I wanted to navigate relationships moving forward. Just because things did not work out with a few people did not mean that I could risk abandoning ship and leaving friendships in the wind forever. So, I traded in my old way of doing things, and I learned what I need to do differently. I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed to let some things, and some people, go…for real this time.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that sometimes a door needs to stay closed, no matter who is knocking. I am the queen of second, and third, and fourth chances. I will forgive people and let them right back into my life no matter what wrong has been done. I try to give others the same grace I would want myself, so it is hard for me to stop letting people circle back around. The circle back does not serve me though. Nine times out of ten the relationship continues to display the same patterns as before, and someone ends up hurt. (Mostly me.) On the other hand, I too need to end the “circle back.” I will go searching for people I have not talked to in years to try to rekindle + rebuild something that is dead and gone. But why? Why do I have such a hard time letting go? I am still figuring this out, but I know sometimes I need to be left alone and leave others alone too.

If you never called, never sent a text, never showed up, would you still be friends? This is a hard pill to swallow, too. But I really do not think it’s fair to be the only person putting forth effort in any relationship. The level of effort may change, there will be give and take, but if someone is putting forth no effort at all…you know everything you need to know. Test it out. If you stop texting or calling a person first and you never hear from them again, you might want to keep it that way.

You can tell the story without tainting the characters. This one pretty much speaks for itself, right? Expressing how you feel about a person or a situation that occurred with said person does not have to diminish or defile their character. They are allowed to still be a good person, a good friend, good at what they do, etc. In the same breath, you can, in fact, tell the facts of a story without remotely getting your feelings involved. Let people decide for themselves, beloved. When you talk about a person enough, you start to influence how other people view them and feel about them. Now all of a sudden your venting session has ignited animosity within another person who has nothing to do with the situation at hand. It is hard to keep a neutral party, when only one side of the story is being told, and it is negative. Being on the receiving end of this has taught me to also be careful with who I talk to about an issue or challenge with someone else. Intermingling separate relationships like that can be a recipe for disaster. Most of the time it really is no one else’s business but you + the other person involved. So I check myself before I start telling someone a “story” and ask myself “what is your end goal?.” If I just want to be heard, I probably need to save the conversation for my therapist.

Everyone has their version of the same story, but the truth will always come to light. I am learning to stop defending myself when it comes to the things other people have to say about me, and man, this is hard. Although I am far from perfect and find myself making mistakes, it bothers me when people try to paint a false narrative about me. I honestly think it would bother anyone who is human. After defending myself and my character over so many years, it has become exhausting. People are going to believe what they want to anyways, so why waste the time trying to convince them otherwise?

Ask for what you need. As great of a communicator that I think I am, I have realized that I tend to hold a lot inside. This is mostly because I process things emotionally a lot quicker than others, and it is often hard for me to communicate with people who choose not to address their own emotions. I will let many small things turn into big things and eventually air out all of my grievances, leaving the other person confused. I have adopted some passive aggressive behaviors that I am beginning to notice and address. In order to receive what I require of the relationships in my life, I have to express those needs.

Learn your people’s love languages. I started sending my friends the quiz to find out what their love languages are. I know that I can be a great friend, but if I am not loving someone how they need, it really does not matter how great I think I am. I want to make sure that I really am living up to the “great friend” standard, so I am working on paying more attention to what others say they need from me and being okay with doing just that. I think I try to love people how I want to be loved or how I think they should be loved, and over time I have realized this is quite counter productive.

