Taken by Whom

Since I was twelve I’ve been in some type of relationship. I’m really secretive with acknowledging my partners to the world. I had a high school sweetheart turned full blown adult love that ended pretty drastically. I think I was really shaken up and confused about that breakup until recently. In my eyes I made myself look crazy. Sometimes, you have to let loose and let those emotions provide you with lessons you’ve missed in the past. Since that situation, I’ve been really quiet and really scared to do the whole “lets let the world know about our love” thing. I don’t like looking stupid. In return I’ve blocked a lot of potentially good guys. But to me, being madly in love with your “soulmate” one second and hating them the next looks crazy stupid. I’ve done that and people don’t let you live it down. No thank you! That s*** is scary. Nineteen year old me thought I would marry my then boyfriend. I was young and in love. I feel like I have to be 1,000,000 % sure with an engagement ring before I make those types of claims ever again. I’m still young and would hate to make that brash of a decision and be embarrassed. 

I’ve tried the one night stand/fling things and it often results in the man wanting some type of long term relationship from me (believe it or not). Even if that relationship is just a close friendship. I have come to the conclusion that I’m a pretty dope woman. I strengthen any man who is blessed to be in my life. Anyone I’ve been with I can call right now and there would be no ill will. I’m extremely independent. I never ask anyone for anything (I need to stop this though. Sometimes you need people to know that they are appreciated and let them help you.) I move around pretty quietly. I don’t make a scene. I don’t cause any strife. I don’t argue. I always walk away from conflict. I check in on every man in my life. Literally, none of them could say I don’t. I often send words of praise to them just out of pure love. I never expect them to return the praise. They also never do—with no exception. I am a rock for all the men who walk into my life. 

I give too much love. Sometimes you have to send the loving vibes without being too nice. It’s in my nature to do just that—be too nice but, not everyone can receive that love. Some people break you down when you build them up. A lot of times we self sabotage. I have to just accept that and send my love and light from a distance. 

I’ve been alone , quite literally, for the last year and some change. I’m now taken by myself. Dating myself is a real learning experience. Its also a very necessary experience for the many millennials that are products of trauma and abuse (more specifically those of color). You can’t always blame you intimate and romantic troubles on your past partners. It’s more reflective to sit with yourself and question how you let someone treat you any less than the queen/king you are working to be. I, myself, see a lot of my parents chaotic ways in my past choices. I am twenty four. This is the best time to recognize that foolishness. I will no longer give my all to those that give me their baggage. I will no longer dim my strength to let someone else outshine mine. I will absolutely stop being afraid to show my affection toward others out of fear of looking crazy. That’s not the way this works. The first step with this change is being more vulnerable. I’m with myself. Though it feels uncomfortable, it is liberating. 

Cheers to those that will be single this soon approaching Valentines Day. Take this time to reflect on yourself. If you strengthen your foundation the structure will be solid.

Bless, 

Shae.      

Heaven on Earth

There are few things I really enjoy doing. But, the things I actually love make me very emotional. I have a habit of bawling in the presence of true beauty. The irony is I hate crying. It typically bothers me when I feel my face getting hot, cheeks turning red and my eyes swelling up with salty tears. I swallow my emotions, scold myself in my head and make the tears disappear. Hiking, accomplishing physically challenging feats, Butterfly Exhibits, sloths, elephants, mountains and lush wilderness are a few of the things that bring me pure joy. And, despite my typical disdain, I can care less about the tears flowing when I witness these things. I can’t help but bow down to the flood of emotions. I can be in the middle of nowhere for hours as long as there are trees, plants, moss, guava, starfruit and a running stream near by. The whole time I might cry; that’s ok with me. 

Last month I hiked the tallest peak in St. Vincent from the most difficult side of the island—the leeward side. It’s name is La Soufriére. I’m a “bad Haitian” with limited French and Creole vocabulary but, if I’m not mistaken, Soufriére means sulfur. Duh! That makes sense with La Soufriére traditionally being a name given to volcanos and hot springs throughout the Caribbean. La Soufriére is an active volcano. The last eruption was in 1979. It typically erupts every 30 years. So, any day now it may blow! While hiking this beauty you pass through different climates and terrains. One hour you’re on the beach. Then you’re walking in a flowing rivers. The next hour you’re surround by farms. Hour three you’re being poured rain on by Mother Earth. Hour four you’re legs begin to cramp walking through volcanic ash. Before you know it you’re in the clouds with a 20 degree drop in temperature and thinner air. It’s truly a magical experience. I went with a group but quickly left them behind. I wanted to challenge myself. I also wanted to experience this spiritual journey alone. When I made it to basically the end of the trek, I pulled out my almost empty hydro flask, a bottle of Sorrel I had made the night before and some roasted nuts. I sat on a rock, put on my hoodie, began snacking, waited for the others to catch up and cried. Yes, I’m being honest, I cried. I’m sensitive, don’t make fun of me. I had about 35 minutes of solid crying before I began hearing the others. You haven’t seen fast moving until you see me frantically trying to clean myself up after crying. No one can see that side of me except my love, nature—and she won’t tell anyone. She’s loyal to those that are loyal to her. I finished the last few yards with the group. The view was breath taking.  

