My Life on “E”

To be full of joy, happiness, and excitement.

&

Drained of one’s physical or mental resources, very tired.

Someone asked me “how are you doing?” and after a brief pause, in order to buck the tradition of answering dishonestly with the oft recited, “I’m good.” “I’m fine. “I’m doing okay.” “Oh, you know the usual.” What eventually made it’s way out of my mouth was,

“I’m exhilarated and exhausted.”

These extremes are how I tend to walk through my life.

I am exhilarated and often in disbelief of the opportunities I get to be a part of and the people I get to be in rooms with on a regular basis.

By the time I get home at night, if I’m lucky by 10pm, I am exhausted because of the amount of physical and mental  energy it takes to move through the day.

Unfortunately, my exhaustion often seeps into areas in which I need more exhilaration and the exhilaration often keeps me from resting to combat the exhaustion. Sigh!

Now don’t misunderstand me , my life does have additional emotional levels and for every moment of exhilaration there is also probably another moment of stress. The other negative repercussion of the highs is that they often distract me from addressing the lows. When I have space to address the lows, I’m often too tired to do so or just point to the highs as a means of explaining away my need to focus on the lows. Get it?

I know that living from and through the good won’t make the bad melt away but it doesn’t serve anyone well to live in the valley for too long. To be honest, my lows ain’t that low. Perspective is important. 

I’m writing this post as I sit in my bed with my latest binge watch Hart of Dixie playing in the background. I spent my Saturday doing nothing but cleaning my house and keeping tabs on Zoe Hart, George Tucker, Lavon Hayes, Wade Kinsella, Lemon Breeland, and my absolute favorite AnnaBeth Nass. Bluebell, Alabama makes me happy and I’m going to miss it when this binge is complete. This Saturday was an effort  to create more time in my life to combat the exhaustion. To catch my breath and rest my soul. I need  to make more time to engage in meaning making around all of the exhilarating moments of my life. I need to develop a better understanding of why I run towards exhaustion and not intentional rest.

In other words, I still don’t have life figured out at 33. Cue surprise, shock, awe, and horror! 

hello-november

November is an exhilarating month with 2 trips home to VA for a board meeting and Thanksgiving, lots of JLN, Leadership Nashville, Wanderlust, Friendsgiving, ELECTION DAY, TEDxVanderbiltUniversity, Sparkle & Twang, Literary Gala for the Nashville Public Library Foundation, TNAchieves Mentor Training, work, and just general life activities.

Exhale!

I am exhilarated and exhausted from just reading that sentence.

What’s the plan to find a happy medium?

  • Plan my days.
  • Prep at night for the next day.
  • Do what’s important before what’s urgent.
  • Sleep by 11pm
  • Workout 3-4 times a week.
  • Drink Water –Put the Coca Cola down!
  • When presented with the option, always choose to go home.
  • Leave at least one night during the week in which I don’t have any post 5pm plans.
  • Be present in the exhilarating moments and don’t ignore the moments of exhaustion. The goal is to “be where my feet are” and always listen to my body.
  • Delegate, ask for help, and stay out of other people’s circus.
  • Show grace to myself when I mess up all of these pretty bullets.

When you see me, just know that this is how I’m feeling. Love me as I live my life on E.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Take a Look. It’s in a book.*

I earned two degrees of higher education, and when I say earned, y’all I sweated for six years for those coupons that hang on the wall of my office. I would ball up into a study cocoon with ridiculously large headphones in the study room of D2C, the basement of SWEM Library, classrooms in Morton and in my grad school home at #2 Fraternity Row where I did a surprising amount of writing papers and reading stacks on stacks of articles and books.

books 1

I take for granted all of the material that I was strongly encouraged to read during those years. I chose to be a Sociology major so I spent a great deal of time, in community with others, looking at the world through the lens of various social identities. I then went to a grad program that greatly valued diversity & inclusion which means I spent time digging even deeper into the Big 8. I had amazing professors and though I didn’t always enjoy those pages and pages of syllabi, I am now grateful for the depth and the challenge of my classroom education.

As I scroll through social media, watch the news,  and experience the viewpoints of others, I am constantly amazed at the level of ignorance people have when it comes to race and ethnicity in America. There’s so much well-intentioned, “I didn’t know.” “I wasn’t exposed to that.” “I’m colorblind.”  “We didn’t talk about this in my home or school.” “I didn’t grow up with people who are different from me.” “My parents/family members instilled these beliefs in me.”  I don’t want to harp on that because there’s a whole lot of things I don’t know about many identities. We’ve all got our bubble of truth. However, what I think we all need in this world is the gumption to go beyond our often over forgiven excuses of truth.

