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A Different World: A Single Mom's Perspective During the Pandemic

By Zora Hughes

Growing up as an 80's baby, one of my favorite shows was "A Different World." In fact, I love it so much that as a Higher Education Administrator, I jump on every opportunity to introduce it to my college students and create programming based on the fictional historically black college. The timeless life lessons (even if it first aired 30+ years ago) are what continues to keep us honorary Hillman alums coming back for reruns on TV ONE or our select streaming services.

Remember that one episode when Whitley Gilbert (played by the incomparable Jasmine Guy), was stressing out about her life and visited a therapist (played by THEE Legendary Debbie Allen)? Whitley is all angst about life, and Allen gives her the manic mantra: "RELAX! RELATE! RELEASE!". I'm tickled just thinking about Whitley's over the top antics and Allen tugging at her terrible wig. But through the humor, there was healing and hope.

I hope this read finds you and your family well during this pandemic and beyond. I find myself using Auntie Deb's counseling methods to coach myself through this quarantine. The reality is that we all needed a break from the hustle and bustle of life, so taking this time to devote to ourselves can be a positive opportunity in this unprecedented time. Here is how I incorporated the mantra to cope with COVID-19.

RELAX
As a mother (single mom), the idea of personal time is a privilege, and the luxury of actually having time to relax is rare. Too often we preach self-care but don't regularly practice it. And should we be so fortunate to have a night out or, hell, a night in for ourselves, we can't help but feel selfish, especially when we combine that with the mommy guilt of being a working parent.

Let me preface the following statements by saying that with every fiber in my body, I.LOVE.MY.CHILD! She is a bright ray of light in what feels like endless dark days. Her joy is infectious, hugs have helped curve the depression spells, and her zany personality has kept me entertained. But for as much as I love my daughter, and as grateful as I am to have fulfilling and gainful employment, I can truthfully say, I lost my mind.

A week after the stay at home order had been enacted; I felt like I was going insane. The recovering perfectionist and control freak that I am could not cope without structure and finding a fair balance between work from home and homeschooling was a challenge for me. From the unrealistic amounts of schoolwork that my second grader must complete daily to the surmounting work demands and home responsibilities that seem not to cease, I WAS NOT OKAY. I was feeling like Brittney in '07 x Solange in an elevator in 2014, and my daughter's teacher was finna be Jay Z! It took the intervention of my best friend with a well-timed edible arrangement and a very encouraging note, to give me the calm and clarity that I desperately needed. The note read: "Have a good week. You're doing great! Love ya, Trese." And it was in that very moment, with one delicious bite of a chocolate-covered strawberry (or maybe 6), that I realized that I needed to relax; that what is required of me is to do the best that I can and take it one day at a time.

That day forward, I made radical acts to practice better self-care. This meant not checking my email 24/7. Doing a spring cleaning of accounts that I follow on social media, and simply focusing more on being present and finding the silver lining in this whole ordeal. So whether for you it's spending more quality time with your family and friends, finally launching your business, or simply just breathing, do just that! Whether you're a parent trapped in the house with your little assholes angels, or you're a single girl at home yearning to have a #SavageSummer, I pray you find strength like Meg's knees and SLAY each day like the Queen Bey herself! The key is being kinder to ourselves and extending a little more grace.

RELATE
More now than ever before, am I grateful for the relationships in my life. As a person who is guilty of occasionally watching a phone call go unanswered, I never imagined how much I would rely on these various communication platforms to stay connected. Considering that all of my family and friends are over a thousand miles away, I found comfort in seeing their faces or hearing their voices via FaceTime, Instagram, Zoom, Houseparty, etc. While we were physically distant, we found ways to create meaningful interactions still. It was the commentary on the college crew group chat, my daily dose of BFF bonding, and numerous other facilitated activities such as virtual happy hours, zoom celebrations, and IG Live listening parties with my fav DJs and artist that made me feel like I wasn't missing out. Now that's not to say that I don't miss a good ol' bottomless brunch or aimlessly carting things down the aisles of HomeGoods or TJ Maxx, but I can honestly say I haven't felt lack because of the blessing of still being able to engage with my family and friends. I relish in the fact that I am rich in my relationships and have a wealth of people that genuinely care about my well-being.

More importantly, I'm having an opportunity to really get to know my daughter, and that is priceless! I'm in awe at how wise beyond years and in-tune she is with herself and the world. We talk more! We laugh! We get real with each other. We hold each other accountable. We've acknowledged that we are a team, and as a team, we need each other to survive. She is more than just my baby girl; she is growing into an impressive young person, with independent thoughts and a great capacity to express, that I must nurture by empowering her to be heard and not just seen. She is my lil broke best friend, but in the future, she will be a fearless female and a force to reckon with.

RELEASE
The most important lesson learned in this experience has been letting go of the need to be in full control. There is something about being STILL that proves how powerful and omnipresent God truly is. It puts everything into perspective. I realize that PEACE had no place in my world because I had become accustomed to operating in chaos. Isn't it crazy how we sometimes normalize dysfunction?

As I reflect, I see now that the problems we think are so big, in reality, are so small to God. It reminds me to be grateful as life is fragile, and tomorrow is not promised. But it is also reassuring to know that my Heavenly Father has the whole world in his hands! I revel in his goodness and his faithfulness. I believe that this, too, shall pass. As I recite the Serenity Prayer, "God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.", I exercise faith over fear; I will stop self-destructive behaviors, and I will pour into things that truly make me happy. And my hope for you is that as we release what was, I hope that you all embrace the infinite possibilities of what can be.

So here are my final thoughts:

The truth is that as we begin to return to our "normal" lives, nothing will truly be the same. And that is okay!

Embrace the change...

Own your journey...

And just remember you been told...it's a different world.

Enjoy the clip



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