Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 2: Melin Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! We are diving deep into the next feature I have to share with you all for the Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series this month! The homie and colleague, Melin, will be speaking to us today about her personal experiences sharing how OT initially spoke to her as well as her exciting plans for the future of OT! Melin is a beautiful, sweet soul inside and out who has such a desire to advocate for OT through various avenues. I am thrilled for you all to read her interview down below!

Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Melin:  Hi everyone! My name is Melin Guerrero (she/her) and I am from El Paso, Texas. I am the first in my family to attend college and pursue a career in occupational therapy. For me, growing up on the border of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has had a huge impact on who I am today! I feel like I have a super power, a double identity. Not in a Hannah Montana type of way, but more so being fluent in two languages and being a part of two cultures. On a Saturday afternoon, I could pick between watching telenovelas with my mom or a 90s show on Nickelodeon with my twin sister. Aside from my upbringing, I am a huge football fan, go Greenbay! I have visited 5 out of 30 NFL stadiums and hope to visit the remaining ones once I graduate. My favorite Disney movie is Encanto, which was recently released. I love how it has a big emphasis on family and identity. Plus, let’s not forget about the songs!

IreneWhy OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Melin: During high school, I struggled to find a profession I wanted to pursue. All I was sure of was I wanted to be in the healthcare field but the sight of blood made me woozy, so nursing, phlebotomist, and technician were all out. I began to think, Is it even possible to be in healthcare and not deal with blood or open wounds? until I was introduced to an OT student and the rest was history. However, my interest did not turn into my passion for OT until I worked with the City of El Paso to develop the first program in the city where all abilities and talents were recognized and valued. I introduced participants to the fundamentals of sports, and through this, I was able to gain a deeper appreciation of the value of occupations and their ability to assist individuals not only in overcoming challenges but also making them feel included. I witnessed my students gain confidence, experience moments of success, and make lasting friendships through the simplicity of playing a sport.

IreneChoose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Melin:

Creative – OTs use a variety of arts and crafts for all sorts of populations. It allows clients an outlet to express themselves. By doing a simple snowflake craft during the holiday season, children are working on bilateral coordination, fine motor skills, crossing midline, and many other skills. 

EBP – Evidence-based practice allows occupational therapists to select the most effective treatment techniques. It helps answer the golden question asked by many clients, “Why do I have to do this exercise?”

Evolving –  Occupational therapy is an evolving profession that over time has grown and become essential. It is going to reach new heights such as trauma-based care, pelvic floor, and adaptive sports. 

IreneWhat is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Melin: There are so many beautiful things about OT, it is hard to only pick one! Ultimately if I had to choose, it would be that it is holistic. It takes into consideration the whole person by being aware that both body and mind need to be taken into account.

IreneWhat are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Melin: Ever since entering graduate school my plans for how I want to revolutionize the field of OT have been constantly changing and evolving everyday. One day I really want to focus on adaptive sports but then the next I want to explore the roles OTs can play or have in colleges and universities. Education is one of the 8 types of occupations that we do not hear about enough with the young adult population.  They face many unique challenges when transitioning from high school to undergraduate or undergraduate to graduate school. There are also a lot of things in between that can get lost such as identity, roles and responsibilities.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Melin:

Instagram: @agua.de.melon

Email: melinguerrero@gmail.com

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Melin:

A letter to my first-generation college students,

Being the first is not always easy. Being the first means you are going into an uncharted territory without any map to guide you. There will be individuals that will be a hindrance toward your growth, belittle you and discourage you along the way. But, always remember that you are capable, you are strong and you are paving the way for future generations. Keep pushing forward, si se puede!

Yall, Melin is FREAKIN awesome. I’ve always been in such awe of her. I absolutely love the letter at the end and know that she is already a huge inspiration (and will continue to be) to so many first-generation college students who are currently going through the difficulties of navigating university and trying to define their occupational roles. Also, how cool is it that she is a twin?? There are TWO of these great individuals just existing on this earth? Lastly, having a double identity is so powerful and I know will make a tremendous impact on how she will forge relationships with future clients and communities.

Well Renrenspeakers, I hope that yall felt as inspired as I did today reading Melin’s perspective on OT. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 3 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks Mini-Blog Series Part 1: Aegia Speaks!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The first person I have kickstarting my mini-blog series Occupational Therapy Speaks this month is my good friend and fellow colleague, Aegia! She was literally the first person I met at our grad school orientation last July. As I nervously sat down wondering who I was going to click with that day, she sat at the same table as me and we hit it off! Little did I know we were birthday twins until later that day, so I knew we were destined to be in each other’s lives! Aegia is a very dedicated, passionate future leader of OT. I am so excited to showcase her today in the interview down below!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Aegia: Aegia Mari Baldevia (she/her). I am a 1st-year doctor of occupational therapy student at A.T. Still University. I love working with people despite being an introvert. I currently work as a Reading Therapist for children with learning disabilities. Outside of the professional world, I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy dancing, arts and crafts, and fashion. I am a big believer in the power of kindness. I truly believe that one small act of kindness each day can change the world. 

Irene: Why OT? Tell us a little bit about how you found OT and what got you into this field.

Aegia: Since I was young, I knew I wanted to work with individuals with disabilities. Before I knew OT existed, I already had in my mind that I wanted to work with people to help them become the best versions of themselves. I wanted to help people reach their full potential. To be completely honest, when I first heard about OT, I just brushed it off. I did not fully commit to the idea of becoming an OT until I was a sophomore in college. I would say that my dad was really the person who helped solidify the idea for me. I told him what I wanted and what I did not want. He listened and told me to try looking into OT again. I am not quite sure what happened, but after looking into OT a second time, I fell in love. The rest is history.

Irene: Choose three words that come to mind when you think of “OT”. Define each word in its relationship to OT. Why did you choose these three words?

Aegia:

Adaptability: I chose Adaptability because a big part of OT is helping people adapt to changes in their own bodies or their environment. Change, whether it is abrupt or gradual, can be very uncomfortable. Occupational therapists play a part in helping people lean into those changes and thrive. 

Advocacy: I chose Advocacy because OT requires genuine care for the community. The community does not only involve the patients that we see, but it involves every individual that needs help. While we may not be able to provide therapy for every person, the least we can do is get people in touch with resources that will be able to help them. 

Identity: I chose Identity because occupational therapists do wonders in ensuring that patients find themselves even when life feels foggy or dark. Because of how client-centered OT is, we shed some light on the individual and what is meaningful to the individual. The therapy session is all about you and what we can do to help you improve your life.

