Like It Or Not

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My life’s story is chock full of unpopular truths. Raw truth. Stark truth. The kind of truth that does not fill people with the warm and fuzzies or always leave them coming back for more. Perhaps I’ve always known this, but I didn’t realize it fully until Sunday night.

During the first episode of Startup Is The New Black it was my job, alongside cohosts Briana and GG, to discuss the business of writing. I prefaced something I said with, “I don’t think a lot of people like to hear this, but…” My suspicions were confirmed because in real-time, people had the ability to like what I was saying, or more accurately click a button to give me “props.” As I spoke, my eyes couldn’t help but dart to the props emoji and notice if something I said received a flurry of likes or not.

We’re typically affirmed or invalidated via likes in retrospect–an old photo we post, a status update we publish. But, we’re rarely substantiated by those insatiable and intoxicating likes real-time, where every little word escaping our lips is on the chopping block. It’s like the jury deciding the verdict before the prosecution has had a chance to rest its case.

I walked away from that evening feeling out of sorts and disjointed from my purpose. What was a new and exciting opportunity so graciously offered to me dissolved into my own internal battle for a social media stamp of approval. For the first time in a long time, I questioned my own story and how I chose to tell it.

I closed the laptop and called one of my friends.

“I told people that I still work full time. That none of this happened overnight. I told them that it took five years before I made my first dollar from writing. And I don’t know if they liked any of it,” I said.

“But, that’s the truth, isn’t it?” he asked.

Of course it’s the truth, albeit not a resoundingly resonant one. And how could I blame the audience? Anytime I learn someone is an entrepreneur, artist or anything outside of the 9 to 5 mold, I’m instantly drawn to them. I want to pitch a tent in their mind, stay awhile, and learn the lay of their land. I want to ask questions and extract every single ounce of advice. People who thrive outside of the mold intrigue and inspire me, simple as that.

At the same time, life outside the mold is not my current reality. Not now, anyway. My truth is that I still have 20k+ in student loans and $1300 dollars a month to pay in rent. My truth is that I am solely responsible for keeping the lights on in apartment 202 and keeping a feisty feline named Roxy fed. My truth is there are these silent moments when I thank God for stability and the chance to build my dream without it hinging on a dollar.

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There are other unpopular truths. The things that have happened for me have taken a lot of work, patience, sacrifice, juggling, resilience, and lost sleep. They didn’t appear overnight. I never went viral. No one aside from my mama gave a shit about what I so freely wrote online for an entire year. I’ve burned bridges; I’ve lost battles. I’ve cried over emails lexically ripping me a new one. I’ve kicked myself for words I wish I would have garnered the guts to say.

None of us this has come easy. All of it has been a fight. And even four years in, I feel like I’m in the most nascent stages of my creative career. See, my truth is that I still battle inadequacy, doubt, and the temptation to give up on a routine basis. But, somehow, my passion pushes me out of the cave and back into the sun every single time.

These aren’t statements or stories that people immediately gravitate toward. They do not feel good and they certainly don’t paint a rosy, easy-to-come-by portrait of success. My pursuit of the American Dream, obtained by way of balancing gigs while pulling myself up from the boot straps, is a narrative people hardly want to hear, let alone live. Nonetheless, if you want anything remotely worthwhile in this life, you have to both put up and shut up. You have to do the work. If you want it overnight, you clearly do not want it badly enough.

So, that is the story I have to stand by. It is the only success story I can tell. And maybe I have to remind myself to tell that story unwaveringly, like it or not.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Other Dimensions

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I couldn’t write this one in second person. Couldn’t hide behind poignant paragraphs or punchy sentences. Because sometimes truth is not poignant or punchy. Sometimes truth is simply necessary.

I’ve been away. Blogging less. Tweeting less. Event planning less. Strategizing less. Checking my numbers less. Thinking about Twenties Unscripted less. At a time when there’s unprecedented pressure to hustle and “build your brand” I have deliberately taken a step away from mine. c Only a few days after I announced several things on the horizon for Twenties Unscripted this autumn, I canceled most of them and turned my focus toward other parts of life starving for my attention.

