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 🙂

Year in Review – Third Quarter

Don’t ask me how long I’ve been putting this off. There’s always much to say, but I often find myself promising not to say much these days…

Can you believe that we’re already done with more than half of the year, and after this month, only have 3 more months before it ends?

Well, here’s a summary of the year on this end so far:

During the first quarter, as I wrote in the year in review post for the first quarter of this year, I grappled with the idea of patience – learning to do while waiting for dreams to be realized.

The second quarter taught me to live (my mission for the new year) even when life gets overwhelming and becomes, in the words of C.S Lewis, too deep for words.

What this quarter has taught me is that you don’t have to be ready to begin, and there are numerous (or few) things that always need to be started which you might never be ready for.

Below is a quote I shared in July that quite describes this quarter well:

I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes.” – Leonard Bernstein

Quite a lot happened during this quarter actually. I did more of things that mattered to me, oftentimes much to my own surprise.

As I mentioned in the last post, a big dream of mine has been to have my name on the cover of a book, and during this quarter, I realized that dream. Like most things I did, I don’t think I was fully prepared for it, but it needed to be done.

As of September 5th, I can now call myself a published author. The collection of poems – thread, this wordweaver must!, which I announced on the post before this (link here: https://ofdreamsanddeeds.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/announcement-book-publicationtitle-reveal/), is now available everywhere books are sold. Really! You can get yourself a copy on

thread this wordweaver must on amazon

For the next six months, $1 of each copy sold will be donated to The Community Cloth. My goal, really, is to be able to at the end of six months donate $100 to The Community Cloth (that means 100 copies will have to be sold between now and February). Impossible? I think not.

I’ll be honest with you. For the past few months, I’ve been focused on metrics and stats…for every single thing! Those things in and of themselves are not bad, but it becomes critical when the utmost attention is placed on them, especially in using them to determine significance, worth, or impact. And that I’ve been guilty of! I have nothing bad to say about these tools we use to connect with each other, but I’ll be taking a break for the whole month (as soon as this week is over) from my social media accounts…and of course, school and other aspects of life require my attention.

Below are the highlights (because who wants to hear about the lows, right?) of this quarter:

In July, I worked along with PAIR – Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees (an organization I volunteered for as a mentor in 2012) to put together a Career Day event for the kids.

PAIR Career Day Event 2014

Above is a picture via Nelson, who along with his wife and a few others of my friends from different disciplines – law, accounting, medicine, teaching, entrepreneurship, engineering, business, nonprofit – joined me to share insights with the kids about our fields, mine being School Psychology. Nelson and his wife, Jessica run a company called Goodspero which you can find out more information about here: http://goodspero.wordpress.com/about/

Also in July, I shared a video response to an article that was posted on BuzzFeed, originally titled “15 women say why they don’t need Feminism”. You can find the response – a poem in 15 parts below:

And then just before the month ended, I took home $50 as a prize for winning first place in a poetry slam competition.

As August rolled in, I announced the news about my book, and the month was marked by updates about the progress – meeting with designers, sharing test covers, etc. I also started my second year of grad. school in August

On September 12, I turned 24. Unlike when I turned 23, I’m still not sure how to feel about 24 to be honest. With September, in addition to realizing my dream of becoming an author, I had 2 events that allowed me to share my poetry.

There’s me in the picture above, taken by my friend, Valerie (reading from my book of poems) during an event this month at The Nook Cafe. And I finished the month by performing as the closing act at this year’s Houston Fringe Festival.

As as aside, if you wish to receive updates about what I’m doing next as it pertains to poetry, you can subscribe here: http://bit.ly/AFalomoSubscribe

Of course there are lows I choose to not talk about but as the next and final quarter of the year arrives, in addition to focusing more on detachment, I want to keep learning enoughness, to whelm myself in my adequacy, because if I’m honest, I’ve been failing royally at it, especially during this quarter.

In line with that, I’ll leave you with these lines from one of the poems in the book, titled Beauty II

…once it starts/it never stops,/this endless cycle/of trying to be better than,/of trying, to be more than/enough…

Till next time, go ahead and bask in your enoughness and I hope to share with you all soon 🙂

Announcement : Book Publication/Title Reveal

In the last post for the previous quarter, I wrote this:

I shall return here to make an announcement – a very big one, actually! – before the next quarter… let’s just hope everything goes to plan.

