It’s July and I think it’s time for me to evaluate the progress of my New Year’s resolution. Just as a reminder, my goal was to focus on myself and make myself a priority in my own life. To be honest, I think the start to my year was pretty shaky in relation to moving toward this goal. I can recall one too many times when I was sacrificing time and energy that I truly could not spare, all in the name of helping others. I was definitely feeling the stress, while seeing no real progress for myself. However, the past few weeks have acted as a real turning point for me. I’ve noticed a change in my thinking where I’ve learned to consider myself in my decisions, which is helping me progress in my own life. Can I really afford to do this? Do I really have the time for that? Will this set me back in any kind of way? I have to ask myself these kinds of questions to determine whether or not I’m being fair to myself.
Lately, I’ve experienced some interesting situations. I’ve been tested really and I’ve had to make some decisions. At first, I was torn and confused because I wasn’t sure what I should do. Many of these situations involved two opposing sides and, in all of these specific cases, both sides were led by people who are relatively close to me. I wasn’t sure whose “side” I should take, so I considered not taking a side and not getting involved at all. I figured they could resolve their differences without my intervention and I wouldn’t have to deal with the scrutiny of taking a position. But I realized that silence is just as loud as having an opinion, so there was no way around it. I had to get involved in each situation. I struggled with this issue each time, trying to decide who I agreed with, until I realized that I owed myself loyalty.
I needed to do what I was most comfortable with whether that meant speaking up and defending so and so, keeping someone’s secret, or being honest with a friend. Situations vary and the person who is at fault isn’t always the same, so I couldn’t vow to blindly be loyal to someone. If they were wrong, I had to let them know. If they were right, I had to back them up. If they asked something of me, then I had determine if it would hurt anybody before accepting. If it didn’t harm anyone else, why not? I had to play each situation by ear, loving each person who I had to deal with, but also being fair. I had to be fair to those around me and, mostly, to myself. I had to be loyal to myself and to what I feel is right. It’s all about making yourself a priority. So, yes, I said some things and, yes, I know some things, but I definitely am being as loyal as can be to those around me and, definitely, to myself.
All kids are born with confidence and it is such a beautiful thing. You see how their words have no filter and how they courageously run from one couch to the next before knowing how to walk on their own. They unapologetically ask questions and yell to the world how they are ready to take on the responsibilities of being a big kid, but the fact of the matter is that as those kids grow that security in themselves will be tested the entire way. It’s important to maintain that confidence, but it is much easier said than done. It will be difficult, but along the way, each person will discover how they can keep their confidence up and I can assure you that each way will be different. It may take several different strategies to help yourself be completely ok with who you are, but what matters is that you get there. For some, it will be simple, but, for most, it will be a long, tumultuous journey. The key is knowing yourself.
The first moment I can look back to and honestly say that I was sure of myself was when I was in my high school’s dance company. For one, this was the first time I belonged to a family outside of my own. Yes, I had been part of groups and clubs before, but they weren’t as deep-rooted as my dance company. We went through a lot together and I quickly learned that, despite many differences, we were all ride or die for each other. Knowing I had that strong support at school helped me feel more comfortable with stepping outside of my comfort zone and daring to do new things. Stage freight and being in front of large groups of people were things I was never fond of, but through dance those nerves faded. I performed, choreographed pieces, and even became dance captain. By that point, I had to believe in myself. If I didn’t have some confidence, my only option was quitting and I simply loved dance too much to do that.
I have to admit that my shy, introverted self wasn’t completely gone because of dance. Dance Company definitely helped in getting me out of my shell, but I still had lots of reservations about my potential. I had been with these girls for three years and then some, so essentially they had become my comfort zone. When I entered my college years, I went in much more confident than I did for my freshman year of high school, but I knew I had some ways to go before I was one hundred percent ok with myself. Part two to finding my confidence came through work.
