Simply Ari: Simply Me
The Inspired Thoughts of a Ready Writer
"My tongue is the pen of the Ready Writer"
Traditionally, mentorship has been defined as a stint of time during which a pupil receives guidance by an experienced person in a particular field or educational setting.
Webster defines a mentor as a trusted counselor or guide.
I have had experience with mentorship both on the giving and receiving end.
One of my fondest memories in high school was the day I was accepted into the Peer Ministry Program going into my senior year at Bishop McNamara. The application and interview processes were lengthy, grueling, and highly selective, but I knew that the passion I had to minister to youth and young adults alike was put in me for a reason and I wanted to explore those reasons. I was overwhelmed to the point of tears when I got the letter in the mail that I had been selected. Now was my chance to be transparent about hard lessons that I’d learned and through my sharing, provide a space where my mentees were comfortable enough to do the same. I took my job as a Peer Minister very seriously. The accompanying class, the lesson plans and retreat planning were all added bonuses. The reward for me came years later, when one of my former mentees expressed that he was going to attend the same college as me because I had inspired him and when another mentee reached out to me over Facebook and told me how much my efforts to stay in contact with her after I graduated had meant to her.
During my time as an undergraduate, I was blessed work closely with the campus ministry department. I was often called upon to minister [through music] to incoming classes and had the opportunity speak at a few retreats during my time at Mount St. Mary’s University. I was a Peer Minster there as well along with a few others and together we aided the campus’s Resident Assistants with faith-based programming. During my second semester of sophomore year, I applied to become an R.A. as a junior. By God’s grace, I was selected and became the women’s Resident Assistant for Faith-Development. I was in charge of about 36 residents. It was during this stint of time that I was able to pour into my girls. I was able to share some insights that I had learned as a fellow college student, but most importantly as a Christian living in a carnal world. I really wanted to give them substantial information that could potentially last them a lifetime.
Most recently, I was approached by a former teacher and close friend about being a part of a non-profit organization that he had developed called WAAE (We Are All Educators). I am now a proud member and serve a mentor to a recently graduated high school student. Over the past year, it has been an incredible opportunity to seed into another person and watch her grow and develop as a writer and watch her passion for the field grow and develop. It has been such a rewarding experience to be a part of this organization and give back in this way.
Now what about my mentors?
There have been some very special people in my life who over the years who have imparted wisdom and sage advice to me. They have guided me through countless conversations and prayer and helped me refine my ideas into attainable goals and actionable tasks. It was my late grandmother, Erotida “Lilian” Ponce Gaskill who told me, “Ariel, you can’t just love what you create, you have to learn to love the process of creating.” It was my first communications teacher Mr. Shealer who shared on the first day of class, “Everybody has a story. It is the job of the journalist to find that story and to tell it well.” It was my mom who first told me, “Ari, you can’t be a good writer, if you are not first a reader.” For a long time, what she was saying didn't register in my mind and heart. Now I get it. As a writer it is essential to foster your creativity, gain new perspectives, pull from your personal experiences, tap into the emotional impact that other people's stories have had on you, and have faith to believe that God will grant supernatural insight, understanding and wisdom of those new ideas. All of that fuels the inspiration of the #ReadyWriter.
I have also had so unconventional mentors, people whom I’ve never (or not yet) met, but they have inspired me so much with their knowledge of the industry. Namely radio personality, Nessa Nitty, Entertainment Journalist, Gia Peppers, Media Personality and Talk Show Host, Wendy Williams, retired journalist at Dallas Morning News and National Association of Black Journalists co-founder, Norma Adams-Wade, Radio Personality and TV Host, Ryan Seacrest, Radio Personality, DJ Tony Redz, TV Host, Lola Ogunnaike, Authors Havilah Cunnington (Eat, Pray, Hustle and The Good Stuff) Ann Shoket (The Big Life), Aliza Licht (Leave Your Mark), Jordan Raynor (Called to Create) and Brittany Hennessy (Influencer).
What I am learning is that mentorship does not have to look a certain way to be effective. In my experience, it has been a tool that God has used to confirm my purpose and keep me moving forward as His Holy Spirit leads.
The blogosphere is a world all its own. It is growing in popularity and the content that is being put out is as diverse as the bloggers themselves. I started my very first blog, The Culinary Chronicles back in 2010. As a foodie and lover of culture, I wanted to explore the world right from my kitchen, through flavor. I often say my kitchen is my place of solace when the world around me gets to be too much to handle. I cook away the stress and I along with my beloved family reap the benefits of the meals I create. Two years after, I created a second blog entitled "Simply Ari." Simply Ari began as a blog back in 2012 during my junior year of undergrad at Mount St. Mary’s University. My idea for the blog was to create a space online that was uniquely my own. A space where I could share my thoughts and ideas with the public and attempt to gain a decent readership. As I penned and crafted each blog post, I began to discover my writer’s voice. Writing had always been my safe space, and now, I was allowing others to come into my world. No hoopla, no gimmicks, just me, Simply Ari. I wanted to see if anyone outside of my beloved family and friends was interested in what I had to say about the world. Turns out people were reading and commenting on different posts and it ignited something in me that I now understand to be purpose.
