When I was younger I dreamed of what being a “grown-up” would be like: fancy parties, fancy clothes, fancy conversations, basically think of Downton Abbey, only without the English accents. Now that I have hit the big 4-0, being a grown-up isn’t exactly as I pictured it. I do have parties, one to mark the end of the summer and our annual holiday party, but you won’t see any ball gowns or cocktail attire. My clothes definitely fall more along the lines of high-end athleisure and not high-end couture, and while I do engage in plenty of interesting adult conversations, I also love gossiping over the latest celebrity scandal (one word: Entanglement). One thing all of my years on this planet has shown me is that we should never stop learning and growing, no matter how old we get. Here’s what I’ve learned so far in my rendition of This is 40:
Diversity is the most important thing we need to move forward. I pride myself on my tribe, a group of diverse women who have all taught me how to be a better person in some way or another. That’s why diversity is so important, seeing the world through the eyes of someone who doesn’t think like you do provide us with the one thing we all desperately need right now: empathy towards others. How can we begin to teach our children how great it is to love everyone if we aren’t showing them by our actions that we are capable of loving those who are different from us? How can we teach them humility if we don’t show them that the world doesn’t revolve around the way we think and do things? That the way we speak, think, practice our religion is not the way everyone else does and that it’s okay? So embrace those who are different from you. Get to know a new mom that you wouldn’t ordinarily see in your everyday life through volunteerism or a social group.
We all have a responsibility to leave the world better than when we inherited it. I spoke with one of my besties on this and her words hit so hard, I told her I would use it verbatim in this post. “To define success is so hard when you can’t control someone else or a system is broken. But I don’t want to throw up my hands, either. So I try to leave every relationship and every company better than I found it. This has been my guiding force for how I engaged people who served us at restaurants or in a checkout line or whatever for years. People have this consumer-ist mentality that’s like ‘this either lives up to what I expected or it’s worse.’ Few people ever see themselves as contributors in everyday situations that aren’t work or home. But we are. So, like, leave the situation better than you found it. Be a kind face to a stranger. Stretch yourself with your loved ones. Think about the longevity of the organization you work for, not just whether you’ve done what’s been asked of you. It’s so important and so rare. And it feels really important in this world right now, where we are so divided on seriously basic shit like health (COVID) and humanity (BLM). Buddhists say ‘do no harm.’ This is just a little bit more than that.”
Raising my children is the most rewarding thing in my life right now. I say this because I have finally slowed down enough to enjoy being able to be around my kids more. Instead of rushing from school to home to after school activities, we are all hanging out at the house, fighting off boredom together. I’m pretty sure Deuce thinks this is completely normal, having everyone home all the time to submit to his every toddler wish and whim, but we would all be remiss is not recognizing how awesome it has been watching him grow up before our very eyes. Even the middle schoolers (wow, I can now stop calling them the “littles” and start calling them the “middle schoolers”) are happy to hang with their younger siblings and were shocked by the teenager coming out of his hole to play video games with them. We are all connecting more as a family while still enjoying quiet time to ourselves when needed. It’s been a great balance for all of us.
I can’t have everything, at least not at the same time. I had this idea of what it meant to have it all – the thriving career, a respectable presence in the community, smart and well-mannered kids along with the perfect marriage. I now know that having all of these things IS possible, just not at the same time. Hear me out… When the pandemic first started I was so happy to be able to work from home, I would be able to keep my kids home and not worry about childcare, all while helping them navigate the end of the school year. Now while I do work from home and was able to keep my kids home without having to worry about childcare, work was starting to pick up and the schedule I had crafted beautifully on a pink dry erase board went out the window the very first day I was supposed to start it. That was the start of me learning that trying to have everything go perfectly all at the same time is a ridiculous amount of pressure to put on myself, so I’ve stopped doing it. I challenge you to do the same. Yes, we have great kids, great jobs, great partners, etc., but the reality is when you are juggling several balls in the air, at some point one of those bad boys is going to fall. You just learn how to pick it up and keep it moving.
Nothing is worth stealing your peace. I spent a lot of my energy being upset over things I had no control over and, ultimately, they really shouldn’t be affecting me that much. This ranges from not correcting Addison when she proudly shows me her drawer full of clothes she put away that does not look anything like how I put them, to not taking things personally when it comes to my work life. I should be happy that Addison is proud of putting her clothes away considering how many times I’ve fussed at her for leaving clothes all over the floor. I have to understand that not everyone sees things the way I do and I have to be okay with knowing and accepting that. Get a grip and move on is what I’ve been telling myself, so far it’s working.
Everything is not as complicated as we make it. I have this problem of over-complicating things in my life. It’s what one would call “doing the most” and my friends are reading this and nodding their heads at times they can recall me doing the most. My holiday parties come with a full meal with all the fixings – people were shocked the first time I threw one to come into the house and see me slicing ham and garnishing the turkey breast I made with stuffing. Specialty drinks are always available, mocktails for anyone who has chosen not to partake in libations. Even when it came to Monday mornings, I used to find ways to be anxious about starting my work week off until I finally realized that I’m doing exactly what I’ve always wanted to do career-wise, why was I tripping? I’m finally in a place where I don’t immediately check email as soon as I wake up, that should be celebrated. So now I cook the same easy meals that are fan favorites at my parties instead of trying out new and fancy recipes to impress people who, for the most part, are really just happy to be hanging out without little people, and I wake up each day ready to take on the world – after I’ve tidied up a bit and watched the morning news.
Black women can do anything. Seriously, we can. Black women take on challenges and knock them out with grace. From Madam C. J. Walker, the first self-made female millionaire, to Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle who recently made history by becoming the U.S. Navy’s first Black female tactical fighter pilot and everyone in between. First Lady Michelle Obama, Issa Rae, Ava DuVernay, Glory Edim, Amada Seales, Angela Yee, these are just a few I can think of off the top of my head who has inspired me in some way whether it be creatively, personally or professionally. We truly thrive in every circumstance that is thrown at us. A great example of this is Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden, who had to fight just to do their job – and they were damn good at their jobs. Whenever I hit a wall I remember these women and know that I have what it takes to get to where I want to be.
Turning 40 isn’t going to be met with great fanfare this year, unfortunately, COVID-19 has dashed any hopes of having a raging party (totally kidding here, last year I had a party and couldn’t get up the next day), but I am thankful to be able to spend a quiet evening with my favorite person in the whole world, reflect on all of the difficulties I’ve overcome in my 40 years and celebrate the woman I’ve become.