Irene: What is the most beautiful thing about OT to you?

Aegia: I love the fact that OT is holistic and client-centered. I find that working with someone to help them become more independent or more confident in their circumstance is a very beautiful thing. To put it simply, we work with people to help them increase their quality of life. I want to be part of every bit of that.

Irene: What are your plans for the future of OT? How do you want to revolutionize the field of OT in the future?

Aegia: I hope to see OT be more involved in helping immigrants and refugees transition into life in a new country. I believe that occupational therapists have the skills to help both individuals and families find their footing in a completely new environment. As an immigrant, I saw the struggles my family and I had to face. I know, if given the opportunity, occupational therapists can find a way to smoothen the transition. The first step to achieving this goal is to teach others about OT and advocate for my field.

Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Aegia: If anyone is interested in learning more about OT, they can reach me at aegiamari@yahoo.com.

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below! 

Aegia: If anyone in Arizona knows someone who would benefit from free occupational or physical therapy, they should look into the OT/PT Center at A.T. Still University. They can call (480) 219-6180 or they can go to atsu.edu/ot-pt-center.

Wow, thank you so much Aegia for shedding light and letting us get a glimpse into your journey through discovering and pursuing occupational therapy! I also have a very soft spot for enhancing the integration of refugees and immigrants into new environments, for my parents went through very similar transitions. I am so excited to see the work that you will do in this emerging niche of OT. Also, thanks for plugging the OT/PT Center too! I can co-sign in saying that it is a great community-friendly clinic that I have had the privilege to work at.

I hope Aegia’s blog interview warmed your hearts as much as it did mine. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful aspiring OT that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 2 of my Occupational Therapy Speaks mini-blog series!

Peace and light,

Irene

Occupational Therapy Speaks: Mini-Blog Series Loading!

Hello, friends! Happy first day of Occupational Therapy (OT) Month! This is a beautiful month for our profession. Though we should be celebrating and advocating for OT all day every day, this month augments our profession even more. That being said, I have a special announcement for you all! I bet y’all were wondering what the NEXT mini-blog series I would be hosting would be about, huh? 😉 No worries – I am back with more content for you!

To celebrate the beauty and diversity of occupational therapy this month, I will be kicking off a new mini-blog series called Occupational Therapy Speaks, highlighting a new person on my blog every Saturday! These incredible individuals will be sharing their experiences and love for this profession. So tune in to support each individual showcased on the blog this month and read their amazing stories!

I hope that y’all are as excited as me to learn more about the profession through the lens of some fabulous folks currently transforming occupational therapy!

Peace and love,

Irene

*Note: cover image can be found here

Black is Beautiful Mini Blog Series Part 4: Meet MELISSA!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! The calendar declaration of Black History Month is coming to an end, BUT that does not mean that the celebration of our Blackness ends here. I am here to present to you the LAST (whaaaa, I know, I am SO sad too!) installment of the Black is Beautiful mini blog series for this month! One of the most inspiring people I know that I am featuring today is my sweet soul sister, Melissa! Let me share a bit about this beautiful human being before we get into it!

I have been so privileged to have gotten to know Melissa these past few years on a deeper level. Being another Congolese sister of mine, we have very similar upbringings. Our families are long-time friends. This connection has been a blessing since it has allowed me and her to foster our own friendship over time. I was so excited to hear that she was attending school in SoCal way back when I first began college. Though we did not attend the same university per say, her proximity to where I was located was perfect because she got to spend a few holidays and breaks with my family. There, our bond grew stronger. I honestly view Melissa as a sister who I dearly admire. We have beautiful memories together, and she is a fashion ICON yall! My favorite thing about her is that she is truly symbolic of a humble and gentle spirit. She is one of those people with who you can feel such radiant energy exuding from her. Let me stop bragging now – I want you to read about all of the exciting accomplishments we are going to uncover today about her in this interview!

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Melissa: Hi beauties! My name is Melissa Mulengwa (she/her), and I’m the Owner & Founder of Mama + Mimba Maternity (and most recently, Mimba Chic – yay!). I’m a 20-something forever fashionista and blossoming entrepreneur. I LOVE fashion + style, and expressing myself visually through clothing. I’m a first-generation immigrant from the Democratic Republic of Congo. I have a background in public health & women’s health, and for a long time in my undergrad career, I honestly thought I was going to go to medical school to become an OB-GYN (I just couldn’t pass organic chemistry – if you know, you know, haha!). Although I ultimately decided to go to business school to get an MBA, I’ve loved and always known that I wanted to work with pregnant women. But I had absolutely NO idea that I would start a business at this point in my life, let alone a maternity boutique.

I’m not a mother just yet, and I’ve never been pregnant before (although I’m SO excited for that part of my life when the time comes). But I know that God placed it on my heart to open a maternity boutique that would inspire women to feel beautiful & powerful throughout their motherhood journeys. Through Mama + Mimba (and now Mimba Chic), I’m learning what it means to be a mama, how beautiful pregnancy is, and how truly amazing women are. It’s so special to me that I get to combine my passions for fashion + style and working with pregnant women in two lovely spaces, and I’m so happy I get to share this journey with you all.  I’m so excited to share chic maternity fashion, uplifting words, and inspiration!

IreneChoose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?

Melissa: The 3 words that come to mind when I define “Blackness” are: melanin, glow, and unique. I chose these words because they are the words that perfectly capture all of the beauty, strength, and power that is Blackness!

MelaninMelanin is such a beautiful word to me, and is the very thing that gives us our vast range of beautiful skin tones. It is what gives each of us our own unique stamp that allows us to stand out among others, and to be deeply rooted in our Blackness. I love my melanin, and my beautiful, chocolate brown skin!

GlowIt’s truly magical how our skin just naturally glows, especially under the sun! I remember sitting down and having an honest conversation with my baby cousin when she was younger (she also has chocolate brown skin), and telling her that she is the most beautiful person in the world (and always will be) because she naturally glows like the sun. Seeing her face light up as a big smile stretched across her face after I told her this was truly the cutest, most special moment I’ve ever had with anyone, aw!

UniqueBlack people (and Black women especially) are truly the most unique and beautiful beings on the entire earth; from our hair textures, skin tones, and body shapes, to our style and personalities, we as a culture and as individuals are just so phenomenal and powerful!

IreneWhat is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?

