A few moments ago I was reviewing my list of students who I had sent “life vests” and “life rafts” to in an effort to save them from themselves.

Let me explain.

Some of my students take on a weighted course load and find it more difficult than they expected to juggle school, work, family, and a social life. This is especially the case if they take a hybrid or online course, and then when you add that the course is with me, the stakes really get high.

Now don’t cringe.

I’m not a mean or difficult instructor. There’s balance with me. I’m firm and assertive yet I’m always open for negotiation. I pour myself into my classes because it is my mission to give my students enough information that becomes applied knowledge, that helps them in school, work, and in life. For me, it’s more than the textbooks that they read. I don’t want them memorizing and regurgitating information. I want to see and hear how they applied what was taught to them. I want to see their growth and help support their academic and professional needs. I want to provide them with as many tools and resources as I can; so yes, I’m extremely engaged in my classes. So no, the course work is not easy. There are no easy-A’s in my class. You will earn whatever grade that you receive.

As I tell my students:

Your grade is your paycheck and your GPA is your credit score“.

As an instructor, I’m also serious about meeting deadlines but I’m flexible in providing extensions to those who get clobbered or blindsided by life. The reality is, we all get clobbered and blindsided from time-to-time.

Someone who hasn’t needs to be studied closely.

How can I make mistakes and forget deadlines, yet punish my team for doing the same? Is that not hypocritical? The “do as I say not as I do” rule that our parents embedded in our minds is why we have as many problems in this world. We all simply wait until we gain the power to enforce that same rule on others. It’s ridiculous.

As a college instructor I run my classrooms much like a business. I inform my students that for the length of the term or semester, they are to conduct themselves as though this is a corporation, they are managers, and I am their senior manager. But as a servant leader, I am not here to bark orders and reign supreme over them; I’m also not here to hold their hands and coddle them. They are not babies or small children.

I am here to serve them, empower them, and help to elevate them to the next level.

I encourage them to respectfully challenge the textbooks and readings, and yes, even me. Their minds will only sharpen with critical thinking and by testing and applying tools and skills that they have acquired. I also make sure to frequently ask for feedback and evaluations on how much they are learning and applying from my classes, as well as how well they believe that I am managing and leading them. I frequently ask them to tell me how I can best support their learning and growth needs.

I try to intervene with students who risk falling below a “C”. I don’t want my students to fail my class. Not because of managerial pressures from the higher-ups. Not because of any of the reasons and excuses that most would assume. I don’t want my students to fail because it means that somehow I failed them. It is my responsibility as their manager-leader to help guide them. Just as I would for an employee that I don’t want to see fired or to watch go through the stages of “burn-out”. If I see “red flags” early enough I can step in and provide guidance as to how my students can improve or how they can withdraw from the class (by deadlines) and take it at a later date when life isn’t clobbering them so hard. Usually one of these two interventions work.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

There are some students who choose the chartered path that they know will lead to failure, and no matter how much I attempt to help them help themselves, they are content to splash around in that ocean while watching the life vest and raft float away.

So today as I reviewed my list of students who continue to drown in this academic ocean, refusing to use either or both the vest and the raft that I threw to them weeks ago, I ran across an old email from a student who is failing one of my classes. Weeks ago this person said that they wanted to do well in my class and that they would improve—they  just needed a strategy to do so. I provided the student with the strategy and the deadline extensions that they needed to meet in order to bring their grade up to a “C” or better.

I’m always aiming for better but I won’t force greatness on anyone who would rather be average or below. Everyone should be free to choose.

Weeks later this student still has not completed the past due work and sadly they haven’t completed any current work, yet they continue to log into the course room–most likely so that their attendance is tracked so they don’t lose financial aid and other benefits. Yes, I have students who are motivated enough to log into class to not lose their financial aid, but they aren’t motivated enough to do the work, to pass the class, to keep their financial aid. It’s a baffling logic that they operate by in their parallel universe.

Okay I should stop with my sarcasm.

There is a portion of my email message that I typed to this student that I truly believe needs to be shared with others, with you. Someone out there needs to read these few lines below, because maybe it will be the added layer that helps to snatch them out of their “funk”, their “brain fog”, their whatever is holding them back and keeping them down.

Or maybe it won’t. But I’m sharing anyway.

…your dreams and goals in life are only achieved through the efforts you make. No one will give you anything of worth simply because you show up. You must put in the work and earn the things that you desire. Those that think that greatness will just magically come to them will always find themselves cast to the side, because greatness requires boldness—it requires commitment and dedication despite and because of the odds. 

You must choose if whether you want to be good, great, average, mediocre, exceptional, or just “blah”. Your actions and efforts will align and reflect accordingly. I believe that you have the potential to be at any level that you set your eyes, mind, and heart to achieve. 

If you aim low then you will always fall below that line. If you aim high and run your well-paced race, you may fall short of the desired point but you landed much higher than if you had aimed low to begin with.

Where are you aiming?

What efforts are you making to get there?

No one can do this for you, only you can!

I hope that my student gets what I was trying to convey in my email. I hope that it helps to snatch them out of their pit and motivates them to run, walk, crawl or even roll to the victory line. They may not cross in first place, but they will cross. Every race we start we’re expected to finish.

Love,

Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

March 20, 2018 would have been Brandon’s 36th birthday. I can never forget my friend’s birthday. My iPhone calendar reminds me one week before and also on the day of. Also, his birthday is the day before my paternal grandmother’s.

This week I’ve spent each day reflecting over my memories of Brandon Clarke, aka “B Clarke”.

I couldn’t yet formulate the words by Tuesday, his birthday, but today they have settled and come together.

