What to say to a friend that's lost a loved one


Written by: Amber Roo

When you start passion projects like these, you don’t always account for the big events in life that happen at random and stop you in your tracks. Some of them you bounce back from, get back to your routine and continue working, writing blogs and doing daily life. Then others, they come along and the world seems to pause on it’s axis for a while. You do the things you absolutely have to do, like getting up in the morning, working so you can still afford to live and breathing because, well, the alternative is burying yourself in the duvet and never emerging again.

Death is one of the latter events. The ones that sometimes force you to be still for a while and reduce you of the ability to keep life going, even if you try really hard. That’s what’s happened with the site for the past few weeks as I had to step away to gather myself. My grandfather had a sudden heart attack in April and passed away shortly after. Then, 3 weeks ago, my Godmother died very unexpectedly. So, it’s been a tough time of late especially being so far from my family, having emigrated to the states last year. I went back to the UK to see my grandfather for the last time in April and in a way, I’m glad, as that also allowed me to spend one last day with my Godmother (not that I knew it at the time, of course). I’ll be returning home again in a week for her funeral and I won’t lie, part of me is terrified that every time I go back home, it might just be the last time I get to see one of the people I hold closest to my heart.

This piece isn’t about the thoughts that feed my anxiety monsters, though. If the last two months have taught me anything, it’s that what one wants to hear in the event of a bereavement is not what people tend to say. No one is really at fault for this as minds cannot be read, however it does become apparent that those who say the most effective things in these situations are the ones that have been through the same thing. So I’m here to help, for those of you that haven't had first hand experience of this and might be unsure of what to say, do or expect when your friend has lost someone close to them. 

 

If “I’m sorry for your loss”, “stay strong” and “hang in there” are your default go-tos, stop right there.

It may not seem like a big deal when you’re the one saying it, but read it out loud. “I’m sorry for your loss”. It’s so impersonal it almost seems insincere. You could even just switch it out for, “I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this” and it automatically makes it more heartfelt, or if you really must say it, try to personalise it to “I’m sorry for the loss of your [insert loved ones name here]”.

Although “stay strong” and “hang in there” can’t really be personalised, by themselves they have no real meaning. There are plenty of other things to say besides those two.

For me, after having had the usual messages of condolence after my Grandfather passed, and realising how much this phrase grated at my soul, it actually made me not want to tell anyone when my Godmother died. I literally just didn’t want to hear “I’m sorry for your loss” as in those situations, although you’re not trying to be ungrateful for people’s thoughts, nothing is enough and then words that seem dismissive just really drive it home. 

 

Give them space, but not too much

It’s understandable that you may feel you’re intruding by getting in contact frequently, or that the person wouldn’t want you asking them how they are all the time but in reality, nothing is too much. While they may need some space, having someone checking in on them daily is a reminder that there are people around them that care and who will listen if they want to talk. 

Sometimes, we have a tendency to leave people to be with their families or other loved ones when they’re grieving and although this may seem like the polite thing to do, it can lead to the person dealing with the loss feeling quite abandoned by their friends.

For me, when friends were sincere in asking how I was and were prepared for an honest answer, I really appreciated them listening and responding. Sometimes, that’s all it takes, even if the frankness of the person makes you feel awkward - push through.

 

Manage your expectations

It's very likely that you'll want to tell your friend how much you love them and how much you're here for them when you find out that they've lost a loved one. It's also human nature to want a positive reaction to that expression of feelings however every single ounce of your friend's emotions are pouring into the feeling of loss they're experiencing and they often won't be able to return sentiments of love or support in the way you might expect.

I know that every time a friend text me to say they love me or each time someone said 'I love you' on the phone, it hurt too much to say it back. All I could think of was how much I loved the person that's now gone and how saying it to someone else was almost impossible at that moment. 

It's not that the sentiment isn't appreciated, it really is and is absolutely needed in times of grief. Your friend's capacity for love is just different right now and it's up to you to not feel disappointed or peeved by that. 

 

Don’t ask, just do

If there’s something helpful or soothing that you’d like to do for your friend, make an informed decision and go ahead with it. We often feel the need to ask the person if there’s anything they need or if they’d like us to do certain things, which can be very difficult for them to answer. It’s hard to make even the simplest of decisions in times of mourning, let alone ask a person to do something for you.

I rarely felt like friends were overstepping when they went ahead with their gesture and in fact, those are the ones I most remember and appreciate. So go drop off dinner, spend the day with them or take care of a responsibility you know they’re struggling with.

Extra burdens that are lifted with no request or prompting are the biggest blessings in times like these.

 

Ask them about the person

Your friend may not want to talk about the person or circumstances right away, but don’t shy away from the topic once the initial shock has softened. Chances are, they are clinging tightly to the memories they have with the person they’ve lost and they’re racking their brain for all of the times spent with them that they can’t remember vividly anymore, so talking about their loved one can help to bring those memories back to the surface.

I know that was a major thing that kept me up at night for weeks, so when others gave importance to the memory of my loved ones by asking me about them or talking about them, it gave me comfort that their life wasn’t slipping through my fingers and fading away as the days went by. Our conversations were keeping them around.

 

Remember that everyone reacts differently. Acceptance doesn’t negate grief

Everyone reacts differently to the news of death. While some are very visibly upset, others remain stoic and deal with their grief internally. However your friend reacts, don’t let this be the benchmark on which you judge their grief. Losing someone you love is never easy and the reality of the situation can set in a different times, meaning that the effects of grief can be delayed or simply just not visible to you, as an outsider looking in.

If your friend seems fine when you see them, check on them later that evening once everyone has gone and they’re alone. The aftermath of social situations are the hardest times for me and are when I most need a person to talk to or someone to help distract my thoughts.

Try to bear that in mind next time you see a friend that’s coping with a loss. Don’t just assume that they’re ‘over it’ when daily life resumes as we often have to push ourselves back into our routines much sooner than we are ready to do so. 

 

It’s almost impossible to know what to say or do if you’ve never been through a loss yourself, so hopefully these tips are useful for anyone unsure of how to navigate another’s grief.

