Ten Intentions for My 25th Year

I have always been slightly (OK, overwhelmingly) obsessed with my own birthday. Every week, I calculate how close I am to the next anniversary of my birth. In general, I believe every person should get excited for their birthday! I mean, celebrate yo’ self! You only come into this world once! That was a historic day. But for the most part, my family is pretty blasé about the b-days. Now that my brother and I well into our twenties and thirties, my mom doesn’t even make an attempt to give us our birthday cards on time… let alone a gift.

Anyways… My birthday is in less than two months. Even though there’s a bunch of other people’s birthdays happening between now and then, I think it’s time that I think seriously about my intentions. I’m turning the Big 2-5 this year, which I’ve been calling my “Grown Woman Year”. I feel like 24 was somewhat of a throwaway, so I really want to make 25 count (whatever that means).

1. I will visit my favorite family members in Texas. Some of my favorite people live in the Great Ol’ Republic: my aunt, my four older first cousins, and their families. For a long time, I would see them every year. My mom and I would go visit at least once a year. But the last time I saw them is when I was there for Thanksgiving in 2009. I’d really like to visit them this year for Christmas. I’m not the most family-centered person, but it does feel good to be in the presence of your tribe.

2. I will visit New York. It’s been over a year since my last trip to my favorite city in the world (tied with Paris, of course). I think about New York everyday, especially this time of year. Late spring/early summer is my favorite time of the year in the NYC. The city comes alive. Everyone’s outfits are bright and superfly. A bunch of free shit happens. And it’s just the most beautiful place. I miss my main girl (every thing/place/emotion/idea I love ends up being my “main girl”). I definitely plan on spending a substantial amount of time there at some point this year.

3. I will visit the Bay Area. When I can’t make afford expensive airfare, but really want to “get away”, I love hopping up to the Bay Area. In recent years, I’ve had more friends move up there. They are so good to me. They feed me well and indulge me in great conversation and convince me that I need to move to the “Yay”. And then I come back to smoggy, trafficky, sprawling L.A. and am like, “Oh, but this is home. For now.” I definitely want to visit Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, and some other cities in the Bay Area. Plus, with my new fuel-efficient car, I’ll be able to drive this time!

4. I will save more money (and not spend it). I’ve gotten really good at saving. But after buying a new car, she’s taken a hit. I still have a pretty good amount saved up, but it’s nowhere close to where she was. I would really like to save up a substantial amount this year as a combined rainy day/travel adventures/emergency/preparing for grad school fund. I pride myself on being somewhat fiscally responsible, as I’ve seen what life looks like when you’re not. I want to keep it up.

5. I will treat my body right. I have been working out 2-3 days per week with my homegirl for about two months now. She’s an amazing personal trainer/health coach/fitness guru/holistic wellness expert (and a bomb-ass friend). Even though I haven’t lost any weight and I still grunt-huff-puff-wheeze-complain my way through every work out, I feel so much stronger and more confident in my body. I bought some shorts and a bathing suit this summer. Not because I think I look particularly fwiiiine in them, but because I feel more comfortable in my body. There’s muscle under all this fat and cellulite! I want to continue working out on my own, adding at least three additional hour-long workouts per week. And I finally want to change my eating habits. For good. I won’t say that I won’t ever have a cheat meal again. But I remember how amazing I felt when I lost weight last year through diet and exercise changes. I want to get back to that again. I want to lose weight and improve my health… For good, forever.

6. I will be more fearless with my creative pursuits. Interning at For Harriet has had a wonderful affect on my confidence as a writer. I still get nervous/sad/frustrated when I read the comments. (I just want to post, “All y’all are haters!” sometimes.) But I like that there is finally a platform for a wider audience (read: those who are not my Facebook friends) to engage with my writing. And I like that readers challenge me and interpret the things I say differently than I intend. But there’s so much more I want to do with my writing. I’m currently working on a web series right now with my ace-boon-sistafriend. And I would like to start vlogging regularly on YouTube. Plus, I’m applying to graduate writing programs beginning in December. I want to take the fear, doubt, shame, and self-consciousness I feel out of my writing and creative process. I want to finally begin working on all the ideas I’ve had. I know not every idea I have or thing I produce will be good. And I know not everyone will like what I write/create/produce, but I can’t let that keep me from doing what I was born to do.

7. I will find a work/life balance that works for me. I went from working a full-time “office” job to working part-time from home this year. There are things I enjoy about both, but neither one of them are actually what I want to do long-term. I have a second interview at an arts-in-education organization tomorrow. But I know nothing is guaranteed, so I’ve been thinking about what it is that I really want to do. More than anything, I want to work towards becoming a full-time writer/storyteller and creative content producer (in whatever manifestation that looks like.) I still dream about working for BuzzFeed one day. I’ve gotten really into seeing all the cool things people are doing with YouTube. But until then, I have to pay my bills. And I have to do something that won’t take up so much of my energy, resources, or mental/emotional capacity that I’m too drained to write, perform, and create at the end of the day. I’ve been thinking that I may find another part-time administrative gig for the next year, as I work on projects and grad school apps. And then, of course, I’ll continue seeking out freelance opportunities. I’ve given up on trying to meet others’ expectations of what I “should” be doing when it comes to work. Instead, I’m focusing on what will allow me to still be responsible while working towards my goals and enjoying myself.

