As I write this, the MARTA whooshes by my bedroom, so close that if I leaned over my balcony, I'm sure that I could touch it.
Cars slosh through the rain, the sound echoing loudly against my window, and the steady rumble of cargo containers being stacked on top of one another in the adjacent train yard have become a soundtrack of sorts, playing a harsh melody outside my window all hours into the night.
A year ago, I would've complained.
I would've found a way to move out abruptly in hopes of finding a bit more peace and quiet — I would've desperately sought comfort. But today, I'm just thankful to be able to afford a place of my own to live. Today, I'm reminded just how blessed I am to be able to say that.
But you didn't come here to hear about my apartment. You came here to hear my rags to riches story, though I'd say the riches are in the knowledge that I've gained, not in the paychecks that I've acquired. Perhaps, like me, you were once unemployed and desperately seeking respite from your daily struggle, and have lived to tell the tale. Maybe you just started on that journey, maybe you're still on it, and there's a deep feeling of loneliness as you fight through your situation quietly in hopes that nobody knows just how real life has gotten for you.
To you, I say, there would be no testimony if there wasn't a test.
And while our level of struggle and sacrifice may differ, the commonality is that it's a mental, emotional, and spiritual battle that will challenge every part of your being. But if you get your mind right, it will transform you in a way that you would never imagine.
Why I Left LA
I've previously talked about my move to Los Angeles, so I'll hit the fast forward button and press pause where I was just five months ago — curled up on my bed in a rented room in Granada Hills. I shared a house with six other men and women, majority of which were 20-30 years my senior. At $600, it was the cheapest thing I could find.
Ironically, December 2017 was the month that I made the most money since my move to LA, but only because I picked up as many catering shifts as possible. I traded in Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve with my family just to earn double my normal pay rate.
The reality of the situation hit me hard when I realized that I wasn't serving wealthy
people because I wanted the extra money, I was doing it because although that
month was a feast, I knew famine was just around the corner.
Despite having multiple clients ranging from corporate contracts to individual projects, my freelance gigs were unreliable — I often went weeks without being paid on time, which resulted in deep anxiety whenever another bill notification hit my inbox. I was juggling five catering companies, freelance gigs, dog sitting, and background acting in hopes that if one failed, the other would cover me. Meanwhile, I was applying for full-time jobs, but as far as I know, my résumé never made it past the inbox and into a recruiter's hands.
This situation had gone on for months, and I did my best to keep my head up and a smile on my face — not because I was being fake, but because I knew that there were people in worst situations; I didn't feel I even had a right to complain. I couldn't blame my situation on anybody but myself, poor decisions that I'd made, and the miscalculated risks that I decided to take.
But that day I had finally reached a point where I was tired of being strong. I finally stopped fighting back the tears and allowed myself to cry.
In all honesty, it wasn't the circumstances that was the final blow, it was the realization that I wasn't even doing work that I was passionate about. My dreams had been pushed aside while trying to survive, and with the exception of one or two projects, I was taking on work just to earn a paycheck.
The death of a dream is worse than the struggle to achieve it.
I constantly ran into and worked with people who moved to the city with a dream in their heart and light in their eyes just for it to become extinguished once they stepped on the hamster wheel. LA was La La Land. Despite what Instagram showed, people were surviving, not living, and I could see myself slowly following in their footsteps as I gasped for air in attempt to stay afloat.
I knew I wasn't going to drown, but I also didn't see sense in swimming against the current when there was a better path to take. After speaking with a couple of friends, I knew what I had to do. But it required me to swallow my pride, to be willing to look as if I'd given up, pack my bags, and return back to the east coast to get my shit together.
With little hesitation, I sold everything that didn't fit in my car to help cover my relocation costs, and journeyed back home.
Back To Atlanta
I hit the road in January. Before I left, I had a plan to move to Atlanta and hit the ground running with my job search. However, my housing situation fell through a week prior when someone backed out on renting me a room. I arrived in Atlanta just a couple hours into my birthday, but I wasn't there to stay. I didn't have the money to lease an apartment, and this time I refused to move without a job, so instead I drove to North Carolina to live with my grandparents in Hertford — a small town outside of Elizabeth City.
I arrived with just a couple hundred dollars to my name.
I was still freelancing, but payments weren't coming in on time. Bills were getting paid late, and late fees were being tacked on. I wasn't paying rent, but I was (and still am) five-figures in debt, and just to pay the bare minimum, I needed at least a rack coming in every month, but with the exception of the clothes I was selling on Poshmark, I was bringing in zero.
I had already been applying for jobs since December, but I kept getting rejection emails. I shrugged it off because I've had to hustle before. I was used to putting in a ton of applications before getting a positive response. What I wasn't used to was not getting any positive responses. For two months, to be exact.
I continued to apply for jobs. Any job. I signed up for temp agencies. I put in applications at Planet Fitness, Applebees, wherever. Minimum wage in North Carolina is only $7.25, certainly not enough to cover bills even working full-time, but I was desperate. Yet nobody was hiring, and because I wasn't in Atlanta, it was hard for me to even be considered for jobs with temp agencies. I kept getting rejection emails, despite my résumé being pretty stacked.
If there was any little bit of ego left in me, it died every time I pressed the send button.
By this point, I was stressed as hell. I wasn't sleeping well, partly due to waking up in the middle of the night with large, unexplainable bites covering my body. Even at home, I wasn't comfortable. I was trying to keep my head up, but it was a struggle, and there were days when I didn't even want to get out of bed. I would watch everybody live their best life on the 'gram, and eventually decided to remove social media off my phone so that I could focus on my own life and not on people's false realities.
