“YOU are not of this world, you just live in it”. — My mama used to quote John 17:16 as she would look dead into my eyes while straightening my pleated uniform and looking around our housing project lined street. Our house was exactly 0.4 miles from one of the deadliest housing projects, D-Block, in Yonkers, NY.
Retrospectively, that world that “I didn’t live in” provided me with lessons that has made me a successful administrator and continues to give me an edge over my competitors and peers in the professional world.
This is my ode to the hood:
Mama- You kept us under your wing. Protected us from the world around us.
Yonkers- So different from the oasis you grew up in, on your beautiful island.
Babies having babies, people slinging drugs.
Displaced persons, mangled families
Just trying to live, to rebuild their lives
Fighting against the patriarchy and the weight of systematic oppression
Cops, shrouded in blue, busting down doors, just spitting distance from our own front door
I remember you whispering: “You are not of this world — Remember that”
But I was, Mama.
Because I was not blind, and I was not deaf.
I hoarded the lessons of the street.
Breathing them in until they flowed like oxygen through my veins
Stuffing them deep down.
Burying them away below the layers of brown skin, so that my white,rich peers would not happen to catch a glance of them.
I hid them, so I would not be found out.
So that they wouldn’t call me or assume me- Ghetto
Now I’m a professional and it’s the hood lessons chosen time to shine
The ones that have made me strong, creative, bold:
The importance of the witty clap back.
To use my voice boldly.
To sound the alarm-
To identify- Danger.
I learned ….
Look both ways before you cross the street.
Look up, down and around before making a move. Be strategic
To make something out of nothing.
To create my own sunshine, when skies were gray.
Follow your gut.
It’s ok to be different and to march to my own drum.
A little skepticism is healthy.
Think Twice Before you Speak.
To make the food stretch, when there was little or none.
To tell the truth plainly
To tell a brilliant and clever story
to know when to mind my own business
The importance of boundaries
The significance of family
Both blood and chosen
How to take action and when to break rules
To initiate change and not to wait for it to happen
Note: BE AWARE, THERE ARE SPOILERS as themes are discussed.
Moana, is an animated film about the coming of age process and navigating through the world as a young person. There were so many times when I, as a female-identified person, beamed with pride as Moana traverses her way across the world and fought against the expectations set for her by her family and village. I’ve watched Moana ten times and I’m a bit ashamed to say, each time I’ve watched it, I’ve cried. During my tenth viewing with a group of friends in San Francisco, I realized that unlike many of my peers, it was not Moana’s feminine strength that resonated with me. Instead, Moana’s story was a direct reflection of my adult life and the lives of many of my millennial peers. The power of the film stems from it’s relevancy, discussing topics such as resiliency, familial expectation, gender norms, coming of age, friendship, impostor syndrome and pursuing one’s dreams and destiny.
Have you ever been in a conversation with your parents or grandparents, or read one of those articles that blame millennials for the destruction of one thing or another: the end of the hotel industry, fast food, the list goes on? Well, even millennial Moana in her animated world cannot escape the blame game from her parents for trying to embrace change and find innovative ways to save her island. She defies her father and runs away from her own island to challenge the existing paradigms of leadership and survivorship. She breaks borders by leaving the reef to restore the heart of Tafiti which she alone believes would save the island from destruction.
We might not all be future village chiefs but each one of us must break free of our parents’ or social expectations to discover what makes us tick and fills our soul. We too must face our fears; our fears of failure, fear of not living up to our peers, fear of being second best, and our fears of getting stuck.
When I speak to peers or mentees after they’ve gotten their first or second job, they express to me a drive to work hard, to never make mistakes and to get everything right the first time around. I challenge you though, “What will actually happen if you take on a project that is new to you and you royally screw it up? Is it possible you’ll get fired? Yes, of course but is that likely? On your first or second big mistake, probably not. I’ve sat on quite a few hiring committees and one thing I’ve learned from having to read all those boring cover-letters and resumes is that, it is much more expensive to hire and woo a new person then to deal with the current mess of an employee that the company already. Take some comfort in that.
Moana’s lesson in wayfaying across the sea was not free of setbacks and failures. There are many moments of defeat that she could have easily used as an excuse to turn her boat around and head back home. She falls asleep during her lessons with Maui, she gets lost more than once, her boat capsizes, and she is even tricked by Maui and left boatless on the island he had been stranded on for years. None of theses scenes were her shiniest moments. Lucky for her, she was on the water, mostly alone for miles, so there was no one to be a testament to her many screw-ups. Regardless of the magnitude of her mistakes, each time, she dries herself off and continues to pursue her mission.
We can learn resilience and bravery from Moana. She was told repeatedly, that she would not be able to sail across the sea and return the heart of Tafiti. But, time and time again, she faces her fears, even jumping into the realm of monsters to help Maui get his magic hook back. There’s nothing scarier than that except perhaps being in an interview room with ten interviewers at once.
