When Growth Feels A Lot Like A Hot Mess: Adieu, 2015.

Growing up, I could always count on three things: 1. Rice and some sort of stew would faithfully be in my family’s refrigerator 2. Mr. Randolph’s locs would be swaying along to the piano’s beat every Friday during school mass and 3. My mom would cry as the ball dropped on New Year’s. She always swore they were tears of joy as I hugged her shoulders to comfort her, always telling me to be grateful that I made it to another year. I remember being so confused by her reaction to the new year. January 1st just meant I was one day closer to beginning the second half of the school year, the half that just felt like it was dragging its way slowly to a much-needed summer vacation.

A few days before 2016 and I feel like my mother. Heavy-hearted, teary-eyed: my tears feel like something beyond gratefulness. My tears feel like weariness.

In 2015, we witnessed the criminal justice system take claim of the lives of countless Black folk, then invalidate the crimes by refusing to indict our killers. Most recently, a grand jury ruled that no one would be indicted in the mysterious death of Sandra Bland. I witnessed CPD live up to its crooked history when the video of Laquan McDonald’s death was released. We watched Black folks pleading for an end to death videos, polarized by outsiders telling us that videos were the only means of believing what we have been saying for decades. I have protested until I have lost my voice. I have cried mid-chant. I have stayed home, paralyzed by fear. I refuse to brace myself for another year of triggering videos and mothers crying on the nightly news. In 2016, I am fighting back with all of my might.

In 2015, I called Tyrone and moved to Chicago, much to the chagrin of my family members. My stubbornness has absolutely no limits sometimes, I’ll admit it. In four months I fell in love with my West Side students, entered the world of exhausting myself in the workforce, applied to graduate school because one type of stress wasn’t enough for me, and learned my limits. There were things that my first generation upbringing prepared me for, like how to make dish detergent stretch for a few more washes when you’re low on cash, but there were things I most certainly was not prepared for. No one ever sat me down and told me that life would get difficult and that I wouldn’t notice how little effort I was putting into caring for my emotional state until I felt completely drained. There is no clear-cut science to avoiding the internalization of your students’ trauma. This move has been a series of mistakes, and learning from them. The move tastes a little bit like adulthood.

In 2015 I discovered the true meaning of the word longing when I entered a long distance relationship. To move from spending every day together to seeing each other once every two months was not an easy transition and was something I was admittedly less than perfect at enduring. The past six months have exposed me to the ugly side of my impatience, the horrors of text message disagreements, and the pain of distance. The past few months have also exposed me to the unexpected beauty of this distance. Of having a partner you can wake up to talk to when its dark and you’re walking alone or of the creative dates you both come up with after months of brainstorming. He is a beautiful reminder that there is consistency amidst the turmoil. He is a gentle reminder that my voice, regardless of its emotional, or angry, or weak state, matters.

I am nearing a week before the year’s official end and I feel a little bit like my mother. This year, I can’t promise that I’ll be doing more comforting than crying, but I’m sure that all of me is ready to leave this year behind and used what I’ve learned to conquer 2016.

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