Back to the Basics

Three years ago, I was laid off from my first “dream” job. I was working at a magazine in Atlanta.

Three weeks ago, I put my two-week notice in at my second “dream” job. I was working through a mental health agency as a school therapist.

I am one person with two passions – writing and helping others. However, neither “dream” job left me feeling fulfilled. So, where do I go from here?… Truth is, I don’t know.

What I do know is – wherever I go and whatever I do, I want to be happy. I am in search of a way to fulfill both of my passions, and I won’t settle!

I came across a quote today that read:

“Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
Love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the ones who don’t.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.
If it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy.
They just promised it would be worth it.”

Change can be scary, but it’s good for growth. Every day I wake up is another chance to fulfill my passions.

At this point, I don’t know what lies ahead. I do believe that there’s a reason for me being in this position at this point in my life though. My goal is to stay positive, focused, and motivated.

This… is just another part of my journey; another chapter in my book. Stay tuned.

~Ciara L. Walker

SHOPPING Etiquette! “May I help you?” Hopefully, THIS will!

Just a few things I wanted to share with my fellow consumers. After working at a local retail store for the past year and a half [almost] I felt it was imperative that I write this post! At this point, I really wish that people were required to work retail before being allowed to shop! However, being that that’s not likely to happen I’ve decided to share a little shopping etiquette – Associate to Customer. Now, this is not meant to offend anyone! Hopefully, it will make you think BEFORE you act.

If you will, think about being in your own work environment and how you would feel if your customers/clients did things similar to what’s listed below. Whether you work in a retail store, a restaurant, an office, etc. some [if not all] of these things can apply. Maybe – Hopefully, you’ll remember this list the next time you shop!!

SPEAK. Be polite. Have some manners! I understand you may not hear a person speak, but the least you can do when you hear “Hello, how are you?…welcome to…etc.” is speak back! A little smile would be nice too, but I understand that may be asking too much of some of you so a simple hello will do.

PAY ATTENTION to the signs on racks and stands! Again, certain items are excluded on coupons because of special discounts. It makes no sense to argue with the associate when the sign clearly stated the “special” sale and the coupon states it as an exclusion.

READ the coupons! Yes, the small print too. There you will find important information such as exclusions and if the discount is different for certain merchandise.

Good CUSTOMER SERVICE is hard to find. So, when an associate gives you good customer service [checking prices/showing you merchandise/searching for sizes/etc.] it would be nice of you to purchase the merchandise with him/her. Some associates are on commission and some others have sales goals to reach. Some may not. You never know though, so just be mindful of that.

PICK UP after yourself. Yes we are associates, but we are NOT your maids! There’s no need to leave your fast food containers on the dept. floor/register/etc. When shopping for shoes, don’t leave the packing material all over the floor. If you can’t put it back, ask the associate for assistance.

If you’re told the SMALLEST SIZE is displayed in the shoe department, stop asking if your size is available when it’s SMALLER than the display. NO! We do not have an 8.5. The display is a 10… I’m just saying – it happens.

FITTING ROOMS are not your personal bed rooms. Please, don’t leave clothes all over the floor. I understand you may not feel like putting each item back on its proper rack. However, the LEAST you can do is hang the items up so it’s easy for the associates to gather them and put them back for you. Some stores have racks in or outside of the fitting rooms for you to hang the items you don’t want. Please, feel free to use them!

STOP peeing in the fitting rooms! I found this to be a bit disturbing myself, but apparently, this does happen. Now, it has yet to be determined for sure if the culprits are adults/children/the elderly/etc. Either way, that’s just nasty – put on some depends if you need to [NO EXCUSES]!

CONTROL your kids! There is no reason your child should be running through aisles, hiding under chairs and tables/between racks/etc., pulling clothes off racks, throwing shoes around, etc. I mean, didn’t you give him/her/them “the talk” before you came in the store?! If not, please do so next time.

STEALING is a no-no! Now, this should be common sense for all. Unfortunately, there are some who can’t seem to control themselves. THEY are watching you [you know who you are and so do “they”], and that’s all I can/will say about that.

STOP trying to return items days/months/a year past the return policy deadline! Yes, this does happen. And yes, we catch it!

