Usually, I'm not a big fan of my birthdays. They historically bring to mind things going wrong in my life, things beyond my control. It has become a repeating trauma I carry as I go forward; a mantra that happiness is always preceded by sadness.
As I approach 30, different narratives begin to take shape. That is to say, none of us gets away clean, no one leaves here is entirely unscathed. So I offer notes to a younger me. For those who might find a reflection of themselves in the wisdom that I might offer to a younger version of me. This won't be some universal story trying to capture the experience of all black gay men into a single narrative because our diversity is greater than that. However, it might give something to those in need about the importance of reflection, evaluation, and care.
For those quirky black gay dreamers who are full of hope and passion but unsure of how their awkward steps will lead them to something that fills their heart with joy. Some lessons to remember:
1. You can and will beat the odds.
Your life will be filled with numbers and statistics that seek to tell you the odds of a wall of negative outcomes in your life. The numbers will say a lot of about you, numbers that try to explain what only experience can understand. You'll hear stories that will try to make it sound like your life is a foregone conclusion.
At some point, you will naturally fall into the appropriate column and prove their assumptions about you. They can't understand how the complexities of your life will part you into channels that are beyond the simple boxes you belong in. Your life can be bigger and bolder than that.
2. Find time for yourself and for the practice of joy.
I think one of the hardest lessons I learned, and one of the longest it took me to learn, was the importance of self-care. History says you will throw yourself in headfirst regardless of thought for your body, mind, and soul. You will have to learn that part of life means living to find your joy. That bliss can restore and renew you. That joy can heal the hurt you've taken along the way. The damage that you didn't know you've taken to your body, mind, and soul. You need joy and happiness, even if it's only the small things that get you there. Trying to find a moment at least every week to find some joy in it will sustain you through those hard times.
3. History is your friend and ally.
But as much as you learn from books, also learn from the lived experiences of those that walked before you. Take the lessons of the past as a way to help inform you future. Remember that deep roots make a strong foundation and that intertwining your roots with the systems of your ancestors and elders weaves you into a stronger narrative.
In forging that connection, you can return to the well of history and experience, drawing from its lessons to inform, shape, and refocus your present and future. History does not have to be your enemy; it can be your shield if you take the time to learn, study, and understand that which came before you. Using your reason and skills to tease out an understanding of the true narrative and what it has to offer. Find multiple tellings of the same events so that you can use your mind and reason to puzzle out the true narrative.
4. It will hurt.
There is no nice way to put this; it is a fundamental piece of critical growth. You will be subjected to pain and uncomfortable moments. These encounters are the noteworthy moments that help define your character and test your mettle. You can learn from one of your favorite TV shows that prepared you for this "the future is always born in pain."
At some level, you will have to push your way through this hurt. Learn how pain can give you what you need to make it through. Just because it hurts, it doesn't have to stay that way. Despite what they might have, you believe your life need not be lived in a constant state of pain and anguish.
Being awake can cause you to see the hurt that is out there and in your case internalize some of that anguish. You have to learn to embrace that hurt for the moment as it passes through you but don't make it a permanent part of you. And if you cannot banish it on your own, seek help.
There is nothing shameful or wrong about asking for the help you need to manage the hurt you might have sustained. But these awkward and sometimes painful lessons will help move you to where you need to be. Consider this: "what is born of that pain matures into the promise of a better world."
5. And never fear your greatness.
For you are a piece of a legacy woven into the very fabric of history. Though it might not seem like it from your vantage point, you take steps on a road that remembers. A bridge that has felt the weight of your people before and will shake with your being.
For you come into this space ready and willing. And the world trembles with the knowledge that your woken mind will help shape a dynasty not yet seen. In the big and small ways that you enchant and engage others. Helping them to push the boundaries of what they call possibility. Fear is not your enemy, but partly your inspiration. It will help give you time to reflect, to feel and to grow into your strength. To find the piece of you that will make the very heavens sing.
For the world cannot survive without the daring dreamer. And the black gay soul has long held that dream, that powerful force, the push, the engine of creation. The power of change, whether it be big or small, for you, will bring change. It is encoded into your very nature, so own that power and privilege; for better or worse, you will make a change in this world.
Young brother, remember it's not that this world was not meant for you. It is that this world is not ready for you. Though you will still find nights when the weight of your world feels just too heavy to bear. And you'll find yourself weeping for angelic salvation. This too shall pass, for it is merely the rumbling before the storm of change you will bring. Because the change is in you, the work you do will become you, the road you travel will change, but at the end of the day, the world will have been a better place for knowing you.
You will defy the odds, and in finding your way, you will help honor a sacred tradition. A carry over of days gone by through the passing of history, the holding of a moment, the making of a future for those who are like you. You will help to expand the great dream of what is possible, what is probable, and what we can achieve.
To most, it is just the passage of 30 years -- but to you, it is a promise to the next 30. To reflect on where you have been and remembering to promise to make sure that the way forward gets better, the road get easier, the love is felt great and life is lived better.
The me that walked before