Building Habits That Will Finally Stick: 4 Powerful Tips

September 19, 2021

It is not enough to set goals, big or small, I mean anyone can, right? But what sets goal-setters and goal-achievers apart? I've got some experience in both spaces but up until about four years ago I was a solid goal-setter. I set goals like for example, I am going to cut all crap out of my diet. I am going to workout consistently and train like an athlete to get a fit and toned body that would make a 20 year old jealous. I am going to be disciplined with how I spend my evenings and weekends so that I am not scrolling on my phone, shopping online or watching endless hours of the boob tube which always made me feel terrible about myself anyway. I would set these goals typically as a New Year's resolution, New Year, New Me, right? Who hasnt said that and really meant it that time? Hands-up. Well, for years I found myself in this pattern. I would set my goal, join a gym, buy cute workout fits, buy a few cooking books and fiction titles etc. you know, throw money at it and then come February my motivation would tapper out and I would find myself back at square 1, deflated and a little poorer than when I started. If you can relate and find yourself in this same pattern, keep reading.
1. Start With Internal Work The problem here is you and no amount of money you throw at it will change anything in the long term for you. Ouch! Sorry, but it had to be said. Four years ago I decided to accept full responsibility for the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. I knew that I had to strip myself of all the excuses I made for myself. I sat down with pen and paper and thought about my goals. For this post, let's focus on my goal to workout consistently, to fully embed the habit of working out as something I do daily like example making my bed in the morning or brushing my teeth. These are habits that I wasnt born doing or knowing about. I was taught and the practice was instilled in me by my mother and it has, thankfully, stuck with me into adulthood and I passed this knowledge onto my kids. I know what you may be thinking, making your bed or brushing your teeth is NOT the same as working out everyday. Fair enough but the gist is that you can be taught, habits can be formed and solidified into a routine. Start from there. Now with pen and paper, write out why this goal is something you want to create a habit around and eventually a routine you dont question, you just do. Instead of focusing on your habit as a goal, reframe the habit into the type of person you want to become. Prompt: "I want to become:" Let's use my workout example. Instead of "I want to get a fit and toned body that would make any 20 year old jealous", I reframed it to, "I want to become the type of person who shows her body love and respect by nourishing and moving it as an expression of deep self love." Then ask yourself, "What habit will help me form this identity?" Using my example, What would a person who respects and loves her body do? My answer, "A person who loves and respects her body will eat fresh fruit and vegetables 85% of the time, she will workout four times a week not as a punishment but as a practice of self love. She gets to workout to feel good and no number on a scale or pant size can determine the joy she feels when she is moving her body in appreciation. Prompt: "The habit I want to build"
2. Be Specific: To get a habit off the ground, for real this time, you've got to set your intentions. They have to be super specific, the more specific you can get the better. Prompt: When will you perform your habit? For how long? How many times a week? Where will you perform your habit? To help, it might make sense to anchor this new habit with an existing habit, for example I workout at night before I shower and get into my pajamas. Anchoring it with my night time routine helped train my brain to expect a good sweat session before a wind down. The less you have to think about it, the better.
3. Mindset: I am not sure if you caught it in my Step 1 example but I used, "She gets to workout to feel good", when I was describing the identity I wanted to build. This subtle shift in going from, "I have to" to "I get to" is a mindset shift in action. Instead of focusing on what you might consider as being taken away like maybe, "I dont get to watch as much t.v. as I want" or "I have to wake up earlier", think about what you gain from this new habit. For example, shift "I have to wake up early now", to, "I get to have more time for myself before starting my workday" Prompt: "I have to ________________ now becomes I get to ________________________.
