Friendship + Fashion

The way I see it, there are only four types of friendships.

Okay, that could be the over organized Virgo in me talking but I think I’m on to something. There may be a few shades of grey within these categories but they remain the umbrellas under which we interact with each other.
While cleaning out my metaphoric and literal closets in preparation for Liberia’s dry (and festive) season I started thinking about the placement of individuals and items in my life. Here’s what I found.

Fashionable (Afropolitan) Friends.

Fashionable (Afropolitan) Friends.


Partners + Shoes

Although you have family and friends that you love dearly there is only one person with which you share this kind of intimacy. Your partner is often the first person you call when the news is unbelievably good or disastrous.

The equivalent of this partner in my closet is the shoe. Shoes make or break an outfit, so choose wisely my friends. Often the shoes on a woman’s feet cost more than the rest of her outfit. Why? Because shoes should be about quality.

In many other areas in your closet you can cut the quality corner for a trend or a great interpretation of a classic style but this is the place in your closet worth investing. A great shoe, like a great partner will give you all the love you give it for a lifetime.


Best Friends + Bags

I had four best friends waiting for me when I got to this life; Mom and my three sisters. Other than the tattoo the Garnett Girls share there is an irremovable mark in each others lives that we bonds us. As for my mother, there is no visible mark but her influence is everywhere.  Add in my three sisters by choice, also known as my front line of friends, and that makes me a pretty lucky girl.

I have this same luck and love for handbags. I like them fly and unique.  Some are classic like my oldest sister Charmille, some are afro futuristic like my big sister Tanya and others are sexy & chic  like the sister right above me, Quellie. The point is each bag is unique and says something about me or the me on display at the moment. Bags & besties are like mirrors; they reflect some part of who we are.

Friends + Denim

Although these are not best friends, there is love here and these people would have key roles in my Lifetime movie. This same feeling goes for jeans. About two years ago I went on a jean strike until I could find the perfect one. I discovered after much frustration, that there is no perfect jean; like people, each one has its particular imperfection.

These days I add a pair or two to my closet when I find an amazing fit. The jeans that remain are versatile and sometimes the only piece of my closet (or friend) that will do for an occasion.

Associates + Accessories

This group of people aren’t really needed but isn’t life a bit more fun with them around? Associates. Clearly not friends but people you say polite hellos to. Sometimes, they’re your dentist or someone from college but they regularly add a splash of something to one’s lif

They can be a go to item for a season, remain with you like the diamonds you only wear for special occasions and/or hate on you silently (which you discover a season later in pictures). Either way they’re fun and will always reflect who you are in various stages of your life.

So, sound about right?


Mountains

What the top of life might look life...with a Red Stripe. Ochos Rios, Jamaica

What the top of life might look life…with a Red Stripe.
Ochos Rios, Jamaica

My life has been feeling like the top of Mount Everest lately. I don’t say that to boast. It is actually quite uncomfortable. To be overwhelmed with the life you have attracted turns out to be a bit complexing.

Since starting this column, I’ve been on quite a climb. Moving across the world, traveling, losing and gaining confidence, faith and loved ones. In many ways, the mountain has been steep and unforgiving.

Around mid year there was a major shift in my life that brought the view of  a mountain top closer.  A love. One I have never experienced like this. A challenging, unexpected, completely consuming love pointing me in a new direction. Even though all the details of this path is new it feels like one I’ve traveled before.

This is not a romantic comedy kind of love; based in fantasy and pleasure that is bound to run out. It is  the kind that feels like a cool, long shower washing over every inch of my body in the hottest of climates. The kind that makes every hurdle seem surmountable.  The kind that brings tears from growth that are followed by the joy of finally becoming the human being you’ve been meaning to be. Although, it is influenced by, it is not solely dependent on, the whim of another imperfect human being or anything else outside of me. This love is coming from inside.

I keep asking myself, “now that you have (or see the clear path to having) everything you have ever wanted, what are you going to do with it?”

I’ve let that question stir in my spirit for weeks. We are so used to the struggle of the climb that we have difficulty enjoying the view from the top.

I have gone through so many contingency scenarios and self inflicted fear tactics in my mind about why this can’t be real; in essence trying to justify why I don’t deserve this happiness.

How completely ridiculous. The universe must be laughing at me.

We all deserve the exact amount of love we put out in the world. That love has brought me to this mountain top and my God, it is beautiful.

