Being It

Part 3 of 3. Read parts 1 and 2!

In the first two parts of this series, I talked about life as a cycle of losing and finding myself.  I was thinking about this yesterday but couldn’t quite get everything to come together to write about it.  I’m closer but a series of quotes will most likely explain what I’m thinking.

“Not till we are lost do we begin to find ourselves.”- Henry David Thoreau

This describes the process. This is my life. I’m realizing that growth comes from the struggle. It’s when we’re put to the test that we really see “what we’re made of”.

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”- Unknown

So what now? After a struggle or a trauma, it’s natural to want to hide and become invisible.  It feels as though everyone is looking at you and seeing what you’ve done.  You’re marked. You’re stained. You’re tainted in a way.  But here’s the thing. You are not what you do.  You are more than your actions, your job, your title.

I commit today to no longer define myself by my actions, right or wrong, good or bad.  That’s only a piece of my story.  I will reflect upon and pick the adjectives that describe me, my character, my heart. I will keep that at the forefront.  No longer afraid to live. To be seen. To be happy.  To experience the full spectrum of emotions.

“And the day came when the risk it took to remain tightly closed in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to bloom.  This is the element of freedom.” -Alicia Keys, The Element of Freedom

Stay encouraged, everyone.  Every day that we have on this earth is another chance to get it right. Another chance to reinvent ourselves. Another opportunity to live the life that was meant for us.  We don’t have to suffer. We don’t have to be ashamed.  We can learn from the hard times and take those lessons with us into the future.

I leave you with this. Found on a friend’s cover photo.


“It’s okay to be a glow stick. Sometimes we need to break before we SHINE.”


Dear Memory

For those of you following along, I’ve been participating in a blog writing challenge for the last couple of weeks.  Today’s prompt challenged me to pick up a book near me, flip to page 29, and pick out the first word that stuck out to me to use as inspiration. Well… the only book in my backpack was my APA manual. So…pg. 29 was devoid of inspiring words. But I did see the word memory on the page so… here we go. I’ve had some issues with my memory. I’m pretty forgetful so I thought I’d share my concerns.

Dear Memory,

Are you there? I’m not always sure you come to work every day.

I have a few questions for you today. I’m concerned with your performance. I know you have a very sophisticated filing system, but I always feel like you can’t find the file I’m looking for when I need it. You’re very responsive about sending me files that I haven’t requested, but again, not usually what I ever need.  What’s the issue? Is there a reason you can’t provide the requested information at the time of the request?

Have I overworked you? This is a fast-paced, working environment so I realize you have a lot of juggle at the same time.  You’re the only one working in this department and the demands are high.

Are you really tired and just taking a lot of vacation days? Perhaps you forget to put up your “out of office” message but then don’t check your email upon your return.  I thought we had a good system for submitting requests.  Let me know if you need to re-evaluate the process for file retrieval.

And what’s with the damaged files? You know the ones that have missing pages so that I have the beginning and ends of a document but not the middle? What’s up with that? Was there water damage in the file room? Please let me know if I need to remove certain liquids or start providing supplements to boost file protection.

But, maybe you’re protecting me from something. Are there encrypted files that I’m not supposed to access? Do I not have a certain level of security clearance? Who does?  Are there files that you deleted for my safety because I’m better off not seeing that information?

I trust that you know what you’re doing. You came highly recommended at one point and I’m not trying to fire you. I’ve just been concerned with your performance in the last few years.  Please let me know how I can best support you in the coming years.  There’s no end date on your contract so this job is yours as long as you want it.  I hope you’ll stay with me for a long, long time.




Finding It

Part 2 of 3. Read part 1 here.

Losing it. Finding it. Losing it. Finding it. What are we searching for? For what are we searching? Happiness. Freedom. Self love. Self care. Self esteem. Success. Achievement. Titles. Family. Love. A person. Security. Happiness.

I’ve talked about losing myself. Losing sight of who I am. Forgetting from whence I’ve come. Forgetting who I represent. Not just who I am, but Whose I am.

Now I’m trying to find myself. Find those parts of me that got lost in the shuffle. That got stuffed away with all of the things I didn’t want to feel. I’m pretty sure Brene Brown said you can’t feel the good without feeling the bad.  I didn’t have time to deal with and feel the loneliness, the betrayals, the abandonments.  All in such close succession.  But that also meant I couldn’t feel the lasting joys, and laughters, and loves, and joys, and peace. The moments of satisfaction were always quickly followed with moments of sadness and because I didn’t want to feel that I stopped feeling at all.

