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Holiday Style: The Office Party

(Photo credit: Shot By Kelley)

Well in case you haven’t noticed, the holiday season is in full effect! Just look around. You can’t drive down the street without a full display of gigantic red bows, strings of lights and sparkle galore.

Can you guess what comes with all the holiday tinsel? Office parties! I think the holiday season has got to be one of the most fun times of year around the office. Everyone (for the most part) is full of holiday cheer, there’s more food than office supplies lying around and everyone is well balanced due to the multiple extra days people are taking off during the season. It’s great!

So you picked up your red velvet cake ingredients for your potluck contribution. You found the perfect gift for the white elephant gift exchange. Next you need to figure out just what to wear.

My inspiration for the look pictured was business casual with a twist of fun. Something that’s appropriate for the office yet festive enough for the holiday season. I didn’t spend a whole lot. In fact, the majority of my look came from the stylish, pocket friendly Target. (See outfit details below for full deets.)

What I love about this outfit is how the separates work for other outfit possibilities. The festive sweater can be paired with jeans for a more casual look. And even better, the cropped pants can be worn all year around as part of the work wardrobe rotation.

So what are you wearing to the office party? See you there! 🙂

 

{Outfit details: Sweater (Target); Pants (Target); Loafers (Zara) }

Natural Hair In the Workplace with Joetta Little

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Joetta Little, the owner of Hairfood Junkie Beauty Supply in Bellflower, CA.  While Joetta made sure to inform me that she is no “expert” in natural hair, I myself find her to be quite knowledgable. Make that…notably knowledgeable. 🙂 In addition to being a beauty supply owner who assists male and female clients at different points on the haircare spectrum, she is also a naturalist when it comes to her own hair.

I find Joetta’s transition from the corporate world to being an entrepreneur in the beauty industry to be very interesting. Where hair, particularly natural hair, and the workplace intersect can be quite the topic. Considering the rapidly increasing number of African American women sporting natural styles on the daily, curiousity from colleagues of various backgrounds is accompanied.

Note: While this interview is approached from the perspective of the African American woman, it is not limited in that regard. Each gender of various ethnic backgrounds undergoes appearance changes at some, if not many, points in their career. This may come in the form of a haircut, hair color change, new makeup- the list goes on. Though the common outcome is always going to be perception and perhaps even some degree of curiousity amongst colleagues. While it should not matter how others perceive us, the fact remains- they are looking. And quite naturally, questions will arise.

9toFlyGirl: Please tell me about your professional background.

Joetta: I have a background in marketing and advertising. I was the Marketing Director for an educational brand. For about 10 years I worked at a college which was a very corporate career path. Before that I worked for other agencies dealing with media placement and buying.

9TFG: What are your thoughts about natural hairstyles, specifically for African American women, in the workplace?

Joetta: It depends on if you’re in the process of getting an entry level job or if you’re in a more seasoned position. It also depends on the type of job. You have to understand the culture of the environment you’re entering. Understand the department you’re working in also. For example, marketing is a more creative environment.

It is good to wear you natural hair. Though I wouldn’t recommend interviewing in braids or colored hair. Always make sure you’re polished, manicured and neat.

9TFG: What was your experience like wearing a natural hairstyle in a corporate job?

Joetta: I had been employed for quite some time so that helped. Sometimes you just have to have conversations with your co-workers like “One day my hair may be short, the next day it may be long”.

Be open to the questions they may have. Don’t be offended. Other cultures may not know. This is why it’s important to know your audience.

9TFG: Let’s talk about your new career path as a beauty supply owner. How do you plan to support women in similar positions through your new business venture? What advice would you give to the woman who wants to wear her hair natural but is reluctant about how she thinks she will be perceived in the workplace?

Joetta: It’s a choice. People know where they stand with their jobs. They have to know the culture and what types of things would jeopardize them. Be observant first. Make small changes before making a big change. Or if you do decide to just go for it – be confident!

9TFG: I repeatedly hear African American women express frustration regarding the comments they get about their hair. Particularly from those who may be less familiar with certain natural styles. What is your feedback on this topic?

