The Tentative Professor

I’m at a fabulous new job where I’m being challenged intellectually and have perks like $5500 for professional development, tuition reimbursement, free Spanish conversation groups, a bucolic campus, workout facilities, walking trails, theater space, and faculty seminars. I worked so hard to get back to higher education for this – more resources, more stimulation and more pay. I’ve been here for one month and have already decided that I love it. I mean I really love it, like unhealthy puppy love, please stay with me forever, it can do no wrong love.

It may sound far fetched, but I love the long commute because I now have time to listen to books on tape, study my Spanish like I’m headed to Costa Rica tomorrow and talk to friends and family that I’ve been too consumed to call. I love grading dozens of essays from my students, the severely flawed and the genius. I love being able to help a student to grow and to grow myself in the process. I love the ridiculous amount of autonomy and the assumption that I’m a highly competent professional. I love the kindness of the staff and faculty, assisting me as I bumble through the halls looking for room numbers and sending me rubrics for upcoming assignments after frazzled conversations about the workload. I love breathing the air of forest preserves that enshroud the campus and cedar woodpiles that someone nearby burns ever so often. Along with so much love, comes fear.

I fear that I am not good enough. I see all of the twenty-year, tenured PhDs, hear all of their conversations about neoliberalism and public space initiatives in Hong Kong and I think to myself, “Wanch, you are out of your league. You need more than two Master’s degrees and a love of learning; you need to set up residence at the Harold Washington Library for the next twenty years.” I fear that in order to fit in and woo my senorita, I need an intellectual wingman ala’ Hitch, feeding me lines from Foucault, Lorde and Paz in order to keep her. Will I live up to the hype? Will I make the college better and not just bask in it bettering me? Will I earn my keep? I sure hope so.

I also fear that I am being totally naïve and that the bubble will soon burst. No job can be this good. Period. Every place has problems and people with problems. Faculty and staff grumble (or whisper) discontent with the direction that the school is going in or about slights of the past. Some folks are way too keyed in and others are clearly tuned out, mechanical zombies working hard to fade into retirement without going postal before that glorious day arrives. A dude I had a great hour-long conversation with last week just resigned on Friday. WTF. Maybe the time will come when I’ll face the harsh realities of academia as well. What will I have to sacrifice to remain safe and relevant or just to get through it all – my blackness, my ideologies, my sanity? Will I have to lose the work-life balance I’ve striven so hard to gain in order to prove my worth? Will the nefarious “they” stab me in the back eventually or silence me with Hunger, I mean Tenure Games? Will they kick me to the curb if I speak out against any injustices I see? Or am I just being paranoid because it all feels too good to be true? And are these even real problems or Triple Ps (privileged people’s problems)? I don’t know.

Most of all, I fear failing my students. I don’t want to get so far gone that I forget what it’s like to be a low-income student struggling just to get books or the first-generation student who doesn’t get anything the teacher just said, but is too insecure to ask or the differently abled student who just needs the teacher to write notes on the board and make it big enough to see because my glasses are five years old. I don’t want to forget how much guidance, patience and support I needed from my professors and that I, too, have an obligation to provide these things whenever possible. I can see how it would be really easy to become lazy, dismissive and pompous as a professor, no longer keeping up with best practices in teaching nor engaging in the active learning strategies I used with my high school students because it seems more donnish to just lecture. I always want to help students to think, to analyze, to explore, to challenge, and to create. I want them to be informed and angry enough about the problems in the world to go out and create change. I want to empower new leaders and give sacred space for their voices to be heard and understood. I want to support them in achieving their dreams and be their fiercest cheerleader because we all need someone who relentlessly believes in us. I want to model being a decent human being because my fancy title is no excuse for poor manners, bad pedagogy, a shitty attitude, and waving my privilege around like a silk handkerchief at a debutante ball. I expect a lot from myself, but between committee meetings, new initiatives, hundreds of essays each semester, and a life that refuses to slow down, will I be able to muster the energy, the courage it takes to make my idealism a consistent reality?

