Prerogative

by Bijan Stephen

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Blessings, freely given, are a quiet kind of responsibility. They share a bed with curses, and therefore lie very close to doom. But this is all another way to say that this year I set out to minimize regret, and that I mostly succeeded. I am proud of this because it feels like a feat: I kept my sense of shame. I did not start eating better, or exercising regularly. I have reason to believe my alcohol and cigarette intake may have increased. I am still stressed. I am still anxious. I am still hungover. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that I am healthier than ever because I have avoided doing more dumb shit than ever before; I am correspondingly less psychically burdened. I am aware that this may in fact be an elaborate rationalization.

Should you be interested in same, here is how I did it: I resolved, on January 1st, to make all of my decisions as a relatively entitled, relatively wealthy white male would — because acting is how, as a person of color, you begin to overcome the fear of asking for the things you deserve. I also decided to try and live with more empathy, to examine and control my knee-jerk emotional reactions and overreactions. I suppose some call the second part practicing mindfulness, but that seems needlessly sanctimonious and a bit too sweet — what I have is jury-rigged and altogether more precarious. To remain even-keeled is an act of faith, I’ve learned, because the condition of the water, a force of nature outside your control, matters as much as the condition of your ship or the quality of your navigation. That’s neither a blessing nor a curse: Every sailor is doomed regardless, which is why there’s glory in the choice to take to the sea in the first place. Anyway, I don’t know how to sail yet. Perhaps 2016 is the year I learn.

Photo by Karen Blaha