Monday, November 4, 2013

Teaching People How to Treat You

So my goal tonight is to write a blog in about 20 minutes. We’ll see how this goes…

In a few recent conversations I have found myself reminding others (and sometimes myself) that “you teach people how to treat you.” You teach and curb behavior through punishments and rewards. If you allow a behavior to continue without telling someone it’s undesired, then you are in a sense rewarding, or encouraging said behavior. However, the moment you indicate to someone, “Uh, uh, not cool,” you are telling to them that that behavior won’t be tolerated. We tell children “don’t do that” or “good job” all the time; but, it seems that in our adult lives the concept of “teaching” someone the ‘rights’ and ‘wrongs’ of interacting with us is slightly beyond our grasp.

The teaching is usually best done in the beginning of a relationship – though, I am a believer that you are allowed to change your mind about what is and/or is not acceptable, and therefore you may have to re-teach people from time to time. Establish your boundaries early, in an assertive way. Make sure people understand if you’re the type that likes to joke around, or if you’re more serious. What are your pet peeves? Will someone being routinely late drive you mad? Have you told them this?

I think…no, I know that too often I have not wanted to ruffle feathers and have allowed undesirable behaviors and attitudes towards me continue. After weeks or months of this ‘annoying’ behavior, I have no one to blame but myself for my thinned patience and constant annoyance.

I’m in a period of my life where, to quote Sweet Brown, I truly feel that “ain’t nobody got time for that.” The foolishness, the gossip, the backstabbing, laziness, being uncommunicative, being shady, down-right rude, sneaky, or manipulative just isn’t going to fly with me. Some people may tolerate it in their lives, they may teach others through their silence or through their own deceitful behavior, that it’s okay to act up; I, however, will surely be teaching others differently.

Men know before or upon meeting me that I require a certain level of respect. It’s in the way I carry myself, the way I interact with my male friends, and even in the way I flirt. My co-workers have learned that though I may be quite, I will not be taken advantage of, I know my stuff, and I don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. My female friends – though few they may be – know that I will always tell it like it is and will speak what’s on my mind with no apology or disrespect intended.

Decide who you are, what you want to be, what attributes you want people to see and respect most about you – and then make sure it happens. If they can’t respect you for that…then they can keep it moving. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Climb

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an up-hill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Can you believe I just quoted Miley Cyrus? Yeah, well neither can I. Those words came from her 2010 song, “The Climb.” And it was those words that finally brought me to this moment. I finally feel the beginning sense of peace that I knew I would need to feel before I sat down to write and commit to my thoughts surrounding the 2013 Miss Virginia Pageant.

You want my honest reflection? Good, of course you do; and, lucky for you I know hardly know any other way to be. Standing on the stage and feeling as beautiful and as poised as I had ever felt in my life, it hurt to know that I had not made the Top 10 cut. It was disappointment, mixed with confusion… and, give it time, the Devil turned it into self-doubt and self-hate. Thankfully, there were not moments of jealousy (as in, I did not feel specifically jealous of one of those ten girls; I never felt that one of their spots belonged to me): my feelings were never directed to them –the emotions all faced inward. For two weeks, I beat myself up. Trying to figure out what I could have or should have done differently. I poured over pictures…and thought I looked gorgeous, happy: I glowed (!) for crying out loud. I had never looked better. So, what else could it have been? Maybe, it was my private interview. And then the questions from my interview came flooding back to me (and so did my responses). They followed me everywhere, in the mirror where I used to ask myself mock questions every morning; in the car while I listened to NPR; they followed me to the shower and when I laid my head on the pillow at night.

These emotions confused the crap out of me. I usually moved on from disappointments fairly easy – I would fuss a little bit, and then I move on. I learned from my mother that there is no sense in dwelling in the past: it’s over, after all. But this one thing would not leave me alone. Being completely honest, it was also hard for me to think of any other time where I had felt so defeated. (I knew in my heart that I did not fail – I had progressed too much and performed too well, to call what I did at Miss Virginia a failure.) But I certainly was defeated. But feeling sorry for one’s self is depressing enough: I couldn't continue to wallow in my self-pity much longer.