Melissa: To me, the most beautiful thing about being Black is the elegance, power, and beauty that we so naturally carry in our walk, our talk, our style, and how we show up in the world every single day. We carry with us the stories and experiences of those who came before us, the hopes and dreams of those who will come after us, and the strength and courage we need to live in the present moment. The joy that reverberates from our hearts as we carry on the legacy of our culture from one generation to the next with such grace is just so beautiful to me, and I’m so grateful to be a Black woman in this life!

Irene: How do you keep your Blackness beautiful on a regular basis?

Melissa: I keep my Blackness beautiful by practicing self-love and self-care daily. For me, self-love and self-care look different during each season of my life – in the current season I’m in, self-love and self-care are pouring into my journal whenever I feel most led in the mornings, as well as writing down all the hopes and dreams that I’m praying over (as this is my favorite way to speak to God); maintaining my health and fitness (including drinking 8 cups of water daily and doing my mini workouts + taking walks); being consistent with my daily and nightly skincare routine (the goal is for my skin to look like a glazed doughnut all 2022); listening to uplifting music that inspires me to love myself and the woman I’m becoming (and also if I just want to whine my waist and be THAT GIRL in my room, haha!); watching YouTube videos featuring my favorite fashion girls (Monroe Steele and Highlowluxxe are my absolute FAVES!); and lastly, coming up with amazing fashion looks & concepts, and doing editorial-style photoshoots. 

Each of these activities makes my heart fill and burst with joy and allows me to truly see and feel how beautiful my Blackness is, always!

IreneWhat is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?

Melissa: One of my favorites is called “Cleva” by Erykah Badu – this song is my JAM, especially whenever I wash my hair. I love how its beat just hugs my soul, and its lyrics make me feel so beautiful as a Black woman in the simplest, truest way possible. My favorite lyrics from the song are “My dress ain’t cost nothing but seven dollars / but I made it fly / and I’ll tell ya why / ‘cause I’m clever…” To me, these lyrics (and the rest of the song) tell me that Black women are honestly the coolest, flyest people on this planet, and that it doesn’t take much effort to embody that. Our existence is just that, beautiful + clever. 

Irene: How can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or we can support?

Melissa: Yesss! I’m the proud Owner & Founder of two beautiful brands: Mama + Mimba Maternity, and its beloved (and new) sister brand, Mimba Chic. I created both brands to inspire mamas-to-be to look and feel their absolute best during their pregnancies with stylish & functional maternity fashion. Through both platforms, I also hope to bring more representation of Black women in motherhood & maternity wear spaces. Below is a bit more about each brand:

Mama + Mimba Maternity is an online maternity boutique that uplifts & empowers mamas-to-be with beautiful, elegant, and chic clothing. Our maternity dresses are carefully selected and curated with love to compliment a woman’s natural glow from within. At Mama + Mimba, we inspire women to feel beautiful during all parts of their motherhood journeys. Thus, all of our dresses can be worn before, during, and after pregnancy! Hooray! Shop with us at www.mamaandmimba.com, and follow us on Instagram @mamaandmimba! (Also, if you’d like to learn more about me and my inspiration for starting Mama + Mimba, watch our introduction video on YouTube!)

Mimba Chic is a platform that inspires mamas-to-be to live their best and most fashionable lives during their pregnancies. We help mamas bring out their beautiful, natural glow with stylish & functional maternity fashion. From helpful tips on the most comfortable maternity basics and maternity casual wear to invest in, to the cutest maternity dresses to wear for special occasions, we provide mamas-to-be with our top recommendations for the best fashion pieces they need in their maternity wardrobes. Who says you can’t be fabulous, fashionable, and pregnant? Check us out at www.mimbachic.com, and follow us on Pinterest at @mimbachic!

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Melissa: Definitely! To follow along my personal journey and love for all things fashion + style, follow me on Instagram at @melissamulengwa!

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!

Melissa: My daily reminder to myself (and to you) is to choose love, and to show up in love, always. You were beautifully crafted in your mother’s womb by God to be the amazing person you are, and the world deserves to see you glow! And always remember that your Black is (and always will be) beautiful. 🙂

I don’t want these to end, ah!! Now do yall see why I was in such AWE at the beginning? Melissa is a self-made woman, okayy! A whole entrepreneur, making her dreams a reality every day! It has been so amazing to hear her talk about these dreams when we were young ones in college, and to have actually manifested it into a reality is so empowering to witness. Check out her businesses. She has put in so much work building her businesses from the ground up. If motherhood is in my future, I will definitely be supporting because fashion stops for no one — I must be stylish at all times! Also, I LOVEEEEE me some Badu! “Cleva” is also one of my all-time favorite songs by Ms. Badu! You’re so right, it does make for a great hair-washing song! I swear my deep conditioner penetrates better with “Cleva” in the background (lol). Thank you so much, Melissa, for letting me feature you today. It is truly an honor to have you on the site and for you to share such exciting news with us!

Friends — I don’t want to say it BUT this technically does conclude the Black is Beautiful mini blog series that I have planned and executed for this month. I really had so much fun interviewing my lovely friends this past month. Each and every individual interviewed is so special to me, and I really hope that you all were able to learn from them and also support their various businesses, projects, and aspirations. I am so touched that you all took the time to read my blog series this month. Yall’s support, affirming words, and shares have truly made this process even more worthwhile. I hope that by reading this series, you all have learned a little more about why Black is SO beautiful and the many forms, shades, and narratives Blackness presents as.

I maayyyy have a little surprise to share on the blog in a few days – we shall see! Stay tuned just in case! 😉

Peace and love,

Irene

Black is Beautiful Mini Blog Series Part 3: Meet DESTINE!

Hello, friends! Happy Saturday! You know what time it is – the third amazing individual who will be blessing us with her presence on the Black Is Beautiful mini blog series for this month is here! Meet DESTINE! Before we delve into the interview, I must share a bit about my friend!

This lovely soul and I have been family friends for YEARS – like I mean our families have known each other forever. We both share an enriching, vibrant, Congolese culture. We have very similar upbringings and relatable stories that we both share on a personal level growing up as the children of Congolese immigrants. I remember when going on our family trips to NorCal, I made it a point to stop by her house to relive all of the fun memories that we would have whenever we visited Destine and her family. That includes playing ruthless rounds of Uno games that never seemed to end with my siblings as well as Destine and her siblings. Though we are physically far, I appreciate the continuous love that Destine continues to radiate and pour into my spirit all of the time.

