Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year, New Career: I (Finally) Said YES to Becoming an English Teacher

My industry mentor and TV Writer Shero, Shonda Rhimes, wrote a book entitled Year of Yes (How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person). I received it last month as a birthday gift from my partner in grind. Every chapter struck internal chords that had yet to be touched as deeply this year. On one of the well-written witty pages she states: "Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It's hard work that makes things happen. It's hard work that creates change."

The Past

Flash back to February 17, 2014...

After spending roughly three years confined to a cubicle, writing and editing customer-provided content as a Quality Control Editor and SEO Copywriter, I left corporate America to pursue my dream(s) full-time. For almost two years, I braved the trials without a steady paycheck, sustained mostly by God's covering. To say that I was not afraid of the risk would be a lie. However, I survived... ultimately gaining more knowledge, as well as the opportunity to benefit from a premature mistake.

The Present 

2015 was an interesting year for me. I resided outside of the U.S. during the first half (January to June). Then, on June 20th, I returned home to a tragedy that would cause me to appreciate non-material things even more. Devastation increased my frustration, yet I continued to persevere through weeks of uncertainty. I spent the past 6 months applying for writing and editing positions in areas including but not limited to: Atlanta, Orlando, Tampa, Chicago, Washington DC, New York City, etc., with major companies such as: Newell Rubbermaid, Google, Lockheed Martin, CNN, Sony and various others.

The total number of applications I submitted reached close to 120. I was only green-lighted to proceed with 6 interviews, which means I had about a 5% chance of getting hired. In September, eager to relocate to Atlanta, I prayed extremely hard for a Senior Editor position at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport after being contacted by the HR representative and booking a next-day flight. I asked family members and close friends to pray for me also. A week prior, I was offered a temporary Publications Coordinator position for a major non-profit organization, but I knew that I could easily be replaced by a permanent candidate on short notice. I obviously wasn't selected for the Senior Editor position and I was dismissed from my temporary position four weeks after writing stories to be published in the company's upcoming quarterly magazine. I was disappointed, but still hopeful.

In October, I enrolled at Full Sail University to obtain a Master of Fine Arts degree in Entertainment/Creative Writing while awaiting my next "big break". Two months later, I was re-directed towards a previous interest that was interrupted by the job I was offered in 2011 and quit in 2014.

I started substitute teaching in 2010. It was a convenient on-and-off gig as I was striving to build my writing portfolio. While overseas, I spent six months working as a Learning Support Assistant at Kuwait English School. I've also delivered numerous motivational speeches and pep talks. Although I am a childless woman still contemplating the possibility of bearing an embryo, I enjoy nurturing young minds and inspiring underdeveloped leaders. Perhaps that's why, five years later, the opportunity to become a certified teacher presented itself again.

The Future

Earlier this month, while partaking in what had become a daily routine (job searching), I stumbled across a promotional ad for a Duval County Teacher Recruitment Fair. I decided to attend, with no expectations. I'd attended career fairs in the past, but none compared to this one. I was required to register beforehand and also submit my teaching credentials.

Before heading to the location, I phoned my aunt who's a retired high school English Teacher and Professor Emeritus for some last-minute advice. She told me, "It gets tougher when you're moving to a different level" and "Try not to be too concerned with what you are not doing too long." Then she said (paraphrased), "Whatever you decide to do next will be a new experience to learn from. Everything you're doing is just preparation for where you'll be years from now." I quickly jotted down her words and left with them in the back of my mind.

When I arrived to the recruitment fair, I checked in and was then told to select and sign up for a maximum of five schools. Interviews were conducted on the spot with principals and administrative staff. Fortunately or unfortunately, the first middle school that I selected did not have a representative present. It was soon time for my first high school choice. I approached the table and shook hands with the principal and two members of his staff. The questions quickly came at me. Questions like:

"Why do you want to teach in Duval County?"
"How was your educational experience overseas?"
"What's something unique that you can offer our students?"

I responded confidently throughout the brief interrogation and the principal concluded by asking me how soon I'd be able to start. 

I said, "Yesterday." 
He replied with, "Welcome to Lee!"

So, while still operating a business (iWrite4orU), actively pursuing my MFA degree and in the process of writing/publishing two more books, I am also now responsible for educating freshman and sophomore students of Robert E. Lee High School. After completing a five-hour new hire training session, I spent two days getting acquainted with students and my work space, and was then granted a two-week vacation due to winter break. I'm anxious to return.