The answer is yes. I have no choice. To whom much is given, much is required. This is a great opportunity and I won’t allow my baser self or excuses to sabotage me. There’s no room for fear, for my insecurities or my second doubts. I must conquer them all. I was hired because there’s something special that I can provide to my students and the college. I have teaching skills, writing skills, advising skills, administrative skills, code-switching skills, life skills, and people skills. Beyond the necessary skills, I possess much love – a love of my job, my students, myself, my colleagues, of learning, of all the past experiences and people that got me here, and a love of my life. And we already know that love conquers all. So Oakton, here I am. No rose colored glasses, no pretenses. Love me as I love you – imperfect and beautiful. Now, let’s get to work. There’s much to be done.

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This writer on her work


Vanessa Martir, keep giving, keep telling, keep being.

Originally posted on Vanessa Martir's Blog:

Years ago, an ex (the drug dealer I dated while a student at Columbia University) told me “You ain’t goin’ out” when he overheard me talking to a friend on the phone about our plans for the weekend. I was folding our freshly washed laundry on our bed. Clothes that I’d sorted, carried down four flights of stairs, washed, dried, bagged and carried up those four flights by myself.

He sprayed himself with his Dolce and Gabbana cologne and glared at me, “You heard me, right?” I stared back at him, poker faced. He walked out without another word.

I hadn’t planned on going out. I wanted to stay home to spend time with him, or at least that was the plan until he ran his mouth. That Friday night, I made dinner then dressed up extra cute in jeans, crop top, Kangol and pumps. I made a show of…

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Dancing the Summer Away

Dancing is my little magic place. Not just any dancing. I mean sista girl, African-rooted, fierce gyration. I gave birth to my female essence prior to Shakira’s shake and Beyonce’s booty bounce. I wind my hips so well that I make Jamaican girls jealous. They used to call me belly dancing Tina and as I popped and swirled in my orbit, they’d all crowd around. I felt powerful. I felt sensual. I was free.

As house music went to Paris, hip-hop moved in and I went from jacking it up to dropping it like it was hot, it being my ass. It was a different feel, a little harder, with an 808 drumbeat. The baseline made me do things like cabbage patch, wop it, and lean back for Fat Joe. I wore hip-hop well; my former househead grooves fitting it like a glove.

Admittedly, I fell in love with hip-hop and our relationship grew. The music made me think about revolution, about fighting for the right to be me, all the while, still dancing. Hip-Hop made me think about being in charge, Ms. Latifah, telling me that ladies came first. Rakim, Poor Righteous Teachers and KRS-1 told me over and over and over again, that I was a queen. They sang it, they rapped it, and I loved it. My hips rocked even harder, this time, with fists in the air.

Then something went wrong. The balance was broken. In the eyes of hip-hop’s second generation, around the way girls became gold diggers and yesterday’s queens became bitches and hoes. I found it hard to gyrate or to breathe in the toxic air. I left the clubs and in the process, left my main man, hip-hop. I convinced myself that I didn’t need him anyway. I didn’t need to dance.

I went home, brokenhearted with loss of sound and rhythm. My body wouldn’t move like it used to. I felt dirty. I felt like a hypocrite. I was ashamed. Once you become a queen, you can’t revert back to hoodrat status. My hips wouldn’t lie. They refused my ex-lover, refusing to accept any more abuse.

I moved forward without hip-hop. I moved to England and sampled a new lover. One, two, three. On your feet. Plié, relevé, pas de bourrée! For the first time in my life, my butt was too big to dance, or so the teacher told me. My body rejected that notion and the form. My soul turned up its nose. There was no space for my hips to sway. Therefore, no love for me. Ballet was dead in my mind. I could no longer kick, ball, chain in order to erase the old me. Me was all that I had.

So here I dance, into my own sphere. It’s a space where I am not defined by music, form or words, but by my own experiences and rhythms, from hip-hop to salsa, from kukere to bop. I can snake my pelvis upwards and hear the drum of my heart. I can dip, twirl, grip my hips, grasping my power, my freedom to be a woman. I am ferocious. I know it. I am love. Ummmhmm. Once again, moving to the dance of my life. Yes, I am a dancing queen, dizzy with possibility, strength and light.

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Let’s get the facts straight about what racism is, and is not (We’re viewing the Donald Sterling scandal all wrong).


