One Year. No Heat.

Blackness, Natural Hair

My Story

This all began mid-December of 2015 when I went to a local hair salon in my college town for a wash, blow dry, trim, and straighten. I was less than a week away from going home for Christmas, which meant I could go to my favorite hair stylist in Atlanta, but for some reason, I just couldn’t wait. My ends were dead and somehow I convinced myself that I couldn’t live another week with them.

One of my teammates often got her hair straightened by a woman in the salon I booked an appointment, so naturally, I requested her as my stylist. This is where the nightmare began. Prior to this, my hair was in great shape. It was growing longer than it ever had, was healthy, and was just overdue for a trim.

For this appointment, I booked the same things that I would if I was at home with my favorite stylist. I got a wash, deep conditioning treatment, blow dry, trim and straighten. Everything was great! My hair looked good for as long as I could keep it straight, but as soon as I washed it I realized my curls weren’t reverting. Yes, every natural girl’s biggest nightmare.

In denial, I thought I’d just wash it again in a few days and everything would go back to normal. Wrong! My curls were stringy and in some places, they were gone. Right then and there, and mainly out of spite, I made the decision to not straighten my hair for a year.

What I Learned

I know every natural hair guru will tell you that heat is not your friend, but what works for you doesn’t always work for everyone. After a year of no heat, I guarantee you that I will not commit to that again. My hair needs heat. Maybe not every day or month, but at least 2-3 times a year. Let me explain, the health of my hair was restored as soon as I cut the dead ends and heat damage off, but other than that, it was already in great shape. While on my heat hiatus, my hair grew, but no more than it would have if I was putting heat on it 2-3 times a year like I usually do.

On the other hand, one benefit of not using heat was that I learned what products my hair truly likes. In its most natural state, I realized that less is more and that my hair responds well to fewer products. The less I used the better my hair responded, and my wallet appreciated it. I also learned that the bun was the hair style for me. For those of you who know me well, the bun is my go to. As a college student-athlete who generally has practice or a game every day, I don’t really care to wear my hair down, so finding different ways to style my hair into up-dos was fun.

Biggest Take Away

Do everything in moderation. Too much heat isn’t great for your hair, but I don’t think no heat is all that wonderful either. While this is true for me, it is on you to find out what works for you. Ultimately, I encourage you to try a year of no heat for yourself. It’s definitely a learning experience, but I think it’s worth trying. From learning what products and hairstyles you like, to figuring out if heat is really your hair’s biggest enemy, one year of no heat will keep you on your toes and in tuned to what works best for you. Try it and feel free to comment about your natural hair journey below.

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Farewell Address, 2017 Inauguration, and Sentiments on Democracy

Elections, Leadership, Politics

The end of 2016 came at us hard and fast as we the people elected a new President into office. With the inauguration of our 45th president coming up on January 20th, I thought I would get ahead of the political articles, whether positive or negative, that will soon flood your timelines. But instead of focusing on the inauguration, I want to highlight a few points Barack Obama made during his Farewell Address.

In case you missed it, last Tuesday, January 10th, Barack Obama gave his Farewell Address to the American people in Chicago where his political career began. He touched on many topics, some of which were all that America has accomplished in the last eight years, race, healthcare, and finding common ground as American people. In my opinion, his speech was powerful and there were so many wonderful points made, but I cannot cover them all in just one blog post. With that being said, I do want to echo his sentiments on democracy using his own words from the address, my thoughts, and the thoughts of Viola Davis, an American producer and actress.

My first time able to practice voting rights as an American citizen was during the 2016 Presidential Election. What an initiation to politics, am I right? With the election’s outcome, I am now more tuned into politics than ever. But more importantly, I am committed to spreading the truth about democracy.

Democracy (n.) – a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.

Now, I hate to state the obvious but, nothing about democracy says people do not have a voice. It actually states that the “whole population” does. So, while I wasn’t thrilled about our nation’s selection for president on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016, we, as the American people, did elect Trump. I think Viola Davis said it best when she was asked about Donald Trump backstage at the Golden Globes.  She said, I think that America in and of itself has been an affirmation, but I think we’ve fallen short a lot because there is no way that we can have anyone in office that is not an extension of our own belief system. So then, what does that say about us? And I think that, if you answer that question, I think that that says it all.” 

Oftentimes, we feel as though we don’t have a say in our governance. But what you might not know is that “voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracy.” How embarrassing! It’s not that we don’t have a say, it’s that we don’t use our say. You can’t be upset about the outcome of the election if you didn’t vote because you willingly gave up your voice. It shows a lack of maturity and ownership to simply blame the elected for circumstances that took a nation to create. Put simply, “We weaken those ties (democracy)… When we write off the whole system as inevitably corrupt, and when we sit back and blame the leaders we elect without examining our own role in electing them.” As American citizens, we all played and continue to play a role in how we are governed, who is elected, and much more. We must accept “… the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging.” We must always be involved and in tune with what is going on so that we can speak up on all issues, not just the ones that seem to directly affect us.

Being involved and in tune is necessary because every time we give up our power to speak through voting, writing to an elected official, protesting, or petitioning, we weaken our countries democracy. “George Washington wrote that self-government is the underpinning of our safety, prosperity, and liberty, but ‘from different causes and from different quarters much pains will be taken… to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth’.” George Washington was right. Whenever we feel as though we have no say in our governance, in our minds the conviction of the truth about democracy, the fact that democracy includes and encourages the voices of everyone, is weakened.

With that being said, when things in politics are not going your way instead of giving up on the system and calling it corrupt, it is important to realize that “democracy does not require uniformity. Democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity.” This means that if you want to see change the opportunity is there. Find a group of people who feel the same way about issues you’re passionate about, and take those concerns known to your elected officials. Better yet, if you feel so compelled, take steps to become an elected official, but do not mistake lack of action for freedom of expression. When it comes to democracy, action is the only way to express oneself. Silence does nothing.

