This is my reflection on life over the past year (and some other things too.)
Earlier today, I asked my Facebook friends to suggest topics that I should elaborate on for an end of year “reflective post.”
The response to which I will be responding comes from Gregg Emery, my former middle and high school art teacher. He asked me ,”What brought you the most joy?”
I’ve had many joys.
The word “the most” is relative. What was “the most” to me then is probably not the most to me now.
I found joy in knowing that I can do anything I put my mind to. I’ve learned to love the journey.
Within this same realization also came the other realization for me that although I can do anything I put my mind to what I put my mind to may not always ripen. However, because the unripened fruit may just be a seed for something new…something better.
One of the first people that comes to mind is Aliyah, my boyfriend’s niece. Over the past year, I’ve watched her grow up in front of my eyes. Because I’ve been around her since she was a baby, it’s amazing to watch her develop into the little woman she is today. In January, she was only 2. Her sentences were still hard to decipher. Now she says stuff such as “What’s the big idea?” and asks me deep questions such as “Why?”
Aliyah gives me an extra appreciation for life. I know that this may sound a bit existential, but there’s something so beautiful knowing that each moment of the day we are creating more memories. Those memories are then translated into our actual being. I will not be the same person once I’ve completed this post. I’ll be a bit older. A bit more aware. A bit more “memoried.”
Watching Aliyah grow has also made me reflect on my own growth over the past year. While I haven’t made any monumental developmental shifts, I’ve accomplished alot… things that I would have never imagined I’d be doing a year after graduating from college. I started my own business. I’ve interviewed celebrities. I’ve helped launched college programs in prisons. I’ve been on Fox 5 Good Day NY. I traveled overseas to London for the first time. I saw Beyonce in concert. I started a retirement fund. I wrote a two-part series on Black men and women in the Ivy league that was published on the Huffington Post and contributed to a larger dialogue on gender, race, and experiences within higher education for minorities. I visited my best friend in Chicago. I saw Les Twins perform in- person and melted a bit when one of them posed for a selfie with me.
I found joy in specialness.
In first grade, I remember telling my teacher, Ms. Tindall, about the car accident my family was in when I was child and how I had a fractured skull. Her words to a then seven-year-old me stuck: “So that’s why you’re so special!” She taught me a lesson that I able to quite process then. What was she trying to teach me? Very simply, Ms. Tindall taught me one of the biggest life lessons one can ever learn: Your differences make you who are you. Embrace them. Ms. Tindall allowed me to experience my first mindset shift. Glass half full.
I found joy in the stories around me (including the ones I observed, made up, and actually witnessed)
I’ve found joy in so many other things too. One of my favorite things to do when commuting into the city for work was people watching. I’d people-watch on the NJ Transit train to into the city. There was that male conductor with the flirting problem, who could make even the most serious man blush. There was the guy with the dog in the dog carrying case who’d always sit in the same spot in the same car every day.
There was so much to take in each day. It was refreshing. People-watching when you don’t have the stresses of expectations and due dates and “what I should be doings” was quite liberating.
I especially loved the moving picture I saw each night as I rushed off the 2 train in Penn Station to make the mad dash to the NJTransit lobby.
Among all the chaos that is Penn Station at rush hour was a blind man, holding the arm of another man. This man would lead the blind man down the stairs and walk him to the lobby.
If you ever saw it, you’d be amazed. Madness all over, but within their little circle of humanity, there was nothing but Goodness and calmness.
I found joy in figuring out all that I didn’t know and would never be able to figure out unless I just did.
Here are just a few of the things I found joy in figuring out:
- I had to figure out whether or not I should take the digital marketing internship the summer after I graduated (and before I was supposed to start a year-long fellowship) although I had promised myself that I would “take the summer off” and “travel the world.” (PS- I took the internship. It was the best choice ever.) I learned how to create a project proposal, scope of work, do ad retargeting, and what pixels on websites do. These things turned out to be very useful for me in my freelance consultancy career. (PPS- I probably wouldn’t have “traveled the world” in one summer anyway.
- I had to figure out how much I should let what others think about me bother me. (Truth: What others think about me still bothers me a bit, but ALOT less than it used to.)