Above all else, just be mindful that we are all carrying burdens and we have no idea what pain others are going through. Be kind to one another, remember the importance of empathy and understanding and all else will follow.

For the girl... That's never masturbated


We’ve all experienced that moment in life, when the conversation turns to sex talk and inevitably, someone brings up masturbation. Now, depending on the circles you roll in, the response to this topic will vary. Some of us won’t bat an eyelid, proceeding to give vibrator recommendations or sharing links to the newest porn site. However, you can always spot the girl that’s uncomfortable as fuck with the conversation from the avoidance of eye contact, sudden interest in their phone or unsubtle attempts to change the subject...

In our younger years, as girls, it was generally an unspoken rule that any form of sexual activity that didn’t involve a boy was to never be spoken about or vehemently denied. I’m sure most of you remember that day in sex ed class where the grainy videos with awkward actors reached the episode on masturbation. I went to an all girls school, so while the part about male masturbation was met with a few snickers of laughter, as soon as the narrator mentioned female masturbation, an uncomfortable silence fell over the room. No one wanted to make a sound, for fear of being ‘found out’ (or maybe that was just me - but I know now the rest of them had to be hiding it too). As girls, we’ve been taught that pleasuring ourselves is A: Not something we should do and B: If you do do it, you damn sure don’t talk about it.

It’s such a ridiculous thought process, especially when boys are practically praised for beating their meat and it’s something that comes up in everyday dialogue for men. I’m very pleased that as a society, we are now much more open with talking about female pleasure however this freedom hasn’t quite gotten to everyone yet. There are still many women that are in the closet about their fapping activities - and some of them might even be your friends.

My girls and I were having a night out recently and as usual, the sex talk began. For the most part, we’re all very open with sharing tips and talking about ourselves in these situations so when the topic turned to masturbation, most of us excitedly opened up about the toys we used or our favourite ways to get off (if you’re not yet acquainted with your shower head, I suggest you put that on your to-do list). One of my friends, however, revealed that she had in fact never pleasured herself. Now, back in the day this scenario would have been flipped on it’s head. Most of the group would be decidedly tight-lipped on the matter and if one girl revealed that she was a masturbator, the shock, horror and judgement from the group would be enough to send the poor thing into hiding. Back in the present day of our convo though and that same shock and horror (no judgement cause we’re all trying to be better people) was aimed towards my non-masturbating pal.

We all plied her with tips and encouraged her to go home and give herself the O of her dreams. Most of us seemed excited that we’d uncovered such an unpolished gem, an opportunity for us to impart our wisdom and see her flower bloom. I’m not sure if she’s blossomed just yet but she said she’d keep us posted, so we’ll see.

I, for one, couldn’t imagine not being able to give myself pleasure when and if I want it. I would hate to have to rely on another person to do that for me when I have two perfectly working hands at my disposal. I absolutely believe that my somewhat early discovery of this helped me to understand what I liked sexually, long before I was active in that department. It also gave me the confidence to wait longer to become sexually active (or maybe I was just less horny as a result) but either way, I think that can only be a good thing. Although I’m somewhat of a late bloomer in the sex and relationship department I’m sure some of it is down to the fact that I could give myself a pretty bloody good orgasm so I wasn’t desperate to find a boy (or girl) to do it for me.

If you fall into the masturbation virgin category, I’ll share a few of those tried and tested tips to get you started on the road to successful self pleasure…

Get comfortable

Make sure the house is empty or that you’ve locked your door - you’ll never be able to relax if you’re worried that someone might walk in on you with your hands down your pants*.

*Don’t wear pants

Yeah, definitely remove all clothing below your belly button, or all of it if you like.

Start with your hands

Get to know your lady flower a bit, explore with your fingers (or even a mirror if you don’t know what she looks like) and find out which parts feel good when you touch them.

Find stimulating material

Sometimes, just your own thoughts of past saucy encounters or random things that turn you on are enough to get you going. If you’re finding it hard to get into the mood though, there’s always porn. If you’ve never watched, try it out and see if it’s something you’re into as it’s not for everybody (I personally would recommend lesbian porn as the straight stuff is a bit too staged and forceful for my liking). There are a ton of free websites available for your viewing pleasure (that I of course can’t link here) but I’d be happy to share them with you - just drop me a DM on Twitter or IG.

Relax, goddamit

The only way you’ll climax is if you chill out about the whole ‘I’m masturbating, omg!’ thing. If you’ve, to your knowledge, never had an orgasm before then once it starts to feel good, your body will tell you what to do to get there. If you’ve had an orgasm during intercourse but never on your own, then chances are you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much easier and faster it happens without someone else in the room.

Upgrade your tools

You might feel like you need more than just your hands, which is why vibrators were invented. Take a trip to Ann Summers and get you a nice little machine that will do the job for you. It will probably be one of the best purchases you will ever make.

 

I honestly believe there are no disadvantages to masturbating. Being able to make yourself feel good with no risk of an STD, pregnancy or a broken heart can only be a good thing. Plus it’s very empowering as a woman to know how your body enjoys being touched. The release is also a very holistic way to lower your stress levels, increase your endorphins and partake in one of the finest forms of self care known to wo-mankind.

May is International Masturbation Month, so there’s never been a better time to go lock your bedroom door, settle in, and have an evening with yourself. Do you enjoy a bit of self-pleasure, or will you be trying it for the first time? Don’t be shy, let loose in the comments!

 

For the girl... Who's hung up on what's next


Written by: Breanna Villena

Our society trains us to constantly concern ourselves with the ‘whats’ as we approach the next stage of life, or as one journey comes to an end and we begin to plan for the next. For example, from a very young age people begin to ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And we find that as we get older, our answers to the ‘whats’ are measured and judged. If we respond with, I want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or join the military, our answers are met with different reactions in comparison to answers such as I want to be a model, stay at home mom, or an artist...

