So You Leaped, Now What?

Did you recently make a major, potentially life-changing decision? Did you agonize over the details before making such a move, or did you close your eyes and jump?

No matter what method you used to restart your life/career/health, one thing is common (aside from saying, “holy shit…what did I just do?!”), after you’ve taken a major leap of faith in your life and come down from the high of pursuing your dreams, you look around and ask yourself, “Now what?”

Six months ago I made one of the biggest leaps of my life, I quit my teaching job and began writing full-time. Although I had run the numbers, looked at my budget a million times, and knew I could make it financially, six months later I’m still having a “now what” moment.

About two weeks ago I learned that I’d be cutting back on my “day writing job,” and with that cut would come a decrease in income. Almost immediately, I started to panic. How can I make my ends meet if I had less income coming in? I started to go into full-blown, what the F&*$k did I do mode? I started to doubt my choice to switch careers, and I almost….almost picked up the classifieds to see if I could snag a barrista job.

Then I remembered something: I’m a writer with contacts and talent. I control my income, not any particular publication or job or editor. Me. It was time to kick it into gear.

I snapped on the beach in Santa Monica

Ironically, the day before my “oh shit” moment, I took a little walk along the beach and had a talk with God. You see, I’ve been tremendously blessed in my life, and for the most part…whenever a door closed, another door, or two windows opened in return.

Years back, I moved to New York City with no family, no friends, and only two suitcases. Despite landing in one of the most expensive cities in the world, the Universe/God provided. I didn’t have a dime saved up and before I could find an apartment, I had to return to LA because my grandfather died. The day before I left I meet a soror who let me crash in her place…for as long as I needed. After about a month of soaking in the city (and attending grad school), I landed a job at an ed tech firm. Later I got my own place in Brooklyn, and when I lost my job and found out I was preggo, instead of being paralyzed by fear and worry, I worked my ass off to find free health care and temp gigs that allowed me to pay my rent and make sure le kid was ok in the process.

When I go through my “OMG! Now what?!” moments these days, I remind myself I’ve always made a way and God has always sustained me, so why should this be different?

If you’re experiencing a similar feeling, here are a few things to help you get by:

You got this: Clearly you’re talented, brave, smart, and a whole host of other positive things that have helped you get to this point. Just because you’re now following your dreams doesn’t mean you still don’t have the same set of skills you possessed before. Remember what got you to this moment. You got it, boo.

Evaluate the situation: Are you just having a normal freak out? Are you worried about money? Time? Security? Get to the root of the issue and try to figure out ways to solve it. If you’re worried that being a freelancer is putting a serious hurting on your income, think about ways to maximize your time and take on more gigs. And if you just can’t swing working for yourself AND making your bills, consider working part-time until you feel financially ready to continue being a full-time freelancer.

Brainstorm solutions: Once you’ve evaluated the situation, you’ll be more able to pinpoint a solution. My “OMG, WTF?” moment was quickly met with, “Ok Brit…how can we make up this money?” Once I began to think about it, I knew exactly how I could kick it up a notch….and I did. If you dream about going back to school or taking a round the world trip, but don’t want to blow up your credit score, think about how you can make this happen in a way that gets you to your goals without taking on a load of debt in the process.

No matter where you are in life, you’ll have a now what moment. They are merely apart of the journey, but it’s how you respond to them that matters.

If you allow the fear of failure push you to inaction it has already won. You won’t accomplish your goals, and you may even end up on a therapist’s couch (or at your local bar) wondering why you’re unhappy. But if you’re able to push past your fears and figure out solutions to them, then you’ll be on the road to success.

Have you experienced an “OMG, Now what?!” moment? How did you handle it?

Photo Trippin’: The Getty Museum

The Getty museum courtyard

Over the past two weekend–yes, both–le kid and I have ended up at The Getty Museum. Last Sunday we went on a whim. It was a bright blue day, we were feeling a little stir crazy, and it’s free (but parking is $15), so we decided to head on out. This past Saturday, while out to breakfast with my mom, I asked her if she wanted to go to a museum, and since she’d never been before, we decided to go again.

The Getty museum sits atop Los Angeles and houses European paintings, drawings, sculpture, illuminated manuscripts, decorative arts, and European and American photographs.

While I know nothing about architecture–other than things look nice–the Getty looks very old worldly with its pale marble floors and walls, numerous fountains, and expansive greenery.

