You've Got A Ton Of Dreams. So, Why Aren't They Manifesting?
It's interesting that, if you look up definitions for the word "dream", a lot of times you're going to see something in reference to the images that go through our mind when we're sleeping. It's really only when we take a look at some of the word's synonyms that topics like today really start to resonate. Synonyms like ideas, thoughts, notions, wishes, desires—these are all things that most of us are referring to when we talk about the dreams that we have in this life.
The irony is, while we usually want to make our "awake ideas" come to fruition, far too many of us literally sleep on them. That's really sad because dreams don't come to us for absolutely no reason. More times than not, dreams serve quite a profound purpose in our world. We've simply got to do what it takes to make them come true.
If you've got some dreams and you feel like you keep "hitting the wall" when it comes to trying to make them manifest, perhaps this article can connect a few dots for you. Life is short. Dreams are valid. It's important to do all that we can to make them manifest. Ready?
Can You Explain Each Dream in Two Sentences or Less?
When it comes to making your dreams come true, clarity is key. That's because, if you don't really know what your vision for your life is, how can you fully manifest it? That's why I'm such a big fan of encouraging people to sit down and figure out how to define each dream that they have—in no more than one or two sentences. For one thing, it can help them to get a greater understanding of what they desire to accomplish. Plus, when something is reduced to fewer words, it can feel a lot less overwhelming and so much more doable.
For instance, say that you've got a dream of being a writer. Cool. Now, what kind of writer? An entertainment writer? Someone who has a relationship blog? An author? And if an author, published or self-published? After knowing what you want to do, it can also help to jot do why you want to do it. Then you're able to start setting some realistic short and long-term goals. Make sense?
I definitely think that one of the main reasons why a lot of people are not able to make their dreams happen is because they keep referring to them in vague and abstract ways. The more you are able to clearly articulate your desires, the easier it will be to make them manifest for you.
How Realistic Are Your Dreams? (Now, Hear Me Out)
I've got a friend who says you can spend years working on areas where you are mediocre and do just OK or you can put that energy into your strengths and excel and thrive. That said, I come from a family of singers. Some pretty darn good ones too. For whatever the reason, I wasn't really encouraged and nurtured in that area and so, it sometimes catches people off guard whenever they hear me do it. Instead, most folks know me as a writer. And while I do think that I can hold a tune, I tend to think that singing is a talent for me while some of my relatives? For them, it's a gift.
What's the difference? To me, a gift is something that is almost supernatural. You were born with it. It comes pretty easily to you. You're able to blow other people's minds—and sometimes, even your own—with a particular ability. A talent is something that you're pretty good at, yet it will take a certain amount of effort to excel in that area. That's one example of what I mean by being realistic about your dreams. Are you trying to progress in a gift or a talent? If it's a talent, are you being realistic about how much time, effort and energy you're willing to put into it in order to make something happen?
Another angle on the realistic approach is the fact that being realistic is rooted in logic, facts, truth and common sense. Say that you've got a dream of becoming a chef with your own television show. Yet you only like to cook certain things. You've never taken any kind of cooking or media classes. Your bank account is close to zero. You have no equipment in your house. You hate to network. In fact, you have absolutely no idea what it takes to make that happen. You've just seen some folks on YouTube or TikTok and said, "I bet I can do that." It's kind of a play-on words yet the reality is that a lot of people's dreams don't manifest because they are more caught up in the fantasy of what could be rather than the factuality of things. While I do believe that nothing is impossible, let's be real—some things are more probable than others. When it comes to your dreams, what side of the fence do yours land?
How COMMITTED Are You to Your Dreams?
If there is one word that can separate a lot of people from success and failure, it's commitment. I oftentimes tell couples that I'm working with that if they constantly only focus on what makes them happy at any given time, they probably won't get much accomplished in life. Why do I say that? Happiness is a great emotion and experience. It's also temporary and doesn't really encourage much self-discipline. Going to work doesn't always make us happy; it pays the bills, though. Working out doesn't always make us happy; it's still good for our health. Letting go of a person, place, thing or idea that no longer serves us doesn't always make us happy; it's simply best for us in the long run.