Bryant Cross has hit the nail on the head once again. Racism is about power, not whether one group likes another. That’s just bigotry. Let’s get this straight and understand the structure in place that allows people like him to remain in power while being clueless and without an ounce of cultural competency. Privilege says that Donald Sterling can be just who he is without consequences or loss of significant power nor shift in mentality.

Originally posted on Bryant Cross:

The Donald Sterling scandal has very much upset me, but not because of the comments of Donald himself. A very old white man is a racist?

That’s nothing new.

What has gotten under my skin is the reaction from the general public to the racism displayed. As I read many blogs, retweets, and Facebook comments I let out a deep sigh because I see anti-racism education still has a long way to go. Yesterday during the Clippers first game since the scandal, many fans brought signs of solidarity for racial uplift. One picture in particular caught my eye:


Personally, I bursted out in laughter when I first saw this because the photo is very comical yet cute.  At the same time it also shows the misunderstanding on what racism is actually about.

Racism is NOT about white people not liking black people or vice versa. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr…

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Great post by Bryant Cross on being Slaves to Consumerism

You all know that I love the youth and I love it even more that Bryant Cross is discussing some of the psychology behind the murders of many young black men and how it’s rooted in the need to be respected.

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Turn Up! Turn Down for What? A Message to Chicago Teens

By Tina Fakhrid-Deen

The catchphrase for 2013 seems to be TUTDFW or “Turn up! Turn Down for What?” The phrase “turn up” was initially used as a party term, meaning to get really wild and party hard. However, now it means to get wild, ignorant and obnoxious on any occasion from cussing out someone to fighting in the school hallways. As if “turn up” wasn’t enough, somebody has added an addendum, “turn down for what?” Translation: Get ignorant, rowdy and out of control and don’t stop until the cops come knocking. So when I ask my students to calm down or chill out on negative behavior, they will often respond in jest, “Turn down for what?” Let me answer that question for you.

You need to turn down so that you can actually think. It’s hard to come up with intelligent solutions or responses when your adrenaline is pumping and you are on ten. It’s even worse, when your instigating friends are egging you on to “turn up.” That’s why when you are angry, it’s suggested that you breathe deeply and count slowly to ten. It’s allows your adrenaline to calm down so that your brain can re-focus. This helps you to think logically without the unnecessary high drama of emotions. In addition to turning down to think more effectively, let me tell you all the things that you can “turn down” in addition to uncontrolled, reckless emotions.

1. Turn down on the all drinking, smoking and pill popping. It’s impairing your ability to make good choices. Many of the unfortunate or negative things you get into are done when someone is under the influence. Don’t allow drugs and alcohol to control your actions. You have to be the leader of your own life because when that high comes down, you are left to deal with the ramifications of the choices you made while “turned up.”

2. Turn down the level of violence in the city. You have a choice to be mature and stop fighting and killing each other. You know it’s petty and harmful to the community. So if you know better, do better. No excuses. Put down the guns and pick up a book to learn about how we got to this place historically and how we are playing into a systematic plan to incarcerate and disempower low-income youth. Better yet, think of all of the friends and loved ones you and your friends have lost and ask yourself was it worth it? If that answer is no, you have a responsibility to do your part and decrease the level of violence that you are engaged in as well. It’s all part of the problem whether the “opps” are doing it or whether you are behind the gun.

3. Turn down the attitude and foul mouths. I’m so tired of asking young people to stop using profanity in front of elders and small children. Have some dignity and respect for yourself. We shouldn’t hear your conversation on the other side of the street or the opposite side of the train car. Use your 12 inch voice, meaning keep your business to yourself. What you say and how you say it is a reflection of you, your family and your level of intelligence. So show your best sides and turn down the worst of you. It’s a choice. And don’t catch an attitude when someone is trying to correct your negative or disruptive behavior. You can’t complain that no one cares and then lash out at the people who are showing you that they care by trying to get the best out of you.


Now let me tell you what to “turn up” on.

1. Turn up on high school and college graduation. For this to happen you need to “turn up” those good grades which leads to good report cards which leads to graduation and acceptance to good colleges and training programs which leads to good jobs and careers which leads to good salaries which leads to a better life. TDFW?

