#100HappyDays

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams topped six Billboard radio format charts: Adult Contemporary, Pop and R&B, as well as, Pop songs, Rhythmic songs and Mainstream R&B/Hip Hop. It hit number one in 24 countries.  Nominated for an Oscar, Billboard Music Awards, BET Awards, a Teen Choice Award, among other awards.  The music video has been remade countless times by happiness seekers everywhere. Even causing Iranian youth to be jailed for their version of the award winning video. It has been said that high energy song has sparked a global movement of happiness.

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The pursuit of happiness transcends gender, culture, race, religion and creed. We can all relate to simply wanting to be happy. Everyone has their own personal way of obtaining happiness. Whether it’s traveling around the world, starting a family or seeking higher education. We believe if we could just get to or past a certain point in life then we will truly be happy. I agree accomplishing goals and realizing dreams brings happiness, but I believe in order to ensure happiness between those defining moments we have to set out to live a grateful life.

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I’ve found that to be true through my own personal experience and through the research of others about the link between happiness and gratitude. Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. The technical term for happiness is subjective well-being. Psychologist have found that gratitude is one of the keenest predictors of, you guessed it, happiness.

 

 

In the beginning of August I was inspired by my favorite vlogger, Andrea Lewis, to join the #100happydays challenge. It’s a challenge, put on the by the 100HappyDays Foundation, to document happy moments through pictures. I’m thirty-seven days into the challenge and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. It is through this challenge that I have accomplished my personal goal of just waking up grateful and going to sleep grateful. I look for reasons to be grateful and this has brought me happiness on a daily.

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Now, I’m not saying that gratefulness is cure all to life’s issues. I have had my low moments throughout the challenge. I’ve learned that it is up to me and how I choose to face those issues. When faced with things that threaten my happiness I have to make a decision to keep it moving, because there is so much to be grateful for in life. This challenge, which I’m documenting via Instagram, has given me a new perspective and caused me to realize how beautiful life can be when I choose gratitude.

Here are a few my happy moments. Join me and start your own #100happydays challenge.

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The Twenty-Twenty Experience (Guest Post)

I’m not a writer but I love to express things that intrigue me or inspire me. Something that really inspires me is life and the journey it takes you on. While aimlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day, I came across a Huffington Post article titled, “20 Thing You Need To Accept About Your 20’s”. The article gave a brief summary of certain things that you need to face and come to terms with when you are in that eventful period of life. The article touched on things like losing friends, obstacles in your career path, body changes, relationship “whoa’s” and several other common pit-stops you may encounter as a young adult. As I was reading through all of those factors, the one thing that all of them had in common, was change. Change is an inevitable process that we all have to go through in order to move forward in our lives. Life itself is a series of changes and transitions and I’ve come to realize that your twenties is the most prominent, defining, changing phase of your adult life.

After I read through the article, I sat there and thought back to twenty-one year old, Laura. Twenty-one year old me was a completely different person than I am now at twenty-seven. When I was twenty-one, I was dating a twenty-nine year old, womanizing drug dealer who had multiple kids with different women[yeah I know!]. I was very impulsive and terrible about making decisions. As a person, I was struggling in this religious bubble. I couldn’t find the balance between being a “good Christian” and being a human with flaws. Six years ago, you could never tell me I was wrong. I had tunnel vision and there was nothing that anyone could say to me that would make me open my mind…until life happened.

Screenshot_2014-05-31-17-00-33~2My mindset slowly shifted throughout the numerous turn of events in my life; the good, the bad and the ugly. As I moved through the mid twenties, I eventually came to the conclusion that I must live my life. So I dated a few losers, I made some bad wardrobe choices, I got burned by a couple of “friends”, worked at a few dead-end jobs and made plenty of mistakes in between. I now understand that each and every experience was necessary and I don’t regret making any of those decisions.

If I didn’t date “the womanizer”, “the mama’s boy”, “the artsy cynic”, “the eclectic weirdo” or “the angry man”[whose names will not be mentioned!], my heart would have never been able to experience true love and what a good man feels like[<3!]. If I wouldn’t have made that careless decision to move to Oklahoma with only a duffle bag and $80 to my name, I wouldn’t have met the most amazing friend in the world[love you Ray! If I never tried new things and made some major fashion “no-no’s”, I would have never figured out what works for me and what makes me beautiful. In the end, it’s all about trial and error.

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As I digress, going through my twenties has been one of the most colorful, fulfilling times of my life. I have about three years left and I must say that I have enjoyed the ride[and it’s not over!]. My twenties experience helped me to discover my passions, my shortcomings and my womanhood. I encourage you all to do the same. It doesn’t matter if you are twenty or even twenty-nine…make it your business to take advantage of such a time as this, because you’ll never get the chance again. Write your story, live out loud and enjoy the possibilities!

