Everyone has their own lane. Maintain yours…there’s less traffic and no speed limit.”
– The Queen Code
“It’s my birthday! It’s my birthday! Bad bitch contest, I’m in first place.” 2 Chainz is giving me life! I am celebrating Scorpio season and turning thirty-fine (yes, you read that right.)
I started my birthday month right with the film, Harriet. I supported despite the naysayers. Because I love me some books, of course I attended the #WellReadBlackGirl Festival and then put a very huge check mark on my bucket list after seeing my Forever First Lady, Michelle Obama! I also saw the fine, funny, (and did I say fine) Trevor Noah at The Garden with Bae and Black Excellence.
What did you expect? I can’t celebrate me without celebrating Blackness. But I’m also out here celebrating because I know how far I’ve come. As a very reflective person and as I make my 35th revolution around the sun, I realize that sometimes you gotta sit down and process things with someone else. So I sat down with my boo, Melida and chopped it up about what it means to live life on our own terms and create the life we want to live.
As always, leave comments if the spirit moves you and make sure to listen, read, share, discuss and engage with your girlfriends, family, partners and whoever else you have intimate conversations with.
So celebrate with me and as always enjoy the conversation.
This conversation has been edited for clarity and brevity.
BWBK: Here we go, Black Women Be Knowing, Episode 7. We are still celebrating Scorpio Season! I am moving into a very reflective space as I am turning thirty-fine. I am thinking about where I’ve been; where I’m going and how I’m gonna get there. Maybe not how I’m gonna get there. I’ll leave that up to the Goddess. I wanna process some of my thinking alongside one of my friends who’s also very reflective. This is special too, because this is my first Afro-Latina, Dominicana, reppin’ the Bronx in the building- Melida.
Melida: Yes and it means sweet as honey. I’m very sweet like 92% of the time.
BWBK: Well, she’s always 100% sweet with me which is why she’s up here with me. So we’re talking about Black women living their best lives but living it on their own terms and so I really wanna make sure we get this conversation not right, but this idea of living your best life has come to mean a lot of different things so we wanna define it on our own terms.
First things first, you are gonna describe yourself in five words.
Melida: Ok, so this is like the question that everyone gets. I’ve been thinking about this question for so long prior to you having me on here and I always think, “What would I say?”
I’m a believer, authentic, resilient, kind and I’m faithful amongst many other things.
BWBK: I like that you said authentic because I’m thinking about doing a whole show about what that even means. I think it’s a really important word.
So thinking about what it means to live your best life, define what that means to you? Give me the Webster’s dictionary but Melida’s extended version of what it means to live your best life.
Melida: For me, that means that I’m designing the life of my dreams and working hard every single day to make it a reality. That’s all I do.
BWBK: So one of the things that I wanted to get out of the way is what other people consider living your best life. The idea that, oh, you have these things. Just thinking about other people’s expectations and hopefully moving away from that- the things and the benchmarks we think we need to hit by a certain age. I know when I was knocking on 30’s door, I was sweating and shit. Society tells you, you should be married, you should own a house, you should have these degrees and it was stressing me the fuck out.
I say we get caught up in “THE SHOULD.” Talk about a time when you were caught up in “THE SHOULD.”
Melida: Oh man, I think the biggest one that caught me up was earning my college degree. I didn’t graduate in four years and a lot of my recognition came from how well I did in school. I enjoyed the attention that came with being a good student. So when I didn’t graduate in four years, I attributed that to my inability and I let that chip away at my self-worth. I know now that that was unacceptable to feel that way but for a long time, I struggled with not feeling good enough because I didn’t have my degree and I SHOULD HAVE had my degree.
One day, I woke up and was like, “Ok. What if you never get a degree? Do you think your family is gonna love you any less? Do you think your friends are gonna love you any less?” I knew the answer to that of course.
I [also] learned about systemic oppression and racism and how the system is set up to keep motherfuckers like me out of school and just make it harder for people like me to graduate.
I just took it one semester at a time and I started feeling successful because I switched to something that was interesting to me and it fit my personality and my interest, career-wise. I did the whole full-time work, full-time school thing.
I had to realize why I really wanted to graduate and it was no longer so I could feel good about myself; I wanted to earn these credentials so I had more options when it came to my career. That’s how people should think about school.
BWBK: I wanna backtrack to what you said. You said you found a program that you felt was actually a fit. So can you speak more about what you were doing in the beginning and what made you choose that other thing?
Melida: I definitely feel like you have to go out there and try stuff. Initially, I was doing Psychology at Baruch College. I originally was trying to be a School Counselor or School Psychologist. And then, I started working in a school and was like, “umm, I don’t wanna do this.” But I still had an interest in why people thought and behaved the way they did. I just finished working at Apple which had a culture that I loved, [then I moved to a school that had] this different culture.