Attempting to add some “regularity” back into my life, I went back to the gym after 2 weeks off: 1 due to the pageant and the 2nd because I was recovering – and being lazy – after the pageant. That Monday class was not easy! And it did not exactly provide the motivation I was looking for. We know that God tells us to pour into his word…right? We are to praise him when we want for something and when we are thankful for something, and just because. I had been on my knees during pageant week, and I thought to myself – if anything – I need to continue the prayer life that I had during those 7 days of competition. There were verses that spoke to me… but none brought enough comfort to convince me that the misery I felt would go away any time soon. However, we knew that success does not happen overnight; and, therefore, I knew the same would not occur with healing. So, I remained patient, in prayer, and meditation. I stopped listening to the news and rode in my car in silence, preferring to think about the apartment I would soon be moving into and my recent promotion/pay raise…. I didn’t spend extra time in front of the mirror – as that would prompt thoughts regarding inner beauty and pageant interviews… I stopped stalking myself on IG and looking over my pageant photos by Julius. I needed a mental break. I need to just be still (Psalm 46:10).

On the road home from Hanover this weekend Miley’s song played (it is part of a mixed tape a friend made to hype me up for the state competition). And when Miley sang those four lines I finally HEARD what she was saying, and immediately felt this sense of understanding and knowing in my heart. I pressed the rewind button and listened to the song for the first time. She talks about the journey, and how you learn along the way…how there will ALWAYS be challenges, and sometimes we will succeed, and sometimes we will be defeated. And, it is okay to remember those moments when you’re down (most likely those will be the thoughts that resonate with us for the longest)…BUT – your true test is – do you remember to keep moving forward, to keep the faith that you've always had?

So, I must keep moving forward. Don’t get me wrong: I still remember my interview questions, and I remember how I felt on that stage after talent and gown (AH-MAZ-ZING!)… But I am here…today, in my office. This is me. And I must continue to embrace that because “it is what it is.” I can continue to spread my love of people and of service, and I can continue to share my Legacy of Kindness…because that’s who I am, who I have always been. It is my assuredness in who I am – without a crown – that will allow this journey, this “climb,” to continue.

And I feel that must say this... Some of you may think I sound ungrateful; for I know that many girls would have given just about anything to have had the chance to grace the stage in Roanoke (or had their name called for the “Legacy of Kindness” award, as I did). It is not that I am ungrateful – it is that I, as the strong woman I am, constantly find ways to challenge myself. So when I, and other contestants like me, do not reach our goals, do not mistake our tears for ungratefulness…instead see them as they may be – sadness for not reaching the goal we set for ourselves. We are grateful to be at Miss Virginia, to have had our name called as a local representative, to have been a preliminary award winner, to have made the Top 10, or Top 5, but there’s always going to be that hunger to be the best of the best…to me that hunger should be commended, not condemned. (I won’t lie though, some girls will just be salty about it, they won’t look for ways to improve or find the silver lining in the clouds and there’s nothing I can do about that!)

So-- thank you for those of you who continue to believe it me; who encourage me day in and day out. I am blessed by those of you who call me your Miss Virginia. I will likely take the time in the next few days to reflect in a more positive manner on the pageant week (*chuckles*). Thank you for reading, and I hope I wasn't too depressing.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stressed...but Blessed

It's a shame, I haven't written in this blog since April. But this post should do some explaining regarding what's been going on. (And thank you to all my readers - my last blog had 57 reads!)

So, if you know me well enough, you know I like to do too much. I'm always going somewhere, doing something, or meeting someone. I've been called "Superwoman" a few times, and even been teased about my ability to hide my cape. Well, sometimes even Superwoman has to realize her limits... And this Superwoman has been super stressed lately.

The start of May meant the start of a new position at my job (read my last blog entry for more details). I quickly saw the different between being a "college hire" and a permanent employee. Gone were the days that that deadlines were 6 months away, or where my assignments didn't really impact the deliverables of my teammates. I was now a "critical" part of the team and that meant I had to change my mindset. Not only that, but I was thrown into a project that had been started months before my arrival, where the project managers and IT developers used a lingo that even my usually good use of context clues could not decode.

Being the genius that I am, I also agreed to take on a community service project around the same time. I was to co-lead a team to creatively develop, plan, and execute a field day for...oh, about 300 elementary school-aged children. I definitely underestimated the amount of time and effort that such a task would take.

Let me also mention that May meant I was just weeks closer to leaving to compete for Miss Virginia. I had my send-off party to plan. I had wardrobe left to buy and budget for....the piano to practice, gym classes to attend...

Then I decided to enter into a small business case-like competition at work...and then my car needed an oil change...and the keyboard I was using to practice my talent stopped working.... and the weather man was predicting rain for my field day (and our rain date was looking kind of soggy, as well)....Do you see where I am going with this?