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Destine: My name is Destine Kyubwa (she/her). I am a creative, poet, lover, entrepreneur, and so much more! Within those curated identities, I’m a child of God to my core. Moving from that place spills into every aspect of my life. My will and purpose come from watering the seeds that have been planted in me since birth. My etheric calling began a few years ago when I dove into the wellness and spirituality world. With my deep passion for self-development, I’ve had the honor of utilizing my Marketing Degree with social media; more specifically Instagram and my email newsletter. I wholeheartedly cherish connecting with community online but also nurturing the safe spaces around me in real life. If I could describe myself in one word, I’d use intentional. Self-expression is everything to me! Getting the message out about living life fully and authentically brings me so much joy. (:

IreneChoose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?

Destine:

The first word I’d use that comes to mind defining “Blackness” would be rich! Being a melanin-rich person is a miracle! It’s a beautiful reminder that we were created by the hands of the Divine. I’ll forever remember the words from Bob Marley, “my richness is life, forever.” I always write about the notion that liberation is found where love is. Over the past few years, as a melanated woman – I rest in the knowing that living life can be a form of revolution. Living can be what creates the vision! From our presence, we build. From our will, we create the world we wish to see with respect to the past. Melanin absorbs sunlight. It coats every cell in our bodies. It’s literally an amino acid. Melanin-rich individuals are basically coated with the essence of life. What isn’t rich about that? I love us. Lol.

The second word that comes to mind is rooted. There is just something magical about hair that defies gravity. Beyond our physical attributes, I’d like to believe our “Blackness” is spiritual. How tethered are we to our purpose? How firm are we about living life on the terms of unshakable faith? How confident are we in our ability to break free from the perceived limitations of our “struggle?” We are strong, even when we are soft. To be rooted, is to be difficult to destroy. Our longevity in this material world comes from the spiritual roots we water as well. 

The third word that comes to mind is creative. Melanated creatives make the world go round! Our “Blackness” can especially be found in our joy. If you’ve been following me on Instagram, y’all know I’m so dang passionate about the power and beauty that comes from creating! Creating heals, transmutes pain and I can confidently say, sustains. Whether you find joy in poetry, creating content, dancing, singing, writing, designing, anything really – you can deepen your love for yourself or your journey in ways that are indescribable to others. Our ancestors sang. They most definitely moved their bodies. Your darkness or pain can be the breeding ground of creation. We transmute, transform, then remember our essence and the truth of Yahweh love. Creation can be a form of worship when upholding the will of God. It’s the way in which we serve our gifts to the world. I’m so honored to witness the beautiful creations made from melanated beings daily.

IreneWhat is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?

Destine: The most beautiful thing about being Black to me is my heart. Living life in accordance with spirit is a blessing. I know true beauty can be found internally beyond my lovely complexion. I also know the uniqueness of God’s work is miraculous. Love rests in places that are unseen to the human eye. I strongly believe our hearts, our souls calling is what makes life, life. One beautiful masterpiece.

IreneHow do you uplift your Blackness on a regular basis?

Destine: I uplift my Blackness through connecting to my roots. I’ve had the blessing of growing up in a big family and spending a majority of my younger years around my Grandparents. Connecting to Congolese food, music, and trying to learn my native language has been a blessing forever ingrained within my heart. Getting protective styles done by my mom, friends and aunties consistently, has given me the opportunity to love my hair and grow in confidence with my crown. I personally keep my blackness beautiful by prioritizing what makes me feel real, raw, and true. Oftentimes that means wearing my hair natural and wearing less makeup on a regular basis. Freedom can be found when we disconnect from what the world tells us to be and focus on what God has called us to be!

IreneWhat is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?

Destine: SO. I found this song during fall of 2021 and I’ve been an avid listener of Maverick City Music for a while now. This particular song exemplifies the beauty in Blackness because it’s all about uplifting our uniqueness and God at the same time! If you love gospel music, you’ll love “Pretty Brown Skin” by Maverick City Music (featuring EUGENE KIING & Mav City Gospel Choir). 

Here are some lyrics to get a little feel of the magic. 

Pretty, brown skin

Pretty, light skin

Pretty, dark skin

I see African written in your DNA

Hello choco-melanin from the motherland

With your black skin

Never should you want it any other way

This is for them queens that’s rocking ’em kinky twist (Ooh, ooh, ooh)

From box braids to bantu knots and full lips (Ooh, ooh)

Them dreadlocks, crochets, afros and real hips (Ooh, ooh, ooh)

Them pom-poms and sew-ins with edges that’s real slick (Ooh, ooh)

Now catch this (Ooh, ooh, ooh)

Your black presence is necessary

“Your black presence is necessary.” Yes. Sometimes it’s hard for me to fully grasp the miracle that is our existence. This morning while reading Isaiah 40:28 – 31, I realized once again how powerful God is! The “creator of the ends of earth” loves us, created us, and has plans to prosper us. I was reminded that the power of God is “unsearchable.” If there is one message you get from this blog, I just want to remind you – even if the world doesn’t love you for you, God does! I love you. I pray these words find you well.

IreneHow can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or that we can support?

Destine: Thank you so much for asking Irene! I have seriously enjoyed my time answering these questions. You can support me through engaging with my work online and joining my newsletter for a more intimate space of faith-based writing. The newsletter is of course free of charge. It’s filled with inspirational journal prompts and just about anything God puts on my heart to share. If you resonated with my answered questions during our time here, you’ll resonate with the newsletter!

Oh my goodness! I have really exciting news to announce soon on IG but this space will be the first to hear. 🙂 I am a soon-to-be published author! I’ve been watering this seed for years now. It’s a poetry book filled with all kinds of spiritual depth and wisdom about scared rebirths. My Instagram will be the first place I announce it. @destinesunshine_

I would also love to add that my 1:1 coaching container, Sunshine Temple is open for all who feel the call! Sunshine Temple is for women who are navigating sharing their gifts online, nurturing your femininity in integrity, and desiring daily support through inspirational audios, journal prompts, and daily voxer access to me. My coaching services have shifted to help serve those similarly in the entrepreneur world. I recognize owning your authenticity in this world can be difficult for some on their journeys. My containers also provide a safe space for alchemical art such as sharing poetry or written works. Our expressions during these sessions can be a form of transformational healing. I’m wholeheartedly ready to serve you on your faith walk. @destinesunshine_

If you know someone who might be interested in my coaching containers, my posts on IG or my free newsletter, be sure to let them know. I will link all my information below.

