Guest Writers Week | It’s Time to Change the Narrative

cristina quote

By Cristina Cross

It was around 2 p.m. on a Sunday St. Patrick’s afternoon when life took on a sobering reality. I looked down at a stick and saw two bright red lines staring back at me. As I sat on my porcelain throne, thoughts throbbed through my head. Did I see this correctly? What did two lines mean again? No. NO. Can’t be. That’s impossible…

I was 26, an academic honor student in the middle of college transfer decisions, finishing up midterms and living the comeback-kid dream.

And then I found myself pregnant and in love.

I had the course of the next five years of my life mapped out and in progress. The plan was to transfer into a four-year university, do amazing work as a student and intern, network and graduate. Afterwards, it was grad school, travel or a career depending on the outcomes… starting a family was not a part of that plan. At least, not yet, and while I had my plans, life had other ideas.

Naturally, the experience weighed heavily on me. I sought advice from trusted friends and family and one conversation stood out in my mind. As I expressed my dilemma and my latest stance on it, I recall a confidante saying, Bbut you’ll be on welfare for the rest of your life! You’ll be one of those moms living in the struggle. And that’ll be your life.” At that moment, it became clear to me all of the social implications attached to disenfranchised mothers and welfare for that matter.

Then it hit me. Why is the topic of having a child amongst my millennial peers met with such disdain? Upon contemplating motherhood as an option, why is the “Your life is gonna be ruined!” spiel the immediate and at times the only response? Granted, it wasn’t necessarily a planned pregnancy that I was experiencing and yes, I was unmarried. However, I’m no longer a teenager dealing with the issue, but rather am mature and responsible enough to grow into the role.

So what’s going on?

Do our peers, schools and workplaces punish women for what our bodies are biologically designed for? If so, at what costs? Studies have proven that there is a wage gap for women with children under the age of 35. Somehow there’s an implicit message that devalues women and mothers systematically.

I too always thought that if I were ever in this situation, I would not have the child. It seemed like a no-brainer. I was never one to woo over other people’s babies nor did I have the fantasy of being married with a family by a certain age. None of my friends had children yet and I understood that motherhood was not a prerequisite for womanhood. However, once I was faced with the decision it was much more complex than that. For once in a long time, I was genuinely conflicted.

Equipped with this knowledge, I had a choice to make. After days of deliberating and planning, I pursued motherhood and the responsibilities that came with it. Of course there were many other factors that led to that decision, like the fact that I have a supportive man and family. We were in this together, which is something I understand not everyone has.

So here’s my journey… It’s been quite some time since I looked down at that test in shock. My son is now a year and a half old and I am finally in my senior year of college. My man and I have such a strong bond and my son is growing up in a home filled with love and laughter.

My life hardly looks like what it was pre-baby days. So how am I doing it? Simple.

One. Step. At. A. Time.

Juggling college and family responsibility is definitely not easy; however it becomes more manageable by the day. Though, my son came at a time when I least expected it, he is charismatic, bright, handsome and a plethora of other great adjectives. He exceeds my expectations far more than any child I could have asked for.

Yes, it would have been ideal for us to have met once I graduated, got married and had a secure job with benefits, but that’s not how it works. Plans go sideways. Surprises reroute the path of our visions. And we must adapt. My son’s existence shows me how much more I can grow, pushing me to build and discover the best parts of myself, allowing me to expand upon them.

Along the way, I continue to learn lessons and try to better myself through it all. Sure, life has changed, but I still enjoy my youth and many times do so with my child in tow. I look forward to living out this new chapter one adventure at a time.

Major changes like these challenge us to take a deep look into ourselves. I’m not in any way condemning the decision not to undertake motherhood or opting for an abortion. Those are some very personal decisions to make. The best choice looks different for everyone. I am saying however, that having a child does not have to be a death sentence for our goals and dreams. It is still possible to achieve them and live them out. I’m simply calling out the pattern of judgment and premature condemning and assumption of a life unfulfilled by our peers. Yes, life will change dramatically, but adjustments, a shift in perspective and support go a long way.

My story is not unique. There are many other positive ones out there, but they go untold or are overshadowed by the stigma of unplanned pregnancy. A supportive, patient ear can make a tough topic and decision much easier to digest. Regardless of the outcome, events like these are a growing process and can be equally empowering. Let’s not rob each other of that. I hope you’ll consider changing the narrative with me.

