Category Archives: Family

Lesson #365: The final lesson.

7/20/15.

The day I started this blog, I was on my closet floor crying because it felt like my life had become a continuous bad day.

Now I’m sitting here on a mocha-colored couch outside of a coffee shop all the way across the country in California, typing my last lesson, and still crying.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

When I woke up today, all I could think was:

“Mia. It’s been 365 days.”

I couldn’t grasp the number. Trying to process it was like standing on the edge of a cliff, looking out at the vastness, and becoming overwhelmed with fear.

Except I had already done it.

Four seasons, twelve months, 365 days.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of joy, the depth of gratitude, the undeniable sadness, and the expanse of excitement I am feeling right now.

It’s been 365 days, and my life has changed in ways I never thought it would, or could. I have experienced so many things and seen so much in just a single year, and I’ve gotten to express every part of it.

A few months ago, someone told me something. I never wrote it into a lesson because something seemingly more prominent stole the day, but I remember scrambling to write it down, and hoping and praying that the right time would come along again to share it with you all. And I think today is that day.

It literally felt like everything I knew was falling apart in that moment and in the moments that followed—and I’m sure you’ve all experienced the feeling. I walked to work sobbing, and although I cleared my eyes in time before checking in with my boss, she knew something was wrong. After confiding in her, she told me something I’ll never forget.

“The reality of it now is not the reality of it forever—I promise.”

And after this year, and this blog, nothing in my life has ever rang more true.

It just so happens that I started this blog during a dark time in my life, and now it’s ending during the best.

In the nowhere-near-linear process of this turn around, I’ve learned so, so much. Perfection isn’t real. Money can’t buy you happiness. It takes time and guts to heal. Run with full abandon towards what you love, and cut loose what you don’t. Culture and beauty is everywhere. You are seen. People are shitty. People are fantastic. Life is great—or at least it can be if you make it.

From New York to Maryland to North Carolina to Florida. From my beloved hometown of Virginia Beach, VA, to my second life at school in the mountains of Harrisonburg, VA, to landing my dream internship in Los Angeles, California.

It’s been 365 days since I pressed the little blue button to create this account, and hit “publish” on a lesson for the very first time. If I’m being honest—I cannot begin to tell you how utterly happy and relieved I am that I don’t have to come home exhausted at the end of every night and write a lesson. But I also can’t begin tell you how truly sad I am to let this piece of my life go. It’s not every day you get to say you documented each day of your life for an entire year, until you do. And now that it’s over, I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do without my little escape, my outlet, and my canvas for words.

There are truly no words for how bittersweet this is. And if there is a step beyond having no words, then I really have none for how extremely grateful I am.

First, I am always completely and entirely thankful for my God. I know that none of the events in my life go without reason, and that my main man has been by my side through it all. Many times throughout this year my head was more focused on my feet than the sky. I loathed how distracted, busy, and cloudy minded I could be—but He never once left me. I am grateful for the good. I am grateful for the bad. And I am continually and eternally grateful for the grace of God. Even though this (literal) chapter of my life is ending, I am excited to see where He will guide me next.

To my wonderful parents, my special friends, and some really great family members—thank you. Not just for giving me great moments to learn from, but for always pushing me and encouraging me. Nights got HARD. Some days I had so much to do that I wouldn’t be able to start my lesson until 1am. My three options were usually to 1) suck it up and write, 2) cry and write, or 3) go to sleep, wake up the next morning, and then cry and write because now I was behind on a post when I “promised” I never would be. But your constant love and support has been something that’s carried me through, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. All it took was one little comment on the blog or on Facebook or walking across campus to make me look forward to writing the next one. It’s the simple things. You each had a hand in inspiring all these people as well. And I thank you. You know who you are.

To the not so great people—I want to thank you too. After this year, I have a better idea of the kind of people I do and don’t want in my life. I’ve learned that people can teach who you don’t want to be and what you don’t want to be like, and those lessons are just as important. You all have been blessings in my life as well.

To the guest lessonists—thank you for being apart of something so special. Thank you for telling your story.

And of course—the readers. You are all so special to me. Thank you for lending a listening ear. I hope you have all learned and grown in some way. If you remember just one thing from these 365 days—then I’ve done my job.

