Back to Black

I don’t know what happened. I turned 30 and then promptly stepped into a black hole. It’s possible that I didn’t step into it, but that it had been around me all along. I just put on glasses. Have you ever felt outside of yourself? That the life you are leading is not yours? That you are going about your life with the best of intentions, and yet is amounting to a glorious smidge of nothing? That you are so lucky to be alive, but know you are missing out of actually living?

That has been my last few months. The type A personality that I have always been loves to only speak about things after I have figured them out, hence my absence of blogging. But there is so much that I cannot figure out. Coping in New York. Financial planning when you have nothing left over. Dating in my 30s. This rash of gun violence and  unpunishable white on black crime. Marching for the same things we did exactly 50 years ago. I go to work as a public servant, and have figured out government is the place where passion goes to die.

I step past a drunk homeless man to enter my apartment. I am quiet and alone in the largest city in the country.

It will all be ok.

The Dog Days Are Over

The past month has been rough. Trying to find suitable PhD programs or new positions. Navigating that fraught territory of creating a friendship after a failed romance. A 6 month old computer inexplicably conking out. Regaining all the weight I had lost. Spending over $2,000 on something that is 9 pounds.

And all I can think are thoughts of gratitude.

MY TWENTIES ARE OVER.

Hallelujah!

Now, I do appreciate my last decade. I had a hot body. I got a Bachelors and then a Masters. I moved to big, scary New York city as a girl. I became a woman in Brooklyn. I wore the most impractical fashions. I hailed cabs everywhere and went on dates just because. I kissed a lot of boys. Those were some good times.

And I am so, so, so glad they are gone. Why would I be so happy to give up nipples that pointed toward the sky? This is just a small list…

  • I know my worth. I don’t work for free. I am not “lucky” to have a job. I spent time and money on training and expertise that I know I should be compensated for. As a woman and African American, I already know you are probably taking me for pennies on the dollar anyway, why would I give up more?
  • Stilettos make my feet hurt. I spent so many years in pointy-toed shoes and crop tops hoping someone would notice and buy me a drink. I don’t give a shit if you notice. I make enough to pay for my own drink, so I’m going to wear Birkenstocks when I want to. Yeps!
  • I know which guys suck. I spent about 3,424,298 hours dissecting texts and emails and waiting for calls. I spend about .04 seconds on shit like that now. If you want to hang out, you will call me. If you want me to take you seriously, you will pay for my dinner. You will speak to me with respect. If not, I don’t lose sleep over it. I can’t. I’m too old to function on less than 6 hours.
  • I know that I’m cute. Yeah, I am in the process of getting healthier and I would shed 20 lbs in a second, but I fretted SO MUCH about my appearance during the last decade. I look at the pictures now and think WHAT A WAIST–WHAT A WASTE! Why was I sucking in my stomach when I had no stomach?? Why did I flip out over my first stretch mark?? My body holds me up. I aim to treat it better. But greys and chin hairs are coming, so I appreciate how hot I am TODAY.
  • Financial stability is a priority. There was a time when I went out 5 days a week and my student loans were in forbearance. The me of today would punch the me of then in the face. I do miss my semi-extravagant lifestyle, but I realize that being ok later means sacrificing today. My retirement and debt eradication are top priority. I have to give up manis, cosmos, trips to Atlantic City, and fish tacos. But I will be having them daily at 65, so it’s cool.

And last, but not least–

  • The best is yet to come. Do you realize that the average American lives to be 80? If you peak at 25, you have 55 years to exist in mediocrity. I’m like fine wine, baby. I get better with age!

Here’s to me in my 30’s!

Living the Dream

Unless you are a sociopath, career criminal, or criminally insane, if asked what your values include, you will probably reply something akin to “family, prosperity, the American dream, homeownership, etc.”  That’s why being a discriminating voter during the primary season is so difficult. Usually, there is just a line of over-the-hill white guys talking about budgets, foreign policy, and terrorism…saying lots and nothing at the  same time. 

So, how do you tell if a person is actually true to their value system? Their actions. DUH.

This is one of the MOST simple-minded observations of human behavior. 

And it smacked me right upside the head.

I have been spending the last 2 days of subway rides reading “168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.” Author Laura Vanderkam dissects the lives of the truly busy, yet personally fulfilled–the women who “have it all.” She asks the general public why we lament how tired we are when sociological research shows we have more than enough time to rest, work, and have fun. According to Vanderkam, if you write down what you do in a week, you find out where your value system lies. You care about the things you spend time on.

So what is my value system?

  • Playwriting/Theater
  • Cooking
  • Connecting with Family
  • Meeting New People
  • Long Distance Walking
  • Spending Time With My Pet
  • Reading
  • Travelling
  • Crafting
  • Making a Healthier Lifestyle for Myself

Just kidding! According to how I designate my time during the week, here is my ACTUAL value system:

  • Sushi
  • Taking Naps
  • Criminal Minds
  • Law & Order
  • Law & Order: SVU
  • Scandal
  • Pizza
  • Lipstick
  • Reading fashion blogs
  • Reading in general
  • Spending Time With My Pet
  • More lipstick

Hey, I got 2 right. That’s not that bad, right?

Actually it’s horrible. I realize that I’m so spent because I don’t do things I know bring me joy. Yes, Law & Order brings me joy, but not the same kind of joy as cooking a pie from scratch or shipping hand crocheted mittens to a new baby.

I know that the life I want isn’t going to magically appear tomorrow. By the time I’m 30, I won’t be living in Rittinghouse Square, sipping a soy latte, walking 3 toy dogs, as I head to my loft that is supported solely by my freelance writing. [Also in this daydream, I am wearing a Tibi dress, C. Wonder jewelry, and Balenciaga sandals. Just in case you were wondering.] But by the time I’m 30, I can commit to a healthier lifestyle, regular writing, and going a little out of my comfort zone to meet men new people.

