Insecure-A Reflection (no pun intended, Mirror Issa)

From left to right: Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji, and Jay Ellis. From Insecure HBO.

Last night marked the end of an era. The series finale of Insecure aired. Quite honestly, I have told myself that it’s not the end and that Season 6 will be with us in the summer. But I guess that just demonstrates how much this show has been part of my routine for the past few years.

While watching the finale, I couldn’t help but reflect on a few recurring themes which I felt were finally resolved.

Forgiveness of friends

From Insecure HBO

For those who watched the series pilot episode, you know that Molly and Issa’s friendship picked up some turbulence after the broken p&%#* song. Overtime, they had their quarrels but for the sake of their perceived peace, they swept it all under the rug. That is, until everything blew up in their faces at Issa’s long-awaited block party in Season 3. Personally, I had no idea how the two would overcome their passive aggression and make amends. But for what it’s worth, I think their time apart trying to figure life out helped develop them as individuals who were better prepared to be friends together. The emotional admission of gratitude for one another in their shared moment during Molly’s wedding more than speaks to this new reality.

The other friends in their group had a different relationship, and I think that is reflective of real life. We all have varying levels of closeness to people in our friend circles. As long as we can come together in times of need and celebrate each other, that’s what makes life all the more interesting.

Forgiveness of significant others

From Insecure HBO

Issa infamously cheated on her boyfriend Lawrence in Season 1 after feeling neglected for so long. Forgetting her birthday and opting to watch tv instead did not make matters any better. Lawrence was of course battling depression while on an extended post-graduate job search.

However, all the antics that soon unfold from that point onward further prove how complicated, frustrating, and confusing love can be when you don’t know who you are. Distance always brought Issa and Lawrence back together, only to encounter more BS and reminders of why they broke up in the first place. After unsuccessfully dating other parties and Lawrence having an unplanned child, it was unclear if they had a even smidgen of a chance. So, it was interesting to see them end up together after all. Once again, the theme of forgiveness rings true for a pair who were undeniably crazy about each other and never stopped loving one another.

Forgiveness of self

From Insecure HBO

Issa had frequent reflections with her inner-voice, personified as “Mirror Issa”. In retrospect, this character was the epitome of the insecurity that many of us feel when finding ourselves in this world. Constantly questioning our every action, thought, and desire. Issa finds strength as well as weakness through these reflections, a balance that undoubtedly tips the scale towards the former by the series finale. Of note, Mirror Issa is no longer seen in Issa’s final look at the mirror in the closing scene.

Adulting

From Insecure HBO

If this show did anything, it was to relay the many trials and tribulations of stepping into and owning adulthood. Lawrence deals with the reality that your dream job can make your undergraduate experience look like it was a waste of time. Issa searches for her place in the corporate world, only to find that she was holding herself back from being her own boss. And Molly, who seemingly had it all together as a lawyer, faces workplace discrimination with salary as well as difficulties fitting in when she transfers to an all-black law firm. Post-partum depression is explored by Tiffany’s character in perhaps the most realistic way possible. Normalizing therapy and being aware of one’s mental health via Molly and Nathan, especially in the black community was one that I found crucial and inspiring. And while many argue that Kelli was simply included for comedic relief, that fact that her character arc lands at feelings of not being taken seriously by her peers is one that is relatable on many levels. I do wish that Molly’s mother’s death had not been included so abruptly during the finale because it was difficult to process in such a confined period of time. Nevertheless, I believe they purposefully included this tragedy in that manner to reflect the unpredictability of life (call me cliche but just playing devil’s advocate here). At the end of the series, these characters who we have followed for 5 seasons have stepped into and assumed the role of their God-given talents. They are confident and successful in executing their business plans and simply thriving!

Happiness

From Insecure HBO

Finally, the theme of happiness was a major one throughout the series. These characters struggled not so much with knowing what made them happy, but having the audacity to own it in front of the whole world. Issa and Lawrence likely never stopped loving each other, but knew that from a societal standpoint they were not supposed to work out. They realized this at different stages throughout the series. First, when Issa cheated on Lawrence, then when Lawrence got Condola pregnant. Why were their feelings for each other never jaded even though they hurt each other so much? Was it simply a toxic relationship turned good? In my humble opinion, I think this just goes to show that the heart wants what it wants. Whatever makes you happy in life and keeps you up at night when you don’t have it, is probably worth pursuing (take that with a grain of salt). Both Lawrence and Issa were willing to stay in unhappy relationships with Condola and Nathan, respectively, rather than pursuing each other once again. But that love never died, and in the end they ended up together. We have no idea how long this will last or if it truly is a “happily ever after” scenario. But one thing that Issa said pertaining to being willing to find out if she and Lawrence will work speaks to true to the idea that happiness is a journey and not a destination. It fluctuates, and that’s okay.

