How Do You Solve a Problem Like Work/Life Balance?

 Photo by  Shalom Mwenesi  on  Unsplash

(Said to the tune of "How do you solve a problem like Maria?")

What does work/life balance really mean? Does it mean equal parts work and equal parts “life”? Does it mean enough “life” to give you energy for all the work? Does it mean a back and forth throughout a week, or work work work work vacation work work work work long weekend work work work work…

I think this can and should look different for different people in different seasons of our lives. When I was in college, I put my classes together in ways that I felt would force me to get up early and start working earlier in my day so that when I started resting, I’d already have work behind me. When I was working for a nonprofit, I took work home with me a lot. I’d work from 9am to 12am some days. It was out of passion and conviction and I wouldn’t take that back. Now, I try to space out my days. Work some hours in the morning, break for lunch and maybe an extra hour for midday errands when traffics slow, and then pick things up in the evening, maybe even after dinner and work again until late at night.

My personality, and the stage of life I’m in, and the way my employment is — these all encourage and enable me to practice work and life the way I am right now. I’m hopeful that having this season will help me carry some healthier practices into the other seasons of my life too, even if I can’t manage my time in those times the same as I do now.

I’m really grateful.

And I’m really in awe of the people I see around me kicking butt and taking names in their own way, their own seasons. Parents who work so hard and raise adorable little humans at the same time — I can’t imagine how I’d change diapers and graphic design right now. Couples who do their own thing and then bring their amazingness together to do even bigger things — that’s just beautiful. People who work multiple jobs to keep life moving smoothly and pave the way to the future they desire — that’s endurance, right there.

I see people who show their vulnerabilities so that others won’t feel alone. People who share how it can be hard to get out of bed and how they do life through that. I see people who seem to always be on the go. People who are always somewhere, saying something, making something happen. I see those worlds collide, too.

Because honestly, no matter what our personalities are — whether we might feel we are more inclined to go go go a little too much or to slow things down a little too much — we all have to go on this journey of finding what balance is and how we can achieve it — and it’s just not easy.

Especially in a world that certainly doesn’t do most of us any favors in that journey.

So this post is a little different than some of the other posts I’ve made lately. It’s really just… what’s been on my mind. No tips or tricks, no answers.

Balance is hard. Priorities aren’t always easy to clearly establish. Sometimes things we really care about don’t get the time and attention we want them to get because there are other things we literally can't avoid giving time to... at least for a while.

My hope for anyone reading would be that you’re able to find ways to make sure your health and wellness are on the top of that priority list though. Yes, we have different seasons in our lives but still, only one life.

Whatever it means for you... I hope you hold a moon beam in your hand. ☀️

What does work/life balance mean to you in this season? Do you see it changing sometime? Tell me about it!

This Month in Music: July Vibes

 Photo by  Nani Williams  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nani Williams on Unsplash

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

UnGentrification: An Actually Simple Thought for My Allies

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In the last 48 hours in Richmond, VA, a man you may have never heard of before, but whose investments will impact the everyday lives of whole communities, played himself in a major way.

He attacked one of the most authentically community-minded folks in our area, and in doing so revealed that he does not know or care about the community he himself claims to speak in the interest of.

I’m not here to drag that man. It’s not worth my time. He’s one of many doing similar work not only in Richmond, VA but in cities like it across the United States.

What I’m here to do is say this:

If it is possible to strategically use the purchasing of property to increase one’s financial gain, then it is possible to strategically use the purchasing of property to increase an existing community’s present wellbeing and future sustainability.

So here’s a radical thought. Actually, no. It's a simple thought.

What if folks (white and otherwise) with the means to do so, starting purchasing property in under-resourced neighborhoods — not to flip those properties — but to do something with them that would have current and future positive impacts on the neighbors surrounding?

What if this was a movement? What would it be called? What would it look like? What could it do? What could it grow?

I ask this genuinely. I don’t know what this would look like. But I’d like to.

I ask this knowing that there’s a couple in my neighborhood who has already done this. They have strategically bought property in order to prevent developers from purchasing those properties.   

I ask this thinking, This shouldn’t even be close to a radical thought.

And we can do this.

#UnGentrification #PeopleOverProfit

If you want to play your part in undermining development that does not care about the community, here's an article with some great ideas. Thanks to @studentsofhistory for sharing with me on Insta. 

4 Things I Want White Allies to Think About

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

I’ve had a lot of conversations lately about white allyship. Let me be even clearer. I’ve had a lot of conversations lately — some with white allies which have displayed the ever complex allyship relationship at work, and others with other people of color about how complex and at times frustrating the allyship relationship is to navigate on our end.

Pssst. There are a lot more things I want y'all to think about too. This is just a start.