So yes, my dream life is pretty far off, but if I spend my time as I should, I should catch up soon. 

Dear Martin

pic16My dearest Martin:

Every year on this day, I take time out to reflect on how to live a more purpose-driven life. Today was no exception.

As I sat watching the first non-white president get sworn in, I wondered what you would have thought. Perhaps, like for me, the moment would be bittersweet. A symbol that the eras of the past are being eroded the same way the ocean takes away the shore, yet still utterly exasperated by the height of the mountain still left to climb.

The mountain will be there tomorrow; today, while we have it, I will sustain the joy.

I miss you. We never met, but I feel the spirit of you and your wife hover over me and my family’s legacy.  The watershed year of 1963 occurred 50 years ago.  I know so many women of African descent who have capitalized on the events that occurred since the time my mother was a child. We are doctors, we are wives, we are lawyers, we are First Ladies. It’s amazing what we are, but particularly what I am. I owe a great deal of that to you. And to my father who managed to create a business, with the help of my mother, in the racial muck of 1980s Mississippi. And to my grandparents who battled poverty in Baltimore and the Bayou to raise children who upheld the values and traditions of the Southern Christian American blacks.

Today, I rededicate my life to the fight.  So much has happened, but I am still afraid.  Afraid of institutional racism at work. Afraid of raising a family in the era of police brutality.  Afraid that a loving black marriage is a thing of the past. And afraid that gay rights will vanish. Afraid of rape.

Today is the first day I realized that only action combats fear.  So in memory of you and your legacy and in appreciation of the fact I am not a maid in Jackson, Mississippi raising three kids, I’m making a new vow. I vow to speak, write, organize, and march. To laugh, love, and pray.  To do 1/1,000 of what you did to improve not only my life, but the world.

Love always,

Kelly

New Years Evolution

Traditionally, this is my favorite time of year. Since the age of 18, I have used the week between Christmas and New Years Eve to stress out about an outfit, find a pair of heels I can wear all night long, and grab my BFF for a night of people watching, fruity cocktails, and chair dancing.

In the middle of the evening, I inevitably slur, “So what are your New Years resolutions?”

The first 7 or so years, my best friend would answer. She moved back to her hometown to look for a job 3 years ago. I know not to ask now. If we are together, I just give her a hug and a drink.

I still ask the same question to myself. It allows me to combine my favorite tasks: daydreaming and type A planning.

This year, however, is different. I don’t have the energy to look forward. The last 2 months have been a blur. I write posts and plays in my head, then come home from work to pass out. I moved into a studio from a 1-bedroom. My new job isn’t going so well. I’m still working my old job. I put back on the 20 pounds I worked so tirelessly to lose this year. I find myself snapping at my dog, my boyfriend, myself. Today I didn’t leave my apartment, not even to walk my dog.

New Year’s Eve, Schmear Year’s Eve. Resolutions aren’t so fun when you feel like you are existing and not living. 

I realized that always working towards the future and beating myself up for not accomplishing something great by my imaginary grown-up age of 30 is counter productive. It robs me of the present, of looking at flowers, drinking water, and breathing deeply.

I need to EVOLVE, not RESOLVE. Step 1 is gratitude. I’m not where I want it to be, but thank God I’m not where I have been. I make over 10k more this year than I did last year. I began growing locs. I got rid of people who were sabotaging my happiness. I became a dog mom. I moved into an apartment to better live within my means. I began to fall in love.

2012 was a good year. Today is a good day. 2013, come what may.

The Down Side to Having a Dream

In the last 2 weeks I have gotten my dreams back. This is big news for a chronic insomniac with racing thoughts. Since forever I have tried to quiet my mind, tossed and turned, gotten up to pee (or snack), and awoken agitated and misaligned. I couldn’t remember what I ate for dinner, let alone what I dreamt.

Recently I have been getting glimpses of what my mind does when I am not awake. Some dreams are fantastical, some mundane. They come to me suddenly when I am taking my time getting ready. I sit and try to recall, smiling as they vanish faster than they arrived.

The bait-and-switch is something the dreams that I craft in consciousness do as well. I am always restless. If you ask me why, I will give you a list of things that, although I am sometimes overwhelmed, do not exhaust me. After recounting the joy I found in remembering my dreams while sleeping, the reason my total life has restless leg syndrome was quite apparent.

I’m restless because I no longer dream IN LIFE.

How Did I Get Here?

Most days are the same. Wake up too late. Walk the dog. Throw something on. Go to work. Come Home. Walk the dog.  Frankly, I could manage my life in my sleep. I’m not complaining. I am amazingly lucky and blessed. I am a hard worker. My hard work has gotten me where I am today.

The problem is, it’s not where I want to be. It isn’t even the next county over.

I wanted the life no one with my background is supposed to want. Living in the East Village, hiding out from the landlord, creating writing and hustling until I became Mindy Kaling. Or at least one of Mindy Kaling’s writing staff.

In the meantime, I observe my friends who have spent the last 7 years in abject poverty in pursuit of their creative dreams are beginning to reap the rewards.  They do not have 401ks and they work like dogs, but when I see them they smile the largest, most genuine smiles I have seen in my life.

I want to smile those smiles.

You know, the smiles I smile in my dreams.

Come Celebrate With Me

After the day I just had, learning I am the lowest paid of my coworkers, running into my ex and having him casually mention that he now does all the things that he should have done as my man, and having my FWB fail to console me in favor of a date with another woman…

this poem seemed appropriate.