On the eve of my birthday last year, I started a tradition with myself. Twenty minutes before and twenty minutes after midnight I would go on a walk, headphones in, no planned route, and write a note (stream of conscious style) without any edits besides spelling on what I was grateful for. And then I took a lot of selfies. Since then, I have not touched or edited that note. So here I am sharing my inaugural gratitude list for the first time ever! I recently had another birthday (!) so here's to hoping the Lord sees fit to let me see another year so that I can share what I wrote for #27goingon17 and see how my gratitude shifts and changes.
Flushing Ave apt
Union strong (AEA & SAG-AFTRA)
Actors Theatre of Louisville
The summer of workshops
Black Lives Matter
Wolf Talent Group
A new manager
My iPhone (personal robot)
A new identity as a survivor
Old identity as a victim
Everybody else's puppies and dogs and sometimes cats
Future children (yours and mine)
Books (wow far down)
Yale specifically the new haven intricacies surrounding colonized buildings and felled institutions in the future
Non-bra bras bruh
Short bar lines
The hooks under bars for your backpack or bag
Laundry in building
Ability to drive stick shift
Oh right, love
Mmmm I'm really grateful for love
People smarter than me
Being able to take the bus in Brooklyn
Anything 24 hours
Bodies of water
Tradition and the Breaking of
Light as in sunny and airy
In memory of when I gave a f*ck
Non nuclear families
Families as chosen
Families as blood
Families as degreed/decreed
Passing out 20 minutes after the clock turns to your day that you share with a multitude of people including a girl who just so happens to be a friend since high school. And probably sweating because in your mess of a few weeks since you moved to your gorgeous homey apartment you still haven't bought a fan. And then laughing to yourself because your panic was about the future happiness you were and are still scared of experiencing because for a while you believed that the worst was going to be your best. And you can't believe that you're typing this on a goddamn robot device but also how cool is that, that you can walk down the streets of crooklyn with music in your ears doing the most stream of consciousness exercise and life is exactly in the state it's supposed to be. You might check Facebook but you might not because you also don't want to set an alarm or have any morning obligations, sorry Braxton. I'm already starting 26 as a flake but I'll own that because what else do we have except the ownership of our actions? And no one but me could be happier about the walk I just took and the love I will receive and the lows that will also inevitably be a part of my growth.
Breaking up is hard to do. There are break ups of all kinds. Ones between friends, long-term partners, jobs, that stapler you love that’s been jammed for weeks...the list goes on and on. And the list of reasons why people break up is even longer. So how do you break up with a country? With a nation? By telling the truth. The truth is, there are things I love about YOUSA and privileges that I enjoy that I really don’t want to give up. But I’ve had this conversation with a lover before and maybe this time I’m going to choose myself. Because I’ve done that before as well and I’m still shining on my own. Maybe this time the hard conversation with my partner, Ameri(caaaIdontunderstandyou) will lead to what I am actually entitled to: clarity. I am entitled to a clear vision for myself, my peers, my colleagues, my blood-line past, present, and future. We as humans are used to quenching and squashing our true desires for the benefit of others. Why? Because a lot of times we don’t actually know what we want so we get used to adapting and cosigning to ideals, passions, institutions etc. that we actually have no interest in being a part of. What does it even mean to attempt autonomous individuality under governmental watch and supposed care?
I am in a relationship with a place that I don’t believe my parents ever intended to raise me in, but we adapt. After all, children don’t know what’s best for them. Except...we understand the urgency of what it means when a toddler is crying, keening, “communing with the gods” as a friend once said to me. We know their cry is guttural and inescapable until they get the thing, the poop, the food, the nap, the teat that they desire. So we give, and give, and give to our Ameri-child with small little fixes. A lot of dirt sweeping under rugs. A lot of united we rise and divided we fall narratives that cover up the fact that we never fully rose together. And then we stop listening to that soul cry, that intuition that tells us when something might not be in our best interests. And yet we stay. We. Stay. For safety. For a lack of knowing. For a lack. Sometimes we convince ourselves that if we decide differently than what we have been used to, then all of a sudden we have wasted our days, months, years. We imagine a sense of failure if we let go (of that something, that someone, that opportunity) as opposed to gratitude that it happened. And a supposed deficit coupled with the thought of not knowing what’s on the other side of choosing differently usually leads to fear.
How do we begin to understand something that is elusive, or hidden, or manipulative? Is there a way to truly love something if you are deeply and debilitatingly afraid of it? Or afraid of being without it? Instead of answering those questions, it’s usually easier to stay involved in a partnership (country or otherwise) because it slowly but surely becomes how we identify. We identify with just being in a partnership. We identify with the happiness that supposedly comes from this other person or other entity no matter how sparingly. We identify with the safety of not having to sleep alone if we don’t want to. The safety of having a living, breathing, diary. After all, the basis of deep connection is trust, love, and comfortability. So what is it to grapple with what makes us uncomfortable? Are we ready to grapple with messiness, with fear, with not knowing if tomorrow is promised?
I used to feel weird about the fact that I think about life and death quite often. But ever since I was a pre-teen - what with the death of a few close family members - it’s been a pretty constant part of my life. It never got easier but it slowly became an expected part of the equation. Although I’m not that great at math, the equation of life really isn’t clear. There seems to be a clear beginning and end marked by birth and death but even those parts of the pythagorean life theorem are confusing. Because I’ve gone through a few personal deaths in my short 26 years. One “death of self” was when I finally came to terms with the fact that I was now a statistical female identifying survivor of emotional and domestic abuse. But I was still breathing and doing alive people things so who was I now that I was tackling these ugly and formative parts of myself? This “death of self” eventually felt like a rebirth. So is our country ready to die? Is it ready to break up with what it’s been trying to hide for so long? Its racism, colonialism, sexism, deep-seeded hatred of “other” disguised as fear? I don’t think so. I don’t know. I am someone who (although my newly minted Ameri-yes I-can citizenship still makes me feel like an outside observer) is no longer administratively linked to my birth country of Zimbabwe. Although I won’t ever be Barack2.0, writing this has made me realize that I do want to actively work on my relationship with America. And Zimbabwe. Two complicated countries that consciously or unconsciously shaped me into the person that I am today. And might be tomorrow.
I wanted to break up with America for shame. But I'd rather break up with shame's stifling-trifling self. I now know that the shame I held on to for staying with someone who verbally and eventually physically attacked me is a part of my Napoleon-complexed, hug-loving, progressively liberal and liberally critical, self-professed artist self. My shame is a part of my complexity and my winning charms AKA quirks. And being passively ashamed of the place that I live does me no good without action. You too. So I hope on love and the gods of the resistance that this relationship is 1. Worth being salvaged and 2. Will continue to challenge me and all’us to ask: What are we hiding from? What are we running from or to? And are we really scared of that “other” or are we scared of the reflection of self they are showing us. Us being: Americans. I know damn well that when I get rageful-then-grateful towards the person that is inextricably linked to my quarter-life "death and rebirth", it’s because I recall that at one point I wasn’t strong enough to stand up, speak out, lean in, and challenge someone telling me I wasn’t worthy. But now I’m ready to stand up to America and say, “Hey, I think I love you. We’ve been through some thangz and it’s been really hard to feel wholly welcome here. But I am willing to work on this with you. Are you ready to work on you, America?”
Mirirai writes about society, her life as a survivor & human connection. Along with her featured collaborators, this blog is also a space to discuss what it means to be an Artist-as-Citizen and how to balance artistry with humanity.