The Top 5 Things My Teachers Told Me…

Here’s to the teachers who double as motivational speakers and therapists; who teach you about people and purpose; who push you to be better but not to be someone else; who have experience in both their professions and in life. You are well respected and greatly appreciated.

The best advice I’ve ever gotten didn’t come from a guidance counselor. I didn’t read it on a billboard or an advice column. I didn’t hear it from a friend or a talk show host. The best advice that I’ve ever gotten came from an underpaid teacher who spent countless hours making lesson plans, creating Powerpoints and grading papers. They taught me y=mx+b, the cruelties of the Holocaust and Newton’s Law of Gravity, all of which were useful to know. Still, their most valuable lessons didn’t come from a Calculus textbook or a Chemistry study guide. On the contrary, it was the wisdom that they poured into their students about life that stood the test of time. I carry these lessons wherever I go. Today, I pass them on to you.


1. On people….

“Statistically speaking, the best way to predict what someone is going to do isn’t by what they say. It’s by what they’ve already done.”  – J. Eastman, Sociology 101

He wasn’t saying that people couldn’t change. He was, however, being realistic about human nature and applying what he knew to be true about people. As a freshman in college with insurmountable expectations for everything and everyone, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Every time I applied it, I was a little less disappointed.

2. On life…

“You play with time and then time plays with you.” S. Nair, Prob and Stats

In a basic math class, full of high school seniors who had no idea what was ahead of them, Mr. Nair told us that we had no time to waste. I was 17 years old and my biggest concerns were prom, the senior trip and graduation. I looked away for a second and now I’m an adult with an extensive to-do list, a tight budget and an alarmingly high amount of anxiety and still… no time to waste.

3. On relationships…

“What you see is as good as it gets.” – K. Brinkley, Algebra

Known for her exceptional teaching and witty comebacks, she kept us all on our toes. On one occasion, she told us that she had been married before and that it didn’t work out because she never changed. Whenever I think about someone’s potential, I try to assess whether or not I would be okay if that was all it ever was… Could I marry potential? Would I be okay if I couldn’t change them? Would I be able to accept them? It made me examine the relationship that I was in at the time… I thought it would last forever but it was toxic and, as she said, was as good as it was going to get.

4. On work ethic…

“Excuses only satisfy those who make them.” – R. Pinnex, Global Studies

Ahhh, the world history teacher with a “no-nonsense” policy and a low tolerance for slackers. Your best was not HER best for you. She wanted more. There was only one way to do everything: her way. “If you don’t have time to do it right, you have time to do it over” she would say. She deemed me “Ms. Sassy Pants” because I challenged those rules. Today, I am thankful that she had so many. She taught me that excuses were useless to others and myself because they enabled me to be average. She held us all to a higher standard with the hopes that we would exceed it.

5. On finding yourself…

“Finding your calling is like your parents forgetting to tell you your name on the day you were born. You spend years trying out different names, hoping to find one that fits. Then one day, in a crowded room, someone whispers your name and it finally makes sense.”   Dr. W. Fondren, Communication and Technology

Listen, everything this guy said was pure GOLD! For this particular class, he based an entire course around 7 key concepts and taught them using tv shows, movies and his own personal anecdotes. On the first day of class, he told us that he never planned to teach. He got married young, decided to get a degree in Psychology, worked as the Director of Technology for a newspaper company, became an ordained minister and then fell into teaching and loved it. What did I learn from all of this? It was okay to not have all of the answers. It was okay to keep trying on shoes until they fit. I was a graduating senior, nervous about the future and at that time in my life, what he said was exactly what I needed to hear. Besides finding ourselves, he taught us the importance of knowing when to start over and admitting when there were “too many feathers on your back.” I was in no way, shape or form, a morning person but in that class, I kept my notebook, eyes and ears open.


Here’s to the teachers who double as motivational speakers and therapists; who teach you about people and about purpose; who push you to be more but not to be someone else; who have experience in both their professions and in life. You are well respected and greatly appreciated.

Future Educators,

The impact that you can make on the next generation is endless. Every word that you speak will have the power to change a life. I am a writer because a teacher told me that I had a gift. Whatever you pour into them, they will put out into the world. Knowledge is power but your wisdom is timeless. So go forth, be great and share it.

With all my love and appreciation,

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“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
–Henry Brooks Adams

When Your Sunken Place is a Person… GET OUT!

With the snap of a finger, do you sink into a place that is unfamiliar, unforgiving, unreachable from the outside, and un…healthy? I’ve got news for you: Your “Sunken Place” could be a person. If you can relate to any of these 5 signs, GET OUT.

SPOILER ALERT:

Since the highly anticipated debut of Jordan Peele’s, Get Out, an American comedy horror film that has surpassed box office expectations, earned a nearly perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes and shed new light on age-old oppression, the buzz around the movie’s allegories and applications to reality have yet to cease. Upon its release, average movie goers and experts alike scrambled to pick apart the film and give their own interpretations of its hidden messages. Of their discussions, the most common speculation centered around the symbolic meaning of the “Sunken Place.” For those who have not seen the movie, the main character, Chris, is hypnotized into a cognitive state of mind, where he is wide awake but unable to move or call out for help; similar to sleep paralysis.