4. Identify Obstacles and Create a Plan of Action: Now begin to think about why you have "failed" in the past. (Failed is in quotes because I dont believe in failure as a detriment to our growth, Ive learned the biggest lessons in my perceived failures and THAT feels like a win to me.) Now is not the time to judge yourself and allow that inner critic to paralyze you from moving forward, we are here now, we can make the changes we want to see in ourselves. Keep going. For me, an obstacle in creating a sustainable workout habit/routine was convenience. If I had to travel to a gym to workout after work, chances are on those dark, rainy, snowy, bone chilling cold winter nights I would talk myself out of going, the same was true on beautiful summer days, chances are I'd talk myself out of going. One day turned into a week, turned into a month and you get the picture here. I knew I had to remove that obstacle so I opted to find a program I could do anywhere (preferably my home) and at any time (at night). Please note, I did not throw money at this goal intially. I didnt run out and buy a home gym, weights and all the bells and whistles. I started at 0, I downloaded a workout app that I had researched and used items around the house like a chair, used waterbottles for weights or whatever I had on hand. It was important for me that I approached this goal from a totally different angle. Simply and honestly. Prompt: Obstacles in the way of me doing my habit: How can I get rid of those obstacles: You want to make sure the habit itself isnt an obstacle, so make it short and simple. My workouts are no more than 20-30 minutes a day. Again, simple and honest. Make sure you keep this in mind as you set out your plan. Less is more and if you think you have to go from never working out to working out 6x a week, or going from waking up 20 minutes before you have to leave for work to waking up at 5am and meditating, you should revaluate your why. In closing, remember to create small, buildable steps. Be patient and consistent. Take a break, but come back to it. When you feel yourself falling back into old patterns, recognize that, think about what may be triggering this reaction and come back to this entry. Re-read your why, adjust it if it is clearer to you now. Be realistic with where you are and where you want to be and breakdown the steps to their simplist, attainable tasks. Reconfigure, readjust, restratigize, adjust the timeline, whatever it takes to reach that version of yourself that is within. Start NOW! Thanks for reading, until next time.

Six Books That Have Expanded My Thinking

June 30, 2021

Books are life, amiright? They have the power to expand our minds, shift our perspective and shine our light out from within. During this season of transition and growth, books have been a source of comfort, curiosity and enlightenment. I have been exploring my relationship with my spririt, my mind, my body, love, mindfulness, gratitude, sexuality and the list just goes on. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list these are just the titles that have abosultely given me pause this year and broken down walls in my mind to let incredible light in. Almost ALL of them are written by Black women because they are the TRUTH, we need to listen to them, elevate and amplify them, give them their flowers AND money (this work aint free). I hope you will add these to your summer reading list and watch yourself bloom.
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle This book has sold millions of copies and been translated into a dozen languages. Chances are you probably read it, know somebody who read it or you've seen it on someone's booklist. This is a fan favorite on mindfulness. The Power of Now teaches its readers to grow in awareness of their thoughts, observing them, understanding they are not their thoughts and how to remain present in their everyday life. I took my time reading this one because the concepts are so foreign to anything we've been taught and I found myself having to re-read sections in order to grasp what I was reading. There is no shame in that statement, some books require your full attention and this is definitely one of them. Takeway: I am not my thoughts, I am the awareness of my thoughts.
The Body is Not An Apology: The Radical Power of Self Love by Sonya Renee Taylor How many of us can say we LOVE ourselves deep? I know I cant say that. There are still so many things about myself that I am learning to embrace every day. I am beginning to observe myself without judgement, accepting and caring for all parts of my being even the things I am told by society I should hate and want to change about myself. There are so many gems in this relatively small book that helped me in my journey towards that deep, radical self love. The kind that has me looking at my naked body in the mirror and changing the script in my mind that tells me my body is shameful and should be covered up to "damn, you are a magical being". Sonya delivers a master class on radical self love, connecting the self love we build within ourselves to building the kind of world we want to exist in. Takeway: Abled body people dont think enough about our disabled community members, we must make space for ALL bodies and ALL needs, seen and unseen. There was a chapter in the book where she talks about adding special needs to the start of a meeting for example, an intro would be, Person's name, preferred pronouns and special accomadation needs (would like to keep door open during meeting for anxiety or a participant might say they need to walk around and stretch if it is going to be a long meeting). The reasons dont need to be stated, that is no one's business but the need should be heard and accepted. We need to learn to accept things that we dont fully understand, period. Those little things single to the community that all are welcomed and restores our lost humanity.
All About Love and Communion: The Female Search for Love by bell hooks How much do you know about love? If you are like me you might answer, "a lot". Psssh, bell hooks makes it clear that although in a lot of ways we are obsessed with finding love, being in love and being loved, we dont know a darn thing about it. And you know what? That is ok. We should always remain curious and this book holds space for our curiousty. This book healed scars I didnt even know was there. Thank you Ms. bell hooks, I am eternally indebted to you. Takeaway: We dont know nearly enough about love and accepting that is a good place to start.
The Selected Works of Audre Lorde edited and with intro by Roxanne Gay This book is a collection of Audre Lorde's essays, lectures and poems. She had a brilliant mind and the ability to express her thinking in a way that is so accessible to the collective. I especially enjoyed her essay on the power of the erotic. My mind was blown as she talked about captialism stripping away our connection to the erotic because of the power it holds. If we sought pleasure in all of life then we would question on the deepest level all of the pain, violence, and terrorism that exists in this world. "There are many kinds of power, used and unused, acknowledged or otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unexpressed or unrecognized feeling...As women, we have come to distrust that power that rises from our deepest and non-rational knowledge." Takeaway: We have been indoctrinated into an irrational mistrust of our deepest knowing, our sprituality, our sexuality, our feminine power all at the altar of captalism and imperialism. To quote the great all female R&B group of the 90's Envogue: Free your mind and the rest will follow.
Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by adrienne marree brown I waited months to get my hands on this book and it was worth the wait, but also Yonkers Library system can we buy more than 3 copies for the entire library system to share? This book is a collection of interviews, essays, poems and art from contributers from all different walks of life including the eternally taboo profession of sex workers. Give sex workers their flowers. Stop criminalizing sex workers and start criminalizing a capitalist system built on exploitation that doesnt provide a livable wage, health care for all, housing for all, and free education. This isnt a morale standpoint I am taking here, its just we cant look down at people who are making their way in a system that is set up to see so many of us fail. Takeaway: There is so much work we need to do to get to our truest selves. Rest is radical. Pleasure and joy is radical. Imaginative thinking is radical but lord how we need it in order to survive our current conditions and build a better future for ALL.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel This last book is also like the first. Read and recommended the world over but it is true. This book simplifies a life well lived in four agreements. 1st. Be Impeccable with your word. 2nd. Don't Take Anything Personal. 3rd. Dont Make Assumptions. 4th. Always Do Your Best. How simple is that? Takeway: "It can all be so simple. But we'd rather make it hard. "- Lauryn Hill I will end the post here. As I started this post, this is by no means an exhaustive list just a few that I have read in this current season of my life that helped expand my world. Have a great book recommendation? Drop them in the comments below! Until Next Time,

I Quit My Job: Part II

June 21, 2021

Welcome back to part II of my story, if you havent read part I click here . Now that you are caught up let's pick up where we left off.
After my Dean's resignation, I fully exhausted the five stages of grief and loss; denial (maybe the college leadership could change their mind, listen to her needs and adjust?), anger ( I drafted an open letter to the faculty and staff, it was RAW and I read it to two people I trusted the most and both said to sleep on it and if I still felt the same way, send it in the a.m., sound advice! Emotion is good but you never want to act out of emotion, easier said than done), bargaining (I thought this letter would spark a change, it would move people towards self reflection and together we could confront ourselves and chart a different course), depression (I felt this throughout but especially after I wrote this open letter and read it out loud), I knew on a deep level that everything changed and I couldnt change the situation so I had to leave and finally acceptance. I knew that I was past my expiration date, I was resentful and resentment is not sustainable, it was time to move on, but first...rest.
November- December 2020 I was tired, the deep feel-it-in-your-bones kind of exhaustion. The kind of exhaustion that leaves you unable to function, feeling disconnected from your own body, brain fogged and just burned out. My body needed rest and I hadnt given it any in over a year. After the change of leadership and a few meetings to catch up I put in a request for a three week vacation to use my use it or loose it time and leave (thanks CUNY-PSC union). I needed to be away from my laptop, away from zoom, away from my calendar, away from my cellphone and catch ups and questions and just everyone and that is just what I did. The stress my body was under for all of those months having to now move into rest mode felt nearly impossible. I found myself unable to sit and watch t.v., without getting up to sweep, or clean a dish or wipe down the kitchen counter and when I forced myself to sit, my mind raced. The thoughts, ruminations and negative talk happening in my head all of the time wore me out. It took me nearly two weeks to just detox from the anxiety and stress my body had absorbed. Side Note: This is not ok. This capitalist society lies to us and tells us that stress is par for the course. Productivity is our purpose for being. Do more. Be more. Give more. No. I have learned this is the biggest scam of our time. This hustle culture is set up to squeeze us dry in an effort to make someone else money while having us chase the "almighty dollar" to feel happy, valuable and worthy, of note. HA! I spent the final days of my break reaching out to friends, stretching, meditating, journalling, reading and doing research to validate my lived experience. It is strange to read that last part but when you are gaslit and abused in this kind of way you honestly cant trust yourself. That is the point of gaslighting, you make the other person feel like all of this is normal and their reaction to it is what is abnormal. It renders you unable to trust your own experience which keeps you in a bad situation much longer. On New Years Eve, I drafted up my letter of resignation prepared to send it the following Monday.
