With 30 Comes Acceptance: 10 Truths I’m Okay with Now
The day before my 30th birthday, my raggedy phone decided to stop working. I bought a new phone but it somehow erased my SD card, meaning my phone had none of the pictures, contacts, text messages or videos I’d been acquiring over the past year. I’m not known for my tranquil nature in times of chaos, so I was struck by my uncharacteristically calm response to this cleansing. It felt like I’d been given a clean slate. Older and wiser and with a cheap replacement phone and a new SD card, I’d forge ahead.
So I am. But it wouldn’t be right to keep all the wisdom I’ve garnered over the past decade to myself. As I enter into this new season of life, I’m taking the experience of my past with me–but not the weight of it. So many people don’t get to reach 30, yet alone some sort of self-awareness or acceptance. It’s a blessing I’m so grateful to God for, so I’m passing it along. Here are 10 truths I’ve come to accept in my old age:
10) I’ve gained weight. In the past 3 years, I’ve gained weight and am a good 20 pounds heavier than I was in college and –though I would really like to have better stamina and be one of those people who enjoys going to the gym–I love everything about this new body of mine. LOVE. These thighs though?! Magical.I catcall myself in my full-length bathroom mirror–where I’m safe and it’s on my terms, so it’s okay!–and I am just really, really excited about the way my body carries weight. I was told I’d have to carry a child to get these hips but these empty Talenti jars tell a different story, so boom!
9) I can’t stop afro shrinkage. It’s New York summer. My best efforts will fail. I’m learning to love that my hair might look 10 different ways between the time I leave the house and the time I return to it. My hair is a life force. It’s got it’s own mind. Respect.
8) Relatives don’t have to like me. You can’t win ’em all. And it’s silly for me to place expectations on someone just because we share ancestry. And if I really believe that folks are free to like and defend and support and love whomever they choose, that should include relatives. But their choices are not a reflection of my worth as a human being or a binding declaration that I’m not worthy of anybody’s love, support, protection or defense. I will have to continue to get those things from other sources. And that’s okay.
7) Water is the cure. Earlier this year, Amber Rose released a picture of her at Carnivale on a balcony and I saw it in my Instagram feed and –no lie– I was temporarily blinded. There are 2 witnesses! I had these massive color spots in front of my vision and I was totally freaking out but I bought some water from the store I was in–randomly, TJ Maxx in Chelsea sells cold water–and by the time I drank the whole bottle, my vision was restored! I also did hydrotherapy for a few months when I didn’t have health insurance after I was told I had 3 cavities that I in no way could pay cash to fill and by the time I got a salaried job with benefits, my new dentist said he saw no cavities anywhere! God is awesome. Water is magic. And Amber might be a prophet. Don’t sleep.
6) I’m not the Savior. Recently, I found myself arguing with people in situations that were clearly never going to be resolved other than by agreeing to disagree. Why? I had to understand what I was trying to do. It’s one thing to be right (which, let’s face it ;)) but it’s a total other thing to need people to accept and concede and believe and say out loud that I’m right. Of course it’s not always *just* about being “right”; some of these are life and death situations–like when other Black folks suggest there might be something we can do to stop police from killing us, that there might be some way we can act or dress or talk that will convince an anti-Black killer to somehow turn from his wicked ways. Sometimes it’s people who hate women so much that they’re shaking while they defend Bill Cosby. It angers me. It hurts me. It saddens me. It plunges me into despair. But if I can just save them from ignorance! If I can just sway them to reason! Then! Suddenly there will be hope in the world. I can have some peace. All won’t be lost. All isn’t lost because ignorance abounds and it’s not on me to convince anyone to change. All I can do is speak boldly and truthfully; that’s my job. The rest is for the Holy Spirit to do in His time.
5) Words are crazy powerful! Even if I can’t talk or write someone into the glorious light, words have so much weight. It’s why the media is so crucial in shaping global culture. The images, the phrases, the sentences, the adjectives–“Mike Brown was no angel,” “Dylann Roof was just a kid,” #BlackLivesMatter, JESUS–words deeply penetrate the conscious and the soul, for good or evil. They can bind you up or set you free. I choose to use my words to liberate and to love, not just for myself and my team, but for all my people! We all gettin free!
