On 2016 – A review of the most hated year by a Dreamer-Doer

I think we can all collectively agree as a people that nationally (and even for the most part, globally), 2016 was a crappy year, without a doubt!

In the midst of everything that happened, including witnessing the year take a lot from the world at large, the nation, and even the people closest to me, I still managed to not just survive, but thrive.

2016 is kind of like the old lady who just recently moved into the neighborhood that everyone hates, because they think she’s a witch, and because it was when she moved in that kids started dying, husbands started losing their jobs, marriages started to split, car accidents (let’s say about 6) happened…and guess where, at the front of her house. I mean, it’s really kind of hard to not want to agree with everyone else that she might be somewhat responsible, but…

…then you remember the apple pie she baked for you when it was your birthday (you still don’t know how she knew it was your birthday but eh, who cares, you have apple pie to stuff your face with!), and how you were pretty much balling so hard during the summer, because, thanks to her, you had a job – helping her around the house, washing plates, laundry, mowing her lawn, etc. and went home with baked goods + the dopest meals every single night!

What I’m saying is, while I can sympathize with my friends and family members and the world at large regarding how messed up this year was for almost everybody, the same year was consistently good to me. What 2016 has been to a lot of people I know was what 2015 and 2014 especially were to me.

What I’m saying is that I can literally mention at least one thing that happened each month throughout this year that proved to be significant to my trajectory as a person. So, that is exactly what I’ll do, list at least one thing for each month of this year for which I didn’t even really expect but am grateful for.

This year started off, in January, with a feature in a local magazine here in Houston. Also, I started a podcast with my friend, Jose Avalos Estrada. It was mostly a learning experience, I’d say for both of us, but I’ll say myself definitely.

In February, my friend, Sade Champagne invited me to join her on her radio show to share some words. Also, considering it was the month of love, I release an audio project of love poems, titled my song is love. Also, I was also asked to be a digital ambassador for the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts‘ CounterCurrent Festival 2016.

For March, I was awarded a fellowship by the American Psychology Association (APA), pretty much the highest honor I’ve received so far in my field, and it didn’t hurt that it came with $6000 and expense paid trips to conferences later in the year. An interview I did with The Lunar Cougar, the online blog that features profiles of University of Houston alumni, in January was posted.

In April, I was featured as a spotlight student via the Graduate Studies department of my alma mater, Sam Houston State University. Also, my friend Sade Champagne gave me the opportunity to host the “Sharing Your Story” segment of her show, where I gave the listeners some tips and encouragement on writing, etc.

Also, my work (a write up about identity – how I’m coming to terms with my experience as a “black” immigrant to the United States from Nigeria) got published on The Black Expat.

In fact, I, , forgetful me, found out midway into this that I actually wrote a recap of the first quarter on the blog.

Soon after, it was May, and it was then that I graduated with a Specialist Degree in School Psychology from Sam Houston State University. In May, I got myself a passport as a graduation gift to myself. Also, my friend, Charles (a Teacher) sent me a message to tell me that he found one of my poems in his school’s poetry resources for teacher.

In June, I finished my internship with Humble ISD as a Specialist in School Psychology Intern. And an adventure started – my first trip, another gift to myself, outside of the United States, to Costa Rica. Also in June, the poetry community I call home, Write About Now, was featured in the Houston Press.

In July and August, the adventures continued. I got the opportunity to travel to New York, Washington DC, Baltimore, Denver Colorado, and Atlanta, thanks, in part, to the fellowship from APA. Many many experiences to recount that will have to be another post if I were to do each justice.

In August, I started my first year as a Specialist in School Psychology with the same district. I signed the lease to my very own apartment – the first I’d have all to myself; brought a one man play infused with poetry to the Houston Fringe Festival. Also, I got the opportunity to work with my very good friends at Goodspero on a series of videos for my newest project.

In September, I turned 26, which is to say, I made it past 25! Also, I shared again, the introduction to a video series of the new project – kin.DREAD (more on that later)

As September ended, I had the opportunity to compete alongside some remarkable individuals who also poet remarkably in what is known as Texas Grand Slam.

In October, I met one of my poetry inspirations – Rudy Francisco, had the courage to share publicly, for the first time, (through Facebook) a deeply personal story about my past struggles with mental health, spent a Sunday morning with new friends on a beach in Galveston, witnessed my work ( a poem from Texas Grand Slam) get featured on the Write About Now YouTube Channel for the very first time, and I announced the desire to tour the kin.DREAD project – which as I type this, is a reality.