There were times that Maona questioned her own legitimacy and mission, which is quintessentially millennial. At one point she begs the ocean, with tears in her eyes, to take back the heart of Tafiti and to choose another person to fulfill the mission. Like Moana, it is 100% normal to question your calling, especially as a young professional. Passions grow, they change, they evolve. The evolution can be difficult, even painful. When you’ve been pursuing one path for as long as you can remember and you suddenly realize that path no longer revs your engine, what do you do then? Do you wallow in self pity? No! Instead, try some self-exploration, some in-depth self-research. I guarantee that when you start to pay attention to yourself outside of social and familial expectation, you’ll find your path, that career that will bring you peace.
Another moment that felt particularly millennial, was Moana’s perceived greatest moment of failure. At this point in the movie, she’s fought through impostor syndrome and many bumps along the way, big and small. She finally makes it to Te-Ka, the monster that is blocking her way to restoring Tafiti’s heart. This scene was supposed to be her big, shiny, moment. You know the one. The moment equivalent to getting that big promotion, getting into grad school or starting your first company. Instead of restoring the heart, two of the traits that double as strengths leads to her failure: her pride and her stubbornness. Maui, who is older and wiser and more importantly has faced Te-Ka in combat previously, assesses the situation and urges her to re-evaluate their strategy. Instead of heeding Maui’s warning, she listens to her pride and her fear and drives the boat onward. My mom always did say: “If you do not hear, you will feel” and feel she did. Her inability to cast her pride aside in that moment resulted in a broken magic hook and her boat being hurtled halfway back across the sea.
Can any of you relate to this moment? When you would not heed the lesson of a parent, or mentor and ended up back at the beginning or losing out on an opportunity? It’s familiar to me. I can’t count the amount of times when I’ve overheard an older person complaining about the stubbornness of millennials and our inability to hear. I usually laugh because seeing situations through unique lenses makes us millennials amazing. The world would not be where it is today in terms of technology and redefining social norms without us. However, are bright octagon shaped lenses can be our biggest enemy if we are unable to reason or listen to compromise. As philosopher George Santayana once said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ Like Maona had to learn, there has to be balance between forging ahead, challenging the status quo and also taking advice from lived experience into consideration.
In the end, with the help of her grandmother’s ancestral spirit, she verbally re-defines who she is and what the mission means to her both on a personal level and as the leader of her tribe. She stares impostor syndrome down reminding herself that she is a bad ass singing:
“I am a girl who loves my island. I’m the girl who loves the sea… I am the daughter of the village chief. We are descended from voyagers…”
She reminds herself of the importance of trusting her instincts and listening to her heart. She sings:
I’ve delivered us to where we are. I have journeyed farther
I am everything I’ve learned and more…The call isn’t out there at all, it’s inside me
It’s like the tide; always falling and rising.
That come what may
I know the way
I am Moana!
Sometimes we all need to encourage ourselves a little, even if that means singing out loud, alone in the middle of the ocean, about who we are and what are purpose is.
Moana got up, turned her ship around, sailed all the way back to Tafiti and this time was able to restore the heart to it’s rightful owner.
After her successful mission, she returns home triumphant, to claim her throne. In her tribe’s tradition, to formally claim the throne, you must place a stone on top of the leadership stone; each stone placed by the chiefs before her. In true millennial form, she accepts her role but alters the tradition to better fit her style, instead of an ugly stone, she places a conch shell instead. I personally think she might need to rethink her choice of declaration, as it will make it harder for the next leader to place their stone on the leadership structure. But all in all, loved the spunk and the integration of old and new tradition.
Moral of the story, to hell with those people and the little voice inside that tell you that you can’t do something. You can do anything you set your mind to doing, even if that is finding your passion and sticking to it.
I never understood why being a “pussy” was supposed to be an insult. We all know that vaginas are the coolest of all anatomical parts, because they embody resilience, strength and perseverance. People who desire to be successful leaders or entrepreneurs can learn a thing or two about Bossdom from learning more about the vagina.
Vaginas are habitual and resilient:
For better or worse, the life cycle of vaginas are strictly habitual and cyclical. It does not cut corners or eliminate steps when working towards the final product of a successful pregnancy. The vagina has a mind of its’ own and knows when it’s get-it on time. You know what I’m talking about, that “smarting” feeling down in the nether regions. It’s as if the vagina has its’ own google playlist featuring Trey Songs, Marvin Gaye, and Usher that starts to play in your pants right on time each month. The sexy playlist sends out physical signals to remind the person that ovulation is near and it is baby making time by changing the PH of the vagina, the stickiness, and the scent.
The vagina is resilient because it cannot always fulfill its’ monthly objective of baby-making. Sometimes, pesky obstacles such as abstinence, birth control, the pull-out method, etc. get in the way of the end-goal:
but the vagina does not give up on it’s mission even when it fails.
All Hail Vagina! The Pivot Queen!