Speaking of love languages and needs, it is okay to teach people. I have talked about this concept on both Twitter and Instagram—society has convinced us that we are above teaching people how to love us and how to be there for us. This train of thinking destructs relationships before they even begin. People do not have the blueprint for you when the first meet you. They do not know what you need. You have to show them and give them the opportunity to rise to the occasion. This also means that you have to know what you need, but that is a conversation for a later time…

Forfeit the battle to win the war. Sometimes it just is not worth it, okay? I have had many minor issues with friends that caused the end of a relationship when things could have gone differently. You have to decide what is important—the relationship itself or being right? It may be better to agree to disagree than throw away a forever friend over a temporary situation or disagreement. Losing my uncle affirmed for me that life really is short, and some things just do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

So I am sitting down with myself + the people (figuratively) who have to go. I am being honest, vulnerable, and direct. I am taking ownership for my mistakes and wrong doings and I am saying goodbye. Because the truth is, although I let a lot of the wrong people get too comfortable with me in 2019, I really got too comfortable with myself. I am making those necessary corrections now, shout out to Rob Hill Sr.

What, or who, are you sitting down with? Part II of this blog post will discuss the habits + lifestyle practices that I assessed closing out the year and the changes I needed to make. It is healthy to check in with yourself + your relationships when entering into a new phase of life. While you can use the fresh start as a chance to do things differently, do not be afraid to make those changes at any time. A fresh start can be a new hour, new year, new decade.

“The best is yet to come.” x Frank Sinatra

Take care!

Millennial Optics Feature

I am so excited to share my first official feature as a guest blogger on the Millennial Insights Blog. I have been creating content for a few years now, both for myself and for other brands, but this is my first writing opportunity where I received any “credit”. I am so grateful that Evan and Tariq saw fit to extend this opportunity to me! If you are interested in what three factors I believe contribute to a quality employee experience, click the link below.


3 Factors for a Quality Employee Experience

S is for Silhouette

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A couple of weekends ago I finally watched Nappily Ever After, & boy did it strike a nerve! It is amazing how a movie can put so many things into perspective that you thought you had dealt with or had forgotten about.

I have been extremely hard on myself lately, especially when it comes to my physical appearance. What’s funny is that I thought I had outgrown this phase—I was sure that I had reached a place where I was confident in the way I look. Now, do not get me wrong, I have been feeling rather “pretty” lately. I have been wearing less makeup, pulling my hair back more, taking the time to dress myself up, etc…but at the core, there are still insecurities there that have been buried under the surface.

So, if you have not seen Nappily Ever After, you should. I will not spend this post telling you about the story line, but I can say that I related to the main character in a plethora ways—mainly her desire to maintain this “ideal” aesthetic. 

I went through the phase with my hair where I wanted nothing but “sleek” looks. If my hair was not flat-ironed or roller-set, I did not feel pretty. Wearing my natural hair just did not “do it” for me, and deep down I knew I had to make a change. I believe I cracked the surface of this issue by deciding to go natural my junior year of high school, but the real work of loving my natural hair has been done over the last few years. I feel a sense of pride knowing that I have taken care of my hair well enough to not only restore it to a healthy state, but to also maintain it’s health in the midst of color changes and various styles over the years. I now have an appreciation for the hair that has grown out of my own scalp, hair that has taught me patience and perseverance. I chose to transition as opposed to doing a big chop, because I wanted to “force” myself to appreciate the present and to learn how to deal with things as they are. I decided a big chop/cutting all of my hair off was not necessary for me to love myself. There are so many beautiful women who have been taking this step lately, and I commend them for it; however, I choose to stay true to myself and do what works for me.

Like the main character in Nappily, it actually causes me stress and anxiety when I wear my hair roller-set or flat-ironed. I find myself constantly checking the weather—especially to figure out the humidity levels for the day and week. Wearing my hair natural allows me to be free from worry. It could rain, snow, or be hot and sunny—my hair would be just fine. That is the type of freedom that I long for.

I also went through this phase with my weight. I talk about my weight journey in a previous post—you can read it here. As I have gotten older, (especially within the last year or two) I have realized the importance of being physically strong over trying to look a certain way. Fun fact: I have minimal upper body strength. This lack of strength has contributed to terrible posture in my shoulders and tons of knots, which cause me to feel tense ninety percent of the time. To combat this constant state of uncomfortableness I get massages at least monthly and previously saw a physical therapist. She was the one who informed me that the knots would go away the more I build up the strength in those muscles. So, I recently hired a personal trainer to help me build the strength my body so desperately needs. In the end, I  would rather have a body that is strong than look a certain way and not be healthy. 

