Joc’s End Of The Year Reflections – Men, Friends, Careers, and Family.

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Luke 12:33 KJV

I have got to share my excitement, not to brag, but to testify!

As this year comes to a close, I have to sit back and reflect in awe of how awesome God has been to me. Not necessarily in the material THINGS He’s allowed me to acquire, but the opportunities He’s set before me and the ‘doors of distraction’ He’s closed FOR me.

It all started December of last year when my pastor announced his first sermon series of 2013 would be “Eye Hath Not Seen In Twenty-Thirteen”. Not only do I love how catchy this was, but I loved how this series (based on 1 Corinthians 2:9) spoke into my life. Even though this year has been a little rocky, dreams, thoughts, and people I never imagined would cross my path DID! In honor of the 12 months of this year, I will list 12 reflections.

Reflection #1 – When I was feeling borderline depressed about my job situation, God  renewed my gratefulness. As most of you know I work a 9-5 in the insurance industry. And while I am super grateful and have the most amazing boss ever, my creative mind has been feeling starved sitting up in a office crunching numbers. This year God has opened my eyes to how good I actually have it. Though I don’t make as much money as I want, don’t have the benefits that I want, and can’t flex my creative muscles like I want — I’m good. I have a nice roof over my head. I have money to fill my gas tank and pay my bills. The bills I can’t afford to pay, God made a way for them to get paid every year. I have a job that’s full time. Though I work an average of 9-10 hours a day, I KNOW what hours I can look forward to. I don’t have to work graveyard shift or crazy hours that could mess up my sleep pattern.

Reflection #2 – God has opened and expanded doors for me to do what I love. Though I’m not able to exercise my creative talents full time, I’ve had the opportunity to learn and grow them via a part time hustle. I’ve been photographing freelance for almost 10 years and this year I have been able to purchase new equipment with money I’ve made from my profits. I also have had the opportunity to work with WEEN (the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network) and maintain not only their social media channels, but also serve as a contributing editor. All year I’ve interviewed powerful women in fashion and entertainment like Tionna Smalls, Issa Rae, Essence Editor in Chief Vanessa K. Bush,  Project Runway designer Samantha Black, PR Syreta Oglesby, and many more! It’s mind blowing how I’ve been able to listen to their stories of hustle and have been blessed to grab inspiration first hand! If you were to ask me last year if I’d be doing this, I would have told you “welp…one day”

Reflection #3 – I’m at peace and happy being single and saved! I haven’t been on a legit date in like 3 years and I’m ok with that. Instead of wallowing in despair and drowning my sorrows in wine; I’ve chosen to learn all I can in my season of singleness and boy I’ve been learning A LOT! Years ago I was like most young women — wired to want to take care of a husband and children. But now that I’ve had time to marinate, I realize that while I DO plan to get back out there on the dating scene, I love enjoying my singleness. Only when I’m single will I be able to up and take a random trip to the Bahamas with some friends without having to consider anyone’s schedule but my own. Only when I’m single will I be able to give my all into my building my businesses and career. Only when I’m single will I be able to gather what I can deal with in a relationship and what I can’t deal with. I definitely plan to get married  in the near future, but I’m totally fine casually dating and focusing my energies on God and how HE wants me to do things. When the heart that’s perfect for me comes…I will know it because of all the things I’m learning NOW in my season of being single and saved.

Reflection #4 Friendship doesn’t mean what I thought I meant. We’ve all done it at some point….called a person we know through a friend of a friend…our friend. I’ve learned this year that the older you get, the smaller your circle gets. I am very particular about who I call my friend now. I mean, for descriptive purposes, it’s easier to say “yeah, my friend _______ did this or that” but I’ve learned to say “yeah, this girl _____  or my colleague _________….) instead. A friend is someone who you can let yourself loose with. A friend doesn’t always get to talk to you every day, but still makes an effort to. A friend understands when you’re stressed or need to focus on something and is there with advice or just an ear to vent to. A friend can “do lunch” with you in the afternoons, and pig out on pizza that same night. A friend doesn’t want you around JUST because of what you ‘do’ or what your talent is. A friend is someone who is willing to talk problems out — even if it’s uncomfortable. A friend can never stay mad at you for more than a few weeks. I’m saying all this to say that I’ve learned this year to really categorize people carefully and watch who I let take part in my life.

Reflection #5 God has renewed my dreams and passions. Last year was a year of rebuilding for me. I took a huge hit in the finance department and was feeling kind of stifled in terms of my dreams, goals, and passions. This year, God has had me take it easy in order to reassess what my heart says and make sure it lines up with what He says. Take my photography for example. In the area where I currently reside, art is at an all time low while crime is at an all time high. People would rather pay hundreds of dollars for drugs, but don’t want to pay over $10 for a quality photo session. I never expected for everyone to love photos as much as I do, but when you come asking for me to do an entire 1 hour long session WITH prints for $3 and $5 — it’s an insult not only to my craft and my business, but to me as a professional. I know I have to grow more to be up there with Derek Blanks and Russell James but come on…I have some years under my belt. This entire year, God has been making a way for me to slow down on my photography so I can focus on taking more classes, upgrading my equipment, and explore my other creative talents. For this I am thankful. It’s hard to explain, but when a creative person feels like their dreams are dampened, it’s like a small birthday candle flame holding on for dear life while the wind picks up and tries to blow it out. It’s not easy, but God definitely put the flame back in my fire!