IreneCan folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Destine: I can’t wait to connect with you more deeply!

Instagram: @destinesunshine_

Email for newsletter: deekyubwa@gmail.com

Booking for 1:1 support: https://linktr.ee/destinesunshine

Venmo: destine-kyubwa

IreneAnything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!

Destine: Sweet love. Thank you for being here. I just want you to big up yourself in this moment because God knows you deserve it! You are not here by accident. God has a purpose for your life and those around you are beyond inspired by your light. This journey called life is a day by day phenomenon. I pray that whatever you’re building, longing for, or fighting brings you wisdom and peace. I love you for all that you are. 

Peace be upon you,

Xx Destine 

My goodness. It has been so rewarding to see Destine blossom into the ethereal being that she is today. I feel so refreshed learning more about her, and Destine, thank you so much for being so vulnerable in this special space! Your chosen words to define Blackness – rich and rooted – are some of my favorite words that I have heard thus far. I absolutely loved how you articulated these words in its relationship to Blackness. Melanin literally is derived from an amino acid – you are so right! ALSO can we just appreciate the fact that we were the FIRST to hear the wonderful news that you are going to be a published AUTHOR?? Thank you so much for sharing that incredible news with us! I am SO excited for your journey and you deserve every bit of the honor and fame that I know is coming your way. Please keep us posted on the book title so I can link it here!

Yall, I really hope you all have been having a blast and have been feeling enlightened by the featured folks of this month’s blog series thus far because I certainly have! Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful Black person that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 4 of my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series!

Peace and love,

Irene

Black Is Beautiful Mini Blog Series Part 2: Meet REFILWE!

Hello, friends! Today I am SO thrilled to announce the second lovely individual who will be blessing us on the Black Is Beautiful mini blog series for this month! Meet REFILWE! This beautiful person and I go WAY back. I am going to brag a bit about my friend before I showcase her!

Our undergrad brought Refilwe and me together! We have been good friends for about 7 years now – my goodness! Refilwe and I have so many college memories and life experiences together, from staying up until 4 am during our late-night talks/hangouts to traveling to different parts of California on fun girls’ trips. Honestly, I don’t really know where to start but I don’t want to digress too much because if I get into it I can write a novel on all our memories together. Refilwe is a person that carries out everything that she does with SUCH passion and intention. First of all, she is a headwrap and earring QUEEN. Her sense of fashion is absolutely impeccable. Her spirit is such a beautiful, dedicated one that radiates as she moves on this earth. Refilwe loves people with all of her heart, and as you will learn a bit more, her love manifests in ways that bless and uplift the folks in and out of her communities.

IreneWhat are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Refilwe: My name is Refilwe (Ree-feel-way) Gqajela (she/her). I am a daughter, sister, comrade, friend, organizer… I am a Black queer woman, South African Oakland raised immigrant, Pan African Black nationalist, communist… I am an avid watcher of television and recently enjoying all that anime has to offer #OnePiece #DemonSlayer Also I like tea 🙂 

IreneChoose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?

Refilwe: You gonna have me pull up an essay from college lol

The first word that comes to mind is love. When I think of Blackness I think of Black love, how full it makes me feel, and the active forces that work to challenge and disrupt it. Black love is a radical work and personal value that guides all that I do. 

The second word that comes to mind is struggle. One of our ancestors said ‘freedom is a constant struggle’ and they were very correct. To be Black is to be an aspiring free person in what has been made an unfree world. As a Black woman in particular who inherited the radical Black tradition of liberation struggle and the knowledge that my liberation would hesitate all others, I know I will be in constant struggle for and towards liberation. 

The third word then that comes to mind is freedom; *insert Nina Simone’s ‘I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free*. She captures in this record so much of my feelings regarding Blackness and freedom.

IreneWhat is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?

Refilwe: Whewwwwww! Well, being a part of a diaspora that touches all parts of this world and that actively works to understand and build relationships across shared realities and differences is pretty lit. 

IreneHow do you uplift your Blackness on a regular basis?

Refilwe: Shea butter. Honoring my momma. And organizing for the liberation of all Afrikan people. 

Irene: What is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?

Refilwe: Most of Nina Simone’s catalogue, but let’s go with ‘Young Gifted and Black’

IreneHow can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? 

Refilwe: Support the Black folks in your life every day. Your coworker, neighbor, student, etc. Listen and make space for them, don’t lean on their labor or voice when you can speak up, and hold your respective communities accountable for their antiBlack practices. Be proBlack — don’t just give up at ’not being problematic’. Move beyond the DEI trainings.

Irene: Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or that we can support? 

Refilwe: Nothing ready to be supported but hopefully I’ll have some personal project out soon. Still developing and learning from my creative voice. 

Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Refilwe: IG: @re.fil.oe and Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/refilwegqajela/ 

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!

Refilwe: I am trying out Linktree- check out my public but under construction link now: https://linktr.ee/RefilweG 

Thank you, Refilwe, for speaking to us today! Shea butter is amazing – I MUST agree! No wonder why you are always glistening! I am so honored to have had you be a guest on my blog today. Your soul radiates continuously, and I just felt it as I read your interview. Yall, I hope that you click on her Linktree and social media and connect to see all of the projects, work, and resources that she has to offer because she is a wealth of knowledge. I am so excited to hear and follow your creative voice as it continues to flourish.

I hope that yall enjoyed this blog interview as much as I did! Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful Black person that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 3 of my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series!

Peace and love,

Irene

Black Is Beautiful Mini Blog Series Part 1: Meet SHAINAH!

Hello, friends! Today I am SO excited to present to you the first beautiful individual who will be kickstarting my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series for this month! Meet SHAINAH! Before we give her the spotlight completely, I am gonna share a bit about how we know each other.

I met Shainah back in 2018 when I had the wonderful opportunity to study abroad in Ghana. She was actually in a completely different program than me, so I did not get to interact with her daily. We even lived on complete opposite sides of the campus, so I would only really run into her when I was hanging out in International Student Housing (ISH) visiting my other friends in my program. However, I remember my friends would always talk about this person named “Shay” who was super dope and creative. I had no idea who she was but I did not understand why I did not already cross paths with her! Then, I heard that she was a Black creative who wrote and performed such beautiful poetry. When I attended the University of Ghana’s enriching performing arts shows showcasing student talent, I finally had a face to put to the name! Though our friendship did not begin until near the conclusion of my time abroad, we remained well-connected through the power of social media. So today, I present to you, the lovely Shainah!