And so, with this post, this is me making good on my promise.

This blog, for the most part has been a medium to document the pursuit of the dreams I’ve had and still have. It is in essence, as the tagline for the blog suggests, a blog for dreamers who do. Before now, I’ve been the type of dreamer who just ‘dreams’ and sits, arms folded in wait for those dreams to somehow miraculously come true. My perspective has changed however.

Of the few dreams I have, a big dream of mine has been to have my name on the cover of a book. Of course, not just any book, but one that I absolutely can stand up for, to say yes I wrote that! I’ve heard you should write/publish a book many times than I can count, and it makes sense at this point to…after 12+ years. This definitely feels like the right time!

Hence, I’ll be releasing a collection of poems –  titled thread, this wordweaver must! – for publication and which will be available for purchase by September 5th. Below is an excerpt from the introduction section of the book which puts into perspective what I aim to accomplish with this collection.

I believe that our individual stories are threads which when interwoven produce a beautiful tapestry of what we call humanity. The relationship I have with words has always been glaring to other people and has earned me few titles, one of which quite recently is as a wordweaver. Living up to the expectation of that title, my end goal with the poems in this collection is to produce a tapestry where the visible and hidden threads tell the story of how interconnected our stories are, regardless of our individual differences. A blue thread adds to the beauty of this tapestry just as much as a green one does… 

I can’t keep count of  how many times I’ve said this, but I honestly cannot wait to get the book into your hands.

Till you hear from me again, keep dreaming! And more importantly, keep working to make sure your dreams don’t remain dreams.

2012 Highlights PART 1

At the end of every year, it is a common tradition for most of us to reflect and think about what the year had been like. For me, it’s an interesting exercise because it forces me to remember. I almost live entirely in the future. I wouldn’t be a dreamer and have a blog that attests to that fact if I didn’t live in the future for the most part. This lack of attention to the past or even the present however is a defect, as it is the source of most of my anxieties. And I am anxious, and fearful…. a lot. I’m learning to live more and more in the present however, which explains the “deeds” portion of this blog’s title. These little things I engage myself with in the present help to alleviate some of the worries I may have about the future. These “deeds” in turn help to contribute to the realization of those “dreams” I have!

So because I might have problems remembering highlights of each month in this year, I have decided that I would divide the year into four quadrants to make things easier. For the moments I can find pictures, videos, links etc for, I’ll be adding them. Do click on the links!!! They’re even colored BLUE to make you identify them easier.

Bear in mind that I believe these accomplishments and highlights, minor as they might sometimes appear to be,  are springboards towards what the ultimate goal is – The Dream Institute, a dream without which this blog won’t exist. The purpose of the blog has been, and still remains:

to document those small steps (the deeds) which often seem insignificant and how they eventually lead to the ultimate dream(s)

So, without much further ado:

QUADRANT 1

I started Spring of this year 2012 by joining an organization by the name of PAIR (Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugee Youths), aimed at refugee kids in middle school as well as high school. Every Tuesday, we would go to their schools, help with any homework problems they may have, do some readings, do several activities for the purpose of helping them to become better acculturized to American life as they over time improve on their reading, comprehension as well as oral skills, in the English Language.

All in all, we served the role of mentors they could look up to as models to encourage them to further their education – whether high school for the middle school kids, or a college degree for the high school students . Few experiences I’m driven to write poems about, and this experience extracted one out of my pen, especially because of the lessons I was able to learn – of patience, appreciation of other cultures (most of them being from parts of Africa I didn’t know much about – Heck! What do I know of where I come from? – and East Asia), and service (one of my core values) among other things! Someday soon, I’ll share that poem. Still continuing in that spirit of diversity for this quadrant, I was opportune to be part of Bauer MBA Global Experience where I was able to represent Africa – as a Nigerian – through a poem performance. This perfectly concluded the first quadrant since it happened on the 31st of March.

QUADRANT 2

LeaderShape happened during this quadrant.  In essence, the birth of this blog. My LeaderShape experience prompted me to start this blog to document some of the remarkable things I was able to learn during the six day period I was there at Camp Cho Yeh. In summary, everything we were taught all boiled down to this: to actively pursue our dreams in an envisioned world of endless possibilities with integrity.