I watched Brandon grow and evolve into a man, accepting the ups and downs of love and life.

He started out as being a “youngster” with a crush on me, as we worked together promoting and helping our friend Kristian run a club night (“Club Wet”) at Bar 330 in Brea, California. Brandon was one of the promoters, along with my friend and his best friend Brandon Shelby (in the picture above), and Kristian’s brother Anthony. I was in charge of the door, paying the DJs, and overseeing the promoters and their guest lists. I also helped to serve as a liaison so that club goers, the security, the venue owner, and our club promotions team were all satisfied. Once we reached our “cut off” time at the door I would divide the money, give Kristian the splits, and then come inside the club and party with everyone.

The night always ended with our crew reflecting over the success of that night and then leaving together. At least one of the guys would walk me to my car. Once I left I almost always stopped at Carl’s Jr to grab a famous star with cheese combo, and stuff my face in the parking lot. Brandon and the guys would drive by in their cars honking and waving at me and laughing at my weekly routine.

Brandon would try his best each week to convince me that I should be with a younger man (7 years my junior)—that man in his opinion would be him—but I would spend those moments redirecting him towards women his age. I would give him dating advice and show him how to make his Side Kick passcodes stronger. He was dating a girl that was obsessed with trying to break his code. Brandon would say to me “I bet you can’t figure out my code” and in less than a minute I would hand it back, code broken, and watch his gaping mouth hang in disbelief.

Side note: Fellas, your birthdate, child’s date of birth, year you pledged a fraternity, year you graduated from high school or college, and jersey numbers are easy code breakers….

Brandon evolved from “youngster with a crush” into a dear friend and younger brother, in a way. I’m sure the crush was still there, but the respect and friendship weighed heavier and had greater value. He did give me a side eye when years later I started dating a guy 7-years my junior.

Brandon’s cancer diagnosis hit him hard and nearly destroyed his hope and faith. It caused those of us close to him to surround him and lift him up in prayer, and to counter every argument or gripe he had with an affirmation that he was and always would be in God’s hands.

He had been playing basketball at LA Fitness and he kept feeling a pain in his knee. This pain got worse and wouldn’t go away, and initially doctors were clueless as to what was causing the pain. I remember when he told me about it and we were tossing around what could be causing it. He loved playing ball and the pain was keeping him off the court.

Eventually it became clear what was attacking Brandon.

Initially for him the news meant life was over, his dreams were shattered, and those of us without cancer (or never had it at a young age and overcame it) couldn’t relate to his fears, pain, frustration, and anger.

We don’t know what it’s like to face the news of potential death, especially at such a young age. Until we get news that we too would rather forget.

I remember vividly going to the hospital center and rubbing lotion on his legs and feet, and teasing him about his “crusty feet”. I would rub the temples of his head and tell him to just breathe. We would sit and watch television, talk for hours, crack jokes and “trash talk”, until it was time for me to go, or the nurses needed to do something for him, or he fell asleep.

I used to have a Blackberry back then but now I have an iPhone (I converted in or around 2011) and what is amazing is that my address book in my phone still has Brandon’s name but the picture isn’t of him, it’s the one I chose years ago of his puppy that he loved so very much. He took the picture as soon as he got the puppy and he texted it to me. That’s what I used to identify him in my phone book.

I wonder how many people remember Brandon’s dog. I always called him his “Taco Bell dog” and we would laugh.

Below is the actual picture Brandon sent me of his puppy “Kanye”. He used to say I would find a girlfriend for Kanye. Sadly, I never did.

Brandon and I shared some precious moments together as he fought his cancer. He wanted so much out of life. He was just getting started, only the young age of 23, and life was clobbering him.

Brandon wanted a child—a namesake—someone to leave behind a legacy that could be lifted and magnified—someone who would look like him, always remember him, and always cause the rest of us to smile and reflect on the great boy who grew into a great man—who touched so many hearts and lives.

I remember partying with Brandon after his first rounds of treatment were over. It was so awesome seeing him smiling, dancing and laughing. We celebrated his birthday. He and Brandon Shelby came out to celebrate with me for my 31st birthday.

He even came to my going-away-party, November 2007. I was leaving California and heading to Georgia. Brandon looked stronger and hopeful. It gave me an added boost of hope.

Even when I relocated, Brandon and I would talk by phone and chat through text, and at that time we all were deep into MySpace. Our friendship wouldn’t wane because of distance. Whenever I came home to California for a visit I always made sure to spend quality time with Brandon. Our last time together was amazing. He took me and my sister to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch on the Newport Beach-Laguna Beach border. He wanted to talk about everything but his nemesis, cancer. So we did just that.

Whenever I go home and spend time in Orange County I try to have a meal there and stare out at the ocean waves, just like Brandon and I did that day. My sister still fondly recalls that day. It was bright, sunny, and beautiful. It was a perfect day.

I don’t think I will ever forget the day Brandon contacted me.

The cancer was back with a vengeance, it had rapidly spread, and he didn’t see the possibility of bouncing back. Matter of fact the doctors prognosis was clear that he wouldn’t.

Brandon was dealing with that news.

I wasn’t.

The first diagnosis, Brandon only told a select few of us and we were sworn to secrecy. Now he was telling me awful news again but this time he had waited to tell me. He knew something wasn’t right the last time we had spoken and even when he took me to lunch in California. He didn’t want me to worry. He said “I didn’t want to be a burden“.

I was crushed.

For me, the people that I love are never a burden. Family or friend, when I give you my word I keep it and there’s never a burden when you’re doing something out of love.

