Monday, January 28, 2008

My Fashion Philosophy: Follow the Leader (Not that it's necessarily a good thing to do so...)

Do you think the outfit the girl in this picture is wearing ^^^ is attractive? Like, upon first glance, would you exclaim “this outfit is hot!” or would you be more inclined to say “WTF was she thinking?” I mean, I’m not a fashionista, but I get it. Like, notice how the yellow and black in the tights corresponds with the yellow in the dress. I surely noticed that… after someone else pointed it out to me. LOL! And notice that cute little Fendi clutch down there in the bottom-left hand corner of the page?

I didn’t either. (Until someone else pointed it out.)

As I said before, I am no fashionista. Merriam-Webster defines “fashionista” (yes, it is a real word - in the dictionary!) as “a designer, promoter, or follower of the latest fashions”. Designer, I am not; promoter… nah. “Follower”? Well, yes. That would be a good way to describe me. If someone points me in the right direction, I can see why a certain outfit is fashionable. But I have to have that guidance. When I was a kid, my mom always taught me to never “put a figure with a figure” (meaning stripes don’t go with polka dots), and that if I wanted to wear a vibrant color or a print, I needed to pair it with a neutral color. As I got a little older and my friends started expressing themselves through their clothing, I never caught that creativity bug because I was still bound by the rules drilled into my head in my youth.

We all know, as evidenced in previous posts, that I am risk averse. That aversion also manifests itself in the clothing that I wear. Black is a staple for me. When (if) I decide to wear an actual color, it is always paired with denim, black, chocolate brown, navy, or charcoal gray. I feel as though I need balance… I am afraid of looking like I am trying too hard, so I play it safe and don’t try at all.

I am often scolded by older women in my life, saying that I need to loosen up with my clothing and have fun with color and style. But I am afraid. Afraid to look like a poser, like a wannabe. So, I just stay in my lane. Nothing too crazy over here.

That picture above is Ms. Genevieve Jones. She is a New York-based socialite (with a somewhat shady past) who manages to effortlessly move and shake her way through the trust fund crowd. She is now known as a fashionista. When she first came on the scene, I’m willing to bet that she couldn’t afford a stylist, so I’m gonna assume that her fashion-ability comes naturally. But almost immediately, she was a “person to watch” on all the best-dressed lists. That’s quite a feat since fab dressers come a dime a dozen in The Big Apple.

Sites like Fashionista and Project Beltway prove that regular, everyday people can have an incredible sense of style. I don't know anything about the creators of Fashionista, but I know Project Beltway was started by a young woman here in DC who got tired of hearing that people in DC have no style. So, she took to the streets of the Nation's Capital with her digital camera and started taking pictures of people she encountered who were wearing outfits to die for.

My MALE best friend was just born stylish. He is not gay, just a straight man who cares about the way that he looks. He can reflexively put together an outfit. Like, he can take a look at one piece of clothing and tell you what to pair it with to make a killer outfit. Which is why, on a dreary day in October, he was captured by the creator of Project Beltway and featured on that site for his fashion sense. He's also been featured in The Washington Post for the same reason. I kid you not...

But, there are some of us that will just never be the wo/man that other wo/men watch in awe and wonder – where did she get that dress? Or, hmmm… I would’ve never thought to put that ties with that suit. (And before you ask, yes, women do look at other women. In most cases, women STUDY other women to see what they have going on and whether or not they could do it better.)

In an effort to try to gain some fashion sense by osmosis, I took a look at a few of the young ladies featured in the Streetwalker section of Picture this outfit*: yellow cowlneck sleeveless sheath worn over a grass green long-sleeved crewneck dress, paired with leopard print tights and gray slouchy boots. A number of the comments suggested that this was a fashion miss, but noticed this woman and marketed her as a fashion-winner for taking the risk! As a result of not playing it safe… not pairing her yellow sheath with something black and boring, she chose to be the one that stands out in the room. And, for some reason… I got the outfit. Immediately, I understood it. And I LIKED it.

When it comes to fashion, I am a good follower, so I guess that makes me a fashionista after all! A Brown Girl in leopard tights could be coming soon…

At any rate, it takes a very self-assured person to gamble on an outfit like Ms. Jones and/or woman in the leopard tights. If you see someone in an outfit like Genevieve’s you know that person has to be somewhat comfortable in their skin to just put together any print and or color combination that they feel like sporting on that particular day. It’s all about having the guts to rock out. And, let’s face it y’all, confidence is clearly the most fashionable accessory of all…

*FYI: this is the picture to which I was referring. Does the outfit look the way you pictured it? is it a fashion hit or miss? Now that I review the pic again, I think she could’ve done the outfit with a different choice of footwear and it would’ve made the outfit even stronger.

A couple other cool outfits:

(she got her tie from a member of a Mariachi band. no joke...)

(And this... *sigh*... this outfit just friggin ROCKS! there's no other way to say it... this is what I aspire to. I'll be 30 in less than 2 years. I don't have very long before I will look like a grown woman pathetically TRYING to look like a youngin. Yikes!)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Part 2 of Law School Redux: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

The post was getting kind of long, so I decided to break it into two parts... happy reading!

• Graduation from law school is very anticlimactic. All it means is that you’ve secured yet another degree. When you graduate from law school, you are not really an “attorney”. I mean, technically, you shouldn’t really call yourself an attorney until you pass the state bar exam. So, really, you pay for three years of law school just to able to say that you graduated with a law degree – but you are not really an “attorney” in the traditional sense of the word. Take the bar while you are still in school mode, i.e., as soon as you graduate. The second you finish your last final exam, start studying for the bar exam. If you take time off, it will be hella hard to get back in study mode for the exam.