The Getty Museum courtyard

The Getty boasts a wonderful collection of art, which includes some of the “masters” like Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Cézanne, Rembrandt, and many others.

People gathering around Van Gogh's Irises.

Van Gogh's Irises

Painting of Louis XIV

One of le kid’s favorite parts of the museum (aside from the Family Room, which offers a hands-on place for kids to play) were the sculptures.

My mom studying the sculpture

Le kid enjoying the family room.

A fountain in the courtyard

On a clear day, the Getty is a beautiful place to spend a day. With its lush campus, amazing views of LA, cafes, and art, the Getty is definitely a must-see when you’re in Los Angeles.

The view from the Getty Center

Have you ever been to the Getty? What’s your favorite part of the museum? 

Life Is Too Short: Trayvon Martin, Granddaddy, and Me

Trayvon Martin

For the past week I’ve been thinking, writing and tweeting a lot about Trayvon Martin.

In case you aren’t familiar with his plight, the 17-year-old Florida teen was murdered on Feb. 26 as he was walking back to his father’s home in Sanford, Florida. The young man–just a month after his 17th birthday–lost his life to an over-zealous “neighborhood watch captain” who seemed to have something against young black men.

Thinking of young Trayvon being stalked and killed by a man who was 10 years older and 100 pounders heavier is unimaginable. And since hearing of his death I’ve been someone obsessed with his case. I’ve written article after article, kicked off a twitter campaign to raise awareness about his case, and have gotten to know the details of the case.

But why? Kids get killed every day….why am I so obsessed about Trayvon?

Being a mother makes me sensitive to things like this. My son could easily be Trayvon in 10 years. I live in a upper-middle-class neighborhood where the local police are notoriously racist. I’ve been told several times by male friends that they’ve been stopped in and around these parts, so I’m acutely aware of the hurdles my son will face.

But there’s something else about Trayvon’s death that’s got me all up in my feelings: His life was too short.

He was barely 17, barely knew what it was like to love, didn’t get to go to college, or to celebrate his 21st birthday, or get married, or be a dad. George Zimmerman took that away from him. And no matter how hard I try to shake the feeling that my son or brothers or father could easily be Trayvon one day, I can’t.

Life is precious. It is a gift, and yet so many disgard and undervalue it as if it is nothing. As if it is of no value at all.

When I think of Trayvon, I also think of the men in my family, like my grandfather, who made it out of the bad old South to see things; to live life.

My grandfather–a man who dropped out of school in the third grade to work the fields–lived his life. For 75 years he lived on his own terms and managed to attain the America Dream in spite of all of the challenges he faced.

My grandfather was basically illiterate, and yet he memorized the Bible so well he preached at churches all around the country. His love of the Lord took him all the way to the Holy Land, Israel, to walk the streets Jesus walked.

Despite his limited education, my granddaddy was able to work his way up at Lockheed Martin and gain top-secret security clearance and retire with a pension and a paid-for house. He did that.  He moved his family from a small town in Arkansas to Cleveland to Los Angeles for a better life. He was fearless.

And it is that same fearlessness that both inspires and scares me about my son.

I don’t want him to lose his inquisitive nature. His openness to learn about his world and about other people are some of his best traits. I don’t want him to limit himself and slink away from life because he is afraid of what may befall him if he’s caught on the wrong street wearing a hoodie and carrying a pack of Skittles. He shouldn’t have to carry the burden of society’s prejudice, and yet…he does.

It is for this exact reason that nearly every, single weekend we venture out and see something new. It is for this–to spend time building memories with my son–that we hit the road and attempt to see the world.

I would hate to lose him; I am certain that would kill me. But it would be even more tragic to waste the time that we have together because I am too busy working, or hanging with my friends, or recovering from the week.

No, time is too short.

It’s too short to just phone it in and put things off until tomorrow. Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Danroy Henry, Latasha Harlin, and countless others all had tomorrow pulled out from under them like some cruel trick. Just like that.

So every day I will tell my son I love him, and hear him out, and build a memory, because you never know when that’s all we will have left.

Unexpected Surprises: The Milwaukee Public Market

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Last month I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin to visit the Harley-Davidson museum and learn more about black biker culture.

Have you ever been to Milwaukee? This was my first trip and I’ll be honest, at first, I wasn’t excited about it. I thought to myself, what could possibly be in Milwaukee that is so great? And in the dead of winter? Nawl!