Joetta: Usually people are just curious. Whether you allow people to touch or feel your hair is a personal space thing. It’s up to each person. I’m okay with it but some people feel different because some people see their hair as an extension of their body. It’s all about how you handle it.

9TFG: It’s interesting to hear your take on this. I often hear the opposite – that many women take offense. Often quickly. I can understand why but it’s never been a big issue for me. I’ve gotten comments and questions myself but I’ve never been offended. In my experiences, it’s come off more as curiousity from their end.

Joetta: Right. Though you never know, those women could have had a bad experience.

9TFG: True.

9TFG: Switching gears a bit, what made you go into the beauty industry?

Joetta: For freedom. I worked in a corporate environment for quite some time. When you go up the ladder, you can only get so far. Also, in a corporate environment it all comes down to money. Decisions are made for money. I felt like the decisions weren’t genuine. I speak up when I feel things aren’t right. It got to a point where I was like “this is just unbelievable!”. People in the workplace (often) don’t like to speak up because they’re afraid to lose their job.

9TFG: Right.

Joetta: [As a business owner] I’m in control of my own destiny. I have no fear because no one else can control my decisions.

I’ve always loved the beauty industry. I asked myself what I’d do for free and this was it.

9TFG: Can you share more information about your beauty supply?

Joetta: I am located at 9251 Alondra Blvd. #C Bellflower, CA 90706 . I can be followed on Facebook and Instagram under the user name “hairfoodjunkie”.

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If you have any comments or questions for Joetta, please feel free to post below. Also make sure to stop by her social media pages to check out her latest posts on everything haircare and beauty. And last but certainly not least, head over to Hairfood Junkie Beauty Supply to stock up on your favorite products!

Pearls of Wisdom from “I Almost Forgot About You”

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Lately I’ve been reading all non-fiction books. Nothing intentional. I just have been finding more attention-grabbing titles and topics in that area. But I recently found the need to escape in a good fictional story line for a change. Before a flight a few months back I stopped in one of the airport shops for a snack and magazine in preparation for being stuck on the plane for 4 hours. (The sacrifices of traveling. Sigh.) I looked up on the shelf to find a book staring back at me. “Terry McMillan has a new book?!”…I thought in awe to myself. “Well this has to be good!”. I read the story summary and was sold!

I don’t want to give away too much of the book. Instead of sharing too many details of the story line, I’ll share 5 pearls of wisdom (some more so reminders) that I gained from the book. Particularly when it comes to taking leaps of faith and making key life decisions.

1) Have patience in pursuing your dreams.

If you’re like me, you may dream in full color then go into hyper-planning mode, envisioning your dreams coming to reality like…tomorrow. Just the other day I planned a full on vacation to the UK equipped with a business plan that would fund the whole trip. Mind you in my excitement I had envisioned this all happening within a matter of a few months. Then I slowed myself down with a gentle reminder that these things don’t happen overnight.

Likewise the main character in “I Almost Forgot About You”, Georgia, is also planning a trip and has some business plans of her own in mind. Though along the course of the story, she finds herself having to take care of a few matters close to home before preparing for her trek. What she thought would take months took years to fulfill with many hiccups along the way.

2) It’s never too late to live the life you want.

Now I know this sounds like the ultimate cliché but it’s true. This novel proves it! Georgia, a middle aged woman, finds herself ready to embark on a career change, find love and explore new destinations. Without telling the story, I”ll just say that by the end of the book she has a pretty high success rate at achieving these goals. Though her success was based on her strategy. Planning was everything for Georgia. Though many of her plans changed, fell through or yielded different results than anticipated, her planning provided a sense of direction and purpose along the way.

3) You have to confront the past to live a clear future.

I know, something many of us don’t want to hear. But it’s true. You can’t vacuum a carpet full of stains. Clean the stains up first, then vacuum. (My little metaphor for the big picture. 🙂 ) Georgia thought the past was in the past. Until a bit of shocking news woke her up to the fact that she had some unresolved issues to address. And as she worked through those issues she found that there were some things…and key people…she forgot about. Hence the book title. 😉

4) Know what you’re willing to sacrifice for your dreams.

