Platitudes and Attitudes

The news of Kate Spade dying by suicide and the news of Anthony Bourdain suffering the same fate only a couple of days later was saddening.

My response to the news was not unlike that of a lot of other people, or so my social media feeds suggest.  There were a litany of posts from tons of people: some shared their own struggles with depression and suicidal ideation, some encouraged others to check on their friends, others reminding us that we don’t always know what people are going through, and even others providing links and phone numbers to help those who may be in need but not know how to access it.  

I joined the fray by I encouraging people who may not see themselves as suffering from depression to still seek the professional help of a therapist.  I firmly believe that if more of us who are fiscally able to and also do not suffer from major depression, suicidal ideation or other serious mental disorders would get in therapy we would see positive changes in our lives and in the perception of mental health.  

But even with all of these encouraging posts, there was something that bothered me.

This “check on your friends” thing.

What does that mean?  Send them a text and ask them if they’re ok?  Then what? What if they say no? Then what do you do?  What’s the plan?

I hate blaming social media for things.  Social media is only what social media can be based on how we use it and allow it to use us.  But one thing too many of us allow is the use of social media to share platitudes and attitudes that are superficial.  They are the placebos of the internet. They sound and look good but don’t actually do anything. I think we all mean well when we say “check on your friends” but I think we also don’t give any real thought to why we say it or what our purpose is.

I want to encourage us to be better than that, especially when we’re discussing the mental well being of our friends.  I want us to care that our intent and our actions align. I want us to quit saying things that are catchy and seem timely; I want us to start DOING things that support the people we care about in real tangible ways.

First, let’s be clear about a few things:

  1. Your “strong” friend probably won’t tell you they’re struggling, EVEN IF YOU ASK.  Your “strong” friend is the “strong” friend for a reason.  Because they never admit when they are struggling.
  2. Even if your friends admit to you that they don’t feel ok, that they are feeling hopeless, that they do contemplate suicide, unless you are a trained professional, odds are great that you don’t actually know what to do if someone lays that on you.  If a person is at the point where they are actively considering suicide, telling you their problems isn’t going to fix it. They need the help of a mental health professional and the best thing you can do is help them figure out how to access that help and perhaps even make sure they follow through (e.g. go to the appointment, make the phone call, etc…)
  3. The truth of the matter is that studies show us that people who have firmly decided to die by suicide will seem happy.  Maybe even happier than they have in a very long while. This is because they know it will all be over soon.  Kate Spade’s husband said, “we were in touch with her the night before and she sounded happy. There was no indication and no warning that she would do this. It was a complete shock.”  I say this to emphasize that our role in these situations is not to fix it. It is to have a plan. It is to be a support. It is to be aware.

When we say check on our friends, I want us to understand how important that statement is and that checking on your friends isn’t something you do for a few days via a quick text only after two celebrities die by suicide.  Checking on your friends is multi-faceted and it sometimes means being uncomfortable, it means taking risks, it means being honest with yourself about your own issues, it means being real, it means caring, it’s inconvenient sometimes, it’s frustrating other times, it’s… hard.  

When I was a junior in high school, a friend died by suicide.  It came as a shock to all of us. Most of us knew he struggled with depression but we thought it was under control.  15 years later, I still vividly remember talking to him just the day before and how happy he seemed. Hearing that he had then hung himself in a closet was cognitive dissonance that I couldn’t begin to get on top of.  For years after, I would wonder if there was anything I could’ve done. I beat myself up for a long time for not making it a point to talk to him that day even though he had been on my mind because I could tell something was different.  It wasn’t big, it wasn’t obvious, but I noticed it and I didn’t do anything.

Was I responsible for his death?  No. Definitely not. But trust me when I say that as mucha s I know that to be true, that doesn’t change the guilt that I still occasionally feel.  We cannot operate from a place of guilt; neither guilt we already feel or guilt we anticipate. Check on your friends because you want to have a relationship with them where they trust you.  Check on your friends because you want them to check on you. Check on your friends to be a friend - not to mitigate guilt. The real bottom line is that sometimes, even in the best case scenarios, people who are dealing with their own demons, make their own choices even when they are surrounded by love.  That’s why you can’t check on a friend because you think you might prevent their suicide. If you do, that’s a cherry. The sundae, however, is the relationship. It’s the effort. And when your actions and your intentions truly align, you will find a lot more peace in whatever outcome there is.

