mine, specifically. and part of a much larger one.
You know when tired doesn’t just mean you could use a little sleep? How, no amount of context is necessary or sufficient to understand when someone is saying they’re tired, not tired? If you’re Black there’s a good chance you know exactly how this looks, how this sounds, because the adults in your life were all tired. You can see the way they slowly set down in the chair, and let out a sign so slow and deep, they never made it to even pronounce the “d” at the end.
I may not be very old, but I became very tired, very early. Some of that is embedded in us, already. A lot of it is easily justified just thinking through my lived experiences all along the way. But every year following undergrad, I’d be pushing through relentlessly, never stopping to rest- and in that way, carrying on so many of our family’s legacies. Until I’d cease to be, until I’d lose touch with my own humanity, my own heart. Until I was faced with surrendering control or surrendering my life.
I’d eventually come to understand that I was driving a car that had long been out of fuel. I made it quite some way on an empty tank, lost 3 out of 4 tires, couldn’t see through the windshield and the brakes were broken. << a moment, please, for the humor and irony of my chosen metaphor>> But for real, my mental and emotional well-being was inconsistent at best, digestive issues got worse, a genetic mutation in my bones gave me inexplicable and untreatable pain in the left side of my body. I limped for years and had no “injury” to explain it. Something would eventually give. And when my intuition fell silent, I knew that I was no longer anything but a shell, a hollow capsule. My inner knowing was gone, and I felt impossibly far away from anything that could matter. Now, I was finally tired of witnessing life around me without feeling any life inside me. I was tired of waking up, and thinking day after consecutive day, that I’d rather have not.
I was shook.
And in fact, I was shaking. A lot. My body wasn’t a home anymore. I noticed how I became nervous at restaurants, self-conscious because I couldn’t hold a glass steady to my mouth. I had anxiety about the anxiety. Depressed about the depression. Face to face therapy, Talkspace therapy, a psychiatrist, changing prescriptions, 72 hours...I was doing everything I could in a desperate effort to recognize a life that wasn’t defined by absolute misery. I knew that I needed to take care of me, but I hadn’t, and my body wouldn’t stand for it any more. So, it was finally time to stop. To rest. To take care. And I couldn’t do that and work.
I was a teacher, and then an assistant principal, at a “high-performing charter school” network. I spent five years working 12-13 hour days, commuting, emotionally investing into the lives of young people, navigating systems and environments and beliefs that I knew failed me in the past. I did what I was “supposed” to do- found a way to earn a good income. Found a way to be able to afford to move into an apartment -with a roommate- because staying home wasn’t a viable option and this is NYC. I made the best choices I could make then. I “worked my way up” to choosing 95k. I chose [hyper] independence, and to afford myself whatever comforts it took to be okay just enough. And that usually meant spending a lot of what I was earning. Going out to eat here, a night out with drinks on me there, paying the true price for a year’s worth of free 2-day shipping. Earn and spend, earn and spend, my little cope-loop. I made the best of an unsustainable situation, and I honor my choices.
But a night out wasn’t enough anymore. A few weeks for the summer wasn’t enough, ever. Even though my paychecks grew consistently and at times dramatically from one year to the next, that of course, would also cease to be enough. By October 2020 I broke down, and by February I’d finally accepted I needed to come to a real pause.
I took short-term disability leave from work. Major depression is classified as a disability, which I didn’t know. That entire process was me dealing with and making decisions based on a bunch of things I didn’t know while I was disempowered and petrified. It was horrifying, it lowered my already fragile self-esteem, and it was necessary. Not even a month after I stopped, the world followed suit. Life as I knew it, personally and collectively, came to a screeching halt. That’s where I, with great difficulty and a great deal of support, started to really seek out what I’d need to have a better human experience. That’s where I crawled back into the womb.
I asked for teachers. I asked for tools. I acknowledged my traumas and assessed my needs. I do all these things still, understanding that I will never stop. I do all these things, now trusting and seeing proof constantly of being heard, of receiving. I’m committing to community- not just holding but being held. Accepting and asking for help, accepting and asking for love. Creating boundaries. Embracing discipline, responsibility. Today, I listen to myself, I check in with myself. I communicate and co-create with that which isn’t human, or human anymore. I ebb and I flow, because I can remind myself to relent control and still be well.
I still wish desperately that our world was different. That the fight wasn’t so big or hard for any of us. That the contexts in which we live weren’t constructed in the ways that they are. I cry harder and I cry more because I’m alive again, and was never promised a human experience without suffering. So yes, it’s hard to be here. And now it is also right to be here right now, it is beautiful and divine and awe-some. I have the ability, the power and the magic to respond to what I experience however I need to. I have the ability, the power, the right and the desire...to be okay, and to make my body a home again. And I want this for all of us.
Thank you, to whoever is reading this, for your attention. Thank you for the work you do to honor your humanity and to be. Thank you to my support systems- all the people who would not and do not hesitate to act in service of pure love. The people in my life have always been the reason I chose to keep my life. I’m glad to join y’all and be one of those people for myself, too.
We the dream team.