“I’m going through changes. How do I let you go? // My MIND is going through changes (Going through some changes)// And I can’t let you go…“ – Changes, Ledisi

The cold, dismal weather called for a lazy afternoon, so I answered. Zadie Smith’s debut novel (which I hadn’t read yet), White Teeth, kept me company for the moment as I curled up on my two-cushioned slate gray microfiber sofa beneath my quilted coral colored blanket. A few chapters in and I was intrigued, but I was over it. I felt like watching a good movie instead, so Netflix was the obvious choice.

None of the top-rated films caught my attention so I decided to check out the top-trending series’ instead. 13 Reasons Why – “Ahhh this is the show that those cliquey, sorority bitches [that I used to work with] used to rave about in high-pitched voices [that annoyed the FUCK out of me on a daily basis]”, I thought to myself. The only thing that I knew about this show was that it was relatively new to Netflix and the premise was about a teenage girl that made audio tapes specifying thirteen reasons why she decided to committed suicide. Morbid right? I know, but I hit play with the intention of only watching one episode to see if it pulled me in. It did – and just like that my lazy afternoon turned into a “Netflix & Chill” afternoon… and evening.

I finished the series over the course of the next few days and wound up loving it – the second season can’t come soon enough. But, this post isn’t about that show – at least not directly. I bought the show up because it inadvertently became the inspiration for this blog post, as it made me think about my own life. “13 Reasons Why…. 13 Reasons Why…. I want to make my own list of reasons why – but what’s my WHY? 2017! – The list will be about how 2017 has changed my life”.  So, in honor of my birthday (my personal New Year’s Day) here are 13 Reasons Why 2017 has changed my life for the better.

********

#1 Friendship

I wasn’t always a social butterfly. In fact I was incredibly shy as a little girl and teen. However, my sarcastic and straight-no-chaser personality eventually garnered me countless acquaintances and associates, but only a small solid group of people that I consider my actual friends. I don’t usually let any and everyone in, but this year was different.

As I was walked around Mordor (aka my former job) carrying the weight of “the ring” (being a Black woman in a sea of White – specifically one of the mere 2% of Black employees within the company) with crazy ass beasts (former colleagues) looming over me with nefarious intentions, I found my Sam. Actually I found several Sams. If you’ve never seen the fantasy film The Lord of the Rings my previous analogy will make zero sense to you. However, if you have then you know exactly what I’m referring to. Sam stuck with Frodo (me) and equipped him with words of encouragement, support, and positive vibes to keep his sanity in tact as he overcame arduous and insurmountable obstacles.

While I no longer have ties to Mordor (I no longer work there – thank God for small favors), I still have the irreplaceable friendships that I forged while there.  These friendships serve as my silver lining and as a reminder that even in your darkest hour, beams if light always shine through when needed most. 

Which leads me to my next item on the list. When you can’t seem to get a hold on things, you know, when shit starts spiraling out of control and you don’t know which direction to go in that’s when you must learn to implement…

#2 Self-Care

Self-care is doing something that fortifies, rejuvenates, and inspires YOUR well-being – and it’s completely subjective. What works for some might not work for you, so you may have to try a few things out before you settle into your own self-care practice.

I decided to start with something that I was told about months prior, but never tried – guided meditation. I started it in Q4 (yes, I speak in quarters, blame it on my Corporate background) of 2016 and it literally saved my life. I was frazzled, anxious (AF), and constantly on edge because of a job – a job that was filled with imposter syndrome (trying to be someone that you’re not in order to “fit in” with your environment filled with incredibly intelligent people) – and it was getting to me. Something had to give, so I decided to give meditation a shot  after hearing about the many benefits of it. Insight Timer was the recommended app for newbies so that’s where I begun.

I figured the best time to start this new self-care practice was first thing in the morning because statistically your day is shaped within the first 30 minutes of it.  That’s right – your mood for the rest of the day is set within the first 30 minutes of you waking up.  What better way to start your day?  I set my alarm at 6:30 am to wake up and listen to a zen (wo)man help me fix what felt like the most fucked up life on planet Earth. Initially I didn’t buy into it – especially considering that I was never a fan of traditional Yoga and meditation, but I was determined to make it work. Besides, what did I have to lose?