My fingertips are bloody from clawing my way to a balanced life.

After two years of making Twenties Unscripted the alpha and the omega, I have finally accepted responsibility to nurture other dimensions of my life. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. I talked a good game about trying to find balance last year, but I didn’t do it. I still catapulted myself into a flurry of projects. I still let my identity as Tyece of Twenties Unscripted rule, reign and influence me the most.

But, I am not a one-trick pony. There’s a blessing and curse in that. Some days I think it would be easier if there were just one thing I were good at, one thing I could chase with my whole heart. But, there are other parts of me that deserve to rule, reign and influence. It doesn’t mean those identities are at war. It doesn’t mean silencing one aspect of myself so other aspects can shine. But it does mean that to whom much is given, much is required. It does not mean listening to the other parts of myself when they whisper that they need my attention so I can give them the love they deserve.

I don’t write much about my full-time career in communications, but it is incredibly important to me and is one area where I’ve recently made a change. After four years of kickstarting that career in one place, I acknowledged it was time to evolve. Move on. Grow. Do something different. Take on a new challenge. So I did just that.

I’ve also thrown more energy at my spoken word. Spoken word has always been something I just sort of dabbled in, but the poet in me has recently been rattling the cage. She’s ready to get out. So I’m prepping for my first ever feature performance next week.

I can’t say it feels good to step away from the machine. But, I can say it feels right and it feels necessary. I always knew this time would come, and I cowered from it for awhile.

Twenties Unscripted will always be the pulse of the entire operation. And nothing I’ve written here implies I am abandoning my beautiful little corner of the Internet. But, at least in the foreseeable feature, I will be writing less–probably once a week. I won’t host any more events until “See. Speak. Feel.” in March 2016. I have a project on deck for the end of the year that will highlight the voices of nine other incredible women and the work of my amazing friend and photographer, Jazz Williams. Even when I step away, preserving and growing this space still tugs at my heartstrings.

It’s easy to get lost in building a brand. It’s easy to dissolve in the deluge of tweets telling you ten ways to grow your following. It’s easy to throw every bit of yourself into this thing you’ve built and love with every fiber of your being. But, it’s much harder to trust that the very thing you built can stand on its own two feet. It’s harder to look at the other parts of life where maybe you’ve grown complacent and make a concerted effort to evolve. It’s harder to step away in favor of nourishing the other dimensions of yourself.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Guest Writers Week | A New Kind of Journey

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By Jamé Jackson

I remember waking up the day after graduation feeling nauseous, a type of nausea that usually accompanies me on job interviews, exam days, or even the first time my boyfriend took me out on a date. It was a feeling I wasn’t really excited for, but I thought to myself, “Self, you just graduated college. You’re probably still worked up over that intense feeling. Don’t fret though, here’s to the rest of your life!”

Instead of being like many of my friends who found themselves popping bottles and partying into the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the biggest day thus far of our young lives, I found myself pacing the floors of my house wondering what was my next step. Contrary to the vision I had had for myself even four years prior, I wasn’t graduating with honors, with a deluxe new apartment in the sky, or even with a job based on salary and benefits. I remembered sitting in my room, tears flowing from my face as I sat and realized that I, truly, didn’t have the answers to the questions of my life.

“Well Jamé, what do you want to do, you know, as a career?” The unbearable question I felt tugged at my heartstrings. I felt I died a little inside every time the question was asked. It felt like I couldn’t just breathe for a second as a student. It felt like being a musician, being a writer, being a worker in a restaurant chain weren’t worthy of any proper acknowledgement. The worst thing, however, is that I didn’t have an answer to that question. I still don’t. And that haunts me everyday.

In my only 22 years of young living on this Earth, I’ve had to learn and prioritize what is important to me and what I could only hope to procure out of life. Through trial and error, I have learned that my own personal truth is the only thing in which I have to answer to. I had to learn, as I continue to everyday, that my own personal journey is unique in that it is MY OWN. Despite the love and affection I may receive from others who try to push me into their light, I can only create my own for myself. The thing I have learned is that I can only be the best me possible, regardless of who she looks like to anyone else.

