Be Very Afraid

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. So far this is the theme of 2014. My plans of writing, wellness, and winning have all been surreptitiously dismantled by catching the flu, the pitfalls of becoming middle management, and unpacking my apartment. I sleep too much and often come home spent and thinking of things to write and not writing. I will do it tomorrow, I tell myself, right after I watch another episode of Criminal Minds for the seventh time. I do all this and expect things to be different.

I do this because I am afraid. Aziz Ansari was right about one thing: 30 comes at you fast. It is this mythical fantastical age where everyone in the movies has a large apartment, a career that they love, an enviable group of friends, the love of their life, and a baby. And it’s not just in the movies. In my own family I am the oldest grandchild to not be married or have a baby. In the era of instant gratification and humiliation, it’s not hard to find out weekly that the guy you dated with those mental health issues is celebrating his one year anniversary to an Evelyn Lozada look alike or the person who you used to perform with is now at Yale. In the aggregate, I feel like I have been left at the very back of my cohort. The one who never likes to read out loud. The one who is terrified of being called to the chalkboard. The one picked for dodgeball last.

I know that fear is the ultimate obstacle to purpose and to wealth. Thank you Oprah Winfrey and Suze Orman. Like the other dichotomies that have defined my life (Brooklynite from Mississippi, Ivy League sassy black girl; fat public health crusader), fear and ambition bite at my ankles enough that it’s all I can do not to fall down in a bloody, exhausted, legless heap.

How does one live their best life when they have become accustomed to mediocrity? How do you go out on a career risk after being unemployed during the Great Recession? How do you lose the weight when you know that it’s your only reprieve from the endless aggression and street harassment and black girl dating?

You don’t. Living your best life means getting over all of these things. It means fear has no place, which oddly enough makes me even more afraid. Over time fear has become the old pair of combat boots, long out of style but too comfy not to wear every time it’s damp outside. It snuggles me and let’s me sleep longer than I should and avert my eyes from attractive men with nice smiles. It tells me that trying to perform when I am this old and this brown and this tired and this fat is a waste of time. That working on my writing here is taking away time from working for publication. That no one will read what I write for publication. That I will always work nine to five. That I will always be alone.

Fear is a sickness wherein lies its own reprieve. Fear keeps us from being reckless. Sadly a certain amount of recklessness is required in risks. The shining irony is that the thing that has kept my fingers off the stove and good grades on my report card is the thing that makes me gasp for air.

How Long Do I Have to Take the Subway to Get to Success?

The year 30 brings a metamorphosis to anyone. Just like 18 and 21 changes your perception around what it means for you to be an adult, 30 is like that but different. 30 is adulthood bitch slapping you in the face.

Per the usual Type A thinking black woman I am, the last 6 months following my monumental birthday have been filled with ennui. I watch all my friends and colleagues achieve some of the adulthood trophies I already thought would be proudly displayed on my life’s shelf–making more than $75k, being in stable relationships, moving to Manhattan. I don’t feel like I am jealous; I acutely feel glee for the achievements of everyone I know. I just observe where I am in the process and how far away I am from “success.”

After a year of hell living in an apartment that has cost me a small fortune out-of-pocket, I have been looking for an apartment. If there is anything that makes you feel like you aren’t worth squat, try looking for an apartment in New York City! Being a single lady, I need to be close to a train in a facility that doesn’t resemble a crack house. Apparently, that costs $1500 a month…IN BROOKLYN. Not counting a broker’s fee. It’s pretty demoralizing to lay $4,000 down just to move down the street. This is the location I find myself. At the cross streets of “This can’t be my life” and “Dad, can I borrow some cash?”

How far is the subway from here?

Don’t Go, Weight!

I recently had a panic attack in Target. Atlantic Terminal was it’s usual mosh pit of mayhem, screaming women with hideous eyelashes pushing strollers and bumping into yuppies perusing the lackluster Prabal Gurung items now at 70% off. Target isn’t my fave place to be (unless it’s a Sunday morning, everything is restocked, and I have the time to sashay down the “ethnic” hair care aisle), but it doesn’t get me flustered. I am there 2 times a week, more like 4 since I have moved into my new apartment.