For weeks I put my headphones in my ears, closed my eyes, and laid on my back as I listened to some rando tell me what to do for 5 minutes (starting off with short sessions is ideal). “Clear your mind. Become one with the water. Your arms are no longer attached to your body, they are free as you need to be.” – yada, yada, yada.  IT DID NOT WORK! I went from frazzled to frustrated and I wanted to give up, but I didn’t and I glad.  Eventually, out of nowhere (I’d say about a month in) I FELT a difference. I started to feel centered and was able to easily identify with whatever the guide spoke of.

When I got to the point of figuratively levitating off my pillow-topped full-size mattress with ease the addiction set in. The “high” of feeling weightless kept me going back for more. 5 minute sessions turned to 15. 15 minute sessions turned to 30. At times I would get so deep into it that I’d actually fall asleep (this happened twice before I started setting a second alarm to wake me up for work). The meditation itself was good, but the after effects were amazing. I noticed that I was able to deflect toxic people and their bullshit a lot easier, I cared less and less about asinine fuck-shit and people that operated on low frequencies, my sleep improved (I slept deeper and more restfully), and I became A LOT more patient and tolerant of things that used to drive me crazy.

If you’ve never tried guided-meditation or have been thinking about giving it a try, please try it for one month. Let me know how your body and mood change after adding this self-care practice to your daily/weekly/monthly regimen.

You know what though, sometimes all the self-care in the world can’t hold a candle to cutting toxic shot out of your life. Sometimes you just have to say…

#3 Good-bye

I’ve never been one to sever ties completely from a person or a thing unless I deemed it absolutely necessary (i.e. parting ways from abusive people (including my very own emotionally and verbally abusive brother) crazy once-upon-a-time friends, my car note (when I moved from Queens to Brooklyn) and jobs that were no good for my well-being . Parting ways from a place that most would consider their dream job was way too easy for me. On my last day I literally ran out of that place like I’d just escaped a hostage situation.   In actuality I did – my sanity had been held captive for one year by a real life cult that kept telling their followers to “Drink the Kool-Aid”. FUCK THAT. Who the hell likes Kool-Aid anyway? It’s full of sugar, artificial flavors, and artificial colors that fuck up your insides. Sure it tastes good going down, but the long-term effects are nothing but detrimental to your health. Saying good-bye to low frequency operating sheeple (sheep that blindly follow) was one of the best things that happened to me this year.

The tipping point? Delayed periods and hair loss due to stress. Eventually my period became regulated again (because I was on the pill), but my hair suffered. First I said good-bye to the sides and back of my hair by cutting into a racy new haircut then I decided to do something a bit more drastic because I was ready for a complete change. I summoned the courage, called my barber and told him that I was ready to…

#4 Cut

Cut it, cut it, cut it…” (in my best O.T Genasis voice). What’s the saying, “A woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” or something like that. That’s exactly how I felt when my barber (D) made a house call to my apartment with his clippers and other barber utensils. I sat on my brown & cream zebra patterned stool while staring at my myself in my IKEA espresso-wood framed body mirror. I was nervous, but I knew that I was ready.

My sister had suggested that I shave my hair off years ago, but I didn’t have the nerve. Sure I’d worn pixie cuts and other super short hairdos, but I’d never took clippers to my entire head. How would I look? Would I hate it? Would it suit me? Only way to find out… I took a deep breath in and then out. Once more – this time an even deeper inhale and exhale. I looked in the mirror once more – staring intensely at the reflection of my own eyes then told D to cut it.