I first started working as a dance teacher where I taught hip hop dance to elementary and middle school students. All throughout high school I had danced hip hop— right next to ballet, jazz, and modern, so it was hard for me to focus my energy on just one style. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea that these kids saw me as an expert, something I never saw myself as. I had to become the hip hop guru who was supposed to teach them how to dance to Nicki Minaj, Big Sean, and Kanye West hits because that was my job. All the while, I had to be sure of my authority and take control of thirty kids who had the attention span of about five minutes. I swear to you there were days where I couldn’t imagine teaching dance another day, but I stuck with it for over two years, learning much more about myself than I ever thought.
For one, I realized that I was a damn good choreographer! Even though I had heard this times before in high school, it wasn’t until I saw strangers and kids who had no emotional attachment to me loving my work that I believed it. Second, I learned that I really know how to maintain control of a class and myself at the same time. It takes a lot of mental strength to keep an entire room of kids and yourself in check and I was able to do so as soon as I found what my sass is good for. I will say that teaching dance may not have anything to do with my major, but the lessons I learned at Mount Royal are ones that have definitely transferred over to my latest job as a mentor to high school students. If I thought teaching dance was challenging, my eyes were opened when I started working with my high schoolers.
My high school kids are smart and they are the type of people who can instantly pick up on BS. They can detect when people are uncertain about what they’re saying or doing and they will put you on blast about it, too. So what else was I supposed to do? I had to be sure of myself. How could I go around lecturing these kids to believe in themselves and be good leaders without walking the walk myself? So I did what I had to and put on my confident face each time I led a meeting with twenty kids, my co-workers, and my boss in front of me. Within a few weeks, my confident persona became a part of who I was at work and it all became effortless. Now, I don’t feel challenged at all and I have no doubts about my choices at work. Most importantly, my kids don’t either. They come to me for anything and everything knowing that I’m a no BS kind of girl. As I like to say, I keep it real.
What worked for me? It’s a combination of two things, knowing who I truly was and faking it till I made it. I know it sounds like a bit of a contradiction, but I promise it makes sense. I first had to know what type of person I was before building my confidence. Although I’m still discovering things about myself, I do know that I am a smart, talented, sassy, sarcastic, driven, loving, and honest person among other things. Once I had that figured out, I needed to embrace it, which is the harder part, so I faked it till I made it. I created these personas for myself for when I was on stage, teaching a class, or talking to someone important that highlighted one of my deeply hidden traits. Eventually, those parts of me blossomed onto my surface and they became part of my everyday self. Think of it as practice. The more you practice something the easier it becomes. The more you practice being confident and embracing yourself the more natural it becomes.
I’m still working on building the confidence for my latest endeavors, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. If you don’t believe me, just use my blog as an example. I started MSauciana in January 2012, but I didn’t come up with the idea for it the day before it went live. It was something I mulled over for months, wondering if people would appreciate what I had to say or if they would even read it. I contemplated whether or not putting myself out there was something I was ready for, but I figured that if I couldn’t start a blog, then how could I expect to become a full-time writer.
So here I am over a year later still writing to you all about what’s on my mind and, like with anything else, I have no regrets. It’s come to the point where this blog is a place where I can be confident about my voice and, although I won’t be leaving it anytime soon, it makes me think about what other limits within myself I can push. Performing my poetry live? Becoming published? Who knows what the future holds? For now, I just hope you all can find ways to build yourselves up if you haven’t found your confidence just yet. Just think about how fearless you were as a child. I know you have it in you.
You need to know who you are
and what you’re made of
before you think about why you’re here
and how you’re going to do things.
You are the foundation.
You need to be solid and secure.
If you don’t realize that,
then it’ll all fall apart.
Nothing you begin will last.
Nothing you work on will be real.
Nothing with your name will be you.
You must discover yourself
before exploring your possibilities.
You must identify your limits
before accessing your potential.
You must know yourself
before anything else.
For as long as I can remember, people have told me that I’m a strong person. Whenever something big happened they were shocked to see me cry and they were even more surprised when they found things out about my life, but, despite all of this, I never believed them until my junior year of high school. I was in my dance teacher’s office just before practice and I was venting to her about a death in the family. In the process, I told her some details about my life and, after some tears and some hugs, she said “Tati, you’re strong and you’ll get through this.” Like I said before, this wasn’t the first time I had heard this, yet, for some reason, it was the first time I was actually listening.
