About singlelifenavigator

Just a single woman trying to find my way in this world, without compromising on the things I hold near and dear.

Ready or Not: Losing Weight and Staying Fit at 30+

“My body and overall health have taken a major hit since quarantine life began.

Staying healthy in your 30s (and even older) can be a challenge. For the vast majority of us, our metabolisms begin (or continue) to slow down, and we just don’t seem to have the same kind of energy we once did. Earlier this week, before even deciding to write this post, I thought about how I’ve been feeling much more lethargic than usual. I can’t stay awake for eight hours straight without feeling the need to lie down somewhere for a few minutes.

My body and overall health have taken a major hit since quarantine life began, and I’m still feeling the impact now that I’m still semi-quarantined. Although I go out to meet with some clients, make my once-a-month Costco run, and take care of random errands, there is no place in my schedule for exercise. Taking a break from my 5 AM gym trips was a conscious decision made because Georgia did not (and still does not) have it together regarding how to deal with this highly contagious respiratory virus. There was no way I was going to put my life at risk because politicians were more concerned with maintaining favor with other politicians. (Feel free to read between the lines!)

Anyway, I went to the gym one time in March, saw how most members were not wearing masks, finished using equipment but not didn’t wipe anything down after, and decided that that was not my portion. Ha! You will not catch me out here in these streets knowingly putting myself in a position to catch a deadly virus. Since the gym was absolutely out of the question, I thought about going for a walk at the newly developed park near my complex. Sadly, I turned down that option down because of safety issues. I couldn’t get myself to go to the park at 5 AM in the morning, with no one knowing where I was or how to get to me in case of an emergency. Safety was also the reason I chose not to walk around my complex to at least get my steps in. Knowing that there were sex offenders living in that same complex, or near it, was enough to convince me that that was a no-go. The last thing I needed was some pervert seeing me walking by myself, studying my routine, watching me enter my apartment, then thinking he had hit the jackpot. No, I’m good.

“I’m still feeling the impact now that I’m still semi-quarantined.”

So, what could I possibly do to lose all the weight I’ve gained from quarantine after all these excuses about why I can’t work out? Nothing. There’s not a thing I can do. Just kidding. I thought about purchasing a yoga mat and doing home workouts, but I know myself enough to know that that wouldn’t work. Instead, I cut my calorie intake, reduced my food portions, and began eating foods containing more fiber.

Although modifying my food intake has kept me from gaining even more weight while basically being sedentary for the past five months, I recognize that I need to be physically active. My body was used to doing rigorous workouts 3-4 times a week. Abruptly ending my gym routine began to visibly show probably three months into quarantine. The truth is, exercise and eating right go hand-in-hand. We may be able to do one exclusively for a while, but they really must be done simultaneously to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Since it’s been almost two months since the state has reopened, I’ve decided to give the gym another chance. I’ll go in with my gloves and mask and only use one machine for a good cardio workout during my visit. After five months of little to no physical activity, knowing that I’m getting older each day, I’ve reached the point where I have to take action. We all get to that place at different times, fellow navigator. But when we do, our resolve is so strong that nothing can stop us.

My healthy living journey isn’t just about me. No, I’m thinking about my future children who will be active and rambunctious. They deserve to have a mother who will be just as engaged and involved in all aspects of their lives. I never saw myself being a mom who sat on a bench scrolling through social media while my kids were having the time of their lives going on imaginary adventures and role playing on the playground. I want to be able to join in and not worry about passing out or falling behind because I was out of shape.

This post took a turn from what I originally was planning to write about, but I like to let my brain and fingers do their thing. What about you, fellow navigator? How has quarantine impacted your workout life? What are you doing to stay fit? Did you lose motivation or face hurdles along the way? Tell me about it!

See Me: The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

Keeping it real about my complexities

Believe it or not, I used to be pretty uptight when I was younger. To be completely honest, I probably still am when it comes to certain things. That’s neither here nor there. I wrote once that I’m a complex creature because there are so many layers to me that it would take a man a lifetime to uncover them all. There’s the version of me he sees when in a professional setting, another when we’re in private, and yet a different one when we’re among friends. It’s not that I’m two-faced or put on a show based on who is around. No, it’s because I’ve learned not to allow everyone to have complete access to my true self.

Business associates and colleagues have no right to know what I do in the comfort and privacy of my home. Workplace etiquette demands that I maintain a certain level of professionalism to ensure that I’m taken seriously and critiqued based on my performance. Similarly, friends (even close ones) don’t need to know the intimate details of my love life. This is not to say that those my future partner and I choose to take on accountability roles in our relationship won’t get this access. Instead, I’m suggesting that I won’t be running around in the streets telling people about every tiff my future partner and I have.