After watching the movie, I felt this immense desire of wanting to feel beautiful. So, I did the only thing I could think of—I took off all my clothes, took my hair down and brushed it out. I sat myself down in front of my bedroom mirror until I felt like I had appreciated myself enough, and once I was done I danced all around that bedroom and even in my bathroom mirror. In those moments, I felt more free and beautiful than I had with any particular hair style and any outfit.

It was such a vulnerable thing to do, even if the only person that could see me was me. My instant reaction was to pick apart my appearance and list all of my imperfections, but I forced myself to shift my perspective and bring an end to the negative self-talk. I decided to pick things that I love about my appearance. For example, I love how plump my lips are, and how they sit on my face. I love my tattoos and the story they tell about the things I have experienced in my life. I love the stretch marks I have and how they remind me of how remarkable growth can be. I love the dimples in my back and the length of my legs. In that moment, I just love(d) me.

I have come to the realization that loving yourself is a lifelong process. As you mature and grow in age, so does your appreciation for everything that God created you to be. My perception of beauty constantly evolves as I adapt to this thing called life, and I know that the greatest feat of all is to love myself wholly and fully. As I continue to grow older and as my body changes, I pray that I am always able to recognize how beautiful I truly am. 

What does the word “beautiful” mean to you? I pray that you see yourself as the beautiful creation that you are. Try the same thing I did–get undressed and sit in front of yourself in the mirror. Tell your reflection at least three things that you like about yourself. Love on yourself until you feel confident and can fully appreciate the magnificence of your body. As India Arie says, have a private party! 

 

“I’m gonna take off all my clothes, look at myself in the mirror. We’re gonna have a conversation, we’re gonna heal the disconnection. I don’t remember where it started, but this is where it’s gonna end. My body is beautiful and sacred, and I’m gonna celebrate it.” x India.Arie 

R is for Rejection

Play “R is for Rejection”

 

 

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re•ject•tion

noun

the dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc.

the spurning of a person’s affections

So let’s be honest, as much as people like to say that they accept rejection in stride, no one really likes being rejected. Personally, I have been feeling like rejection has been walking with me attached to my hip for the last few months. There are jobs I have applied for that I did not get—many, many jobs. I’ve been spurned by people, both romantically and platonic, so lately I have been trying to figure out what I am doing wrong or if there is something wrong with me.

It is easy to focus on the negative when you start to reflect on the “no”s you might be receiving; it can be quite discouraging and even overwhelming. It is likely your ego is bruised and you are trying to pick up pieces of your face after having so many doors slammed in it…but Beloved, during these times you have to ask yourself which outweighs the other—the rejections or the blessings? Most likely there are only a few instances where you have been rejected—and even then, if you look closely enough, I am sure God has blessed you with something greater.

So how do I deal with rejection?

Honestly, I am still working on this. I have been incorporating a lot of positive self-talk in those moments where I start to question myself or the things I am doing. I try to focus on how I feel about myself, not how other people feel about me, so that my sense of self-value remains in tact. I also encourage myself to find the blessings in my life and thank God for those gifts. Creating a spirit of gratitude often softens the blow of disappointment and allows me to shift my way of thinking.

I try to combat feelings of regret. There are very few things that I regret in life—I put forth a lot of effort to be okay with all of the decisions I make regardless of the outcome. This process involves looking at situations as a learning experience and using them for further self-discovery and self-mastery. I ask myself what each situation is teaching me, even if the lesson hurts a bit. Growth is not always easy, but it is always necessary.

