MayaAngelouPhenomenalWoman

My Answers to “20 Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself” from O Magazine’s April 2014 Issue

Do I examine my life enough?

These days (and maybe after my recent 33rd birthday), I definitely have. I’m not a kid anymore so the things I could get away with in my 20s look a little pathetic in my 30s. But I try to be kind to myself and my pathway towards my ultimate goals. I’ve learned that this path isn’t necessarily linear and that’s okay.  I have had such amazing highs and opportunities but also had some soul-crushing lows and missteps. But both have made me the woman I am today. I’m perfect but I “live from the heart . . . seek[ing] to be whole, not perfect”. Thanks, Oprah!

Do I care too much about what people think?

To be honest, I used to be really reoccupied with what people thought of me. In school, I was a definite people pleaser, doing almost anything any adult or friend asked for. But then I realized something in college – doing all those things for others doesn’t always mean that you will get that same treatment in return. In fact, you could be abandoned at key moments in life where you really needed that parent/friend/boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse. It has happened to me too many times. So I live more for myself and what feeds me emotionally, spiritually, academically, etc. If you happen to like what I like, that’s awesome! If not, no harm, no foul.

Am I with the right person?

In my dating life, I am currently “ridin solo” (thanks, Jason Derulo) because I just haven’t met the right person yet.  I know how that sounds. That sounds cliche but it’s the truth. I have been in relationships more recently a year ago but I was abandoned at a pivotal point in my life where I had no one else. That showed me exactly the kind of person he was and I couldn’t be with someone like that. He has tried to get back in touch with me but I just don’t trust him with my heart anymore.

What’s your deal breaker?

I would say deep ignorance, arrogance, lack of a healthy sense of humor, immaturity and lack of spirituality.

What do I really want to do all day?

I want to write for my favorite magazines like O, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, Billboard, Elle, Essence, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Latina, Shape and more. I want to be a speaker for TED Talks about education, mental health, and media. I want to collaborate in music projects with artists I admire like Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Babyface Edmonds, Quincy Jones, Robin Thicke, Alicia Keys, India Aire, Beyonce, Jay Z, Monica Jasmine, Jennifer Lopez, Iggy Azalea, Nicki Minaj and perform original music for audiences. I want to cover my favorite national and international concerts as well as local events as press like I did for this year’s Jazz in the Gardens in Miami Gardens, FL.  I want to publish influential books like Dr. Maya Angelou, Candace Bushnell and bell hooks that can change the world. I want to speak at conferences, urging young people to harnest their talents to make the world better. I want to write screenplays and own a production company like Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock, and Wendy Williams, creating exciting projects for the masses to consume. I hope that dream is big enough!

How do I want to be remembered?

I think I would want to be remembered like the dearly departed Dr. Maya Angelou is being remembered now – as an educator, orator, poet, media icon, mother, daughter, auntie, mentor, advocate.

Do I say “Yes” enough?

YES! I believe I do more welcoming of opportunities than rejecting of them.

Do I know how to say “No”?

I have learned my limits and when I feel that my time is being wasted, I pull out that “No” real fast!

Am I helpless?

No, not particularly. I wouldn’t choose that specific adjective. Am I sensitive? Yes but I also try to be protective of my heart by limiting the kinds of people I associate with. So the people in my inner circle fill in the gaps that this “helpless” nature creates.

Am I helpful?

More than you will ever know! Actually, ask any one of my former students (many of whom I keep in touch with on Facebook). They are my living testimony with ages ranging from preteen to 30’s (yes, my age). 

What am I afraid of?

I am afraid that our culture will not shift to embrace all people regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and mental health status. I am afraid that speaking truth to power may not change policy. But I remain hopeful and optimistic.

Am I paying enough attention to the incredible things around me?

I surely hope I am! I feel like I do especially in my current work environment in Miami Design District. I won’t disclose the name of school but I will say it reminds a great deal of my own high school on Key Biscayne.

Have I accepted my body?

