Like Sediments, We Settle

•January 11, 2010 • 1 Comment

My mother continuously tells me to “find something good and stick with it because there aren’t  many people who can deal with you.”

Settling has become one of those loaded words that pops up from time to time in conversations. In the past week, it has been in three different discussions in three different circles of which I am a part. In fact, this post was suggested by a reader who had the “settling” conversation at her brother’s wedding. I can just imagine that conversation.

Soon after the reader request, came an ABC video I saw of Black women who are, once again, pretty, well-educated, heterosexual, and independent (see rant in “The Undesirable Black Woman”). I could not believe the solution suggested: date outside of your race because the Black men who are not in jail are not interested in Black women. Dating outside one’s race is casting the net wide and far, but should we look at the men in our race as “not good enough?”

On the other side of that coin is the woman with very high standards. A good friend, love her to death, will only date Black men who are on their road to a six-figure income. Crazy? No, but it does limit the pool of amazing men who are passionate about their not-so-high-paying jobs. As I usually say, when did love become a thing of the traditionally-educated middle class?

With the high standards that are too limiting and the low-standards that cause some women to jump at the first fish that will bite, I started thinking of a rule to adhere to in my own life. Settling, whether work or dating, is unacceptable. A person who is true to themselves knows how much they are worth. I am not a size 2, nor do I have a post-graduate degree, but I love myself enough to demand respect from any potential job or partner. The person or position that gives me that respect and enables me to continuously grow as a person on my own terms is the person/job that is right for me.

Update: New Blog Post Delayed

•January 9, 2010 • Leave a Comment

My apologies for the delayed post on settling. I’m recovering from a nasty cold and the new post will be up by Monday.

Thanks for reading!
Shalena

New Year, Now What?

•January 4, 2010 • 2 Comments

New Years Eve I stayed home after making a long dinner for me and a good friend of mine. I proceeded to fall asleep at 11:40pm, and set my alarm for midnight because I anticipated the flood of text messages wishing me a Happy New Year.

Normally, I am not too fond of resolutions. Instead, I like to reflect on the good and bad of the previous year, and commit to measurable and feasible goals that I can check my progress against. Below is a list of the things I learned/want to implement:

  1. Incorporating a personal board of directors–Chris Gergen, writer of Life Entrepreneurs, talks about using business/organization practices to succeed in one’s personal life. Yesterday, a working brunch with my girlfriends where we discussed our life goals, turned into a plan of action. This evening, one of the young women is receiving financial advisement from another participant. We are looking to make this a monthly event.
  2. Work hard, rest hard?–I am a workaholic. We all talk about work/life balance, and yet it’s easier said than done. I personally vowed to leave work at 6pm to pursue other interest, like volunteering for Third Wave Foundation. I commit to working out and reading more, being lazy and baking cookies with my nephew. That is the life I want to live.
  3. When the going gets tough, the tough goes out on a date–All of my personal board members have issues with dating. It ranges from dating the wrong person, to having really high standards, to not having any standards. Then there is me, the overachiever who has trouble caring for anything outside of her career. I normally would not blast my personal situation, but I see myself falling into a trap that most women fall into. I equate success and happiness with being a Black feminist scholar who can speak eloquently in front of anyone. A partner does not enter the picture. But, as my mom says, “you can do that in your 20’s, but once 35 hits and you’re all alone you’ll regret not meeting someone.” This year I will take my romantic life as seriously as my professional life, within reason.

I welcome anyone and everyone to share their 2009 lessons learned, and 2010 looking aheads. I find the more I put my goals and aspirations out there, the more people there are to hold me accountable.

Happy New Year!

The Beauty of Birth

•December 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The United States has the second worst newborn death rate in the developed world.

African-Americans have 2.3 times the infant mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites.

The first statement comes from the very powerful documentary called The Business of Being Born. I watched with such intense emotion, on the brink of tears throughout the film. There came a point as I was watching The Business of Being Born when my mom called. I cannot think of the purpose of the call because I took over the conversation by telling her all the facts I just learned about natural childbirth.

I should rewind by saying, I am a 24 year-old woman who has always been fascinated by giving birth. Not sure if I wanted to have children, I am now certain that my uncertainty came from a fear of hospitals and medical procedures. This film changed my views on the process, showing how elated women are after suffering through the pain and seeing the child come out right before them–often right into the mother’s hands.

The following statement should be prefaced by saying I do not believe the child birthing experience is solely a heterosexual one. The Business of Being Born is a little bias in that regard. However, it was really beautiful seeing the mother’s partners (in love and in birth) there for every moment. Having the maternal midwife there, touching the mother’s belly with complete sincerity and empathy, created a team experience. Going into labor appeared rewarding because of the bond the mother has with the child, as the film explains with the “cocktail of hormones,” but it reassures that the  experience is better shared with loving people.