Final thoughts

From Insecure HBO

Insecure changed the way that people view black people in the media. POINT BLANK PERIOD. It’s not the only show to have done this in recent years, but it’s one of the most prominent ones. It was so relatable at times it was scary. From the cinematography to the soundtrack which inspired much of what I have listened to in the past few years, Insecure has left a huge impression on my perception of the world and my place in it. While I secretly hope that spin-offs or a movie will tie up some unanswered questions (i.e. Does Tiffanny ever fully adjust to Denver? What does Kelli’s child look like? What happened to Nathan, Condola, and all the other exes? Why did Kelli and Ahmal have so much animosity towards one another?) I will say that if this is the END end, then I am content with it because as art imitates life, we don’t always get all the answers. So until the next great show comes out, thank you for hearing me out on my reflection for Insecure! If you watched the series, let me know in the comments what you thought about how the series ended. I would love to hear your perspective.

Peace

Photo of artwork from my visit to the Van Gogh Experience, Fall 2021.

In this season I have found solace in silence. With this technologically-inclined world that we live in, we can reach a point where the absence of noise is daunting. We are constantly surrounded by our cell phones, computers, televisions, and more. But when was the last time you took an hour or more to just sit with yourself and think about everything around you? Oddly enough, you will be surprised how your thoughts overflow the silent space you have created in that moment. Thoughts you buried years ago without the intention of digging them up again tend to resurface. Emotions that have become intertwined with the fibers of your subconscious, beckoning their interpretation. 

I recently went through the motions of this process for a day, then I increased the frequency of my practice. With some journaling and indulging in my hobbies such as singing and playing guitar, it was such a joy to create my own noise rather than being bombarded by external frequencies. You start to prioritize things differently, and to your benefit if I might add. Trivial, unresolved nothings exit your mental space, leaving room for more meaningful energy. 

I highly recommend trying this, especially as we reach the end of the year. This time of year is always a reflective one for me (then again, when am I not reflecting, self-proclaimed philosopher and all). Wishing you a peaceful journey as you declutter and reconnect with yourself!

CHANGE

It has been said that the only constant in life is change. And boy have we all experienced it in the last 2 years. I remember praying for the return of normalcy, only to be presented with new challenges. It is truly inevitable.

I think part of our tendency to avoid or fight change is the feeling that we are losing control. It might be overly philosophical to question if we ever truly had control in the first place, especially when we see daily evidence that seemingly supports the notion that we do have control. Take for instance your decision to get out of bed, brush your teeth, and go to work every day. While some might agree that there could be a higher power that woke you up in the first place, you did have to make a decision at will to commence your day. It is not as if there are magnets underground dragging you to your intended destination each day. Or are there?

I would like to believe that we do control a good portion of our lives by what we say and how we think. A few years ago, I made a (daily) commitment to write down my goals for the year every day in a notebook. As the year progressed I found myself actually checking off items from that list. By the end of the year, all of those goals had been achieved. Writing it down and seeing it every day changed something in my psyche and in the world around me. It was as if everything in the universe was working towards propelling me towards that goal.

I am sure we have all encountered individuals or groups that did the exact opposite. You may have told them your goals or expressed a certain vision that they could not see or appreciate. Rather than encouraging you or helping you find resources to make those goals a reality, they researched all the ways your plans would fail and made sure to expedite their doubts and negative energy to you as often as they could. This world is full of energy that is constantly looking for balance. How many times were you successful in environments like that? Places where you felt you were stupid for dreaming? Places where “reality” was shoved down your throat in the name of “being honest” or “support”?

If you are in the aforementioned situation, I urge you to leave IMMEDIATELY. This world is already too grim to have the flames of your dreams extinguished by those who do not share the same winner’s mentality. You have to surround yourself with people who get it. People who understand that just because you do not have it now, does not mean that you never will or are not supposed to.

This concept reminds me of the times that I would try to get a job in retail as a teenager. Every job I went to wanted me to have prior experience in the same field. But I had never worked a day in my life-where was I supposed to start if they all wanted a pro at the cash register or doing store inventory?

