LIFE IS TOO SHORT AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

Have you ever received some news that catches you by surprise? You’re caught off guard and many thoughts begin to fly through your head. Then you pause. Everything goes silent and you feel numb. You slowly begin to hear the raindrops falling outside. You snap out of it and now you’re back to focusing on your thoughts… You begin to unscramble them. With the news that you just received there are a lot of emotions and thoughts that you’re trying to process. The final thought becomes, “wow, today can be anyone’s last day on earth.”

Today I heard the news that a gentleman that I met last year passed away. All I could think of was “wow, I knew him;, He’s young, joyful, humble, genuine, motivated, successful and positive.” He had this amazing energy that you immediately felt while in his presence. He was the type of person that I personally love the most; the ones that you can have deep, intellectual conversations with. He was the type of person that instills motivation in you. He was the type of person that provided a friendship that instilled personal growth.

 

I could not fathom what I had heard, so I proceeded to check his Facebook page. To my dismay, it was true. In complete shock and confusion I started reading some of the comments on his page. Many people were sharing many of the same positive things I mentioned above. Some were sharing memories and pictures, anything that could make this reality feel real. Overall I knew that everyone felt like they were blessed to have shared the same space with him. I began to think about how I felt about him. How the positive comments that I shared above, I never conveyed to him. (Because what it might have been awkward?) How I had ideas I wanted to ask him about and never did. How I was intrigued by his life and would have loved to learn more. Many things that if I knew this day would come, I would HAVE ACTED on.

 

The following thoughts flashed through my head as I continued to think about life in general…  We have positive comments to say to one another, but we don’t. How we become angry with one another and easily toss friendships away. How holding grudges towards one another does not serve us a purpose but rather hinders us. How being in an unhappy environment is pointless; choose to walk away. How we let excuses comfort us. How we build walls in fear of being hurt. How we try to avoid love so things don’t get “complicated”. How we seek validation from others instead of trusting the most important person, ourselves. How we dismiss our intuition. How we let ourselves drown in friendships/behaviors that will not benefit our lives. How we forget to believe in ourselves. How we spend more time working on other individuals rather than ourselves. How we put others first at the cost of our own health. How sometimes we have to cut ties even in the most difficult situations. How we forget that we are STRONG! How comfort keeps us from seeking more in life. How we limit ourselves due to fear of something “not working out.” How we “save something for later” to avoid the task…. I could go on and on! You get where I am going with this. It’s so sad that an event such as a DEATH can instantly alter how you think and feel for a few moments. Depending on how close you are to the individual or how deep your relationship was, the impact may last longer. After the life altering event occurs and the “awakening” moment passes, we tend to forget the impact of this loss. After we are told about a loss, most of us think, “Wow, life is unexpected. Anything can happen to anyone. I should tell these people I love them. I should ignore the bullshit and focus on myself. That’s it I’m making changes.” We proceed to go about life with a different mindset. But then life itself happens. You know, it’s the moment when you snap out of this “mindset.” This usually happens after a mishap situation where we become frustrated with life and are reminded that life isn’t always this happy place and things do not always go as planned. So then we resort back to comfort. Shit gets back to normal and we get back to our regular everyday life. We move on and forget about the way of life we WANTED to follow after hearing about a loss and saying, “LIFE IS TOO SHORT AND ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.”

 