Along these same lines, having a dream is one thing. Remaining committed—obligated via a pledge—to it is something entirely different. Commitment requires focus. Commitment requires maturity. Commitment requires putting your feelings aside, sometimes by overlooking how you feel in the now, so that you can do what needs to be done for the sake of your future. Commitment requires resilience. Most of all, commitment requires integrity.
One of the closest people to me has a billion-and-one good ideas. They stick with each one for about two weeks before moving on to something else. Sometimes it's because they allow themselves to get distracted. Other times, it's because they become impatient. Know what else? Sometimes it's because they claim they are no longer "happy" with the concept.
There are a lot of folks out here who will never see the fruition of some of their desires because they would rather be happy than committed when, more times than not, commitment, more than "happiness", is the key that unlocks a lot of doors. If you're not willing to stick "it" out, through the good and challenging times, you're gonna have a really hard time achieving success. Just ask any successful person. They'll vouch for this very point 1000 percent.
What Do You Do to Devote Yourself to Your Dreams? ON THE DAILY.
On the heels of what I just said, "devoted" is a word that I tend to hear less and less. Unfortunately. Sadly, folks are so fickle out here that they only really do what they feel like doing—and chile, that can change from day to day. When it comes to making your dreams happen, I don't care how much natural ability, resources and even favor you may have, if you're not self-disciplined enough to "plant some seeds" (and then nurture them) into your dreams on a daily basis, that can also hinder you from seeing anything really play out in the long run.
When it comes to putting daily time, effort and energy into your dreams, while what you do may look different from day to day, you still need to focus on them on the regular. One day, it may be putting a short-term goal together. Another day may be hitting up your mentor for some insight and encouragement. Another day might be actually doing something that will get you closer to your goal (writers write, designers design, artists make art). Another day might be all about networking and marketing. The point is, a true dream manifester is always thinking about how to get closer to what they want and then doing something—even if it's baby steps—to make it happen. No excuses. Ever.
Is Your Mental State in Alignment with Your Dreams?
Negative people. Moody people. Petty people. Envious people. Bitter people. These are some of the biggest obstacles when it comes to getting your dreams to where you want to go. Matter of fact, not too long ago, I read a tweet that said something along the lines of, "Your biggest haters are the people who used to be your friends." Lawd…LAWD.
I once read a pretty good medical-based article that said that negativity comes in all sorts of forms—cynicism; jumping to conclusions; blaming; catastrophizing (making mountains out of molehills); emotional reasoning (basically letting your feelings supersede common sense and logic); hostility, and filtering (only seeing things through a negative lens) were some of the things on the list. And gee, when you look at negativity from this perspective, it would definitely seem as if there are a lot more negative folks out here than positive ones. Since negativity can affect your immune system, hormonal balance, sleep patterns, emotional stability and ultimately, even your longevity, if you want to make your dreams happen for you, you've got to be super intentional about leaving negativity alone. Keep naysayers at bay. Protect your energy. Give yourself the kind of pep talks that will get you through each project and milestone.
There is a spiritual kind of warfare that happens when someone has a dream that can ultimately make the world better. You've got to keep this in mind so that you can stay as positive as possible in order to make your dream(s) come true.
Do Your Dreams Complement Your Purpose?
It seems like, at least once a month, someone will ask me how I got my book deals. Did I get a literary agent? Did I hunt down publishers? Did I have to turn in a couple of chapters of an idea before getting an offer? The answer to all of those questions is "no". Both publishing deals were offered to me and I think it's because, since they both aligned so much with what I am called to do, the universe made the deals happen for me. The books complemented my purpose which is helping people in the covenant principles of marriage, sex and the Sabbath.