Irene: What are your name and pronouns? Give us a quick synopsis of who YOU ARE!

Shainah: Hey, innanet! I’m Shainah M. Andrews (she/her/hers). But everybody that I met while on the African continent calls me Shay — it’s their nickname of endearment for me (which I don’t mind). I’m a 24-year-old artist and educator — these two descriptors, largely, encapsulate so much of what I love and am PURPOSED to do by way of Jesus Christ. I impact in my own special way mostly through language, food, and heritage travel. When I speak my poetry, call me ShaiYaa (homage to my roots in Ghana)!

I’m blessed to say that my self-titled brand (which aims to provide numerous types of written, audible, and visual services) allows me to express my creativity and connect with people globally from all walks of life.

Irene: Choose THREE words that come to mind when you define “Blackness”. Define each word in its relationship to Blackness. Why did you choose these three words?

Shainah:

#1) INCOMPARABLE — In a world that loves to classify people according to their skin color (not even mentioning other factors such as hair texture and facial features), I can’t help but often reflect on the Lord’s intentional design and Him thinking about how beautiful His creation is — not just when it comes to physical qualities. We all (human beings) were made in His image uniquely but everybody’s experience here on this earth is different. And there’s something SO incomparable embedded in the DNA of Black people — it’s in the way that we love up on a random stranger in the beauty supply store or barbershop, cook up a meal with minimal ingredients and STILL somehow manage to make it taste bomb, elevate every area of life (like sports), and SO much more. “I’m so glad I’m gang” LOL!

#2) HILARIOUS — Not to toot my own horn but I really be crackin’ myself up with jokes, freestyles in my own room, when I reflect on things I’ve said in the past, etc. Black people are HILARIOUS! And it’s not even always what we say — it’s sometimes just the FACES and SOUNDS we make; often, out in public, all you gotta do (after seeing or hearing something) is connect eyes with someone else who’s Black and y’all both will be like “mhm” or “yup”! My family and friends in particular always have me clutching my stomach because they make me laugh so much. And every social media app out here in the world also proves how comedic Black people are! We provide the world with the laughs that make you sit back and sigh with joy. I think that this is a quality among us that’s often left out when highlighting Blackness (opposed to something like our ability to endure hardships), but our humor is something that I really thoroughly love.

3) BRILLIANT I immediately think of how colorful and vibrant we are as a people (I know most people think of intelligence when they think of brilliance and we ARE intelligent people! But I want to expand a bit on Black people’s brightness in other ways). Irene can attest to the vibrancy of Ghana, and all throughout West Africa! People glisten, glowing because their skin has been kissed by moonlight. Our colorful styles throughout the Diaspora match our lit personalities! I mean, even the fruit and vegetables in Ghana are extra vivid and juicy! Don’t even get me started on the mangos there. Whenever I picture Black people, I think of our brilliant hair colors, God-given tones, nail polish and jewelry choices, vivid food markets, and so much more! Thinking about and seeing our brilliance is honestly always SUCH a serotonin booster for me.

Irene: What is the MOST beautiful thing about being Black to you?

Shainah: I return back to how incomparable we are, really. It’s difficult for me to pinpoint a single thing that’s most beautiful about being Black from my point of view. But in a loophole kind of way, the MOST beautiful thing about being Black is that there ISN’T just one singular thing — it’s the totality of who we are which STILL isn’t fully understood by humanity. I think God was very intentional in that way!

Irene: How do you uplift your Blackness on a regular basis?

Shainah: There are a number of ways that I uplift my own Blackness every day. Some days, I remove my twists to reveal my plush, natural afro. On most others, I protect my twists with a colorful African headwrap or a stretchy, solid-patterned one right from a massive beauty supply store. And let’s talk about protective hairstyles, box braids being my absolute favorite! My faith is of utmost importance to me, so I often like to reflect on the things that the Lord has said and done. Every part of me was methodical, from my plump lips designed to proclaim His goodness to my hair which insects often mistake for home to the authority in my voice, even in my soft tone. I’ve noticed that “you were made for such a time as this” has become especially popular since the start of this COVID-19 pandemic and I’d like Black people to consider drawing strength from that Scripture (Esther 4:14). While Mordecai was referring to Esther’s ability to rescue her people, I hope that God doesn’t mind me putting this in the context of the 21st century. Violence against Black bodies, minds, and spirits — such as racism and white supremacy — are not new but amidst this pandemic, so much IS unprecedented. Even when it’s difficult to see it, I want my fellow Black brothers and sisters to know that they were not born to see 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, etc. accidentally or coincidentally. You were not born to brave these storms alone — apart from Christ! I encourage you to lean on Him, even in a world that just wants us to throw in the towel and accept the mediocrity that it offers.

Irene: What is one of your favorite songs that fit/exemplifies that Black is Beautiful?

Shainah: Choosing my favorite song, I imagine, would be like asking a loving mother to choose her favorite child; I looove music more than I can articulate! BUT I actually DO have one in particular that exemplifies Blackness’ beauty:

I HAD to include the cover art for “La Diaspora” by Nitty Scott (featuring Zap Mama) because it embodies Blackness SO well — the colors, intensity, beauty, allat! Shouts to my sis, CJ, who included this song in a playlist that she made for me in 2019! Fun fact — I met her AND Irene when we all studied abroad in Ghana in 2018! The whole song is phenomenal, but here are some lyrics to give you an idea of its fullness:

Freed all my people from here to Montego Dale morena like this Puerto Rico

We go when we make it rain like El Nino Got that sofrito, that primo, that negro

None of the hitters is f-ckin’ with me though We so cool, we ride off in El Camino

We gon’ be seen, yo — no need no Nat Geo Got so much juice, they just call me Tampico

Part of my life commitment through my work is to show the tissue that connects the African Diaspora whether we’re talkin’ Brixton in England or Salvador de Bahia in Brazil, for example.

Indulge me a second longer on the topic of art as I offer up a poem about Blackness and its beauty — it was written with dark-skinned women at the center. Though short, it’s very sweet and my FAVORITE poem by Rudy Francisco, my favorite poet!

Irene: How can we support a fellow amazing Black person like yourself? Do you have any projects, businesses, creations, etc. that you are working on that you would like to speak briefly about and/or that we can support? 