Not quite sure if anyone is STILL reading this post. If you are, thank you. The Kayla before hearing this news would have tried VALIDATING this essay with my best friend. I would have asked, “does this make sense, do you see grammar errors, who even cares about reading this, why am I ever sharing this, it’s too long, right?” This Kayla says screw what others think, this is my page, this is my platform to say what I CHOOSE to SAY, how I choose to FEEL and what I choose to SHARE! I believe that I decided to share these random thoughts for a few reasons. One is that this allowed me to vent in a healthy way about what I am feeling after hearing this news. Another reason is that it feels good to share ideas and meet others that might think/feel like I do. Lastly, I am tired of not living up to my highest potential KNOWING that I am CAPABLE of it. I would love it if my peers would join me in striving to achieve personal/spiritual growth at a different level. The type of change where you look back 12 months and say, “wow, that’s where I was, look where I am, look how I’m doing, I could never have imagined being here now.” That type of change. Sometimes when we think of huge change people imagine large projects such as starting a business or making a huge investment. No, everyone’s idea of success /happiness is different. It’s all about making changes that will in the end benefit you! It’s about beginning. It’s about having the final outcome in mind BUT focusing on the present. The image of that final outcome may always change. Always remember to take steps or you’ll go nowhere…. Next time I think of something that I want to do, I know that fear will try to creep in to convince me otherwise. But my response will be, “Why, not?” We all have the POWER to CREATE our OWN HAPPINESS. Now, it’s up to you to decide how and when.

 

K. Cortes M.S.W
#AreYouVSOP #TheVSOPLife
Like, Follow and Share @Thevsoplife Instagram, Twitter, & Facebook

V.S.OP Spotlight: “The BARMAIDE”

Joiah “The BarMaide” Ladson

Its a pleasure to have our first of many Opulent Spotlights to be a close friend to the VSOP fam, Ms. Joiah Ladson. You might remember her as one of the best mixologists in the tri-state area, but now she can be found mixing it up as she ascends the fitness circuit traveling with the BarStarrz and matching the most effective workout regimens for her clients as a personal trainer.

Joiah was born and raised in Queens, New York, and was an active child as her parents ensured that she was engaged in organized sports. She left New York to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Forensic Science with a concentration in Biology which she received in 2011 from the University of New Haven. While attending UNH, Joiah participated in many clubs and activities, but according to her own admission, her favorite activity was drinking. She shared that though she had amazing nights while under the influence, it took a toll on her well being.   In an interview with the VSOP Team, Joiah shares how she overcame her bout with alcohol and transformed from bar waitress to the “Barmaide.”

VSOP: “Tell us about your journey. How did you get into the industry that you are in?”
JL: “For years I struggled with alcoholism, it was taking a toll on my life and the people around me. I was spending too much money on alcohol and neglecting my bills. When I wasn’t drinking at my bartending job, I was drinking at home or at some other Happy Hour. In addition to drinking, I also had terrible eating habits. These habits included Doritos, fried chicken, Chinese food, daily trips to McDonald’s, bar food and non stop snacking. Within a few months I was at my heaviest weight, my stress levels had skyrocketed, bills piled up and I determined that it was time for a serious change. At this time I stopped making excuses for myself, signed up for a gym, cleaned up my eating habits and reached out to a few of my personal trainer friends that could help me get my life together.”

Alcoholism is a serious issue to face, and it controls many people’s lives. It is not uncommon for alcoholism to lead to bouts of depression and other life altering conditions. Joiah was able to replace the bottle with an outlet that not only improved her health, but also, her well being and her wealth.
JL: “I saved about $400 per month by eliminating alcohol purchases, and I gained an amazing body in return.  After about six months of working out on my own and with friends, I hired a personal trainer for some extra fitness advice. My personal trainer saw my drive and dedication which led us both to believe that I had a career in personal training. I decided to get into training because I realized the joys that fitness brought into my life. I knew I’d be able to connect with my clients on multiple levels because of what I had been through. I wanted to let people know that happiness and longevity are just a workout away. Exercise and healthy eating have the same addictive qualities as alcohol and drug use, except the results are much more rewarding.”

 

Many people would be satisfied with facing and conquering their demons, but this is only the beginning for “The Barmaide”.  Just as anyone who is seeking opulence in their lives, Joiah has goals and big goals at that.

VSOP: “Where do you see yourself at in the next 10 years?”
JL: “In ten years I see myself still involved in health and wellness, but more so as a brand.  I want to produce literature, digital apps, clothing and do motivational speaking that help promote my message.”