I was doing too much: I was stressed out! So today, I said 'no.' I decided that the case competition ball had to get dropped. (Unfortunately this affected my teammate, who originally questioned if we'd have enough time to put our argument together - of course I had convinced her that it would be fine; and, today, I had to eat my words). I am also thinking that tomorrow I will make the executive decision to cancel field day this year; because, our rain date isn't looking too friendly and I can't keep moving the date on my volunteers. (It's a shame because our Superhero-theme was going to be amazing!) I am slowly building my confidence with this project at work and I made great progress with my current deadlines this week: my co-workers are very supportive.

I have always enjoyed being engaged and "plugged-in" to the world around me. I always like to know what's going on (yes, I am nosy). These past few weeks, I pushed myself - further than I've tried to push myself before, for there was more at stake this time around. I was reminded that I am but a mere human - one with limitations and a breaking point. I was kindly reminded, as well, that God has blessed me with a wonderful ability to handle multiple things and to get it all done with style, grace, and poise. God has given me the strength to take what many would see as hurdles, and turn them into opportunities for success. So, yes, when I was asked, "How are you?" in these past few weeks, some days my response was, "I'm stressed!"; but, please believe, I also know that I am truly blessed by God. The successes that I have had in my life have not all come easy; I have learned that I have the power in stressful situations to make beautiful outcomes. I've heard the saying, "I'm too blessed to be stressed!" - I'm not knocking it, but sometimes us blessed folks have to admit when we're stressed. (The first step is admitting you have a problem, right? lol)

(aka, The Over-Achiever)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Did you ask?

First, let me say that I. am. tired.! It's been a long and trying two weeks and I can honestly say I'm ready for a break (not that I see one coming any time soon). But, no worries; I am truly grateful for each opportunity to succeed that I have been given. My Facebook status tonight mentioned that I am now in my third position at my company - and I've only been there for ten months. Crazy, right? It's been a whirlwind of excitement and pressure, tears and anxiety, new friends and, unfortunately, new people to avoid. With each challenge is a lesson - it may not be a new lesson, but its importance is still there. And one thing I was taught in college was to "lift while climbing" (or help others along as you climb your ladder); so, with that, I would like to share one of my life mantras.

It's a simple one really: "You never know unless you ask." One of my favorite Bible verses as a child was, "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." Luke 11:9. (*psst, it was one of my favorite, because when you say the verse and the reference immediate after, it rhymes! lol)

Well how do I apply the verse (which refers to asking my Heavenly Father for something) to corporate America - or to life in general, really? Let's take my recent job assignment as an example. When I was told that my rotation program was ending early, due to reasons out of my control, I was not as happy as my recruiter had hoped I would be. The end of my program meant that I was suppose to have some idea of what I wanted to do next:
      But, I wasn't ready.
            I didn't know what I wanted.
                    I freaked out...but only momentarily. Because in the end, freaking out did me no good.

What were the facts? I had a month to figure everything out; I had many business contacts across the company (from my time as an intern and as a college hire); and, I had three positions available to me that were opened specifically for college hires in my "predicament." 

What was my problem? I didn't want any of those three positions. (Yes, I know: some people would be glad to have any one of those positions and I was in no way foolish enough to think I was too good for any of them. They just were not things I could see myself doing long term.)

So I sat down at my desk and typed up an email. There was a manager I had worked with during my initial rotation and I knew he'd be able to give me some guidance (plus, his team was suppose to expand in the fall, which meant he would eventually have open positions). The email led to a one-on-one with that manager in which he explained he did have an entry-level position but it was already filled; but if I wanted it bad enough it was still early enough in the process that things could change... I had a few follow-up one-on-one sessions with that manager, his boss (who happened to be my former boss), and with an HR contact. Four weeks later, I'm proud to say that job has my name on it.

Don't let anything or anyone confine you. I was given three options - I made a fourth; because I define my success and because I wasn't afraid to ask. Remember:

"A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation with the bricks others have thrown at him." Dave Brinkley.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Nothing is constant in life, except change

Hello Readers!