• The bar exam is the hardest test you will ever take – in LIFE. You should fear failing the bar. Not because you should be embarrassed that you weren’t successful (No need to be embarrassed since plenty of folks fail it every year. That’s no biggie.), but because you do not want to take the damn thing again if you can help it. After sequestering myself, including avoiding television and pretty much all telephone conversation, for 10 weeks during the summer of 2004, I made a vow to myself that if I failed I would NOT take the exam again. The entire process was too emotionally draining and stressful and I would NOT be putting myself through that drama again simply because I didn’t study hard enough he first time. Funny thing… as I said before, you are not a lawyer until you pass the bar exam. Everything you need to know about the bar exam will be taught to you during your bar prep course. Your bar prep course is only 8 weeks long. Which leads me to these questions: If I can learn everything I need to know to become a licensed attorney in 8 weeks, why did I just spend upwards of 100 grand on law school and three years of my life studying all this nonsense in the first place? I could’ve easily skipped the three years of being bored and worked to death and learned everything I needed to know in 8 weeks. Go figure…

• At one point in U.S. history, being a lawyer was something special. There weren’t many accredited law schools in existence. Those that did exist only accepted the top-notch applicants. Therefore, being a lawyer was an elite and respected profession. Now, law schools are more interested in making money than they are in turning out quality lawyers. And because money is the primary focus, they are willing to accept just about anyone who can secure a loan to cover the tuition, hence putting money into the law school’s pocket. As a result, being a lawyer is NOT an elite profession. In Washington, DC alone, something like 1 in 17 people is a lawyer. That’s just too damn many!

• Everyone seems to think that being a lawyer = RICH. In most cases, that equation is false. People who want to become a lawyer to get rich will be terribly disappointed. Yes, it is true that starting salaries at large law firms (100+ attorneys) are $160k/year for the fresh-out-of-law-school attorney. But, there are not enough of those jobs to go around. Since President W came to power, and the US economy took a nosedive, only the best of the best have been getting recruited by large firms. Every other lawyer (outside of the large law firm) is just making “regular” money. Government lawyers get paid at the same rate as a person with any other grad degree (around $55-60k/year). Solo practitioners or lawyers at small law firms in DC get paid anywhere from $40-80k/year. Last time I checked, $40-80k was not the kind of salary that makes you “rich”. If you are going to law school to get “rich”, save your money and three years of your time and pick another profession. And, like, I said before, don't get sold this bill of goods that “law school can take you anywhere". I fell for that, but would find out later that this was, in fact, NOT true and that law school can take you a few places, but it can’t take you EVERYWHERE. In other words, a law degree is more like an American Express card than a VISA...

Ok, I know this was an extremely long post. And, if you made it this far, then clearly you are interested in law school, or you are just bored and had nothing else better to do with your time. I hope you found some of this information helpful and that, if you decide to attend law school, you decide to take some of this advice to heart.

At any rate, maybe after reading this, some of you will understand why many lawyers groan when they hear someone say, “You’re a lawyer? I’ve been thinking about law school.” It’s definitely not for everyone. That being said, it definitely IS for some people. So, you have to do your own assessment to decide whether you’ll be someone who would enjoy the challenge that law school presents.

Now, just so you can see that I am not some bitter, jaded law school grad who is also completely off her rocker, please take a moment to read this article about the dismal legal job market that was recently published in the Wall Street Journal. Or this article (all at once humorous and depressing) that was published in the Washington City Paper that describes the hellish job that a good majority of law graduates end up taking when their dreams of getting rich don't pan out.

Alright! Enough about the law. I'm sick of talking/writing about it, as I am daily striving to live a law-free life. Back to what the Brown Girl loves best - mindless drama...

Law School Redux: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Without fail, when people find out that I am a law school graduate, the first thing that they ask (with the exception of a substantive question of law) is whether I can speak to their son/daughter/niece/nephew/grandchild who has expressed in interest in the legal field. Just a few days ago, I agreed to speak to a friend’s younger sister who has now decided that she wants to be a lawyer. I essentially relay the same advice over and over and make sure to add that law school is not for everyone and that they should be sure of their decision before they take on the responsibility of three years of hard labor.

In my last blog, I gave a little insight into what it means to be a lawyer in today’s oversaturated legal market. As I said, it’s a lot of smoke and mirrors. I went to law school optimistic, thinking I would graduate and somehow contribute to society with all the nifty things I learned. But, when I got there, I felt like an outsider from Day 1. For some reason, everything important about law school seemed just out of my reach. It was like everything was one BIG secret that everyone was privy to – everyone except me. But, pretty soon, I learned the ropes and was able to figure some things out, which made the experience a lot more bearable.

As promised, here are some things I wish I knew before I went to law school. One day, when I have the time and energy, I will probably write a book about this. So, here is the (not-so) short version. It’s pretty detailed and opinionated. I’m sure that you will find law school grads that disagree with my perspective. You will also probably find just as many that will co-sign every word of this post. Either way, do your research and make the decision that is right for you. Here’s a little bit of info that might help make your law school life go a little more smoothly…

• Everything you do from the time you apply to law school until the day you secure an offer for permanent employment from any willing employer, should be an effort to position yourself for the ideal post-graduate job. That means that your choice of law school (more about that later), your coursework, your extracurricular activities, your internships, and accomplishments should all be helping you reach the end goal – your dream job. If, along the way, you find you are spending your time on things that will not help make you marketable to your dream employer, stop doing what you are doing and focus on something else that will get you a step closer. Nothing else really matters.

• If you know the city/state where you would like to practice post-graduation from law school, you should probably save your money and attend the best state law school in that area. Why? Because most of the local lawyers probably attended that school as well and the alumni connections in that city will really help you out in the long-run. Plus, if you can get in-state tuition, you will save yourself the burden of astronomical student loan payments in the long-run.

• If you do decide to attend a private law school and spend ridiculous amounts of money to attend school each year, make sure to attend the highest ranked school that you can manage to get into. When I got ready to go to law school my dad said “Nobody will ask where you got your degree, they will only care that you got a degree.” Maybe that works for other grad degrees, but with a law degree… not so much. The best employers recruit at the best schools. If you go to a school that is in the second or third tier (you’ll learn about tiers when you start to research schools), you might as well just save your money and get a degree in something else. Trust me… you’ll be better off 30 years down the line.

• The best grad school advice that I ever got was from a teaching assistant in one of my undergrad government classes. When he found out that I would be attending law school he said, “It will not be humanly possible for you to complete all the reading that will be assigned. Immediately upon arrival, learn to skim your reading assignments for the important bits. Just do what you can and the rest will fall into place.” It’s true. Time management is the most valuable skill a law student – or ANY grad student – can have. If you are not good with managing your time, get good at it BEFORE you go to law school.

