Posts tagged ‘Quarterlife Crisis’

Where I’ve Been (Or, Why I took a Hiatus)

When I’m down, I just draw some roses/on a pretty piece of paper/…halfway through I feel so much better/I imagine happiness/and it runs right to me, such amazing beauty–Georgia Ann Muldrow, “Roses”

Things have been noticeably quiet around here, so I thought I’d tell you about what’s been going on and what I’ll be up to next.

About 3 weeks ago today, I became a casualty of this recession: I was laid off from my job. During those first few days, I felt so many different emotions at different times. First I was sad (I cried for the better part of the afternoon on day 1), then I was angry (why me?!), and then scared sh*tless (how will I pay my rent?).  I had to take an extended time away from updating my blog to go through all of these emotions, and to take some time to reflect and map out my next moves. But as time went on and as the biggest snowstorm in DC’s history blew through my hood, I started to feel, despite it all, happy.

That isn’t to say that this time has been easy or that it isn’t stressful. Being unemployed is always difficult no matter what the circumstances were that lead you to it. I know Im not immune to the challenges that lie ahead, nor the present. But more than anything else, I’ve made the conscious decision to take this time of “(f)unemployment” to learn more about what it is I really want my career to look like, and how I want to pursue my own happiness from here on out.

Lately, I’ve been listening to the song “Roses” by Georgia Anne Muldrow:

The song challenged me to meditate on what was really important in my life, the things and people I had to feel grateful for, and the ways that God has continued to bless me. Everytime I feel frustrated or when sadness starts to creep up again, I try to think more about my strengths and less about my weaknesses. I focus on the few things that made me smile, the people who made me laugh throughout the day.

Soon after I discovered “Roses”  for the first time on, I came across an article about the artist who wrote and performed the song, from an issue of LA Weekly published just last year. She was discussing her philosophies on life, her new baby boy, and her music. One part of the article discussed the remix of “Roses” featuring rapper Mos Def, and how that moment caused a type of paradigm shift for her:

“It was an inspiring thing because the week that [Mos Def asked to remix her song ‘Roses’ for his new album], I stopped calling myself broke and started to follow certain spiritual laws one must observe in order to call oneself successful,” she says. “You can’t cancel out all the resources from the divine realm, which are trying to help you. I’m very inspired by what energies can be brought in through cleansing the bad habits and negative energies toward myself. Or directed toward what I think about myself. And that’s the most inspiring thing, because that’s what ‘Roses’ is about: finding happiness from within.”

Keeping the faith and staying positive during challenging times isn’t easy but I think I’m doing a little better than I thought I would. Every day I have to remind myself that I’m alive, that I’m capable, that I’m healthy, and that I have friends and family who love me.

My 26th birthday is in exactly a week. As I approach the second half of my 20s I find myself considering what I want 30 to look like. I sometimes wonder if I would have started my own company by then or if I’ll be married with children. Then I realize that there’s no exact way to predict where you’ll be 30, nor is it a magical age where everything will necessarily fall into place. The only thing I know for certain is taht I know and believe in my heart that I’ll be happy.

For now, I’m reminding myself just as Georgia Anne Muldrow sings in “Roses” that happiness and fulfillment–in my career, in my friendships, in love–is a journey. Every day I am striving to act on my knowledge that not only does my happiness start with me, but also that a little bit of faith really does and will go a long way.


Black, Successful, and (not so) Unhappy

It’s taken me a long time to talk about the now-infamous Helena Andrews profile on Black Girl Blogging, because it made me so upset. Not because I think there is truth to how lonely, sad, and unlovable black women are, but because I know that there isn’t much truth to it to begin with.

What really sticks out to me are the lack of narratives about Black women who are happy for reasons other than finding and keeping a man. The “single, sad, lonely Black woman” meme assumes that without a man we can’t be happy and can’t even begin our search for happiness.

My black girl blogger-in-crime Rosetta Thurman has started a “happiness project” of her own called The Diary of a Happy Black Woman. A few nights ago on Twitter, she talked about why she has decided to embark on this new project.

