This Little Light Of Mine…

After a particularly inspired set of therapy/coaching sessions over the past couple of days, I’ve found myself walking through my apartment humming this song under my breath. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!” But as I’ve been humming away, a question kept percolating to the surface of my thoughts – Do you always let your Light shine? That glimmer of excitement or passion in your eyes? Your brilliant and luminescent intellect? Your fiery personality or warmness of spirit? Is it always appropriate to just unapologetically let your most authentic be on full display, no matter the venue or audience? Should our Light be toned down for work, or dimmed in our personal life to downplay our strengths and talents? Do we dip our heads and hide that sparkle in our eye and dazzling smile on our face when someone praises us for something awesome we did that can be traced back directly to that singular trait that makes us unique to the Universe?

The symbolism of Light has been used throughout history as a mark of intellect, guidance, divinity, and goodness. When you take your hand off your personal dimming switch and start shining at full wattage, it is my belief that you will attract what you are putting out into the Universe. You become a guide, a safe place to land, an inspiration for people finding their way through their own darkness. And when you are facing adversity, your Light is a warm and bright spot to guide you back through the mire to the person you truly are at your most authentic level.

Now I can hear you all saying, “Ashley, I can’t be my authentic self at work! I have haters and an insecure boss!” or “Whenever I’m the best version of myself they just knock me down!” And even “My friends say I’m just ‘too much’ and have unrealistic dreams!” Well honey, just know that you’re not alone. I have suffered from a near nervous breakdown, anxiety and panic attacks, Imposter Syndrome, depression, you name it, just from trying to dim my Light so completely that I became invisible to everyone, including myself. However, I can tell you that when you are completely at ease being your authentic self, you never have to worry about dulling your inner shine just to fade into the background. And if you face resistance from people who feel the best version of You is the one where you’re relegated to being a shadowy or muted version of yourself, it might be time to seriously reconsider the company (professional and personal) that you’re keeping. Any room where you cannot be the best and brightest version of yourself is the wrong damn room! When you open yourself up fully and let your Light shine, you will attract the right people, profession, and places for you to really grow and thrive.

So? This little Light of mine? It’s time to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine! And I think it’s time you do the same for yourself. Let it shine so brightly that folks are blinded by your scintillating wit and brilliant personality 😉 As for me, I like who I am when I’m all lit up for the world to see, and I am so thankful for the chance to finally shine as bright as the stars in the night sky after so many years of hiding in the dusky backdrop of my own life. The folks and opportunities meant to be in my life will be drawn to and inspired by my warmth and illumination. Those threatened by my shine who would condemn me to a life in the fog or in a poorly-lit corner so that they aren’t in (perceived) competition with all of my awesomeness? Well they can either get with the program or be blinded by my radiance!

I’m not dimming my Light for any soul or situation on this planet again, and you don’t have to either! Be the YOU that brings you joy, and watch how brightly the dawn of change shines in your life.

Black Woman, Inspiration, Mental Health

Let’s Try This Again, Shall We? (Mess in Progress)

It’s taking everything in me not to start this post with the obligatory “Allow me to reintroduce myself” line (hat tip to Shawn Carter), but that is exactly what this post is going to be – a reintroduction of sorts.

When we first met, I was a single 34 and a half year old Black American Howard University graduate living in Miami with a furbaby and no fcuking clue about what I was actually supposed to be doing with my life. We went on a wild ride of 10 posts where I laid bare some of the most profound and impactful experiences of my life – the good, the bad, the ugly, the fcucked up. Then POOF! Like a woman’s bodily autonomy south of the Mason-Dixon and our collective confidence as a nation to have free and fair election cycles, I disappeared!

My last post in August 2019 left off with me in a deep (I do mean DEEP) state of depression after ending a relationship, being unemployed (or underemployed) for almost a year and a half, being swindled by an MLM masquerading as a mentoring organization, and still not having any idea WTF I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I was broke, emotionally a wreck, lonely, sad, angry, and slowing losing my shyt to the point where I was genuinely concerned for my mental health and physical wellness. And this was all BEFORE the global pandemic sent us all inside for a year in isolation and mental anguish waiting for a vaccine and watching friends and family members die. Yay! I had given myself until the end of November 2019 to find a job before packing it all up and moving back to North Texas to crash on my mother’s couch and ignore adulthood for the foreseeable future, but then I FINALLY started a new job!

