TAKING INVENTORY OF 2016: WHAT DID I ACCOMPLISH?
Happy New Year, friends! May this year bring us health as well as much needed peace and patience.
It’s that time again where we make resolutions about the new year and plans for what we are going to do or stop doing. Research has proven that some, if not most of these “resolutions” and “plans” are abandoned by the second or third week of the new year.
For myself, I have noticed that I am most successful when I get that “gut” feeling and just get up and make changes without waiting for “a new year”, “a specific Monday” or something of the sort. I also enjoy taking quarterly/seasonal and annual inventories of what I have accomplished. A quarterly inventory helps me get back on track if I have fallen off and the annual inventory helps put everything into perspective.
For the last 3 or 4 years, I have tried to be more intentional in the way that I live my life because I just simply do not have time to waste as a wife and mommyscholar. In order to stay focused, I have divided my life into four areas: 1) Womanhood, 2) Home and Family, 3) work Life, and 4) community Work. These are the different parts of my identity that make up who I am and help set the tone for what I can do to make the world a better place. Normally in early December, I divide my journal page into four sections, with the section header at the top and then jot down my accomplishments in each section (see the main image for the post for an example).
if I can be completely honest this is the easiest part to ignore, especially for those of us who juggle being spouses, mothers, and professionals.
It has been a long journey in learning that I must take care of myself in order to be good for everyone else. But I am happy to announce that I have left “mommy-guilt” in 2016. I am the proud mother of 2 toddlers, (3 year old boy; 5 year old girl). That means my life is beyond busy and sometimes chaotic. Since my children are exactly two years apart, I have been jokingly telling my friends that I was pregnant for 2 years. It’s been my natural inclination to put them first and more often than not, forget about my physical and emotional health. You know what I mean, right? Forgetting to eat or just eating their leftovers, thinking that a cup of coffee is a full meal, going in the closet to scream or have a complete mental breakdown because the kids have flooded the bathroom (yes, that really happened) and are running around completely naked, not doing my hair, not making time for a date, not making time for me…I can go on and on but you get the point.
After both of my babies started school full time this past August, I finally took the great leap into self care! Inspired by my sister’s amazingly successful weight loss journey, this past September I joined a weight loss program and a local gym. As someone who has been a fan of and played sports (basketball and futebol) most of her life, I am proud to say that I ran not only one but two 5k marathons this year, to benefit the Lupus Foundation and breast cancer research. Getting back to healthy has been so rewarding (although my knees and back will try to tell you different)! It’s been so much fun to shop for and fit into clothes in my own closet that I was so sure I was going to give away. I am now addicted to running and I dare anyone to try to schedule a meeting or ask me to do anything during my gym time! That is non-negotiable unless it is a family emergency. I even find time to work out when I am out of town at conferences or delivering lectures. A 3 mile run, weights, and post work out sauna visit are crucial to my ability to stay emotionally and physically healthy, to be a whole woman.
I have to say that one of the key components to being successful in this journey has been the support of my loved ones. Without my sister, husband, and grandmother checking in on me on a weekly basis with words of encouragement when the scale is being mean to me or with new meal suggestions, I don’t know if I would be this successful. As the old saying goes, “it takes a village…”.
Home and Family
2016 brought so many blessings to my family!
Hubby started a new position at an academic institution, something that we had been very actively asking the universe for, on his behalf. Our little boy began full time preschool at 3 years old. He knows all his numbers and ABCs as well as can spell and write his first name! Our PrincessSuperHero launched her academic career in Kindergarten. She attends an international language academy and is in French immersion, which means that all the teaching and learning is done in French. As Africans, we are grateful that her teacher is an African woman from Nigeria. It has been such a rewarding journey witnessing her progress. In addition to being able to count to 100, knowing all her ABCs, and singing in French, she is becoming fluent in the language as well! It’s amazing what the mind of children can do and the knowledge they can retain, especially in different languages.
When we weren’t in school, at work, the gym, or karate, this year included lots of play activities like time at the park, the beach, pumpkin picking and we even managed to sneak in lunch and dinner dates for hubby and I.
As an undergraduate student, my mentor advised me to focus on envisioning the life I wanted to live and then think of the job or career that would lead me to that lifestyle. He told me that it would bring me joy and fulfillment and not just a paycheck. I love to travel, (especially back home to Cabo Verde), having a flexible schedule to be an involved mom and wife, as well as non-conventional ideas of what an “office space” looks like. But what sealed the deal for my decision on working in higher education was the potential impact I would have on the lives of young people.
Similar to the impact my mentor had in my life, I don’t take for granted that I get to support young people in their pursuit of personal development and academic knowledge. After years of juggling teaching, mentoring, working tirelessly on articles/chapters for publications, serving on university committees, organizing campus and community programs, presenting at professional academic conferences, (and not to mention having two children back to back), I was granted tenure and promotion to associate professor. In case, those terms are unfamiliar to you, tenure means job security and promotion means I went up in my rank from assistant to associate professor. Next and final rank is full professor. It was a difficult process but also a rewarding journey, allowing me to reflect on all of my accomplishments over 6 years.
An inventory of my professional life made me realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be: working for students who need me to be there, to mentor, advise, and help them realize their own greatness and potential. There is nothing more rewarding than that. This is why I love the work that I do. It goes beyond the four walls of the traditional teaching and learning environment. I don’t only teach political science courses at a historically black university. I support and empower young people, many of them first generation college students, in their journey of self discovery!
My personal and professional identity is deeply rooted in the Cabo Verdean community. I am committed to supporting and uplifting the Cabo Verdean community, at home and abroad, beginning with the Cabo Verdean woman.
