The Personal

Happy Birthday to Me: A Love Letter to Myself

WARNING: omphaloskepsis

I’ll be 32 years old tomorrow. If you had asked me ten years ago what I envisioned my life to be now, I’m not entirely sure what I would have told you, but I don’t think I would have envisioned what my life actually is. I wouldn’t have seen myself as a 32-year-old career changer. I would have seen myself as established in my career (at the time I wanted to be a barrister); I wouldn’t have seen myself as a former teacher/Subject Leader – I wouldn’t have seen myself in education at all. I wouldn’t have seen myself transitioning towards a career in commercial law; in fact, at the time I wouldn’t have even considered it, as I saw it as a field for people with levels of intelligence far superior to my own. I wouldn’t have seen myself as a blogger either. Did I even know what a blog was at 22?

Yet, here I am. As I’ll be spending my birthday in lockdown with the day off, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to spend it and the ways in which my life has changed as my 30s journey continues. For many of us, 2020 has been one of the worst years we’ve seen. The pandemic has rocked our stability in every way possible: financially, mentally and physically to name a few. Add to that the other sources of pain for us: anti-Blackness, loss of loved ones, etc., and it has been hard to find the joy and keep the trust in the process, and this has been true for me too.

When we entered the first lockdown I was coming to the end of my fixed term contract at work. I watched, helplessly, as all the job opportunities I had put myself forward for disappeared as companies stopped hiring. Schools closed too, so my former career wasn’t really open to me at that time. I was out of full-time employment for six months and the anxiety that brought with it was, at times, hard to manage. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am very goal-driven, which I guess is why my career (no matter what it is) has always been important to me and I saw it as a measurement of my worth (this is stupid, I know, and I’ll talk more about that later). Being out of work and not being able to do a damn thing about it gave me numerous anxiety attacks; add to that the world being on fire and there were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed – instead I escaped my reality by watching all 16 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy. All the while my mother kept reassuring me that I would be fine, that the right thing would turn up at the right time. Deep down I knew she was right, I knew I wouldn’t be out of work forever – I’m an experienced teacher of a core subject in which there is a serious shortage of teachers. I knew I could always go back to teaching and that makes me luckier than many (and it is why I trained to be a teacher in the first place). But it’s hard to see the frame when you’re in the picture, and that trust in the process was hard to maintain at times. During that time I wrote about finding my faith again, and prayer really helped me stay grounded. Fortunately, I was able to return to teaching in September, and during that half term a job in the legal profession found me.

And now, here I am, on the eve of my 32nd birthday reflecting on the past eight months and wondering how to make the most of the life and chances that God has given me. I was listening to this week’s episode of Kelechi Okafor’s Say Your Mind podcast (if you don’t listen to it already, you absolutely should – if you think I speak candidly, you ain’t heard nothin’ till you’ve heard Kelechi) and her tarot reading inspired me to write this post. I had intended to post something completely different (which will now go out next week) but the words of the tarot told me to write this. It may be pure coincidence, but I think there is something in the fact that Spirit guided Kelechi to do a reading for each star sign and I listened to it on the morning I was due to publish a post and while I’ve had all these existential thoughts in my head. Overall, I think this world can be so harsh, so unkind – especially to us as Black women – that we can internalise that and be harsh and unkind to ourselves in a myriad of ways. I’ve written before about how self-doubt and a lack of confidence has weighed me down and held me back from recognising, acting on and – most importantly – celebrating my own abilities and achievements.  I know it’s something I need to let go of, and today’s tarot reading really told me “no more.” So this birthday I am going to gift myself that self-love and kindness, heeding the message for my Scorpio sun and moon and Pisces rising in the following ways, and I hope anyone reading this can take something from it too:

  1. Believing in my sauce

Spirit has shown me that I am in a good place, that the things that I’m trying to create in my own life are set for me. But I should also recognise that I have achieved a hell of a lot in the last 10 years, and I am on track to do so much more. I have learned so much over time – through failure as well – and I can say that I like and respect myself a lot more now than I did then. I have earned the right to believe in myself and my capabilities and I know now that what is meant for me will be mine in time – I have had to learn this the hard way and I will not forget it.

  1. Coming off social media

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a while and Spirit hit me with it again today in this reading. My endless scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has led to me “carrying emotions that are not my own,” as Kelechi said. Over the summer seeing so many videos of violence towards Black people, reading racist comments/posts, and speaking out about the dehumanising nature of racism while being gaslit by racist losers left me saddened and exhausted. On the other hand, seeing other people’s lives on display, coupled with my anxiety about my employment situation, was difficult on my blue days. I realised my presence on social media was becoming unhealthy, and some will have noticed that I stopped posting as much and reduced my chat to the topics of TV and football. Now, I’ve decided to limit my social media usage to my blog accounts for the time being. I have work to do, and I can’t do it if I’m scrolling all the time.

    1. Community Work and Blogging

As I mentioned earlier, I know it was stupid to tie my self-worth to my career but I did. Maybe that’s the impact of the capitalist society that we live in and the consequent societal conditioning, or maybe it’s my own hubris, or maybe both. Anyway, perhaps the biggest shift for me now is how I see my career going forward – as a vehicle for the other aspects of life I want to work on. My legacy will not be my career in itself, but rather what I do with it. I don’t want to say too much right now, but I know that community work and building this blog, I feel, are my callings right now. My career will play a role in that but it will not be centre stage. One of the positive things I did over the summer was deliver a conference on Windrush Day on the burning work that needs to be done within and for our community to help us heal and move forward. The Pisces reading showed that, even though I may not be able to see where everything will end up, I should still go through the process and fulfil the assignment I’m being given and, after taking several breaks, I keep being drawn back to this work and this blog. As Kelechi said, God has given me seeds to plant my tree and I should plant it and give it time to grow.

Conclusion

I wrote this because I wanted to gift myself something valuable for my birthday, and nothing is more valuable than my word, my commitment to myself. But I also wanted to share it with you in case you see something in it that resonates, especially if you too are a Scorpio. If you didn’t and reading this was five minutes of your life you’ll never get back, well, soz. I did say it was omphaloskeptic. Anyway, happy birthday to me!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.