When it comes to everything that is me, there is the good, the bad, and the crazy. I’ve learned that just because someone plays some sort of role in my life does not give them the right to see me in every light. By setting boundaries, I guard my heart and keep people who may not be able to handle it all at bay. Past experiences have taught that I place myself at a greater risk of getting hurt and doing unnecessary emotional and psychological damage when I fail to establish boundaries.

Setting boundaries looks differently for everyone. For me, I’ve broken my world into the three categories previously mentioned: the good, the bad, and the crazy. This is my way of determining how close to allow someone to get to me. Everyone starts in the good and, depending how things go, make their way to the bad. If they are able to hang on, they ultimately cross the finish line to the crazy. While these are terms I use in jest, they actually accurately sum up what transpires in the three major categories.

Let’s start with the good. This is reserved for those who get to experience the joys of life with me. We cheer each other on, check in to hear about life updates, and encourage one another to achieve our goals. In a romantic relationship, this is the “getting to know each other” stage. We discuss our passions, hobbies, and things that generally make us happy. The relationships aren’t superficial, but they lack the depth of the other two.

Next, the bad is saved for those who are emotionally and spiritually stronger than I am. We go through the harder times of life together. We walk through moments of questioning it all and wanting to give up. When I feel like I’m on my last leg and hopeless, they’re the ones I turn to for prayer and support. When my fire looks like it’s about to go out, they add fuel to keep it running. In a romantic relationship, we discuss deal breakers, faith, politics, and just about every other taboo topic. This group of people are few, but they are dear. Made up of prayer warriors, positive personalities, and individuals who will keep it real, they speak the words I need when life just seems like it’s spiraling out of control.

Finally, the crazy is exclusively for those who see my heart in full transparency. There are no secrets between us because we’ve been through it all. They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated. There is no judgment among us because everything is exposed. Some say you can never be 100% your true self with anyone, but I disagree. The very few people in my life who are able to witness the ugliness of my heart that manifests through words and actions are the ones who see my true self. In a romantic relationship, this is where we decide that only death will do us part. (I’m still single, so no man’s made it this far yet.) This type of relationship takes an enormous amount of trust, patience, and discipline because of the level of vulnerability involved. But if we make it to those point, where all the crazy hangs out, we will be together forever.

They hear the unfiltered stories about my insecurities, see the heightened emotions, and experience the moments that leave me feeling debilitated.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Now, there are sub-categories, but we won’t get into them. Some in my life might experience the first two categories, not the last. Others may only be granted access to one. The point is that, much like in a relationship, we’re not supposed to rush to give ourselves away to just anyone. Instead, we take our time to learn each other until we’re comfortable letting the other into our complex world.

Fellow navigator, have you ever stopped to consider who you allow to celebrate your victories, walk with you through the valleys, and see your true self? What is it about those people that makes them worthy of your trust to journey with you in those moments? If you don’t place yourself into such broad categories, how do you define relationship boundaries? Tell me about it!

Mental Musings: Receiving Validation After Years of Sacrifice

It was worth it

Achieving a dream makes the sacrifices seem small.

Entrepreneurship. That single word carries so much meaning that no two people share the exact same experience. While some aspects of the journey are similar, we all go down the path and make decisions that land us in different places.

I wrote some years ago that I became an accidental entrepreneur. It wasn’t something I really planned out. In fact, I was at a proverbial fork in the road and had to choose between pursuing doctoral studies or starting a business. Making it very clear to God the terms I had set, I allowed Him to have the last word. Almost five years ago, I set out on a journey that has forever altered my course.

It’s true what they say that being a business owner requires sacrifice. In all honesty, the ones who succeed at business make it look way too easy. While we see the celebrations and happy moments, there are probably more valley experiences on the journey that can easily discourage any soul longing to be their own boss. Fellow navigator, entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. Even though the life seems glamorous, it can easily break the one who doesn’t approach it with a plan.

I share about my journey in Defiant! Redefining Singleness at 30+ because I can’t possibly talk about being a single woman without mentioning what has captured a lot of my attention over the last several years: Speak Write Play. I started the company at the suggestion of a friend almost a year after he whispered the thought in my ear. Like many, I have stories about putting money back into the business before treating myself, eating sandwiches and whatever was cheap and affordable instead of going out to nice restaurants like I used to when I had a corporate job, and wearing just about every hat because I couldn’t afford to pay someone to do what I needed done.

