Ready or Not: Pay Those Taxes and Move On

“Getting my first job was a sign of independence.”

I don’t know about you, but I remember the months leading up to my 16th birthday and how excited I was to finally be able to get a job. My first job. I had no complaints because I worked with children in a daycare. Those precious babies gave me such joy during the time I worked there. Regardless of what was going on with the adults or someone’s constant need to go on a power trip, I could always count on the children to be full of light, love, and positivity.

For me, getting my first job was a sign of independence. While I could still pester my father to cover the cost of larger expenses, I was able to pay for things on my own. If I wanted to go to the mall with my friends, all I needed to worry about was getting a ride to one of the several options near our town. It was a great feeling being able to pay for my own things…most of the time. Reflecting on that period of my life, it was pretty great. My parents didn’t ask me to contribute to bills or use my salary to pay for anything—my money was mine. Outside of paying my tithe and sending funds to my sponsored child, everything I earned remained in my bank account. Well, almost everything.

This brings me to today’s topic: taxes. Fellow navigator, I get it. Taxes are the bane of many people’s existence. I mean, we go to work and put in our time just to turn around and have the government say they want a piece of our earnings. I don’t think I would mind as much if I actually saw where my tax dollars went. The problem is that just about every other month or so news breaks about people misappropriating funds or companies getting contracts to develop a city and not finishing the job.

Despite my personal feelings when it comes to paying taxes, I do it anyway. Why? Because, after 20+ years of living in this country, I’ve learned that you do not mess with Uncle Sam. Yup. That’s it. That’s the post for today. The state and federal governments are not to be toyed with. They want their money, and they want it when they say they should get it. If you fail to file taxes by April 15th, the government has no problem bringing down the full weight of its power and hitting you with ridiculous fees until you pay them what you owe.

What’s the solution to avoiding all of the mayhem that could potentially come your way? Pay your taxes. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’ve never actually had to do my taxes myself. While I don’t think it is a difficult task, I find it to be one of those things that I would rather leave in the hands of a professional. With that said, if you are not in a position to hire a CPA to take care of your taxes, there are alternatives.

“I’ve learned that you do not mess with Uncle Sam.”

TurboTax and H&R Block are two giants in this space that offer software programs that make doing your taxes easy. Now, let’s be clear, these programs are ideal if you are not necessarily looking to exhaust all possible deductions and are willing to do a little bit of outside research to fully understanding that you’re not just plugging in numbers. If you’re not the organized type or don’t care to take a day or two to sit down and navigate the portals, the programs may not be for you. With that said, the price tag for one of these software programs is a lot more palatable than paying an accountant several hundreds of dollars.

Whether we like it or not, taxes are here to stay. Unless you want the government coming after you or living a life where your existence is unknown, the best thing to do is to just give them their portion of your earnings and be done with it. Honestly report what you make and how much you owe because the last thing you want is to be audited—a post for another day.

Fellow navigator, how do you feel about paying taxes? Do you do your taxes yourself (with the help of a software program), or do you pay an accountant to handle it for you? Tell me about it!

See Me: Why I’m Still Single After College

Answering an Age-Old Question

Back in undergrad, it was not unusual for me to return home for break and get asked about my dating life. In fact, it was almost always the question posed by some church ladies who seemed to know something I didn’t. Well, it turns out they really did! Apparently, college was (and probably still is) the best time to try and land yourself a man.

While my previous comment is made in jest, I’ve found that there might be some truth to it. I mean, think about it. During your undergrad years, you’re typically away from home and allowed to reinvent yourself into the person you want to be. You can experiment with your sexuality, explore new interests, and see how you function while not under the watchful eye of mom and dad. Honestly, it’s during your college years that you find out who you are and what you’re made of.

If it’s true that you discover who you are during undergrad, then it makes total sense that a relationship formed at this time could potentially last forever. Right? I mean, you’re both being your true selves and figuring life out as you go. There’s no need for pretenses because you have nothing to hide since all the cards are on the proverbial table.

