My Kind of Weird

We all know the bittersweet feeling of hanging with your best friends for the weekend, then having to say goodbye before the week begins again. We all wished for secret tunnels that led to one another so that the fun could continue but that never happened. Well, living with your partner is kind of like that but way better because there are no rules.We can stay up all night and eat pizza for breakfast if we want. You also get to laugh endlessly with someone who understands you more than anyone else. In my personal experience, living with my partner is a journey of love, friendship, and balance.

In 2018, I found myself on Tinder, swiping right on this handsome, brown skin man with locs. I just ended a 6 year situation-ship and was ready to let it go. It was the type where sex was guaranteed, he was familiar and I hadn’t found anyone who could keep my interest. I wished that I would run into a fine stranger at the supermarket or the bar but that only seemed to happen in movies, so I gave online dating a try. With Tinder, it was easier to meet people, but I had to filter through the crazies. There was this one time I hung with a match who seemed pretty cool — until the liquor kicked in. Things were going well until he felt some chemistry that I had no idea existed. He kept leaning in for a kiss after every laugh like I signaled him then he had the audacity to tell me that he wanted me to give him the daughter he wanted so badly. Red flag! Sir, I don’t want your baby and I really want to go home now, but there was Henny to be finished. I’m ashamed to admit, but I entertained him until my lil’ honey bun came into the picture. Once I met my baby, it was a wrap.

My favorite Tinder match was this is anime-loving, nap enthusiast who is my kind of weird. I always find myself super awkward in social situations but with him, I could relax. The day we met in person, I was completely hungover and tired from work — yes I worked my 9-5 with a hangover. We went to the park and he pushed me on the swings. He felt up my butt a little, but I was into it. All I really wanted was fresh air, a shower, and water, but even feeling as gross as I felt, I stayed out as long as possible to be with him a little longer. Even with only knowing me a few weeks at the time, he made sure I had everything I needed and I never questioned his motives; mostly because I had my own. I didn’t bring a spennanight bag but thats surely what I did.

We would do dance tutorials from YouTube and have the most raw conversations. The chemistry between us was undeniable. From the time we met, we were open with each other about our interests, fears, and personal battles. Not only was I attracted to this man, but he was turning out to be an actual friend. We didn’t have a relationship where sex was the only intimacy we shared. Most of the time, we took naps that lasted until morning. I started staying the night more often and then those nights turned into me moving in.

One cold day in January, we went to my place to gather more essentials, even though my side of the dresser was bulging, when he suggested that I move in. We were dating for eleven months once I moved in with him; I was never home and it made sense financially. There was a roommate at the time, but things still worked out. We had family dinners, blasted Soca and Dancehall, and smoked…a lot. They introduced me to fetes, we got wasted at The Mt. Royal Tavern and finished off some nights dancing at the Crown. These were some of my most memorable nights. It was always a good time escaping reality, but in the morning, we always had to face it.

Individually, I’ve been working on my mental health and that in itself is a journey; what I didn’t expect was that this man would be willing to take this journey with me. One day on our way pick up our pizza order from a carryout, everything seemed normal, but I was feeling uneasy for some reason. Just a few moments after, I was sobbing uncontrollably with no explanation to give. He never made me feel embarrassed or that I had to hide my mood swings and anxiety. He grabbed napkins from the glove box to give me, gently kissed my face a bunch of times and asked what he could do. I’ve always had people around me who cared, but it’s different when someone sees the parts of you that you hide and wants to go even deeper. Not having to worry about shielding him from parts of myself allowed me to confront my issues. He persuaded me to see a therapist again and I’ve been going consistently for the last year and a half. He’s always rooting for me to win and knows that success for one of us is success for the both of us. Naturally though, we pick on each other whenever we get the chance — just to keep it interesting.