This was one for the books. All together the hike is about eight hours, 4,048 feet above sea level and 10 miles long. This is the story that makes everything in life worth it.

 

Spend more time in nature and with animals. It’ll change you for the better. 

Let Me Be Honest

I should probably explain my absence. Let me be honest. It’s taken me a lot more time to adjust to living abroad then I thought it would. To be frank, I still have yet to fully adjust. Even more honestly, I may never “fully” adjust. But, I believe that that is a good thing. Thats OK. The feeling of being uncomfortable has been the best thing for my personal growth thus far in my life. I have been doing nothing that I thought I would and everything I never imagined. 

I signed up for the Peace Corps to serve. Humanitarian work has always been my passion. When asked what I want to do with my life my answer is always service. I remember raising funds for the homeless population in Chicago when I was 15 and gathering donations for Haiti after the earthquake back in 2010 when I was 16. I saw my undocumented father work three plus jobs to make sure he lived out what so many see to be the American dream. What so many of us, Americans, believe to be the right and only way. I was destined to be a humanitarian. It’s funny though. I think I’ve gained the most humanity I’ve ever possessed through my service in the Eastern Caribbean. 

This journey has been rougher than I thought it would be. I’ve lived away from home before for years at a time. Why is this so much different? Why have I felt such an existential crisis. Let me be honest. I am more American than I believed myself to be. I have learned this, I have accepted it and I now love this about myself. I see things in a very analytical way. I make list for just about everything. I check each item off that list before I can even think straight. I wake up at the same time daily. I eat at the the same time. I eat the same things all the time. I meal prep on Sundays, religiously. I go to the gym (yes, I found a gym here because I felt incomplete not going to the gym anymore). I follow a schedule to the T. I think about work outside of work. I go home and disconnect from the world. If I don’t I feel uneasy being around too many people in a social setting. I think for myself and about myself—only. I am not nearly as collective as I’ve thought I was all this time. I was raised in a individualistic society. With that, I am learning more about humanity and how I exist within it. 

As a volunteer doing humanitarian work you have to learn that you are not placed in your community to “save” or “fix” anyone. I repeat, you are not to save or fix ANYONE! No one needs fixing. Let me be honest. If you have that way of thinking about service, my friend, you need the fixing. You need the fixing—quickly! The literal definition of humanity is the human race as a collective. I want to emphasize the word COLLECTIVE. Collective thinking/existing is mutual, joint, and communal. We are not meant to live on this earth individually. Rather, we are individuals living amongst other individuals. Making us all members of a huge community of humans. We all do things differently but, we are all members of this planet. With that, being a humanitarian means spreading the necessity of sharing other individuals ways of operating to make the collective more versed in the diversity and worldliness of humans in their thoughts and actions. 

That was a lot, I know. Bare with me. Anyone interested in being a humanitarian and doing humanitarian work I pray you surround yourself around humans that are different, similar, accepting, impartial and challenging to you. Volunteering doesn’t give you the Bible of all things right. In the famous words of Kanye West—yikes— you don’t have all the answers Sway. Being a volunteer and a humanitarian gives you the opportunity to experience new cultures, share your culture and create experiences for someone that might not have the opportunity to experience those things. Please, don’t profess, just share your experiences. Volunteers, Humanitarians, Philanthropist and Aid Workers are blessed to have their positions. We get to see the world and see the various types of ways people operate, think, live, communicate and thrive in it. You have to make sure you remain open minded so you can learn. Just because things are different than what you do doesn’t mean they are wrong. If thats the case its a huge possibility that what you do is wrong. Share what you do and learn what others do. 