The same applies to your dreams. Obviously they have not come true for you (yet), but those without vision will explain to you that since you are not experienced in having this dream become reality, that you should stop dreaming. Or if they simply cannot imagine this dream coming true, they will dissuade you from pursuing it. Do you want to know why it is called YOUR dream or YOUR vision? Because it is YOURS to understand and YOURS to fulfill.

So to close, I will leave you with a playful anecdote about the little engine that could (SPOILER ALERT). A small engine train was sent on a mission to pull another, larger train that had broken down over a mountain. Now I am sure that the bystanders were looking at the train like “Are you serious? You think a train as small as you can accomplish this daunting task? We had better get a bigger train in here to fulfill this mission.” Sorry to spoil the ending to this children’s story for you if you have never heard it, but the little engine train accomplished the task. And do you want to know what the driving force (no pun intended) was for this train? The little train repeated the phrase “I think I can” over and over again until she made it to the other side.

I THINK, THEREFORE I AM.

Remember the power of positive thinking, positive affirmations, and a positive environment to nourish your desires. I promise you, the formula is that simple! All it takes is will power.

A Collection of Thoughts Written Outside

April 21, 2021

So I am sitting outside in front of a fountain, contemplating how quickly circumstances change in life. Just when you get used to what you consider “normal” that rug is swept from under your feet. You are instantly reminded that the only thing constant in life is change. Some change is for the better. It helps us evolve as human beings. It’s just insane at times because we work so hard to get to “that place” and ultimately realize that life has several checkpoints and not necessarily one destination. I find solace in knowing that whatever lesson is meant to be learned can be open to interpretation. The goal is to become more open-minded, and accept the fact that perfection is not tangible. Trying to achieve it can be a roller coaster. But the sooner you give yourself a bit of grace, the better. 

April 25, 2021

Sitting in the park, wondering how long this wooden bench has been here. I feel like it’s been here since the 1800s. The lamp posts also look ancient. I can imagine a young girl escaping to meet her secret lover in this park at dusk. Perhaps mimes or painters once filled this space in an effort to entertain the masses. I’m thinking about how effort, hard work, and dedication guarantee nothing, even if done correctly. But what you do have to be grateful for, regardless of the circumstances, is the opportunity to try and sometimes get what you want. Because we never get everything we want in life.

I think as long as you have a destination, there is always a reason to keep going. And at the end of the day, we all have a God-given purpose to fulfill, as long as He wills it. 

There is a mixture of aromas ranging from someone’s pasta lunch to the cool spring breeze enriched with the scent of tree bark. The sun is piercing through the canopy of leaves above me. In my mind, I am creating stories for the passers by.

I would get up and start walking again, but then I’m reminded of how hard it was for me to get this bench. 

I’m listening to a pre-curated Spotify playlist that fits my mood at the moment.

Space and Time

I entered my thrities on Saturday, January 30, 2021. I will admit, I thought that a major shift would take place, maybe a tingling sensation or a “ah-ha” moment of gaining this milestone year. And yet, nothing really occurred. I tried to go to bed before midnight, and after pretending to be asleep until about 12:20 am, I was awakened by a DM from a friend on Instagram. She was DJing and wanted to shout me out during her set, so I said what the heck and watched for a bit.

Without getting into too much detail about how I actually celebrated (and am still celebrating) my thirtieth year on this earth, I will say that I have been adulting long before legally being considered an adult. I guess that is why I feel no differently than I have for many years. The excitement wore off pretty quickly because the responsibilities are still looming. But it feels good to have another year to accomplish new things and, more importantly, LIVE.

One principal that I am trying to live by is not to take life too seriously. Sometimes we dwell on the worst-case scenario and eventually it becomes our reality. I am an advocate of visualization and the “you are as you think” approach. When we realize that we can actually choose to direct our thoughts to be more positive, we unlock powers previously unknown to us.

I am picturing myself as being at the end of a river waiting for the natural flow of life but occasionally shaking things up. There has to be a balance between passivity and aggression. I pick up on vibes very easily, but I am learning that vibes change and are certainly not a constant. And I am okay with that. Vibes can be fleeting, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. In any case, knowing what we want secures our sanity.

It’s a shame that so many of us are guarded. We have perfected the thickest barricades due to our past experiences. And for good reason. The trick is knowing when to let the guard down. I think that growth comes from being uncomfortable (take that with a grain of salt). When we let down our guards and open ourselves up to the possibility of getting hurt, to the likelihood that someone with a different opinion could challenge our own line of thinking, we GROW. We might get broken, we might hurt a bit, but we take something away from these experiences every time. The hope is that each time you open up, your mind does, too. Being ready for these experiences takes growth, healing, and introspection.