I started thinking, ‘You have these professionals, a lot of great talent, but they’re being under-utilized, or they’re not fully performing because they don’t have the right culture/setting in the workplace to do so.’This is not right. People work 40+ hours at work. How can we make this better?‘
I transferred to a new school- another CUNY school- in a program called Human Relations which is a mixture of Psychology, Sociology and Business. So now I’m well-versed in diagnosing the issues in an organization and ways to treat them.
BWBK: I like that you were able to at least reflect and say, I didn’t like this because when I was 17, I went to college and I was thinking the same thing: I’m gonna major in Psychology, I’ma minor in English and I’m gonna write books about why people in my neighborhood is wildin’.
Like I’ma write a whole book about niggas wildin’. (Both laughing)
Melida: This Why Y’all Trippin by Dr. Hopkins.
BWBK: I took one motherfucking Psychology class and I was like y’all can keep it nigga. Intro to Psychology was the worst shit on the planet.
Melida: Yo, chapter 2 was so boring. It was about the brain and neurons and pathways. I hate Chapter 2.
BWBK: #FuckChapter2. That shit threw me off and [made me realize] how much I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. We both grew up in The Bronx; very similar socioeconomic backgrounds i.e. we was poor and I think you sit around and you romanticize these professions.
You hear ‘psychology’ and you think that sounds smart and you do that and then you’re fucking miserable. I was like, how do people do this? And of course, people are doing this and they’re thriving and that’s great but for me, it wasn’t allowing me to do enough interacting with the work. It was me passively taking in all this information and I was like this ain’t gonna work.
Needless to say, that is not where my life ended up. I ended up majoring in English and minoring in Africana/Latino Studies…
One word that stuck out to me that you said earlier is ‘recognition.’ And part of not living your best life is wanting/[living for] that recognition.
Melida: Thank you for saying that because that’s all part of the self-work- it never ends. I remember coming up to you and being like, “I’m healed.” And you were like, “Really? Cause I’m still healing.” There is no finish line but that’s the Capricorn jumping out of me, like “Give me some tasks so that I can be well and then I’ll do them and I’ll be fine.”
You talked about the ego on the last episode. When you look outside of yourself for validation, you’re always gonna fail.
BWBK: So one word I heard a lot in 2019, was ‘release.’ Other phrases like ‘let go’ and ‘free yourself of’ [were also popular.] So my question is what did you have to release in 2019? Cause I feel like my release year was 2018. I had to cut a lot of people off; I had to cut off a lot of my own bad habits and do the work and trust the process. I had to ask myself, “How are you contributing to your own demise and your own pain?”
So what did you have to release in 2019?
Melida: So similar to you, I had to release some people, my own bad habits, shockingly, my fucking apartment and my fucking job! I was like YOOOOO! And I had to release alcohol.
Let’s start with people. I wanted a little boo thang but I realized that I was making allowances for things that I shouldn’t have. I thought, this isn’t about the person/people. People are getting away with things because I’m allowing it. I had to go back to the vision I had for my life and what I was doing wasn’t supporting that.
My bad habit was the way that I was drinking. I can’t do it in moderation so I was like, why don’t I just leave that alone?
And then there was my job that you and I worked at together where I had a pension and benefits but I left because I felt like my soul was dying. Then I had gotten my “dream job” and it still wasn’t right. So I took some time off and did some self-reflection.
BWBK: The essential question(s), if you take nothing else away from this episode is, “Is this you?” Are you being authentic? Are you being true to yourself? Are you following trends/fads? Those simple questions bring things back into perspective.
We also come from parents who didn’t have the luxury of taking a break. And this is something that people of color, particularly Black people, Brown people and immigrant folks, can’t do. You don’t get to take a break and figure it out. As long as I’ve been in the workforce, I’ve stayed in it and that has a lot to do with having children and obligations.
I remember when I text you [about the most recent job] and you were like, “Girl I don’t work there no more.” Part of me was clutching my imaginary pearls and the other part of me was like, ‘Fuck yeah. That’s dope.” In [trying to live] our best life, we’re trying to break generational curses cause [this world] will have you thinking “I gotta work til I’m dead; until my job kills me and then I would have proven my worth in the world.”
Melida: I even felt guilty at times because I know my parents didn’t have this luxury and even some of my friends didn’t have that luxury. But everybody was super supportive and thought I was brave.
BWBK: I always return to the five words from the beginning. When you weren’t living your best life, were those words different? You can keep the words or none of the words or add some words. You said, “believer, authentic, resilient, kind and faithful.”
Melida: These words weren’t as prominent. They might have been at the back burner but even in hard times, I was still me. But what was [dictating] my behavior was being lonely; being disillusioned; being misaligned in my career. Yeah, I was sad and I was confused. But no matter how good of a person you might be, when those [feelings] come together, they can wear you down.
BWBK: For Black women, women of color and immigrants, a lot of what we are expected to do and what we want for ourselves is misaligned and that is what causes a lot of confusion and those things feed off of each other.
Melida: Honestly, you live like that Khalya, You are very aligned- what you studied, your career and your passions- you work on that everyday in your job, with your family, in your friendships and how you parent. It’s a privilege to watch someone live their purpose and I think that’s why you have so much peace.