Another example of where I'm going with this particular point is my godchildren's mother. Rissi Palmer once made history as a top-charting country music artist. Long story short, all hell broke loose in her life and she took a break. She got married. She had kids. Yet she still created music in the meantime. Something that I kept encouraging her to do was a podcast. She is such a walking library of country music that it only seemed right. Eventually, she started one. And then, almost immediately, dots began to connect. Someone heard it and connected her to Apple. And y'all, when I say that the rest is history—you can check out her CBS This Morning interview from this past March (right here) to get an idea of how life is going for her these days. How did all of this happen? Her dreams of reviving her platform complemented her purpose which is not only singing but opening doors of other female country artists of color.
If you read enough of my content for this platform, you'll notice that "complement" is a big word to me. When something (or one) complements you, it completes or helps to perfect things in your life. When it comes to your dreams complementing your purpose, an article on Mind Body Green's site that I definitely recommend that you make the time to check out is "10 Signs You've Found Your Calling". It shares points like mystical things will happen, when you get off course, you'll get redirected and your health will start to improve. Why? Because when your dreams complement your purpose, your dreams help to perfect said purpose and, since your purpose is the reason for why you exist in the first place, how could you not become more complete by everything coming/working together? Right?
Have You Factored Timing in?
Another friend of mine is a master of timing. You can try and compel them to do something and oftentimes they will be like, "Yeah. Not now." When you ask them why, they don't really have a solid reason other than it doesn't feel right to move at that particular time. And yet, whether it's weeks, months or sometimes, even a couple of years later, the universe will align things in their world in such a way that, not only do they get what they want, they end up with more than what they ever wanted.
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says that everything has a season, time and a purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). One of the things that I like so much about that is all of those words work together. The right things happen in the right season, at the right time, and for the right purpose. Otherwise, it's not the best thing. That said, on a spiritual plane, whenever I think of timing, I think of a quote that states, "Be careful about rushing God's timing. You never know who or what he is protecting or saving you from." (LISTEN) Then, in a broader sense, another quote on timing that I appreciate is, "Timing is everything. When you're really ready for it, it will come."
Whew. That last one speaks to ego. Some of us get frustrated when our dreams don't happen when we think they should yet many times, God knows that we're not as ready as we think we are for them to manifest. We might not be strong enough. We might not be mature enough. We might not be responsible enough. YET.
While there are many things that we can control in this world, for the most part, one that we honestly can't is timing. So, if while reading this, you honestly believe that you've done all that you can do (have you?), perhaps you need to chill and just trust timing to do its thing. Because when things happen at the right time…it really is for your best in the long run.
Are You Absolutely in Love with Your Dreams?
A couple of years ago, something I wrote for the site was entitled, "Like, Love & In Love: How To Really Know The Difference". When it came to the "in love" part, something that I touched on is it's pretty close to impossible to be "in love" unless the person you love is "in it" along with you. That's because "in" means to be in a place, position, or type of relationship and "with" means to be accompanied by.
I know this is about to be some red pill thinking but…while you're out here thinking that you're in love with your dreams, have you ever pondered if your dreams are actually in love with you too? If they are lining up with your feelings and beliefs, so that you two can walk this thing about together? If that sounds like a crazy question, look at it this way—true love removes obstacles like pride, ego and arrogance. That said, let's not act like there aren't a ton of people out here whose dreams are rooted exactly in those things. And because of that, they aren't really in love with their dreams—they're in lust with the idea of what their dreams can do to further feed into their pride, ego and arrogance.
Dreams? More times than not, they are pure. They are precious. They are designed to bring out the best in us. If some of your dreams sense that you've got some cryptic or shady agendas…well, they may not love you as much as you "love" them. And so, they—and the universe—will actually do things to hinder your progress until some honesty, humility and gratitude—instead of that doggone sense of entitlement that so many folks tend to have—come into play. This is a good thing because the last thing that any of us need is for our dreams to become our worst nightmares.
