Book Spotlight: On the Come Up

Reading

Every once in a while, I read a book that inspires me, makes me think, or really just captivates me through the entire story. Most of the time when I come across one of these books  I hide away in my room and binge read, only coming up for air to eat and use the bathroom. All other daily tasks are put on hold until the book is finished.

Angie Thomas’ On The Come Up (OTCU) was that book for me this past Sunday. I managed to read the ENTIRE book in one day. Now, I will say, the last time I read an entire book in one day was also the work of Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give (THUG). Now, this post will be about OTCU, but I also want to point out the importance of both books.

OTCU follows the life of Bri, a teenager trying to find her place in the world while also struggling to help her family keep their lights on. She can write, she can rap, her dad was a famous underground rapper, so she sets out to make a name for her self too, thinking this will be her big break to help her family finally “make it.” But what Bri doesn’t calculate into her plan is the media and her image. She doesn’t plan for people to call her ghetto and ratchet. She doesn’t plan to be labeled a hoodlum and a threat to society for sticking up for herself. She just wants to make it by any means necessary.

Throughout the book, we see everything through Bri’s eyes and we are able to see what she’s trying to tell the world, but we also see how the world isn’t attempting to listen to what she has to say. Instead, we see how they are quick to make judgments and place her into the “ghetto black girl” stereotype. But enough of all the summarizing, it’s time to move on to the fun part, if you want to know more, READ THE BOOK!

One of the main components I love about Thomas’ books is the way she writes them. Yes, I know that may seem like a well “duh Jasmine” statement, but it’s rare to find a writer who can paint vivid pictures and transport the reader into the world of the book. From the moment I started reading the book, I was no longer sitting on my bed, I was walking around “the Garden” with Bri, I was going to school with Bri, I was on stage with Bri. It’s an incredible feeling to be so entranced by words on a page that you lose the sense of time and reality.

The other main reason I love OTCU and THUG are for their significance in black culture. To have a black, female author write two books that deal with issues the black community is dealing with right now is huge. From police brutality to gang influence in the community, to overcoming poverty and addiction, to racism and beyond, Angie Thomas has created books that resonate with the struggles of POC today.

These books aren’t just important for POC though, everyone should read these. If they make you uncomfortable good, they need to. Let these books open up discussions you’re afraid to have. Talk about the issues in the book. Listen to what people have to say. It might shock you to learn how people have connected or learned from these stories.

I would like to end this by saying thank you to Ms. Angie Thomas. I know you might not ever see this post, and I know that our paths may never cross, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you for lighting the flame in my soul to get back out and write again. Thank you for using your platform to speak on issues most people are afraid to speak on. Thank you for inspiring me to finally tell my story. To quote Bri, “you can’t stop me nope, nope.”


“Your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be the roses that grow in the concrete. “

Angie Thomas, The Hate U Give

January Reading Review

Reading

As I stated in my New Years goal blog, I am aiming to read 52 books this year. In order to reach this goal, I need to read at least one book every week. I’ve started the year off on a great foot! I read FIVE books this month. I’ll give a quick summary of the books and my opinion on if they’re worth reading.


“Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.” 

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

I started the year off by finally reading a book my therapist recommended to me years ago, The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. I have tried reading this book on numerous occasions and never really made it past the first chapter because I would find a different “more exciting” book to read. So, I told myself that no matter how long it took, I was going to read the entire book before I started anything else and let me tell you what, I wish I would have sucked it up and read it sooner. I totally get why my therapist told me to read this book, there were so many great passages about letting go of what people think of you and about learning how to properly love yourself. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who struggles with perfectionism and negative self-talk.

The next book I read has been a favorite of mine ever since I read it back in high school (thank you Mrs. Johnson and APLAC,) Truman Copte’s In Cold Blood captured me back in 10th grade for its raw sense of adventure and crime. I wanted to reread the book without the stress of it being “homework” to see if I  was able to gather different feelings for it. I’m still amazed at how even though I know the characters were awful humans, I couldn’t help but connect with them and at times feeling sympathetic for them. If you like true crime novels, this book is a MUST read!

I decided my next book should be on the lighter side of things to help keep my reading pallet balanced, so I decided to finally read The Memory Keeper’s Daugther by Kim Edwards. I had tried reading this book multiple times over the past year but always set it aside for some other book that I thought was more interesting. It didn’t help that the story started off slow, but once it got going I couldn’t put it down. I’m not sure how to summarize the story without giving too much away, so I encourage you to check it out for yourself. It’s a feel-good story that makes you angry and sad and happy all at once. If you are looking for a light read that doesn’t challenge your mind too much, this is the book for you.

