If you're a frequent reader of my articles, then you know I love any and everything in this world that pushes the culture forward. Intentional progression for myself, and my grandchildren's grandchildren, is my love language, and if you're on board with this—especially in these times—then we're absolutely best friends in my head.
Thankfully, with my job, I come across some of the most amazingly wholesome, and mindful content that the world will ever see, making my little heart flutter—mostly because we need to be encouraged in a different way that not many others outside the diaspora can relate to.
So, when I came across a video from Nikisa Edwards, a southern-based photographer on Tik Tok, I got all my life.
Set to an edited TikTok version of "Walk" by Saucy Santana (sans profanity, of course), the hilarious video, captioned, “She will be confident. #brownskingirl #confidentgirls”, shows Edwards speaking life into her niece, and then it transitioned to her showing her in true glow-up form, strutting fiercely, while draped in full confidence. I mean, you literally could not tell sis that she was not on somebody's runway, m'kay!?
I mean, the pose and mini-smize at the end?! C'mon!
The best part: Edwards cheering baby girl on, full energy, and making sure she knew that she was beautiful. Like my heart couldn't take it.
And apparently, the rest of the world felt the same:
Some were here for the SERVE:
Others appreciated its wholesomeness:
But mostly, everyone else’s hearts were fluttering too:
Edwards and her niece are taking it all in and enjoying the wave for now. And they're certainly helping so many other little black and brown girls who need to know that they are beautiful, smart, and special, know that they actually are. And not only knowing those things about themselves, but truly understanding that they can be confident about being them too.
And the sheer magnitude of what this mentality shift means for the culture, helps me sleep better at night.
*grabs purse* "Now let me see you walk, walk, walk, walk...."
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Featured image via Nikisa Edwards/TikTok
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.
Recently, I was talking to a woman in her early 30s about how much she basically hates this time of year: “It feels like everything focuses on couples-only and while I’m happy for people who’ve found love, why is there never anything that puts singles into the spotlight?” If you think that’s all in her head, it’s not. This is reportedly the time of year when the most engagements go down — and since Valentine’s Day is just a few weeks away too…yeah, she’s got a solid point.
She’s private and so I won’t shout her out by name. I’ll just say that the 12 tips that I’m about to share were written with her in mind. That being said, if you’re also a single woman, please hear me when I say that you deserve to be just as excited about what is to come as anyone else. And with the right frame of mind and plans in place, you can do just that.
Wanna start 2024 off right? No worries. I got you.
1. Open an Account That’s Strictly for Travel
If travel in 2024 is important to you, open a bank account exclusively for it.
These folks on social media who are demanding travel from people they are dating? Let me do you a solid and just say that I’ve had my fair share of wives state they wish that, rather than putting their life on hold and assuming that they would get to see the world with their husband, they had done it as single women. Some say it’s because they married someone who hates traveling (that’s not a “character flaw;” it’s merely a preference, by the way). Some say it’s because their husband doesn’t enjoy the same places or activities that they do. Some say it’s because, once marriage happened, money and time weren’t as accessible as it once was.
You know what they say — there’s no time like the present. If there are a few places that you want to see, what are you waiting for? Tomorrow isn’t promised…neither is you meeting “the one” should tomorrow arrive. Bottom line, if you’ve got the money, book a trip for 2024 NOW. If you don’t, open up a savings account that’s devoted to nothing but travel and then reward yourself with a trip, no matter what, this time next year. If the latter point sounds good yet you don’t know how to begin, many financial experts say that you should open up a travel fund in a high-yield savings account. You can read more about how to do just that here.
2. Assemble Your “Purpose Posse”
The worst thing that you can ever do is prioritize anyone or anything before your purpose. The reason why I say that is because your purpose is the literal reason why you exist. That’s why I’ve written articles for the platform like “5 Signs You Are Living Your True Purpose,” “Please Stop Picking People Who Don't 'Fit' Your Purpose” and “How To Handle ‘Purpose Fatigue.’” Anyway, if there’s one mistake that I see a lot of people make, especially before selecting a spouse, it’s not getting clear on what their purpose is and/or not devoting enough time to fulfilling their purpose. And that’s why I constantly recommend that people get their own purpose posse together. Back in the day, a posse was a group of people whom law enforcement assembled to take down some bad guys. These days, it’s pivoted to be a group of folks who are focused on a particular aim or goal.
Listen, it’s taken me a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to realize that, for years, I had family, friends, and even randoms in my space who weren’t for my purpose, they were actually against it and/or competing with it. Because I didn’t get that, I was spending a lot of time being distracted or debating about my calling or I was healing from some foolishness that those people said or did. No more, my friends. My circle is super tight and very private, and all are “on call” to help me with my purpose because they all respect it (as I do the same for them). If you can’t say the same thing about your peeps — now would be the time to do some serious shifting around and, if need be, switching up.
