I’ve been building a multinational corporation over the last 14 months and yet have felt so inadequate. Like I’m not accomplishing much. Recently I finally chose to share those sentiments aloud with my mom because there were becoming too overwhelming to hold alone. I told her how I felt like all I was good for professionally was dreaming. She reminded me that even if that was true, there’s something incredibly powerful about being able to have a dream, build it out in the world, and through the process of intentional communication build enough trust and social capital to bring other people into your dream.
All of this to say the biggest battle I’ve had to fight in my 26th year has been with my mind.
This year began in the worst of ways, with me being so physically ill I feared I would never recover. But I did. And then I had a crisis of place. trying to figure out where I wanted to be next in the world. I had a list of beautiful exotic places, places that would offer me escape, ease, and adventure. Yet when I dug deep I knew all I wanted was to be as close to my nuclear family unit as possible…even if it meant going back to the city that had broken my heart. So I moved back home. It was as mentally challenging as it was healing, but I needed the warmth of my mothers love in person. I needed the humor and solidarity of my siblings unclose and personal. I needed to hear my father tell me of his belief in me multiple times so I could re-build the confidence that was shattered by being a young Black girl attempting to do big things in this world. I couldn’t self care my way out of the crisises I was facing – I needed community care.
I lost a best friend early into my 26th year and witnessed the sudden decline of another significant relationship, all the while mourning the loss of my grandfather. The grief was overwhelming and almost made me decide that love was too much of a risk. If everyone you love is capable of leaving, and each loss feels so excruitating, isn’t the pragmatic thing to keep everyone at a healthy distance so you never have to be steamrolled by grief again? I knew that if I moved to a new city with that mindset I would isolate. So I made the decision to give myself enough space and time to heal.
26 taught me many lessons. The most important I think is the magic of time. Giving people time to reveal their truth. Giving my ideas time to become better and seasoned. Giving myself time to sit with my emotions until they transform into useful data. Giving relationships time to evolve into their best dynamic. The importance of keeping in step with my own internal authentic timeline. Not the one society thrusts upon us. Knowing when a season is over. Watching the signs and trusting the power of movements at the right time. There’s always a right time. There’s always just the present.
In the last quarter of my 26th year I chose to go spend some time with my best friends in California. It was a magical time. It confirmed so much of what I had been reassuring myself of this year: that just because i’m not present does not mean I’m disposable. My absence had not made my friends forget about me, rather it made us cherish our time together even more. And our seemless integration back into each others lives felt very comforting to me. No matter where I am in the world, my people are my people. I’m grateful for bonds that are not easily shaken. The truth is that so much of my teenage years were spent with relational anxiety – my intimate spaces at that time was full of one sided relationships that I had to work extra hard to sustain. When one experiences enough of those types of connections, you begin to feel like you are the problem. You gaslight yourself. You bend over backwards so people can choose you. Chose to see you and stay connected with you. And even though I’ve worked through much of this in therapy sometimes the anxiety still comes up. Do my closest friends actually enjoy me? Do they want to keep doing life with me? Will they see a part of me that makes them no longer want to be in community with me? It was nice to feel reassured in California in a way that completely obliterated those anxieties.
So I guess all of this is to say that 26 put me through so much. And yet it was also healing. Not the kind of healing that feels glamorous and gives you soundbites to share on social media. The kind of healing that feels deep and maybe you will never fully have language for, but you know your entire life trajectory has been transformed because of it. I’m a lot softer now. I don’t think any of this made me stronger. I think it revealed more of my own humanity and fragility to me. Showed me the importance of protecting myself and praying for protection. Gave me more empathy for shared human experiences. Maybe what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily have to make you stronger, maybe it makes you more human, and maybe that’s ok.
So here I am standing on the cusp of 27 wishing it to be just a little kinder to me.