In November, I voted for the very first time, celebrated 9 years of being a US resident, celebrated the very first Thanksgiving where the whole of my family is in the US, and handled the cooking, witnessed two of my friends get married to each other, and came out alive of a situation at my workplace that resulted in a lockout/lockdown of the whole school.

This month, December, I started it by sharing the news about my tour. Soon after, another video of a poem, the most important I’d ever written if I’d be permitted to say that, from Texas Grand Slam was posted by Write About Now. Also, I finished paying off my school loans from Grad school (thankfully didn’t have any for my undergrad, thanks to Dad and grants), an interview I did with Millennial Faith Podcast got posted, and… well, it’s still December, so…

I’m sure I missed a few things and there sure are many more seemingly small moments over the course of the year that I could have shared, but these are just the highlights that, as I said, added substantially to my development personally and professionally.

As I’ve shared on Facebook, my word for 2017 will be BLOOM. For 2016, it was TRUST, and it was the perfect word to guide me through the year – to be reminded constantly to let go of my desire to control everything and trust that everything is working for my good. As you’d notice, there was a lot of firsts this year – and it was hard to not want to spread my wings for fear of falling, but then again, that’s where trust came in.

This year, for me, though a lot happened, was a lot of preparing, planting, watering, pruning, etc. I so cannot wait to share the flowers I’ve been tending, in all their glorious shades and hues, with you all in the coming year.

I sympathize with you if 2016 wasn’t as kind to you. I do hope though that your 2017 is grand! And it definitely can start now 🙂

#DreamerDoerProfile: Meet Sade (@SadeChampagne)

#DreamerDoerProfile: Meet Sade (@SadeChampagne)
 Short Bio:

Sade Champagne is an award winning professional musical artist, performer, inspirational speaker, entrepreneur, mentor, and Dream Coach. She is the Executive Producer, Creator, and Director of almost 150 popular charity events like Ventura County’s Annual Rising Star Dance Competition, Ventura County’s Vocal Superstar Competition, Grace Rallys and Love Never Fails.

Her events and performances have been attended by almost 40,000 people. She has been featured on many press and media outlets such as TV Guide Channel, Teen Nick, Acorn Newspaper, Ventura County Star and Q1047. She has sold out events, shared the stage with several Celebrities and supports charities and nonprofits all over the world such as American Cancer’s Society Relay For Life, BrittiCares International, Destined To Live The Good Life Children’s Orphanage in Zambia, Thousand Oaks Teen Center, Boys & Girls Club, People of the Second Chance and LA Dream Center’s Human Trafficking Shelter. Sade is currently headlining her #PowerOfADreamTour, mentoring students at Pacific High and Ventura High schools through her Superstars N Training Program and leading a free support group for dreamers and visionaries titled Dream Catchers.

She is an in-demand speaker, performer and mentor traveling all over California throughout the month. Her biggest dreams are to encourage others and help people’s dreams to come true.

You can find more information about her online: on Twitter (@SadeChampagne). Instagram (@IAmSadeChampagne). Facebook. and on her website.

 __________ . ________________________ . ___________
 – What does it mean to be a dreamer?

To me being a dreamer is about taking risks, transparency, consistency and persistence. You have to be willing to stick it out and keep showing up even when no one believes in you and you feel that you’re stuck in the same place. A dreamer has vision and sees everything and everyone with purpose and intention. We realize that everything is weaving together to help tell our beautiful story. There are no wasted moments.

 – What’s the most challenging thing about identifying as one?

2 of the most challenging things about being a dreamer is when you started out with someone and along the way you no longer seem to be on the same page. You want someone/people to share your dreams, passions and aspirations with, and it’s a struggle when people become distracted and fall along the way. You have to stay true to your vision and stick to your guns no matter what. These dreams and visions have been my most loyal friends since I was about 4 years old. I will not abandon them for anyone or anything. One of the other biggest challenges about being a dreamer is not being able to control the outcome or results. Even though we give our all, we prepare, we plan, we hope and we persist- we believe, we cannot control the destination. That’s the greatest risk in being a dreamer, BUT I have learned over the years that it’s better to spend a life doing and being what you love and not “make it”, than to live your life in the shadows and be full of could’ve, should’ve, would’ves at the end of your life. Failure is not the worst thing in the world, for I believe that regret is a far greater tragedy.

