This Is Your Life

A couple of months ago, I declared myself average.

I looked at my life: my job and salary, apartment, looks, talents and hobbies, and material trappings and realized I likely won’t go much further than cute, working-class administrative professional in a cute apartment who can write a little bit when so moved.

It sounded defeatist–and boy, was I admonished for it–but saying it aloud was a peaceful, clear break in an otherwise restless, foggy year.

See, it’s been a long time since thinking big served me.

When I was a kid, growing up in a marginal neighborhood with a well-meaning mother who told me I had a duty to fly even though she provided no safety net, “thinking big” was the escape hatch. I had to see my life beyond the house, neighborhood, and schools where I spent my formative years. I had to believe there was more for me than babies and unreliable boyfriends. In my lowest moments–demoralizing heartbreaks, depressive and suicidal spells, interruptions to my carefully-laid plans–“something more” buoyed me back to the surface, out of my dark depths and into the sunshine.


My ideal self haunted me as much as it motivated me. On a dime, it could pull me out of misery or turn to quicksand around my feet and drown me in my daily failure to live up to it. How much of my anxiety and depression, I wondered, was triggered by the fear of wasted potential?

Why, at 35, was I still fixated on what I could be?

I’m as single and (surgically, permanently) childless as I dreamed. I have the job title I’ve coveted since 2010. I live in the neighborhood I’ve wanted to live in since 2009 when an old boyfriend moved here and I just knew we were on the path to cohabitation. And my apartment, with its hardwood floors and plenty of light, is everything I could want for my budget. Shit. I even like my car.

Why couldn’t I sit HERE at the table I set instead of letting my food get cold window shopping for a prettier table?

To quote the title of my favorite book of 2018, What If This Were Enough? 

So I am average.

That is neither an insult nor a testament to what I deserve. It is a statement of fact; what my life reflects back to me every morning.

I want to immerse myself in what is–what I can touch, taste, see, and feel right now–without comparing it to an idealized version in my head.

Something Else

“We’re freshmen as far as being grown,” he said.

I thought of this, looking at the crowd around me. Aunties in their 40s and 50s in their sequined suits. Girls in their 20s in their re-purposed club dresses. Career-climbing peers in their red-bottomed pumps. I found what I usually found — no kinship to any of them.

“Freshmen as far as being grown,” I repeated back to him. “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“Yeah,” he beamed. “All the good stuff happens after 30.”

Does it? I wondered, my chorus of “But what if you don’t care for marriage, children, or career?” lying in wait on my tongue. Not here, I soothed. Not with this 30something heart attack survivor who — by all appearances — possessed a thirst for life I long abandoned.

“I know I’m not old,” I explained a few days prior in a pew at a friend’s wedding to a young man I later learned graduated high school in 2009. “But I’m too weary to feel young.”

A year ago, I happily played Fun Auntie. A year later, performing “fun” to validate my life decisions bores me. Fun Auntie hangs in the closet next to the rest of my ill-fitting old identities: the Perfect Girl Next Door, the Career-Minded Go-Getter, the Creative Bohemian, the Guys’ Girl, the Defiant Feminist Bachelorette.

“Freshman year,” I repeat to the air above the firm queen-sized mattress for my aging lower back. That’s not it, I decide before nodding off. A freshman year requires faith — in my specialness, in some dream, in a world where it can come true, in endless possibilities. I don’t have it.

This phase…this phase is something else.

The Osiris of This Shit

Yesterday, I sent some of my oldest and dearest blog-era friends the following text:

​”You know…thinking back to 2011-2012 when we were blogging about ‘Maybe there’s more to life than being wife material to some dude’ and everyone thought we were broken hoes who just wanted to slut it up for life… I realize that we were pioneers in the Never Mind These Dudes; Live Your Life, Sis movement.”​​

Don’t believe me, you say? Let’s revisit a post I unearthed from the 2012 iteration of The Skinny Black Girl:​

…I find my happiness in a quiet home. I love that feeling of sitting on my couch in my sweats after putting in my eight hours and knowing that I don’t have to do anything for anyone who isn’t named Robyn for the rest of the day. I also noted that I’m satisfied by my freedom. I can spend an hour G-chatting a male homey about life and the intricacies of Hov lyrics and the Giants pass rush and do so without explaining who I’m talking to or why I’m laughing so hard. Or I can shut everything off and not speak to anyone because I’m just not in the mood. And I don’t have to pick up any socks off my floor that don’t belong to me. (I have this thing about men and their footwear. Don’t ask.) I like pay day because I like knowing that I can pay my bills. And every morning I wake up to my 880 sq ft on Cleveland’s West Side and smile at the thought that this is all mine.

​I like quiet. I like being in charge unless I’m in bed or bent over some hard surface.

​These things don’t lend themselves to children or husbands.

Seven years later? Live Your Life, Sis is a MOOD. A lifestyle, honey. Drink your water. Mind your business. Leave these dudes on ‘read.’ Get your skin clear. See the world. Secure the bag. Do your squats. Work out your trauma. And do these things not because you’ll attract the “right” mate, as the barrage of Self Help Books By Men for Women instructed in the early aughts. Do it for yourself, sis because these dudes are trash.

When I brought this up to my friends the other day, here were some of the replies:​

“…there’s a lot of our OG natural principles being packaged in ‘self love’ advice these days. Never thought about it like that. I feel like the unmarried auntie that figured out life early lmao.”

​”Ahead of our time. Should’ve dropped a book.”

​”Just over the weekend, I was thinking back on a blog post I wrote about how [dudes weren’t] really chivalrous but doing the shit to score nice guy points. [Dudes] cussed me out for WEEKS. NOW THE SHIT IS REGULAR AND ACCEPTABLE CONVERSATION.”

“Waaaaay back. Told y’all asses to do what you wanted a long time ago, and you told us we’d never find a man, as if that was a punishment. Nice For What before Drake said anything.”

From the same 2012 post mentioned above:

​Then, last night, my dear friend @MF_Greatest dropped an article from The Atlantic written by author of The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti, called”Not Wanting Kids is Entirely Normal.” There was a passage that pinpointed my exact fears with marriage and motherhood:

‘The overwhelming sentiment, however was the feeling of a loss of self, the terrifying reality that their lives had been subsumed into the needs of their child. DS wrote, “I feel like I have completely lost any thing that was me. I never imagined having children and putting myself aside would make me feel this bad.” The expectation of total motherhood is bad enough, having to live it out every day is soul crushing. Everything that made us an individual, that made us unique, no longer matters. It’s our role as a mother that defines us.”

​@MF_Greatest summed it up beautifully when she tweeted: “I just don’t want to be drained. Or drowned. And I’m not changing my last name.”​

So, where are we now? The OGs who ran as “You Single Bitches” in 2012 so the “Unbothered Queens” of 2019 could fly?​

You know me. Freshly sterilized and settled in solitude; going for round three of real Live By Myself Adulthood at 35. Some are deeply committed to fulfilling, challenging careers and business pursuits. Some in relationships or marriages with space, freedom, and individuality at their very foundations. Different as our paths may be, one thing remains true: a non-negotiable wholeness unto ourselves.​

As I said back in 2012:​

Because when you dedicate great periods of time to accepting and becoming yourself, you tend to feel a bit queasy when someone demands that you be and answer to something/someone else.​

And if I’m to lay myself bare and be completely honest: it does become disheartening to repeatedly hear that my desire to hold on to myself makes me unlovable.

​But when presented with the option of being lonely versus being without myself?

Yeah, the lonely wins.

Welcome to the party, ladies. I’m not saying you had to bring flowers. But if you did, you can drop them in the water-filled vase at the door.