After years of working, learning, and spending a lot of money that could have been used to pamper myself, I can finally say that I have arrived. Please don’t misunderstand. This is not said in an attempt to be braggadocios. Rather, I stand proud because my company is now at a place where I am responsible for the livelihood of others. Granted, no one is full-time yet. However, knowing that there are people who count on income from the work they do for me to keep them going gives me a sense of accomplishment. This is the very place I’ve been trying to get to. Now, regardless of whether Speak Write Play becomes a billion-dollar company or not, I am content.

There are some who may not view this as a huge feat, and that is alright. But I know that I have literally built a company by myself from the ground up. There have been countless sleepless nights, conversations with friends and family about how I wanted to quit and go work for someone, and 60+ hour work weeks. This company literally is my baby, and I feel validated. What brought this on? Why am I writing about my business on a blog about singleness? Because I didn’t understand the gravity of where I stood as a business owner until a conversation with a technical support representative. As the man asked me questions about my website to solve the issues I’d called about, he offered his congratulations on my being able to have people work for me. After hanging up, I kept thinking about what he said. To this random stranger on the phone, I had done it. I had gotten to that place of taking what may have started as a hobby and turning it into a company that has paid workers.

This company literally is my baby, and I feel validated.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Since it is the fifth Wednesday of the month and this is a “mental musings” post, I wanted to share because I desired to encourage you, fellow navigator, in your pursuits. It sometimes takes a total stranger pointing something out to us to make us pause and take stock of how far we’ve come. But that one seemingly meaningless conversation can carry weight beyond measure.

If you were to take a moment and think about all that you’ve done in your single years while waiting for that man, what are you proud of? How have you found validation in yourself? Tell me about it!

Not I: Afraid of Commitment?

When you’ve been single for any amount of years and believe you’re ready for a serious relationship, there’s no getting around the topic of commitment. A committed relationship is one in which both parties agree to put in the effort necessary to make the union work. It’s sacrificing precious sleep after a day of only texting just to hear his voice. It’s banging out items on your to-do list so that you can give him your undivided attention. It’s having open, honest conversations with him about your concerns when he says or does things that don’t sit well with you.

“A committed relationship is one in which both parties agree to put in the effort necessary to make the union work.”

If truth be told, I’m the only one who can determine whether I’m ready for a commitment or not. Sure, a therapist or trusted friend can ask thought-provoking questions and give me objective feedback or insight into my responses. However, I must make the final decision to move forward and step out or hang back and continue working on myself. There’s no shame in either decision because, ultimately, I’m the one who will be putting my heart on the line.

Being transparent, I can honestly say that I’m not afraid of commitment. I have no qualms with remaining loyal to one man and forsaking all others. It’s not a problem for me to carve out time in my schedule to make him feel like a priority. There’s no issue with allowing him to see me fail, cry, or lash out in anger about something that hurt me. Staying true to one man and seeing if the relationship can turn into something more has never been an obstacle for me.

No, I’m not afraid of commitment. I fear the hurt and pain that comes with choosing the wrong person. Because I seldom pick my head up from my books or work to give a man my time, dating can be quite challenging. Despite being a good judge of character when it comes to my friends’ boyfriends and love interests, I don’t always make the best choices for myself.

“I have no qualms with remaining loyal to one man and forsaking all others.”

Since I’m not active in the dating scene, I don’t always know the latest lines or schemes men try to pull on women. I see what I believe is a good man and allow him to pursue me until he proves me wrong. While this may not be the best method when it comes to dating, it’s what I know. As a result, my naivete has led to some dead ends.

Now, I’m not out in these streets dating a ton of men. But the ones who have been granted access to my heart, only to break it into pieces, really did a number on me. They’re the dudes who cause a woman to enter into a new relationship with all sorts of walls up, leaving her vigilant of any and all possible red flags the next dating prospect displays. Even if this new man is truly who she desires, she may make him jump through several hoops just to prove he won’t hurt her like the last one she let into her world.

This is all to say that, fellow navigator, we must get to a point where we face our fears of possibly getting hurt or choosing the wrong person before giving another man permission to pursue. If we do so, without becoming whole, the relationship becomes doomed from the start. It is built on a shaky foundation that’s likely to crumble at any moment because we enter into it anticipating that the man will fail us in some way. We desire to give him a chance, but we stand guard for that one moment when his humanity shows that he’s not a perfect creature.