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 Written by my awesome friend: Laura R. Jordan

Update: Goals and A false Sense of Accomplishing Them

In one of my first posts, ‘Goals and A False Sense of Accomplishing Them,’ I shared with you my goal of not voicing my goals, in hopes of increasing my chances of accomplishing them. Also in that post, I shared with you a few of my short term goals, and promised a follow up in a year. Well its been a little over three months since that post, and I don’t know what I was thinking when I told you it would take me a year to update you.

If you forgot them or didn’t read the post, here is a list of goals:

1. Create a blog.

2. The learn Associated Press Style of writing.

3. To land a writing/PR internship.

4. To help and inspire others in accomplishing their goals.

5. To break through my self-imposed glass ceiling, find my voice and do what I was called to do.

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I set those goals just days after making the hard decision not to return to Korea. Three months later, I’m happy to report to you that I’m still blogging (goal 1). I’m getting better with each post, but I still have a long way to go on building it and getting it to where I want it be.  Through my post, I feel and hope I have inspired others to go after whatever it is that makes them happy (goal 3).  I’m currently discovering the world of AP Style writing(goal 3) in a class I’ve been attending once a week since January. I am about two months into a three-month internship at the only diversity and inclusion communications firm in my city (goal 4).  I am discovering a lot about myself in this new season. I’m ever so grateful to God these opportunities. I’m in a happy place. Even though, at 27, I’m not in the most ideal of situations, I’m in a happy place. And what the heck is an ideal situation for a 27- year-old, anyway?

In this journey, I’ve discovered that going after what I want is the method that will most likely get me to where I want to be; instead of simply talking about it. This has inspired me to dream bigger, and to think up something new to work toward as well. It’s shown me what can be done when I believe in myself. So there are new goals to be set. At the moment I don’t have a set list. But I can tell you the words “travel” and “world”  maybe be somewhere on that list. Maybe. I’ll update you in a year, or maybe another three months with my new goals.

Let me know!  I want to know what your goals are. Big or small.  Are you working toward anything in particular? Feel free to try answer my question about what the ideal situation for a 27-year-old is.

Undergrad: Was it worth it?

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That’s me after my graduation ceremony in 2009. I graduated from Oral Roberts University with a Bachelors of Science in Business Management. Oh, what a glorious day it was. The day I had been looking forward to for the past four years. I remember being in class day dreaming about my graduation.  What dance moves I was going to do to celebrate? What was I going to wear?  After all I was making history by being the first to graduate from college on both sides of my family.

Now, almost five years and a ton of student loan payments later,  I reflect on the value of my degree. What impact has it had on my life? I often have conversations with people who wonder ‘Ray, are you ever going to use your degree?’  Of course I love answering that question. Not.  I’ll try to answer that question and address  education’s impact on my life later in the post. But first, I recently asked a few of my degree-holding,  college educated, amazingly accomplished friends how they feel about  education and its impact on their life.  Here’s a condensed version of what they had to say:

Chelsea, said: “I was a literature major, I read three books a week. Because of the rigorous schedule, I learned to read quickly and comprehend the story easily. In class, I was always shy  to participate in group discussion and I thought my input wasn’t necessary. I gradually felt more comfortable and started stating my opinions and ideas….I not only learned about genres and characters, but also a good deal about myself was discovered through studying the timeless pieces. I wouldn’t trade my undergrad experience for the world!”

Nicole shared: “I got my undergraduate degree in Vocal Performance….towards my last year in college I decided I didn’t really love opera…then the I got bit by the film bug. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t spent that time and money on my undergrad, but then again it prepared me for auditioning for film. Also, being in a community of talented performers (classmates) prepared me for competition.”

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Mary, pictured above, gave me something to think about; “I honestly have mixed feelings about the worth of my undergraduate degree. I feel as if it’s an accomplishment, but nothing substantial. I now know that I will reap benefits from my degree by pursuing my aspirations. I will benefit from the knowledge, friendships and hardships. I think the degree does not do what we think it will do in the real world for some people.”

‘So Ray, what’s your take on education? Are you ever going to use your degree?,’ you ask. Well I, too, at times question the value of my degree. There are a few things I may have done differently in my undergrad, but for the most part I’m thankful for it.  Like these ladies I choose to look at its impact on who I am today. While I don’t believe college is for everyone, I do believe it was for me. I believe I use my degree in everything I do. Who I am is a confident-educated person. It was a necessary foundation and an invaluable experience.  I totally agree with Mary that in most cases our degree does not do what we think it will do in the real world. In the end having the courage to do what makes you happy is most important.  If you’re like me, you studied business management and all you want to do is see the world and experience new things on a regular basis. Whatever it is that makes you happy, do it. Work toward it. Don’t let your education be a source of limitation but a foundation on which you stand.