I fell in love with a man who is sensitive, protective, passionate, and unapologetically Black. Sometimes he wants to be my surprise sparing partner and other times he’s chasing one of our cats down the hallway. I never know what the next day will be but it’s always another opportunity for us to grow and learn new things about one another. I also fell in love with the person I’m growing to be. In this relationship, I believe our comfortability makes it easy to be able to tell each other anything. This is how we build and maintain trust with one another. One thing we really had to learn is that we can’t always succeed in making each other happy but it’s important to be there in the ways that we can. I’ll always have someone to tell me when I’m being dramatic, back me up when I need it and help me plot escapes to islands. Having a partner who is also my best friend was something I didn’t know I needed until I had it.

A Dream or a Nightmare ?

By Donovan Peterson

The local governments of New York and Rhode Island competed to be the capital of the North American slave trade and by the early 1800’s, Newport and Rhode Island outpaced New York to be the top slave suppliers

That is just to say; racism was never purely a Southern issue. And I say this because I know that it makes white liberals feel a bit better if they can pawn slavery on rednecks in the Appalachia with character defects. While they aren’t necessarily wrong, this characterization is a misrepresentation at worst and a deflection at best. If a racist threatens to hang me, I will know my enemy; confirm him. Act accordingly. But silence among friends in the face of tyranny is both deafening and complicit. And confusing.

Racism in fact permeates just about every facet of society. I don’t understand what else anyone would expect after a society is built on slave labor and native land. It doesn’t go away magically after 400 years with a stroke of a feather pen and it doesn’t just stay in the South like mullets and hot chicken. Human minds and values were corrupted. A 250 year machine was constructed that stole lives from birth to death and decimated generations. That’s not 90 second rice.

I believe this why W.E.B Dubois coined a term “double consciousness”.

If you’d like an explanation, you probably have one of those supercomputer things in your fucking pocket that could help. But seriously, the knowledge of my history combined with seeing what feels tantamount to black murder porn several times over the past few years…it makes sense to say that being black in America has caused me irreversible mental anguish and sadness. It’s become an impossible task to compartmentalize it all, but at the same time I’m grateful and proud to be black and to be a small part of the mad man sort of resilience it takes to have some respect for yourself in a country that recently figured out that your people were indeed human beings not too long ago.

Black people have always expressed pain through music or art.

As a gesture of both this sadness and love that I feel; I asked my friends to come and say what they felt on a mic. One of my friends lost his freedom the day after he laid down his verse and I knew this was urgent. For us; there is no refuge. There is no choice. There is no South, East, West or North. There is no taking a uniform off. There is no silence. There is only continued struggle. There is only total liberation.

Click here to hear the contribution.

Donovan is a guest writer who currently resides from Baltimore. Although his beginnings are not in the city, he embodies the Baltimore spirit and drive. He is an artist, cat enthusiast, and writer for medium. He

Eight Years Later, We Have Another Black Body

I was a senior in high school in 2012. This was also the year every senior in high school watched Trayvon Martin’s murderer walk innocently out of a courtroom. We all watched the trial diligently. My friends and I just knew that he would be guilty and he would go to jail. Eight years later, I am still shocked by the verdict but somehow Black bodies are still being publicly executed. Black bodies are still being disregarded because they are Black.

The year every senior watch the mockery of justice.

At that time, I was 17 and the not guilty verdict turned my entire world upside down and inside out. I knew racism existed but I didn’t know just how deeply it was engrained into American culture. AntiBlackness is not a new phenomenon that suddenly swept the nation. It happens on a grand scale and especially in small circumstances. Looking back on my high school experience, there were several examples of antiBlackness and racism from classmates and teachers. I had a government teacher tell me to think of slavery as a “business venture.” A middle aged, balding white man who strongly resembled Lord Voldemort told a room full of Black students to not condemn slavery but consider it from a different perspective. “Consider it a great business that benefited the American economy.” Another history teacher decided to ask me how much of my box braids was actually my real hair. Never had he asked a white girl this question. Never had he picked of a lock of a white girl’s hair and examined it.

