My practices are not because I’m a party pooper or not a celebratory person. Quite the opposite. I love to celebrate. I’m probably the best person you could have around you if you are celebrating anything in your life. Literally nothing gives me more joy than seeing people come up. Especially oppressed and marginalized people. I’m just not very good at celebrating myself. And, I don’t say that with false modesty. I’m probably the absolute worst promoter for anyone who has books they have written and have for sale. Oftentimes, I don’t even bring it up. Even if I’m talking/presenting before people.
There just wasn’t much positive messaging directed at me when I was growing up. There were a multitude of reasons for this, most of which can be easily explained by understanding the trauma of white supremacy and the unquestionable impact these things had on the spiritual and mental health of my parents and family. I, like millions of others, was scarred violently by this process and as a result, it has taken me about 40 years to finally start to realize that I deserve space to walk on this earth like anyone else.
The other element is that in African culture, or I should say the Revolutionary African Personality of the Nkrumahist/Tureist revolutionary Pan-Africanist ideology that have spent decades working intensely to make a genuine aspect of my life, teaches us to prioritize being collective beings. Consequently, in our way of looking at the universe, things like birthdays are not just opportunities for individual recognition and adulation. Besides being a method of attempting to combat oppression and depression, I can’t see how or why I should be celebrated for something I had no control over. Instead, we/I see birthdays as a day of reflection. A day to commemorate our continued journey to improve and become better people. A day to assess how I can contribute more, contribute better.
Honestly, I don't know much of how I do birthdays is the challenging upbringing and how much is my obtained values. Its a mixture for sure. I can say my birthday method has been how I've done it for as long as I can remember. Just thinking about things. Staying within myself. No presents. I honestly cannot even remember the last time I received anything of material value and that’s perfectly fine with me. I can tell you that I have spent my birthdays contemplating the progress I’ve made on the new year’s resolution I made three months before. This year, I decided in December that 2020 would be a year of increased assertiveness on my part in everything that I do. I’ve tried my best to deliver on this resolution. Whenever I get tentative about engaging someone, or doing something, I revisit this resolution. And, then I decide to push forward. My birthdays typically serve as check in points for this process. Internal debate on how to tweak and/or change my approach. I can also tell you that alongside the positive practices, I probably feel like I don't deserve attention. In fact, I know that feeling is certainly there. That upbringing.
So, for whatever reason, I am not concerned about having to spend this 58th one by myself. To be perfectly honest, I probably would’ve done the same thing if the pandemic wasn’t happening. Instead, I hope someone somewhere can be encouraged when I say that I’ll be fine because I refuse to let outside, mostly unhealthy, influences convince me that I should be defined by capitalist criteria i.e. buying things for me to evaluate the quality level of my birthday. Of my being. My birthday(s) will never be used to question how “successful” my life is based on capitalist materialistic values. My strength always comes through my abilities to extend my middle finger towards all of those values. My strength is tied to the glorious contributions of our ancestors. Of all people who dare stand up and live a life of justice. Also, maybe someone can be inspired by me admitting that alongside the positives, I secretly confront my fears and anxieties about my birthdays reflecting what I could be that I'm not.
I don’t know how many of these I’ll have left. I continue to focus on my mental, spiritual, and physical well being. I’m far from perfect, but ever since I was very young, I’ve always been a fighter. That hasn’t changed one bit. In fact, its intensified. Be encouraged that the more you decide to live based on values of justice the stronger you will feel because the stronger you will be. And, its that fighter spirit that has refused to let me submit entirely to my fears.
I haven’t obtained all the goals that I desire. I’m not the person I ultimately want to be, but I’ve been constantly moving in that direction. I keep struggling for all of it. And its that knowledge that gives me peace. That helps me keep the negativity at bay, most of the time. Even if no one else can see me. Even if no one else is necessarily thinking about me. All I can control is who I am. What I do. All I can do is honestly confront that part of me that's unsure and at least make even that part push me forward. I’m excited to continue to explore how I can do an increased amount of that work because I can finally see the impacts it has on everything around me. Even if no one else can. In a way, maybe that's what birthdays have become for me. A way for me to reaffirm what I have as a body of work, good and bad. No matter what, it will always be who I am. What I've contributed. What I'm working to improve. Maybe that's the little piece of my existence that I feel I can control. Whatever it is, I look forward to it for as many as I have left.