January 4, 2021 At 9am on the nose, I hit send on that email! I felt all the feelings, all of them but I knew this was the right thing to do. But how did you know Erica? I just knew it and the only way I can describe this knowing is to compare it to a breakup. Especially the final breakup if you have been trying to get out of a relationship for a while now. You know, you breakup but keep going back because history, fear, comfort, the devil you know..who hasnt been there? Well if you have, you know there is a moment of deep peace and stillness, like you just KNOW this is it. There is no hestitation. You've made peace with the decision and there is NOTHING he/she/they can say or do that can change your mind. Your mind is made up and whether they accept it or not doesnt matter cause its over. That deep peace is what I felt when I submitted my resignation, god it felt GOOD! Considering I had been out for three weeks and ten years of work to hand over to the team I gave them a full month notice. The standard is 2 weeks but it felt wrong to me and I had to continue to trust my intuition so I have them 1 full month until my last day.
Let's Talk About Finances So the burning question I know I would have is what about money!?! How can you afford to resign from a job without having another lined up? I get it, this system is set up to keep you in a constant cycle of working to buy things and pay bills which require you work so you can make money to buy more things and pay more bills, if you boil it down to its simplest form, that is what we are taught life is all about. I wasnt born with a silver spoon in my mouth or a trust fund. I come from a working class background and the working class, works. We are the backbone of the economy and this economy chews us up and spits us out allowing us to retire at 65 (if you are lucky) to live out your remaining years caring for your ailing, aging body. Back in 2017, I shared on this very blog the beginning of my low-buy, minimalist, mindfulness journey. My son made me aware of all the shopping I was doing and we challenged ourselves with 30 days of no shopping except for necessities like food etc.. This challenge ignitied a journey towards self awareness. I started to look at my credit card bills and my bank account statements carefully, where was I spending my money and how much and could I cut it down at all? The answer was yes. I slowly stopped buying fast fashion, turned to thrifting and then to shopping my own closet, I stopped eating out for lunch everyday and packed a lunch instead, I started making coffee at home instead of stopping at DD or Starbucks and even cut down on eating out for dinner where I could. I started to think of other ways I could spend time and catch up with friends that didnt come up to a $50 cocktail bill which lead to other changes which lead to less money spent and more money saved! I cant explain how rewarding it is to take control of my spending habits, set and realize my long term goals and to grow in awareness of my relationship with money. In short, I was able to give myself this safety net by trimming a lot of the fat in my life and growing my savings account. I didnt know it at the time but all this work I was doing would eventually put me in a position where I could resign from my job and take a short hiatus while I healed. I know there are some advantages that I have which is that I earned a good salary, I own a home so my mortgage payment is pretty low compared to the CRAZY rents Ive seen advertised, and I am married so we split our expenses down the line and I am now covered under his health insurance which saved me a ton. Even still, a closer look at where your money is going and where you might be able to save might be a worth while excercise. I am sure in 2020 with everything closed down and social activities cutdown to 0 you might have been able to see how much money you were saving overall, lean into that a little more if you find yourself in a similar position. That Last Month The last 30 days was awkward to say the least. We were all still working from home, dealing with the very public resignation of our Dean, the never ending pandemic and many other losses. I think my colleagues were shocked and surprised by my resignation. We were a pretty tight knit group and now our time together was ending and we hadnt physically seen each other in nearly a year. It was a lot. I understood that I wasnt the only one left somewhat numb from the entire experience but I really couldnt focus my attention on their perception of the events that led to my resignation. It was my time to close things off, hand things over, clean out my office and move on. Acceptance of a situation that no longer serves you can be tricky and I dont mean to make light of it but I have been here before, many times, in my life. In order to welcome in a new chapter, I had to be willing to accept the ending of one. I was filled with many emotions but none of them included doubt or regret. I knew my time with the institution and my colleagues was over. I cleaned out my office and handed in my laptop and closed the chapter.