If you haven’t heard of Educated by Tara Westover, you are truly missing out. Educated has made it on many of the top reading lists, including President Obama’s. I have been dying to read this book since it came out, but like all things, I kept pushing it aside and life got in the way. The book is about Westover’s family and the struggles she faced to educate herself. This book left me feeling empowered and reminded me that if I really put my mind to it, nothing and no one can stop me from reaching my dreams and living my life to it’s fullest. 10 for 10 recommend you add this book to the top of your list!

I decided to get an early start on my Black History Month reading list and finished this month off with Incident in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs. Jacobs recounted the horrors of her life as a slave, and her never-ending mission to earn her and her children’s “freedom.” Like any story from this time period, it’s not really a happy one, but the strength of slave women is always inspiring. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in African American History.

Well, I was able to reach my goal of reading five books this month! My goal for February is to read at least four books, all of which will have some tie to African American history. As always, if you have any recommendations on books you think I should read, please leave them in the comment section and I will add them to my never-ending reading list!

New Year, Better Me

My Journey



“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” —George Eliot

Well, it’s the new year, so I’m sure your social media feeds are full of everyone talking about their resolutions and “new year, new me,” and all that other mumbo jumbo. Well, I’m here to kind of do the same thing. This year I’m going to really start working on making my dreams a reality. So, with that being said, here is what you can expect to see from me in 2019:

Books:

One of my goals this year is to read at least 52 books, so that means I should hopefully read a book a week. Reading has always been one of my favorite hobbies, and during 2018 it served as a way for me to relax and escape from the everyday stressors of life. I am always looking for book suggestions and would love for you all to send me suggestions!

At the end of every month, I will post a summary of the books I’ve read along with my personal review of the book and any other fun information I learned from the books over the month.

Health/Fitness:

Another goal of mine is to increase my physical health, I plan to do this by working out at least four days a week. I currently work out at the most amazing studio, with the most badass trainer, Debbie Olivas. Through the course of the year, I will share any and all milestones I reach along with different tips and tricks.

I am also making a commitment to live a nondairy lifestyle due to my “lactose intolerance” and “possible dairy allergy” uggghh. So again, if you have any recommendations on snacks, brands, recipes, etc, please send them my way! I have been a lover of all things cheese and ice cream so you can imagine the struggle it’s been to give up that part of my life.

Mental Health:

In 2018 I dedicated a lot of my time and energy into bettering my mental health and learning how to love myself, so I am going to continue this journey in 2019 because it is a never-ending journey, and there is still so much left for me to work on. If you’ve been following along with my journey, you know that I have been very transparent in the journey to understand my anxiety and perfection disorder, and I want to continue that level of transparency in 2019.

My Brand:

Finally, my biggest goal this year is to start my company, Conley Communications. My vision is for Conley Communications to be a place where people can come and receive marketing, PR, and graphic design services. So, if you are in the need of any of those, please don’t hesitate to reach out and learn more about all that I offer!

Entering A New Season

Mental Health

Over the past year, I have taken a serious step back and reflected on my life, whether that be the people I associate with, the food I consume, or the ways in which I spend my free time. I have taken a moment to sit back and really reflect on what is important to me and how things affect my mental and physical health. Since being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety and Perfectionism disorders, I have really focused on my environment and what my triggers are along with what makes me feel good.

A lot of my stress this past year came from graduating college and then the ever daunting “next step.” During the month and a half after graduation, I stayed in Conway and was determined to find a job in Little Rock. Moving home was not an option. While I was looking for a job, I continued working at the daycare and basically had a full-time job there. I applied for jobs, I went on interviews, I did the things I was “supposed” to do after graduating.

Then, one day I snapped. I realized that I was miserable living in Conway. I had been on many interviews with no callbacks and the opportunities in Central Arkansas seemed to be fading from sight. As much as I loved seeing the kids at the daycare, I knew that I had bigger goals and dreams I wanted to achieve, and as much as I hated to admit it, I needed to move home. So, within the next two weeks, I began saying my goodbyes to my “babies” at the daycare, I packed my apartment up and said goodbye to the friends I had made in my four years down there.

