Thursday, March 31, 2016

32 Lessons

In honor of celebrating 32 years of life on this earth this month, I wanted to put together a list of 32 life lessons I've experienced. It's always nice to reflect on all the amazing things life has taught you, whether good or bad. Enjoy!

  1. A lot of misunderstanding, hurt, or sadness we feel can often be changed by perspective. Once I readjusted my perspective on things, I became a happier person.
  2. Love yourself more than anyone else. You will be able to love others better. 
  3. Distance yourself from those who interrupt your peace. Seriously, stop responding. If you must speak to them, do it sparingly. That includes friends & family. 
  4. Anxiety is a form of not having faith in God. Strengthen your faith and everything else will fall into place. 
  5. Try to find the good in everyone regardless if you can't stand them. 
  6. Understand that negative comments from others have absolutely nothing to do with you therefore NEVER take it personal.
  7. Choose your life. Don't let settle for what you can get.
  8. Eat healthy. Your body will thank you for it and you will feel better. 
  9. Exercise like your life depends on it. Because it actually does. It also helps your mood.
  10. Only offer your advice/opinion when someone asks you for it. Let people be.
  11. Stay open minded. To everything. Food. People. Ideas. Places. Perspectives. Things. It encourages growth.
  12. Read books. Good books. Books for entertainment, self help books, etc. There's a certain type of satisfaction I get when I complete a book that I enjoyed and/or learned from.
  13. Keeping it real with someone is the greatest gift you can give them.
  14. Only God alone can kill me. Like forreal. 
  15. Strive to build and maintain relationships with people you can learn from. Its one of the best investments you can make for yourself. 
  16. Recognize fuck boy shit EARLY and dead it. Seriously, do not entertain the foolery.
  17. What's for you will only be for you and nothing can change that. Understand that if it's not for you, that's okay.
  18. Men are simple as fuck. Just accept it. The quicker you accept it, the easier it is for you to get along with them. Embrace their simpleness.
  19. Learning new skills will only help you. Whether it's crocheting or deep throating. Learn something new. 
  20. People will throw sooooooooooooo much shade. Friends. Enemies. Family. Etc. Let them. 
  21. Folks who just entered your life will often care more about you and know you better than those you've known forever. 
  22. Always go with your gut. 
  23. Never take yourself too seriously. Live, love, laugh.
  24. Agree to disagree with people. Don't you dare waste all your energy trying to convince someone about anything.
  25. Take lots of pictures. Being able to look back on great memories in pictures is one of the greatest feelings in the world.
  26. Things will get better in due time. 
  27. Understand that there are people out there with less than you who are doing more than you. Use that to fuel your drive to be great. 
  28. Take time for yourself. Enjoy being with yourself.
  29. Be yourself. 24/7 365.
  30. Forgive everyone. Just don't fuck with them anymore.
  31. Fear is actually the root of all evil. Don't let it hold you back from something amazing ahead.
  32. Happiness truly is an inside job and you have to choose it.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Your perception is not my reality...

Social media can be a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it keeps us connected to those we want to stay connected to. It allows us to share things we want to with family and friends. It keeps us updated on the latest whether it be news, trends, etc. It also grants us an opportunity to connect with others we may not know and build new friendships. The downside to it, is it opens us up to criticism from others that we may or may not be interested in. It allows people to say whatever they want to you since they are behind a computer or mobile device. The worst part of social media in my opinion, is at times it can create a warped perception of you by people who don't truly know you.

It's no secret that most of us have people on our friends list who don't really know us. They could be classmates from the past, people you went to church with, people you worked with, or even people who maybe you met through a friend during an outing. Sometimes it's nice to connect with them, sometimes it's not. The reality is they don't really know you. So it's easy for them to perceive you a certain way based on your posts because that's all they really see of you. They don't see you outside of facebook or instagram so that's all they have to go off of. Some of us with sense know that what people post may be a hot 20% of their life. Most people don't have sense. Most people assume what you post is your life. So I get it...

OMG you're always traveling and never at work...

OMG you're always having so much fun and look so happy...

OMG you always have new clothes...

OMG you're always at a baby shower or wedding...

