Life Lessons: Because I Know Second Chances Are Rare, I Am Not Afriad

Big risks have their rewards. I’m not talking about running a stop sign to make it to the movies on time. No. That is dumb and dangerous. I’m talking about investments, career changes, love, etc. You know, life things. I want to take a moment to acknowledge my own risks and to encourage those who might be on the edge of jumping. You can never know where a road will lead to, unless you take steps to explore it, right? In my case, there were a series of abrupt pushes that led me to my big leap. Risk
On recognizing the need for a drastic change in direction: It was the 3rd installment of lay-offs in the 3 ½ years I had been at HOT 97. I thought it was just a customary process…until it was my turn. I remember it like it was yesterday. I had just come from a doctor’s appointment and was smitten to have missed the first half of the work day. I strolled in leisurely with my box braids plopped in a bun atop my head. I was wearing a silk, hot pink blouse from J. Crew and my new Jessica Simpson wedges. I was feeling easy, breezy, beautiful and LAZY. I didn’t feel like doing much of anything and I do think I made that quite clear to my constituents in the preceding months. I was like one of those stubborn mules that had been overworked and at a certain point just refused to budge. Anyway, when I walked in the office, my boss skipped his normal salutations and directed me to HR. I knew what was up. “Could it be?” I thought to myself. “Am I getting laid off?” It was quick and painless. I think I dropped a few tears for the memories but that was it. I was sooooooo over the work I was doing there. The truth is I had known I wanted something different for myself for quite some time, but I failed to go for mine. I lingered for a bit, said my goodbyes and proceeded to the exit. For the sake of this article, I’ll say it was the cliff. For that is where I expanded my wings and began to fly.

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On recognizing and seizing the opportunity: The first person I spoke to was my mother. “Mommy, they laid me off.” Her reaction is something that will stick with me forever. “Congratulations!” she cried. “I’m so happy for you!” she said. You know how babies sometimes cry and you can do a weird and silly face to shock them and it will stop their tears in their tracks? That was precisely my reaction. I had complained a million times about feeling unfulfilled to her and here I was crying over what I failed to see as a blessing. This was my chance to start over. Who knew when I would be presented with the time and freedom to pursue whatever I wanted again? Who knew when I would finally act on my desires? My mother’s wisdom was probably the first beacon of light that broke through my internal darkness. I wiped my tears away and for the life of me that day, I could NOT stop smiling.

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On persevering through obstacles: Starting over was HARD. My degree was totally unrelated to what I wanted to pursue. My experience was only personal and I had a finite amount of time to bust a move before problems started to pile up. The gradient wasn’t consistently upward. If you know me, you might have gotten a distress call from me during this time. There were dips and twirls that sent me plummeting but I never hit the bottom. That’s the thing about risks. You have to see it through.

I began studying for my PT certification. That was the quickest way to get into the health arena. After getting certified, I set out to snag an entry level job where I could work in both the fitness and non-profit realms while building my training repertoire. To my surprise, there was an abundance of opportunities in that field and I actually landed a specialist position at a highly respected non-profit. From there, I sowed. I sowed and sowed and sowed until it just became automatic. Like a stylist or model loves to wear clothes, so do I love the gym and imparting my wellness knowledge on everybody and anybody. I sent out positive energy. I did things pro bono. I offered my help. I went above. I went beyond. I set out for things that many would say were out of my league. I applied for jobs that required a masters degree, I interviewed and put my best foot forward and opportunities began appearing. People began to hit me with the “I see you, Jazz.” People recommended me for things. It’s the law of the universe. What’s yours is yours. But you have to go out and get it. You have to take a risk or you will definitely take regret instead. This is only the very beginning but my risk is paying off tenfold. I feel so much better about my work. I actually go into every session and shift with a smile. I am happy to be doing the work, helping people and being of service to people in need.
My regrets? I have one. My only regret was the wait. Why did I wait so long? It wasn’t that I was a lazy person, I simply hadn’t internalized the possibilities that were there. People always told me “Stop being so hard on yourself.” I have always been my own worst critic and I had to stop that sh*t! That was like poison! You have to trust and believe in yourself. You have to believe in your goals. You have to go for yours!