LeaderShape no doubt since May has been influential to the way I view life in general and more especially in relation to dreams and vision, and one of the vision I was able to identify during the event was The Dream Institute.  I look forward to one day when I’ll be responsible for creating a kind of repository where resources are available and given to help a kid birth a dream. Visions are expandable as I’ve pointed out earlier on this blog, so this is not limited to only kids. According to Picasso:

Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.

In the same vein, we all start off dreaming as kids, and often we stop dreaming because we consider it a childish endeavor.  We decide to move on to other ‘grownup things.’  This is the reason my original vision is to kids, to the kid in all of us who still longs to dream.

During this quadrant as well, I got the opportunity with a organization called Justice For Children for an internship that exposed me to the child advocacy field. Receiving calls from parents who have every reasons to concerned about the safety of their children against abuse or neglect really does open one’s eyes to what the world can be like. This experience further fueled the desire to continue to do my part to alleviate some of the pain caused by such misfortunes in whatever manner I can; my future career as a school psychologist, educator and poet being just a fraction of that!

Speaking of fractions, I’ll continue in another post to discuss the highlights of the year 2012 for me. It definitely has been a great year (what with me turning 22 during the 3rd quadrant, and graduating with a bachelors degree in the last quarter of the year) and I eagerly look forward to what 2013 has to offer. More on the other quadrants soon.

And I wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR in advance!

This is the end . . . Skyfall (next year) is where we start

I Wonder What My Bed Sheets Say…

“…I know this sounds weird, but sometimes I wonder what my bed sheets say about me when I’m not around. I wonder what the curtains would do if they found out about all the things I’ve done behind their backs…”

This post is about integrity. Apart from the endless possibilities mind-frame we were taught to embrace at LeaderShape, we were also taught to lead with integrity. As leaders (anyone can be a leader, and we all are in one regards or the other. Leaders are not born after all, they’re made!) integrity is very essential. It’s what determines whether or not one deserve a following or not.

The dictionary defines integrity as:

soundness of moral character; honesty. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished

And truth be told, I can’t say that I’ve fully lived (or am fully living) a life of integrity. But part of being a person of integrity is being at least honest about that.

Honesty.

Authenticity, to be specific, is one of the five core values I was able to identify as important to me at LeaderShape. The other four are Service, Creativity, Balance, and Growth. So far, I have written about Service and Growth on this blog. (Click on the links to read about them)

The quote above is from a poet by the name of Rudy Francisco whom I revere so much . His poem titled “My Honest Poem” is one of  the major influences for the poem UnMask which I did for my birthday. The other influences being Miles Hodges’ Maskless, and Benjamin Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility. (Again, click the links)

Honesty. Transparency. These are qualities I absolutely adore (as anyone close to me would tell you), and sure this comes with a willingness to be vulnerable – to be considered weak. However, to be vulnerable requires a lot of strength. Try it once, if only once in your entire life! No excuses, no explanations, no apologies, nothing! Just your story!

And that is where integrity comes in. See, it’s quite easy to lie about oneself in a poem – either to paint oneself worse than one actually is, or better than one actually is.

Integrity (or character) after all is this:

doing the right thing when we think nobody’s looking.

And the right thing here is telling our stories exactly as they are.

No edits!

And I can assure you, my closed curtains have been witnesses to some of the countless wrongs I have done. Now if only they could talk…

The Makings of Me: On My 22nd Birthday

For starters, I really don’t know where or how to start this (I love ’em, but pardon the pun!)

I am 22.

And for some reason, it’s very significant to me. One would think my 21st year should be…but I was not nearly as excited then as I am today!

I think I know why

Again, just to remind you what this blog is about, it is to document my journey towards the accomplishment of certain dreams I’ve had since I was born, and the deeds I’m doing to make them a reality. So far, so good.

And I’ve never quite been so close. In the last 22 years, I’ve never quite had that feeling of “I got it!”

…until now!

I am so assured, and am continually reassured that “the future [indeed does] belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”, and trust me, I am dreaming, and dream…a lot! Lots of events (most significantly my experience at LeaderShape) have happened this past year leading to this one I’m about to start today, that have equipped me with what it takes to make that future I’ve dreamed about happen. Sure, like I said, it’s all ‘one step at a time’ and for this next year which I start today, I just want to keep the ball rolling. I’m not stopping…at least not any time soon.

