What Every Personality Test Has Taught Me About Myself

 Photo by  Austin Pacheco  on  Unsplash

I love personality tests. Maybe because it makes me feel listened to, even if there's no person specifically involved in the time spent learning – even if it's just me and a book. Maybe because it can just be me and a book, it's a uniquely safe way for me to say how I really feel and learn what to do with that. In any case, this process has been incredibly growing for me. And I want to share that.

Myers-Briggs
INFP-T: "The Mediator"
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Snapshot
"Mediator personalities are true idealists, always looking for the hint of good in even the worst of people and events, searching for ways to make things better. While they may be perceived as calm, reserved, or even shy, Mediators have an inner flame and passion that can truly shine. Comprising just 4% of the population, the risk of feeling misunderstood is unfortunately high for the Mediator personality type – but when they find like-minded people to spend their time with, the harmony they feel will be a fountain of joy and inspiration..."

In one sentence...
My desire to seek good in the world is an asset, and an inherent part of who I am, not naïveté or over-sensitivity. 

The thing it says that's scary true...
"[S]eemingly every Mediators’ dream growing up [is] to become an author. While a novel is a classic choice, it is rarely an accessible one..."

I wrote my first "book" in the 2nd or 3rd grade and wanted to be a published novelist by the time I turned 16. I wrote more than one novel-length piece by the time I graduated college, and still dream of releasing a book of short stories one day.

When this personality test entered my life...
I was in high school. The first time I took it, the "-T" (which means "Turbulent") wasn't a part of it and taking the test was framed as a way to know what kind of career you might be well-suited for. I recently retook this test as a part of an amazing group I'm a part of, HER.

What I first learned from what it has to say...
It encouraged me to understand and embrace my introverted-ness as something to be aware of and balance, but not a weakness.

It also encouraged me to continue to press into the social causes that had always intrigued me, and to not be afraid of doing something a little non-traditional if it helped me to go in that direction. This was on my mind in college, when I created my interdisciplinary major, Educational Activism in the Arts, and studied the reach and impact of modern day slavery across the world and the U.S.

What I am still learning...
The new element of Assertive vs. Turbulent is very interesting to me. Here's more about "Turbulent" folks, like myself:

"[I]ndividuals with Turbulent (-T) identity are self-conscious and sensitive to stress. They experience a wide range of emotions and tend to be success-driven, perfectionistic and eager to improve."

All feels true, but I haven't fully processed this new information yet so more to come on that front soon. Also, I've never paid for my full Myers-Briggs profile (LOL) so I've never gotten to the part where it really gives me specific advice. It's almost $33 to get a premium profile so... maybe I'll budget it in another month...


Enneagram
Type Four: "The Individualist"
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Snapshot
"Fours are self-aware, sensitive, and reserved. They are emotionally honest, creative, and personal, but can also be moody and self-conscious. Withholding themselves from others due to feeling vulnerable and defective, they can also feel disdainful and exempt from ordinary ways of living. They typically have problems with melancholy, self-indulgence, and self-pity. At their Best: inspired and highly creative, they are able to renew themselves and transform their experiences..."

In one sentence...
I am soft, but that's not bad.

The thing it says that's scary true...
"The 9-5 corporate life is usually not for them. They may run their own company as long as there's a creative component to their work and it's emotionally satisfying..."

When this personality test entered my life...
After college, when I had just started working at a small nonprofit in my city. 

What I learned from what it has to say...
The Enneagram specifically calls out how folks of different types act at different levels of health.

I realized I spent most of my college years at a sort of medium Type Four health level. I was struggling with anxiety at the time – which didn't make anything easier – in some ways I actively isolated myself, in other ways it was subconscious or fear-driven self-fulfilling prophesy ("They wouldn't want me at their party anyway so I won't even try to go"). I sunk into fantasies and allowed myself to stew in melancholy, even sometimes told myself that this was just part of being a better artist.

What I am still learning...
When I revisited the site, I read these gems and realized wow, I've come a long way and I have yet some ways to go.