What was the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? Are you planning on stepping out on faith? When? How? Why?

Drop your stories below. I wanna hear!

xo,

Jazz

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Home, Sweet Home|A Sisterly Workout at Rochester Institute of Technology

I made a random trip home this weekend for some personal reflection and to support my sister during a rough patch. Whenever I’m home, I always head to RIT’s Gordon Field House. Its fully equipped with an Olympic sized pool, a whirlpool/mini water park, tennis courts, basketball courts, indoor and outdoor tracks, dance studios and of course a fitness facility. It’s my dad’s alma mater so he’s there all the time and I’ve grown quite accustomed to the luxuries (I call them luxuries) available at this place. So much so that even when the field house isn’t open, I still go to the outdoor track there as opposed to the one around the corner from my house.

This time I dragged my sister with me. First of all we spent an hour getting her a nice little workout fit from the mall which I didn’t complain about because I know it helps to have on a nice fit especially if your just beginning to workout. That confidence booster can make a big difference. Anyway, I’ve been desperately trying to convince my sister, Sasha to get in better shape. It’s great that I’m in shape and plan to live a long, healthy life, but I often worry about those I love and their health. I figured if I can at least get Sasha to the track, I will have won a small battle and checked off step one in getting her to an active lifestyle.

We started with a lap around the track with lateral arm raises. Our second lap consisted of frog leaps, lunges and lateral run intervals. I then took to the bleachers and did three rounds with some dips and inclined push-ups. This was a very light workout for me but I am very proud of my sister for trying her hand at this whole fitness thing.

I am the youngest of five. With that being said, I’m normally the one who’s being reckless, aloof and sometimes just plain wrapped up in myself. It felt great to be there for my eldest sister in her time of need and to motivate my other sister in becoming healthier. They actually helped me forget about my little troubles and focus on things more important.

Life Lessons: Why On Earth Would You Not Water the Seeds of Friendship?

I don’t pretend to know everything. All I can do is take little lessons from my various experiences and create this sort of infrastructure that shapes my moral compass and thus, guides my life. One thing I’ve struggled with since childhood was the concept of friendship. If you think I’m a shy person now, you’d think I was a mute if you met me as a child. While I was goofy and loving with my family, becoming familiar with others was quite the task for me and I often used my siblings as barriers to any unwanted interaction. I could count on them to interpret my facial expressions and body language for anyone that threatened my watchful solitude. I was indeed an observer. As an adult I’ve learned to quickly decipher between good and not so good people but as a child this process often took me hours to complete. I’d watch interactions; I’d stare really hard which in most cases prompted a snide remark or eye roll. My attention to detail has proven to be my gift and curse but I had to make sure the coast was clear. Then, and only then, would I begin to ration out bits and pieces of myself. I can recall a few incidents when I didn’t take this precaution and it resulted in a feeling of flat out rejection. From my experiences throughout life, people will hate you without knowing you, the real you. I wasn’t too keen on how or when to say things or even ways to start a conversation. I was socially awkward with new people and I think it’s fair to say I would rub them the wrong way. Knowing this, I would sit back and allow myself to be sort of recruited into a friendship or in most cases, a group.

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Some of my best times were spent with ‘my girls’. I’ve been a member of a few cliques. There are my hometown girls, the ‘Fab Five’ of Wilson High, ‘XBL’ of Blount Towers, ‘Unbreakable’ of Alpha Delta and last but certainly not least my coworker cliques. I’m not the type to dominate a group but I’m even more ill-suited to be a follower. With the exception of the ‘Fab Five’, I found that cliques in my younger years tended to have a leader and followers. Being that I’m neither, I found it hard to exist in these groups without rebelling in some way shape or form. And then there was my love life that always seemed to be my most pressing of concerns. I was the girl that was always boo’d up, barely went out and partied with my friends and would probably have passed up a trip to Cancun just to spend quality time with bae (Oh wait, I did that). Mistakes we make when we’re young, dumb and in love.