Cristina is an optimistic-realist navigating through life’s daily mishaps and adventures. She’s almost at the finish line with her undergraduate degree in Public Policy. If she’s not studying, she’s venturing out with her little family in the sunny Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area. She’s new to the blogosphere and working on launching her blog. In the mean time, welcome her and connect with her on and Instagram @cocoa_belle and Twitter @bronze_muse

The Most Important Book Review

The most important book review came from this lady. Also known as my mother. Also known as get ready to cry your eyes out.
The most important book review came from this lady. Also known as my mother. Also known as get ready to cry your eyes out.

My mother cried on Saturday night.

I called her while I was driving on Route 66, heading home from Ashley’s Be Bold in Body, Style and Grace event. All I could think about was getting home to crash on my couch after 36 hours that encompassed a flight to and from Boston, a drive to Baltimore and a speaking engagement in D.C. But, I had to call my mother. I heard she was on page 53 of the book, which meant she had read the most poignant and raw anecdote I decided to include in the collection.

“Hi, Ty,” she said when she answered. I could hear her voice ready to crack.

“Hey, Mom.”

“Ty, I read the essay about your rape,” she said before breaking down into a muffled and fragile sob.

I guess I knew this was coming.

She knew it happened. She’s known since 2012. She just didn’t know I opted to ink that story for a bunch of people to read.

I did my best to talk her off the ledge. I told her it was OK and it happened years ago and it’s something I wanted to share. I told her that if she could get through that essay, the rest of the book would be a cakewalk. Then my dad said something in the background and her voice returned to a steady beat.

My mother was surprise birthday cakes in first grade and text messages I didn’t respond to in college. She was church every Sunday and homework every night. My mother was “Do as I say, not as I do” and “A hard head makes a soft ass.” My mother is not perfect, but she made certain that her daughters learned from her mistakes and didn’t repeat them. She made sure that we didn’t use her missteps as our excuses. She made sure that we made something of ourselves and our lives. She made us who we are, and every day we fight to make her proud.

My mother and I don’t always speak the same language. She always says God; sometimes I say Universe. She didn’t understand why I left the house with a scarf tied on my head on Fourth of July; I couldn’t understand why East coast humidity won’t relax. She hasn’t ever condoned my excessive use of the f-bomb; sometimes I don’t know any other way to punctuate my sentences. She is always compassionate; sometimes I am embarrassingly impatient and short with her. But, she is still my beginning and end. She would go to the cliff of the Earth for me. If you mess with me, she will fuck you up. She would do the same for my sisters. I can’t imagine the level of patience and selflessness it takes to look out for one person like that, let alone three.

I am not a mother. I do not know a mother’s pain when she can’t barricade her daughters from life’s unbridled nastiness. I do not know the helplessness that must plague her nights knowing she couldn’t take that bullet for her kid.

But, I am a daughter. That’s why I understand the tears that welled in my eyes today when my mother texted me and said she was finishing the book. I understand the delicate yet powerful sense of accomplishment that swelled within me when she called me a phenomenal and amazing woman. I know that no amount of followers or likes could ever substitute her pride. I understand that as Thursday looms ahead and the true journey of Tyece, the author, begins, I am set. I am solid. I am in good hands. I have already received the most important review from the most important person. Everything else is just icing on the cake. Everything else will be fine because my life’s gem has blessed this work.

If this whole book writing thing is monumental to me, then it is Mount Everest to her. Her review is the only one that matters.

Everything else is just extra.


Twenties Unscripted Takeover: Chaédria LaBouvier

Twenties Unscripted Takeover is a special week-long feature series highlighting twenty-somethings who are “taking over the world” in music, art, film, social activism and business. Today’s feature chronicles Chaédria LaBouvier’s journey through the world of film. When I mentioned Twenties Unscripted Takeover a few weeks ago on Twitter, Chaédria expressed interest in participating. I had the chance to chat with her on the phone and learn about the extensive history, thought and passion she brings to her projects, including a pilot presentation she’s working on. Meet Chaédria.

Tell us a bit more about what attracted you to the world of film.
Well, I really wanted to be a novelist. I read a Tale of Two Cities when I was eight and knew that telling stories was what I wanted to do. And I loved movies. I was the kid that could re-watch a movie over and over again. I spent a lot of time as a child writing plays for my cousins, directing neighborhood kids, that sort of thing. When I got to college, traditional publishing was dying and journalism options weren’t there, but film was. And if you grow up never feeling that you fit in, you’re fiercely loyal to the things that help you pull through and that give you inspiration.