Life is a strange thing. We’re taught from a young age what milestones we have to hit by a certain age. We’re taught to have our lives together by the beginning of college, intern, work and produce amazing grades during college, and then enter into the workforce right after college knowing exactly what we will do the rest of our lives. For an out-of-the-box thinker such as myself, I learned I was doing myself more harm than good trying to keep up with the Jones’.

I couldn’t, and still cannot, conceptualize me doing one thing for the rest of my life. I have always loved being multifaceted, but where are the people encouraging young people to pursue ALL of their dreams? Who is to say I have to only have a 9-5 job? I can’t also have a 5-9, or a weekend-only, or a contractual type of job? Why is society so warped around this perception of happiness that we don’t discuss the real issues of life? While I can’t count how many times I’ve been bombarded with the “So, what are you doing now that you’re out of school?” questions, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been asked am I happy, am I learning a new craft, or am I exploring aspects of me that I never could in school. Where I used to give others power over my life and actions, I’ve learned to take it back and happily bask in my personal journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

While my situation may not be the most ideal, I have learned that things will come in due time if I just patiently wait and open myself to the experience. I won’t lie, I do still have doubts at times and find myself being a hardass for not being where I want to be. However, I’ve learned that I am content in where I am and I am doing just fine. I’ve learned that the process of the journey is to teach you something, and that you should never be apologetic of who you are simply because you’re not living up to other’s expectations of you. At the end of the day, when the lights are out, and the city is silent, and all are in their beds, the only thing you will have are your thoughts that will loudly remind you if you are happy or not. Honestly, as long as my bills are paid, I am learning to care less about what others push on me, and more on what energies I pull to myself. It’s a journey. Enjoy it.

Jamé Jackson is a recent graduate of Howard University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a double major in English and Classics. A writer and classical pianist, Jamé loves traveling the D.C. area, performing in music halls and poetry ciphers. She has performed at Studio Theatre, Signature Theatre, the Kennedy Center as well as Broadway. In the near future, she plans to travel overseas to continue humanitarian work in Haiti.

Confessions Of A Woman Who Didn’t Know Her Worth (Literally)

Check my recent Google search queries and you’ll find a lot of things including, but not limited to: post nasal drip, what is Taylor Swift’s Instagram and how many times a day does a cat meow.

Do not even begin to ask.

But on one particular Friday afternoon I found myself searching for a different phrase: honorarium. Maybe that word should have appeared at some point in some vocab book along the way, but it had not. That word did not appear until a few weeks ago when I received an offer for an upcoming speaking gig asking what my requested honorarium was.

I figured it was probably unprofessional and utterly coon-like to return the message with “SAY WHAT!?”

But, no, really. Say what?

I won’t detail the rest of the exchange or where we landed on everything, because that’s not important nor is it anyone’s damn business. What I will say is that I grossly underestimated my own worth, both literally and figuratively. Also, I feel like now is an extremely fitting time to cue Alicia Keys’ “A Woman’s Worth”, but I need to forego sarcasm in favor of actually making a point.

I’ve been holding on to this story for awhile and for a lot of reasons. I’ve been painstakingly teetering on a tightrope between staying true to what we got me here and telling the truth about where I am now. Every day I see the stark similarities and distinct differences between both of those places. I see how beautiful they both are. I see how inflated they both are with potential and promise and sheer, unadulterated terror. I see how blindly vulnerable I made myself to start this thing and how deliberately vulnerable I have made myself to keep it. I see how much I want to stay true to my roots, never forgetting the person I was nor the kind of writing I did three years ago when it was just my sisters, my best friend and maybe one more person reading this thing. And I see just how much it is all a part of an amazing, absurd and rip-roaring journey.

This year is the first year where I have been asked to begin thinking about and attaching a dollar value to my time and my work. And it’s strange and difficult and never what I set out to do. But, it’s also flattering and exciting and, maybe, always what I set out hoping would happen. If another ask about my honorarium never came along, I would still be content to curl up on the couch or sit at my desk and bang out posts. But, I also know that somewhere along the line, I stopped just blogging. I started brand building. And the stakes got high, the opportunities got bigger and the business of it all came into play.

