gpa, check. internship, check. attend event, check. apply for job, check. networking, check. respond to emails, check. self care, check?
the college culture of productivity often has me feeling inadequate. am i doing enough? am i involved in enough? social media has become a platform people use to boast their productivity, which indirectly breeds an atmosphere of competition. i get that this productivity culture could be motivational and push us to do our best and aim higher, but it sometimes feels like a toxic space that makes it hard to celebrate the achievements of others because of envy, and even harder to celebrate our own because nothing ever feels like enough.
i’m not sure if i wrote this for you or more of a reminder to my self, that you are not your productivity. you are enough. you are doing enough, and in fact you don’t have to be doing anything at all. waking up is productive. breathing eating sleeping is productive. spending hours in the dining hall chatting about the meanderings of life with those you love is productive. taking care of your self is productive. perhaps the most productive thing you can do.
we have to get out of this existence of always being in a state of “getting my life together”. we have to be mindful of how this lifestyle chips away at our mental health and snatches contentment from arm’s reach. we have to. dare to create your own measurement of what it means to be productive and live by that rather than ascribing to the world’s. dare to readefine what success means to you. because the prize for this world’s productivity is a checked list and a tired heart. the prize for living life on your terms is priceless.
they call it writers block,
i call it my mind as hostage to my pen wishing it’ll release me through words that will pull apart these iron bars caging my creativity. i looked up the cure — the blueprint to show me the way to myself. As Solange would say, I tried to sleep it away. i tried to scrub it away with long showers. i tried to pray it away. and when i thought i’d broken free, there i was at the intersection of the truth and the thing i’d been avoiding looking at.
depression has a way of stealing away your motivation for the thing you love, the thing that fuels you, in my case my writing. as a generally optimistic person, these episodes feel like a war between my true self and this other self that doesn’t understand joy even when it’s plain as day in my face. it even numbs the urge to succumb to the itch of my fingers to write it away.
one thing that has been helping me return to myself has been the epiphany that even though i’m an introvert who recharges her energy through isolation, i have access to tons of good energy that surrounds me that i only need to accept and tap into rather than reject. the universe naturally likes to restore order after chaos — let it. let it even if it means sitting with the discomfort of vulnerability because the restoration comes in the form of your best friends with the big ears to listen to you. it comes in the form of warm hugs and silence because they understand the art of listening. let others be there for you. let the universe do it’s thing of healing. cooperate with nature. it is kind.
let it be known that on september thirtieth of the year twenty sixteen, Solange Knowles dropped an album that resurrected my faith in the healing powers of music. in the last couple of weeks i almost reached my breaking point of balancing being a student and being in pain about what’s going on not only around the world but in my own backyard in Charlotte with police brutality and the ignorance of those who refuse to wake up and acknowledge a broken system that perpetuates the cycle of white supremacy and hate. let it be known that my weary heart was hugged by the soft tunes of her voice which sung lullabies of peace and self love and revolution. each song sounded like the manuscript of my thoughts and feelings. she evoked how we try to absolve our pain in Cranes in the Sky and affirmed my crown in Don’t Touch My Hair. she talked about gentrification in black neighborhoods in Where Do We Go and reclaimed ownership of our narratives and creative voice with For Us By Us. each interlude featured voices of people spreading black positivity and truth and straight up bars on the current issues of today through their lens. the overall album theme of reclaiming our selves and protecting our spaces and spirits in a world which tries to leech our joy is one that i don’t feel is present enough in art and i am grateful. thank you Solange for welcoming me so gracefully to have a seat at the table and for serving me pure conscious lyricism on a platter of beautiful instrumentals and breathtaking vocals.
i don’t believe in coincidences so i’m going to write them down for those aha moments that will surely surface for why these things repeated themselves.
so i was browsing the web and i saw an image of a mother who was breasfeeding her child who has a full set of teeth. As I read the comments section, there was a whole debate on the mother having agency to do what she pleases and feels best, and the other side was worried for the effect it would have on the child’s development and future because the child was too grown to be breastfeeding. one guy brought up that the child has reached the age where memories become concrete and that a boatload of problems will arise with that remembering when the child is older. the mother had a caption detailing the benefits of breastfeeding for the child. some of the facts were that it gives the best nutrients and the physical touch regulates bodily temperature and blood pressure and reduces stress and depression in mothers post-birth.
that same day as i was reading my favorite blog, i found an interesting blog under ‘similar blogs’. so i started reading some of her posts, which were mostly about motherhood. to my surprise, she wrote about how she was having challenges when it came to the weaning of her child. she’d tried different methods and nothing seemed to work to get the child to stop being needy.
but that’s not all.
later that evening i decided to stop procrastinating to do my research project on black women in 18th century England colonies for my Blacks in British North America course. i remember getting frustrated as i used every advanced search option possible to find a woman that had enough information about her to use as my subject (a task that has proven to be much more difficult to achieve since black women in those times were mostly slaves and didn’t have the privilege of writing their own narratives so a lot of their stories were what we can gather from the writing of white males.) and that was when i stumbled across an article that discussed the practice of extended breast-feeding among black women slaves as a form of resistance to field labor because the rule was that they were permitted breaks to tend to their young. so these women would often breastfeed for as long as they could, sometimes even past 19 months. they also used this as a fertility suppressant form of birth control since they were perpetually subject to rape by their white masters. as i kept reading, i learned that extended breastfeeding wasn’t merely for resistance, and that it was first drawn from cultural norms in African countries.
it’s wild to me that this theme repeated itself to me so many times in the same day. in the first scenario, the mother was embracing the extended breastfeeding. in the second, the mother was trying to make the child stop breastfeeding. in the third, the mother was using breastfeeding as protection. i can’t help but think of this from a spiritual lens. perhaps there’s a message in there somewhere. perhaps we can figure out this coded message together.
“you know that isn’t going to do anything here, right?”
i stared down at the white letters on my black shirt that read “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE.” it was the day following the murder of Alston Sterling by police officers in Baton Rouge. when i heard the news the night before, i retreated into a state of silence. the usual question “again?” didn’t touch my lips. i was simply quiet. and i slept in hopes of escaping. i slept not because i was tired but because i felt the weight of a thousand pounds on my heart.
it was different this time. it felt different this time around that i wasn’t in the midst of the turmoil. Continue reading →