Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday. I'm talking my list of top five holidays entirely consists of the word “Thanksgiving”. I. Love. Thanksgiving.
This week, since Thanksgiving is next week, I want to remind you of one thing:
Life is difficult, so if you have the chance to think about what you are thankful for, think about it.
I’m going to list a few things/people I am thankful for and maybe the reason why for some. My hope is that from reading my list, it will help you remember what you are thankful for too.
I am thankful for Jesus Christ. When I say He has truly carried me through my darkest (and brightest) moments of life, I mean that. He has given me given me Peace through my pain, Joy throughout my day, Humility, Strength, when I felt defeated, Love when I need it the most (all the time), and so much more. He has faithfully been there for me and all to Him, do I owe.
I am thankful for my family.
My Mom, my Dad, my sisters, my brothers, my aunts, my uncles, my cousins, all of them. I know that regardless of how alone I feel at any given moment, they are always right there supporting and loving me.
I am thankful for my friends.
I have a medium sized group of friends from high-school that I know I can count on. We don’t talk every day because we have busy lives, but the bonds I have made with each of them are strong and healthy. I also have met a solid group of people who I am forming friendships with that have made my life at Villanova much more enjoyable. I appreciate each of these people in my life.
I am thankful for the access I have to education.
Villanova provides an excellent academic curriculum that I love. I am learning what I enjoy and I am being prepared for what I will encounter in the workforce. I know that my experience is not everyone’s experience, which puts into perspective just how blessed by God I truly am.
I am thankful for who I am.
I am creative and loving and interesting and resilient and fierce. I have fought my way to get to the place that I am right now and I am fighting to get to my next goal. And I am thankful that have come to a place where I can love myself.
Take a minute to remember what you are thankful for. Even if you can only think of one thing or half a thing, think about it for a minute or two.
Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings see what God has done.
There are stigmas that are a trap. One stigma in particular comes to mind: You appear weak when you ask for help.
When I reached high-school, I not only fell into that trap of a stigma, but I lived in it. I began to feel like I had to be self-sufficient all the time and every time. In high-school, I could do everything myself. I managed my time, handed in my assignments on time, I got to class on time, I juggled extracurriculars, studying, sleep, and eating. I was a pro.
And then I came to Villanova. Let me tell you, college is not high-school. I felt stressed all the time. I forced myself to study every minute of the day that I possibly could to the point where I felt guilty for even taking time to eat. I would spend time with friends and in between my laughter, I would feel anxious over how much homework I could have been doing instead.
I couldn't breathe. I couldn't enjoy myself. I couldn't live without feeling guilty about living.
That isn't how college is supposed to be. That isn't how life is supposed to be. My experience wasn't this way because of how heavy of a workload college was giving me (although, you do have to put in some serious work), but because I felt overwhelmed. My first year would have probably gone much better if I had known what I know now: It is okay to ask for help.
There is no weakness in asking for help. The number of benefits in waiting to ask for help after you are so deep in trouble that it's almost too late is zero. Don't wait. Don't be afraid.
I'm in my sophomore year now and my story has changed. I can breathe. I can laugh with friends and enjoy every minute of it. Today, I took off three hours just to do a DIY craft. I don't have to feel guilty for taking time to myself.
And, that's partly because I have learned to ask for help. I have learned to reach out when I start to feel overwhelmed or burnt out. I reach out to the people I know who will reach back. Find those people and hold onto them. Reach out to them, make sure they know they can reach out to you.
Take care of yourself by asking for help. In a world where we are always fighting, climbing, struggling, and living, we don't have to do it alone.
Have you guys ever worn a sock?
I hated socks as a kid, couldn't stand them. But I love them now and I may or may not have felt like a kid in a candy shop when I went and bought a bunch of socks for myself.
At my house, we have a sock bin and I don't mean a cutesy little Target bin. No, we have a sock BOX that holds lonely socks missing their sockmates, lucky socks who have their mate, and other miscellaneous items. There are socks in there from all stages of our lives, from a few baby ones to "grown up socks".
I wear a size 9 1/2-10. Can you imagine me trying to fit my foot into a baby sock?
A friend of mine wears size sixteen shoes. Can you imagine me trying to wear one of his socks without having to pull it up to my thigh?
But we all have feet that need socks.
My point? Sometimes you will have the same problem or situation as someone else, but their solution will not work for you. And vice versa.
