I Was Lost In The Journey To Becoming My Dream Self
At the forefront of my mind remains the image of my dream self---the ideal and successful version of me I long to grow into. In the humblest way, my dream self is pretty mind-blowing, or époustouflante, as we say in French. If you take a glance at my vision board, it won't take long for you to define the way I portray her: She has Leticia Gardner's looks and married life, blossoms through her career as beautifully as Necole Kane does, and writes pieces that touch people in such a deep way the world refers to her as "young Oprah".
She's a great leading woman, the kind whose main aspirations are to inspire and make a difference. She dreams of everything fancy and would break any wall that prevents her from reaching those dreams. Where some people hear "no", she hears "try harder". She's intelligent, constantly strives for self-accomplishment and fears nothing.
I came across a photo of Leticia Marie Gardener when I took my first trip to Los Angeles. Living up to its reputation, the City of Angels naturally didn't fail to work its magic on me. From visiting famous TV-show sets to grabbing coffee with Devious Maids actress Edy Ganem in Beverly Hills and being offered dinner by Eva Longoria at her restaurant Beso Hollywood, L.A. showed me that all the glitz and glamour I've always fantasized about are possible (because yeah, you can aim to make a difference but still be fancy AF). It showed me that I, too, could have a seat at the table. And by showing me just that, L.A. gifted me with the secret sauce I'd been missing to make something out of my dreams: a vision.
However, after 6 years of pursuing my vision and several spiritual awakenings, I learned that you're never safe from losing sight of who your dream self is. And there are a lot of setbacks and growth to experience before you can become her.
Reflecting on where I stood in my life last year, what comes to mind is "the Ordeal". In what's known as "the Hero's Journey", the Ordeal refers to the moment in the Hero's life where, after approaching "the Inmost Cave", a major crisis occurs. The Hero is therefore led to face his biggest fears and finds himself on the edge of death. His survival depends on whether or not he wins the fight against those fears. What triggered that crisis in my case were two defining decisions that I made a couple of years ago: Give up on a master's degree in mass communications/journalism to settle for a job that wasn't fulfilling but paid well, and move out of my mother's house whereas my goal was to stack enough money to participate in the UCLA Extension Writer's Program.
Although making those decisions seemed to be the right thing to do at the time, all it did was bring serious disorder into my life. It resulted in me turning into a miserable person---depressed, lost and trapped in a reality I never intended to make mine. My dream self and I were dying, and I was the one killing us both.
Last May, when the consequences of my choices became unbearable and I hit rock bottom, I started seeking help wherever I could.
I began seeing a therapist every two weeks, working on my relationship with God, hanging out with friends more often, and doing a lot more of the things that are probably on your usual self-care list. Had you told me that the most efficient help I'd find was going to be in writing a letter to myself, I wouldn't have believed you.
When it comes to writing a letter to ourselves, oftentimes we write about the things we would tell our younger self or the things we'd love to read when we turn a certain age. Either way, the words on paper aren't dedicated to our present self. Yet, what I needed was instant guidance. I needed someone to call me out on my bullsh*t. RIGHT. NOW. Someone who wouldn't give me the traditional "that's life" speech, but more the "you need to get your life together" one. And considering how misunderstood I felt, I knew that the only one who'd be able to get me back on my feet was my dream self. So, I grabbed my favorite pen and a piece of paper, stepped into her shoes, and asked myself: "What would my dream self say if she knew why she's so close to never existing?"
Stop ignoring what the voice within you is trying to tell you.
Within each of us resides a voice that's purpose is to guide us through this thing called life. It's there to make sure that every step we take is in the direction of the life God---the Universe, whatever you want to call it---has uniquely designed for every one of us. She who decides to pay attention and listen to that voice will be provided with all the answers. She who decides to ignore it engages in a deadly fight against herself.
Three years ago, I made two decisions that didn't feel right in my heart but I still chose to ignore because I thought they were necessary. By not listening to what my heart was telling me, I created chaos in my life which, at some point, forced me to take huge steps back so I could save myself. I had to quit my job and move back in with my mom.
Sometimes, the only way for us to reroute toward the right direction is to destroy the foundation that we built around some important life decisions that we made---a foundation we, in most cases, became attached to and which somehow became part of our identity. Going back to square one was a painful way for me to learn that, no matter how aggressive its method, the voice within will always find a way to be heard.
"Your life is a piece of art and art is never finished, only abandoned."
To me, life's art, and human beings are all born artists. Indeed, we might not all be born painters, writers, dancers, or musicians, but we've all been given the ability to create something out of nothing---to create ourselves and our own reality. The beauty of art is that, as Leonardo da Vinci once said, it's never finished. It can always be refined. Colors can always be added, words can always be rewritten and sculptures can always be reshaped. So can life.
Again, going back to square one taught me an important lesson: The artist in me is allowed to create and recreate my current reality until it looks perfectly like the masterpiece I've always imagined my life to be, no matter what it takes.
Wherever you find yourself in life, if it doesn't feel right, then move. You're not stuck. Take a leap of faith and walk into the unknown where thousands of opportunities are waiting for you.