VSOP: “In regard to your message, what legacy do you seek to leave behind through your craft?”
JL:  “The legacy that I’d like to leave behind is that everyone struggles but that shouldn’t deter us from seeking better. You don’t have to be a product of a negative environment because life is so much easier when you’re happy. When you’re in a negative mind state, opportunity knocks but you’re too busy sulking that you won’t get up to answer. Once you change to a positive outlook on life, opportunity just walks right in.”

 

Opportunity is what many are waiting for, but just as Joiah stated, if you are not ready it will pass you by. As you continue to grind toward your goals and aspirations, remember that obstacles and barriers are meant to teach us lessons.  The road from bartender to “The Barmaide” has been riddled with obstacles, but Joiah has faced each challenge head on with intensity, and she has learned from what she has endured to get to where she is.

JL: “Throughout this journey I’ve faced some health and financial obstacles that slowed my process but never stopped me. Participating in Spartan Races taught me that obstacles are meant to be overcome. I’ve been in the hospital for severe dehydration and starvation, ruptured ovarian cysts and emergency wisdom tooth extraction. Unexpected car/medical issues that I didn’t budget for would take away from my grocery and gym membership funds but I always found a way to pull through. Besides the medical and financial issues I was still battling my addiction. For the first few months into the journey I had to really convince myself that I did not NEED alcohol. I embrace everything I’ve been through because it lets me know that I can overcome challenges. If I had to do one thing all over again I would alter my spending habits and budget more wisely.”

VSOP: “What advice would you give a young person looking to get into your industry?”
JL: “ To the young person looking to get into personal training and all around wellness I recommend that you do your research. When I started working out I wasn’t familiar with the science behind it. I currently hold three different certifications which allow me to better assist my clients in reaching their goals (Certified Personal Training, Performance Enhancement Specialist and Corrective Exercise Specialist). Use your resources and understand that even after studying the science portion you’re still not the smartest person in the world. There is a constant exchange of knowledge in this field that will allow you to excel. Practice what you preach. On a number of occasions I’ve seen trainers advise certain workout and meal regimens but they’re overweight with poor eating habits. Just like the airline oxygen mask principle, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of anyone else. Let it be understood that your body is your business card and your lifestyle is your resume.”

VSOP: “In your opinion what is opulence?”
JL: “Opulence is health, because health is wealth. The greatest luxury I can ever obtain is a fit and healthy body that can perform the way a body should.”

 

Life is an ever changing path with many twists and turns. One that “The Barmaide” herself has traversed and is still progressing along with a far more positive outlook. With her drive, passion, perseverance and know-how, Joiah has defined her opulence and is certainly seizing it, truly living the VSOP Life. Salute to “The Barmaide” for who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming!

Now there’s only one question to ask, #AreYouVSOP?

Joiah “The BarMaide” Ladson

IG: @The_Barmaide
Twitter: @MamaJ_UrHiness
Email: jlads19@gmail.com

 


The Medium

According to dictionary.com, the definition of “medium” is as follows: 1. A middle state or condition; mean. 2.Something intermediate in nature or degree. There are about sixteen definitions for this word, but let’s focus on the first two as it applies to African American males in these United States of America. By now you’re probably wondering where could this possibly go, or what points are being brought up. Often times we as society tend to overlook or subconsciously not acknowledge the multiple identities of a person or a group of people. Society subconsciously or consciously, depending on who you’re talking to, depicts the African American experience in this country with only struggle/despair or living the lavish life of an entertainer/athlete, leaving no room for a “medium”. To go even further, society/media portrays the African American male experience as presented in two different lights; the successful athlete/entertainer or the drug dealer/gang-banger. Let’s categorize those “light” descriptions as “highs” and “lows”. The “high” would of course be the athlete/entertainer that promotes the lifestyle of money, sex, and drugs. Then it’s the “low” drug dealer/gang-banger  that lives the life of violence on their quest to money, sex, and drugs. But there has to be more to a black man’s life in America, right? Constantly, society feeds this dichotomous image of all black men that is absolutely inaccurate. If you are asking what are the inaccuracies, one would possible say the easier question is which one should we highlight first? (Yes, there are many.)