From the moment I made the call to my mom telling her I wanted to move back home, a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like I was finally moving in the right direction. Once I got home things just kept getting better, family friends kept telling me about connections they had and thousands of emails were sent out. I had a lunch meeting with my old boss, turned mentor, Allyson, and she straight up told me that I looked like I had lost my spark. She gave me a pep talk about not getting discouraged and reminded me about how badass I was and within I think 2-3 weeks of that conversation, I landed a job.

I am now a Client Engagement Representative for Hugg & Hall Equipment Company. I help manage the digital marketing efforts of the company along with my team. It’s been a great stepping stone into the real world, and I can’t wait to share more with you guys!

What season of life are you in? I’d love to hear how you all have handled moving into new seasons and the challenges and blessings that came with it. Feel free to leave a comment under this post, or reach out through my contact page!JJ - Imperfection

August Reading Review

Reading

As some of you may know, I love to read, and I don’t just say that lightly. I am one of those people who would rather read than watch TV unless the Kardashians are on then TV trumps reading, but that’s not the point. My New Year resolution was to read at least one book a month and so far I have read 12 books this year ultimately fulfilling the minimum of my resolution, and sparking a new challenge, read 3-4 books a month.

I have decided that I can’t let these wonderful books be known to only my mind and imagination so at the end of each month I will offer a quick review of the books I read that month and also give a glimpse into the books I plan to read in the following month. So, let’s get this thing started.

I started off this month reading one of the many books I was gifted for graduating college (oh yea I did that btw), anyways, I found out about this book from looking over President Obama’s summer reading list so I figured it had to be good since he recommended it. The World As It Is by Ben Rhodes gives a front row seat to the 8 years Obama was in office. Rhodes served as the President’s speechwriter and one of his top advisors on foreign policy. As someone who grew up during the 8 years Obama was in office mostly ignorant and oblivious to all that went on in the world politically, it gave me a great view of everything that Obama did while in office. I will say though, this was one of the more challenging books I’ve read in a while due to some of the mundane political topics that I just wasn’t fully interested in and slightly went over my head. I still highly recommend the book though, no matter your political views, it was interesting nonetheless and allowed me to see behind the scenes of some of the most important moments that shaped President Obama’s legacy.

After reading such a heavy book I decided to give myself a mental break and read a shorter and less complex book. Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore is an amazing true story about two people who are worlds apart but become friends through unlikely situations. It’s a story of faith, friendship, and acceptance. I read this book in TWO DAYS, it was that good. I could not put it down. It made me laugh and cry. If you are looking for a quick read that will fill your heart with all types of good feelings I strongly recommend that you give this book a try.

I capped off my August reading by diving into yet another nonfiction book, Long Walk to Freedom, the Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. When I say that this book intimidated me, I mean it. Not only is this book a solid 625 pages, it encompasses the life of one of the most inspiring African leaders. Throughout my life, I have heard bits and pieces about Nelson Mandela, but I never really knew who he was or what exactly he did that made him so important. I can assure you that after reading this book all of my questions were answered. Mandela lived an incredible life that was mostly spent in prison or traveling South Africa “underground” in order to not be thrown back into prison. In his autobiography Mandela allows us to see first hand the struggles he went through and the challenges he faced in order to win the freedom of not only himself but for all others who looked like him. It is an incredible story and the last chapter or two of the book truly inspired me to always fight for what is right for the collective whole, not just myself.

I was only able to read three books this month, but two of the three challenged my reading stamina due to their impressive descriptiveness and fact-based sentences. In total, I read 1,291 pages this month and loved each and every second of it.

As I go into my September reading, I would love to hear suggestions of books I need to add to my reading list, I am not picky about genre or topic and would love to hear all of your suggestions! Be sure to drop a title or two in the comment section below and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog to receive updates on my reading endeavors and any other journey’s along the way.

What’s Your Flavor?

Interviews

IMG_0599

I personally don’t think anyone will argue with me when I say that we would all love to see our dreams become a reality. For one of my fellow UCA alumnus, that’s just what he did. Roosevelt “Rozay” Thomas III launched “Flavor” in the spring of 2017. Flavor started out as a line of signature “dad” hats but has since expanded to beanies, visors, hoodies, t-shirts and long sleeve shirts.

Fashion has been part of Rozay’s life since he was younger, but his interest in designing and creating looks grew as he got older. The name “Flavor” just came to him during the creative process of starting his brand. As soon as Rozay saw the logo design created by an artist he followed on Instagram, Flavor was officially born. Along with his girlfriend Rachel, they began naming the products after different flavors of fruits, drinks, and other fun fresh food products.

