I Am Ready For Change...Are You?

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It has been over a month since I last posted. Ugh! Where has the time gone?

I have been meaning to get back to you all, but your girl Toya T has been busy. The past month I have been traveling (Charlotte, NC, Washington, D.C., New York City, and now Southern California with a short stay in Las Vegas ), searching for and applying to jobs, connecting with friends, partying, crying and being fully in my feelings, taking long walks, and trying to figure out my life (of course!).

During this time, I realized one major thing: I am ready to move. Specifically, I am ready for things in my professional and romantic lives to move in new, better, and more fulfilling directions. I love my job as a college professor. Working with, mentoring, and teaching students is my passion. It energizes me and has helped me grow and learn more about myself and the world.

However, what I do not love is the lack of upward mobility I have experienced in my career. I currently teach two courses a semester at a state university part-time, which means I am working without benefits or job security. For the past two years, I have been applying for positions in academic advising and student support, and I have gotten very few calls for interviews and no job offers. It has been hard to deal with because of the amount of time and effort and money I spent on my education. Excuse me as I toot my own horn here. I am a black woman with a PhD. I am part of the less than 1% of people in the world to hold this degree. Yet, despite my educational pedigree, I do not have a JOBB---extra 'b' for benefits, that is to say, retirement, health, dental, paid leave/vacation, and job satisfaction.

It is hard pill to swallow because I have degrees and not much to show for it besides the degrees. I am like the character on Kanye West's first album College Dropout who was homeless with only his multiple degrees to keep him warm. Okay...I may be exaggerating a bit. I am not homeless. I am fortunate to have two loving parents who have been able to help me financially by feeding me and letting me live in their home rent free, among other things, that allow me to pay my bills (including my 100k student loans), build good credit, travel, look cute, and apply to jobs that I want (and not those that just pay the bills). I am far from sleeping on the streets covered in my diplomas. But, I feel...stuck, blocked, unsatisfied, frustrated, unfulfilled.

Okay, so now what? How do I change this and get things in my life moving in new, fulfilling, and purposeful directions?

By changing my mindset to focus daily on what I want and how I want these changes to happen, and not on what I do not have or have not done.

I may feel that my life is stagnant now, but I can change that. I can live the life I want.

To manifest these changes in my life, I am going to set monthly intentions, and I am going to keep a log of my experiences and feelings here on Figure Out Your Life Blog for a year, so you all can follow my progression of change. The beginning of the month, or the start of a new moon cycle, is a great time to set new intentions or desires, since it takes 30 to 40 days to create a new habit or change a behavior.

If you want to join me on this journey, and you are also ready to make changes in your life, here are few things you need to know about setting monthly intentions:

First, when making intentions, you must make definitive statements. Not wishes, asks, or wants because you want the universe to know you intend, and not wish or want, for these things to happen in your life.

Second, you must state you intentions in the present tense. For example, "I am worthy of love" or "I attract a romantic relationship that fulfills me" (I used both of these statements in my romantic intentions for the month).

Third, you must TRUST these things WILL happen.

Fourth, if you feel blocked or deterred, you must take note of what is blocking you and confront it. Spend a little bit of time and energy dealing with this issue. What are the blocks in your life? How do they make you feel? What would removing these blocks do for you? Then, you must spend the majority of your time and energy on visualizing what is going to keep you aligned, attuned, and inspired.

I am ready to live my best life. Are you?


"We must remind ourselves that we are seeing only a small piece of the puzzle--that there is a whole picture, and we all fit in." -- SQuire Rushnell, When God Winks: How The Power of Coincidence Guides Your Life


The Life Detox: Learning to Let Go of "Them" and Get the Love and Happiness I Deserve

Sometimes you gotta let people go: fake friends, toxic folks, energy-sucks,  drama-full family members, fuck boys, former loves, friends with (few) benefits.

Sometimes you gotta let things go: phone numbers of former love interests, clothes that haven't fit in 3+ years, overstretched hair elastics, broken electronics, worn out shoes, not safe for work or grandma's eyes sexy pictures of your former bae.

Sometimes you gotta let energies go: long-held hurts, emotional scars, old ideas, grudges, bad habits, doubts, insecurities, drama.

As much as I have grown personally and professionally this past year of my life, I have realized that I still have a lot of things that I need to figure out. One of the things I need to figure out in 2017 is how to let go of people who cause me nothing but unnecessary stress and heartache and whose presence in my life do not benefit me or give me the love and appreciation I want and need.