For the sake of an argument let’s start with examining the black man and the “medium” that is rarely highlighted for us. The images created by the media leaves those who are not familiar, or have limited interactions with black males in America as a “black” or “white,” good and bad perspective of these men. What about the gray area? There has to be some in between, right? As we examine the “medium,” a few questions come to mind. Mainly, where is the “medium”  for this African American man? What does that medium look like, and why doesn’t he have a voice?The “medium” black man is often forgotten in America. Rarely is there any recognition for his accomplishments or empathy for his struggles. However, there is constant attention given to his counterparts. Whether it’s the black male athlete/entertainer who is idolized for their glitz and glamour, or the drug dealer/gang banger that’s constantly in the newspaper or community doing something wrong.

When these are the two images that are constantly recognized by society rightly or wrongfully so, the idea of the “medium” tends to fade. Who is this “medium” black man you ask? The answer is quite simple. The medium black man is the man who wakes up every day and goes to work to provide for his family. The medium black man is the man who not only goes to college, but graduates. He is our pastor, lawyer, doctor, corrections officer, policeman, fireman, banker, social worker, teacher, principal and the successful business man all in our midst to be acknowledged. However, we rarely acknowledge him! Instead we constantly micro-aggressively compare him to his “high” and “low” counterparts. If he has an athletic stature we ask him why he isn’t playing a professional sport, or if he has a nice car, we automatically assume that he’s selling drugs or participating in illegal activities. Society loves to silence the medium black man and when he reacts we label him as angry. But why shouldn’t he be angry? He’s human too. He thinks, feels, and reacts the same way you do. Although the voice of the “medium” black man tends to be silenced at times, one could also say that he also allows his voice to be silenced. He chooses not to speak up due to the fear of being labeled. Instead he bottles it up inside and continues fighting the labels like the warrior he is. With everything that’s going on in society today, the voice of the “medium” black man is needed more than ever before.

Think about it, society fears you simply because they only know both extremes. Better yet, society knows the “highs” and are very familiar with them because of their fame. Society also knows that the “high”s have too much to lose. Which leaves society with what the media feeds them about the description of the “lows” and that’s who society fears. Because of your silence society  does not look at you for your degrees, they immediately lump you in with the “lows”. You have to speak up, make your presence felt. Let the world know that you exist and that this image they paint of you is false. Speak out on what you feel is wrong; don’t be defined by the transgressions of your counterparts. You are not a mythical creature that only exists in theory. You are real and you are in abundance. For the sake of the future, speak up because lives depend on it.

Is It Picture Perfect (Do It For The Likes)

With the endless advancements in technology and social networking it’s become easier to lose sight of our true identities. Social media allows its users to mask their insecurities and depression with the click of a button! However; while we are posting pictures for social validation, a piece of our self esteem is being uploaded and exposed to open criticism. For some folks relevance and purpose to society can truly become based on the number of followers, likes & re-post they receive. With each post to social media we become hyper detached from human interaction and immersed in digital criticisms.
Studies have shown that the rate of depression and anxiety have risen in the age of social media. This is 100% contradictory (give or take a few bitter scorn men/women post and subliminal) to what we’re bombarded with on a daily basis from our timelines. Its become a trend I like to call the “For The Likes” (FTL) competition. Now the competition is simple and we’ve all been a participant at one point whether you want to admit it or not. I thought it’d be fun to examine some of the top ten categories of #FTL posts and explain my logic for this designation, so here we go:

10- The “exotic meal or just a meal that most do not usually indulge in” post.

