I spent a good chunk of yesterday watching episodes of “Mork and Mindy”, and not knowing whether to give in to laughter, or give in to the tears that have been threatening to fall since Monday afternoon when I heard that actor Robin William committed suicide.

On a personal note, when I was a kid I used to watch reruns of Mork and Mindy with my mom, and each time a tragedy happens that reminds me of some memory I shared with her, I take it hard. She’s been gone now for 14 years, but these tiny things are sweet memories of the time I had with her, and each time one goes ( Robin Williams, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson) it cuts into the sweet end of the bittersweet and it makes me sad.

But the other thing that prompted the sadness in me was thinking about the discussions I’ve been having lately about how being a creative, artistic person means that at times it can become easy to wander too far into the dark side of your inner, artistic light, and how the feelings that enable you to share so richly, and deeply, can allow you to stay in that space for far longer than you really should.

I read a piece on Slate.com from a writer who suffers from depression who said that “knowing how much you are loved” doesn’t allow depressives to shake the diseasse. And that was the other thing that horrified me about the passing of Robin Williams.  He has three kids, a wife, and it didn’t stop him. All of that love didn’t stop him, couldn’t stop him. When I try to grasp the amount of pain he had to have been in, the air is taken out of me and my heart hurts.

A Light Heart1

 

Robin Williams’ death has put a public face on it, but depression is lurking all around us. Invisible, because it hides inside of the psyche, undetected to most human eyes. It is a pain that gives way to a sense of tiredness and feelings of just wanting things to stop, and it festers because no one really talks about it.

As a society we have not really been taught to face depression. We try to mask our pain with a happy face. Our culture is saturated with platitudes such as “buck up,” “think about the good things” “ get it together” and that makes space for shame, not healing. We are not raised to take our mental health seriously. We aren’t raised to listen to the voice inside, and to get still to see what it’s saying. We’ve been raised to shut it down, and shut it out.

Originally I wanted to write about listening to your voice when it is telling you to try something new in the spirit of believing in yourself. A piece about not listening to the little voice inside that tells you when you can’t do something, or asks who are you to attempt something great.

I fear it is also this voice that echoes the feelings of worthlessness and pain that rings through when depression takes over. It is this particular voice that needs to be battled.

But please remember, it can’t happen alone.

 

 

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Share your thoughts below. I’d love to hear them, and chat with you.

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 “If you hold on to your history, you could lose your destiny.”

Pastor T.D. Jakes

I’m not very religious. Every now and then I pray, and light a candle to reflect on life, but I’m not the bible-toting, scripture-quoting chick that my Southern roots dictate that I should be.

However, a few days ago I got my daily dose of inspiration via TD Jakes, the megachurch pastor who tends to bust out into song mid sermon.

Singing aside, the video I watched was called, “The Seven Steps To Success”, and out of the seven scripture-based tenets, “wash your face” spoke to me the most.

So what does it mean to wash your face? It’s a metaphor for leaving the past behind, and facing the day with a new outlook focused on moving forward, and not clinging to the things that happened to us on yesterday, or yesteryear.

 

WHAT YOU WANT (1)

 

When I started writing this, I felt uncomfortable because I remember how much I’ve struggled to push down the hurtful feelings that used to bubble beneath my surface when I thought about the mistakes I’ve made.

It has taken a lot to learn that letting go of the past is “learning to live with” and “move beyond.”

That said, this is a reflection of the journey I am still very much on. I have some good days, and on others I have some hills to climb, but on my weary days I try to contemplate (on how to keep it moving)  rather than complain, and I want to share that thought process with you all.

So, what have I learned about letting go of the past?

 

1. To Recognize When my Angst Is Caused By Needless Comparisons

A lot of the angst I have felt in the last few years has come from pushing myself to live up to the invisible expectations and standards of others.

The battle to define happiness and success on your own terms is always going to be threatened by our human desire to compare and contrast ourselves with everyone we know. I am lucky to be surrounded by so many incredible people, but I’d be lying if I said I never looked at some of the journeys that I see and wish that mine had taken some similar detours in certain spots.

It took awhile, but now I’m seeing that some of the crazy shit unique things that I’ve been through have seriously made me into the woman I am today, and built the muscles I needed to be able to step into certain points of purpose in my life.

 

2. That Forgiving Yourself Is Hard

If you’ve ever held a grudge against yourself, you know how nasty it can feel. I remember having days when I wished with all of my heart that I could go back in time and do something, anything, differently to deliver myself from the place of pain I was in.

In life, there are bound to be some lessons that you just learn the hard way. The trick is to see it for what is is, and focus on seeing how going through the situation can make you stronger rather than dwelling.

That said,it ain’t easy to forgive. Part of letting go of the past is recognizing that you are human, and that you’re bound to do something that’s not in your best interest from time-to-time.

 

3. Challenging Your Mindset Is Mandatory

Straight up: you really are what you believe.