I hadn’t thought about this angle of the story until I saw it mentioned in the above tweet. What really has annoyed me about the whole damn dialog about the poor, single Black women is that it not only paints all Black women as unlovable, but it also assumes that until we find a man we can’t be happy or fulfilled. It even pre-supposes that Black women should be perpetually unhappy.

Yes, there are Black women out there who are sad and who are lonely…and perhaps who are also angry. But those feelings often have very little to do with their marital status (or lack thereof). Many of us  can find ourselves feeling that way even after we’ve found the supposedly elusive relationship with a successful Black man. I should know: I was one of them for quite some time before ending my last immediate long-term relationship (another story entirely).

It’s true that I have since then started a new relationship with a new partner, but I spent the better part of 2009 getting back in tune with the things that make me happy outside of being with someone who liked me and cared about me and took me out on dates and stuff.

In 2009, I lost 42 pounds after getting back in touch with physical activities I love (yoga, dance, walking/jogging), and doing something else I loved too–cooking delicious, healthy meals. I explored new angles and avenues to the media career I have chosen for myself and began to carve my own niche. I traveled to different cities and went to some great conferences. I kept in touch with old friends and made new ones. And I did all of that despite not having  a boo by my side to witness me doing all of this. I did the “brave” thing and started last year without a relationship, having broken up with my then-boyfriend around this time last year. And I regret not one damn second of it.

My soror and friend Cheri had a great response to the profile on Helena Andrews, with whom she happened to have attended Columbia once upon a time:

She said “I’m a successful black woman” several times, listed off the things that validated the statement, and then says she isn’t happy. I know many women who describe themselves this way, and they too end up in that same place at the end of the sentence. “I’m a successful black woman, why can’t I find love or happiness?”

It might be worth while to go back to the beginning of the sentence and see where we made a wrong turn.

What is success? I’ve heard it described a number of ways: having a degree (or two), a house, a car, a job, the right clothes, and/or invites to the right parties. Some women define it as beginning married or having a child. But in many cases, all of this “success” is not accompanied with happiness.

If what you want is happiness, then are you really successful without it?

Someone along the way told us the work is done once you get the tools. We want a cake – so we get the eggs, sugar, and the flour…. but we leave them on the counter and go get ready for the club. We go out, drink, dance, have a good time, and wonder why we don’t have a cake with cute rose petal frosting details when we get back. We want the results but have not done the work.

In this first week of 2010, I’ve had the chance to think about what new things I want to do at Black Girl Blogging this year and in years to come. If there’s one thing Helena Andrews’s new book Bitch is the New Black and the accompanying profile in the Washington Post showed me, it was the need for more Black women telling their stories and having their stories told their way. Stay tuned and join me as I feature and highlight Black women (and a few men) who have made their lives and their work about a pursuit–or several pursuits–of happiness.

The Only Steve Harvey Post that Matters

Okay, I’ll admit it.

This Saturday afternoon, I bought Steve Harvey’s book, Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Latoya Peterson from Racialicious can attest to this. She ran into me in Borders while I had the book in hand.

Anyways, I read the book in its entirety this weekend. And as a womanist, I felt so very inclined to write about this book as it pertains to single women of color. Before I begin: SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing some things the book that are not fully discussed in his TV appearances, namely Oprah.

The book certainly had some gems. I found the 5 questions that each woman should ask a man before getting in too deep was very informative. I liked the fact that it affirmed what I thought I knew, but really didn’t: which is that women have more power in relationships than we are willing to admit. We can decide what the rules are and how it’s going to go. I had never been encouraged to think that way until I read this book.

I bought the book for a number of reasons. Other than wanting to see what the hype was all about, my primary reason  was that I am newly single, having broken up with my man almost three months ago. I thought I’d read the book and see what kind of insight I could gain from it, since I am re-learning what it means to be single in my mid-20s.