I chose to keep my eyes closed until the initial cut (all hair was cut off, but my hairline wasn’t defined yet) was complete and when it was I opened them up staring at myself in shock. I really did it!  I smiled and started to rub my head – I guess in a way to start familiarizing myself with this new look.  D kept on going, finely defining my hairline and finishing the look with a side part.  I looked at myself again and fell in love right away. Cutting all of my hair off did what saying good-bye hadn’t. It was a catharsis that I didn’t know my SOUL needed. The constant rubbing of my damn near bald head reminded me of all that I’d overcome in Q1 & Q2 of this year: Incessant and outright disrespect at work, emotional highs and lows from wondering WTF I was doing with my life and being emotionally drained by my ex-boyfriend.  

My new haircut would eventually be responsible for my attitude change. It was time that I stopped dimming my own light and instead started living my life the way that we should all live it…

#5 Unapologetic

Something happens when you reinvent yourself – whether through weight loss, a new wardrobe, or my personal favorite (and least expensive option) – changing your hairstyle. “Short hair, don’t care” is a thing honey, you hear me?  Reinvention spawns a newfound confidence that awakens your spirit and makes you feel unstoppable. You start living life on your terms and no longer allow any ONE or any THING disturb your new groove.

Your friends are sure to take notice and will either admire it (as mine did) or will tell you that the “new you” is different (usually indicating that they will take some time adjusting to your new level of bad-assery). Not only do YOU and your friends notice the change, but so do complete strangers. The attention that I’ve received from dudes has been exceptional. When I’m not being paid a compliment from men (of all ethnicities), I’m receiving an outpouring of love from women.  I could attribute the attention to my hairstyle/face or I could attribute it to my entire package – newfound confidence and living the most authentic life that I’ve ever lived.

Living my life authentically has allowed me the courage to tap into something that I’ve been sitting on for years. I felt the need to need to showcase my thoughts, my personality, and my genuineness. I knew it was time to…

#6 Create

You know this blog is my baby right? I put a lot of thought, work, and energy into creating this website because I wanted to create something both aesthetically pleasing and thought provoking. I wanted to create a space that made visitors feel like they were having a full on conversation with me – sitting across from me in my living room as we sip on wine and laugh at my fuckboy woes & dating debacles, reminisce about amazing domestic and international travel stories,  salivate over the meals that I’ve consumed while dining out, and get aroused while listening to my stories about sex and sensuality.

The work that’s gone into re-launching Unicorn in BK has been THE most satisfying things of this year. Taking a chance and following my passion has made me feel alive. Through my research I’ve learned that a good way to attract new followers is by visually pleasing them. Needless to say I had to get reacquainted with…

#7 Photography

I started 2017 off with a photo walk through Bushwick, specifically at the Bushwick Collective with my former lover and self-taught photographer, *Keith (his real name has been changed to protect his identity), literally. It was January 1st of this year and Keith & I had just started dating. I thought his proposal to go out and shoot murals in this artsy area of Brooklyn while learning how to use the manual settings on my DSLR Canon T3 (and 18-55mm lens that it came with) was both romantic and useful.  I learned about lighting, angles, and how to pretty much capture imagery the way that I wanted – by making adjustments and playing around with different lenses.  Aside from using the camera, I’ve also learned that photography is an expensive ass hobby – these lenses don’t come cheap!

Neighborhood Brownstone shot by me on my Canon T3

Ever since that day I’ve been practicing my newbie skills while developing a newfound appreciation for the things that I’m constantly surrounded by – art, brownstones, people, architecture, animals, dilapidated buildings, etc – I see things through a “new lens” and find beauty in the conventional and non-conventional. This hobby has been my “stop-and-smell-the-roses” moment – regularly reminding me to pause for the small things instead of rushing and letting life pass me by.

When I wasn’t busy playing with my camera I was busy posing in front of it and other cameras.  I began to learn how to pose and slowly became a psuedo…

#8 Model

How the hell do you smize with your eyes anyway Tyra Banks? Way before America’s Next Top Model was on the scene I used to be fascinated by the modeling industry. I was intrigued by the fashion and the way the models worked the camera.  I wanted to do it – model, but never tried because when I was younger I didn’t have the “model” look per se. I was awkward (I wore braces from age 12 – 16 because I sucked my thumb), I was tall (5’7”),  skinny, and shapeless (I didn’t develop until the tail end of my teenage years), and unaware of my developing beauty. As a result, I was super shy and didn’t think of myself as the modeling type (despite being named after one – an Italian Model that is).