Right now, I am enrolled in three different courses that are teaching me programming. As the semester continues, one of the things I have realized is that there are almost always multiple solutions to the same problem. If you give three people the same problem, it is entirely possible that each program has a different method, but they all deliver the same (correct) result. This is entirely true in the real world as well.
Your solution may not work for someone else’s problem. The thing about solutions is that they are not always one size fits all.
This may seem like an obvious point, but I think it might be something we quickly forget. Don't get discouraged or feel defeated if someone’s suggestion doesn't work for your problem. That is often how life goes.
The beauty of these situations, is in the fact that it is a learning opportunity for you. You will learn how to come up with your own solutions by glaring at your problem until it makes sense or by tweaking someone else’s solution. This ability is so, so, important because you will always need to find the answer to the questions that arise in your life. I know that I have in the past, I am right now, and I will in the future. But don't worry, we’ve got this!
I admit it.
I am struggling.
I am on the executive board for two different groups, creating a new group with a good friend of mine, and a member of around three more groups. I am taking 18.5 credits this semester and one course has math that completely lacks numbers (yeah, who knew that was possible?).
I am struggling.
I’m writing this at 10PM on a Tuesday night because inspiration hit me while I was doing my Differential Equations homework. I have eleven things on this week’s to-do list that will catch me up in time to take my exams that begin next week.
I am struggling.
Why am I telling you this? I’m saying this because I want you to look at my workload and not compare yours to it.
Still confused? I’ll break it down.
It’s only week four (barely) and I already feel overwhelmed and stressed out. I reached out to my advisor to tell her how I was feeling and she quickly pulled me into a meeting to see what she could do to help. Right before I went to that meeting, I told a few friends that I felt like I was drowning and that I had emailed my advisor.
I got a few “I feel you, good luck!” types of responses, but I also got “Seriously? It’s only week three. I think you’re overreacting.”
Suddenly, I was questioning how well I knew myself because of how well other people knew themselves. Makes sense?
There are people who have my major and almost (if not exactly) the same workload as I do, but they (seem) to be doing just fine. So why aren’t I? The answer is painfully simple: I am not them.
Don’t miss this:
Even if our situations are similar, it is completely implausible and unfair for anyone, including myself, to expect us to handle them in similar ways.
It has taken me 19 years to understand myself (give or take a few years, I wasn’t exactly concerned about who I was as a baby). So why would I doubt how well I know who I am because someone else doesn’t feel as stressed as I do?
Here is how it applies to you:
Don’t ever take your problems, put them in a box, and compare them to someone else’s problems. That box only holds your problems, not who you are. The other person’s box only holds their problems, not who they are.
Even, and this is important too, if your box is smaller than theirs. Or if your box is bigger than theirs. Each person’s problems are just as valid, despite whether anyone thinks they are “smaller”.
Don't let yourself or anyone else convince you that what has you stressed, what has you freaking out, what has you upset, isn’t as important, valid, or legitimate as it is to you.
You can do this. I can do this. We can do this.
Let's have an awesome semester.
School is starting to come back in session and that can mean a lot of different feelings for people.
You might look forward to school starting and you also might dread it. Regardless of how you feel, here is my advice: Look at the big picture.
Oh man, I sound like my parents. But this is one of the things they were right about!
Why are you going to school?
For the friends? I hope you are making friends, but that isn't the big picture.
Because I have to? Well, that's a good reason, school is an obligation, but not quite!
For education? Well, that's not wrong.
To me, you are going to school for, yes, the education, but also so that one day, you can do what you love.
There is a fond memory I have that I think of every now and then. I was studying in my room and I was talking to my roommate about the work I was doing. Admittedly, I was complaining about my workload, but I ended my complaint with, “But I love my major.”
And my roommate, Taylor, said, “What’s your major again?”
I said, “Computer Engineering.”
She replied, “You switched from Chemical Engineering? You never seemed happy while you were in that major, but you seem happy now.”
She was completely right. I am happy. But let me tell you why I’m happy.
I am not happy because some nights I stay up until 2AM studying.
I am not happy because sometimes I have to skip going to the mall to prepare for an exam.
I am not happy because I have to take exams or quizzes every Friday.
I am not happy because I have a heavier workload than many of my friends.
I am happy because I am doing and studying to do what I love. Every day I am surrounded by programming languages and computer concepts and Boolean Algebra.
Is it hard? Oh yeah.
Does my brain hurt sometimes? Most definitely.
But do I love it? Oh yes.
Is it worth it? Undoubtedly.
Welcome back to school, my people. You may not feel great and it may not seem to be much of a celebration, but I promise you, this is a stepping stone, a mere ladder rung, to something even greater.