Before I knew it I was a shell.  I didn’t recognize myself. I was trying on new versions of myself that weren’t authentic but I told myself I was being authentic. I was acting on every spontaneous idea because look where caution had gotten me. Nowhere. So why not try some risks? Maybe things will be better. But that wasn’t me either. That was relatively worse. It didn’t fit.

So who am I?

I want to find ways to merge the me’s together.  Take the peaks and the valleys of my life and squish them into a straight line pointing toward the future.  Who am I now, but who do I want to be tomorrow?  How will I get there? What can I do?

I’m searching. I’m learning. I’m trying. I’m finding.

For me. About me. To be me. Me.

…and that’s real.

I’m not always good about speaking up in the moment. I’ll watch or see or experience things and consider saying something, but I hesitate.  And then I replay the scene over and over wishing I had opened my mouth.

This happened to me yesterday. I was in class. We had a guest lecturer but my professor was still there.  The professor (a White male, this is relevant later) was invited to begin as we were all settled in.  Mind you, there are seven of us in class, 3 females, 4 males, 1 Black student, 1 international student, 5 PhD students, 1 undergraduate student, 1 master’s student, 5 psychology majors, 2 non-psych majors.

So, before this guest begins his lecture, he asks to go around and do introductions. So the first male student to his right introduces himself (name, major, senior year). The next male (the international student) is a PhD psychology student who the professor knows so he decided he didn’t need to say anything because they know each other. Cool. Skip. Next, male student (the master’s student in a non-psych major) introduces himself.  The next two students in the circle are the other two females, PhD, psych students. He knows them (they don’t do introductions by the way). Then me, then another psych student (that’s the circle.  So after the master’s student the professor just nods and says ok cool thanks. Or something like that. Checks in with my professor that the powerpoint is ready to go and then begins his lecture.

(Deep breath). I froze. He didn’t make eye contact with me. If he had I would have spoken up. I was waiting for him to prompt me to introduce myself but he didn’t.  The whole time in those seconds, minute before he began his lecture I thought I should speak up and say “oh hi by the way we haven’t met” or something nice and passive. I said nothing. I just got internally frustrated and upset and confused and then mad at myself and just replayed the whole thing over and over.

WHY DIDN’T I SAY ANYTHING?! I don’t know.  Maybe it’s that whole “speak with spoken to” thing I was raised under. I felt like I needed permission. But then I get mad. Why do I feel like I need permission? I have good thoughts. I’m a person. I have value!

WHY DIDN’T HE ACKNOWLEDGE ME? Did he think he’d already met me? Read: I must look like some other light-skinned Black girl in the psych department that he had in another class (side eye). OR Was he not interested in knowing who I was? He made sure to acknowledge the other men in the room. But my gender identity wasn’t as annoyed as my other identities.  I’m a freaking PhD student too! These guys were the educational minorities of the room. But they were acknowledged. I’m important too! Did he assume I was another non-PhD student? Why did he assume that?!

(Deep sigh) Needless to say, I was in my feelings the entire class. Plus, another student was facilitating a discussion (course requirement) and I was triggered by her choice of words. Ex. “women and other minorities”, “Obamacare”, variations on these themes. I wrote them down in my notebook since I wasn’t able to speak on that during the discussion. But I did rant a little bit on a related note in the discussion as I illuminated my opinion that the current societal shortcomings of our country are a direct result of choices made during our founding 200+ years ago.

So, Stacey, what’s the point of all this? My point is I’m still finding my voice. I’ve been silenced in different ways for different reasons so many times and I still struggle with myself. I’m screaming in my head and nothing comes out. Or I say far too much and wish I could stuff those words back inside my head.  I’m still looking for that balance. I’m still looking for those safe spaces where I can explore and test those boundaries. There’s a line. And a context. And relationships that allow for flexibility and trial and error.  I just can’t forget that I have a voice and it is valuable.

This post is dedicated to WordPress for providing me an outlet to share my voice, in a safe space, where I can test my personal boundaries. Thanks to those of you that read, comment, and like my posts.  You’re the relationships that help measure what’s working and what’s not.