Despite the fact that Georgia was an established woman that had the means and beyond to achieve her goals, there were still sacrifices that she had to make. For instance (without giving away too much) she considers a move to a new city at one point in the story. While it’s an exilerating thought initially, she begins to reflect on the children, grandchildren and beloved home she’d be leaving behind by moving forward.

5) Enjoy the present.

On the subject of beloved family and a home, Georgia reminded me that we must enjoy the present while chasing our dreams. It’s easy to get caught up in the splendor of personal, career and travel goals. But what about right now? The family we need to spend more time with, friends we should appreciate more or the job we need to be grateful for because it is funding what we need to prepare for the future.

 

Ready to go out and get the book now?! Please let me know what you think if you decide to give it a read!

Pre-Fall Lookbook

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[Photo and Video Credit: ceedotcee]

My second You Tube video is a Pre-Fall Look Book featuring some summer to fall transitional pieces. Please let me know if you enjoy this lookbook. If so, I will feature more on the channel.

And please don’t forget to subscribe for new video alerts! 🙂 You Tube: 9toflygirl

 

5 Tips On How To Change Career Fields

 

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[Photo and Video Credit: ceedotcee]

I’m now on You Tube! Please check out my channel: 9toflygirl.

In this video post I share ideas on how you can change career fields without necessarily having to go back to school.

Returning Back to Work After Childbirth: To Be or Not To Be? with Amena Mebane

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[Photo credit: Tristan Quigley Photography]

Through the years I have witnessed many little ones make their debuts on this earth. It’s always exciting to go to a friend’s baby shower or visit a loved one to see their new bundle of joy. I can imagine being a new mother is a very exciting time in life. Though the big question often follows: “When are you returning to work?”. (At least for those who were actively employed prior to giving birth. ) And if that isn’t enough, an even bigger question may follow: “ARE you returning to work?’.

I’m sure these can be daunting yet relevant questions. Questions that one’s career, family and newest little one depend on answers to. At this point in my life I have not had to answer these questions – someday I will. For now, I thought I would pick the brain of someone who has been there, done that and has an inspirational story to share regarding the results of her decision.

In this interview I am speaking with my friend and sorority sister, Amena Mebane, about her experience with making key career decisions after giving birth to her first child. During our interview period she was expecting her second child who has since been born and is now making waves with the cutest pictures alongside his proud big sister. 🙂

I hope you enjoy hearring Amena’s story as much as I did.
9toFlyGirl: Can you tell me about your professional background?
Amena: I went to UC Berkeley as an undergrad and completed my Bachelors of Arts degree in American Studies, Honors. My focus was race, law and social movements. Right after graduating in 2007, I attended Univ of WA law school where I received my JD. During law school I worked at a law firm as a summer associate and I also worked for the King County Prosecutor’s office. I ultimately decided to start my career at the Prosecutor’s Office after graduation because I wanted the trial experience. I worked there for about 5 years before I decided not to return to work.

9TFG: What moment did you decide that you would not return to work?

Amena: My husband and I were expecting our first child in April 2014. Initially, when I became pregnant I was planning to take some time off when the baby came but I was still contemplating returning to work after my leave was over. Shortly before I took my leave, I had a domestic violence trial. I was very pregnant, maybe 39 weeks by the time the trial was over. It was incredibly stressful and I remember having high blood pressure readings, swollen feet, and not sleeping or eating properly. Whenever I was in trial, I usually would only get about 3-4 hours of sleep because of the amount of preparation it required. I took off shortly after the trial was over and I remember walking out the office my last day and thinking to myself “I’m never coming back.”

9TFG: What factors influenced the decision?

Amena: Even though I said to myself “I’m never coming back” as I walked out of the building, I didn’t make the decision right away. I wanted to make the decision after I had some time to be a mommy and when my head was clear. What if I didn’t like staying at home? What about embracing my independence? I have so much more to contribute to society than wifely and mommy duties, right? I’m pretty good at this trail stuff, I shouldn’t just let my talents go to waste, should I? What about having some adult interaction? I’m sure I’ll need a break from being a full time mom, right? These were all the questions flowing through my mind. I needed time to reflect before I made a decision about returning or not.
I took my entire 18 week leave and then ended up extending it for a year. Honestly, my ambitions and goals changed a lot after I became a wife and mother. I really enjoyed my time off and I loved being a mom and also having more time to support my husband and his work. My husband plays in the NFL and as a busy trial attorney, I rarely had the opportunity to go to my husband’s away games and take the time to enjoy the NFL experience because I was so busy with my own work. NFL careers are short compared to other careers, so it was really awesome to take time off to enjoy the games and travel with my daughter to different states to see daddy play. He will only be doing this a few more years and I didn’t want to look back and say I missed out on that experience. I really feel blessed to have the opportunity to focus on family life as I know a lot of families cannot live off of one income.