Let me know! What’s your take on education? What impact has it had on you?

Greatness right before me: Susan L. Taylor

Sankofa, a word in the Akan language of Ghana, translates in English to “reach back and get it.” It has also been stated to translate “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”   Biennially the local library, in my city, awards a Sankofa Freedom Award. Past recipients have included: Michael E. Dyson, Nikki Giovanni, Pearl Cleage and Hill Harper.

Two years ago while living abroad I heard that Hill Harper was visiting my home town to accept an award. I hadn’t heard of Sankofa Freedom award at the time, but I knew I was disappointed to miss out on Hill Harper. Little did I know I would be able to interview the 2014 recipient of the award; Susan L. Taylor.

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Susan L. Taylor is the editor-in Chief emeritus of Essence Magazine. A magazine that I have subscribed to for years and am ever so grateful for. I was able to attend my first Essence Fest in the summer of 2010. I follow them on all my social media accounts. I’m a big fan. So when my good friend Justin, Editor-in-chief of ilovenorthtulsa.com, asked me to come along for the interview; I was more than thrilled. During the interview and award ceremony she dropped so much wisdom; I want to share a few of those nuggets with ya:

  • We should ask ourselves “What does the gift of life mean to me?”  Thinking of life as a gift on a daily basis will put a positive spin on just about everything we face. We would find lessons in everything, be more grateful and forgive easily.
  • Let go of the things that don’t serve you well: anger, unforgiveness, toxic relationships etc. I’ve found there is so much power in letting go.
  • You should intern before you decide on the career path you want to follow. Something I’m putting into practice now.
  • The things that happen in your life are for you enlightenment, not for your punishment.
  • Pain is inevitable; suffering is a choice.
  • Get up every morning and say thank you. Gratitude makes everything you have more than enough.
  • Love yourself and give the overflow, of that love, to the community.
  • Don’t take people’s craziness personally.

Her passion for her organization, National CARES Mentoring Movement, was evident. The organization recruits adults to mentor at-risk youth. There was definitely a call to action as she discussed practical ways to reach our youth.

I Needed to See Black Women on TV

I recently watched a Saturday Night Live skit starring  the lovely Kerry Washington. On the show Kerry is forced to play Beyonce and Michelle Obama; poking fun at the shows lack of Black females cast members. It was a response to their Critics. They’ve since hired an African-American female to join the cast of SNL. Watching that skit reminded me of my childhood; as far-fetched as that may sound.

I grew up with an older brother and sister; who both loved cartoons and watching television in general. I could not stand when they flipped to programs like The Road Runner and Tom and Jerry.  I guessed I was skipped over when God was handing out the gift of “imagination.”  If that’s what you need to enjoy the world of animation.  I could stand to sit through Saved by the bell, USA high and Boy Meets world. Oh, but your girl perked up when it was time to watch The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, A Different World, and The Cosby Show. I wanted to see people, black people specifically. Later on that desire to see black people turned in to a desire to see black women.  My sister still to this day gives me a hard time about my lack of imagination and limited choice of  shows/movies. But why did I develop that preference at such a young age?

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I came across an article titled Why the Presence of Black Women in Media is Important For Everyone by Ramou Sarr.  Sarr talks about her thesis she wrote for her masters degree.  The article really hit home for me and addressed some of the reasons behind my childhood preference. “My research was on the relationship between the representation of black women in media and black women’s self-esteem” says Sarr.  The writer addresses the power of television and the impact it can have on viewers.  She explains: “TV offers community, it offers a glimpse of how we are different and alike, it informs how we view and interact with people….It has the power to impact how we view ourselves”  

I’m sure there has been various skits, articles and studies on black women in media. But speaking personally TV was  my family’s primary source of entertainment, cultural influence, and even education.  I needed to see people I could relate too. I needed to see myself in those programs. I was proud when I saw black women on the screen. Beautiful, talented and hilarious black women.  I learned from them. I was inspired by them. Watching A Different World taught me about HBCUs and made me want to attend the fictional Hillman College one day.  One day I was going to be a career mom like Claire from The Cosby Show.  While I wasn’t totally closed-minded to shows with a full white cast, I needed a change up from the diversity that the ‘few’ black shows offered. I needed to see black women on TV.

What are your thoughts? Can you relate? Can’t relate? Feel free to comment below and pic my brain, challenge me or just discuss the topic further.

Teach English in Korea, I did.