There's a quote floating around in social media land that reads: "I can't cry about having a lot on my plate when my goal was to eat." Even though I could not understand why my writing endeavors had suddenly come to a halt, I was blessed for being still. Impatient, but obedient.

The Results

For a long time, I talked myself out of settling on a teaching career. The list of disadvantages was just too alarming. Reading Year of Yes not only forced me to stop creating issues where there should be none; it also helped me to turn negatives into positives.

Combatting my own excuses:

1. It's too stressful / time-consuming. 
(So was every other thing I've already accomplished in life).

2. I don't want / can't afford to pay for the professional certification exams.
(I'll gain more knowledge, be further qualified and eligible for greater benefits).

3. Kids today are out of hand and don't respect authority.
(I'll enjoy the satisfaction of making a difference and inspiring them to be better).

4. It doesn't pay enough. 
(My salary is $9000 more than my last stateside full-time position, I only have to work 196 days annually, which means ample vacation time for leisure writing/traveling, and I'm receiving practically-free medical/dental/vision coverage. I'll also be bumped to a higher salary bracket as soon as I obtain my MFA degree).

5. I don't want to deal with the drama of creating lesson plans and grading papers. 
(The same amount of extra effort is required for managing my business).

6. I was born to write, not teach. 
(God is in control and being able to teach students to write, technically and creatively five days a week, is the grandest way to utilize my gift).

I learned so much in this most recent 365-day life cycle, but the biggest lesson is that success is never guaranteed, no matter how talented or well-liked you may be. It's the combination of hard work and faith that will propel you to the next level and nourish you when the admiration fades. 

I'm grateful that God has positioned me to fulfill a role I was once afraid of accepting. Like Shonda Rhimes, saying YES to something that scared me is bound to change my life, as well as the lives of all students assigned to my A and B-day rosters the remainder of the 2015-2016 school year and beyond. 


Miss Williams, English Teacher


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Movie Review: Creed

In one word, Creed was phenomenal! I had the privilege of seeing it on Thanksgiving Eve, although everyone else was anticipating the official Thanksgiving Day release. One week later, this not-your-average-boxing movie has grossed close to $50 million dollars in box-office sales and is well on its way to receiving an Oscar nod.

The opening scene reveals young Adonis (Michael B. Jordan) in a juvenile detention center, being detained after a scuffle with another inmate. Mary Anne Creed (Phylicia Rashad) appears and rescues Adonis by offering to take him 'home'. Years progress and Adonis is secretly fighting in a Mexico ring, but quickly makes his way back to a full-time, suit-and-tie stateside position that he clearly hates. 

When Mary Anne discovers his hidden operation, via a black eye he's attempting to conceal with a pair of shades, she delivers an emotional plea for him to avoid the same fate as his father and her husband (Apollo Creed), who died in the ring. Instead, Adonis relocates to Philadelphia, and despite such a heart-wrenching introduction, this is where the story truly materializes. 

While establishing relationships with his new neighbor, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) and his father's former nemesis turned best friend, Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), 'Donny' undergoes multiple setbacks as a result of his undefined past. With no sense of belonging or connections to blood relatives, he's battling to safeguard things beyond his pride. Through Bianca, Donny finds motivation to work harder as a professional, refining his jabs, footwork, and other techniques in the process of being trained by Rocky.

The film climaxes when Rocky threatens to give up on Donny due to health issues, which ultimately affects Donny's bond with Bianca. "Please don't shut me out," he begs, after she removes a hearing aid to silence his apology for being unable to control his temper in public. Rarely does America get to witness how a black woman copes with a physical disability, which makes Bianca's role even more necessary. 

Under the moniker Donny Johnson, he's fighting from a place of anger, but over the course of the action, viewers learn that the main character is actually fighting to secure his identity as Adonis Creed: "To prove that I wasn't a mistake," he says during the last fight scene with a concerned Rocky in his bloody corner. From the advanced-looking cinematography to the perfectly-positioned camera angles, the clarity in these live moments exude excellence.