3. Date Yourself
Date yourself because no one knows you like you know you.
Another social media debate that needs a break is the price tag that should go on a date. All of this transactional foolishness (check out “Guess What? Dating Was Never Supposed To Be Transactional.”) — can we please leave it in the past, moving forward? Because, if ever the golden rule (“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”) needed to be applied, it would be when it comes to spending time with someone in order to see if there is a true connection or not. Besides, something that can “take the edge off” while also giving you a sense of graciousness with others is if you are intentional about dating yourself (check out “Masterdating: A TikTok Dating Trend That We Should Totally Get Behind”).
For instance, something that I did this year was take myself to see live concerts — and boy, did I have a ball! Maybe it’s the ambivert (or Gemini) in me yet nothing felt awkward about it at all. I liked dressing up, meeting new people, and coming and going on my own terms. At the same time, going on those outings reminded me to show respect and gratitude when guys do take me out (even just my male friends) because tickets to my local symphony center ain’t cheap, chile. All the way around, self-dating is a good practice because the level of self-confidence that rises in you, along with the freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want? It prepares you for dating others in a way that nothing else can because you know yourself differently by doing it.
4. Release Your Exes. Fully.
A self-proclaimed master mindset coach by the name of Kathrin Zenkina once said something that I really like: “You have to create space; you have to remove something; you have to break something down in your life, in order to bring in the new.” Now, for some of y’all, this is gonna be a “gloves off” question but…if you’re wondering where your next-and-perhaps-final man is and you’re still pining over your ex (which includes incessantly talking about him, good or bad), if you are still messing with your ex, if you’re low-key stalking him on his socials or even if you’re still just really bitter about your ex — why would any good man want to put up with that kind of baggage on a good day and drama on a bad one?
Money-branching is indeed a thing. Technically, it’s when you pursue other potential relationships while you’re still in one; however, I think that emotional monkey-branching exists and needs to be brought to the forefront more too. I’m telling you, a good man is a whole man and a whole man wants a whole woman…and no woman is whole while pieces of her heart are still caught up in other people.
You know, it’s wild that it was all the way back in 2015 that I went on my “Get My Heart Pieces Back” tour (check out “Why Every Woman Should Go On A 'Get Your Heart Pieces Back' Tour” and “Let's Finally 'Spring Clean' ALL Of Our Exes Out Of Our Lives, Shall We?”) and it really was one of the best things that I’ve ever done to this day. The main reason why is, that it’s hard to really look at someone new with “fresh eyes” when you’ve still got residue or rose-colored glasses from someone “old.” If that stung a bit, then you’re exactly who I’m talking to. Yeah, let next year be the year that you do whatever needs to be done to fully release your ex — let them go, mind, body, and spirit, so that the universe can do what it’s gonna do.
Even if it brings them back, you’ll both need to be different people. And for that to happen, a season of full separation is usually needed and required.
5. Give Yourself a "Make-Under"
One of 2024's biggest beauty trends is minimalism.
I’ve shared before that, one of the best compliments I’ve ever heard was when a guy in a mall here, said to me in passing, “That’s for remembering what you look like.” (#BARS) I knew what he meant because I only wear mascara and lip color, easily 97 percent of the time — and a lot of men have told me that they find the natural look on women to be so alluring; refreshing even.
Now before some of y’all get triggered by saying that you don’t want to do anything “for a man” — understood. I do think, though, that devoting, at least a couple of days a week, to going all-natural (or at least looking that way — check out “How To Flawlessly Achieve The ‘No Makeup’ Makeup Look” and “8 Solid Reasons To Go Make-Up Free At Least Once A Week”) will help you to feel more comfortable in your own skin. It can also give you the space to determine what look you actually like as opposed to what culture is cramming down everyone’s throat.
Plus, one of the biggest beauty trends in 2024 is taking the minimalist approach, so figuring out how “less is more” can get you to learn more about what works for you could prove to be great as it relates to skincare, hair care and how you define beauty, for yourself, overall.
6. Learn Something New Once a Month
Since I’m a marriage life coach, I’m constantly reading stuff on personal development. On BetterUp’s site, I recently checked out an article that talked about all of the benefits that come with learning new things. Some of the points that it mentioned are new things can sharpen your skills, make you more flexible and open-minded and it can help you to become more empathetic towards others. Personally, I think it can help to make life more exhilarating too.
So, why not commit to learning at least one new thing a month? It could be by reading a book or watching a documentary on a particular topic, taking a class on something that you currently know nothing about, or being proactive when it comes to learning more about or doing something that you’ve never done before.
