Growing up in an African household comes with the challenges of hitting all the milestones of being an adult. By the time you’re 25 you’re required to already be a doctor and when you hit 30, married with 5 kids. This is where I would say, the struggle is real.
Then you have me the oldest of 4 siblings and I’m still struggling to figure out this thing called adulting. I’m what you would call an abomination in an African family. My parents would deny me with a loud laugh because I’m so far from all the milestones. I don’t believe it’s their fault, but there were certain things my mum should have told me about adulting that probably would have aided me in accomplishing the milestones they so desired.
- You don’t have to be a doctor, a lawyer or an accountant because your left brain is not big enough. I consider myself right brain, which means I’m drawn to artistic tasks such as, acting, writing and everything in between. Growing up, living artistically has being my passion, but holding my parents desire for my future to heart, the artistic part of me had to die. If only I knew of a path to making a living doing what I was passionate about, I would have pursed it sooner than later.
- That marriage is an optional package and not a required deal. It is drilled in our head that we have to get married and have kids because if you’re not, people would provide their disqualifying reviews. Yes, I desire marriage, but I don’t want that to define me to the extent that, not being married makes me feel less than or simply, not enough.
- Being the oldest doesn’t mean you have to be perfect, because your sisters will still live their best lives regardless. The perfectionist in me finds it hard to accept mistakes because I worry about the tone I’m setting for my sisters. But the truth is, I can’t live my life for someone else. I have to choose to be good for me and when I choose to rebel, I’ll pay the consequences and I alone.
- Stick with the piano lessons, you could be Alicia Keys before Alicia Keys was. I quit everything, especially when it’s not going the way I want. When piano lessons got hard, I told my mum I didn’t like it and she allowed me to quit. So, I push back on things I’m passionate about when it gets difficult, because I didn’t provide myself the opportunity to learn perseverance.
- Middle finger to working for companies that only care about their bottom lines. My parents were missionaries and to me that’s another form of entrepreneurship. They showed me that it was possible to work independently, but they knew it came with its challenges and sought normalcy for me. I strive to work independently one day, allowing me to stay in charge of my destiny in some way. But I fear time is not on my side.
I’m uncertain if knowing what I know now would have changed my trajectory, but one thing is for sure, I know better, so I’ll do better, and I’ll share better with my children.
What’s something you wish someone would have told you about adulting? Let me know.
When the business fails, how do you cope with the uncertainty of not knowing what is next?
With the passion for people and the intention of making people aware that creativity does not mean perfection, embracing the call to start a small paint and wine business is often the biggest challenge anyone could face. Embarking on the journey of starting the business, the courage was strong, and the challenges often seem stronger, but yet resilience prevailed.
There are statistics that state, it takes five years for a business to see a return on its investment, and most businesses close after one year. Being a risk-taker meant having the audacity to believe that the business would eventually succeed, but the truth was, there were mistakes made that painted the opposite picture. From the beginning of the build-out to the expense of marketing, the capital began on a downward spiral and there was no fixing it. As it spiraled out of control, desperation reared its ugly head, and regret proposed obscurity. With no savior on the horizon, reality materialized the worst nightmare and the realization that the dream business you fought so hard for, would find its way in the box of the one-year demise.
Deciding to close was the hardest decision to arrive at, but it was the only decision because a miracle was unforeseeable. Every day was a crying fest and the feeling of failure began to edge closer and closer. The strength to keep on going began to fade, and all that was left was the belief that all that could be done, had been done and nothing could deflect that truth.
Uncertain of what the future held; it came time to grieve for the purpose-driven business that held so much potential. But the thought of being still at the stop sign of failure seemed to hinder the process of grieving. Will there be a moment to stand still? To allow the sadness of not knowing what’s next to wash over you. Failure becomes the only word that seems to ring true, but yet friends choose to comfort with the words of, it was a learning opportunity, but will you ever believe it?