After thinking long and hard about this, I wondered why I hadn’t maximized my college years to meet my Mr. Right. For all I know, he could’ve been the guy in my English lit class or a panelist at one of the business conferences I attended. We could’ve gone to the same embassy networking events or been at the National Mall at the same time. Why hadn’t I put in the energy required to stick my head out of my books to take notice of the tall, beautiful, educated Black men around me?

Well, fellow navigator, I didn’t do any of those things because I was, you know, getting an education. Although I had a pretty decent social life during undergrad, the majority of my time was spent focused on my studies. I mean, I wasn’t going to college to catch a man. I was going to college to learn and set myself up for a bright future filled with endless possibilities.

Knowing what I know about myself now, I think getting into a serious relationship during undergrad would’ve been detrimental because I would have lost focus. My life would have centered around that man and his happiness; I would not have put much thought into pursuing my own goals. Why do I say that? Because that tends to be what happens. While this is not the case for everyone, I find that women often make more compromises in relationships when it comes to careers. We’re the ones who get pregnant and carry a baby in our stomachs for months at a time. We’re expected to go on maturity leave to raise that child. We tend to earn less, so we end up taking a back seat as our spouses climb the professional career ladders. If this is not true for you, then more power to you.

During my single years, I have been afforded opportunities to do things I never thought I could or would. There have been no compromises made on my end, except for the things that I, and I alone, have chosen not to do or involve myself in. I have come into my own as a woman who knows what she wants, who she is, and where she desires to be in life. Why am I still single? Because I want to be.

If I’m completely honest, while it’s been difficult at times returning to an empty home, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for marriage. Meaning, if I knew it would take 30+ years without a spouse for me to become who I am now, I’d willingly tell God to let me live my life solo. I know that the man I end up with will see value and beauty in all I have gone through and have to contribute to our relationship. I know he will appreciate my strong sense of self-awareness. I’m confident he will realize that the woman he sees and loves would not be who she is without all she has gone through.

I have come into my own as a woman who knows what she wants, who she is, and where she desires to be in life.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

So, to answer the age-old question, I’m still single because I’m living my life as I should. When the right man comes into the picture, that could all change. But, until then, I will continue to do what makes me happy and feel fulfilled. My spouse is meant to complement, not complete, me. What about you, fellow navigator? How do you respond when people ask you why you’re still single? Tell me about it!

Mental Musings: Discovering Him While Discovering Me

Just about everything I thought I knew has been shaken.

Looking past the exterior to see him.

It happened again. I allowed my emotions to get the best of me. Although I’d promised myself that I would be more understanding, patient, and objective this time around, I failed. My expectations were set extremely high, so it was easy for him to disappoint.

These thoughts raced through my mind as I replayed all that’s taken place between him and me. Although this is an all-too familiar scenario, I pride myself on the fact that I’ve become faster at recognizing the signs and taking steps to rectify the situation.

In the past, I didn’t pay too much attention to him and his feelings. Selfishly, I was more concerned about my own feelings and all the areas where he fell short. Now, at 30+, I’ve matured and fully recognize that he is not the tough Adonis fairy tales make him out to be. No, he is tender and fragile. He is insecure and feels the pressure when he cannot provide for himself or those he loves. He questions whether he truly makes me happy. He fears losing me.

There are many other attributes I can add to the list, but I think the point is crystal clear. Men are not emotionless creatures. Although they aren’t as expressive as many of us women are, they have feelings, too. They withdraw when we yell and bicker. They retreat when we question their manhood. They cower when we express our doubts about their abilities to succeed.

If I’m honest, I probably didn’t start allowing myself to see these things about men until I was across the country living and working without friends or family nearby. At the time, the relationship seemed like it was good. However, things quickly took a turn as his true colors began to show. Fellow navigator, abuse comes in many forms. I knew it was unhealthy when the light that shined so brightly within me reduced to a tiny flickering flame ready to go out. I thank God for His unfailing love and the prayer warriors He placed in my path until that time. What seemed like the end of me miraculously transformed into a world of possibilities. I thought I’d reached the end of my rope, but God had other plans.

