For a while I was convinced I wouldn’t make it past twenty eight. I can’t tell why, I just didn’t think I would. Lately however, I find that I’m excited to turn thirty. I just turned twenty three and I was actually more excited that I’m closer to thirty than anything else. I sit and fantasize about my career and my house when I’ll be thirty five. I want to be the unmarried aunt that travels the world and spoils my nieces and nephews. I want to be the friend that gives bomb relationship advice to my married friends. That advice would probably be “leave him sis” because, why not? I’m half-joking. But that is my twenty three year old self speaking for my thirty five year old self. All I can do is hope I’ll be wiser. And speaking of wisdom, below are some lessons I’ve learnt in my twenty three years of existence that you might find remotely wise.
They are actually not really lessons. They are things I’ve done, or in the process of doing or just not doing and I’m looking back hoping there’s a lesson or two in there.
Learning to walk away from toxic relationships.
I grew up with self-esteem issues. I would tell you why I think that is but I’m trying to grow up and not assign blame. I think it is Will Smith that says, it may not be your fault that you got hurt, but it is your responsibility to heal. But growing up with a warped sense of self meant I had few to no friends at a time. This meant that I always felt inferior in my relationships. I rarely stood up for myself, I tolerated disrespect, I drained myself empty trying to convince people I’m worth loving. I’m grateful most of my friends are amazing people that didn’t take advantage of that. But there were people that inadvertently I believe, exploited that. Most of the time you hear of toxic relationships and you assume they are of the romantic kind. In my case they were familial and platonic.
I’m learning to establish boundaries, to not stay in places I don’t feel cherished. I’m learning to cut ties.
More importantly, I’m learning that people aren’t saviours. In some instances, I subconsciously expected some relationships to save me. And some people tried and in the process we both got hurt. Somewhere along the way, they stopped sitting with me in the darkness, stood up and blocked the light. I never got over the resentment of being plunged further into darkness by people who promised to be my light. They got tired of my constant fidgeting, trying to locate the light source again. We both had to leave that room either way.
Trying to live with anxiety.
I’m just going to be hyperbolic and say I’m the most panicked person that ever walked this planet. For a while it worked because I want to believe it pushed me to be a better student, a better writer, a worthwhile friend.
And then I had a panic attack. Fourth year second semester, I’m standing on my balcony, trying to get some fresh air before I go to class. I’d been in a constant state of worry and exhaustion since the semester began. I just thought it was my recently-manifested hate for school getting the better of me. And then I got dizzy and started hyperventilating and I nearly fell off the balcony. I spent the entire semester fighting off tears at the thought of going to class.
Now that I’m more aware of this condition, I realize I’ve had so many panic attacks in my life. I usually just wrote them off as hypersensitivity and embarrassing emotional fragility.
Now, I know and avoid my triggers. I know how to mitigate a panic attack. I’m working on believing that not everything is my fault. For example, if somebody doesn’t reply my text, it’s not because my “hey” was offensive and enraging. They are probably just busy or hate small talk.
Trying to go out more and make small talk.
My really smart, insightful cousin told me at the beginning of the year that I should develop a genuine curiosity for other people. I wasn’t planning on taking his advice because he’s clearly a sell-out to the introvert community. But I kept thinking about those words and before I knew it, I was at a forum by myself, talking to the girl seated next to me.
My reasoning has always been, if the conversation isn’t going anywhere, why have it? My cousin and my friend made me realise that it’s not always about making business deals or learning something new. It can also be about making human connections. It’s about letting someone else know that they are seen and heard.
So I try to do that, to get out of my head and listen to the world around me. I go to movies, book signings, forums by myself. I try to talk to strangers. I recognize that there is a world beyond me. I don’t particularly like it because, anxiety and introversion, but I do enjoy it. People are interesting. Who would have thought?
When I’m stronger, I will go to a night club and try to last at least two hours without needing to slash my wrists.
Putting myself out there.