A self-improvement entrepreneur by the name of Paul J. Meyer once said, “Imagine something new or you will only go where you have been.” And since every day is spanking new, wouldn’t it be a shame to live your life in a “circle” (which is more like a hamster wheel) than a “line” (which is forward movement)? Make some major strides in your personal growth in 2024 by choosing to do and experience some newness — persons, places, things, and ideas.
Being in a state of unforgiveness isn't the flex you think it is.
I know people who brag about not forgiving others. I don’t think that’s a flex at all. For one thing, there are too many studies that reveal that it’s actually bad for your health to remain in a state of unforgivingness (read more about that here). Another thing to keep in mind is it’s pretty arrogant to hold unforgivingness over someone’s head being that you’re not perfect either which means that you will need someone to extend that same kind of mercy to you…sooner than later. And finally, if you want to really move past something (or one) and not allow what happened to influence your future decisions — yes, forgive.
There are far too many folks out here who are, quite frankly, bitter as literal hell and it’s all because they are so stuck in the past and who they didn’t forgive that it alters how they deal with…shoot, pretty much everything in the here and now.
Listen, I’ve had some real doozies in my life happen and although it has been hella tempting to not forgive someone thinking that it will hurt them if I don’t — for the sake of inner peace and not having to dodge folks should I run into them somewhere, I have chosen to forgive anyway. Now as far as possible reconciliation goes, true repentance has to happen on their end because repairing what has been broken isn’t just one me. However, there is not one person at this stage in my life who I am mad at or “scared” to encounter because I have accepted that the past can’t change (one definition of forgiveness) and I have pardoned the offense (another definition of forgiveness) so that I can get on with my life.
Are there consequences for what I forgave? Yep. Am I still giving them power over me that they don’t deserve, though? NOPE.
Some of y’all aren’t going to like this — still, it must be said. While in an interview several months back, someone asked me why I thought it was so hard for a lot of women to apologize. My answer: “Ask them the last time their own mama apologized to them or they saw her apologize to their dad.” Learning to say “I’m sorry” is literally a learned behavior and unfortunately, a lot of us didn’t have it modeled and so we suck at doing it now. However, just because that might be the reason, there is no excuse not to do it.
Apologizing means that you are taking accountability for your actions. Apologizing means that you have a level of humility to see where you’ve either done something wrong or hurt someone’s feelings. Apologizing means that you’re far more interested in bringing peace to a dynamic than being right all of the time. Apologizing is where the big kids play. And if you really want to be stellar at it, you will also strive to make amends (check out “Heads Up: It's NOT An Apology If An Amends Isn't Made”) which means that you want to right the wrong of your behavior.
Justifying, deflecting, making excuses — that’s all a sign of emotional immaturity. You grow when you see where you could have/should have done better and you own it. Then you address it. Then you do better the next time. People who apologize are people who can be trusted with other people’s thoughts and feelings because they are willing to own their ish. If you want to become a better individual, learn to apologize more — and better.
9. Reacquaint Yourself with the Word “Single”
Being single is what you make it. Literally.
Even though I work in the field of marriage, I am a single woman and quite fond of the demographic; that’s why I’ve written articles for the platform like “Single Women: Yes, You Are Qualified To Talk About Relationships,” “10 Bona Fide Benefits Of Being Single,” “If You're Not In Love With Being Single, Ask Yourself These 6 Questions,” “Yes. Married Folks Need Single Friends (Male And Female).” and yes, “10 Words That'll Make You Totally Rethink The Word 'Single.'”
When it comes to this particular point, when you get a chance, please spend some time on that last one. Why? Well, the reality is that, reportedly, by 2030, 45 percent of women in this country will be single. There are so many factors that play into why that is the case. For now, I’ll just say that whether you think that is awesome or it’s got you low-key freaking out that you’ll never leave that particular demographic, if your current relational status is indeed “single,” make sure that you get how vast and awesome that is by taking in all of what it means to be…SINGLE.
For instance, one of my favorite synonyms for single is “exclusive.” To be exclusive is to be “belonging to a particular individual.” Think of it like a rare diamond. You’re not costume jewelry — you’re rare and it would take someone with a good eye for exquisiteness to have you in their life. This means that you’re not “lonely”…you’re just…exclusive. See what I mean? #wink
10. Choose to See Aging Differently
Y’all…this aging thing. I’m starting to respect what the elders go through more than I ever have because there's nothing like seeing signs of your mind wanting to do something that your body just isn’t in the mood for (energy levels included). And while we’re here, perimenopause? WHAT THE HELL? I used to be someone who could set my watch on, not just the day but the time of day of my cycle, and now? It’s freestylin’ like a mutha, sometimes I’m kicking my sheets off at night (and I keep my house at around 68 degrees) and my physician is like, “I mean…sorry.”