But I have a hard time letting go of the select people that I let into my heart. I am very protective of my heart and my personal space, so when I let people in, I hold onto them fiercely. I love hard. Even when these people I love show me how easily they have let me go, I hold on. I continue to care. I check in. I wish happy birthdays. I extend congratulations and well wishes. And, I rarely get anything back but hurt feelings.

To deal with my "letting go" problem, I have decided that I need a detox---a life detox.

There are some people whose phone numbers I delete and re-add and then delete again that I need to  keep deleted. Some Facebook friends I unfriend and re-friend that I need to unfriend and keep it that way. 

LET. THEM. GO....Close my eyes and inhale.... and then exhale them all out. 

In order to Grow. to Evolve. to Change. to Heal. to be Happy. to be Sane. to be Healthy.

I Refuse to Accept Less Than What I Bring to the Table

Dating in your 30s is frustrating as fuck!?! Why, as a straight, educated, black woman in my 30s, am I expected to accept less from a man than what I bring to the table?

Storytime!

I met a guy on OkCupid. Let's call him Jean. Jean is dark, tall(er than me), attractive, 30-something black man. On the dating site, he seemed nice, thoughtful, and truly interested in getting to know me and dating (with the intention of developing a romantic relationship). Jean didn’t seem crazy and most importantly did not display any fuck boy tendencies. He was attentive and communicative without being thirsty or overbearing. So, when h

e asked for my number, I gave it to him and we began to get to know each other offsite, in the "real world". 

However, as we talked more, I noticed a few things that irked me about 

Jean

Number One! He didn’t go to college. 

I understand that a college education is not the only measure of success and drive, but I did not get a feeling that he was on a career path. An electrician is on a career path because that type of work requires training, skill building, and certification (and they get paid well for the time and effort they put into their craft). Jean seemed more on a job path. And, again I know that not everyone has the freedom, drive, or resources to forgo a paying job to pursue their dream career. I myself am not working in dream career, but I am on the path. I am building networks and developing applicable skills for my dream career. But, again I know everyone's journey is different, some people's paths are short, some people's path are long, and some people's paths are crooked.  Thus, in an effort to keep an open mind, I pushed aside my feelings about his lack of a college degree. The important thing was he was employed and was able to support himself.

Number Two! He is Catholic and it is important to him. 

Religion is a touchy subject (along with politics). Somehow, we got on the subject of him being Catholic. I informed him that I was also Catholic. Jean thought this was great because he assumed that we would have no religion or faith-based issues. I immediately disagreed.  Being born and raised Catholic does not play an important role in my life. I am more spiritual than religious. I believe in God and in living a life that is as moral and caring as possible.  I disagree with the Catholic Church on several major issues, such as abortion, homosexuality, priests being men only,  to name a few. Because I am not religious, I am weary of men who place religion high on their relationship priority list-- you know, the type of men who state that they are looking for a "Godly woman". I don't know what that means and I really don't want to know. But, in the case of Jean, he seemed to be okay with my views on religion, and he even shared a few of my views on the Catholic Church. 

Then, it happened. The deal breaker! He asked me what I was looking for in a man. 

I told him. I am looking for a man who is educated, career driven, and open-minded, loves traveling, eating good food, drinking strong drinks, and trying new things. Most importantly, I am looking for a man who is interested in building a relationship based on friendship, love, laughs, communication, and respect. 

His response: Do you think that you are expecting too much??? 

What in the entire FUCK!!! I told him: No, I know what I need to be happy in a relationship. I am not expecting less from a man than what I bring to the table. 

After I said this, Jean continued to press me about my relationship needs. He said that he is looking for a woman who is nice, respectful, family-oriented, and educated. Jean told me that I am expecting too much that may put stress on a relationship. I was flabbergasted and a bit annoyed. 

My list is not long. This is not a

"What Chilli Wants"

list. (Remember that show where Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas from TLC fame was looking for a husband but he had to fulfill a long checklist of requirements, including not smoking, not drinking, not eating pork, not having more than two baby mamas, and being fine with a six pack and a big penis.) 

I am not looking for a man that fits 50 things on a must-have list. I am looking for love and happiness in a relationship, not contentment. I would rather be single than be in a relationship in which I am expected to lower my standards and push aside my wants, my desires, and my needs all in the name of having a man. 

I do not need a man. I want a life partner who is also my best friend, lover, protector, co-parent, cheerleader, and ride-or-die. I am willing to comprise on my preferences on height, race, age, body type, income, musical taste, and family background. 