I had relocated over 2,000 miles away to Atlanta, Georgia and that day I stood in the home of my childhood friend, Ericka Sampson Smith (as I watched my Godson Kegdrick) and I quietly cried as Brandon and I communicated for what would be the last days. Unlike in the past I couldn’t just hop in my car and come over.

Brandon was trying to hold on but he was also saying “see you later“. He didn’t want to leave without reaching out to his loved ones. Brandon was letting go and I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t there. I told him I would look for a flight for the next day or two to come see him. He told me I didn’t have to but soon said “okay“. He knew it didn’t make sense to argue with me.

But also Brandon knew and accepted something that I couldn’t.

He said he was tired. He said he was okay and content with his reality. He had made peace with God. Oh it crushed me to process those words. My heart was so heavy. I wanted to be by his side as I had been in the past. I knew his family was there and our friend Brandon Shelby was there, but I wanted to also be there. I was the friend that wasn’t there that day. I had promised him that I always would be. I felt I had let him down and no matter how much he tried to convince me that I hadn’t my heart so heavy that I was convinced that I had.

We said “I love you” and then hung up the phone, and I immediately scrambled to look online for flights. I couldn’t afford the tickets and I wouldn’t get paid for another two weeks. But I kept looking.

Then I got the call that I dreaded the most.

It was May 13, 2009.

The person on the other end this time was our friend Brandon Shelby. He was letting me know that his best friend Brandon Clarke had passed, had transitioned.

I just burst out in tears.

Days later would be the funeral and I had reached out to my uncle Ricky to use his credit card to buy my ticket. By the time I went to purchase my ticket the prices had increased significantly. I was so stressed out and so sad that I didn’t know what to do. I remember contacting Brandon Shelby and he comforted me and reassured me, and told me that I had not failed our friend Brandon, but that I had been a true friend—-the type of friend that I wanted to be for him—the type of friend that he needed me to be.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Brandon Clarke.

I see young men and I think about him. I hear someone’s laugh that sounds familiar and I can’t help but turn to look for him. I see a guy dressed as Brandon would and I smile. I sometimes have a student in one of my classes with the same first name and I tell them of my friend Brandon.

I know he’s smiling and pleased to see that his best friend Brandon Shelby got married and started a family, and has a blessed life. He would be pleased to see how I’ve handled the ups and downs of life, but remain hopeful for better and brighter. He would be pleased to see how his other close friends have gotten married, started families, grown in their careers, traveled and experienced many of the things they would daydream and talk about. He would be proud to see our growth and evolution.

I know he’s pleased. I know he’s proud. Because that’s Brandon.

As excited as he would be about his dreams and goals he would be excited about the dreams and goals his friends had. That was Brandon. That is Brandon.

So much life, light, courage, and love in and through one person. He left a beautiful imprint on my heart that I will always cherish.

I’ve learned and continue to learn from Brandon. I share his story with people who need added courage, who need motivation to fight, who need to know that they aren’t the only one to be blindsided by bad news—it’s what you do with that news that matters.

Brandon chose to live his life, spending time with loved ones, and sharing light with everyone who needed it. He chose to not waste precious moments with drama and drama-motivated people. He was intentional with the time he had left here.

It’s not how he planned his life but he made the most of it.

I’m grateful for my friend Brandon and our friendship. He went from being my “student” to unknowingly being my “teacher”.

I love you Brandon and I will never stop sharing your story, for what many would see as a shortened life you have left behind a strong legacy that those of us still here have a duty to ensure has a long and lasting reach. Continue resting in peace Brandon. I know you’re balling it up where you are!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

Do you hear that? Listen closely.

That is the sound of a door to the past closing.

You have the options of locking it and storing the key or tossing it to never be reclaimed. You can also choose to keep it unlocked, knowing that every time that door to the past opens a flood of things you tried to leave behind come rolling out.

Now let’s be clear, this isn’t the door to fond and beautiful memories of your life and loved ones from years ago, no no no, this door represents the pain and shame, the let downs and setbacks, the hurt caused by others and even by you. This door represents the fear that kept you paralyzed from making forward progress; the doubt that told you that you weren’t good enough, smart enough, wealthy enough, attractive enough—that is what this door represents. It’s the past relationships, old lovers, friends turned foes. It’s everything that held you back and held you down. This door and what lies behind it represents everything that was keeping you from being the best you that you could and can be.

So the door is closed.

Did you hear the mechanism click into place as it found the groove of the threshold of the door jamb?

If not, check again.

Today you can close that door to your past then open the door to your future, and take a peek inside.

Breathe in the life, light, positivity, and possibilities.

Your present state is a hallway between two doors.

Do you begin your new chapter or do you keep torturing yourself to re-read old chapters over and over again? You can’t rewrite those old chapters. You can’t make them better. They are as they are.

Let me clarify something else that I know can be a sensitive spot for someone.

I’m not saying that your past is not a reference point for your present and continued healing.

It can be.

I’m not saying that it is not a reference point to guide and inspire others toward reconciliation and healing.

It can be.

I’m saying, don’t obsess over your past, don’t let your past blend with your present so that is becomes your present, and it slowly draws you farther away from that door to your future.

Your past can be so toxic that it can create a house of mirrors and doors that will keep you in a constant state of confusion and chaos, that you can’t find the right door to free yourself and get out.

The longer you spend dwelling on the past, focusing on the what-ifs, how-comes, and why-me’s, the more it drains the life out of you and the older you become; the longer you dwell behind that door the longer your journey to return to the present, and even longer journey to get to your future.