4) It’s okay to fangirl. I was put on to the Fox show Glee back when it was a good show and I was so excited about the things Glee made me think about and feel and do (that “Don’t Stop Believing” episode made me think seriously about how I could get to New York, and guess what?! I’ve been here 3 years now). I ran back to tell the person who put me on how deeply I had been impacted and she said my enthusiasm ruined it for her, to the point where she didn’t want to watch it anymore. She said I always “do too much,” and asked why I couldn’t just enjoy things like a normal person. Well? I’m not a normal person. Never have been. I’ve seen my favorite films and TV shows countless times. I listen to my favorite songs on repeat. I’m a Leo in every sense of the zodiac, I’m highly sensitive and good art moves my soul–and it’s supposed to! That is normal! Creativity is next to godliness and when u can awaken that in someone else and stir their imagination, you expand what’s possible in the world. I’m not at all bout that “it’s just a show,” “it’s just a song,” it’s just a movie,” life. Good art makes me think deeper and feel more and it’s okay to celebrate the art that reaches into you.
3) I’m Petty and I remember everything. I’m changing my blog pseudonym from District Diva to Petty Shabazz now that I’ve accepted the fact that I am capital P Petty. That Glee story happened back when Glee was still on the air and a good show, which was clearly several years ago and I remember where I was sitting when I had that “you always do too much” conversation. Keeping a record of wrongs isn’t love and waiting for the day I get put on for real and can play Drake’s HOW BOUT NOW?! at high volume is only a temporary fix. Woosah. Make like Elsa. Gotta be teflon to the ones who don’t get me. I’m not for everybody.
2) I’m not going to sell my first book before 30. I wrote this amazing book and was so certain that publishers would quickly see the value in it and that I’d be a millionaire before 30. Well now I’m 30. Living this thousandaire life. Waiting for publishers to even get around to reading my book. It’s in their hands–and more importantly, it’s in God’s hands–so my part is done. And chasing acclaim “before 30” was just another way to bolster undeniable public acceptance of my value. And having to wait on people more powerful than me to “decide” I’m valuable (because hey, my art is me; I am my art) is a painful exercise, particularly as I try to accept that other people’s acceptance or rejection doesn’t impact my inherent, God-given value. Because it just doesn’t. And I’m more than my art. And I don’t need the publishing industry to tell me my book is DOPE, cause I know, it is–but it also wouldn’t hurt, so quit playin! Gon ahead and say that! And gimme all the money!
1) Life sucks. But we gon be alright. “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time,” as James Baldwin would say. “Hard times like, yah!” as Kendrick would say. I’m tired a lot. I’m heartbroken a lot. I can’t log on to Twitter–my favorite happy place–without seeing a story about another Black life taken unjustly by the police. Fortunately, Sandra Bland’s death at the hands of Texas police is being taken seriously across the nation when historically Black female lives and deaths rarely matter. I’m not certain that the valuing of Black female lives and bodies is here to stay. Even our most sacred places–like the Church, like our family structures–are still so deeply engulfed in misogyny and misogynoir, even as Black women continue to hold up the pillars of society.
Even our latest, Blackest survival anthem, Kendrick’s “Alright,” is sullied with female antagonism, as he renames Lucifer to “Lucy,” the evil seductress ruining his life. Cause women lead men astray with their boobs and vaginas. And I can’t even be mad at Kendrick for it; that line of thinking is straight out of the Book of Proverbs and SO many among us have bought into it and made women the enemy, dehumanized us to mere objects to overcome or control or to save from unholiness, to offer the ultimate societal validation by marrying us and giving us purpose by mildly assisting us in child birth. I’m tired. I’m emotionally exhausted. I want to go some place where I can be Black and a woman without consequence. I want just ONE safe place we can all retreat to and be bubble-wrapped and shielded from harm and healed and sheltered against the loveless world.
For me, that place is in Christ. That unconditional love allows me to break down when I need to and gives me strength to get up again when I’m ready, and offers me hope that the world as it is isn’t how it has to be. That our glory isn’t just in heaven but that we can be empowered to make earth as it is in heaven. We don’t have to wait for death. That’s the whole point of Christ; we can have this freedom right now. We’re entitled to it. It is, as Assata says, our duty to fight and our duty to win. When we accept that, we can shift from desiring a seat at the oppressors’ table and instead accept the inherent freedom in each of us. We can embrace and celebrate the multifacetedness of our people. We can shield each other and be each other’s safe places. We may have to work in shifts. We may not see total freedom in our lifetimes. But as long as we keep fighting, we’ll be all right.