"Avoid putting off things until you are 'in the right mood.' Commit yourself to productive, meaningful work that will contribute to your good and that of others, no matter how small the contribution may be. Working consistently in the real world will create a context in which you can discover yourself and your talents. (Actually, you are happiest when you are working—that is, activating your potentials and realizing yourself. You will not 'find yourself' in a vacuum or while waiting for inspiration to strike, so connect—and stay connected—with the real world."

"Avoid lengthy conversations in your imagination, particularly if they are negative, resentful, or even excessively romantic. These conversations are essentially unreal and at best only rehearsals for action—although, as you know, you almost never say or do what you imagine you will. Instead of spending time imagining your life and relationships, begin to live them."

BOTH SO TRUE FOR ME. To this day, I actively talk myself through each of these challenges. I wrote this post when I didn't really "feel like it," and keeping busy is part of how I avoid leaning too hard into over-imagining my possible futures.


Astrology
Gemini Sun, Virgo Moon,
Virgo Ascendant

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Snapshot
"Gemini people do not sit back and watch the scenery go by. As a Gemini, you are endlessly curious about everything and must be a part of the busy passing scene... Duality is your most famous trait. You usually want more than one of everything. That includes jobs, hobbies, careers, and lovers. Basically your nature is restless... Gemini is the sign of communication and its natives have an urgent and continual need to communicate."

"If you have the moon in Virgo... you do not pursue knowledge merely for the sake of learning; you figure out how to use what you learn... You are meticulous in sifting through information and tend to question whatever is told to you."

"Virgo Ascendants have deep and tender emotions and care a great deal about others... You appreciate the finely tuned mechanics of sifting through facts and information, finding the truth of the matter, introducing order and reason into almost any situation." (from The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need)

In one sentence...
I am "both" of many things, and above all, I always need to communicate.

The thing it says that's scary true...
When my birth chart was explained to me in January of 2017, it showed that creativity, children (not necessarily my own), and communication were main elements of my life. It affirmed that everything I was doing: quitting my old job, starting my business, becoming a doula (and nannying at the time) and investing in my creative work — it all made sense.

When this personality test entered my life...
My grandmother was probably the first person to introduce me to Astrology as a child, but it wasn't until 2017 that I had my birth chart created and explained to me, after a long car ride with a book about Astrology left my friend and me laughing and speechless over how accurate it was.

What I first learned from what it has to say...
The woman who explained my chart to me told me, "Look up what Jupiter in Leo in the 11th house means."

I don't remember exactly what I first found – I just remember thinking that I needed to have more faith in myself, and invest in myself.

What I read about Jupiter in the 11th house more recently is this:

"The meaning of life may be found through the larger community. Sometimes an over involvement in social activities can put stress on other areas of life when they promise too much. They really need to try and balance things out. Jupiter has a tendency to over-do things and will take on more than they can physically handle, and then neglect practical affairs." link

All super true. Becoming self-employed has led me into the most wide-spread community I've ever experienced. I've never met so many people in such a short amount of time. I've also had my fair share of the more typical experience of spreading myself too thin. Oops.

What I am still learning...
I'm still learning a ton about myself. I think DUALITY – the main theme for Gemini – is a huge part of that. Recently, I've been learning about how to be more practical, organized and social – how to lean into the areas of my life that I've traditionally leaned away from out of fear or misuse of my time.

I've also been learning how to take better care of myself so I have more energy to get out of my comfort zone and do things that are authentic, beautiful and meaningful. Yoga, massages, better food, vitamins, etc...


TO WRAP IT UP
Personality tests are obviously not the end all be all for anyone's life — but they can also offer some really valuable tools for self-evaluation and then... next steps!

I continue to be on the lookout for moments in my life when I teeter too close to unhealthy isolation or sink into melancholy, as well as, on the other end, times when I overbook myself and fall into other unhealthy patterns, like not exercising or eating well.

This has taught me that I have a lot to offer – to myself, my friends, my family, and the world. And that I am actually built to offer the specific things I have been so drawn to.