I’ve read so many different theories behind what the sunken place really is: the public education system, racism, slavery, etc. Peele even offered insight on Twitter, stating that we’re all in the sunken place:

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Still, I think what makes this concept so captivating is its abstract nature. It has the ability to take on multiple meanings and apply to just about anything. There is no right or wrong answer because each person has their own set of sunken places. For this reason, I would like to argue that the sunken “place” can also be a person or an unhealthy relationship.

Here’s what you need to know about the Sunken Place:

  • It happens so quickly that you don’t even notice until it’s too late
  • You are most vulnerable when you are cut off from friends and family
  • You are unable to live up to your full potential
  • Something prohibits you from getting out of it
  • The entry way is an insecurity or shortcoming
  • You feel stuck and like you have no control over the situation
  • When it happens, you make excuses for it instead of accepting it for what it is and leaving.

So how does this apply to a bad relationship?

1. It happens so fast…

When Chris comes in from a late night smoke break, his girlfriend’s mom, Missy Armitage, insists that they have a chat about the relationship. One minute she’s hitting a tea-cup with a spoon, probing him with personal questions and the next, he is lost in limbo, falling. This can be similar to falling in love. One minute, you are single, care-free, sure of who you are and what you want for yourself, then BAM! someone comes along and in an instant, everything changes! Before you know it, you’re in love and all you can see is them. You don’t notice the rising action at all; it isn’t until you’re in the climax, trying to figure out when it got so serious or so hard, that you see what its become. When did this stop being fun?, you ask yourself. When did this person become my life? By the time someone flashes a camera and you realize that something isn’t right, you’re in too deep. If it was called “stepping into love” then you would be prepared for it. But it’s not, so you trip and fall head first instead.

2. “Wait, something isn’t right…”

It didn’t take Chris long to pick up on the fact that something was terribly wrong. For starters, Chris remembered being hypnotized! Georgina and Walter were enthusiastically “off.” There is a scene where Georgina literally cries in front of him while reassuring him that everything is okay. The guests at the party treated Chris like he was on display at the zoo! Andrew a.k.a. Andre, the only black guy at the party, tried to give him a handshake instead of a dap. If ever there was a moment to prove his blackness, that was it and he failed! I promise you, no one had to tell a black person what Andrew did wrong in that scene! Finally, Chris’ friend told him to GET OUT! But do you know what he did instead?! He trusted Rose over his own intuition. He didn’t feel safe but instead of getting to the root of those feelings, he took her word. He let her talk him down because he loved her and believed she had his best interests at heart. Surely, she wouldn’t hurt him, he thought. He later finds out this isn’t the case. In unhealthy relationships, you can very well know that something is off. You know how you’re supposed to be treated. You can assess where your partner falls short. You can feel when you’re being lied to. You can tell when you’re not yourself anymore. You can see what you’ve given up to make it work. But instead of trusting your gut, you discredit yourself or make excuses because you think it’s easier to fix than it is to start over. You believe that your partner means well, even when they have had a hand in hurting you. I’ve seen things with my own eyes and got talked out of them! You can make up your mind about something over and over, but the wrong person will change it for you every time. Let me be the one to tell you: Love is not supposed to think for you.

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3. You become less of who you are…

In Get Out, there is  a scene where Chris, a talented photographer with an “eye” for detail and an athletic build, is being auctioned off to the highest white bidder with bingo boards! It turns out that Rose, the girlfriend, was luring black men (and Georgina) in so that white people could harvest and steal their bodies! While Chris and Rose take a walk to discuss the anxiety he is feeling, Chris is sold off to a blind man who covets his keen sight. Undergoing a procedure of this caliber would mean that Chris would no longer be himself. His body and life would no longer belong to him but instead to the blind man who bought him. I know you’re probably saying, “This is an extreme example!” But, is it? In an unhealthy relationship, you’ll find yourself becoming less of who you are and more of who they want you to be in order to keep the relationship. It’s called COMPROMISE. Your plans begin to center around a future with them even if that means that your own personal goals aren’t anywhere in the mix. Their life becomes your life because you’re desperate for a life with them. Little by little, you’ll compromise the parts of you that make you who you are. You’ll give up the dream that gets you up in the morning. Instead, you’ll live for them. Then one day, just like Chris, you’ll see a face in the mirror that’s familiar, but it won’t be you at all. Someone pointed out that the definition of sunken is literally “at a lower level than its surrounding area.” When a person is your sunken place, you’ll settle for a life that is only half as good as the one you could really live.

