Why I Can #NeverForget

7th grade. Sidney Lanier Middle School. Mr. Maxwell’s Texas History Class on the 2nd floor by the stairwell. Red LMS shirt. Khaki pants. Half pigtails half down. Some kind of mascara. Fashion Fair Foundation. The kind in the gold tube. Blue and white K-Swiss.

“Either there has been a terrible mistake…or someone has declared war on the United States.”

Bell rang. Homeroom. Third floor. Ms. Rote’s class. TVs down. Computers still on…live shot of the Twin Towers at 9 A.M….Servers shut off at 9:03. It wasn’t a mistake.

9:30 – 7th grade is the year all the liver talk starts. Headed to early dismissal because I had a dr’s appointment. Long line of parents checking kids out of school already. Get to car. Daddy tells us to go right home. No doctor. Just home. We don’t know who they’re targeting.

10:00 – Home. Wall to wall coverage. I saw them fall.

September 20, 2001 – President G. W. Bush addresses the nation while I opened birthday presents on my living room floor, my welcome to becoming a teenager.

I cry every time I watch what I saw September 11, 2001 live. It still freaks me out to hear airplanes fly too closely. When life as you know it in a country you love changes 9 days before your 13th birthday, #NeverForget isn’t an instruction to remember. The words, “I will” are implied before.

I can’t forget. That was the day movies became too real. The day that I realized when it happens on the Big Screen that planes crash into buildings, it’s being implied that 2,753 people died. The day that water stopped being OK on the plane. The day that my mom couldn’t watch my plane take off at the gate. The day I started looking at people who looked differently from me in airports funny.

I guess this is why I’m not interested in conspiracy theories. I guess this is why I get so fired up talking about social justice because we focus on mistreating people when…do you know what could happen?? I wake up sad every 9/11 and don’t remember why until I remember. My spirit knows. And will never, ever, ever forget. Love your neighbor, man.

The Vision

So I have this vision, and have for maybe the past 15 or so years, that everyone I know will eventually be celebrating awards for massive success in their fields, and it’ll be this cool ‘6 degrees of separation’ thing where we’ve all known each other for years…

People will make documentaries about this and try to figure out the formula for success we’ve all somehow figured out. It will baffle people how greatness attracted greatness for all those years. Among our group there will be Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, Tonys, Pulitzer Prizes, Humanitarian Awards, Badges of Honor…everything you can think of…

I say it all the time, I know all the best people. This vision is encouragement, not pressure. I truly believe there are no people like the ones I am blessed to know, and that favor flows through this group.

I don’t make New Years’ resolutions. I usually just ask God for a word for the next year. 2018’s words are “#focus” and “#soon.” You can interpret it yourself, but I believe because of this generation’s consistency, drive, and focus, God will begin to shift things into place in our favor SOON, and it’s going to blow our minds how rapidly we will all see His hands on our lives. Every hurt that we’ve wondered about, unfair deal, tough break — none of them will matter or even exist anymore, but God will let us know exactly why it happened and with pay us back sevenfold.

If you’re feeling like you haven’t been focused or consistent in 2017, it’s not too late to start. I’m excited for us, friends. 🤗

I’m Sorry

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There’s no excuse…

I have been dishonest with you all. Not blatantly, but by omission. And I say it’s dishonesty because I deliberately haven’t told y’all what’s going on, because I hate being fawned over or worried about.

Let me start from the beginning…

In the past few months, I’ve spoken to so many friends who think I have it all together. People who applaud me for how great of an attitude I have had and continue to have throughout all the crazy things that happen in my life. At the same time, I have a ton of friends who have told me they want to know more about my journey, about the things life throws my way on a consistent basis.

I usually just don’t respond because I talk to who I need to talk to – myself – and I get over it and keep it pushing. I take a dance class. I do my hair. I go shopping. I write. I get over it.

But this past week, I have felt something I have never felt before: alone.

Yes, I know I have friends and family. Yes, I know I have Jesus. But with certain things in my life, the loneliness comes from the fact that I am surrounded by people who will never understand what is going on because they will never have to go through it. It’s one thing to fall ill, it’s an entirely different thing to have your body betray you. You have diabetes? OK, watch your sugar intake. You have high cholesterol? OK, watch your fat intake. But I…I exist, therefore I have these illnesses. And this is something that is always in the back of my mind. I have a LOT to think about, and sometimes, it’s like…can I just have some normal problems? Can a man just cheat on me? Or like, can I not be able to make rent? Literally anything else??

