Closure.

A situation or occurrence in which something closes forever. 

Closure.

Lately, I have had to have some real honest conversations with myself about this. A relationship ends, be it amicably or not. You may spend any period of time adjusting and then you move on, right? Nah bruh.

But what about that time you looked on their social media page?

Or what about keeping those emails/letters/texts?

Or making a folder in your phone of old pictures?

Closure is not as neat (or as easy) as we like to think it is. For some, you are forced to close on your own and heal in the best way you know how, even if that means reopening and closing.

Closure has levels.

I have had two exes to come back and apologize for hurting me, years after our relationship ended. So, while I closed the chapter myself, those added conversations definitely helped with my healing.

Even still…

When one of those exes got married over the summer, I still had to come to grips that my high school/college self held on to dreams in that chapter. I had to tell her, “chill out, girl”.

And bell hooks said it best:

“I was still mourning- clinging to the broken heart of girlhood, to broken connections. When that mourning ceased I was able to love again.”

Well, I am not loving again, but I am being more intentional about the love I want and need. I am hoping to fall in love again.

Closure involves others. Shoutout to my best friend and prophyte who came through and helped me with talking through those moments, figuring out my exact feelings about the moment.  And not offering the sentiments, “Girl you still ain’t over it. Move on”. When in reality, 5 (7 on and off) years ain’t easy to get over and even in my best days, I recognize that a part of me will always have some type of connection. But in those conversations, I did come to realize that nostalgia is a bitch, but all will be fine. Shoutout to my therapist for asking those hard questions of me and challenging me.

Another ex was on an apology tour with me and even though there are times I miss him and I am transparent about that, I straight up told him,” Sometimes you have to take an L, bruh.” The door closed again and I locked it and got rid of the key for good measure.

I was texting a friend of mine and he said, “Closure is like licking an envelope. In order for it to close, you have to go through the bitter and nasty taste just to make sure it’s closed.” (Preciate this DG)

I wrote a little piece about thinking through these things and my conclusions. Hope you enjoy.

I took all your shit

Packed it into a box

Mailed it first class to your mom

I deep cleaned my car

Deep cleaned my apartment

I wanted no lingering of your presence anywhere near me.

I was safe. Door closed. Book closed.

But my TL wanted otherwise

That song we  danced to in the living room, officially making it our wedding song

My timehop reminding me of the statuses I wrote about us

My homegirl said your name

A colleague asked about you

I deleted your number

It took me a year to not spit it freely as if it was my own

I changed my Instagram name

I stopped following yours

Out of sight, out of mind

I am safe. Door closed. Chapter closed.

But tagged pictures are a bitch

And for some reason, you have made new friends that were my friends

And they posted pics of you

So I have accepted that there will always be lingering pieces that I will have to deal with

Pack away

Lock up

Turn away from

A process. Of undoing and healing. Of reclaiming lost time where I thought I couldn’t close you. Of reminding myself that there will be better. Of remembering and honoring the love and memories, but knowing they have a place, in the past.

I packed up my feelings

Those memories

That bookmark I left in our book.

Taped the box shut and walked away.

BCB 10/19/17

 

 

I’m Childfree By Choice: So Please Stop Bingoing Me!

I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to write this for this platform. Everywhere I go I see post after post saying people without kids are “assholes”, “rude,” “mean,” “selfish,” and every other word in the book. This post originally appeared on my facebook, but I wanted to add it here and flesh out a few pieces for a greater audience because there just aren’t enough posts like these. I also feel like it can contribute to the conversation that is circling regarding Jeannie Mai and her husband’s impending divorce.  With this ridiculous disclaimer out the way….

 

In the childfree community, we call it bingoing/being bingoed when people with children or those who buy into norms of having children say certain things to us because we have made a decision to opt out of parenthood. The decision of whether or not I wanted to parent became particularly salient for me when my ex-fiance and I went back and forth in the months leading up to our planned wedding date.

 

Well as you can guess by this post– that wedding didn’t happen. *Ba dun tisk*

Go head, laugh. I can *now* laugh about it myself; but it took a few months to get here. Anyway, I have been very forthcoming with people about the end of my last relationship and that at the core of this change was my lack of willingness to have children, to give up my dreams and goals associated with travel, and to stifle my career by placing another person’s vision of happiness above my own. Some people call this selfish, I call it self-awareness.

I think it is noble and nice that folks say their kids are the best thing to happen to them, and yet I see so many parents on my social media timelines and elsewhere who are utterly miserable. People who mention their lack of sleep, continued inability to save for a rainy day, find themselves consistently canceling plans because of a sick baby or unexpectedly busy co-parent,  etc.  and it’s touted as a badge of honor. I don’t purport to understand it and I have decided it’s not for me to do so. But gosh golly people. Canceling on the same friend every month? It sucks. Walking around a shell of who you are? It’s hard to watch. Asking me for money? Well, that’s actually no longer an option for anyone because I cannot help you.