4. “There is strength in numbers” and weakness in solitude…

Although love can be blind, we have to account for what made Chris a seemingly easy target from the start: family. Or really, lack there of. He revealed early on that his mother died in a hit and run and that he never knew his father. On the surface, what would this mean to the Armitages? I’ll tell you: it meant that if he went missing, it was unlikely that anyone would look for him. Outside of the perceived physical advantage, this is probably another reason why Rose victimized black men. The wrong person will make you feel like you have to choose between a relationship with them OR the relationships/friendships that you had before them. Sometimes it isn’t voiced but instead, implied. And you may never say you’re making a choice but your actions will tell it all. You’ll start to leave out parts of a story, neglect them, become disconnected or uninterested or even feel as if you have to hide the relationship from them altogether. The worst thing that you can do is box out the people who know and love you because these are the people who will come looking for you when you’re lost! They will show up and go to war for you.  These people will notice when you’re not yourself. They will sense that something isn’t right and they’ll love you enough to tell you! Sometimes you can lack perspective in the middle of a storm. They can save you from yourself but to do this, they would have to know that you need help! Luckily, Chris’ saving grace was his best friend, Rod! Even though he had already done his part by warning him that something was off, he still went looking for him when the communication ceased. When you isolate yourself, you’re an easy target because you’ll be convinced that they’re all you have left. You need to know that your family and friends would never stop looking for you.

5. Flaws are open windows…

Have you ever heard someone describe fear as paralyzing? It can stop you in your tracks and hold you in place. However, there was another technique that was used to trap Chris. I want to point out that Mrs. Armitage would never have been able to make Chris “sink” had it not been for his underlying issues. She figured out that his weak spot was the guilt that accompanied his mother’s death and like a scab, she picked away at it until it was wide open. Once she got inside of his head, there was no escape; he could only suffer through it. In any relationship, you’re bound to be vulnerable with your partner and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing! But in a toxic relationship, this will be the thing that exerts control over you. We all have skeletons in our closets. We all have things that we don’t talk about for fear of being judged. You have to be careful about who you open up to because the wrong person will remind you of these things to keep you stuck. Your insecurities will be used to gain ground. There could also be mistakes OR a situation that you go through as a couple that can make you feel like you owe them. Seeing the dark parts of you and abusing them is a clear sign that they are not your safe place. There is no light at the end of that tunnel. I would also like to argue that Chris was a sitting duck from the start! She could only use something that he hadn’t forgiven himself for. Exploitation happens when you don’t come to God exposed. As long as you don’t believe that you’re forgiven, you won’t forgive yourself. Here’s a tip: when someone shines a light on those dark parts of you, when your flaws feel as paralyzing as fear and when you feel yourself sinking…Forgive yourself so that you can free yourself.

If after reading this you come to find that your sunken place isn’t really a place but instead, a person…

If you keep discrediting your intuition and calling it “trust issues”…

If you feel like you can’t share your love with the people who love you..

If you’re molding your future to fit around someone else’s life…

If you feel paralyzed by the things that you haven’t forgiven yourself for..

and there is always a voice to change your mind…

get out

Message to the singles:

If you woke up to a lengthy text from your significant other, professing their overwhelming love and appreciation for you, how cute! But, this post isn’t for you. If any edible arrangements, bouquets of roses or chocolates made it to your desk or front door, how very thoughtful! But, this post isn’t for you.  If you were wined and dined last night or got engaged, CONGRATULATIONS! I’m happy for you! However, this post isn’t for you.

But if you didn’t receive that reminder of how much you are loved, that life-size teddy bear or the predictable rose petals leading to a surprise.. This message is for you.

Dear Single & Aware,

You are adequately loved! I know this because the greatest love story has already happened and you were a part of it!  Jesus died to love you. Understand that God’s love for you is unmatched and unwavering. If you felt extra lonely on Valentine’s day, it was an illusion and a spiritual attack. God would never leave or forsake you!  You are never alone.

Don’t feed into the expectations that society has placed on relationships. If you’re single right now, it’s not a coincidence or a mistake. You were meant to endure this season of singleness so that you could pursue His perfect heart and grow as the man/woman that God has called you to be. Don’t look at singleness as loneliness or feel like you’re just “waiting for the one.” Movies, TV shows and books offer entertaining stories but these things can cripple the perspective that we have on relationships. The media can reinforce this idea that your life doesn’t begin until you’ve met the person that you want to spend it with. This just isn’t true! LIVE in this very moment. Go places! Do things! Find God and yourself! This isn’t a passive waiting game. You are actively being tested and prepared!

You’re not single because you’re a bad texter, you’re annoying or you can’t get over your ex. You’re not single because “all of the good men/women are taken” or because “this generation doesn’t take relationships seriously.” Those reasons just don’t suffice when our God is so great. He takes His relationship with you very seriously! You are single because you are supposed to be in this moment. Trust His timing and plan for your life.

So, if you woke up on Valentine’s day to the flood of couples’ posts on your Instagram, witnessed a proposal or felt extra lonely that night because all of your friends had other plans, that’s okay. Be happy for them. But, also be happy for yourself and the time that God has given you as well. It truly is a gift.

I’ve heard many people refer to the day as “Singles’ Awareness Day.” If anything, make sure you’re aware of God’s love for you. Just relax! You aren’t ready until He says you’re ready. Until then, take comfort in the fact that you can’t ruin what you haven’t had yet.

Keep evolving,

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