Ultimately I've learned that... I'm kind of complex!... like we all are... just me in my own specific way, and you in yours. We need to pay attention to ourselves, and others, notice the cues our bodies and minds gives us, and take care of ourselves – mind, body, and spirit. It's not easy, but I'm on it!

What have personality tests taught you about yourself? Do you identify with anything I've shared? Or want to know more? Hit me up with your thoughts in the comments below.

How I Price My Products: From Winging It to Owning It

 Photo by  Madison Kaminski  on  Unsplash

In today's post, I'm talking money. When I started The Educated Birth in January 2017, I was winging it. I set prices based on what sounded good to me, with little thought about the sustainability of my business, and the protection of my time and sanity. Today, I've made some baby steps, and some really big girl steps toward owning this part of my business. What I've learned, I'm happy to share with you now.

One. Use Accessible Professional Resources
I can't stress enough how important it is to talk to a professional about your questions. Now you might be saying what I was saying in January of 2017, "Well I can't afford to hire a professional!"

To my rescue — enter Thrive, a mentor network in my city (and there may be something similar where you are too!) full of generous folks, like CPA Nadia, who offer their time and expertise to small business owners for free for a certain amount of time.

When I met Nadia, I quickly learned that some of the things that applied to my self-employed friends' businesses simply would not work for me. Maybe because our businesses were structured differently, maybe because our audience size or types were really different, or maybe because the types of services or the prices of our services were different.

And when we'd reached the end of our free time together, we bartered! I offered graphic design work to her and she continued to offer her services to me. #accessiblesmallbizgrowth

Two. Learn the Basics
In some ways I'm still in this part of this process. When I started, I relied solely on Andi Smiles online resources (check out her FB group!!), and my All My Biz Pinterest board. Between those things and the contextualized information from Nadia I began to understand:

  • How to track my income and expenses
    (And in the most productive way that saves me time and stress come tax time)
     
  • When to collect sales tax
    (And how to pay it)
     
  • How to save for taxes
    (I started out saving 16% – forgot where I got that number from... but I'll find out what % I should save from now on when I get my 2017 taxes back)

Three. Get Organized. Smarter.
When I put my mind to it, I can be very organized (it's the moon in Virgo in me). 

Every month in 2017 I made budget spreadsheets. I brought up my bank app on my phone and I sat down and I plugged in every single expense and income into a spreadsheet. I organized into categories that mattered to me at the time, like: "Shopping, Groceries, Eating Out, Business, Exercise & Medical, Gas & Transportation, etc." For a while I even had an extra category called "Expenses I Don't Expect Next Month," — and I took things from my main categories and copied them over into that column to get an idea of how much of my money went into things that were sort of "irregular" unlike rent and groceries and Netflix.

This year, I'm making some important changes to this process:

  • Instead of transferring info from looking at my bank app to a spreadsheet, I'm downloading the spreadsheets monthly directly from my bank's website (eliminating some potential for human error and saving time).
     
  • Instead of having one giant "Business Expense" category I now have all the separate ones that I will need to report for taxes.
     
  • And while I'll still keep track of all of my expenses month by month, I'm also creating my annual totals for 2018 document now, which will show the totals of expenses and incomes throughout the year organized by category — again, helpful for tax purposes.

OKAY SO WAIT. WAIT. WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PRICING THOUGH???

Four. Applying All of the Above to Pricing

Because I spent a year winging my pricing, I needed to know whether what I had been doing was working well or how it was not working well, in order to know how to change well.

  • Talking to a professional about financials generally helped me know that I was on a good foundation to set my pricing.
     
  • Learning all these financial basics has impacted how I approach the changes to my pricing.
     
  • Getting organized in general helped me sit down and get organized in pricing.

A few days ago, I created a new document: The Educated Birth Print Shop Pricing, one page shown below.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 8.17.08 PM.png

In this document I outline how much it costs for me to print the posters that I sell of the infographics that I've created, from printing to packaging, to my time and skills, to shipping. 

It costs $3.48 to print and package one poster. I pay myself $6.52 (I could write another post about how I got here, but I won't) per poster purchased.