I say all this to say that I think I will be doing more of that this decade. Opening up and not letting fear get in the way of my growth. There is always room for improvement, and I am really enjoying being a first-hand witness to this process called life. The answer to our deepest questions is on the other side of doubt. All it takes is space and time.

Adaola Sings

New logo for my platform “Adaola Sings”

To kick off 2021, I started a new platform dedicated to my singing. It has been a while since I sang consecutively every day.

This new page will have a new video of me singing a song every day this year. That is my goal. Singing really brings me a lot of joy and I want to share that with the world.

To stay up to date with this new project, please follow me @AdaolaSings on Instagram, Youtube, and Twitter!

A Time When Gratitude Won

Photo retrieved from: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-importance-of-practicing-gratitude/

December 21st marked the alignment of Jupiter and Saturn. It also happened to be my mom’s birthday. While I have never quite been an astrology or zodiac buff, I did find it interesting all the conversation this event generated. People were supposed to get super powers and a shift was to be felt around the world. In retrospect, I am unsure if I felt anything, really. I have been more aware of my surroundings and I had a few vivid dreams this week, but nothing major. What super power did you get, if any?

I told myself that rather than acquiring a power that I had never had, the powers I already possessed would be magnified. That I have found to be quite true, especially after enduring this whirlwind of a year. I have deepened my sense of self-love and stood by the notion that I come first. I have ceased pouring into situations that do not replenish me the same. It can be draining to care, but a happy medium must be found between caring and the absence of such. Sometimes, not caring becomes a defense mechanism that can do more hard than good.

My favorite aspect about this year has been giving myself permission to exist as I am without trying to please others. I thought I had done so in the past, but I realized that there was still so much I was hiding in terms of what I thought and what I could do. I especially love the epiphany I had about allocating my energy more wisely when it comes to certain situations.

So what intentions am I setting for next year? Quite frankly, I want to be more intentional about everything that I do. I want to understand and stand by the ends to the means, and surround myself with people who support those efforts.

In contemplating my year, I realize that I spent a lot of my favorite moments in a virtual space. And surprisingly this resulted in the creation of one of the largest friend groups I have ever had. I am super grateful for the ability to turn this year into something positive. So while we might be quick to scoff at the year 2020 has been, let’s also relish in the good times that we surely had. Because there were so many!

Bonding over the love of music in safe spaces created by DJs online. Taking that first step in creating a business or showcasing an idea because we had a little more time to do so. And more importantly, being even more grateful for the human connection that, while it was limited physically, was transferred to kind gestures online.

That is how I would like to remember 2020. A time when gratitude won.

Music

Me trying out a Fender Stratocaster at Guitar Center.

I woke up with Coldplay’s “In My Place” stuck in my head. Next I played “Dreams” by The Cranberries. Can I tell you how much music has saved the day? It fills a sonic void. Literally. More importantly, it always finds a way to enter the soul and mend the pieces that don’t make sense. Then it moves to the tongue and becomes a language of unification that transcends age, gender, cultural backgrounds.

I love the way that music just IS. It has been super therapeutic; these past few months, especially. 
I don’t know what it is, but 2020 has given me the audacity to dream harder. Not only do I dream harder, but I also go more fervently after what I want. I am re-claiming my destiny with a force that I can feel growing each day. A flame of resolve to get it done. A mindset that is a cranked-up version of my prior spontaneity. 


And I am grateful that God blessed me with a love of music. Where would I be without it? I remember one day during clinicals, a classmate of mine told my attending that I used to sing the national anthem for the school’s white coat ceremony. He then asked if I would like to sing for my colleagues in the break room of the hospital. 


Never one to back down from an opportunity to sing, I put down my clipboard and sang the first verse of Mariah Carey’s “Hero”. It felt odd amidst of the gray walls and beeping medical appliances that are native to the hospital setting. But after singing, I could feel some color creeping out from my mouth and flowing into the room in which we stood. It was HEALING, to say the least.
I miss singing in church and having people tell me that they had been in a rough place but my voice helped them have hope. And while it’s as easy as uploading a video online, it just doesn’t feel the same. The atmosphere, the echo of your voice hitting the walls of a church that was built over a century ago. Playing with volume and singing over sore throats during the winter.