Allyship is a Relationship

“Being an ally is not an identity… it is a relationship… with a community letting you know what they need… if you aren’t sure you need to ask for clarification or refrain from acting.” Carmen M LaneDoula Training International's Born Into This Conference

Hey so, if you’re a white person reading this right now I’m genuinely grateful to have your attention.

One thing that should be clear is that I’m one person of color, one Black woman, talking to you. I’m sharing my thoughts and feelings and experience based on what I’ve personally gone through in my life. I can speak to trends and statistics and some communal things that I know are communal based on conversations I’ve had with other POC, but I'm not the end all be all (see the third point).

I may be able to have conversations with you about a topic that another POC may not want to have with you — maybe because it hits too close to home for them or because they’ve been hurt by a lot of white folks, or they’ve done a lot of educating already and they’re tired of it. In fact, this is one of those kinds of conversations.

I hear people asking about what it means to be an ally a lot and honestly there’s just no one answer to it. It’s like asking, “How do I ask someone out?” kind of. There are a lot of ways you can ask someone out. You can show up at their door with flowers and ask, you can call them and ask, you can leave them a note on their desk with sweet doodles all over, or you can shout it from across some public café or something. The point is, not all of those options are likely to get the best reaction from the same person.

If you want to be an ally, you’ve got to know the person you want to align with, and they’ve got to know you, too. You have to build trust. And you might have to be patient while some walls break down, first.

Now, once you are an ally you’re not just branded with some trendy, indie stick-and-poke “ally” tattoo you can whip out whenever someone doubts you.

Being an ally is a continual relationship. It has ebbs and flows. You’re going to go through good and hard times. You’re going to write apology notes and you might receive apology notes. And you might need some ally therapy somewhere along the way, too.

Being an ally is not like building a resume. You cannot build up a list of things you did and wave it around. You do not get a badge that you can pin to your jacket and shine up so more people notice it. Live your life. Do the work. That’s what you do.

What If You Were an Invisible Ally?

What if you did something and no one ever even knew you did it? Would that thing have been worth doing?

I think about this a lot when I think of allyship. We live in a colonial, capitalist society. Self-promotion isn’t only recommended, it’s sort of a prerequisite to success. We build brands. We connect via LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram. We tag each other. We retweet. We offer ads and boosts and all kinds of things to increase our visibility, to get people saying our names, to reach, reach, reach!

I spoke to someone recently who told me they felt like being an ally was like being between a rock and a hard place. I understand that. They expressed their frustration and asked a question something like, “If it’s going to be this difficult then why should I even try?”

Allies, why do you want to ally? So all the POC will talk about how much they love you? What if that never happens? Would you still do the ally work? Why do you do your specific work? Is it because it's what's been voiced as needed or is it simply the way you want to help?

Here's what I'm not saying: I'm not saying you should never be poured into as an ally. You should be.

What I am saying: POC have a lot of reason to be skeptical of white folks they don't know, and not every role is best suited for every ally. If someone isn’t sure how much of an ally you are, understand where that's coming from, listen to them to see if they have a point to their skepticism or criticism, and invite them inside to see who you are.

Moreover, if you find that the root of your allyship work is external praise, you’ve got some internal work to do.

Don't Use One POC's Perspective Against Another POC's Perspective

Not every person of color has the same exact experience, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when you realize that not all of us agree on every issue. Growing up in different areas or with different economic backgrounds or different personality traits can impact our outlooks in really deep ways. That’s intersectionality for you.  
So please don’t do this thing where you say to one person of color, “Well, you know [that person of color] feels safe around police, maybe you should talk to them.”

No, I shouldn’t talk to your other Black friend about policing and safety. I already talk to my own Black friends about policing and safety, and we share our varied perspectives amongst each other. I’m well aware that not all Black people feel the way I am expressing to you that I feel.

The point was, I was expressing to you how I felt. And if you just pointed me to your other Black friend, you haven’t heard me.

Honor Our Ancestors. Stop the Continued Colonization of our Cultures.

Learn about our ancestors. Learn about the indigenous folks whose ground we walk on. Learn about the folks who were brought here on slave ships. Learn about the folks whose cultures have been co-opted to put so much of what you see today in front of you.

I want you to imagine that for generations your family has made and flown kites. Where you come from, everyone made and flew kites. And then you left — you had to — you miss home, but you brought kites with you. And in your new home, no one else made or flew kites, but you did. Because you always did, because it was important, and meaningful, even spiritual, and practical too. And then you passed on your kites to your children, and they passed it to their children.

And then one day someone comes and they see how beautiful your kites and kite flying are. And they love it. And they have a thought you hadn’t had before. There should be a kite-flying class, and a kite-making class, and a shop for kites. And before you know it all those things exist. You look up and your grandchild is showing you the kite they want you to buy from the kite shop. It cost more than you ever spent making a kite before. It cost too much for you to even get for your grandchild. Now, what are you going to think? What are you going to feel?