Yet there I was. Rising body temp, echoing sounds, and slippery fingers. I was having a meltdown albeit a silent one. Those are the only respectable ones to have.

I knew why it was happening. A mere 45 minutes before, my beautiful blonde Polish OB-GYN had the following exchange.

Polish OB-GYN: Yeah, I don’t know why you keep having these adverse reactions to birth control. First the IUD. Now the Nuvaring. I haven’t seen anything like it.

Me: I’m special.

Polish OB-GYN: Indeed you are. [flips through chart] Did you realize in August you weighed 163 and now you weigh 177? And your blood pressure has elevated considerably.

[PAUSE]

Polish OB-GYN: If it gets much higher, you may not be eligible to take birth control.

Me: [HAS SMALL ANEURYSM]

I had the same conversation with my primary care physician a month ago when he talked to me about my cholesterol.

And I have had the pleasure of receiving off-handed comments from family members at a recent wedding when I collapsed in my hotel room more than once in an adjacent hotel room.

Kelly, you were never a fat child or even a fat teenager. Kelly, you were doing so well, what happened? You wouldn’t be this overweight if you didn’t live in New York. 

Apparently I will not eligible for a loving relationship, a raise, a healthy pregnancy, happy vacations, a functioning heart or respiratory system, or family support unless I lose about 40 pounds.

There is some truth to that. Dating is different for overweight people. The men that were attracted to me 8 years ago were richer and whiter without a doubt.  Apparently women who routinely exercise get promoted more. And I know all about diabetes and heart disease thanks to my day job.

So, how do I manage to like myself today? To wear a sundress and flirt and not scrutinize everything I eat and exercise for the joy of it, and find value in myself regardless of what society says? Well, that’s easy. Society isn’t the problem at all. I am a black woman from Mississippi who went to an Ivy League school; every day I spit in society’s face and go on about my business.

It’s hard, however, to spit in the faces of colleagues, family members, and friends. People who love me, they really do, but scrunch up their face when I order french fries. Or point out how we used to share clothes, or outright ask me why I let myself go.

I didn’t let myself go. My life happened. After 24ish, my metabolism slowed. I participated in the cocktail culture of the city. I ate out on dates 3 times a week. I sit for 3 hours a day on the train and 9 hours at work. I mostly lived in places with small I get home at 9pm, write down my thoughts and lay down. And I use food as punisher, soother, and reward.

In other words, I am an ordinary American. In my family or school cohort, ordinary isn’t acceptable. It’s isn’t acceptable to me either on most accounts, which is why this issue gives me such anguish and stress.

I truly have no desire to be thin. I do have a desire to be thinner, have more energy, and have more insulin sensitivity. Spring is a time of renewal; I am starting small. A  jog with the dog. Walking up the stairs, heading to the farmers market every week.  I don’t expect that I will see a definite change on the outside.

But it’s the inside I am more concerned about.

*PS. Feel free to share any success stories or tips via Twitter or in the comments!

White Noise

As of late, I have had a lot of quiet moments. Maybe the tv is on, maybe I   read a blog or a text, but I am not there. The white noise has let me recuperate from what I can only define as a hellish start to the year. I am still adjusting at work, determining minute by minute what I am doing there, if I can do better, and, if I can, what my next steps should be. In doing a favor for a friend, I caught what in New York creates more scourge and stigma than AIDS…bed bugs. Not necessarily bed bugs. A bed bug. But where there is one, there could be hundreds. I still hadn’t settled into my apartment when my home became some kind of decrepit spaceship  Clear, shiny, plastic bubbles holding all I owned. Spending 14 hours of washing with break you mentally…not to mention financially. Thirty five cents equals only 10 minutes. Not to mention dry cleaning and days off work when I had no vacation planned.

I could go into the other 4 plagues of Egypt I have gone through since the new year, but that would banish the white noise for the night.

And I need the white noise. Because when it stops, my brain begins to scream–

I AM DONE.

With this life. With my 20s.  With New York. With people not picking up their dog shit. With aggressive panhandlers.  With an exorbitant cost of living. With not having a yard. With $15 cocktails and men who expect sex on first dates.

With the lack of white noise.

In 3 months I begin a new era of life.

And in less than 12 months, god-willing, it will be in a new place.