Selfishly, I was more concerned about my own feelings and all the areas where he fell short.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

Why did I go on that seemingly random tangent? It’s to simply show that I found myself in a place where I could honestly say that I questioned men and their intentions. As a result, I guarded my heart tightly and vowed to keep potential suitors at a distance for years. That is, until one man entered the picture. He was kind, charming, and genuinely interested in knowing me. We spoke for hours about everything under the sun, yet it seemed like there was always something more to learn.

We had a special bond that I cherished dearly, but we were only friends. In fact, neither of us dared to approach the topic of asking whether we could be more. That was fine by me because a genuine friendship was about all I could handle in the beginning. However, in the midst of learning more about each other, feelings began to develop. Miscommunication happened often as we navigated our friendship, but we always seemed to get right back on track.

The situation referenced when the post began surrounded our biggest argument. This was the one where things could have ended for good. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t care so much about what went down with any man because the walls around my heart would just go back up. But, for some strange reason, this time was different. I was different.

There was something about him that made me want to fight. I couldn’t figure it out, and I couldn’t let him go. He was not the wealthiest, funniest, or most intelligent man I had ever encountered in life. But, regardless of these things, he genuinely cared about my well-being, was hardworking, and made time for me. There was just one thing: he was not mine. Well, he was just a friend.

Friends. That’s what we agreed we were. Of course, the depth of the relationship went beyond the surface. We’d gotten past talking about our favorite meals, hobbies, and future goals. This was new territory because the feelings were strong, but I was initially unwilling to take the risk and deep dive into a relationship.

Fellow navigator, have you ever been in this type of situation? Think back to the moment you realized you actually could spend forever with that one man. What brought you to that point? Did you allow past hurts to keep you from new possibilities? Tell me about it!

Not I: The Ideal Woman?

Let’s take a minute to discuss our flaws. It may seem a little odd to start a post this way, but I need you to allow me to explain. Growing up, I took it upon myself to try to be as perfect as possible. Well, sort of. I pursued academics with all I had within me because that was a world I understood. Not too concerned about those around me, I joined clubs, participated in other extracurricular activities, and volunteered in my community. The aim was not to get into an Ivy League school, but it was at the same time. I enjoyed studying, clubs, and volunteering. If those things just so happened to be what the top universities looked for, then it was a win-win.

“Growing up, I took it upon myself to try to be as perfect as possible.”

It was probably in high school that I began to see myself as different from my peers. The distinction was noticeable—not bad—just noticeable. I enjoyed serving at the local soup kitchen and taking part in charity walks on the weekends. It was easy to get so engrossed in a novel that half my day was spent reading about fictitious people in faraway lands. What’s more, I found satisfaction going to church and rehearsing for an upcoming skit instead of planning what I would wear to a party. In those days, my priorities were different. I was different.

The thought of becoming a “perfect woman” didn’t enter my mind until college. While on the grounds of Howard University, I could be any person I wanted to be. College was the time to reinvent myself. I could go by a different name, switch up my personality completely, or fake a backstory about being from an exotic country (accent included). The point is that the possibilities were endless once I set foot on that college campus. Nevertheless, while some minor things changed, I still basically remained the same. The biggest difference? My desire to achieve perfectionism reached its peak.

“College was the time to reinvent myself.”

I sought to become the kind of woman a man couldn’t resist. I desired the lifestyle of international travel, dinners with dignitaries, and more than enough money in my bank account. Like a shapeshifter, I found myself conforming to what I believed would appeal to my love interest at the time. Has that ever happened to you, fellow navigator? To read more, I talk about it in my book. The constant twisting and bending left me feeling like I had no identity. To be even more transparent, I felt like my identity was closely connected to my crush of the week.

