I started my 2018 by receiving one of the most heartfelt emails I’ve ever seen. A sophomore at the University of Michigan had stumbled upon my blog and decided to take the time to tell lil ol’ me that I’d helped inspire her from afar. Here’s the main part of the message.
In addition to warming my heart, this message also made me realize the dilemma that way too many black women face. As a black woman, especially one who genuinely cares about social issues, we’re often caught between the rock and the hard place of improving ourselves or doing things for the community. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we feel the need to. There’s a constant mental debate that sounds a bit like this:
“Do I spend this extra 3 hours in the library improving my school work, or do I go to this activism oriented event?” And worse, “Am I a bad person if I don’t choose the latter?” With peer pressure, its easy to feel like you aren’t doing enough to improve the problems in your community (mind you, problems that you didn’t create) and it can feel selfish to spend your time on your goals and desires instead.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you deserve to spend every waking moment on yourself if you so choose. You’re not responsible for anyone else’s happiness. As everyone knows, our women are the backbone of the black community. However, it’s not because we’re superhuman. It’s because we sacrifice. Too much, in my opinion.
2018 will be the end of black women putting other people’s needs before their own.
2018 is about black women making strides in whatever way they so choose.
2018 is the year of the Bozoma Saint-Johns, the Elaine Welteroths, the Jamila Woods, and the Lena Waithes.
The best thing about this mentality is the following. While it may seem selfish (and it’s not, it only seems that way because black women taking care of themselves has never been the norm), black women focusing on their own needs actually makes the world a more representative, inclusive, and autonomous place. Because Bozoma Saint-John decided to focus on being the best executive she could at Uber, I have someone to look for inspiration from as I start my career in tech marketing this summer at Google. Because Jamila Woods spent her time crafting HEAVN, one of the most soothing albums of 2016, I get to hear songs that represent my innermost feelings. Because Elaine Welteroth decide to tell her stories at Teen Vogue, I have a mainstream magazine that shares views that once seemed foreign. And because Lena Waithe decided to write the Thanksgiving episode of ‘Master of None,’ I finally see my experiences as a black queer woman shown on a large scale.
Representation matters. It matter so much more than we think. So instead of being plagued with guilt if you’re not able to attend a protest, or because you decided to unplug from current events altogether due to the constant reminders of sexual assault and police brutality, spend your mental energy focusing on yourself and how you want to make your mark. And remember:
Take care of yourself.
Treat yo’ self!
I can’t wait to see what you create.