What Now? Therapy and Job Search The first month after my resignation was very hard. I would cycle through the same feelings I had when I took time off in December, rumination, inability to relax and be present, and other self destructive inner dialogue. At the time I was putting so much pressure on this time of my life. I would do ALL the things work hadnt allowed me to do, I would write that best selling novel, I would master a full split, start pumping iron and get into that athletic body shape I knew I was destined for, I would master yoga and meditation, I would start a side business, basically all the things and all of the pressure that came with thinking that I had to show something for my time off. We have all been conditioned to believe that our growth has to result in some tangible product that others can witness and that perhaps you can sell on the open market, but oh my friends have we been taken down the wrong path. I now know that I must trust the timing of my life. I had been through a VERY difficult and traumatic experience what I needed more than anything was to heal. My body needed so much rest and I had to learn to give it without judgement, without saying, "well why are you so tired, you arent working, you should be doing this instead." That kind of thinking led to waking up with anxiety. My inability to allow myself to just BE was wreaking more havoc on my already burned out body. Healing is not linear and while I focused on the good habits I had created over the last three years including excercise, journaling, yoga and new to me meditation my pain was too great and I knew that the burn out and trauma I had endured for half of my time there coupled with COVID required I seek professional help. I have seen a therapist before when I was struggling through my son's adolescence so the concept was not foreign to me but this was a bit different. I was the one in crisis and I needed help. I am three months in to my therapy work and it has been a game changer. I am learning self awareness, acceptance and how to be present and grateful for all of the wonderful people that my life includes. The first month was the most challenging but I stuck it out, did my homework, admited things to myself and my loved ones that a year ago wouldnt have been possible and learning to grow into the next chapter of my life knowing how valuable and worthy I am. In terms of my job search, I am browsing and have applied to a few positions that I believe align with my new found perspective. I havent had any bites yet but I know that the right position will be mine. I am FULLY enjoying my funemployment. Learning who I am outside of an institution, job title, and salary. I am writing more and have an idea for a book I'd like to write. I have a consulting opportunity outside of the U.S. that I am preparing for and will share more about once things become more official. I am reading SOOO much! I have already read 30 books this year alone. I am studying, learning, reflecting, finding joy in slow living and self exploration. I am learning I dont have to be perfect in order to be loved. I am a human having a human experience and I deserve the very same grace I give so freely to others. I am learning where to set my boundaries and speak my truth. I am learning to check in with myself to see what I am feeling so that I can clearly communicate them to my loved ones. I am learning to flow with life. Silence my ego and be present. Letting go of this control I always thought I needed to have in order to live an ordered life has been the biggest breakthrough for me. I am learning to flow through my feelings instead of supressing them. I am learning to rest for the sake of resting, not because I need to earn it but because my body deserves it. After taking much time to rest and produce nothing I am back on IG posting regularly, getting back to my blog AND kicking off my youtube channel. None of these things, including landing a job with a fancy title and a bloated salary define my value, I know that now and armed with that knowledge I can search and create freely, without expectations. I am creating for the sake of creating and that feels so good! Thank you for sticking around. I hope that sharing my story will help you write your own. Until next time,

I Quit My Job! Part I

June 8, 2021

I can hardly believe that it has been nearly two years since my last post, there is so much to catch you up on! As the title states I quit my job back in January and took some time to process what I went through. The first month following my resignation was the hardest for me both emotionally and mentally. I knew that I needed to seek professional help to help me sort out all that I had been through and all that I was feeling in order to begin the healing. I've been in therapy for three months now and it has been a God sent. (I am grateful that I have health insurance to cover the cost, but I will take a moment to say that it shouldnt be a luxury given to a few. Healthcare is a RIGHT!) Therapy coupled with books on spirituality, mindfulness and love (yes love) has helped me tremendously and I will share my reading list with you in another post. About this entry, I am splitting the story into two posts 1) what led to my resignation and 2) what has happened since because its a life changing event with a lot of moving parts and attention spans are limited. Let's go...
Two year hiatus First, I never officially announced a haitus because I really didnt know exactly what I wanted to do with this community I created. I recognized a shift within that I had to lean into and knew I had to do it without the distraction of metrics and keeping up with the joneses but I wasnt ready to say goodbye. When 2019 started I set off on a 30 books in 2019 challenge for myself, I didnt fully understand why I set the challenge but with each book read I could feel an internal shift. In September of 2019 I announced on Instagram that I would be entering what I coined my "slow season", which meant after years of overly packed schedules both professionally and personally I was burned out and needed a break. I began to feel like everything I was doing was a major distraction to the work I had to do within that only stillness and solitude could bring focus and clarity to. So, after a wild summer filled with lots of travel, my best friend's wedding and all the festivities that entails, an untold number of meet ups and drink dates etc., I