This brings me to an article sent to me earlier this week called “Teaching Black Women to Breast Feed.” I always said that if I had children I will never ever breast feed. I am the youngest in my family, and never saw any of the women in my family breastfeed first hand. So, when I see other women doing it, it just seems so foreign to me. However, given the health benefits of both breast feeding and home births, having children and breast feeding is an option for me again. As ambitious and goal-oriented as I am, I want to have a career that is sensitive to my desire to have children at my own pace and put my future child(ren) first. Women should never be forced to choose between being mothers and being successful career women–a trend that is definitely prevalent in fast paced cities like New York. The process is a celebratory one, and this New York City woman wants to own that process.

The Undesirable Black Woman

•December 22, 2009 • 1 Comment

I have been reading Racialicious for the past couple of months, and have hung on to their every word. Last week, the blog ran a number of posts regarding Black women and dating – my favorite topic.

In the blog post “Successful, Black, and Lonely,” the blame is placed on Black women victimizing themselves with their “woe is me” attitude. I should also note that this is a specific Black woman: college graduate, middle class, and can afford elaborate clothes and parties. I completely understand that Nadra Kareem was trying to critique Andrews for her claims, as expressed in the Washington Post article of the same name, but what is the real reason behind the vast amount of single Black women?

I know you all thought I would provide some insightful answer, but there is no one answer. In fact, it is just as complicated as all the other issues that affect Black women. I have two sisters, and we are all single for different reasons. It ranges from not being a physical type to not being of a specific economic tier.

Another Racialicious post, “SBF Seeks Social Validation: Why Are So Many Black Women Single?!?!?”, Wendi Muse tries to make better sense (and provide some solutions) of the successful Black woman who cannot get a man issue. However, we are stuck with the assumption that financially/professionally successful women warrant a wonderful relationship. When did romance become a class issue?

I am really excited about exploring this topic further and talking to other women to see if having a degree makes an undesirable Black woman more desirable.

SBF Seeks Social Validation: Why Are So Many Black Women Single?!?!?

Ivy League or Bust

•December 17, 2009 • 1 Comment

I was first introduced to Steph and Jermel in 2007. They were the first of many Black Ivy Leaguers I would come to meet over the next few years. After seeing their success and passion for Public Health, I assumed I wanted a path like theirs – Columbia graduates who kept it real, but were well-respected as experts in their field.

My undergraduate college experience consisted of going to three colleges, changing majors twice a semester, and settling on film studies after four or five years of trial and error. Meeting Steph and Jermel completely flipped the way I thought about education. I began to equate being educated and fulfilled with getting an ivy league graduate education. As I began my graduate school application process, I only sought out top schools with big names. I was determined to leave my City University of New York label behind.

An ivy league education is not for the fickle. I wanted Columbia for public health and Harvard for law. I could not afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, but going to one of those schools would mean that I was worth more than the college loans I would have to take out. I envisioned a new life where my parents would be proud to say they have an ivy leaguer in the family, I would rub elbows with wealthy intellectuals, and my ambitious career goals would no longer be unattainable.

Needless to say, I never applied to Columbia or Harvard or any graduate program. I stayed at my current job, and will probably be there for another year or so. My goals have changed, and I feel more fulfilled than ever. I will one day apply to graduate schools like NYU or the New School, but for programs that are more aligned with what I want to do long-term.

A few friends of mine are still pushing forward with their ivy league dreams, many of which come from low-income backgrounds or who were the first in their family to graduate from college. There is something to be said about the American dream for the poor, of color population. We often define who we are by fancy titles and degrees, and sadly, it is often detrimental to our true calling.

Losing the Native Tongue

•December 13, 2009 • 1 Comment

My mother and I never had a problem communicating until recently. Growing up, she could understand all of the things I said and wanted to say. Now, our conversations consist of huh?, can you explain?, and what does that mean? I assumed we were speaking a different language because of our age and we were no longer around each other as much.

In writing a one-pager to describe Mocha Salon, I thought all of my ideas were clearly and creatively articulated. So, I shared the document with a good friend of mine and my Mocha partner, Stephanie Lykes for feedback. After Michael and Steph read the document, I received the same comments: “it sounds great, but can you explain…” or “hmm, is there a simpler way of saying…”

If I cannot communicate with the people who know me best, how can I effectively communicate with women I closely identify with because of shared experiences? Being immersed in the field of social entrepreneurship has made me throw around fancy words, and it took writing the simple one-pager to realize there is a disconnect.

I currently struggle with figuring out how to reconnect with the women who have informed my career path: my mother, my supportive circle of friends from high school, my neighbors, etc. Speaking a different language (jargon) is fine when it’s in the office or among others in a similar field. However, it is the relearning of what I call my native tongue that will allow me to establish better working relationships based on common understanding and trust.