Tag Archives: advice

20 Things I Want To Say To My Twentysomething Self

17 Oct

I recently re-discovered a journal I kept after I graduated from college in 2000.  I was unemployed, seemingly unemployable, broken-hearted, on the brink of adulthood but still so incredibly naïve (something I only recognize now, because I have distance, experience and context).  I was twenty-one years old, feeling grown and wise… and like a failure.  Reading my words in my handwriting was almost like becoming reacquainted with a stranger, a well-meaning, disillusioned stranger.

As I read through the pages of my life, I could hardly recognize myself and I could hardly remember the feelings that inspired the writing.  I know it is cliché, but I could not help but think if only I knew then what I know now, perhaps I would have been more hopeful and less critical.

In order to document reminders for myself in the next ten years, I decided to jot down the things I wish I knew then and things I may need to know again in the next decade of my life.

20 things I wish I could have told my twentysomething self…

  1. You are so ignorant, you don’t even know what you don’t know (yet).  Grown(ass)womanness is a process and is less about age and more about experience.  And learning from experiences.
  2. The things that seem so important right now will not matter in five years.  Hell, it may not matter in one.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the disappointment of rejection or the confusion of disappointment.  Everything truly happens for a reason.
  3. You are beautiful.  Without make up and in the middle of the night and outside of being sexy.  You are beautiful, not because a man says so (and even if/when he doesn’t).  Tell yourself you are beautiful frequently and abundantly. And mean it!
  4. Be kind to yourself.  You tend to be so hard on yourself. 
  5. You are strong (your capacity of strength is so much wider than you think)…
  6. but being a strongblackwoman is not a necessity or responsibility in your life.  Your frailties and vulnerabilities make you human, not weak.
  7. You are a storyteller and people will need your stories. Don’t stop writing them down.
  8. You have incredible discernment—use it.  Do an inventory as often as possible and purge relationships that don’t add to your life, because they will inevitably subtract from it.  Don’t hold on to dead or toxic relationships.
  9. Friendships only matter in quality, not quantity.  You will be grateful for the few amazing people who are there when it counts.  Don’t be friends with someone who is not your friend.  It is not worth it.
  10. Love yourself more—more than anything else and anyone else.  If you don’t, no one else will.
  11. Follow your dreams!  They will take you places you have not even imagined.
  12. Don’t settle.  Life is full of choices, don’t ever let anyone talk you out of having standards.  You are not picky, or greedy, or unrealistic.  You are worth it!
  13. Live passionately!  Tomorrow is not promised and you should always regret what you did do, not what you didn’t do.
  14. Always go home for the holidays.  Spend as much time with your family as possible.  They know who you are and love you anyway.
  15. Your destiny will never walk away.
  16. Your faith will not always look like this. 
  17. Never be tolerant of injustice.
  18. People lie.  Don’t listen to or believe everything people say (to or about you).
  19. Take risks and do things that scare/intimidate/inspire you.
  20. Love deeply, intentionally, reverently.  Even when it hurts!

Looking for Love in all the Wrong Places…

19 Apr

I have no choice but to blame my little brother. It’s his fault that this shenanigan publication finds its way into my mailbox once a month. Something about selling magazines for a band fundraiser. It was either this or a subscription to House Beautiful so I chose the lesser of two evils, or so I thought. Previously, I sort of boycotted Essence magazine, only picking it up if it was laying on some friend’s coffee table or in a doctor’s waiting room. But, alas, now I am confronted with its ridiculousness every month. The May issue brought Jill Scott’s bright-eyed and smiling face to greet me and I thought “maybe I’ll actually give this one a read instead of tossing it in the pile by the fireplace.” So I opened it up and went straight to page 92 to read an article entitled “Why Don’t We Get Married.” I should have known better, but instead I chose to be naïve, deluding myself into thinking this just might be an article about the myriad reasons why Black folks choose not to marry or why they are not allowed to marry. Including the fact that some of us aren’t even interested in marriage (either personally or politically) or—Gasp! Shock! Horror!—that there are actually Black gays and lesbians who might just be affected by this pesky federal ban on gay marriage! Of course, this was not the case.
Instead it was an article that quickly devolved into talking about what’s wrong with Black women and what we can do to “fix” ourselves to be better mates for Black men. The article was a reprint of a Q&A style discussion with about six Black women and men and was moderated by the Essence Relationship Editor Demetria Lucas and comedian Finesse Mitchell, whose qualifications simply listed him as “Dating Specialist.” As an aside, I’d like to know where to go to buy one of these certifications that makes you a specialist, expert or guru ‘cause somebody’s gotta be sellin ‘em – maybe I’ll check eBay! But I digress, much like the quality of the article, which trafficked in the same tired stereotypes of fat, lazy, loud emasculating Black women who can’t get or keep a man. Lucas kicked it off by asking where all the fellas have been hiding. According to the “brothers” present for this Q&A session, there are hoards of Black men at the gym where, apparently, they are safe from the clutches of Black women since NONE of us EVER work out! As a matter of fact, according to Finesse Mitchell, “the young chicks and the ones who just broke up with their man or who are trying to lose baby weight are in the gym. But women who have a man? They stop going to the gym.” There are tons more of these little nuggets in the article, check it out if you can stomach this kind of nonsense. However, the final straw for me was Essence’s willingness to traffic in one of the most dangerous yet powerful trends in popular culture’s current fascination with Black women’s love lives: the myth of scarcity.
The article ends with Lucas soliciting a little dating advice from the brothers for the single sisters looking for love. Who are told simply but poignantly “Don’t date like a man. Guys are constantly shuffling women, and women think they can do the same. But your deck runs out…” It’s this kind of “reasoning” that silences black women and ushers us back into an uneasy alliance with a “benevolent” patriarchy. Under the guise of brotherly advice, Black women are basically told that we just don’t have the option to be picky; there simply just aren’t enough brothers to go around. We need to find a brother, good, bad or indifferent, close our mouths, stick with him and hope he proves Kanye wrong by not leaving us for a white girl. But, what Essence and Finesse Mitchell left out is that the myth is only a threat if we can safely assume all Black women are only and always interested in dating Black men. The rub, however, is that we can’t assume that. Black women find love, sex, companionship and community in so many dynamic and amazing ways and we are selling ourselves short if we think there simply ain’t enough loving to go around!

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