Last December, I did a 12-day countdown to January 1st to celebrate my accomplishments of the year. This year, I am starting today and with a single post. There is no reason for me to wait to share my success (and failures) and a “fresh start” does not need to happen on January 1st. Every day is an opportunity for a new beginning, and so today I am closing out what I’ve done thus far.

The latter half of the year greatly outweighed the former half. In July I served on my first jury and I have never felt so proud of my civic service. In August we announced to our parents that we were planning to get married next summer and in September we officially got engaged! In October I ran a half marathon, in November I wrote a novel, and now here we are in December and despite being suckered down by a lack of time and a surplus of stress, I am getting back into my health and fitness goals.

This is obviously the failure art of the post. I have let myself go, so to speak. I am incredibly out of shape and I feel it. I do not drink enough water and my skin shows it. I don’t take 10,000 steps in a single day for several streaks of time that were far too long. What I have managed to do, however, is stay committed to healthy eating. As a result, now that I see the light at the end of the tunnel, I know that all I have to do is continue to keep up my habits in the kitchen and increase my activity and I will be well on my way.

I have been told countless times to count my blessings often, and I have not been able to make that habit stick quite yet. What I will say right now is that counting my blessings has made me realize how well off I am, even when things might seem bleak. I am not perfect, and there are things in my life that are outside of my control that make living harder. However, I am capable of doing so much and I do do so much, so I really cannot sit here and complain about anything.

Understanding that January is to be nothing more than a continuation fo all the amazing things that I have accomplished in 2017 and the strong habits hat I built makes it so much easier to go through today, even though I’m home, aiming to reach my step and calorie goals. There is absolutely no reason for me to start tomorrow when I can do it today.

WIP Wednesday: Writing Progress

Quick check-in for NaNoWriMo today. I just wanted to share my progress with those outside the NaNo community to encourage you to chase your dreams, no matter how large or how scary they may seem at the beginning.

Day 15: 17,000+ words

Daily Goal: 2000+ words

Most recent milestone: Title and cover art done today

Proudest moment: Realizing that writing was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be. Once I had an idea and a vision, the words came on their own.

Biggest regret: Not brainstorming prior to November 1.

Best advice: I have read this over and over again this month, but never let lack of writing or a break in the streak get you down. Whatever you do, you will always have more words than you had yesterday if you just sit down and write.

So friends, whatever your goals are, it is never too late to get started. Even if you said you were going to start last week, last month, or last year, if you make the choice to start today you will be one step closer tomorrow.

Weave Your Story

If you’re one of the lucky ones these two things are true:

1. You came into this world naked and screaming.

2. You will leave this world fully closed and at peace.

Everything that happens in between is unique only to you. You are not alone; you are never alone. However, that does not mean that others are going to have your experiences at the same time or in the same way that you do. In the past year, I have noticed that a lot of people have become comfortable with being unaccepting of others. It seems to have become okay to use slurs and derogatory remarks casually in conversation or on social media. I, fortunately, have only blocked one person’s posts in all of this, and only on Facebook (that is to say her Instagram is perfect). But in general, the number of stories that I see openly being alright with mean comments.

Experiences and environment both greatly define how people conduct themselves, their comfort zone, and much more. This is why, for the most part, I do not take personal interactions too seriously anymore. I grew up in a very mixed community, but I left that behind when I chose to prioritize my education. I was, and am, perfectly comfortable with that, but as others become more open about their negative feelings towards non-white Americans, I realize that I need to be more vocal myself.

If I had to tell my story, I would start from the very beginning. My parents were about 40 when I was born. I am an only child; I was their first and their only. And although I have always felt nothing but love from them, I also feel like my mother had an easier time letting me go than other mothers. I used to think that she really just wanted what was best for me and knew that she had to let me go to allow that to happen. But I also think she has been waiting for me to go, so that I can come back. My mother spent two years at home with me after I was born, and it is something I still cannot wrap my head around, although I’m sure having a child would help with that. My work is just so central to my life because I love it so much that the idea seems completely foreign to me.