I have never suffered from suicidal ideation, but I have suffered from depression and anxiety that people around me read as “anger” or “disinterest” or “disengagement”.  This emotional expression has scared people - not because it is explosive or dangerous, but because it is quiet and hard to read. And in being hard to read, I get read as the “strong” friend.  Whatever the hell that means. If I’m really honest right here, I revel in that identity because it makes it easier to hide from well-meaning inquiries that I don’t trust are rooted in intentionality.  Does that mean my friends aren’t being honest when they ask me how I feel? No. It doesn’t. But if you know that your “strong” friend doesn’t believe that you really want to know how they feel, how does that change the way you approach them?

It’s not easy to check on me, because I will say what I think needs to be said so that a person will stop worrying about me.  Thinking that someone is worrying about me increases my anxiety. I hide my issues very well. I know how to disappear when I know my aesthetic will not be pleasing to others.  I know how to hide when I don’t feel “ok”. I know how to do all of these things and I do not suffer from suicidal ideation or major depression. Imagine someone who does suffer from these things.  What is asking them if they’re “ok” whenever social media reminds you to, going to do?

There are things you can do, though:

Be a constant.  Show up for them.  It’s a lot easier to ask someone for help that you talk to regularly because you don’t have to start all over with explaining everything that happened.  Check yourself, too. The last time you had an extended conversation with them, what was the topic? Was any significant amount of time spent on their life?  If not, trust me when I tell you, they’re not going to open up to you. Why would they?

Be understanding.  Be patient. Realize that asking for help with something that is as intangible as mental health is almost impossible for most people.  If I break my leg, someone can see that I need help. If my mind breaks, that can’t be seen by most and I probably cannot describe it well.  Be willing to be with someone (whether that’s in person, digitally, over the phone or otherwise) even if neither of you understands what’s going on.  Just commit to being someone that they can be vulnerable with. Understand that if someone is struggling, usually they don’t need advice or “everything will be ok” they want someone to truly listen and then echo what they probably already feel: “this really sucks.”    

Be knowledgeable.  Do you suspect your friend has suffered from issues of depression or anxiety before?  What did it look like and so what might it look like in the future? Could you be of assistance without them asking?  I read a twitter thread recently where a user described how her friends rallied around her to help her unpack her apartment after her father died and she was severely depressed.  Her friend did ask if she was ok and she said that she was. He knew she wasn’t, he figured out what could be done to help and he took a risk and tried it. As she points out, it could’ve backfired, but the point is that he tried and often that’s all we can do.

Ultimately, be realistic.  You’re not the mental health professional in this relationship - and that’s even if you are an actual mental health professional.  And that’s ok! Be a friend. That’s all you have to be, no matter what happens. I tell my friends, all the time (though many don’t like to hear it) that I’m their friend, not their therapist.  I may listen well, and I may seem to know the right things to say but at the end of the day I am not objective. A true therapist is objective and that’s what provides true personal growth. A true friend, however, is on your side and all about you.  That’s what provides growth in a friendship.

We’re all out here trying to do this life thing the best way we know how.  I get that. Doing life is harder for some of us than others, which is ok. Being a real friend isn’t easy, especially to someone who suffers from mental health issues.  It just isn’t. But if you’re going to commit to doing it and doing it well, it’s going to take some intentionality. Check on your friends. Your strong friends, your struggling friends, your happy friends.  Do it regularly. Keep up with what’s happening in their world. Expect your friends to do the same for you. Share the load. If you suspect a friend is having a hard time, loop in another trusted friend. Make a plan.  Execute it. We get through this life with a little help from our friends. That’s from a song, so it’s true. Friendship is a thing you do from love, not to be a hero.


Get Immediate Help

If you are in crisis, and need immediate support or intervention, call, or go the website of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255). Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your confidential and toll-free call goes to the nearest crisis center in the Lifeline national network. These centers provide crisis counseling and mental health referrals. If the situation is potentially life-threatening, call 911 or go to a hospital emergency room.

