For 26: A Look Inward

It has been a few days since my birthday, and I continue to ride the high of assisting my brother in his first murder case that was a big win against a leading prosecutor. Throughout the entire process I was really emotionally and mentally invested in the case, especially for the sake of the client and his family. I kept thinking how he was only 2 years older than me, and how being in the wrong places opens you up to a world of people who will be quick to judge, quick to assume, quick to codemn. If 26 has shown me anything, it is that people build these worlds around themselves, lies that become the cornerstone of their reality as Barbara Kingsolver so eloquently wrote, and if they were to examine what they have so blindly crafted, their world as they know it would fall apart; cease to be.

So I have let people go. I shed. And I shed, and I shed, and I shed. Because it was no longer about saying we just respectfully disagree on an issue, but rather who can cradle the pains of humanity in the palms of their hand and weep because there is so much to do at any given time. It is about recognizing that some ideas are just ignorant and harmful and have no place in any conversation. When people say that makes me uncomfortable to talk about or if you would only say it this way, people might be more receptive, or that protesting students are ‘petty’ and ‘soft’, what they are really saying is how completely terrified they are of their world as they know it to crumble as we look to them and say that the lies they had convinced us of about ourselves and the lies they told of the world, we see and will no longer accept. We are capable of having these confrontations and coming out better on the other side. There is a lot of hate in this world. There is a lot of exhaustion too. I treasure the moments of harmony; of lives coming together in various ways, and I have to believe that there are still many good people in this world. “Not everything is lost.”

In reflecting on the last year, I think about what has come to settle in my heart even more firmly than before. As we become more and more a world where we can hide behind keyboards and computers, we think we have access to learning more. In a way, the computer age has given us the world at our fingertips. But it has given us a world at our fingertips in the most robotic of ways. While I believe that there are amazing ways that social media and the internet has brought about connecting globally in times of crisis and pain, I have to wonder if it also makes ‘think pieces’ and hashtags a substitute for action. There can never be a substitute for real change and real action. The internet can help with that, but it cannot BE that. We have to also never forget what it means to connect in the spaces of reality.

I try to live my life by the mantra (and Mother Theresa quote), “Do not look for God in the far lands. He is inside of you–He is you.” If I am a part of Christ, then I am His body here on earth; the extension of his goodness, even when I can never match it. The durabilty of my faith is one thing that has never changed in the years I have been alive. It never will.

My fifth year reunion is coming up next May, and for it we were asked to write a ‘report’ for this “Red Book” they publish of what each one of us from our class has been up to for the last five years. I thought about what others might write–stories of graduate degrees, jobs, new cities, etc. I could not think of anything that I wanted to share with everyone, when anyone who I love already knows what I am doing. I thought about the last years and what has truly stuck with me, and I submitted a short poem reflecting on the black lives lost (far too many), how grateful I was to be alive when this world has shown my degrees do not protect me, and why I must keep doing work that honors those who have died and those who still fight, even on the days when getting up means getting through the day on wounds that have not quite healed.

Twenty-six was about cutting off my hair and starting over again. About telling people when they had no authority to speak on a subject. Twenty-six was about reading less news and hugging more people. Twenty-six was about securing the language I use and who I share language with. Twenty-six was about research that mattered, and learning along with 8 incredible young men from Indianapolis to London about how and why we creatively craft our own spaces. It was about recognizing the distractions of racism and choosing to not bear that burden. I am here. There is nothing for me to prove. No validation of my worth is required. Only to love myself, and to demand that I am given the spaces to do so. In all of this, 26 was about taking care of myself better. Taking breaks because if I stand still, the world will go on for those minutes without me.

I prayerfully look to 27. I say this because the world is on the brink of something explosive. I can feel it. I will be ready. I know where I stand. And I also know that I don’t always need to be ‘at war’ because it will destroy me. In the words of Nayirrah Waheed:

You do not have to be a fire for                                                                                                                                   every mountain blocking you.

you could be a water

and soft river your way to freedom




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