While I can honestly say that I’m not afraid of committing to a man. I can’t honestly say that I’m ready, willing, or able to trust a man with all that is me simply because he makes his interest known. He hasn’t earned my trust. He hasn’t proven that he’s worthy of my devotion. Short of approaching me and expressing his desire for a relationship, he has done nothing to make me believe that he will love me, honor our union, and protect my heart. As a result, I don’t give him all of me. Instead, I sit and watch as he steps up and shows up. I observe his behavior when he’s discouraged, mad, happy, and even depressed. I allow him to get to know me on a deeper level, little by little, until I’m comfortable opening my entire heart to him because he’s shown that he can handle it. That’s what all those frogs from my past have taught me; the real man is easy to spot when you know what you don’t want, need, or deserve.

Fellow navigator, am I alone in this way of thinking? Have you come to the realization that you’re not afraid of commitment but fear choosing the wrong person? What insight have you received about yourself that makes dating just any random man who calls you beautiful hard to do? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, I May Be Good for Him, But is He Good for Me?

This is a question I ask myself often after meeting a man I’d like to get to know better as a romantic interest. I sit and wonder if this man adds as much value to my life as I do to his. Does he support me? Are his words kind? Is he considerate of my feelings? Does he take the time to make me a priority? Quite frankly, I wonder all of this because these are the things I do regularly for him. He may not be my forever yet because we’re still learning each other, but I make it known through my actions that he is held in high regard.

Unfortunately, after kissing a few frogs, I’ve come to learn that not all men enter into serious relationships with the intent of giving it their all. Let’s be real: some just want to see how much they can get and how quickly. These are the ones I like to call “bamas.” This is a term I learned in undergrad that refers to men who aren’t really about anything. They have no problem mooching off a woman because they are narcissists at heart who have zero desire to commit. If it sounds like I’m being too harsh, it’s because I’m keeping it real. Whether we call them “bamas,” “narcissists,” or some other term, one thing remains true: they aren’t good for us.

These guys are sometimes difficult to detect because they hide their intentions well. I’m no expert when it comes to dating and relationships, so I can only speak about my own experiences. If I have to ask myself if I’m too good for him, then I probably am. I am beautiful, smart, kind, and loyal. I give a relationship my all and refuse to look at another man because I wish to stay true to the one I’m with. He’s not perfect, but neither am I. Yet, there’s something in the back of my mind that periodically wonders if I deserve more.

When trying to determine if I’m too good for a man I’m interested in, I almost always look at how he leads in the relationship. Yes, he’s nice to look at and appears to be hardworking. However, if he’s more focused on doing his own thing than building something together, I lose interest. If he never stops to ask me about my affairs, I lose interest. If our arguments and misunderstandings span several days into weeks, I lose days. Finally, if he can go days without communicating with me, I lose interest.

I’ve come to realize that I, like many other women, possess qualities a good man desires in the one he would ultimately wish to settle down with. If truth be told, any man would be blessed to have me as his wife. However, I may not be an ideal match for every good man. There are other things that must be taken into account for the pairing to really be magical.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge that, for my own happiness, I should focus more on what the man brings into the relationship. I’m not talking about his job, wealth, or status. Rather, I ask myself if he brings out the best in me. Does he encourage me? Does he support my endeavors? When I’m down, does he offer a listening ear? If I’m having a bad day, does he comfort me? When I’m ready to give up, does he cheer me on? In as much as I would race to do these things for the man I’m with, I believe that he must be ready, willing, and able to do the same for me. We won’t always get things right, but we must be able to set our own individual agendas aside for the ones we claim to love. Otherwise, I have to stop and wonder if the love is genuine.

We won’t always get things right, but we must be able to set our own individual agendas aside for the ones we claim to love.

The Bible teaches that love is patient, kind, and a host of other things (I Corinthians 13:4-7). As a woman desiring a man who fears God, I’ve come to a place where I want a man who shows his love for me by demonstrating these attributes because I strive to do the same for him. I no longer chase or long for just any man because I know that I need a special kind of man. I want a man who is good for me.

Fellow navigator, I think it’s safe to say that those of us who’ve dated have all had missteps. Whether we rushed to be everything to a man at once or became too serious too quickly, there’s a story to be told. Regardless of the mistakes, there was growth that took place. What have you learned along your journey about what you need in a man? When did you realize you were good for the man you were with, but he wasn’t good for you? Tell me about it!

Ready or Not: Protecting My Mind by Practicing Self-Care

“When you practice self-care, you allow your mind, body, and soul to reset.”