2. Turn up your level of positivity. Bad attitudes and outlooks on life are depressing and boring. Change your attitude, change your life. They go hand in hand. Use the strength you possess to overcome obstacles and have a winning attitude. Having a rough life or bad experiences does not mean that you can’t be happy and healthy in mind. Your environment does not dictate who you are, only you can dictate that; so be above the influence. You must prioritize what is important to you, reduce negative influences from your life and invest in the things that fulfill your purpose and make you happy. Turn up!

3. Turn up your level of accountability. That’s what being a young adult is. Stop talking about you’re grown, when you still walk the walk of a child. Being a young adult means adding responsibility to your daily list of duties and raising your expectation of what you can accomplish. Do you know how to clean the house (and do you)? Do you have a job (and are you even looking hard enough)? Do you make good choices and help your friends to do the same so that everybody can “come up” and thrive? Are you gaining skills and investing in hobbies and activities that make you a productive, engaged citizen? Are you reaching out to adult resources to help you get where you need to be? Get grown by being responsible and look to positive adults to support and guide you along your journey. TDFW?

4. Turn up your self-esteem. You are intelligent, driven, and talented. You have to know that you are beautiful and it has nothing to do with an outfit you put together or how long your hair is or how many boys or girls are chasing behind you. That’s about ego and lust, not the quality of the person. Stop giving away your most valuable parts because you are looking for validation or someone to be affectionate or stroke your external ego. You have to tell yourself of your own worth and make that worth internal, not external. If a person only wants you for your body, that’s external. If a person only wants you for your money, that’s external. Those are people who do not see you for whom you really are. See above the game and make your values your own. You need to harbor internal values like: I value my intelligence; I value honesty from others; I value being hard-working; I value my family and friends; I value my ability to be a good student and person; These are internal values that will still be there when the fancy clothes, cute faces and parties are long gone. Know your worth and no one can ever take that from you. Once you understand and value your worth, you won’t do things that bring your worth down because you have dignity and high self-esteem and too much to live for. Turn up!

5. Turn up the unity. You’re living in a false land of the “opps” where everyone is the perceived enemy and no one can be trusted. This is one of the unity-ripping ideas that keeps us separate. Unity is about reconciliation, forgiveness, trust, and re-building. Yes, some of you have been traumatized by all of the violence committed upon you from parents to the cops to your peers and the community, but you have to lift yourself out of that cycle of violence because it is killing off your generation, literally. We’ve created a war mentality in Chicago that has created a war zone. As long as we have the thought that everyone else is the enemy and worthless, the actions of killing the “opps” will follow, keeping us trapped in this senseless and community-destroying violence. Change the mentality, change the outcome. We are not enemies. We are a family and need to be revolutionary in this thought. We are a community. We are neighborhoods, not just the hood. We are not Chi-Raq. We are Chicago. We are one and we decide who and what this city will be. There is fighting to be done, but it is a fight against the real oppressor – poverty. We must continue to fight for equality and jobs and community resources. Stop looking for Ida B., Martin and Chavez and be Ida B., Martin and Chavez. Make something out of nothing. Become the leaders you seek. Make a way when you thought there was no way. We can only accomplish these feats when we stick together and trust each other and have each other’s backs. So turn up! It’s time to unite.

6. Turn up your resilience and dedication. Stop whining and being soft. I’m being real. You talk tough, but walk soft. It’s not about how well you can fight or shoot; being tough is mental. It’s about defeating your inner demons and pushing through to reach new levels and challenging yourself to be the best that you can be, even when it’s hard. That’s resilience and it’s the missing piece of the puzzle for some of you. When things get tough, some of you give up or fall apart. Work for what you want. Value the process. Some of you want everything the easy or fast way and that’s not going to get you beyond where you are right now or beyond some momentary satisfaction. Those who are successful have worked for it, not whined about it or given up as soon as it got hard. Toughen up and get some grind. Know that you are destined to be successful and that no one can stop you, but you. No matter what.

Life is unfair at times. Life is unruly. Life is unpredictable. Life can be hard. So what? Turn up, not just to party and act tough. Turn up all the positivity, responsibility, skills, internal values, grind, and resilience you possess to manifest your most beautiful and successful self. Turn up! Turn down for what?