If you truly care and you want to know more and be an active part of creating a better environment for all people, then it would be helpful if you used your Google finger to lead you to material that will aid you in ways that will create internal growth and change.  Texts that can serve as a medium that will help you stock your toolkit with answers to the questions that are marinating in your head. This foundation will also help you start a conversation with someone in your life who’s open to chatting about the hard stuff — you know, the stuff you were probably told not to talk about at the dinner table.

Oftentime, we cite fear as being the reason that we don’t move towards learning and engagement. “What if I say the wrong thing?” “I don’t want to be called a racist.” The question becomes, do you care enough to face your fear? Ignorance isn’t bad, it just means that you don’t know and we all need to support each other in the fight to alleviate ignorance. This should be a collective goal, which is probably why I am passionate about my role as an educator.

If you do your homework, then I, as a person of color,  will feel as if you have an investment in our dialogue and therefore I’m more than willing to chat it up until we have somewhere else to be, but when people come to me at ground zero, after they just finished Googling how to catch a Pokemon, who JoJo sent home on the Bachelorette,  the latest on the Kim K, T.Swift, Kanye drama, or how to change the oil in their Toyota, then I really can’t be bothered. Because, in this day and age, when you want to know something, you look it up with a quickness. Be mindful that you have the same ability when it comes to race and ethnicity. Your “I don’t know.” has become a choice. Now you must deal with the consequences.

I didn’t have everything figured out about my racial identity when I entered the College of William & Mary in 2001. I had a lot of hang ups about my Blackness, my skintone, my not so great relationships with many of my African-American peers in high school, the constant state of being called an “Oreo” or being told that I “act like a white girl”. I was done with trying to fit into some mold of blackness that didn’t feel natural to me. I read “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison repeatedly. My Sociology classes and all of those unicorn professors helped me figure it out and not only did we have the best class conversations, but they gave me SO MUCH STUFF TO READ. I don’t think we could Google back in those days.

Your teachers never just told you the answers, you had a role to play in obtaining your education. Why would this be any different?

If you are wondering what you can do in these precarious times, if you have questions, if you’re just curious, then feed your mind. I don’t mind a good conversation but, I am not every black person–I can only tell you my truth.  Ahem! Newsflash! This stuff is tiring and emotional. It’s exhausting to be the Encyclopedia of Blackness.  To help me, help you, you’re going to have to help yourself.

In order to assist you on your journey, I made a list of some of those key texts that I read in college and graduate school. I also included a group of links below to curated book lists. I’m not going to lie, this stuff is heavy,  and I remember having my mind blown while reading some of these texts as an 18-22 year old.

History is taught differently depending on where you live. I grew up in Virginia, a southern former member of the Confederacy state,  45 minutes from Colonial Williamsburg, with Jamestown and Yorktown in close proximity, and a huge military presence, so there was a great deal of emphasis on the origin story of our country.  I had to learn, not until college,  that history books glossed over and lied about many things.

Q: Whose truth gets told?

A: The truth of those in power. “Until the lion learns to write, every story will always glorify the hunter.”

It’s difficult to live from a place of awareness and knowledge when the institutions you’ve trusted with your education aren’t providing you with various versions of the truth or lying by omission.

books 2

Gain some new perspective. Evaluate new truths. Refine your truth. Read for you and read for those you care about in this world. You owe it to your potential. Reflect on the versions of truth that have guided your life and be open to disruption. Be open to the dissonance that occurs when you dig deep into a new space. THEN, ask the questions festering in your mind. Those questions are simply waiting…waiting for you to gather the courage to ask.

Happy Reading!

 

Vanderbilt’s Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence created an entire diversity toolkit here: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/iicc/resources/diversity/

*Reading Rainbow was just EVERYTHING!

The Freshman Project

FP

 

A couple of years ago I did a five post series called, College, Ready or Not?, that focused on finances, making friends, going Greek, stress management, and the importance of listening to your instincts in the collegiate environment. This was great foreshadowing for the opportunity I had to contribute to The Freshman Project: A Collection of Practical and Clever Advice About The College Experience. This book is for college students diving into their first-year of college AND for those people in their life who serve as their advocates, allies, mentors, friends, teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, and champions.

After serving as a Student Affairs staff member on the campuses of Duke University and Vanderbilt University for the past 9 years, I know that parents/guardians always want to know, “How do I prepare my student for college?” This book can help you answer that question with pages of expert knowledge that help you have the conversations that matter most with your student.

Gift this book to a student and they can spend some time preparing for their next incredible chapter.