8. I will spend more time out of the house and away from electronic screens. I need to go to the beach more. I need to breathe outside air, frolic in nature. I need to disconnect from the holy trifecta of my MacBook, iPad, and iPhone. I need to realize that it’s possible to live a fruitful life without constant Netflix streaming, WiFi, and Facebook/Instagram creeping. I need to read books. I need to see more plays. I need to visit museums. I need to have in-face conversations with my friends. I need to get out of my room and be in places that make me happy. I need to people watch, so I have good shit to write about. I need to go out, so I can meet a normal person to potentially date and sex up. (Kidding about the “sexing up”! Maybe…) I need to go out dancing because I love it and I miss it and it makes me feel good. As much as I love the comforts of my mother’s central-air-conditioned home with a fully stocked kitchen… I want to be out in the world! Begone, recluse tendencies!

9. I will consistently work on my gratitude and spiritual practice. I have much to feel grateful for. God done the upmost good in my life, praise be! Seriously, the Universe generally has my back. And when She doesn’t, it’s usually because I needed to learn something or laugh at myself or both. But most days, I spend a lot of time feeling sorry myself or conflicted or depressed or frustrated or angry. I mean, I’m always going to feel a little bit of those things. Our world is fucked up. But I need to learn to counter it with some good gratitude affirmations, meditation, and prayer. There was a time when I talked to God everyday. We were pretty tight. And then… I kind of drifted apart from Him (or Her or They or It or whatever limiting pronoun one uses to describe the Big and Infinite and Living Indescribable). Lately, I’ve been wanting to find my way back. Because despite all the messiness and fuckery and tomfoolery that is my life most days, I know God is present with me always. I know all of this is a goodness and a grace, in some way. And I just want to feel more of that freeing goodness and loving grace.

10. I will be kinder to my parents. I am a brat. I am a high maintenance child. Not because I’m constantly asking for things, but because I am so unpredictable in what I need from my parents. Sometimes, I want them to leave me the hell alone. Other times, I want them to smother me with affection. I’ve spent a great deal of time angry at them for whatever reason. But in general, they are the best people and the most loving parents. They truly raised me, as in lifted me up to the sky Lion King style and made sure I understood the vastness that was available to me. But they also gave me incredible roots. They are strong, intelligent, hard-working people. And they’re funny and interesting. I don’t know if I necessarily want to spend more time with them. I mean, I do. I definitely do. But I recognize that for them, this is first time in over thirty years that they’re not responsible for taking care of anybody. I want to give them their space to groove and be free. But I want to be more compassionate with them. I want to be kinder, more patient with them. As individuals, as human beings. I want them to realize that I still need them, but I can take care of myself. And I want them to know how much I love them.

These are my intentions for my 25th year on this here giving and gracious Earth. If I can work at these things everyday, I know by the time 26 rolls up, I will be in a great place. I’m excited/nervous/crazed by whatever the future has to bring. But mostly, I’m ready to do the damn thing and sing Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” to myself every morning when I wake up and enjoy this living. Huzzah!

Another Post Where I Whimper About My Quarterlife Crisis

I’ve been co-babysitting with my mom since Friday night. She’s really supposed to be the one babysitting, but since she’s 50+ years old and hasn’t had small children in almost two decades, I thought I’d help a sistah (momma) out. Plus, she knows I have no social life and I owe her for my rent-free living.

These children are very smart and charismatic. But they are also children, which means they really don’t give a fuck about anything outside of what they want to do. This weekend has made me realize that I need to stop missing my birth control doses, because I’m so NOT ready for any of this anytime soon. Last night, they were rough-housing (I can’t believe I’m of the age where I use the term “rough-housing” with all seriousness) and having a good time. And then, the girl hit her nose against her brother’s head and started crying and screaming like her arm had been chopped off. She did this for about two minutes, then went and sat down on a chair, wiped off her tears, and went back to watching TV. Completely calm, completely fine, like nothing had happened.

Children are scary.

Since I’m not planning on having children anytime soon, I should at least figure out the rest of my life. As I’ve written about before, I’m in a rather large liminal moment, also known as my QUARTERLIFE CRISIS. I think my quarterlife crisis showed up a little prematurely, but now that I’ve named her… I need to be about the business of moving beyond her.

As much as I love social media, Instagram and Facebook give me all the existential angst these days. Every day, I am reminded via photos and status updates that other people are doing really awesome things and making progress in their lives… and I’m not. I think I am exactly where I need to be, but it doesn’t make it any easier to be here.

I try to live my life without regrets. It doesn’t do me much good, because I’m still a nostalgic sentimental sap… but I feel like it helps me sleep a little better at night when I’m not focusing on the ever-so-elusive What Could Have Been. But these days, it’s getting more difficult to do that. To be clear, I think I’m a pretty cool person. I got my shit that I’m working through, but other than that, I’m fond of myself. I’m just not fond of where I am in my life. In high school and college, I just knew by 25, I would be living on my own in New York, in a long-term relationship with my super-foooiiine boo thang, and doing some sort of arts/entertainment/media work.