After college, everything changed. Again, I changed. It was not until an event led to me abandoning many of my worldly possessions that I realized what was most important. Instead of trying to be the ideal woman, I pursued God with all I had within me. More than just going to church almost every day of the week, I spent time in intimate prayer and Bible study. It dawned on me that the ideal woman is one who finds her value in God. Eventually, I’ll have to part with my money and the things of this world. But, when it’s all said and done, my soul will have to spend eternity somewhere.

Fellow navigator, I no longer desire to be anyone’s ideal woman. It’s taken some time, but I’ve come to a place where I am content being me. Upon entering a dating relationship, I make my flaws and imperfections known. Sometimes, my strong sense of self-awareness leaves the other party taken aback, but I’m not concerned. I’m tired of wearing a mask—tired of the show we so often put on to get someone to like us. Yes, this approach has blown up in my face and caused a few men to turn around and leave quickly. However, the one who stays will be worth it.

What do you say we stop with the charade? I’m not suggesting we lay all our cards out on the proverbial table the very minute we meet someone of interest. Rather, I’m saying let’s be intentional about showing our real selves to those we encounter who we believe could be good life partners. Fellow navigator, do you play a role when around a dating prospect? Did you end up showing your true self? How did that unveiling go? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, Temptation is Real…Like, Really Real

I recently heard a sermon about David’s fall at the hands of a woman.

That’s not exactly how the preacher put it, but it’s essentially what he was saying. David, a man after God’s own heart, stumbled and fell because he desired something he couldn’t have: another man’s wife. David, a king with hundreds of thousands ready to die for him, faltered because of one thing: another man’s wife. What does this chapter in the book of his life teach us? I take from it two things. First, he’s human. Second, temptation is all too real.

Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that no one is above being tempted? Even Jesus, the Son of God, was faced with moments when he could have simply given into what Satan was offering him (food, power, and riches). Can we stop and take this in for a minute? Lucifer went so far as to try to get Jesus, the Lamb of God, to forsake his own Father. If that doesn’t put things into perspective about the power of temptation and the lengths at which Satan will go to deceive us, I don’t know what will.

Now, Jesus had just come off a fast. (Read Matthew 4 for the full story!). He was weak, and food would have been great. Nevertheless, he resists the devil’s advances and responds with Bible verses. Three times Satan tried to get Jesus to give in, and three times the Prince of Peace refused. He stood his ground and thwarted any plans Satan had for him that day.

Let’s be real: we don’t come close to being Jesus. When a beautiful, caring man enters our lives and whispers all those sweet nothings, most of us are all too eager to plan forever with him. When that same handsome man appears to have everything we’re looking for, we may be quick to ignore the fact that he’s missing the most important criteria: a relationship with God. I think it’s fitting to write about this, fellow navigator, because it’s a situation that I have found myself in one time too many.

The story is always the same. We meet, get to know each other, talk about every nonsensical issue under the sun, then eventually make our way to the serious topics. This is the make it or break it moment in determining if the relationship will live or die. In most cases, the feelings of “love” fizzle as we realize we’re not as compatible as we thought. We’re not pursuing God in the same way. We don’t have similar views on family or how children should be raised. We don’t think about marriage and the role each other will play the same. How can a relationship lead to forever when we don’t see eye-to-eye about these vital topics? It can’t. And it doesn’t.

I mentioned David earlier for a reason. Before I say what it is, let me just state that relationships are difficult to navigate. We are deceived by our eyes and mind to think that what we don’t want is what we need and vice versa. Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area. It uncovers our weak spots, takes advantage of us, then leaves us high and dry to pick ourselves back up after we’ve fallen to the ground.

With regard to David, even though he could have had any single woman in the nation, temptation in the form of lust led him to pursue a married woman. He was captivated by Bathsheba’s naked form and, not being where he should have been (fighting with the army), he gave into the temptation. This critical moment caused him to take other actions that would lead to his downfall. (I encourage you to read the story in Matthew 4 to get the full context.)

Temptation rears its ugly head each and every time we think we are strong in an area.