When I started this blog, I thought, as long as I have good content, the readership will come. I have tried to put out quality work (wouldn’t you guys agree?) There are times though when I didn’t post as much because I just freaked out at the thought of being vulnerable. And the blog took a hit.
So when I revamped it, I promised myself that I would consistently put myself out there. I think I’m doing a good job so far. There are days I weep in the toilet before hitting publish but you guys don’t know that.
But more than this blog, I’m learning to put my work out there. It scares me but I try to work on my ideas as much as I can. If I want to get guest post on another blog, I send an email. If I think someone would like something I wrote, I tell them. I’m learning to shamelessly self-promote. I’m learning to use all the resources at my disposal to push my brand. I’m learning to apply for jobs and send pitches. I’m learning to email people I’d like to work with. I’m learning that rejection isn’t the worst thing that can happen to me.
I need to say, my fear of self-promotion came from the discomfort I had with occupying space. Women are conditioned to occupy as little space as possible. You ever notice humility is required more from women than it is from men? It is packaged in various forms: sitting like a lady; needing powerful women to prove they are also domestic. Women internalize that. We apologize for seeming vain when we recognize that we are good at something, we downplay compliments, we sit like ladies.
I’m unlearning this.
I’m learning to tell people, “hey, I think you would enjoy working with me because I’m good at what I do. Check out my blog and find out.”
Unlearning the shame in my sexuality.
Again women have been conditioned to feel shame for our sexuality. Chastity is required more from women than it is from men. We’re slut shamed and our bodies and clothing policed. We’re told to carry ourselves in certain ways so as not to evoke desire in men. We’re blamed when we are sexually assaulted and raped.
And so we fake orgasms and never really explore our bodies/sexuality because most of us never unlearn that shame. We won’t admit we own sex toys and we whisper when we simply want casual relationships.
I’m unlearning that.
Sometimes that means writing poems about is and other times it’s telling my sister to sit however she pleases (which for her is always legs wide apart.) Here’s why. I think the only reason women are required to “sit like a lady” is because it projects us as demure which plays into the chaste requirement. The way I see it, the male crotch is just as private as the female crotch. So why is it that the female crotch is more policed? Why do we need it to be less exposed? My theory, we need women to seem less inviting of sex.
I also think it intertwines with the idea of occupying space. Sitting legs apart, hence occupying more space, is an expression of dominance and power. We therefore need women to shrink themselves, both physically and metaphorically, since we still struggle with the idea that women can be powerful and dominant.
This article gives an interesting perspective on the shame that comes with sexuality for all genders and how it’s projected differently. Read to find out.
Still performing my person-hood.
I’m failing at being my authentic self around the adults in my family. I am blessed with the best extended family. I have aunts and uncles that are so heavily invested in my wellbeing and I couldn’t be more grateful.
This however comes with the pressure of being the person I think they need me to be. I just don’t want to disappoint them. It’s ridiculous because I’m not even sure I understand their idea of me, but the performance continues. I’m terrified of what will happen when the curtains close or I’m just too exhausted to keep up.
I am working on it. Wait, am I?
Appreciating female friendships more.
My experiences in life are largely shaped by my gender. I’m increasingly grateful for having friends, sisters, cousins that just get it. My female friends are the people that I am my truest self around. Women have this astounding ability to create safe spaces; spaces free of judgment and full of healing, love and support. I’m so glad that I’m blessed with a number of these kind of relationships.
Speaking to the universe.
I don’t pray much. So this is my version of prayer.
I’m learning to vocalize my needs, aspirations, fears and trusting that the universe will conspire to have them met.
As people say, speak it into existence.
I will never outgrow lame puns and nerdy jokes.
God bless whoever invented memes.
I need to be able to afford more books (you here that universe?)
Comedy series are my life! Season 7 of New Girl needs to premiere like tomorrow. Also, what am I going to do with my life when it’s over?
You guys reading my blog and telling your persons about it. If you haven’t subscribed, please do.
Marching onto thirty.
To hoping and working on being in a completely different (and better obviously) mental, emotional and financial space.