Now, we have two kids and I’m still not practicing law. But I do other things that keep me busy. We started a small online business that I manage and I also taught trial advocacy at UW Law once a week which was so fun but not too overwhelming. It still gave me an opportunity to be involved without being over worked and exhausted.
9TFG: Did you seek out any particular resources for the transition?

Amena: Looking back, I wish I had sought out more resources just to aid me in the transition. But I did speak with a number of women (both those that did return to work and a few that did not). That was incredibly helpful because I was able to get feedback from both sides of the spectrum.

9TFG: What advice would you have for a mother questioning whether or not to return to work?

Amena: I would say just remember whatever decision you make, it does not have to be a permanent decision. I like to think of my life in “seasons.” That helps my brain process change easier. For me, this is the season of being a new mom. I’m enjoying it while it is here and embracing it. I don’t think about my old job much or even miss it because I’m fully engaged in my mommy/wife/family season right now. That may not always be the case. There may come a time when I want to get back in the courtroom, when changing dirty diapers and singing the Wheels on the Bus to my toddler 100 times a day won’t be fulfilling. And that is okay. If and when that time comes, just embrace it.

Embrace the change and the need to transition into a new “season.” I think if we look at it that way, it takes some of the pressure off making the decision to return to work or not. As women, we should support each other’s decision. Oftentimes the stay at home moms criticize the working moms and vice versa. For those that decide to return to work, don’t worry about missing out on key moments in your child’s life. Your children will know you and love you and you will be an excellent mom! For women who decide to stay home, if you start feeling like you want more out of life, you can always return to the workplace and still be a great mom.

Being a mother is probably the hardest job I’ve ever had but it is by far the most fulfilling. I’m loving this season of my life right now!

 

 

5 Items Every Working Woman Should Own

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

So I got to thinking about my humble beginnings as a young woman venturing into the corporate world after college. I held jobs prior to that time period. Most in retail and food service. So dressing up in a suit or business casual attire was a little unfamiliar to me. My senior year of undergrad I held an office job at the campus bookstore. This required me to dress up a notch above my prior retail gigs. Though it was a more college student version of business casual. Translation: just don’t show up in jeans and flip flops.

When I interviewed for my first full time job out of school I wore a pink button down blouse with a black pencil skirt. They were staples from the professional attire line up I had for sorority business events. (Mind you this “line up” was about 2-3 go-to outfits.) Reality is, when you’re a full time student, there’s little need for “grown up” work attire.

I remember my mom taking me to the mall to shop for work ensembles right before starting my first job in the corporate world. I’m not sure if she wanted to invest in a young women’s future or just didn’t want me embarrassing her. Either way, bless her little heart and her wallet too. 🙂

In addition to work attire, there are a couple other items I think every working woman should (ideally) have on hand. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Though, from experience, I’d like to think it’s a good start.

1) A black suit

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

You just can’t go wrong with a black suit. Besides being able to utilize it for multiple interviews (which is why I’d advise investing in a good quality suit), the separates (blazer and pants or skirt) provide more options when paired with other items in your closet.

{Outfit details: Suit (Calvin Klien- Macy’s); Blouse (New York and Company); Heels (Nine West); Bag (Aldo) }

2) Black pumps

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[Photo credit: Shot by Kelley]

Besides the fact that they can be paired with just about anything, they also are just…well…classic! A decent pair will last you for years and career ventures to come.

