chasingwonderwoman

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Branded

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A few weeks ago I squeezed in attending a workshop for a handful of people within my organization selected to be a part of an inaugural protégé/mentoring program.  The workshop was titled “How to Brand Yourself” – – well it probably wasn’t really called that because that conjures up images of a branding iron and either horses or slaves, so I’m going to guess that they called it something else, but you get my meaning.  I arrived about 30 minutes late to the virtual workshop but what I caught was really very good. I wrote down on one of the hundreds of post-it notes that are scattered all over my dorm/office a challenge from the presenter … Fill in the blanks: “I want to be known for being ____ so that I can deliver _____ to _____.”  He dared us to complete that sentence as we attempted to discover our personal brand.  Moreover, he said, we could use it in both our professional and personal lives.

It’s been over 4 weeks since I attended that workshop and I find myself at times, looking for that scrap of paper so that I make sure I don’t forget to fill in those blanks.  You see, I really want to fill in the blanks.  It feels like something that not only I should do, but that I really need to do.

For the past 15 months, I have spent so much time being an over achieving employee, a bewildered student, a so-so mom, an elderly care-giver and let us not forget a jilted ex-lover that branding myself in a good light has been non-existent.  Week after week, month after month has gone by and I think to myself that I am grateful because my life is better than most.  But in my heart I feel like very little to rejoice over and I wonder what happened to my joy?  I believe I had it at one time, at least I think I did.

Since the time of Aristotle (throwback to last semesters’ Ethics course – – yikes), man has been asking the question that I now ponder of myself, why are we here, what’s the meaning of life, what’s my brand statement. Well maybe the great thinkers of all time weren’t quite thinking about the latter, but I believe they are all loosely tied to one another.  One day soon (I anxiously await), I will finish this undergraduate degree and I will put it behind me.  One day even sooner (sadly), I will stop having to baby my 17 year old.  She will be making grown up decisions on her own.  Sure, she will always need her mother, but not in the same way as today.  And someday soon (please God, sooner rather than later) I will stop being a Sourcing Manager for this nightmare of a position and I will advance to other work.  When all these things, that are so much a part of me now, wrap up, what will I look back on and say? Will I have found joy throughout the journey, so that when they come to an end I will say it was all worth it and I’m a better person because of it?  About seven years ago I dated a man who I believe was the one true love of my life. I remember saying to him, in his cozy condo, over large glasses of wine and even larger plates of pasta, “No matter what happens, no matter if this ends terribly, I will never regret one moment I spent with you. This was the best feeling I have ever had, exactly what I had always dreamed of, and I’ll never ever be sad it happened”.  I have dated a lot of men before and after him, and I’ve never said or even thought it with any other.

Makes me wonder, what else I feel that way about.  Being a mom? Of course, no brainer, my daughter is the most amazing person and the sole reason I haven’t tossed in the towel years ago.  Returning to school?  Yes, despite how much I hate the homework, and the expense and the juvenile classmates, I will never regret the decision to come back to college and finish my degree.  My job? Yes, even that.  Despite how much I absolutely hate pest control, office politics, and multi-client RFP’s, I will never regret the path that I took to get this role because I wouldn’t have advanced to this level without it.

I think the joy is there, underneath the layers of self-doubt and sadness I often feel, it’s there I just have to dig for it a little deeper some days, some months.  I have to be careful not to let my joy get over shadowed by the perils of a life unbranded.  So in that respect, I took my first stab tonight at my branding statements.  I think they may need a little tweaking and massaging here or there, but it’s a start. Let me know how you do with yours….

Professionally, I want to be known for being highly competent and trustworthy so that I can deliver positive, common sense results to people who trust and depend on me.

Personally, I want to be known for being worthy so that I can deliver joy and happiness to special people (and one day a special man) who loves me.

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How Ugly The N-word Can Be

August 26th was the first day of my fall semester class of Ethics and frankly it hasn’t been all that eventful.  The reality is college is pretty monotonous.  You search for classes on-line, you register for class, you pay for class (you cry), you take class, you hate your annoying classmates, you silently judge your professors, you study (or not), you take (and hopefully) pass exams, then you finish class, get your grade and you start all over again. The point of chronicling this journey isn’t to document the minutiae of each course I take, but rather to keep me energized to keep trudging through the minutiae by relating it to what’s happening in my life and in turn perhaps motivate some other student along the way.