No. No. NO. and No. LOL It may look that way because those are the things and photos i'm sharing. But think about the things and photos I'm not sharing. When I'm idle for 7 weeks going to the gym and work and that's it, no one says OMG you're always at the gym or you're always at work. When I am rotating between the same two pairs of black jeggings every weekend, no one is saying OMG you're always wearing those pants. When I am suffering from allergies or period cramps every month, no one is saying OMG you always have cramps or you're always sneezing. Because I don't post about those things. It's silly and unnecessary. But it exists. And it happens regularly. You also cannot judge how happy someone is just because they are smiling in a picture. I know a ton of miserable people who have pics smiling. Those two things aren't synonymous people. It's just a smile, in a picture. I get it though. People want to somehow put you in a box and label you. Just so they can feel like they understand you. Just so they can feel like they know you and can say, "Yeah I know [insert my name here], we are facebook friends!" No bitch - you don't know me. This is what I want people to understand. YOU. DON'T. KNOW. ME.

A young lady I went to friggin elementary school with proceeded to comment on one of my photos the other day asking if I won the lottery and what was the secret to a well traveled life. LOL. LOL. LOL. LOL. Because she is not the first person who questioned me about my money before, I decided to reply back in my normal sarcastic way for those who talk out the side of their neck. Sell your body on the weekends. She replied with, not about that life and enjoy your vacay. She then proceeded to remove me as a friend. LOL. Girl bye. You don't know what I do for a living. I could be a surgeon for all you know, I could be married to a millionaire, shit I could be VP of a department in a Fortune 500 company. The point is, you don't know. And really it is none of your business. Not to mention I am tired of people associating travel with being rich. But that is a post for another day. I just don't get where people get off saying whatever they want to say on your posts when they don't know you.

I remember during a time where I was planning a few baby showers for friends on a regular basis, people would always comment on my shit, when are you going to have a baby? Um, maybe when I get a husband fool. I know how yall get down but I don't get down like that so FOH. Regardless, it's pretty rude to ask someone that because 1. you're assuming I want to have children and 2. you're assuming I can have children.

I say all of this to say, stop commenting crazy things on people's posts that you do not know. Enjoy the ish, like it, read it, keep it moving. That's it. Because what you  may perceive is not always what it really is.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What was Bogota like?

Buenos dias! I recently got a chance to visit Colombia's capital, Bogota and I had an amazing experience!

Let me first start by saying that you don't need to know Spanish to travel to a spanish speaking country. However, it would help to know the basics. Which I thought I knew, but clearly I didn't. There were several confusing moments on this trip that I was just like uhhhhh... and me and the person I was talking to literally had to communicate with gestures/body language. Such as the first day I went outside to play and got an uber to take me to this spot called Crepes & Waffles that I had heard about in a blog. Except I didn't bother to check what time it opened. It was morning, and it was a breakfast spot, sooooooo it should be open right? Well i'm pretty sure my uber driver tried to tell me that it was closed but because I couldn't understand anything he was saying, I just smiled and nodded and said si. He drops me off and the doors are locked. I go next door and ask them what time does the restaurant open and they say 10. It was only 8:45. :-( Oh well, maybe next time.

But let me back up! Deciding to go to Colombia was one of the most spontaneous courageous things I've ever done. Because of that, it was the most exciting and fulfilling trip I've ever been on. I had been contemplating solo travel for quite sometime. I go away for work solo all the time but that was different. There were still colleagues expecting me to report to a certain office at a certain time so if I didn't show, someone would notify someone. Solo travel for pleasure I think is a little different in that no one is expecting you. Maybe a hotel or air bnb but they don't know you to really be concerned if you don't show up. Anywho, while looking for flight glitches during Christmas, I spotted it. Roundtrip ticket to Bogota, Colombia via Jet Blue airlines. Colombia never crossed my mind as an option but it was kind of like, why not? I stared at it. I kept playing around with it. Looking at other deals. I mentioned it to a few peeps. I searched info in my travel group that had a TON of information as far as what to do, where to go, members who had went and their blog posts, etc. Fuck it, i'm going. What else do I have to lose? As soon as I booked, I started frantically researching. Places to stay, things to eat, places to party, things to see, and what to expect were all the things I was looking for. I came across Rachel Travel's post on how she did Bogota for $126 and Passport Required's post on 20 things to do and remember in Bogota. IT WAS LIT! By the beginning of February, I had compiled a list of the things I wanted to do and I was ready to go!

I get into the airport around 9pm on Sunday night. I had already arranged a driver through my airbnb host so all I had to do was grab my bags and look for a sign with my name on it. Spotted my name with a young man who was smiling and i'm on my way. I remembered reading something that said the ATMs were within that area so I asked the smiling guy with the sign but he didn't speak english. Luckily a young lady heard me and translated to him and he said Oh! and took me to the ATM lol. The ATMs only allow you to take out $300,000 Colombian Pesos (COP) at one time which is roughly 95 bux. So I figured i'd start with this then if I needed more, i'll grab some more somewhere else. Off to my air bnb! I arrived within 20 mins to the cutest little condo in a secure building. My host was waiting for me with lots of enthusiasm. We went over everything I wanted to do, where everything was, how to access the condo and so on. Then I took my ass to bed.