I probably could sing before I could talk. And I went on to do choir, musicals, talent shows. I really miss singing Handel’s “The Messiah” and “O Holy Night” during Christmas concerts at school. Blending my soprano with the altos, tenors and basses. I always love a good harmony, even though I was always required to do melody or descant.


I want to re-capture that essence, so I am making it a point to not only let my voice be heard more, but also to come up with creative ways to do so during these times. I can’t wait to see what results from this! In addition, I picked up the acoustic guitar and thinking of electric all during this pandemic. My mind is on Jimmi Hendrix but my fingers are still catching up 😂 In due time!


I say this to say that if you have a passion that has been shelved, dust it off and rekindle that flame. Don’t worry about timing or having everything you think should be in place. You can’t start until you get started. All it takes is that first step of action. You never know who might need to hear it. Maybe it’s you. 

Something Amazing Out of the Abyss

Rittenhouse Square Park, Philadelphia, PA. Photo taken by Doctor Beauty using iPhone.

It appears we blinked and it was mid-November. Where did the time go? They say time flies when you’re having fun, but 2020 (for many) has been anything but. You know what 2020 primarily did for me (thus far)? It sent me into somewhat of a survival mode. Living below my means in many ways. Being okay with not having the things I previously called necessities, like fresh nails and eyebrows 24/7. It was more of a response to the circumstances at hand than a premeditated choice. The naileries and beauty supplies were closed for months. Everyone would see each other outside, men looking scruffier than usual, women with outgrown acrylic nails. But real recognized real. We each recognized “the struggle” in our eyes, even though we could not see the expressions of each other’s mouths past the mandatory masks. 

I became far more than self-sufficient or resourceful. I became adaptive to a degree unknown to myself. And I reached a point where my creativity became a gateway to what was previously impossible. I opened doors that were once closed and embarked on journey’s I had wanted to start years ago. Imagine me, at 29, thinking it made sense to start playing acoustic guitar? Or submitting my poem to a pediatric medical publication for the first time? I stepped outside of my comfort zone the way a shadow leaves our bodies in the sun. 

But I was not the only one who embraced this new call to self-reinvention. I noticed this attribute in so many, especially in the online community I became a part of during the pandemic. I was so impressed that I decided to give them a platform to voice their life journeys via my new interview series “Testimony Tuesdays”. It’s something I had planned on executing as a podcast years ago. In retrospect, it seems I have used my creativity to make something amazing out of the abyss that was a somewhat murky 2020.

So here I am, pretty much reflecting on a year that is not quite over but just about, typing through the odd sensation of the calluses I have developed over the past few weeks from practicing guitar. The road to 2021 does not appear to be around the corner, over the river and through the woods, or along some winding path. It feels as though it is just down the street but in an updated version of technicolor. And I think that is pretty exciting!

Thank God for the Angels

Do you ever wonder how much of our lives angels can see? Specifically, angels we once knew? Sometimes I find myself alone in my room with my thoughts. And then I wonder if there is an angel looking over my shoulder at what I am typing, reading, watching. Or maybe accessing my innermost thoughts without my awareness. I wonder if there are different ranks of access to our lives that God gives the angels. I get a vision of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come showing Scrooge all the families he offended. Perhaps that is the extent to which they can observe but not interact. And there are times when I lose something and am frantically searching for it, and it turns up in one of the places I could have sworn I’d already looked. And I think to myself, maybe an angel felt bad for me and placed it there. 

As I gain more angels over the years, I try to hold myself to a higher standard. I know that God sees everything and knows my thoughts. But there is something different about an angel you once knew, someone who was once here on earth now with an aerial view of your life they were once unaware of. It puts pressure on you to try harder, to be better. 

Maybe the angels don’t hold us up to a higher standard. Maybe they don’t have it all figured out yet, either. Maybe they just yearn to give us the clues that they can to make our lives a bit easier. Especially the guardian angels. The ones that salvage my phone and myself when my klutzy side takes advantage of my coordination. The ones that whisper consoling words in my moments of worry and doubt. The ones that celebrate the little victories with me when no one else does. 

What about the angels on earth in physical form? The ones who enter our lives unexpectedly and bless us abundantly? If we are angels on earth, how do we know? 

I am thankful for the bliss found in ignorance at times, because perhaps knowing the answers to all these questions could be frightening, intimidating, even. Until I get another clue or nudge in the right direction, I will keep living the best way I know how. And thank God for the angels.