I am grateful I have people (family, friends, and even strangers) to share all that I am with. I mentioned somewhere on this blog, that my deepest fear – what I fear the most – is that I am actually good at being everything I am.

I enjoy life, and I delight in learning from it, and siphoning from it everything it has to offer.

And a lot of things I do today have been 22 years in the making.

And still, I don’t think I’m there just yet…but there is no doubt that I’m very close. This Close!

With that as a form of preamble, I decided to sum up the whole of what I am (not quite lol) in a 4 minutes video  using the spoken word format of poetry. This is just something else I deeply love. Words….

…words are as living, breathing, able to shape, form…just as life itself is.

Of course, achieving certain dreams is about setting goals. I mentioned on this blog that creating this blog was actually one of my manageable/short term goals, and it definitely feeds into the stretch goals as it pertains to the BIG PICTURE!

And for this year that starts for me today, I decided to set some goals for myself. 22 to be exact!

Just know that if you’re reading this, I have enrolled you into my team (yes, without your consent. You’re welcome!) and you’re responsible as well as accountable to making sure I achieve these goals by this time next year. So check up on me to see how I am doing on them. Thanks.

And to wrap this post up, I thought this song is fitting, to describe my journey over these past years. I stole the title of this post from the song as well, so I might as well post it. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again just in case you’re wondering why I always end my posts with Music…

How could I not!?

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what I said before, but oh well!

My Deepest Fear…

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

I am sitting here at the library and thinking to myself, I can’t lie to myself anymore. I am absolutely tired of it. I can’t pretend anymore that I don’t see streets paved with Gold (on this earth mind you) on which my feet will soon walk on… I can’t pretend anymore that I am nothing special. I can’t lie to myself anymore that I don’t have something to offer the world…that I am not needed here. That I have nothing to contribute.

And the greatest fear of mine is to live up to this truth of my uniqueness. There is a spark that has been deposited in me by my Maker, a light that is not meant to be hidden under a bushel. My fear is coming to terms with the reality that I have a voice the angels in Heaven envy, the kind of voice that mountains are more than willing to echo. My fear is being able to stand up confidently in front of the thousands of people I see before me, and being able to believe them when they tell me that they are here to hear what I have to say….

And I have to say, at this moment, I have to try and sniffle as hard as I can to prevent this drop of tear developing in the corner of my eyes from falling down…I’ll excuse myself after I finish writing this!

My greatest fear is owning up to the fact that there is absolutely nothing ordinary about me. And I am sitting here at the library, thinking to myself, “why did it take this long?”

Why did it take this long, to realize that “my playing small does not serve the world.“, that “there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around me.

And so, today I let those fears go….

As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. – Marianne Williamson

This is in the spirit of the lessons I’ve learned through my LeaderShape experience, coupled with a lot of self-reflection, especially over the past month. I started keeping a Gratitude Journal at the beginning of this month, and I was stupefied as to how much of life I actually missed before now…the simple little things we count as insignificant! Like the smile of a child, the hellos said by strangers, the fact that someone said “thank you” for something you did for them, laughter, music, poetry, running in the rain, the fact that I had something to bite on, the fact that I was able to run, and catch the bus before it passed by me….

And today, just in the space of 12 hours…I received two news that reminded me that there is something in me that others see, which I’ve refused to see for a long time.

One: One of my poems, which I wrote as a memorial for the victims of the Dana Air Crash that happened on June 3rd in Lagos, (my country) Nigeria, was selected to be included in an Anthology meant to commemorate Dana Airlines Flight 9J-992 from Abuja to Lagos, Sunday June 3, 2012.

Two: The mid-course evaluation of my Philosophy Professor, who at the end of his helpful comments wrote: “Keep up the overall consistently strong work” This is a very challenging class, as a boatload of work has to be done over a period of 5 weeks. Gruesome to say the least! And so far, I’m in the A minus range, and it might stay that way if I, according to my Professor again, continue to “keep up the good work in class!”

We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. – Marianne Williamson

As for me, I am done with being fearful of how awesome I am…

MEPHOBIA: Fear of becoming so awesome that the human race can’t handle it, and everyone dies.

…And I give you permission to go do the same.

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…which leads us all to the next chapter of this journey.

More about that soon….

In the meantime,

If your heart turns blue, I want you to remember
This song is for you, and you are full of wonder