IMG_8277Flavor has grown tremendously since it’s founding, but Rozay hopes to grow even more by having his apparel go from just being an online store to being sold in stores like H&M, Urban Outfitters, Forever 21 etc. within the next five years. Rozay credits his success to his supporters, he wouldn’t be where he is without the support of his peers, and their ability to share his product on social media.

I have personally enjoyed watching this brand grow over the past year and can’t wait to continue watching it grow and develop into mainstream fashion. Head over to the online store and find the perfect flavor to compliment your style and taste.

The Awkward Life of Jasmine (As Told by Me…Jasmine)

My Journey

If you know me personally, you are very much aware of the goofy/clumsy/awkward moments that make up my life. I can’t help it (trust me I’ve tried) it’s just who I am and I’ve learned to own it like a boss.

My clumsy moments include simple things like tripping over air, running into doors/walls, to more complex matters like accidentally burning myself with a lighter (multiple times on different occasions,) or catching a blender on fire…yes I caught a blender on fire. We won’t dwell too long on all the clumsy moments I have encountered in my life because there are far too many to recount, but I know that I would not be the awesome person I am today without them.

Now my awkwardness, on the other hand, is semi situational and can occasionally be masked by me acting goofy, but just know that 95% of my life is spent feeling very awkward in a lot of situations. Thankfully I don’t let my awkwardness compromise my confidence….most of the time. While in professional settings I can push my awkwardness aside and kill an interview or presentation, when it comes time for me to talk to someone new, particularly a cute boy, I become a blob of awkward energy.

My awkwardness is paired perfectly with my goofy personality. Now not everyone gets to experience me in my truest form because I’m shy and it can take me awhile to warm up and feel comfortable around people, but the ones that do, boy I bet they wish I’d go back to being shy sometimes. Most of the time I don’t even mean to make my friends laugh, it just happens. I’m not sure if it’s the mix of my sarcasm and uncoordinated movements, or what but people always tell me I’m goofy, and I own it.

The combination of awkward, goofy and clumsy tendencies that live inside of me can be remarkable at times. I’ve learned to laugh through the moments and to not take myself so seriously because I mean we’re all human and anyone who acts like they haven’t passed gas and blamed it on someone else (usually a small child) to save themselves from embarrassment is lying. Needless to say, I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, so why act like we never have moments of embarrassment.

I know I can’t be the only person who lives most of their life being clumsy, goofy, and/or awkward, so if you’re like me and your life seems like a series of unfortunate (yet funny) events please share some of your best moments in the comment section! I’d love to hear from you all.

It’s Okay to be Selfish Sometimes

Family, Mental Health

I have come to the realization that now is the perfect, and possibly only time in my life for me to be 100% selfish. Now I don’t mean selfish in the way of not sharing or withholding things from other people, I’m talking about being selfish with my time, with what I choose to do and who I choose to do it with.

Our twenties are the most confusing and challenging decade of our life because for the first time in our lives we have complete control over what we do. For the most part, we aren’t tied down with kids and family life, we have the liberty of finding a job where ever in the world we so choose, and we don’t have to answer to our parents anymore. (I’m not saying be disrespectful, but we don’t have to live by the “house rules” anymore.)

So I am taking this time to be selfish, I have a lot that I want to accomplish in this next decade, and I’m not going to let anything or anyone hold me back. My dream is to work in a PR or Ad agency in Chicago, and I plan on making that dream a reality in the next two years. But first, I need to graduate.

I’m also being selfish with the people I choose to let into my life. Just because you’ve known someone for a long time, or even if that person is a family member, doesn’t mean you have to let them be a big part of your life. Always be respectful, but the sun doesn’t need to rise and set on what they think about you.

I heard a great sermon at church a few weeks ago, and one thing that stuck with me from the message was a simple question; “what happens when helping you is hurting me?”

People are most likely going to get mad at you for taking care of yourself instead of taking care of them, you might get called names and you might lose some friends. But the truth is if they can’t see that you’re being selfish in order to better your self and regain control over your life, then they weren’t the kind of friends you needed in the first place.

I’m taking an oath to work on being selfish with my time and energy. I am too young to be stressing out about things that I have no control over. I don’t need to worry about what people think about the choices I make, as long as I’m being smart and the choice makes me happy, that’s all that should really matter.