Find a Health Care Provider or Treatment

For general information on mental health and to locate treatment services in your area, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). SAMHSA also has a Behavioral Health Treatment Locator on its website that can be searched by location.
National agencies and advocacy and professional organizations have information on finding a mental health professional and sometimes practitioner locators on their websites. Examples include but are not limited to:
University or medical school-affiliated programs may offer treatment options. Search on the website of local university health centers for their psychiatry or psychology departments.
You can also go to the website of your state or county government and search for the health services department.
Some federal agencies offer resources for identifying practitioners and assistance in finding low cost health services. These include:
  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): HRSA works to improve access to health care. The website has information on finding affordable healthcare, including health centers that offer care on a sliding fee scale.
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS): CMS has information on the website about benefits and eligibility for these programs and how to enroll.
  • The National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus website also has lists of directories and organizations that can help in identifying a health practitioner.
  • Practitioner lists in health care plans can provide mental health professionals that participate with your plan.
  • Mental Health and Addiction Insurance Help: This website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources to help answer questions about insurance coverage for mental health care.

Participate in a Clinical Trial

Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances.. People volunteer to participate in carefully conducted investigations that ultimately uncover better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose, and understand human disease. Clinical trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about clinical trials on the Clinical Trials — Participants page.
  • Find a Clinical Trial at NIMH. Doctors at the NIMH in Bethesda, Maryland are trying to learn more about the causes of, treatments for, and genetic factors in mental disorders. To learn more, visit the NIMH Join a Study page.
  • Find a Clinical Trial Near You. For information on clinical studies across the country, visit You can search by topic and location.

Help for Service Members and Their Families

Current and former service members may face different mental health issues than the general public. For resources for both service members and veterans, please visit

Learn More about Mental Disorders

NIMH offers health information and free easy-to-read publications on various mental disorders on its website in the Health & Education section. The website is mobile and print-friendly. Printed publications can be ordered for free and free eBooks are available for select publications. Many publications are also available in Spanish. To order free publications, order online (haga su pedido por el Internet en español) or call 1-866-615-6464 (TTY: 1-866-415-8051).



Last school year, I developed a relationship with a 13 year old student.  She wasn't a problem student, per se, but sometimes she would get really upset and I was the only person she would talk to and calm down with.

I always felt like she was a child who had to take care of so many other people and hadn't really had an adult she could trust to take care of her.  She grew to trust me - though I know that when kids have gone so long not having an adult to trust, they don't always know how.  I gave her space to figure that out.

I grew to care a lot about her.  I just wanted her to have some successes in her life.  I wanted her to start making the types of decisions that would set herself up for success in the long run.

I say all that to set up why I reacted the way I did when one of my assistant principals approached me to tell me she'd been spotted one morning sneaking onto an empty bus with a boy that I knew was her boyfriend.  The admins wanted me to talk to her - hoping that they could avoid having to give her a consequence.

I was angry.  If you don't work with middle schoolers, it's easy to imagine them as cute little almost teenagers.  And some of them are.  But increasingly most of them are involved in behaviors we typically attribute to high school students (certainly behaviors that I and my friends didn't involve ourselves in until high school).  They are doing drugs, selling drugs, drinking, having sex -- all that.

And my mind went to all the things she could've been doing on that bus.  I freaked.  I absolutely freaked.  There was very little that was professional and wasn't personal about the way I freaked out in my mind.  I don't want any of the students I work with to engage in risky behaviors, of course, but a student that I'd been working so closely with?  One who had all the potential in the world?  I couldn't take it.

I sought her out in the hallway and told her, sternly, that we would be speaking later.  I guess she could tell how upset I was because she asked a teacher to escort her to my office the next class period.  The teacher told me, "I brought her because I can tell she's scared that she did something to hurt you."

When I got her into my office, she very quickly admitted to me that she had been on a bus that morning without permission.

"What were you doing?"  I asked, sure I didn't want to know the answer.

"Nothing," she replied calmly.  I've been doing this long enough - kids lie.  It's safer to assume they're lying than that they're not.  But, I knew she was telling me the truth.  I was still scared that there was something to all this sneaking, so I double backed.

"If you weren't doing anything, why did you need to sneak onto a bus?"

"It's cold outside.  We wanted to be alone.  But we didn't do anything.  We just talked."

I felt a bit of relief.  Felt like a crisis was averted and I figured this was as good a time as any to see if she'd given any thought to the things that could happen when you're alone with your boyfriend.

"Ok fine.  Nothing happened today.  But what about the next time?"

She hesitated.  "What do you mean?"  She was stalling.

"I mean you're sneaking on buses.  What else are you going to sneak and do?"

She stared at me.  I couldn't read her face.  "I wouldn't do that, Ms. Smith."  The way she said it was very final.  Very cold.  But you can't trust 13 year olds.  They can't trust themselves.