Shainah: Thank you so much for asking this question!! You all can support me by engaging with my work online which includes poetry, global recipes, spiritual posts, and so much more! If you’re into spoken word or know somebody else who is, be sure to check out my two spoken word albums which can be streamed wherever you listen to your music and podcasts! I’m under the artist name “ShaiYaa” everywhere.

Also, I have two cookbooks out which contain recipes from all over the world — this includes crowd favorites, like Ghana’s quintessential kelewele, fish stew (which unites my roots in West Africa as well as the ones here in the South in the United States), and tastes inspired by places like India and Jamaica! My electronic cookbooks are currently available HERE. If you purchase during the month of February, use the code BLACKISBEAUTIFUL to save some money!

Even when I rest, the Lord gives me downloads and I always have my hand in work of some sort ^_^ I hope to put out more written projects this year, but we’ll see what He leads me to do! For the time being, please consider supporting my posts online, spoken word projects (What I Wrote but Barely Spoke and Freeman), and cookbooks (Slay in the Kitchen with Shainah: Appetizing Meals from Around the World Made Affordable and Divine Bites). AND if you ever need any of my services, please contact me; I’m blessed to say that I’m already being contacted for Black History Month programs, so make sure you go ahead and book me while you can. My commissions are currently open!

I really love it when people spread the word about what I do whether with the click of a button or by word of mouth. If you like it, somebody that you know may love it. Please tell ya people about me ^.*!

Irene: Can folks connect with you to learn more about you/support you? If so, please drop your social media info down below!

Shainah: Connect with me on mostly all the apps!

Instagram | @ShainahMAndrews

Twitter | @ShainahMAndrews

Facebook business page | https://m.facebook.com/ShainahMAndrews/

LinkedIn | https://www.linkedin.com/in/shainahmandrews

To have a look at my portfolio and consider booking me | https://linktr.ee/ShaiYaa

And if you ever want to sow into me financially |

$JustSayShay (CashApp)

shainahandrews@yahoo.com (PayPal)

Irene: Anything else you want us to know about you or anything you want to share with the readers? Feel free to drop it down below!

Shainah: You reading this — thank you for sharing this tender, intimate space with me. I believe in you and the vision down on the inside of you, even if you’re not sure what exactly that is yet. Don’t get it confused; most days, I’m taking what feel like baby steps towards my dreams. But know that steps are steps! Be gentle with yourself and breathe. I love you and Jesus loves you most! If you ever need prayer, professional advice, or other things of the sorts, know that you are now my homie. So, you know how to reach me! I’ll end this interview with my signature parting — a nod to Matthew 5 verses 13-16:

Stay salt. Stay light.

There you have it, friends! Wasn’t this interview just SO stunning? I am not gonna front yall – I honestly am emotional and at a loss for words. CLEARLY Shainah is an artist and a fellow sister in Christ, so beautifully spoken. My heart is so full knowing that you all got to read and learn more about this beautiful human! Her Black is INCREDIBLE, and it shows in all aspects of herself. Thank you so much, Shainah, for speaking life into us today and for being vulnerable with us. I am so honored to have you on Renrenspeaks today. ALSO yall better buy her cookbook!!! I bought her first edition and lemme tell YALL. The recipes are BOMB and are so beautifully put together. And the visuals? It is hands-down the coolest cookbook I have ever purchased.

I hope this blog interview warmed your heart as much as it did mine. Stay tuned for the NEXT beautiful Black person that I will be highlighting next SATURDAY for Part 2 of my Black Is Beautiful mini blog series!

Peace and love,

Irene

Black Is Beautiful – Blog Series Loading!

Hello, friends! Today marks the commencement of Black History Month! Every day is a celebration of Blackness, but in case yall forgot or didn’t acknowledge that — here you are! I have a VERY exciting blog series that I hope you all are ready for this month. Black is Beautiful is a mini blog series that I will be working on consisting of four special interviews from some of my favorite, most admired Black individuals that I have the privilege of knowing.

Stay tuned! Every Saturday in February, I will be showcasing a new person on my blog! They will be sharing why their Black is beautiful among other inspiring, amazing aspects of themselves. So tune in to show your support by stopping by my site to learn more about each one of these beautiful Black individuals!

I hope that this blog series is just another reminder that Black people are beautiful and deserve to be celebrated always. Once again, happy Black History Month! Go and support Black-owned businesses, buy us some lunch, Venmo us a monetary gift, and show us some love!

I am so thrilled to showcase these blog interviews with you all this month!

Peace and love,

Irene

*note: image was retrieved from here.

Reflections Upon Reflections – Wrapping Up My First Semester of OT School

Hello, friends! I haven’t gone completely silent now on yall! I hope all is well. Unfortunately, I haven’t made much time to prioritize blogging like I said I would, BUT I would just love to come on here and announce that I have completed my first semester of grad school officially (technically as of last week)! It has honestly been a whirlwind of emotions. I have been challenged mentally and emotionally this first semester in ways that I honestly never anticipated even being challenged by. When I started my grad school journey, I obviously knew that I was getting myself into something that would continuously push me and challenge me to expand my mind, my confidence, and my talents. However, the unique journey that being a grad school has taken me on is something that continuously shapes me and molds me into wanting to be a better human being every day. My good friend sent me an Instagram post that another grad student shared recently on their Instagram account that I feel accurately sums up a lot of what I want to share today. Here is what it said:

“You’ve changed in grad school”. Then it proceeded to say: what people and family see: going to school/working, reading books, studying, busy as surface-level attributes typically seen with graduate students. The post then said: what they don’t see: self-awareness, setting boundaries, holding space for myself, evolving, unlearning and relearning, imposter syndrome, struggling in academia, shifting out of an old identity into a new identity, and many more challenges under the iceberg that goes unnoticed in grad school. This was a powerful post in the fact that a lot of challenges mentioned in that post that often go unnoticed with grad students were things that I experienced myself to various degrees since July. Things like holding space for myself, unlearning and relearning, and self-awareness are particularly what I’d like to comment briefly on since I feel that they were the most salient concepts to grapple with during my first semester.