 – What’s the most rewarding?

The most rewarding things about being a dreamer are seeing people live in the glorious destinies and seeing a dream that started in my heart manifest into the natural. It overwhelms my spirit with gladness and gratitude every time!!

 – Tell us the dream (or dreams) you’re currently chasing after at the moment, what you’re doing to make sure they are not merely dreams, and how others can be of help… 

My biggest dreams are to help other people live their dreams and to travel the world sharing radical grace, hope, encouragement and joy to others. Currently I am doing this through all of my events, performances and mentoring. I desire to finish my debut album this year full of original songs and spoken word poetry and release it for the world to hear. I create every day, but some dreams are meant for a specific time. I focus on what is in my hands today, and that is how I stay moving forward and not feeling overwhelmed. Thank you to everyone who supports me through social media, my live events and shows, praying and encouraging me.

 – And lastly, since part of being a dreamer is contemplating answers to what if/if I could questions, “if you could relive any moment in your life, which moment would it be and why?”

If I could relive any moment in my life, it would be all the years I spent living in other people’s opinions of me. I don’t necessarily regret the past, but with what I know now, I wouldn’t have spent so much time wearing a mask. These days I am a fierce believer in transparency and not compromising or watering down my message and vision. I wouldn’t have invested so much time in conditional and exhausting relationships. The wonderful thing is now that I know these truths I get to live from my being, from grace- no longer apologizing for who I am and what I believe. I am free to be me!

Thanks for having me Ayokunle and thanks for being such an encouragement to me. The way you dream, the way you communicate and care are life changing.

#DreamerDoerProfile: Meet Ibiene (@iamibiene)

#DreamerDoerProfile - Meet Ibiene

Short Bio:

Ibiene is a Nigerian twenty-something year old. She works as a security supervisor during the day and is the co-founder of The Love Eternity Foundation. She loves Ribena and is a sucker for good poetry. You can find a compilation of her odd thoughts here: www.twitter.com/iamibiene

___________ . _________________ . _____________

My dreams are valid

Ibiene O. Oguntoyinbo

 “No matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”
– Lupita Nyong’o

What, to me, does it mean to be a dreamer? It means scars and bruises, but victory and attainment in the end. It means sticking out like a sore thumb, trying to communicate the things on your mind and in your heart to family and friends but it all sounding like gibberish as it falls out of your mouth. Dreamers are probably one of the toughest people around; because they move against the tide and keep on moving, feet swamped, legs aching.

I am a dreamer. I have been one since I was about 15 or 16 when I knew for certain that I wanted to spend my life writing and running an NGO. Of course, with my parents it was always: “You better go to school and get a degree.” Fair enough, education is great, so I went to school and got my degrees. But then what? It didn’t stop the fire in my heart from burning. One of the most challenging things about identifying as a dreamer is not seeing the same fire in the eyes of the people you talk to about your dreams; the people who mean the most to you sometimes do not understand the things that mean the most to you. I have sometimes gotten that nonchalant response from my family about my writing and social work. Till this day I feel as though my parents address the things I really want for myself casually, without understanding why I want these things and what motivates me to pursue them.

So, Ayokunle wrote me an email in October; he recently wrote a book of poems and wants to create an avenue through which a collection of people can communicate what it means for them to be dreamers. Part of that initiative is what you’re reading now. Reading Ayokunle’s email gave me mixed feelings: I was happy that there are several of us young people striving to do what we want with our lives, regardless of the obstacles we face. But I was also sad because I have been trying for so long to attain my dreams. I feel tired at times; sometimes I have doubts and question whether this is what I really want to do with my life and if at all I can accomplish it; I get unhappy that it seems to be taking so long to achieve; I get confused about the next phase; I feel stalled by circumstances (most especially financial ones).

Let me tell you a little about the dream I am currently chasing. I started an NGO with my fiancé last year, The Love Eternity Foundation (TLEF). We are a Christian charity aimed at reaching out to people in need. We exist to bring hope to the needy, the oppressed, the homeless, the poor, and are dedicated to helping the voiceless find their voice, the weak regain their strength and inspiring emancipation from the fetters of poverty. Our aim is to help people in their time of need, and partner with them as they transition to better, self-reliant lives. We aim to do this by starting small; by running outreaches to orphanages, prisons and inner cities. Our big vision is to build homes for orphans and the homeless, and to run free vocational schools where people can learn skills that will help them earn a living.