I am fully aware that this elation, this top of the mountain feeling won’t last. There are other mountains to climb. However,  I  welcome the next upward struggle  because I recognize now that there will always be mountain tops.

It is simply my choice to see the uncertainty of the under path and the bliss of the pinnacle with same amount of love, grace, humor and compassion for myself & others.  So, whether you’re at the bottom or top of your mountain I urge you to do the same.

 


The Art of Couch Surfing

The dream couch.

My future couch. Who’s surfing?

In twenty days I’ll be heading back to the United States for my sister’s wedding, work and lots of pleasure. Aside from the laundry list of clothes that must be tailored, deadlines that must be met and the 13 hour flight ahead of me I’m pretty excited.

Earlier this year I found myself on a poorly planned trip. Sure, there were some unexpected mishaps but as a whole, I did not recognize the amount of dedication and knowledge it takes to float around the world on your own schedule.

Freedom is a lot of work.

What a challenging time, it was. It was painfully obvious at that time that I had not mastered this vagabonding lifestyle I’m aiming for. My appreciation for my family and friends  deepened so much more.

This time my stay will be much shorter and I’ll be subletting from a friend for a portion of my stay; just two lessons I learned through the slices of humble pie, tears and frustration from my last visit.

Below are three more lessons that may improve your next attempt at the art of couch surfing.

1. Be self sufficient. Have your own ride, tidy up & contribute!

Most of your loved ones won’t care much if you’re on their couch, that is,  if the couch is clean, you’re getting around on your own and there’s food in the refrigerator.  It’ll be like you’re just the fun in town for awhile that seems to always be opening a fresh bottle of wine out of the air. Use the money you’re saving on hotels to help out around the house and if renting a car is too expensive learn the local bus and train routes. You’ll enjoy your freedom and your host will be happy to have you, again.  Everyone loves a pleasant house guest.

2. Never assume.

This is a harder one for me. I’m definitely an ask forgiveness instead of permission type of person but it reads as inconsiderate in many scenarios, especially when someone is doing you a favor. The time you take to send that text message about the last bit of milk or to ask about having a guest over can make all the world of difference, regardless of how close you are.In cases where you have already acted without asking, be prepared to apologize, expense the mistake and adapt to the situation. Vagabonding as a whole is about spontaneity & learning as you go.

3. Expense your own space.

You can house surf but for so long, for extended trips you’ll probably need your own space. Consider budgeting for a hotel in advance;  that way you can spend the bulk of your time with your loved ones but leave right when everyone wants their own space.

Hope this serves as a testimony and guide to all. Happy Couch Surfing!


26’s Peace & Quiet

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All the cabins at Libassa are named after endangered animals in Liberia. I spent my time with a crocodile. The cabin, that is.

At 26, I have been bitten by the yoga bug. I have a fascination with understanding myself and the world around me better. Yoga creates an opportunity for me to do this with nothing but my being and the willingness to learn. I’m sure my boyfriend doesn’t mind what it does for my body either.

Recently I added meditation to my practice so when I heard  a group of lovely folks were heading out to Libassa Ecolodge in Marshall, Liberia for a silent meditation and yoga retreat, I was in.

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The rooms were super rustic. Loved it.

The weekend getaway from Monrovia’s party and social scene was more needed than I even realized. Many of my fellow retreaters attend a weekly meditation session and were taking their practice to another level with a eighteen hour vow of silence. Impressive stuff. Since, this was my first time really meditating and being silent I committed to eight hours of silence; quite a feat for a Chatty Cathy like myself.

I learned that silence is more beautiful than anything that can be said sometimes.

The things you hear during silence is deeper; your breath, uncomfortable thoughts, forgiveness, epiphanies and much more lie in silence.

The things floating around my head at 26 would amuse, sadden and encourage many. Interestingly, I hadn’t taken enough time to see what was in there myself until this weekend. My love to share sometimes hinders me of just dealing with my life individually. I’m sure it was by divine intervention that my data ran out while I was in the middle of nowhere. No Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook meant having to deal with anything I had been over-sharing. It surprisingly felt good.

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No killing the bugs. Does it get more granola than this?

I love how they built this place. Green everywhere.

I love how they built this place. Green everywhere.

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Our yoga studio for the weekend where the ocean whispered to me. Beyond relaxing experience.

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My fellow retreaters. We had such an awesome energy together…even in silence.

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We had a silent dinner and breakfast at this single table. It is amazing how you can communicate with no words.

