It’s official. I am now 40 years old.
I am beyond grateful to reach this milestone in my life. God has truly been amazing to me!
I must admit I have been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster as I’ve approached this day. There are some areas of my life that I wish were different or better, but I am overall content with my life.
I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on my experiences, my goals, my challenges, my heartbreaks, my triumphs. So many things, positive and negative, have shaped who I am today.
Over the last few weeks and months, I’ve felt a shift. Or maybe I’ve made a conscious decision to make some changes in my life–or at least how I show up in it. I know that I have spent a good deal of time determining what it is that I believe and how Adeea will show up for the next 40 years. In conversations with friends and family, I’ve said, “some things are going to be different when I turn 40.”
Well, now that I am 40……
I embrace my complexity.
I used to tell people that I am simple. But I realize that is not accurate. I am indeed the textbook definition of complex:
There are many parts that make up Adeea. There is the “country girl” part of me. There is the outspoken, opinionated part (I call her Adele). And the painfully shy part that seems to come out at events (go figure). Not to mention the little girl that watches cartoons daily mixed with the grown woman that drank with fellas–and kept up. The woman that cries at commercials and when she thinks about where she could be if it weren’t for God’s grace. My moodiness which is usually the result of frustration, fatigue or lack of focus. All of this and so much more makes up who I am. For most of my life I allowed people to tell me which parts I show and which parts remain hidden. I allowed others to dictate how (or even if) I embraced all of who I am. But now that I’m 40, I realize the parts of me that make sense and the parts that make people scratch their heads are Adeea–and if I embrace her–I have to embrace the complexities of my personality.
I don’t hide my awkwardness
I have Issa Rae to thank for this one. The innovative creative behind the uber popular, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, helped countless black women appreciate and embrace their awkward parts. In a society where people expect an unhealthy level of perfection, Issa gave us a glimpse into ourselves, our friends and our mates. We’ve all screamed “YAAAAASSSSSSSS” at the internal conversations and secret daydreams she had as she navigated through life. And so thanks to Issa and growing up, I no longer feel it necessary to hide my awkwardness. It’s also part of my embracing who I am. Because as much as I’d like to think I’m giving it to the people like this
Somedays, it’s more like this…
I will not be a team player if that means sacrificing my core beliefs.
There is no job, career, paycheck or person worth my peace of mind. I have to get up and lay down with Adeea every night. And I’m determined to do so with a clear conscience. I try not to be “contrary,” but there is too much going wrong in the world to not speak up when I see instances of injustice or inconsistency of treatment.
I’ve learned to say yes and no more often.
I know what you’re thinking–how do you do that?!?!? I am a lot quicker to say no to stuff that isn’t in line with the path to my purpose or doesn’t align with my beliefs and values. But I’m also a lot quicker to say yes to things that will stretch me, grow me, expand my circle or give me a new experience. This can be a relatively small change that can have profound impact.
For instance, someone asked me to give a presentation and I immediately said no. I literally turned around like, “Who said that?” It wasn’t that the request was bad or worthwhile–it was on a topic that I do not want to align with my brand. So that was that. I said no.
The other part of my complexity is that I am not a very spontaneous. Even when I do not have anything planned; I plan not to have anything planned. So when a friend called one Sunday morning and asked if I wanted to go out of town that afternoon, I said yes. I know what you’re thinking, “Um, and?” But that was huge for me. I would have been anxious because I planned to not do anything that day–I know that’s dumb. But this is the “awkward” conversation I have in my head. But I decided to say yes. And it was THE BEST afternoon and evening I had in months. And I would have missed out had I stuck with my original plan of doing nothing.
Say yes to things that feed your spirit and purpose. Or things that simply make you laugh or feel at peace (that feeds your spirit too). Say no to things (no matter how well intentioned) that do not align with who you really are.
I can’t mess with people that vex my spirit.
My friend laughs and says, “Girl, you sound 80 years old” every time I say someone “vexes my spirit.” But I have a very sensitive spirit. People find that shocking because I can act dismissive and matter-of-fact. But quiet as it’s kept–that’s just a defense mechanism. And part of embracing myself is understanding that I can no longer subject myself (unless required for work or church) to people who “vex my spirit.” For me, these are people who always have “something” with them and refuse to listen to sound counsel and grow as individuals. People that vex my spirit are also those that are messy and just cause strife and confusion where there need not be any. I believe that energies can be absorbed by others. And I have enough complexities to deal with to not have to try to sort out the energy of someone I don’t even know….I’ll pass.