I thank this blog for allowing me the space to not be perfect. I thank this blog for teaching me about self control and dedication—but for also teaching me about the fact that shit happens. Living comes before anything else, and you have to momentarily leave all guilt and thoughts if you’re going to do it fully. I thank this blog for teaching me how to be scared, but doing it (or writing it) anyway. I thank this blog for teaching me to live with thicker skin, but to be open, honest, and vulnerable.

Most of all, I want to thank this blog for challenging me to look for the best in each and every single day—especially when there was no “best” in the day—for confronting it, expressing it, and turning it into something meaningful.

I will miss this so much.

I no longer have an excuse to find the best in each day—but I hope this year has taught me how.

It’s good to know some things don’t change.

But it’s good to know some things do.

This blog has added so much color to my life. It been more than a blog for me; it has been a journey. And I can’t believe I did it.

It feels weird coming to the end. It feels like I’m not finished; like there’s so much more to say.

And that’s because there is.

The lessons we learn are perennial. They will continue to arise in many shapes, sizes, and forms.

It all branches on one big tree. They stem from the root of life, and they turn out to all be a part of the same foundation. I’ve found that all lessons all come back to the same core concepts, and this is what I’ve come to know.

Do what makes you happy,

be passionate, compassionate, and kind,

and always, always, always keep learning.

The world will keep telling us this time and time again.

And so will I.

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Day 365.

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Lesson #328: When in LA… and Maryland and Philly.

6/13/15.

The craziness is over.

I say that lightly, because it never really is.

On Thursday night, I flew cross country from LA to Maryland to meet up with my parents to drive to Philadelphia to film another wedding. After another three time changes, I’m finally about to arrive back in LA. The trip was a short one, but I can most definitely say my short little excursion was packed with mishaps, mayhem—and a bunch of lessons.

1. Always tell your parents you love them and are grateful for them. They do a lot for you, and while you can never really repay them for it—you can try by showing them some love.

2. Unfortunately, shit happens. Not only do you need a Plan B and C, but you need a Plan E, F, and G—and you might as well start thinking about H, too. Bring more back-up than you ever think you’ll imagine needing. In my case, this means that when I’m filming something, I need to start carrying my extra camera battery and memory card (like, five of them) on me at all times. Not in my bag across the room—but on my person—in my pocket or my pants or my boobs or wherever. I need to have always have access to it, and quick. Fortunately and by the grace of GOD, I captured everything—but I was darned close to missing a few things after my camera filled up rather quickly with some good shots (even with two memory cards). When I went inside to quickly upload the clips, the ceremony began to start (my laptop had the wrong time because of time changes and I didnt even realize it…scary) and I had to literally RUN downstairs and back outside. I couldn’t even upload the clips; I just began deleting shit off of my camera. When the ceremony was over and I went to upload the clips to my laptop—what do you know? My laptop storage was full as well. Luckily (Plan C, yea?), I brought my external hard drive. Surprise: that didn’t work either. My laptop wouldn’t let me drag the clips to into the folder. The DJ offered to let me download the clips to his laptop, and then sent them to me. I was so embarrassed. So lesson learned here, and thank goodness for good people. Which leads me to my next point:

3. When all of that happened, the DJ told me: “Hey, us wedding party people gotta stick together.” Whether you believe it or not, you will always have some sort of team by your side. Humanity is not as shitty as you may (or may not) think it is, I promise. When it comes down to it—people are always there to help. Be that person for someone else, too.

4. Don’t let anyone (no matter how tempting) distract you from what you need to do when you need to do it.

5. Sometimes you have to go out on a limb and ask. When you want something to be good, you have to speak up, or it’ll never happen!

6. Just because something is popular, doesn’t mean its good. Which I guess is kind of obvious. But I had to re-learn this one after we ended up having the absolute WORST philly cheese steaks in Philly. We passed a perfectly fine restaurant to chose the more popular, well-known one. Huge, huge mistake. Don’t do it.

7. If you ever park in an airport over the weekend, make sure the parking prices match up with what’s online. Or you’ll pay $80 dollars and probably cry.

8. If you ever park in an airport over the weekend, make sure you actually write down exactly where you parked. Or you’ll walk around LAX for an hour at 1am, and also probably cry.

9. If you drop something on your car floor at 2am, don’t try to pick it up. You will get pulled over by the police with megaphones, surrounded and approached for what looks like drunk driving, and you will definitely cry.