We see these ‘what' questions many a time as we transition through life… What are you going to do after high school? What are you going to do with your degree in blah blah blah? What are your career goals? And the lists of ‘whats’ goes on and on. This societal fixation with the ‘whats’ can add much unwanted pressure and can lead us to believe that we should calculate our successes based on our ‘whats’. 

I myself was once a girl who was constantly worried about the ‘what questions’ of the world. What am I going to do after high school? Go to college of course. What am I going to do with my degree? Teach and try to make an impact on the lives of others. What are you going to do now that you are a teacher? Go back to school for another degree I guess… 

The author at her EdD graduation ceremony

The author at her EdD graduation ceremony

These were all things that I thought I absolutely had to accomplish in order for other people to view me as a successful person and sadly, I also felt I needed to accomplish all of these ‘whats’ to feel successful. But as I accomplished all of these feats, I found that feeling of success to be short lived.

It was during my fourth year of teaching high school students when I came to the realization that my perspective of the ‘what’ was all wrong. I was fortunate enough to have either taught or coached a large majority of the graduating senior students for three out of their four years of high school. As it had become a tradition in my classroom, I purchased my own copy of the school’s yearbook and allowed my students to sign it if they so chose to do so. At the end of the first day of passing my yearbook around, it was brought to my attention that there was no where left to sign. At first, my teacher brain quickly jumped to the assumption that one of my not so angelic students had obnoxiously decided to engrave their name in size 72 font in an attempt to be memorable but to my surprise, my students had literally written in every nook and cranny that they could find. As I read over a number of quirky short notes from my underclassmen, I noticed that my senior babies, as I'd grown to call them, were taking up a page at a time as they reminisced on the years they spent in my classes, the memories and most importantly, the impact that our time together had on them. 

The author with her first son, Jace

The author with her first son, Jace

It was at THAT moment I realized that ‘what’ I taught them was not the dazzling focal point of what made their time in my classes important. It was HOW I taught them. The ‘what’ I was hired to teach was English, but how I taught them differed from class to class, from student to student. How I taught them was by getting to know them personally, making connections to their lives and interests. How I reached them was by remaining true to who I am as a person, treating them how I had always wanted a teacher to treat me, like one of their own. Always having high expectations, using my witty humor with each interactive lesson, never using my position as their teacher as a form of ‘power’ to ‘force’ learning upon them.

Once I realized the importance of the ‘hows,’ my outlook on what it means, what it looks like, and what it feels like to be successful in life shifted. I no longer concern myself with ‘what’ I should do, but rather ask myself ‘how’ I want to do it, or ‘how’ I want to be in that moment or process. How do I want to be as a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a writer, an educator? I want to be supportive, loving, strong, kind, daring, and impactful. The ‘hows’ are the things that breathe purpose into our life and the lives of those around us, not the ‘whats’.

So for the girls out there that find themselves suffocated by all of the ‘whats’ life so hastily hurls in their direction, I challenge you to learn to let go of the ‘whats’ and instead celebrate the leaps and bounds you have accomplished because of your ‘hows.’

For the girl... That's afraid to change her mind


Written by: Ayo. A

One thing I’ve realised in life is that you are allowed to change your mind...

A couple of years ago, I wrote a personal essay on my secret-ish blog about how career fulfilment is like a 100m hurdling race. At that time, I was forging ahead with my single-minded goal of becoming a doctor. Not just any normal doctor guys. I wanted be a Super-Neuro-doctor/surgeon person (you know, the kind of surgeon Ben Carson was in his book ‘Gifted Hands’ before he tried to become President)...

Anyway, in order to achieve this career goal, I did the most logical thing anyone looking to get into any profession should attempt, if the opportunity presents itself; I got some work experience in a hospital. So in my spare time when I wasn’t working round the clock at the hospital, I began the application process for med school, which meant preparing for a psychometric test on steroids (ergo an unnecessarily difficult test, in my opinion) and writing a personal statement.

Now anyone who has ever been through this process can testify to the fact that it is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, one of the most stressful things ever. I remember preparing for the numerical reasoning section of the test using a website called “Maths is Fun” because that’s how bad I was at Maths. After months of avid prep, I eventually took the test and wasn’t at all prepared for the outcome. I failed. Woefully. My score was so low, I didn’t even bother making university choices.  It was so depressing and shocking because “I SHOULD have passed, I even used a website meant for 10 YEAR OLDS to improve my basic math skills! Dammit! Why me?” I was inconsolable. Meanwhile, I kept ignoring the small voice probing me, asking me whether medicine was what I really wanted. I even ignored the fact that I was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the work I observed the doctors doing on a daily basis. I kept telling myself I’d been saying it for years so it MUST be true, even though I disliked being in a hospital. Also, my family would love it if I became a doctor. We don’t have a doctor in the family and they would be so happy if I was “The Chosen One”.

Those were tough times but I wasn’t about to give up on the dream, so I stayed working in the hospital and applied to medicine again the year after. I failed/borderline passed the steroidal psychometric test this time but at least I was still able to apply to my university choices this time around. Phew! Sigh of relief right? No. The next stage was a test of endurance as I waited for interview updates from my university selections. September to March felt like forever and a day. Luckily for me though, I got one rejection every other month until I had no choices left. I had failed to get into med school, again. *Cue devastation* “What is my life? I hate my life! Why me God? Nothing ever works for me”

At this point, my good friend who was a doctor had already defected, but I wasn’t about to do that to medicine too, because “What would people say? What does that say about me?  I’m supposed to be the chosen one!”

The funny thing was though, if you had asked me how I liked the hospital environment and why I wanted to be a doctor, I lacked the enthusiasm required to inspire anyone that this was a lifelong desire of mine.  In retrospect, I realise that I was more in love with the idea of being a Super-Neuro- doctor/surgeon person rather than the reality of it. So for the first time in years, I stopped (after wallowing of course). I stopped doing anything and asked myself the question we’re all trying to answer...

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE?

In attempting to figure out the answer to this question, I realised that I first had to release myself from the self-destructive thought that I was a failure because I didn’t continue in my quest to become a Super-Neuro-Doctor/Surgeon person.