I often times return to the words of one of my mentors, words that I wrote about almost a year ago. “This is your life now.” That’s what he told me. When I wanted to shuffle my feet and crack jokes any time someone threw me a compliment, he stopped me and said, “This is your life now.” It’s easy to run away. It’s easy to talk yourself down or conceal your accomplishments under layers of self-deprecation. It’s easy to do that stupid “Wait, you want little old me?” thing that women are too often times conditioned to do. I did that for a long time. Sometimes I still do it. Because it’s much harder, but so necessary, to stand firm in the attention which you command. It’s a way more ballsy move to own that you are a powerhouse and substantiate that yes, you built that house brick by brick. You built that house even when tornadoes threatened to rip it apart. You built that house even when people scoffed at the color of the paint. You built that house even when you were low on resources and tapped out on faith.

Bitch, you built that house.

I never feel like I’ve “made it.” I never want to feel like I’ve “made it.” “I made it” is a phrase for people who don’t understand the poison of complacency. But, I do feel like I’m making it in a way that is most authentic to me. And that feels so fucking good.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Feature: Amber Aziza, Founder of The Aziza Group

This post is sponsored by The Global Millennial Conference, lead sponsor of the 2015 “See. Speak. Feel.” showcase.

Thank you to “See. Speak. Feel.” marketing and event assistant Roxene Edwards for pulling this piece together!

It’s one thing to dream from going to cube to your own corner office, but that is precisely what Amber Aziza, founder of The Aziza Group and producer for The Global Millennial Conference, has done. She started her company The Aziza Group to help bridge the gap between Millennials and corporate America and has been setting the world on fire ever since. Meet Amber.

Location: Toledo, OH

Age: 29

Amber Aziza
Amber Aziza, founder of The Aziza Group

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am an ex-corporate warrior who spent ten years helping organizations have happy and engaged Millennials. Now I focus on helping Millennials build careers and businesses of their dreams!

What inspired you to create the Aziza Group?
I saw that there was a void between Millennials and everyone else in the world and thought “I should fix this.” I spent tons of research on studying the relationship Millennials have with everyone from their parents to their co workers and created a method that helps them to adapt and excel in just about every environment!

What has been your biggest struggle when trying to develop your company/brand?
Getting Millennials to believe that they should invest in themselves.

What advice do you have for young professionals trying to break into corporate America?
Be yourself at all times during your interview. Authenticity goes a long way. Also, NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!! Find events geared toward young professionals and meet people. Human connections are the best way to get your foot in the door.

global millennial conference
The Global Millennial Conference, May 15-16, Columbus, OH | www.gmc15.com

A lot of millennials have an entrepreneurial mindset, where they’d rather work for themselves instead of someone else. What do you think is the factor that sets millennials apart from older generations in terms of that entrepreneurial spirit?
I think our entrepreneurial spirit comes from necessity. When the majority of us graduated college, there were zero jobs and seemingly zero prospects, so we went to work for ourselves. Also, we are a generation that refuses to accept the status quo; the average corporate office just isn’t able to capture and keep our attention to make us stay.

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The Aziza Group

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Being the next Oprah! Haha, honestly, I see myself being on Forbes’ “40 under 40”, running multiple businesses and jet-setting around the world to meet with clients. I want to have the world appreciating and loving Millennials and the Zillennials who are coming up right behind us!

You seem like you’re pretty busy. How do you relax after a long day of work?
Relax? What is that?!—I try to unwind by watching trashy television like Real Housewives (my guilty pleasure) with a glass of wine, seeing crazy drama like that makes me appreciate my drama-free world.

Amber has more than 10 years of Corporate Executive experience and traded her suits and Blackberry for flirty dresses and a laptop on the go! She’s dedicated to Millennial advancement and works every day to bridge the gap between them and everyone else.

www.theazizagroup.com | @TheAzizaGroup

Global Millennial Conference | www.gmc15.com