• The most important class you will take during your first year of law school is your legal research and writing class. If you can ace that course, you have pretty much gotten all the skills you need to secure a law clerk or summer associate position. You need to secure these jobs to add weight to your resume because when recruiting begins in earnest, you need to have a killer resume to get the best jobs.

• Remember that – no matter what – 50% of the class will be ranked at the top, and 50% will be ranked at the bottom. Mathematically, this isn’t necessarily true considering that typically significantly less than 50% of the class falls in the Top 50% of the class. (Anyone who understands curves knows what I mean by this.) But, law students need to learn this early. People who go to law school are typically type-A personalities that have always been at the top of their class. But here’s a wakeup call: EVERYONE in your class has always been at the top of their class. Smart people come a dime a dozen in law school. In law school, it’s not about being smart, it’s about being disciplined. Law school is not hard. Anyone can comprehend what is being taught in law classes. But, you can be the smartest person in the world and if you don’t lack the discipline required to DO THE WORK, you will be in the bottom half of the class. Every time. Be committed to the work and the rest will come easy.

• When the notices come around regarding law review/law journal, moot court, and mock trial, try out for these activities! The write-on competition for law review is no joke, but if you are lucky enough to make law review or journal, your life will be a lot easier! Take a look at attorney bios on law firm websites. You’ll see that the few law school-related activities that are mentioned is law review/journal and/or moot court/mock trial. These activities provide you with the practical skills that legal employers are seeking in a candidate. They are important. Participate if you can.

• At some point during your law school career, consider a judicial internship. A judicial internship is basically an opportunity to work under the supervision of a judge and a judicial law clerk. Depending on the court, you could get a ton of research and writing experience. No matter the court (or the judge for the matter) you will get an opportunity to say that you have first-hand knowledge of the judicial process, which will make you more marketable to legal employers.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Law Degree ain't What it's Cracked Up to Be...

So, as most of you know, I am an attorney. I went to one of the best law schools in the country. Suffered through three years of law school coursework, tortured myself for 10 weeks in Summer 2004 studying for the bar exam, passed the exam, got sworn in as an officer of the Court later that year, and then decided that I didn’t want to practice law.

Well, things didn’t exactly happen in that order.

I went to law school knowing that I wasn’t interested in a traditional law practice. I was one of those poor souls that got caught up in the myth that getting a law degree opens SO MANY doors. I was under the impression that – with a law degree – you could do anything and everything under the sun. Maybe, at some point in history, that was true. But these days… not so much.

What I found is that getting a law degree actually pigeonholes you. Once I passed the bar exam, I decided that it was time for me to find a job. Not another job as an attorney, but perhaps some “law-related” job that I would find more interesting than the job I had been working. But, here’s what happened: every time I’d go to an interview, someone would say, “But, you’re a lawyer. You don’t really want this job… do you??” Um… yes. Otherwise, I would not be sitting here having this conversation with you, moron! Clearly I am not just interviewing for my health!

So, what I found was that people would take me out of the running for a job just because I had gone to law school. It got to the point where people started suggesting that I take my law degree off my resume. No, no way, uh uh, forget it! I am still paying for that degree and will be for the next 30 or so years. No way am I gonna take it off my resume!!

Needless to say that I was dejected and bummed about my situation. I would never go as far as to say that I regret going to law school. I absolutely do NOT. If nothing else, my law degree is a conversation piece. People always want to know what it was like to attend law school, and people LOVE to ask me for legal advice. Newsflash folks: lawyers get paid for their knowledge and time! Why would I give you FREE time and information when I could be getting paid ridiculously to do so?

I often decline to give legal advice anyway. I usually refer people to a practicing attorney that specializes in that particular area for assistance. It’s been four years since I graduated from law school. Most of what I’ve learned has already evaporated from memory so, truth be told, I’m probably not the best resource when it comes to legal analysis.

I guess I’m saying all this to say that law school isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Don’t get duped into thinking that doors will magically open just because you have a Juris Doctor on your resume. Before you assume the HUGE financial responsibility of three years of law school, consider whether you can do whatever your dream job is WITHOUT the degree.

One day, when I have the time and the energy, I will create a post that will focus on everything I wish I knew before I went to law school. There is a lot of ground to cover on that one. Maybe I’ll work on it this weekend…

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Push I Needed

Ok, so every once in a while, I slack off with my blog posts. I admit that I am a bipolar blogger. Typically, I (try to) post at least every two days (my stable period), but some weeks are busier than others and I get thrown off track. You may be lucky to get a blog every 4-5 days when I'm having one of those busy spurts (depressive state). But, once I get back into the habit of posting, it's like I can't stop (MANIA!). Today, I am feeling maniacal about posting. I am inspired to post again, because I want to share with you some words that I found super-inspiring. I hope that you get as much motivation from reading it as I did.

I have explained before that I have big dreams that I'm always afraid to act on. Hopefully, one day, I will get the cajones to actually move forward with them. I just need that extra push and reading words like these from Jen Sicero, a woman who stepped out on faith, took a nosedive, and then soared higher than she ever could've dreamed, is exactly the kind of push that I need. I am beginning to recognize that by risking nothing, you risk everything. If you don't ever take any chances, you'll never make strides... ok, enough with the cliches...

This post is taken from a blog called "Ladies Who Launch", which is a site that focuses on "Insight, Expertise, Advice, Commentary and Entertainment from our Ladies Who Launch Incubator Members". There's actually a lot of good info on this site, but this post is especially exciting to me...

January 21, 2008
Jen Sincero: Upgrade

(From Los Angeles Incubator Leader Jen Sincero who is also the author, sex expert and DJ.)

I recently moved out of the smallest apartment I’ve ever lived in (and that includes the 7 years I spent in NYC). It was a hard, uncomfy choice to move in the first place, but it was 4 blocks from the
beach in Venice, a place that, unlike the rest of Los Angeles, makes my little heart sing.