I had to stop thinking people cared what the hell I was or wasn’t doing with my career because the real truth is, people do not care as much as you think they do.

More often than not, they’re trying to figure it out too. Even those who appear to have it all sorted are STILL trying to figure it out. I also had to relieve myself of the pressure of comparison.  The behemoth of all the notions I had to overcome as the pressure from family; I had to learn how to dismiss the potential disappointment my Nigerian family might feel when I finally told them that I was, in fact, not the chosen one. It was an arduous but necessary endeavour but I’m glad I went through it; it allowed me to change the narrative and ask myself a different question:

WHAT DO YOU LOVE?

By asking myself this question instead of the former, I had a clearer idea of what I could envision myself doing with my career and I’m happy to say that after spending three years in a job I didn’t particularly love, I’m finally on a better trajectory. I eventually found a role which allows me to merge my creative tendencies with my love of the sciences.

Even though I’ve found something I am genuinely interested in, I believe this is only the beginning and I can’t wait to find out what the future holds. So you see my friends, sometimes in life the scenic route is a difficult but necessary road to travel and as a dear friend once said to me, “A good career doesn’t necessarily have to stick to a predetermined course. A good career is evolutionary and progressive.”

At the start of this essay, I compared career fulfilment to a 100m hurdling race and in a way, it is, but it’s also not like that at all at all because some principles can be ignored. I’ll explain… Imagine you’re on a track with the other athletes, you start the race in lane four and you therefore have to jump over the hurdles in lane four until you get to the end the track.  Easy enough, sounds a lot like real life, no? 

Now let’s switch back to the track. Imagine you’ve already started your race and after jumping over three hurdles, you decide you want to continue on in lane five instead of lane four. We all know that this would be such an absurd notion for a trained athlete to consider, right? Especially at this point in the race. Not only would you piss off and potentially injure your opponent in lane five, you would get disqualified, you’d ruin it for everyone and it would be the end of your race. In real life, the end of your race means you’d be dead. THE END. I don’t mean to be morbid, but I hope you understand what I mean when I say career fulfilment is also NOT like a hurdling race.     

So for anyone out there who was in my shoes: Figuring out your career is not like a hurdling race because you ARE allowed to change your lane; in fact, you can have as many lanes as you want, if you can run in them without hurting anybody.

I’m so glad I found out that I was allowed to change my mind and I hope you’ll have the courage to change yours if you feel the need to, too.

What, if anything, are you afraid to change your mind about right now? Let me know in the comments!

Hey Girl, welcome to the site!


As the founder and editor of For That Girl, I want to start off by thanking you for clicking on the site link - welcome!

I hope what you find here resonates with your soul in some way and that you'll be back often to vibe with us over a cup of tea, on your daily commute or in those fleeting moments of free time throughout the day.

However you decide to consume the content here, we give you a place to find articles, stories and interviews that are relatable to your experience as a woman of colour in today's society. We want you to feel inspired, be motivated and have examples of fellow phenomenal women to aspire to.

For That Girl is like a conversation over dinner with your closest friends. We are passionate about the same topics that come up between you and your girls, whether they're PG or a big taboo, you can rest assured we have no problem talking about them here. Our aim is to be the new chick at the table that everyone instantly falls in love with and we hope you'll be welcoming us into your fold.

There are a few articles on the site for you to sink your teeth into today and we'll be back with so much more for you to feast on every week.

We also would love for you to share your opinions on posts in the comments section as an open dialogue on many of the topics we cover is so needed! We want to hear your voice.

Keep being 'that' girl. You do it so beautifully.

Amber

Founder of For That Girl

For the girl... That wonders if love will ever come


Written by: Amber Roo

If the title of this post resonates with you, even just a little bit, then everything that follows this sentence is for you...

I've realised that when a lot of people meet my husband Ty and I, or see photos of us, they tell me I'm lucky in love or say they hope they'll find the same thing one day. It's always surprising to me when I hear those things because just a few short years ago, I was the girl saying and hoping for just that - to be lucky enough to find someone to love that would love me back just as hard.

For most of my adult life (adult being from the age that it's deemed necessary to date) I was single. I was the perpetually single girl who never seemed to meet a guy that wanted to take things further, (I even used to regularly perform a poem about just how single I was, which meant that I was 24 by the time I had my first 'real' relationship. 

Whilst at the beginning I thought that relationship and that guy was everything I had been looking for and more, it actually turned out to be a pretty harrowing experience that left me with more than a few scars. It's interesting how at a point in time you can feel like you're so in love with a person and then in hindsight realise that it was anything but that. A great lesson in perspective right there. 

That's not the point of this story, though. This is the good part. Just two weeks after I finally broke up with Mr Bad Romance, I met a new guy and I could tell, right from the start, that he was wonderful. At first I hesitated because I'd literally just gotten out of one situation and I wasn't sure what the moral implications were of getting into another. However, I wasn't about to pass up on this great guy because of a situation that deserved no more of my time and emotion.

I decided to go with the flow and with my heart to just see where it all took me. All I can say is that I'll always be glad I did, because just two weeks later I was in my second 'real' relationship but this time with a man that taught me what being in love was really supposed to be like and how a good relationship should feel.

Being such a relationship beginner I had so much to learn about having a partner and including someone else in my life, it's weird to think about how much I've changed since I met Ty. More than that though, I still sit and marvel at how on earth my life even got here. How I ended up married to a guy that embodies everything I ever wished for and how my certainty that I'd always be single and probably never get married was completely false.

I was never the girl that always had a boyfriend, not even the girl that got a lot of male attention. I was the true definition of a late bloomer and honestly, if you'd spoken to me about finding love 3 years ago, I'd be the first person to tell you that I'd hoped and wished for love to come but wasn't sure if it ever would. I can tell you now that I couldn't have been more wrong.