I encourage all of you reading this to do the same, even if you aren’t in your twenties, find an area of your life that needs a little TLC and become selfish with it. Take time out of the crazy, hectic day for you. Your mental health is far too precious to be taken for granted.

If you have any helpful self-help/mental health practices that you try to work into your daily routine, I would love to hear about them in the comment section below!

Alive and Well

My Journey

Well, I’ve made it a week without social media, and guess what, I’m still alive. I haven’t broken out in hives or had thousands of mental breakdowns, my life hasn’t blown up in a ball of fiery failure and destruction. That may seem drastic, but let’s be real… we all think that’s what will happen if we totally disconnect from social media.

In fact, my life has improved. I don’t feel this constant pressure to post something perfect that captures only a small percentage of my actual life. I am not bogged down with the feeling of my life not being adequate. I feel liberated in some ways because for the first time since I joined the social media world, I am living my life for me and not for the likes, retweets, or comments from people I hardly know.

Don’t get me wrong, I do miss social media, I miss being connected in the talk around campus, I miss getting updates on current events (both political and pop culture.) But other than that, I don’t miss it that much. I think we (millennials) can get so caught up in feeling like our lives will end the moment we get off social media, but the reality is, our lives don’t begin until we do.

We are at such a formative point in our lives, we are shaping our futures, and creating our lifestyles. We deal with enough pressure from trying to get through college with the least amount of debt as possible and searching for the perfect job that will help us pay off that debt while not making us miserable.  The last thing we need to be stressed about is how our social media lives compared to those of our followers and “friends.”

We are in our twenties, we don’t have a lot going for us, we are all confused and lost, and just trying to figure out how to fully live on our own. And I don’t care how pretty your Instagram feed looks, at the end of the day, we are all riding the same struggle bus, so let’s get off the high horse and accept that it’s ok for our lives to be a mess.

I’m preaching to myself just as much as I’m preaching to whoever decided to read this post. I was trapped in the same endless cycle of refreshing newsfeeds and opening and closing different social media apps, feeling like my life wasn’t fabulous enough or that I was a failure for not having my shit together. But I decided to cut myself from the cycle, I’ve taken a step back, I’m focusing on learning about myself and what I want to accomplish in my life. I’m reconnecting with my true self, and I encourage everyone reading this to do the same.

This break from social media is amazing, I have so much more time to dedicate myself to my school work and other hobbies that I usually ignore. So I still have a few more weeks of this break from the social world, but as of now, I’m not dying, my vitals are fine, and I feel a lot freer.

Turning Over a New Leaf

My Journey

As I look back over the past year of my life I have grown tremendously. I have accomplished things I never thought possible, I have overcome various obstacles and hardships. I have made friends and lost friends, I have laughed and cried. Through all of this though, I have found that I haven’t fully been living for me.

Yeah all of my accomplishments have been about something I wanted and something I went after to achieve, but I haven’t been living in the moment. I’ve been chasing after some far fetched perfect reality, and have been caught up in living in a daydream land about various hypothetical situations that I lost a sense of what my true reality is.

I’m a naturally stubborn person, and sometimes I ignore what people tell me because it doesn’t fit into the reality I can have in my head. I am very much aware that this is a dangerous place to be, and because of it I have caused myself pain and heartache that could’ve been avoided, but alas it wasn’t. Even through the pain, I have learned a lot about myself, and I’m amazed each day at how strong and resilient I am.

So right now, on this day I have taken a pledge, I am going to turn over a new leaf. I am going to practice living in the now and work on not taking myself as serious. I am going to continue to dream, but I am also going to accept the reality in front of me. I am going to look for happiness within myself before I look to others to make me happy.

I am going to practice going with the flow and let go of the need to plan out and control every aspect of my life. I am going to work on not shutting down and feeling rejected when plans change.

But for right now, I’m taking a break from the outside world. I’m disconnecting myself from all social media. I am going to take time out of each day to meditate and reflect on myself. The people I communicate with during this time are the ones who are close enough to me to have my phone number. I am going to focus on cultivating relationships with the people who genuinely care about me.

During this time I am going to take chances and try and break out of my comfort zone. I’m going to face my fears (except mascots, mascots will always be scary) and do things I wouldn’t normally do. I’m going to do these things for myself too, I’m not going to try and find an “insta-worthy” moment that would generate hundreds of likes. I’m going to explore and experience the world around me and look at the unfiltered, not cropped beauty of the world.

So, as always, even though I am not on social media right now, you can follow me on my journey through this crazy thing we call life.