I’m so tired of seeing white folks teach and sell indigenous and black and brown forms of art or cultural traditions while so many of us who can trace those things back in our ancestry struggle to have the means to even get in touch with those arts and traditions.

And when we do and if we try to form a living off of them, how do we do so? Often with great care to be inclusive and open-armed to anyone who genuinely wants to learn, even to our own financial detriment. Why is it so often this way?

I want you to think about this. 
Because I think about it.
I think about it so much.

Have thoughts? Hit me up in the comments below, or connect with me one-on-one. You know how to get at me online.

We Should Talk More About Bartering, and How It’s Radical and Beautiful

 Photo by  rawpixel  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Just like last week when I talked about sliding scales, I get it — money is a practical matter — bills must be paid, mouths must be fed, lights must stay on, etc. But when used strategically, I think bartering can do us a world of good financially and relationally.

Bartering as a Radical Act

We are brought up in this world to equate value with money. As I’ve expressed before and I’ll express always, there are a lot of ways to show someone you value them, their skills, their time, and what they provide you. We cannot forget this.

Bartering requires an extra level of communication with the folks we do work with and for. It requires us to be creative and insightful and really honest with each other. How does this act match up to that act? If you and I are talking strictly dollars, it’s just math. Take away the numbers and things can look a lot different really quickly.

Also worth mentioning: bartering is pretty simple as far as radical things go. You may have even done it a lot in little areas of your life, but have you thought about how you can pull it more intentionally into your life — not just personally, but professionally?

I'm still thinking on what that will look like for me moving forward; it's definitely on mind.

Bartering as a Beautiful Part of My Life

The first truly professional bartering I’d ever done (and am still doing) has been graphic design services for yoga classes. And honestly, this has to have been one of the best decisions of my 2017-2018 life.

I’ve struggled with anxiety all my life. Anxiety has manifested itself in many ways throughout my days including: lack of appetite, insomnia, social isolation, overwhelming thoughts, whatever you call that feeling where you’re suddenly too aware of your heart beating, and panic attacks with physical symptoms (ex. sweating, tingling sensations, hot flashes, etc.).

Anxiety caused me the most grief in college, when I took a few yoga classes but self-medicated mostly through chocolate.
#wholebagsofdarkchocolatecoveredacaiberries #notsohealingwhenimalmost30

I came back to yoga in my late twenties, in and around the time I was transitioning from nonprofit work to starting my business and I had noted a spike in some of those symptoms that I hadn’t experienced in a while.

I met my yoga teacher and partner in bartering, Syd the Yogini, at a local yoga studio I attended for a year. After a few months hers were the only classes I went to. Syd and I chatted before and after class and she learned I was a graphic designer (on top of all the other things). I’d put a few samples of my work up on a board in the studio, and when she liked what she saw, she asked me if I’d make her a logo. This first job we worked together was paid in the typical way, dollar dollar bills y'all.

By the end of my annual membership to the yoga studio, I noticed a fun pattern. When I had gone to yoga classes regularly, my anxiety quieted. When I had missed classes for a few weeks or a month, those issues resurfaced. At the edge of becoming a full-time self-employed person though, I was looking at a shoestring budget that pretty much laughed the cost of another annual membership off the table.

I approached Syd about taking classes just with her, and rightly so, my shoestring budget couldn’t make that happen either. But… what about a barter? This proposal was considered, and we decided to try!

Roughly an hour of yoga for an hour of design services, once a week.

It’s been more than six months now and I’ve worked with Syd on her website, Instagram, guiding on how to use Canva, creating worksheet templates, and more. And I've felt calmer and more well-adjusted in life in some major ways — through our sessions and valuable coping tools for when I start to feel off (like the child's pose I've been in for a portion of writing this post, and the deep yoga breaths I've been working on taking more often). 

Getting to know Syd through this barter has been such a meaningful example of how community can work. It's not all about the work. It's about the fact that we've shared common space, common time, common passion.

I want to stress that without this barter, I probably just wouldn’t have gotten these services. I probably would have labeled yoga a personal luxury I just couldn't make happen yet.

But this physical activity and meditation aren't just luxuries. They impact my whole being. My personal life and professional life, too. 

After a few months of yoga with Syd, I got a package of cycling classes on sale, so for a while, I got up to two points of physical activity in my week each week, one meditative, and one high-energy. After seeing the added benefit of that, I've been working on adding room for cycling to my budget too.

Where Do You Go from Here?

What's something that you could potentially have access to that could better your life if you bartered for it? What's something you would accept as a barter so that someone could benefit from the work you do?

How could bartering deepen your relationship with folks in your community? How could it change the way you look at value?

Take this and use it however works for you in this season of your life right now. I hope it opens a door to something wonderful, even if only a new perspective.