Venice has always been the Holy Grail of neighborhoods for me, and I was ready to move there long before I actually did, but I put it off because I knew that the only places I’d be able to afford would be so sketchy I’d be scared to walk around in them barefoot.

When I found my beloved little veal pen, it was not only the cleanest place I’d seen, but it was cheap, sunny, on a perfect block and, most importantly, I could hear the waves crashing from my open bedroom
window. Who cares that it was so small that I could get something out of the fridge and answer the front door without getting up from the toilet? I was miserable living where I was living. I was beyond ready to move. So I took it.

As I write this from my new, spacious and sunny beach house, I’m struck by how important this lesson is to remember in all aspects of life. If there’s something you really want, the important thing is that you make a move towards it, regardless of how uncomfy your landing pad may be. The critical thing is that you take the leap, that you get moving instead of being paralyzed by how much you may end up “downsizing” or putting yourself at risk. Because the beauty of sacrifice is that it means you’re ready to grow into something else, and if you never make that sacrifice, you’re just stagnant - an object in motion stays in motion, an object stuck at her soul-sucking day job because she’s too scared to lose her benefits and start her dream company dies with huge regrets. Once you take that first, invigorating leap, it inspires you to keep moving and growing, so don’t be upset if you’ve landed somewhere “beneath” you at first, but rather be glad you’re not where you once stood anymore.

At the end of the day, nothing is as uncomfortable as settling for a life you’re not excited to live, not even an apartment that makes you feel like "Alice in Wonderland" every time you stand up. I was so much happier there than where I came from because I was on my way. And as far as I’m concerned, there is no upgrade as fancy as going after your dreams.

Source. (emphasis added)

Write a Friggin Note Already!!

So, I sent my nieces a couple of trinkets for Christmas and – because they are beautiful little socialites-in-training – they did what was expected and sent me a thank you note! But they didn’t send just ANY thank you note, they sent a Kate Spade Crane & Co., multi-colored, trilingual thank you note. I was very impressed, to say the least. My sister has taught them well.

That got me to thinking… people don’t send things in the mail enough these days. With the exception of wedding invitations, when was the last time you received a personal communication in the mail? This year, my parents even complained that they didn’t get as many Christmas cards as they normally do each year. Of course, they didn’t send out cards themselves, so I don’t really see how they had the room to complain.

I typically send out Christmas cards to my friends. But, given our age bracket and financial situations, most of my friends live transient lives. As a result, I set out to buy Christmas cards this year and then figured – what’s the point of buying them when I don’t really have anyone’s street address anyway? Instead, I went digital with the holiday greetings. I sent an e-Card from And, while everyone appreciated the sentiment, I actually felt a little guilty for not having to sign, address, lick and stamp envelopes in the days preceding Christmas. It’s become sort of a tradition.

I remember in middle school (before email was readily available) I wrote letters back and forth to my cousin in Chicago. We would buy pretty stationery and basically put into those letters the same types of things that people shoot off in an email on a daily basis. But, it took thought and effort to write down my thoughts onto a piece of paper, fold it just-so, put it into the envelope, address it, stamp it, and put it in the mail. And, I can remember the anticipation I felt when I would go to the mailbox and see the turquoise or purple or pink envelope in my mailbox. We wrote each other regularly for about two years. Then, she got an email address and we started emailing each other instead. But, after about six months of emailing, we basically stopped communicating altogether. It just wasn’t the same. Those handwritten letters added that personal touch that was lost when we took our communication to the internet.

I hardly send anything through the mail these days. I even pay my bills online. I can’t remember the last time I bought a stamp. And Lord knows it’s cheaper to communicate online (FREE) rather than to drop a note in the mail ($0.41) and the price of postage keeps going up and up and up!

Anyway, it felt so good to receive that cute little thank you card from my nieces. I was especially joyful to see the notes they had written in their “little girl” handwriting. I tucked it into my memory box and I’ll probably break it out for them to see when they get older. I hope they never get out of the habit of sending a personal note, just to check up on someone, or just to say – hey, I’m thinking of you. It really helps build connections.

Inspired by their outreach, I went out and bought some cute little cards that I plan to use in the very near future. They are elegant on the outside, but blank inside so that I can add my own personalized message to the recipient.

Now, I just need to buy some stamps! That $0.41 is a damn good investment if it means I can bring a smile to someone’s face by letting them know that I care.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"The Boys are Back in Town" = Jeremy (Part 2)

After I sat and stared at the phone in complete and utter silence for approximately 30 minutes, I started panicking. Why didn’t I ask more questions? I need to know who this girl is! I called my bestie and my roomie and put them on a three-way (I wasn’t even 21, so this was acceptable. LOL!) and explained what just happened. They both encouraged me to call her back. When I did, she answered again. After being sure that we were discussing the same Jeremy, Keisha explained that she and Jeremy had been together for 2 years (he and I had only been together for 6 months) and that she had no clue about me. I was equally clueless about her, so we were pretty much stunned. Neither of us was mad at the other. In fact, we just sort of got the info that each of us was looking for and then we hung up. It was very civil.

I called Jeremy to confront him and, of course, he feigned ignorance about Keisha’s identity. (In case you were wondering, me misdialing the number by one digit was obviously God’s way of letting me know about this situation. Turns out that Keisha and Jeremy shared a cell phone account and the two phone numbers were exactly the same except for the last digit. I’m dead serious!) Anyway, Jeremy said he didn’t know a Keisha and I cursed him out, hung up, and vowed never to speak to him again. I cried for days and he called every day, multiple times a day, telling me how much he loved me, and how he was so sorry for everything (by now, he was admitting guilt). He wore me down after about a week and I took him back. We sailed along smoothly for quite a while.

Fast forward… another 6 months go by.

By this time, I am a college senior. I have moved out of the dorm into an apartment and am basically loving life. On this particular day, Jeremy was at my house, sitting on my bed, watching television while I showered. I walk into my room still damp from the shower and he says, “Your phone was ringing. I didn’t answer it.” I notice that my voicemail light is blinking. I call the voicemail service and I hear this:

“Bitch, if I ever hear about you messing with Jeremy again, I will fuck you up.”

