My Black Girl Magic Didn't Expire: Finding my life groove after 40
Actually after 44 but who’s counting? The wonderful thing about life is the mere act of being awakened each day signifies that you’re blessed and you have options. This means you have the choice and the ability to start anew each day…this day.
No matter what has occurred to date, what cards you’ve been dealt in life, how slow the journey to finding your true calling has been or the number of missteps you have taken you can overcome whatever it is and continue to work towards your greater. I know because I have, I can and I am.
When people ask me how I'm doing I often find myself saying "God woke me up this morning, I can figure the rest out". My response isn’t necessarily related to anything being wrong but the realization that I could make my day and my life whatever I wanted it to be no matter what. I finally took this sentiment to heart and stopped taking my dash for granted and figured it out. Thanks to Evernote, one of my favorite can’t live without apps, I see this near mid-life crisis and questioning of “what is my original intent” climaxed around July 2014. I was plenty unhappy and unfulfilled and I knew something had to give. I didn’t know what I wanted specifically but I knew FOR SURE it was not the life I was experiencing. It was at that time I realized in an emotionally painful way that I was not intentionally minding my dash (the years between my birth date and my eventual homegoing). I decided enough was enough and that I had to GET BACK TO ME. I took the challenge and dove in head first.
However, a bigger problem presented itself from that realization… who the hell was ME? I didn’t feel like I was living an intentional life. The things I used to do to serve and be involved in the community I was not doing and my professional work was becoming more unfulfilling every day. A few years earlier a downward spiral of feeling completely lost occurred so I wasn’t in the best position to answer the question of “who am I” but I just knew that God had a larger calling on my life. At that time it felt as if I was continuing on this downward spiral path with no ability to catch myself or turn it around. I felt as if I was on the outside of my own life looking in, too emotionally paralyzed to do anything about it. Yes there were clues, pieces of the puzzle that was my life in place but I wasn't recognizing enough pieces to connect and definitively say “this is who I am, this is what I should be doing with my life”. Looking back I think I was in more of a victim/poor me posture than a confident/you've got to figure this shit out frame of mind. In that poor me posture I couldn't see the silver lining or the forest from the trees. All I saw was one challenge after another and what I mistakenly perceived to be failures instead of looking closer for the bright side. The "how" is the bright side because there is always a how. At the time I was clueless and lost trying to keep it together for my daughter’s sake as I wanted her to see a strong woman in her mother. I was strong enough to pretend to be strong when I needed to be but I was losing it inside because I just knew there had to be more to life than what I was experiencing at the time.
I couldn’t put my finger on it then but I knew I was playing small with my life. I was smart, a go-getter, helpful (to a fault at times), ambitious but I was very slow to react to my then uncertain and chaotic life which lacked intentionality. When I saw the downward spiral about to occur and gaining in speed, I didn't pivot. When I finally decided to pivot, it was too late so as it always does, life happened. I hit the bottom of the valley slowing and unassuredly climbing my way back up but at least no longer drowning. I was living a life by default and not MY life by design. I was forever grateful for the means to pay my bills and to make ends meet to care for my daughter simply because I had just overcome a time where the ends couldn't even see each other let alone meet. Because of family, friends, God's angels and a whole lot of gumption I got through it. There was another layer to my gratitude for having the job...I hated the job I was waayyyyy over qualified for that saved my sanity and got me back on track financially. Yes a paycheck or a title can make ends meet or provide things but a paycheck does not necessarily translate to fulfillment, happiness or wealth, all of which I believe are better markers of success. I was smart enough to know the direction I had previously chosen to take my life wasn't the way forward. I remembered vividly becoming frozen in fear and frustration. My unintentional life cost me financially, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and humbled me greatly. Almost a decade prior to my writing this, at the age of 35, #blackgirlmagic wasn’t a thing however IF it was, I knew I did not feel as if I had it. Somewhere deep down I felt I would not rest until I found it.