“Self-care” is a term that’s become quite popular over the last several years to describe the process of allowing oneself to detach from life’s stressors and embrace relaxing activities. In many cases, when I hear what other women do to practice self-care, it typically includes spa days, trips to the mall for retail therapy, spending time outside of the kitchen, and a slew of other events. The idea is to pamper oneself in a way that doesn’t necessarily happen on a regular basis. When you practice self-care, you allow your mind, body, and soul to reset.

I’ve been terrible at practicing this whole self-care thing either because I didn’t have the funds to treat myself or time just wasn’t on my side. Let’s be real: exercising self-care can be expensive. It doesn’t have to be, true. However, if I’m really going to allow myself to indulge, I’d need at least a $100 each time to do anything worthwhile. Especially in these days of coronavirus, I have no desire to shell out that kind of money on a massage, facial, or new outfit just for the sake of it.

Next, self-care requires my time. If I’m going to properly allow myself an escape from the everyday stressors of life, I need at least 4-5 hours to do it right. Who has that kind of time these days? Not me. Going 30 minutes without having to check my phone for a new email, text, or message on social media is challenging as is.

Because no one can run on a full tank 24/7, there must be other ways to practice self-care without breaking the bank. Right? Yes!

I view self-care in regards to the physical and the mental. About a month or so ago, a friend asked for my address under the guise of wanting to update the contact information she had for me. Because this was an odd request, I suspected she was planning on mailing me a card or something. This woman sent me an assorted pack of face masks with a note attached that I should take care of myself. At the time, I needed a reminder to relax and break away from work every once in a while because coronavirus had impacted my business significantly.

You’ll be happy to know that I did heed her words and treated myself to mini-facials. They have been amazing! My skin looks clearer and feels great. I’ve found that I enjoy at-home facials because I can do them on my own schedule and don’t need several hours at a time. I just lie down on my sofa or bed and let them time fade away. My mind isn’t cluttered with thoughts of work, relationships, or responsibilities. For those 30 minutes, it’s just me, myself, and I.

“I view self-care in regards to the physical and the mental.”

The other type of self-care that has really made an impact in my life involves paying more attention to my mental peace. Recently, I stopped working with a client due to a string of conflicts that had arisen. What stood out to me, as I drafted the service termination email, was my reasoning for this decision. I wrote something along the lines of no longer wishing to continue the relationship because it disturbed my mental peace. Wow! Talk about growth. I don’t think I would have cited that as a reason for walking away from a business partnership a few years ago.

Since my last romantic relationship, I’ve spent a healthy amount of time paying careful attention to my mental health. While I am usually quite happy and bubbly, I have had my bouts with moments of feeling like I’m less than. After further introspection, I saw that those times almost always happened because I allowed someone deeper access to me than they should have been trusted with or granted. That’s what happens in relationships, though. People sometimes push the limits of the boundaries we’ve put in place to see how far they can get.

“I saw that those times almost always happened because I allowed someone deeper access to me than they should have been trusted with or granted.”

You may have heard it said before, but I ask that you allow me to say it again: guard your mind. Not every toxic relationship presents itself as such in the beginning. However, when you begin to lose who you are because of someone, it might be best to reconsider the role that person plays in your life. I can honestly say that I have not given the individual I referenced earlier a second thought since sending that service termination email. I no longer clinch my jaw when their name pops up on my phone out of fear of what the text or call is about. If I’m spending so much negative mental energy on someone, I think it’s safe to say that I need to reorganize my priorities.

Fellow navigator, self-care is not just about pampering what’s on the outside. It’s also about ensuring that our minds and spirits are in a good place. As someone who is known (good or bad) for being busy and a workaholic (by some), I’ve come to recognize that I must ensure I have peace in all aspects of my life. No, I may not be able to afford a spa day once or twice a month. But I can spend a few hours with myself to look at my life and see where there’s room for positive, meaningful improvement. I can take stock of potentially toxic relationships, or ones that produce more stress than peace, to assess if there’s hope for positive growth or not.

Joyce Meyer wrote Battlefield of the Mind years ago, but I believe there’s a reason why she had an entire book devoted to this subject. The Bible talks about us guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) and later says that God’s peace will guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). These two actions must be important, right? Fellow navigator, what do you do to practice self-care? How are you maintaining your mental peace? Tell me about it!

See Me: Defiantly Single (pt. 2)

Can I be brutally honest for a minute?

If you ask me why I’m defiantly single, I’d say it’s because I fear choosing the wrong partner. Yes, I believe in God. Of course, I trust that He will confirm the man He desires me to be with in more than one way. Yes, I have a community of trusted people who will step in if they believe the man I want isn’t deserving of me. While I recognize that all of these safeguards are in place, there’s a part of me that thinks it’s still not enough.