When Trayvon Martin died, I revisited the moments in my head. I had revisited the lessons on slavery, the murmurs from white kids who separated themselves from the Black kids, other non Black POC students smirking with glee when Black girls feened for their long silky hair, or white boys who found Black girls physically attractive but couldn’t take them home. All those moments added up in my head to just how society viewed Blackness and Black bodies. We weren’t just peers or children. We were Black boys and girls who became Black women and men who would be seen as a threat.

Trayvon Martin was seen as threat before he even entered the neighborhood of George Zimmerman. A 17 year old loving his life without regard for whiteness. A threat. A young Black boy freely walking without fears a threat. A young Black boy existing in his own space that didn’t serve whiteness in that moment. A threat. A young Black boy becomes dangerous when he puts on a hoodie because of the value whiteness has placed upon us. A Black body should be visible. A Black body needs to be announced; they need to see Blackness coming their way to determine what value they want to place on it. A hoodie becomes a shield and stereotype for Black boys.

Zimmerman was described as a white Hispanic. A term used to pacify his crime. His proximity to whiteness allows him access to innocence while being Hispanic condemns him. However, when your identity is associated with whiteness, you seem to have more leeway in a society that devalues Blackness and upholds and uplifts whiteness. You also have the keys to be just the right amount of racist. So racist that you can kill a child in cold blood.

After the murder, of course protests sparked around the nation. T-shirts and memorials all over to raise awareness. Even President Obama said, “if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.” Yet somehow, after Trayvon was the unofficial sacrificial lamb to the Black Lives Matter movement (hence the Emmett Till comparisons), we still have Black bodies being brutalized. We still have public executions to keep our Black bodies from being as threatening as possible. The question is why?

Why is Blackness still a threat? Why is the value of the Black body not attached to the value of the things whiteness can take from it? Why does racism and antiBlackness still burdened the lives of Black people?

Racism is tightly woven into American culture. From the time European immigrants stepped on the shores of this land, they have done nothing but assault and erase people of color. They created laws that would uphold their ideals and power. Created loopholes in official documents that would allow racism to fester and spread. Span for hundreds of years and reinvent itself through various systems and vocabulary.

Before Trayvon was Rodney. After Trayvon was Sandra, Eric, Tamir, Freddie, Korryn, Philando, and many more. In the year 2020, eight years after my senior year and the death of Trayvon Martin, we have a slew of Black bodies being assaulted and brutalized. Obviously, we need change and we need justice. We need to redefine justice and how it is executed. We need a reform in policing, and most of all we need a shift in mindset, which is the hardest thing to do in a country that determines the value of your body based on what it can offer- including the satisfaction of invoking terror upon you- and what you look like. That is the hardest part. Accuracy in history and culture can create a shift. Representation and decriminalizing minuscule things associated with Blackness, like wearing a hoodie per say can create a shift.

As Dr. Angela Y. Davis once said, “we have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.” This is the key to prevent Black youth from seeing more Black bodies lifeless in their lifetime.

Get Flynanced with The Queen of Travel

Yes the Corona Virus has us all in doors and waiting for better days but now is a time for you to think of future travel plans. Yes, travel plans for when we can all go outside and to the airport. With being home, hopefully you’ve been able to save some extra cash that you can put in the travel jar. facing-my-debt-1

Even though plane tickets and hotels cost money, there is one woman who travels at the same rate some of us change our underwear- for all of us that should be daily. At any rate, Cinneah is the queen of travel. She was born and raised ova West but currently resides in New York. Cinn attended Barnard College where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Africana Studies and a Master of Science degree in Management from Wake Forest University School of Business.