Initially I wasn’t feeling it, but I stepped out on faith because I wanted a new experience, and who passes up a free trip–even if it’s to the frozen tundra?

When I stepped out of the airport I was greeted by the cold, but it wasn’t as freezing as I expected. Good sign. The car took me and a few other journalists to the Iron Horse Hotel to check in and get situated. Because I had a few hours to myself I decided to head out and see something. Before traveling, I’d already looked up places of interest and had heard about the Public Market. I decided to hop a cab and see what it was all about.

The Milwaukee Public Market is located in the city’s Historic Third Ward, a gentrifying area  filled with shops, restaurants, art galleries, and lofts. The Third Ward also borders the river and in the summer, I imagine it makes for beautiful scenery.

The Public Market consists of food shops, spice stores, bars, candy shops, gourmet stands, and cute little desert shops. I was hungry when I got there, but because I was met with so many options I had to do two laps around the market to figure out what I wanted.

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I didn't know what the heck a Cow Pie was, so I took pictures!

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Who wants one?

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All of these smelled SO GOOD. I should have bought some. #fail

After making the rounds and oohing and ahhing over the treats,  I decided to grab a turkey sandwich from The Green Kitchen. Although it sounds very plain jane, the sandwich was totally gourmet! It was filled with mascarpone cheese, sun dried tomato pesto, spinach, and tomatoes. I didn’t have my camera on hand (all these pics were taken with my phone), but I don’t think it mattered, I just dove in!

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Above the Public Market

I took my sandwich to the second floor, which includes a small lending library where you can borrow a book to read, and enjoyed my meal above the busy market.

Before I left Milwaukee, I HAD to meet up with a friend and AMAZING photographer, Christina. Christina and I “met” years ago when she began reading a blog I was writing at the time, and she became like my sister-from-another-mother. She damn near brought me to tears in the market when she gushed about my writing & how it inspired her to start blogging (and now she’s DOPE). Because she’s also a chef and foodie, we had to grab a treat before we left. I picked a chocolate covered rice crispy treat, which was hard as hell on my teeth, but so so good!

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YUM! 

Before we left the market, Christina snapped a photo of me, and although I was super tired (and my eyebrows look a mess) I quite like it. Whatcha think?

Moi!

Going to Milwaukee reminded me to always operate with an open heart and mind. Although I was a little suspect about the trip going in, I ended up having a WONDERFUL time and connecting with many, many interesting people (and, I’ll be learning how to ride a Harley soon #score).

So the next time someone asks you to go somewhere or do something you never really considered before, do it! You never know how much you’ll enjoy something until you give it a shot.

Have you ever been to the Milwaukee or the Public Market? What was the last place you went that really surprised you? 

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How Giving Up Helped Me Get Ahead

One of my most favorite places in the world. Bklyn Bridge, NYC

A few weeks ago, I was asked to write an essay for GOOD magazine‘s Hustlin’ series about why I quit my teaching job to follow my dream of being a freelance writer. Although I had written about it before, I was asked to think about my switch within the larger context of our shifting economy.

If you haven’t noticed, the economy sucks. Although the unemployment rate is slowly coming down, there are still millions of people who are out of work. So, why would anyone in their right mind give up the security of a stable gig for the unstable world of freelancing?

The answer is simple: happiness.

After teaching for five years, I came to the realization that I just didn’t want to do it anymore. And if I’m honest, that realization happened after year one.

My first year in the classroom was both an absolute failure and a thrilling success (teachers, y’all know what I mean). Although I had been a student for upwards of 18 years, and had gone through a great teacher program, I was totally unprepared for the rigors of working with kids. Without rehashing the gory details, let’s just say all the educational theory did not prepare me for a classroom full of seventh graders.

Classroom management? Out the window. Lesson planning? I’d have huge holes in my plans. Managing my time? Wishful thinking at best. I was drowning, and I had to save myself or get swallowed up by the sea.

Somehow, I managed to make it through that year, rest up over the summer and try again. But by Christmas break of my second year, the writing was on the wall: I wanted to do something else.

And yet…I waited. Three more years went by before I finally had enough. In between that time was lots of (secret) tears, frustrations, trips to a therapist, sick days, and finally rediscovering my voice.

Once I shook the fear of “what if I fai?” I was able to clearly see what it was I wanted to do and God began rearranging my life. Just like that.

Once I made up my mind to write full time the ideas began pouring in, people began referring me to their editor friends, and I began to make actually dollars from words.