Yes, my friends we age rapidly when we are stuck in that past darkness, because there is no light and life to uplift us—we are stuck in a quicksand of misery and grief, and the longer that we stay there the more aged we become.

Have you ever seen someone who is or is around your age but they look 20-plus years older? We may silently make the comment “wow they’ve had a hard life!” and wouldn’t it be interesting to observe them to see how much time they spend in the past compared to the present? If I were a betting person I would say that most of their time is spent in the past, obsessed about what went wrong that could’ve gone right. Every woulda, coulda, shoulda has aged them by several years.

Our lack of faith keeps us from closing that door, locking it, breaking the key and tossing it. There is absolutely no reason to continue walking through that door except that you feel that you don’t deserve better than that pain and misery. You don’t believe that better is possible or that better is possible for you. Because if you truly believed in better (for you) and truly had faith that better is waiting for you through another door, you wouldn’t hesitate to look at your past, say goodbye, and walk boldly and confidently away.

I have big, bold dreams that God has placed in my heart and on my mind. I’m inspired and motivated by these dreams. I believe that they can come true. I have faith that as long as I stay in my lane and run my race, committed to doing my part, with my eyes focused straight ahead (and not behind me), that God will bless me with these things, people, and experiences.

I don’t know about you, but I know darn well that my past has no place in my present or my future. I know darn well that there is nothing that I can do to change my past for the better. I can learn from it and leverage that learning for better and greater. But hanging out behind that door would be the quick death of me, and my future is bright, long, and exciting.

My future is waiting for me and I know how it feels to be kept waiting. So I’m walking forward into my next chapter. I don’t need to open the door of my past to remember what’s behind it. My memory is sharp and when it fades, I have plenty of people around me who will be quick to remind me and turn me about-face.

Your future is waiting.

What choice will you make?

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman. All Rights Reserved.

The time is NOW! Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. You’re only stealing from yourself when you do. Seriously.

Yes, I’m talking about the new book Believe Bigger: Discover Your Path to Your Life Purpose

Invest in this book, this guide, this map to explore sides and crevices of YOU that you have overlooked, neglected, abused, misused, underutilized—yet you want to RECLAIM, RESTORE, RENEW, REINVENT, RECHARGE, REACTIVATE and REALIGN.

Get your copy of #BelieveBigger by my dear friend Marshawn Evans Daniels if you want to do more, see more, experience more, give more, receive more, and be more.

Abundance of anything positive can ONLY come from faith, discipline, and action.

You have to DO. You have to MOVE. You have to GET UP and GET OUT OF YOUR WAY, THE WAY, GOD’S WAY.

It starts by thinking abundantly, feeling it, visualizing it, speaking it, and believing it LONG BEFORE you see the first buds sprout, long before the first harvest becomes ready.

To #BelieveBigger you have to have FAITH in what you hope for, in that which has yet to arrive—but you have already staked your claim as YOURS!

Health, financial wealth, intelligence, a fulfilling and rewarding career, work-life balance, to travel more, marriage, or to start a family of your own—whatever it is—YOU MUST CLAIM IT AS SO—CLAIM IT AS YOURS, and then do your part to make the puzzle pieces come together.

God has already shown you what is possible. He’s already said it can be yours. But do YOU believe in His vision for you? Or will you settle on the small—lower your expectations below what He wants to gift you? Will you let fear tell you it’s not possible or will you let faith tell you “Oh yes it is!

Every successful entrepreneur knows that their forward-thinking vision must be stated, shared, and reinforced constantly and consistently in order for that vision to be fully comprehended and embraced; and the more that the vision is shared and embraced the more energy and passion is poured into making sure that vision becomes a reality. That’s the difference from merely being a dreamer and a doer. It’s seeing where you want to go and putting together the resources, and doing the job to achieve what you desire.

In organizations we focus on two primary drivers (besides our triple bottom line) which are Mission and Vision. A mission is your purpose—why you’re in business, why you do what you do. Your vision states where you want to go, what you want to be, what type of impact that you want to have as an organization.

Those same principles need to be taught and embedded in the mindset of individuals, not just business leaders. It’s not necessarily tied to your profession or you finding the cure for cancer (side note: but if you do please make sure that you keep those costs affordable for all).

Vision-tied-to-Purpose-aka-Mission….

What is your purpose in life? What is your purpose in your neighborhood or community? What is your purpose in your house of worship? What is your purpose as a member of your family? Why do you get up out of bed every day? Why do you keep living? Why do you want to keep living? Purpose is so bold and deep, so scary, so what if you swap the word and said “mission”, does it help? Probably not. Because purpose, mission, and vision, no matter what you want to call them they are all bold and dynamic, and anything worth achieving is a scary proposition. But if it doesn’t scare you a little or a lot then it’s not big enough, it’s not bold enough. You need to BELIEVE BIGGER!

A lot of people are suffering in their career and in their home life because they lack vision, and their hope is dwindling and dying a slow and painful death. They are focused on their present, their lack of, rather than on where they could be in the near or distant future. When you’re blinded by what you don’t have you don’t see the opportunities opening up around you and ahead of you. You walk right by them or you stop short of achieving them. You need to grab a defibrillator, also known as an AED, and you need to resuscitate your hope and vision.

Stop relying upon New Year’s Resolutions and start with (and be fueled by) vision and action plans. Resolutions are what we aspire to resolve to one day do, but we have become so casual and relaxed with them that we rarely achieve a quarter of the things on the list, and most of the things we aspired to achieve we fell short by January 15th of the year and never tried again.

An action plan fueled by a vision is our road map to GET IT DONE!