I’m no Bible scholar, but I believe we’re all susceptible, like David, to having weak moments. (After all, we are human!) We see a man we want and go after him with reckless abandon. It’s not until after our hearts have become tied to this person that we discover the skeletons in his closet. He may be married. He might not believe in monogamy. He doesn’t believe in marriage. Or, the one that causes many women strong in the faith to waver, he might not have a relationship with God. Period.

It is temptation that leads us to a place of indecision about what to do next. We weigh pros and cons and try to find ways to make the relationship work. Slowly, after reflecting on all the good feelings we had with this man, some of us decide that life with him is better than life without him. Translation: We choose him over our convictions. Why is this important? Why should we care? Aren’t relationships supposed to be about compromise? Yes, compromise is a key word when it comes to relationships. But, if we must compromise the beliefs that make us who we are, then we are living a lie.

Remember that story in the Bible when Jesus talks about those people who would come and say how they did all those things in his name? What did he say back to them? He said he would tell them to depart from him because he didn’t know them. Yes, they did great things in his name, but their hearts were far from him. Translation: They professed him and did good deeds, but they didn’t really know him. If they knew him, they would have had a relationship with him. If they had had a relationship with him, they would have obeyed his teachings. If they had obeyed his teachings, they would not have entered into relationships with men who didn’t know him because he clearly states that being unequally yoked is not what’s up.

Fellow navigator, relationships do require compromise. However, when compromise comes in the form of ignoring our deal-breakers, we shouldn’t do it. They are called “deal-breakers” for a reason. That good man you want more than anything, the one who makes every other guy before him look like a chump, is not worth disobeying God. I know that not everyone might receive this message; I didn’t write it for everyone. This blog post is one written from a place of vulnerability as a reminder to myself and women like me who have been tempted to give up on faith because they question if another good man will present himself.

What are your thoughts, fellow navigator? Have you ever found yourself in this place? Tell me about it!

Ready or Not: Moving from Place to Place

“However, I trusted that God would direct my path as I obeyed.”

I left my father’s house when I was 17 to go to college. This was the first time I’d ever been away from my family for an extended period of time. As he packed up the car with most of my worldly possessions and moved me to my dorm at Howard University, I never would have thought that that would be the first of many moves.

The thing about moving is that it takes a toll on you mentally, physically, financially, and socially. The amount of stress involved in preparing for a move is unbelievable. If you’re like me, there’s a ton of planning and preparation that you anticipate before the first box is even sealed.

I was certain Georgia was where I was headed next in life. While I didn’t think I was going to the South, I had a confident assurance that I was being obedient in taking the step of faith. Growing up in the North, I had no idea what to expect. However, I trusted that God would direct my path as I obeyed. The hardest part was knowing that the people I cared for most in this world would not be a short drive away. No. If I wanted to see them, I’d have to get on a plane or drive for 10+ hours. Honestly, this was not a thought that crossed my mind much as I prepared to move, but I think about it often now in my semi-lockdown state.

Assembling and disassembling furniture is one of the worst things about moving. There are days when I really wish the minimalist life was my portion because I’d just live with only the things I could fit in my sedan. Nevertheless, even after downsizing significantly, I find that I still need to get a truck every time I move. Between the heavy lifting, packing and unpacking, and shifting of items to maximize space, I just can’t.

One of the things I wish someone had told me was to make sure I packed the essentials and valuables in my car before everything else. Trust: When you’re waiting weeks for movers to arrive with your teaching supplies because you marked the box of books as “heavy” and had them load it on the truck, you’ll regret it. Nevertheless, once it’s happened one time, the lesson is learned.

“Be prepared for your bank account to take a serious hit when moving out of state..”

Money. Moving is expensive. Let me say it again for the ones in the back. Moving is expensive. I mean, thousands and thousands of dollars. It’s one thing when your company relocates you and covers the cost of your expenses. However, that hasn’t been the case for me in any situation, which means that I’ve had to pay all that money myself. Be prepared for your bank account to take a serious hit when moving out of state. Even if you go the budget-friendly route and opt not to hire a moving company, the small expenses quickly add up. In hindsight, I would’ve coordinated with some friends who enjoy long-distance driving and asked them to move me instead of hiring a company. That way, I could’ve saved a few thousand dollars.