But, I am not willing to accept less than what I need, want, and deserve.

With all that said, I end with this message to the all the "Jean's" out there:

Boy Bye!

Figuring Out Weight Loss: Surviving Vacations, Weekends Away, and Dining Out

I am happy to announce that your girl Toya T is still losing weight. I lost 1.6 lbs this week. This is really a huge feat because of the fact that I took off three days from my diet this past Labor Day weekend. 

Week 6:

From Saturday to Monday, I was in Philadelphia with two of my friends at the Made in America Festival, which is a 2-day music festival sponsored by Budweiser. At first, I thought that I might be able to follow my diet with a few tweaks while I was at the festival: eat my regular healthy breakfast and lunch, drink a minimum of one beer per day, and eat the least fatty meals for dinner while I was at the festival.  I really thought that this was going to work. Or, at least I wanted this plan to work because I did not want to lose my weight-loss momentum from the past 6 weeks. I packed as many healthy snacks as I could carry and brought along a homemade protein shake, since our hotel had a mini fridges in the rooms. 

By noon on Saturday, I realized that it was unrealistic for me to follow my diet during my weekend away. This was my last hoorah before heading back into the classroom and plus I was with my friends. Sticking to my diet felt more like work than a normal healthy life choice.  So, I decided to allow myself three cheat days, not to overindulge on fatty goodness, but to eat and drink when I felt hungry without counting calories (and feeling guilty). To not fall back into bad eating habits or throw away my weight-loss successes, I also decided to jump back into my Super Shred diet at the point that I stopped on the program's weekly meal plan--in this case, it was Days 5, 6, and 7 of Week 2.

During my three cheat days, I made sure to stay active. Luckily, the festival made this very easy because it involved a lot of walking around and standing. I made over 24,000 steps on Saturday alone and burned over 3000 calories (note: this is more than I burn on a regular day eating healthy and working out). 

When I weighed myself on Tuesday, I was surprised to see that I didn't gain any weight. I lost .2 lbs and by Thursday I had lost an additional 1.4 lbs. 

This past weekend was very important moment in my 50 lb weight-loss journey. I learned that I can still eat, drink, and be merry without losing control. Cheat days or cheat meals are good in moderation as long as you stay active and focused on your goals. I am now 12.2 lbs down and determined to lose another 8 lbs by the end of the month. 

Smiles and Lime-a-ritas at Made in America 

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How To Stay Focused During a Long Weight-Loss Journey

First things first, I am proud to announce that I lost .9 lbs this past week. Although it is not a big number, it is still a victory because it is a weight loss and not a weight gain.

Week 4 Progress:

In 4 weeks, I have lost 8 lbs with the Super Shred diet and Nike Training Club Lean Fit workout challenge.  **pelvic thrusts** Now I have 42 lbs to go...42 LBS TO GO!!!! Ugh.

Losing that much weight is not going to be easy or quick (unless I max out my credit cards and get liposuction). It is going to take months upon months of working out, dieting, and focus.

To help me keep focused during my weight-loss journey, I am doing the following 3 things:

1. Join Fitness Challenges 

This is very simple. Find a fitness challenge and do it.

  • It helps you develop a regular fitness schedule that is easy to follow and increases with intensity as it progresses.

  • It prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by making you focus on a short-term, achievable fitness goal.

  • If you get your friends or family to join the challenge, it helps you create a fitness support system to keep you motivated to finish.

  • Plus, when you finish, you are fitter and have the sweet satisfaction of completing a fitness goal.

Here's a challenge for you: 

2. Try New Healthy Recipes 

The internet is wonderful place to find tons and tons of healthy recipes (note: Pinterest is the best site ever to find yummy, healthy recipes).

  • It helps you transition from bad eating habits to good eating habits, by allowing you to eat less calories without feeling deprived.

  • It helps you discover new foods and dishes that you can share with your family and friends and impress them with your culinary skills.

  • If you cook your meals ahead of time, preferably at the beginning of the week, it will help you stay on your diet and give you less excuses for grabbing for "fast fatty foods" (the dreaded 3 F's).

Here's a healthy recipe for you: 

3. Buy Cute Workout Clothes

Just because you are working out and sweating doesn't mean you can't look good while doing it.

  • Having cute workout clothes takes the UGH out of working out by giving you the same feeling as getting dressed up for a night out.