Some of you have fulfilled one mission in life and now you’re wondering, “what next?” well maybe, just maybe, Marshawn’s book can help you answer that question.

If you’re ready for that next level, of whatever it is and wherever it may be, then you need to get your copy of Believe Bigger at BelieveBigger.com or at any retailer that sells books, so that you can get moving and start claiming what’s waiting out there for you!

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha Foreman Bryant/Natasha L. Foreman.
All images within this post have a copyright protection enforced by Marshawn Evans Daniels.

My collegiate track and field days were short-lived. After skipping the season my junior year in high school and having an awful senior year season I steered away from the track while attending Santa Ana College (Rancho Santiago Community College). But the sprinter’s bug bit me while attending California State University, Long Beach (affectionately known as “Long Beach State”).

I’ve shared this story before. It’s one that helps me, inspires me, encourages me, and puts some fire under my butt to be proactive.

I keep this shirt as a reminder that nothing great comes without hard work, excuses don’t amount to much, being early means you’re always on time, don’t give up on your dreams, and even through adversity you must pray and push yourself as though there are no obstacles. It also is a reminder to listen to God’s voice above and despite all others.

It was Spring Break 1996. I was injured during track practice.

Coach wanted to punish me and make an example out of me for the rest of the team. I was late to practice. I got stuck in traffic coming from Pomona (the only sprinter who lived off campus and the only member of the track team who lived that far from campus).

Coach devised a workout for me that was so intense that my teammates painful faces let me know that they felt awful for me.

I was in the fifth lane and I was doing my sixth 120 meter sprint. I would have four more and then sets of 240s, 440s, and one 600 meter run, followed by a light session in the weight room.

I pushed off of the blocks. I could never jump that high in the air until that day, until that moment.

Pushing off of the blocks that “rubber band” in the back of my thigh snapped and coiled up towards my glutes, and I shot up high off of the ground and then what felt like slow motion I fell back to the ground and flat on my face—hard.

It was raining outside, so the beating drops of water didn’t help. But they did blend in well with the tears that streamed down my face. My dad trained me to never cry on the track, so as I tried to cover my face I was finally grateful for this pouring rain. My teammates ran over to me and while one rushed to get the training staff, the others consoled me.

Coach stood by with a mixed look of concern and shock. He knew I was giving him 100% of myself in that workout, and he also knew that he denied me a proper warmup as the first part of my punishment. I begged to have equal time warming up as my teammates were given, even three-quarters of the warmup would help. He cut my warmup by more than half. He said “you will learn the importance of being on time after today“.

Had my body been properly warmed up, like the rest of my team, like what I was accustomed to, the likelihood of me injuring myself was slim. I looked into his eyes asking what my mouth couldn’t, “why?”

The training staff rushed out on a cart and when they saw I couldn’t walk they, along with my team members had to lift me and place me on the cart. One of my teammates grabbed my workout bag and brought it to the training center.

After preliminary tests it was initially thought that I had a hamstring pull. It would take several grueling weeks to heal and recover.

I was sent home with crutches and since I didn’t have anyone to drive me home (that’s a long story about a boyfriend who didn’t believe I was as injured as the training staff said I was so he refused to come get me) so I drove with my left leg for the hour-plus it took to get home, narrowly avoiding an accident when I hydroplaned (I will skip the other dramatic parts of this story).

I cried all the way home. I cried in bed wondering how I would heal from this unbearable pain. I spent the rest of Spring Break at home. The training staff gave me anti-inflammatories. They warned me of the potential liver and kidney damage. Since I didn’t take medicine I only took a few pills and left the rest alone.

Rehabbing my leg was at times unbearable. I had to go immediately to physical therapy that Monday. I couldn’t make those crutches work for me and if you know California State University, Long Beach then you know how huge that campus is. I couldn’t carry my backpack and figure out the crutches. So I got rid of the crutches. I would have to make due and force my left side of my body to overcompensate for my right.

Coach suggested that I take a natural supplement to help with my recovery. The guys on the team took it. I went to the health food store and got some. Coach had regularly scheduled sessions for us to meet individually and as a group with the team psychologist. She gave us visual training techniques and other aides. But honestly I was mentally and physically in pain. The girls on the team explained that Coach gives preferential treatment to the boys and I would just have to suck it up and face the reality they knew all too well. I continued my grueling rehab sessions and focused on my school work.

I spent a couple of weeks rehabbing when Coach demanded that I return to the track. He needed points. I ran the 100 meter, 200 meter, and the first leg of the 4×100 meter relay team. He needed points.

Despite the arguments of the training staff who said I was weeks away from being good enough to run, my concern that I still had a crater in the back of my thigh, Coach’s voice was louder, and the trainers complied by signing off on my release. I could see the concern on their faces.

When I returned to the track it wasn’t the same. I was still injured, still trying to heal, and after weeks of taking that supplement I was also now about 10 pounds heavier (when I was already trying to get my weight down and body fat percentage lower). My teammates faces said what I knew, I wasn’t ready and I could make my injury worse. But I went out there anyway. I was a walk-on trying to get a scholarship and I knew the times I needed to get in order to be awarded that scholarship by the Athletic Director. He said if I nail those times I had the scholarship. I had already read and signed the huge NCAA packet. I just needed to do my part. Get those times.

Well how can I say this accurately…

I sucked. In every race I ran.

It would’ve been better to get someone from the cross-country team to run for me. No offense. But what returned to the track wasn’t a healthy, fully conditioned sprinter. Someone in middle school could’ve beat me in a race. I was injured and trying to carry around more weight, but the stop watch doesn’t consider those factors–and fans don’t know what’s going on—my times said I was just slow, my place crossing the finish line said I was slow. Not the slowest in my heats, but not fast enough to get my team the points Coach expected. Not fast enough to compete at other big meets, like Oregon.

