On Brewing Slow

Illustration by Maya

Illustration by Maya

“I’m a Slow Brewer, I take my time in the development of self. Life isn’t about racing to see who can get x amount of accolades by y age. I know I will make it to my highest potential, and I know everything I do is leading me in that direction. Let me take my long walk and enjoy the journey…”

My friend Jean posted this status on facebook earlier today, and I think it sums up the past few years for me. I am strolling. I am enjoying the journey.

I am 23 years old and with that comes a number of things I am expected to have done by now. Many of my friends have graduated college, are in or have finished grad school, are working corporate jobs etc. Here I am with none of these things to claim, but I am the best I have ever been. I am emotionally sound. I am at the lowest weight I’ve been since high school. I have the most love for self I have ever known and this love is reflected back to me in all of my immediate relationships. I have learned how to say no. I no longer accept less than what I deserve. I am improving and gaining more confidence as a creator. Still, by most standards, this is not progress. My growth is not meaningful. Is not a socially acceptable form of growth.

I was at a close friends apartment a month or so ago, sitting on her older sisters bed. The sister was showing me some magic tricks she learned while rehearsing to assist a magician for a show the next day. After pouring champagne into a floating glass, she sighed, looked at me and said, “so what’s up Giselle? How are you? How’s school?” A soft light filtered in through the window on my right. The shadows carved jagged shapes into the walls. I answered her like I do everyone else who has asked me this question in the past two years: with a tight and dismissive smile. “It’s fine,” I say briefly, hoping she’d get the message that I didn’t wish to discuss it any further. She did not let up. “When are you going to finish?” she continued. “Before I’m 30,” I said, half joking. “Giselle, you’re young now, but you need a plan because I don’t hang out with bums. If you need help making a plan, I will help you. If you don’t get it together in a few years, I’m going to tell my sister not to hang out with you anymore.”

I laughed. I could not take it personally. It hurt a bit, but I understood the truth. Her words were words of concern. Ones of ‘tough love’. She was hoping this speech would spark a fire in me, ignite a passion she thought did not exist to help send me down a more practical road. She could not see my flames. Honestly, even if I was empty… even if I had no fire… nothing tough would warm me. I do not inhabit life in that way.

I am a little embarrassed to share this story, but I am sharing because I know I am not alone. I am sharing because I have nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s be real, I know that it is a risk, being a black woman in America without a degree. I am not saying I don’t plan to get one. I’m also not saying I will. What I am saying is that this phase of my life is about exploring myself. I am seeing what I like, what I want, what thrills me…  before I go back and waste another 2 years or pump another 11,000 into this disgusting machine. And also, LETS BE REAL. Being a black woman anywhere is a risk. Stepping out of my house is a risk. Sleeping in my own bed is a risk. Every moment I live I am under attack. Even with degrees, with accolades, with honors and a good career, my life means nothing here. Is worth nothing here. You all watch the same news I do. I do not need to explain. I am first generation on one side. On the other, my tree’s branches stretch back to and beyond slavery. I know risk. If I were interested in living a typical life, to work a safe and honorable job, to walk a road well worn, I would. I’m not. By any means. I have always been an outsider. I have always looked on.. trailed behind as other people raced together. I want to live boldly. I want my existence to mean something to me (I am the only person I wish to impress). In order to do that, I have some things to figure out, still. I realize that means sometimes I will be walking alone. That I will have no example. No map. I am OK with that.

But also, I look at the friends I have mentioned above. The ones who have done all that is acceptable to do. The ones who have checked off all the boxes. Still, I see at times an emptiness in them, a deep sadness. I look at some elders in my life who at middle age are making drastic changes. Restructuring their entire existence. As confused and unsure and hopeful about the future as I am. This is not to dismiss their hard work. This is to shine light on the reality that we are all here doing our best. Trying to gain some footing. Searching for meaning and purpose. Even the ‘bums’ my friend’s sister speaks so compassionately of. And even when you do all the things you are ‘supposed to do,’ at times that will not be enough. Yes, some things may help ease the stress of the journey, but there is no secret, fail-proof formula. Some may turn their noses up at me. Feel that they have out lapped me on this imagined track. We all die at the finish-line. What happens in between is a personal, singular and sacred thing. I don’t care about anyone’s timeline but my own.

I cannot take anyone’s warnings to heart. I know the truth about who I am. Not many people can say that. Anything I lack right now, things of value on a western scale, I lack because I have yet to fully assume my role in the world. I have not decided to stand firmly in my shoes. Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s a reverse Napoleon’s complex. Shying away from the vastness. A pinning down of the spirit to avoid the attention. Even with all the dimming and the shirking away I know I do, when I see people who have known me for a long time, after being separated for some years, they always say the same things. “Wow! You’ve changed so much. You look amazing. You are radiant.” While beautiful and encouraging, I don’t need these verbal acknowledgements. I know beyond doubt that I have blossomed. I have emerged out of what I once was. I am now this new, winged thing.

What I know:

My wandering is not idle. I am not directionless.

No matter how many people try to convince me that it’s a race… try to force me into comparisons and competitions… I am (on) my own.

There is no one else on this earth who will walk this road exactly the way I will walk it

It is okay for me to take my time.