Actor Michael B. Jordan fully transformed to superbly play the leading part; operating as his own stuntman and sparring with real-life boxers for a full year. Director and Writer Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station) deserves all the credit, as well, for developing a poignant and cohesive story line; one that is attached to a classic, famous franchise. Without tarnishing the legacy of the Rocky serials, Coogler invites a younger generation into the mix by fusing a popular sport with love-story feels and coming-of-age growth; the perfect way to showcase a clean knockout. 

Grade: A+ (worth paying to see twice)


#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Pitfalls of Higher Learning: PWIs vs. HBCUs

Tired of being ignored and fed up with blatant abuse, 30 African-American football players from the University of Missouri decided to boycott their upcoming game. The unspeakable on-campus incidents had been swept under the rug, until a $1 million dollar NCAA fine became a lingering issue. As the head of the University, President Tim Wolfe received the bulk of the heat, eventually conceding to pressure from students and athletes to resign from his leadership role. Then came protests, threats, media bullying and more turmoil for students who simply want to feel protected where they learn. The tension has reached a new level of extreme. Surprisingly, a PWI vs. HBCU debate is now overshadowing what was presented earlier this week as breaking news.

Belittling the currently enrolled black students at the University of Missouri with a rebuttal, such as: "You should've attended an HBCU", does not aid in their attempt to overcome still-prevalent racism. Nor does it offer them any reassurance. Actually, it diminishes the impact of their recent triumph and insinuates that their non-violent protests have no real clout. And their newfound power? Well, according to some HBCU grads, there's no room to rule at a Predominately White Institution, because they weren't built for US...

My name is Liltera R. Williams and I am a proud product of Florida State University: a PWI. Fall class of 2008. In the past, through poetry, I've openly written about my undergraduate years. Oftentimes, the lone African-American English major occupying desk space in modernized classrooms, though not isolated by force.

I was happy to be 
the only colored girl 
in most classes 
unique but sweet 
Blackberry molasses 
with no sense of fashion
writing was my passion

(From Amateur Thoughts Discovered)

My intelligence could not be measured through the distance of a ratio. I believed that I was smart enough to thrive in a setting that made me feel uncomfortable as a minority. It was no different than the conditions of my high school honors classes. Except, during that time, I was teased for standing out instead of fitting in, which contributed to an irregular sense of belonging. 
My brother is a product of Bethune-Cookman University: an HBCU. Spring class of 2014. He now works for his Alma mater as an admissions counselor, eagerly recruiting high school seniors who remain oblivious to the aftermath of their college choice. While containing their excitement and preparing for the challenges that lie ahead, their concerns are quite trivial. They won't be asked to defend their decision of where to pursue more knowledge, until they're second-guessing themselves in the midst of a racial divide taking place on a campus where they no longer feel safe or welcomed. But, according to testimonials shared across my social network feeds, this type of outcasting doesn't happen at HBCUs. 

Furthermore, my brother and I have had numerous conversations about how much our educational experiences differed. We both, respectfully, address the contrasts in the way we were taught, as well as how we developed from first-year freshmen to post-grad alumni. I was navigating through a wide spectrum of diversity while he was immediately drawn to peers with striking resemblances. My tight-knit circle consisted of friendships I'd already established in grade school. Four of my closest friends  were educated at nearby Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University: also an HBCU. My brother became a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and was also active within various other organizations. I decided to focus on my studies, while working a part-time job in health care. However, as I currently reflect on my time spent at FSU and in the city of Tallahassee, I am flooded with positive memories. From Union Wednesdays to Seminole Saturdays (gameday). Splurging with my net check during weekend field trips to Governor's Square Mall. Unsuccessfully searching for rhythm in the middle of the dance floor at The Moon and Baja's. Writing in my notebook at the bus station, car-less and dreaming...

I also recall the exact moment Barack Obama became POTUS. I toasted to the victory with my besties. We jumped up and down in the middle of the living room, dismissing the shock, and figured we'd never have to worry about the past repeating itself. Change had come, we thought. Seven years later, it hurts to discover that we were wrong.