I see the strength in submission.
For those that catch me on Periscope, I told y’all this was going to be the realest post many of you have seen. I rarely talk about my personal and religious views on submission because some in my circle do not understand or agree with its premise. And I supposed part of me was afraid that some would look at me sideways when I said that there is strength in submission. But now that I’m 40……
Anyhoo, the word submission is polarizing. And in my 20’s, I didn’t want anything to do with the word–despite my Christian upbringing and knowing what the Bible said about it. Somewhere around age 25 I decided that I needed to understand the word for myself and figure out if aligned with who I was at that point. I started reading books on submission–most religious, but some not (yup, like really not religious). One book I read, Liberated Through Submission, took me about 4 months to read because I kept putting it down. The title alone got on my nerves and when I started reading, it was challenging. But I was determined to figure out what Adeea thought about submission–not what a womanist or even a Pastor or a preacher.
Somewhere in the world, the saints are doing this…….
So yeah, I spent some time studying what submission looked like and how it operated. And it takes a great deal of strength and self-control to allow anyone–boss, mate, parent, etc.–to have more of a final say so in a decision. Especially when you don’t agree with the decision. But it teaches you a lot, trust me. I know I’ve made some of you very uncomfortable and thinking that I’m typing this in a dress with an apron and heels and a pair of pearls. So let’s move on……
I value independence.
Now you probably think I’m just a little wacky. But that’s the beauty of who I am–complex. I am an only child and independence is a required tool for survival. Only children have to be resourceful and figure so much out on our own. We build a degree of resiliency, determination, grit with a touch of defiance that helps us navigate and negotiate what we need in the world.
But this independence can also cause conflict in our lives. We can be not quite as receptive or downright suspicious of people trying to help us or just be polite. Some have even gone as far as to think that someone’s kind gesture was an attack on their independence. And by some, I mean me. So this is why I had to learn to accept kind gestures, help and people expressing their care for me. And the most valuable part of this lesson is that I learned it didn’t devalue my own independence.
Understanding others does not change who I am.
I work in a diverse environment. I have to interact with people from varying religious, ethnic, lifestyle and socioeconomic backgrounds. I must admit when I began working here almost a decade ago, there was so much I did not know–even about myself. And I became uncomfortable and afraid. Even as a grown, rational adult I thought somehow their differences would impact who I was. So I would shy away from certain groups, situations and scenarios. But one thing I do not like is being afraid. So I was always ask God to give me opportunities to confront my fears. Because that defiant, independent part of me refuses to give power to something simply because it frightens me. And wouldn’t you know it, God granted my request. I had the opportunity to have conversations with people who were very different than me. And through those I began to understand them. And by understanding who they were, I began to understand who I was and that understanding their challenges, fears or triumphs did not change who I was.
I tell the truth when people ask how am I doing.
It is very easy to just respond with, “I’m fine.” But I’ve gotten to the point where I tell people the truth. Most of the time I say, “Eh. I’m ok.” or “I’m not having the best of days–but I’m blessed.” or “I don’t feel the best, but other than that, I’m doing fine.”
I do this for 2 reasons: 1) I want to see if people are actually paying attention and 2) there is no use hiding how I feel. It’s part of my doing as my friend Pamela Book of Koils by Nature says, “removing the ‘S’ from my chest.” Every day isn’t roses and ice cream. And I don’t always have to “pretend” as such. I am not indiscriminate with it, but it’s just one way I true to live out my truth.
Masks should only be for Halloween and masquerade balls.
Many believe that wearing masks is simply a part of life–and I suppose it is. I attended an amazing masquerade ball recently
And one of the comments many of us made throughout the evening was that it was hard for us to do things like eat, smile, see clearly, breathe with the masks on. Most of us wore them for pictures, but took them off to talk to each other or eat. I think we should do the same thing in life–take off the masks to live and interact with each other.