So as a friend put it yesterday, what I thought was me just dealing with things has actually been a sort of veiled high-functioning depression. Speaking to another friend, one who told me she saw how together my life was, she mentioned that she was scared to know what was underneath it all. Smart girl. There’s a lot under here, and as people who have been so great to me, you deserve to know. So coming soon, I’m going to be letting you in on it…

For someone who has the gift of communication, I sure have not been communicating well for myself. I have been able to tell everyone everything about everything else but me. I realize some of you didn’t even know I had this personal blog lol. Well, it exists. And I’m going to be using it, and the other means of communication through which I have told others’ stories to tell my own. Finally.

So yeah…talk to you soon.

Bruh. Chill. 

Hey y’all! Cheesy McCheeseface but also just true encouragement moment (and weird vulnerability thing I’m trying): I had a huge anxiety attack Thursday in the hospital because, as expected, I’m sick and freaking tired of dealing with my health. I just started freaking out about crap that I haven’t done (that no one asked me to do lol), people who have left me (who probably were never a part of my destiny), and how no one understands me (Jesus definitely does), and I just lost it. Thankfully, my mother and a super wise African male nurse were there to calm me down. 

That’s not the point of my story, though. The point is that this week, I got a pretty big deal contract as a ghostwriter, and two people with a lot of influence have taken particular interest in mentoring me and fostering my writing. All those emotions and that fear from Thursday seems so extra now, and I’m actually pretty embarrassed at my lack of faith. See, the enemy isn’t just trying kill us – he’s trying to shake us. His whole plan involves showing God that His experiment – us – is flawed. That once things get too hard, we’re gonna forget that God has never and can never fail, and we’ll forget about Him. Satan knows his future, and misery loves company. It’s OUR job to stand on the Word, no matter what life looks like in the natural. That’s why it’s so important to read your Bible. Put it in you when you don’t need it and it’ll come out when you do. 

If you happen to be going through something that looks bleak, please remember that everything is OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end! God is always on our side. It’s our job to chill out and let Him work. Life is a fight, but the good news is, if you know Jesus and rest in His peace, the fight is fixed! 

That’s all. 💞

Falling Out of Love Part II: 26, The Age of Moving On

(First seen on The Young Houston Magazine)

“He, that began a good work in you, will carry it out until the day of completion in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

“So do not throw away your confidence, for it will be richly rewarded.” – Hebrews 10:35

“Though he slay me, yet I will hope in him.” – Job 13:15

I know a lot of people who have done amazing things, and some who are en route to doing amazing things, and they all have one thing in common: they’re in my age group…

Back in high school, I remember Time Magazine publishing an article that said my generation, the class of 2007 and surrounding age groups, would be the generation to change the world. Talk about pressure! I took that article to heart, and decided that’s exactly what I was going to do. I, along with my fellow superhero classmates, was going to “heal the world we live in and save it for our children” by starting with the “man in the mirror”…or something. So I set out my list of goals, and got on my way to pursuing them, caution be darned. I. WAS. GOING. TO BE. FAMOUS. Everyone knew I was going to be the First Black Female President. Or Oprah. Either/or. And I knew it, too…

…and that’s when life came to a screeching halt.

On my road to becoming a journalist-by-day/backup dancer-for-Janet Jackson/Laker Girl/Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader by night, I discovered (while trying to lose weight for prom) a weird muscle in my abs. Not being fully convinced that my kajillion crunches a day were just developing like this, I asked my doctor. She looked at it and freaked. It was my liver. It hadn’t been draining properly and was so distended that I looked pregnant…and people didn’t fail to ask me if I was. Imagine being an 18-year-old girl who constantly gets asked if she’s pregnant. (Or worse….some thought I was just fat.)