After the two silent meals, my first head stand (YAY!) and a refreshed mind, body and spirit the retreat was over. A few of us stayed after to enjoy the beach wine, conversation and freedom.

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Keeping great company on the beach.

I’m truly grateful for such a wonderful life and experience. 26 is really looking up.

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Bliss.


The Wild Wild West

Resting my crown and letting the universe guide me.

Resting my crown and letting the universe guide me.

I had an interesting Gchat conversation with a dear friend of mine in Ghana this morning. Since our Miss Africa USA pageant days we both have moved to our home countries and are working in our respective careers.

I’m so proud of us.

However, this morning my darling had a tinge of frustration in her voice. I knew exactly what it was because I, too, am experiencing it. As West Africa rebuilds many of us are finding ourselves in the wild wild west circa 2013.

Millions of dollars pouring in, crooked politicians, social fear tactics and an overflowing batch of talent arriving excitedly only to meet the often disgruntled talent that never left.

It’s a bit intense and can cause many repats some serious growing pains.

Being raised African does not exclude us from the culture shock of having an American accent or European ethics in Africa. The judgement, fear, dismissal and downward meanness that can result from those characteristics catch most of us off guard.

Even as an African (born and partially raised) I am amazed by the complexity, depth, diversity and overall awesomeness of modern African culture. I’m taking in so much information in such little time right now!

Between dissecting my own intricate family history, West African philosophers, naturalists, artsits and customs that I believe I should be familiar with, I am often exhausted by night fall.

After a mini meltdown the other evening, I realized how silly I was being. I had already done the hard part by making the decision to be present and learn. That’s it. One book, one cousin, one artist at a time. Since then the universe keeps reminding me that what is for me will always find its ways to my eyes, ears and heart even in the wildest of circumstances.


I’ll be gone til (Sept)ember

Today is my last day in the United States for a while. Although, I’ll be back shortly this farewell feels different. The last time I left the US there was a feeling of nervousness but it was overwhelmed by the excitement of the unknown and hidden by the assurance that if after four months I did not like Liberia I would just leave and resume my life in America.

This time is different. This anxiousness has none of those things to conceal it. I know very well what I’m returning to & after the weeks I’ve spent here I’m certain that I do not want to live in the States the way I used to.

I think this anxiousness has everything to do with expectations. The expectations from others is there but isn’t nearly as high as the expectations that I hold myself to. As a Virgo, my tendency to be over critical can sometimes be paralyzing, so with 24 hours left in the country I’ve decided to take a page out of the Silver Linings Playbook (great movie by the way) & find the positives in every negative.

Case in point, upon arrival to the States I had this laundry list of things to do and purchase while here.  I used to laugh at my friends for trying to import America to Liberia on their visits via their purchases and experiences but here I was doing the same thing. Part of traveling is having a genuine experience elsewhere. I am reading Vagabonding by Rolf Potts (review to follow) and one of the first things he discusses is letting go of the plan.

This is super difficult for me. I love my plans! However, at a certain point you have to let life happen. I may not have seen every neighborhood, bought every item on my list, paid every debt and filed every piece of paperwork perfectly.  However, I started a company that encompasses all my talents and passions that is actually sustaining my life, had memorable nights with good people, let go of unhealthy love and added a well of knowledge and experience to my life that is helping me build my empire, appreciate all that I own and most importantly be more balanced, happy and free.

In the end I will always return to my favorite mantra. “My only job is to be diligent and positive and the Universe will always have my back.”

To all of you that welcomed me in your home, celebrated life with me, held my hand as I cried and continue to support my life & freedom. I thank you.

“I’ll be gone til (Sept)ember…”


Sweet Awakening

Yes, sometimes LEC doesn’t work, many of the roads are unpaved and what we consider basic amenities are often luxuries there, but I couldn’t get back to Liberia fast enough.

My weeks in Atlanta & LA have been great and I’m even more excited to make it up to DC and New York before leaving but I must say I’m ready to go home.

In this very moment, life in the States is no longer my reality.

This trip has felt like a complex dream. A mostly pleasant one with lots of love, friendship & much pleasure. Then again, there were some nightmare moments of uncertainty, disappointment & hard learned lessons.

As I awake, I’m in disbelief of this dream I get to live. This return is different. I’m not going to visit or experiment, I am dedicating myself to building a stellar life for myself and for as many people as possible in Liberia.

I’m taking the laughter of my nephews, advice of my sisters and the joy of my friends back with me. I can only hope to create half of that happiness in Liberia.

Send me luck love, guys!

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