For many years, one of my dreams was to organize an international conference on Cabo Verdean woman and it finally came true this past March! PODEROSA (meaning Powerful Woman), as this conference was dearly named by my sister-friend and co-founder, Aminah Fernandes Pilgrim finally became a reality! It brings tears to my eyes to remember that cold day in March, a room filled with hundreds of men and women, Cabo Verdean and non-Cabo Verdean alike, from all walks of life. I was also surrounded by family and close friends. The next installment of PODEROSA will take place in March 2018. Stay tuned for more news and future PODEROSA events!
In addition to PODEROSA, I continued my local work with promoting Cabo Verdean culture in the Carolinas. In 2016, the Cape Verdeans of the Carolinas Association was successful in hosting social and cultural events, leading to a feature in the local newspaper, the Charlotte Post! From a Black History Month film screening of “Proud to Be Cape Verdean: A Look at Cape Verdeans in Southern California” followed by a discussion with the film’s director, Mike Costa and our Third Annual Independence Day Celebration in July, to our Third Annual Holiday Bash, attended by over 100 community members to benefit local victims of hurricane Matthew, I couldn’t be prouder to be the founding president of this amazing association. The members are giving, hardworking and always willing to help when it is needed. This speaks to the nature of the Cabo Verdean people and culture.
Perhaps one of the biggest community leaps I took in 2016 was joining, Instagram or as the young folks call it, Insta! Feel free to connect with me @kriolamommyscholar. Insta connects me to the different communities of Cabo Verdeans, Kriolas, Black/African women, mommies and more. I do enjoy the entertainment value as well.
It was a busy year” sprinkled with bits of frustrations, tons of fun, lots of tears but also loads of hugs and “I love yous”. But as they say, “C’est la vie”…that’s life!
CREATING THE VISION: WHAT WILL 2017 LOOK LIKE?
This year, I will continue to:
- Do more of the work that brings me joy and fulfillment like my community work with Cabo Verdean women and not just focus on what will bring me publications as a researcher and scholar, although that is also very important since my professional and personal worlds intersect quite a lot.
- Focus on my personal well being because I have evidence from 2016 that when I am at my best, my family and everyone else around me are better served. My heart smiles at the memories from this Summer, when I drove three hours to Woodstock, a small town in Georgia for a book signing event with one of my favorite authors, Emily Giffin as she offered insights into her new book, First Comes Love. After the book signing, I grabbed dinner at a local sushi spot (And I even ordered a mojito!), followed by a long walk down a shopping strip, glancing at the window display of each store, just enjoying life by myself. I stayed overnight at a hotel (thanks to hubby), waking up early to run 2 miles before taking my shower, packing and checking out. Before leaving Georgia, I sat at La Madeleine, a French bakery featured on an episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta (don’t judge me), for a latte and some light reading of my new signed copy of Emily Giffin’s book. It felt so good not to have “mommy-guilt”!
- Sit at local coffee shops with my drink of choice in hand and observe life happen or have short but interesting conversations with perfect strangers about a lot or nothing important.
- Shop for new nail polish colors, a personal obsession of mine.
- Check my emails less and check my Fitbit more, to make sure I am reaching my goal of 10,000 daily steps.
- Work harder on being still and enjoying the moment because I realize that I am often worried about “the next thing”. This is one of the areas of my life that I still struggle with and will require attention. As I write this post, I am worried about having enough time to go to the gym, shop for groceries, take the kids out for some nature fun and make it on time to karate class.
- Try my best to grab my professional camera and go for a walk at a local park or a part of the city that I have not been able to explore, to capture life and nature at its best, something that I enjoy thoroughly but have been putting off until the next day because…life.
Being Successful on a Daily Basis
As much as we take annual and quarterly inventories, what makes us successful in the long run is the work that we do on a daily basis to stay on track in accomplishing our goals.
For example, I create “to do lists” on my planner and check items off as I accomplish them, prioritizing the items from high to low importance. Items of high importance such as writing a chapter for a book or an article for a journal will go first not because they are more important than volunteering in my daughter’s classroom but because they take a lot of time and are tougher to accomplish. So tasks that are tougher to accomplish go first.
I am “old school” and still carry my planner in my computer bag or leather bound journal in my purse. But thanks to technology there are so many apps that we can use on our mobile devices to help us stay focused.
I really like the Five Minute Journal app which sends me reminders at the beginning and end of the day to ask what tasks I am planning to accomplish as well as what I am thankful for on a daily basis. This is my personal favorite because it combines “to do lists” with “mindfulness exercises”. Every day I am reminded to list at least two things that I will accomplish and two things that I am thankful for.
Some Questions to Ask Ourselves
I think we can agree that as human beings most of us are trying to be happy, remain stress free and content with the lives that we live. To an extent, we all have control over how our lives are carried out. So it is important to ask:
- What does “being successful” mean to me?
- What will bring me fulfillment on a daily basis and what do I want my daily life to look like in 2017?
- What daily/quarterly/annual goals have I set for myself?
- What daily steps will I take to accomplish my goals?
- Who/What will support me in accomplishing my goals?
- What will I do when I get off track and feel discouraged from accomplishing my goals?
- What will I do to celebrate when I accomplish my daily/quarterly/annual goals?
Lastly, although we may try to, we can’t do everything by ourselves all the time. I have learned to seek help because it helps with managing my stress level. It’s a hard but very important task. Asking for help doesn’t mean we are weak. It means we are strong enough to recognize when we need an extra hand to get things done. In the spirit of my Cabo Verdean roots and the wisdom that my grandmother always reminds me of, “it takes a village or community of people to help us be successful in most things we do. No one can do it alone.”
Let 2017 be our best year yet! Let’s focus on what makes us happy and fulfilled while staying the course in taking inventory on our current dreams and future plans.
Until next time…