Film got me through an, at times, very difficult college experience. That’s how I knew. My first job out of college was working on the set of Law and Order and working in downtown theaters across New York. Film was still viable and you could get opportunities and I had dreams of being the female Francis Ford Coppola. (laughs.) Then the Golden Age of Television happened and I  knew that I had to get to the West Coast. That’s how I ended up at UCLA’s film school, from which I just graduated. It had the best screenwriting program, it was in LA and Coppola had gone there. Done and done.

Chaédria on set of The Maroon Colony
Chaédria on set of the Maroon Colony

You recently finished shooting The Maroon Colony and have opted to make it a pilot presentation instead of a web series. What sparked your change of heart?
No one tells you how ridiculously difficult and grueling it is to write and produce a web series. And you have to have a lot of stamina. I’ve written two at this point and just to get the script right, it takes months. Coordinating shoots, talent, favors all takes months. And the web world is become increasingly more crowded. I had to get back to what was important to me – which was to tell this story of this mixed race family of former child prodigies – and hopefully sell it to a network so that we can tell it fully. I feel that a pilot would accomplish that the most efficiently, leaving me more energy and resources to focus on shooting the pilot, releasing the short stories the family is based on and really creating a community around the Maroon family.

What are some of the messages you hope to portray in The Maroon Colony? How has your own family influenced those messages?
I draw a huge amount of inspiration from my family. My family is mixed; my parents are biracial and multiracial and I have family everywhere from the Cuban communities in Coral Gables, the Creole communities in Dallas and South Texas to the native reservations in East Tennessee. I have family that has never gone to college to graduates of the Ivy League, the Catholics to the Baptists, the snobs, etc. and I wanted to create something that looked like me and reflected what it’s like to have that many influences to process through.

I would sometimes just leave parts out. It was a lot, even for me, to understand. It wasn’t until recently that I felt that I knew how to express that or talk about it all in a cohesive way that didn’t take away from my identification and pride in being Black. Visually, I had to make one parent Black and one parent White (Jewish), because it’s easier than writing parents that are Black/Cuban Jew/Creole/Native American. Last year for Hanukkah, my mother called me while she was driving around Dallas to ask, “Where in the hell can I find some Hanukkah candles?” I died laughing. She was serious; my grandfather was a Cuban Jew and we celebrate some of the high Holy days (heavy emphasis on some). I felt like I had to create something that made that kind of experience “normal”.

You’ve had the opportunity to work with many film giants, including Tracy Oliver, the

The family living room on the set of The Maroon Colony
The family living room on the set of The Maroon Colony

producer of Awkward Black Girl. What role are web series playing in the overall trajectory of what we consider television? What is the biggest misconception people have about producing a web series?
Tracy is a great writer and I think she’d say that ABG helped launch her current career as a television writer. I know a lot of great writers, including my friend and classmate Amy Aniobi who created a web series and is now a writer on Silicon Valley. For a television writer, it’s a great way to get started, in addition to being a good writer and networking.

A lot of execs are looking at the web world to inform what people want to see and what people are watching. There are a lot of shows being bought or pitched that came from the web. The same goes for pilot presentations.

The biggest misconception about producing a web series is that it’s easy or “cheap”. Cheap for a web series with six episodes is still going to be about $5,000 – and that’s with a lot of favors. No, you can’t produce it all on your own. Find a friend who is the savviest, most capable and organized person that you know to produce for you.

You mentioned that there is a “YouTube culture”, particularly when it comes to web series. How would you describe that culture? People have a tendency to be absolutely savage online. Internet trolls made Robin Williams’s daughter walk away indefinitely from social media. People forget that there’s a human being on the other side of that content, no matter how bad the production quality is. Someone’s putting their dream out there, which is far more than you, the anonymous commenter, are doing. It’s almost as if people expect that they need to be ruthless to have an opinion or to be thought of as intelligent. I think it’s far more sophisticated and more of a challenge to give constructive yet compassionate feedback, if there’s any to give.

