Checks and balances
I had no meaningful goals or resolutions in 2015 outside of drinking as much water as Gabrielle Union (one gallon, on average, per day). I imagine it shows the depths of my privilege that this was even a sustainable or realistic goal when so many people do not have access to potable water. The other more secret goal was to write more and get published. I succeeded on both counts, but in all the moments in between I simply tried to be a better person and to understand the world around me in a more complete and empathetic way. I don’t know if that’s ever a goal that you meet as opposed to a daily way of living that it’s good to strive toward. There were days in which I failed miserably. There were days in which I may have come closer to realizing *something.*
It’s probably good that 2015 had no real goals. It was extraordinarily hard and complicated. Maybe the hardest year I’ve experienced in my 36 years on this planet. I spent the first six months of the year still trapped in a postpartum anxiety rooted in the explosion of racial violence happening all over the country. I struggled deeply every day. How could I have brought a baby — a boy, no less — into a world like this? Months were spent mourning black people, being afraid for black people, being angry for black people. Ironically, I spent all those months worrying about the Klan showing up at my door and then less than 24 hours after the baby’s first birthday, our car window was shattered by a bullet flying through the air on the far South Side of Chicago, where we were visiting to celebrate said birthday. It hit the back windshield, glass crackling like ice directly over the baby’s rear-facing car seat, where he was sitting and laughing. That’s the first I’ve ever even typed that phrase out. Because typing it means acknowledging how close I came to losing the baby and acknowledging it at the time would’ve dropped me back into the emotions I was trying to get away from. So I prayed every day and was grateful that my child didn’t become a Chicago Tribune headline. And I mourned for the mothers whose children did not escape that fate. But it doesn’t change that it happened.
In 2015, there were a lot of unexpected career challenges. I had weird relationships with people at work, which I think in hindsight is simply the result of working in a small (extremely competitive) market. People imagine you are competing with them or are some kind of threat even when you’re just trying to get through your days and it makes things weird. Weirder than I’d ever experienced on a job before. I occasionally laughed and said maybe it was just my turn to go through this foolishness after 15 years as a working professional. It was only through luck that I’d escaped toxic behavior for so long. But it added considerable stress to my days. I’d wake up every day thinking that I was having my worst year ever professionally, and then I was chosen to take part in a really exciting and competitive professional leadership program for archivists. Talk about lows and highs. That experience changed my professional life. It’s still changing it. But I needed that to see that I wasn’t really doing as horribly as I thought. After that, I took proactive steps to try and create a healthy atmosphere for myself at work, steps that seem to be paying off, but when I was dealing with the anxiety and baby-related sleep-deprivation I couldn’t have forced myself to do that. And of course, I worried about money and status and job titles and all of the things that people will tell you publicly they don’t care about but that actually keep them up late at night. And I worried about those things and how they affected me or how I express them as a black woman, so I read lots of Roxane Gay and Toni Cade Bambara and Audre Lorde to strengthen me because it’s hard to imagine yourself as a black feminist creative professional without certain tools.
And then there was my personal life. I disappointed people in 2015. Lost a longtime friend over some silly ego shit. I had trouble communicating with and relating to my mom, who really wants to be closer now that I have children, but we’re not connecting, like a plug in the wrong electrical socket. Sometimes we speak and I feel this gulf open up between our words filling up with the truths that for whatever reason we can’t really say to each other right now. My relationship with one of my sisters changed. She was my first best friend in life and now we barely speak anymore. Like everything else this year, the reasons are so complicated and gray, but since I always fancied myself her protector as her older sister, even now I’ll respect her privacy. I kept my friends close and said fuck enemies because who actually has time to play those types of games with people?
Does it sound like 2015 was completely, covers-over-the-head awful? It wasn’t. There was so much beauty this year. So much opportunity. Writing went well. I did get published. And when I was so inclined, I even published myself. I found editors who care about quality over quantity so I can really work on a piece until I’m proud of it. Someone actually let me write a piece about Harrison Ford. I wrote sometimes until I fell asleep with the computer in my lap or until I felt like I’d worked out whatever issue I was considering in my head. I reread books I’d loved and found more secrets in the pages, more questions to ask. I re-watched movies I thought I loved only to find that they were terrible; nostalgia can’t cover everything. I listened to lots of music. Of course there were standards: Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, D’Angelo. But there was also LaBelle and Tony Bennett and Gary Clark Jr. and the Rolling Stones. I ate good food. I made steak frites. Once I stopped breastfeeding, went back to sniffing and sipping bourbons. I saw The Internet in concert and heard Syd’s voice float through the crowd like a fever dream. I got stuck in Chicago during the best snow storm ever. The flakes kissed the asphalt outside while I ate garlicky snails and truffle butter-smeared French bread with two really good friends. “Star Wars” came out(!!!). I also got married. We eloped in NYC down at City Hall. It was the same day the Supreme Court agreed to marriage rights for everyone. The timing of that meant more to me than any ceremony with flowers and centerpieces and fancy dresses ever would. A lovely group of mothers welcomed me into their circle and our monthly dinners became like oxygen to me. I had intangible moments with my children that, while not captured and Instagrammed, will stay with me, I hope forever.
So what of 2016? I should really keep drinking water like Gabrielle Union, because I mean, look at her. And I’ll keep writing, because I can’t not. It might not be every day. But I’m not myself when I don’t do it. And it’s the only way that I can figure out who I am in relation to the world and everyone else around me.
I want to engage in my “humanness” as much as I can — the highs and lows, good and bad.
I want to be more patient. And I never want to lose the will to try and understand things. To try and learn things. To be loving and be loved. Not resolutions, just a way I want to live my life for as long as I’m here.