Holding space for myself – So many times people would ask me, ‘What do you like to do for fun in Arizona?’ and I felt SO lame for replying, ‘Well, I haven’t really gone out much because I usually just study.’ I can’t lie; I put so many things that I typically enjoy doing such as blogging and photography on hold since I was trying to figure out how to balance me-time while being a full-time graduate student and juggling other roles that I have quickly involved myself in. Though I was performing pretty well academically, I also look back and realize that having balance is very important. It is much harder said than done, but the days that I did take off for myself have been so beneficial to my mental health and overall well-being. I also feel that holding space for myself includes not being afraid to say ‘no’ to the things that won’t benefit me so that I can continue to perform and be at my most optimal self. Holding space for myself is a critical practice that reminds me to set necessary boundaries for myself and to accept and love every part of who I am, my progress, and my authenticity.

Unlearning and relearning – In a room filled with people who are similarly ambitious, academically prepared, and creative, the pressure to stand out and feel validated in my academic and professional success was a lot to handle sometimes. I had to unlearn a LOT of things regarding how to do traditional school. For starters, the more I continued my semester, the more I let go of the unrealistic/unnecessary pressure to maintain perfect grades. I spent my entire life scrutinizing about great grades because it was what was expected of the spaces I surrounded myself in and also so I can get into grad school, of course. However though many times professors and even recent grads told me that grades are not a measure of your intelligence or your potential, it was, of course, still hard to actually believe that and not let it get to me if I underperformed on an assignment or a test. The moment I began to shift my thinking by now soaking up the knowledge presented to me and absorbing every moment as a learning opportunity, I honestly feel that it strengthened my academic performance, but more importantly, my confidence in my talents and aspirations. Unlearning is a hard thing but a wonderful thing as well, for it allowed me to take this journey as a way to expand my intellectual mind, critical thinking skills, and clinical reasoning in a way that is not necessarily congruent with what I grew up learning. Knowing that there is SO much to learn and how to now utilize this knowledge rather than regurgitating everything that I know for a test (to merely forget it all again) makes the process of being a grad student a much more rewarding one.

Self-awareness – Never have I ever been so in-tune with my own thoughts, emotions, and feelings than during this time. Sometimes I feel like I am way too in my head about everything. There is so much that I have processed and so much more to continue to process as both an observer and an experiencer navigating this chapter of my life. I know that I will be moving into a career where I do have to be very self-aware of my surroundings, the people I encounter, and the environments that I find myself in because everything that I do or say will have a huge impact on the folks around me – whether it be positive or negative. Being self-aware has allowed me to filter out what I cannot accept into my life as well as what I need more of in my life to continue to show up as my best self. I have been more self-aware of my Blackness, my spirituality, my mental health, and my emotional health in how they all influence each other and uplift/hinder one another. This semester has allowed me to see myself more honestly, identify my emotions more, recognize my strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, work towards growth in all areas of my life.

Now, holding space for myself, unlearning and relearning, and self-awareness (ESPECIALLY self-awareness) are all concepts that I have heard about in the past like a broken record but I have kind of just brushed off partly because I felt like I had a great grasp on it all. However, leaping into grad school has taught me that I know nothing AND that I know more than I think that I know (it is an interesting dichotomy). These three particular concepts have been super salient and important for me to continuously work on so that I can be the best student, practitioner, and person that I can be in my future.

Well, there ya have it! A quick glimpse into how I have been adapting internally to grad school. I am now taking the time to soak up every moment of being as lazy as I can be before I am launched back into the thick of it all. Thank you for reading, once again! 🙂

Peace and love,

Irene

Half a Semester Down of OT School – Lessons Learned

Hello, friends! Ah, I haven’t updated you all about my life! I apologize, but I hope all is well! I just concluded half of my first semester of OT school, and I am utilizing my last moments of my week-long break to decompress from all this studying before I am launched back into the second half of my semester. I wanted to quickly pop in here and give you an overall reflection of a few lessons that I’ve reflected on since starting my grad school journey.

  1. Constant comparison to other people? Throw that out of the door. I can confidently say that one of my weaknesses is that I can become susceptible to comparing myself to other people, especially people who are seemingly doing better than me in something that I am actively trying to improve on. I realized that in grad school, for the most part, everyone is as motivated as me to be an active learner and to excel in the program. There are folks who are going to be two steps ahead of me, and that is okay! Because of this false sense of ‘success’ as a measure of our grades that society has established and maintained, I felt like I had to try my best to get an A on everything that I did. However, one of my professors really put it all into perspective when he said that YOUR thoughts matter in grad school and your ability to critically think and analyze the world around you is really what will take you far in the real world. It allowed me to realize that I am here for a reason, and I have a unique perspective that doesn’t have to be defined by the grade that I receive on any assignment. Comparison devalues all of the goals, ambitions, and thoughts that I have to contribute, and I can’t have that because I am here for a reason in this moment! Sure, there will always be people who are smarter or more knowledgable about a particular subject than I am. And you know what, once again, that is okay! So as I continue on with my semester, I aim to throw comparison to others out of that door because why try to be like others when I can strive to be the best version of myself and be satisfied with that?
  2. Self-compassion – center this because times are tough and I am doing my best! I had a friend tell me a few weeks ago that your best always changes, and it is okay if your best looks different than it did yesterday. There were several weeks throughout my program that I felt like I was not feeling ‘productive enough’ because I could not mentally and physically put in as many hours as I usually did into my studying. This was overwhelming me, and I felt like I was behind. However, I realized that I was creating unnecessary pressure to “succeed”, and for what? To be stressed during the process of learning and growing? We can’t have that now! (Sure, some stress is good for you but you know what I mean.) Self-compassion and affirmations go a LONG way, so it is important that I continue to practice this in order to preserve my mental health.
  3. I can do hard things! Grad school is hard, friends. SO FAR (ask me again in about ten weeks, haha), it is not necessarily the content that is impossible to understand or anything. However, I think the hardest thing for me has been being confident in my capabilities, reframing my mindset, and trusting that the process will work out even if I do not know what that process will look like or if the process makes me uncomfortable. Being flexible is a HARD thing to do, and I have to adapt and be ready to take on the next challenge ahead of me.
  4. Your support system matters SO much. Hearing that ‘you got this’ or ‘I believe in you’ is honestly one of the most encouraging things to hear when going through a unique experience such as grad school where I feel like I am being bent, pulled, and challenged always. Personal cheerleaders and folks who know what you are going through or can empathize with you go a long way. They make the process all the better.

So friends, those are a few of the highlights that I wanted to share that have been circling in my mind for the past few weeks now. I am continuously adjusting to this new pace of life, and I look forward to what is in store. More studying, sure, but more importantly, more opportunities to discover the possibilities ahead of me.

Peace and love,

Irene