The next few months were a blur. Reportedly, I had doctors tell me a plethora of medical treatments I would have to receive (the biggest being a liver transplant) and limitations I would have to put on physical and social activity. I honestly don’t remember any of this. I think my mind blocked it out because it was so traumatic to think that, instead of moving to LA immediately after high school and becoming a dancer, I might have to do something else. Also, my eyes were yellowing more and more by the day, causing my self-esteem to drop exponentially (if you could put a number value on that sort of thing?). All I know is I graduated high school, and the week before I went off to college in a new state where I only knew 2 other people from high school, I had a drain put in my liver that I had to empty a couple times daily…that proceeded to leak on the first day of class.

Life sucked.

That was 2007. A year that should have gone down for me as a year of new beginnings and exciting experiences would forever be marred for me as the Year of the Giant Halt. I remember crying everyday my first semester of college because all I wanted to do was make bad decisions like my classmates. And sure, I made my share, but I was always coddled by friends who would remind people, “Hope is sick.”

My faith never weakened and I stood on every scripture and prayed every prayer and believed every prophesy, whether or not I happened to be speaking to God that week. But I was just so sad.

No one knew. To this day people don’t know how sad and lonely I felt, and after reading this they still won’t because words can’t express that. And I love that. I find that there are some emotions that others don’t need to feel with you. The last thing I needed was a shoulder to cry on; I needed some to stand on. I found some, and they stood on every scripture and prayed every prayer and believed every prophesy with me, whether or not they truly knew if I would survive the disease. For that, I am so very grateful.

I graduated college in 3 ½ years. I remember feeling so played as I left college. Like, OK, I finished. But I’m still sick and I look and feel even worse than when I got here. So what now? I can’t go back home and start dancing because I don’t have enough stamina. What job is going to hire me? I’m a liability and I get tired after 4 hours of sitting still, let alone having to work for 8 hours. I stayed at home a lot during that time, and I learned the Art of Resting. (Seriously, y’all. I could teach a class on how to chill.) I would often feel in my gut that I was very close to getting a liver transplant. Those were the good days. But most days, I would cry myself to sleep, wondering what I was supposed to learn from it all. And then there were days when I would just try to will myself to get out of my own body. If you want to talk about hopelessness, that’s the epitome.

At the end of 2012, the worst year of my entire life, I was in and out of the hospital so many times I can’t even count. It got to the point where I wouldn’t even tell people I was there because it was so normal. I was having to get a blood transfusion every 6 weeks, I was too tired to drive myself anywhere, and I was asking other people to walk my dog because it wore me out so badly. My body was fighting itself, and I had come to terms with the fact that I might never get to change the world because I was going to leave it.

March 8, 2013, I woke up to try and walk my dog myself. I went to the bathroom and realized I couldn’t pee. I figured I just didn’t need to and I just went out of habit. I noticed my stomach was cramping a bit so I returned to my room and sat on my bed. Then I woke up 3 hours later. Apparently, I had passed out. I was freezing cold so I turned on the heater and put on a sweatshirt. In March. In TEXAS. That’s when I realized I couldn’t breathe. After freaking out 2 of my friends by calling them and telling them that little fact, I called my mother to come get me. She walked in, (side bar – unbeknownst to me, my dad made himself and my mother keys to my apartment about a week before – LOOK AT GOD!), walked my dog while I prayed for strength to get dressed and down the stairs, and we went to the hospital.

Upon arrival, my whole body hurt and I was only breathing 40% by myself. I just remember the ER doctor telling me, “You are very sick.” Again, I don’t remember very much about that week. I do remember this much, though:

The night of March 14, as my family slept in chairs in my room in the ICU, I thought about all the people I knew and loved, and their faces came into my mind. Every single one of them. I prayed, “God. I’m OK if I die. But please just don’t let anyone miss me. I don’t want them to care because I don’t want them to be sad. Let them not be sad, and let them go on and live their happy lives as if I never existed. But I just have one question: why would you give me all these dreams if I was just gonna die young?”

That very night, the first doctor I had ever seen about my liver disease (many of my doctors came by that week…most likely to say ‘goodbye’) came into my room and said, “Well, there’s nothing else we can do. So we can send you home, or we can give you this liver that just came in.” BOOM. I was getting a liver!

At 5:00 a.m. on March 15, 2013, I got a brand spanking new liver. 6 years from being diagnosed. 7 years from developing the disease. SEVEN. The number of completion. DONE.