Wearing masks are meant for temporary use. But for some of us, our masks have become permanent. And it minimizes our ability to live fully. This quote is extremely poignant:
I value my relationship with Jesus over religious doctrine.
I have attended church all of my life. Youth group. Bible Study. Revival. Concerts. Plays. Sunday morning service. Sunday afternoon service. I was there for all of that. But it has only been in my adult years that I developed a true relationship with Christ and it has made all the difference in the world to how I navigate in it.
As a black woman, a lot has been said recently about the complex nature of our relationship with the church. There are many who feel that
Growing up, we left a church that tried to tell women holiness was in your hemlines and unpierced ears. Over the years, I’ve heard all types of doctrine, but not always a lot of Jesus. Jesus dealt with the least, the lost and the unloved. And that’s the Great Commission of the church–to show the least, the lost, and the unloved a better way. The church needs to deal with mental illness, domestic violence and social injustice. In addition to helping congregants and the community improve their lives and circumstances. That’s what Jesus did.
And I will take doing what Jesus would do over what someone trying to keep me from living out my God-giving purpose says any day.
Build your life around those who will cry at your funeral
My former coach and lifelong mentor, Simon Bailey, told me this many years ago and it stuck. A lot of times we place more stock, time and energy in people and situations that ultimately don’t feed our soul. We spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about people who may not even show up in our darkest moments.
I can always work. I can always do something with my business or brand. But it is the moments with my godson, or shopping with my cousin or lunch with my mom that makes the most impact on my life–and ultimately my work.
Atmosphere affects attitude
I am very careful about the atmosphere around me. From people to location to sounds–they have an affect on my attitude. But I notice that for some, they don’t care where they are, who they are around or what they do. And then they wonder why they act differently than they normally do. So from music to people–I am constantly monitoring my atmosphere because I know it impacts my attitude.
I acknowledge the labels that resonate with who I am, not the ones that make others comfortable with who they think I should be
Everyone wants to identify you–not necessarily identify with you. I have always struggled with labels. Identifiers, when used improperly, can be a source of isolation, bullying or retribution. But the chance of this happening lessens when you are comfortable with the labels–because you assign them to yourself. My sense of who I am is not a thrifted piece worn by someone else. My sense of who I am is a haute couture custom fit just for me.
I honor and enjoy my sensuality.
I know some of you sitting here like…
I thoroughly enjoy being a woman. It’s a lot of work (lol), but I enjoy it. And I enjoy all of the things I can do and ways I can express my femininity. And I realize that part of my femininity is connected to my sensuality.
Sensuality begins between your ears–not between your legs. It is a physical expression of an inner confidence, knowing and peace. The most sensuous women may not receive the most Instagram likes or DM requests. But a sensuous woman definitely attracts curious attention.
*the saints are getting nervous*
Sensuality does not have to express itself through the physical act of sex. Sensuality can be, like defined above, the fulfillment of the senses. One of my 5 Love Languages is physical touch…
*someone reading this is now clutching her pearls*
The physical touch I find equally as pleasing and electric are a man’s hand at the small of my back. Or the moment you’re walking and he reaches for your hand. And a forehead kiss? I melt like Frosty the Snowman to a puddle on the floor. Why? Because it secretly whispers, “I think you’re so dope and I’m so attracted to you, I can’t help but touch you in a crowded mall of people.”
Yeah, that’s everything.
And that feeling lasts a lot longer and goes much deeper than a 10-20 second sexual climax.
There is a huge difference between sensuality and sexuality. And many times they are mislabeled.
Sensuality is powerful. And being keenly aware of the power of your sensuality means you can’t make it available for indiscriminate consumption.
Now that I’m 40, I am embracing my sensuality.
*someone is probably calling my mother right now*
Sensuality is much more than a physical act–and that’s the part I plan to explore to the fullest.
*ok, exhale. See? It wasn’t that bad*
Man, you made it to the end! That was a lot right? Well, I have 40 years worth of stuff to say. LOL.
I leave you with my birthday song. This is the song I listen to every week and definitely every birthday. It sums up my profound gratitude to God for allowing me to live to see another year of life. Every year is time of growth, joy, happiness and discovery.
Here’s to the next 40 years….let’s ride!
“Thank You Lord” by Walter Hawkins
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