Let’s be real. How many times have we heard of stories where a God-fearing woman married a God-fearing man and ended up dead or in jail because that man was a wolf? For those who don’t understand the reference, Matthew 7:15 talks about false prophets appearing as wolves in sheep’s clothing. Don’t get me wrong, men aren’t the only perpetrators. There are women who fake it, too. The point is that people may pretend to be charming, humble, and just about everything we desire in a spouse—that is, until after the wedding day.

I don’t mean to be a cynic. Because I believe marriage is a beautiful thing, I want to trust that mine will be all I’ve ever hoped for and more. But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past. My sister (in Christ) will tell you that, after years of listening to my “boy stories,” I’m drawn to fixer-uppers. That is, the men with potential who don’t seem to be doing much with themselves. Looking past the physical, I pay more attention to the possibility of what a man can become (with the right woman by his side). I egg him on when he talks about his lofty dreams, even though he doesn’t take any steps toward accomplishing them. I support him when he makes otherwise reckless decisions, although I don’t agree with them. I praise him when he excels in one unrelated area, despite making no progress in the things that get him closer to reaching his goals.

When I think about it, I have been just as complicit in the failure of these past relationships because I ignored the obvious warning signs and chose to believe my own narrative, not what was in front of my face all along. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t blinded by love—not even close. It’s not that I didn’t know my worth. I think I just got too caught up to want to do anything about it—but that’s a different post.

I thank God for my sister being truthful and telling me about myself because she saved me a lot of wasted hours, days, weeks, and months remaining with someone who didn’t deserve me. I wish more of us would do that for those we love. Yes, the person may get angry and not speak to us for a little while. But, I believe, they will eventually realize the error of their ways to see that we acted out of love.

Ok, back to the issue at hand. I stated in a previous post that I don’t believe my generation views marriage through the same lens as those who came before. Somehow, we’ve accepted the notion that a lifelong commitment is not something worth entering into with anyone. For me, thinking about being with someone for the rest of my life sounds lovely, but it’s also really scary if that man wakes up and decides he’s going to become someone completely different. That’s one of the reasons I don’t believe in putting up a front in the getting-to-know-each-other phase. I want my potential suitor to see the good, bad, and crazy from the get-go. That also sounds like it might be a future blog post.

But I have come to terms with my reality that I’ve made poor choices in the past.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Although I’m afraid of picking the wrong person to spend the rest of my life with, fellow navigator, I still welcome the thought of marriage with open arms. I trust that my parents have raised me well enough to know what I should and shouldn’t accept. I believe I’ve seen enough couples succeed at married life, despite the obstacles that were in their way. I rest assured that God speaks to me in ways others may not understand, so He will prevent me from choosing a spouse who will not honor Him. I am confident in the fact that my intuition is almost always on point (when I listen to it) and will go off like a bullhorn if I’m about to make a mistake.

Fellow navigator, there’s an amount of risk involved in getting married. It requires a level of vulnerability and trust that you’ve chosen someone who will love, honor, and cherish you until death. That’s heavy. Be honest, are you like me? Do you choose to remain defiantly single because the thought of possibly picking the wrong person troubles you? Tell me about it!

Not I: Waiting on a Fairy Tale?

Disney did me dirty. I’ve definitively decided that my daughters will not be exposed to Disney princess stories during their formative years. Why? Because I am absolutely sick and tired of the way young girls are conditioned to believe they’re in need of saving. Of course, Disney is not the only guilty culprit in this atrocity against girls. No, there are other companies producing content that teaches girls that they are the inferior sex. I wasn’t born in this country, but Disney’s reach goes far beyond the United States. From a young age, I was informed through fairy tales that my life was incomplete without a man by my side. He was my protector, source of financial security, and only hope in avoiding a life of utter loneliness (aka being an old maid).

“From a young age, I was informed through fairy tales that my life was incomplete without a man by my side.”

After spending some time in introspection, I realized the lessons I learned from princess stories took root deeper than I’d known. As a young, impressionable child, I was taught that girls were dainty, well-mannered, prudent, homely, and soft-spoken. We were to wear beautiful dresses, perform our domestic chores, and remain silent in the presence of men. I was shown that our fathers, husbands, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers had final authority over us. It was acceptable for us to be locked away in a room somewhere to only enjoy the company of animals and imaginary friends, and it was perfectly alright for us to sacrifice our dreams to make another’s come true.