One day, after deep reflection, instead of moping about, I went into prayer, praise, and worship.
I chose to find positivity in my situation and thanked God for things not being worse.
I let Him know that I trusted Him, and that despite the circumstances, I knew he'd never leave me nor forsake me. I needed to depend on Him and not on the world.
I put work behind my faith and revamped my résumé and cover letter three times until they were fleeky. I only applied for jobs in Atlanta that I really wanted — I didn't want to repeat the past by taking jobs just for a paycheck, only to end up in a toxic work environment.
My situation hadn't changed, but my mindset did.
I no longer questioned my worth with every rejection, for my value didn't lie in my degree or my experiences. The no's weren't daggers of defeat, but confirmation that there was a greater victory on the other side of my persistence.
By the end of February, I received an email that I'd been selected for an interview with my current employer. Ironically, I had applied for a different position with them back in December and got rejected. So this was definitely starting to feel like a God thing. I interviewed, got moved to the next round, but it took three more weeks before I would get the final in-person interview. I drove eight hours to Atlanta on a Friday and came back to North Carolina the next day with nothing more than a prayer on my lips — not that I would simply get the job, but that I only got it if it aligned with my purpose and His plan for me.
I did have one job offer waiting back home — Applebees. I was scheduled to start training as a server the following week, but they were patient as I had already told them I was in final rounds for another job. I had reached a place where I was thankful that I just had potential income.
If I didn't get my current job, I would've been at peace knowing that God knew what was best for me.
On March 13, I got the call saying that I not only got the job, but they were offering me way more than I expected to make, plus fully covered benefits. As someone who went without benefits on and off for over two years, I was scared to even sneeze in fear I'd have to pay hundreds of dollars to see a doctor. Now I would no longer have to stress about affording one.
I said I would never go back to a 9 to 5, but I'm beyond blessed to be employed at a company that not only aligns with my goals, but values work-life balance. I can now work on the writing I really want to do without stressing over my next paycheck, and when it's time for me to go, this time I will be prepared for the move.
I'm still in recovery mode — I have a lot of debt to clean up — but the experience showed me who I really was and molded me into who I needed to be. I've been broken and sifted, many negative thought patterns and mindsets were left behind, and what remains are the very characteristics necessary to move on to the next leg of my journey.
The experience showed me who I really was and molded me into who I needed to be.
As I've said, the riches of my testimony aren't in my paycheck, but in who I became when I didn't have one. There were many things that I took for granted, and when those things were taken from me, there were many nights I cried out because I no longer had it. Now I find gratitude in the grittiness of it all.
The dream doesn't have to die; but sometimes it needs to be re-strategized. It's attainable, but it's also a test of how bad you really want it. What are you willing to give up now in order to have better later? What habits and mindsets do you need to break before you can truly walk in your purpose? For me, it was a lot of shedding of things that I never recognized as being a privilege to have, and accepting that at the end of the day, I made a choice so there was no room for excuses or complaints.
This walk isn't for the faint of heart, but in the end, it will leave your heart full.
Keep your head up, your mind right, your lips positive, and your pride absent.
*Originally published on Write On Kiah
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
I didn’t think much could get better about the blissful high that comes with oral. That was until I came across the Kivin Method.
As someone who was never a huge fan of oral sex and could largely take it or leave it, I must admit that I have started to come around in recent years. With my head thrown back, hands gripping sheets and hair, and toes curling from the intense sensations of the work my partner is putting in at my center, I now give myself over to the pleasurable act wholly and unapologetically.
When I came across a way to maximize the pleasure I receive from cunnilingus (already), I had no choice but to tap in. Who knew the key to taking oral sex to new heights was giving it a sideways twist? For those of you who might also be interested in ways to spice up the way you do oral, experience faster and stronger orgasms, or simply want to indulge in something new with your partner, the Kivin Method could definitely be the oral sex technique for you, too.
Keep reading to learn about the method that is sure to have you writhing in ecstasy in no time at all.
What Is The Kivin Method?
For the uninitiated, the Kivin Method is an oral sex technique that focuses on stimulating the clitoris from a different angle. Dubbed “sideways oral” by some, this method involves the action of giving head from a side-to-side movement as opposed to the up-and-down motion that people typically perform when giving head. (If you need a visual, this illustration is helpful.)
The difference in approach as you’re receiving head can be a game-changer in how you receive pleasure. Not only does the giving partner have access to the clitoris, but they can also access more easily the vulva and the labia, which are objectively a bigger focus in this version of cunnilingus. More access means wider coverage, and that, plus the new sensation of oral from a different angle, can heighten the way you experience oral sex that much more.
Where more pleasure flows, intense orgasms are sure to follow.
How To Do The Kivin Method
If you want to know how to do the Kivin Method, it’s actually pretty straightforward. The receiver lays on their back while the giver positions themselves perpendicular to the receiver. Their head will be facing the vulva, but instead of vertical, their face will be horizontal to the vulva.
From there, the giver can get to business, ensuring that they keep their head perpendicular to the receiver’s vulva while working on their craft. Because this technique can be more intense for some receivers, start slowly by stroking the vulva and clitoris sideways with the tongue, and allow sensations and communication from the receiver to be a guide of what you need more or less of with the Kivin Method.
Ultimately, the Kivin Method allows experimentation and unlocking what pressure, rhythm, and tricks work best for the giver and the receiver. Try implementing a finger or two, or adding a sex toy to the mix to intensify the act even further.
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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images