At a PWI, I studied. I networked. I partied. And I graduated. More than anyone, I fully understand the commitment to exercising school pride, but the next time you're inspired to boast about the perks of enrolling at an HBCU, remember this: we may share similar physical features and historical connections, but our mental and emotional struggles are not the same. The most notable thing we have in common is a belief that education is not a privilege; it is a right, no matter where the lessons are delivered. So, as an alternative to bickering and bashing the University of Missouri students for taking a public stand against mistreatment, we should all be thanking them for keeping the torch lit. We can't march on, together, in darkness anyway. Let's end the argument of who's superior and apply our degrees towards something more productive. Shall we?


#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Reflecting on Ebony Magazine's Cosby vs. Cliff Cover Controversy

My original comment after Ebony Magazine revealed the cover of their November 2015 issue on the Facebook page:

"Wow, what a way to announce that Bill Cosby's image has been shattered, both literally and figuratively. This perception of a broken family portrait definitely grabbed my attention. Anxious to read the story..."
I'm a week late, but I needed time to digest such a blunt announcement. The Cosby vs. Cliff debacle slapped me right in the face and triggered my I-must-write-about-this reflex.

This cover portrays more than a section of shattered glass can show. Consider how much we value the memories behind a family portrait; how we seek to freeze happiness; how over time, those happy memories fade. The ideal image of a Black family has faded. And, based on this cover, Bill Cosby's rape allegations are to blame. 

I didn't want this to be an impulsive response, although it caused an emotional uproar that I couldn't immediately put in check. I've dreamed of writing for Ebony Magazine or just being associated with the publication in some fashion for as long as I can remember. With over 6 decades of publishing history, no one can question Ebony Magazine's credibility. However, many readers have threatened to end their subscriptions, boycotting the magazine for being courageous enough to start the conversation we've been avoiding for far too long. 

The Cosby Show was and still is our model for how a Black family should look, behave, and succeed. Because it's impossible for most people to separate televised ideas from real-life occurrences, that made-up structure will forever represent our perception of perfection. But so many questions remain unanswered, such as: Is Ebony Magazine wrong for intentionally aiming to spark controversy with this family issue(s) cover?

And others become pressing inquiries, like a complicated riddle, too: 

Who's responsible for preserving the positive Black image, if our own African-American publications shame us for what happens in our reality, outside of our public personas? What do Bill Cosby's off-screen discretions have to do with the cast as a whole? Is the entire Huxtable clan automatically subject to assassination by association? How many of us are unable to differentiate what's portrayed on television from everyday circumstances? Are we na├»ve enough to view fictional storylines as bold-faced truth? Does confidence in our ability to decipher hidden messages measure that low? Is this a shot at our intelligence? Will disputing character attacks make us seem even more combative and power hungry, as we fight to keep our familial secrets hidden? Finally, are we judging this issue by its cover because we're afraid of what we may be forced to accept on the inside, after reading the actual story? 

Editor-In-Chief Kierna Mayo had this to say in a recent interview:

"I'm saddened that so many people are angered by this as opposed to challenged by it. We in no way, shape or form meant to offend. We meant to provoke. We’re tying to be conversation starters. This is quite deliberate. And it’s the reason that we weren’t leading in our language whatsoever. You can come to the image from where you are with what you have and come away from it with whatever you do. But I can guarantee you that if you engage the magazine and you read Goldie Taylor’s reporting, you will really be impressed and, I think, challenged to think about things in a new way."

I choose to be challenged by this topic, which is why I will be purchasing the issue as soon as it's available on my local newsstand. I personally understand the need for controversial journalism that makes us all uncomfortable. That's what good stories/good magazines are supposed to do. If you were inclined to react in any way, then this issue, whether fully browsed or unread, is already effective, inspiring us to examine the still frame of a Black family and decide if it's worth repairing, especially if the mirrored reflection is totally unrecognizable.


#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®  

Wednesday, October 7, 2015



You are not invisible. Even though the world has pushed you to the side, repeatedly ignoring your existence, you matter… and it isn’t just because you’re Black. You matter because you’re human. The color of your skin is only a small portion of your identity. You are beauty defined outside of the dictionary's subjective meaning. So don’t ever wish to be someone else. You were created for a specific purpose; one that extends beyond the outer layer of your appearance. Inside, you possess qualities that can never be duplicated. You are one-of-a-kind. Yet, somehow the world has persuaded you to think that you will always be considered last. Still, you rise…

Dear Black Girl, 

You must never surrender to defeat. Remain persistent. Prove that they were wrong about you; about us. You are not the leftover remnant of a slave's failed attempt at survival. Your ancestors were unjustly held down so that you could someday fly. Proceed boldly in your quest to leave a legacy worth remembering. Bear children who will acknowledge your struggles and respect your ability to overcome them all. Pay homage to the black girls who succeeded before you: 

  • Great Grandmothers
  • Grandmothers
  • Mothers
  • Aunts
  • Sisters
  • Daughters 

Let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifices. 