So what do we learn from all of this? Honestly, I don’t know. I struggle with the fact that I hated being me so much for all those years, and there was no lighting, no giant revelation, no Aesop to show me what the events playing out in my life should teach me. I sometimes feel like I would be way closer to achieving my goals had I not had to go through all of this. It sometimes feels like my peers treat me like I’m younger than they are because they will always have in the back of their minds, “Oh, poor Hope. She’s sick.” I will have to be on medication for the rest of my life, and I have limitations that “normal” 26-year-olds don’t have. And I don’t know why me. Or why not me? I mean, if someone had to have a disease, nothing made me more special than anyone else. But why wasn’t I more special? I mean, I was making moves to change the world!

But I realize this: there are other people my age out there making moves to change the world. I think it’s amazing to see that you don’t have to be 40 to have an impact, and here’s the kicker: you don’t even need a degree! People’s talents, dreams, and desires are fueling them to succeed in life without the help of any experts and against all odds. That’s real life.

One day, before I even got my new liver, I was talking to my mom and she said she realized something: Through all of the health problems I had, I did exactly what I darn well pleased. I could always find the strength to take that dance class or go on that spontaneous trip to Galveston or New Orleans. I could manage to volunteer in just about every ministry in my church. And I got my master’s degree! What she said really struck me: “Your problem started with you having a big liver. But you are a BIG LIVE-R!”

…and I’m not the only one. The more I look around, the more I realize I am surrounded by Big Livers. My closest friends want to be musicians, actors, singers, entrepreneurs, and all-around BAWSES. And they’re all well on their way to doing so. Looking at what I’m surrounded by gives me chills. What if we all make it? I can see a clear picture of all of us at the Grammys, then the Oscars, then the Tonys, then shuffling off to the Emmys, then the Pulitzer Prize awards, just to end up watching one of us get a Nobel Prize.

Your vision gets clearer when you turn 26…you learn to take the building blocks and learning steps from everything that’s happened to you, both good and bad, build a bridge, and get over them. Whatever it was, it doesn’t determine your future. Your life is not over yet. Your history does not have to define your destiny. You are not the sum of your past actions. You are the x factor, in complete control of the decisions you make to multiply yourself.

Push the past to the side and MOVE ON.

I have decided that I want to spend my life honoring and encouraging the potential – not even potential – the already-doing-it-ness of my friends and family who are already moving; the Big Livers. I look at what I went through and I don’t even think much of it now because I see the greatness that surrounds me. I want to dedicate my life to showing everyone how awesome everyone is. And I will. Stay tuned.

That’s NOT all…

Falling Out of Love Part I

(First seen on The Young Houston Magazine)

25 is the Age of Reckoning.

We, as young adults, don’t have to choose our passions or “get serious” until about the age of 25.

At 25, your parents expect you to be out of their house (and wallet).
At 25, people start expecting you to be thinking about marriage….even if you’re not dating anyone.
At 25, you better at least know what career you want to have…FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

I’ve always thought this was unfair because at 25, we still aren’t even halfway done with our lives. What does “the rest of your life” even mean if you’ve still got ¾ of it to go?

It’s exhausting to be forced to look that far down the road when you haven’t driven very far in the first place. And that’s when most of us hit Phase One of the Age of Reckoning: The Quarter-Life Crisis.

The Quarter-Life Crisis is this dramatic event where you suddenly realize, usually crying or yelling, that you have done nothing with your life, everyone you went to school with is married with 2+ kids and their own Fortune 500 companies, and you will never ever ever have those things because you forget to do things like rotate your tires and even your dog inexplicably keeps getting fleas because you are a bad parent who will never be able to care for more than a plant. Or goldfish.

You have one of two choices to deal with the Crisis: 1.) Fall passionately in love with some cause or person that will fuel you to change the world; or 2.) Fall inconsolably out of love with everything and everyone because there will never be anything to satisfy that desire to make the world a better place. (*Cue philanthropic Michael Jackson song about the environment and/or Africa).

“Falling out of love” can sound like a bad thing, especially when it comes to emotional feeling. But try not to think “desperate housewife” here…

I fell out of love in the parking garage at the doctor’s office.