- I had to figure out how to do interviews better. I remember my first interview (as a “freelance journalist”) with the founder of beauty company Nene’s Secret and feeling so good right after the interview. However, I then realized (while transcribing) that I had alot to learn about interviewing entrepreneurs. I had to learn things such as asking deeper questions, not being scared to push to get the answers I desired, and being more direct with the questions I did decide to ask. I’ve since gotten alot better.
- I had to figure out my blog. That within itself brought me alot of joy. Over the past year, my blog has grown so much. I put in work. I read books. I asked people. I made mistakes. I experimented. I believed in it. I still do.
That leads me to….
I found joy in living out my dreams of being a writer.
I found joy in completing my first-ever real job.
There’s not alot of young people who can say they’ve gone to 10 prisons in 4 states. I hate prisons. Our criminal justice system (and education system, and healthcare system, and any other system that people need a basic right to in order to live a decent life) needs Jesus, literally.
I found joy in pursuing a passion, trying to make it into a business, and having it “fail.”
It was called Ettabell Fitness. Lesson learned: If two people are going to start a business, alignment on goals is necessary.
I found joy in learning to really appreciate.
I’ve learned to appreciate me more. I’ve learned to appreciate them more. (THEM being all those around, those that make me who I am, those that have influenced me.) I’ve learned to appreciate YOU more. (YOU being the person to which I am talking. I’ve learned to listen to what YOU say and what YOU don’t say.)
I found joy in my thoughts.
Have you ever realized your thoughts can produce the most beautiful works of art? Just think about all those beautiful things you have thought that are just too good to share. Masterpieces only you get.
I found joy in knowing that I am inspiring others.
Just today, I had a Twitter exchange with a college student who told me that she finds me inspiring.
I’ve found joy in bringing joy into others lives. I’ve found joy in giving to others. I’ve found joy in giving to myself.
Anyone who knows me knows that I can be extremely frugal (and even borderline cheap) but something this year changed in me. My mother always used to say, “When you’re dead, you can’t spend your money.” I’ve learned to detach myself from money and use it to to give more.
I found joy in loving.
Loving you more. Loving me more. Loving them more.
We need more of that. We need more loving.
At your toughest times, what helped you get through?
This question is hard. If you had asked me while I was experiencing these said “tough” times, I would have told you that these were “tough times.” But now that I’ve been asked to recall those moments, I can’t. Yet, I remember the feelings. The feeling the lowness, the sadness, the pain, the delirium, the borderline insanity, the depressed state of being, and all the other negative-bearing moments on my soul.
I’ve tried to think, but nothing comes to mind. Perhaps my “toughest times” weren’t as tough as I thought.
What got me through?
This: Knowing that “this too shall pass.” Knowing that on some path within a valley lies a path to a hill. I’ve realized that all those non-good good (yes I meant to write “good good”) sentiments that we feel at times are passing. I’ve learned that happiness comes and goes. Sadness (and all the in-between) comes and goes too.
A person comes to mind. I won’t tell you who she is but I’ll tell you her story. 2.5 years ago, her son went to prison. She cried for months. She was broken. Overtime, those shackles of pain let her go. She became friends with the pain and she learned how to embrace it. The pain loved her back and made it bearable. It did not leave her completely but it did not destroy. I’ve watched her pray. I’ve watched her cry. I’ve watched her believe.
Seeing others get through has helped me get through. The hugs have helped me get through. Knowing how far I’ve come and how far I will go has helped me get through.
Believing in myself has helped me get through. Looking in the mirror and saying, “You got this, Rana.” Even when the eyes of the girl were filled with tears, I continued to believe.
What keeps me motivated?
Have we ever seen the air? No. Yet, we know it exists. We know what it does.
My answer to this question is YOU. You keep me motivated. You reading this. If you’ve made it here, I know that I’ve been able to share a sliver of me and give it to you. The sheer amount of possibilities that exist in this world and all the different ways that we can unearth them don’t keep me up at night. They keep me dreaming.
Thank you for reading.
What has brought you joy over the past year? Share your story in the COMMENTS section below.
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