10. Tacos are great. But sometimes tacos can’t fix a bad night.

It’s okay, you’ll laugh it off the next day.

Day 328.

Congrats Kristin and Adam; wishing you a happy ever after and all the love in the world :)

Lesson #308: It’s okay not to be okay.

5/25/15.

Starting about four months ago, my nineteen-year-old cousin began having seizures.

They came out of blue. The first one happened right around New Years; we were thankful it happened with all of us around. But they haven’t stopped since then.

They still come. Randomly. In school, at home—whenever and wherever they want.

The doctors have done tests to find what triggers it. They say it’s stress and strain among other things. But they are still working to find a medicine that works best. And they haven’t gotten to that point yet.

This morning I heard a scream downstairs, and ran.

My cousin was on the kitchen floor with my mom and dad. My grandma and brother ran downstairs and my aunt hopped out of the shower. We all kept the dogs away and laid her on her side and got her a towel. If you’ve never experienced it, you can’t even imagine how scary it is to see someone go through that—especially when it’s someone you know and love.

Over the past few months, she has been positive about it all. “The doctors are working on it,” she’ll say with a smile. “Everything happens for a reason.” But as college inches closer for her, I’ve noticed that optimism is beginning to fade. She can’t get her license. She feels sick or lightheaded more times than not. The unknown is constantly circling her. Always, when will it happen next?

As she woke up and slowly noted what had happened, she began sobbing. As did myself, and a few of us.

Everyone kept telling her “It’s okay, don’t cry”—myself included.

But then I took her hand and told her—

you know what?

It’s not.

It’s not okay that you can’t go somewhere without being scared. It’s not okay that you’re constantly living on edge. It’s not okay that your life is different; that it’s been altered without any warning.

I told her to cry and be upset.

Which probably wasn’t the best thing to do after someone’s literally woken up from seizing on the kitchen floor. Note taken.

But you know what I was getting at.

We need that sometimes.

We need to cry—to actually, physically have that release. We need that momentary freak out. That time to say to ourselves: “This is not okay. Nothing is okay. This is not fair. And I hate this.”

Because we’re human.

And when it’s not okay, we shouldn’t have to pretend like it is.

We can’t give into the the darkness that indubitably surrounds situations and circumstances like these, or else we’d be down for good. But the point is to have that moment, to get it all out, and then to pick up and keep going.

A lot like my very first lesson.

It’s definitely hard, but it helps to have faith in something or someone, and to trust in whatever is happening. You have to believe that you’re going to be okay—but you should also be able to have your moment to be angry and frustrated.

My cousin is the sweetest person in the world. It frustrates me because she doesn’t deserve this.

Who does?

But now that moment is over.

I’ve acknowledged those feelings, and now I’m going to be right by her side as we continue to hope and pray for the best, find the good things in this, and keep moving forward.

Appreciate everything and everyone you have. You never know how lucky you are until you do.

Day 307.

Please keep Kayla in your prayers! Thanks :)

Lesson #306: People will talk, but you decide.

5/24/15.

People will always say things about you.

They will say things that are unfair. They will come to conclusions when they know nothing about you. They will say things that don’t make sense, or things that do—but hurt anyways.

And the thing is, it’s not just people you don’t know. Sometimes it’s the people you do know, and that’s when it hurts the most.

As someone who is black and female, I’ve heard a lot of shit in my life.

My hair is not good enough. But when it is? “It’s fake.” I can’t do this, or be that. Why? It’s written on the color of my skin. “Why do you talk so white?” Because I’m black, and apparently if the way I talk is not fitting enough, there’s no way I can be someone of my kind. “Cover up that cleavage.” The boys are looking, but it’s my responsibility to stop their gaze. “Pull down that dress, it’s too short.” I’m 20, but did you want to call my mother and send me home to change? (Body shaming other women is awesome, isn’t it?) “You’re not aggressive enough.” But when I am, it’s unlike me. I’m not standing up for myself, I’m just bitchy. “It’s a good thing you’re pretty.” Because that’s all that matters. Who cares about the brain?

It’s always one thing or another.

I’ve been hearing these for years. And some, today.

But I’ve realized something.

You can’t control what people say. And you can’t really choose if it bothers you, either. (You can pretend like it doesn’t—but if it does, it does.)

