I've always wanted to visit Spain. And it seems like I never have the money or the time to go. I first wanted to go to Spain in 2011. I was living in China and thought a good summer vacation would be to go Spain. It never happened because I decided to change apartments and used the money for a deposit instead. In 2012 I had another chance to go to Spain but I was in the midst of moving to Ghana and decided to use money for moving expenses instead. Fast forward to 2013, which saw another opening but I was getting ready to start grad school. And now I'm a freelancer. And broke. Unless I get someone to pay for it, Spain isn't happening for a very long time. [INSERT SAD FACE]
I've always had problems the second year living abroad. There are two countries this happened: Mexico and China. I lived in Mexico from 2007 - 2009. The first year was amazing. I got to practice Spanish, I made friends both at work and also outside (this is a pro tip when living abroad. When work gets too difficult have a set of people to run to that have nothing to do with your job), and loved the excitement of living in a new place. My second year, though, wasn't so great. I moved to a different city. What I thought would be easier, just wasn't. I didn't enjoy my new job, I didn't do a great job making friends outside of work and what was once an exciting place became mundane. I think the combination of job troubles and not having a wide circle of friends was the cause. Also at that time I was 27 or 28 years old and was met with an inexplicable rush to settle down. I ended up returning to New York wondering what happened.
Fast forward to 2010, I moved to China and lived there until 2012. Same experience; great first year and a horrible second year. This time, though, I didn't change cities or jobs. I stayed in Beijing for the entire two years and kept the same job. I think what's exciting for the first year became mundane in the second year. And why live abroad only for things to become mundane.
I think these two experiences have made me appreciate home. I'm pretty sure I'll return to living abroad. Before my choice of where to live in the world were almost as if I threw a dart at a map and wherever it landed that's where I went. Next time around I'll give more thought on where to live. And take steps to make sure the place feels like a home.
Once again I'm changing this to a TV character (because you can see how much I read fiction) and I have to chose the bohemian GAWD Freddie Brooks from A Different World.
Sure this hippie was annoying. But I'd love to sit down and soak in her creativity and activism over coffee ... or a smoothie made of locally-grown fruits and honey. Freddie is the one who inspired real-life me to register to vote as soon as I turned 18. I'd ask her what she thought about Obama being president and if she voted for him. She seems more like a Ralph Nader kinda girl. Maybe I'd try to start a book club with her. We can read classics from James Baldwin, bell hooks and Angela Davis. I'd ask her what she thinks of Ta-Nehisi Coates writing the Black Panther comic. Later, we can get some black soap and incense and candles on 125th Street. Then we can head downtown to the village and go to a consignment shop. Well, she did end up being a lawyer so maybe we'd have to step it up and shop at Anthropologie. I'd also have to find out which natural haircare youtube videos she watches so I can get her curls. She can show me her Instagram feed so I can see which #TeamNatural divas she follows. We can top off the day by having a picnic in Ft. Green Park in Brooklyn. She seems like she'd like to soak up the brownstones in the area. Ah yes, the perfect day for Freddie and me.
Living abroad for seven years, I've learned that for me home is not a place but the people and things I surround yourself with. So this list may sound corny but here's what's home for me:
2) A favorite book such as The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
3) My earth-tones glass-beaded necklace that I originally bought in Ghana
4) The "sticky notes" I put on my wall to remind me of goals for the year
5) My camera
I'm conflicted by this prompt because opting for a fresh start makes me admit that I could've done better in life. But I would choose to be reborn. I wouldn't change my parents, or background, or where I grew up. But I would change what I was exposed to. My childhood consisted of typical piano lessons. Through public school I also learned how to play the saxophone and clarinet. But now I'm often jealous of kids who ice skate, play soccer and tennis and take debate and language lessons. Those kids who have their after-school activities filled up. I think being in all of these kinds of groups would have allowed me more choices to know what wanted to be when I grew up. So pretty much I'd start over and ask for more exposure to the world. More sports. More music. More career days. I'm glad I found my career now, but maybe it wouldn't have taken so long.
I've gotten over my fear of talking to strangers. I struggled my first semester in grad school when I had to do beat reporting in the South Bronx. Walking up to people and asking for their information terrified me. But the more I did it, the more I got over it. Now my favorite part of journalism is the reporting process. I love seeking information and meeting new people. I guess I always liked these things before but I liked to do it at my own pace. The rushed speed in order to meet a deadline turned me off. But like I said I'm more mature about it now. Now if only I can get over my fear of swimming.