"Ok, I know you think that right now.  But sometimes things happen faster than we think they will and we're not prepared."  I had no idea where I was going with this, but I needed to know that at some point some adult had talked to her about staying safe.

"Look, I don't want to talk about why, but I won't do that..." she trailed off as if there were more - a word she wanted to say, but couldn't get.

"But why are you so sure?"  It wasn't that I didn't believe her.  I just wanted her to tell me what her motivation was.  I wanted her to be purposeful.  I was so caught up in what I wanted her to know, I didn't realize what she wanted me to know.

"Ms. Smith, I've done it before.  I know I won't do it again."

My stomach dropped.  I needed "it" to refer to something else.

"Done what before?  Had sex?" I asked, trying to sound unfazed, but feeling disoriented.

She looked down at the ground - the first time she'd broken eye contact with me.  "Yes."

I still didn't realize what she was trying to say.

"But - sometimes when we've done something once," I began, "it's easier to do it again.  I'm not telling you not to, though I wish you wouldn't, not right now.  I just want you to be safe.  I don't want you doing things you don't want to do on buses with boys you don't know that well."

"I learned my lesson already," she said, still not making eye contact.  Her whole demeanor, I realized, had changed.  She'd been so sure of herself but now she was such a little girl.  I felt like an attack dog, suddenly.  So I sat back in my chair and lowered my voice just a bit.  A tactic I employ to subtly reassure whoever I'm talking to that everything is ok.

"What lesson?"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"You don't have to, but I do want to know how you plan to stay safe."

There was silence.  She searched my face.  Maybe for a sign that I wouldn't let her down.

"Last year, I had this boyfriend.  I snuck out of my mom's house to go see him.  I got there and we had..." she paused, searched my face again, and continued, "sex."

She stopped, waiting on me to react.  I waited for her to continue.

"Anyway, one of his friends was there.  After my boyfriend was done, his friend got on top of me.  I told him to stop, but he didn't.  I kept telling him no.  He wouldn't stop."

It was like glass shattered around me.  Noise and then sudden silence.  I couldn't hear.  I wanted to get up and grab her up and tell her we'd find this guy and I would kill him with my bare hands.  But I knew she wouldn't want me to touch her.  Not right then.

We talked about whether her parents knew or not.  They did.  They didn't press charges, though she said her dad told her if the guy ever showed his face, he would kill him.  She told me that part with a measure of strength and assuredness she'd lost briefly during our talk.

"My mom told me that's what I get for sneaking out."

It is very hard to explain to a 13 year old that one bad decision doesn't deserve a traumatic experience.

I did my best.



Back when I lived in DC I would take regular breaks from life.  I'd turn my phone off, leave it at home and only go to work and come back home.  I would do this for a week or two -- once I did it for almost three, and only "came back" because I checked my voicemail and some folks were pretty worried.

The other thing I did was spend a night in a hotel every couple of months.  I'd usually drive down to Richmond, VA - it was a nice drive and got me far enough away from the beltway that I felt like I could breathe.  It wasn't the cheapest habit, but looking back, I think it was part of what helped me stay sane.

I'm tired.  Physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally... I'm tired.  Over the last couple of months I've started realizing that my 8th graders are really leaving me and it's occurring to me that some of them aren't ready.  Trying to get them there with just over a month left to do so is no easy feat.

You can't work with kids and not develop relationships with them.  Most are seasonal.  Kids come and go -- that's the nature of a school.  As a counselor, my job is to make every child on my caseload feel like there is someone in the school building who can and will help them with their problems.  Of course, being responsible for 400+ kids makes building individual relationships very difficult, but I manage, I like to think anyway, to be a large part of making my school building a safe place emotionally for the students who attend.

Sometimes, though, the relationships are more than seasonal.  This year I've developed some very close and very individual relationships with a handful of kids.  I really do care a lot about them and I worry about them and want them to be successful, much the way I imagine their own parents do (well, some of their parents).  I work with a low-income, high needs population and so that presents its own set of challenges.  One thing I pride myself on is supporting the kids in their athletic events.  I drive them to their games, I watch them play and then I congratulate them after on their hard work, win or lose.  I see their faces light up when they notice me on the side of the field.  They always check in with me on game days to make sure I will be there and I try to make every effort, though there are certainly some times I can't.

For the ones I'm close to, I spend a lot of time with them.  I'm walking them through everything from dealing with teachers they don't like to feeling as if their parents don't like or care about them.  For some of them and on some days I'm the only person who smiles at them, hugs them and makes them feel good enough.