Philosophy 1104: Philosophy and Social Ethics is a course designed, it feels, to thoroughly confuse me. Once we learn about a particular philosopher’s argument about morality we then quickly learn why that same philosophy is riddled with flaws and inconsistences.  It seems that the more mankind has explored the questions of “why are we here” and “what are we supposed to do with this life”, the more mankind has discovered that they have no real idea.  What does it mean to be moral? That appears to be the question that everyone from Plato, to Socrates, to Mills and Freud have tackled. Centuries later, their pontifications provide the backbone of modern day study which are applauded as ground breaking hundreds of years after their deaths.  What a legacy! In today’s day and age people post funny videos of their cats on YouTube to secure their long term legacy. Sad.

My professor, a very young, laid back Philosophy major studying for his doctorate, paints dozens of scenarios each Monday and Wednesday night in which our class explores ethical dilemmas.  So far we haven’t addressed the ethics of friendship but I find it easily applicable to the cases we have explored. Friendship is a funny thing, it requires something that other institutions like marriage, parenting, and family, don’t – – it requires you to stay in it because you want to, not because you have to.  With adult friendships you CAN walk away without much baggage. True it can be at times painful to end a friendship, but there isn’t a social stigma in breaking up with your friends the same way there is with divorcing your spouse, putting your kids up for adoption, or institutionalizing a family member. Friendship exists because it’s important to both parties in the friendship, not necessarily to anyone else or to the larger society.  If you don’t like something a friend does, if it feels wrong, or not quite right, or downright crappy then you have the option to forgive and forget or end the friendship.  You may lose other friends in choosing the latter option, but generally speaking, the choice is yours with minor long-lasting repercussions. Few people spend multiple years as adults in friendships that give them little to no positive return.  Simply put, if your friend’s not nice to you, then eventually you cut them loose, you move on.

In my first 8 weeks of Ethics, I have discovered that at the core of most philosophical teachings is getting to the root of what makes humans act and which actions are right and which actions are wrong.  It’s a fascinating discussion because in my mind, up to this point, what is wrong and right is everyone’s individual opinion.  If you think it’s wrong to jaywalk and so you never cross the street without the traffic light being green, then that’s what you hold important.  If your best friend crosses on the red, are they wrong? Or because it doesn’t matter to them, are they right and you’re wrong? Ah, the twists and turns of philosophical debate.  But jaywalking is a pretty lackluster example.  The scenario gets more challenging when we start talking about much more weighty topics such as abortion, gay rights, veganism, and corporal punishment — just to name a few. And even juicier still when it comes to that precarious state we call friendship. At what point do differing opinions of what is appropriate behavior for a friend become worthy of an “ethical” battle ground?

When I was in the third grade, my teacher, whom I adored at the time, Mrs. Stenhouse, returned my English assignment to me full of red ink.  She had circled the word “nice” a dozen times.  She pulled me aside and said, “You’re a good writer, but you have to stop using the word “nice”. There are thousands of words that can be used in its place, STOP using the word nice.  It’s overused and over done.” Clearly it was a hot button word for Mrs. Stenhouse, and it instantly became a hot button word for me. From that day on I tried very hard never to use “nice” to describe people in written or in spoken word.  It was a generic, all-encompassing word that had no backbone or meat behind it; it was for all intents and purposes the generic version of any number of better adjectives that would more aptly describe a person, place or thing. Impressive choices such as, winsome, copacetic, ingratiating, simpatico and so on and so on – – anything but that hateful N-word.   

Lately, however, I’ve been wondering if perhaps I have given “nice” a bad rap. Perhaps when I disowned it from my vocabulary, I somehow disowned it as a requirement for the basics of how people are supposed to treat me and how I should treat them.  Maybe what’s right about the word “nice” that I’ve let slip away, is that it’s just what Mrs. Stenhouse condemned it as — a very simple, basic way of describing the act of just being good and kind.  Perhaps, in fine literature that is a curse, but in relationships, it should be a fundamental cornerstone.  If you can’t expect your friends to be nice to you, then do any of the other adjectives that might describe the relationship even matter?