  • They tend to be form-fitting, which is a GOOD thing. Wearing oversized and baggy workout clothes make you look frumpy and larger than you really are, skewing your body image. Wearing cute, form-fitting workout clothes provides much-needed support for your jiggly parts and allows you to check your form and make sure you are correctly performing exercises, decreasing injuries and maximizing workout benefits.

  • Plus, it helps show off your new developing fit body.

Here's some cute workout clothes options for you: 

Low-end Activewear Brand: Everlast (sold at

Sears

)

High-end Activewear: Ivy Park (sold at

Nordstrom

)

5 Tips For Dealing With (Race-Based) Mental Trauma

Mental health is very important. Just as important as physical health. With all that has happened this summer, I have created my 5 tips for dealing with mental trauma due to loss, race-based violence, and frustration with current US affairs.

I made this video after the news of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile's murders at the hands of the police. This is in response to the hurt, anger, exasperation, and frustration I noticed among those most affected by these senseless and unjustified state-sanctioned murders.

Highlights from the #BlackGirlMovement Conference 2016

I had such an amazing experience at the first national Black Girl Movement Conference in New York City. It was an indescribable feeling to be in a room filled with black women, black girls, and black female scholars, activists, and game-changers talking about the greatness of black girls and black girlhood. Looking around it felt like I stepped into a different world. 

There were black girls of all ages, shapes, shades and hair textures, proudly proclaiming their love for themselves and each other. The three days of the Black Girl Movement Conference was a celebration of black girlhood and all the things that make us unique, from the games we play to the way we wear our hair. Even though I am in my 30s, I sometimes need a reminder of how great it is to be a black girl because there are so many times that we are not shown how beautiful, smart, unique, strong, powerful, talented, and amazing we are, always have been, and always will be. 

The mainstream media largely ignores us. When we are assaulted, kidnapped, or killed, we do not get the same attention and urgency as our white counterparts receive. We are often told that we are not beautiful. Our bodies are scrutinized, fetishized, and degraded. Our hair and hairstyles are considered  unkempt, dirty, and unprofessional. But, when a white girl displays any of our characteristics, features, or cultural stylings, there are considered attractive, fashionable, exotically beautiful, and innovative. 

This conference truly is a movement. It is a reminder, declaration, battle cry: BLACK GIRLS MATTER AND THEY ARE ALL THE MAGIC THEY WILL EVER NEED.

I really hope they continue this conference for years to come. Here are some of the highlights: 

Panel Session: Writing and Researching Black Girls

Only at a Black Girl Movement Conference will you find a sing-along 

Little bit of black girls moving, led by Camille A. Brown. 

Check out those moves (and smiles). 

#BlackGirlArt:::Picturing Black Girlhood exhibit (at Raw Space in NYC)

My black girlhood, all you needed was chalk and a pebble. 

Join the movement:

http://iraas.columbia.edu/Event/black-girl-movement-conference

#blackgirlmovement #bgm2016

#MotivationMusic: Closer by Goapele

I have big things on my horizon. With all of the negativity and distractions in the world, listening to this song (and Goapele's voice) soothes my soul, calms my fears, and reminds me every step I take is bringing me closer to my dreams.

Hopefully, this song helps you stay motivated and focused on your dreams. Enjoy

#PhenomenalWomenMonth : Old Skool Ladies Hip Hop Classic "I Wanna Be Down" Remix

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Old Skool Ladies HIP HOP ... Classic I WANNA BE DOWN // BRANDY...

Old Skool Ladies HIP HOP ... Classic I WANNA BE DOWN // BRANDY // QUEEN LATIFAH .... #PressPlay

Posted by Vintage OLD SKOOL on Sunday, March 20, 2016

Talk about "Black Don't Crack!" : 1995 (image on top) and then 2014 (image on the bottom)

Martinique: My First Solo International Trip

martinique

If there is one thing that you need to know about me, it is that I love to travel. I like discovering new places and experiencing new cultures, especially the food. My top bucket list item is to travel to 6 out of the 7 continents before age 50---thus far I have traveled to North America, Asia, and Africa (note: Antartica is not on my list because I do not like the cold). 

Out of all the places I have been, the Caribbean has been alway, and will always be, my favorite. I am a Caribbean girl. My parents immigrated to the US from the small island of Dominica. I spent the first five years of my life traveling between my mother's home in Boston and my grandparents' home in Dominica. The Caribbean is home. 