What I do know is that I did not grow up with the life I felt I deserved. My parents did everything they could and I am grateful for every sacrifice they’ve made to get me here. It is not lost on me that my parents contributed greatly to the woman I am today. My parents worked to their bones to provide for my sister and I. I have watched as they gave everything they had and poured into us with a selflessness that I honestly think should be illegal. I am hyper-aware of the fact that my parents, who are low income by every measure I’ve come to learn as a social class researcher, have worked 40+ hours per week for the entirety of my life and they do not have enough to retire on. They have not because they sacrificed for us. And in many ways I’ve already made the decision to make sure they do not have to suffer for it.

Make no mistake I am grateful. In fact, I want the best for everyone in my life, and if that means having 2972972982 kids and struggling or having no kids at all great. But I must admit openly and honestly that it is utterly exhausting being bingoed. I am tired and I am frustrated with everyone else’s preoccupation with what I do with my vagina, my wallet, and my willingness to sacrifice. People treat me as if my decision not to have kids is somehow an affront to them. As if I have somehow invalidated their choices by choosing to make my own. And the worst part of it all is how many people ignore just how many Black women, women who could be me, my sister, my cousins, etc. have died during childbirth and die at a higher rate than everyone else in this first world country we call home.  I am exhausted by hearing–

“it’s different when you have yours”

“you don’t want to give your parents grandkids”

“You didn’t really love [ex-fiance] if you wouldn’t have his kids” (I’m no longer friends with this person.)

“Children are a blessing”

“What will be your legacy”

“You’re not a real woman until you have kids”

Etc. Etc. Etc.

I must admit I’ve been particularly sensitive this month. I was supposed to get married *and* I somehow forgot to remove the calendar invites going haywire to remind me about my “honeymoon.” I still love my ex-fiance and do not pretend as if this isn’t the case.

AND… I still don’t want to have kids.

I think the most frustrating part of all of this is how people question me as if I have not thought and calculated every piece of this decision. Do people honestly think that I walked away from a relationship that would have guaranteed me fun and comfort without weighing how much having a child because he wanted one would hurt and harm me? Do people think I am unaware of the exorbitant costs associated with daycare and private schooling? Do people think I am unaware that amongst even my closest friends those married, in a partnership, a relationship without legal guarantees, and even those who are single that the women *almost always* do all of the parenting work? Even amongst my friends in queer relationships, the person who is most femme presenting *often* does all of the work (this is a whole different dialogue for another day, btw).

I have thought.

I have researched.

I have made budgets.

I have remade budgets.

I have mapped career timelines from front to back with and without kids.

I still have no desire to have kids.

I write all of this to say stop trying to make me make the choices you’ve made. Stop trying to make me be with someone who wants kids (or is fence sitting) when I know I’m setting myself up for divorce. Stop talking to me as if my life is not as important as yours because you’re a parent. Stop saying “at least you don’t have kids” when I mention my annoyance about unexpected expenses popping up. I still have bills to pay and a mouth to feed: Mine.

I am a whole person. A living breathing individual who wishes to be seen as more than an incubator for a human fetus. Who wishes to have her accomplishments judged by their merit, not by the man or kids I am or am not attached to.

And stop trying to force me to qualify “I’m not interested in having kids” by following up quickly about how much I like them. Everything I do is for the good of other people. Nearly every desire I have is for the betterment of society. Every decision I make is so that I can get to a point of being more charitable and giving than I am today– things that are for the good of a future I don’t have children coming into.

And if you can’t do any of that, just please for the sake of my heart, feelings, and emotions stop bingoing me.

P.S. My ex is a great guy. Have at him. 😉 

Advocating for ME

Graduate school is challenging and overwhelming sometimes. There are moments when you question the direction of your studies, how your program requirements relate to your concentration, and now that you are in your program, you may wonder if it has everything you truly need to be an expert in your field. This post is about combating such issues via self-advocacy in your academic career.

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Self-advocacy can mean a lot of things. According to New Frontiers in Learning, “self-advocacy is the ability to identify a goal and communicate what you need to overcome any challenges you may have in achieving it.” It also includes knowing what you need to solve a challenge and taking the necessary action to overcome that problem.

Although I mastered organization before this semester started, I still struggled to keep up with my 22-hour weekly course load while working two jobs (and it was NOT for lack of trying, either). So, I decided to reevaluate my course load and jobs relating to my concentration (urban development). Comparing my course load, academic history, and professional experience to the curriculum of masters programs for urban development, I realized that my Fall 2017 courses were NOT  relevant to my concentration.

At that time, I only had a few days left until the Add/Drop Period ended, so I emailed my program’s Academic and Student Affairs Coordinator (ASAC) to arrange a meeting. Before meeting with my ASAC, I researched courses that fit both my academic concentration and fulfilled my remaining requirements for my master’s program. I also  made a list of courses that could be used to satisfy my concentration, information about cross enrollment, and professors to contact for advice. I will not go into detail about my meeting with my ASAC, but just know that I was prepared and open to suggestions.