I spent 2011-2013 on an island in South Korea teaching English as a second language. Those were some of the best two years of my life. When I started the process with Footprints recruiting I didn’t know what I was getting my self into. The recruiters helped me  throughout the process. They really held my hand. They answered every question I could think of, they helped me with the application and visa process, and everything in between. After the long process of submitting and re-submitting the recruiters informed me that the provincial office of education of  Jeju accepted my application.  Jeju was my first choice, I couldn’t believe I got my first pick!  August came and it was time for take off.  My first two weeks in Korea was spent going through the required orientation  in Seoul. There I met fellow teachers from various English-speaking countries who would be teaching in different provinces in Korea. We learned different teaching methods, Korean culture, planned a mock lesson and taught it to our peers.  What I remember particularly about those two weeks was my extreme case of jet lag.  I slept every chance I got during orientation

After the two weeks we said our goodbyes and off we went to our homes. I was eager to finally get the keys to my apartment and settle in.  My apartment was a standard one room offictel apartment. Meaning there was one room with my bed, desk, table and kitchen. My bathroom was a room with my toilet sink, washer (no drier) and shower head (no tub and nothing separating the shower area from everything else in the bathroom). It was definitely different from what I was used to; but it became a place I loved and lived in for the next two years.

I taught at four different schools during my time in Jeju. Each experience was different. My first school I taught primarily alone and others I would teach with a Korean co-teacher. I graduated university with a Business management degree. I am not a teacher. But I was able to pull off teaching ESL for two years. I learned from teachers I taught with and various teaching websites. I really grew to love my students and looked forward to seeing them everyday. Also I do not speak Korean what so ever. Yes, it was interesting teaching and trying to communicate with the students everyday. Most Korean students have a foundation in English and can speak some conversational English. I also had a ton of students who had no earthly idea what I was saying everyday.

I met and be befriended a diverse group of people while living on Jeju.  Many of those people have become my forever friends and I still communicate with.  Every weekend was an adventure, filled with awesome beach days, delicious Korean food, hiking, events, and trips to the mainland. We were given eight days off in the summer and fourteen days off in the winter.  I took empowering one woman trips to the  Philippines and Japan on my vacations;  Needless to say I had the time of my life. Exploring various islands in the Philippines and biking through bamboo gardens in Japan.

There, of course were not so great things about  my time abroad; but not so bad that I will take the time to write about it.  In other words the good out weighed the bad. I grew to love Korea in all its kimichi, Confucius beliefs and just plain cuteness.  I will never forget my time abroad and the impact it has made on my life.

Have a college degree? Speak English? Want an experience of a lifetime, want to fall in love with Korea’s youth, save some money, and meet great people. I recommend checking out the English Program in Korea.  There are various ways of  getting across the seas and teaching in Korea. I can only speak from my experience and conversations I’ve had with others about their experience. I recommend  EPIK; it’s the countries English program for the public school system. You have the option of applying directly with them or going through a recruiter. If you are new to ESL teaching recruiters are very helpful.

Recruiting options for the public school system: Footprints recruiting (I used them), Korvia, Teachaway  and Adventure teaching. Those are just a few of the countless recruiters recruiting teachers for Korea. I’m sure I’ve left out tons of information and didn’t answer all the questions that could be asked. So ask me? Please comment below with any questions or concerns you may have about teaching in Korea. I’ll do my best to answer or direct you to the answer.

Forgiveness is For Me

I recently came across a daily prompt about forgiveness on the Daily Post.  The prompt was to write about a time where it was difficult for me to forgive. I would say every time is difficult. I mean, who really wants to forgive? Doesn’t it feel better just to hold on to the offense? Doesn’t it do our hurt feelings and ego justice when we refuse forgiveness?

I believe in the beginning, yes. For me I allow myself to hurt. It’s only realistic to allow myself to have that time.  I call up my best friend, because if anybody will allow me to have my moment, without judgement, its her. After talking about it, thinking about it, crying about it I realize I need to move on. Even though I find the hurting period to be necessary I find it to be self-defeating.

Self defeating is defined as injurious to one’s own purpose or welfare or unable to achieve the intended result. They forgot to add “What Raynell does if she chooses not to forgive.”  When I choose not to forgive I defeat myself in so many ways. I let it consume my thoughts and emotions. Every time the person is brought I feel like a match is lit up in my stomach. I’ll find myself not being able to scroll fast enough when a mutual friend has tagged them in a facebook picture.  I’ll toss and turn at night thinking about how wrong they were. It’ll consume my conversations.  In short, I’ll release my power and defeat myself.

While I’m defeating myself the offender is probably some where on some white sand beach not thinking about me. But I want to walk on the beach and not think about them, too! I want to keep my power and focus my energy on other things. And thinking other thoughts, like, “how will I get to that beach?” I find I’m more productive when I forgive. I’m happier and life is much easier.  I’m sure I’m nicer and funner to be around. Forgiving is just a good look all around. Forgiving is for me.

What about you? Do you find forgiving easier? What helps you speed up the forgiving process? Stories? Poems? Please leave them below.