Roughly every two weeks, I buy myself a bouquet of fresh flowers for my kitchen table.  It’s a tradition I started when my boyfriend left me a year ago.  When I walk in my house, it’s the first thing I see as I enter and it makes me smile each and every time.  Yes, you guessed it; it’s a Nice feeling to see them.  I want to have that kind of reaction on the friends in my life and I want them to be that for me. I don’t think it’s too much to ask, I don’t think it needs any fancier word or description.

I think it would be great if we all just were nice to one another.

Sorry, Mrs. Stenhouse, Sorry Plato – – it may not be the most elegant prose or the most poignant philosophical musing, but that’s just how I feel.

Merely Freshmen

So today was the first day of my online class, Principles of Marketing, and I didn’t even go online.

I tried, really I did.

I have been up since 6:45 am and now at 10:00 pm I am just finishing working and drinking “a” glass of wine and listening to singles from Bronson Arroyo’s “Covering the Bases” album on You Tube.  (Don’t ask why, but It’s actually pretty good).

I have been working like a crazy person all day and after no less than 5 hours of conference calls, 2 hours of fire drills and countless hours of spreadsheets, action plans and meeting scheduling, I am finally catching my breath.  The last thing I want to do is jump on line, act like a freshmen and start studying.  Sorry.  I know more dedicated students would probably pull an all nighter and start reading chapters and working on the new class, but I have to tell you ‘relentless diligence’ is not my middle name…  it’s just ‘Yvette’.

My plan is to dig into this class tomorrow.  Yes, Scarlett, I know that sounds cliché, but it’s all I have for right now.  I consider the fact that I am blogging about my failure to kick the semester off with a blast as the proper motivation to not be a slacker just because it’s an online class and not a traditional classroom setting.  After all, if I do poorly, I will have to share it with my legions of chasingwonderwoman.com fans – –  all four of you who follow my blog!  The horrors!

Adding to my predicament is that this weekend I am booked solid…. I have a 5 hour hair appointment (black women never spend less than 5 hours in the hair salon, especially on a Saturday); two birthday parties, one work-related going away party, one Wine Fest, and one housewarming party.  I am NEVER this busy – – never.  Most weekends, I plan diligently how to not watch too much TV and not drink too much wine so that it doesn’t appear I have a problem with either.  I carefully monitor the amount of time I spend wallowing in post break-up self pitidom and I balance it with contemplating ways I would spend lottery winnings that will likely never come my way because I don’t buy tickets.   That’s typically how I spend my weekends.  Now on the debut of the spring semester, I am faced with a work load that is exploding and a social life that appears to be turning the corner… if this is any indication of what the next three months are going to look like, then it will be an interesting ride.

When I woke up this morning, I was thinking about what I was going to write in my blog.  Am I the only person that lies in bed and makes numerous plans for the day, most of which never transpire?  Well, my morning musings included a truly wonderful, prophetic message to share with everyone about not getting disheartened and following your path.  It honestly was going to be great; I had quotes and jokes and clever phrases I was going to include.  Now at 11pm at night with””three” glasses of wine and 12 hours of work guiding my fingertips, all I can offer in the way of advice is to stay warm, drink more wine, and don’t take yourself too seriously – it will all be there in the morning, when you wake up and re-invent your day all over again.

Oh and PS, if you haven’t checked out Bronson Arroyo, you should, he’s pretty cool.  Thanks SB for tipping me off and see you at the birthday party.

Of Marketing and Men

My first play on words of the new year

My first play on words of the new year

This semester I’m all registered to take a course titled Principles of Marketing. Classes won’t start until January 24th but I am already a fan of this class for three reasons…

It’s a bargain.  I’m fortunate that the UCONN bachelor’s program I am in allows for a certain percentage of classes to be taken at its’ affiliated partner community colleges.  These community colleges charge a fraction of the course that UCONN does and the only requirement is that you receive pre-approval from your advisor.  I keep my UCONN undergraduate status AND I keep an extra 1,100 in my wallet this spring! And what college student do you know that couldn’t use an extra grand…even us old timers.