Arguably the biggest lessons princesses taught me were about romantic relationships. In books, TV shows, and movies, I saw that girls were expected to be married at a young age. Many of them were not educated or did not pursue higher education. A proper young lady was also trained in domesticity and had very few friends outside of family members. She never explored foreign lands or conquered dragons. No, she stayed in her father’s house until a man came to take her to his.

She waited patiently for a man to come and to rescue her. She didn’t question his decisions, wonder why he never asked for her opinion, or consider that there was more to her life. When conversing with a suitor, the young lady never inquired about his goals, fears, past relationships, or plans for their future. She didn’t want to know whether he was kind to his mother, had character flaws that might make the success of their marriage challenging, or cared about what she wanted in life. There were no discussions about children, religious affiliations, or political sidings. To make matters worse, there was never ever any talk about finances or how money would be handled in the relationship. These are all important things young girls must learn prior to marriage to avoid becoming stuck in relationships where they are unheard, unloved, and unappreciated.

“She stayed in her father’s house until a man came to take her to his.”

The fairy tale was filled with smiles, laughter, music, dancing, and colorful outfits, but it always ended before the real relationship began. The man endured adversity and braved whatever obstacles came in his way to get his human reward, but that was all she was—a prize. Once the rush of the pursuit was over, the story ended. After he won her heart, things miraculously became spectacular. We were told they lived happily ever after. This is not reality, and it’s far from what I desire.

Relationships are messy. People are fickle. We’re hot, cold, and wishy-washy when it comes to just about everything. I’m not waiting on a fairy tale because it is riddled with untruths. I’m not helpless. I’m unwilling to always be the one to sacrifice what matters most when my partner consistently gets what he wants. I’m more than my cooking, sewing, and cleaning skills.

I wish someone had told me fairy tales weren’t one-size-fits-all from the very beginning. This isn’t what I want my daughters growing up to believe. It’s probably safe to say that the dream of obtaining the fairy tale, as presented through the lens of Disney, no longer applies to me. Nevertheless, I continue to proudly reject its stereotypes and stand as a dissident. Life was never meant to be lived according to a specific blueprint. Quite frankly, outside of serving God and representing Christ well on this earth, everything else is up to me.

Fellow navigator, which fairy tale did you enjoy growing up? What love story did you secretly wish would become yours? When did you have the realization that life was not a fairy tale? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, There’s Always a Choice.

Admittedly, being told I have a choice is not what I want to hear when I’m in a relationship that’s falling apart at the seams. No, I want to wave a magic wand and return things back to how they used to be. I want him to initiate contact and make me feel like I matter. I want us to go back to our long phone calls and deep conversations about our beliefs. Instead of facing the reality that is in front of me, I want to hide and pretend like my only option to is to ride the storm out.

The truth is, this is an all-too-familiar scenario. Last month, I wrote about being in a relationship where I nearly lost myself. If I could add to that post, this is the follow up to what I wish someone had said to me during that time. I wish a trusted friend would have pulled me aside and let me know that I didn’t have to go as deep to almost reaching the point of no return. I wish a sister, friend, or random stranger on the street had told me that, when it comes to dating relationships, I always have a choice.

In any relationship, even in marriage, we have choices. If God, the Creator of the universe, gives human beings free will to choose whether or not to accept His existence and follow Him, then I am able to decide if I want to remain in a toxic relationship. Granted, not all relationships appear toxic at face value. We, as humans, have gotten incredibly good at hiding the truth from the rest of the world. We post our best and happiest moments on social media to maintain the façade of our false reality. As a result, it becomes easier to transport ourselves to that alternate world when what’s in front of us appears grim.

Even though we don’t always remember, we can choose to walk away from men who no longer love or respect us. We don’t have to endure listening to their harsh words and criticisms. There’s no need for us to stay and be used as punching bags. We can come out of the kitchen and enjoy the company of our guests. We are more than just pairs of legs spread to give them pleasure when they so desire. As women, we are not sex slaves, cooks, washing machines, childcare providers, or any other position that has been assigned to us by men who don’t appreciate us. We are visionaries, entrepreneurs, innovators, engineers, politicians, diplomats, revolutionaries, and freedom fighters.

After nearly losing myself, the epiphany came that I didn’t have to stay with the guy who claimed to love me yet stopped communicating that love in a way I understood. I stopped trying to make a relationship work when he began making me less of a priority. I ceased being vulnerable as he continued to stray far away and make less time for me. I allowed the walls around my heart to go up when he decided I was no longer worth the chase. I chose to walk away the day I cried because he made me feel unworthy.

