When Life Hands You Hardship

I’ve learned more about mortality in the last four years of my life than I had in the entire seventeen before that. 

It’s astounding. I’ve never found a good reason to use that word, but here it is.

Out of the 3 quarters most of us spend here at Cal Poly every year, ever since my sophomore year started, I’ve had to talk to professors in the first two weeks of classes in at least 2 of them.

Because something happened. Whether it was an incessant onset of unending migraines, the loss of friends, or everything in between, there was always something I wasn’t sure I could handle and didn’t know how it would impact my studies.

I mean this is college—this is life—so of course there are a lot of things we can’t see coming. Unfortunately, the jobs or the kids or the friends or the classes, none of it stops long enough for us to get our foundation put back together once we lose it.

In the words of Ellis Grey, “the carousel never stops turning.”

So, what do we do?

Last week, here’s what I did: I kept moving. Just like I think we all do. I went to class, to work, did the homework I could remember to do, and I put one foot in front of the other. Because one thing I realized, at least for my situation, is that it could have been worse. So, so much worse.

Photo by Henry & Co. on Unsplash

Long story short, I blacked out last week Tuesday and fell on my face, much to the pleasure of my glasses and the black eye I’ve been sporting due to the former party. Even though it’s not a great situation and my eyebrow may have a nice little scar down the center to eradicate any chance of a unibrow in my future, the blackout happened in one of the best places it could have. Our Multicultural Center (MCC).

Now I’m not saying I’m glad it did, not at all. But what I am glad for is that I was surrounded by people who care about me, who knew what to do and who to call, and would never make me feel like a burden for being someone they love and in turn, worry about. I’m glad because I got lucky. Unbelievably so. That day, I worked a 5-hour rush shift in our university store—on the second day of classes, talk about a rush—and I went to a two-hour class that got our early, so I just happened to decide to walk across campus to hang out in the MCC.

Had I not made that decision, I don’t know where I would have been. Had it been 20 seconds later than when I decided to leave that room for class or had I not stopped to talk to friends, I would have been on a very large set of stairs; I would have been set up quite perfectly to fall down all four flights.

I got lucky. And I know it.

So why am I telling you all this, why should it matter to you? Well, other than the fact that you care about my well-being of course, right?

Photo by Akshay Paatil on Unsplash

Regardless of whether you know me or if I’m just another person to pop up on your reading list for the day, I say all this to remind you of the things we cannot see coming. I mean, I quite literally did not see and sort of cannot remember this one coming very well at all. In my first post of the year, I looked at 2020 and told myself it was a new decade to make my own. With the start of a natural hair journey and what could have been a clean slate, I wanted to start it off strong.

My life and my brain had other plans. I can’t change that.

I also can’t change the fact that I am no longer allowed to drive, nor do I feel safe being alone or isolated from other people for too long a period of time. I have to ask for help more, I have to let people help me, along with re-adjusting to the bus system that kicked my butt sophomore year.

And the biggest part, something that I think we all struggle with, is that I have to be okay with not knowing. I do not have the answers and I do not know if I will ever have them for what happened, why it happened when it did, why this happened to me… The usual questions we have when it comes to situations like this. Instead, I realize that there is only one thing we are ever guaranteed from the moment we breathe air in this world: once we are alive, the only thing we know for sure is that we will die at some point. That is the only luxury we are given.

Photo by My Life Journal on Unsplash

We don’t have the answers for what we’re going to do with our lives, who is going to stick around for us, or what paths we should stay away from. Nor do we know when we should ease up on ourselves, when we should push harder, and when we should simply try moving a different direction. I wish we did, really I do. It would be easier.

But I guess “easier” would also make us pretty boring as human beings. It would take away every last bit of what makes us the fragile, emotional, headstrong, creative, passionate, and individualistic people that we are.

Without all these questions and problems and trials and changes, I don’t know about you, but I would be pretty bored with myself. I wouldn’t have a reason to ask for help, to have people to ask in the first place, or any real purpose as to why I care about the things I care about. I wouldn’t need any of that, I wouldn’t have been put in any position where I did.

I wouldn’t have a reason to know that I will be writing for the rest of my life, because I would have nothing to say.

Do you know how oddly sad that is? Not that I wouldn’t have any real struggles or a full consciousness of the world around me, but that something I care about so deeply and share with the people I love wouldn’t actually hold any value in my life anymore.

Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

Maybe in a way, a very small small way, I’m glad that what happened last week did happen. Because yes, the migraines are back full force every day, my mental health isn’t the greatest because it feels like someone took a sledgehammer to my foundation, the exhaustion is unmatched, and my memory is like a pile of mashed potatoes that someone thinks they need to keep mashing… Yet, here’s the thing:

I’m here.