Our meeting focused on finding a solution to two challenges: 1) finding courses that better fit my concentration and 2) my 22-hour class schedule. After explaining my situation and academic goals, my ASAC became more understanding of my concerns and worked with me to find solutions. We agreed that some of my courses did not work and we began discussing ways for me to complete my second-year program requirements, while also completing my desired concentration. Our meeting resulted in my course load being reduced and the formation of an independent study.

Moral of the story, self-advocacy is vital to get the most out of your academic program. Through my persistence, willingness to compromise, and unwillingness to settle on my Fall courses, I was able to have my schedule reflect my academic concentration, while also meeting the last of my academic requirements. I was also able to form relationships with professors and faculty with backgrounds in urban development at my university. There is nothing wrong with being persistent, striving for independence, asking for help, and initiating action to achieve your goals; these aspects of self-advocacy will take you far in your academic career and life. Don’t settle. Advocate for yourself and your passions, which can/will result in others’ assisting and encouraging you.

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Faith | Hope | Love

One of my favorite Bible verses is 1st Corinthians 13:13 (chapter and verse): “Faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Back when my religious beliefs were far more rigid, I mostly applied these concepts in a religious sense. As I’ve been graced to live, I have realized that those words required action, as praxis. These words have been embodied through the actions of sister-friends, aunties, sister-girls from around the way, and those in our closest circles. These three- faith, hope, and love- move me to action, cause me to reflect on how I operate in the world, and help me to align my desires with my actions.

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Faith is believing and having confidence in an idea, person, or thing. My faith tells me that faith, having belief without works (read: praxis) is dead, null, and void. Faith that lacks action are words spoken in vain. As the country reels from another mass murder, many across social media platforms have offered “thoughts and prayers” to victims’ families. Others have been quick to respond that thoughts and prayers without action (read: policy) is futile. Faith requires us to act. A prayer that I pray often is that I would be faithful to my prayers. In other words, my God talk is often about me putting action to the prayers I’ve prayed. I moved across the country for a job, and this move has challenged me in every sense of the word “challenge”. My prayer prior to leaving Atlanta was that in spite of my nervousness (and fears: plural) about starting anew in an unfamiliar place, I would act in ways that aligned with my faith, believing that God would/could create a new things in this new place. Although the transition has been horrendous (totaled my car, mild depression, low resources, etc.), I’ve been open (fears and all) to new opportunities and relationships. If we believe and have confidence in something, regardless of how great or finite that faith is, we pair it and supplement it with action. Having faith can be challenging; AND having faith, in theory, should move us to action.

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Hope is an expectation of what might be. What could be, in theory, opens our minds to the possibilities of the future. Hope lets us expect positive outcomes in poorly conditioned situations or gives us the courage to see possibilities where there might otherwise not be foreseeable possibilities; hope allows us to create new things.

Another part of my prayer for my move to where I am now is that I would be open to the things that could be here. I expected challenges to be a part of the experience, AND I hoped for/was in expectation of nourshing relationships, professional opportunities, and reclaiming greater health post PhD. Hopes is a balm for the rough times, the times when nothing seems to be working in my favor. Hope, coupled with and independent of my faith, helps me to align my desires with my actions.

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Love, let earlier passages of 1st Corinthians tell it, is “patient, kind… and never fails.” Love surpasses all talents, skills, and ambitions.  To move about the world with boundless gifts while lacking love makes a person loud and off-key as my friend TJ would say. Love is a balm that soothes a piercing and convicting truth shared with us by a loved one. Love is the patience we take with ourselves as we transition through life. Love is the careful precision of our words instead of a statement made sloppily and recklessly in haste. Love is working to rid ourselves of hoarded wrongs that cause us (more) harm while failing to inform our path to liberation. Love can look like many things, but/and in my life, it has looked/currently looks like the place where faith, hope, and intentionality meet.

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As I close, I am reminded of the ways faith, hope, and love have shown up, been enacted, and been embodied throughout my life.  My grandma Johnnie Mae’s faith was both religious and practical. In whatever she believed, her actions followed. My mother’s hopes brought to fruition her wealth: educated, independent thinking, loving, righteously indignant adult children (thanks Debra girl!). Mama had an expectation that we could manifest the desires of our hearts (even if they looked different than we thought they might look). Her hope(s) continue to inspire my sibling and I. Love was my line sister/bestie sending a “summer in Atlanta” candle after hearing the homesickness in my voice after my move to Texas, my sister-friend Twin telling me that she was glad that I called for help when needed instead of letting my pride get in the way, and sending “did you eat today?!” texts to friends who get busy with work and forget/don’t make time to nourish their bodies. I’m thankful for all the iterations of faith, hope, and love in my life. May these ideas and actions affirm, empower, and encourage you in the days to come. #AudreLorde knows we need it.