I’ve been thinking a lot about interiority; what it means to nurture and pay the most attention to the internal space within us without any need to draw attention to it. Especially for those of us whose mere existence raises political questions (women, immigrants, Indigenous people, queer folks, black people, differently abled people, fat people).
I’m a little more than halfway through my 24th year!
For my half birthday I went out for some ice cream, hung out with my family, and packed my bags to go on a solo travel adventure to Barbados. I typically don’t recognize or celebrate a half birthday but this year there’s been a need and desire to mark everything, to collate the pieces of this 24th year like precious jewels, an almost sacred collection of the last shreds of childhood, before I venture into the very adult age of 25.
I don’t fully understand my own obsession with 25. Except that maybe I’ve wanted to be here for so long and it always felt like that friend that’s too cool to hang out with you.
Except now I’m closer to 25. And I am grasping. Because soon I will have to bear witness and give account to some “cool” 25 year old version of myself that I fear will be disappointed in me. Disappointed at what/who she has to work with.
In anticipation of 25 I’ve been faced with this sudden urge to fit a lot of things into this year:
I thought I would have a book published by now, I’ve been writing for over a decade and even though I can clearly see that a decade of writing has made me significantly better at crafting words, I still feel a sense of disappointment and loss that I have not been able to add my collection of words into the world in a tangible form. I feel myself trying to overcompensate in other ways. Pushing myself to establish a more consistent external writing practice so I can prove that I am a writer.
Nevermind all the internal ways I have learnt to validate myself as a writer.
Another big goal I had for myself was that I would be in a quality romantic relationship by now. While I have significant relationships that fill me with so much care and joy, not having romantic love in my life as I look towards 25 does feel like a bit like I have failed myself in some way.
Nevermind all the times I have opened myself up to love, walked away when the variety of love I was given didn’t match what I needed, stiched my heart, learnt the lessons, and ventured back in again.
There are a few more of these very wonderful goals I have for myself, but without giving myself space to be a beginner in achieving my goals, I unknowingly placed a timeline of year 25 as the sweet spot of achieving them. As I am faced with that impeding date, I feel a huge sense of urgency to try to settle for some variation of those goals to make myself feel somewhat okay. Rather than admitting to myself that I am not there yet.
What is the urgency?
This is a question I’ve been asking myself as I unpack the space between my expectations of myself and the reality of my life. The reality of my life is good. Most days, I like where I’m at.
I am growing at a pace that feels uniquely like me and this year has been about doing a lot of work to secure my foundation. I feel present. Happy. More embodied than I have ever felt.
I am going to doctors appointments, dressing in a way that makes my body feel good.
Learning myself. Loving on my friends. Being vulnerable. Naming my needs. Working through my triggers. Learning the world. Finding my place in it.
These are all things that for me actually feel really good.
And yet the pressure comes when I look at the space between my “best life” and my current life. And have no idea how to get to where I want to go.
Why rush to a some finish line when this is also good?
What is the urgency to get to a better place when you are in a good place?
To Be…or to strive.Uncategorized
As you probably know if you are part of my digital community, I ended 2018 and began 2019 back in The Continent. My non-black American friends sometimes look confused when we, the diaspora, say The Continent. I guess that’s a black diaspora thing. So, to clarify Africa is The Continent/The Motherland.
I was part of the Magic and Melanin trip led by my friend Dossé-Via. And it was every bit as magical as I hoped.
Nigerians tend to be the “white people” of the Continent and we tend to assume ourselves and our collective way of being as default for Africans. I mean we are the largest economy in the continent and the largest movie industry so makes sense, but I’ve been cautiously wanting to get out of that head space and experience parts of the continent where my identity is not a default. Just to be clear, even in Nigeria, I belong to 2 minority cultures (Ibibio and Annang) so my identity has never felt really central, but there is something to your country as a default that I still felt the need to break to out of. Its why when this opportunity to travel around West Africa sans Nigeria on a trip led by another black African identified woman, I jumped on it as quick as I could.
It has been hard to summarize what those weeks in the Motherland did for my soul and its been even harder to wrap the experience up, place a bow on it, and put it away mentally. It was a vacation, but it wasn’t. It was more like a reminder. It was equal parts centering, grounding, and disrupting in ways I look forward to unraveling more of over the next few months.
I created new community with some amazing black women who I was privileged to experience that time with, and got to be part of the Accra nightlife scene with the most risqué outfits I own. I reconnected to the Ocean. The Atlantic feels different from the Pacific. I taught Yoga and reconnected with the joy of doing embodied and body based work.
And most importantly, for the first time in a really long time I didn’t really have to work hard for my peace.
I think it was important for me to experience ease and to finally internalize that feeling ease doesn’t diminish the celebration. I’ve always celebrated myself for doing hard things. I’ve always been celebrated for doing hard things. Accomplishing things others wouldn’t dream of. Creating things to solve problems others don’t want to touch with a ten foot pole and I think my internalization of that as a way to be has showed up in the opportunities I pursue and the ones I gloss over.