{Outfit details: Heels (Forever 21) }

3) Transitional bag

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[Photo credit: K. Williams]

Think multifunctional meets stylish. A piece that is feminine yet serves the many purposes of the working woman. Something on the larger end is more ideal to fit various items: technological devices (laptop or tablet), sneakers (lunch walk), change of clothes (post work happy hour) and any other necessities. This could be a bag you carry in addition to your purse or as the primary bag with a small clutch inside to carry your essentials (wallet, makeup, etc.).

{Outfit details: Bag (H&M); Suit and Top (New York and Company); Heels (Forever 21) }

4) Flat iron or hair essentials

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[Image as found on Pinterest]

Probably the most vital aspect of a woman’s professional image, second to her attire, is her hair. I highlight the flat iron because it can serve as beneficial no matter if you wear your hair straight, curly or natural. It can give you a quick touch up to a straight style or switch up natural or curly styles.

Don’t do straight styles? Here is where you would insert the products most essential to your go-to hairstyle. Perhaps perm rods for natural curls, a diffuser for all over curly tendrils or a curling wand for beachy waves.

5) Padfolio

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[Photo by target.com; Exterior]

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[Photo by target.com; Interior]

{See cover photo for the one I own.}

I didn’t realize how essential this was until I got to grad school. I remember being new to a job and two former co-workers each had one to take notes in a meeting. They looked so official. There is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned notepad but I feel like the Padfolio just ups the ante. Especially for interviews. It has a neat and professional look that polishes off a nice suit. In addition to the notepad insert, there’s also a pocket (in most models) that can keep paperwork like copies of your resume.

 

What are your go-to working woman essentials? Feel free to comment below.

Weekend Warrior

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Cheers to the weekend! One of my most anticipated weekend bonuses is dressing down. Some days this can be as casual as jeans. Other days I enjoy the feel of a girlie-girl dress.

The dress pictured is a bit more dressier than the more casual selections I own. What I love about it is how it can go from day to night. I can work it for a day of shopping and a night out on the town.

What’s also cool about this dress is that it can be worn to the office too. In the picture I paired it with platform oxfords and a leather jacket for a fun yet office worthy look. This particular look may be more on the Casual Friday side if your employer is conservative. Though that’s what makes the dress so fun to play with – you can dress it accordingly.

Ready to go from 9 to fly as your own weekend warrior? Let the styling be with you! {In my Star Wars voice. 🙂 }

Please Excuse Me While I Put On My Work Face (Part II): Resilency

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By now you probably had the chance to read Part I. If not, please pause to go read the previous post and come on back over. (We promise to save a seat for you. 😉 )

The purpose of this blog is to inspire. So writing the previous post was challenging. On one hand, I didn’t want to add to the dark cloud many people already had over their heads. Though on the other hand, I hope that others can relate through my transparency. I desired to send the message that they were not alone. The heartbreak was (and still is) at a community level.

So how does one maintain resiliency during this time? Here are a few thoughts on how to bounce back. Keep in mind, I’m not a professional but I have indeed learned from experience.

1) Take care of your basic human needs.
Eat! Get enough sleep!
No matter what is going on…good news or bad news…without taking care of these two needs performance will obviously be lower and mood affected as well. Take me for example, in my previous post I described how I was running on low fuel (and emotions) in the morning but after lunch I bounced back. Even if it was just enough to get through the day.

2) Don’t compromise your mental health.
This one is dedicated to good ole’ social media. It will suck you in and have your emotions boiling like a pot of stew on a winter day.
I have seen a couple of posts promoting mental health in the wake of recent tragedies. They all give common, helpful tips such as knowing when to log off and staying away from heated debates with those that disagree.
My favorite one said something to the effect of “Taking a step back from it all by logging off doesn’t mean you don’t care about the problem. But how can you effectively contribute to the solution if you’re not your best self?”. Golden words.

3) Embrace your co-workers and their variety of conversations.
I saw a few social media posts from people that were frustrated that their co-workers weren’t discussing the issues behind recent tragedies and racial injustice. I can understand this. I longed for someone to vent to as I struggled to get through the work day. (And thankfully I identified someone who was equally concerned.) But in actuality, it could be refreshing to hear a different conversation. Especially if you’ve been plugged into social media where people are outraged, sad and a host of other emotions.
I overheard a group of co-workers talking outside of my office. They were eagerly asking another co-worker about her wedding plans. It was so nice to hear their pleasant discussion. I welcomed the break in my train of thought. Not because I didn’t want to deal with the hard core issues anymore. But because my brain was on overload and if I didn’t regroup I would have been staring at the computer screen lost in deep thought.