What advice would you offer to up-and-coming filmmakers?
Am I the right person for this question? I’d say network, write – the power is really in the script – and read. Do anything that you can to really sharpen your tastes. A lot of filmmaking and writing is about taste. The technical and the heart of the craft. Read Lolita. Read White Teeth. Watch The Godfather with director’s commentary. Be able to talk about the intellectual brilliance of Clueless. Practice looking at paintings and imagine that it’s a scene in a movie and create what’s next for the subjects. Try your hand at theatre – writing, acting, stage managing, directing. Disconnect the Internet when writing at all costs.

What is coming up next for you?
Well, first, we’re going to edit what we’ve shot so far for the web series, so that it can be a reference and a playbook.  I’m working with my team on our next shoot, which will hopefully be late October, early November for Maroon Colony and working on resurrecting a t-shirt line that I had when I lived in New York. I also work a lot with my mother’s organization, Mothers Against Police Brutality and a lot of the coalition building there, especially in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. I’ll be busy telling stories, to say the very least.

Chaédria LaBouvier is a recent Screenwriting MFA graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is re-writing the Maroon family’s chronicles, launching her t-shirt line, Roebexar LaBouvier and contesting parking tickets. She previously co-created the YouTube webseries, The Valley. You can find her closely following the situation in Ferguson @chaedria. 

[Fill in the Blank] Consistency Breeds ____________

Guest Post by Chymere Anais

Consistency is one of those things that I’ve been learning and relearning throughout the course of my life. I’ve had mentors, friends, and professors alike “tell me about myself” in this regard.  Up until recently, I was too blind to be able to see it for face value and failed to realize how vital it is to be overly dedicated to something (no pun intended) if you want to be successful.  Of course I didn’t listen and was going to do it my way, even if it meant the difficult/unnecessary/could-have-been-avoided way.

For so long, I wondered why certain things weren’t happening for me, not taking into consideration the deadly pattern of rarely really sticking to anything long enough to feel any sense accomplishment.  How could I be upset that everyone in my vicinity was graduating college and going on to get their master’s and other degrees when I kept taking time off from school? How can I be jealous of people in thriving long-term relationships, when I fear commitment, not allowing anyone to get too close, and therefore creating my own blockage within relationships? Most importantly, how can I create my own happiness if I’m busy observing others’ version of such? Needless to say, inconsistency is counterproductive, a symptom of laziness that I’m glad I’m able to unveil that character flaw now versus later in order to be better, to do better, and to live in a way that I’m proud of. I am a work in progress.

On Twitter the other day, I came up with a few bullet-points that are the framework of this discussion. It all started with this: “[Fill in the blank] Consistency breeds ________.” Allow me to elaborate:

  1. Consistency breeds results.  “If you want to stop starting over, you have to stop giving up.” I am not sure who quoted this originally, but I’ve been making a lot of it lately. Too many people, including myself, play this redundant game of starting over when things don’t exactly pan out the way I expected them too or when the reality of any given situation didn’t measure up to the immaculate fantasy I built in my head . I used to be silly enough to believe that changing my number, location, or changing my identity completely would help me more than it would harm me. That was definitely a misinterpretation of what dedication means.  Now I know that making improvements is key to any development, but constantly making major changes, as good as it may be sometimes, is basically starting back at square one.  How will an individual ever reach the peak of anything if you keep turning back mid-way? Backwards movement is anti-progressive.
  2. Consistency breeds long-term satisfaction, rather than instant gratification. I can’t count how many times I’ve given up when the job got too tough.  Wanting certain things to magically appear is a problem child of entitlement. I thought that everything should and would eventually flow automatically and although that happens in some cases, it definitely doesn’t apply to all. I wasn’t willing to put in manual labor, get my hands dirty, swim upstream. I also noticed that when things did happen without my input, I didn’t appreciate them as much as the things I worked hard for.
  3. Consistency breeds a clientele base of people who want to help nourish your vision, because they’ve seen the work and know the potential.  We’ve all heard the phrase a million times, or some variation of it, that ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’. As much as we would like to believe that we can do it all alone, that we are these independent Masters of the World who don’t need help, this is the farthest thing from true. We all need a support system, especially when it comes to brand building. There is no such thing as a millionaire who doesn’t have a group of people behind the scenes helping said person achieve certain dreams; not Oprah, not Steve Jobs, not Bey, etc.  Validation may not be something we obnoxiously seek, or may not even be the proper term to use in this context, but it doesn’t change the fact that we need each other. It’s the only way to build efficiently. Consistency shows people that you see the underlining value in what you have to offer and you have the confidence in seeing something through until completion.