As I unwind, untangle, and keep processing what the trip meant to me, especially that parts where I channeled all my energy the first few days in the New Year into being a beach bum, chasing frivolous things, and only doing exactly what I wanted to be doing, it is changing things about the way I see myself in the world. I am choosing to allow myself to just be. And in a society that is increasingly rewarding of constant busy-ness as a measure of worth, that feels revolutionary enough.
The 10 year challenge hype over the past few weeks have triggered a deeper sense of reflection in me…or maybe its the fact that I turn 25 this year which is reminding me that I am already on a path, I am actually living life, not rehearsing it, but actually right in the middle of it. That all the choices I made up to this point have led me here; and the choices I make here will be heavily reflected in the way my future plays out.
Maybe its a combination of all the above, – but I am here, contemplate the idea of changing selves. I keep thinking about my evolving self. How in some ways my 15 year old self may not have ever been expansive or creative enough to dream me up and as a reminder that whatever I dream up now about my 35 year old self in 2029 is probably going to fall short of the full magic she will embody. Maybe that is the point of life; a constant tension of dreaming and surrendering. Maybe this ability to live and let live is what sustains us through moments of doubts and anxieties.
One of the big changes I’ve noticed in my reflection on my changing self is that I am less sure of things and less sure of people. The smarter I’ve become, the more I’ve borne witness to things/people/events that didn’t fit my narrow interpretation of the world, the more I’ve been forced to expand and leave room for all the “I don’t know’s” of the world.
I am learning to remove shame from that answer.
I am choosing to let the world, to let life, to let the Divine, reveal itself to me at its own pace.
I’m also learning to accept my changing and evolving self;
Stretch marks across my hips, breast, and arms remind me that my body is expanding.
The few grays I found on my hair recently remind me that I am aging.
The sheer amount of information in my brain remind me that I have accumulated enough information to fill several treaties.
My anxieties remind me that I have things to lose.
My biological clock reminds me that I could be a mom many times over now if I wanted to.
Slowly and certainly change is happening all around me and I am giving myself space to accept all of those changes.
There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
2018 in all her glory was the answer to the question I’ve always had at the back of my mind; how powerful am I?
I sat in my best friends car on New Years Day – a routine we’ve had for the past 4 years. Typically I go over to her house, we do resolutions, she cooks, I linger in the kitchen being minimally helpful. We eat. I talk. She listens. I listen, she talks. We go over our goals; mine reflective of my maximalist tendencies, hers reflective of her more minimalist approach to life. This time it was a little different, we decided to go get Thai food instead. There were no long lists of resolutions. We talked, caught up, listened, laughed. Then she took me home.
We sat in her car as she pulled into my drive way,
It was cold out and yet we lingered in the cold almost as if we knew for sure this year would be an ending in a lot of ways. As we lingered we talked about our dreams. I had just returned from California a couple of months prior and was contemplating a more permanent move. She was ready to start a family. We talked about the possibility of both. A little hopeful, but not too hopeful. We’ve both known disappointment. We laughed. We always laugh together. We prayed. We always pray together. I told her I was really angry at God but that me and God would be fine. We bared our souls to each other, exactly as we were in that moment. We hugged each other and our intentions and prayers and all the unspoken things were out in the world.
That was day 1 of 2018.
As I sit here on day 351 of 2018 at my new home in California, looking at pictures of my best friends newborn, getting ready to change up my New Years routine this year and spend it teaching yoga in West Africa, a decade-long dream finally realized, I’m in awe of how much can actually happen in a year.
I could go on and on about the mechanics of how this year actually happened but the truth is that I don’t really recall much of the mechanics. As I look at it from the broad strokes of the year, I realize it took me on a daily journey that I was fully present for and I’m only now unpacking all of the changes. For those that have followed on social media, you know all about my commitment to easeful transitions as I moved to California, changed career trajectories, became more focused on being fully present in my own life and decided to take risks. I feel drastically different from the girl I was at the beginning of the year and I’m grateful for all those that have been a part of that journey.
I became a lover of poetry this year.
Crisply written words that expressed all the feelings in an accessible way became a life force this year.
I chose my family this year.
I chose myself this year.
I grew more into my body and soul this year.
I found the courage to quit an abusive work space this year.
I got the job of my dreams this year
I leaned very deeply into ease as a way of being this year.
I transitioned into my mid-twenties this year
I owned my desires this year
I expanded my community this year
I left Facebook for good this year
I celebrated my girlhood this year
I became a woman this year
I became intimate with uncertainty
she did not break me.
I learnt boundaries after heartbreak
it did not kill me.
I gave acceptance to all my imperfections
and became whole.
All of these showed me my own power, the capacity to dream things in my inner world and change my external world to fit into the world I’ve been dreaming up. They showed me that even at my most fragile, there is always a glimmer of that inner fortitude that I can cling to if I get quiet and gentle with myself.