While these eight points cannot guarantee that your dreams will become a reality, what I can assure you is the clarity these things are able to provide will get you closer than you've ever been—or position into a better spot. In the meantime, no matter what your thoughts, ideas or desires may be, don't doubt them. If they are meant to be and you're willing to put in the good work, they will manifest. In due time. The universe totally has your back on that.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Unapologetically, Chlöe: The R&B Star On Finding Love, Self-Acceptance & Boldly Using Her Voice
On set inside of a mid-city Los Angeles studio, it’s all eyes on Chlöe. She slightly shifts her body against a dark backdrop amidst camera clicks and whirs, giving a seductive pout here, and piercing eye contact there. Her chocolate locs are adorned with a few jewels that she requested to spice up the look, and on her shoulders rests a jeweled piece that she asked to be turned around to better showcase her neck (“I feel a bit old,” she said of the original direction). Her shapely figure is tucked into a strapless bodysuit with a deep v-neck that complements her décolletage.
Though subtle, her quiet wardrobe directives give the air of a woman who’s been here before, and certainly knows what she’s doing. At 24 years young, she’s a “Bossy” chick in training— one who’s politely unapologetic and learning the power of her own voice.
“I'm hesitant sometimes to truly speak my mind and speak up for myself and what I believe,” she later confessed to me a couple of weeks after the photoshoot. “It's always scary for me, but now I'm realizing that I have to, in order to gain respect as a Black woman— a young Black woman— who's still navigating who she is. And you know, I'm realizing that closed mouths don't get fed. And if I keep my mouth shut just because I'm afraid of what people's opinions of me will be or turn into, then that's not any way to live.”
For Chlöe, the journey into womanhood is about embracing who she is, without succumbing to the perceptions of what others think of her. From the waist up she’s everything you’d imagine. A gorgeous goddess with the kind of sex appeal that some work hard to embrace but fail to exude. But unbeknownst to anyone not on set, her bottom half is covered by a white robe, surprising coming from the girl who boasts “'Cause my booty so big, Lord, have mercy” on her first hit single “Have Mercy.”
But that’s the beauty of Chlöe. There’s more to her than meets the eye. More than what a few sensual photos sprinkled throughout an Instagram feed could ever tell you. Just like the photo-framing illusion of her portrayed from the waist up, what we know about the songstress is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more beneath the surface.
Some hours later Chlöe leans back in a high chair as her locs are transformed from a formal updo to a seemingly Basquiat-inspired one. It’s pure art, and at her request, no wigs are a part of the day’s ensemble. She’s fully embracing her natural hair, a decision that wasn’t always a socially accepted one.
In the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, (Mableton, to be exact) Chlöe began to explore the foundation of her self-image. At an early age she and her younger sister, Halle, demonstrated a vocal prowess and knack for being in front of the camera that caught their parents’ attention. Soon after, they were sent on a parade of local talent shows and auditions, and eventually broke into the digital space with song covers on YouTube.
It was during these early years that Chlöe first learned that the entertainment industry could be unforgiving to those who didn’t fit a particular beauty standard. Despite the then three-year-old snagging a role as the younger version of Beyoncé’s character, Lilly, in Fighting Temptations, casting agents requested that her natural locs be exchanged for more Eurocentric tresses. Ironic, considering that growing up Chlöe saw her hair as no different than that of her peers. “I remember specifically in pre-K we had to do self-portraits and I drew myself with a regular straight ponytail, like how I would put my locs in a ponytail,” she says. “I just never saw myself any different.”
Chlöe would also learn the true meaning of a phrase that would later become an affirmation posted on her bedroom mirror: “Don’t Let the World Dim Your Light.” After attempting to wear wigs to fit in, the Bailey sisters instead chose to rock their locs with pride, which undoubtedly cost them casting roles. Yet they would have the last laugh when making headlines as the “Teen Dreadlocked Duo” who landed a million-dollar contract with Parkwood Entertainment, and the coveted opportunity to be groomed under the tutelage of a world-renowned superstar.