Okay here’s the caveat, maybe these folks are genuinely trying to put their followers up on game for a surprisingly good meal OR just intending to diminish the domesticated image of themselves and build up this culturally refined image through #foodporn. Do not worry we are not judging we just admire your indulgence in the finest cuisine 😉

9- The vacation post or I’m going out of town post.
Simply a post to brag Im here and your not… It is almost a way to either let people know that you are always on the scene or enjoying an experience that most do not have the opportunity of enjoying. You mad or #Nah?

8- The transformation
From transformation Tuesday to throwback Thursday and even on occasions flashback Fridays, these post are usually very revealing or highlighting a personal journey that someone has gone through (most likely some weight loss or ugly duckling to bad bish). We believe that this post is the hardest post to decipher because some of you share great testimonials that can truly serve as inspiration, but then you have the “flaunters”. Y U No Humble?

7. I’m going to the gym
Just like the transformation post the gym post can be very hard to tell if its #FTL or if you’re really putting in work. However for most health crazed freaks progress is supposed to be noticed not displayed.. So all of you with the “I’m in the gym” post but still look the same, you’re clearly not NOT doing it for the likes.

6. Fashion post
ANNOYING. This post sometimes truly shows how people are being trendy and not really embodying the actual culture of their dress. Hypebeast around the world please don’t take offense.

5. Social justice frenzied topics
This by far is the most painful post. This usually happens with sensationalized deaths or socials injustices causing the masses to briefly go into a frenzy and taking their support to social media. Now nothing is wrong with this tactic but sometimes its hard to asses how genuine folks are and how committed to making change they are instead of attempting to appear socially aware. More over if this the call to action transcended into physically standing up for social injustices, It would be the 1960’s over again (sit in’s, protests, marches etc). Action speaks much louder than 140 characters ever will.

4. Posting of babies or baby pictures
Pardon my masculinity for a second but can we say adorable. Now there’s two kinds of baby posters (those by the child’s parents and the look at me with someone else’s child posters) Both of these post lend to the idea that hey I’m “ready for” or “great” with children, I’m such a catch! Parents we know that you are enjoying your children but posting pictures won’t get you kudos around here. For everyone else put that child who doesn’t belong to you down and get that phone out of their face, replace it with a book or a leap frog.

3. Thinking of him/her pics
This post is the only post that you will never actually see a physical person but just know her/him post are knee jerk reactions that are in direct correlation with those of you who are posting your relationships on social media. When you’re in a relationship all your single friends are having fun but, when you’re single multiply that previous feeling times 10 especially on those solo dolo nights. Sometimes the feeling is so intense that a phantom him is created in the hopes of getting the attention of someone else. In other instance a him/her really exist and it is imperative to let your followers know you’re thinking of them…. instead of using the same device you posted with to text them. OH

2. Inspirational Quote or song
These post certify that most people of social media world are either certified counselors or really going through it in life. Either way inspirational quotes that are not clichés are usually pretty dope. Affirmations and positive thinking is important for anyone who is either going through a hard time or making that transformation to a better person. It is amazing what a minor changes and positivity in your life can do for your mind body and spirit. However, when your routine selfie has nothing to do with the content of your quote you my friend are inspirational-ly doing it “FOR THE LIKES”.

1. THE Sexually Provocative Post
Originally known as a “Thirst Trap” (the act of setting a trap for an individual to comment or like a sexually enticing photo or quote) These post take the cake literally, when it comes to doing it #FTL. If you go on the various social media outlets you will see that there is an overwhelming amount of post with women either twerking or strategically displaying their best assets in order to catch the eye of the people who do not necessarily respect you. Realistically, what are you really trying to accomplish when you upload yourself to the world in such capacity. What can you possibly gain, an ig modeling contract? Ladies you are not the only ones who are guilty of thirst trapping men do it as well it just society tends to overlook it more than men (yes unfair) we know we’re equal opportunist here though so *Drops a judgmental glance* .