Moral of the story is, stick to something and do what you said you would do. In ‘Four Agreements’by: Miguel Ruiz , one of the agreements is to be impeccable with your word. No one will ever take you seriously if you are constantly hopping from one thing to another without completing anything. None of us have all the answers, but we do all have experiences that we learn from, grow from, and are able to teach others. Let this be a lesson for you and latch on the first time before you find yourself lagging behind watching someone else’s hard work pay off. Invest in your dreams wisely and consistently, so that it will pay off for you too.

Chymere is a modern day ambition-ista who is extremely passionate about life, culture, music, and the freedom of artistic expression. Currently, she’s in college studying architectural engineering [#proudnerd]. She writes. She creates. She swims. She loves. Essentially, she’s just a twenty-something year young odd ball trying to find her place in the world while striving to be as happy and successful as creatively possible. 

Social Media Links:
+Blog(s): She’s So Eclectic
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+Twitter: @ChymereA

Damn, I’m Getting Old(er).

While standing in line on Saturday evening to see “The Fault In Our Stars” with my sister, only one thought flooded my mind: shit, I’m getting old.

We stood in line surrounded by teenage girls clad in tiny denim shorts as they chattered away giddily about the movie. Because I have apparently lived under a rock, I didn’t realize how widely the book that the movie was based on had been read by young girls. I briefly considered whether or not we should have opted for the 9:50 p.m. show over the 7:30 p.m one in order to preserve our dignity and see it with an older crowd, but then I remembered I have a bedtime. Because…I’m old. Really late shows were cool at a time when you wanted an excuse to be out late but you weren’t old enough to drink yet, also known as your senior year of high school. But, 7:30 p.m. shows are perfect if you want to be cuddled up and en route to a night’s sleep by 11:00 p.m. I value sleep over looking cool; I guess it’s a byproduct of being in my twenties.

When the line finally started to trickle into the theater, I felt a quiet sense of relief that at least no one would see how much my sister and I stuck out like sore thumbs relative to the rest of the demographic. After all, we were the oldest people in the room aside from the parent chaperone for Some Teenage Girl’s 13th birthday party. We took our seats, but my relief was quickly short-circuited by the yell of Another Teenage Girl’s voice.

“What’s your iPhone password?” she shouted across the theater to her friend who was galloping down the stairs.

“Two thousand eighteen!” The Galloper yelled back.

My sister turned to me and whispered, “That’s probably her graduation year.”

“From high school?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she replied.

2018? I’m pretty sure the apocalypse may happen before then.

Most days, I’m reminded of how young I still am. Whether it’s a reference to an 80s movie in the office that leaves me blank or a motivational quote about how I can still change the world, I often believe that I am young relative to the rest of the universe. But, moments like those in the movie theater on Saturday remind me that I have gotten older. Getting older is this strange experience. I usually only realize I have gotten older as a result of one of three things: 1) seeing myself in old photographs 2) seeing other people (such as my nieces) get older or 3) reading my old writing. You do not suddenly feel older on your own birthdays, but you damn sure feel older

Me and my fiercely independent six-year-old niece.
Me and my fiercely independent six year old niece.

when your six-year-old niece exerts her independence and leaves the family at a shindig to go play with other little girls (also something I experienced this past weekend).

There’s no denying that the twenties are your high-water decade, as you’ve outgrown adolescence without fulling growing into adulthood. You choose happy hour over shots, consistency over uncertainty, and sleep over dignity (in the case of the 7:30 p.m. show alongside The Giddy Army Of Adolescent Girls). It’s a mindfuck of a decade as you’re bidding farewell to the kiddie section of the amusement park, but often times being told that you’re not yet tall enough to ride some of the other roller coasters.

I enjoy being in my twenties, or at least I’m coming to grips with the precariousness of it all. After all, I am building a blog centered around this decade, so I’m trying to make the most of it. As one of my Twitter followers recently mentioned, I don’t want to be one one of those people who gets older and bemoans what I did or didn’t accomplish during this time. In the same way I do not envy my 16-year-old self for the life she had, I do not want to later envy my 24-year-old self. I want to age with grace and confidence, not anxiety and regrets. I do not want to fear turning 30 or 40, or even 25 for that matter. Instead, I would rather trust that the places I have arrived at are a result of the decisions I made with the compass I had.