Topics include:

  • Survive Failure
  • Build Healthy Love Relationships
  • Pick a Major
  • Be a Beginner
  • Navigate Depression and Anxiety
  • Discover Leadership Opportunities
  • Honor the Differences
  • Sleep Smart
  • Consider Fraternity/Sorority Life

All of these topics are critical for an incoming college student to discuss with a caring individual in their life AND there are still many more topics in the book. Providing them with this information will provide a strong foundation that will help support them as they navigate their first-year of college.

I’m honored to have a chapter in the book “Discover Leadership Opportunities”. Erin Fischer of The Leadership and Training Studio put together an all-star roster of expert contributors who give you top notch nuggets of wisdom.

If you’re a student or a supporter of a student and you want  deeper insight into the collegiate experience while adding some tools to your toolbox to help you both be successful, then this book is for you.

Want a copy? I’d love to send you some purchase information.

Want to develop a program around the first-year college experience?

Email me at krystalnclark@gmail.com so that I can send you purchase information and we can begin planning something positive for you community.

 

Want to read my series, College, Ready or Not?

Part 1

Come Back to Calm

Inconvenient Friends

Go With Your Gut

Money, Too Much and Never Enough

The Greek Thing

 

Thanks for reading.

Krystal

 

Southern Charm

Charleston, SC was my 33rd birthday gift to myself. A new year, a new city. What a beautiful city it is. The houses, the beaches, the trees, the colors, the food–BEAUTIFUL! I took a walking tour and a carriage tour, ate in some of the most highly regarded restaurants, strolled up and down King Street, looked out over the place the East Bay, laid out on the beach, and well, cried my eyes out on a plantation tour.

See, Charleston is rather aesthetically beautiful but how it became the city that you see today is quite ugly. Now, we Southerners don’t talk about slavery at the dinner table but slave labor was the means by which Charleston secured its wealth. In the photos below you can see glimpses of slave cabins and the Old Slave Mart–the place where slaves were sold. So, in many ways I adored this city but in other ways it frightened me. As my friend Adrianne said, ” I even felt like the trees were trying to talk to me.” –Their moss hangs like secrets in the wind. If only they could talk, I wonder of all the horrors they’d have to share. Depending on who you spoke with would determine whether you were given a real history of the city or a glossed over version that belittles slavery to only a minuscule stain in human history. Others would tell you the nitty gritty and would enlighten you that reverberations of slavery still exist in the city today. My transition from charm to disgust occupied my entire trip. Now, please understand, that no one was mean to me on this adventure. In fact, everyone really lived up to Southern Hospitality and gave me nothing but Southern Charm. I laughed a great deal during this adventure and chatted up fantastic local characters. However, in the back of my mind as I walked down cobbled streets and passed by ancient million dollar exquisite homes, that in the foundation of this city was the blood, sweat, tears, and stolen freedom of my ancestors. Yes, we’ve come a long way though being in the home of the massacre that occurred at Mother Emanuel AME Church reminds me and hopefully you that we’ve still got a long way to go.

I am a woman of Virginia–went to College  in Colonial Williamsburg, my family is originally from North Carolina, and I lived in North Carolina for four years of my life. I now live in Tennessee and have done so since 2011. I’m a Tri Delta who is about to be President of the Junior League. I’m no stranger to the South but there was something about this city that smacked me in my face upon my arrival. Something deeper–its beauty makes it harder for me to digest its past. I love the South and abhor the South. I guess my Bitter Southerner is showing.

Yes, visit Charleston, but always seek a deeper understanding of where you have chosen to vacation. Love it, but embrace the realities of the space. Tour it, but tour it with empathy.

I Was Here.

“…it’s what remains when you’re gone.”

Legacy.

I recently began watching Game of Thrones and this definition was provided by one of the many Lords to my girl, Arya (LOVE HER).

I began thinking about legacy after having the privilege of attending a retirement party for my boss’ boss. He’s worked on the same campus for 40 years. 40 years! That’s not really a thing anymore.

At the party, as pictures of his time on campus flashed across the screen, people from across those 40 years showed up to shake his hand, give him a hug, deliver deeply thoughtful gifts, share with him a fun memory and a sincere thanks for the impact he had on their life. It was beautiful, emotional, and really, just perfect. Hell, even the deviled eggs had names!

His legacy was on full display in that room. He’s no longer coming to work on a daily basis but he doesn’t have to, because he has left an indelible imprint on the campus and those who have ever been in his presence.

I became a bit overwhelmed and pensive as I stewed over what people might have to say about me at the end of my career. At my retirement party, what, if anything, will be said about me and my work? Will I have made an impact? Been a gamechanger? Left people with words that their head and heart will not allow them to forget? Inspire people enough that they would cross state lines to give me a hug?

