Why come nobody told me that we were going to have to go through all the annoying crap we went through as teenagers again in our 40s and 50s? It seems as if some-damn-body should have mentioned that I’d have to struggle through acne, hormonal fluctuations, and most importantly, the stressful, uncomfortable agony of trying to figure out what I want to do with my life – again. Think about it, as pre-teens and teens, we are put through months of classes to prepare for, learn about and discuss the changes that will be going on with us mentally and physically; but as we hit middle age, there isn’t nary a seminar to prepare us for this craziness (well, at least not a free seminar). If it were not for my open friends, who share their innermost feelings with me, I would think that I was losing my mind because I find myself filled with the same anxiety-causing questions as I did when I was 16, 18 and 21: “What do I want to do with my life?”
The best gift age grants us is the acceptance and love of our authentic selves. Age brings us the realization that we are who we are – flaws and all – and we can’t be bothered with people who don’t accept us; primarily because we’ve struggled for many years (in one way or another) to fully accept ourselves. Some of us spent the first third of our lives doing as our parents and society dictated; the second third doing as a parent, partner and employee dictated. We are then left with what we hope is at least another one-third (or prayerfully one-half) of our lives left and we are determined to do only things that respect who we’ve come to realize we are; and that honor the unique needs that we have. Settling suddenly seems like torture; life suddenly seems short; and simply being comfortable suddenly seem inadequate. We want to be joyful.
We know who we are. Check.
We know we are seeking joy. Check.
We are confident enough – finally- to do what we want, how we want. Check.
If only we could figure out what the hell that / it is.
When puberty Part Deux hit me, for instance, I knew that I wanted to write. I knew I loved Black people and wanted to do something to strengthen our community . I knew that I loved to travel; and I was still interested in making workplaces more inclusive. I just had no idea how to make all of these things fit together (and I can’t say I fully do now).
One evening I went out to dinner on a double date and ended up meeting a third couple. All of us were in that feel-good, inebriated state where strangers and limits are non-existent. I ended up talking freely with the man, a Sheik in his late 50s about my mid-life puberty. He asked me, “what do like to do?” After hearing my responses he breezily replied, “well, do that.”
“Do that? That’s it?” I countered because a drunk tongue has no decorum (and frankly, I was expecting a more profound answer).
He repeated, “yes, do that.”
And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve simply done the things I love, without a real plan and without it making sense. Making sense isn’t the goal anymore—remember—effecting joy is. I’ve travelled more than I’ve ever travelled before; written more than I’ve ever written before; talked candidly about and to my Black community daily, while trying to make work environments more inclusive for us and all people whom feel excluded. Oddly, these seemingly different things have started to come together. While these things- at first glance aren’t harmonious; they work because they all come from me. Isn’t that what we want to offer the world—our authentic selves (truthfully, I think that as we’ve gone through our personal journeys, the universe has been patiently waiting for the “blossomed” versions of ourselves; and welcomes us). Being myself has been the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Concurrently, I’ve never been happier.
So, I encourage you to do that—whatever it is you’ve always wanted to do. If you want to sing, sing at an open mike or tryout at a small club, or tryout for a local band. If you want to act, tryout for local plays or take off work for a week and go to L.A. for auditions. If you want to start a business, do it on the side. Whatever that is for you—do it, do that.
The universe is lovingly awaiting.
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more