Category Archives: Reflection

Away from Home

Mindful of the future, I want to be flexible and frugal. So after selling my house in surprisingly short style, instead of buying a new house or signing a lease, I decided to live with a friend. She had the whole upstairs of her house empty and was welcoming extra income to offset a mortgage. We had even lived together before, when I was a three-month intern at her ad agency about six years ago. I would save money, be contract-free and have fewer responsibilities. This would be a win-win for both of us.

I moved in at the beginning of November. All is nice enough. A decent size bedroom, with storage across the hall in another vacant room and a bathroom practically to myself. None of the home care to worry about like an owner. A very accepting, low maintenance housemate. All my change-of-addresses are complete, and the litany of post-move crap is finally done.

The transition is harder than I thought. Yes, all the reasons I sold my house and moved where I moved were good ones. This is a great scenario, cutting in all the right places, floating because it works. Aside from banking an extra $1,000 a month now, I’m also closer to many area amenities – grocery stores, retail shops, restaurants, fitness centers, doctors, downtown. But something is incredibly hard to adjust to.

It’s not the location. It’s not the house. It’s not my friend. I think it’s a feeling of loss, and being lost.

For the longest time, I have been independent. I started living alone my junior year of college because I didn’t like the roommate experience. I have had my own space since. (Pretty much… I moved back in with my mom for a period between an internship and first full-time job, and I hated it. I lived with an ex-boyfriend for a couple years, but let’s face it, that was my domain.)

I feel awkward not owning a house, I guess. That was the biggest purchase of my life, a substantial accomplishment. Like my forefathers, I was proud to have property. People were proud of me. It became part of my identity, whether I wanted that or not. It was where I created memories and discovered self.

It’s not the lack of possession. It’s the feeling like I don’t belong.

I realized that I have a history of having no home. A real home. A safe place that is comfortable and mine. My parents struggled to provide that. Then, as a young person, I’ve been a rover. But I want to stop.

It hits me kind of like a freight train to admit that I want that home, that the utmost thing I’ve been craving my whole life is a place of my own, to settle down, to build a sanctuary, to be whole and secure. I want a life filled with adventure, but excitement cannot be as sweet without a normal.

The Big Cut

Pretty much my whole life I’ve had short hair. I didn’t have hair at all until I was two years old, and even then it was only a couple wisps on top that couldn’t support a barrette. Then in childhood it was still thin, so my mom kept it above the shoulders. Once when I was eight it was bobbed above the ears and buzzed at the neck.

All through school I rocked a shorter do. My hair thickened up but grew slowly. I think I would get bored with the process and tell the stylist to chop away. Also in the short hair favor… 1) I have wavy-curly hair that always hit this point in growing out that looked bizarre like a triangle head, and 2) I started highlighting and dying my hair which was classified as “medium” length at the salon and would have cost extra for “long.”

I definitely spent three and a half of my four college years with chin to shoulder length hair. And I cut it extra, to just barely tuck-able behind the ears, for a trip to Vegas in 2010.

Diva

In summer 2011, I decided the saga needed a new chapter. I was going to grow my hair long. This doesn’t really require any talent except patience. I had to fight all the urges to simplify, to differentiate, to get it over with. I set a goal to help. I wanted “mermaid hair” – hair long enough to cover the boobs. Maybe I was too heavily influenced by Victoria’s Secret models or my true love for Disney’s The Little Mermaid. I was highly motivated by Locks of Love too. I hoped to be able to donate at least 10 inches for their good cause of making wigs for children with long-term medical hair loss.

I was determined. Just a trim. Just the dead ends. As little off the length as you have to. Much appreciation to my stylist who complimented and encouraged me the whole way. Bless anyone who interacted with the lion’s mane over the course, which may have whipped you in the face or left a trail of stray strands on your car seat. After three years, I finally made it.  See More Photos >

Then I was faced with a super dilemma. Was I really prepared to cut it all off? I was panicked for some reason. I had completed the challenge – lived the long-hair life, taken many selfies to document my success and was ready to help a suffering kid. But I still had a hard time saying go. I dug deep on these complex emotions and came up with some surprising realizations.