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Anyway, I was never the one to place great emphasis on friendship. Often times I didn’t think I was missed or that it mattered if I showed up to things or not. I’d forget birthdays, forget to reply to texts, cancel plans and miss important life events. I was pretty much in my own world. Don’t get me wrong, I was always there to give advice, you could always come hang out at my place, I’d feed you, I could keep a secret, I’d fight for you, was always down for some adventure and would even egg someone’s car with you (yes I’ve done that) but I was lacking in a lot of ways. It was only through the loss of a few friends that I loved that I realized just how important the friendship relationship was. Through these losses I’ve learned that friendships need nurturing just like any other thing in life. You work in your career, you work in your spirituality and you work in love. Why on earth would you not water the seeds of friendship?

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You don’t get to choose your family but you have the God-given right to choose your friends. I’ve recently begun to take advantage of that and in a city of 20 million people; I have a close knit family of friends that I cherish dearly. How’d my brokest years end up being my happiest? Because I’m rich in things untouchable. I come alive with my friends. I recognize the need for that ‘life’. They give me life! I’m just living and learning, y’all. I’m better than I was last year, last month and even last week. It’s something I’m doing on purpose. If you’ve ever struggled with friendship I hope this post goes to show you that you’re not the only one and there’s still hope for you to ‘get it’. Don’t wait forever though. Lol.

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Xo,

Jazz

5 Gems for New Mentors Looking to Make an Impact

1. Step outside of your comfort zone. I’m pretty shy when first meeting someone but this doesn’t mean I don’t have gems to offer my mentee. The only thing though, is that my mentee is the same way. We were both acting very reserved in our first couple of meet-ups and I had to take the first step toward breaking down that barrier. If you know me, you know I am far from reserved when I’m in good company. I found that we have way more in common than just our shyness but it took me opening up to get her to revel herself to me. This type of relationship is unique because it exists solely for her betterment. I had to remember this and be open to the process.

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2. Talk the talk and walk the walk. It’s one thing to tell your mentee to do well in school, always put your best effort forward, try new things, etc. But it’s another thing to show them these things. I could advise my mentee on things like education and spirituality but it wasn’t until I demonstrated examples of these things that she really began to take on the meaning and apply them to her life.

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3. Be interested. Simply showing up is just not enough. You have to ask questions and be engaged in their stories. What looks like a molehill to you might look like a mountain to them. Regardless, listen actively and reply (if necessary) and mindfully. Most of their stories won’t even need a response, they just require an ear, a caring one.

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4. Mentoring keeps you young. I hadn’t been in touch with my teenage self since 2004 and I have to say, I had forgotten many of my lofty aspirations. In learning about my mentee, I re-learned some things about myself. The innocence of youth affords us a clean and optimistic outlook on life, love and relationships and although we may be adults, this innocence can easily rub off on us when encountered frequently and intimately enough. I’m often quoted as saying “The fountain of youth is in the gym.” But it is also in our interactions with young people.

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5. Never, ever, has any relationship been perfect. Even in a thoroughly mapped out, scheduled and prompted dialogue between child and adult, there will be a few snags. People are all uniquely designed by their experiences and I learn this truth more and more as I mature. Even the advantage of age and influence has its limits and you must learn to meet them where they are.

Are you a mentor? What additional gems would you share with an aspiring mentor? Drop your thoughts below!

Mind + Body: Getting My Life The Way Mother Nature Intended!

You may or may not have noticed that I’m always in somebody’s park, running my fingertips through flower petals and snapping pics of thee most mundane, garden-variety happenings in nature. I’ve always been an outdoorsy type of girl. I just always loved the great outdoors. My childhood consisted of dirt hill bike rides, tire swings, tree climbing and an assortment of “fast-ass” hand games and sing-alongs. Lol. All of which took place outside. If my parents wanted to punish me, the first thing that went was my outdoor privileges. Ugh, it was absolutely devastating for me. During these trying times, I would take my cabbage patch dolls to the front porch and watch from a distance as my neighborhood friends zipped up and down the street. It was agony. As an adult, I still love nothing more than to be outdoors either alone or with a like-minded bunch.