That joy had a small darkness riding with it, as I suffered from PTSD and had a pretty gnarly anxiety attack when I first started because I was trying to be as perfect as possible so I wouldn’t lose my job and end up worse off than before. I didn’t have the finances or emotional stamina to keep fighting to stay in Miami if that happened, so I worked ridiculous hours and made myself sick for a month just to prove my value and loyalty. Even when I was finally clawing my way out of the darkness, I still couldn’t let myself relax and be thankful. Then came COVID-19. We were sent home indefinitely to “stop the spread,” and home is where I have been since March 13, 2020. I won’t dive into quarantine, etc. for today’s post, but I guarantee it will make an appearance later down the line. Don’t wanna fuzzy my re-intro with a global pandemic, you know? That would just distract you from the fact that as of today things in my life are much improved!

I’m still single and living in Miami with a furbaby and no fcuking clue about what I am actually supposed to be doing with my life. BUT!! I ain’t unemployed or broke no’ mo’, and my mental health is thriving! I still get overwhelmed and battle anxiety, I haven’t figured out how to transition careers into something that makes me money and gives me back my time, I still watch HGTV and try to figure out how a professional butterfly catcher can afford a $1.2M home, and I have yet to put all my personal business on IG or Twitter. I will always love a good bourbon and the occasional bottle <ahem> glass of vino, but I’m drinking both a lot less frequently and not clutching a bottle like an emotional support binkie as I drift off into a restless sleep where even my dreams are like “WTF dude?” And…while blogging is still a helluva lot Cheaper Than Therapy, the way this co-pay is set up (thank GAWD for health insurance through my job) your girl found theeeee most amazing psychologist in 2021 and has been doing the WERK, y’all!

Healing and self-development and growth ain’t for the faint-hearted, and every time I wanted to quit I made sure to book the next session immediately. I knew if I quit I would stay where I was forever, and I just couldn’t stomach the idea of that shyt. What would have been the point of all that suffering and misery and anguish and breakdowns and comebacks if I was content to resign myself to repeating those old patterns? How TF could I simply allow myself to end up back where I started? No ma’am, no sir, no way in Hell. Absofcukinglutely not.

After a year of doing the hard work with my therapist, I graduated to doing even MORE hard work with something I never ever ever in my life thought I would have – I got me my very own life coach. Now, if you had told me a year ago that I would have a life coach (or that life coaching was a real and legit thing and not just people giving their random opinions on shyt), I would have called you crazy to your face. Life coaches to me were just folks running their mouths and giving advice on stuff you could just Google, because they don’t have to get their PhD to be one (sorry y’all, I know better now!) Well I am woman enough to admit that I was wrong.

The combination of therapy and life coaching has fortified me emotionally to do a lot of things, but the thing I am most excited about is that I now feel I can come back to my writing – to helping people not feel lost or alone or like something is wrong with them because they are still trying to figure it all out (whatever TF “It” even is). We can still help each other figure out what the next steps are, and then support each other while we learn how to take them. We can still take this journey one day and one BOTTLE of wine at a time with no judgement for the days we fall short of our own expectations. We’re giving ourselves GRACE in this new chapter, y’all!

I have no idea if writing into the void that is Michelle Obama’s internet will reach a single person who could benefit from me spilling my guts in a very public forum. I do *hope* that a few folks come along on this ride with me, because I’m definitely going to get into the mess, honey! I’m going to talk about being almost 40 with no boo or kids (and how I am 100% OK with this and you can be too!), the time I got roped into both an international Ponzi scheme *and* MLM foolishness to keep a roof over my head, how I almost collapsed personally during quarantine and finally had to seek professional help to keep from hurting myself, and so much more! A *lot* happened during the last three years, and we’re going to touch on most of it (with names redacted to protect the guilty).

While some folks in the world seem content portraying their lives with a permanent IG or Snap Chat filter attached to only show what is perfect and beautiful, I find freedom in laying bare my unretouched TRUTHS because those unfiltered moments are the things that make life real. Cheaper Than Therapy is my personal outlet, but the ultimate goal is to let folks know it’s ok to be a little lost sometimes and that they’re not alone. Life is messy and amazing and frustrating and inspiring and devastatingly beautiful because of the fcuk ups, and though I may be a Mess in Progress I’m happy to talk about it and share my journey with y’all. So…let’s try this again, shall we?