I went to private (Catholic) schools my entire life. When people hear this I am often asked one of two questions: a) Why? And b) Does that mean you want your kids to go to private schools too? The answer to both questions have the same explanation- I would not be where I am today if I was a part of the public school system in my home town. If I see the same would happen to my children, I would not put them in public schools. It has nothing to do with the idea of tuition payments or the environment of a private versus public school. It has everything to do with giving my children the best opportunity that I can, which is exactly what my parents did for me. I drove past the public high school I would have had to go to every single day on my way to and from school for four years. At least once a week the street was littered with cop cars. Would it have made me stronger to be part of that environment or weaker? I cannot answer that question, but I am fortunate that I remember police at my high school twice in the four years I was there- my first and my third years.

I went to graduate school immediately following college. I now have both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in chemical engineering, and I am working to finish my PhD. I am now engaged to a wonderful man with goals and dreams and I couldn’t have planned this if I wanted to. However, I did plan it. Through my choices, and my knowledge of my goals, I have written this part of my story for myself without realizing it. Things don’t always go your way, and they may not go your way when you want them to, but they do have a way of working out.

I am not delusional, I know that there are extraneous circumstances that hold all of us back every single day. I know that systemic racism is the state of America. I know that the opportunities that I should be getting because I am human are not always there because I am black. I know that affirmative action means that there are opportunities I must be considered for, but not necessarily be considered for equally. I know that I am lucky in just as many ways that tI am unlucky. But I also know that if I am myself, unapologetically, I can do what will ensure that I die happy.

She’s Got Goals

At the beginning of 2017 I set out a list of goals for myself to achieve by December 31, 2017. In working towards these goals I have learned a lot about myself. At the top of the list, I have learned that I have great ambition but sometimes I just do not have the hours in a day/week/month/year to achieve everything. Sometimes I do not have the tools to do everything. Earlier today I was part of a 90-minute session on strengths-based leadership. Forcing myself to think about my strengths and how they interplay with others strengths. As I sat at my desk this afternoon, I started thinking about those goals I had set for 2017 and where I stood with them. So, following are some of my goals that really taught me something, and how I have been working towards them. Most importantly, this post is a post about how I have learned about myself and my role in life, not just how I made a plan and some follow-through.

Finish Writing a Novel

I have not started. Fortunately, even though I listed this at the top of the list, I had always planned to participate in NaNoWriMo and begin brainstorming on November 1. I am very eager to get started with this tomorrow. I had originally planned on using my blog posts as a means to practice writing daily, and when I remember, I still do. However, I found that for a while over the summer writing just wasn’t interesting me (nor was reading), and it became a chore. Therefore, I had no posts from July through September. I still have drafts of posts that I promised, and I still promise you that they will get written.

Run a marathon

I registered for the Kansas City Marathon in May and I switched my registration to the Half Marathon the night before the race. Although I had a training plan and I had been running, I stopped finding the joy in running. I stopped caring about how far or how long I ran and only cared about when it was over. For many of you, that may be how you run. However, I love running. I love the feeling I get from the power of my own two legs. I love the strong calf muscles. I love the strong lungs. So, for me to be having legitimate anxiety about running a race I knew something was wrong. There were a lot of people (mainly people who had not run a full marathon before) who told me that I could do it. One day, I finally sat down with myself and realized that most everybody I know who had run a marathon was oddly silent. I realized that a lot of the people I talked to had run half marathons, but never full marathons. I realized that it just wasn’t my time to run a full marathon.

Now, for the fun part. I ran a half marathon in 3 hours 7 seconds. I walked on all of the uphill stretches in the second half of the race because I was just burnt out. My stomach was full of powerade and water, it was a little bit warmer than I would have liked, and as a slow runner anyway, I was surrounded by walkers for the majority of the race. But that was totally okay, because it meant that when I was running I was giving it my everything. I finished only seven seconds slower than what I wanted my maximum time to be. I walked away feeling proud, a bit sore (because 13.1 miles on concrete is a lot harder on the knees than I realized), and ready to run another (lets be honest, several more) in 2018. Maybe one day I will do a full marathon, but for now I love that I love to run, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Live healthier every day