Confidence is more than just walking with your head held high. Confidence is looking doubt in the eye and telling it to back off. Confidence is swallowing your fear and introducing yourself to potential employers at a career fair. Confidence is recognizing your mistakes and learning from them. Confidence is crying at night over a failure and getting back up in the morning to try again.
Confidence is demanding the respect you deserve. Confidence is looking people in the eye and defying them as they try to tell you what you can't do. Confidence is raising the bar and setting the standard for those around you. Confidence is loving the skin you're in. Confidence is knowing your strengths and your weaknesses. Confidence is walking with power even when you feel weak.
In the world we live in today, our confidence often gets swallowed. We face challenges based on who we are, the negative limitations people try to place on us, and even the limitations we give ourselves. It is hard to build an unshakeable confidence in ourselves and much easier to allow that confidence to be overshadowed by doubt.
My first year of college was a difficult one and college tried to steal my confidence. Every less than desirable grade I received, every professor that questioned my intelligence, and every hour I spent studying that seemed fruitless, it all added up. It was a weight on my shoulders that pressed on me and I had to fight to stand up straight.
There will always be nights where our pillows soak up the tears no one will know about. There will always be days where we feel like we are on the outside looking in. There will always be times where we wonder if the naysayers are right.
This is why your confidence will often be your foundation. It is what you will stand on when things are being stacked against you.
An egg will quickly crack. That cannot be your foundation.
A pillow will compress under pressure. That cannot be your foundation.
Wood will splinter and snap when put under too much stress. That cannot be your foundation.
Gold, silver, precious metals, they melt when the heat gets a little bit too uncomfortable. That cannot be your foundation.
But a solid rock, upon which you stand. A rock that neither cracks nor crumbles. A rock that does not compress when things are stacked against it. A rock that neither splinters, snaps, nor melts. That will be your foundation.
You may feel defeated after a poor exam grade, but you'll be the first student at your professor’s office hours.
You may look at a hill and feel too tired to climb, but you will climb it. You will succeed.
I will leave you with a quote that I heard at a leadership conference this past weekend: “People are like teabags. You truly know what's inside, when the water starts to get hot.”
What is inside of you?
I remember when I got my first period. I had just got finished bragging to my best friend about how I hadn’t gotten it yet. Three days later, I innocently went to go to the bathroom and it was like a crime scene had exploded in my underwear. My ovaries decided it was high time for a meet and greet, puberty edition. I pulled my underwear up (and died inside a little bit), went to my Mom, and whispered more quietly than I had ever done at a funeral, “I got my p-e-r-i-o-d. I need p-a-d-s.” Yes, I whispered and spelled like I was talking about a secret in front of a two year old.
Fast forward to five days of what will be quite a large chunk of the rest of my life, my period ended. But...I was still wearing pads. It took about two weeks before my Mom pulled me aside and asked me why I was wearing pads when I wasn’t on my period. She patiently explained that I had to count twenty-eight days from the last day of my period, then I start wearing pads again. I was ecstatic! I had been liberated! I could walk around a free woman! But I was still nervous, so I didn’t wear white pants for the entire time I was in high-school (and if we’re being honest, I still don’t).
While 13 year-old Cassia knew her period was a normal thing, I know that many other girls think something is seriously wrong when they first get their period. I know young women who got cramps for the first time and thought they were inches away from certain death. As someone with severe cramps, it’s not that hard to see why they would think that. Educating our young black girls on what a period is, why and how it happens, and what to do to make your Red Sea the easiest sea you’ll ever have to cross is crucial.
Everyone experiences periods differently, too. Twenty-eight days wasn’t a schedule my body followed when I first got my period, so I only had a vague clue as to when my ovaries would express their disapproval of my precious unused egg. Some women don’t get cramps, some only get mild cramps, or some, like me, have such severe cramps that it can them out for an entire day. Some periods only last two days, some last a full seven days. It varies from woman to woman. Proper education on what’s going with your body makes experiences a lot less scary. That education includes making sure that our girls know that their period isn’t taboo or shameful.
All in all, the female human body is pretty interesting. If time is an oven, we’re kind of like cake! We go through some incredible bodily changes as we grow older and it’s important that we understand what’s incredible. Don’t be ashamed to ask questions and understand what’s going on beneath the surface.
My body has lightning bolts.
They are on my sides, my butt, and my thighs. These lightning bolts may appear, to the less informed, that they are just stretch marks. But they are more.