Which brings me to the first issue I have with the book:

1. Steve Harvey’s book, in essence, is not for quarterlife women of color. It just isn’t.

When you are in the quarterlife, nothing is really final. You are still trying to figure out what you want, and what you don’t want. You are even trying to figure out what love really is, what it means, and what it does.

You’re not even entirely sure if you even want to get married and if you do get married when that will happen.

If you ARE in a relationship, you don’t even really know if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner is The One or what it even means to find The One.  I know this feeling all too well.

So when I read a chapter in the book that discusses how women should tell a man when she intends to be married (ie, the date and the time), it really does sound like bullsh*t to me. Why is that? Is it because I don’t wanna get married? No, the exact opposite. Trust me, one day I do want to be married and raise a family.

What struck me as odd was that, as a quarterlifer, I don’t even know how to broach the discussion of marriage….which frustrated me while reading the book because, well, he gave no instruction as to how the discussion should be had or when to have it. Steve Harvey literally said: “just tell a man when you wanna get married and if he really loves you he won’t flinch at it.” Come on now, Steve. don’t make it seem like it is that damn simple because it really isn’t.

As I told my friends the other day, quarterlife dating and romance means being in a constant state of maybe. Maybe we’ll go out on a date. Maybe I’ll see her at the party. Maybe he’ll make me his girlfriend. Nothing is definite. Everything is a gray area. Yes, even those of you who are boo’d up will or have experienced this in some way shape or form. And more importantly, no book by Steve Harvey will change that.

Because of this fact, I maintain the Steve Harvey’s book is not written for my generation. It is written for single Black women over 35 who have bought into the idea that there are no good Black men anymore.

Yeah, I said it.

This book plays on the idea of the “man shortage” and Black women’s anxieties over finding a good man. And while there ARE some gems in the book, over all Steve Harvey is not speaking to me as a single woman in my 20s.  He is speaking to my mom’s generation, some of whom truly believe that good Black men really don’t exist. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Steve Harvey portrays independent, professional working women as women who are resentful of men who try to take care of them: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, providing for a family, etc.

…which is complete and utter bullshit. There’s no other way to put that.

As a professional womanist I was completely insulted at the idea that every independent (Black) woman out here is angry and resentful of any man who tries to take care of them by doing “manly” things: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, fixing things around the house (or getting them fixed), etc. And what does he tell women to do instead?

“Just be a lady.” A lady to him means never raising a finger if a man is in the room.

I’m sorry….are you a woman? Oh, you’re not? Because I’d rather a woman talk to me about what that means. That’s just me though.

Not only does he put every professional Black woman in a box, but he also perpetuates some very dangerous  stereotypes. I like getting doors open for me. I like when I go out to restaurant with a nice guy and he offers to pay. I like when I can get my computer fixed by my guy friend/companion/boyfriend/etc. who happens to work in IT.  I am as strong as they come…and I know I am not alone.

3. And lastly, maybe these relationship books really are a bunch of drivel. Or: what we don’t talk about when we talk about love.

Don’t misunderstand me here–some books I think are great. And yes, I DID buy and read He’s Just Not that Into You. And I did buy and read Steve Harvey’s latest effort. But…

What if  we wrote relationship books which focused not on finding and keeping a man, but on the idea of love as a concept, as an action,  and as a heart-to-heart understanding?

What if we focused on a love ethic that also tells us that in order to be ready for our mate/partner/gf/bf/jumpoff/etc. we must first love ourselves?

I threw these ideas around on Twitter this morning. @BlueMonarch made a great point: so many of us are taught that our self-worth is built on the idea of finding and keeping a man, making it hard for  flipping the script and talking about self love. I couldn’t agree more.

This might be a tad radical for what we are used to when we talk about dating and relationships, but we need to start really discussing love and what it means. We need to discuss love and its madness, it’s boundless energy. Its capacity to heal, and to teach us how to be softer, gentler, more understanding. But most of all, we need to understand how loving ourselves is almost directly related to the kind of partners we meet and the standards we set for our partners.

Steve Harvey, you made a valiant effort. But you are still missing the mark.