Let us know if we missed out on any other “For the Likes” post you’ve seen on your social networks.
Stay tuned for what we’ve got brewing we’ll drop and in case you don’t we’ll drop an #FTL to remind you! #AreYouVSOP

With Life Comes Responsibility

The holidays and all of its splendor have come and gone. This season has been highlighted with events ranging from ugly sweater and office parties to church musicals and family traditions.  As we get older we look at the holidays in a different light. When we were younger we could not wait to get gifts from our family. The older we become the more we look forward to the abundance of food and for most, the trivial family arguments. When did this change?  When did we grow up?

The fascination of growing and progression has always been on the minds of the young. We are often placing more pressure on ourselves than necessary. We rush everything, don’t you agree?

Let’s reflect! As a child we look forward to becoming a big kid, because big kids get treated much better than little kids. When we were pre-teens we couldn’t wait to become a teenager because then we could finally stay in the house by ourselves without a baby sitter. Besides, no one wants to be pre-anything, we want that experience now! Then we became teenagers, and during these years, we looked forward to two occasions; turning 16 so we can drive or 18 so we can either graduate from high school and then finally get admitted to clubs. Then we enter college and cannot wait to become 21! No more fake I.D.’s, no more begging or stealing your older sibling’s I.D.

After that something happens, its like something clicks in our lives and we want to slow everything down. We start to think of everything ahead of us. What is it about that 21st birthday that makes us think, “Whoa! This needs to slow down?” Usually by your 21st birthday you’re either on the brink of graduating or graduating soon. Maybe that’s it, maybe it’s graduation that causes all of this anxiety. No more looking forward to the breaks in-between semesters, picking classes, homecomings, spring weeks, cramming for midterms finals and random hookups. The closer we come to graduation the more we realize all of our ways of living are going to be disrupted and we have to start all over again! It’s almost as if life is constantly building us up just to push us back down! Don’t believe it, just look at the school structure in kindergarten. We could not wait to become 5th graders because they were the oldest and coolest kids in the school. The 5th graders knew this and enjoyed being on top until it was time to graduate and go to junior high/middle school where they had to start all over again, becoming the kindergartners of the school all over again. Then the 8th graders graduated and entered high school and could not wait to become seniors. See how vicious this cycle is? Then we enter college after high school and become the new kids again just so that in four years we can be thrown into the “real world.”

Well, what happens when we realize that we don’t want to enter into the real world? Like who wants to pay bills and wake up every morning just to look forward to weekends and vacations?! Why didn’t anyone shield us from these vicious realities? All our life we wanted the growth, but forgot what comes along with that growth. In kindergarten we had lots of nap time and not a lot of homework and the older we became, life worked in reverse; lots of homework and less nap time.

Do not rush life, just let it happen. We know, it’s easier said than done, especially when our parents/mentors drilled sayings and alliterations such as “Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance” in our heads to make sure we are on track repeatedly. We’ve let those sayings govern our lives to the point believing that it is truth. When in reality sometimes life just happens. In some occasions we can prepare for what life gives to us and the rest we try our bes to make due. The one thing we all should understand is with growth comes responsibility. Although we would love to pick and choose what part of life we want to grow and be responsible for, reality shows us it is a packaged deal!

HAPPY NEW YEAR form the VSOP Family we wish you peace and prosperity in 2014!

Stay Young My Friends.

Self-Talk 101

“Its Totally My fault”. What exactly is yet to be determined however, this is one of the 21 suggestions that Inc. Magazine columnist Jeff Haden offers in his recent post “21 Awesome Things to say to yourself“. Often times the one voice that we need to listen and adhere to is our own. Whether acknowledging and being humble enough to admit that we are capable of making mistakes, motivating ourselves to take risks daily or, having the humility to admit that even though we want to conquer whatever is thrown at us, sometimes a helping hand isn’t such a bad thing. Check out the link to Haden’s post below and seriously internalize some of these phrases, they are surely worthwhile to add to your self motivation toolbox.

21 Awesome Things To Say To Yourself