Remember when I started this piece I said I was having a hard time adjusting. Well, I was having a hard time changing my way of thinking. There will be times that I miss home, my sister, my dog, Ethiopian food, and the hustle and bustle of the big city. That is normal. That vulnerable place has opened my mind to receive the lessons I need to learn. The first lesson has been the lesson in the collective. My first six months of service and I just now have a good grip on humanity. So, look at that. The humanitarian got schooled and educated by the host country on humanity. This lesson has taught me the need for humbling myself. I know nothing in the grand scheme of it all. I hope that the rest of my one year, eight months and 27 days of service is even slightly as impactful for those around me as it has been for me. Let me be honest. I have many more lessons to learn. 

I can’t wait to document them all! No more writing breaks. I promise! 

Shae.     

Stability, Adventure and Precautions

I’ve moved a lot in my life. By the age of twenty I had moved at least twenty times. I’m very comfortable in chaos. Nothing can really break me. I’ve seen and been through a lot in my twenty four years. However, I seek stability.

About two weeks ago the St. Vincent and Grenadines (SVG) crew and I were evacuated from SVG. This was due to a isolated security concern. I moved back to St. Lucia with only a duffle bag. This was an even bigger down size then what I already came with. The beginning of this week I was told that I would go to Grenada and do some work there until the situation in SVG was solved and we were safe. I have been working in a school in Grenada this past week. I even sworn in in Grenada. Yes, I am officially a Peace Corps volunteer. Yesterday I was giving the news that I must go back to the States for two weeks. After that brief time period I will return to the Caribbean. This is due to precautions that are being taken with our safety and security in mind. More updates when I can give them.

If you want to find me I’ll be back in Chicago for a little while. I’ll probably be eating Ethiopian food, taking photos and volunteering at my old yoga studio. Typical Shae things. I can’t wait to get back into the schools and interact with the beautiful boys and girls of the West Indies. I already miss the Caribbean and can’t wait to get my sense of stability here. The Caribbean, my new home, where my heart and all photography equipment is.

I shall return. The adventure has just begun. I love you EC!

You Remind Me of Someone

The universe (and PC staff) have chosen where I truly belong for the next 2 years. My new home is the beautiful island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The sea is as clear and bright as my future (humble confidence). This is exactly where I’m supposed to be. Everyone I’ve met is like family already. All the animals remind me of my puppy back home. The food feeds not only my body but my soul. I am truly blessed. I hope I have at least half the impact on St. Vincent as it has had on me already.

Since the first day I landed in St. Lucia, about 5 weeks ago, the people of paradise tell me I look familiar. This past Thursday, when I met my Vincentian Host Momma she said, “When I saw your face I knew I wanted you. You remind me of someone.” Every time I get introduced to someone they say something along the lines of, “Haven’t I seen you before?” or “You look like my sister, she’s in the states.” There is a sense of familiarity and acceptance here for me. I have to admit, I love it. I’ve longed for it. I’ve never been able to blend in or fit in. I am very much so at home in the Eastern Caribbean. It’s truly a blessing that I wasn’t searching for when I decided to serve here. Genuine serendipity!

In addition to blending in, I feel embraced. Things about my identity that made me feel less than or awkward back home make me feel appreciated here. With that, my inner empath feels the need to service beyond my best ability. I have been serviced and welcomed with open arms. I am, to my assumption, seen as a Caribbean/Vincentian woman. A part of me is Caribbean (quite literally). A part of me is in every person I encounter in the Eastern Caribbean. Me serving in the Eastern Caribbean is me serving myself. It’s me serving for the girls and boys back home. It’s me serving for Chicago. It’s me serving for the folks like me back in the states.

The diasporic love is real. I am blessed to be able to feel it to this degree. I hope I make you proud St. Vincent. Thank you for my homecoming.

Martin. Like Luther King Jr.

Last weekend I was headed to Soufriere to go to the sulfur pools. On the way there we made various stops. These stops blessed me with diverse angles of the island. Also, may I add, seeing St. Lucia from these contorted angles was absolutely breathe taking. I am still in awe! Anyways, while stopping at one of the many locations I proceeded to whip out my trusty Nikon D5200. With my camera in hands I adjusted my aperture, increased my shutter speed and, captured some of the beauty that lie in front of me.

While shooting I was interrupted by a gentle baritone voice. The voice exclaimed, “Take my picture!” I looked back to the sight a man. The gentleman was about 5’7. His hair was short with a dash of salt and pepper. His complexion was reminiscent of freshly mixed chocolate cake batter. Smooth and flawless. Excited by the demand he made… I took his picture. I snapped about three rough shots then proceeded to converse with the warm St. Lucian man. Here’s a rough transcript:

Me: “What’s your name sir?”