I am actually doing none of these things. Zilch. But I see that my friends and peers have gotten engaged or married. Or they’ve moved to New York or some other cool part of the world. And while they may not be exactly where they want to be in their careers, they’re still doing the kind of work they want to do. They are in graduate school. They are traveling. They are making art. They are getting promotions. And I’m happy for them. I know their success is well-deserved and hard-earned, so I’m not trying to throw shade. But I’d be lying if I said I weren’t a little (or maybe insanely) jealous. I’d be lying if I said I felt insecure about my own accomplishments.

So here I am. I know I’m not ready for marriage or children. I’m not ready to “settle down”, but I do feel like I’ve settled. But I don’t want to get stuck here. I don’t want to keep feeling sorry for myself or jealous of my friends. I don’t want to keep staring longingly (creepily) at the homie’s pictures of Saturday brunch in Brooklyn, or their trip to South Africa.

I want to make the upcoming year really count for something. 24 was me being a reclusive, self-pitying, confused hot-ass mess. I’m not as confused anymore, but I still need to deal with the reclusive, self-pitying, hot-ass-messiness. I now know I really want to write professionally. I want to travel and change the world and all that. But more than anything, I want to be a writer who pays her bills by writing. I know I really want to focus on my physical, emotional, and mental health. I know I want to go to somebody’s graduate school next fall. And I know I want to finally get out of my mom’s house and start paying for my own health insurance by next summer.

It’s time to get on it!

A Black Girl Who Wants to Write and Change the World

Last week, I had my first piece published on ForHarriet.com!

It’s actually a slightly revised piece that I posted on here a few weeks ago. It took me a while to be excited about it, as I made the foolish mistake of reading the comments on the piece as soon as I saw it was up. Oh, how my fragile ego was not ready… As I discussed with my father this weekend, the biggest adjustment to seriously pursuing “being a writer” is actually having an audience respond and interact with my words. Even though I honestly welcome critique, for the most part, the feedback I receive on my writing is positive. I’ve come to accept that I probably haven’t been submitting my work because I’m afraid of the negative reactions. But when you’re writing for sites like For Harriet, you have to get over that shit real quick. Black Women do not restrain themselves when they want to let you know something about something! 

However, since then, I’ve had a few people reach out to me to express that they enjoyed my piece and checked out my blog. That was probably the highlight of last week. Since high school, I have been saying that I want to be a writer (amongst many other things). Most of the time, I talk myself out of sharing my writing because I worry that it’s not good enough or no one cares about what I have to say. Having those few individuals reach out to me through email really gave me the boost I needed. It’s not like I’m famous. The Huffington Post isn’t knocking down my door. And BuzzFeed still doesn’t think I was seasoned enough for their editorial fellowship. But to have actual people out there—who are not friends or family—say, “Hey, girl! I like what you write! I relate to it! Keep doing you!” Well, that meant the world to me. It still means the world to me.

Tomorrow I have a job interview. It’s not for writing specifically. It’s an arts-in-education organization that provides arts workshops to youth and professional development trainings to teachers. I have all kinds of feelings wrapped up in this interview. I’m worried because it’s literally hotter than hell, so I’m worried that I will sweat my makeup off and what outfit I’ll wear that won’t turn me into a steaming hot mess. I’m also worried about all sorts of other things that I shouldn’t be worried about, because I’m getting too far ahead of myself. But really, interviewing for a new job is an incredibly stressful experience, is it not? It’s also exciting and wonderful. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this—I start imagining what my life will be like if I get it. My new morning commute. What inside jokes I’ll have with my coworkers. And because this is an actual job in the creative field, I’m imagining how good it will be able to say, “Oh, yeah, I do arts education with youth!” (No more sexual health!) Of course, I need to slow my damn roll, because I haven’t even interviewed yet. But being hopeful is good, right?

I just want to do work that’s enjoyable and creative and inspiring. For the past few years, I’ve felt like I was split in half between artsy-fartsy Michelle and youth-programming Michelle. It would be nice to have the two come together for once. It’d be nice to feel like my vision for the kind of career I yearn to have is possible. That I can be a writer and storyteller and artist myself, while still being an educator and mentor and community worker who helps others use the arts. I often feel like these things are in direct conflict with one another. Even though I know that’s not true. Even though many of my heroes and role models who are writers/artists are also educators and activists. I’ve been trying to get my family and friends to understand this for the longest. (Meaning, I’ve been trying to make sense of it myself as I try to tell them.) For me, there is no one or the other. It’s hard for me to accept at times. But as much as I want to be a writer/artist/storyteller/performer who tours around the world and writes books and essays and films and plays, I also want to be a teacher and community organizer and activist. I cannot separate the two. But I’m still figuring out how they can live in harmony. So it doesn’t seem like I’m giving all my energy to organizing, so there’s nothing left creatively. Or that I’m selfishly focusing so much on my art, that I’m not about my social justice business.

Y’all feel me?