Hello, 2023! Shout out to ICT. So long, VA.
On the first day of 2023, ten days post-surgery, I rested and reflected on how good 2022 (and God) was to me and resisted self-sabotaging thoughts about how that means I must brace for impact, for whatever inevitable upheaval is to come. When you've lived a trauma-filled life throughout which you rarely came up for air and barely had lifelines but managed to always push through, that pattern informs your norm, narrative, and expectations. It becomes difficult to accept when good things are happening to you and aren't a fluke, and it is standard operating procedure to maintain an impending sense of doom.
The last time doubt overcame me was not too long after I arrived in Kansas. I'm from Virginia, the 757, and I miss my home state and city (Newport News).
But, other than a little homesickness, 2022 was full of back-to-black blessings that are coming with me into 2023. I know this is in no small part due to therapy, a strong and carefully curated support system, waiting on God when I wanted to shift, taking leaps of faith when I wanted to be still, and prayer.
In 2022, I began settling in as a new wife and homeowner. I started working out without an unhealthy focus on losing weight and, instead, embracing and appreciating how moving my body makes me feel well physically and mentally. I stopped obsessing over missed days and "cheat days" (sometimes turned into cheat weeks) and blessed myself with new clothes that are comfortable and make me feel beautiful.
After almost 10 years of employment doing something I strongly disliked (I'll reserve the word "hated" because, if nothing else, it was a well-paying job that carried me through a decade), I landed a job that is a good fit. I enjoy the work and appreciate that I regularly face daunting yet rewarding challenges that level up my professional growth. I was warmly welcomed by the local chapter of my beloved Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and achieved a national role in the organization.
The Millennial Black Professor, LLC (The MBP) has grown exponentially, especially since participating in and graduating from the Spark Community Business Academy (Spark). Spark is a 12-week program that brought 20 entrepreneurs at different stages of entrepreneurship in the Wichita area together to learn from the instructors and each other. Our time together resulted in what will no doubt be life-long connections, collaborations, and friendships. The latter is especially meaningful to me. I realized Park City, KS is the farthest I've lived from at least one friend or family member (not counting my sorors and in-laws). I gained that missing piece of my support system through Spark.
The MBP vended for the first time at an event hosted by Bringing it Black. Putting myself and my business out there, selling t-shirts with my ideas on them, was a proud moment for me! It was a family affair, which made the experience even sweeter.
Due to my surgery and recovery, I was unable to participate in the December holiday pop-ups, but I'll be ready for upcoming spring events, including Juneteenth ICT. As we recapped the last year and set goals for the new, I shared with my husband that, for the first time, I feel confident I can make it with this dream of mine. That a day will come when The MBP will fund my desired life, and I can submit my final letter of resignation.
I've seen the New Year, New Me posts. The posts shaming people who will make their way to the gym for the first time in January and might fall off by February. Posts telling us what we must do to be successful in 2023 and what 10 things to avoid if we want love, laughter, and happiness. And posts like mine, giving a rundown of all the good that happened in 2022.
The details of our lives aren't owed to anyone. However, I'm reminded of a video in which a woman laments the Kardashians' ongoing denials of having cosmetic work on their face and bodies. The vlogger expressed that these denials feed the mythical and unrealistic beauty ideal with which our society is obsessed and can lead to body dysmorphia, dangerous (sometimes deadly) procedures, and other negative effects for everyday people who believe looking a certain way will change their lives.
In preparation for the new year, Pastor Howard-John Wesley of Alfred Street Baptist Church preached a sermon titled "But by Grace." The shout for me was when Pastor Wesley said, "The trouble with grace is it makes us look better than we actually are."
Y'all. God's grace has us so glowed up that others assume we've never seen darkness!
What's the connection between the vlogger's spiel and Pastor Wesley's sermon?
A buzzword over the past few years has been "authenticity." It looks different for everyone, including varying levels of transparency, disclosure, and boundaries. I used to be an oversharer (and sometimes still am) - a residual effect of people pleasing, which one might say is the antithesis of authenticity. So, I won't tell it all, but I will share this.
Anxiety had me in a chokehold in 2022.
A major source of the anxiety was my impending surgery. It was a major procedure. One I'd been wanting for over a decade but had been denied due to patriarchal BS we'll discuss another time.
The days and weeks went by quickly. Before I knew it, the month, then week, then day was upon me, and "my life got flipped-turned upside down." Finally getting a Yes after hearing No in response to something I didn't just want but needed for so long had me shook.
I couldn't stop thinking about the devastating mortality rates for Black women during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Though I wasn't giving birth, the surgery was reproductive system-related. This caused concern that, if I didn't have the procedure right away, I might miss my window due to old, white men making decisions about my body for me. I was unclear about how extreme the overturning of Roe v. Wade might be applied, especially in the red state of Kansas.
I felt I was letting down my ancestors. You may have inferred by now that the surgery I had was a hysterectomy. When I think of women like Fannie Lou Hamer, who was scheduled for a minor procedure to remove a benign tumor (likely a fibroid) and went home without a uterus, and the multitude of Black women who were victims of forced sterilization, I feel a twinge of guilt for voluntarily choosing to have the procedure. And - though it's my body, my choice and my husband has reassured me that nothing comes before my health - as a partner, I still consider what this means for him. It's a mental, emotional, and physical trip for both parties.
I spent the year prior to getting married staying with my mother in her one bed, one bath apartment. As mentioned in a previous post, an unforeseen occurrence in December 2020 forced me to seek housing at the last minute, and the ultimate solution was staying with my mom. As thankful I was to have a roof over my head, it was a challenging 11 months that I would not have survived without my therapist and a car in the parking lot I could escape to when things got really rough. That's still a story for another day but, the point is, I was also experiencing anxiety at the thought of my mom coming to visit for three weeks to "help out" after the surgery.
A final, but certainly not the only remaining, factor contributing to the anxiety was my new job. I mentioned I enjoy the work but, unlike my previous role, it is extremely demanding. Between the steep learning curve, striving to do well as the newby, and aiming to uphold my personal work ethic (while trying to run a business; prioritize self-care, exercise, and a healthy diet; be a supportive wife; maintain long-distance friend and family relationships; and fulfill sorority commitments) = your girl was stressed!
What I've described above are things that typically don't make it into year-end reels and, if you are sucked into the trap of self-comparison, it will have you doubting your very existence. My best advice: don't fall for the okie-doke.
Support and applaud those posts with likes and comments if you so choose, but not if it is to the detriment of your wellbeing. Take it all with a grain of salt and remember that what's for you is for you; nothing and no one can change that.