She traveled to 25 countries by her 25th birthday. Her new goal is 40 countries by age 30. Aside from her travel expertise she is a Product Developer for American Express and founder of Flynanced – a blog exploring travel and generating wealth. Cinneah believes you don’t have to put your travel aspirations on hold to reach your financial goals. She says, ” I am passionate about making travel, innovation, and personal finance inclusive for the historically underrepresented.” She also volunteers as a Board member for the Black Alumni Council of Columbia University. Her passion for traveling started at a young age. The first five countries she visited were with her parents. (Shout-out to mom and dad, please!)

We at OWS were intrigued with her stories, photos, and mission. We had the pleasure of interviewing the queen of travel for her tips and tricks for not using money as an excuse not to travel. We also picked her brain about her favorite places. Read our exclusive Q&A below:

OWS: When\ how did you start traveling?                                                                                    Cinneah: I am blessed that my family had the resources to take me on vacations as a child. In fact, the first 5 countries I visited were with my parents. Those experiences coupled with more educational experiences in middle school (People to People Student Ambassador) and high school (Elijah Cummings Youth Program Fellow) ignited a passion for travel in me.

OWS: Why did you take the 25 before 25 initiative?                                                                Cinneah: I decided as a senior in college that I wanted to set an ambitious travel goal. At that point, I had been blogging (mostly to my family readers) about my travels with study abroad and other trips during college. Again, the generosity of my parents especially my mother helped me cross this goal. For my college graduation gift, my mother sent me on a month long trip around Europe with EF College Break. I was able to visit 9 countries, which helped accelerate my progress. So by 22, I’d been to 20 countries. From there, reaching 5 more countries felt within reach. I am blessed to say I surpassed my goal by my 25th birthday.

OWS: How do plan your trips? How do you decide where to go?
Cinneah: I love to travel with my close friends so most of the trips I’ve planned post-college have been based on our shared interests. For example, Cuba (country #22) ended up being a girls’ trip with friends of mine from college and back home. We all wanted to experience Havana and decided to go before we all were bogged down by school and work. Beyond that, I keep a mental list of places I want to visit and jump at the opportunity to do so when the right deal and options present themselves.
OWS: What advice do you have for someone who wants to travel but believes they can’t afford it?
Cinneah: First, I recommend really assessing your financial situation. Log into all your bank and credit card accounts and review your last month’s statements. Start by answering these questions: How much did you earn last month? How much did your absolute necessary expenses cost you, like housing, transportation, utilities? How much did you actually spend? What was the difference? This exercise usually reveals that many of us are not spending our money intentionally and we may be wasting money on things and conveniences that aren’t actually bringing joy into our lives. If you’re struggling with budgeting your money, check out my very first blog post: https://flynanced.com/how-to-budget-101/
OWS: What financial tips do you have for planning and saving for a trip?                       Cinneah: My biggest tip is to create a travel fund, which is a savings account you use specifically for travel. For me, I set up a direct deposit from my paychecks right into my travel fund. Since it’s automated, I don’t even have to think about it! I share how to get started with your own travel fund on my blog: https://flynanced.com/afford-to-travel-the-world/ From there, I focus on finding the best deals to save me even more money. I shared my favorite sites for finding airline flight deals on my blog: https://flynanced.com/plan-your-next-trip-in-three-easy-steps/  
OWS: When are the best times to travel?
Cinneah: The best times to travel are when you can afford to do so without accruing unnecessary debt. Period. Credit cards, especially travel rewards cards, can be amazing tools to help you reach your travel goals faster but not if you can’t afford to pay off your balance. Beyond that, I believe the best times to travel are when your lifestyle can support them. Do you work full time with vacation time? Use your days to travel. Are you in school with breaks at the end of the semester? Plan a trip over one of the holidays.
OWS: What is the perfect packing list? What should every packing list have?
Cinneah: My essential packing list is a mix of items for comfort and convenience. I never go anywhere without a good neck pillow and eye mask for naps on planes, trains, and anything in between. If traveling internationally to a country with different plugs, I recommend bringing a plug converter so you can charge your devices. Packing cubes have been a recent life saver to fit more stuff into my suitcases. Most importantly, I urge all travelers to invest in Global Entry status. For a one time fee, you’re afforded years of expedited security clearance with TSA Pre-Check (all U.S. travel) and Global Entry (returning to U.S.) every time you fly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve breezed past hundreds of people waiting in long security or customs lines because of this benefit!
OWS: Why travel? What are the benefits?
Cinneah: I travel to satisfy my appetite for adventure, to connect with like-minded people, and to appreciate the beauty of this planet we all call home.
OWS: How long do you usually stay in each place?
Cinneah: The longest I’ve stayed in a single city is five weeks and the shortest is five hours – it really all depends on the nature of the specific trip. I prefer to stay at least a week in far away places with flight times over 6 hours so my body can get adjusted to any time and climate differences.
OWS: What country was your favorite and why?
Cinneah: It’s hard for me to pick my favorite country because I’ve had incredible experiences in so many different parts of the world. I’ll say some of my favorite cities to visit have been Paris (because of its iconic charm), Cartagena (because of the vibrant Afro-colombian culture), Tokyo (because of the food and technology), and Cape Town (because of its stunning natural beauty).
OWS: How do you feel before and after you visit a place? What do you take/ get from each place?
Cinneah: Before I visit a place for the first time, I am filled with anticipation on what I’ll see, experience, and eat. I try to stray off the beaten path a bit in each place I visit. I love to wander and find where the locals hang so I can have a better appreciation for a place beyond the tourist traps.
OWS: What places are next and why?
Cinneah: In 2020, I am excited to get back to the Motherland of Africa by way of Morocco. This country has been on my mind for some time now so I am excited to experience my first place in Northern Africa.
OWS: Tell us anything else you want us to know about you or traveling.
Cinneah: Traveling isn’t just about catching flights overseas, it can also be exploring more U.S. cities as well. While people are usually impressed by my country count, I am also blessed to say I’ve visited most of the big cities across the country. Don’t miss out on experiencing adventure in your own backyard because you’re only fixated on flying internationally.
Flynanced does more than gives us all the tips and tricks for travel. Cinneah is an example of living your passions. She is traveling and spreading her knowledge of financial literacy. Cinneah encourages and inspires us all to explore the world, whether that is your neighboring state or neighboring country.  So save some Corona cash and plan your next trip.
*Photos taken from Fylnanced.com