My customer is charged $10, plus 3.75 in shipping (which is sometimes greater if the quantity purchased is higher — all that depends on package weight).

So in total, customers are charged $13.75 and I get make a little less than half of that.

My pricing decisions are pretty conservative. Pricing calculators I've used suggest that labor + materials x2 should be wholesale price, and x2 again should be retail. If I applied that to my shop that'd be:

$3.48 + $6.52 = $10
x2 = $20 wholesale price
x2 = $40 retail price

That kind of pricing just doesn't fit my needs. 

Five. Stepping into Your Customer's Shoes
This is where I started and ended. When I opened my shop, I charged $7 per poster, because that was the kind of price I felt like I'd be attracted to as a customer. 

But $10 per poster is better for my customers than $7 per poster. That $3 bump means that I can invest in this work that I'm doing to offer higher quality items, way better packaging, and things like the Spanish and French translations that I'm working on. 

It means I won't run myself ragged, and I won't have vastly out of reach materials either. And discounts are always available too!

Bottom Line...
I went on a journey of understanding what was sustainable for my life and business in order to go from "this sound good" pricing to "this makes sense" pricing. Big girl steps!

Have questions? Thoughts? Stories about how you figured out what pricing works for you and your business? Leave me a message below!


This Month in Music: March Vibes

I listen to music constantly. Work, eat, workout, play — these are some songs that have been traveling with me through March. What songs have been getting you through your month?

More Than Inclusion: What the Birth World Can Learn About Belonging

 Photo by  Diana Simumpande  on  Unsplash

This weekend I was a part of a study a friend of mine, Mariah, is doing for her masters in Urban Planning. She’s a Black woman, one of the few (if not the only one) in her program, and she’s been studying how Black women experience urban settings differently than other groups. When I walked into the study room, I was greeted by her and four other Black women at the table — most of them I didn’t know well...

Mariah asked us questions about what we liked and dislike about the city, what we didn’t want to see more of and what we wanted to see more of — and then the most memorable part for me — she pointed to a large paper map of Richmond on the wall, and gave us boxes of different colors of pins and told us, “Yellow is for safety, orange is for inclusion, blue is for belonging, green is for usefulness, red is for places you avoid. Place these pins on the map, and then let’s talk about why.”

Yellow is for safety. Orange is for inclusion. Blue is for belonging. Green is for usefulness. Red is to avoid.

As I’ve thought about this since leaving that room, I realize I walk through the world with different color pins in my pockets, and I mark the places that I go.

Blue is for belonging. When I first walked into Brewer’s Café, a black-owned coffee shop across the bridge from where I live, I recognized the sounds of Daniel Caesar on the speakers, Lauryn Hill, Chance the Rapper, SZA — and other songs I didn’t know, but I’m pretty sure I heard my dad play on a long car trip or my cousin turn on once as we got dressed to go out. It felt like walking into my own space, or the space of someone I knew and loved. And I looked around and saw so many brown faces, inside and walking by outside. It looked like walking into my house, or my aunt’s apartment, or my great-uncle’s place. The owner smiled at me, introduced himself, asked me about what I did, stayed and chatted for a while. It felt like meeting a friend of a friend. I felt like I had been there before, could be there again — like I belonged there.

So I put a blue marker on the map in my mind where Brewer’s is, and I’ve always made it a point to get back there when I can.

Yellow is for safety. Red is for avoid. Every once in a blue moon, I pick up mail for a couple who has a house on Monument Avenue. If you’re not familiar with Richmond, Monument Avenue is a long strip of a road with a wide grassy median down the center of it, and very large, beautiful homes on either side — and it’s where all of our monuments, including Confederate monuments honoring Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson live. Monument Avenue is an area that’s easy to feel physically safe in — it’s well lit, there’s regular foot and/or car traffic, and — depending on who you are, the knowledge that police could easily get there quickly may add or subtract from that sense of physical safety.