How do you deal with rejection? Responses to this particular journal question ranged from looking at rejection as “it is their loss, and at least I tried”; to “remembering that rejection does not determine my value. I am still important, and I am still loved”; “you cannot get everything you want, sometimes things will not go your way”; and “the right job, person, situation, etc. is right around the corner”. There is not one set way to dealing with rejection—we all process things differently. Find a healthy coping mechanism for you and be sure to put it into action the next time a “no” comes to visit.

Rejection is the sand in the oyster, the irritant that ultimately produces the pearl. x Burke Wilkinson

Self-Care, Skincare

(I revised this post in 2019, after it was originally written in 2018. The edits are in pink, while the original content is in green.)

My skincare routine has changed so much over the years! I’ve taken prescription pills, used commercial brands such as Clinique or other dermatologist-recommended brands, & the list goes on. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am actually happy with my skin! My goals within the last year or so have been to minimize my skincare routine and find natural products to replace the commercial brands I had been using. Finally, I have done just that.

Developing a solid skincare routine is a great form of self-care that is often undervalued. Doing masks and steam treatments not only allows you to take care of your skin, but also gives you time to love on yourself a little, too!

Here’s my simple skincare routine:

Weekly: Detox + Moisturize 

Using the Detox/Cleanse/Heal Mask from The Natural Root and the Sweet Honey 2N1 Deep Conditioner.

You can purchase this product here: Detox Mask . If you’d like to receive 15% off of your purchase, use my coupon code: anaston15.

I have switched from using this product every other day to using it weekly. I spot treat problem areas multiple times during the week if necessary, but I only do a full mask once a week. If I am indulging in a little extra self-care, I do a steam treatment first to open up my pores before putting on the mask. The packaging comes with instructions regarding how long the mask should be left on, depending on your personal skin type. I rinse off the mask with cool water.

I never knew you could “double-mask”, until I watched a skincare video from one of the influencers I follow on Instagram, Jade Kendle (LipstickNCurls). I started using the 2NI Honey as a mask after using the Detox mask to ensure that my skin is moisturized, and this has honestly been a game changer for me because there are days when my skin is very dry and flaky. I either use it right after the Detox or use it the next day. I put the honey straight on my skin and get in the shower and let the steam from the shower open my pores.

Daily: Cleanse +Exfoliate, Tone, Hydrate, Moisturize, Sunscreen

I came across a skincare coach via either a Tweet or an IG post and decided to visit her website–I spent the day reading all the different posts she had on skincare and made a list of the products that I needed to purchase. Her post “Guide to an Effective Skin Care Routine” yielded the most information for me, and you can read it here.

Although my goal in the past was to have the most simple skincare routine equipped with natural products, I have since learned that I was missing a few steps and that there are some chemicals that are good for your skin. I did maintain having a few natural products in my arsenal and have only added a couple more steps.  

  • Step 3: Tone your skin using Dickinson’s 100% All Natural Witch Hazel.

I purchase this particular witch hazel from Walgreens and use it daily. I pour it on a cotton pad and wipe my face to make sure I close my pores and remove any leftover dirt/product, etc. This cleans my skin without over drying it, and it is all I use if I am not using the Detox mask.

  • Step 4. Moisturize using Trader Joe’s 100% Organic Argan Oil.

I purchase this particular argan oil from Trader Joe’s and use it daily. It is lightweight and allows my skin to be moisturized without feeling sticky or weighed down.

On days when my skin is feeling itchy, I will use aloe vera as a moisturizer instead of the argan oil.

What is your skincare routine? When developing your own skincare routine, be sure to find what works for you! Different products will work for your skin depending on your skin type–mine is primarily oily, especially in the t-zone. These are staples in my routine, but it took a lot of trial and error to find these products and to see how they worked with my skin. Aim for natural/organic products that will not be harsh on your skin and that can be used for other parts of your body. For example, I also use the Detox mask on wash day for my hair as a part of my deep-condition routine, and I also use argan oil to moisturize my hair. Remember, less is more!