BWBK: I’m quiet but I didn’t tell her to say any of that, LOL…How does ritual and/or spirituality play a part in sustaining your joy and positivity?
Melida: That is what you have to fall back on when you no longer have the motivation to do the work. When you have these routines, you still get up and do things [you don’t want to.] I’m a Christian so I have to pray in the morning and at night because I have to. The first thing I listen to is a gospel song and I read Iyanla [Vanzant], (shout out to Khalya for putting me on.)
I have the Chill app, Aura and the Gratitude app. And it’s a different day if I don’t do those things. I do those things to anchor me. I’m still trying to incorporate fitness in my life cause right now, she don’t work out.
BWBK: I ran a 3.1 yesterday and I ain’t gonna lie, That shit was spotty. But we were off [from work] and I told myself that I’m gonna get out here and run this 3.1. I ran that first mile in 8:50 and then I started struggling, probably because I exerted so much energy, plus it was cold outside. But I refused to go home without finishing- I didn’t care if I was on my knees finishing that run. And who said I had to run it straight? I could take breaks.
And that’s symbolic of life. As long as I get it done, how I get it done isn’t the point [as long as it falls in line with my code of ethics.] I always say, “I commit to my commitments” and it feels good when you honor your word…
How did you know that you had ‘arrived’? When you know where you’re going not necessarily how you’re gonna get there but you had this unflinching faith that you are gonna get where you need to be? When did you have that aha moment?
Melida: Immediately, I thought about Michelle Obama and her book Becoming. You don’t [always] become the thing you think you’re gonna become. I don’t think I have arrived. I think I’m gonna arrive at different levels. But when I graduated and I realized my success came from having a loving family and not a diploma, was one moment that I had.
BWBK: Arriving is more of a mindset than a physical, tangible thing. There are definitely different iterations. I’m a Scorpio and we like to control all of the moving parts. One of the Goddess cards I love is Goddess of the Sky and it basically says you have to be ok with leaping into life’s possibilities and not trying to control everything.
Before, I tried to control things [and sometimes people] that I couldn’t and shouldn’t have. When I ‘arrived’ was the moment I was no longer concerned with [controlling] other people’s outcomes.
So a lot of living your best life [according to the outside world] is about checking off boxes. Thinking about technology, how does social media contribute to a narrow definition of what it means to live your best life and in what ways does it broaden your definition? Because depending on [who and] what you follow will determine how reality is being reflected to you.
Melida: I agree 100%. I used to give up social media for Lent. So I had to ask myself what is it about giving it up that gives me more peace? I gotta curate this shit to align with my goals and my vision. So I started being more mindful of the people I followed. I was reading our girl, Brene Brown and she was saying, “People make the mistake of thinking that social media is a form of connection and it’s not. It’s just a form of communication.”
Now I see social media as a career tool and keeping up to date with people. So I’m not the girl living for likes cause that’s not real love.
BWBK: Most people are posting their wins so you need to be thinking, what’s missing from this picture?- (which doesn’t mean you need to start poking holes in people’s happiness cause they could legit be happy) But we don’t see the journey, the loss, the failures that get people to that moment of success.
But there are some people who are fronting for the Gram and we have to be mindful about curating our spaces so we don’t get used to seeing fraudulent shit all the damn time.
So one of the things we don’t want to do is confuse living our best life with living a complacent life. Where do you go from here?
Melida: I want to dive deeper into exploring my relationship with myself. I realized that my relationship with myself is a love story. I wanna continue to live an authentic life and create an authentic space and my hope is that I leave the people I encounter in a better place. I want to be more open and more vulnerable but in a way that is still honoring and protecting me and I’m still working on how to do that.
I also want to be in service to my community. I’ve been thinking about my purpose. I wanna be a mom so I [continue to] work on being a good woman and role model. My gifts and blessings are meant to be given away and I think it’s gonna happen.
BWBK: Let me know in a nutshell who is part of the #squad who helps you to sustain your positivity and joy.
Melida: I have a big ass squad. If I think about myself as a planet and the people around as rings, it’s me at the center then my family [is on the first ring], then it’s my best friends, Black Excellence, my PA girls….
BWBK: So that’s gonna be another episode cause I really do wanna talk about this idea that you cannot have girlfriends that are loyal. I’m working through this because I think there’s a lot of toxicity around women not trusting other women and that is an immediate way to block your blessings if you are not around other dope women.
So last question: When you think about what it means to live on your own terms- to live your best life, give me one word that comes to mind and end us on that word.
BWBK: She trying to get deep y’all. With that being said, Thank you baby.
Please follow BlackWomenBeKnowing on IG and BWBK_ on Twitter.
Love you baby!
Melida: Thank you. Love you baby! Bye!
Black Women Be Defining Their Best Life.
Black Women Be Creating Their Best Life.
Black Women Be Becoming Their Best Self.
And if you don’t know, now you be knowing.