When the body fails to conceive that month, the Vagina does not fret about it, she pivots instead, resulting in what can be an unpleasant but necessary menstrual period. In the moment, the pivot may feel uncomfortable and painful but come the following month, the vagina is back on schedule working towards reaching the outcome. One-day perhaps, it’ll succeed, until then, it never gives up, just tries and tries again.
Successful people are like the vagina. If at first, they do not succeed, they try again. They define their own benchmarks for success and they find methods to meet them. When they miss their benchmarks, they don’t beat themselves up, they analyze why they missed them, regroup and pivot. They recognize that pivoting is not an admittance of defeat but an avenue for growth. They do not wallow in self-pity but instead are determined and resilient to succeed.
Vaginas are Self-Cleaning and Self-Healing:
Vaginas are colonized by protective bacteria that helps to maintain the vagina’s healthy PH levels. The bacteria help the vagina to fight infections and to keep foreign invaders out. If it happens to get a micro-tear it’ll heal itself within a few days without aid.
Successful people are also self-cleaning and self-aware. They are cognizant about people and habits in their lives that are detrimental to progress. They cut off haters and Debby-Doubters and instead surround themselves with people that reflect the lifestyle that they desire to live. They analyze behaviors that hinder productivity and work to reverse them. They have a clear and concise mission but are not afraid to reassess, realign or cleanup their current processes to better fit their mission.
Successful people are also self-efficient and self-healing by being critical of themselves but also being self-compassionate. They are consistently reading and researching how to hone their crafts. They do not get stuck in their ways. If an employee or a work habit is affecting outcomes, they do not wait for outsiders to affirm their suspicions, they observe, research and cut-away the negative energy but they remember that the team is a living entity and will need time to heal, so they provide a space for healing and for team-members to tell their truths.
The Scent of the Vagina can be Affected by Diet:
A healthy vaginal PH is between 3.5-4.5 but that can fluctuate based on what a person is eating or coming into contact with. Vaginal PH can change due to semen in the vagina, douches and even ovulation, resulting in a change in the vaginal scent or worse in the case of the douches, a yucky yeast infection. The scent and even taste can change based on things that you eat. Pineapples and other deliciously sweet fruits have always been rumored to have a fruitier influence on the vagina’s taste and smell.
Like the vagina, successful people are aware of information and vibes that they intake or entertain. They keep the haters and ambition deterrents at arm’s length. Successful people know that consuming toxic vibes will shake your core and confidence instead of strengthening it. Be protective of your essence, your scent and your brand. Everyone will try to weigh in to your dreams, and your business goals. Successful people are careful of the advice that you take from people. Successful people also know the importance of building a healthy Tribe of builder-uppers. People that will encourage you and help to feed your soul, even when you are down or when you’ve taken a misstep.
Successful people know the importance of sorting advice. They maximize useful information and ditch the rest.
Remember, your vision was given to you and you alone so do not allow it to be clouded by another person’s vision for you.
No Two Vulvas Are The Same:
Every vulva has a different shape, color and scent that is unique to the vulva-holder. The vulva is unconcerned about what other vulvas are doing or not doing. They do not get jealous or feel sad because other vulvas have lighter periods then them, or push babies out of them faster than they do. They are proud of who they are and do what they must to survive and thrive.
Successful people are also inwardly rather than outwardly focused. They are unconcerned about what their friends or peers are doing. They are not jealous or feed into FONLU (fear of not living up) or imposter syndrome. They focus their energies towards being their best selves and reflecting that in their work and lifestyle. They do reserve an established amount of their energy to encourage and build other people up that are in their Tribe. Laying the groundwork for good karma never hurt anyone.
Vaginas are Hardworking and Have Diverse Functions:
Vaginas are the hardest workers! They can push whole beings out of the body and bounce back from that. How many other body parts can do that? Even though they have superhuman abilities to push out and sustain life, they do not limit themselves to this one functionality. No, no, no.
VAGINAS ARE THE GURUS OF DIVERSIFYING FUNCTIONALITY.
Not only do they work to produce life each month but they are also pleasure havens of love! They love to orgasm and try new things. They do not discriminate or limit themselves to one type of pleasure. They are adventurous and are capable of four distinct types of orgasm: clitoral, vaginal, blended and multiple.
Successful people also know how to be adventurous and diversify. They do not have just one gig or make money by only one mean. They diversify their incomes, have healthy social media presences and invest smartly. They are not afraid of change or taking risks, even when they are a bit scared of the outcome. They strive to be innovative even when that means doing something in a way that is different than they are accustomed or comfortable with.
Amid all that hard work, successful people also know when to relax, have fun and take care of their mental and physical health. They build self-care into their daily lives because they know that investing in their happiness and their bodies results in more productivity.
Please Note: I am aware that not all vulva-holders experience some of the anatomical phenomenon discussed, this post is not to discredit any fems realities or truths.