The older I get, I realize most of us aren't exploring new things; life is just reintroducing us to who we really are, to begin with. I loved to swim growing up. When I was six, my family stayed in a hotel for two months while our home closed in escrow, so naturally, I stayed in the pool. I was always scared, so my dad would throw me in and tell me to trust him - and eventually, I did. After that, every year on my birthday I had a hotel party.
Swimming was my favorite hobby until societal norms and body image issues got in the way of something that I loved as a child, being free.
As a teen, I fixated more on my insecurities and less on happiness, so I stopped swimming (and having birthday parties altogether). I had a little confidence in high school, none in college, and by the time junior came, I had gained 100 lbs. But the summer before graduation, I decided I had enough, and I wanted to be happy. So I ended a toxic relationship, got a therapist, and a personal trainer. About a month into our workouts, he randomly asked me, "Have you ever thought about swimming? It's a great workout."
He was right; according to experts, swimming weekly builds endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness. It's a workout where nearly all of the muscles are used; and you also release the natural-feel good compound endorphins while swimming, which helps combat anxiety/depression. Still, I couldn't bring myself to tell him the thought of swimming at my campus gym made me uncomfortable. I thought people would make fun of me, so I never tried.
After graduation, I promised myself I'd join my local gym and start swimming again, but there was one thing in my way: my big Tracee Ellis Ross hair extensions.
I loved the show Girlfriends growing up, and I always wanted hair like Joan (I met Tracee after college, and I all I could manage to tell her mid-tears was you're the reason I have big hair!). Changing my hair post-break up made me feel like a new person, but every time I'd try and swim, it'd get matted, so I'd stop. I tried making a wig, but securing it was a struggle, and I got tired of feeling uncomfortable, so I took it out and rocked my curly 'fro.
After that, I fell in love with the water again. I don't even remember what day things shifted for me, but every time I got in, I came back out stronger. I owned every minute in the pool, confidently swimming in my lane no matter who swam better, or faster. My hairstylist warned me that chlorine would tear my hair up, but it grew instead.
Here are some things that I learned on my swim journey.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT use a swimming cap. Your edges will thank you later.
Losing the cap puts less pressure on your edges. Also, I've never met a swimming cap that didn't let chlorine creep in. Ditch it, and put your hair in a loose high bun or braids instead.
Wet your hair, then apply oil to your ends pre-swim.
Filling your hair with fresh water provides a barrier, so the chlorinated water doesn't penetrate it as fast. Adding oil to your ends as a sealant protects it even more (I use almond oil, it stimulates hair growth).
Speak kindness over your body.
I never wanted to swim because I was ashamed of how I looked. I thought my stretch marks were ugly, and I wanted to see results overnight. Taking the time to thank my body for stretching for me, instead of giving up, made me appreciate it in a way I never did before.
If your gym has a sauna, bring your deep conditioner and give yourself a treatment post-swim.
Adding this step to my regimen took swimming from being just another workout to a whole self-care experience. I even have a playlist, download Sauna Vibes on Apple Music, and thank me later.
Get OK with the possibility that your hairstyle might have to change.
I missed my extensions at first, but now I wear a curly top knot Monday-Friday and experiment with fun ponytails on the weekends, so there's balance. I don't regret taking them out because I learned to think about what I needed first and my hair second. Rocking my natural hair gave me the courage to embrace my hair, and my blackness no matter where I was. Most days, when I swam, I never saw anyone who looked like me, so it forced me to take up space and not just at the pool, but in every aspect of my life.
I've gone from swimming as a girl with my dad, to hating my body as a teen, and now I don't go more than three days without swimming. It's helped with weight loss too - I'm officially 60 lbs down, and I've become the friend who's consistently asked: "Can you teach me how to swim?" and I always say yes. It's hard to think about what my life would be like without swimming, and to think - I almost let anxiety keep me from my safest space.
Featured image via Gifer
Dubbed one of the "21 Black Women Wellness Influencers You Should Follow" by Black + Well, Yasmine Jameelah continues to leave her digital footprint across platforms ranging from Forever 21 Plus, Vaseline, and R29 Unbothered discussing all things healing and body positivity. As a journalist, her writing can be found on sites such as Blavity, Blacklove.com, and xoNecole. Jameelah is also known for her work shattering unconventional stigmas surrounding wellness through her various mediums, including her company Transparent Black Girl. Find Yasmine @YasmineJameelah across all platforms.
This article is in partnership with Sensodyne.
Our teeth are connected to so many things - our nutrition, our confidence, and our overall mood. We often take for granted how important healthy teeth are, until issues like tooth sensitivity or gum recession come to remind us. Like most things related to our bodies, prevention is the best medicine. Here are five things you can do immediately to improve your oral hygiene, prevent tooth sensitivity, and avoid dental issues down the road.
1) Go Easy On the Rough Brushing: Brushing your teeth is and always will be priority number one in the oral hygiene department. No surprises there! However, there is such a thing as applying too much pressure when brushing…and that can lead to problems over time. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and brush in smooth, circular motions. It may seem counterintuitive, but a gentle approach to brushing is the most effective way to clean those pearly whites without wearing away enamel and exposing sensitive areas of the teeth.