I stopped trying to make a relationship work when he began making me less of a priority.

It’s a vicious cycle we have to go through sometimes to truly understand our value, but I’m honestly glad it happened for me. While I don’t wish to be in a place where I no longer recognize myself because of a man, I am proud beyond words to have come out victorious. There’s always a choice. I am the daughter of a King, and I deserve to be with someone who will treat me as such. No, our lives won’t always be filled with mountaintop experiences. But the man for me will wake up each day eager to find ways to express his love for me because he doesn’t want to lose me. I will rise each morning ready to show how much he means to me because he’s a good man trying to make it in a world that’s constantly tearing him down.

Fellow navigator, I want a love so real that we both work to make it work because we understand each other’s value. If you’re in a position right now where you feel like you have to stay, allow me to be the one to say that you always have a choice. You don’t have to entertain abuse–ever. The relationship may dissipate, but it’s better than losing yourself. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt like you couldn’t get out? What made you finally end things? Tell me about it!

Ready or Not: Access Granted Through Languages

“Because of French, I have received prizes and honors.”

When I was younger, I was obsessed with the cartoon, Madeline. Even now, as an adult, it’s one of the few children’s programs I can sit down and watch to my heart’s content. I love the show so much that I still have some books about the title character and her adventures. Honestly, I don’t know why I loved Madeline. Growing up, I was what many would consider a “tomboy,” so maybe I felt I could relate to Madeline because she didn’t always do what was expected of her as a “girl.” Regardless of the draw to this program, Madeline exposed me to French life and culture. I believe that this is where my love for the language began.

In middle school, I began taking French classes. My teacher of two years was a soft-spoken woman who clearly loved sharing her language and culture with her students. Don’t get me wrong—she was strict. However, I learned enough in her class that I continued my studies well into my undergraduate years. Because of French, I have received prizes and honors. I was able to study at a prestigious language school with some of the best professors in the world. Also, I have received opportunities to utilize my language skills for financial and professional gain.

Arguably the greatest thing learning French has done for me, as a single woman, is allowed me to learn about other aspects of my personality. When I begin speaking and switch to my francophone alter ego, I experience a freedom that isn’t easy to explain. It’s almost as if I embody French culture the minute I open my mouth. The woman who has grown up in the West disappears and another with a different outlook on life replaces her. If you’re a language enthusiast, I’m sure you can relate. In any case, I see myself taking risks and doing things with my francophone friends that I would never do with my English-speaking ones.

“The woman who has grown up in the West disappears and another with a different outlook on life replaces her.”

Now, as I embark on improving my Spanish, I see another personality taking form. She’s sensuous, chatty, and eager to please. She’s not the first to initiate conversations, but she tries to hold her own. I started studying Spanish years ago in undergrad because I entertained ideas of becoming a UN translator or diplomat. Those dreams faded as my passion for teaching grew; however, I never lost my love for languages.

Brushing up on my Spanish was triggered by a string of conversations with friends over the last two years or so because of all that’s happening with globalization. On a practical level, having multiple popular languages under my belt makes me more marketable. When I go to sit at the table with other major players (primarily men), I don’t have to rely on someone to speak on my behalf. Also, I am a firm believer that I will gain more respect from those I come into contact with if I speak to them in their language. Not everyone shares this viewpoint, but it’s one that I’ve always held near. There are a few other personal reasons for me wanting to master Spanish, but I’ll save those for another time or post.

“When I go to sit at the table with other major players (primarily men), I don’t have to rely on someone to speak on my behalf.”

Fellow navigator, if you can, I encourage you to learn another language. Yes, this is America and just about everyone speaks English. But there is an entire world out there with people of every race, ethnic group, and tongue who have incredible stories, jokes, and thoughts to share. If we only limit our conversations to English speakers, we miss out on the richness and beauty our brothers and sisters have to offer. Now, you don’t have to be like me and aim to master seven languages. But I think that shooting to acquire a second language will grant you access to a life you never knew existed. Who knows? Maybe your Spanish alter ego is sassy, free-spirited, and holds nothing back. Perhaps your French persona is refined, soft-spoken, and reserved.

It’s 2020 and globalization isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s probably best that we embrace those who are different and find a way to get along with each other. Maybe, in this process, we’ll find a beauty in their language that sets us on a journey of our own self-discovery.

Fellow navigator, since many of us are still living under quarantine, have you considered learning a new language? Which language have you always wanted to study? What’s holding you back? Tell me about it!