As 2016 winds down and I rejuvenate my mindset for the fresh slate the new year will bring, I cannot help but reflect. For me, 2016 was a year of challenges, obstacles, roadblocks, speed bumps, and pop quizzes. It was a year that by far handed me more questions than it posed answers. A year that left me looking into the mirror and asking myself, Who is the person I want to be? and Who is the person I am?
It was a year which I battled the fact that my mom had stage 4 lung cancer and that she may or may not live to see her grandchildren born. I lost sleep always tossing and turning or I shut myself in my room and slept too much so that I could avoid human contact at all cost. It was a year that I spent my breaks off school taking my mom to hospitals and trying to understand medical talk. It was the first time I had to think about what it would be like to go about life without parents? It was a reality so pressing that whether or not she beats cancer, I realized I must become self-reliant and confidently independent. I questioned my finances. I questioned my priorities. I questioned my own health. I questioned the kind of mother I want to be to my kids one day.
It was also a year in which I witnessed a brutal presidential election. Every the headlines haunted me. I questioned whether I was dreaming or merely part of one big joke. I watched Donald Trump brag about sexual assault leaving me with an incredibly unsettling feeling both physically and mentally. I watched him defend stop-and-frisk. I watched make fun of disabled people, call Mexicans rapists, encourage violence to black men at his rallies, tweet profusely, and then… I watched him win. And I felt the weight of the burdens my friends, family, and so many others have been carrying stack on more than they knew they could handle, and sink their shoulders low. I watched a respectable female nominee take a hike the next day to clear her mind and make sense of the world as she promised little girls to not lose their ambition. I myself took a hike the next day, performing mental backflips in my mind. I questioned my safety. I questioned my future career. I questioned my purpose. I questioned humanity.
It was also a year where black people cried for help for the rights of their bodies. For the right to be able to drive, walk, shop, and go about normal everyday activities without ending up tormented, harassed, beaten, shot, and pronounced dead. It was a year in which my blackness became more clear to me than it ever had before and although I knew my light skin gave me privilege, I was black and this is issue was my issue. I questioned my activism. I questioned my strength. I questioned my ability. I questioned my ignorance.
It was also a year of low self-worth. I didn’t feel beautiful inside or out. I felt so easily replaceable to everyone in my life. I struggled with my mental health. I felt the only way up is by becoming a new person, but that wasn’t possible. I was dealing with more than I’d ever feel comfortable even telling my closest friends. I wanted to so badly and so desperately to be seen, yet somehow I felt truly invisible. I noticed relationships in my life becoming one-sided. I would rush to give my heart to people and provide a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear. I could notice when others were hurt even if they didn’t tell me. But when I was hurt, it was like everyone suddenly had selective attention, and I was not selected. I questioned if I had even deserved their attention. I questioned if I was visible. I questioned if people notice me. I questioned if I’m cared for. I questioned my worth.
It was a year my weight fluctuated. All the things I went through which I will not discuss on here became too much for me. My eating habits constantly changed with my mood and I realized that nothing was stable. I questioned my appearance. I questioned my lifestyle.
It was also a year that my fears consumed me. I had nightmares more often than not. I couldn’t walk home without my heart racing. I couldn’t answer the phone if I did not recognized the numbers. I couldn’t go to sleep without placing every sound I heard to its maker. I couldn’t go about any part of my day or life without thinking that it’s very possible the worst might happen. Perhaps it was stress. But whatever it was, was overwhelming and taunting. I questioned my toughness. I questioned my mental health.I questioned again my safety and strength.
But this year was not all too bad. It was also the year that I traveled to Southeast Asia and experienced the Cambodian Culture and fell in love with the Indonesian scenery. I ate delicious foods, navigated my way around new cities, tried new things. I canoed through sea caves in Thailand and went parasailing in Bali. I understood the relevance and importance of history from Cambodia.
It was also the year I discovered Audre Lorde, whose words I can easily say have changed my life forever. She taught me to ignite the fire within me and use it to provoke change. She taught me to forget my fears. She taught me that those fears cannot consume me. She helped me redirect myself to my ambitions and dreams. I discovered the Black Girl Magic movement and slowly began to find my own magic. I read more. I walked more. I let my hair grow more. I wrote more. I began my journey of embracing my blackness.
It was also the year I saw the mountains and fell in love. My partner and I took our first mini road trip together to Tennessee and hiked through the Smoky Mountains and the Appalachian Trail. We saw two bears, a bunch of elk, and ended up in car crash. We wrote songs together and played guitar, made tacos on the campfire, and together climbed the very tippy-top of a mountain peak.
It was also the year that I celebrated my five-year anniversary with the love of my life. I began to understand what an adult relationship is. Grabbing an extra sweatshirt for your partner because you know he’ll be cold even if he says he’ll be fine and not caring about looking perfect before each encounter and helping each other out with money in desperate times and waking up in the morning and making sure he has all his fingers and toes and not falling asleep until you know he’s home safe and never going to bed angry because you realize what you are arguing about in no way affects how much you love him.
It was also the year I turned 21 and learned how to take tequila shots (Not super relevant, but it had to be said) and have definitely had some wild stories and late night adventures with my best friends.
This year was hectic, chaotic, depressing, confusing, and ultimately left me feeling uncertain. But it was also a year of undeniable love, mountains, scenery, and growth. As I leave 2016, I want to let go of one-side relationships, letting my fears control me, feeling invisible, and feeling hopeless. I want now to live like Maya Angelou with passion, compassion, and style. I want to laugh endlessly, smile plenty, love deeply, and drive myself to be the version of me I value most. I want to love myself so that other people too can love me. I want to take the time I need for myself in order to be my own support system so I can come to myself first. However, I want to surround myself with people that I know I certainly can go to if need be. I want to be the best me for me, so that I can in turn be the best daughter, be the best partner, and the best friend. I’m not going to list my resolutions for the world to see, because they are meant for only me, and I’m beginning to understand that people don’t always deserve the privilege of knowing everything about you.
This year has taught me much and left me wondering more. I have more questions than I do answers, but 2017 offers a new opportunity for self-discovery and self-recovery. I will learn. I will heal. I will grow. I will be better. I will love better.