Depression Has Been Kicking My Ass for Over a Decade …

I don’t know about y’all but I was a timid kid. I was agreeable and I didn’t cause much trouble in school. I was labeled as a “good kid.” I got great remarks on my report card and praise from teachers. At home, I was either quiet or had spurts of talking too much. For as long as I can remember, maybe around age 7, I had spurts of sadness that lasted days or fits of irritability that lasted for days. Of course, growing up in my household, “there was no reason to be sad.” I was a child and children were supposed to have one emotion- happiness. I did my best to keep up with that, although I had my first thought of suicide when I was 8 years old. I thought about shoving a knife into my stomach- childish, I know but I didn’t tell anyone. I learned pretty quickly to not speak of those things; I learned to mask what I was feeling. I used to play with Barbie dolls, and oddly enough every time I played with them, I ended up mentioning something related to sadness or suicide. That was unintentional.

In school, I was labeled “weird” and “smart.” I was also accused of having an attitude problem because needless to say at times I was moody. Something was always wrong but I didn’t know what and I wasn’t sincerely being asked either. I just thought I was weird, like everyone said. As I grew into being a preteen and teen, my “weirdness” grew with me. In middle school, I was rather shy and hid myself. In high school, my 10th grade year in particular, I noticed something was way off. There were days when I felt extremely upset. I didn’t want to get out of bed and I just felt like I just couldn’t that day, whatever that was. I had teachers who were obnoxious, peers who were annoying, friends who I didn’t want to bogged down, and I’m sure there was some boy that was on my kind. My school work made me incredibly tense. I stressed everyday about something. I was asked, “how and why could someone your age could be stressed?” But by this time, I thought I as just going through teenage girl mood swings. I was pushing my “weirdness” and “sadness” to the back of my mind to pursue other things that made me feel happy for the moment. I graduated. I started college. The beginning of college was one of the hardest times in my life. I felt so miserable. I felt so drained before my classes even started. I was not enthused or anticipating this newfound journey. I watched as the girls bounced happily around the campus and there I was, watching them bounce around me. This was the second phase in my life when I started to randomly cry. The first time I ever cried randomly was when I was 6 years old.

