Resolving and Evolving

before and afro new year

To constantly evolve, you must constantly surround yourself with the people you want to be more like. These photos, taken New Year’s Day after brunch with friends, represent evolution. Much like old wisdom tailored for a new generation, this dress was passed down from Michelle‘s grandma to me. By the way, if you are still lucky enough to have your grandparents, soak them up every chance you get. 

beaded 40s dress

After five frustratingly unfinished blog drafts in the past week, some of which sought to tackle the big New Year’s Resolution issue to no avail, I have finally come to it: In 2013, I resolve to feed my brain rigorously.

michelle joni

See, the problem is, I am a happy woman. Like, insanely happy. I’m madly in love. I’m surrounded by downright amazing friends. I’m blessed with a family that loves me and shows it in so many ways. My new freelance lifestyle allows me to stay up till all my favorite hours (it’s 4:38 6:03 AM, woo hoo!) and sleep till noon whenever I feel like it. And best of all, I freakin’ love myself! I am talented and beautiful and unimaginably lucky, and I have a dandy old time hanging out with me. I accept myself. I practice gratitude for all of life’s graces (and I feel absolutely uncomfortable and superstitious saying all that) but… being happy is not enough. I’ve decided that being insanely happy means I need to set the bar higher.

smile white hat

I read an article earlier this year titled Too Much Happiness Can Make You Unhappy. Say whaaaat? Well, after a first WTF, OMG-you-can’t-win glance, it really makes a whole lot of sense. It’s the science behind why happily married couples get fat together, why rich people depend on therapists and Xanax, and why overly content folks have the tendency to get plain old lazy. With everyone striving to find that elusive place of happiness and bliss, in 2013 I am striving to make a few waves.

nyc lobby

That is where my resolution comes in: I want to make waves in my brain and soul; waves that call me to a higher power. Waves that illuminate my core and show me new ways of thinking. Waves that make me not sad – but make me realize how I had previously only seen a sliver. In 2013 I resolve to increase my capacity for happiness! And I plan to do that by learning things and seeking inspiration like it’s my job.

city lights window

In 2013 I resolve to read more books. I resolve to watch an abundance of documentaries. I resolve to absorb the authenticity of influential minds like Marianne Williamson, Aristotle and Madonna, and dig beyond the quotes and lyrics that enlighten me. In 2013, I resolve to make an active effort to discover new people who inspire me – and to meet them. I resolve to try as many new things as I can to broaden my perspective, while narrowing down my core beliefs. I resolve to use this year to focus less on projecting, more on soaking in philosophies and ideas like a sponge. Not that I won’t overwhelm you with photos of myself and my own brain juice on a regular basis, I’ll just balance that out with a greater personal intake of newness. I resolve to raise the bar AND the roof!

vintage beaded dress

I spent the past few hours engaging in one of my favorite hobbies as of late: watching TEDx talks on YouTube. These five videos resonated with me deeply – all for different reasons, though you’ll notice a few similar themes. Next time you have an hour and a half to spare/procrastinate, click play for these “ideas worth spreading,” a partial sum of the person I aspire to be more like. Enjoy! And PS, always dress up fancy for brunch… it’s way more fun that way.

lean back

1. I’m not sorry. This TEDx talk by the cheeky, chocolate covered potato chip loving Dyana Valentine hits the nail on the head regarding my feelings on apologies. I get annoyed at how often the word is used and misused daily. But even moreso, I want to get better at not apologizing. At not doubting that I meant what I said, and that’s okay. I want to be more resolute on my opinions of people, beliefs and restaurants when I share them. I sometimes wonder – what if back in October I was in the headspace to not let all the negative comments and articles about my afro-wearing get to me so deeply? What if… I hadn’t felt sorry? As Ms. Valentine puts brilliantly: “‘I am’ trumps ‘I am sorry’ every single time.” I AM a girl who loves wearing an afro wig – end of discussion! I have no regrets about the way it happened because I stayed genuine and I love you guys, but just sayin’ – it would have been a hell of a lot easier.

2. Gala Darling, a cheerleader of self-love and sequins after my own heart! Shameless and controversial jus’ like me ( wants us both – a, b – to GTFO), she even stopped taking comments because it was “hindering her personal growth.” Way to go, sista. My indulgence in the comments here definitely changed my perspective, and I’d like to think it’s been good for my personal growth, but I’ll just never know where I’d have ended up otherwise. This ultra girly blogger speaks from the heart about loving your damn self, and quotes my fave, Ru Paul. If you don’t love yourself, how in the hellll you gon’ love anybody else? Write down the compliments you receive and wear pink hearts into your late twenties, yay!

3. This guy’s talk based on his happiness research will make you soooo happy. He’s funny and charming and smart. A lot of people are those things, but Shawn Achor has got that certain je ne sais quoi… non?

4. I’ve been a fan of Brené Brown‘s work for sometime now. She has devoted her life to researching vulnerability, something I’m quite fascinated by. As I’ve proclaimed here, I believe in flaunting your faults. Vulnerability is sexy. If you can love your flaws, you’re unstoppable! There are endless ways Brené applies her research to bettering your life, and this one I found tonight (this morning?) struck a chord with me. It spoke to the inherent fears we all have of something going wrong. Namely: Tragedy. It’s a fear I live with daily – like… you can only be so happy, because at any moment, something horrific can happen to take it all away. How do we function beyond that? Well the first step, is to never let that fear hold you back from loving and caring to the fullest.