Credit: Derek Blanks
While that could be the end of a beautiful fairytale of self-empowerment, the reality is that it’s just the beginning of the story of her evolution. For most girls, the transition into womanhood takes place in the comfort of their own worlds, often limited to the number of people they allow to have access to them. But for Chlöe, it’s happening in front of millions of critiquing eyes just waiting for an opportunity to either uplift or dissect her through unwarranted commentary.
Many in her position wouldn’t be able to take that kind of pressure. But Chlöe is handling it with grace. “I feel like all of us as humans, we have the right to interpret things how we want,” she says. “I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
Chlöe isn’t the first artist to receive criticism for her carnal content, and she certainly won’t be the last. In 2010, Ciara writhed and rode her way to banishment on BET when the then 24-year-old released her video for “Ride.” In 2006, 25-year-old Beyoncé received backlash for “Déjà Vu."
"I put art out into the world and it's up for interpretation. I'm learning that not everyone is going to always like me and that it's okay.”
So much so that over 5,000 fans signed an online petition demanding that her label re-shoot the video because it was “too sexual.” Even 27-year-old Janet didn’t escape critical headlines when she shed her image of innocence for a more risqué appearance with the 1993 release of janet.
It’s almost as if public reproach is a rite of passage for young Black women R&B singers on the road to stardom. Good girls seemingly “go bad” whenever they embrace the depths of their femininity, and fans only like you on top figuratively. But Chlöe has learned not to bow down to other people’s opinions, but to boss up and control the narrative. As the saying goes, well-behaved women seldom make history. If sex appeal is her weapon, she wields it well.
On set, Chlöe exudes the energy of Aphrodite in an apple red, off-shoulder dress with a sexy high split. In between shots, she mouths the lyrics to Yebba’s “Boomerang” as it echoes throughout the space in steady repetition at my recommendation. The hour grows late, yet Chlöe is heating things up as eyes stare in deep mesmerization of the girl on fire.
Credit: Derek Blanks
Through music, she explores the depths of her being, a journey that seems to be, at its foundation, rooted in self-discovery. Whereas their debut album The Kids Are Alright (2018) boasts a young Chloe x Halle empowering their generation to embrace who they are while finding their place in the world, their second album Ungodly Hour (2020) shows the Bailey sisters shedding the veil of innocence for a more unapologetic bravado.
What fans looked forward to seeing is who Chlöe shows herself to be on her debut solo album In Pieces. In an interview with PEOPLE, she confesses that releasing her first project without her sister was “scary.” "It was a moment of self-doubt where I was like, 'Can I do this without my sister?’”
Chlöe has never been shy about sharing her insecurities or her vulnerabilities, all of which are laced throughout the 14-track album. “I want people to have fun when they listen to it and to just realize that they're not alone and it's okay to be vulnerable and raw and open because none of us are perfect; we're all far from it. And I think it's healing when we all admit to that instead of putting up a facade.”
The gift of time has given the self-professed “big lover girl” more encounters with romance and heartbreak. Love songs once sung for their beautiful riffs and melodies become more than just abstract lyrics and are replaced by real-life experiences, which she tells me is definitely in the music.
In her single “Pray It Away,” for example, she contemplates going to God for healing instead of going at her ex-lover for revenge for his infidelities. “With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable,” she says. “I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
Has Chlöe been in love? That still remains to be said. Of course, she’s been linked to a few potential baes, but dating in the digital age isn’t as easy as a double tap or drop of a heart-eyes emoji. It requires a level of trust and vulnerability that’s hard to earn, and easy to mishandle. To let her guard down means to potentially set herself up for disappointment. “It’s difficult dating right now, honestly, because you really have to kind of keep your guard up and pay attention to who's really there for you. And you know, I'm such an affectionate person and I love hard.