But you can decide how you will let it affect you.

You can be upset and sulk.

Or you can decide that, quite frankly, they aren’t shit.

Day 306.

Lesson #305: Say it.

5/22/15.

One of the toughest things you’ll ever have to do is be open and vulnerable when you’re already hurt.

It’s even tougher when you have to tell the person who caused the hurt that— well—it’s kind of it’s their fault.

Okay, maybe that’s just me.

But it’s hard.

I remember my dad once told me, “The number one mistake people make is assuming. You can’t just assume people know something. Because sometimes, they really don’t.”

And I’ve made the terrible and stubborn mistake of doing this exact same thing.

I assumed the person knew how I was feeling without even opening my mouth.

Even if that person did know and pretended they didn’t—

it still isn’t my place to assume.

But it is my place to address.

So I’ve fixed my mistake.

I said it, even when it was hard.

But saying it was the best thing I could have done.

Even if just for myself.

Day 305.

Lesson #302: Demand respect.

5/19/15.

After finishing up a few-months-long business project with an awesome long-time family friend, I called her and thanked her for allowing me to have one of my very first professional freelance opportunities.

To be completely real, doing business with someone you know can be totally awkward at times. As a business person, you have to be in a completely different element. And when someone has never seen you that way or vice versa, it’s… well… weird.

I think she may have read my mind, because she told me this.

“You have to demand a certain amount of respect from people. For yourself, and for what you do.”

As a huge pushover at times, and as a young adult (who occasionally drinks juice boxes and cries about growing up and feels five) slowly immersing myself into the “real” world, this really stuck with me after the conversation. Because it’s so true.

You’re have to set the bar for yourself.

You have to know your worth.

And you can’t be afraid or ashamed of that.

That’s the only way you’ll ever get what you want, and get what you deserve.

Day 302.

Lesson #296: Why you should play catch up.

5/13/15.

I woke up early this morning to grab some coffee at the beach with Becca, an old friend and long time neighbor—long time neighbor meaning we’ve literally lived next door to each other since we were six, and now we’re at the same college too.

We grew up together. We played on the trampoline after school and had sleepovers and rode our scooters around the neighborhood. We played “house” with stuffed animals and played hide and seek on summer nights with the rest of our friends. We even started our own business and went door to door selling homemade slushees when we were nine. It was pretty rad.

We never had a falling out. But since growing up and taking on new interests, we haven’t actually caught up either.

So today we sat and talked for two hours.

It’s incredible how much has changed. We laughed—a lot—but also had some really great conversations. We talked about society and race and food production and even the environment. But it was only just now that I noticed the conversation we had didn’t go as usual. It wasn’t spent gushing about our childhood or the hilarious things we did growing up. It wasn’t a quick conversation on the way to our cars from our front doors, or passing each other on campus. It was about life, now. It was about what we’ve been up to, what we’re doing soon, and what we want to do in the future. I found out the meaning of her tattoos, and how she’s writing books and practicing her photography, and that she really likes her major. I told her about my video ideas, and the project I want to start this summer, and this blog. And it’s all because we gave ourselves time to really, truly talk to one another.

Let’s be honest:

Sometimes it seems easiest to let a friendship fade because it’s just become so distant; time or circumstance is to blame. You think to yourself: “If we catch up now, we’ll talk for one or two hours and then not see each other again for like another year.” So what’s the point? Why catch up now? Especially in this day and age—why sit down and talk when you can see what they’re doing on social media? Through text? Even a letter?

The answer?

It’s not just about seeing or talking.

It’s about discussion.

It’s about the back and forth, the conversation that branches from conversation, the laughter—sometimes even the tears.

It’s about life.

How beautiful and wonderful it can be because it’s always changing and flourishing.

And we get to hear about that experience for another person.

There’s something special about truly catching up with an old friend. Face-to-face. Over dinner, or tea, or coffee.

Don’t let life get in the way.

Or should I say—let life get in the way.

If you find yourself doing different things, do them. Then come back every once in a while, and talk about it.

It turns out, Becca and I have gone out into the world and have come back even more similar than we were before. And this won’t always be the case. But the point is—when you take that time to re-connect with someone who once was in your life, you find out.

You learn about the world.

And most importantly, you learn a little about theirs.

Day 296.