I also was no longer eligible to compete indoors when the time came. I hadn’t healed. My strength and speed weren’t up to par.

Imagine if I had only left my house an hour earlier, even if I would’ve been on campus much earlier than our practice time, even with the traffic, I would’ve been to practice on time and Coach wouldn’t have punished me. I most likely also wouldn’t have injured myself. Hindsight is always 20/20 and the shoulda woulda coulda doesn’t matter.

Interesting enough during post-season a doctor checked my leg and said, “had you continued training as your coach expected this hamstring tear would’ve led to permanent damage“. My mouth felt like it hit the floor.

I loved sprinting. I loved the intensity of the races. I loved training harder after a loss. I loved the smell of the grass infield and surrounding the track. I loved feeling the different types of tracks, some springier than others, some feeling like wood. I loved the competition and the camaraderie. I loved feeling myself run. I loved the freedom that running provides and how sharp your mind must be to blot out distractions, while being relaxed enough that your jaw and lips jiggle as you run.

My track and field career ended in 1996. It took me 5 years to get my mind and body stronger than it had ever been, faster than high school and college. I contemplated returning to the track with a track club to run in the Master’s meets and races. But when my dad passed away in 2001, that dream and the dream of competing in Power Lifting also passed away.

Dad was my coach, trainer, motivator, and butt-kicker. Who else could train me like him? Who else could get in my head and help me to see things like he did? Who else could cuss me out and get away with it like dad? My answer was simply, “no one“.

So I stepped away from it all.

Honestly, those were some of the biggest mistakes that I’ve made in my life because I know that my dad would’ve wanted me to pursue every dream I had no matter what. I used him to make excuses for my fears. I dishonored him, his memory and his legacy to protect myself.

I find myself still doing that, still making excuses, still leaving dreams by the wayside, still not getting consistent help for the hurt, pain, and anger.

When will I grow sick and tired of being sick and tired? When will I make the decision to make my dreams a reality? When will I stop making excuses and start putting in the work? When will I stop living a life of conditional mediocrity and return to a life of excellence?

When I made the decision in 2001 to stop training as an athlete, my mind and body stopped receiving the level of intensity and feedback they needed to thrive, and my spirit has also been challenged.

It’s been 17 years since I last consistently trained as an athlete. That’s 17 years of being off balance and existing with a void. My mind is sharper when I’m training. My body is healthier. My attitude is better. My outlook is focused and broad. I accomplish more in other areas of my life.

Time waits for no one. Whatever I want I must go get it. Laziness gains nothing positive. One step at a time. One day at a time. I may not have an interest in competing in track and field anymore, but I most definitely have a desire to getting my mind, body, and spirit realigned.

Age is an excuse for not reaching for better, for more, for what is attainable—for what God has before you, just for you.

Now is the time.

~Natasha

Copyright 2018. Natasha L. Foreman/Natasha Foreman Bryant. All Rights Reserved.

I can’t believe that it’s already mid-July. It seems like last week was the first week of January. Maybe it’s our busyness or the chaos of life intertwined with the never-sleeping age of technology that keeps us buzzed, connected, and feeling like time is passing us by.

Some days feel like they zoom by while others feel like they painfully linger to remind you that you don’t have your “stuff” together.

Today I’m going to be transparent which is difficult for most people who even in their oversharing through social media, aren’t authentically transparent—it is still a mirage. But I’m moved to share with you today because there are plenty of people out there that see a public image of me and I’ve heard the fantasizing remarks made by some of you about how much you wish you could live my life, even the fast-paced moments that you have seen captured by video and pictures. I think it’s important to see the inside of the humans we admire, so we can see the real and appreciate the struggle. So this post isn’t a quick quote but rather a longer message, giving you a peek inside of me. I hope it helps someone.

Today I reflect on a Walt Disney quote:

This is a snapshot of a journal that I bought and began using briefly in 2014. I now am fully invested in writing in it. It’s my Dream Book, where I list and map out my dreams that I intend to pursue as goals. It’s about me overcoming fears and accomplishing what some may deem the impossible.

When I first started writing in this book I had huge lofty dreams that were being taunted and attacked by some real-life “dream terrorists”. I didn’t realize how exposed and vulnerable I was. I didn’t realize that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the people around me and my personal and professional circumstances. I had no clue what I was facing. I had no clue the role I was playing in my own destruction.

My intuition told me to prepare myself for these attacks and for my world to be tossed and turned, trampled over, and discarded—but the dreamer in me wanted to believe that my gut instincts weren’t accurate and that it was merely fear and a need to protect self that was motivating these thoughts and feelings. I convinced myself that I was self-sabotaging out of fear of having greater than I imagined.

I was partly correct but mostly incorrect.

My dad used to tell me growing up, “listen to that faint, small voice within…that’s God speaking to you…when you ignore that voice you always screw things up…” Dad was right. When I don’t listen to that voice that we call our intuition, that voice that people say women are more in tune with than men, we find ourselves blundering and things really fall out of control.

What I know to be true about me is that I self-sabotage a lot, both personally and professionally. I can take a huge leap and then freak out because I begin to speculate if the leap was too big and “what if I can’t handle what comes next?” and so I shrink within to find a comfort zone, a neutral place, that ultimately sabotages what I really want—and that’s to fulfill and live out my dreams.

I’ve passed up major career opportunities.

I’ve avoided other career opportunities— refusing to even make the call, apply for, submit the bid, etc.