4) Get some fresh air.
When I went out for lunch I was still a bit dazed and disoriented. But boy did it help to see the light of day. Being outside was such a refresher from being stuck in the office with my thoughts.

5) Connect with a higher source.
As a Christian, I find that prayer and reading my devotional helps ease my mind and remind me of God’s presence. Some may debate because they just can’t understand how God is there and can help us through the heartbreak that follows repeated senseless acts of violence and hate. But my thought is that a higher source provides guidance, wisdom and peace to get you from one level to the next. How can you act upon a solution to the problem if your mind is racing and your thinking is irrational as a result? A higher source is going to ground you in an unstable time.

I hope this post helps and inspires those trying to bounce back from all the negative, hateful and heartbreaking news out there.

Have a safe, peaceful week-end. And please remember to hug your loved ones just a little bit tighter today. ❤️

Please Excuse Me While I Put On My Work Face (Part I): A Reflection

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Last week was pretty intense. You would think it being a short week, with the holiday Monday, would have made it a breeze. Nope…opposite. So much going on both near and far. Allow me to chronicle 72 draining hours.

Tuesday morning I barely got settled into the office when I received a text from a former church member: “Just wanted to share with you the VERY SAD NEWS…”. She was informing me that a young lady from the congregation passed away. After the initial shock I thought to myself “she graduated from high school about two years ago…so that would have made her about 19…20?” (*Sigh*)

Wednesday morning I logged on to Instagram and the first thing I saw was the video of the Alton Sterling shooting. Despite telling myself to get off social media, I was looking throughout the day and night to see what folks were saying about the situation.

Oh and did I mention, while I was on social media I saw a son promoting a Go Fund Me account for his mother who had recently passed away. (*Long sigh*)

Thursday (should have learned from Wednesday to not start the day with social media) began with social media being on fire about the Philando Castile tragedy. My emotions were all over the place. I read my daily devotional…thoughts still racing. Turned to my John Coltrane station on Pandora to ease my nerves. But I still struggled to concentrate. I put on a podcast in the background of my work and found myself turning it off because that only worked for so long.

I decided it was time for an early lunch. I needed to regroup. So I went out to get something to eat. In a daze, I looked up to see a tall, well tailored Caucasian man bending down and reaching his arms out. A little girl was running into his arms to meet his embrace. Subconsciously I wondered “wow…will she ever have to worry about her dad being extinguished due to senseless violence by those who are employed to ‘serve and protect’ him?”. {Praying she never does.}

Yes, this could be seen as a generalization to some. It is humanly possible that this father too could face that situation. But as a Black woman in the aftermath of what had just happened within 48 crucial hours, I wasn’t buying the possibility. At least not that day. As raw and uncensored as those thoughts were, my aching heart was speaking louder than any logic my brain could pull together. And while I love, appreciate and value my brothers and sisters of all races, in that moment I escaped to the tunnel in my heart where a Black woman was on her knees curled in a ball weeping. She was hurting because she has a father…a Black man (unlike the happy little girl)…that she does have to be concerned about.

I ate lunch and having food helped. I took my food in the office, shut the door, dimmed the lights and watched a lighthearted YouTube video. I needed an escape in that moment. It reminded me of the first time I lost a loved one. I longed for normalcy in that initial mourning period. Was I experiencing grief again? Quite possibly.

The afternoon got better. Though my mind was still distant. I stepped out of the office to fill up my water bottle. A co-worker approached me to ask how a new office arrangement was working out. All I remember saying was “it’s good!” with a painted smile. I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. My body was present, I was responding but my mind was just.not.there.

I could have jumped when it was time to go home. And not because work was bad or someone had upset me. But because my heart was broken, my mind was troubled.

I jetted out of the office, had small talk with a colleague in the elevator. When I got to my car I had a sigh of relief.

Finally…I could take off my work face…