I was told that I was coming in for a yearly visit, and when I got there, it took 7 hours. And that’s all it took. I was done with me and everyone and everything. (A little backstory about me: I have struggled with health issues from a young age. And I have developed a hatred for going to the doctor, ESPECIALLY for a ridiculous amount of time.)

It was at that moment that I looked back and saw all the time that I had spent at the doctor’s office and not becoming Janet Jackson’s backup dancer. I had spent hours in backless hospital gowns and not in backless Prada gowns. I had spent days getting blood drawn and not giving blood to people dying from various diseases.

I am 25, and I haven’t saved the world yet.

In that parking garage, I finally just got tired of doing everything. I decided that I only wanted to do one thing. I fell out of love with doing whatever I wanted to do, and fell IN love with doing what I am MEANT to do.

It’s exhausting to try and keep up with your youth. I felt like I was having to start over like an newly-graduated high school senior after my liver transplant (oh yeah, I forgot to say that: I had a liver transplant in 2013). I felt so far behind and wanted to catch up with all the time that I could have been being young and doing everything. I was enamored with the thought of all I could do now that I was healthy. And it was fun. But it wasn’t real love: It was infatuation.

Wild Youth is such an exciting prospect. It’s like the “bad boy” who you want to date because it looks like an adventure. The possibilities are endless and you never know what could happen! Then, when he’s done with you, you end up being the one who has no idea what to do with your life.

The feeling of falling out of love with that boy is the same as falling out of love with Wild Youth. You feel lost and wrung out like a worn-out rag, and you can’t even envision a clear picture of your future because it’s so clouded over with the memory of that touch you’ll never again get to feel.

But at the same time, it’s the best thing that could have ever happened to you because you get to enter Phase Two of the Age of Reckoning: Moving On…

Girl Power, Revisited.

(originally posted on Young Houston Magazine)

I’ve heard so many women talk about how they “dress for themselves.” And sure, there are times when I am getting dressed and all I want to think about is how comfortable I can possibly be. If it means ponytails, a snapback, flip-flops, or pajamas, I don’t care who is looking at me. I just want to be comfortable.…but as a single, eligible woman, I can’t help but think, “What if my future husband sees me in this?”

I am smart enough to know that “Mr. Right” will fall in love with me no matter what I am wearing. Heck, my mom had on a robe she hadn’t washed in 2 years when my dad asked her out (long story). But it still makes me self-conscious when I’m in the line at CVS in my jammies and that cute guy asks me to pass him a pack of gum. And then all the way home, I lament the fact that if I had just put on that evening gown and those 6-inch heels like I know I should’ve…oh, what could have been!

OK, so I’m exaggerating about the gown and heels. My point, though, is that as a single woman, there is always, no matter how faint, a hint of an idea that I might meet the man of my dreams on that Sonic run, and I better look like the woman of his. Whether I decide it’s worth putting lotion on that ashy ankle or not is up to me.

Thus, hearing single women who are looking for a husband say they “dress for themselves” is true enough, but the reasoning behind it being they “don’t care what men think of their clothes” is a load of hooey.

Fear not, feminists, I am not done.

What I find is that there is a misconception that because we are dressing for a man, that makes us weak. On that contrary, I think that dressing up and being feminine makes us STRONGER.

Check it out:
I LOVE being a girl. I would wear a dress every day if I could. I would wear heels every day if my feet wouldn’t fall off. I like getting my hair and nails done and putting on smell-good and wearing pink and I want eyelash extensions. Also, DIAMONDS.

And I feel like all of those things are wonderful. I bask in my femininity.

There are so many voices telling women that it’s ok to wear a suit or sweatpants. But where are the voices saying, “Every girl needs to have a good set of pearls and patent leather heels”? (Because that’s true.)

I find strength in knowing that I am dressing “like a lady” and that my future husband will love that about me just as much as he will love seeing me in pajamas or workout clothes. And yes, I do it because I want him, whoever he is, to see me looking pretty in pink.

It’s fair for us to dress comfortably, but it’s also fair for him to see his future wife looking like the princess he wants to treat her like.

Welcome to the new girl power.

That’s all.