NO receipt? Paid with cash or check? NO FULL REFUND! This is true for most stores. There is no way for us to tell how much you actually spent so we have to refund you with the price shown when scanned. It may be the lowest sale price. Now, some places can give you a full refund if you pay with a credit card – just FYI if you’re bad at keeping your receipts.

STORE HOURS are in place for a reason. Now, I understand if you come in last minute and know what you’re getting or if you’re in the middle of trying on something/deciding on something/etc. But please – please don’t walk around browsing and asking to see merchandise with no intention to buy AFTER the closing announcement has been made.

That is all for now. If you think of anything else, please let me know! I may add on to this list as I think of things or get feedback from my co-workers. I’ll admit I’ve done a few of these things in the past. But, working in retail makes you more aware of things. Yes, it’s a retail job. Yes, straightening/cleaning is in our job description. That doesn’t make it Okay for customers to be inconsiderate and leave their manners at the entrance when shopping.

Being that this isn’t my full-time job or my future occupation, some may ask why I even care or bother to write this post. I care and I bother because I know what it’s like to stay an hour/sometimes over an hour after closing time to straighten shoes, clothes, and clean fitting rooms that have been unnecessarily thrown about. I understand what it’s like to run back and forth/up and down stairs finding sizes for customers all night only to have them take their merchandise to another department. I know what it’s like to feel tired/hungry/sore/etc. at 9 and 10 at night and ready to go home! I know there are people who work retail full-time and will have to deal with these things, among many others, every day. So, this is for them! And, this is for you. They say when you know better you do better. Well, now you know…

~ Ciara L. Walker

Dreams. Impossible?!

“A slipper made of glass is just a shoe, and dreamers never make dreams come true” ~ Whitney Houston as Cinderella’s Fairy God Mother

I was sitting here watching Cinderella; the remake with Whitney Houston and Brandy Norwood, and I began to think about all of the Disney movies I watched as a little girl. My cousins and I had an uncle who would buy us Disney movies for every holiday. I had my own Disney collection: Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, The Fox and the Hound, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, 101 Dalmatians, Pinocchio, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast… The list goes on. I also had non-Disney movies like Thumbelina, All Dogs go to Heaven, and Charlotte’s Web.

I enjoyed watching these movies as a child. I was captivated by the characters, and I became intertwined in their animated lives. They had dreams, and their dreams came true. The impossible became possible. The movies made you believe in something more than what was right in front of you when you turned off the TV. I wanted to live happily ever after – like Cinderella and the Mermaid. I wanted my dreams to come true like Pinocchio. I wanted “hakuna matata” like on the Lion King – no worries for the rest of my days. Those were the days…

The thing is I didn’t realize the struggles that the characters went through in order to get to their “happily ever after”. I didn’t realize the struggles I would have to go through to get to my happily ever after. Bad grades. Lost friendships. Broken heart. Unemployment. Family problems. These are just a few of the many struggles I’ve endured over the past 27 years.  Hakuna matata hasn’t been so true for me. I found myself getting emotional when watching Cinderella [I know, I know] because now I understand what she was talking about. Impossible – sometimes things seem impossible. You have dreams, but somewhere down the road you start to feel like they’ll never happen; like they’re impossible. Like Cinderella, there may come a time when you just want to run away from it all – give up. Not so quick though…

Look at this conversation between Cinderella (Brandy) and her fairy god mother (Whitney Houston)…

Cinderella: If impossible things are happening every day, then why shouldn’t I have impossible hopes and dreams – even something as impossible as going to the ball?

Fairy God Mother: Then go to the ball Cinderella. Go. No one’s stopping you, but you.

Cinderella: But, I have no way to get there.

Fairy God Mother: Hmm, you have a point there.

Cinderella: God mother, I’ve been wishing as hard as I can.

Fairy God Mother: I know you have Cinderella. Go on, stand over there…

** She does her magic. Last, but not least, she turns to Cinderella who’s looking at herself dressed in rags**

Fairy God Mother: Spin around. Don’t make me do all of the work.

Impossible – Brandy and Whitney Houston

Looking back over my life, I can really relate to this scene. We all go through hard times where we wonder if our dreams will ever come true, or if they’re just impossible. I know I did, especially after being laid off. When you open your eyes – and I mean really take a look around you – there are people who will help you. The thing is you have to be willing to help yourself first. Have a dream. Wish upon a star. But, don’t let that be all you do.