Take care!

XXV

Birthdays have always been important to me. As a child my parents would come eat lunch with me or bring treats for my classmates and myself to enjoy. I’d have my mom check me out of school and we would have lunch together even in high school. I’ve always loved balloons, cake, candles, birthday cards, and especially people singing happy birthday to me. In my voicemails you can find old messages of my dad and grandmother singing happy birthday, and I still have many of my old birthday cards on the dry erase board in my bedroom.

In 2013, my birthday took a turn for the worst. And even though April 15 was always a special day, now it is always a reminder of how blessed I truly am.

After celebrating with a few members of my framily, and a failed plan or two, we decided to hang out at my best friend’s apartment. As we were getting off the exit in her part of town, I heard this weird “pop” “pop” sound and thought maybe the car behind us, with another two of my best friends in it, had blown a tire. So we pulled over in the median and got out to see what happened–to our surprise and horror, there were bullet holes in my childhood best friend’s car. Thankfully everyone with me was okay, but we spent the rest of the night dealing with the aftermath of this drive-by shooting. As a part of their initiation these gang members were instructed to shoot at whatever cars they could find and left a high school student badly injured. 

That night I learned to never take any moment for granted and made a promise to myself that I would always make the best of my birthdays. So in honor of my twenty fifth birthday I want to share twenty five lessons I have learned over the years.

  1. Everything that I am and everything that I have, I owe all to God.
  2. The longest relationship I will ever have in life is with myself.
  3. Honesty is always the best policy.
  4. True love begins with me.
  5. The only person who can make me whole, is me.
  6. It is better to be over-dressed any day.
  7. Start every day with gratitude.
  8. End every day with gratitude.
  9. Patience is truly a virtue.
  10. Family is everything.
  11. God will always be there.
  12. I am beautiful, I am sacred.
  13. You can never stop learning or growing.
  14. It is okay to not be the smartest person in the room.
  15. I am capable.
  16. All you really need is one good friend.
  17. Emotions have never made me weak.
  18. Never become a part of the crowd. 
  19. It is okay to not be okay.
  20. Never let a man convince or try to convince you that you are less than who you are.
  21. You have too much to do to spend your energy where it is not reciprocated or restored.
  22. You may be alone, but you are never lonely.
  23.  Be neutral in your ego.
  24. It is okay to be happy.
  25. But God…

“I’m having a private party…celebrating the woman I’ve become. Happy birthday to me! Happy birthday to me!” x India.Arie

Wash Day | Wash & Go Routine

A lot of people have asked what my wash day routine looks like & how I style my wash & go! Here’s my routine from start to finish! Remember to find what products & techniques work for you, this is simply what works for me.

 

Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria Ep. 5 | R is for Recap

 

 

 

My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.

Here’s our fifth episode! Join us as we recap 2017 and wrap up the year with the lessons we learned. We revisit each topic covered on Season One of Sister Talks Podcast and share a few things about the future! If you have topics you would like for Anaston and Alexandria to discuss in 2018, share your ideas with them! Comment below or send them an email: sistertalksa2@gmail.com

Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria Ep. 4 | B is for Black & P is for Professional (feat. Justin Malone)

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My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.

Here’s our fourth episode featuring special guest Justin Malone! We discuss the ins & outs of being Black in a Professional Setting. We talk about our own personal experiences thus far as young professionals, reflect on some of the challenges we have faced, & give a few tips for our audience.

Ep. 4 | B is for Black & P is for Professional

Sister Talks With Anaston & Alexandria Ep. 3 | P is for Physical Health

 

Sister Talks Logo

My sister bestie and I recently started our very own podcast, called Sister Talks with Anaston & Alexandria! We are both educated brown girls, & bloggers.

Here’s our third episode! We discuss the importance of physical health, having a healthy diet, weight struggles, body shaming, cleanliness, & being consistent! 

Ep. 3 | P is for Physical Health