When I say “it”, I mean I had to find me. I had to get back to me at all costs. It took some serious soul searching, candor, focus and honesty to figure out who I authentically am and what my fulfilled life looks like on my terms. I knew the journey would be disruptive as a mother, significant other, employee, family member and friend but there was no other way. While I was able to compromise, I was not willing to sacrifice my life for the contentedness of myself or others. In the words of Lisa Nichols, I was not willing to ask permission, I gave notice...to everyone. I knew those I cared about and who cared about me would be better for it even if there were a couple of hard shifts along the way. And so the journey began. I became aware of my non negotiables, where I was willing to compromise. On the other hand, I stopped settling. I drew very definitive clear lines and boundaries that would no longer be crossed. I stopped living with my eyes wide shut and devised a plan to get out of the rat race. I went back to school to earn my masters because it’s something I wanted to do for myself and knew exactly how it would be monetized with respect to my fulfilled life. I began to live an intentional life by designing the life I wanted, doing the work I wanted to do on the side as I continued to work the job I was grossly overqualified for. That was okay because I was working my strategy and it turned out to be a blessing in more ways than one.
I now have tunnel vision in making my fulfilled freedom-filled life and orchestrating all of the moving parts that’s involved in my everyday reality. While it wasn’t easy, the journey was well worth it because the road to success and happiness is paved with failure along with difficult moments that I now would not trade for the world. As an aside, to fail is a mindset. Every perceived failure simply means we experience a First Attempt In Learning. This life affirming acronym to retrain our brains on what it really means to fail I heard RollingOut Magazine founder Munson Steed say at his Female Success Factor event in Atlanta. My life has been better informed ever since I reframed my thinking. If you look back, I believe you’ll find moments in life where what you perceived then as failure were actually the lessons and signals to redirect certain aspects of your life.
We’ll just say I have learned a lot over the years. I don’t think I would change a thing because I now realize I’m built for it. Every perceived failure has informed how I found my life groove after 40. Every setback has been a setup for success because I choose to believe it to be so and of course I can now see its value after the storm. After the missteps, after the letdown, after the self-pity and playing the role of victim each of us has a choice to decide whether to go forward or stay down. To redirect or remain stuck. At every turn, I ultimately learned to go forward even when going forward was simply standing still or crawling forward in the dark feeling my way through an inch at a time.
I owe my grit, perseverance and will to survive life’s highs, valleys and lows to my matriarchs, my mother and my granny motivated by the example of black excellence I wanted to be for my daughter. Oh and Iyanla Vanzant pre Fix My Life. Several of Iyanla’s books enabled me to overcome many obstacles that without the right perspective I would have settled into self-defeat. In my personal library I amassed over 400 books and tapes mainly around business, self-help and biographies. Some of which were Iyanla’s books. The three that stand-out were 1) Iyanla Live Volume 8 - Back to Basics; 2) Value in the Valley; and 3) In the Meantime (workbook and all). In the Back to Basics cassette tape I used to listen to in my car around 2006 I distinctly remember Iyanla encouraging attendees and listeners to tell their story. She asserted it is in sharing our stories that we allow ourselves to exhale while others may find strength within themselves from someone else’s story. This is why I’m sharing my story with you. I want women like myself to take the #GettingBackToMe challenge to find what your fulfilled life looks like and start living that life on your terms, while sharing your story with others. Life is too short to live unfulfilled.
I know that I am a call-to-be entrepreneur, creator and builder through and through but the entrepreneurial journey has not been an easy one and it is not for everyone. Finding clarity after 40 however is well worth the journey. While I got the memo that entrepreneurism was in my DNA in middle school, I started ventures that I was not passionate about nor were the business models sustainable. I learned by doing which sometimes translated to several mistakes and taking unnecessary uninformed risks including operating outside of my strengths and talents. Each time I suffered a setback financially and emotionally I channeled (sometimes subconsciously) my mother’s energy and what she must have felt during each of her moments of truth because I know my mother to be an overcomer, a survivor, a consummate giver, an optimistic realist and feisty. The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. As a woman who was married at 23 with four kiddos in tow and divorced in the not so distant future. You wouldn’t know it if you saw her today. She doesn't act or look like what she's been through. Glory hallelujah! I tapped into my strong support system of family, genuine friends and most importantly my personal relationship with God.
