Five Years In: What I’ve Learned

A quick reflection on a few things five years in NYC has taught me.

Timing is Everything. Really.

Sometimes we think our dreams are off base because they don’t come to fruition when we hoped or expected. When in reality, the timing just wasn’t right. It simply was not time. Now, I know this reality can be a bitch because “how long, Lord?” How long will it take to see the thing that God put inside us to do? How long must we wait to actualize the dreams and hopes of our lives when so much, e.g. paying these bills?! is riding on getting to that place?

I’ve realized that delay in the actualization of our dreams does not invalidate them but incubates them. It gives the dream time to bury itself deep into our souls and psyche, becoming an inseparable part of our being. And then, when the time is right, in the midst of all our living, working, striving and struggling, we remember the dream. It’s recalled back to our conscious self and suddenly becomes something we can’t get off our minds. Suddenly, everything we do is aimed at seeing that dream through — and every resource we needed seems to make an appearance, too. Every life experience we had from inception to incubation to now all makes sense.

Just takes a little time.

Depression Isn’t Always a Five Alarm Fire.

I’ve had what I like to call “low-grade depression” for a very long time. Similar to a low-grade fever, its effects are enough to flag something is off, but not enough to stop you from regular everyday activities. I’ve been a high functioning, e.g. working, caring for my kid, maintaining healthy relationships for all my life — but all of it was to keep me busily distracted from the internal realities that I’ve spent too many years feeling alone. In my formative years when I needed emotional attunement, the kind that inquired about my thoughts, experiences, that helped carry the weight of a forever changing body and mind, I just figured it out.

This builds a type of resilience, some may say, but also teaches our inner child that no one else will save you but you. So don’t spend too much time being sad, feeling the full range of human emotions because that will just slow you down. Shine! Perform! Be great! Bury the sadness that comes with becoming who you are called to be with little guidance. The last five years have been essential in learning how to untangle this wiring. This has been especially true the last two years once I started therapy, finding new language to unpack the years of figuring it out on my own when the inner child only wanted a soft place to land, someone to help her figure it out alongside her.

Because of this, my nervous system has been in a constant state of overwhelm — but not like a roaring fire, easily detectable with all its heat, flames, and distinctive smell and look. But more like carbon monoxide — quite, odorless, and undetectable until it kills you.

Thank God for life’s “detectors” AKA therapy, right?

I am learning to throw myself a life raft by being more present and aware of when my “resilience” gets in the way of having my emotional needs met. I’ll owe my therapist a lot of money by the time its all said and done.

Re-Parenting is a Contact Sport

Another thing I’ve learned and am learning is how to re-parent. While the apple may not fall far from the tree, the apple still needs its own kind of unique care and attention — its relationship or proximity to the tree (parent) doesn’t not change that.

I apologize to my kid, and when pride and ego doesn’t consume me, I admit when I’m wrong — or more often than not, overreacted.

I’m learning that my anger doesn’t have to explode to get a point across. Sometimes a simmer (in tone and action) does the trick.

There’s a lot I’ve gotten wrong when I reflect on all the times I didn’t lean into her preferred love language (quality time) or defaulted to “because I said so” Black mama logic. I’m still very much working on this — and thanks to therapy, am aware that both are trauma responses from my own upbringing.

Raising a young Black girl in NYC has been a contact sport, for sure. Lucky for us, we’re playing to win. Together.

Pat Yourself on the Back

In five years I went from leading women’s spiritual development programming for the United Methodist Church, to Executive Minister at one of the country’s most prominent pulpits, to director of faith based outreach for two political campaigns (and survived COVID in between), to designing, leading, and serving as the executive director of my own nonprofit. Oh, and a little loving, living, twerking, and growing in between.

In the next five? The goal is a targeted one: I’d like to build the most comprehensive organization focused on the lives, well-being, as policies that impact black single mothers in the country. 

A one-way ticket from Atlanta to New York City has changed us for the good. Here’s to the next five!

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