My heart sinks, stomach drops, and I look at him. He has absolutely no idea what I have just heard. I say his name and he turns to me, recognizing just by the tone and the way I have said his name that something bad has happened. I replay the message for him and he lies and says that he doesn’t recognize the voice on my voicemail. I redial the number, cuss out the chick who answers the phone, and break up with him again. I put his ass out on the spot and don’t accept his phone calls for a two weeks. Two Saturdays later, he shows up at my door at 7am, begging my forgiveness. And, guess, what everyone? I took him back! DUH!

God, I was so stupid.

I am ashamed to say that it took me getting played by this dude twice more before I finally cut him loose for good. By the time we broke up, we were pretty much living together and I simply got fed up. One day I snapped. I emptied the closets and his dresser and put all his clothes in the middle of the living room floor. Then I went to my parent’s house and waited it out.

I had left a note on top of the pile that said “Get all your shit out of my house by tomorrow morning or I will throw it out of the window.” We lived on the 15th floor of a building that overlooked the highway. I was tempted to sprinkle his designer clothes and sneaker collection all over I-495. Not because he did anything that day. His track record had actually been pretty decent in the days leading up to our split. He had decided to go back to school to get his bachelors degree, which he hadn’t even started when we met, my aunt got him a really great job in the federal government where he was well-liked, and he decided to retire from his illegal side gig. Things were looking up for him. But the sum of all of our experiences was enough to send me over the edge.

By the time I returned to our apartment later that week, his things were gone and so was he. And we didn’t speak again until two years later.

By now, it’s 2004 and I am in the middle of studying for the bar exam. My 25 birthday is spent sitting at the dining room table studying some God-awful outline on secured transactions (whatever that means!). My friend Kyra asked me to go on a double-date with her. I think that BLIND double-date + birthday = disaster, but for some reason I agree to go and wrap my studying early so that I can meet her in Adams Morgan for our date. Turns out the double-date was a rouse for a surprise birthday party that my friends had planned for me at my brother’s Adams Morgan condo. It was a really great party!

I don’t know what crack my friends were smoking, but some genius thought it would be fun to invite all my ex-boyfriends to the party. Robert was there. So was Jeremy. It was the first time Jeremy and I had seen each other since the night before I set his clothes in the middle of our dining room floor 2 years prior.

He looked good. And, apparently, he thought I looked good, too. He was acting very… protective a.k.a. stalkerish. He was sort of hovering, which was annoying. I kept thinking, back up off me, dude!

Before he left the party, he asked if he could speak to me on the terrace (gosh, I miss that condo!). We walk up to the roof and stand looking out over the DC skyline. He told me that he had gotten a promotion at his job and was making even more money. He was also mid-way through his bachelors degree. He was like a totally different person. Then he clears his throat. ‘Oh Lord, here it comes,’ I thought.

“[Brown Girl], I’m so sorry for the way things turned out. You were exactly what I needed at the time, but I was too immature to realize that. I am so sorry for everything that I did. And, truthfully, you are the best thing that ever happened to me. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t met you. You motivated me to go back to school, you got me my job and turned me into a legitimate working man. You showed me that there was so much more to life.”

We are silent.

I don’t know what to say! I had hoped... dreamed... that one day he would acknowledge that he had made a mistake by letting me go. I had comforted myself by saying that one day he would realize how great I was and he would regret cheating on me and breaking my heart so many times. Now, here he was, telling me everything I had wanted to hear. And although his words were satisfying, I didn’t get as much joy out of it as I thought I would. I looked at him and really searched inside myself. I was happy for him. Genuinely happy that he had attained all that success. Genuinely. But his regret was too little, too late. All that trouble, all that heartache, that whole emotional rollercoaster that I was on for those years we were together was so much time wasted! I breathed a sigh of relief, kissed his cheek, turned my back to him, and went back inside to join the rest of the party. I was over it. I was (finally!) over him! And coming to that realization was the most satisfying thing of all…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"The Boys are Back in Town" = Jeremy (Part 1)

Jeremy broke my heart into so many pieces I swore I would never be able to put it back together again. When I found out he cheated on me – the first time – my roommate took me out on the town to try to cheer me up and I cried in my beer the whole night – literally. I just couldn’t stand the thought of him being with someone else. We had met about six months before on the street – of all places! My roommate and I had gone to a club in downtown DC and Jeremy was driving by in his gold Nissan Maxima. I thought that car was so damn cool!

He had only gone as far as high school, but we were still able to have very intelligent conversations, which is huge for me. As most people know, I am allergic to stupid people and he was far from dumb. He may not have had book smarts, but he definitely had street smarts. He worked for the government, in a menial job, but always had money. I knew that was suspicious, but I had a pretty good idea where the money was coming from and I didn’t really want to be involved, so I asked no questions.

Jeremy wined and dined me. Every night, we ate at a new restaurant. We went on trips together, and he always footed the bill. He was the first man (besides my father) to buy me a diamond. He spoiled me. And I got used to being spoiled.

The night that I met Jeremy was also my two-month anniversary with David. David was a good boy. He played football at Syracuse, had just graduated and was about to start a good corporate (read “boring”) job in Northern Virginia. David was friends with my next-door neighbor at my dorm (one of the perks of a coed dormitory). When we met, sparks didn’t exactly fly. I mean, by most standards the boy was fine. And he played college ball for a recognizable school, which I guess meant a lot to my college girlfriends. I had no idea why he was interested in me because I treated him like crap. But, he kept coming back for more. Once I met Jeremy, I cooled off toward David. He would call the dorm and I would tell my roommate to make excuses as to why I wasn’t available. After a while he just stopped calling and a few weeks later I saw him on campus holding he hand of some freshman chick. I figured he was over me, and I was surely over him! By the time I spotted David with the freshman, Jeremy and I were hot and heavy.

Looking back, I now notice a pattern. I tend to meet men and rush into relationships. I am what my friends call a “serial monogamist”. I don’t date around. I find one guy and stick with him. That’s something that I’ve gotta get over.

Back to the story.