I know that it could have been worse, I could have been worse, and I’m here. That is more than I knew I needed to be thankful for on our first day of classes last Monday. So, I’ll go ahead and put that thankfulness out into the world today.

I will share it with you.

These days, our lives, they aren’t easy. I mean, my problems are very different from my neighbors or the people in Australia or really anyone else in the world. Yet, we are all doing our best to get through what we need to get through and do what we must as we try to keep our heads above water. If we’re not, I’m hoping each of us have people to pick us up and remind us why we keep going anyway.

Lucky for me, I know that I do. And even if I might sit in this for a little while, not quite at my best, they’ll probably sit here with me.

If I’m really lucky, maybe you will too.

As I figure all this out and try to keep everything straight in my head, I ask for your patience and low expectations, now that I’m realizing this is another one of those “before and after’s”—I may never be able to go back to the before and I’ll have to live with that. All I can do is keep moving.

I just hope that you will move with me and maybe share your own stories with me while you do. I would love to hear what has made you who you are today, because it matters. Maybe more than you give it credit for. Trust that.

And happy Friday everyone. I hope to see you next week.

Back to the Basics

Photo by Jordan Wozniak on Unsplash

Welcome to 2020, another year and another day to be thankful for every person who has followed me this far. Because there are big things happening in the world and well, we’re only getting started.

And I’m starting it off doing something I’ve never done before (on my own, at least). 

I’m trying out my natural hair. It might not seem like a big deal, I mean, for a lot of people it isn’t. But for black women, for all of us who feel as if we cannot be our natural selves in a way that society supports, it takes a lot to grow into who we are and want to be. Hair has a whole lot to do with it.

Here, let me explain.

You see, I grew up looking at magazines and TV shows with women in it who all had silky smooth straight hair. I didn’t see people who looked like me; that says a lot about the world around us. At least, it said a lot to me as a child. 

It told me that I was outside the norm.

From what I can tell, the world around us has taken a turn towards a movement of acceptance, the celebration of differences. But growing up, I didn’t see that. What I saw was a whole lot of insecurity, the kind that you carry with you until it’s something you can’t ignore.

Photo by José on Unsplash

Now, I’m choosing to face it. Because I want to see what I can do without anything altering who I am, from the way I live my life down to how I wear my hair. There is something to be said for authenticity, right?

I have nothing against relaxed or straight hair; the thing is, I’ve never worked with my own hair in its natural state. I am 21 years old and I have never taken the time to embrace myself as I am. As undergrad winds down and graduation looms five months away, I feel that now might be just the time to do exactly that.

Do you know why?

Because how we look, what we do, the way we own our lives, it defines us. There are so many things that have happened in the last few years of my life that have completely altered my perspective on the world around us. I wrote a book of poems on the way out of high school (check it out here if you haven’t yet) and reading it back through, I am nowhere near the girl who wrote it.

I’m okay with that. Every year of high school, I changed my hair in one way or another. I guess you could say I was trying to find something that felt like me. Each style was something different, something fun—as a black woman, I have a whole lot of options to change my hair up if I wanted to.

Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

Going back to the basics, going completely natural, is not one of the ways I’ve tried yet. It simply seemed too hard, too complicated. And a little far outside the boundaries of “normal” that I didn’t have the confidence to push. Maybe it’s time to challenge myself a little.

I’m not doing this because it’s a new year and I think I can completely change who I am simply because the calendar flipped another page. Not at all.

I’m doing this because I need to know who I am in order to change myself in the first place; I only aim for the first part of that process. Maybe you’ve noticed in the past couple months—years even—I’ve been doing what I can to get back to the basics. To rebuild the foundation of who I am, the one that’s been breaking and rearranging with every day that passes me by.

Weird that doing so starts with my hair, isn’t it?

In a way, that’s exactly where I need to start. How I look is one of the first things I have ever defined myself by, so I want to take control of that into my own hands this time. I wrote a poem a two years ago, A Black Woman’s Battle Cry, that spelled out how I define myself. From the stereotypes that follow me, the choices I make or the capabilities I hold, are things that can either hold me back or push me forward.

The first line of that poem was all about my nappy hair, how it makes me different. Instead of letting it hold me back the way it used to, I’m going to let it push me forward.

Forward, or right, or left, or diagonally… I’m rebuilding a foundation with whatever I’ve got. Whatever comes next.

So, it’s a new year with the same old me. But the year comes with a few new challenges; I think maybe I can be ready to handle them. Can you?

Here’s to whatever 2020 holds for all of us. Happy New Year.