As a child of a parent in the military, I’m somewhat envious of my peers that have a place they strongly identify as “home”. The house they grew up in is the same one their parents live in today. It’s the place where their family still gathers every year.  The place they’ll bring their children too. The place that will always represent family and home and memories and everything that generally provides a warm, nostalgic feeling.

I’ve tried to figure out what that place is for me.  Unlike most military children, I had the benefit of not moving around a lot as a result of my father’s assignments, at least not in a way that I really remember or that impacted me significantly.  I was born in Kansas. Three months later we moved to Burke, VA. A few years later we moved to Woodbridge, VA. I remember that house on Valleyhill St. but only the second time around. We didn’t sell that house, but we moved to Japan shortly after arriving there I guess. I was 5, so only my parents and brothers really know how those years in VA went down. Haha.

I remember Valleyhill St. after we returned. I started second grade. We lived there until right before my freshman year of HS.  Why did we leave? It wasn’t a new assignment, my dad retired in ’97.  My folks decided they wanted a new house. Their last move. The place they’d settle into. So we moved to a new neighborhood. That was the one time I really felt the “starting over” experience that other military kids felt every 2-3 years. I was pretty lucky. It took a while but I made my way. I graduated, I left that house for college.

Then one fall semester I realized that I wouldn’t be going to that house for Christmas. My parents had decided to move again. Lol. So Fredericksburg, VA became “home”. That was cool. Mom seemed satisfied (for the time being).  A few more years went by and then it happened again. Last year. My parents moved once more. Now to Stafford, VA. They say that this was the last move. They’re buying new furniture and having fun decorating (something that never really happened after Valleyhill St.).

I guess my mom never really let herself settle in. My dad got moved around a lot during his time in the Army. She was used to being an officer’s wife and setting up shop and packing it all up with kids in tow.  So even though those last few moves were in-state and by choice, she probably had an itch she didn’t realize was there.

But now my parents are grandparents. They’re in love with their new house. It kinda feels like home for me when I visit, but I think it’s just because that’s where my parents are.

I still think about the house of my childhood that I actually remember.  The last place my brothers and I inhabited at the same time in 1994. My oldest brother is 8 1/2 years old that me with another brother in the middle.  He left for college in ’94 and “had a room” until ’98 right before we moved (that one time).

It’s so interesting how all of these houses came to be. My parents could have just settled into Valleyhill St. after we got back from Japan.  I would’ve gone to a different HS, would’ve made different friends, maybe gone to a different college and my who knows the ripple effect of that. But they didn’t. They moved around and I had a different life.

I guess that’s why I’ve been ok with moving around after college. I wasn’t nervous about living a couple hours from home in my first job. Or moving a couple states away for my second job. I’ve stayed in SC for school, but the itch to move is there. Not just because I’m ready to leave SC but because I’ve been here too long. It’ll be almost 6 years by the time I graduate and move on. That’s the longest I’ve been somewhere since Valleyhill St, my beloved childhood home.

Weird. This place has never really felt like home.  If we define it as time spent, you’d think SC would be close. But it’s not. It’s the people. My people are in Virginia. My heart is in Virginia. My home is in Virginia.

It doesn’t matter which house they’re living in. My parents are my home. And I can’t wait to go home soon.

Happy Birthday!

When I was growing up, the one thing I always loved (and still do) was pound cake.  My grandma would make one every now and then when she would come to visit in the summers.  By the time I went off to college that seemed to always be the one thing I wanted when I would come home.  My birthday usually fell right before spring break and I’d head home. My mom would call and ask what kind of cake I wanted or if there’s was anything special she could get.  The answer was always pound cake.

If you think about it, this cake is kinda perfect.  You can eat it with your hands. It’s somewhat portable. There’s no need for icing so less calories (minus the pound of butter inside of course). A glaze is just a bonus but totally optional.  It’s almost like a sweet bread like pumpkin bread or zucchini bread.  If you’re running late you can cut a slice and eat it for breakfast! That might be part of the true appeal now that I think about it. My mom always made sure we ate something before school. So if I didn’t wake up early enough for a real breakfast (who’s surprised by that?! lol), she would send me out the door with a piece of pound cake for the bus or the 5 minute drive to school.  Any dessert I can eat for breakfast is a win in my book 🙂

What is your favorite childhood meal?

Point of View

Trying my hand at a little fiction today, friends.  XOXO.