All of that takes a lot out of a person.  I'm constantly pouring into these kids and I love what I do, but it's draining me way more quickly than I can refill.

But the kids aren't the only ones I pour into.  My coworkers need support, my family, my friends -- as always, I sit here realizing that everyone's got me but who do I have?

I had an uncomfortable exchange with someone I care about, recently.  I can't decide exactly how I care about them and what that means for how I want them to function in my life, but they are someone I consider a friend and this exchange has stayed with me.  Partly because I wasn't at my best, and I allowed them to make me react in an out of control way, but also because I realize that just like so many other things in my life, I feel unheard and disrespected, but I don't know how to communicate that.

I know my friends and my family and my kids and my coworkers love and care about me, but sometimes you need evidence of that to remind you.

My BFF was worried about me a couple of weeks ago.  He sent his former roommate and friend to take me to dinner since we don't live in the same city.  He also insisted that I take a break.  "Come down here!" he text me.  But I can't - I'm not free any upcoming weekends to make an 8 hr drive.  I would love to, but I can't.  I've made promises to my kids, I've made promises to my friends and I hate breaking promises.  He did make me promise to find a weekend to do something for myself and decompress.  So here I am.  Away from "life": my phone is off, the BFF is the only one who knows I'm doing this and I intend to keep it that way.  

God.  Please let this brief respite give me the energy I need for the week ahead.


The Four Agreements: Be Impeccable With Your Word

According to the author, the first agreement is the most important.  Be Impeccable With Your Word.
Your word is the power that you have to create.  Your word is the gift that comes directly from God.  Through the word you manifest your intent, regardless of what language you speak.  What you dream, what you feel, and what you really are will all be manifested through the word.  -Don Miguel RuizWisdom From The Four Agreements

Obviously this is about being honest.

But one thing that I always pay attention to is why a person says something the way they say it.  Why didn't the author say "Be honest"?

Because it's more than that.  Being impeccable isn't just telling the truth, it's also about authenticity.  It's about precision of language.  Say what is true, what you feel, what you mean.  Be precise.  Don't beat around the bush, don't use coded language, don't couch what you say in niceties you don't mean so that it will be perceived better.  Use your words to convey meaningful truth.

Further, impeccability is about purpose.  Speak because there's a reason to speak.  One of my favorite quotes by Gandhi is "speak only if it improves upon the silence."  An idea I take to heart.  Use your words to share knowledge, not just to fill a void.

My sophomore year in college I lived with 9 other women (and yes, at times, it was like The Real World: The Estrogen edition).  There was one roommate I came to really care about, but boy could she work my nerves with all her talking.  I would lament to my BFF about her constant talking.  I remember telling him, "she can't let more than 5 seconds of silence go before she has to speak."

He didn't really believe me, so I told him to come over one night when it was just her and I in the house.  He had a hard time keeping a straight face as we purposefully didn't talk so that we could see how long it would take her to begin rambling about anything, just to avoid the quiet.  Trying to avoid quiet says more about you than you might think.

When we are impeccable with our words, when we are precise and poignant, we take care of ourselves and each other.  We help avoid unnecessary misunderstandings; we share our true feelings with those who need to hear them; we impart wisdom and knowledge on others.  We are good citizens when we are impeccable with our word.

Lord knows it's not easy.  Most of us don't want to hurt those around us.  But I've found that being careless with words can hurt, even when that's not our intent.  Sometimes moreso.  I'd rather a person know exactly where I stand on an issue and be hurt for a little while, than go on thinking I feel one way only to be hurt later when they find out I feel another way.

Ultimately, being impeccable with your word is about you.  It's freeing to know that everyone around you knows who you are and what you stand for.  Authenticity is a beautiful thing.  It's consistent, trustworthy, and always timely.  There is no way you can be who you truly are without being impeccable with what you say.

The Second Agreement: Don't Take Anything Personally


The Four Agreements: Intro

On my most recent trip home, my mother decided it was time for me to finally go through the remainder of my belongings that had been living down in the basement.

I'm an emotional packrat and I've kept so many things to remind me of lives lived, experiences had and sweet memories.  Notes, letters, stories, books... you name it, I've probably kept it as an artifact to remind me of the past.