I pride myself on exiting situations quickly when it's not for me. Whether it's a relationship, a project or a friendship, if I think that I'm being treated unfairly I'll leave pretty quickly. Sometimes too quickly. For examples, countless times I've heard men say 'I can't commit' or 'I need space.' And I was more than happy to tell them deuces. I'm not mean about it. The approach may depend. I may fade away or "ghost" as the young ones call it these days. Or I may be brutally honest and just say it's time for me to go. Sometimes I wonder in those situations if I made the right decision. But screw that, I'm here to toot my own horn today. I'm awesome. And always right.
But seriously, one of the best gifts you can give yourself is living by the saying "go where you're celebrated, not where you're tolerated." I'm learning to do that pretty well.
If you were the new leader of your country and had the chance to transform something that’s currently an annoyance (or worse) into a very fun activity, what would it be? How would you go about the change, and why would you choose that particular thing?
My fellow Americans, it seems like we lost our way. We're now a nation where we barely take vacation, our waistlines are getting wider and we're losing the fight of getting enough sleep. Well I'm not going to stand for this anymore. If I'm elected to lead this blessed country, I'll make sure every man, woman and child is armed with a hula hoop.
The hula hoop is the answer we need. We Americans are working harder then ever. We're sitting at our desks and staring at our computers for longer periods and this can't be healthy. We can't let this happen; a healthy America is a great America. Every employer will be mandated to supply a hula hoop for each and every worker. Workers will be required to take at least two hula hoop breaks per day. Get up from your computer, get out your hula hoop and just hoop right in the middle of your office. You'll put a smile on your co-workers face and exercise your fat ass in the meantime.
But we can't leave this joy only to adults. We must instill the values of hooping to our children. When Americans receive their tax return, they'll receive something extra; a hula hoop stipend. The stipend will depend on the number of kids in the household. Our children's hula hooping skills lag behind China's. And not only that, their hooping scores are last among industrialized nations. Well, we can't take this anymore. With the hula hoop stipend, children will get off their iPads, go outside and find the joy of hooping like their brethren generations ago.
And finally, America, to be truly a progressive nation, we can't limit hooping to humans. Let's not forget about our animals. I saw a video the other day and it made me cry .
What is this dog even doing? This isn't the America I grew up on. I won't be happy until all of our animals can do this:
This is the America I want to see. And so my fellow Americans, I'm running on the free hula hoop platform. Let's make American great again. Let's hula hoop our way to freedom.
I mentioned in a previous post that I read for at least an hour every day. I guess this would be considered my daily ritual as well. I read from one of the five books I have on rotation. Right now, one of those books is Give and Take by Adam Grant. It's about how giving and paying it forward is a key to success. Anyway, reading refreshes me; it's like a power nap.
I've come to adopt this ritual because staring at a computer for hours feels unhealthy. I wanted to take breaks during my day but still feel like I was working on something. Reading is that balance for me. On days that I don't have time to read as much as I'd like, I feel crabby. These are days that I'm out in the field. I try to do the next best thing and listen to a podcast :-)
I write something by hand everyday whether it's my daily to-do list or interview notes. I also have a daybook where I collect newspaper articles, headlines and quotes I like. This idea was inspired by a book I'm reading now, How to Write Short: Word Craft for Fast Times by Roy Peter Clark. I even write when I'm recording an interview. I'll remember things more if I write it by hand rather than typing it. Also, there's that one time in the Bronx I had an interview and recorded it on my phone. I was taking notes at the same time. When I went home to transcribe the interview, there was no sound file to be found. Good thing I wrote down those notes. The technology of a pencil never fails.
I'm going to change this to characters from books to television. And to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, I wonder what it would've been like for Will to meet Theo from The Cosby Show. I can see them riding the New York City subway and getting into trouble in the big city. Heading over to the village and peeking in all the record and smoke shops that used to be there. Maybe Will would even try stand up at one of the comedy open mics by West 4th Street. I see Theo taking Will around the NYU campus and Will going girl crazy over every woman he saw. Maybe they'd head to Harlem and Will would totally be enamored with basketball at Rucker Park. I can even see Claire Huxtable cursing both of them out after a late night out and Cliff Huxtable just sitting there and facepalming. Will and Theo would be a mischievous pair.