It’s all on-line.  While I enjoyed some parts of being back in the classroom on Saturday mornings and feeling like a co-ed again, some of you remember my struggle with patience. For those who don’t want to revisit that blog entry, I will summarize in 5 words….I don’t suffer fools well…or frankly, not at all.

It’s got win-win potential.  I hope I haven’t misled anyone by thinking that I am returning to college because I really love studying and school.  The truth is I hate both.  I’m going back to school to finish what I started but more importantly to get promoted within my industry.  BUT, and here’s where this class gets interesting, perhaps “Marketing” can take on a secondary more personal meaning.   I find myself back on the “market” again in my personal life; so perhaps the same principles of marketing mix and distribution strategies may also apply to a world I reluctantly return to…that of dating.

It may be a stretch for me to think that this course may in any way at all help me wade through the markets of men; but how fun will it be to see exactly how many times I can weave my dating (or lack thereof) life into this semester and how creative I can be with my shameless play on words.

It’s a new year, I feel hopeful, so I’ll ask in advance that you cut me some slack.

Things Left Behind

Returning the last things left behind.

About two weeks ago, one of my classmates left her textbook in the room.  She didn’t realize it until the middle of the week when she began to prepare for class and it came up missing.  She returned to the classroom and it was gone.  She was certain that it was stolen. Paying the high cost of college textbooks is nothing anyone wants to do once, never mind twice in the same semester for the same class.  I’m sure, she thought all was lost.  The reason I know this story is because the following week in class she told the professor her dilemma and he said to her, “don’t worry about it, I found the book and put in the Administrator’s office.  I knew it had to belong to one of my students and figured they mistakenly left it behind. I knew they would come back to claim it.”

I live in Connecticut, one of the states on the Eastern Seaboard that was hard hit this last week by what is now being called Super Storm Sandy.  A massive hurricane turned tropical storm that devastated the US coastline from the Carolinas to Maine and literally wiped out the entire Atlantic City boardwalk and shoreline.  Residents in New York, New Jersey and some parts of my own Connecticut have been without electricity or heat for over 12 days and counting.  Tempers are short, people are angry and displaced.  They are frustrated and sad to have experienced such tremendous loss.  Many of them were forced to evacuate prior to the storm’s arrival.  They left their homes with whatever could be packed in suitcases and car trunks. I imagine many of them had to leave behind things which they hoped would still be there after the storm.

The day before Sandy was expected to make landfall, I boarded a plane and flew to Denver, Colorado for a 3 day business conference that had been scheduled for months in advance.  I left behind my home and my family and all my belongings and I sincerely prayed all would be safe when I returned; it was hard to leave them behind but I like everyone else in New York and New Jersey felt confident all would be fine and still here after the storm.

How does it feel when you leave something behind that you hoped would be there and it’s not?

When I returned from Denver, my home had been impacted by the storm but it was minimal damage. Superficial items that were easily repaired with a screwdriver, a few nails and some kind-hearted, reliable friends who know how to swing a hammer.  But I sustained other damages from the storm that I didn’t see coming.  More emotional then physical and much more difficult to repair.  I had left behind my daughter, my home, my clothes, and my possessions as well as my two year relationship when I boarded the plane.  The relationship didn’t  make it.  I was expecting it to be there after the storm had passed and I got off the plane.  Maybe not in the same condition that I had left it, perhaps a little bruised and banged up like the fence and the roof shingles and the hedges, but still in tact and able to be mended.

It feels awful when you leave something behind that you hoped would be there and it’s not.  It’s devastating.

It took me about a week to make the repairs to the house.  I called in my friends who had ladders, tools, and more skill than I will ever have – literally it takes me a good minute or more to figure out which one to pick up when someone says hand me a phillips.  Seriously why do they call it a “phillips”; what don’t call it a flat top and a groovy top?

I imagine it will take a lot longer to deal with the emotional effects of Super Storm Sandy.  My friends say what all friends say, “take your time”… “we’re here for you”…. “you deserve the best”…. “go shopping” –

…thank God for girlfriends.

Lesson learned: there will come a time when you have to leave important things behind and you must do what’s necessary and what’s right but be prepared to deal with the possibility these things may not be there when you return.

I have no cure-all statement on what to do then, but you could listen to some of my friends and try shopping…

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Kalia Kornegay

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