A day later I attended the Creative Souls Launch Party and in the front of the room stood a desk covered with paper that had the question, “What do you want your legacy to be?” scrawled in the center. I took up residency at that desk because, well, my feet hurt and I was hot. I soon found that not only was the chair comfortable BUT it was a great way to meet people and I was able to ponder this question throughout the evening. Here’s what I wrote:

legacy 3

Not sure if this is complete but I certainly would not be alarmed if this is what was said about me at a retirement party. As I sat at the desk the creative lot of women that approached the question all responded with a similar response, “Wow, that’s a hard question.” “I don’t know.” I’m going to have to think about this one.” “Hmph, that’s a heavy question.”

Yes, it is a hard question—as it should be.

Your legacy is an outcome. In education, we have learning outcomes and legacy could be called your “living outcome” or “working outcome”. When I’m planning a program, I start from developing a clear picture of what I want students to learn from this experience. I then build the program around those outcomes. This will guide the activities I choose, the speakers I invite to share, and the resources I provide during the program. The key takeaways have been planted into the curriculum. Legacy is something that you have to live into—once you’ve decided what you want your legacy to be (and it shall certainly change as you do) then you must act accordingly. Your actions and your words must be in alignment with the legacy you desire to leave behind for others.

Reflecting about your legacy adds a strong level of intentionality to your life. Live and work as you want to be remembered.

At the same event located at Storyville USA, I ran into this wall. “The key to immortality is to first live a life worth remembering.” –adding this to the to-do list.

legacy 1

Regardless of whether we intend to or not, we all leave a legacy behind. The opportunity and the responsibility we have in the present moment is to design the legacy we want instead of acquiring the default setting.

What do you want your legacy to be? What do you hope people say about you upon retirement or your departure from this life? Are you living into your legacy? If not, what actions do you need to take in order to do so?

Krystal

 

 

 

 

 

Keep Swimming.

The #CreativeSoulsChallenge, Day 5 is to blog about 3 ways that I stay motivated and I love chatting about motivation so this one’s a treat. I’ve been able to do two presentations on motivation this year at the College Panhellenic Conference and Vanderbilt’s The Leadership Studio.

I’m a fan of Daniel H. Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. As luck would have it, he provides 3 ways to motivate yourself and others that are a departure from our classic extrinsic motivators of money, food, and stuff. When you want people to do higher level work and be creative, you’re going to have cater to their intrinsic motivators–things that come from a personal and internal space.

A.M.P

Autonomy–Am I able to self direct my time, task, technique, and team?

Mastery– Am I getting better at something?

Purpose– Am I doing something meaningful and relevant for my life or the lives of others?

When I read this book, I could clearly reflect on moments when I’ve had a lapse in motivation, and how it was connected to one of these factors.

Drive new

A= Pink states that one of the “t’s” might be more important for you than the others. Perhaps you don’t care if someone tells you how to do something (technique) but you want to be able to choose when you do it (time). For me, time and team, are important to maintaining a high level of motivation.

Time= I don’t like anyone to be in charge of my time. Only my boss (sparingly) and my boss’ boss (sparingly) are able to put meetings on my calendar. If I feel like I don’t have control over my time, I’m not happy and I will not be motivated to get the work done.

Team= I  really like to choose my team. Inherited teams are hard for me.

Do you have autonomy over the areas that matter to you? How are you providing autonomy in these areas to those you supervise? Or are you micromanaging the motivation right out of the room?

M= I’m an achiever. I have to know that I’m getting better at the work I’m doing in my full-time job as well as my side hustles and community work. Improvement is highly motivating for me when I speak or host educational programs. Have I gotten better? Have we improved as a team? On top of that, for me to be truly motivated, I have to want to get better at the skills utilized for a project.

In general, people want to develop and grow as a person and a professional. How is this work helping them to move toward mastery? How are you helping people track their growth? Are you celebrating their improvement? Recognition is good.

P= The WHY is critically important for my motivation. What is the purpose of the project? Why does this task matter? How is it contributing to the bigger picture? “Because I said so” doesn’t work with me at the age of 33. I have to know if I’m making a difference. Knowing the Purpose really helps motivate me when I’m engaged in tasks that I don’t enjoy. I hate the financial pieces of my current job BUT I have to do those things so that we can continue offering great programs. Now, if I don’t find a WHY or if the WHY I find is ridiculous then I’ve totally discovered the root of my motivational hardship. If it doesn’t matter then stop doing it. No one has time or desire to do meaningless work.