When I was working with the couple on Monument — first helping them unpack their new house and then picking up mail for them when they were away and bringing it inside — I always felt physically safe. But sometimes I did wonder… Anyone who lived next door, or across the street… How would they see me? Not as the owner of a place like this, for sure. As a cleaning woman? As a college kid, just doing some work on the side? Or as someone who was trying to sneak in, make trouble? I’d met one of this couples’ neighbors once and he made no eye contact with me and didn’t acknowledge me after I’d been specifically introduced to him. I looked at him as he didn’t look at me, and heard his silence loud and clear, “You don’t belong here.”

So, yes, I did feel safe there. And no, I didn’t.

Orange is for inclusion. Green is for usefulness. I went to college at a private school, the University of Richmond. It’s rightly known as the bougie school in the city. It costs nearly $65,000 a year to attend and is mostly upper-class white – even today it has under 30% students of color (compared to 50/50 white/non-white racial breakdown at our rival school fifteen minutes away, VCU). The University of Richmond, however, had small class sizes, beautiful facilities and lots of funding opportunities for students. The school basically guarantees study abroad to students now (at least that’s what I heard #jealousalumna). I didn’t study abroad while I 

was there. But I did apply for, and receive a grant that enabled me to live in the city over the summer and travel across the U.S. to study my thesis topic of human trafficking in the U.S. (with my friend and classmate, Addie), and another grant that I used to purchase a new laptop and the full Adobe Creative Suite (which I still use today for all of my design work).

The University of Richmond was not created with students of colors’ belonging in mind. It was created with our exclusion in mind. Then, under increasing societal pressure, our inclusion became a lesser of two evils; by the time I arrived on campus, our inclusion was a good look for the institution; and now, I believe our inclusion is developing into a more authentic and intentional commitment every year.

I was only able to be included in this community because my tuition was covered by two scholarships, and my room and board was paid between my income as a Resident Assistant and my parents and money my grandmother had saved for me in bonds from when I was born. Through scholarships and work opportunities, my university opened what would have been a locked door, and let me in.

I was included — and I’m really grateful for that, because it was incredibly growing and useful.

Now, what does any of that have to do with parents of color and the birth world?

In the birth world today, in my opinion and based on what I've seen we have a lot of spaces where parents of color feel physically safe, but mentally and ethically unsafe, or that they see as useful and inclusive, but very few spaces that they feel like they belong in.

I wanted to use my own experiences to frame this conversation because this issue really does come down to individual experience. 

We know generally that physical and mental danger triggers physical responses that can create negative health outcomes for folks. With such a large history of folks being mistreated in common health spaces like hospitals and clinics, it’s no wonder these cycles continue in these spaces. So what can we do to impact individuals experiences there?

We know anecdotally that when someone enters a space they feel included in, but not that they belong in — they may not experience that feeling of danger — but they’re still going to have a guard up, and not speak or be themselves as freely as they would otherwise. This reminds me of a story one of my favorite midwives, who’s a white woman, once told me about a patient of hers, who was a Black woman — the mother-to-be didn't talk much, at least not until she met her Black doula — she seemed like another person she was so engaged and connected! Does every POC parent need this? Certainly not, but when you’re in a city with no POC care providers at all… then you don't have an option to have it if it would help, do you? What can we do to impact individuals experiences here?

Now, when someone enters a space they feel they belong in, walls go down, and people experience positive health outcomes. Look at Jenny Joseph and Common Sense Childbirth! Women who received care at that black-owned and led midwifery center had lower pre-term birth and low birth weight rates compared to the averages in the county and state. At the Take Root conference a few weeks back, I heard more Black and Native and Latinx midwives and birth workers talk about the positive impact of having – in particular – POC-led spaces for birthing people in their communities, too.

Inclusion isn't bad. It isn't a dirty word. But it isn't the end all be all, either. It's a step that will fulfill the needs of some, but fall short for others. Creating authentic spaces where parents know they belong — this is the best practice we should all be working toward. We're already seeing the fruit, so let's keep going.