You may (or may not) have been wondering what I've been up to lately. If you're reading this, I'm going to assume you're interested....some life changes have been taking place, primarily in the last week and I'm still adjusting:

  1. I'm moving. No worries, it's just down the street; but, it still throws a kink in the usual routine. The last few days I've been packing a few boxes here and there to move my stuff out of my current room. With the move I've realized two things: (1) always be prepared for change and (2) I'm glad I don't have a lot of belongings that I feel attached to. When I moved up here (the day after the 2012 Miss VA pageant) I was proud that it took less than two car loads of belongings to make me feel "at home." I left a lot of odds and ends in the 757 and I don't believe I'll be going back to collect them any time soon.
  2. My position at work is being eliminated. Wait - don't freak out, let me explain! I was in a rotational program: which means that I was suppose to be on 3 different teams for 6 months a piece (for an 18 month period). However, my Company has decided to no longer support this initiative; and, as of April 1st I will be applying for a new position (within the Company). This has rocked me a little bit because I was hoping that the rotational program would give me a better sense of what I want to do with my career - and I'm still at a loss. The good thing is that I have built some very strong relationships in the past 8 months (and during my previous summer internship), so I am not worried about actually finding a new position.
  3. Miss Virginia Workshop is 17 days away! Again - it's okay, I've got Mariah to help me through this one. I picked out my talent gown. (*Leans in and whispers* and between you and me - it's one heck of a dress!) Now, it's on to paperwork - lots of paperwork, choosing my head shot, practicing my talent piece, and asking folks to sponsor me and donate money...
So you want to donate some money? LOL, but no, seriously. As Miss Hanover, I am also an advocate for the Children Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH): the commonwealth of Virginia is home to 5 such hospitals (they are located in: Charlottesville, Lynchburg, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke). The goal of CMNH is to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible. How do they do this? With the money that people like you and I donate, CMNH are able to support research and training, purchase equipment, and pay for uncompensated care for thousands of children every year. Partner with me today, and let's make a difference together. I have already raised $400 this year, and I need just $250 more to qualify for Miss Virginia. Every dollar counts. Thank you in advance for your support (your money, and your prayers)!

Xoxo (Hugs & Kisses),

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oz The Great and Powerful

This weekend was amazing. Just what I needed. By God's beautiful planning, my sister, Tanya, and my best friend, Cassi, were both planning to come into Northern VA this weekend; so, Tanya was able to ride up with Cassi, Deven (Cassi's hubby), and James (Deven's friend). Friday, Tanya and I walked just about ALL of Tyson's Corner Mall (Tyson's I) - she says that the small corners of the mall that we did not visit this time, we will get on her next visit, along with Tyson's II (where the rich folks go). After shopping for several hours we headed to Reston Town Center and ate a French restaurant called "Mon Ami Gabi." T and I got the seafood platter - it was fabulous, and so was our waiter :) Dinner was followed by a movie: "Oz, the Great and Powerful." The movie was definitely more of a comedy than I expected, and T and I would recommend it.

There were a few, key take-aways in the movie for me. The first being that: dreams - good dreams - live beyond the original dreamer. The original king of Oz had a dream and a wish for the people of his kingdom, one that he was unable to see fulfilled during his reign. However, because of the faith he had in his dream and the people of his land, one of his daughters worked to continue his dream and to see it come to fruition.

I often like to relate a lot of life's lessons to pageantry... Many times, judges will ask you about your "legacy": what you want to leave behind when your reign as Miss So-and-So is over. I pray that many girls hope to inspire others to either carry on the torch that they currently carry, or that they inspire others to pick up their own torch and be a champion for their own cause(s). My platform regarding volunteerism and community involvement has certainly done this. I have watched numerous girls spread their wings and join civic organizations, partner with others to raise money for a good cause, or step up to lead an initiative because that realized that by being involved (in their communities, schools, churches, peer groups...or wherever!) that they can truly make a difference.

I was also challenged to examine the difference between "goodness" and "greatness." For the entire film, Oz desired to be great and admired for his magical skills. But at the end of the film, he was told that he had something better than greatness in him, it was goodness that he truly possessed. Oz was good because he chose to do the right thing; he helped others and forsook his selfish ways; he was the man that others needed him to be.

I think this can be applicable in my "office life." I can strive to be great in corporate America, but I cannot afford to neglect to be good. I was visiting my Grandma's church in Manhattan several months ago, and one of the ladies in church told me that she believed the business world was full of corrupt and lying people and that it was not the place for me, as a Christian woman, to be. My Grandma, being the lady that she is, held her tongue until she and I were alone. In that quite moment, she told me not to believe a lick of what that woman had said. That I was a gifted and talented young lady who knew right from wrong, and that I could be a strong, Christian woman in an environment that some, clearly, do not see as honest or positive. Greatness is nothing worth admiring, unless there is goodness included as well.