What I've learned is this; Don't listen to that voice (yours or anyone else's) that tells you that it might not be possible. Meeting the right person is most definitely possible in a world that is getting smaller and smaller every day. It might not happen how or when you want it to, they might not live on the same continent as you, it might take a few years to find them and you may have to go through a few things (or people) first. It won't always feel comfortable and it most probably won't happen perfectly but if you're willing to challenge your perspective on love and relationships, if you're up for taking a risk with your feelings and pushing through any scars that old loves have left you with and if you're ok with not worrying about what people or society (or anybody at all) thinks, it's totally, completely and utterly possible that you will find your love

Love doesn't come knocking on our door out of the blue. We have to go out there and seek it, then once we've found it we have to work to build it, then work some more to keep it. Of course, if you're one of those people who really did have love come knocking on your door with a bunch of flowers and the promise of forever, you would actually be the true definition of 'lucky in love'. (And let's face it... How often has that happened?).

It's okay if you're not there yet


Written by: Amber Roo

Last week, I found out that Jill Scott was 28 when she wrote and released her first album, "Who Is Jill Scott", and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. I remember listening to that album as a teenager and marvelling at the nuances of Jill's (now signature) style, thinking wow, I can't believe this is a debut album!  But the thing is, I'm now 28 myself and contrary to what that teenager thought this age would be like, I don't feel as grown up (or indeed as womanly) as Jill sounded to me back then...

We tend to put so much emphasis on what age we reach certain milestones. It starts from birth - mothers talk about how many weeks old their babies are when they first smile, when they crawl, when they walk, when they talk. This just continues throughout our lives and is something we're mildly aware of until the day we reach an age where a milestone is supposed to pair up with us, and it doesn't. That's when realisation dawns and the real insecurities start to plague us. For a lot of girls (I can only really speak for girls), this is probably around puberty, when their peers are experimenting with boys or even losing their virginity. 

I've always been a bit of a late bloomer and I have this theory that I'm living my life at least 5 years behind the 'norm'. I was the last one of my childhood friendship group to kiss a boy, to have a real relationship, to drink, to move out and although I've caught up a bit now, I'd still say I'm the least mature of the bunch. Because of this, I became very aware of how much 'age' dictates what is expected of us, rather than personal preference or emotional readiness. 

I understand that there are different stages of "ready" in everyones life and the point where milestones are met varies greatly on an individual scale. That's just science and as an intelligent being, I get it. On an emotional scale, however, you can't help but feel somewhat inadequate when you're in awe of someone else's triumphs or successes, then realise with a twinge of something that could be envy that they're either younger than you or (sometimes worse) that you're both the same age. 

It's so funny that when a manager at work is younger than us, we immediately start to evaluate their accomplishments and mark them up next to our own, all because their age has sparked a feeling of inequality within us. I'm definitely guilty of this, to the point where I didn't even want to do a good job because I felt so indignant at the fact that I had to answer to this person that was younger than me. It seems so silly in hindsight, because maybe they worked harder than me to get to that position, or maybe that's what was meant for their life and my opportunities were different. Either way, it doesn't matter. The fact is that it wasn't the skills, nor the talent or even the attitude of this person that made me feel that I shouldn't be working under them. It was their age.

We've come to hold success to a higher standard when it is achieved in youth, but why should a person feel any less proud of their accomplishments if they achieve them aged 40 than they would if they had got to the same point aged 20? It doesn't always mean that they lacked the skills they needed at 20, it usually means they had more opportunity or were in a better position to succeed at 40.

This thing about age is another one of what I like to call, the "they say's". These are the rules we apply to our lives because this omnipresent "they" says that's how it supposed to be. Just like with marriage.

Yes, I am married now, but as I've stated many times before, I didn't think I would be anywhere near to being married at 28, so I can completely relate to my friends who are counting down the days to their 30th birthdays and wondering where their Mr. Right is. Of course, there is a good explanation as to why historically we feel we should be married before 30 and that's obviously the biological clock dilemma. However, in a day and age where women are conceiving well into their 40's and with multiple fertility, donor and adoptive options available, why are we still hung up on marrying ourselves off before we've even grown into women?

I don't know about you, but I'm not sure if I'll feel more womanly by age 30 and I'm certainly not ready to be anyone's mother just yet. The fact that I feel this way at 28 but someone who's 20 can feel completely ready to start a family should be proof enough that age (like Aaliyah said) really is nothing but a number. Just like with learning to walk and talk, we all reach these stages at different times and although we might be ready physically at similar ages, we're not always ready emotionally at the same time. 

According to the "theys", by 28 I should be married with at least one child, a homeowner, and a successful career woman with a decent amount of savings in the bank.

In reality, at 28 I've only got 2 out of those 5 (depending on who you ask) and while I'm set to achieve some more of those things in the next year or so, I can guarantee you there'll be even more milestones yet to achieve once that list is ticked off. What we can accomplish in our lives is never ending but if we put a constraint as fluid as age on our abilities then we're doing ourselves a huge disservice.

I'm willing to bet good money that although Jill was writing and releasing that amazing album at 28, she still had many insecurities about her progress in life and was working on ways to get to higher ground. To be able to write an opus of that standard when you're 28 is huge, but I'm sure there was a point where she wished she could have done it sooner, or worried that she might be too old to break into the music industry.

What I'm getting at, is that it's really, totally, completely okay if you're not at the point in your life that you thought you would be at this age. You have so much more to achieve, and who cares what age you are when you do it. The important thing is that you do it, and you enjoy doing it.

Although the hare does win the race, the tortoise still passes the finish line and just like that tortoise, we'll all get there eventually. I know I'll be the first one to cheer on your wins, regardless of how old or young you are when you make them. 

Can anyone else relate? As always, talk to me in the comments!

For the girl... That's in a long distance relationship


Written by: Amber Roo

I'd consider myself to be a little bit of an expert on long distance relationships by now. I've had two of them in my 28 years here on Earth, one of which didn't end up so great and one that turned out pretty well (I mean, I did marry the guy) so I feel like I know a thing or two about the right and wrong ways to go about them...