The only complaint that I had about Jeremy was that he could only hang out at odd hours. And when he was around, he always turned his cell phone off. Now, in my defense, I was young and dumb and hadn’t really experienced much. My last boyfriend was Robert who was always present and accounted for. So I wasn’t sure whether I should be suspicious of this dude. Was he really shady or was I just overreacting? I couldn’t be sure. And, at the time, I followed the philosophy of not doubting someone’s explanations until they gave me a reason to doubt them. So I let him breathe and, again, didn’t ask any questions when he told me that he just couldn’t spend anymore time with me during the week. I wondered what he was doing with his time (aside from the obvious illegal activities) but, to assuage his guilt, he bought me more nice things, took me out even more places, and I kept my suspicions to myself.

One day, I was sitting at home and hadn’t heard from Jeremy all day. That was relatively unusual. I called him from my landline, so I had to actually dial his number rather than just selecting his name from my address book. The phone rang a few times.

A woman answered.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hello…” I said, very confused.

I looked at the phone just to be sure that I had dialed the right number. I had misdialed by one digit.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I have the wrong number,” I explained.

“Who are you trying to reach?”

“Uh… Jeremy.”

“Oh, he’s not available right now.”

Huh?! ‘He’s not here right now”? Well, uh… I had misdialed the number but clearly she knew who I was talking about.

I was shocked into silence.

“Ok, thank you,” I said. A million thoughts were running through my head, but obviously, the first thought was why did this woman act like she knew my boyfriend? I mean, there is the very unlikely possibility that I could’ve misdialed the number and that phone belonged to another Jeremy, which was not necessarily a common name. There is also the possibility that this woman could have just been playing around with a “wrong-number” that was obviously confused.

If only it were so simple.

To be continued…

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Wade in the Water

So at the beginning of every year, I set at least one goal for myself that I vow to accomplish by year’s end. Last year, I set my sights relatively low and really only wanted to “surprise myself in some way". By the time I finished 7 days on the Master Cleanser, I felt I had surprised myself enough and pretty much coasted for the rest of the year. In an effort to avoid coasting through 2008, I set multiple goals for myself this year. The first is that I will read the Bible from cover-to-cover by December 31, 2008. I began reading the Bible (I am reading the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs simultaneously by reading a small portion of each section each night) on January 1 and haven’t missed a day in 11 days! I am a person who suffers from a lack of discipline and I am terrible at following-thru on goals that I set, so this will be a challenge for me. Like, right now, it’s Friday night, so I just got home from a party and it is late. But, the Bible was waiting for me on my bed and I read my excerpt, which – in turn – motivated me to write this post. So, even if I get in at 5am, I will set aside 15 mins of reading/study, which really isn't even that much of a sacrifice.

Then, I started thinking about WHY reading the Bible is important and I recognized that I am motivated to study the Bible because it is the cornerstone of Christian faith. And, despite the fact that – at times – I can drink like a fish, cuss like a sailor, and engage in premarital sex, I do, in fact, consider myself to be a Christian woman. So, I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of HOW I became a Christian. Everyone’s story is different. Mine isn’t stunning… I didn’t have some miraculous conversion, I just knew that a Christian is what I was meant to be. Let me explain…

My dad was a Catholic when I was a kid. We went to mass a few times (that I can remember), but it didn’t really stick. My mom and her parents are Baptist. And, I frequently went to church with my grandparents and my mother and observed what was going on in the service. My parents taught me to pray at a very early age. I can remember being afraid to sleep in the bed by myself – and I had to be in nursery school at the time – and my dad making me go into my room and pray for God to protect me through the night. I also remember my dad reading the Bible to me as a bedtime story a couple times as a kid. He had this HUGE, old illustrated Bible that featured pictures of white people on every page. I just saw that Bible the other day and, now that I look at it, the pictures are reminiscent of the paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. They're beautiful, but incredibly skewed toward a European view of the world. But, I digress.

The Pastor at my grandparents’ church was a powerful orator. Even today, in his late 80s, he can preach a sermon and weave words together that invoke such vivid imagery that you can’t help but to be entranced. I saw the respect he got from the church members and the community at-large, and I started telling my folks that I wanted to be a minister when I grew up. I don’t think I realized the implications of the profession, but my parents were thrilled and loved to tell visiting relatives and family friends that their daughter aspired to be a preacher.

I had seen people get Baptized in church before. (One of the many things that I like about my religion – or, at least my church, because I have no idea how other Baptist churches handle this – is that you come to Christ of your own accord. That means that you are not Baptized as a baby. You make a conscious choice to accept Christ and are Baptized at a much older age.) When I asked my parents what the whole Baptizing/being submerged in water thing was about, they informed me that when people accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, they get submerged in water and their sins are washed away. At this point I was about 5 years old and I knew what sin was. And I knew that getting sins washed away was a pretty good deal, so I was all for it. It was at that point that I asked to be Baptized. So, about a month before I turned 6, my parents and I walked to the front of the sanctuary and joined my grandparents’ church as a family. My mom and dad had both been Baptized, but I had not and I was scheduled for Batism on June 6, 1985. Two days before my 6th birthday.

Because I was so young – though, I don’t think I am the youngest person to be Baptized in my church – the Pastor wanted to have a meeting with me to be sure that I knew what I was getting into. So, my mom dressed me in a cute outfit, took me to the church one evening and walked me into the Pastor’s office. He came around to the other side of his massive desk (or at least it was massive in my 5 year old eyes) and got down to eye level with me.

“Do you know what it means to be Baptized?” he asked.

“It means that Jesus is my Lord and Savior,” 5 year old me said.

“Yes, that’s right. So you understand what will happen on Sunday?” he said.

“I am going to get dunked under water,” I responded.

“That’s right.”

“And, what’s going to happen to my hair?” (even at 5 I was a little image-conscious)

“You’ll wear a swimcap to protect it.”

I panicked, “But, I don’t know how to swim!”

“I’ll be right there. You’ll be safe.”

We talked a bit more about what was to happen at my Baptism, but at that point, I was ready. The Sunday following the meeting with my Pastor, my mom dressed me in a white dress, white tights and white patent leather shoes (it was the 80s people!) and we were on our way. I remember getting changed into a white robe and a deaconess helping me stuff my fluffy hair into a swimcap and, then, it was just me and the Pastor in the Baptismal pool. I remember thinking the water was warmer than I thought it would be. And I was a little afraid.