I had no idea what I wanted to do after being laid off. I was lost. All I knew was I wanted to help people. When teaching didn’t work out, I chose counseling. I applied for the program and went from there. Since then, I’ve sought help from family, friends, professors, etc. I’m open and honest about where I stand and I’m not afraid to ask for help. I try and help myself first though, and I believe that’s why others are so willing to give me a helping hand.

I know at times [we think] we don’t know how to help ourselves; how to get started. Don’t give up and get discouraged though. Write out your dream and seek out ways to make it happen. You can start by researching how others in your area of interest got started, set goals, research educational programs, etc. that will enhance your knowledge in that area. Ask for help. Be open to receiving help. Sometimes, the only person stopping you is you…

I can’t remember where I heard this, but I wanted to share. If you look at the word impossible you’ll see that it spells out “I’m Possible” just the same. So, never stop believing in your happily ever after. After all, impossible things are happening every day. It all starts with you!

There is Music in You – Whitney Houston

“You know the trouble with most people is they sit upon wishing for something to happen instead of just doing something about it” ~ Brandy as Cinderella talking to the Prince

~ Ciara Walker

Resentment – My Journey

Earlier today, I was browsing Facebook and came across a friend’s link to Beyoncé performing her song Resentment. Now, I recently got the CD and I’ve listened to most of the songs, but I haven’t really listened to all the lyrics yet. So I listened to the song all the way through, and it really struck a nerve with me. Not just because I could feel Beyonce’s performance as she got deeper into the song, but because I could relate. I could relate to the thoughts and feelings along with the situation she described in the song. Being lied to is not an easy thing to overcome; and being betrayed by someone you love makes it even harder to do.

After watching the video, I went about my business and didn’t think much more about it. For some reason though, the word resentment was stuck in my head. I was thinking of how I understood what the song was saying about how hard it is to forget and move on from something, but I never thought that the reason was because I was holding on to resentment. Hmmm. I’m thinking that I had forgiven and, even though I haven’t been able to forget, forgiving was all I needed to do – for myself. I had done the hard part and forgiven those who hurt me, so why haven’t I been able to fully move past the hurt?! Could it be that I’ve been carrying resentment around with me?… I didn’t think or feel like I resented my Love. I just never thought about my feelings in that way. After listening to the song though, I realized that’s what’s been going on.

For those who don’t know, according to Merriam-Webster Resentment is: a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, insult, or injury. Sound familiar anyone? It did to me. See forgiving is a good first step, but forgetting is hard. It’s even harder though when you’re full of “displeasure or ill will at something [or someone] that/who is wrong, insulting, or hurtful”. Make sense? So now I’m wondering does it mean you haven’t really forgiven someone if you feel resentment… Part of me is thinking “no” because you can forgive someone and still dislike what they’ve done to you. I think what’s unhealthy and damaging is when we carry those negative feelings around with us instead of letting them go. And letting go can be challenging – I know. It is possible though – I believe.

When I realized my truth about dealing with resentment I began to see how it has affected some of my other relationships. You see, many times we feel wronged by family, friends, co-workers, church members, etc. [all the above for me] and whether we address those people or not we tend to hold on to the hurt and pain – or “displeasure and ill will” – we feel towards them. As a result we shut down, avoid them, lash out, etc. In the end, we’re left with relationships more damaged than when the damage was done. I know – this is my truth. What about yours?

As I said earlier, letting go isn’t an easy task, but I do believe it’s so worth it in the end. The first step is realizing and admitting what’s going on. Sometimes when we think we’re on the right path to happiness, we wonder why we keep hitting roadblocks. Many people say roadblocks are lessons to make us stronger/wiser along the way – I agree. I say, the other few are stumbling blocks falling out of the load we’re carrying with us – so let go of your load.

~ Ciara L. Walker

“Holding a grudge & harboring anger/resentment is poison to the soul. Get even with people…but not those who have hurt us, forget them, instead get even with those who have helped us.” ― Steve Maraboli

Job Searching – My Journey

Searching for a job is a JOB itself! After two years of grad school, I’m back to where I started in December 2006 after graduating with a Bachelors and where I found myself in March 2009 after being laid off from my first “real” job after college. It took me ten months to land that job too, and it was my “dream” job – working at a magazine. At least it was my dream at the time. Ten months of completing applications, making follow-up calls, going to interviews – many times with no feedback or response from employers – whew, just the thought.