So, readers...
Are you dreaming a dream that others can continue to dream once you are gone? (RIP Michael Crawford)
Are you living with a desire to be good? as well as, to be great?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

My Support System

It’s been way too long since my last post. Let’s see what has happened in that time?

…earned the title of Miss Hanover 2013
…celebrated my sister’s 21st birthday
…rang in the New Year with my mother and a glass of wine
…traveled to Vegas for the first time and watched the Miss America 2013 Competition live! 

In all that time I've been thinking about writing a post, and now I've finally sat down to do it. Tonight, I want to talk about support systems. Mine in particular…

As the local pageant “season” is quickly coming to an end there is a mix of emotions going through this bizarre land of pageantry. You have the girls who have passed on their titles, to watch “baby sisters” continue to develop the legacy of a local title; you have those who are now “too old” (to compete) and who will go on to impact the world with their compassion and determination, without a crown; there are young women who have been fortunate enough to have had a crown placed on their head at some point in the past few months and who will be gracing the state stage sometime this summer; and then you have those who are still reaching for that goal – reaching for that 4-pointed crown/ticket to the state competition.

It made me think earlier today…what helps a girl realize her dreams; and, in the event that she doesn't,  how does she go on? The answer, at least for me, is the same for both questions. No one can make it in this (pageant) world without a support system. This support may not come in the traditional sense, like mothers and fathers, but the support is there nonetheless. And it is because of this support system (along with other factors, I assure you) that girls will return year after year to realize a dream. Knowing that someone believes that you can is inspiring; knowing that someone is willing to stand beside you no matter what the critics say, that is empowering.

I am blessed because I have received support from my family to realize my dream of competing at Miss Virginia. My younger sister is my number one fan. She has not bought me gowns, or given me interview advice; but, her humor, her reassurance that I didn't bomb my on-stage-question (or my talent), and her hilarious text messages while I’m back stage competing, are encouragement enough. I am reminded daily that she looks up to me and that by competing in this pageant system I can remind her that dreams are worth chasing, working towards, and they are certainly worth fighting for.

Not only do I have my family, but the directors of local pageants have also offered support to me over the years, like you wouldn't believe. You don’t have to have their title on your sash, or even wear a sash at all, for them to love you as their own. This is where being kind and approachable comes in handy, ladies! Directors who feel and can see that you want to grow and improve will be more than willing to encourage you and give you suggestions that could make your next pageant YOUR pageant. Directors are volunteers, they do this because they love it; let them love on you, as well.

And now I will shock the “regular” world with this next facet of the support system that I have slowly built over the years: fellow contestants. No, we don’t all hate each other (yes, I do realize this is a competition). No, we are not all out to sabotage each other (yes, some of the girls are really nice). I have found that if you find the right girls – those who treat you the same, whether you’re in competition mode or not, those who give you advice that is true and honest, those who you don’t have to wonder about a hidden agenda – then you've found a winner. Just like in the “real world” though – not everyone is your friend. (People throw the word “friend” around too loosely these days, anyway.) But, if you notice that a girl has won a particular award (interview, swimsuit, talent…) ask her if she has any advice – if she’s confident enough in her own abilities she should have no problem helping you improve. Girls who want to keep everything to themselves defeat the idea of sisterhood and service – but that’s just my opinion.

Lastly, there’s the community at-large: the blessed people who are not consumed by all things pageant. Sometimes it can be those lovely people who have known you since grade school and gush every time they realize you have grown into this lovely young woman with goals and ambitions. Sometimes it is the father who you've had a quick conversation with, who is grateful that you've explained to his stubborn daughter that college can be exciting. Sometimes it is the stranger in the mall who tells you are beautiful. Relish in these moments, with these people – the ones you may never see again...the ones that you meet on pageant day...or during a day of service. They are the people, surprisingly, that will create the stories and memories that you will share with others.

Wherever it is that you find your support, be thankful for it, and LOVE those individuals back. It is your support system that cheers you on to the gold…but it is that same support system that should be there – with the same enthusiasm – if you don’t even make it onto the podium. I can say that my system has been there for me through the sunshine and the rain. Can you say the same? Start building your support system, your network (whatever you want to call it) and make sure it contains individuals of quality (this is an instance where "it's quality, not quantity")... 

I do my best to tell my system that I love them whenever I am given the opportunity. So, if you’re reading this…thanks!