Baby W’s

Why is it January 2021 when it’s still March?

This entire past year was a long ass extension of one day. March 17th, 2020. At least where I’m at, since other parts of the world implemented their lockdowns on different dates.

I guess the question that begs asking is:

What the fuck did I do in 2020?

A whole ass 2020 came and done went, and what do I really have to show of myself, for myself??

I was having this conversation with one of my fri-ents.

FRI-ENT (n.)

[pronounced fry-ent]

A friend who is also a client.

-ME, Duh

Something compelled me to bring up the topic and low and behold she too was experiencing the same sense of FML-FOMO that I was just days before.

Every year I begrudgingly reflect back to mine some things that I am proud of and every year it’s not enough. In, like, a super cruel self-deprecating way and not in an “That’s admirable of you to have such high expectations of yourself,” kind of way.

We gotta be able to celebrate our small victories. Like I shimmy about in the first ever episode of Two Grown (her web series for those who don’t know). That was 4 years ago. And for some reason, fast forward to now and I seldom allow myself to do so IRL.

All of the memes and #inspo on the gram claiming “There’s no excuse to not be productive,” during the worst global health crisis of our lifetime were, well, inspiring but in overwhelming quantities, pretty frickin’ toxic too. Like a form of cyber-bullying.

You can’t expect everyone to have the same experience during something like this. Everyone had to change, everyone had to adapt almost overnight to an entirely different way of operating in the same world they’ve always inhabited, only drastically different. When order is disrupted in any system, there are consequences, observable or not.

If you are someone who thrives off of people’s energies – like someone I know who is me – being at home all day can start to feel imprisoning. I have a love-hate relationship with isolation. Sometimes it can be beneficial when I need to get work done, but too much of it at once can be no bueno for the mente.

Mind you, I am lucky, SO damn lucky to even have a home to be able to stay home at. And knowing that makes me feel guilty for having the ovaries to complain to begin with.

Okay, we’ll get to perspective later on, but the point is, I can be paralyzingly hard on myself. I can beat myself to submission, to myself. It’s no nice, Alana! It’s no nice!

I remember a lovely woman I’ve had the pleasure of exchanging energy with telling me once that whenever you want to beat yourself up, or whenever you catch yourself saying something unkind to your mind (e.g. “You dumb bitch! you can’t even boil an egg right!”), imagine you’re saying it to your 3-year-old self instead.

If you wouldn’t say it to them, you shouldn’t be saying it to yourself. Imagine every time you say something unkind to yourself that you are hitting that little boy or girl over the head with a hammer, punishing them for just being themselves.

Fuckin’ sad, right?! I don’t wanna beat little me with a hammer! She’s too frickin’ cute!

So, in order to combat being a dick to yourself, we gotta celebrate our W’s. Our wins. Big and small, large and tall, all y’all have a reason to be proud of yourselves this year.

Circling back to my chat with my fri-ent, after transitioning away from the conversation for several minutes, I instinctively pinged back with:

“What if the silver lining for us this year is that we let ourselves do less?”

Under normal circumstances, I would have been running around all over the city everyday, getting my 10,000 steps in by 9AM, which is great, but a stark contrast to rolling out of my bed and onto ZOOM for work. I would have been juggling 8482085 different projects and would have been confident that the worst possible outcome was in store for all 8482085 of them. Mild exaggeration, yes. But the belief. The anxiety. The chaos. Not a stretch.

So this year. Yes. I allowed myself to do less. Even though it was uncomfortable. And that, my friends, is growth.

She thanked me for pointing that out.

Event though, yes I did do less, 2020 still had some small wins to be celebrated.

Baby W’s, if you will:

  1. Weekly voice lessons.

This is gonna require backstory. Mostly because I want to indulge in the nostalgia.

When I was a kid I would lock myself in my room and just sing. For hours. I would blast tunes from any of the following: Christina, Jessica, Selena, Alannis, The Spice Girls, TLC, Alicia Keys, Janet Jackson, Destiny’s Child, Pink to name a few, and just let my voice ring, vibrating through my body, and sometimes, the walls. Actually, if I wasn’t occupied with homework, an ice skating lesson, or slaying my classmates in Latin Bees (like a spelling bee, but with conjugations in Latin), I was singing.

In 5th grade, my girlfriends and I would sing the entire Spice Girls discography at recess – I was Sporty, okurr – and if you were lucky enough to get a ticket that I diligently printed using my MacIntosh desktop computer, you could attend our cover band’s concert. We had the choreo down and everything, bih, don’t play, girl power all day, okay?!

In hindsight, singing was a coping mechanism for me. It still is. At any of the 34830248 restaurant jobs I’ve had, if I wasn’t uttering obscenities under my breath about my customers (Ever seen Waiting? Think the short crazy one whose real name is Alanna) or berating a line cook about the actual definition of “two minutes”, I was singing.

Being relaxed is not my default setting. Keeping calm is not my natural jam. In order to sing…you have to be calm, or else your throat gets tight and you sound like caca! So for me, in order to sit the fuck down (metaphorically speaking) the cue would be anxiety, the habit would be singing, and the effect would be calm…albeit temporarily.

As a kid, you’re fearless and have little regard for what anyone tells you you can or can’t do. That changed somewhere along the way. How sad it is to feel like you’re not good enough for a thing you love.

Since April, I have taken a private lesson almost every single week. That’s actually a huge win for my ass. I usually don’t let myself do anything past two consecutive weeks because I seldom allow myself the grace to be a beginner or to make “mistakes”. I put mistakes in quote because I don’t believe in them. I believe we make choices which can lead to favorable or unfavorable outcomes, but we don’t know that ahead of time. If mistakes can be only be identified based on the consequence, then at the root of it, a mistake was simply a decision we made before we could have known better. When you think about it that way, the term mistake can almost seem dehumanizing. I digress.

“Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”

Miles Davis

My points is, I can have patience and compassion for others all damn day, but little reserves for myself.

My weekly lesson was one of my only non-negotiable priorities to execute during this time. In giving myself permission to be present in those lessons, instead of obsessing over getting it “right”, I have a newfound awareness of my voice. I’ve learned so much, most importantly, how to produce sound in a healthy way. I’m excited to see where I’ll go from here.

I’m proud I love me enough to have given myself this gift.

Next on the list…

  1. Teletherapy.

Talk about a gift. What a blessing consistently speaking with a mental health professional during this time has been.

I had some “stuff” resurface in recent months, as I’d mentioned in my last post. It was my impetus for hitting up a support hotline. And on the other side of that line was an angel who asked if I was interested in counseling. I had a follow-up call a couple days later. And the rest is herstory. While my therapist is a man, this is my story. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been seeing him weekly ever since. I’m about 4 months in. That shit is a major win.

The benefits of therapy are immeasurable, truly. Having a skilled mental health practitioner objectively assess your experiences, help validate feelings that you don’t think you should be experiencing is literally a life saver.

It’s easy to allow ourselves to tell others that it’s okay not to be okay, but when it comes to ourselves we tend to have less leniency, less compassion, which is kind of the thesis of this whole thing, so let’s get outta hea. Before we do, I should let you know that you can always reach out to me if you want to know more about my experience with my thera-gift.

Oh ma God, I’m on a roll inventing these words that will only ever exist within the context of this blog….

  1. Having had any work ethic at all.

More backstory required, sans nostalgia.

I began working for myself as an independent personal trainer in the third quarter of 2019. I had minimal clients and no idea how I was going to convert enough to make a livable income, but also knew I could figure it out.

By February 2020 I closed just enough business that projected me to reach my goal-YTD income so long as my clients were consistent.

By mid-March 2020 I lost about three-quarters of my business due to COVID.

The first couple of weeks I wasn’t too concerned, but as the light at the end of the quarantined tunnel seemed to get further and further away, the more I began to panic.

Wtf am I gonna do?

To be transparent, just for context of my many blessings, I could have easily done absolutely nothing with this time, this worm hole we’ve been squirming through for the past 10 months. Instead, I reached out to my personal training clients who had one-by-one been informing me that their facilities were closing and we’d have to press pause on training, and offered the option to do virtual sessions.

I have never coveted a completely digital work environment existence. Not never.

Call me old fashioned, but I prefer FTF human interaction. FTF is shorthand for face-to-face. Anyone else work for a staffing firm for 6 months one time?

I’m entitled. If I want to do things a specific way, in this case, the only way that I was used to, then I can be pretty resistant to being willing to change, at first. I mean, we’re creatures that thrive off of survival instincts. We can obviously adapt, but business as usual is always ideal. Cuz ya know. Consequences, aka more work! In my case, having to make a new platform, start sending more email blasts, having to lean further into my social media networks for prospecting clients, which is something I’d been strictly averse to pre-pandemic, and every other facet of a strictly online business that I had not been previously accustomed to.

So I adapted! I did the things I did not want to do. And slowly but surely I got more and more clients. Do I want more? Of course. I’m Alana “More” Johnson. It’s a Goddamn disease.

But to accumulate a nice chunk of new business in the midst of a pandemonium-ic is – you guessed it! – a gift. It’s also beneficial to know that I’m needed. Well, the services I provide are. And that people want to need them from me? Like. What? That’s awesome.

Then I took it a step further and started to teach classes on Zoom and, once the summer hit, I co-coached an outdoor bootcamp! I never taught classes in an anywhere in the era B.C.Before Corona.

I’ve had so many lovely people show up week after week for months to take classes both with me and my partner in-person, as well as from home. Through these self-motivated endeavors, I reconnected with friends from all chapters of my life. High school friends – where are all my Paladins at?! – college friends, my sorority sisters, family, you name it. On Zoom I’ve been able to work with people all over the country, and sometimes the world!! How cool is that!? I’ve taught at least 100 classes by now. I couldn’t tell you the last time I did one hundred anythings.

Consistency for the win!!!!

  1. Virtual shows.

Prior to Rona’s rude (talk about an understatement) arrival, I’d also been performing on stage with the ladies of The HERlarious Show produced by Rachel La Loca. Given the resilient nature of all the womxn involved in the group, there was no question, the show had must go on.

I’m so grateful I got to be a part of two completely virtual installments of The HERlarious Show, which you can (and should) watch on the YouTube. Might as well while you’re here…No pressure.

::Gives mad side-eye to the screen::

  1. Spending hella quality time with my mother.

I quarantined at home with Ma Dukes. I’d also been living with her in the absence of a global pandemic, like any responsible highly functional adultperson, but that’s not the point.

My mother and I have not spent this much time together since I was an actual baby, and not a grown up baby. The reality is that we’ll probably never spend this much time together again.

Love you, Ma ❤

And that’s really it. And that’s really enough.

I did work I’ve been avoiding. I’ve come to terms with uncomfortable truths. I’ve mostly been alone and within that space, I’ve returned to me.

The little girl who would belt her heart out in her bedroom as a means of feeling peace, joy and freedom.

The Corona-coaster is still on a hunnid, and I doubt I’m the only one who feels that way.

It’s still gonna take some time, but looking back, I’m glad I’ve also been taking mine.

Here’s to another year of progress over perfection.

Thank you for riding with me & God bless.

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