Focus on being the first you instead of the next someone else.
Have you ever admired someone so much that you wished you were that person? And not only did you wish you were that person, but you actually started impersonating her and doing everything like her as though it would lead to living the same life? When people would ask me who I wanted to be when I grew up, I used to answer, "I want to be the next Oprah Winfrey." Truth be told, if I could've turned into any celebrity I was fangirling over, I definitely would have.
One of the reasons I got so lost in the journey to becoming my dream self was the fact that I was following someone else's path believing that, since we were reaching for the same destination, we could also head in the same direction. Wrong. The world doesn't need another Oprah Winfrey. It needs me and my gift.
As I've mentioned before, there's a path that's been uniquely designed for each and every one of us. It's paved with flowers only you can smell and mountains only you can climb. Its light is the only light that'll ever make you shine. Somewhere down this path is where your treasure is.
It's the only way for you to grow into the person God wants you to be--not the one you wish you could be. Walking down someone else's path will surely lead you to the destination you aim to reach, but it'll always keep you looking for the dream and the magic. Walking down your own path, however, allows the magic to operate. Then, you become the dream.
Every day is a good day to put in the work.
They say that dreams don't work unless you do. And as a pro procrastinator who only puts in the work when I feel like it, taking action tends to be a bit problematic at times, especially when it doesn't provide me with instant gratification. I eventually had to face the fact that becoming my dream self isn't an overnight success but the result of constant and vigorous efforts.
My dream self owes her success as a writer to the hours she spends writing every day, even when inspiration's hiding. She manages to write a bestseller because she won't let the time it would take to write discourage her from doing so. She's as fit as Leticia Gardner because the results she gets from hitting the gym daily are more important than the satisfaction she gets from snacking while binge-watching Netflix.
Accessing your dream life will require hard work and discipline from you. The more you give it your all, the closer you get to your breakthrough. You have to be responsible for how much you get done. Don't be the one standing in your own way. Push yourself to do the work. Every. Single. Day.
Here and now is still good. The journey matters more than the destination.
Human beings are unsatisfied creatures always yearning for more. I can't recall a time where I felt like my reality was enough. My mind has always teemed with all these big dreams and, before this intimate conversation with my dream self, all I was waiting for was the day they'd be fulfilled so I could feel fulfilled myself. The last thing she had to tell me, which is by far one of the most important, is to stop missing out on what's already in front of me by rushing to the next big thing.
No more "I'll be happy when". Bliss might be waiting for you at the finish line, but happiness lies in the here and the now. You just have to be willing to find it.
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The most Gemini woman you'll ever meet. Communications & community enthusiast, I run a media platform centered around spirituality, and I'm always looking to connect with fellow creatives. Follow me on Instagram & Twitter @savannahtaider
This post is in partnership with Amgen.
The seemingly simple task of taking a breath is something most of us don’t think twice about. But for people who live with severe asthma, breathing does not always come easily. Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs, affects millions of people worldwide – 5-10% of which live with severe asthma. Severe asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition that is unpredictable and can be difficult to manage. Though often invisible to the rest of the world, severe asthma is a not-so-silent companion for those who live with it, often interrupting schedules and impacting day-to-day life.
Among the many individuals who battle severe asthma, Black women face a unique set of challenges. It's not uncommon for us to go years without a proper diagnosis, and finding the right treatment often requires some trial and error. Thankfully, all hope is not lost for those who may be fighting to get their severe asthma under control. We spoke with Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq. and Jania Watson, two inspiring Black women who have been living with severe asthma and have found strength, resilience, and a sense of purpose in their journeys.
Juanita Brown Ingram, Esq.
Juanita Ingram has a resume that would make anyone’s jaw drop. On top of being recently crowned Mrs. Universe, she’s also an accomplished attorney, filmmaker, and philanthropist. From the outside, it seems there’s nothing this talented woman won’t try, and likely succeed at. In her everyday life, however, Juanita exercises a lot more caution. From a young age, Juanita has struggled with severe asthma. Her symptoms were always exacerbated by common illnesses like a cold or flu. “I've heard these stories of my breathing struggles, but I remember distinctly when I was younger not being able to breathe every time I got a virus,” says Ingram. “I remember missing a lot of school and crying a lot because asthma is painful. I [was taken] to see my doctor often if I got sick with anything so I was hypervigilant as a child, and I still am.”
Today, Juanita says her symptoms are best managed when she’s working closely with her care team, avoiding getting sick and staying ahead of any symptoms. Ingram said she’s been blessed with skilled doctors who are just as vigilant of her symptoms as she is. While competing in the Mrs. Universe competition, Juanita took extra care to stay clear of other competitors to ensure she didn’t catch a cold or virus that would trigger her severe asthma. “I would stand off to the side and sometimes that could be taken as ‘oh, she thinks she's better than everybody else.’ But if I get sick during a pageant, I'm done. I had to compete with that in mind because my sickness doesn't look like everybody else's sickness.”