Day 1 - I met up with a young lady I had connected with after I saw her comment about going to Bogota on Rachel Travels. I had a list of things to do but this is what I was able to accomplish.

  • Walking Graffiti Tour - This was so fun and probably the best part of my short trip. It was about 2 hours and took you to various spots in the La Candelaria neighborhood to see some awesome graffiti. Graffiti isn't illegal there like a lot of places so artists are actually able to spend time on their art, producing some of the dopest graffiti you've ever seen. The tour is free but you typically give a tip for the tour guide. I took a ton of pictures but here are some of my favorites.

  • Monserrate - it's a mountain 3,152 meters above sea level with a church at the top. You can go up via cable car, train, or walking. The train was out so we opted for the cable car. In the cable car you can see the entire ride up and down the mountain. It costs 14,000 pesos which is roughly 4 bux. The views are GORGEOUS. My pictures really do it no justice. But I must warn you, you will feel like you just finished running a marathon after taking a few simple steps. Being that high above sea level takes a number on you and I found myself constantly out of breath. They have two restaurants at the top but I wasn't interested. There were also a few small shopping booths where you could find cute local items and some food.

  • Botero Museum - we had a little bit more time and energy left to tackle one more tourist attraction. I never really took advantage of museums in NY, Philly, or DC but I figured since I was in a new country, I must see at least one. The Gold Museum was on my list but it was closed on Mondays. The Botero Museum or Museo Botero includes pieces donated by Colombian artist Fernando Botero as well as pieces from other international artists. Botero was famous for his 'fat people' pieces as you'll see in some of the pics. The museum was pretty large with lots of cool things to see. It's free.

We ended up eating at a decent restaurant that evening that was pretty delicious but I can't remember the name.

Day 2 - my stomach was a little weird so I grabbed a pretzel and what I thought was orange juice from a little cafe across the street from my air bnb. It turned out to be turmeric and carrot juice. Wth? Whatever. I headed to the Bogota Bike Tours shop which is how I would start my day.

  • Bogota Bike Tour - I honestly don't know why I always opt for a bike tour when going places as if riding a bike is something i'm good at. I always start shaking the handle bars uncontrollably and sometimes fall off. Anywho, the shop was literally one block from my airbnb which was convenient. We had agreed to do the Salt Cathedral which would take us outside of Bogota so I knew we had to cut the tour short. I asked the tour guide would we be able to leave by noon (the tour started at 10:30 and was supposed to go to 1:30). He assured us it would be fine. However, when it he shared with the other tour guide, he acted like he was so upset we would be leaving early. Dude, it's not that serious. Anyway, we get our bikes and head on this tour flying through the streets of Bogota. As usual, I am last. Not only am I last but I am actually scared i'm going to get hit by a car. There are people and cars everywhere and I'm bobbing and weaving through them hoping that I don't run someone over, or worse, I get ran over. At one point i'm so far behind everyone, one of the employees is like 'mida' waving for me to hurry the hell up. But how are yall pedaling so fast? Anyways it was super cool because you get to ride through various parts of the city which I wouldn't have been able to see on foot in my little neighborhood. We made a few stops and checked out this dope fruit market. Unfortunately, this is when we had to depart so we didn't get to stay for more fruit and see additional sites. I was actually happy we left when we did because my legs were physically unable to go any further. However, the parts we did see were pretty cool and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone who checks out Bogota. It is 35,000 pesos which is about 11 bux.

  • Salt Cathedral - last but not least was the Salt Cathedral or Catedral de Sal. My cousin had put me in touch with a friend of his who lived in Bogota named Mauricio. I hit him up before I went and he so happened to be a tour guide. Everyone I talked to about the Salt Cathedral said you could either take a bus there or hire a driver since it was bout an hour and a half away. Hit up Mauricio and he agreed to be our driver. Headed out there and noticed how much nicer North Bogota was than South Bogota where we were staying. Just like most places, the rich are separated from the poor where most of them reside in North Bogota while the poor reside in South Bogota. Anyway, the Salt Cathedral was pretty dope. It's an underground Roman Catholic church built within a salt mine 200 meters underground. There's a tour and plenty of gift shops. The pictures don't do it any justice but it was amazing to see. 

We ended the day at Andres dc located in the Zona T area. It's a very yummy restaurant with live entertainment.  The Zona T area is a neighborhood with nice bars, restaurants, shopping, and casinos. It kind of gave me a Miami vibe. I wish I could've spent more time exploring it but maybe next time.