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry.

Why now? Why right now? I’m supposed to be happy and strong and supportive and the rock.  I can’t believe just the sight of this little old lady who I don’t even know brings tears to my eyes.  Maybe it’s because Nana is finally gone.  She fought long and hard and beat cancer three times. Who knew a little cold would turn into pneumonia and take her away from us.  She was so close to seeing her first great-grandchild.  All the sweaters she knitted during chemo are hanging in his closest.  I know she’s watching, but I miss her like crazy. I just wish I could hug her one last time.

Don’t cry, my love. I know you miss her.  But think of this like a sign. We weren’t planning to take this walk but I need to stay moving to get this baby moving. Haha. Look. This was a sign.  This was Nana’s way of telling you that she’s always around. She’s still with us.  How often do we see little old ladies in the park? And knitting?! Hardly ever. It’s getting too cold for that this time of year.  So on this unexpectedly warm day, in this park we rarely visit, we see this woman knitting a sweater for a small child…that’s not a coincidence. That’s Nana.  It’s like she sent the sun to give us one last hug.

Oh! What a beautiful, young couple! She’s due any day now it seems. Hmm… I wonder if they’re having a boy or a girl. Oh but why is he crying? They should be excited right now. He must be nervous or worried for his gal.  Don’t worry, dear. She’ll be just fine.  We women are stronger than we look. Ha. I gave birth to four of my own and with a lot less than what they’ve got in these fancy-pants hospitals nowadays.  Yep, she’ll be just fine.  I sure hope this fits ok.  Kelly’s growing so fast.  I wonder if she’ll be tall like my Michael.  And gorgeous like her mother.  She could be a model one day, but then she might be too good for like granny’s handmade sweaters.  She could be a basketball player or a professor or an engineer for heaven’s sake. Her whole life is ahead of her. Hmmm… like that baby that’s on the way. What a beautiful couple…


“Hello, dear. Enjoying your walk?”

“We are.”

“It’s a beautiful day.”

“It sure is. Makes you feel warm inside. As if someone’s watching from up there and decided to reach back for a hug.”

(Pausing with surprise) “I was thinking the same thing.”

Intentionally Avoiding Adverbs…

…except in my title 😃

Today’s prompt challenged me to go to a public place and describe the scene without the use of adverbs. Sadly, I only went to one public place and that was the eye doctor, where my contacts were out and my eyes were dilated so I couldn’t see anything for the majority of my time there.

But what did I do today? I interviewed people. I had the privilege of chatting with faculty members about their experiences for a class project. The more I talk with people and hear their stories, the more I’m convinced that I’ve picked the right topic for my dissertation.  There are so many questions! So many experiences. So many stories! I thrive on stories. They energize me.

It seems that with every day I accomplish another task. I receive another encouraging word. I have another moment that boosts my confidence and reaffirms my potential to do this kind of work.  I am going to finish my PhD. I am going to build a new network in another part of higher education.   I still don’t know what will happen after I’m done. But I will be done. I will have a new prefix.

And then I’ll worry about finding someone for whom I’m willing to change my last name.

Tug of War

Young and old. New and used. Up and down. Backward and forward.




It seems to me that everything comes in pairs.  Everything has an opposite. There’s always another side to the coin.  But at what point does one side become the other?  How far do we have to go before the present becomes the past?  If we go too far forward in one direction, do we eventually start going backward?  When does new become used or young become old?

Can you pinpoint the moment? Can you go back and forth? And is that right or wrong? What are the pros and cons?

I’ve been reflecting a lot on past experiences in the last couple of days.  For about 3 years now I’ve been viewing this one particular theme of my past in a certain light.  One that I thought was helping me feel better about my present state.  And then I had a conversation with a friend that was a part of my past and has recently become a part of my present in a much different way.  His perspective on shared past events completely changed the way I saw my past.  It blew my mind.  I’d had this recurring monologue that defined this theme that I was holding onto for comfort.  In reality that wasn’t exactly an accurate description of events.  Both perspectives couldn’t be true so when I decide to accept his perspective, I had to let go of my whole theme.  In order for him to be right, I had to be wrong.  There was true and false.  I was wrong. I’d been wrong for all these years and when I finally accepted that, I felt lighter.  The very thing that I thought was helping me make sense of things was actually holding me down and anchoring me to these past hurts.