You see, the lightning on my thighs reminds me that I must walk like my feet are the cause of thunder.
The lightning on my sides reminds me that every time I take a breath, I must breathe in greatness and breathe out excellence.
The lightning on my butt...well, I’m still working on what my body is trying to tell me with that one.
Most of all, the lightning on my body reminds me that it is necessary for me to love every part of who I am. I must love my color, my mind, my hair, my lightning bolts, my thighs (that are indeed made of thunder), my lips, my eyes, my smile, my nose. I must love me.
But I know that this isn’t an easy task, especially when your body type, race, or hair (or all three!) aren’t represented as often as they should be. Loving yourself isn’t always a walk in the park or a piece of cake, but something that takes serious effort. However, take it from me, the result makes all of that work completely, undoubtedly, and wonderfully worth it.
When you love yourself, you begin to see how valuable you are as a person. You glory in your personhood. You are comfortable being a black person, a black woman. It is that understanding that helps you to know exactly how you must be treated. You will then exude an aura of expectation that alerts those around you that you are aware of the respect you deserve from them. And they had better deliver.
My wonderful people, we are powerful, excellent, amazing. We are earth-shaking, stereotype-defying, groundbreaking people. We don't reach for the stars because we are them. Instead, our hands are outstretched to grab even greater. We have cornbread and resilience deep in our souls, spirituals woven in our hair, rhythm in our hands and feet. We have generations of stories on our tongues, laughter and smiles on our lips, unshakeable joy in our hearts, brilliance in our minds, and natural skill in our fingertips.
And we must love ourselves.
Baby Anulika is officially 13 days old! Her umbilical cord fell off a few days ago and that’s when it really hit me – this girl is getting older! Today I can count her age in days. Soon it will be weeks. Then months. And any day now she’ll be coming to tell me she’s having her first period LOL. The gift I’ve been given does not escape me. Every day I thank God for the opportunity to love her.
I’m feeling very tearful and hormonal…I hope this isn’t the onset of postpartum
depression? Maybe it's just the Postpartum Blues. I’ll make sure to leave the house tomorrow and get some air. Baby came two weeks early so none of my family is here. I’m sure the distance isn’t helping with my mental state. Luckily, my big sister arrives tomorrow and her visit should help. After her my aunt, then Baby’s grandmother, then my sister and brother – GAH I’m getting excited just typing this!
Physically, I’m feeling good. My energy level is up and my milk is in. I’m only ten pounds over my pre-pregnancy weight and can’t wait to get back into the gym. Endorphins. E-N-D-O- R-P- H-I- N-S!!!!
So Grateful. So Thankful.
Do you understand how little 2% is? When you have 2% of something, you are missing 98% of whatever that object is. 2% milk is missing 98% of the fat. A loading bar at 2% has 98% percent that still has to load. When you have 2% of a dollar you have only two pennies. You are missing out on the other 98 pennies. Two percent of ten dollars is only twenty cents, and so on. But who cares? Why is 2% significant? Well, 2% is significant because that is the percentage of Science and Engineering Bachelor degrees awarded to African American women in 2010.
My name is Cassia Trusty. I am currently a rising sophomore at Villanova University and my major is Computer Engineering.
I am incredibly proud of my major and am excited to pursue this degree. Even so, I recognize that while it is important to express my excitement, I also must deliver the truth of what it's like to be a black female engineer.
When I think about my experience, a word that comes to mind is “intimidation”. Within the first month of being at Villanova, I had someone suggest I get tested for a learning disability and that I consider changing my major from engineering. While I don't claim that this comment held racial or sexist intent, it was still an eye-opening experience.
I had earned my way to Villanova through preparation that took place throughout my entire educational career. Of the 17,235 applications for the class of 2020, I was one of the 1,670 students who were accepted. I, Cassia Trusty, had been accepted into Villanova University to pursue (at the time) a Chemical Engineering degree. The same major that, when I told people, was met with “Ouch! That's one of the tough ones!”. And yet, here I still found myself, face to face with someone who so strongly doubted my abilities, that they felt the need to clearly voice their opinion.
I was already firm in who I was. I knew my capabilities. This was not the first oppositional voice I had heard. I did not take the bait. There are times when it is not up to us to insist that we have certain abilities. Instead, our actions must do the talking.
It is intimidating to be a black female engineer at a predominantly white institution. But you will notice that I said I am “currently” studying at Villanova. Intimidation has no hold on me. I am here, and here I will stay. As a woman. As an intelligent woman. As an intelligent black woman. I shall not be moved.