You are a tenacious being with an unlimited amount of strength embedded within you. Keep your head high and when tears well up from the wrath of your pain, just smile. Your courage will inspire another black girl to do the same. Besides, if you give up now, who will fight to preserve our history? 

Dear Black Girl,

Don't lose hope. When images that are not like you bombard the spotlight, cherish the blessing of anonymity. Only those who seek acceptance desire to be seen. You are more than a trending topic. People will forever judge you and weigh your assets on  a materialistic scale. At times, it will be hard to ignore their opinions, but the temporary concern will soon fade. 

I believe in you. Although you have not totally disregarded the scars from your childhood, the woman you have become speaks volumes about your character. Grow, understanding that your past has no right to claim any of the valuables directly connected to your future. Forgive those who have done you wrong. Learn to love them. Then, learn to love yourself. You've been neglected long enough. So, press forward and don't turn around to reach back for any of the burdens that you were once afraid to let go. LIVE YOUR DREAM, Black Girl, and be proud about it. 



#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Empire Season 2: Why You Always "Lyon"?

Last week’s Season 2 premiere of Empire was, in one word, OVERTHETOP. From Cookie’s grand entrance in the gorilla suit, citing an impromptu reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, correlating with a message to free Lucious from prison to the irrelevant cameo appearances (Swizz Beatz, Al Sharpton, Don Lemon, Chris Rock, DeRay Davis, Miss Lawrence, Petey Pablo, Ricky's mama from Boyz In Da Hood – did I forget anyone?). Additionally, the same-sex overtones - Jamal (who deserved that double slap) mind controlling his boyfriend, Michael, and "Anita" being designated to sleep with the female investor so that her nemesis, Cookie, can position herself to take over the company. Just. Tew. Much.

Although I live tweeted through the full first episode, I found myself critiquing each scene rather than getting lost in the anticipation of how the new storyline would unfold. And that’s the thing – after rushing through Season 1 and climaxing prematurely for fear of not being renewed, Empire’s overall storyline still isn’t quite clear. 

Yes, we know that Cookie donated some of her own drug money to fund Lucious’ music career, which ultimately catapulted him to success, showcasing her loyalty via a 17-year bid. And it’s clear that all three sons, Andre, Jamal and Hakeem, struggle with their own issues, including bipolar disorder, homosexuality, and narcissism, respectively. Yet, the supporting characters serve as nothing more than fillers for a randomly put together cast. With Becky (Gabby Sidibe) as the awkward-dressing Executive Assistant, Anika aka Boo Boo Kitty as the mistreated mistress, Porsha as Cookie's Ratchet, illiterate do-girl, and Andre’s wife, whose name and presence is so forgettable, as the token white chick, it’s apparent that the show lacks substance. The hype mostly stems from Cookie’s outrageous, mouth-dropping punchlines (i.e. “You can’t even dyke right!”) 

But when did shock factor become an acceptable substitute for quality writing? In an era where primetime television has become an interactive event, with many of us sharing thoughts online, quickly responding to the action during commercial breaks, and even going as far as hosting watch parties, there seems to be little room for the positive shows that some may argue are more worthy of the spotlight (insert Blackish here). 

However, when we station ourselves in front of our flat screens, it is an attempt to escape from the hectic reality of our everyday lives. Sometimes, we even notice bits and pieces of our personal experiences dwelling in the midst of the action. Perhaps that’s why I steadily succumb to partaking in such an entertaining and unhealthy vice. I should be utilizing that one-hour slot to write as much as I can, since most of my time lately has been dedicated to editing. Instead, I’d rather press pause on my important tasks and divert my attention to the Lyon family and their dramatic, dysfunctional problems, complaining about the plot discrepancies and poorly executed dialogue.