People have to know that what they are doing matters. Why are we raising this money? Why are we painting this wall? Why are we stuffing these envelopes? Take them back to the WHY when motivation declines.

 

Those are my three ways that I stay motivated. I think through these elements before I begin a project and when I can sense myself hitting a wall, I tap back into this knowledge and do a quick assessment of what I’m missing. Perhaps I need to take more control over a certain area, remember how what I’m doing is helping me become better at a desired skillset, and remind myself that what I’m doing matters.

Do an A.M.P. assessment the next time you experience motivation issues.

Want to watch an animated version of the book? Go.

Daniel H. Pink’s TED Talk? Go.

Thanks for reading!

Krystal

 

All By Myself

Traveling alone has become a source of pleasure in my life. I look forward to escaping the day to day. I research and plan a true tourist experience. I like being a solo tourist and making my way around a city without a squad. Whether I’m ubering, walking, or metroing my way through Washington D.C. taking in the wonders of Seattle, melting at the beauty of the homes in Charleston, or taking a break from the crowd in Montreal there’s something really refreshing and fulfilling about going on a solo mission. Planning MY itinerary and whipping out my iPhone (I mean, how did people live without them?) to find my way to the next adventure is good for me. It’s taught me more about how resourceful and strong I am.  It’s a good time for reflection and creative projects. It’s also helped me realize that I can connect with just about anyone. I’m great at chatting up strangers and I actually enjoy meeting new people in each city. I don’t have to include anyone in my plans. I go where I want to, when I want to, and how I want to. I don’t have to have the dreaded. “What do you want to eat?” conversation and I don’t have to get pissed at someone for waking up late and ruining the whole day. No one has any expectations of me.  I’m a woman who didn’t ride a plane until she was 21 and just left the US for the first time last month. The fact that I can get to the airport and board the correct vessel, is quite a feat.

Mimosa at Poogan's

During my time in Charleston as sweet southern people asked me repeatedly, “Are you here alone?” “Did you travel by yourself?” “Do you do this often?” “Are you eating dinner here all by yourself?” to which I replied, “Yes!” only to hear their responses of, “Wow, that’s something. You’re brave.” “Good for you.” “I want to do that when I grow up.” “That sounds like a great idea.” I began to think more about the taboo nature of this to most people. Most people would never travel alone. It would never cross their mind NOT to call up their besties for a voyage to a new place. Most people would never saddle up to a bar and eat a delicious meal with no one to talk to but the bartender until the others sitting on nearby stools open up after a couple of cocktails.

I don’t know WHY I can do this. I do know that my mother has similar albeit local tendencies.

And now for the raw & real part, I also came to the realization that for me, this “going solo” mentality is really all about preparation for the rest of my life. I’m often putting myself in positions to be alone because I think that’s going to be my state of being until the day I am no longer walking this earth. In my mind, I will be alone. Not lonely, but alone, and really by alone, I mean, single. When one turns 33 in the South and is the most single person on the planet and doesn’t have children, one is inclined to think about this in a deep reflective manner. I’m NEVER in a relationship (well, I haven’t been since college) and the thought of kids give me a heart attack.  I want to get used to just being “me” without anyone else to help me or accompany me on life’s adventures. I want to get so good at being just “me” that I numb the pain of the absence of a romantic partner. I want it to become normal so that I don’t put in the emotional work wondering, “Where is he?” or waste my prayers on some person that may not even exist. So, I detach and I run off to places all by myself. Sometimes, this can be as simple as a movie, museum, fitness class, or a concert, but other times it’s a new city in a different state. It’s the purchase of 1 ticket and the reservation for a table of 1.

I want to be a person who is full of hope and faith in God’s plan for me. He may have called me to be single or He may have called me to be married with three children. His answer might be “Not Yet” and not “No”. This is always my loudest prayer. I work to hold on to my belief that all He’s doing is for my good. But sometimes, y ’all, I just want to accept what is oddly the easiest and hardest answer–I wasn’t meant to be a married woman and I wasn’t chosen to be a mother. By just grappling with that notion, I find it easy to throw myself into individual pursuits. If this is the way it’s going to be then I must embrace it and I must celebrate it. I must own the position of falling in love with myself because I’m not sure that anyone else will ever want the job.

Me at the Beach

Yes, I understand how negative and messed up this might sound but this solo act business has become a coping mechanism to deal with my sometimes tear inducing fear of never again experiencing romantic love. Instead of doing something about my single state ( I don’t know what to do.) I just run from it. That kid thing I’m still REALLY unsure about at this time but having a person, my person, would be welcomed.

So, yeah, traveling alone is fun, but it’s much deeper than that for me.