Ironically, as I write this blog I'm sitting on hold with the National Visa Centre for the fifth time this week. They're only open five days a week and today is Friday, so that gives you some idea of how much I call this bloody place.  Take this as fair warning if you decide to fall in love with and marry someone from another country; Make sure you're ready for the process of getting a visa because it's long, laborious and very irritating!

Aside from what it takes to put you and your love in the same place, long distance relationships aren't all bad. There are plenty of success stories from couples that are hundreds, or even thousands (like Ty and I) of miles away from each other, so don't be discouraged if you're thinking about taking the plunge with a special someone. These romances do take a bit more work than the average partnership, but it doesn't have to be as hard you might anticipate.

Of course, keeping in touch in this day and age is so much easier with FaceTime and messaging apps but it takes a lot more than some nudes and good morning texts to keep a long distance relationship afloat. With that in mind, here are some of the less obvious but highly important things I've learnt about navigating a happy relationship with a love that's far away...


You'll need patience... And lots of it!

At times, a long distance relationship can start to feel like an endurance exercise. It's like after every meeting you're just back to waiting for the next time you see each other, if you're in different time zones you're waiting for the other person to wake up so you can tell them that really important thing you've been dying to talk about, and ultimately you're waiting until the day that you'll both be in the same place for good. It's a constant waiting game and if you're not a naturally patient person, you'll soon become one from all the practice you're going to get.

It's funny because I've always been very impatient and wanted to change that about myself, so I was definitely put into a situation that made that happen. It's safe to say that I can wait for things quite well now! 


You WILL argue

Arguments happen with the best of couples, but having an argument when you're not going to see that person for a while afterwards can make things feel a lot worse than they would if you could just kiss and make up on the same day. Ty and I find that we argue more when we're apart because the constant FaceTiming and the stress of waiting to see each other can make things escalate quicker when one of us is annoyed. Disagreements are more than likely going to happen, so I find that trying to take it with a pinch of salt and an 'it's not the end of the world' attitude can ease the worry that comes after a big blow out.

Having strong communication skills is really useful for these situations because the words you use with each other mean so much more when it's all you have between you. I'm still learning this myself, but I've realised that unless it's absolutely necessary to bring an issue up, sometimes it helps to just bite your tongue and save it for another time. More often than not, it won't even be a big deal tomorrow.

 

It's harder if you're broke

Mate, being in a long distance relationship is expensive! Most couples worry about spending money on an expensive date or gift but when you're doing the long distance thing, you have to budget for all of that PLUS travelling regularly to see each other, and travel isn't cheap (especially if it's international!). You'll also probably have to use up most of your holiday days from work on trips to see your other half and if you decide to get married and move like Ty and I did, a visa is pretty damn pricey, too.

I'm not saying it's impossible to have a successful long distance love if you're not able to see each other often because of the cost, but keeping things exciting and staying positive about what you have is a lot harder when you're not able to spend much time together in person.


Prepare for the lonely moments

Simply put, you're going to feel lonely quite a lot. There'll be parties and weddings and even nights at home on the sofa that you'll have to brave solo because your partner can't be there. Its usually the nights at home that feel the most solitary and sometimes even a video chat or a phone call can't take the feeling away because all you want is a cuddle. All I can tell you is that those moments always pass and you will get that cuddle soon enough. 

For me, keeping myself busy and making sure that I'm around friends and family as much as I can be helps to keep the loneliness at bay. I wasn't so great at this part in my first long distance relationship and I feel like I isolated myself more because I missed the person rather than trying to be more social so I wasn't alone. I learnt my lesson with that one and when the time came for Ty and I to do the distance thing too, being away from him felt much more balanced because in between making time for us to talk and connect, I made sure I was interacting with other people and making fun plans.

I will say that the first 2-3 weeks after you see your partner are the hardest. You'll miss them more because the memory of them is fresh and you'll feel a bit at a loss without them by your side. Happily, it gets much easier once you're over that hump and life returns back to your familiar 'normal'. While you'll obviously always miss them, the ache isn't so raw once you've got used to being by yourself again.

 

Always have a day to count down to

Long distance relationships really are a series of countdowns. When you're apart, you're counting down the days until you see each other. When you're together, you're counting down the days you have left together. FYI, I don't recommend doing the latter at all. I used to do it every time Ty and I were together and that feeling of dread would settle more in my stomach as each day passed. It really wasn't pleasant so I made a conscious effort not to focus on how quickly the time was going and surprisingly, it made our goodbyes a lot easier.  

What you definitely should do is always have your next trip in the diary. Whether you've booked your journey or not, at least agree on a location and rough date so that you both have something to look forward to and you know you'll see each other again. Any kind of uncertainty is an enemy of progress in a love like this, so having a plan in place will strengthen your bond.

 

Discuss your future

There's no harder thing in a long distance relationship than not knowing where it's going. When you're enduring this much time apart from the person you want to spend your life with, you need to know if your 'forever' is going to happen or not. Both of you being on the same page about what you want for your future is the key to making the distance work for you so you can't be afraid to bring up the subject. If you feel uncomfortable talking about it, chances are things might not be going in the direction you'd hoped. 

I know that I had started to feel somewhat insecure about mine and Ty's relationship a little while before he proposed. We had talked about marriage a lot (probably a bit too much for Ty's liking) but until the commitment was made I definitely felt uncertain about how long I could carry on with the stress of a long distance situation. Getting engaged or married isn't a quick fix by any means; We got married almost 9 months ago and we're still not in the same place because of how long the visa process is taking, but at least the wait feels more purposeful when the end is actually in sight. 

 

Trust issues and long distance don't mix

This one might seem like a no brainer but you'd be surprised at how many dormant insecurities rear their ugly heads once you're in love with someone that's far away and maybe in another time zone. It's impossible to know what the other person is doing all day, or where they are or who they're with so it's all too easy to either miss important signs or overthink situations when there's no need (I've done both in each of my long distance relationships).

Hopefully your partner never gives you reason to question their behaviour but it's worth accepting that even the most trusting and open person might get a little suspicious or jealous in this situation.