You're probably wondering why I'm faithfully watching, only to produce negative feedback. One: I'm a writer. Two: I'm studying. Lastly: I absolutely love Taraji P. Henson. I'm actually rooting for Empire to succeed, but for better reasons; not because of the shade behind the coonery. 

If Empire's contract with Fox network is extended, it will solely be due to its loyal fanbase; it will not survive on the acting alone. Nevertheless, I’ll be tuning in tonight, scouting for any and all necessary signs of improvement. I'll also be looking forward to hearing Jussie Smollett's voice. At least his songwriting/singing skills are getting recognition. But can he prove that he's man enough to reign as heir to the throne? We gon' see...

#WriterWednesday #WriterGrind®

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dreaming while Depressed (I'll Rise Up)

I've been struggling with self-diagnosed depression for about 3 months now. I can sense that something is terribly wrong when I am unable to write. And I haven't really been able to completely decipher any of my jumbled, dark thoughts, except for that late July afternoon... I was sitting in the public library, pen in hand, notebook flopped open, staring at a blank page. 

"God, please let me get something out," I begged. 

I wrote this poem and titled it Dear Duval:

Dear Duval

I missed you, 
but my return has been somewhat of a blur.
When I left for Kuwait, 
I vowed to remember you as you were.
You've changed
more than I care to grasp or comprehend. 
The excitement of reuniting with family and friends 
withers away each passing day.
Distance makes the heart grow fonder
as guilt rests quietly, at bay.

My life is not my own
Since a fire damaged my actual home, 
the extra stress of trying to figure out 
exactly where I belong weighs heavily on my soul.
Although I know that God is in control, 
He's testing my patience, 
while I'm praying that He'll eventually bless me, tenfold.
"You're so selfish", I've been told.
from people who don't understand 
that I'm still trying to patch up this broken heart of gold

Success is a deadly sin
Oftentimes, I'm repenting 
over and over again for finding pleasure in
bragging about all the things I've accomplished 
and all the places I've been
Awards aren't as glorious as they may seem
and despite how much I'm held in high esteem, 
I can't lose sight of my purpose behind this dream 

I'm not always strong enough 
to hold myself up from falling 
when personal struggles take a back seat to my calling

As Luke 12:48 states, 
"To whom much is given, much is required"
I don't have time or the right to get tired. 

But the pressure from old burdens
creates periods of hesitation
Dragging unresolved issues 
to each new destination 
I came back to Jacksonville in need of restoration 
temporarily displaced, 
pondering permanent relocation 
constantly focused on detailed preparation
reestablishing my independence 
in the midst of a separation 
It's hard to stay inspired  
when overwhelmed by anticipation 
I chose freedom over stability 
fell victim to instant gratification 
with unanswered questions, 
deep in contemplation, 
these words have rescued me 
from suicidal temptation 
and fully recharged my diminishing level of motivation. 

So Dear Duval,
I guess I should thank you.

I wanted to share it immediately, but instead, I swiftly left the library, rushed back to my temporary haven at a nearby hotel and cried. Hours later, I frantically fumbled with editing the most honest words I'd ever written. I texted a dear friend and he shamed me for it, understanding that deleting the transparency revealed within a first draft is the ultimate no-no. So, I kept the poem tucked away, until I could figure out exactly what type of mental warfare I was dealing with. 

After abruptly wrapping up the most thrilling adventure of my life, happiness abandoned me. Giving up was not an option, so I settled for hiding. I became an anti-social hermit; not really communicating my feelings or alarming thoughts to anyone. Although I felt empty, I still prayed. For many things. Mostly for my sanity to return. 

I wasn't necessarily going crazy; I was simply lost... unsure of what to do next. Afraid that there were no more pivotal events to look forward to, personally or professionally. My mind was playing tricks on me. As I attempted to sleep the pain away, I approached each new set of 24 hours with just enough strength to breathe through the misery. No one noticed how deeply I was suffering; I masked the sadness well. 

Worrying and planning. Planning and worrying. 

Forgetting about my previous accomplishments, I began to complain excessively, not recognizing how blessed I truly was (am). To the average person, I'd seem ungrateful. Success was quickly crippling me and the responsibility of fulfilling an inspirational role became extremely overwhelming. 

"Be careful what you ask for," they say. I asked for a lot, obviously more than I could handle. Sometimes it's hard to unravel and examine the short-term or long-term repercussions of our desires, especially when we have reached the height of the climb.