I didn't enjoy thinking about all the junk I would have to go through, but I found quite a few gems, including a pocket-sized book titled Wisdom From The Four Agreements.  I vaguely remember my mom giving me this in college and I vaguely remember flipping through the book.  It's a condensed version of the NY Times Bestseller The Four Agreements.  I'm very aware of the four agreements and bring them up whenever they're relevant.

After re-reading this little book, I decided the four agreements deserve my own special spin to them...

Not to mention, the blog deserves some new content from me, no?

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word



Generally speaking, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't think or worry much about people who don't like me or don't wish me well.  Generally, as I move about in my every day regular life, I don't consider that I might have haters.  I've never subscribed to the "haters are my motivators" line of thinking; I've never, personally, seen the logic in it.

But over the last couple of months, I'm starting to feel... hated on.

It started back when I found out I'd be teaching another class at my alma mater.  The first class I co-taught with 2 other professors in the fall and this class I'm teaching solo.  It's a big deal, but then to me it's not.  I appreciate the opportunity, it's certainly a resume builder and I'm always happy to mentor and provide support for folks looking to enter my field of work.  But when all is said and done, I don't do this to look good to anybody.  I do it because I'm genuinely interested in being a help to the students and the faculty who invested so much in me and the start of my career.

Last semester, one of my colleagues, and a person I consider a friend, who also teaches this same course, called me up and asked if I'd be willing to speak to his class on short notice about a certain topic.  He pitched it as an opportunity for me to meet some of the students I'd have the following semester -- I didn't need the opportunity as I had all of them in the class I was teaching at the time -- but it did provide an opportunity for me to talk to them more about myself as a professional, since the class I had them in was a bit more about the theory.

He met me at the door to the building (I was running a bit late) and walked me back to the class.  On the way he re-emphasized the opportunity to meet the students and he added a note - "some of them asked me how it is you're able to teach this class when you've only been out of school for a year."

He went on to discuss how he assured them that I had a lot to offer and they could learn from me, but none of that did much to assuage the feeling I had that everything wasn't on the up and up.  It felt like maybe HE was the one who'd wondered how I got this opportunity when he'd been in the field for 7 years before he was approached.  I was confused.  Did he see me as competition?  He wasn't going to teach any fewer classes or make any less money because I was helping out, so why the comment?  And even if he didn't wonder that, why did he offer it up to me?  How was it a helpful comment?  I tried to shake the feeling that he was throwing shade, but I couldn't.

Earlier this month I was at a staff meeting, and sat next to a teacher I feel I have a pretty good working relationship with.  We've hung out, in a group, outside of school and, generally, get along while at work.  She and I are both native Tennesseans, but we hail from different cities.  She asked me what high school I went to and when I told her the name of my private high school she replied, "oh!  No wonder!"  Intrigued, I asked her to explain what she meant.  She said, "I mean, it explains a lot about you.  You're not really black."

I'm not new to this whole line of thinking, so I knew exactly what she meant when she said it, but for some reason I was particularly offended.  Maybe because she tries to present herself as someone with a background other than the one she has.  Which is fine -- "started from the bottom" and all that.  Maybe that made me think she wouldn't be the type to think of someone as "less black" because of (enter stupid stereotype here).  When I told her "what do you mean, 'not really black.'?" she responded, "I mean of course you're black, but you're not ghetto, hood, from the projects black."

The more I thought about that exchange, the more I couldn't let it go.  Aside from the stereotyping, which is par for the course, there was something about her "no wonder!" that didn't sit right with me.  No wonder what?  It was as if she'd always thought something was wrong with me and knowing I attended a private school explained it -- but what could "it" be?  I think more than feeling stereotyped, I was wondering how long she'd been pondering how I got to be the way I am and further, for what reason?

And then last Saturday I had drinks with a couple of friends where it came up that I'll be going back to school this fall to get a degree with an emphasis in administration and instructional leadership so that I can be an administrator.  One of my friends laughed at me and seemed shocked that I wanted to be an administrator.  Last night, she, myself, and several different friends had dinner where she brought this tidbit up in conversation (though it wasn't relevant).  She said it in a "wait till y'all hear this shit..." kind of way and it set me on edge immediately.

Everyone was very supportive of me, one of them even said she'd love to work for me.  It seemed that their support wasn't what she was going for and so the friend who brought it up added, "well, you really should spend some time teaching.  I mean, summer school or something.  As a counselor, but even when I was a teacher, I listened to and respected admins more if they had a teaching background."