I was ready for short hair because I had reached my goals. I was tired of washing, conditioning, combing, drying and curling the unruly mass. I was most exasperated when trying to keep it out of the way while exercising. It was summer and smotheringly hot and humid in South Carolina. I had a couple people question my bohemian look.

For one, I was going to miss the creative styles – braids, buns, etc. For two, long hair has a lot of connotations. Long hair represents youth, a precious exuberance. Long hair represents vivacity, a sparkling fun-loving nature. Long hair represents beauty, flowing locks that turn heads. Long hair represents sex, a fantasy of infatuation and chaos.

ShortThese long hair ideals aren’t set in stone, and they aren’t totally my own. It’s what’s pressed upon us by popular culture and historical musings. I seriously bet women hang on for such reasons. Yet we have all seen some long-haired chick who’s a “but-a-face.” We instantly think certain things about long hair and those sporting it, but when analyzed further, we know that’s not possibly a foolproof indicator of anything. No. We shouldn’t be stopped by societal shit. We make our own auras and decide our destinies!

I made the big cut on July 11 and could not be happier. I feel proud that I stuck to the plan and did a good deed. I feel lighter in so many ways, with a literal weight off my shoulders and much less time to spend coiffing each day. I feel as attractive and spunky as ever and want to “wave my hair back and forth” all day. I feel like a new me and my old self at the same time, and it’s scary how cool that is.

Blue Flames

My boyfriend and I were on a getaway and staying at a small bed-and-breakfast. We had just come back from a vigorous swim. As we’re in the common area outside our room, we cross paths with a teenage girl. He and the girl start speaking. I believe he said something to her first. It looked like a compliment. They chat for a few seconds, and then the girl steps closer to us. I hear this one – “I like your necklace too.” She holds the necklace up for him to see closer, a little silver and glass lantern style case holds blue crystals, a tiny door opens on the setting.  “It’s the blue flames. My family’s Irish.”

He seems to understand what this means. His gaze goes from the necklace to her face. She’s smiling sweetly and knowingly. His look shows understanding and attraction, a wow moment. She leans in further basically beginning to whisper to him. He’s sort of propped against a hall table, and her knee drifts over to touch his thigh. They are both slyly grinning now. Their faces are close.

Too much. I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Not thinking about anything except removing ourselves from the situation, I shove him back towards our room and inside. The pretty 18 year-old with short blonde curls and voluptuous body fit neatly into a revealing white ruffle-trimmed tank and faded jeans shrugs and walks away, all too confident.

I’m furious, and a part of me wants to do the whole passive-aggressive thing where I storm around giving the silent treatment. But I can’t be silent. I’m on fire, like those fucking blue flames. I begin the fuss. What the hell was that? What were you thinking? Oh, my god, you were about to do her right there on the hall table!

He doesn’t get it. He’s just nonchalant. What? No. We were only talking. You were standing right there. I start packing. Throwing things this way and that, trying to find my stuff. I say, “We are leaving.” He’s not happy. He doesn’t get why I’m not happy.

So I’m overreacting. He tries to hug me. I pull away. He tries to make jokes. I say, “I can’t do this with you right now.” Bag half zipped and clothes falling out, I walk out the door.

This was the dream I had last night.

It was very vivid. I yelled and cried in it. I woke up sad and scared. I sat out on the front porch, chill in the air, soft rain falling down, to contemplate what it meant. We all have fears, and I believe those are evident in the subconscious. Against wills of every therapist out there, I attempt to decipher my nightmare…

I’ve had a few pitiful courtships with guys who cheated on me. The worst kind too. The ones with full-on intimate “I love you” permanent girls on the side. The ones that make you think you are crazy for not trusting them. The ones who, after a string of these dead-end relationships, make you wonder if you are the problem, if you are not good enough. I fear infidelity.

I’ve had a lot of other relationships sour in my life due to lack of trust. Some of the people who should be there the most simply aren’t. They’re not equipped to be. Or they don’t try. I’ve come to have little to no expectations so I avoid disappointment. I fear a broken heart.

I know the rules of this world – out with the old and in with the new. Lovers, jobs, materials are all victims, being bested by something of a new generation. I recently had a birthday. The thoughts swirl especially when you read a study that shows women apparently reach their peak of beauty at age 25. I fear aging.