Today, I'm in a much better place, mentally... Creating opportunities, moving forward and staying optimistic through minor and major failures. I have more than enough reasons to be thankful and I'm trying my best to appreciate every blessing that I sometimes feel I don't deserve. I'm a work in progress, for sure, but the best part about that is I'm constantly growing, and a few months from now, I'll look back on this time of my life and smile at how I was able to rise up from the turmoil of being temporarily defeated.



Tuesday, August 4, 2015

4 Years of Entrepreneurship: What I've Learned

On August 4, 2011, I officially solidified myself as an entrepreneur by filing for a fictitious name and obtaining my business license. Although iWrite4orU was legally born on this date, I discovered my passion for writing close to 17 years ago. Before acknowledging my interest in company ownership, my aspirations did not expand any further than composing new poems and freelancing for newspapers and magazines. However, God had other plans for my gift(s). I finally accepted the responsibility, after a conversation with my aunt (and first paying client). She told me to, "stop giving your talent away for free." But who would adhere to self-calculated rates and fees from a budding writer who was solely driven by pure passion? I thought. As soon as I stopped doubting myself, I learned that actively showcasing a never-ending passion for what I love to do would be the main attraction for potential clients. This purpose walk hasn't been anything close to easy, but I've persevered through various setbacks and failures and along the way, I've also learned that:

1. Fear resides in comfort zones.

Jacksonville is the place I call home. It is also where I feel most comfortable. As I started to gain momentum with my business, I realized that I could only stretch so far. After a while, promoting my services and products to a select group of people became very redundant. I ran into the same faces at events and noticed that my network was very stifled. In the beginning, I was extremely afraid of going where I was unknown and not being accepted outside of familiar territory. I slowly built up enough courage to travel to nearby cities, and eventually to the Middle East, which provided a new level of confidence. But I soon realized how much I tend to rely on the security of my comfort zone. Even though it's where I feel the safest, every time I return to it, I am even more afraid when it comes to planning a permanent exit.   

2. Transitioning is a good thing. 

An entrepreneur must constantly seek growth, understanding that success won't always be steady. During the start-up stage, there will be more inactive moments than busy moments. I personally became a victim of instant gratification; an impulsive decision-maker, when I noticed the sudden results of my labor. Just 2 1/2 years into entrepreneurship, I decided to quit my "day job" so that I could focus on my dream full-time. I don't regret the decision at all because managing my own time provided options for traveling more and also led to greater opportunities. I had to make myself available in order to prosper, but now that those short-term opportunities have ended, I am dwelling in an uncertain space, (im)patiently awaiting what's to come. This idle period is forcing me to be still and observant, something that I haven't really done since establishing iWrite4orU

3. Save some motivation for yourself.

No one desires to reach the top alone, which is why it's normal to see many entrepreneurs publicly sharing tips and words of encouragement, attempting to motivate others. But there are times when we can't muster up the energy to motivate ourselves and, unfortunately, that is quite difficult for our supporters to comprehend. Success is more about giving than getting, and oftentimes our giving isn't reciprocated. I now make more of a conscious effort to equally motivate myself to ensure that nothing interferes with my positive mindset. I never want to be so mentally exhausted that my giving begins to feel like an obligation.  

4. Faith over Finances. 

I strongly believe that many people with original ideas, accompanied by unique talents, refuse to pursue entrepreneurship because they are not willing/ready to deal with the financial risk. Yes, it is best to be prepared and plan accordingly for all possible circumstances, but hesitation and procrastination go hand-in-hand. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to genuinely work your faith. I've never let the amount of money in my bank account control the outcome for my endeavors. And despite how much I plan, the blueprint is hardly ever accurate. The most valuable lesson that I have learned is that my faith is the only determining factor for every goal I set for myself. If I don't allow it to function properly, it is impossible to claim the entrepreneur title, with dignity.

Being a business owner is one of the most gratifying experiences in life. As I continue to evolve and secure my legacy, I will remain optimistic, and forever grateful that I survived four years of self-employment. I'm anxious to celebrate the milestones that year five will bring. In the meantime, I will continue to spread my LIVE YOUR DREAM message, hoping that I can inspire an unlimited amount of people to make the present sacrifices that are necessary for a future of fulfillment.