A typical Bronx commute. Captured by yours truly.

A typical Bronx commute. Captured by yours truly.

As a resident of the boogie-down Bronx, I have a special appreciation for anything that doesn’t involve train packing, arguments, the scent of urine and dirty diapers. Sorry to anybody from the Bronx, but that is my experience on every single train ride. This past weekend, I managed to escape the bustle of the big city and spend time with my girl, mother nature.

Saturday’s workout was bomb thanks to my boo. We went to a local outdoor track and he put me on to frog jumps, which I had always avoided because my coordination wasn’t “on the level” (Chrissy Lampkin voice). But y’all! When I say my hips and thighs were burning!? It was exactly what I needed and the soreness still hasn’t gone away. DOMS to the max! It felt great because I’m always looking for ways to turn up my workouts. Here’s the entire routine:

50 jumping jacks
Frog jumps 50 meters
Sprint 50 meters
Walking lunges 50 meters
Backpedal 50 meters
Plank progressions :30/:59/1:30
15 burpees
:30 run in place
*Repeat 3x

Nature workouts are perfect for me not just because of the scenery but because during the spring and summer I do NOT want to be inside. Nobody does! I found myself skipping the gym so many times when I first began working out just because I wanted to be outdoors frolicking and doing hoodrat things with my friends. Finally, I wised up and combined the two. It started with Central Park workouts, then I graduated to bike rides and then I just grabbed a margarita from Blockheads and took it with me to my workouts. I’m not recommending this, I’m just saying. It was much easier for me to adhere to my workout schedule when I learned ways to get it in outdoors and have fun with it!

What’s your favorite outdoor activity and how can you combine it with your workouts? Drop you stories below!

The Evolution of Jasmine: How I Decoded My Purpose

At the age of eighteen, I was silly enough to think that, as a Gemini, I had found my calling. As young as seven, you could find me writing poems, journal entries and scribbling threat notes to my older sister, Sasha. I had decided I would grow up and work for a cool newspaper or magazine. It was my calling, you know? I knew how to use a pen.

Young JUNKFIT

Young JUNKFIT

It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I located my passion and coupled it with my talent. It was a grueling process as I had to get through a mountain of struggles to realize what my passion was! It began with me being in a low place. I hadn’t written anything of quality in years and the stuff I was writing was for the THOT audience (I was working at HOT 97). My spirit was yearning for a few things:

Representation of My Values: My time in radio was fun but it neglected a lot of things I stood for. I compromised a few beliefs that I deemed uncompromisable. SOME of which were respect for women, integrity, honesty and setting a good example. I was working 8+ hours a day in the opposite direction of my values! If I’m going to be doing anything for the next 30 years, it has to be something that will compliment my spirit, I thought to myself.

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Confidence: One thing about life and love is that they will put you on your ass a few times. I can raise two hands for that! Lol. In this tough period, I taught myself to believe in me. I set out to learn fitness and that’s what I did. I set out to gain muscle mass and I did that too. I saw the value in MYSELF and I stopped caring if anyone else saw what I was seeing.

I don't need you to f--- with me, I f--- with me!

I don’t need you to f— with me, I f— with me!

For the first time, I looked in the mirror and saw not my physical beauty but I saw Jasmine. I saw me. I was happier, more giving, more empathetic and more patient because I had been through some sh–! There’s something about going through the fire and still coming out BETTER! I was finally someone that I would want to be around. Then, just like magic, I began attracting like-minded women into my circle.

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Helping Women: “I wish I could give you this feeling!”, one of my favorite Jay-Z quotes. I was experiencing that! I knew I wanted to help other women be happier, particularly Black women. Every day we endure verbal and spiritual attacks ranging from music that degrades us to beauty images that exclude us. Add to that, our poor health statistics. We NEED something like JUNKFIT. In my mind, it became imperative to 1. Pour affirmations into Black women and girls and 2. Guide them through the process of elevating body, mind and spirit.

Are you developing your purpose? How did you find it? Drop your stories below!

xo,

Jazz