So, when I saw this super sale from Boston to Martinique from Norwegian Airlines, with prices as low as $49 one way for direct flights, I could not pass it up. Plus, I had never been to Martinique. I was not able to take advantage of the unbelievably low (low low low) $49 flight because of my class schedule, but I was still able to get a great price--$188 for roundtrip ticket for Sunday, March 13 to Wednesday, March 16. 

If you have never heard of Martinique, it is a French island located in the Caribbean Sea, south of Dominica and north of St. Lucia. The capital is Fort-de-France. The island features black and white sand beaches, rainforests, and a volcano, Mt. Pelee. Once a longtime colony of France, the national language is French, and the culture, food, and architecture are mix of French and West Indian. 

Highlights from My Trip: 

The Hotel

I was lucky to find a reasonably priced 4-star hotel in the capital Fort-de-France on Booking.com. Simon Hotel is a brand new contemporary hotel, featuring modern furnishings, free wifi, a bar/restaurant, clean, spacious rooms, English-speaking staff, and views of the city and the sea. It is also within walking distance of restaurants, air conditioning, shops, local attractions (e.g., the public garden La Savane and Fort St. Louis), the cruise ship terminal, and the ferry (which provides easy access to the southern beach town of Les Trois-Ilets). 

hotel entrance 

hallway of rooms

view of the hotel from the ferry

The Food & Drinks

I am a foodie and I love to drink. My favorite thing to do when I travel is to try the local food. Here are some of my favorites from my trip. 

First night, I tried a local ti punch, which is a rum based mixed drink, popular in the French-speaking Caribbean islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti, and French Guiana. Funny thing is when I saw it on the menu, I thought it was rum punch, a staple of the English-speaking Caribbean islands.  To my surprise, the waitress brought out a glass of rum, a bowl of brown sugar, and a lime wedge. As you can expect, this drink is STRONG. If you are not a drinker, skip it. But if you are a drinker, start your stay in Martinique with this local drink.

My first full day in Martinique I took the ferry over to Pointe du Bout in Les Trois-Ilets. I spent some time on the beach and then walked over to Havana Cafe in Creole Village. Food looked good on the menu. Unfortunately (for me), the staff did not speak English and I do not read or speak French; and so, I ended up picking my food based on the pictures on the menu and my rudimentary translation of the menu (thanks to 6 years of latin classes at my high school alma mater). With all of that said, I ordered th 1/4lb rotisserie chicken and french fries and Copa Cabana Sun cocktail and they were delicious. Note: if I could read the menu, I would have ordered my favorite, codfish fritter, which I learned too late is "les accras de morue" in French.

My last full day in Martinique I took the ferry to Anse Mitan in Les Trois-Ilets. I hit the beach for an hour and then walked over to the beachside restaurant Le Barracuda for lunch. Luckily, the restaurant had staff that spoke English and a bilingual French/English menu (thank goodness!!!). Without hesitation, I ordered the codfish fritters, stuffed crab, french fries, and a rum punch. Honestly, I was not a fan of their codfish fritters. It tasted more like oil and batter than codfish. But, the stuffed crab, french fries, and rum punch were so delicious. Highly recommend those three items if you find yourself at Le Barracuda.

The Beaches

The main reason I love the Caribbean is because I love the beach.  I am beach baby. A water sign. A summer baby. I was meant to be near water.

Day one, I headed across the waterway on the ferry to Pointe du Bout beach. I really like this beach. It is located a short walk from the ferry dock. Pointe du Bout beach is a large beach separated into three distinct areas, one part is next to a hotel resort, a middle part that has a small pool feeling, and a third part that faces toward Fort-de-France. I spent the majority of my time lounging in the middle part. The water is very calm and a nice cool temperature that warms up quickly. This beach is not ideal for sun-worshipers/bathers because the sand is a hard and rough and the area is small. But for someone like me who just wants to relax in calm, shallow water, this beach is a great place to spend a day.

Day two, I took the ferry from Fort-de-France to Anse Mitan. The ferry to this beach is bit longer than the one to Pointe du Bout because it stops at Anse a L 'Ane before it reaches Anse Mitan. This beach is significantly different than Pointe du Bointe. The ferry drops you off right at the beach, which is covered in soft sand. The beach is long and features different water activities, including jet skis, water trampolines, and dolphin watch tours. The water is clear and perfectly cool. I stayed in the water for a complete hour, relaxing and observing the scene. I highly recommend this beach. Wish I could have stayed longer. 

Overall, I had a great mini-vacation in Martinique. If you want to know more about this French island or travel experience, comment below.