5. We are the Gods now! It’s not a TEDx talk, but you must, simply must, watch this summary of the mind-blowing, meta-physical inner workings of Jason Silva‘s brain.

WE ARE THE GODS NOW – Jason’s speech at Sydney Opera House from Jason Silva on Vimeo.

Happy New Year, now let’s change ourselves to change the world!!! Who’s with me?

Photos by Ivy Davidoff

8 thoughts on “Resolving and Evolving

  1. Happy New Year, Michelle!! Reading this post was a fabulous way to start off the year for me. Wishing you health, happiness, and of course love and peace in 2013! Keep rocking!

  2. Michelle,

    I’ve thought a lot about our conversation when we met for lunch a while back. You brought up the point that, just because your blog catapulted into a conversation about race and racism, that shouldn’t necessitate that you now, moving forward, have to make a blog about your interaction with race/racism when you were originally interested in writing about fashion/entertainment. At the time, I disagreed and felt that you had a responsibility to continue this journey of understanding privilege and racism to create a space for people like you to do the same, and to heal the wounds deepened by your actions. Since then, I had changed my mind: write about whatever interests you, so long as you don’t forget the lessons learned from all of this, lessons of privilege, institutionalized racism, and oppression.

    In this context, I’m shocked that you entertain the idea of what it would have been like to have never allowed for comments here, when the majority of the comments have been people’s genuine testimonials of how what you have done hurts them in ways that they assumed you were previously unaware of. Real, rare moments of people stepping out and offering their histories in hopes it will convince you to think again.

    Your messages of self-love and acceptance are great and are messages we need to hear more of. But, can you truly advocate this constant self-celebration in the face of people telling you, consistently and with pain in their words, that you are actively hurting them? Shouldn’t this renewed self-love come as the result of you making the choice to stop inflicting pain onto others?

    Your recent photo shoot with your own hair felt like a complete reversal of any “revelations” made in the past few months about privilege and stereotypes. It is uncannily similar to your earlier Before and After photos; pre-afro is you with a sweet smile, post-afro wig is you donning wild animal faces or hypersexual poses. Does having an afro make you an animal? Wild? More sexual? Exotic? People have repeatedly shared these problematic stereotypes with you, and yet here they are again in a new form.

    Here’s a TedTalk from a while back that really changed the way I view my life. Give it a shot. It applies to all of us:

    This will be my last post here, and I will no longer follow your blog. Happy New Year. May we all continue to grow.

    • Hi Kelly,

      Yes, I “entertained” this idea. I try to entertain all interesting thoughts that go through my head. I imagine different possibilities of things past, and I believe it to be an analytical exercise for healthy growth and learning. Entertaining ideas has nothing to do with what actually transpired, and what actually transpired is that I DID fall very deeply attached to my comments, their histories, and the people behind them.

      A month or so ago, a successful blogger friend of mine first planted this idea in my head that I should never read my comments. She was in a situation where she was receiving physical hate mail for expressing her opinion about something. Her answer to this going forward was to have someone else go through her mail and comments and only show her the good ones. Her philosophy is that everyone in this world has their own special ideas and opinions, and that in media, these unique, albeit sometimes controversial thoughts, are vital to the fabric of society. By NOT letting others sway you, this is how you stay true to the purest most beautiful form of you.

      I totally saw her point. However, I told her that I disagreed. In this situation I felt blessed to have had these comments. I’m a people person. The comments MADE my blogging experience what it was, and helped shape me in ways I could have never imagined. I preferred the conversation, I engaged deeply, and I have no regrets about that. But I still do think that a completely different yet ALSO very fascinating side could have developed for me had I continued blindly on my course. I am bit shocked at how literally you have taken it. Since when do reflective words speak louder than actions?

      I really enjoyed the TED talk. It’s a fantastic point that resonates a great deal with me, and I’ll likely blog about it at some point. There was one major piece I disagreed with though. Dare I say, Kathryn Schulz was wrong? Her #3 unfortunate assumption of people being evil, for me, was incorrect. If all else fails, what a beautiful thing. Unless of course there is violence or terror involved… then they’re EVIL. But human beings all are so different. If, in a disagreement, I don’t think the person is ignorant or idiotic, I believe it means we are just plain different. Let’s agree to disagree.

      I’ve thought a lot about our lunch and all the wonderful insights you have brought into my life. I am very grateful to have met, and I am sorry to see you go. I have realized – even before you wrote this – that we are simply hardwired differently. It is a deep, serious, sobering, political place from which you stand. I respect it fully, I’m just not it. I don’t want to be it. I care and I care and I empathize and I learn and I care, but time and again, I’m banging my head against a wall over semantics and politics. It’s not for me.

      Does that make me wrong? Or does that just make us different?

  3. I often tell people to not say sorry. Like at a movie, before the show, when they want to move past me. Don’t be sorry. Like in a concert or on a dance floor, don’t be sorry when you want to move up, sideways or back. Just dance and smile and people will happily let you through. It’ll make the other person happier when you give them something more positive to respond to than an apology.

  4. Love your outlook on life. Too many people in the would are too conservative on their thoughts, looks, and beleifs. Well, I can’t say that I always feel comfortable or happy in my own skin. But I do my darn best to wake up and tell myself I choose how my own path. Where may it lead me today. For me, I gain happiness in learning a learning something new, spending time with my husband, listening to music or doing something creative (draw, paint, and photography). Keep on, keepin’ on. I dig your blog!

    I am on my mobile so not easy to type all my thoughts.



  5. Pingback: Still and Sexy Wins The Race | before and afro

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