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Birthdays and Reflections

“…These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you.” – “Empire State of Mind”

On Thursday my best friend flew in from Ohio to celebrate her 28th birthday with me. It was her first time in NYC since she was a child and we hadn’t seen each other in over three years. November, for her, represented a new season. It was a rebirth of sorts and her her new year. Beyond the laughs, adventures, randomness and the warmth of being hugged tightly by a true friend, this weekend ended up being one of the most reflective periods of the entire year and three months I’ve been here. We ate good, drank good, laughed hard, played hard and even cried. I screamed my face off at the Watch the Throne concert. And for the first time in a long time I was seeing things clearly. I love that just the mere presence of my bestie put things in a much needed perspective.

1. Friends are the family you’ve chosen.

If chosen wisely your friends become your family. People who love you unconditionally, cheer for your successes, help you up when you fall, support you even when you’re wrong, those are friends. Friends are special and should be treated us such. Cherish genuine friends. I’m so grateful to have people who truly know me…and love me anyway.

2. There is no rewind button in life.

Your words and actions have consequences that may affect the rest of your life. Treat people kindly. Make good first impressions. Live like you may not get to take back that thing you said, or apologize for what you did wrong. “Don’t ever fix your lips like collagen and say something where you gon’ end up apologisin.’ ”

3. “Get Busy Living or Get Busy Dying.”

One of my favorite quotes from The Shawshank Redemption was the narrative of Morgan Freeman’s character  about his friend Andy’s escape from prison. I think about this quote daily. Whether we decide to do the former or latter, life goes on. Choose to live. Fully and purposefully.

4. Be Yourself.

You can only become who you’re meant to be in this life by being your authentic self. Get comfortable with you since it’s the only person you were meant to be.

5. Social Media is Not Real Life

It is, but not really. It took this weekend, a weekend where I spent very little time on social media because I was enjoying myself, to realize how little social media matters in the big scheme of things. I’ve met some great people from Twitter. I’ve made life-long relationships from Twitter that formed from engagement. There is an undeniable power of Twitter in many ways. I’ve conversed with like-minded and not so like-minded individuals. There are brilliant minds on social networks, many with fascinating ideas, concepts and philosophies. And Twitter allows you to reach certain people (i.e. bell hooks, Terry McMillan, Keith Olbermann) you wouldn’t be able to without that platform. But being caught up in a whirlwind of all of the other things that come with social media– egos, facades, people thinking they know you based off your tweets, caring about the numbers instead of the influence, allowing too many strangers into your world, making private moments in your life public, overestimating people’s joy and underestimating their misery, comparing your life to someone else and the countless other habits that can form out of social media if not checked– are not always conducive to living your best life. Twitter and Facebook give people a false sense of self-importance. People we’ve never heard of before are instantly “popular” because of Twitter. It’s gratifying to see you have thousands of followers, people RT your thoughts and comment on your work. But what about your life offline? Are you making someone smile? Are you mentoring a young girl or boy? Can anybody say you changed their life? When I think about the people who made the change in the world that I’d like to emulate, they did it without social media. They were too busy sharpening their oyster knife.

6. Health Over Everything

Take care of you. That means physically and mentally. Eat right. Exercise. Try to rest. When your body is telling you it can’t push on any further, listen to it and tend to your health immediately. Meditate. Seek therapy. I’ve put my health on the back burner for far too long. I’m excited to start yoga this week!

7. All love everything.

Everything around you should exude love, positivity and light. Anything and anyone who doesn’t has to go. Immediately.

8. The work, the work, the work.

The work will be respected if it’s quality. The work will last longer than the brand. Focus on the craft not the positions. You cannot get there without putting in the work.

9. What’s Yours is Yours

I think we as humans get caught up in the fortunes and blessing of other people. I’ve done this a lot in the last year where I’ve quietly watched people get opportunities I feel should have been mine. This alone is one of the ways social media can become unhealthy. The BMW your homegirl just purchased,  your coworker’s new engagement and the limelight of someone you admire is not meant for you. You don’t know what they had to do or go through to get what they have, to get where they are. Your journey is unique, specifically designed for you. What’s yours is yours is yours.

10. Images are Images

Images are nothing more than that. Everything that glitters ain’t gold.

11. Influence trumps titles & positions.

Don’t tie your worth to a title. Some people will have impressive resumes, will have graduated from the best schools and worked for iconic brands, but will never be of influence. Who you work for won’t determine the mark you leave on the world.

12. When people show you who they are, believe them.

Pay attention and people will show you exactly who they are. It’s better you find out now while on the journey in opposed to finding out once you “make it.” I learned a valuable lesson from someone who, as put together as she seemed, she loved drama. I’d even venture to say she was confrontational & slightly unhappy with herself. Her own insecurities resulted in her overcompensating in other areas. She became “hyper-competitive.” It was obvious what she was doing, but I kept building what I thought was a friendship while overlooking clear red flags. Months later she ended up projecting those insecurities onto me. As my best friend told me when this person did something that made me lose any respect I had for her, “She did you a favor.”

13. 10,000 hours

Mastering my craft is important to me. It’s why I feel some kind of way when bloggers who haven’t studied the craft are considered writers, or when celebrities pay ghostwriters to write their book but that actual writer is never acknowledged. My love for the craft is why before going to bed I will read an article by a brilliant writer. The best way to get better at doing something is doing it over and over and over until it’s near perfection. This weekend I decided to eliminate all distractions that take away from me putting in my 10,000 hours.

14. Losing Perspective

NYC is like no other place in the world. And from stories I’ve been told (and the glimpse of what I’ve seen), this industry is shady mayne. You can lose perspective quickly. That’s the worst thing you can do. Keep the perspective of who you are, where you’re going, the people who’ve been down with you before the accolades and your family who loves you no matter what. True tunnel vision doesn’t allow time for looking to the left or right to see what anyone else is doing. Never forget the things that matter most– family, friends, happiness and making a difference.

Who knew my bestie’s new year would serve as a time of reflection for me? There are two months left until the actual new year, and my new year begins at the end of March. There are so many things to accomplish. And a great life to live.

Grateful for my sister/best friend/Soror for everything. Happy Born day boo!

  • Ladybleu1920

    This! This! This!  This post have brought “good tears to my eyes.”  I will keep this as a reminder when I get distracted, down & out or need to refocus.  These are true words of encouragement and what I needed to hear Bene.  It’s funny over the weekend as I layed in my bed and slept most of the wknd away, I thought about how much I wished I had a BFF. A  BFF that I could share my highs & lows with and would be there for me regardless.  Friends as you’ve described in your BFF are a dime a dozen.  You’re truly blessed.  I’m happy that through twitter I was introduced to your work.  Thanks for keeping it real and you’re one talented sister!  Stay blessed.

    • Anonymous

      Awww. I never intend to make my readers cry. But as long as they are “good tears.” I’m glad you read this at a time you needed it most. You will have a bff. Speak it into existence. You can and will meet friends at different stages in your life. NYC gets lonely and I do miss the few close friends I have. Stay encouraged! Thank you for your comment as well.

  • Sarahnicole621

    Wonderful post Bene!  #11 is one of my personal favs.  

  • Crystal T. Ash

    This is an awesome post, Bene! Just awesome. It is always amazing when someone has eloquently written your thoughts in life. That what you have done here for me. Thanks!

    Especially love #1,4,5,7,9,13, and 14 🙂

  • maame

    you are such an amazing writer. You inspire me to perfect my art.