2) Use A Desensitizing Toothpaste: As everyone knows, mouth pain can be highly uncomfortable; but tooth sensitivity is a whole different beast. Hot weather favorites like ice cream and popsicles have the ability to trigger tooth sensitivity, which might make you want to stay away from icy foods altogether. But as always, prevention is the best medicine here. Switching to a toothpaste like Sensodyne’s Sensitivity & Gum toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth will help build a protective layer over sensitive areas of the tooth. Over time, those sharp sensations that occur with extremely cold foods will subside, and you’ll be back to treating yourself to your icy faves like this one!
3) Floss, Rinse, Brush. (And In That Order!): Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it”? Well, the same thing applies to taking care of your teeth. Even if you are flossing and brushing religiously, you could be missing out on some of the benefits simply because you aren’t doing so in the right order. Flossing is best to do before brushing because it removes food particles and plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach. After a proper flossing sesh, it is important to rinse out your mouth with water after. Finally, you can whip out your toothbrush and get to brushing. Though many of us commonly rinse with water after brushing to remove excess toothpaste, it may not be the best thing for our teeth. That’s because fluoride, the active ingredient in toothpaste that protects your enamel, works best when it gets to sit on the teeth and continue working its magic. Rinsing with water after brushing doesn’t let the toothpaste go to work like it really can. Changing up your order may take some getting used to, but over time, you’ll see the difference.
4) Stay Hydrated: Upping your water supply is a no-fail way to level up your health overall, and your teeth are no exception to this rule. Drinking water not only helps maintain a healthy pH balance in your mouth, but it also washes away residue and acids that can cause enamel erosion. It also helps you steer clear of dry mouth, which is a gateway to bad breath. And who needs that?
5) Show Your Gums Some Love: When it comes to improving your smile, you may be laser-focused on getting your teeth whiter, straighter, and overall healthier. Rightfully so, as these are all attributes of a megawatt smile; but you certainly don’t want to leave gum health out of the equation. If you neglect your gums, you’ll start to notice the effects of plaque buildup, which can irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Seeing blood while brushing and flossing is a tell-tale sign that your gums are suffering. You may also experience gum recession — a condition where the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, exposing more of your tooth. Brushing at least twice a day with a gum-protecting toothpaste like Sensodyne Sensitivity and Gum, coupled with regular dentist visits, will keep your gums shining as bright as those pearly whites.
There’s nothing quite as humbling as navigating adulthood with no instruction manual. Since the turn of the decade, it seems like everything in our society that could go wrong has, inevitably, gone wrong. From the global pandemic, our crippling student debt problem, the loneliness crisis, layoffs, global warming, recession, and not to mention figuring out what to eat for dinner every night. This constant state of uncertainty has many of us wondering, when are the grown-ups coming to fix all of this?
But the catch is, we are the new grown-ups.
As if it happened without our permission, we became the new adults. We are the members of society who are paying taxes, having children, getting married, and keeping our communities afloat, one iced latte at a time. Still, there’s something about doing all these grown-up duties that feel unnaturally grown-up. Enter the #teenagegirlinher20s.
If there’s one hashtag to give you the state of the next cohort of adults, it’s this one. Of the videos that have garnered over 3.9M views, you’ll find a collection of users who are overwhelmed by life’s pressing existential responsibilities, clung to nostalgia, and reminiscent of the days when their mom and dad took care of their insurance plans.
no like i cant explain to her why i had to buy multiple tank air dupes from aritzia #teenagegirlinher20s #fyp
The concept of being a 20-something or 30-something teenager is linked to the sentiment of not feeling “grown up enough” to do grown-up things while feeling underprepared and even nihilistic about whether that preparation even matters.
It’s our generation’s version of when we ask our grandmothers how old they are and they simply reply with, “I still feel 45,” all while being every bit of 76 years old. In this, we share a warped concept of time while clinging to a desire for infantilization.
Granted, the pandemic did a number on our concept of time. Many of us who started the pandemic in our early or mid-20s missed out on three fundamental years of socialization, career development, and personal milestones that traditionally help to mark our growth.
Our time to figure out and plan our next steps through fumbling yet active participation was put on pause indefinitely and then resumed provisionally. This in turn has left many of us hanging in the balance of uncertainty as we try to make sense of the disconnect between our minds and bodies in this missing gap of time.
Because we’re all still figuring out what the ramifications of being locked away and frozen in time by a global pandemic will have on us as a society, there really is no “right” way of making up for lost time. Feeling unprepared for any new chapter of life is a natural rite of passage, pandemic or not. However, it’s important to not stay stuck in the last age or period of life that made sense to us because self-growth is the truest evidence of personal progress.
So whether you’re leaning on your inner child, teenager, or 20-something for guidance as you fill the gap between your real age and pandemic age, know that it’s okay to grieve the person you thought you would be and the milestones you thought you’d hit before you ever knew what a pandemic was. If there’s anything that the pandemic taught us, it’s that we have the power to reimagine a better world and life for ourselves. And if we tap into our inner teenager as a compass, we can piece together our next chapter with a fresh outlook.
Sure, we’ve lost a couple of years, but there are still some really amazing ones ahead.
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Featured image by Stephen Zeigler/Getty Images