On 31st January 2015, TLEF will be launching in Lagos, Nigeria, with a visit to an orphanage in a suburb called Egbeda. We will be taking food items to the children who live there and will spend a few hours with them. We are really excited about the launch of the charity. It’s a small step but it is one step towards reaching more lives and making a bigger difference.

Like I said earlier, since I was about 15/16 I knew what I wanted to do, but the registration of TLEF and watching it become a reality just happened last year. That’s a 10 year time span. How many more ’10 years’ do I have, I wonder? With the money, time and hard work we put into getting TLEF registered with the Nigerian Corporate Affairs Commission, getting a bank account open and a website up, you would think I would have been over the moon in excitement. But mainly, what I felt as I sent emails out mid-October 2014 concerning the launch of TLEF was tiredness. I just felt tired. No excitement. Just tired.

But I’ve got to keep going. Whether or not I want to. Whether or not I feel excited. Whether or not I get a response. Whether or not anyone even reads this post. I know that this is what I want to do and that I can achieve it. If I stop now ─ and I can’t, after sending God-knows-how-many emails announcing the launch of the NGO ─ I won’t accomplish anything. And I have to accomplish this. Because, cliché as it sounds, this is what I was born to do. And that is one of the most rewarding things about being a dreamer; knowing that you are right where you are supposed to be.

So, friend, if my dreams are valid, so are yours. Go chase them.

.///\\\.

Ayo’s Note:

Quite important to note, one of the ways to support the work that Ibiene and TLEF is doing is by helping to spread the word about the organization. Find TLEF on twitter (@LoveEternityNgr) and instagram (@loveeternityngr) and for more information online, at their website: www.theloveeternityfoundation.org.

For more information, donation, inquiry, partnership, etc., you can contact info@theloveeternityfoundation.org or ibiene@theloveeternityfoundation.org. Also, TLEF just got their first batch of t-shirts printed, so you’re encouraged to check them out on their instagram page.

Just for fun, I asked Ibiene: if you could go back to a specific moment in history, where would you go, and why? Her response: I would go back to the sixth grade; when Crystal Karam hit me during PE for no apparent reason. I would have hit her right back so that she realized that, like the rest of us, she was not invincible.

With what’s been said, I think the bar’s definitely been set high for the next guests who will be sharing their experiences in the #DreamerDoerProfile series. If you’re reading, no pressure…

of Dreams And Deeds | Hi, 2015

How time flies! Can’t believe it’s already 14 days into the new year.

If you’re reading this, I wish you a very happy new year, and do hope that it’s off to a great start wherever you are.

Keeping up with the tradition of the previous years on this blog, I’d love to share with you readers my intentions for the blog this year 2015. As it was last year – where I only had a post for each quarter of 2014 – my posts on here will intentionally be limited. Unlike last year however, most of what I’ll be sharing will not be from me. To make sure that happens, I have sought out dreamers who do (dreamers-doers like myself) who’ll be contributing to this blog starting this month, and in the months to come.

The idea for this – which I wrote about in this post – started in 2012 but sadly, I never followed through with it. That, of course, is changing this year. As I shared in the post,

Life is too beautiful not to dream. This is the purpose of this blog, to document those dreams, and the deeds that are being done as I journey to achieve them. However, I am interested in not only documenting mine, but others’ as well

So, it is in light of this that I’ve decided to create a section on this blog called G.O.O.D which would document the dreams of others…since I’m not the only dreamer here. It would be a great delight to share the dreams of others, and the deeds they’ve done (or are doing) to achieve them…

So be on the lookout for amazing friends of mine who will come here to share with you the things they are passionate about.

In the words of John Lennon, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope some day you’ll join us

Each contribution will be a kind of profile on what it means to be a dreamer-doer, hence the #DreamerDoerProfile tag that will precede the title of each of the posts. At the minimum, you should expect 12 contributions this year, which if that turns out to be the case will be posted on the 28th of each month as a way to commemorate the date I published the post that started this. The first contribution has already been drafted, so look forward to it 🙂

With that said, here’s to an amazing 2015!

N.B – If you’re a fan of social media, you can connect with the blog on there. Twitter: @ofDreamsnDeeds, and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ofDreamsAndDeedsBlog.

Now, that’s new!