Because I have received quite a few questions from people I know as well as travelers I don't know regarding Bogota, I put some frequently asked questions together with my answers.

  1. Was it dangerous? Absolutely not. There are literally cops with dogs everywhere. At night, there's another level of law enforcement out on every corner with army wear and AK-47s. You will be fine. When it comes to going to dangerous places, talk to people who have been, not those who have just heard. I never understood how people can offer their opinion about a place if they've never been. I've felt more scared in parts of DC and Philadelphia than I did in Bogota. There are also people walking everywhere at all times. 
  2. How did you handle your money exchange? For me, wherever I go, I prefer to withdraw from the ATM when I get there. As long as you notify your bank in advance about your travels, you should be fine.
  3. How was the weather? Chilly. Especially at night. I would suggest fall/spring clothes. Bogota is very high above sea level so it's not warm and tropical like other cities in Colombia or other countries in South America. 
  4. Where should I stay? It depends on what you want to see but I chose to stay in the La Candelaria area based on the ease of walking to various places and it being in a very artsy/historical neighborhood with plenty to see. There is also an area called Zona T that had tons of shopping, bars, restaurants, etc. I didn't get to spend much time there so that's all the information I have on that.
  5. How did you know where to go and what to do? It sounds simple but seriously, any information you need about anything in life can be found on google. To help find things, type in searches like 'Top things to do in Bogota' or 'Best foods to try in Bogota.' There will be plenty of links to choose from and tons of information. Use it! Bogota also has uber which is pretty dope because I didn't have to worry about hailing a safe taxi nor did I have to exchange cash.
  6. How much did everything cost? Non-travelers have this misconception that one has to spend thousands of dollars on travel. WRONG. Travel is only expensive when you're not flexible. Here's a short breakdown below of all my expenses.

    Impressive right? I could've probably gotten it less than that if I did more walking and less taxing, and didn't buy unnecessary drinks. Not to mention there have been flights to Bogota on the deal sites for around $180 lately. 
All in all, I had an amazing time and I can't wait to explore more of South America! Who's coming with me next time?!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

6 Career Tips to Help You Flourish

I'm always being asked questions like how did you find your job? ...How do you move around so frequently? ...How do you maintain such a good reputation at work? ...How do you know everything? ...How did you know what you wanted to do? ...Amongst a bunch of other questions and the answer is -  I learned and I figured it out, one day at a time. So I decided to put together a few tips to help my fellow entry level and mid level worker bees who have professional careers where they report to a company on a regular basis. Please note that I am by no means an expert in anything and these tips are strictly my opinion. I'm sharing with you, what has worked for me. My goal is that you take from it whatever you can. I also want folks to understand that there is no cheat code in life. You have to work hard for everything you want. Extremely hard. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise! But without further adieu...

  1. Network. Network. Network. I can't emphasize how important this is in life as a whole. Seriously - talk to everyone. Build relationships with everyone. Even if the person isn't in your field or isn't into the same things as you - a simple conversation can get you far. You never know who this person knows, what they have access to, or what you can learn from them. Do this wherever you go. Not just at work. Do this at mixers, happy hour, celebrations, professional events, etc. Now don't go harassing folks when they're only there to drink and throw their hands in the air. Know when someone is interested in a networking conversation. They'll actually continue the conversation with you, engage, and not give you one word responses. I used to always wonder if I had a sign on my head that said 'Talk to me please' because people STAY starting random convos with me. It was annoying. But now I embrace it because some of my most meaningful friendships and relationships began with someone who just randomly came up to me and started talking.

    As far as the work place, one of the greatest benefits of networking is that there will be times when you generally don't know something; and that's okay. Everyone seems to think you need to be smart and know everything to succeed. That is completely false. What you do need to know is someone who knows the information that you don't have. This is where your efforts of networking come to play. If you're ever asked something by a supervisor, or in a meeting, or by anyone you work with and you don't have the answer, don't freak out. Figure out who you can get the information from, and simply say "I'm actually not sure but I will definitely find out." People respect your honesty and ability to get the information that you do not know over someone who freezes up or makes up some BS.

