twenty-five.

original post date - september 22, 2019 #SeniorSzn - My Year of Yes

​Long time, no see. How've y'all been? I missed y'all. I know I've been MIA for a while, but I think I'm finally ready to get back to writing. I've honestly missed it a lot, but the hiatus was necessary. I'm not 100% back, but I feel like I'm in a better space than I was before, so let’s get into it. A few months ago, I downloaded Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes on the Audible app. I had always heard good things about the book, but I decided to check it out for myself. I loved it. She said a lot of things that I'd already heard before, but she also said a lot of things that I connected with personally where I was at the time. The first time I listened to the book I knew I wanted to write about it, but I wasn't sure how. My vision for Brena's Book Club didn’t go exactly as planned, but I didn't wanna throw it to the side either, so I made some notes and knew I'd come back to it when it felt like it was time. Well guess what? It's time. Before this school year even started, I decided that this was going to be my personal year of yes. I'm at a very important time in my life that's filled with a lot of mixed emotions, and my growth is my number one priority. It also aligns with a lot of sermons I've been listening to lately, so I knew the time was now. I'm about a month into my senior year and I've already listened to the book again, and all that did was strengthen my desire to write about it. I decided to pick 4 of the "yeses" discussed in the book that I connected with the most and talk about each of them. I tried to rank them by how difficult they are for me, but they are all serious challenges for me in their own ways. It's about me doing the work to see them through. Yes #1: Yes to Saying Yes Step one. I started with this one because it logically made the most sense to me. Before I could say yes to anything else, I had to say yes to actually saying yes. That alone is a challenge for me. I'm not spontaneous. I don't take a lot of risks. And l overthink like it's an Olympic sport. The unknown just makes me a little anxious, but I'm trying to get to a place where I embrace it whether I feel prepared or not -- so boom. This is my way of starting to embrace it. I've been doing different things to help change my perspective and be a more positive person, and let me tell you. IT'S WORK. Some of the yeses have been easier than others. It's just come down to a combination of a) do I have the time, b) does it have the potential to help me and those involved, and c) do I actually want to do it and is it worth it? Some of the yeses have been harder, more personal, and felt a little heavier. I repeatedly have to give myself the "what's the worst that can happen?" talk, followed by the "okay, what's the worst that can REALLY happen?" talk, then the "trust the process, God's got you" talk, and then I'm alright. I have to repeat talk #3 on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day, but I'm holding myself accountable for my yes -- even if it's a yes to myself that nobody knows about. Those are the hardest. Yes #2: Yes to Saying No, Yes to Difficult Conversations Saying no is just as important as saying yes. For me, saying no has always been a challenge because I'm a people pleaser. I've always been a little uncomfortable stepping on toes and rubbing people the wrong way. As I get older, saying no gets easier, but it doesn’t quite roll off the tongue yet. I'm not obligated to say yes to everything that comes my way. It's not my job to protect other people's feelings at the expense of my own. In a way, saying yes to saying no has helped me feel a sense of power when it comes to how people treat me. I don’t have to take everything for face value. I also don't have to explain myself when I do say no to something or somebody. That is something I struggle with and have to constantly remind myself of. Yes, sometimes I might give reason to why I can't or don’t want to do something, but I'm not obligated to, and I have found freedom in that. No is a complete sentence -- 1 word, 2 letters. That's it. I don't owe anybody any more than that, but because I am who I am, I still take others' feelings into consideration. Adulting is hard, and it also comes with difficult conversations. This means I have to say yes to confronting people. Sometimes it's letting someone you care about know they don't exactly smell the freshest or having a heart-to-heart with someone you care about when you know they aren't being who they really are or have the potential to be. Sometimes it's putting your pride down and opening up about struggles you're having. Sometimes it's standing up for yourself when you don't like the way someone is treating you. Ghosting is not always the answer, and neither is just letting things ride. When things don’t sit well with me, I'm working on confronting them instead of letting the issues fester. It might be easier, but it's not healthy. Sometimes those difficult conversations have been with myself. Growth isn't easy. Sometimes I see some good things, sometimes I see some bag things, and sometimes I see some ugly things. One important part of my year of yes is having the difficult conversations with myself and with others to help me get closer to the kind of woman I want to become. Yes #3: Yes to My Body I have a like/dislike relationship with my body. I always have. I don't remember a time where I've absolutely loved it. I do remember times where I've hated it, but thankfully I've grown from that place. Confidence in the my body has always been a multi-faceted challenge. The challenges in feeling comfortable with how it looks (and how it doesn't), not letting other people's opinions of my body affect how I feel about it, and getting comfortable in the different ways I want to use my body (if that makes sense). I'm gonna break them down a little bit, but that’s the main idea. I'm not built like Megan Thee Stallion and I'm not built like an IG model. I'm not built like the other ladies I go to school with. I'm not even built like my own mama or sister. I literally have no frame of reference to give to my body, and I struggled with that for a long time. I've always been told I had a nice shape, and I knew that, but that didn't mean I liked it. Sometimes I struggle with the idea of feeling womanly. Some days I feel a little slim thick and curvy. Other days I feel like a half-empty juice box that got squeezed a tad in the middle. I've realized the only way I can fully accept my body is to do what I can to take care of it, because outside of looking good, I want to feel good to. I've been watching what I eat (kinda), trying to get more sleep, and more importantly, I've been working toward exercising consistently to achieve my desired shape. I have an idea of how I want my body to look, but the first thing I know I need to do is stop comparing it to what I see on social media and around me. I'm going for a body that's built, not bought. The next thing I do is hold myself accountable for the progress I wanna see, so I exercise. But one important rule I have when I exercise (that Shonda has too) is that I do not do exercises that I don't like. Working out isn't always fun, but it definitely should not feel like a punishment. Of course I have