This goes beyond just willing yourself to think positive. How do you talk to yourself? What is the story you tell yourself about who you really are? How do you feel about your past, and if the feelings are mostly negative, what is the narrative you are holding on to?

Last year I gave a lot of my mental energy to dwelling on things I wish I had done differently, and where do you think all of that wishing and hoping got me? That’s right, nowhere!

Switching your mindset is really about remembering that you have choices. You can choose what happens next in your life, just as you can choose to see the silver lining in the bad things that happen. Plus realizing that you have the power of choice feels GOOD. It puts the power of your life back into you hands, and allows you to see the big picture.

 

Talk to Me↓

How hard is it for you to let go of things that happened to you in the past? Do you think holding on to your angst could be holding you back?

 

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recite-22804--183305871-3najne

 

When I originally conceived of this post I thought about these people. It’s an article that was done by Atlantic magazine nearly three years ago in which they share letters from the unemployed. Their words are heartbreaking, raw, and honest.

I remember reading it the first time around, and feeling so helpless in the wake of so much hurt. It wasn’t that long after I’d spent nearly a year struggling to find work. And I’ve dipped in and out of that place over the years.

That’s how I know that the impact from the economic fallout is still lasting in so many ways. Back then the pain was still novel. Now, it has become such a common refrain of our society that we take it as fact.

And one of  the issues that strike me the most, is that the economic fallout left so many people who feel as if they are not living up to their potential due to lack of opportunity, or a fear that what they have is the best they can get.  Dreams have been frozen in place, careers stunted. People are somewhat stuck, but not quite sure what to do to move on.

So, what do you do?

What do you do when it’s years later and you still feel that you’re not “back on track?” What do you do when you’re still clinging on to that job that NEVER served you, but you’ve been too afraid to let it go? I have three ideas/thoughts. I share these because I hate the idea of clamoring to gain footing in a situation in which you don’t have much control. We can’t control the economy, or the types of employment opportunities out there. But you can control what you do with some of your time, and how you can use it to develop something new for yourself.

*drum roll*

Make A (Mind) Shift

I believe one of the hardest things facing our generation is the disconnect between who we thought (and who we were taught) we would be, and the reality that the old formula of checking off steps on a pre-destined list to success (get good grades, get good job) is no longer  fail-proof. We’re a generation that is caught between seeing remnants of the past, and glimpses of an uncertain future. It’s scary, but it has the potential to be exciting. Ask yourself, how can your dream be accomplished in a different way? Does it mean that you look for companies outside of the ones you originally wanted to target? Do you create your own venture? Do you get some experience in a totally different field to supplement your idea for where you want your career to eventually go? Freeing yourself of the idea that your story should follow some imaginary path will allow you to start to see beyond your immediate pain and discomfort. I know it’s hard because the opportunity to compare yourself to everyone else’s curated life is always looming, but try focusing on you.

Next, Be Okay With Baby Steps

When you’re stuck in a job that you hate, or stuck looking to have a job that you would delight in hating, it can be really hard to see yourself beyond where you are right now. The day-to-day fight for survival is frustrating, and energy draining. But, even though I’m sure you wish you could snap your fingers and make this situation miraculously disappear, the truth is, sometimes it takes awhile to make a change, and a lot of baby steps in the right direction. The exciting thing is that those baby steps are up to you, and there are so many avenues to experiment and question that didn’t exist even 10 years ago. You can reach out to anyone you find interesting, do volunteer work for places in person and virtually, and literally learn about anything that you can think of. If you can spare the energy to try new things, and experiment with trying out your passions in different ways, go for it. You never know where it can lead.

Shake Some Shit Up

If you’ve ever wanted to start your own *insert your awesome idea here* now is the time. The opportunities we have today are damn near unreal. Entire industries are crumbling and being built up again to look totally different, because technology has shifted the power to create and share into the hands of the people. If you’re feeling entrepreneurial, research your idea, see what else is out there like it. Figure out the steps to bring it to life. Start and end your day with your ideas, and keep some kind of reminder on you, that where you are now is temporary place because you have somewhere else to be! If you aren’t entrepreneurial, but enjoy the idea of shaking some shit up anyways, look for opportunities to get involved with new ideas, new ventures, and people who want to be disruptive in some way. Notice I say “opportunites to get involved” not “jobs”. Big difference. I know that finding a new gig isn’t that easy right now, but find an opportunity to dip your toe in the waters of something new is.

Talk To Me

Are there any ideas you would add to the list? If you’ve ever been in a job/career situation that didn’t give you life, what did you do to keep your spirits up? Let me know below!

 

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Did you catch this commercial during the Sochi Olympics?

 

It’s an ad for the new electric Cadillac, and it’s worth watching if only because it managed to squeeze in every materialistic norm we are brainwashed to believe we should strive for into a mere 72 seconds.

Suburban Mc Mansion? Check
Gorgeous spouse with some cute kids? Check
Fab pool in the backyard? Check
The xenophobic “America is the best!” attitude? Check

Now, I’m no stranger to the magic of advertising fuckery. As a former magazine editor, it kind of paid my bills for years, but this commercial struck me on a deeper level.