I’ll end with my favorite quote from the night. “Change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged and they come together to demand it.”

For eight years Barack Obama has led our nation in change, and if the inauguration on January 20th, 2017, sparks anything in you, I urge you to demand the change you want to see, because democracy is a powerful thing if used correctly.

“It’s Time To Get ‘Right’ With God”

Faith

As a Christian, I cannot tell you how many times I hear people say, “It’s time to get right with God”. I hear it in church, I hear it in the locker room, and I hear it talking with friends. But most of all, I have heard it recently because of the new year. Everyone feels that 2017 is the year that they need to “get right with God”. Now you might think I’m crazy when I say this, but the concept of “getting right with God” is so misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong, as a child of God, I also want to intentionally live a life that glorifies Him. I want to do that better in 2017 than I did in 2016, but I don’t think “getting right with God,” is the way to do so.

Oftentimes, I hear this phrase being used by college kids that are displeased with their actions from the prior semester. (Granted, I am a college kid and so are many of my friends, so that’s the perspective I’m coming from.) Maybe you went out too much, drank too much alcohol, participated in immoral and lustful actions, etc. Whatever the case may be, “getting right with God” won’t cure or take away your prior sins.

Let me clarify, repentance is always necessary and important for our walk with the Lord, but if you are saved there will never be a day that you won’t be saved. To put it plainly, if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and have asked Him into your heart, but also believe that you can lose your salvation, then you are ultimately saying that it is your performance on this Earth that is keeping you in line with God.

Salvation, unlike other things, does not need to be earned. I think because we live in a time where we are striving to earn everything: our jobs, money, affirmation, a sense of worthiness and even solid relationships, we also believe that our relationship with God has to be earned. That is false! Our salvation was already earned through the sinless life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

So, when you say that you want to “get right with God,” you are putting the faith you have in your salvation in yourself, not God. We will always sin, and we will always need Jesus, but that is exactly why He came. If you have accepted Him into your heart, you can’t lose your salvation, so there is never a reason to “get right with God”. You are right with God. It’s all or nothing, not a sometimes thing.

This means while you may plan to party less, drink less, and surround yourself with better people, that alone will not alter your standing with the Lord or make you holier in His eyes. That does not mean you shouldn’t do it, it just means that your worth to Him does not change based on your actions. There is no amount of good deeds that will “get you right with God”. As mentioned before, you either are right with the Lord, which means you are saved, or you are not because God’s standard is perfection, and we will always fall short.

Ultimately, if God sent His son to save us as sinners, what makes you think He won’t keep us as sinners? We do not serve a fickle God. He will always stand firm on His promises. So maybe instead of looking to “get right with God,” we should walk in repentance, work toward becoming more like Christ, and intentionally glorify Him to the best of our abilities in all things we do every day. Our salvation has taken care of the rest.

Happy Sunday everyone! Stay blessed!

5 Reflections from 2016

New Year

As we ring in the new year I always find it beneficial to look back and reflect on the one that has past. These are a few of my reflections. Hopefully you can identify with at least one and continue to reflect on how 2016 went for you.

 Set Your Mind To It

I have accomplished a number of things in 2016, all of which I am very proud of, but nothing quite beats graduating from the University of Virginia with my bachelor’s degree. To say the least my road to graduation was not easy or conventional. As a varsity student athlete, time was never really on my side and taking 27 credits in one semester was not exactly the typical work load. If I ever doubted my abilities, accomplishing my goal to graduate from the University of Virginia in 2016 was a great reminder that I am a lot tougher than I think I am, but more importantly that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. There were many days that I thought it would not be possible. Many nights of writing papers at 3am that brought my sanity into question, but in the end I could see that things were working for my benefit.

Change Is Good

I have a love hate relationship with change. When it first happens I usually cannot stand it, especially if it wasn’t planned by me, but somewhere in between I realize just how amazing it is. Through the many changes I have encountered this year (graduating, moving across the country, traveling to Europe, going to graduate school, joining a new team, etc.) I have realized how each experience has shaped me as a person. With each change came an opportunity to grow and further my knowledge of myself and the people around me. Sometimes you have to let go of good to get to great. Change has helped me see that.

Family Is Valuable

I feel like I mention this every year and for good reason. Nothing beats family! After four years of varsity athletics and internships that have both granted me great opportunities but plenty of valuable time away from my family, I realize more-and-more each year how important they are to me. They are the people who know me best, have my best interest in mind, and will be there for me during good and bad times. They keep me grounded and I could not be more thankful for all that they have done for me over the years.

Struggles Are Necessary

While 2016 was a year of growth for me I have to say that growing, like change, isn’t always easy. There were so many times that I felt like I was struggling. Many things did not come easy and hard lessons were learned along the way. But I’m a firm believer in the fact that sometimes you need the struggle or hard lesson to toughen you up and truly get a point across. I feel that every obstacle thrown my way this past year was and is still preparing me for what God has planned for my future. For that I am thankful.

Know Your Worth & Boundaries

I feel like every year there is at least one defining moment that causes me to re-discover my self-worth. This year there were a couple and without getting into great detail, I advise that you listen to your gut. Just like knowing right from wrong, you know when you are going outside of your own boundaries or when people are crossing lines that you have put in place. Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and to remove yourself from situations that others participate in. Ultimately, no one is going to look out for you like you will. Putting yourself first, understanding your own self-worth, and creating boundaries are key to maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself.

2016 was quite the year to say the least. With all the lessons learned, I welcome 2017 with open arms and with hopes that I can build on this past year.