Starting Your Dreams Later In Life and Embracing the Detour

Jenee Darden speaking at Creative Mornings I know it's been a while since I've posted anything but that's because of my job. I'm working as a reporter covering Oakland and I host an arts segment on the radio where I get to interview amazing artists from around the Bay Area. Plus I'm publicizing my book  and building my speaking career!  You know what's funny? I thought this would all happen by the time I was 27-30.  Nope. That wasn't God's plan for me. I'm finally beginning to do the things I've wanted to do and I'm almost 40 years old. Some people reading this who are 40 will say 40 is still young. But some younger people reading may think 40 is nearly ancient. But I'm writing this post for those who like me, thought their career and personal dreams would come true much early in life. I'm here to tell you not to give up.  You know, death inspires life. A number of my relatives and friends have passed away, ranging in

Empowerment and Vision Boards

Cocoa Fly presenting her vision/empowerment board at a party

I owe my master's degree to a few items around the house: a portrait,  poster board, scissors, glue and old magazines.

My first year of journalism school was stressful. Because I was accepted under "conditional admission" I had to earn a B average at the end of the school year to advance. I thought holding down a B average wasn't a biggie. I've been earning good grades since kindergarten and did very well in undergrad.

Well, the first year of grad school kicked my behind.  I had one instructor who gave me a C no matter what I turned in. He made Len Goodman on Dancing with the Stars look like Mr. Rogers.  I could have written a Pulitzer Prize article that exposed Bin Laden's secret hideout back in 2004 and he might have given me a C+. This hit my esteem hard. I always did well in my writing classes. What happened? What was I doing wrong?  One day we had our one-on-one meeting. He asked me what did I want to do in my career. I told him at the time I wanted to be an investigative reporter. He looked at me like I said the impossible and replied, "You want to be an investigative reporter? You?"  I knew then the problem wasn't me, but him.  Unfortunately, it was too late to switch classes.  Luckily, his class was only worth 1/3 of my grade for the entire 3-part course.

To keep my esteem and hopes up, I bought a huge poster board and taped a photo of myself right in the middle. Then I gathered old magazines and just started flipping through them. When I caught an ad, quote or image that reflected the woman I was and aspired to be -- I cut it out and pasted it on the poster. "Journalism that makes a difference." "Living Well." "Women Shaping the World." "Create your own history." "Entrepreneur." "Absolutely Fabulous!" "Pleasure." "Best seller." "Black Radiance." "I have a voice. Strong. Clear. Joyful. True. Don't miss a word." I pasted pictures of sophisticated women, happy women, travel destinations I will one day venture to, flowers, fashion and an old Essence article by Susan L. Taylor titled, "In the Spirit: Life without limits."  This is not even a third of the content on, what I call, my Empowerment Board.

Every time I felt defeated or frustrated I looked at that board to remind myself of my talents and what I planned to accomplish. Whenever my instructor TRIED to shoot me down, I looked at my empowerment board and start pasting more uplifting quotes and pictures. But the board wasn't just for hard times.  When I was in a good mood, I'd put on an India. Arie CD and start snipping. Seeing those images pushed me to work harder, love myself and keep going for my dreams.  I've read many times that visualization can be key in reaching your dreams. I hate to quote R. Kelly, but just like he sang in "I Believe I Can Fly":
"If I can see it, then I can do it."

What I took away from the empowerment board got me all the way to a walk across the˜ graduation stage   The blessing that came from dealing with that instructor was that it prepared me for the jerks I would encounter in the work world. And God is good because he also gave me amazing professors who were encouraging and enriched my education. They prepared me for my profession and the great people I would meet in media.

My board was just about complete when I moved back to the Bay Area last year. This past January, I went to a Vision Board Party. Ooooh I had fun.  Vision boards are similar to my empowerment board. It's basically a collage representing your dreams and goals. At the party, we were sipping on mimosas and sharing boards that reflected our goals and dreams for the 2012 year.  I brought my board and shared the project that took me nearly seven years to complete.

The ladies at the party brought nice boards and had great visions. One woman didn't have a vision board but a vision book. She pasted all of her images in an adorable scrapbook. Vision books are a good idea if you want to keep your dreams to yourself and away from the "Girl, how are you going do that?" kind of folks who will keep you down. I still prefer waking up in the morning and looking at my framed empowerment board. My board is the biggest thing on my wall as it should be. I have grand plans.

I've seen some things come true. I have the word "Essence" on my board and this year my photo made it to I also have the words "Shine on" pasted onto the board.  Ironically, I worked on a documentary titled Shine that debuted a few nights ago. 

I miss working on my board and am thinking about starting on another one, but smaller. Or,  I may give the vision book a try.

Have you ever made a vision board? What was it like for you?


  1. Don't be ashamed to weep; 'tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.
    The Outdoor Women


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