 

You're not alone

It's important to know that, even in the hardest moments, someone else has been and is currently going through exactly the same thing. If you're in a long distance relationship, you'll be familiar with the shocked gasps or curious questions that come from friends and family when you tell them that you have a boyfriend/girlfriend but they live in another country or area. To many, being in love with someone so far away is unfathomable but in reality, it's done by more people than you think.

Because Ty's in the military, we're lucky to know quite a few couples that have been through deployments or separations, sometimes for up to a year at a time. Knowing a community where being married to someone that isn't around is understood and accepted helps you to feel like your choice isn't something crazy or irrational - because it isn't!

 

Relationships like this can and do work and really, I think they make a couple's bond so much stronger. If you can endure months apart from each other and still be very much in love with a person and make a commitment to them, that speaks volumes about your compatibility and the longevity of your partnership.

So, if the person you want to be with doesn't happen to live within a commutable distance of your home, who cares? Go for it! Love prevails.

Have you ever considered being in a long distance relationship, or are you in one now? I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

THE PASSION PROFILES: #1. Sibylla Nash, Author


Written by: Amber Roo

It’s a warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon as I pull up to Sibylla Nash’s duplex in Baldwin Hills. The weather is pretty typical for autumn in Los Angeles, but remarkably pleasant for me as I arrived in California from a chilly London just a few days ago.

Sibylla, relaxed in a pair of leggings and an embellished white top, comes downstairs to greet me, then welcomes me into her home as we chat about mutual acquaintances and how we met...

I actually know Sibylla, as with so many people these days, through Twitter, having first ‘met’ her when I worked for a website called Young Black Stars that Nash’s daughter Kortney is featured on. More on that later. 

This mother of one is an accomplished writer and entrepreneur that I was instantly intrigued by. She has worked as a freelance writer for Vibe, Essence, The Chicago Tribune and more as well as authoring both fiction and non-fiction books. It isn’t easy to detect a person’s true personality in an online context, but it was clear to me that as well as being successful in her own endeavours, Sibylla was all about motivating action in others through informing, rather than just preaching. I liked that, a lot.

What drew me most to Nash, though, is the sheer amount of hats that she wears as an author, blogger, entrepreneur, mother and more. I can relate well to this ‘jack of all trades’ mentality, so I was here to get her take on that and find out about how she found her true passion amidst this long list of career paths. Her ability and willingness to follow an entrepreneurial hunch and put her all behind a project made her a natural first choice for The Passion Profiles series. 

As we sit at her high top dining table, Sibylla starts to tell me about her first memories of executing her passion of writing. Chuckling, she tells me that she grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 80s, and quips that the popular MTV show by the same name has tainted peoples perception of the area. She announces modestly that she had a normal and happy childhood with her parents and brother, commenting that so many people on TV shows or in the public eye seem to have a traumatic tale of their childhood. She has nothing of the sort.  

Nash was an avid reader and enjoyed writing short stories as a child, pleading with her parents for an electric typewriter on her 10th birthday . They weren’t convinced that she’d make use of such a purchase so she continued to peck away at her old school typewriter, putting her tales down on paper, one key push at a time. Despite her dedication to writing at such an early age, Sibylla says that it didn’t occur to her then to pursue a career in the field. Her eyes dance with nostalgia as she recalls a journal entry from her childhood;

“I wrote that I wanted to be a supermodel, lawyer and animal activist. I’ve not even come close to any of them!”

It was in her late teens, when reading an article about Tina Brown taking over as editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, that the notion of writing for a living struck a chord with her; “I was reading about how much the freelance writers were getting paid and I was like, I can write magazine stories and earn how much?! So I decided to major in journalism.”

At 17, Nash went off to Rutgers University to do just that, eventually transferring and graduating from USC with a degree in journalism. While she enjoys some journalistic pursuits, she prefers fiction writing and explains that as a writer, she’s more observant. Rather than arriving at a burning building and immediately gathering leads and interviews from witnesses, she’d prefer to sit back and watch the flames. Thus, her fondness for fiction writing was realised.

She defines creativity as “having the ability to see more than what’s in front of you”, which is something she’s certainly good at both in her writing and in her life. Nash isn’t afraid to invest in and build on an idea, in fact she loves to create something from nothing and watch it grow, be it a concept for a story that she turns into a published book or a business venture that she can monetise. That right there would be the entrepreneurial spirit she embodies so well, and what she states is her passion.

It was her first job out of college that ignited this entrepreneurialism in Sibylla. Whilst interning at Newsweek, the search for a better paycheque led her to becoming an assistant in the development department at a production company in Hollywood. The antisocial hours and industry attitudes weren’t something she wanted to deal with long term, so in wanting to be her own boss she quit the job to write her first fiction novel, Dream City.

This might seem like a brash move for the average Joe, but Nash is a serial self starter that wasted no time in getting herself to her goal. While most people would write a book and then shop it around to publishing houses, Sibylla skipped that step and went straight to self publishing. She blames this on impatience, but I suspect that it has more to do with an innate sense of confidence Nash has in her ability to do a job the right way. Her way. She made the right decision as since Dream City, she has successfully self published two further books; fiction novel, Bumped and her guide for fellow showbiz parents, Baby Modeling & Beyond: How to Build a Modeling & Acting Career for your Child.

I realised, whilst we spoke, that Sibylla is the queen of research. Clearly no one could self publish 3 well received books without educating themselves on the process first but she is far from just a clued up author. Sibylla also runs three websites, StarBabyLADivaluscious and College Prepped. They are blogs, where she aggregates useful information, links, knowledge and opportunities for readers interested in the various subjects the sites cover. (FYI, for writers, Sibylla recommends Scrivener for writing and Evernote for clipping research and inspiration.)

Much of the information she collects is because of her daughter, Kortney. Sibylla sighs as she recalls the hours she would spend online looking for different college related opportunities for her 13 year old. She figured they couldn’t take advantage of them all, so decided to create College Prepped and share them online for other parents to benefit from. This is something Nash is quite an expert at. She started her blog, StarBabyLA, as a way to share information on casting calls for other parents that have kids in the acting or modelling industry, which goes back to how Sibylla and I came to know each other. As a youngster, Kortney enjoyed success as a child model and actress, thanks to Nash exploring the industry with her cherub cheeked, personality filled baby. Before becoming a mother, she had encouraged friends with cute kids to do the same, so once Kortney came along she decided to put her money where her mouth was and give it a go herself. It worked out. I mean, she even wrote a book about it!