If you've been in a car with me, you know that I have travel anxiety. I avoid driving if I have to. As I type I'm dreading a trip I have to make tomorrow to LaGuardia airport to pick up my aunt. My anxiety has extended to trains and planes as well. The only way I can explain is to constantly think something is going to go horribly wrong whenever I'm in a car, train or plane. I once stood for hours on a flight from Amsterdam to New York because I literally couldn't bear to sit with my anxiety. But I digress...
So one day (over ten years ago) I drove to my friend's house 15 minutes away. I was feeling pretty good and playing one of my favorite songs "Diamond in the Ruff" by Jaheim. I might have been enjoying it too much because as I pulled up to park *Boom* I hit the car in front of me. What turned out to be barely a tap, because of my anxiety, felt like a car crash. I rushed inside my friend's house worried that I would have to pay for the accident and also just felt fearful.
Later, my friends thought it would be funny to play a practical joke. The told me that the neighbor saw her car and rang the door hysterical and demanding to speak to me. They were able to calm her down and thwart her efforts of beating the crap out of me, so I thought. As they told me this I fell to the floor. I may have even gone in the fetal position, lol. I don't know why I was so scared.
Later, my friends told me that it was all a joke. The owner of the car never came by. In fact she hadn't even noticed. But looking back I realized how dramatic my reaction was. As a matter of fact my friend told me the owner was a horrible driver. She watched the neighbor a few times fumble parallel parking. Maybe she had some travel anxiety too.
The last I felt this way was in April. It was spring break and I was able to get out of my routine of waking up early and going to the city everyday. And working on top of that. It was also the first month of the year that I didn't do an international trip. January I went to Mexico. February; Nigeria. March was Kenya. I was thinking of going to Montreal in April but my bank account was like, 'nah.' I said the best thing I could do is stay home. And that's what I did. Stayed home, read and slept.
I felt rejuvenated because I deviated from my routine. Every now and again I need a chance to reset. A week home not doing anything was the best thing for me.
I've always wondered about objectivity in journalism. Since I've been freelancing, I get to choose the stories that I work on. I see something interesting, I find out more and then I pitch. I love this because I pretty much get to read about stuff and attend events I would go to anyway. And I get paid.
I doubt the belief that journalists always have to objective. I think journalists can be fair in their reporting but sometimes just choosing the story you work on is subjective. Sometimes you pitch a story because you love or hate something about it. A lot of times what drives me to finish a story is my passion for the subject, whether I'm covering a musician, protest or trend. If I didn't have excitement for the idea, why bother? I've been assigned stories that I'm less enthused about and I notice a difference. I get the stories done but there's no vim.
Coincidentally, most journalists I know are opinionated. And as long as their upfront about their beliefs when relevant, I'd rather hear from them rather than someone with no point of view.
In exactly 100 words creatively describe one moment when your mouth dropped open, chin hit the ground, and tears rolled down your face (figuratively or not). If you prefer to develop this into a longer post, that’s fine too!
When I lived in Ghana back in 2013 I had a boyfriend for a short bit. We had one of our usual arguments. I don’t know remember about what or how we started quarreling. But in response to something I said he told me to 'fuck off.'
He never talked to me this way before. Nor have I had other boyfriends talk to me like this. I did the first thing that come to my mind. I slapped the shit out of him.
I don’t remember what immediately happened after that but within a few weeks we broke up.
*I”m not a violent person and this is the first and only time this has happened. I have successfully refrained from slapping men when they start talking slick*
He always wore a NY Jets cap. Short, brown-skinned and a cute smile. All these things mattered but I think I really had a crush on him because we shared the same birthday. We were never in the same class but we were in the same grade. His name was Edward Samuels*. This crush lasted on-and-off from fifth to eighth grade.
For someone I had such a big crush on, I didn't know much about him. I knew he had an older brother. I knew he didn't live in the neighborhood. His brother used to wait with him at the Q111 bus stop that went to Jamaica, Queens about 20 minutes away.
In junior high, I squealed every time he came close. I'd talk about him for hours. Once, our classes switched rooms and I chose to sit at his desk. I loved looking at the scribbles he wrote on it. I secretly hoped to see if he drew my name with a heart around it.
After eighth grade I ended up going to high school in Brooklyn. He wound up at a high school in Queens. And I didn't see him for a good four or five years.
