I woke up this morning to the most magnificent sunrise and looking up at the barrel of my 35th year of life. If I could be honest, I’ve dreaded this day for approximately six months because I knew that, as with most milestone birthdays, there would be a snowball effect of taking stock of my life thus far: The good, the bad, and those many areas where the jury is still out. Sure enough, with time came a daily assessment of everything I had and had not accomplished so far and the expected dread that comes when you realize that not only have you not lost all of your belly fat BUT you also have to cut your hair that you’ve been growing out for two years AND you haven’t finished the first draft of your second book AND you have to face your inadequacies by the time you make your yearly pilgrimage to see your in-laws. Yet, despite the grand plethora of things that I might do differently if time travel is ever mass-produced, I am more certain now than ever that our lives, or at least my life, is unfolding exactly as it should.
This declaration isn’t to be confused with a presumption that I believe that I’ve made all the best decisions up to this point, because that is the obviously the furthest thing from the truth. I should have definitely paid more attention to my Spanish teacher in high school because that would have kept me from almost failing Spanish my senior year of college. I should NOT have left my last health insurance-paying job before I finished that twentieth round interview with the Chicago Board of Education. I should NOT have eaten so many apple pies during my first and second pregnancies and I definitely should NOT have danced on top of
that all those bars in my early twenties.
However, the residue of divine guidance is apparent. I wasn’t looking for my husband but I found him, right on the front steps of my college apartment. I deeply hated my career and God jokingly made me the world’s most impervious stay-at-home mom and aspiring novelist. I prayed for my children to know God and he gave me one who likes to chastise me for not going to church and another who likes to try to eat pages of the Bible. I asked to be surrounded by people who have my best interest in mind, and God has given me my fair lot, even if the group of people who keep me sane looks much smaller than it once did.
My life isn’t tied with a pink bow and I’m finally okay with the fact that it never will.
I’ve had to accept that there is nothing more disparaging in the educated Black people’s community than being a stay-at-home and pursuing a pipe dream that doesn’t come with a pension plan. In some circles it’s damn near sacrilegious and anti-feminist. But if there was one thing I know for sure is that no one else can live the finite years you’ve been entrusted with for you. And anyone who cares to think about how you are living long enough to form an opinion needs a hug, some sex, and some business. People will surely judge your life for you, but no-one else can walk the walk that is destined for you except for you….no matter how odd your two-step may look to anyone else.
In my twenties, I began to grew suspicious that I didn’t know anything…as far as knowing something worth knowing should be measured. I just felt that something was off — that I wasn’t living in a way that would ever bring peace to my soul – so I sought to change that. In fact, the crowing jewel of my twenties is that I did change that. In dramatic fashion, I entered my thirties with a somewhat clean slate, shedding many titles while gaining others, losing some beautiful, yet painful relationships of the past while becoming more discerning of new relationships that I would build in the future. In one full swoop, God gave me the courage to seek the things that I had prayed for but I never could have anticipated the arduous path that is often set before those who are willing to acknowledge that they need to change their whole direction.
But what I know for sure is this: Despite it’s ups and downs, life is good. God is love. Your happiness depends on no one else but your ability to find gratitude in the very things we so often take for granted.
So if I could go back in time to my 18 year old self, I wouldn’t. She’s a good girl and I trust that she will figure things out.
If I could go back to my 25 year old self, I would simply leave her a fortune cookie that said, “Keep going grasshopper. You are on the right path. Your confusion will lead to a worthy caffeine addiction and admirable tolerance of many types of alcohol.”
However, if I could go back to my 30 year old self I would, even if it was to merely tell her everything that she already knows: Be stronger than you have ever been, be more courageous than you think you can be, invest in Moroccan Oil, stop drinking Starbucks cause it’s pure sugar. Schedule a few marriage booty calls. Drink your water. Read your Bible. Love cops and Muslims. Learn the difference between intuition and fear. Hugs your family early and often.
I would tell her to respect every decision made with good intentions, no matter the outcome.
I would tell her to be kind to herself always, because no one else has to.
I would tell her to get out of her own way.
I would tell her that other people’s discomfort or dislike of her is ultimately none of her business.
I would tell her that no matter how dark or lonely the path a head, to strap on her big girl panties and her breastplate of righteousness and to take every day one step at a time, because despite the sometimes overwhelmingness of life, today is all we really have.
And knowing my 30 year old self like I know her, she probably wouldn’t listen. She would probably still hoist everyone else’s happiness on her shoulders but her own. And that’s okay because I know that even she will be just fine.