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36 Things I Learned Along the Way — at Thirty-Six

Author’s Note: there is no instruction manual for this, so buckle up and enjoy it. Also, wow ABC, NO Black people? NONE?! Couldn’t gimme at least one Tonja?! Sheesh.

I turned thirty-six in January …whoop-dee-freakin’-doo! I’m a few months late, but my not-quite-old-enough-to-be-GenX-but-too-old-to-be-millennial self got to pondering and said “self (because third person vibes are what thirty-somethings should give off), what do you think you’ve learned in your thirty-six years?” Well, frankly, a bunch. So much so, I tried to condense my learnings into a listical of thirty-six. I know, so inventive. So, here are my thirty-six things for you to carry close to vest whenever you want to get into a screaming match with the Burger King lady for forgetting to include two syrups in your pancake meal (I’MA SEE YOU AGAIN, BRENDA!):

  1. I call this, “alternative medicine”: hugs. smiles. laughter. love. voicenotes. “Just because” letters, texts, postcards, phonecalls, emails, voicemails — tell people you’re proud of them, you love them, you see and hear them, you understand them, you’re proud of them. Keep being present.
  2. Some post-apocalyptic life tips: care about things. Care about people. Learn new things. Relearn old things. Read new things. Reread old things. Talk to people about things that matter. Share information. Be open to constructive criticism and dialogue. Reflect on your values. Don’t assume people know things. Reckon with your biases.
  3. Some semi pro tips: A good love challenges you to be greater. A toxic love makes you question your greatness.
  4. A somewhat evolved pro tip: keep working on finding the version of you you can fall in love with. Pretty soon, you’ll start finding people who love that version of you, too.
  5. A real pro tip: put a couple of fries in ya’ pocket when ya’ boo ain’t looking, so they think you giving them your last, but really, you stashing for ya’ self.
  6. Super pro-pro tip: make sure your pockets are clean before you stash fries in them.
  7. Just a reminder: it all doesn’t have to happen RIGHT now.
  8. We spend a lot of time coming and going, and maybe not enough time being and breathing. Spend more time being with things and people, and paying attention to your breath (both how you in hale and exhale and also if you been inhaling chili and haven’t popped a mint in yet.)
  9. Please, with whatever you do, don’t lower the standards or frequency of your dreaming for anybody.
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Olivia knew wassup.
  1. If you’re going to choose to do anything, make it loving, make it intentional.
  2. Being honest about your wants and needs allows room for you to receive what you want and need.
  3. We all are at different phases and levels of our own healing. but know that it is okay sit with things, to stay with things; to process the things that hurt, to confront the things that scare and challenge us.
  4. Our word choices matter: please choose light. Please choose love. Please be intentional with the words you offer to others but, most importantly, to yourself.
  5. I don’t like “busy.” I like active. I don’t want to be busy — I want to be actively engaged in any and all work that I do.
  6. See a need, fill the void. Simple.
  7. We do not have any time. Be intentional — with our art, with our love, with our activism. The intention. The intention. The intention. Be intentional. Did I say be intentional? Be intentional.
  8. Write it, now. You can right it later.
  9. There is no finite process that will get us to a fully evolved self — we are always evolving, always shifting. We grow new cells, new skin. Our evolution is constant. It’s alright to trust in that.
  10. How we show up for others is a direct reflection for how we view ourselves. We project what we give, much like a projector would do to film — we have the inherent power to give the light and love we wish to see more of, in both ourselves and others.
  11. By simply asking, each morning, “how can I show up in love today? What can I offer myself, today?” we create room and opportunity for our hearts to flourish, openly and lovingly.
  12. Instead of looking and searching for the next thing, resting in the space of the in between can be just as vital to not only the creative process, but to our spiritual healing as well.
  13. Sometimes, pain is a reminder that we can FEEL. Honor that.
  14. Pain and joy are all waves. We gotta ride them joints equally — same fevor, same love. It’s okay to sit with pain and joy equally. So, maybe we almost try treating it as if we were people watching from our windows: “oh, that hurt” or “oh, that felt lovely.” What I’m talking about is a healthy detachment, where we’re engaged WITH the feeling, but not ATTACHED to it.
  15. Pay attention to clinging, on either front. Sometimes, we don’t ever want good moments to end, so we try and hold onto them. Or we want the pain to hurry or subside so we try and rush our feelings towards it. Neither is healthy or helpful. All things are temporary, so our practice all comes back to how we let go.
  16. Be into your feelings. It’s cool. It’s okay — being in touch and engaged with them makes you way better at human-ing. Trust me, you don’t want to be on the other side of what being disengaged looks like…
  17. Please, don’t ever be ashamed of growing, for doing better than you or anybody else thought you ever would.
  18. Ask for peace, ask for love, ask for forgiveness, ask for empathy, for compassion and understanding. But, above all else, offer those things, too; offer those things, first.
  19. It is far too easy to question and judge those who do not exhibit what we consider to be healthy ways of loving — it is far easier for us to pour out love when love is poured into us. Self-love has a base love that generally starts with a loving foundation, created from a village of support and nurture. So, try and be a little more gentle to people who seem a little less “aware” than you.
  20. I know it feels hard and challenging, but don’t wait on anyone to “see the vision” or “get it”: make the things. Do the things. Connect with like-minded folx and build community. Throw things to the wall — some will stick, some won’t — but the idea is to hone and refine and create.
  21. You can be more than one thing. We are all more than one thing. Your hybrid abilities aren’t a barrier, they’re a bridge. They’re YOUR bridge.
  22. Your journey doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s in order to be considered “successful.”
  23. Let’s stop saying, “they are not ready for me!” Let’s stop putting that out there into the world — for ourselves and our friends. GET them ready. MAKE them ready. They will have to be ready for your offering to the world. They will be ready as soon as you are.
  24. You will find your happy when you find your purpose. You will find your purpose when you lead with, and trust in, your heart.
  25. Not everyone has to love it for it to work.
  26. Switching from “I have to” to “I get to” is a game changer and a life saver.
  27. I’m pretty much making all this up as I go along, while learning and loving and failing in the process — find the blueprint, learn the blueprint, then rip up the blueprint and create your own.

Dassit. That’s all I got. Tune in for more at thirty-eight (I plan on skipping the tear of thirty-seven entirely) where I feel most confident that humble pie and reruns of “What’s Happening” while complaining about the increased prices of cassette tapes will somehow find themselves on my list.

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This is Drake’s dad wearing a Cash Money Records hoodie. ‘Nuff said.

P.S.- getting older is cool. Embrace it. You care more while simultaneously caring less. Best of both worlds, truly. Okay, that’s #37. You just got a freebie.

Written by

he/him. i tell stories for black people. work: @taylorstrategy @nike @twitter @gatesfoundation @ted @hbo @ethelsclub @medium @newsweek @twloha #BXFOREVER

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