It was worse the second time around after being laid off and spending about a year job searching. I thought surely I’d find a job with my experience, but to no avail. Once again, I was submitting my updated resume, completing applications, making follow-up calls, and going to interviews – and the phone, it barely rang; my inbox, it rarely got a response email; me, I was barely making it. I was 24 and unemployed with bills to pay. I hit a low point. I withdrew from family and friends – I just wanted to be alone. Thankfully, I was blessed to be living with aunts who understood my plight and helped me along the way – as well as other friends and family members. Nevertheless, I knew my journey had to continue. After the first six months of job searching, I decided it was time to go back to school. I had thought about getting my Masters and now seemed like a good time to do so. I began by looking at alternative routes for teaching that offered an advanced degree. When those didn’t work out, I decided to look into Master Programs. Within the next few months I had decided on a program, moved home, applied, interviewed, and gotten accepted – but, the job search continued.

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This has been an interesting school year. In my last post I was entering the last year of my Master’s program and beginning practicum/internship. I had no idea what was in store for me. Great things. Great people. Granted, there were a few hiccups along the way due to differences in communication, but when looking at the “big picture” I can truly say I had a successful year overall. My purpose was to help others and that’s what I did. I spent the last year working with a university program for students on academic probation and with the university’s counseling center. It was a little stressful and time-consuming at times [the admin part], but most of the time it was fun, interesting, uplifting, eye-opening, and INSPIRING!

I worked with students ranging from freshmen to 2nd-year seniors of all ages, races, majors, socio-economic statuses, etc. They were all different, but they all had one thing in common: In their own little way, they inspired me. You see, I was there to help them. Life had thrown them a curve ball and they were picking themselves up and dusting off while I was there to help them find their way to first base. In the process [on the way to first base], many of them shared the details of their struggle [the curve ball] and I was inspired by their strength and their determination. Now, if you were to ask them about this strength and determination that I speak of some would probably deny its existence. But, I saw what many of them were unable to see – what many others don’t take the time to see. I saw them from the inside out – and I was truly inspired.

Today, I just want to say Thank You – not only to my students, but also to the students around the world that they represent. So…

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My Journey Update

Sooo… It’s been a while since I’ve posted something and a lot has happened in the past five months. I made it through my first summer classes in grad school (whew!). I had a full load, and I worked two jobs so that was an adventure. In the end, I came out with all A’s [YAY Me , lol]. To celebrate, I took a vacation to visit a friend in Miami! This week, reality set back in when classes started Monday. I started my 2nd [and last] year of the program, so it’s bitter-sweet. I don’t have many classes, but I’ve started Practicum [for those who don’t know it’s when you’re required to work in your field of study to gain some experience – it’s like an internship, but requires less hours]. Being that my field of study is counseling, I’ll be working with people [other than my classmates] individually and in groups. I’ve already had a few meetings this week, and I sense it’s going to be an interesting, exciting, and challenging semester!

I think of it as I’m embarking on a new journey, and there are so many things that come to mind when I think about this journey that I’m on… the past, the present, and the future. As a beginning counselor, I think about things that I’ve said and done in the past and wonder how I could have handled situations differently. I think about where I am in my life now and how I can apply the things I’m learning to help myself [and others] through challenges that may occur. Then, I think about where I’ll be 5 years from now… a year from now, even. There’s so many aspects to consider [career, relationship/family, etc.] that it’s scary and exciting at the same time! I know these are all journeys that I will begin soon. As of now, I’m just taking things one day at a time.

Something that I try to remember along the way is that I can’t change the past. Yesterday is gone. Today is a new day – a new start – another chance to get things right/make things right/be a better ME [YOU]! And tomorrow is not promised, so I must live Today to the fullest!

I’ve been so busy lately, that I don’t always adhere to that last part, but I’m working on it! 😉 Interested in keeping up with my journey?! Subscribe! There’s more to come!

Thanks for reading.

~ Ciara L. Walker