So instead of staying in the present I was shackled to the past.  But now I’ve turned it around.  I’ve allowed my past to inform my present but I’m cutting the ties.  I’m leaving the past in the past.  But it’s not all back there.  I’ve brought forward some friends to be a part of the present and it’s been a very rewarding and enlightening experience.

Young and old. New and used. Up and down. Backward and forward. Right and wrong. True and false. Past and Present.

What do you think? Are all these opposites really mutually exclusive? Are they on opposite ends of a sliding scale? Are they really all that different after all?

Isn’t it really just about your perspective in the end?

The Callout

Today’s Writing Challenge asked me to talk about the most interesting people I’ve met this year.  I wasn’t super motivated by this post so I’m using this opportunity to post a blog I saved from just before the challenge began.  When I meet new people it generally happens in an online forum nowadays.  But there are people that I’ve known for years that I still find interesting.  Interesting to me are people that challenge me or push me to think about things differently.  In the last year these have been friends, professionals, and student affairs colleagues among others.  Here’s a story about an interaction I had with an online colleague that really got me thinking and inspired this post.

So one Saturday I’m toiling away in the library and an acquaintance (someone I just met and who doesn’t really know me yet) texted me just to say hey and ask about my day. I told him I’d been in the library all day working on a paper. Whatever. His response was “I don’t miss that!” 

I felt some kind of way about that comment because yeah I didn’t want to spend my sunny Saturday inside but hey this is the life I’m living. Lol

Well I was bothered and annoyed more than usual and I tweeted about. I tweeted the setup (“Things to not say to a grad student” I think), his comment and my internal response “Duh. If you missed doing research and writing papers you’d be doing it! #bye”. Now. I intentionally phrased it that way because 1) I know I have a lot of student affairs followers 2) I know that you don’t have to be in school to do research and write articles or papers 3) I get that thrown at me from different directions and so I wanted all to be included in that so they would stop saying it (minus one or two of my closest friends that get a pass because we regularly talk about my graduate work and who have explicitly expressed their support of my current academic pursuits).

So, I get a tweet from a newer follower with a cautionary message of “hey not everyone is able to go to school full time for personal or professional reasons” or something like that. And she was right. That’s totally true. And my response to her was something like “I agree but the people who have a desire to be in school but can’t be right now wouldn’t make a comment like that.” 

So what’s my point? I have two. 

First of all, when people say “You can have that” or any of it’s variations, it’s really hard to shrug off. I made a conscious choice to go back to school. It was something I wanted to do for me. It was another choice to switch from part time to full time. Lots of mitigating factors in that second decision but real talk I could’ve quit school but I didn’t. I made another choice to stay. Anyway. So when people say things like that it kinda hurts because it’s like they’re crapping on my life choice. A really important decision that I made for myself based on my own personal goals and motivations. Even though the initial motivation was a little shallow (I needed a hobby), it’s grown to be a big part of my life. So it’s like you disapprove of my life. That’s tough. 

Secondly, the main reason for this post is that that “callout” made me think about how much privilege was behind my feelings and potentially in the interpretation in my comment “duh you would do it if you wanted”. I’ve always been good at school and been able to afford it and never worried about not being smart enough or good enough (well except in HS when I didn’t apply to Georgetown because I didn’t think I could get in but I was 17 lol). Anyway. I was fortunate to be accepted everywhere I applied for all three rounds of higher education. 

I had a scholarship in undergrad and my parents paid room and board and extras. I had a full assistantship for my Masters and my stipend covered books and my folks helped with rent. Currently, I was able to secure an assistantship for my PhD after the first few credits were covered by tuition remission from my employer. But still my parents are helping with my rent while I cover the rest. So I’ve never worried about not being able to go to school. And I’m not saying all that to brag. I’m really checking my privilege after that.

It makes me think about all the privilege I have. As a young, single, African American, female that is not privileged in those identities that are most salient for me (as listed), I still have the privileges that come with being a heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied American citizen. 

I appreciate the colleague that challenged me and called me out on a comment that I can only assume spoke to her or triggered her in a way that made her respond.  I only hope that as my peers challenge me I will continue to consider the perspectives of others as I think about my experiences.  What other careless comments do I make that might cause someone harm? I know what that feels like and I can only hope that I can continue to be open and cognizant of the words that I say. I hope you’ll do the same.