Bouts of tears has become normal by the time I was in college and it was here that I became addicted to working. It was here that I realized something was off and it was here that I discovered therapy. After that moment, my spiral into therapy started but so did the spiral of my life. I learned after 2 therapists and 2.5 years that I was depressed. I have major depressive disorder and of course, it invited its friends: anxiety and a form of PTSD. I was surprised slightly. I had small glimpse of my life leading up to that moment, starting with childhood. That was in 2014-2015. Here I am now, on the brink of 25, still battling and still hoping. Hoping that when I have my highs, they last forever. A high is when I don’t have to nestle the sheets and cocoon myself in the morning. A high is making plans with my friends and following through with them. It’s making jokes, waking up on time, being somewhere in time. It’s going to the gym. It’s looking the mirror and smiling. It’s planning my outfits. It’s planning effective lessons- yes, I’m a teacher. It’s saying, “hey, my days wasn’t so bad after all.” It’s not feeling life the world and life is just happening around me. It’s a lot of things that don’t always happen.

So what does depression look like for me? It’s:

  • Forgetting
  • Being irritable
  • Not writing
  • Not reading anything
  • Wanting to stay in, all the time
  • Not doing my usual things
  • Extremely upset
  • Extremely sad
  • Waking up late
  • Waking up but not getting out of bed
  • Getting to work 15-20 minutes late
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Wanting to sleep all day
  • Crying
  • Not meal prepping
  • Not putting effort into my work or assignments
  • Not seeing my friends
  • Over eating
  • Not eating
  • Not talking
  • Crying after almost every conversation

Depression and the lows I have look like a lot for me. They can last for days, up to a week. Then comes the high. I envision myself as a scale. I’m trying to find balance but it’s very delicate. A lot of things throw off the balance. A lot of things are triggering.

I think about my battle with depression because a new decade is starting soon and I’m turning 25 next month. Depression has been kicking my ass for over a decade and I am tired. I don’t want to see myself as the confused, sad 7 year old I was. I want to move forward optimistically but also realistically. Living with depression is not easy. Living with anxiety or PTSD is not easy. It is not something that you can ignore- I did that all my life and it got worse. (I have stories about that. I’ll tell y’all that later. Whew). It’s not something that you can just “pray” away. (I am a Christian and understand the complexities of being a Black Christian. However, I am a realistic Christian.) It’s not something that you can smoke away- didn’t try that and I really don’t want to. You can’t drink it away- fell down that rabbit hole. And you can definitely not sex it away- no comment here.

So the question becomes, what’s am I going to go after being beat up for over a decade?

I have to remember to ground myself. But I also have to remember that in a way, I just started confronting these things. 2013 until now seems like a long time but it really isn’t when you’ve ignored the issues and the root causes for so many years.

Yes, depression and it’s friends have acted like lunch money bullies for most of my entire life. Yes, I have been stifled and made regretful but there are some lessons that came from this. So, I’ll be a work in progress for some time but that’s okay too. I’d like to apologize to my friends everyday, but I’m sure they would get tired of hearing , “I’m sorry for…”.

With a couple months left in the year and a birthday on the way, I am going to make strides try to alleviate stresses, triggers, and whatever else I can. I am going to work hard to focus on what make me happy and what makes me smile. It’ll be hard work but not as hard as living with depression for about 18 years.