This is where the 'jack of all trades' part of this story starts to become apparent. One might say that a successful entrepreneur must embody this versatile nature as they go wherever money is to be made, and if that’s the case, then Nash has the right idea. I asked her for her take on the term and after a little thought, she decides she’s a bit ambivalent about it.  ‘When I was younger, I thought it was helpful to have your hands in different pies. In hindsight, I feel like if I wasn’t paying attention to all of these other things, then I could just focus on one thing and maybe it would happen faster.”

She tells me that she’s been doling the same advice out to Kortney of late...

“I said, don’t create a plan B. If you’re gonna have a plan, go all in for plan A because that way you’ll make sure it works. If you have a plan B, you don’t try as hard, as you think if it doesn’t work out, you have an alternative.”

Wise words. Ones that I myself feel that I should take on board as someone with a penchant for collecting various hats, pies and jobs. The hardest thing about that route is choosing one thing to focus on, especially when there are so many things you love to do and so many things that your skills lend themselves to. I ask Sibylla what her plan A is and unsurprisingly, she picks writing books. It’s the plan A I would have picked for her too, which makes me think that maybe others can see your true calling a mile off, even if you’re still lost in the fog of all the trades you’re trying your hand at.

Like me, Sibylla didn’t pick a plan A from the get go, so there can be a catch even when you know what your true calling is; 

“My Plan A would be to be that novelist that just sits on an island and writes. If I had to do it all over again, though, I wouldn’t be so chicken. I would go all in for creative writing.” 

But what if it’s not that easy? I ask Sibylla what she would say to a person that doesn’t know what their passion is, a person that wanted to find their plan A. She believes it’s something that deep down, we all know. “I think we all know but sometimes we don’t accept it or we overlook it. When you really go back to just who you are, it’s there.”. She poses a leading question to me; “What do I do when I don’t have anything to do? When I have time to myself, what do I enjoy doing? That’s your foundation.“

Her entrepreneurial spirit comes through in full force when, in the next breath, she passionately states that “the real question is, can you monetise it, or do you WANT to monetise it? Sometimes, people don’t.” It’s an important point that is often overlooked in the topic of chasing ones dreams. Nash feels strongly about this one, as she knows all too well that someone has to make money to keep the lights on whilst still enjoying a satisfying career path. She defines success as “being able to do what you want, when you want, how you want.” and says that “money comes into that because if you want to do certain things, live a certain lifestyle and call the shots in your own life, you need money.”

This might explain why picking only plan A wasn’t the path that Nash took early on. While her books have done well, she knows that unless you’re Joan Collins or Stephen King, writing alone can’t always pay the bills and raise a child. Sibylla is far from a one trick pony when it comes to her talents though, so in her case the jack of all trades moniker isn’t necessarily followed by ‘master of none’. She is a certified life and creativity coach and spends some of her time as a consultant to fellow entrepreneurs looking for advice on building their brands and content online. Add that to the ever growing list that includes the 3 blogs that she writes for daily and is working on monetising, self publisher and novelist of 3 successful books and mother to a well rounded, intelligent and motivated 13 year old, one might say that Nash’s plan A can actually be found in her ability to diversify so successfully. ‘Master of many’ is a bit more like it.

I begin to take some photos of Sibylla for the profile and as she takes me upstairs to show me her writing room, I ask her if she’s reached her definition of success. I ask more out of curiosity for the standard she sets for herself, because as an outsider looking in I would count Nash as a prime example of someone that is thriving whilst living their passion. She sits down on the grey couch and as she answers, I get a real life example of how Sibylla Nash is a motivator that practices what she preaches;

“I don’t think I’m there yet but I think I’m trying. Everyday I ask myself, what’s one thing I can do to take it to the next level? If I’m having the same results then I must be doing the same thing, so what can I do differently? I haven’t gotten to, as Oprah would say, my best life yet but I am on my way. I’m pursuing a goal, and my dreams.”

So your opus is pending? I ask her with a wry smile. She lets out a friendly chuckle, “yes”. 

It seems that opus might not be far off, as Nash is currently working on the sequel to her novel Bumped, which is aptly named 'Popped', and trying to grow College Prepped into a revenue making website. With this much on her plate, multitasker extraordinaire must be another one of the many talents that Sibylla has. I ask her how she fits everything in and she humbly shrugs it off; “it’s breaking down my time into doing things for an hour each so that I can water all of my plants.” Sounds simple, but she does admit that it’s challenging. I almost hesitate before asking her what she does in her spare time, as she’d be forgiven for saying that she has none, but it seems this multi-faceted lady is just like the rest of us at the end of the day - she enjoys binge watching shows on Netflix and reading Jackie Collins. 

Soon, our conversation winds down and Kortney returns home from school after hanging out downtown with her friends as, I’m told, every grown up 13 year old likes to do. It’s time for Sibylla to return to mummy mode so we exchange hugs and say our goodbyes.

I can’t help but feel that warm wash of inspiration and motivation when I leave. Speaking to someone like Sibylla, that isn’t afraid to put her all into an idea and put time and effort into making it grow, can only make you want to work harder and the fact that she doesn’t hesitate to share her knowledge with others is equally admirable. It’s a trait that more people on the path to success should have in my opinion. Your own light isn’t dampened by igniting another, if anything it can make you shine that much brighter and Sibylla Nash’s light is blazing pretty damn bright from where I’m standing.


You can find out more about Sibylla Nash and her books at www.SibyllaNash.com

Her blogs can be found here:

College Prepped

StarBabyLA

Divaluscious

Follow her on Twitter @starbabyla, Instagtram @starbabyla and Wattpad wattpad.com/user/SibyllaNash