But it’s not like me to be dire, without a shred of hope. The positives in this dream were travel, adventure and exercise – running themes in my life. That maybe the girl looked like me, a younger Aarika that hangs on to carefree fun. That my boyfriend has never given me any instance to question him whatsoever. That my active imagination has and will get me far. And that the blue flame crystals were probably a result of watching a major amount of Breaking Bad lately.  :)

Perspective to Prevail

I originally wrote this article on May 24, 2012. Over two years ago, but this perspective always rears it’s head, now as it did then. My brother is in town, and we’ve been talking a lot of “life is good, especially for us” stuff, so I see it fittingly…

Life has me busy. And, yes, I know I sound like a broken record every time I post. But you can pretty much expect to hear that tune from me for a while, what with my chaotic swirling mind. It’s not a bad problem to have. That’s what they say.

Well, work has ramped up. Play has ramped up. I swear spring has everyone in a furious frenzy. I was struggling after a four-hour meeting today, thinking, “This is crazy!” I needed to clear my head at the gym.

I got there, started to change into my sweats and realized that I had forgotten my socks. Universe, are you trying to hold me down?

I transitioned my plans for running into a more sockless-appropriate routine. I created my own circuit including 10 reps of squats, 10 reps of lunges per leg, 10 push-ups, 10 tricep dips and 30 crunches targeting upper, lower and oblique abs.

I got into a real groove, and three sets turned into five. It didn’t hurt that some chick beside me was pumping away and I took it as a challenge. Talib Kweli came blasting through my ear buds. I turned his “Get By” all the way up and felt a fire in my belly.

“This mornin’, I woke up. Feelin’ brand new, I jumped up. Feelin’ my highs and my lows and my soul and my goals…”

This was one of those moments when you know things are going to be alright. You just get hyped and ready to take on the world. You’re strong and driven and smart. You’ll lick any task that comes your way. You will prevail.

No, being busy is not a problem at all, when you have the right perspective. Maybe all I need is a jam session every morning, let the power of music propel me.

The Year of Change

I originally wrote this article on December 23, 2012. Fairly old and far from where life has taken me now but fitting considering I have some catching up to do. I left it as it was for purity sake. You’ll see several throwback posts like this as we go…

2012 has been the year of change for Aarika Woods. I’ve said this for a long time, maybe since January. But even these final months and days continue to mark this year full of turmoil, opportunity and transition.

My career has been madness, in the sense of Albert Einstein genius madness, but still. It started when I was blindsided by losing a gem of a job when my major local ad agency with historical clout closed. (I still can’t believe the amazing collection of people and work we were able to claim under one roof.) Then I was… Scooped up by a distinguished former agency client for temporary full-time employment with the State of South Carolina. Freelancing as a marketing project manager for a coastal tourism organization. Starting a new marketing contracting LLC with a partner. That’s three jobs. Now, thankfully, I’m down to one focus. I’m building a business, cultivating client relationships, filling the pipeline, facing my first taxation period and freaking out only a bit.

My family dynamic has changed. My brother moved to Richmond, Virginia, kicking ass and taking names and following his big sister’s footsteps in sales and marketing. My baby sister just turned 15. She is in high school and has her driver’s permit. My mother is on her own two feet but literally now uses a cane and figuratively still needs me as a crutch. My dad is stable and has at least not married for the fifth time yet. The rest seem so far from me. I struggle with being a “grown up” and the bigger person, letting them all know that I care but getting little in return. I’m moving into the role as a rock for this family, and it happened so fast.

My romance. Or lack there of since very recently. The tides have been turning for a while, the contentment slipping away like white caps at dusk. I sat on the beach taking it all in, until I blinked, and the gurgling waters were gone. I have to be poetic about this since the harsh reality is haunting. He’s the most traditional Nice Guy I’ve ever known. There was love, respect and consideration. I thought I had the recipe. But you can’t change your heart. You have to do what’s for the best, even if it hurts like hell. I know that perspective and time are the keys, and so far they tell me I made the right decision. I’m looking forward to a personal, individual journey.

I look back and can only think “wow.” I hope this summation sounds positive, because that’s what I am. A year of change equals a year of growth and enlightenment.