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Rape and Hip-Hop Do Not Mix


We have to do better hip-hop – MUCH BETTER and I think this message has to come from those of us who love and represent hip-hop culture, as I do. Promoting rape in hip-hop is the bastard child of the pervasive misogyny in hip-hop culture. It’s always been there, as it has been in cultures around the world, but in the 1980’s, there was balance where you had just as many artists calling women queens and demanding respecting for women as you did the Too Live Crew types. Now things have become lopsided and the culture of respect for women within hip-hop has taken a dive into a dark, musty, dangerous place. As a parent, high school teacher and mentor, I see it in the hallways of my child’s school, the schooI I teach at, and on the Green line train as I bring my weary bones home in the evening.

Our youth drink in the music like water, their sustenance, as I did as a child and they sing it loudly as their anthems. But instead of “Fight the Power,” ala the 1980’s, I now hear an imbalance of “Off that Molly I’m sweatin, Wooh!” or inane lyrics about all of the ways that women can give sexual or visual pleasure to men by dropping “it” or sucking “it”. As if that wasn’t horrible enough, now you have Rick Ross (and other cretins) suggesting that he rapes women by “Put Molly (ecstasy drug) all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” What?! Then he had the nerve to say in a recent radio interview that he was not promoting rape and that he’d never do that. Well, you just did, Mr. Ross. And the children are listening – to all of us. What are we really saying to them? What have we taught by example, Hip-Hop?

Reading the text messages and court trial comments of those young rapists and their allies who were involved in the Steubenville tragedy where the young girl was raped repeatedly while she was unconscious says that the societal messages they are hearing from us adults are dismal ones, not just within hip-hop, but within American culture. This is bigger than Nino Brown. It was so acceptable within that school/town culture that many blamed the young girl and tried to leave the perpetrators blameless. Hip-Hop, do we think that the youth aren’t listening and responding to the water we’re serving them? Well they are and it’s poisoning them. We have to be more responsible. This isn’t just music, this is culture. This is life with real life consequences. We have to stand up for our women, protect and raise our girls and raise and protect our young boys. We know all of the reasons why and we see the effects of not doing so. So let’s stop making excuses and STAND UP

Sign the petition at Speak out. Raise these children right. 

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Getting Your Share of Happy

ImageHappiness is not just about rolling around in a million crisp dollar bills. It’s actually better because it’s something that is constantly replenished by you and for you. Moreover, no one can take your happiness away unless you allow it. Unfortunately, some try to steal your joy and here are a few tips to keep the shalackas at bay and happiness in your heart.

shalacka: noun; person who stands in the way of happiness; jerk or other undesirable

First, figure out what makes you genuinely happy. As a matter of fact, write down 50 things that make you happy. Seriously. Make time to do that sooner than later. Do at least one of these things each day, from looking up at the beautiful moon tonight or taking that stepping class you’ve been thinking about or saving for that trip to Bali.

Second, remember to smile and think positive. It’s infectious. When you smile, others are naturally disarmed and feel happier around you. This brings about good vibrations inside and out. Happiness is a lifestyle. Life will bring you some crappy situations and crappy people, but you can choose to wallow in it or flush. Flush often, clear the air and remove that miserable frown off your face, get your mind right and choose happy. Now smile.

Third, be thankful and acknowledge all that you have each day. Perspective is everything. Think in terms of abundance. Instead of counting someone else’s money and lamenting about what you don’t have, cherish what you do have. Each day, say a silent or obnoxiously loving, “thank you” to God for what you have and claim abundance in your life. Remember, it’s all good.

Choose happy.

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From the murder of Hadiya Pendleton here in Chicago to Chris Dorner’s manifesto and triple murder, my heart is raw from aching. On one side, violence and on the other, the societal issues that keep the violence, pain and hate growing among us. What are your thoughts about how we can root out the issues that are causing this pandemic violence?

Originally posted on Davey D's Hip Hop Corner:

As the massive manhunt continues for former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner, Reverend Jesse Jackson has stepped in and penned an open letter to him… I hope Jesse uses his clout and organization to investigate the allegations of corruption within LAPD.. Your thoughts on this?

Some of the controversies involving Reverend Jesse jackson has led to us questioning the state of the Black Church

Dear Christopher Dorner,

I understand your feelings of hurt and pain. I make this plea to you to stop spreading the pain, the hurt, and the fear. Please stop. Don’t take any more lives.

