Lesson 1: Be Yourself
When I was a kid, I wanted to be alot like my youngest aunt. She had her own business, she had the fun friends, she threw the best parties, she went on the best vacations, she cooked so damn good, she started a family, she had the cars, the house, the whole nine; in my young eyes, my aunt was living the dream. To me she had merged the life of traditional Caribbean woman with traditional 1990s New York woman and I wanted that. Whereas my parents were heading for a divorce (and constantly going through things like affairs, money issues, and heartbreak) my aunt’s life was my escape; she was fun. She would go to parties in the city, she had friends with beach houses, and she went to almost every carnival that happened. She lived a life I could only dream about. I grew up wanting to be a lot of things but I wanted to have what my aunt had. No matter how many times my mother would say; “never wish for what others have because you don’t know what they have to go through to get it,” I wanted auntie’s life, it was too good. She represented carefree living and she did things my mom definitely was not doing. And she made it look so easy and of course, she represented the lifestyle that I loved witnessing instead of being at home. I thought hell, if she could do it, I most certainly can.
Those memories/aspirations of my aunt lasted until I was probably going into junior high. She didn’t die or anything, my perspective just changed drastically by that time. At that time, I was at the age where I actually paid attention to kitchen table talk and understood what was happening around me. My parents were divorced and the pressure of being a “good kid” was constantly on my back. I no longer aimed to have that carefree living, instead I aimed to finish school and live the life of a working Black woman like a character from Girlfriends or Living Single. Then came high school, secretly having a boyfriend, and seeing most of my teenage friends become adults overnight. Next, I started college and then I became an adult. By this time, my only aspiration was simple: survive. Finish school, have a job, and hopefully have a good boyfriend. I accomplished everything but the good boyfriend and this is when I realized I would never be like my aunt. I would never be like Joan or Khadijah. Life happened and the lessons that came with it let me know that the only life I would get would be the one I created. My aunt, Joan, and Khadijah were all able to have those lives due to the work and time they put into creating it.
From the outside looking in, especially as a child, it all seems so simple. Adults get to do all the fun stuff, I used to think. I laugh at that now every time T-Mobile texts me with a reminder to pay my phone bill. If I could talk to my eight-old self I would tell her to dream her own dreams and don’t let them be small. If I could tell my 16-year old self anything, I would tell her to focus more on her work and talents than relationships, and that when people tell you something can’t be done, they’re just projecting their own fears on you, so don’t be discouraged. If I could tell my most recent self, anything, I would tell her, work harder, smarter, and more meticulous than anyone she’s ever aspired to be. Also, if she was going to invest time, energy, and love into any relationship, make sure it’s with herself. I used to really want to be like my auntie, now, there is absolutely nothing in this world like being myself.