As the years went by I matured, the awkwardness wore off and I embraced my femininity. I developed a keen sense of style that worked for me and started to own my look. This lead to me not only being asked to participate in fashion shows (mainly for school functions, and by friends & family), but to also pose for the camera.

This year was probably the first time in my life that I actually fell in love with being a “pseudo-model” as I call it. I’ve worked with photographers that are heavily respected in the entertainment industry as well as photographers that have a keen eye for capturing objects and people in the most favorable way possible. Seeing myself in these edited and unedited pictures blew my own damn mind. The collection of professional photos that I’ve taken this year has become a tangible reminder of how much I’ve grown. I’m in the process of redecorating my living room and plan to frame quite a few of them so I can continue to fall in…

#9 Love

I thought my heart was irreparable after that break up.  Not my most recent one, the one that took place years ago.  I’d found my soul mate and we became one. I went from curving him (the act of denying a guy a fair chance at dating you whatever reason – he isn’t your type, he has a bad rep, or he’s just a fuckboy) to loving him.  He won me over with his wit, humor, and brilliance (I’m a sucker for humor and intelligence). Before I knew it we were living together and he was asking my father for my hand in marriage. Then we broke up. He moved out. He got with a rebound chick and got her pregnant. Being the stand up guy that he was, he married her and willingly signed up for a lifetime of unhappiness.  It was over and I was broken.

I closed my heart up to men after him. Sure I dated, but no one gained access to the fortress where I locked my heart up for protection purposes. Dude after dude told me I was guarded and hard to get to know. Good – they didn’t need to see that side of me anyway. Keeping a wall up became my defense mechanism from heartache, but it got old. I wanted to find someone worth making me let my guard down.

I found him in the most unconventional place this year, on www.match.com. We connected instantly – he was stylish, attractive, funny, adventurous, sexy, witty, ambitious, and kind. SO what happened? I wrote about him extensively in Crushed (https://unicorninbk.com/crushed/) and detailed our whirlwind romance – the highs and lows and lessons learned after dating him. When things didn’t work out I had one option – to move on. There was no point in trying to hold onto someone that no longer gave me what I deserved. I ended things a few months ago and went through the motions; sadness, despair, and loneliness. At times I started to feel like I’d hit rock…

#10 Bottom

WTF could I actually KEEP in my life? After all these years of solitude and keeping my heart locked up I opened up, but the recipient didn’t reciprocate my love. Do you know how shitty that feels? You entrust someone with your most prized possession (second to your vagina – at least in my opinion) and they take it for granted. What was the point of trying? I fell into a bit of a depression because I felt undesired by him and defeated by my last job. Where was my return on investment (ROI)? Where was my happy ending?

I stopped the pity party and decided to do that thing that has always helped boost my mood – I started working out.  When I felt like I had nothing special going on in my life,  I knew that I could count on my almost daily workout at the nearby Blink Fitness to look boost my morale. Being consistent at one thing in my life (eating right and working out) started to make me feel good again. Once I committed to this new lifestyle change I received my ROI – I started to see physical changes. At my peak, I lost a total of 17 pounds and all of my clothes fit me better. My stomach went down, my arms became slender, my thighs were smaller, and my butt poked out a bit more (squats REALLY do work when you’re consistent with them) – BITCH I was slim THICK. Not only did I look good, but I FELT good – and to me that was way more important that any physical change.

It’s amazing how being consistent in one aspect of your life can transfer over to other aspects of it. Changing my body heightened my desire to change the things that I didn’t like – like the idea of working a 9-5 until retirement.   What did those other bloggers have that I didn’t? Nothing more than sheer will to showcase themselves, consistency, and hard work ethic. I wanted in, so I started to strategically research blogging and read up on how respected bloggers found a way to turn their side hustle into their main hustle.