Even when her symptoms are under control, living with severe asthma still presents challenges. Juanita relies on her strong support system to overcome the hurdles caused by a lack of understanding from the public, “I think that there's a lot of lack of awareness about how serious severe asthma is. I would [also] tell women to advocate and to trust their intuition and not to allow someone to dismiss what you're experiencing.”
Jania, a content creator from Atlanta, Georgia, has been living with severe asthma for many years. Thanks to early testing by asthma specialists, Jania was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child after experiencing frequent flare-ups and challenges in her day-to-day life. “I specifically remember, I was starting school, and we were moving into a new house. One of the triggers for me and my younger sister at the time were certain types of carpets. We had just moved into this new house and within weeks of us being there, my parents literally had to pay for all new carpet in the house.”
As Jania grew older, she was suffering from fewer flare-ups and thought her asthma was well under control. However, a trip back to her doctor during high school revealed that her severe asthma was affecting her more than she realized. “That was the first time in a long time I had to do a breathing test,” she describes. “The doctor had me take a deep breath in and blow into a machine to test my breathing. They told me to blow as hard as I could. And I was doing it. I was giving everything I got. [My dad and the doctor] were looking at me like ‘girl, stop playing.’ And at that point [it confirmed] I still have severe asthma because I've given it all I got. It doesn't really go away, but I just learned how to help manage it better.”
Jania recognizes that people who aren’t living with asthma, may not understand the disease and mistake it for something less serious. Or there could be others who think their symptoms are minor, and not worth bringing up. So, for Jania, communicating with others about her diagnosis is key. “Having severe asthma [flare-ups] in some cases looks very similar to being out of shape,” she said. “But this is a chronic illness that I was born with. This is just something that I live with that I've been dealing with. And I think it's important for people to know because that determines the next steps. [They might ask] ‘Do you need a bottle of water, or do you need an inhaler? Do you need to take a break, or do we need to take you to the hospital?’ So, I think letting the people around you know what's going on, just in case anything were to happen plays a lot into it as well.”
Like Juanita, Jania’s journey has been marked by ups and downs, but she remains an unwavering advocate for asthma awareness and support within the Black community. She hopes that her story can be an inspiration to other women with asthma who may not yet have their symptoms under control. “There's still life to be lived outside of having severe asthma. It is always going to be there, but it's not meant to stop you from living your life. That’s why learning how to manage it and also having that support system around you, is so important.”
By sharing their journeys, Juanita and Jania hope to encourage others to embrace their conditions, obtain a proper management plan from a doctor or asthma specialist like a pulmonologist or allergist, and contribute to the improvement of asthma awareness and support, not only within the Black community, but for all individuals living with severe asthma.
Read more stories from others like Juanita and Jania on Amgen.com, or visit Uncontrolled Asthma In Black Women | BREAK THE CYCLE to find support and resources.
The 75th Emmy Awards occurred last night at the Peacock Theater at L.A. Live and was hosted by Anthony Anderson. All the stars, from Issa Rae to Taraji P. Henson, flocked to the illustrious ceremony and enjoyed a night of laughs and riveting moments that took place. One moment that lit up social media was the Martin reunion.
The beloved '90s show, headed by Martin Lawrence, became a staple in many households and can be considered one of the best sitcoms in history. Tisha Campbell, Tichina Arnold, and Carl Anthony Payne II joined Martin onstage of a replica of the Martin set and poked fun at the Emmys and never being nominated. They even had a photo of Thomas Mikal Ford, who played Tommy, on the coffee table. Thomas passed away in 2016 from a ruptured aneurysm in his abdomen.
But that was just one of the memorable bits that happened. Some of our favorite Black actresses won big last night and gave us all the feels.
Big congratulations to Quinta Brunson after she became the first Black woman since 1981 to win the award for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. The Abbott Elementary creator and actress was very emotional while accepting her award and admitted she hadn't prepared a speech. "Thank you so much. I love making Abbott Elementary so much, and I'm so happy to be able to live my dream and act out comedy," she said.
Niecy Nash-Betts gave a powerful acceptance speech after winning the award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited or Anthology Series or Movie. The actress played Glenda Cleveland in Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story. "You know who I wanna thank, I wanna thank me, for believing in me and doing what they said I could not do, and I want to say to myself in front of all you beautiful. 'Go on, girl, with yo bad self. You did that,"' she cheered.
Finally, I accept this award on behalf of every Black and brown woman who has gone unheard yet over-policed like Glenda Cleveland, like Sandra Bland, like Breonna Taylor. As an artist, my job is to speak true to power, and baby I'mma do it til the day I die."
Coming off the heels of winning a Golden Globe for her role in The Bear, Ayo Edebiri can now add an Emmy to her collection. The actress won in the Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series category and thanked her parents. "This is a show about found family and real family, and my parents are here tonight," she said. "I'm making them sit kind of far away from me because I'm a bad kid. But I love you so much. Thank you so much for loving me and letting me feel beautiful and Black and proud of all of that. I just love you so much."
Last but not least,The Daily Show with Trevor Noah won for Outstanding Variety Talk Series, and RuPaul's Drag Race won for Outstanding Reality Competition Program.
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Feature image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images