"So when I meet the one person that I really, really am into, it's hard for me to see any others and I get attached pretty easily. And you know, I don't know, it's…it's a scary thing.”
Credit: Derek Blanks
“With anything dealing with art, I am completely vulnerable. I'm completely myself, I'm completely open and transparent. So it's pretty much all of me and who I am right now.”
While broken hearts yield good music (queue Adele), what’s in Chlöe’s prayer is the desire to be happy. What does that look like? Well, she’s still figuring that out herself. “Honestly, I'm the type of person who I don't truly learn unless I experience it. So it's like I can view and watch my parents and watch the loving relationships that I see in my life and be like, ‘Oh, I want that. I would love to have that.’ But then I also have to experience [love] on my own and see what my flaws or my faults might be or see what my good things about myself are. I feel like it's really all about self-reflection. And even though our base is our family and that's our foundation, we are still our own individuals and we have to find out specifically the things about ourselves that may be different from what we saw from our parents when we were growing up.”
Her ideal beau, she tells me, is someone she can feel safe to be her fun, goofy self with, but who also gives her the space to be the boss chick chasing her dreams. A man who understands that just because the world compliments her doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to hear those words from his lips or feel it in his touch. A bonus if he shows up on set after a long hard day of work with vegan cinnamon rolls. You know, the basic necessities. “I like whoever I'm with to constantly tell me they love me and that I look beautiful because I do the same. I am a very mushy person, and if I see something or you look good, I will never shy away from saying it out loud. And I want whoever I'm with to do the same, be very vocal. Tell me that you love me. Tell me what you love about me because I'm doing the same for you because that's just the person I am.”
Until she meets her match she’s married to the game, and for now, that seems to be perfect matrimony.
Credit: Derek Blanks
On stage at the 2021 American Music Awards, Chlöe solidified her position as a force to be reckoned with. It was a full-circle moment. In 2012, bright-eyed and baby-faced Chloe and Halle would walk onto the set of The Ellen Degeneres Show and blow the audience away as they bellowed out their future mentor’s song. Ellen would present the sisters with tickets to attend the AMAs, assuring them that they would be back and had a promising future. Nine years later, Chlöe descends from the sky cloaked in a snow-white cape and matching midriff-baring bodysuit for her debut performance. It’s the first time she’s graced the stage of the very award show that she was once an audience member of.
As she shakes and shimmies and boom kack kacks out her eight counts, it’s clear that she’s in her element. Just like her VMA performance a couple of months prior, and the many more stages she’ll continue to grace, she brings an energy that has earned her comparisons to the beloved Queen Bey herself. An honorable statement, considering few R&B songstresses are getting accolades for their entertainment capabilities. It’s on these very stages, in front of hundreds of astonished eyes and millions more glued to their televisions at home, that she tells me she feels most sexy. Powerful, even.
But off stage, it’s a different story.
It’s more than just the commentary about her image and media-flamed rumors that get to her. Mentally, she’s in competition with herself. The desire to be the best burns at the back of her mind with every performance, every production, and every time she steps into the booth. Before, she could share the weight of this burden with her sister. Being a part of a duo meant she could turn to Halle for quiet confirmation and encouragement without a word being exchanged. But lately stepping on the stage means stepping out on her own. And despite being a breathtaking, five-time Grammy-nominated star, Chlöe doesn’t escape the reality that sometimes we can be our own worst critics.
Over the last year, she’s been coming to terms with who she is on her own while overcoming the fear of failing to become who she’s destined to be. While the world waits to see how Chlöe wins, the real triumph is in every day that she chooses herself and continues to walk in her purpose. “I don't really have anything all figured out, honestly. But what I try to do, a lot of prayer. I talk to God more and I just try to do things that calm my mind down and just breathe.”