my favorite workouts to do in the gym, but there's also another thing I love to do -- dance. Now I don't think I have rhythm fr and I get nervous if I'm dancing and other people see me, but that doesn't stop me from doing it anyway. I came across the Hot Girl Summer workout challenge on Youtube, but because I found it after school started, I've renamed it the Hot Girl Semester challenge and I'm incorporating it into my workouts. I'll drop the link to the playlist below for those of you who are interested. The other ways I'm saying yes to my body is centered around opinions. For too long I've let other people's opinions of my body shape how I felt about it. I was too tall or too skinny or didn't have any hips or I was the Black girl with no ass or I should be happy with my body because other people would be if they had it. That's all a bunch of bull. These things played like a record in my head to the point where I began to take it all in as truth. That "reverse body shaming" was not cool. Yes, other people liked my body and would be happy to have it, but none of that mattered if I didn't like what I saw in the mirror. It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about being insecure about it. I also had to learn to stop feeling guilty about wanting to feel sexy or sensual. I'm not gonna get too deep into this part, but I wanna be honest. I've always had a certain degree of shame surrounding my physical desires, and for a long time it made me not want to take ownership of wanting to feel like I had some sort of sex appeal. It also delayed me from taking the time to get to know my body so that I had better experiences in the future. I always felt the need to pick a side, but I've learned that I don't. There's balance in wanting to feel saved and sexy, and now I'm saying yes to finding it. Yes #4: Yes to My Own Badassery Now these other yeses are all difficult, but this one is really an uphill battle. Before I get into any further discussions about this yes, I wanna start this section with the definition of badassery Shonda Rhimes gave us in Chapter 10 of the book. Badassery -- 1. noun, the practice of knowing one's own accomplishments and gifts, accepting one's one accomplishments and gifts, and celebrating one's own accomplishments and gifts; 2. noun, the practice of living life with swagger (noun or verb, a state of being that involves loving oneself, waking up "like this", and not giving a crap what anyone else thinks about you. Term first coined by William Shakespeare.) It has always been difficult for me to accept any sort of praise or compliment for something that doesn't involve my academics. When people compliment my accomplishments or my looks or the person I am in general, I get uncomfortable. For me, taking a compliment is like taking a dose of cherry-flavored cough medicine as a child, absolutely harmless but still daunting. I even have struggles affirming and complimenting myself. I've never been given a reason to feel this way, but I always have. A prime example of this happened a few months ago. I received an award this summer that I almost didn’t even accept the nomination for because it was hard for me to grasp that someone wanted to recognize me for something other than my intellect. Against my internal doubts, I accepted the nomination and recognition, but I had to remind myself daily that I deserved it and that they didn't make a mistake in recognizing me. The night of the event, however, the doubt was swirling honey. The six of us who were being honored that night were standing up there, and I was nervous having all those eyes on me. I felt vulnerable. We were waiting for the Founder and Executive Director of the organization giving the big award to announce who won it. He was saying all these great things about the person receiving the award, and then at the end of all of it, this man had the AUDACITY to say MY NAME. The look on my face was genuine shock. I know it because I watch the video from time to time. I genuinely did not expect him to say my name, and this raised a question for me. Why didn't I expect him to say my name? I mean I put in the work, I represent what he said, and there's not a reason for me to feel less than deserving. I shared this anecdote to say this: It's about damn time I learn how to clap for myself. If I don't, then who will. I have to stop struggling to accept praise for everything. Nothing is wrong with wanting to actually be confident and not apologizing for it. I have to get comfortable standing in the light, taking ownership of my grind & the shine that is going to come with it. Me dimming my own light doesn't do anything for anybody except hurt me. How am I putting the action behind saying yes to my badassery? I'm doing my best to stop comparing myself to others, staying in my lane, incorporating more positive affirmations into my daily life, and trying to be more conscious of and limit my negative self-talk. This is why "take care of business and heal thyself" is still so important to me. Actually doing it instead of just saying it to sound good is helping me. It's not easy at all, but definitely worth it. Part of this yes is also saying yes to being enough for myself. I’ve been having off and on struggles with feeling inadequate, and lately they’ve been more on than off. This struggle has also spread to other parts of my life, but earlier this week something clicked in me. I’m not going to feel like enough for a person or school or opportunity that wasn’t destined for me in the first place. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. On the other side of that struggle, I will never feel like I'm "too much" for something that's designed with me in mind. It just is what it is. If something or someone or a specific opportunity isn’t for me, then it’s just not, and I don’t need to feel like I’m not enough because of it. It goes back to trusting my process and knowing that God’s got me. I know that I was created to be better than enough, more than enough, all that and then some, but that doesn’t mean everything or everybody I want or come across is meant to be a key part in my journey. And that is okay. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I think I’m finally getting it through this thick skull of mine. Time will tell.

My senior year is a crucial time, and choosing this as my time to say yes was just as important. For me, saying yes to all of these things boils down to me saying yes to me - my growth, my development, my journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly are all necessary for holistic development, and saying yes to it is the first step I had to take in order to not feel overwhelmed by it. Strength doesn’t come without pushing a muscle past its previous limit. Bossing up doesn’t come without cutting some things and some people loose. Becoming the type of woman I want to become isn’t going to come without doing the hard work it takes to get there. After all, Lizzo already told me I'm 100% that b---h. The least I could do is walk in it. I'm putting all of my energy into becoming a badder, better, bossed-up Brena, and I hope y'all choose to do the same. Until next time, start saying yes. Say yes to living life. Say yes to being great. Say yes to flourishing. Much love, Brena

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