said, enough. I would start to say no to invitations in order to carve out some time for myself. It was hard at first, especially excercising my right to say no without explanation but I needed a break and I didnt want to be made to feel guilty about it. I wasnt in a space that I could give as much of myself, I needed a break. At the time I was also mentally preparing for the arrival of a new boss which meant that we wouldnt be able to vacation for at least the first year of her leadership and that I would have to work longer hours, some evenings and weekends to get it off the ground. After having interim leadership for nearly 4 and 1/2 years and exclusively working with white men I was finally going to be working with a Black woman from Ghana who was educated in the UK, had founded her own graduate school in Johannesburg, authored 10+ novels and was just an international super star. I wanted to totally committ myself and grow professionally and I instinctively knew her leadership would be transformational to not only me but the entire school and oh how right I was! First, Context December 2019 rolled around and we hit the ground running, there was excitement and curiosity buzzing in the halls of our school, everyone wanted a piece of our new Dean and I was trying to find my footing and figure out our working relationship. There were growing pains for sure, but I stuck it out and committed. Personally, I was fighting demons of my own with the closing of a decade that was filled with so many wonderful events and moments and a fair share of heartbreak. The 2010's started with the end of a near five year relationship with an emotionally and sexually abusive boyfriend, it was also the start of a new and important job (the one I would later quit, keep reading), I met my future husband and best friend, got married, traveled, purchased our first home, started graduate school, graduated from grad school, got promoted and was making a six figure salary and of course I had started this blog. I got everything I had ever wanted and was so happy and loved, I had achieved so much so what could a new decade possibly have in store for me? Wasnt this as good as it gets? Fear of the unknown was beginning to cripple me. As a way to escape my fear I purchased tickets to the Friends pop up happening in Boston, booked a two night stay and hit the road on New Year's Eve. I remember sharing my fears with my husband over a beer. I asked him if he was scared of ending such a life changing decade and entering into a new decade, what would this mean for our marriage? Our lives? What next? He responded, "I am excited for whats next. I just want to enjoy the fruits of our labor, our boys are growing up and moving out and we will get to enjoy a new kind of life together filled with adventure and travel. This is good Erica, not bad." Ha, I hadnt thought of it like that. Why did I fear all that I had achieved being suddenly taken away from me? Where was this fear coming from? I had no idea but I remember that was when I started to journal. Ironically the last journal entry had been exactly two years before to the date, holidays have always filled me with anxiety. I filled the page with all the darkness and fear I felt in my heart and it felt really cathartic. It was in that moment that I decided I would committ to journalling. I knew I needed an outlet, a safe space to release all the fear, pain and anxiety I had swirling around in my heart, consuming me most of the time but also a space to share some lightness, thoughts and joy. The journey to clarity and builing a deep relationship with myself began. The Job In January of 2020 work was tough, the administration was going through what is called the "storming phase" of this new leadership. I am sure you have experienced change in your life whether it was graduating from school, starting a new job, embarking on a spiritual journey or moving to another city, you know change is hard. The administration had been left on their own with little to no guidance, the administration had trauma-bonded, faculty formed cliques and were unhappy and abusive, lack of confidence and no clear path had left us all deformed, passive aggressive and toxic. It wasnt anyone's personal fault, this happens without leadership and woeful neglect. The trauma was deep, the confidence was low and an outsider shining a light on a team who had always placed blame on the "other" instead of acknowledging our own toxic behaviour was a lot to navigate. The new Dean persisted. We had tough but honest conversations. Some took it in stride and looked at it as an opportunity for growth and investment while others took it personally and began to shutdown. This is true for most people, myself included, that when you are forced to confront yourself and your messiness the ego's instinct to self protect is great. You feel justified of course, beyond reproach. This isnt my fault, it is her fault or his fault or this leader doesnt get it, she doesnt understand. We stay stuck in a loop of victimization and blaming. It can be hard to take a look at your own actions, our ego wants to seperate us from any culpability. I will admit I retreated and all but submitted my resignation in those early weeks of this new administration. I even started clearing out my office, ie brining home my office plants. That memory makes me giggle because that is how much my ego wanted to protect me, I was ready to quit. I would have rather quit then do what I knew I was capable of doing or more to the point confront a deep seeded belief that I was NOT capable. I was scared of what was being asked of me. I sat my husband down and told him I would be resigning. He smiled and said he would support my decision but ended by saying, "Do you not know who you are? What you have accomplished? You are a lionness, why are you running away like a scared mouse." In this moment I am reminded how important the company you keep is. Are you surrounded by people who really believe in you? Are you surrounded by people who can be honest with you even when it is hard? Or are you surrounded by people who dont really care either way? Are they just sound boards who parrot what you say? This isnt a read but at pivotal moments like this the company you keep can mean the difference between growth or stagnation. Sure, you are responsible for your decisions but also we are not alone. We have family and friends in our life they influence us in ways seen and unseen, that's