The Caddy commercial reminded me of what a battle it is to define your life and your choices on your own terms because everywhere we turn there is the sweet seduction to just slip on an identity that is conveniently handed to us.

I’m in my late, late twenties now, and more settled into my college life, and I recognize that I am at the definitive fork in the road.

The inevitable question has a refrain that has become louder, and impossible for me to ignore : “Do you fall in line and become another link in the chain of society, or do you deviate, identify yourself as a rule breaker, and go your own way?”

At what point do people just accept that “this is the way things are?”

My fear throughout my twenties has been of that moment where it becomes easier to slip into jadeness and just chalk it up to “growing up” and “being responsible” instead of using terms like “settling” and “selling out” that were a heck of a lot easier to toss around in at an earlier time in my life.

In the nearly four years that I’ve been writing this blog, it was only recently that is struck me that my overarching theme is bravery. I write about the bravery it takes to set out on a path of defining happiness and success on your own terms.

Bravery.

Because it does take a certain amount of bravery to decide to go left when everyone else is going right. Or to do what so many people don’t do, and make a change because the deeper battle to define life on your own terms really does come from within.

Tell me, have you hit your fork in the road? Do you find it harder to pursue creating your definition of happiness and success as you age?

 

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Today is the first day of the last year of my twenties.

I woke up with this feeling that I can really only describe as “grown woman sexy gangsta.

So, in honor of my birthday, allow me to indulge in dispensing a little “29 year-old” wisdom that I woke up with this morning.

I expound in depth on a few of these gems of wisdom, and others I just give you the main point. But I promise I was only drinking peppermint tea when I wrote this.

*Coughs*

That said, let’s dig in:

Eat Cupcakes And Be Merry

Last night, in honor of my bday, my roomie baked strawberry cupcakes with champagne buttercream icing. I grabbed one when I came home, and these things are amazing! And when I texted him this morning to tell him how good they are, he told me “It’s your birthday, eat as many as you want!”

photo

The breakfast of champions.

Now, this time last year, I was damn near starving. I wanted to look good in my birthday dress, and with my random stomach issues, the risk of bloating was real. So I ate super light, worked it out in that dress, and damn near fainted from hunger at the end of the night.

Not this year. This year, when my mind said, “Eat the cake, Amber J!” I complied.

Several times.

So yes, I might end up with a little gut in my dress tonight, but fuck it. Life is short, live in the present moment. Eat the cake and be merry.

Fuck The Lists.

The 29th year has caused many a breakdown. With 30 looming in the (near) distance, there is this pressure to start reflecting on life. And those reflections usually end up being broken down bullet point style into a listicle in your mind.

Eh, eff all that.

Are there some things I’ve accomplished that I’m proud of? Yep. Are there some things I wish I had done differently? Of course. But I think being a grown wo(man) means choosing not to DWELL on those things. Linger too long on the accomplishments and you lose sight of the future. Linger too long on the regrets, and you forget the present. Only one of the three states is truly a gift. Go with that one.

Stop Being “Nice” When You Don’t Want To Be

This one in particular is for all of my ladies who have been groomed to be “nice girls” and live under some type of strict “nice girl” laws that could rival those found in the most oppressing of countries.

You don’t have to be nice a.k.a. accommodating to everyone and everything. You don’t have to pretend that certain situations make you feel some kind of way. You can acknowledge your emotions, and ride the middle road between “nice girl” and “ defensive bitch”. It’s a struggle, but honor who you are, and how you feel in those moments that test your gangsta.

Wear Your Special Panties (Often)

Guys, I don’t know if you have a special pair of boxers that makes you feel all that, but ladies we all know that we have a few pair of “special” undies that we have on reserve for a special occasion. But why? Pop those tags girls, and rock your best every day.

Cherish Those Who Cherish You

Don’t waste your time chasing down people, who can’t be bothered to stop for you, or go out of their way for you. This applies to significant others (who don’t make you feel significant), and so-called friends. At some point you have to realize that energy is an exchange. It may ebb and flow, but it should always get reflected back to you. If you put out the energy, and you aren’t getting anything back, then let it go.

Enjoy What You Have

I’m not so sure about the rest of the world, but in New York, it seems we are always striving to have more, more, more, options of everything. But it is rare to see people getting comfortable and cozy with what they have. Instead of trying to make new friends, dive deeper with the ones you have. Instead of trying to add more people to your network, build the relationships with the people you already know. Your network will grow organically, trust me. It’s lovely to meet new people, and make new connections, but don’t do so at the expense of deepening the relationships you already have.

 Do Shit You Love

There will always be things you “need” “should” and “could” do. Always. But stop to do the things that really get you going. And make no apologies for it.

 

And that’s where I’ll stop too. I’m off to paint my nails and watch Downton Abbey.

Peace!

 

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