A key turning point during one of my lowest moments was advice from my childhood friend and soror, Tiffany, who happened to be a Sunday school teacher as well. I shared with her I was going back to my roots and trying to find answers in the Bible by again attempting to read the Bible from cover to cover. I had no success. Tiffany suggested I start by first reading the Book of Job to get perspective on how God was building me for something greater even if I couldn’t see it through all of the challenges at the time. I took her advice and it was the turning point I needed to pull the pieces together or at least not give up at the time. To this day I don't think Tiffany knows how important that moment was for me and how it stuck. Many times I did give in to self-doubt and pity but luckily I didn’t give up nor did I settle. Instead I found my special it factor that only lives within me and no one else. From reading the Book of Job I was able to see that God’s plan and tests were not meant to harm me but strengthen me to get me to see something I was missing so He could trust me with whatever He blessed me with. I’ve always been strong willed and optimistic but everyone gets stretched beyond what we believe we can handle. When I was stretched, I ultimately found my I.D. My Intention Declaration to the world that informed my platform. In that I.D. I found four critical factors: my courage, my candor, my voice and my mission. The process was such a game changer that I created a free workbook that I’m happy to share with anyone and everyone who wants to discover their I.D. as well.
Though the epiphany occurred around age 42, the full download from self-talk, more challenges, meditating, fasting, praying, listening and talking to God took a year or two to complete. I don't profess that I do all of these actions daily but often. I realize God had been dropping nuggets in my life ALL my life. I have journals, recordings, ideas and notes dating back to my younger adult years out of college that are an essential part of what I am building today. I realized I never failed. Instead my challenges came because I tried and because I never wanted to play small with my life. Because I took the risk to be more and do more. Because I never intended to settle for less than my fulfilled life. The experience of finally understanding God's plan for me in getting the complete download was SO POWERFUL that I had to lay out on the floor to take it all in. If you visualize the series of numbers and letters in the movie The Matrix seemingly falling from the sky...that’s what it felt like.
My black girl magic was in me all along. I am now fully aware of how I exist to serve through my business as a startup and fulfillment coach. As a student, advocate and practitioner of courageous leadership, candor & startups, I help frustrated employees meant to be full-time entrepreneurs who wish to leave their dead-end jobs for good, confidently do so. I enjoy being a champion change agent to help people and organizations connect the dots to become who they say they are. When we get so used to our actual selves it is often times hard for us to see that our aspirational truer version of ourselves shines bigger and brighter than we could have ever imagined.
My black girl magic has been waiting to spring forth at just the right time and that time is now. I encourage anyone reading this post to explore what being the most authentic truest version of yourself looks like. Find the magic in you and BE THAT. Choose YOU. Your magic is there waiting to burst forth but you must first acknowledge it and give it room to be nurtured grow and thrive by putting the necessary daily effort into choosing to live a fulfilled life.
If there is anything about your life that you don’t like, change it. If you can’t change the people around you, change the people around you. No one can be the driver of your life but you. Sacrificing your happiness because it seems easier is dangerous and selfish. The world needs what only you were meant to achieve and contribute. Don’t give up your dash no matter your age. A very special person in my life says, “never give up because you’ll never know what could have been.” The infamous Les Brown always said “life doesn't give you what you want, life gives you what you are”. Who ARE you being daily? Are you aligned with what you say you want out of life? Ask yourself this question, “what if I woke up inspired and went to bed fulfilled everyday?”
In June I’ll be 46 years young...the perfect time for living the life I love doing the work I love for individuals I'm supposed to connect and collaborate with. If you are breathing, it’s not too late. Are you ready for the challenge FOR your life? I hope you have the courage to say yes and choose you like I did because our black girl magic doesn't expire.
Join the #GettingBackToMe challenge by simply sharing your story of creating your fulfilled life and using the hashtag. If you share the post on social media, @ me so I can check it out.
At the moment Charlene describes herself as a Finally Founder, Eager Edifier. Courageous Blogger. INtentional Connector. Startup Instigator. Wordy T-shirt Wearer most importantly a Rebel with a Cause. Charlene uses her voice to teach and speak at various events usually around leadership, entrepreneurship, startup culture, natural hair, personal growth and development, mentorship, intentional connecting and living your best life now.