To whom much is given, much will be required. She’s been chosen to walk this path for a reason. Once she fully embraces that everything she’s meant to be is already inside of her, she’ll be an unstoppable force. “My grandma, Elizabeth, she just passed away and my middle name is her [first] name. So I feel like I truly have a responsibility to live up to her legacy that she's left on this earth. I hope I can do that.”
There’s no doubt that she will. With a role in The Fighting Temptations at three years old, a million-dollar record deal, a main role on five seasons of Grown-ish, five Grammy nominations, a number one solo record in Urban and Rhythmic Radio, a debut solo album, and starring roles in recently released movies Praise Thisand Swarm (just to name a few), Chlöe’s certainly already made her mark, and she’s just getting started.
Photographer & Creative Director: Derek Blanks
Executive Producer: Necole Kane
Co-Executive Producer: EJ Jamele
Producer: Erica Turnbull
Digitech: Chris Keller
DP: Alex Nikishin
Gaffer: Simeon Mihaylov
Photo Assistant: Chris Paschal
2nd Photo Assistant: Tyler Umprey
Features Editor: Kiah McBride
Special Projects: Tyeal Howell
Hair: Malcolm Marquez
Makeup: Yolonda Frederick
Fashion Styling: Ashley Sean Thomas
For More: Cover Story: Issa Rae Comes Full Circle
How A Solo Trip To Antigua Helped Me Heal From My Breakup
Travel can hold a plethora of purposes, such as business, relaxation, and celebration, so when I booked a solo trip to Antigua earlier this year, I never imagined that my attempt to escape the NYC cold would end up being a journey of healing and finding myself again.
As someone who visited seven countries and 11 cities last year, travel has always been such an important aspect of who I am. And while I enjoy weekend trips with my girls or being laid up on a baecation, solo trips are more my speed. After taking my first solo trip seven years ago, I’ve realized how freeing it can be to explore a new city or country on my own and how much more I learn about myself during these adventures.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money or the ability to travel the world, so as an adult, I enjoy the freedom and resources to just book a flight and go. I never thought this would be something that would change or I’d have to sacrifice until I did.
A Break From Solo Travel
If you told me a couple of years ago that I would go two whole years without a real solo trip, I would've laughed. Solo travel was a form of self-care, a way that I could reset and rejuvenate. It was the one thing I felt I had control over, the one thing I had to myself. But then I started dating and became serious with someone who expressed discomfort with the idea of me taking solo trips. I remember a few months into dating, I was headed to Aruba on a much-needed solo trip, and he expressed how uncomfortable he was with this.
A part of it seemed to stem from genuine concern, which most of us solo travelers are used to. But I assured him that I was probably less safe living in the Bronx every day than I was going to Aruba. The other side of it seemed to be from a space of thinking that if I was with someone, I should be traveling with my partner and shouldn't need to take solo trips. At first, I was annoyed and offended. Anyone who is dating me, THEE Queen of Travel, will have to be okay with my travel adventures. I thought it was unreasonable and that he just did not get it.
But as our relationship became more serious and more in-depth conversations arose related to his feelings about this, I realized I would have to make a sacrifice for the relationship.
His comments about how the girlfriends of his boys never traveled alone and only traveled with their men made me question if maybe I did need to reconsider this aspect of my life as I entered a relationship. Was I being selfish and not understanding his feelings? Should I be less focused on solo trips and more focused on building our future and making memories together?
I compromised my love for spontaneous solo trips for the comfort of my partner and for the promise that those solo trips would be replaced by baecations, which I was all for. I wasn't happy about it, but I made the decision that I thought would work.
But not all instances of sacrifice have happy endings.
Reclaiming My Time
Fast forward two years, and 0 solo trips later, my relationship is ending. There's no sob story or terrible incident, I just truly realized that I was no longer fully happy, and this was not the relationship that I could see myself in 5-10 years down the line. While traveling was not the reason for the split, it definitely played some part in my decision. Throughout our time together, I skipped solo trips altogether and filled my time with girls' trips, two baecations, and visiting friends in other cities.