Christopher, your mother is distraught and deeply concerned for your safety. There are many good and credible people in Los Angeles who will help you. Danny J. Bakewell Sr. (The Los Angeles Sentinel’s Executive Publisher/CEO),

Bishop Noel Jones, Bishop Kenneth Ulmer and Rev. Charles Singleton are all individuals I know personally. I promise that they will gladly receive you.

I will do whatever I can do for you without hesitation. Please…

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Are We There Yet? The Journey to Love

Many of my single friends are stressed about finding a good man. Some are in true panic mode. Most are in their late thirties and forties and have been around the block and had their share of knuckleheads. They are ready for love and fear that their prime is slipping away. They talk of biological clocks and the need to get “started.” They are successful, know what they want and hope to get it – ASAP. They are driven, wonderful and stressing themselves the hell out about whether love will ever find its merry way to their doorstep. Well, if this sounds remotely like you and this stressful state no longer serves you, let’s try something else. Try living meaningfully in the meantime.

The brilliant Iyanla Vanzant taught us about the “meantime.” This is the time in between starting your journey and getting where you intend to be. Imagine that you are taking a car ride across the country and though you know the final destination, you have yet to arrive. You might be anxious and just want to be out of the car and there already, but there’s so much to do in the meantime. What would you do while in the car to make your journey more fruitful? Would you listen to books or brush up on your Spanish? Would you sightsee and journal at pit stops? Would you pray and enjoy the silence? Would you stop to get rest? Maybe you pause to eat delicious meals, collect rocks on the side of the road and visit long lost relatives. Whatever you’d do, it should involve being present, prayerful and grateful. There should be an instinctive trust that you are prepared for the journey, and that you will eventually arrive safely and at the precise time that you need to be there.

On the journey to finding true love, we must commit to doing some of the same things we would on a road trip. We ladies can get anxious and impatient when it comes to finding love, especially the “older” we get. We want a partner now, today, or preferably – yesterday. And we are frustrated and a bit depressed and questioning whether it will ever happen. Some of us have already picked out the ring, the house, the kids names, and the wedding location – all without the input of the partners we intend to get. Some would call this good visualization while others might call it pressure. When we rush love, it seldom works. Haste makes waste. Don’t place that kind of strain on yourself.  Be content within yourself. Trust that your remarkable love life will work out as it should – in God’s time and not yours. Shift your focus to yourself instead of the external. The meantime is precious time that should be valued and nurtured.

Use this freedom to do all the things you want to do. Be selfish and explore the beauty and wonders of you. Take time to determine what your needs are and work to fulfill them on your own. Fall in love with yourself. Sweet talk yourself. Hug yourself. Compliment yourself. Write yourself a juicy love letter. Travel by yourself. Touch yourself. Make yourself a mixtape. Take yourself to dinner. Rest yourself. Laugh at and with yourself. Be your own best friend. Dance with yourself. Treat yourself. Be kind and patient with yourself. Take time for yourself, real time. Be sexy for yourself. Trust yourself.

Whoever your partner will be, that person will be a reflection of you. So if you can truly and selflessly do all of these things for you, then you are equipped to do it for someone else – without losing yourself in the process. Charity starts in the heart of self.

While you’re catering to your fabulous self, work on yourself. I mean it. Be honest with yourself. We all have things to work on because we are constantly becoming our best selves with each moment. Lovingly point out personal areas you could strengthen and use this time to work on them so that they don’t become a distraction in your relationship. Trust God. Check the ego. Be flexible. Make a choice to be happy. Be on time. Follow your dreams. Fervently slash items off the bucket list. Learn to nourish yourself properly. Gain some work-life balance. Watch the temper and the tone. Advocate for yourself and learn to speak up when it counts. Cut the debt. Cut the superwoman act and learn to be vulnerable. Release the fear that you won’t find love. Release the fear that you won’t find love. Know that what’s meant for you shall be. Ashe.   

You are on a voyage and whether it’s a bon voyage or not is entirely up to you. Know that this trip is blessed and that you’ve packed just enough, but not too much because you left the major baggage at home. Love yourself, stay present and enjoy the ride until you get to your final love destination. I’ll see you when you get there.  To love, Tina

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