For me, the worst part about moving is the social anxiety caused by being in a new place. We’re creatures of habit. We enjoy going to our favorite local coffee shop, grocery store, and restaurant. As such, we become accustomed to our routine. The same goes for our social lives. We build community with those who live within close proximity of us. It was not unusual for me to pick up the phone or send a text to a friend inviting them over for dinner or a movie. It was nothing to drive a few minutes to the next town and have dinner with some friends after class or work.

When you’re in a new place, you don’t have the luxury of meeting up with others as you please. Everything is unfamiliar and, sometimes, overwhelming. Culture shock kicks in that you are in a foreign land. If you’re like me, you might be open to cautiously exploring your new environment. However, that can be daunting if it’s a completely different place than where you came from. In any case, there will be lonely nights and times when you cry out to return to the familiar. That’s normal. In fact, it happens to the best of us.

Fellow navigator, what has your moving experience been like? Were you readily accepted into your new community? Was your time filled with pain and sorrow? Tell me about it!

See Me: Pushing Past Pain Toward Purpose

A Life Lived to Uplift the Culture

This past weekend, what was meant to be a momentous occasion filled with celebration was marked by sadness and tears as news spread of Chadwick Boseman’s passing. Though I didn’t personally know the man or have anything in common with him, except the fact that we both attended Howard University (HU!), I wept like he was a brother from another mother. As the tears streamed down my face, thoughts of the impact of this man’s life raced through my mind. While I cannot speak to his character outside of what was captured on film or through the lens of a camera, I mourned the passing of a life that lived out a definite purpose.

Hearing that he had endured years of chemotherapy and pain to deliver films and content that effectively changed Black culture made matters more tragic. It wasn’t because he had kept his illness a secret. No, that was a personal decision that I believe may have been the best for him. Rather, it was because this man pushed past the pain and suffering he endured regularly because he believed the stories of the individuals he portrayed were worth telling. Not only were the characters he played on the screen iconic, but he also brought new life to them that I don’t believe any other actor could have done so exquisitely. He wasn’t just reading lines from a script as Jackie Robinson. I believe he fully immersed himself into the character to give us, the audience, an inside look into what it was really like for the famous baseball player.

As a Howard alum, I know he was more than informed about the historical significance of the characters he played. Let’s be honest: hardly anyone graduates from Howard without knowing more than their fair share about colonialism, white privilege, systemic racism, and the Black Panthers. Yes, it may be a generalization. But it’s one that seems to be proven true every time I speak with non-HBCU graduates about these topics.

Looking at all the films he acted in, I believe Chadwick Boseman was intentional about the roles he selected. Yes, he may have sought to challenge himself for the sake of his art, but it seems apparent that he had something else in mind: purpose. To me, he chose roles that would impact a generation. From Get on Up to Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, Boseman joined fellow actors and actresses to tell stories in a fresh way to a generation that may have never heard of the names or history of the characters. Through film, he educated us, honored those who paved the way for us, and encouraged us to celebrate who we are: young, gifted, and Black.

Then, as if he hadn’t done enough, in Black Panther, he performed the role of a lifetime as King T’Challa. I’ll let you in on a secret, fellow navigator. I saw Black Panther multiple times in theaters, watched it several times on demand, and was even tempted to purchase it for my movie library (this is pending). To say that the movie changed my life would be an inaccurate statement. Instead, the movie reignited a sense of pride I once carried proudly as if it was a badge of honor for being an African woman in America.

There are very few films about the Continent (fictional countries or not) that depict the brilliance, ingenuity, and beauty of Africa and her people. In 2020, we’re still viewed as savages, poor, and uneducated. Those of us who make it out and obtain a world-class education seldom return to apply our knowledge to developing the places we came from. Instead, we work to maintain the privileged lives we’ve come to know; we work to survive in another man’s land. Meanwhile, our homes continue to be stripped, plundered, and pillaged by outsiders of resources only found in our soil.

