My 27th birthday: on gifts, reciprocity, and a new era

lifestyle, Uncategorized

Last month I turned 27 years old.

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 bit 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 that feels way more aligned with a woman who walks boldly into this 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.

And so it is.

26: A recap. Reflections from the last 30 days of my 26th year

lifestyle

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.

25 and rebuilding my confidence

Uncategorized

I didn’t expect to greet 25 with the high levels of insecurity and fragility I currently feel.

And yet I find myself here.

I did not realize I was here exactly until I spent some time with one of my 13 year old cousins in Nigeria.
She is so self assured. So confident. Smiles brightly. States her opinions with such passion and fearlessness. Takes up space unapologetically. Being in the same space with her took me back to a time when I was exactly that – self assured, confident, unapologetic, loud and boisterous.

I do have moments when I feel these things but it isn’t my default state of being. And I want to get back there.

It’s almost as if the 24 year old version of me knew I would need reminders of my own magic and gifted me with the insight to ring in the first few weeks of my 25th year with incredible gifts to myself – a boudoir photo shoot, brunch with my closest girls in the Bay Area, time with my mom, a complete self care package, tickets to West Africa for the holidays to spend time with my extended family, and sister friends.

Settling back into myself after all these amazing treats has been a gentle reminder that I internally need to do some work to rebuild my confidence this year. Things like professional gaslighting, rejection from romantic interests, not being set up for success in general in different spaces I have found myself, loss of friendships and a spiritual community have added up into the cumulative effect of slowly eroding my sense of confidence.

Just the general business of living life can have an eroding effect on confidence. Coupled with some very specific experiences, its no wonder that I find myself here without the self assuredness I had always hoped would be my lifelong companion. But I have a plan to build back up my confidence levels this year.

My Three Step Plan:

Reaching out when I need support: In a moment of vulnerability this week I told a few of my friends I was currently sizing up myself against a woman one of my exes is currently with, and I felt like she was more impressive than I would ever be. They stopped in that moment and reassured me of my own magic, reminded me that I was deserving of someone who really saw all the magic in me, and that his preferences had nothing to do with me. That felt really nice. So more moments of reaching out to people who love me when I needed to be reminded of why I am special. Knowing my mom and Elias, my most affectionate brother, will always be ready at any moment to express a million and one reasons why they love me.

Find spaces that allow me to showcase my skills and celebrate them: My natural tendency for improvement has meant that much of my life I have chosen to be in spaces that always require me to be better without celebrating where I currently am. And alternatively, I’ve spent less in times in spaces where I was celebrated for my natural skills. This year I want to lean more into spaces that allow me to do things that come easy for me and to be celebrated for them.

A couple of weeks ago I went to an open mic night and performed one of my poems (that was rejected from a publication I really wanted to see it in), the reception of it was so deeply moving to me. People loved it. People responded to my words in real time, and that was powerful for me to take in. Folks came up to me afterwards to talk about it. It felt like redemption particularly because the rejection of my pitches over the past year had finally made me internalize that maybe I just wasn’t a good writer. I am a taking a break from always having to choose the hard thing.

Stop giving away my power: As much as external validation feels good, I have realized that it is a form of outsourcing my power to rely on other people to be the building blocks of my confidence. I suppose the ground zero of rebuilding my confidence is a great place to train my brain to place my voice as the primary voice of validation I need. I would like the foundation of my confidence to be rooted in the fact that I am worthy. That at the end of the day even if no one sees me or tells me I did a good job, or celebrates me, I want the fact that I saw myself, and celebrated myself to be enough to sustain me. To seek the support of the people who have proven themselves loyal and caring to be the secondary source of validation. And slowly detach from a pattern of seeking the validation and approval of those committed to misunderstanding me, dishonoring me, dismissing me, or ignoring me.

So that’s my plan!

I am excited about where I will be by my 26th birthday.

Any additional things that have helped you in rebuilding back your confidence levels?