I stood in the Baptismal pool with my arms crossed over my chest and the Pastor stood on my left side and said a few words and then he said, “And now, [Brown Girl], I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

And then he dunked me under water.

Only thing was, he didn’t tell me to hold my nose and he didn’t hold it for me. I came up out of the water coughing and sputtering and shivering. It wasn’t so pretty. My aunt cried when the Pastor dunked me and my younger cousin asked her, “Mama, did [Brown Girl] die?” I guess cause we were at church and her mom was crying, she thought maybe it was a funeral instead of a Baptism (?). Who knows what really goes on in the mind of a child! At any rate, I was especially upset that my hair had gotten a little damp under the swimcap (typical ME)... But, afterward, my family was so proud. My mom and dad gave me a small gold crucifix on a delicate chain and we took lots of pictures. That was also when I received my first Bible. My Baptism was a very significant moment that I remember clearly to this day.

That was my first step on the road to becoming a Christian. I still have to fight daily to be a “good” Christian. It’s hard. You guys have read the other posts. Even though I live a pretty tame life by most standards, I do manage to get into some things that aren't so angelic... But I hope that you’re not too surprised that I profess to be a Christian. If you are, I’m not doing something right and I need to try a little harder!

Coming full-circle, my reading and studying of the Bible in ’08 is an attempt to help me figure out just what my responsibilities are as a Christian. It is also a way for me to reaffirm that choice that I made some 23 years ago. I wanted to be a Christian then and I want to be one now. In a lot of ways, I’m still like that little 5 year old girl that asked to get Baptized way back when. Not much about me has changed. But I’d like to think I have a better understanding of what being a Christian actually means, and I hope that 23 years from now, I’ll have grown even more in Christ.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Daddy Dearest

Sorry it’s taken me a few days to post. Things have been busy on the home front. At any rate, here’s a blog I wrote back in December. It’s a long read, so if you don’t make it all the way through on the first read, come back and finish it later.

For the past few weeks, I haven’t been feeling my best. Those of you that know me love (or hate) my quick wit and (sometimes mean-spirited) jokes. But, they have been on hiatus and my usually easy smile has become infrequent. I had been moping around for a few days, complaining to my BMFF [best male friend forever] and my BGFF [best girl friend forever] about:
1) My life being utterly boring
2) My job being a hellhole, and
3) My checking account being empty (not necessarily in that order).

I didn’t think anyone else noticed the fact that I’d had a terrible case of the “blahs”. At work, I kept on a happy face and most of my friends thought I was pretty happy with the way things have been going in my life. But, this weekend, when I was hanging out with my parents, my father noticed that something wasn’t quite right.

Now, for those of you that know the nature of my relationship with my father, you know that I avoid speaking to him at ALL costs. I am cordial, saying “hello” and “goodbye”, but I steer clear of any conversation that takes us further than casual greetings. We get along so much better when we are only exchanging pleasantries. I used to talk to him all the time, letting him on my innermost thoughts and dreams. After all, he is a mental health professional who tends to build a rapport easily with his clients and with complete strangers. But, the second I let him any further into my life, our relationship heads straight down the toilet. He is super-critical, outrageously judgmental, highly opinionated and über-conservative. All of which means that when he is around, my mouth stays, pretty much, cemented shut.

But, on Sunday, he approached me and asked if he could speak with me for about 15 minutes. I immediately tensed up. I just knew that he could only be interested in criticizing me about something I had done or said. But, I reluctantly left my place on my parents’ couch and headed downstairs to chitty-chat with my dad. We are sitting in his blue-walled man room with the TV turned on mute and his desk light shining on my face like a spotlight. We sit across from each other and size each other up.

Then he says, “So, let’s talk. We haven’t talked in a while. Tell me what’s been going on in your life.”

I freeze. I can’t think of ONE thing to say to him. I am thinking that it’s pathetic that I don’t even know how to start a conversation with my father!

“I’ll start,” he says.

He asks me about my piece o’ shit car and what I am planning to do about getting a new one sometime soon on my very limited budget. I sit silent, trying to see where he is going with this line of questioning. But, as I study his face, I recognize that he is being genuine. So, I let down my guard and we start talking. And, although he asked for 15 minutes of my time, we actually ended up talking for over an hour. The conversation came quickly and the laughs came easily. And he gave me some sound advice on life, love, career and finances. My father is a smart man, brilliant actually. (A girlfriend of mine and I had discovered that our fathers had been friends years ago and she said that her father had described my father in this way: “[Brown Girl's Daddy]? – that’s a smart nigga right there.” LOL!) Anyway, my father encouraged me to use him as a resource when I have things weighing on my mind. And, I have to admit that after talking to my dad, I felt 100 times better about my circumstances and my lot in life. I felt… hopeful… for the first time in a long, long time.

When we were wrapping up our conversation, he says to me, “I just want you to be my ‘buddy’. Just came and talk to me about anything.” Um… what? My father and I “buddies”?? The thought had never occurred to me, but if he was going to maintain this personality (Who knows how long it will really last? I am hopeful, but not naïve.), this level of understanding and compassion, maybe we really could be “buddies”. But, I’m not holding my breath.

Anyway, the holidays are about to roll around and after I thought about it for a while, I realized that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year. It’s a time when nothing is expected of anyone, no gifts are expected (Christmahanukwannzaka), no declarations of undying love (Valentine’s Day), no lauding of long-forgotten historical figures. It’s just a time to sit back and reflect on all the things for which we are grateful. And I realized that the case of the “blahs” that I had suffered from for so many weeks was immediately cured when I realized all the things and people I have been blessed to have in my life. I have come to recognize that it is important to stop and gives thanks for all things that bring goodness to you life. So, I thought that giving thanks for those people and things that have impacted my life would be blog-worthy. This is the first in a series of blogs where I will give for someone or something that has been a blessing in my life this year. So, yes, you guessed it. I am saying that the first person on my list for whom I am thankful is… my Dad.