Outside of his films, I also think about the acts of service Chadwick Boseman performed. It makes sense now why he spent so much time visiting sick children and teens in hospitals. The stories he shared about the young people trying to hold on to life to see Black Panther now carry greater meaning. After news broke that he, too, had been diagnosed with cancer, everything about the way this man chose to spend his time on Earth became clear. Not knowing exactly how much time he had left, he pressed through to pay it forward and give back in ways we can only imagine.

As I reflect on the life and legacy of Chadwick Boseman, I can’t help but thank God for allowing this man to grace us with his presence on this earth for 43 years. Although I, too, think he still had so much to offer, the way he used his time is tremendously appreciated. I believe he fought until the end and lived out a purpose through his art that will (and has) transformed our generation. As far as I’m concerned, I don’t need another Black Panther because that role would never be done justice by any other actor. Chadwick Boseman embodied that character and gave life to it that only he could. He wasn’t just an actor on the stage. No, he was showing us what Black excellence could become if we chose to use our talents and intelligence for progress.

Through film, he educated us, honored those who paved the way for us, and encouraged us to celebrate who we are: young, gifted, and Black.

— Ethleen Sawyerr

There are very few celebrities, total strangers, that I’ve shed tears for upon hearing news of their passing. But Chadwick Boseman did something for Black people that very few actors and actresses have. He was right when he said, “There would be no Black Panther without Denzel Washington,” as he paid tribute to the man who privately paid for Boseman to attend a prestigious acting program in England. Years from now, because of what this man did to educate us through film, I believe voices will rise to say, “There would be no (insert name here) without Chadwick Boseman.”

Fellow navigator, under no circumstances do I believe Chadwick Boseman should be immortalized or treated like a god. However, we must stop to acknowledge those who use their influence and platforms to uplift and empower. I, for one, am grateful God created Chadwick Boseman because his will always be a name I remember. Would you agree? Tell me about it!

Not I: Forsaking My Beliefs for a Man?

It seems like we just met yesterday. He was tall, had an athletic build, and charmed me off my feet. We conversed in English, French, and Spanish. We spent hours watching movies, laughing about silly things, and talking about our future. I enjoyed every moment of our time together; it just felt right. However, we broached a topic that brought my happily-ever-after fantasy to an end.

“By choosing to stick to my convictions over all others, I’ve said goodbye to many men.”

Fellow navigator, please hear my heart. I’m not condemning those in mixed-faith relationships. If you are able to make it work, then more power to you. My purpose in telling that very real story is to illustrate a situation I’ve found myself in on more than one occasion. I meet a man. We hit it off. Then, we end up at a crossroads because our beliefs don’t align. By choosing to stick to my convictions over all others, I’ve said goodbye to many men. They were decent guys who would make just about any woman happy, but they were not for me.

If I say that my faith is a major part of who I am but hide it from the one I claim to want to spend forever with, then it never really held such a high place in my life. If I openly profess Christ to total strangers but fail to talk about him to my partner, then I am no better than Peter before the crucifixion. If I continue being with a man who denies the existence of a God I know to be real and true, then I am just like Judas and lead a double life.

“There is grace.”

There is grace, fellow navigator. God can change the heart of anyone at any point and time that He so chooses. I don’t doubt this. My apprehension comes when I knowingly enter into a relationship with a man who is at enmity with God or has his own views about faith that completely differ from mine.

There must be something in the water, fellow navigator, because I hear similar stories of women who’ve had to choose between a seemingly good man and God. Based on those I know, the ones who chose the former live good lives but have strayed from the faith. The ones who chose the latter continue to live on their own terms but have yet to say “I do.” It begs the question of why God would allow women who willingly choose Him to remain single…but that’s a post for another day.

Fellow navigator, have you ever found yourself in a position where you had to choose between God or a guy? What did you do? If you’ve tried having a mixed-faith relationship, how did it go? Tell me about it!