  2. Switch positions every 2-3 years. Don't get this confused with switching companies every 2-3 years. You can move around in a company, the right company, very easily. But I literally mean, move into another position at the minimum, every 3 years. Also keep in mind that this pertains only to entry level and mid level professionals. I think it's crucial to move around to figure out what you like and what you don't like; what you're great at, and what you're not so great at. You can't possibly do that staying in the same position for 10-15 years. Furthermore, there comes a point in your job where you have mastered what you're doing and it is no longer a challenge. Finding another position will allow you to move to the next chapter of your professional career, and learn new and exciting things. I have yet to be in the same position for more than 3 years and it's mainly because I like doing different things, some more than others. Also, with every position comes new challenges, new failures and lessons, a new culture to adjust to and a new opportunity to be great! I remember working in an accounting position for my first co-op in college cutting checks everyday for vendors, contractors, etc who performed work at the company. I literally did the same exact thing every single day for 6 months. I know I would off myself if I worked there permanently for years. Not to mention there was no opportunity to learn.

    This tip is also crucial for folks who hate their jobs. You can't hate your job and not do anything about the situation. Let me repeat that - You can't hate your job and not do anything about the situation. It's like watching a house about to go up in flames and not calling 911 or trying to rescue the inhabitants. You just don't do that! Staying in a job you hate will affect your entire being. It will affect your mood, your relationships, your health, and a bunch of other things. Keep applying, keep striving, and keep pushing until a new opportunity opens up. Because it will. Prior to leaving my job in Philly, I knew I wanted to relocate. I applied for over 100 jobs before someone finally decided to interview me. Over 100. If you want something really bad, you're going to keep pushing till you get it. Do it. Keep doing it. Until you get what you want.

  3. Volunteer for everything. Christmas party. Collecting money or non-perishable goods for the needy. Setting up an event. Facilitating a call. Training a colleague. Volunteering your time, skills, and wonderful personality gives you visibility. It gives others a chance to see you outside of your normal role and keep you in mind. It allows others to also see you're not just a come to work and collect your check type of person but that you have personality, you're helpful, and you care about others. It essentially makes you like-able (if you're not annoying), and who wants to work somewhere they're not liked? I once volunteered to work a silent auction at work (don't ask), and now this lady always asks my boss' boss if [insert my name here] can come and help us, she's great! I don't know this lady from a hole in the wall, and she doesn't even work in my section but she praises me. If I ever want to work for her section, I know who to reach out to ;-)

  4. Do everything 200%. Always go above and beyond. Never half ass ANYTHING. I can't tell you how many people I come across who are okay with doing sub-par work. That's wack son! Opportunities will never open for you, nor will anyone ever have a desire to work with you if you half ass everything you do at work. Not to mention, people will talk shit about you! Your work should be representative of who you are as a person. Do you want to be known as basic or a star? Put your all into that assignment/project. Own it. Make it your bih! Have peers review it for honest feedback so you can make updates if necessary. Ask your supervisor if he/she can give it a quick look before you submit the final copy. Review review review. Your effort and desire to put your all into your work will never go unnoticed. You'll be the first one management will refer to for important taskings and dope opportunities. Not to mention, if you ever need a reference, people are always more than willing to talk about excellent people and how great of an asset you'll be to any job/department/company.

  5. Set long-term and short-term goals and strive to achieve them. This may not always be an easy task for some, and I get it. How can you set goals if you don't necessarily know what you want to do? Start small and make sure they are actually attainable. I want to work for this type of company in my next job. I want to make this amount of money by this age. I want to have this type of experience on my resume by this date. I want to have completed this amount of projects by the end of this year. I want to have received this score on my annual appraisal. Setting goals creates a focus for yourself and a plan. Also when you actually achieve them, it is fulfilling and it brings a sense of accomplishment and purpose into your life that you may have not yet felt. Don't get discouraged if sometimes your goals aren't completed in the time frame you set. Re-adjust. Life can happen and there are a lot of things we just don't have control over. Don't beat yourself up. Just keep going. If it helps, write it down. Keep a planner or even use the notepad in your phone. Have your goals easy to retrieve so that you can stay focused on them.

    On top of setting goals, share with those who can help you achieve them. People who actually have your best interest at heart and have something in common with the goal you are trying to achieve. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking others for help. People have this warped idea that you have to do everything by yourself. False. If you know there is someone who can help you achieve a certain goal, and they actually care about you, ask them. If they decline, that's okay. In the words of Fab, "Take a risk n*gga, you gotta shoot to miss n*gga."

  6. Stay true to yourself. Always be yourself and remain honest. You know who you are and what you stand for. Never compromise that for anyone in the workplace. You know your beliefs, values and morals. You know the difference between right and wrong. If something doesn't seem right, speak up. Don't back-stab people. Don't agree to things you know are wrong. Karma will eventually come for you. Honesty goes a long way and is always appreciated. That's really all I have to say about that.
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you can think of more tips that have helped you succeed, please share!