5 Reasons I Want to Build a Tiny House Before I Turn 30

 Photo by  Annie Spratt  on  Unsplash

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Yes, I do realize that if I build a tiny house I will be the tiny woman in the tiny house, but I DO NOT CARE. It will be worth the irony, and the endless stream of jokes that I will inevitably be forced to hear over and over again. Why before 30? I don't know. I'm turning 27 this year. 30's the next big milestone and 3 years seems solid, reasonable goalpost. Woo! Now onto the why a tiny house...

Turn my Monthly Payments to Landlords into Monthly Payments to Landownership
I only recently learned the meaning of the word, “mortgage.” I never really understood it and rarely thought about it. Then, I learned that it was basically the same thing as rent, except paying off a loan for a property you will eventually own, instead of just a temporary place to stay until you find another temporary place to stay.

The other day I looked at myself into the mirror, a lightbulb clicked on over my head and I said, “Self?” “Yeah self?” “So that $XXX you pay each month… what’s that really doing for you long-term?” The idea of going from rent to mortgage feels really good to me.

It’s the Kind of Major Investment that Fits my Life Direction
Once I graduated college a lot of people asked me, “Aren’t you going to grad school?” I understood where they were coming from, but I couldn’t tie grad school directly to any of my future goals. If anything, I would have gone back for graphic design but I felt that would position me for agency employment, which isn’t my end goal. So, because grad school requires such a great time and financial investment, I just didn’t feel like it was relevant enough to my future goals for me to do it.

So what do I want? I want a simple, sustainable, low-cost life. I want to continue working for myself, to be able to cover my living costs and save a little too for the future. I don’t want to be limited by money in who I offer my time and services too.

I want to be able to say, “Yes! I can afford to do this work for you for a discounted rate because I care about you/your organization and not worry about how I’m going to pay for healthcare!” I want to be able to donate when folks post about the situations they have going on that they’re inviting people to contribute to. And YES, I also want to be able to wake up one morning and say, “I think I could benefit from a massage or some acupuncture this month, so I’m going to get a massage or some acupuncture this month.”

So, this whole tiny house concept though is a different story. The small size and simplicity of a tiny house supports the way I want my life to be. I want my belongings to be less and my lifestyle to have more space to flourish. And considering tiny houses can cost $25K while the average student debt in the U.S. is also around $25K… yeah… I’ll choose the tiny house investment.

Simplicity
I mean this is pretty self-explanatory, right? Less space, less stuff, simpler. When I walk around Target, I want to be able to say to myself, "I don't actually have space for another piece of clothing in my closet." Or at least, I want to be forced to have to donate something if I get a new thing, lol. Cause let's be real... Target's gonna be Target. And at least a handful of times a year... I will be seduced by it's clearance rack.

I'm also really intrigued to learn about how I could invest in other simple things like solar power and compost toilets (???). Will I start a garden because of my simple tiny house life? Maybe?? My current houseplants are all alive (much thanks to my amazing plantmom of a roommate though, lol).

I Can See Myself in a Tiny House
White painted walls with pops of teal or seafoamy blue-green and lots of medium wood tones. Mmmm. My designer’s heart is happy just thinking of the hypothetical color scheme. I can see myself carrying in groceries, making food, watching tv on Netflix, writing blogposts just like this, getting ready in the morning and dancing around to Spotify — all within this little bit of space. I mean, that was basically my life in college. I didn’t have much room, but it didn’t bother me.

I have a car; I can go somewhere else if I’d like to pretty much anytime. Home doesn’t have to be so much.

To Stick It to The Man and Invest in the Community
Apparently in 2015, only about 62% of Americans owned their homes — 46% among African-Americans. I don’t know much in detail about the politics of homeownership, but I know enough about history and politics generally to say that I’d be pretty pleased to pie to be a Black woman in Richmond, VA who owns her tiny little plot of land and house. And I hope that if I have that kind of opportunity, I’ll be able to do some meaningful things because of it, that maybe other folks wouldn’t think to do — not because they’re awful or anything, but just because they’ve had a different history and life experience, and have different ambitions.

• • • • • • • • •

Could you see yourself in a tiny house? Do you know anyone I should know or talk to about tiny house living? Hit me up in the comments below!