At the same time, though, there is an unmatched wisdom and calm that have come over me that I never had in my 20s, was struggling with in my 30s, and have become a sensei (wax on, wax off) within my 40s; the kind that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. And in that space, I’m learning how to take things as they come with more grace, to not try and change what I can’t, to be more proactive about my health, and to truly embrace being in the present.
Y’all, in a culture that wants to keep people “forever young,” remember that even Scripture says that “The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, If it is found in the way of righteousness.” (Proverbs 16:31 — NKJV) Whether it’s a ticking clock that you fear (check out “Tick Tock: How To Get Over The Fear Of Your Biological Clock”), a certain place you thought you would be by now or you just hate the idea of aging, period — remember that there were a ton of people who started 2023 out with us who are no longer among us. Aging is a sign that you still have purpose that has gone unfulfilled and what an honor to still have more time to fulfill it. Embrace aging. Don’t fight it.
11. Say “Yes” More Often
In 2024, usher in new growth by saying "yes" more often.
I am indeed a quirky one because, even though the holidays ain’t my thing, I will find myself on my couch, wrapped up in a big ass cable knit blanket, with some hot chocolate, watching a few Christmas movies. One that I saw this year was theChristmas of Yes. Long story short, the main character had a bit of a negativity bias (check out “7 Signs You Have A Toxic Relationship...With Yourself”) and so she was challenged to go the entire holiday season saying “yes” to every opportunity that came her way.
Now listen, I’m not out here saying that you should be running rogue with no discernment; at the same time, though, think about what possibilities would be open to you if you were less critical, more flexible, and super willing to try new things. So yeah, purpose in your mind in the new year that if there’s one thing that you will do more often, both personally as well as professionally, it is to say “yes.”
Say “yes” to the blind date.
Say “yes” to a concert of a genre that “ain’t your thing.”
Say “yes” to an assignment that intimidates you.
The universe tends to be more open to giving things to those who don’t shoot down options left and right. If you don’t commit to anything else on this list in 2024, say “yes” to this one (pun intended).
12. See Marriage As a Blessing Instead of a Mission
I recently watched an IG post of a woman who met a guy online who lived in another state. 12 days later, he flew in to meet her and this woman decided to surprise (which was more like shock) him and propose. Bless her heart — and not for the reason you might think. My main “SMDH” was because she doesn’t truly know anyone in 12 days, I don’t care how many conversations she’s had—and so, what it gave off was that she doesn’t want to be committed to the man so much as marriage is a goal for her. For a lot of people who have sought me out for counsel, in hindsight, they can relate.
Listen, contrary to popular assumption, not all women want to be married (check out “Single-Minded: So, What If You Like Dating But DON’T Desire Marriage?”) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, I have MAD RESPECT for people who know they don’t want marriage and/or children and then live their life accordingly as opposed to going against their better judgment and then bringing others into their regret (especially kids).
However, for those who do — please decide this year that it’s not about the ring, wedding, or even relational status. Men are not like “add water and stir.” Wait for the one who makes your life so much better as a result of being in it. And in the meantime, make sure that your world, as a single woman, is so unbelievable that he feels almost like he’s “wreckin’ your flow” to be there. Feel me? I really hope that you do.
Marriage is beautiful. I advocate for it on a daily basis. Yet it’s not a goal to reach; it’s a blessing to have. Live your life fully and let it add to you…when the time is right.
BONUS: Do You NEED “It”? Or Merely WANT “It”?
It’s the ultimate hack — learning the difference between what you need and what you want. I don’t mean from a needy space (“Are You In Love Or Are You In Need?”) because that typically speaks to inner voids that must be filled, oftentimes with the help of a life coach or therapist. No, what I mean is, look over the different areas of your life and really ponder what you NEED in 2024 vs. what you WANT in 2024, and then prioritize the needs before the wants. For instance, I NEED to get a retirement fund together, while I WANT to go…to a certain place for my milestone birthday. If the goal of the fund is set by June, cool. If not, it’ll have to wait.
Far too often, we romanticize out of our needs because of what we want — and it proves to ultimately be counterproductive whether it’s tied to a relationship, a job move, a money-related decision, or anything else. And so, you prepare to step into 2024 and put what’s essential over what you like.
At the end of the day, while it might feel like a sacrifice at first, usually prioritizing your needs frees you up to enjoy what you want — not immediately but when the time is better suitable.
It might not sound like “fun” yet it is mature. And it can put you on solid footing for 2024 and beyond.
And with ALL of this said (whew) — Happy (Almost) New Year, y’all!
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Featured image by Vladimir Vladimirov/Getty Images