just the truth. I am grateful to have a partner who believes in me when I dont. He has made me realize just how much work I need to do to see in myself what he sees in me. In that moment, I decided to be brave. I would stick it out and do the absolute best I could do even if I failed. I needed to challenge myself, it was the only way to know who I was, so I did. The new Dean and I were having honest and difficult conversations, she invested in me. Her critiques and radical honesty about my performance helped me to adjust and confront parts of myself I had neglected or avoided. This honesty became the foundation of the working relationship we were developing. In February and March I spearheaded a major project and a huge event. I hired assistants and charted us on a new course. Things were looking up. March 13, 2020, COVID hit and a fragile team was sent home to work. Working From Home March-May 2020 Our new Dean had only been in place for two months when Gov. Cuomo sent all CUNY and SUNY administration, faculty and students home, unable to return to the office due to the huge infection numbers in NY. We were the epicenter of the fast moving disease and the best we could do is isolate. The first few weeks were a blur. I still havent fully processed the fear, trauma, and loss we all faced. The new Dean took no breaks, she was fearless. The definition of a leader. She tried to keep the ship above water while everyone took turns throwing their hands up in pure exhaustion and fear. I am not blaming anyone here, this was an "unprecedented event" no one had ever lived through this, ever, so what is the "correct" way to respond? I dont think there is a correct way or a wrong way, we were all just trying to survive. Often times that survival mentality means reverting and doubling down on just surviving, just making it through. There is no mental capacity for looking past your own pain and fear. We are humans after all. As I reflect, I am able to fully acknowledge and marvel at the fact that our new Dean was ALSO feeling all of these emotions and in some ways a bit more than us. She was, after all, new to New York, her family and friends were miles away and her new work family was still trying to adjust to her leadership and the relationships were too new for any true depth. In spite of these odds, she perservered. There is no bullet point in a leadership manual that she could refer to to help her make sense of what we were collectively facing. For my part, I was trying to keep my head above water. I decided to invest in an actual workspace and converted my dressing room/workout room into a home office. No one knew how long we would be working from home but I knew that work demanded a clean space to meet demands and I needed to lean into and accept this new life. Our Dean continued to think big, we kicked off a fundraiser to help students who's family were facing financial ruin with small grants to help them cover some costs for food and rent. We started to build on our Instagram account as a means of communication to both our internal and external audiences. We canceled our lecture series and pivoted to an online ZOOM series. We kicked off a newsletter and started to plan for a Virtual Summer Show. I managed all communication and marketing strategies along with my newly hired assistants. It was a lot. I was isolated and felt alienated from the staff as I am sure the staff felt alienated from one another. I spent hours in front of a laptop with little human interaction. Every interaction was planned and scheduled with agenda items. Gone were the casual interuptions and requests to take a walk and grab a cup of coffee. We were all alone, but in stillness we all grew in different directions. The codependency that had calcified was slowly coming undone. I no longer needed constant contact with the team. I had time and space to be creative. I began to pitch ideas for articles, rethink organizational practices and event management. I took on important projects bringing what I knew to projects instead of defaulting into, "I dont know or Ive never done that before" which is safe, but doesnt help you to develop those skills. I was editor of the first student led publication, I conceptualized, researched and scripted a video for our summer show. I was working with other creatives from all over the world to create this film. It was a real professional highlight and I felt so grateful for the opportunities I was given but also saw the confidence in myself and my capabilities grow with each successful milestone completed. Please dont misunderstand the road was not paved with gold, I still wrestled with my deep seeded fear of not being enough. Sometimes I won, sometimes the voice inside me won but I never gave up. The Dean and I continued to have hard but enlightening conversations. I understood that these truths would help me succeed so I adjusted and grew. May 25, 2020 George Floyd It is still hard to process these feelings, they still bring me to tears even a year later as they should. A man was murdered in the street in broad daylight by an officer while others watched in horror and fear. The pain was palpable. A life was stolen. While this is nothing new in this country, it felt like a watershed moment. A moment where everyone finally or so it seemed, took notice and couldnt look away. I remember the first time I saw BLM publically acknowledged by corporate america was on the Paramount channel and my jaw dropped then my email box was flooded by empty statements by other coporations who fell in line for the sake of their bottom line, profit. White America uncomfortabely and clumsily started to engage in conversations that were difficult for them to face, having always had their comfort centered while people were brutalized and murdered by the state. But I digress. This was a pivotal moment for our instituion too although the extent of this conversation was also a blanket statement from the leadership touting us as a diverse and inclusive university while never, really examining that too closely. For my Dean's part, the request, the SHEER volume of requests that I fielded on her behalf was monumental. Every single day, multiple times a day, we were turning down invitations to speak, to give a quote, to chair a committee, to basically educate all of academia on racism and how they can be better more informed allies. I wont dive too deep into the labor this placed on two women of color but