Had I not hit what I thought was rock bottom I probably would’ve still be miserable at work and in a dead-end relationship with an emotional vampire. Falling into this abysmal place taught me a valuable lesson – sometimes rock bottom isn’t concrete, it’s a trampoline. It propels you upward and onward in ways that are unfathomable. I never would’ve thought that my words and photos would inspire complete strangers, but they are.

If I haven’t learned anything this year I’ve learned that the most important thing to do is to simply do what is in your heart. You get one life, this ain’t no dress rehearsal B. Take and chance and jump into your passion. Allow your heart to lead as you…

#11 Follow

They say “Purpose is one hell of an alarm clock” – and I believe it. I now wake up at 4:45 am four days a week with two goals – to get my AM workout in and to think about the content that I wish to create for this blog. My daily goal is to inspire, motivate, and provide an escape from the hum drum – encouraging readers to come back again and again.

Following my heart lead me to The Gothamist Writers Workshop (https://www.writingclasses.com/ – a well known writing workshop in NYC for new and skilled writers that wish to learn about way to master their craft) earlier this year.  I signed up for a creative writing class and learned how to fine tune mt natural writing abilities.  I learned how to write more thoroughly yet concisely, how to use my words to paint vivid imagery, and I discovered what my style of writing is – conversational/humor-filled/sarcastic. Not only did this class help me get over my writer’s block, but it also inspired me to keep going – even when I feel like what I was writing wasn’t strong or prolific enough. All writers start out bad, but consistency and dedication makes them better.

I have no idea where this blogging thing is going to lead me, but I feel good whenever I write on it. I no longer look at my life as one of monotony. I view work as a job, but writing as my career. I have no doubt that this is what I am supposed to be doing because I feel alive doing it. I think boldly and vividly about the life that I want and I know that writing is going to be the bridge to get me to it. “If no one has said ‘Who do you think you are? What are you crazy? Are you sure that’s a good idea?’ then perhaps you’re not thinking boldly enough.” – Brendon Burchard.

I took a screenshot of that quote weeks ago and realized just how true it was. Why think small? Why dim your own light to play down to the basic people around you too afraid to follow their own damn dreams? For the first time in my life I not only feel like I am walking in my purpose, but I also…

#12 Believe

I wholeheartedly believe in my purpose. Another quote comes to mind – “Sometimes it takes 10 years for that one year that will change your life”. 2017 has hands down been that year of change for me. My dreams now scare me. I went from thinking small to thinking BIG and it’s all because I started to believe in myself. I believe in my resilience, I believe in my ability to manifest and will things into existence, I believe in my commitment to change things in my life that I have control over, and I believe in love again.

This year has made me appreciate this thing called life that much more and I didn’t need the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve to make me realize that. As I mentioned before, my annual New Year’s Day starts on my …

#13 Birthday

Fireside with a Bellini @ Body by Brooklyn

I spent my birthday in solitude, just the way that I wanted to. A 90-minute Swedish Massage at Body by Brooklyn (a spa located in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn), followed by a solo trip to BAM Rose Cinemas to see the latest work by one of my favorite storytellers/filmmakers/directors – Guillermo Del Toro. The Shape of Water is a film about friendship, love, and taking chances. I cried, I smiled and I laughed. When the lights came on (at the conclusion of the film) the other movie goers (mostly 60+) started to clap and I joined in. It’s rare that a film makes you feel that good, but Guillermo’s movies ALWAYS do this.  If this film isn’t on your list – PLEASE add it.  It’s amazing in every way.

I wrapped up my birthday with take out (turkey lasagna from one of my favorite neighborhood eateries, Colador Cafe) and reflection. Thankful that I made it another year. I have a feeling that the new year will be the best one yet – full of love, writing opportunities, and continued development in all aspects of my life and I cannot wait!

Stay Wild,

Marissa C.