Martin: “Martin”

Me: “Mark?” I said with little confidence in what I thought I heard.

Martin: He shook his head. “Martin. Like Luther King Jr.”

Me: “Oh, MLK. What a powerful name! You are blessed.”

Martin: “I live up to my name sake. What is your name?”

Me: “I’m Shae”

Martin: “What name your parents gave you?”

Me: I responded giggling, “Shaela. My name is Shaela.”

Martin: “Umm. Are you English Shaela?”

At this point I was internally dying of laughter. I have a pretty thick Midwestern Chicago accent. Though I have the ability to, I often I forget to turn it off. I definitely hadn’t turned it off during this conversation. After regaining my composure, the conversation continued something like this:

Me: “Not at all. I’m from the States. North American-” I paused in concern of his expression.

Martin: With a worried look on his face screech “Why do White People hate you all”

Me:  Caught off guard by the conversation switch, I replied, “What exactly are you referencing?”

Martin: “Every time I watch the news I see someone in America being killed by a White police officer. Or, I see Blacks speaking about how White American are racist toward them. Or I hear about American ghettos and Black Lives Matter. Why?”

Me: Reflectively, I replied, “Well Martin. The history in American runs deep. And, to an extent, it similar to St. Lucia. Colonialism, colonization, slavery and murder were all methods Europeans used to gather and control Africans and Indigenous Americans. It is the unfortunate and dark past of the US. The real issues is that history, if not handled, made right, and dealt with accordingly, repeats itself. This is where these microaggressions and acts of discrimination come into play. Racism has never stopped in the state: racism has just surfaced in other ways.”

Martin: “Shaela, where are you from?”

Me: Confused by yet another shift in tone, “The US.”

Martin: “No, where are you from?”

Me: “Oh sorry, I’m from Chicago.”

Martin: “Ummm” kisses teeth “Why do you all hate yourself? All that killing in Chicago. Why?”

Me: I take a long pause “Umm. Martin, I would’ve loved to have you sitting in on some of the conversations I had with my friends back home. Seriously.” Letting out a light chuckle I continue, “But honestly, to answer your question, again, I think it’s the microaggressions and systematic racism. After a while either you start believing what you see, hear, feel, or you fight against it. Personally, I think everything you’re seeing on the news is a reflection of both people fighting against it and people believing it. Me, myself, I’m proving all the racist I’ve been hit by that they are little. They’re wrong. They hold no weight in comparison to my power. That’s that!”

Martin: “Shaela, where are you from?”

Me: Laughing hysterically, I reply, “My father is Haitian, Martin.”

Martin “Welcome home!” We both laugh.

I’ve been thinking about this conversation all week. Social justice is alive and thriving throughout the diaspora. It warms my heart. It also awakens my desire and pursuit of peace. Media representation is worldwide. It is my job to fight for the rights of marginalized groups throughout the diaspora. It is my job to document this fight. It is my job to serve. It is my job to humble myself. It is my job to use my voice.

I am a woman. I am an American. I am first generation American. I am Black. I am from Chicago. I am a product of poverty. I am a product of wealth. I am a Peace Corps Volunteer. I am privileged enough to serve. I am humbled. I. AM. CHANGE. And it’s time to get to work!

**P.S. I want my students to embrace risk taking. So, with that said, I’m starting to take more risk in my own writing. I hope you enjoyed this passage. However, if you didn’t, I hope you felt uncomfortable. Discomfort aids in growth.

***P.P.S I might blur out Martin’s face and add the pictures to this post.

Well hello there…

Hello world,

My name is Shaela Gilot. Everyone calls me Shae for short. I’m currently embarking on a new journey. I’d love it if you joined me.

Let me give you a quick synopsis to catch you up.

I am from Chicago. Born and raised. I am an artist. More specifically, I am a photographer.  I am the daughter of a Haitian immigrant and an American citizen. I am vegan. Social justice is what drives me to be better. I love yoga, running, crossfit and, all things physical. Traveling makes me happy. I love hiking. I don’t get to do it much but, when I do its amazing!

In June of 2017 I graduated college. I received my B.A. in African and Black Diaspora Studies from DePaul University. I attended Howard University for four years prior to finishing up my college career.

I’ve always wanted to join the Peace Corps. So, after graduating I applied. A year and some change later and my dream has come true. My host country is the Eastern Caribbean (specific island coming soon). My position is: Literacy Teacher. Soon I will be moving up from a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT for short) to a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV for short).

This blog is the hub for all things Shaela. I hope something catches your eye!

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