Ever since this talk with my dance teacher, I’ve really learned to embrace my independence and strength without questioning what I could surpass and accomplish on my own. Ask anybody who knows me and they’ll tell you that I’m a tough cookie, I’m feisty, and I can handle my own. Now I’m not all rough and tough. I do have a sensitive, caring side that can show a lot of affection and, consequently, I’ve earned the reputation of being a Sourpatch Kid. Apparently, first, I’m sour, then I’m sweet! I’ve certainly done enough to earn a name for myself, but, truthfully, I regret nothing.
Throughout my life, I’ve grown into a strong, independent young woman. I’ve managed to keep it one hundred and I will proudly call myself real. On top of all that, I’ve also learned to be as positive as possible, being able to look at the bright side and let go of the negativity. I still don’t know the ins and outs of myself, but what twenty year old does? This is a time in life to find yourself and learn how to be true to yourself. You can’t do that without being honest and you can’t do that without embracing who you are. You have to be willing to make improvements and to accept some aspects of yourself that can’t be changed.
I may not have initially understood what people meant when they described me as strong, but I’ve learned to appreciate this quality and to own it. Figure out what makes you you and never let go of that. Be honest with yourself, understand yourself, be willing to improve yourself, and accept yourself. Only you can determine who you are as a person.
One of the most difficult things a person will learn is how to perfectly divide their time in order to balance out their life. Having good time management is a skill we all reach for, but so easily fail to achieve. Between family, friends, school, work, and yourself, your days are booked, but how do we keep everything in check? How can we tell if one part of our life is getting neglected of if another is receiving too much focus? How do you know if you’re living life the right way? Honestly, you can never know for sure, but the best way to gauge how well you’re doing on time management is to pay attention to yourself. Are you happy? Tired? Incomplete? Stressed? Understand how you feel in order to understand what you need to devote more time to. If you feel happy and satisfied, then chances are you’re on the right track, but, if you feel like something’s off, then you need to re-evaluate the schedule of your life.
A good place to start is with your social life. You might feel like you’re not spending enough quality time with friends and family. If this is the case, devote at least an hour a night for your family. Maybe, you can have a day of the week when you just catch up and hang out with your friends, but keep in mind that you can’t neglect people. Take turns between which friends and family you spend time with. That way you feel more complete and nobody gets left out of your plans. It’s been proven that time with your friends and family can make you happier, so don’t forget to make time for your loved ones.
Then again, maybe your social life was never the problem. Maybe, you’re not feeling very productive. If so, then focus more time on your work. That may include studying for school, finishing reports for your boss, or maybe just getting around to actually applying for a job. Either way you need to devote less time to lounging around and partying, but more energy and focus on what is going to secure your future. Having fun is nice, but the whole point is to divide your time accordingly and to not neglect any part of your life. Having a good work ethic is important, so make sure to dedicate some time to being productive. Plus, I’m a firm believer in the idea of working hard now and having fun later. The sooner you cross those things off of your to do list, the sooner you’ll be able to do whatever you want.
However, the most important thing to remember when managing your time is yourself. Not only do you need to remember to feed yourself and such, but you also have to leave some “me time” for yourself. For some, this means a warm bubble bath at the end of a long day, while, for others, it means catching up on their favorite shows. Me time can even be as simple as practicing your favorite hobby or listening to some music. It’s hard being you. Friends want to go out. Family wants to talk on the phone. Bosses want work done. Co-workers want to go to happy hour. All the while, you’re still one person who needs to breathe and live a life. So, if you’re feeling stressed, maybe it’s time to go into hibernation for a few hours. Treat yourself once in a while because it will surely make a difference.
Remember that money is great, but don’t always choose it over lifelong memories with the people you love and vice versa. Sometimes you need money to have a good time and to help you live a happy life Give everything its place and don’t lose that balance because, at the end of the day, it’s your sanity you’ll be losing.