Desiring to grieve for what was lost, understanding that it’s okay to fail and embracing the feeling of being lost, I resolved to fully grieve with every intention of not dwelling in the despair of failing.
With suicide on the rise in all age brackets, per the CDC, is social media really the main character in this epidemic?
It was twice that I considered suicide by way of pills, and once when I had the pills in my hands to go through with it. My trigger was essentially growing up in an all-girl boarding school which facilitated separation anxiety. Having traveling parents and sisters across the pond made loneliness a close friend and encouragement an illusion. See, I hated that my parents had decided that shipping me off to a boarding school, was the best way to curb my love for TV. But the reality was the adults were unable to discipline the teenager I was becoming. Boarding school took getting used too but I was never bullied. You would think being one of the five black girls in the entire school would entertain such juvenile intentions, yet it eluded itself. The truth was, there was another type of darkness that would push me to the edge. It was my insecurities, and no one could save me.
Growing up in the nineties should have been the best of times. I mean, Coolio ruled with gangster paradise, the Spice girls were girl power and I had the passion for acting. A passion that would enhance my position as a minority, being the only black girl in the school that took drama. I would audition with the understanding that, the lead role was out of my grasp and when rehearsing for examination monologues, the drama teachers were never at liberty to help. Which led to never feeling good enough. A feeling I still struggle with today. The feelings of inadequacy were evident during the drama examinations. Although I worked hard on the monologues, I never felt I was good enough to pass. That all changed when the head of the board of Drama rated my monologue as the best performance, he had seen all day. His proclamation to call Hollywood on my behalf, unraveled elation. With such a high review I received a medal of distinction and the highest score in the whole class. The nineties should have been the best of times, but I could not shake the feeling of not being good enough and talented enough with no purpose. Those thoughts were on repeat with no one around to hit stop.
It was a Saturday evening and I was home for the weekend. I was moody, as usual, my insecurities made me moody and closed off. My uncle was downstairs, and I was in my room with anxiety as my companion. In my hands were the pills I was going to use to stop the pain, to end it all. I was thirteen and I possessed the overwhelming feeling that because I wasn’t good enough, no one cared about me, so what was the purpose of breathing. Then there was a knock at the door, my uncle walks in and I threw him a look of disdain. But he was not deterred, he saved me with his words. His simple, “It will get easier, I know it doesn’t look like it now, but it will get better.” My hands hidden under the sheets from his view, he didn’t know, he couldn’t have known.
I survived thirteen and my teenage years. Now in my thirties, there are spaces I fill today that I wonder about, what if? I’m still a daughter, sister, friend, now an aunt, an actress, and so many other things. All those relationships are not perfect, but I play an important role in every connection I make. Those connections will be my imprint in this world, to illustrate that I was here, I was loved, and I loved. No, we didn’t have social media, but we had insecurities and that’s still an epidemic today. And if certain factors that contribute to suicide, are not addressed we will continue to lose our next Kate Spade, our fathers, our daughters or our friends. I was blessed to find a light to keep going, but some are not as fortunate.
I understand that the highlight reels of social media can have an emotional effect, but to blame it all on social media possess insufficient evidence, as there are other factors in the mix. For instance, chemical Imbalance in the brain is a factor that requires examination. May I suggest we take responsibility, by making real connections, to check on that friend, that family member, or that kid at the back of the class. Mental wellness starts with combating the stories we are telling ourselves about our struggles. I’ve realized that it’s a constant battle to combat insecurities in order to keep living my best life. So I’m seeking out a therapist to better navigate certain life decisions. There’s also Better help, an online affordable online therapy resource.
I speak up now because self-care means never being ashamed to say you need help. Fighting to save yourself requires the confrontation of the issues that are stopping you from living your best life. Fight for you because your story of overcoming your fears will not only change your trajectory, it will light the path for someone else.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please call the National Suicide prevention hotline at 1.800.273.8255.