it was a lot and felt like more of the same. July-October 2020 With Floyd, mass protests and what felt like the apocalypse approaching, work continued. The administration was barely holding together. Isolation cliques were forming and without face to face interactions, the isolation began to fertilize seeds of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Times were really hard, I felt even more isolated. While my self sufficiency was starting to shine through me I missed the ease and support of the codependent relationship we had formed. Old habits die hard. We needed each other to get through a very difficult transition and I know personally it was a lifeboat for me. I feel so grateful to have had these people but all things have to come to an end. Everything must change and while it is scary it is absolutely necessary. I have been here before and I survived the change and I knew I could again. Interactions were few and far between and often tense. I felt I was outgrowing the administration and felt that unless there was a drastic change my days were limited. In July, our finance director went out on a three month medical leave without about a week's notice with no preperation or hand off of work. These duties became my duties. I had no background in finance, we had no clear or up to date budget and we were just left to muddle through. This nearly broke me, and at times it did. My hair started to fall out, my skin broke out, my sleep was affected, my appetite was non existant and I found myself yelling and screaming to my husband because of the lack of support we had. If I felt this way, can you even imagine how the new Dean was feeling? She received no support from the school's leadership, we were stone walled, delayed, gaslit, buried in endless paperwork and justifications, unclear emails and misinformed phone calls, you name it we faced it. Times were hard. We kept trying to pivot, reass, strategize, regroup and approach it differently, but the weight of it all was debilitating. We had vendors coming out of the woodwork with outstanding bills, months overdue. We had no system we could refer to in order to verify their claims. We were in the dark and needed to work, under extraordinary circumstances, to close the gaps. The stress was so great that I hardly thought of anything but work. I couldnt enjoy anything that I was once did. I woke up with anxiety and went to bed with anxiety. I might have been facing a depression and with the despair all but swallowing me whole, I knew I had to act to perserve my sanity and restore some kind of balance.
Some Clarity In August, I set my intentions for change and established boundaries. I implemented a morning routine that included waking up earlier, journaling, stretching, reading while enjoying a cup of coffee before starting my work day. This time was all mine and it gave me a clear boundary between work and home life. I started to pencil in actual lunch breaks which I protected like a lioness. I would fix myself a delicious meal and eat it away from my laptop and phone. I would head outside for some sun. I would take pictures and kicked off a second instagram page @_booksandblooms where I would share my growing plant collection and plant tips, along with my book recommendations. It was an opporunity to build something from scratch, take my own photos and immerse myself in two things that were saving my sanity, plants and books. I founded a book club and started shooting food reels for IG. Armed with this new outlook, I felt hopeful. I felt like I had a life outside of work that couldnt be touched. My life felt just a bit bigger and I was grateful for it. Work was still difficult, every day was a new challenge. I was either breaking down secretly or I was helping someone else with their own breakdown. It wore me down, more hair fell out, sleep was still sketchy but still I was at least starting my day with a full cup which made it impossible to absorb too much more. The fall semester was upon us and we hadn't had a moment's rest. I took a few three day weekends over the summer but not a long sustained vacation which is what I really needed but considering the circumstances couldn't possibly indulge in. We were rolling out a new curriculum and as I said earlier; change is hard. Even when it is in our best interest, we resist. We cant see the path and so we resist, making change nearly impossible. This burden was shouldered by the Dean and she took it very seriously. Her own health suffered. During the six months we were on lockdown she had been hospitalized twice and on a few rounds of antibiotics for various infections. This is what stress does to the body friends. The body reacts to stress because it demands a release. She was jeopardizing her life and that is NOT an exaggeration. I bore witness. September gave us some highs but a lot of lows. We hired a consultant to help with our finance issues but the damage was already done. On October 1st, the Dean informed me and a colleague that she had submitted her resignation and would be announcing it to the rest of the admin and faculty the following day. I was gutted. October 2020 - The Resignation Where do I start? I was gutted. I cried. I weeped for my loss. Our collective loss. Having been pulled to my own limit, I understood that what she decided was the right thing for her to do. I supported her. I admired her but still I greived her loss. She officially submitted her resignation to the entire school community and I signed off and weeped. It happened. It was real, we lost her. There were so many emotions I felt after her resignation, disbelief, grief, anger, rage, resentment, and finally my own truth was revealed to me. It was time for me to part ways with a school that I had dedicated nearly ten years of my own life to. Her resignation forced me to face the inevitable, it was time to move on.
I will end this post here so I can publish and start working on part II. In the next post I will share the fall out of the Dean's resignation, my stages of grief that led to my deepest knowing, how I prepared for this next chapter, how foolish I was to think I could prepare for the transition, therapy, growth, finances and next steps! Thank you so much for sticking around! IF you are new, hi! Please subscribe to my blog so you can receive notification of new posts and follow me on instagram @lifestyledbyerica See you next week.

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