In the weeks leading up to my 27th birthday I have to be honest, I felt a little bit of fear. Fear that it would be unremarkable like so many days in 2021 were for me. I had become accustomed to days that felt gloomy with nothing that brought me joy and I just did not feel like my birthday would be any different.
And yet I was pleasantly surprised.
When it was time to open presents my family members presented me with a giant box full of 27 presents. Turns out my mom had taken seriously the random statement I made about a month before my birthday that I would like to receive 27 presents for my birthday that year but then immediately laughed it off because it felt silly. My mom took that to heart and contacted a few of my family members and close friends both local and all over the US and told them of her plan to surprise me with a box full of 27 presents. They all contributed gifts to be part of the surprise.
As I stood in my living room opening up box after box of meaningful gifts from my favorite people I increasingly got emotional. My people had gone out of their way to show me how much I meant to them through gifts that reminded them of me. It felt so nice to unwrap their presents. To read the notes that accompanied presents. To be transported back to memories we had shared together that were reflected back in the gifts.
I must confess that until this year I’ve never quite understood the idea of gifts as a love language. It always came in last on every love language quiz I took. I guess I’ve often been more attracted to the independence and financial stability of being able to get anything I wanted for myself. And in this year when I finally made some big purchases for myself (like the Mercedes Benz, my dream car).. I started to realize how nice it felt to enjoy something that someone you love invested their resources to purchase for you. No matter the price point. As I opened my presents, I unwrapped a candle from one of my besties. I was taken back to the conversation I had with her as we window shopped in my favorite high end luxury stores. I had shown her my favorite candle brand and mentioned how because of the insanely high price point I only bought it once a year. She remembered. And she contributed to my happiness. And because candles are the gift that keep on giving, every time I light them I’ll be reminded of her and her generosity.
Gift after gift felt like a reflection of love from people who know me and love me and are invested in my happiness. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. To have a little part of my loved ones there with me even if they physically could not be present? it felt amazing!
All of 2021 one of my biggest challenges to myself has been to only lean into relationships with reciprocity. To pause and give the people who love me the space to show up for me, and increase my own capacity to not just be a giver in my relationships but to also be a receiver…
The months leading up to 27 have felt like a cocoon. I feel like I’m emerging. Into this new version of self . I feel way more aligned. Like a woman walking boldly into a new chapter of my life with competence and competence. In this next era of my life I see myself building out the kind of work culture that exites me and simultaneously makes an impact in the world. I see myself starting a family. I see myself as an author. I see myself being a woman who mentors and invests in community building. I see myself happily in love with myself, my people, and the way my life feels.
This started out as a celebration of my belly fat. Specifically. Look up belly fat on google and the first few pages all talk about “how to get rid of it.” I’ve never been without a rounded belly. I’ve never lived in a world without women with rounded bellies so it occurred to me a few years ago that rather than keep obsessing over flattening mine, I could just learn how to peacefully co-exist with it. It’s a wonderful thing how mindset can be half the battle because once I made up my mind to be okay with the fat on my belly, I was able to take a honest look at how much I did enjoy the roundness of that part of my body.
However I did not see much about this sentiment mirrored back to me online.
So I chose to write a poem. One that took apart the things I saw and loved about the way my belly and thighs curve.
If you like this, listen to a podcast episode where i also spoke about round bellies and soft thighs.
I was the student who never took summers off.. actually let’s back it up to being the child who was always given the next years curriculum to start working through during the summer months from the moment I started school. And because I’m a person who loves being good at stuff, I naturally enjoyed the head start I had on my peers by the time the school year came around.
This was actually one of the reasons I was able to go from Primary 2 (2nd grade) to Jss 1 (7th grade) when I was only 7 years old.
The more I pushed myself to my own limits during times that were allocated as rest times, the more quantifiable successful I was which internalized for me a narrative that I had found the cheat code for life: hustle while others are resting. My cycle of go hard during the school year, rest a little but go even harder during the summer was born. And with that I finished uni at 17. Took unpaid internships every summer during law school. Finished law school at 20. And the ultimate test of my mental fortitude? Even after I knew I was experiencing burnout studied for the Bar Exam the summer I graduated from law school for 6 hours every day from May till July. Thankfully I passed that exam on the first try which again was a success but also created a narrative of superhuman invincibility for me.
But then my absolute burnout set in. I’ve written about that a few times. The year where I absolutely could do nothing. I taught me new habits and new ways of being in a body that centered rest, rejuvenation, and the importance of empty time. But I still never quite had the opportunity to take summers off again.
Until last year.
Last summer after I quit a job that was bringing me to the edge of burnout, I lost my grandfather somewhat unexpectedly, and my best friend had Covid. All around the same time. The compounded stress and exhaustion of it all forced me into a summer of absolute stillness. I remember sharing on my podcast that it was going to be a “sad girl summer.” And I truly leaned into sadness and nothing-ness for months. Until I was no longer sad.
We are not yet in a post Covid world but this year as I have attempted to figure out how I want to re-organize my life moving forward I knew this commitment to non production as a radical way of being had to be a part of how I spent my summer.
My father loves to farm as a hobby and he’s taught me about this idea of a fallow: leaving land uncultivated and empty for a certain cycle so it can recover and restore its depleted nutrients. This practice, any good farmer will tell you, is necessary for long term success with land that is being cultivated. It has always intrigued me how much nature can teach us ways of being that are sustainable. For me this summer I intentionally penciled in some fallow time into my calendar. A month to slow down (June). A month of non-productivity (July). My intention is to disconnect myself from a desire to produce anything beyond what is absolutely necessary to my daily well-being in real time. I am not working. All my clients and team mates are aware of this time I’m taking off. And this isn’t necessarily vacation because we all know how vacation expectations can lead to adventures that are tiring and taxing on the nervous system.
The goal is to be with myself.
No preset expectations or deliverables.
I’ll report back from the other side but I bet this time of rest will be exactly what I need.
I no longer identify with the story I once told myself that the cheat code for life was to hustle while others are resting. I have a new cheat code for life but I’ll hold that close to my chest for now.
Thank you for reading. I hope you take as much time to fallow as is accessible to you. Let me know on Instagram if you do and what your results have been.