As much as this negro gets on my gotdamn nerves, he’s a pretty great guy. Rewind to a couple of months ago. I was chilling at a friend’s house for the Labor Day holiday when my mom called and told me that she needed me to drive my dad to the hospital. Now, my dad does NOT get sick. He barely sniffles and never stays home from work due to illness. So, when my mom called, my adrenaline started pumping. I ran out of my friend’s house, collected my mom and dad and drove my dad to the emergency room at Johns Hopkins. My mom and I were waiting in the Emergency Room all night (with a room full of colorful "Baltimorons", including a man who purposely pissed on the floor when the people at the admitting desk ignored his requests to be seen first – no joke) and were awakened early in the morning to the news that my father had been transferred to ICU while we had been sleeping. The diagnosis was internal bleeding and they didn’t know where the bleeding was coming from. By the time the whole ordeal had ended, my father had two blood transfusions and three procedures to stop the bleeding. He was in ICU for five days. And, for weeks even after he had been discharged, my father who walks approximately two miles everyday, got winded from going to the bathroom. It was a devastating experience. The doctors made it clear that we had almost lost him. For a few days, all was good and perfect in the Johnson household – that is, until my father realized that he wasn’t going to die and went back to annoying the hell out of everyone.

While we were talking on Sunday, I looked into my dad’s face, which is lined with years of creases, and at his head full of soft gray hair and I started thinking about the fact that my dad wouldn’t be here forever to bug me, judge me, get on my nerves. One day, he will be gone. I know the thought is morbid and – believe me – I hate to think about death. But, I sat and looked at him and imagined him in a casket. And I imagined myself throwing myself over his body and screaming and crying at the front of our church very melodramatically. I sat back and thought, do I want to be crying out of regret for having a terrible relationship with my father while he walked this Earth? And I decided right then and there that I don’t want that. And that I want us to have a good relationship. I want us to be “buddies” (I think).

So, Dad, I’m grateful for you being the critical, judgmental, opinionated, conservative that you are. And this year, I thank God that I’ve had you in my life... even though you’ve worked my last nerve.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Star is Born

Last year sometime, I watched a movie called “The Holiday” starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet. The movie was about two women who were living boring lives, just maintaining… nothing more. They swap houses for a vacation and, with the change of scenery, they each find love and other things that fulfill their lives.

Kate Winslet character moves from London to LA to live in Cameron Diaz’s mansion. While there, she makes friends with an elderly male neighbor and they end up becoming very dear friends. In the movie, Kate Winslet doesn’t know that she’s a beautiful person in and out. I suppose she suspects it, but she is just not sure. It takes this little old man to make her realize that she is basically wasting her life by not living “for today”. He explains that in life, there are “leading ladies” and then there are “best friends”… the supporting cast, if you will. He asks her straight up, “Why are you living your life like a best friend when you’re a leading lady?”

As Oprah says, I had a “light bulb” moment. It wasn’t hard for me to realize that I am a lot like Kate Winslet’s character. I, too, have champagne wishes & caviar dreams. And I want big things for myself, but I am living my life like I’m in someone else’s supporting cast rather than embracing my role as the leading lady. Hey, I’m grounded enough to know that I’m not the leading lady of anyone else’s life-movie, but now I realize that I should damn sure be the STAR of my own!

I promised myself that 2008 would be my year. Thank God there are 361 days left in the year because I need to get a move-on to make 2008 a memorable one for all the right reasons. As a leading lady, I have no business NOT doing exceptional things! Cause while I’ve been busy “waiting for the right time” to do such and such, my life has been passing me by. If I was in the audience watching my life-movie, I would've fallen asleep in my popcorn before I reached today's scene. And that’s just sad. Time to rewrite the script.

What have I learned? I am the STAR of this show, people. All of you are just extras on the set of my real-life dramedy. (jokes, sorta)

What have you learned? This is the only life you get. THIS, right here, is your movie and there is no time for dress rehearsals. You only get one shot!

Ask yourself, have you accepted your role as the leading wo/man in your life-movie?

If not, do yourself a favor and start making some changes. Afterall, you are a star, so you deserve nothing less...

Friday, January 04, 2008

2008 will be GREAT!

Happy new year, everyone! I started writing my 2007 introspective blog and almost decided against it. 2007 was quiet, peaceful, and rather boring… and for that I am very grateful! A drama-free year is what I had been striving for. I got rid of the dead-weight in December 2006/January 2007 and have basically just been floating along in life with few stressors. And, for that, I know I am blessed. So, I appreciate the fact that I really don’t have that much to say about the tests, trials and tribulations that I had to face in ’07, because the few that I did have worked themselves out.

1. My daddy got very, very sick, but then got better and now he is as good as new! (a blog about that will come later)

2. I was depressed because I felt that I had outgrown my job, which really is just a JOB and not the CAREER that I hoped it would be. (but then I realized that I should be grateful that I even have a job that pays me enough to cover my expenses! Thank you Jesus!)

3. I felt sloppy and dejected because I have gained so much weight since high school. (Then I came to the realization that I could do something about that and, if I am so unhappy about it, why was I just complaining about it without DOING something about it?! So I got off my fat butt and started working out and eating better. And I feel better!)

4. I went through a second bout of depression because I haven’t yet found my romantic “partner-in-crime”. (but then I thought of how bad my heart had been broken around this time last year and recognized that I still need some time to heal so that I won’t be bringing all of that baggage with me and creating yet another dysfunctional relationship.)

So, all in all, I am I joyous because I recognize that I control the way that I feel about myself and my life. If I keep telling myself negative things about myself and my circumstances, then negative things will come to pass because I am bringing negative energy into my life. But, if I tell myself positive things, if I really appreciate and focus on the good things going on in my life, I am welcoming positive energy into my world. I have a great relationship with God, a wonderful and loving family, true friends and I really want for very little (if anything at all).

Now, I want to be careful that I don’t get, too comfy because comfy leads to complacency. And that is not a good thing.

Anyway, I am truly looking forward to all the blessings that 2008 will bring. I am focused on making myself a better person in the New Year. I didn’t accomplish everything that I wanted to last year, but I came close. Some things are still a work in progress, but they are – at least – in progress, and I am satisfied with that.

I am blessed. I am content.

I am thankful.

Happy New Year! Let’s do it really big in ’08…