I'd been so caught off guard by the whole thing, I just said something about taking it all one thing at a time -- but I couldn't shake the feeling that she does not wish me well on this journey.  And why not?

If we're honest, we've all been jealous of another person's accomplishments.  Whatever they may be.  Marriage, kids, family, jobs, cars, houses, degrees, acclaim -- somewhere in there falls something each of us want out of life and when someone else has it before we do, sometimes we feel jealous, EVEN when that person is a friend of ours or someone we care a lot about.  Sometimes, those are the very people.

So I get how it can be hard to feel happy for someone and I don't judge anyone for feeling that way, but do you have to tear someone down?  Do you have to be negative?

My mom always tells me to be careful who I let in my circle, and I feel I have been.  It seems to always be the people I don't expect.  The folks I find so far away from me in terms of what they have or what they want that I just can't fathom myself as any sort of competition for any of them.  And if I'm not competition, then what is there to be jealous or petty over?  Or so goes my line of thinking.

Turns out, I need a new line of thinking.


I Can't Make It Be What It Ain't

One of my friends has THE most country sayings and I love all of them.  "I can't make it be what it ain't" is one.  It's another way to say "it is what it is" which is to say, in a sense, no use in being upset about a thing being a thing.

But what about when a thing isn't a thing?  Or it is a thing, just not the thing you want?

There are a lot of posts floating on the interwebs today concerning comments Chuck Smith made on last night's Real Housewives of Atlanta episode.  After inviting Nene Leakes and Phaedra Parks back to their hometown of Athens, GA to speak with some of the kids at the Boys' and Girls' Club of Athens, Chuck decided to confront Phaedra about comments she made on a trip that his wife was apart of.

Chuck's dating history came up during the trip and it was revealed to his wife that not only had Kandi dated Chuck, but so had Phaedra.  Phaedra dismissed it, mostly, citing it as something that happened when they were kids (read: not a big deal) and then again in college (again, seemingly, not that big of a deal).  Chuck, however, wanted to clear the air and clarify with Phaedra that they never dated.  When provided with examples of how Phaedra came to the conclusion that they dated, Chuck asserted that she, like Kandi, was just "part of the team."  In other words, he was lying to and manipulating several women into thinking he was dating them exclusively, when really he was doing everything but being exclusive.

I think Chuck's an asshole for several reasons.  Primarily, this whole conversation was unnecessary unless he was trying to stunt for the cameras and for his wife.  Of course, I don't understand why he and his wife just couldn't have that conversation privately where he explained that and added that regardless of previous relationships, she's the one he married and so forth and so on.

But what about what it means when you say one thing and do another?  Chuck tried to make Phaedra seem desperate for claiming him as an ex, all the while wholly admitting that he set things up so that she would think that.  I'm always baffled when people do that. They go out of their way to make a thing a thing, and then get upset when you call it a thing.

Let's take this outside of a romantic relationship.  I was just pondering the other day a personal situation where I feel compelled to keep a secret for some friends.  The secret itself isn't exactly a bad secret -- meaning it's not something that would or presently is hurting anyone.  In fact, it's really not anyone's business but that of those involved -- however, because of my proximity to the situation and people's tendency to want all the juicy gossip and all the tea on all the people all of the time, I'm frequently approached for information.  I don't mind keeping the secret, but I'm frustrated that it seems while my friends don't want anyone to know, they're not exactly doing their part in terms of discretion.

I've broached this topic, vaguely, with them before and I was basically told - "no one asked you to keep it a secret..."

Sure.  Fine.  Neither of them said, "Ashley, here's this information and now that you know it, please don't tell anyone."  But they didn't have to because their actions said it for them.  But I'm stuck holding the bag because they made a thing a thing and now don't want me to call it a thing.

Ultimately this is about having your cake and eating it too.  Wanting to have something, but not wanting to pay for it.  Wanting to have a girlfriend, but not wanting to spend the time necessary -- so you remind her frequently that "you're not my girlfriend" even though you take her everywhere with you, you've introduced her to friends and family and you spend a lot of your free time with her.  In fact, it would seem that she is your girlfriend -- except when you don't want to be held responsible for how your actions affect her.

Alls I'm saying is, folks gotsta be mo' careful.  We know when we're manipulating a situation in our favor.  So don't get mad when you get called out on that.  Own it.  Step into it.  Or just quit trying to get people to do things without their explicit permission.

You can't make it be what it ain't, even if you never said what it is.