Reflection #6 I learned that God always knows best. This year makes an entire year that I’ve joined my current church and boy did God know what He was doing here! For years at my former church, while I learned a lot as a youngster, felt like I wasn’t growing as an adult. Leaving the church I grew up in was pretty scary, but God knew what He was doing. Searching for a new church home stretched me in every way imaginable….but when God finally led me to the place where I am now, it all came together. The church I attend now is a WORLD of difference from where I came from, but it taught me to not get caught up in denomination, not be locked into tradition, and to open up and meet new people. While I was out searching for a church home visiting around, I didn’t know why God had me floating if I needed to be poured into, but He knew that my best was yet to come. He knew that once He got me where He wanted me, I’d be able to grow not only as a Christian, but a woman.

Reflection #7 NETWORK! NETWORK! NETWORK! This year working with WEEN has been quite an experience. One part of the experience was learning the true meaning of networking. I’ve learned to not just add people because you think they can help you. Networking is forming genuine bonds and relationships with people on a personal level — and the fact that they happen to have a banging career is just icing on the cake. I experience this on a smaller scale almost every day. People add me on social media sites NEVER to say or want anything….just to have me an inbox message away — “just in case” they need me. How about a HELLO? How about “I love your blog” — something so I know you’re not a robot or opportunist! This year has taught me a ton; and though I still have miles to go and more to learn, I think I’m doing alright if I may say so myself. haha

Reflection #8 If you are guy and you are also my friend — it doesn’t mean I want to date you. I know these are the days of ‘thirst’ where everyone has a motive; but contrary to popular belief, it IS possible to have a friend of the opposite sex who may even have qualities you’d look for in a mate….and be JUST FRIENDS. I’m not busting chops, but just reflecting on what I’ve learned from my experiences. I know up to this year, I’ve learned that I have to be very intentional in spelling out parameters of my friendships with guys because for whatever reason, my friendship has often times been mistaken for ‘an open opportunity to get a date’. Yes you may be attractive. Yes you may have amazing qualities; but unless I clearly say to you “let’s explore dating now” then I’m not interested in dating you. I am the type of person who is totally fine with having a friendship with a guy and it be just that. I am perfectly capable of conducting a friendship with a guy just as I do with a woman. We’d hang out or go somewhere to eat. We’d go to concerts and plays together. We’d catch up and talk on the phone about what’s going on with life….you know, the norm. I know some people reading this may think I’m ‘doing too much’ by even reflecting on this, but hey, it’s something that I’ve learned. So word to all you folks out there. If you are going to be friends with someone of the opposite sex, make sure the parameters of your friendship are clear and drawn out in black and white. If you DO develop a romantic interest down the line, let your friend know up front. You should know within the week if your friendship has grown into something more or if it’s like it’s always been…a friendship.

Reflection #9 Everyone won’t “get me” and that’s ok. All my life I feel like I’ve been on the quirky side, and I’m totally ok with it. But unfortunately I’ve learned the hard way that everyone else may not be…but that’s ok too. You know how some people have a guard up, but as soon as you REALLY get to know them they’re just as silly and vulnerable as you? Well yes…that’s me, J-O-C! I am extremely guarded because I’ve learned that everyone won’t be able to handle my quirks. The year has taught me that there are some people you just CLICK with. They ‘get you’. There are some people who you can just ‘do lunch’ with and nothing more — if you just don’t mesh…you just don’t mesh. No hard feelings.

Reflection #10 I love supporting my friends. This realization actually prompted me to get the ball moving for the media consulting business I want to launch in the year(s) to come. All of my friends are on a primary level — my friends; but looking into the details, we all have a creative mind or are doing big things! That excites me! I honestly and genuinely want to do what I can to help promote and connect my friends to great people. In the past I’ve had guys date me because I was a photographer. I’ve had folks hang around me because of who my family  was — I know what it’s like to have someone just use you for what you can offer them, but when it comes to my friends, I hold an honest, deep desire to want to see them do well. CHEEZY RIGHT?! haha It’s true though. I love all of my friends and when one of us gets one step closer to our dreams, it inspires the rest of us to keep pushing towards our own! I support them. I love them. I want to see them live out their wildest dreams.

Reflection #11 I need to spend more time with my family. I didn’t think that it would happen to me, but my career aspirations have sapped up a lot of the time that I need to be devoting to visiting my family. Most of my family is scattered and spread out, but I have concluded this year that I need to suck it up, and plan trips to see everyone. Even if I don’t get to see my family out of state, I still want to plan a family trip where we could meet or video chat them. I keep up with social media, but I know in my heart that it’s not the same as physical interaction. FACE – To – FACE! Though we all have our problems and busy lives to tend to, I know that God gave me my family for a reason. It’s not going to take a funeral for me to see them. It may take me a while to clear things up, but it’s something I’m DETERMINED to do.

Reflection #12 (and most importantly) I have been blessed by God with amazing parents! Everyone says it, but I actually mean it. When I look at some of my friends and colleagues, I am blessed beyond measure to have the wonderful godly examples that are my parents.  This year more than ever they have guided me in how to live a Christian life as a full grown adult. My mom teaches me each day what it means to be a Proverbs 31 Woman. She is prepping me for my family so that when I marry and have kids, I will be able to effectively pray for and nurture my family in the way a godly woman should. My dad is the epitome of a godly man. SO SERIOUS! He will work until his fingers fell off if it meant providing for his family. He governs his household as a Christian man should. He prays for us (even though my sister and I are grown), he makes sure we all know how to manage our finances and prosper financially, he is a visible example for me as to what a godly man does and doesn’t do. My parents have listened to all of my ramblings, frustrations, and elaborate business brainstorms. Regardless of how they feel at the moment, they’re never too tired or busy to provide the emotional support I need. I love them dearly. I pray that I can be that and so much more to my kids.

– Joc

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