Looking back I wonder what the hell took me so long, but as the old folks say, everything happens for a reason. I now know that I had to go through the fire to come out polished like gold.

And while everything isn’t all good (money is still sometimes funny), for the first time in years I see a path ahead of me that I actually love. After feeling stuck for so long, it feels good to know that I’m in control of my own destiny.

So, what does that have to do with you?

An interesting thing happens every time I share this story: I always get questions. After the GOOD article was published yesterday, I received tweets and emails asking for advice about how to make the switch. This makes me immensely happy because it means that what I’ve shared has helped someone, and as a writer, that’s ultimately my goal.

Yes, I’d like to be “known” (my name…not my face lol), I want to make money (who doesn’t? I got a kid to feed!), but at the end of the day, I’d also like to be helpful.

“In helping others, we shall help ourselves, for whatever good we give out completes the circle and comes back to us.” – Flora Edwards

Because I know that by helping others reach their goals I will also  also reach my own, please comment, tweet me, Facebook me, or email me if you have any questions. It may take me a few days, but I WILL answer them.

Also, I’ll be putting together a quick video (sort of similar to my vision board vid) with some tips on quitting your job and doing what you love. So if you have specific questions, ask!

Stay tuned.

Are you thinking about switching careers? What’s holding you back? 

Black Folks Travel, But Why Aren’t There More Films About It?

NYC Statue of Liberty

NYC Birthday trip 2010, Lady Liberty

I posted this article over on Clutch magazine, my “day job,” but it’s quite fitting for this space as well…

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I was getting my daily Shadow & Act fix when I ran across an interesting question by Tambay. Although there have been several films about Africa, you rarely see films depicting African Americans traveling to Africa…and beyond.

He writes:

We’ve seen quite a number of films about white Americans or white Europeans either already living in Africa, or visiting some African country, in search of something or someone – whether it’s salvation, redemption, inspiration, vacation, themselves, their spouses, children, friends, their dogs, cats, apes, whatever; and it’s rare that they’re villains, nor in positions of inferiority.

Also, those that are historically based usually involve white *settlers* (or remnants of colonialism) who come to see themselves as native to the land that their ancestors once occupied.

Aside from Shaft in Africa as Tambay mentionedand Phat Girlz (of all things), there are very few films that show African Americans in the motherland. Why?

One glance at the travel articles published on Clutch and the people I’ve met through the Nomad*Ness Travel Tribe, and it’s clear that black folks do, in fact, travel. So far we have traveled to every inch of the globe and often take up our passports and head off on international jaunts. But aside from How Stella Got Her Groove Back, we rarely see ourselves traveling on screen.

To be fair, these days black folks rarely see ourselves doing much of anything positive on screen, so I’m not surprised. But wouldn’t it be nice to have our own Eat, Pray, Love?

Off the top of my head there are several books that could easily be turned into films about black folks seeing the world: Black Girl in Paris, Searching for Tina Turner, and Kinky Gazpacho. But still no films. 

Why?

Do you know of any travel films featuring leading black characters? If so, share them! 

Oh the Places We’ll Go!

The big ballon at the Great Park

So, le kid and I haven’t been exploring as much as I would have liked. Last weekend we DID take a trip out to The Great Park in Orange County to ride the big ballon, but because it’s free…spots fill up fast. Alas, we weren’t able to take a ride, but we made due by racing each other (bad idea to race a 6-year-old who never gets tired) and riding the merry-go-round. Fun times!

Today–if I can manage to get motivated–we’re going to head out to the Children’s Museum of La Habra for their free Target Day, but that will mean getting dressed…and right now, my PJs are winning!

View from the ground up at The Great Park

I’ve been meaning to update you guys on my Milwaukee trip, which…is almost a month old now (where did Feb. even go??)! So I’ll have some info about the hotel, the Milwalkee Public Market, and hopefully, the Children’s Museum of La Habra next week.

One thing I MUST add to the list: Planning a quick vacation with le kid. The other day he told me, “Mommy…you always go places, I want to go!” So…I have to take him somewhere. He’s sort of right, though. The last few times I’ve been to the airport, he’s been left out, so I need to make it up to him. So far I’m thinking Vegas, Arizona, or the Bay Area–places we can see on a long weekend. But we’ll see…got any suggestions for me?

Where are you headed this month? Going anywhere interesting?