I was on my way home from Hunter College when I saw him by the Q111 bus stop on Parsons Boulevard. Later, a friend who remembered how much I liked him, gave me his number. Much bolder now as an 18-year-old, I gave him a call. We had a nice chat on what we're up to. Me about my first year in college and him about completing high school. It appeared he got sidetracked and still had credits to catch up on. It was a pleasant conversation but there weren't sparks.
I called him on another occasion. He answered, I said hello and he replied, "Jessica?" Before I could explain he said, "I'll call you back." I'm not sure why it bothered me but it did. I could've just called later and cleared things up. 'No it wasn't Jessica, it was Roxanne.' But I decided not to bother.
I never spoke to him again. I've looked for him on Facebook but he's not around. I heard from a friend-of-a-friend he wasn't doing well. Jobless, but not really looking for work either. Living with his father, but not really contributing to the home. I don't know how true that is, but I hope it isn't.
If I saw him today, I'd probably ask him out for a drink or coffee. I'd laugh and say, 'you know I had a crush on you right?' But I'm sure he probably knew that already.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent
This is going to sound trite but what drives me everyday is the possibility of learning something new. I've mentioned in a previous post that I'm a freelancer. My day varies from social media management to writing to reporting to interviewing. But the one thing I plan my day around is reading time. I read for at least an hour every day. The two best ways I acquire information is reading and talking to people. My dream is to become a renaissance woman and structuring my day around reading is one way to do it.
I leave you with this TED talk on how to learn anything (sorry, not sorry). Make your days a little bit brighter :-P
I feel like I'm in quarantine now since I freelance from home and I barely see evidence that other humans exist in real life. But after I finish work, the way that I spend my time is reading books and listening to podcasts. For example, here's a list of books I'm into now:
- How to Write Short
- King Leopold's Ghost (about the exploitation of DR Congo)
- Getting to Yes (about negotiation)
- To Cook a Continent (about how climate change affects Africa)
- 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer
And here's a list of podcasts I listen to regularly:
- Longform (interviews with journalists who go deep)
- Savage Lovecast (advice on love and sex)
- On the Media (media criticism)
- Another Round (everything from race and identity to squirrels)
- Planet Money (a fun podcast about economics)
Those are just a few. I listen to waaaayyyyyy more podcasts than that. So pretty much, being isolated would lead me to catch up on all the reading and listening I need to do. Other than the whole disease part, I think I'd enjoy myself.
What was the #1 song when you were born? (not sure? you can find out here.) Write about how the song relates (or not!) to your personality.
So, Celebration by Kool & The Gang was the number one dance track on the day I was born. What a fitting time for my parents. I wondered if they even noticed?
I just love how the song starts with saxaphones and trumpets. A song has got to be fun with saxophones and trumpets. And the first word they say is Yahoo.
Yahoo! This is your celebration
Yahoo! This is your celebration
Yep. Instantaneous revelry.
On a surface level, all those instruments in the song relate to me because I've played a bunch as a kid. I played the piano, clarinet and saxophone. And even though my musical phase stopped in my early teens, I've always carried with me the importance of art and culture in the world. In fact, some of my favorite types of stories to produce as a journalist are stories that seem like they're about a topic such as travel or fashion. But tricking people into seeing it's really a story about discrimination, imperialism, globalization or climate change.
I imagine this song is the same way. Sure, it's about having a good time. But I like to imagine it to be about all different kinds of people coming together in harmony. And screaming Yahoo.
As a child I was painfully shy. As a teenager I wanted to belong; I cared way too much about what other people thought of me. This lasted well into my 20's. Now that I'm in my 30's I have a 'f*ck it' attitude. Don't want to hang out? F*ck it. Didn't get that job I applied for? F*ck it. Last relationship didn't work out? WHY DIDN'T IT WORK OUT!?!
Clearly, I still have some things to work on.
But seriously, I do enjoy the confidence that comes in my 30s. I’m more responsible when it comes to money. I'm more fearless applying for jobs. I'm more mindful about my health. I understand the significance of saving. (I’m all about that 401(k) action.) I’m more careful on how I spend my time and I’m critical of who I should let be my friends.
I wouldn’t trade this feeling for going back to my teenage years or childhood. I do wish I could go back in time, though, and re-teach myself lessons that I know now would lead to a better life. Those aphorisms are all true, kids: practice really does make perfect, be kind, and, yes, eat your veggies.
If my 30s, for the most part, feel this great I can’t wait until what my 40’s will bring. The answer is clear to me; adulthood rules - especially the 30+ kind.
And if you don’t agree … f*ck it!