I thought that my time would be filled with more couple trips and vacations together that would keep me too busy to think about solo travel, but that wasn't the reality. And then there were always little comments about how much I traveled, especially if it wasn't with him, which left me feeling defensive or guilty just for taking a girls' trip with my best friends.
In the grand scheme of things, I need a partner who is 100% comfortable and secure with me traveling with friends or alone, even if I choose not to.
So here I am, single again. But I knew exactly what I needed. I had a week off of work in February and would need to leave cold NYC behind, so I did what I do best and booked a flight to Antigua, a destination I have been eyeing forever. I was excited to finally be alone with myself, on a beautiful island, with a mojito in hand and nothing to worry about.
I opted for The Royalton Antigua, an all-inclusive, as opposed to my usual Airbnb, because I truly wanted to unwind and not have to do much thinking and planning. This would give me the freedom to really enjoy my vacation on my own schedule and timing and have everything I needed at my fingertips.
I literally had butterflies while booking my accommodations. That is how much I needed this.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
From the moment I stepped off the plane, I felt a sense of comfort that I had not felt in so long. Every single day that I spent at that resort, soaking up the sun, and all that Antigua has to offer, I began to feel lighter. Antigua is such a beautiful island and the people were so friendly and welcoming, so I immediately felt at peace.
Though my breakup was my choice and the right choice, I was still carrying around some sadness and heartache. But as the days went by, I spent time sitting on my balcony, journaling and reflecting on my life over the last two years, as well as what I would like it to look like in the next two.
I allowed myself to cry, to breathe, to forgive myself, and to heal. I woke up when I felt like it, ate when and where I wanted, and allowed myself the comfort of just being free.
I knew that I needed this trip, but the type of spiritual and emotional relief that I experienced was unexpected.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
I realized that giving up solo trips seemed like a small thing to me at that time, but in reality, I was giving up a part of my independence and a part of my own needs. And in the two years I spent without solo trips, nothing else was put into my life to replace that feeling. And so a part of me, the fun and carefree girl, disappeared along with it. During my trip, I spent time on the beach just enjoying the scenery and my solitude.
I did morning workouts on vacation, which is not my thing, but getting a sweat in while overlooking the ocean hits different than any gym. At the pool bars, the staff at the Royalton treated me so kindly and always made sure ya girl always had everything she needed. One thing about being beautiful on vacation, you will be taken care of. I even ventured off the resort to see more of the island and immerse myself in Antiguan culture.
And in the midst of this solo trip, I made friends with three Black women who were celebrating a birthday, and I ended up hanging out with them and partying into the night. It made me realize all the reasons that I love solo travel. The ability to be at peace and enjoy reflective time with myself, but also the ability to make friends and have a damn good time. Not to mention, while partying, I met a fine, tall, handsome man from the U.S. who was also vacationing, but that’s a story for another time...
The point here is that by the time I was headed to the airport five days later, I felt so overwhelmed with emotion. Not because I was sad, or even happy for that matter, but because for the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
Courtesy of Robin D. Thomas
There's a quote that I've always loved that says, "Travel not to find yourself, but to remember who you've been all along." There are so many reasons why I feel that travel is not only an important part of life but a necessary one, and discovering more about who you are as a person is one of those reasons.
I didn't "find" myself on that trip, I already knew who I was. Rather, I awakened a part of me that I had allowed to be dormant for far too long.
Antigua reminded me of how much I love stepping off the plane in a new place and knowing that when I step foot back into the airport again to go home, I won't be the same person I was in that moment. I don't have any regrets about the decision I made, but I know that going forward, I'll be more intentional about compromising parts of me that I love so much.
I hope this inspires someone to reawaken that side of you that you've pushed to the back burner and let fizzle because that version of you cannot wait to shine again.
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Featured image courtesy of Robin D. Thomas