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Welcome to the Dub Club: Breaking In A New Decade

May 20, 2014

Alexandria Cunningham ’16

"Should this be my last breath I'm blessed 'cause it was purposeful
Never got to church to worship Lord but please be merciful
You made me versatile, well-rounded like cursive
Know you chose me for a purpose, I put my soul in these verses."
~J. Cole in Born Sinner

Nearly two months ago I gently kissed away my "youth" and warmly embraced my twenties. Leaving my teen years behind left me with various levels of excitement, uncertainty and optimism. Since I did not know what to expect from my crossover into adulthood, I brought my birthday in feeling rather calm and chill. Thankfully, I have friends who do not know the meaning of chill and they really made my birthday extra special with all the sweet things they save to say to me on special occasions. From the very sweet "I love you soo much and I am so glad I met you. You are the most driven, kind and beautiful person I know" to the incredibly touching "It amazed me [that] you rescheduled your life to come be there for me. I'm pretty sure I never told you that day you meant the world to me more than anyone else [ever] could" I was pretty much on the edge of tears all day long.

On the day I turned twenty, I was reminded of how beautiful my support system is and why I work so hard to give them the world. I was showered with affection, run-and-love hugs, kisses and a bundle of sincere compliments from people that I think so highly of. These are memories that will stay with me forever and to all those that shared those memories with me, thank you! Breaking in a new decade has given me so much to think about beyond the "what is next?!" but has also prompted a lot of self-reflection over the past nineteen years. So, in typical me fashion here are quotes (song lyrics this time ya'll) to speak to a few major things I have picked up on my life's journey.

"And they listen to me when I talk 'cause I ain't pretending/It took a while, now I understand just where I'm going/I know the world and who I am/'bout time I show it" ~Beyoncé Grown Woman

Learning what it means to come into myself is an ongoing journey that requires my endless commitment to firstly, acknowledging my own personal growth and secondly, teasing out what things I do and do not need to continue to facilitate that growth. It is not easy at all but self-confidence is everything. It takes a lot to get up every morning and not only be your own team but the coach, consultant, cheer squad, planning and strategy team, publicity agent, damage control and everything else you need yourself to be without flaw and feeling great about it all the time. However, that is the mission I take on every day because it is the most rewarding work for me. Often I have to remind myself of those times when I was unsure of myself and ask what stopped me. Whether I actually have answers (or refuse to admit them to myself and others) or not, I try to not let past uncertainties stop me from taking new opportunities. I make my fears motivate me, not hinder me.

In a nutshell, my experience with finding self-confidence is honestly a lot of hit or miss, learn it and love it type choices that have allowed me to understand who I am and what I will and will not go for. I have reached the point in my life where I know who I am--flaws, shortcomings, bad tendencies, irrational logic and all and I LOVE IT. For all that I could improve on, I have a hell of a lot that I am damn good at and all of the world gets to see that. I am a grown woman and that is something I have earned the right to be proud to say. *cue the snaps*

"She just gonna throw her steps on/And haters gonna throw that epsom" ~Chance the Rapper Hey Ma

[A quick translation: steps are synonymous with heels and epsom refers to epsom salt, yet is used here as a metaphor for shade/hate/jealousy/ill will/animosity that is directed towards another individual.]

The best and hardest thing about being an Africana Studies and Sociology double major is that you can critically evaluate the world and that you will never see it the same again. I can tell you that I now have a truly difficult time generalizing people based off of stereotypes and my own subjective understandings, but here is one thing I know for certain will always be true: haters 'gon hate. Some folks in life are meant to be motivators in their own special way and, like anything else, a decision must be made about how "hateful" motivation is going to direct your life's course.

My newest "hater-free" strategy is simple--I give myself time limits to be mad about people and things that are out of my control. Usually, five to fifteen minutes is sufficient for me to realize that my valuable time is being wasted if this person/situation is truly as irrelevant as I am ranting about. Then, my venting needs to come to a close and I go on about my day. I keep it pushing. Clearly, I must be succeeding in ways this person sees as fantastic and they are just playing their role to be concerned with what I have going on over here. Salt-throwers must exist in this world and I must exist here too, only my purpose is just to keep on being the best that I can be on my own terms.

"And if I don't let you know, then I won't be for real/I could be wrong, but I feel like something could be going on" ~Brandy I Wanna Be Down

Honesty and introspection are two really important things to me because they are at the foundation of all of my relationships. Now that I am twenty, I am confident about my sense of personhood, the multiple ways/contexts my personality is read and how I can describe myself in ways that reflect a variety of my dimensions as a person and feel valid in doing so. And I get that everyone has not reached that point. However, I try to refrain from holding my thoughts back (when they are asked for) or sugarcoating things for people close to me when I know that even though the truth hurts, I do not love you to lie to you or for you. If I feel a certain way, I will find a way to voice my opinion and make sure that it can stand alone and be respected. My reason for doing so, is because I have experienced what it feels like to not speak up and be heard and it sucks. So I let my thoughts (respectfully) rain harder than spring showers these days.

"Okay, now let's be real I know you feel some type of way/I drop down to my knees thankful for life today/No naps just long sleep, hibernate" ~Rich Homie Quan Type of Way

Faith and persistence are the two essential things that are getting me through college. I have expanded my definitions of what it means to be faithful and persistent in this collegiate space, that in a lot of ways, is not meant for me. Firstly and most importantly, I wake up and thank God for blessing me and mine because He does not have to. I share my concerns, my weaknesses and everything else that I wake up with on my mind on my way to my first class each day. The bond I have that is rooted in my spiritual faith gets me through days on this campus when I cannot and do not think I can make it. For other folks, it may be faith in their family, friends or faith in some other entity, which is cool too, but my source of comfort and understanding is God and I am re-navigating the ways in which I choose to express that faith.

Persistence is something that I have had my most recent struggles with, especially this semester. I spent a lot of the past four months asking myself at what point is it okay to quit, ask for help or just take a break and try something again later. The answer? Do it when the time calls for it. I went through a time where I just could not envision making it to the end of the semester because I was so overwhelmed and just could not get in the space to be the great go-getter that everybody knows me to be. It took some deep honesty, major love and concern from my folks back home and on campus, muffled tears and good quality hugs to get me up and on my way. Which brings me to the final song lyric...

"It may seem like our fire/has been a little burnt out, we're tired/We only need to stay close/in time, sparks will fly" ~J. Cole Sparks Will Fly

I reached a breaking point recently in which I came to conclude that I take on so much and do not necessarily do all that I should do for myself to be at my best. I go in for the people I love--I answer calls at crazy hours, I drop what I am doing to support folks in the ways that I can and anything that I can fix, I try to. Unfortunately but fortunately, I have learned the hard way that it is not always in my best interest to do all of that all the time and that my people will still love me if I hang my wonder-cape up every now and again.

The hardest thing for me as of late, was to find ways to say I cannot do it because I am not in the space or mind to do for anyone other than me. I did not want those closest to me to feel like I had pushed them aside for a random reason, I wanted to be everything to everybody even when I could not be everything for myself. And you know what? My people are FANTASTIC because what they did was help me get through it. They checked in on me, they asked me how my naps were going, they sent me things I needed, they sent me love and smiles from where they were and it helped me soooo much. I was burnt out and tired but my family, my friends, my support at home and on campus helped me to rekindle my own fantastic flames and sparks are flying for us all now.

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