This took a while to get to. I grew up being really skinny and really tall (I wear a Women’s 13 in shoes to this day) which made me feel very uncomfortable around my classmates and friends. I wanted to belong like any other girl and teenager (and be able to borrow clothes from my closest girlfriends). But I couldn’t because I needed larger sizes and most of my friends were much smaller than me. When puberty hit, my butt got bigger (look out J.Lo, Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea), my hips got wider, and my thighs got bigger. I had the body of a woman when I was 13 or 14. It was scary because I hadn’t evolved mentally and emotionally into the body I was inhabiting. It also didn’t help that I look like my glamourous and ageless mother. My parents dressed me down in preppy Ralph Lauren attire for years which made me even more strange to other students of color at my middle school. But eventually, I went to a high school that embraced diversity on multiple levels and I began to feel better about myself. The poem “Phenomenal Woman” by Dr. Maya Angelou also gave me a voice and made feel better about my new shape.

Am I strong enough?

Yes, I believe I am. I have already been through so much so far that I know that I can handle practically anything.

Have I forgiven my parents?

Well . . . that’s an ongoing process. Like President Obama has expressed in his memoir Dreams From My Father, I have learned that my parents have done the best they knew how to do. They weren’t perfect but they had perfect intentions. Unfortunately, sometimes life gets in the way of executing a perfect plan. So all we can do is accept our loved ones for who they are and pray/hope that they can do the same for us.

Do I want children?

Yes, I do. I am luckily. I am still in a good range to have them but I want my career locked in place first so I can provide for them properly.

Does what I wear reflect who I am?

Yes it does. When I started teaching college in my 20s, my parents begged me to wear the Hillary Clinton pant suits to work. I complied because I understood that I looked like my students so I needed to have a specific uniform that would set me a part. Now I’m a little more flexible. In faculty and business meetings, office attire rules. But when I go to events and parties, I wear a different wardrobe but I still keep my integrity.

What am I missing out on?

To be honest, a steady paycheck! Juggling part-time work can be a little challenging especially when people think that you can do some services for free! Yeah right! Social Media marketing IS a job!! 

Do I let myself fail enough?

In my 20s, I have failed alot and learned a great deal from those failures. Unfortunately, I think we live in a culture that frowns on failure. Failure is bad; therefore, you are terrible. NOT true! But learning and evolving definitely needs to be part of the equation as well.

Why are we here?

In my experience, I believe we are here to help one another. I know, that sounds very Disney Princess but I really believe that. Being a teacher reveals a microcosm of society where character is built and empathy can grow. But it’s up to us to instruct.

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This Week’s #WCW – Barbara Walters and Oprah Winfrey

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It goes without saying, without the amazing contributions to media journalism by Ms. Barbara Walters, Ms. Oprah Winfrey would not have had the inspiration to be the media mogul and international educator that she is today. So I am taking this opportunity to acknowledge these wonderfully talented, articulate, empathetic, and worldly women.

 

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God Bless You, Dr. MAYA ANGELOU!

After remembering the solemness of the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination, I also remember another culturally-relevant event in America and the world – the birthday of the “Global Renaissance Woman” herself, Dr. Maya Angelou. And with the latest news I just got from Tom Joyner minutes ago, my heart is heavy this morning over the great loss of this amazing educator, poet, orator, mother, daughter, and human being.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My first experience with her works and persona was in school where I had to recite a poem in front of the class. Naturally, I was mortified of public speaking, especially to my peers who would only make fun of me later at lunch if my nerves got the better of me. I found her poem “Phenomenal Woman” after I saw the John Singleton’s  Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur.

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Miss Jackson’s oration of these magical poems hooked me in as a teenager, especially in contrast to the chaotic world of Compton, CA that her character Justice had to endure. The poetry was her refuge, providing an outlet for her dreams, frustrations, grief, isolation and yearnings for love.

So as I practiced at home, I remember feeling nervous about saying the word “breasts” in front of my class. It felt a little risque but I knew I needed to remain authentic to the original work.

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But something strange happened to me when I was my turn to present my poem. My fear evaporated and I became her character, a strong and self-assured woman who was proud of my internal and external qualities that made me unique. Sorry, readers. I don’t have video of this transformation but rest assured, I never forgot how that one oration connected me to Dr. Maya Angelou ever since.

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What I learned over the years as I grew into my own person was that I wasn’t playing a character that day – I caught a glimpse of who I really was (and am at my “best self”). Thank you, Dr. Angelou and Lady O for giving women like me the vocabulary to recognize this kind of “Aha Moment.” I am the educator I am now because of that poem. I am the assured young woman because Dr. Angelou’s body of work that celebrates self-love and acceptance. You will live on my heart and deeds! XOXO

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