Today is Independence Day – the day that our country celebrates freedom from English rule. I’ve never been a big fan of this holiday, because, as a Black woman, I realize that this day has never symbolized freedom or independence for my people. So instead of celebrating the fraudulent independence of this nation, I am taking today to declare my own freedom from some things in my life.
Four days ago I turned 28 years old. Since my b(earth)day, I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about where my life is at this point and what I would like to see going forward. One year ago today, my life was going in a completely different direction, and, while I thought I was happy at the time, I knew that I wanted/needed more. The last year has seen incredible changes take place in my life from all aspects, and I am now in a completely different (but better) place. As I prepare to enter into another year of my life, there are some things that I’m no longer willing to give power to. Outlined below are three things that I am declaring my independence from going forward, in order to maintain my newfound happiness and peace of mind.
1. – Expectations: (This includes my own as well as anyone else’s…)
Throughout my entire life, I’ve always been the girl who did just what was expected of me. I behaved well, made good grades, was demure and mannerable, rarely got into trouble, and was generally a good child. After high school, I attended college before returning home, buying a house and a car and settling into the typical American lifestyle.
Somewhere along the way, though, I began to realize that these were not the things that made me happy. Instead of feeling secure in my lifestyle, I felt smothered and disappointed in myself for settling for complacency. I craved freedom and independence, and resented all of the “status symbols” I’d accumulated in my quest to be a “real adult” because they limited my choices. I realized that I was in this situation because it was what was expected of me… it was the “proper” thing that “successful” people did – not because I actually wanted any of it.
2. – Fear
Eight months ago, I went from having it all to having absolutely nothing. In the span of less than a month, I went from owning my own home and having a stable job, to being laid off and moving in with my mother. I’d never experienced unemployment, and it terrified me.
I wound up re-locating from Alabama to Ohio in a span of about two weeks last November. I sold my home, packed up everything I owned, and made the trek to a place where the only person I knew was my father… who I’ve always had a rather tenuous relationship with at best. Over the next few months I battled some severe depression and anxiety as I struggled to come to terms with where my life was at this point. I was 27 years old, broke and going through a bankruptcy (another story for another day), and grasping at straws to find any semblance of peace in this foreign place. I was determined to move back home as quickly as possible, no matter how much it cost me… because I was afraid. I was out of my comfort zone and far away from just about everyone I’ve ever known… I was scared to death.
It took me until just a few weeks ago to realize that this has actually been incredibly good for me, though. It has been a terrible struggle and there have been so many days where I wanted to give up, pack it in, and go back to Alabama… but I’ve decided not to give into the fearsome little voice inside my head that keeps telling me I can’t do this. I can, I am, and I will.
3. – Regret
My life hasn’t been perfect, and neither have I. Although I do my best to be a good and honest person, there are times when I, like everyone, fall short of who I would like to be. So many times in the last year I’ve looked at my life and been disappointed with what I see… not because I have a bad life, but because it isn’t where I thought I’d be by this age. Not being married, and especially, not having children is something that I have struggled to deal with for a long time. However, the thing that I’ve come to realize is that I’m exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment in time. Every thing that I’ve been through up to this point – good and bad – has molded and shaped me into the person that I am today. Instead of regretting the things that didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped or planned, I count them as experiences, accept the lessons I’ve been given by them, and move on.
The thing I’ve learned about life is that it keeps on going no matter what. Remembering that I have no control over anything that happens to me – only the way that I react to what life brings my way – has allowed me a sense of peace and internal freedom from strife that I’ve never experienced before. It is amazing that it took having to hit rock bottom, and have everything taken away from me to see how truly blessed I am.
My life isn’t perfect, but it is a damn good life, and I am happy to be alive and in it, in this moment.
These are my resolutions – things I’m no longer allowing to have power over me. What things are you declaring your independence from today?
Whatever it is, know that you are strong enough to do it, and that you deserve to live a full life without fear or regret.
I love you – happy independence day.