Dear Navigator, I Accept that I’m a Different Kind of Woman

Once upon a time, I thought there was something wrong with me because men weren’t knocking down my door. I thought I wasn’t pretty enough, smart enough, or worthy of the attention of a man. Several relationships ended because I wouldn’t “give it up” within the time frame deemed by my partner. (It’s sad to say that even the holiest of Christian men struggle with their libido.) Knowing that I deserved more, I did the only natural thing to keep myself from going down the endless road of trying to contort myself to fit a man’s image of who I should be—I buried myself in work.

If some of us women are honest, I wonder if we share a similar experience. How many of us who have been labeled as “career-driven” would say that our jobs only became a priority because we realized the men who were trying to capture our attention weren’t anything to write home about? I mean, I would much rather focus on my work and making my dreams come true than put all my energy into a relationship with a man who only views me as an option. Has this been true for you?

Fellow navigator, we’ve been greatly wronged in the way we’ve been conditioned. As young girls, we were taught to be meek and mild-mannered. Many of us grew up believing women were to be seen, not heard. We were told to suppress our sexual urges and act daintily in public. We were brought up to believe that everything a man says goes; we should never question his decision. We were instructed to put our lives on hold to focus our attention on family and home. Some of us were even raised not to dream or have aspirations of our own because only what the men in our lives wanted mattered.

I use the pronoun “we” when discussing the erroneous ways many of us were brought up because, at some time or another, we’ve all been faced with situations where our womanhood was called into question. For some, we’ve even had to choose between the wishes of our families and the desires birthed inside of us wanting to come out. As women, because of our sex, we are viewed as “weak.” Men say we need protecting because are fragile, and that is what they use to justify dominating our lives. Granted, not every woman lives like this. But it breaks my heart to think of the millions of women who continue to live in male-dominated societies and are never given the opportunity to discover their identities outside of the closest man in their lives. Their pain is my pain. But I digress…

I am not a bad woman or poor choice for a wife because I have ambition. In fact, I believe that makes me wife material because I’m the kind of woman who supports and encourages the one she’s with to pursue his dreams. When he feels like giving up, I’m the lone cheerleader letting him know he can do it. When the world beats him up and spits him out, I’m the safe haven he can find rest in and know that he still matters. I’m the woman who isn’t concerned with whether he’s bringing home all the proverbial bacon because I’m contributing, too.

He’s not my sugar daddy, feel good machine, or arm candy. No, he is my friend, partner, and confidante. We don’t have to concern ourselves with what the world thinks because we’ve learned each other and grown together. Society may try to pull us apart, but it’s really us against the world.

Not every man is deserving of me. If you are a real one, fellow navigator, the same holds true for you. At just about every turn, your femininity may be called into question. And that’s ok. The wrong dude might say you’re not a “good woman” because you don’t allow him to win at everything. You might be labeled “too masculine” because you decide to go after what you want instead of waiting for it to be given to you. You may be considered “not soft enough” because you drive better and faster than many men.

I’m the kind of woman who supports and encourages the one she’s with to pursue his dreams.

One of the worst things you can do is lower your standards to match a man who isn’t worthy of you. Instead, keep working and grinding until the man who sees your value shows up. Recognizing him will be easy. He’ll be the one who sticks around at times when others have left. He fights fair and doesn’t hit below the belt during an argument. He’ll listen when you speak about your insecurities and fears, then do what he needs to do to make you feel safe. These men are few and far in between. They aren’t perfect by any means, but they know how to spot a good woman—another kind of woman—and work to keep her.

Fellow navigator, I wish someone had sat me down and told me that it was ok to be a different kind of woman before I entered the world of dating. To be honest, maybe someone did. Maybe I didn’t receive it or recognize the words as wisdom at the time. Nevertheless, I found myself in a pattern of dating the same type of man but only with a different name. What dating gems have you learned and currently apply to your life? Tell me about it!

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!