When I was in my twenties I walked away from romantic relationships that I felt were moving too fast or too good to be true, or the guy was too nice (ummm yeah, stuck on stupid I most definitely was).

But in 2014 that wasn’t fully the reason for my grief. Yes, I was sabotaging my professional life due to second guessing my abilities and if what I was doing was relevant. I also discovered that my personal “reality” wasn’t accurate and there were people around me and in my inner circle who didn’t have my best interests at heart. I realized that there was a game of deception being played and I just never realized I was the key target. I found myself pulling back and settling into a position and role that I was both unfamiliar with and uncomfortable in.

It was eating me up from within. The pain began to manifest physically and my body was under attack, but doctors in several different specialities could never ascertain what was causing the issues. I was poked and prodded for what turned out to be 18 months, and even now, three years later, no one knows what caused me so much physical pain for almost two years. All we do know is that I’m no longer in pain.

The only tool and weapon I had (and still have) to combat what I was facing was prayer. For those of you who aren’t the praying types, consider meditation or self-reflection, or anything else that positively takes your mind off of the negatives and helps you to disconnect and focus on the positives. Please note that drugs and alcohol aren’t positive releasers and disconnectors. No judgment just facts.

In 2014 my Dream Book began as a book for positive affirmations and dreaming. I used it to help me see myself and my circumstances in a different light and through a different lens. But as I mentioned earlier, I was also in denial about the attacks against me. In 2015 the attacks became more frequent yet I remained in denial, still trying to hold on to my reality and thinking that I could still live out my dreams—even though I was slipping farther and farther away from reaching them.

The public saw me in one light but my reality wasn’t even close. I began to feel like I was in quick sand and I couldn’t remember what to do to get out. I went to counseling and I will never forget what my therapist told me. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Natasha you’re invisible in your life. Everything is about everyone but you. Where are you? Where are your clearly defined boundaries? What do you want and need?”

My therapist was correct. I had molded myself for others but when I looked I couldn’t really see me and that’s why I had also began to lose my zest and zeal, and lose a grip on my passion. I was helping other people reach their goals, fulfill their missions, but I was no closer to reaching my own. I altered my thinking to align to others, for a cause, for a mission, but what about the things God had called on me to do? What was I doing to fulfill those things? What about my dreams that were sitting on standby? I convinced myself that my busyness was action, when it really was just quick sand.

December 2015 I was in the hospital fighting a pulmonary embolism, and I began to see glimpses of my truth. I was determined to turn things around in 2016.

I thought I knew how. I thought I was ready. Boy was I wrong….

The year 2016 clobbered me extremely hard. Literally (okay, figuratively) I got hit with a right hook the first week of January. Jeesh, who starts out the New Year with a psychological fat lip? Yours truly! It was like fighting a heavy weight contender with your hands and feet bound.

I was going through the motions and praying for positive change, but sadly I wasn’t even listening to my “boxing trainer” that was sitting in my corner of the ring. My “trainer” kept telling me to “get off the ropes…block it…hands up…hands up dang it“. Before I knew it I got rope-a-doped.

Year-end knocked the wind out of me and as I reflected back over the year I realized that with the exception of a few minor things, my 2016 was really no different than the two years prior. I was still invisible and clearly still ignorant, because I kept pressing forward thinking that the attacks against me would subside and that there was no true threat, that eventually everything would work itself out and all would be well. And guess what? To add to all of this, I was still self-sabotaging and not seeing it.

If only I had paid attention to the fact that my Dream Book had dreams that I never fulfilled because I never truly took the steps to attain them. I wasn’t actively pursuing them, I was passively wishing upon a star. I was in a rut. I never untangled myself from the things and the people that were holding me back and preventing me from having what I desired most. I never checked myself and put a stop to the self-sabotage of my professional career.

My fears were helping my attackers.

You can operate in fear short-term but it’s not a long-term strategy. Short-term it can give you the adrenaline rush to eventually build the courage to fight back. But long-term it paralyzes and destroys you from within. No one that we read about in books, watch in movies, or see in magazines and interviews are or were successful because they walked around in a constant (or near constant) state of fear every day. It’s not that they don’t fear things and have moments of anxiety and depression. It’s that they learn how to pick themselves up and push hard for what they want because they are driven by their passions. It is when they lose hope and stop living for those passions that they slowly start to die (first spiritually and then mentally and physically).

December 6, 2016 I had written in my Dream Book the things I was grateful for and the things I claimed I was still passionate about pursuing.

Then my Dream Book wasn’t touched again until May 5, 2017.

What happened?

One of my biggest fears and nightmares became my reality. I was blindsided by something that my intuition, the little voice within, warned me about years earlier—that voice that kept prodding me to be prepared, yet I ignored it. Well now the fear that was keeping me from making certain moves in the past, was glaring at me in my face and nothing I did to fight back worked. I was praying for something that clearly wasn’t meant to be, not for me, not based on the factors placed before me. By the end of January I gave up and faced my fear head on. It hurt deeply. It hurt like sudden death.

My dreams seemed shattered. Everything fell down around me and I didn’t have a back up plan. I wasn’t prepared for my world to implode. I wasn’t ready for what God had been trying to prepare me for, for a few years now.

So I took a break from all personal and professional obligations, well with the exception of keeping my household in order and teaching my college classes—because I still needed structure to keep me going strong. But everything else took a back seat.