This blog as you may have guessed was the precursor to what is now Simply Ari Media.
But there was still something missing. My relationship with God has always been really important to me. There is an ugly stigma that plagues our society from the inside out that Christians don’t go through hard stuff. That simply is not true. What I desired to do through, my third blog On Reserve: A Blog for the Modern Day Esther, was to minister to young women who are dealing with self-esteem, singleness, self-worth, self-doubt, hurt etc. All of those emotions are real, but for me, the most important aspect of those difficult seasons of life is to remind others of who God says they are and rest in the knowledge of those life-changing truths. It took me a long time to get to a place where I felt that I could be vulnerable enough to share my testimony. The Lord showed me little by little that my testimony is not for me, it’s for His glory to be seen through me to minister to others. Through blogging He blessed me with an opportunity to do just that.
Check out my list of “bloGAListas” to watch and follow below:
Being able to host The Simply Ari Soiree was one of the most exhilarating and proud moments of my budding entrepreneurial endeavors . It was also truly a labor of love. I wanted the experience for my guests to be one that they would look back on fondly. That was ultimately my goal. During the months that I spent researching leading up to the actual event day, what I quickly learned is that experience is created. But where do you start? and How do you create it without breaking the bank? Throwing this event was definitely a learning experience. Had it not been for the assistance and advice of my family and friends in business, I'm not sure how everything that went into the event would have come together. Thinking back on it, the Lord met me at every turn.
Thinking about throwing an event of your own? Go for it! But first, here are some tips that I've learned along the way. I pray that they aid you in your event planning.
Be PRAYERFUL- seek the Lord about what He wants from you and what He wants from the event that you're putting together. You and the Holy Spirit are a team. Remember that.
Utilize the Talents of Your Friends and Family- despite what you may think, you cannot do everything and be everywhere at the same time. If your family and friends are making themselves available to help you, take them up on their offer.
Truth moment? My strength is not in executive functioning or organizing for large functions. So it was important to find people who knew how to do that and do it well. By God's grace, I didn't have to look very far, my sisters and my Godmother have been blessed with both of these gifts. We collaborated on ideas and they took the dream that was in my heart and the vision that was in my head and made it a beautiful reality.
Set and STICK TO YOUR BUDGET- At the beginning I had a budget, toward the end...I blew it. What I realized is that I did not have realistic estimates of what the food, the cutlery, the party favors and above all the venue would cost. I wanted to replicate the idea I saw it my head, but I quickly learned that that was going to come with a high price tag.
Tip: DIY can be your friend. Find ways to save wherever you can.
Just Because It's Cute Doesn't Mean You Should Buy It- I found so many things to purchase for our event, at one point my Amazon cart was more full than I had ever seen it. I negotiated with myself over and over again and slowly eliminated products from my cart to salvage my budget. The items I kept were the perfect touch for the party favors and overall aesthetic that I was seeking to achieve for the Simply Ari Soiree.
Let a Business Savvy Person (That You Trust) Be Your Second Pair of Eyes - This is especially important when it comes to contracts of any kind. This is one of the many reasons I am so grateful for The Simply Ari A-Team. They have my best interests at heart and protect me from potential business danger. They are spiritually discerning, honest, talented, and efficient. For me it was imperative that I not be the only one reading over the contracts I had to sign.
Customizing is Expensive- I really enjoy customizing...well anything. So when it came to customizing items for this event, I had to keep in mind that too much customization is corny. I wanted to have statement pieces that preferably I could reuse. The rule here is not to get carried away. I advise limiting your customized items to two.
Pay Heed to Wise Counsel- As it pertains to the big picture, I've heard it said that, "sometimes we can be so close to the trees that we can't see the forest." It is good to step back and run your ideas past someone else on occasion to gain a different perspective.
Have a Clear Vision-and Understand Your Why- for you as the planner, this is super important. Event planning can at times be a bit overwhelming, so remind yourself of your goals for the event (vision) and know the purpose behind those goals (the why) and then sell that to your guests. When you believe in your "why" it gives others permission to do the same.
Trust Your Gut- if you are second guessing something...DON'T DO IT. Often times that "gut feeling" is the Holy Spirit tugging at us. Let that Him be your guide.
Enjoy the Moment- Lastly, when it is all said and done, take the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Take in each moment and acknowledge a job well done (and be sure to thank those who assisted with bringing your ideas together, having an attitude of gratitude is key.)
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.