This one had several sub-goals. I am going to include one thing that was not a sub-goal and one that was. First, there were a couple of weeks in October that I stopped consuming alcohol. One night I was drinking a beer I didn’t even like because it was all I had at home and halfway through I just stared at it and wondered what the heck I was doing. The next morning, I saw a post on Facebook reminding me that Sober October exists, so I tried it for a bit. I told my friends, and they were all really supportive. I think only one person asked if I was pregnant! But ultimately, I just needed to figure out why I felt the need to drink. At the same time, I wasn’t sleeping well, I was tired literally all of the time, and I just wanted to give my body some recovery time. Since then, I have only had alcohol I legitimately enjoy (red wine) and I have not felt drunk at all. While it still makes me somewhat uncomfortable to be confident in saying that I stopped drinking in excess given the environment that I am in, it also makes me really proud to know that I am keeping poison out of my body.

Second, the thing on the list, decrease my resting heart rate to 71 bpm. Why 71 bpm? Because I have a heart murmur and for as long as I can remember, my heart rate has been over 75 bpm, even when I was playing sports. I honestly did not think that I would be able to drop my heart rate below 70. Well, I am proud to say that 64-65 bpm is now a reality for me! Through hard work, a good diet (I would say low-fat, but I do not in fact know that that is the thing doing it), and exercise I have been able to surpass this goal.

Open a retirement account

So this one, I looked into it. I was totally ready to call somebody, then I needed a new car. So this is still a goal. If the money I could have put into a retirement account is the money I have paid towards my car loan, I would say that this goal has been successful. I still have plans to do this, and I recall actually telling my friend right after I bought the car that this was supposed to be my retirement money. In any case, I know the time to start saving is now, and once I feel like I have regained some financial security I will do just that. I hope that this will be very early into the 2018 year, and given that it is at the forefront of my mind I see that there is no reason for it not to get done.

Interactive portion

How are you doing on your 2017 goals? There are still two months left- over 60 days with which to work on achieving them, and another year ready and waiting to continue working towards them.

Take a Stand by Taking a Knee

How can we have a national anthem in a divided country?

By now you have probably heard that Fox Sports will no longer be airing footage of the national anthem before NFL games. But I ask you, who won?

If baseball players in the postseason start protesting, will this trend continue? And by not airing the national anthem are you respecting the protest or staying out of the politics? For so long, I have heard (white) people speak of the power of peaceful protest, and I cannot remember a time when I didn’t immediately think of Rosa Parks, Selma, and now, kneeling during the National Anthem. Why is this any different?

Why are these players not allowed to protest in the most powerful way they have? The Star Spangled Banner is played before every single sporting event in America. Every single player, coach, and fan is expected to stand, remove their caps, place their hands over their hearts, face the flag, and sing along. However, what if you don’t believe what you are singing? Why should you do it anyway simply because that is what is expected of you? What if you start thinking about 1814 America? What if while you are singing, you remember that the Emancipation Proclamation wasn’t final until 1863 and you picture ancestors you never met sweating in the fields mid-verse? Would you keep singing? I didn’t, that day.

Yes, you read that correctly, it happened to me and I stopped singing and instead started reflecting on what the song meant. This happened years ago, this happened before Black Lives Matter; before police shootings were at the forefront of the news. People did not just start feeling like this in response to police shootings. People finally got sick of watching it happen. I am a black woman in America, and I understand that I am far more privileged than black men in America. And yet, I still do not have all of the luxuries of a white woman or a white man. There is a racial and gender hierarchy in this country that needs to be broken, and it is about more than watching innocent black men get gunned down.

I hope that you have seen comparisons of news headlines when a black man commits a crime versus a white man. I won’t get into that now, its outside the scope of this post. But you should take some time to look into it. You should educate yourself on the disparity in treatment that exists in this country. Each and every day I am thankful for what I have, and it is simply because I have lived to another die. I haven’t been sacrificed by anybody else’s hands, I haven’t been stopped at work or at home from chasing my dreams. I have been given an opportunity to carry on. I was given an opportunity many black men were not given. I cannot kneel or link arms on television once a week, but a professional sport dominated by black men (70%, HuffingtonPost, 2016), please do not try to silence them. This country has done enough of that over the past 250 years.