I had to peel back the layers and look at my life and my world. There were so many layers that were merely a facade. I looked at my life and where I was professionally and with the exception of teaching at the collegiate level, my other passions were so far out of my grasp. I wasn’t jumping up out of bed excited about starting my day. I had spurts of this excitement over the years but honestly, those were reactionary moves in response to attacks made against me—they were reactionary and reflexive, a sign that “old Natasha” was still inside of me, still fighting, still trying to shine and live life fully and intentionally. It was “new Natasha” that was confused, scared, and lost.

The woman that people applaud for her public efforts, philanthropy, passion, and “let’s get it done” attitude was and still is battling the fear within that paralyzes and leans towards sabotaging behavior.

May 6, 2017 I looked at my Dream Book. I looked at how I had survived the year thus far, and I looked around at the people who were still beside and those who were no longer there. And I smiled brightly.

One of my worst nightmares didn’t destroy me. I wasn’t prepared for it but life’s earlier storms and nightmares had strengthened me enough to endure this clobbering. Two months earlier several friends, new and old, joined me for dinner to celebrate blessings, life, and my new chapter in life. The month of May I made the decision to stop with the self-sabotage, to stop being invisible, to stop being everything for everyone but me, to chase and grab ahold of those dreams, to stop being consumed by other people’s opinions, and to start being more obedient to that still, small voice within.

I know it’s a process, “one moment at a time“, as my aunt Debborah taught me a few months ago. I also know that God keeps these dreams brewing inside of me for a reason, and I don’t want to take my last breath with shoulda, woulda, coulda regrets. I want to leave here saying “dang I did a lot, lived a lot, loved deeply, and had a blast!”

The attackers in your life don’t think you have it in you, or they fear that you do, so they work ten times harder to beat the hope out of you. Fight back with action, with living, and with snatching back every dream they try to crush. This is your life so live it like tomorrow isn’t promised, because it’s not. People can only take what you give them access to. People can only ride your back if you bend over.

If you want to start your own business, get the tools and resources that you need to succeed and then go do it!

If you want to be a parent, stop waiting for perfect and just go do it!

If you want love stop running from it!

If you have a dream to be something great then do whatever it takes (positively) to make that dream your reality.

God doesn’t place big dreams in your mind and heart for you to simply skim small portions off for a nibble or two. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, you can do it“. They are our dreams for a reason. Pursue them. Don’t allow anyone or anything stand in your way, not even your biggest barrier—you!

Oh and by the way, when you step or fall in quick sand the fastest way out isn’t struggling against the sand. Experts say that by laying flat on our backs and allowing our bodies to come to the surface, it actually releases the grip. There’s a lesson there. Sometimes we have to just calm down, let go, stop struggling, and allow the grip to release. When we don’t, the more we freak out and struggle the farther down we sink in the quick sand. 

Here’s to being free!

Love,
Natasha

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting the rest of our lives”

~Daniel Handler

I’m a procrastinator. There I said it. I’ve said it before but with all of the “e-clutter” in our lives I’m sure that by now you have forgotten that I shared this vital piece of information about little ole’ me. Procrastination is a nasty little habit that can grow into a huge monster waiting to gobble up precious time and life-altering moments.

I want you to think (and be honest with yourself), is there anything that you know for a fact you have been avoiding to start or finish?

I announced at the end of last year that I would finally be writing my first book, a spiritual one associated with my Breaking Bread With Natasha blog that I’ve been curating since 2009. I avoided starting the process for two years, ignoring the requests from my readers to “write a book Natasha“.

Right before I made my year-end announcement I was hit with some personal life craziness, and then weeks later I found my 2017 blindsided by the unthinkable (well at least for me), and my book and pretty much anything that didn’t have something to do with my survival, was placed on the back burner–temporarily. The crazy thing is I couldn’t avoid it. This book is staring in my face and people are frequently asking me “how’s the book coming along?”

Darn those public announcements! I knew that it was important to announce this huge step publicly, because if I didn’t then who would hold me accountable and when would I ever write and publish this book that people say they really want and need? The answer is “no one” and “probably never”. So two weeks ago I made the decision to push past my personal life “junk” and jump back into this book that I started working on last August, picked back up last December, and tried my best to ignore ever since.

There’s never a “perfect” time to do anything. When are we ever truly “ready” to become a parent? You can’t go based on other people’s experiences, you have to find out for yourself. No one knows what they are up against until that baby enters their life.

The same is true in business. For every entrepreneur out there grinding, hustling, and slaving away to make their dreams a reality and their goals accomplishments, their company is their “baby” and sometimes they are blessed to have multiple “babies” throughout their lifetime. But if you ask an entrepreneur “how did you know you were ready to launch your company” and I know that the vast majority of them would say something like, “I didn’t. I just took the leap.” For the most part, entrepreneurs are action-oriented. We can be a little scatterbrained, flighty, and what some medical professionals might label as sufferers of attention deficit disorder. But I like to think of it as a passion to seek, find, explore, test, try…right now. Yeah right now!

If we wait for when we’re ready, if we wait for the perfect time, we may find ourselves empty handed with a bunch of “shoulda, woulda, coulda” thoughts floating around, or worse–we don’t live long enough to have those thoughts haunt us.

I shared my 2017 goals with everyone on January 3rd of this year, and knowing that we’re already in the month of May, I see that I have a lot of work to do to make up on the four months that I’ve allowed to slip past me. I can’t afford to let anyone or anything distract me to the point that I don’t fulfill the things that God has called me to do.

What have you been avoiding? In what ways and in what areas are you procrastinating?

Stop it!

Take action this week toward starting or finishing whatever goal or goals that you have yet to achieve. It’s your life and from what we can tell, we only get one to live out these experiences. So stop wasting precious time waiting for ready and perfect to show up. They aren’t coming!

~Natasha

Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.