You didn’t know any better.
I remember being 22 and thinking I knew better than everybody else lol! It wasn't all hubris tho- I had been through a lot of experiences that other folks my age hadn't and that kinda solidified me as a more "adultier" version of your average 22 year old. I started officially adulting at age 13, and unofficially, well... depending on on the community culture of who you ask, probably around 7 or 8. At 13 tho, the realities of racism, classism, patriarchy, and the impermeable white gaze came to a head for my mother and all of the intersecting experiences that she'd had growing up and into the wife and mother she'd become began to crash into one another with no reprieve, sending her spiraling into a whirlwind of voices and thoughts that made life on this side of heaven too much to bare. They called it a mental breakdown, and in regards to the straw that must have broken the proverbial camel's back, no one entity took responsibility. Not the doctors who performed a hysterectomy on her 36 year old womb as a remedy to endometriosis and PMDD, not her toxic husband who'd convinced her to give up her own dreams and city lifestyle to move to a small, white town 3 hours from her closest kin, not her demanding career that made it impossible to be present for the assemblies and performances of both her 2 children whom she'd had during a 6 year marriage to their abusive father, not even her... the Aquarius woman who's zealous entitlement and manipulative spirit encouraged her quieting of past hurts and traumas in leu of a perfect smile that caught the attention and praise of onlookers for as far back as her now damaged memory could conjure. Racism, classism, patriarchy and the impermeable white gaze stole my childhood from me and at 22, I was convinced that I knew better than everybody else.
This photo is from 2017, and that would make me 28. In April of 2017 I was hospitalized for blood clots in my arms and lungs. The ER doctor blatantly explained to me that this was a common cause for spontaneous death in young folks and that had I not come in, I probably would've dropped dead at some point. I think back on that now and I can't imagine how 2 months after that experience I was already back at work, socializing in the name of fundraising for educational equity. Not even a full 60 days after a 5 day hospital stay, a reduction in lung capacity, and the onset of what I now know to be chronic pain with every breath caused by inflammation in the cartilage of my ribcage, there I was- showing up with the smile I'd practiced in the mirror when my Aquarius mother was getting dressed to go out on the town or head to work.
Its June of 2022 now and an alarm just went off to remind me to take my 2nd round of blood thinners and the anti-convulsion medication that helps to suppress the fibromyalgia that keeps me at a level 5-7 pain every single day without fail. (It also helps to address my anxiety which when triggered sends a shock to my nervous system so intense that the week after my Daddy died my doctors diagnosed me with lupus. Lucky me, it was a misdiagnosis- just my body responding to stress.).
At 22 I didn't fully understand racism, classism, patriarchy and the impermeable white gaze that had stolen my childhood. I didn't understand it when I left the hospital at 27 and headed to the office the next day to catch up on work. I didn't see it's connection to martyrdom and the ill fitted superhero cape I adorned every time I exhausted myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially to save a life that wasn't mine.
At 33, I realize that the hubris I had at 22 set me up for years of overworking and stretching myself far too thin to show up for folks and ideas that existed outside of my locus of control. I now know that much like the young girls who's bodies develop faster than their feet could take them away from the gawking eyes and calloused hands of family friends, neighbors, cousins and vile adult confidants, my claims of maturity and strength were nothing but a facade developed in response to the racism, classism, patriarchy and impermeable white gaze that sent my mother into psychological despair and stole my childhood! A god complex born in response to the devil.
I wish I could go back and save you from yourself. I wish that I could stop us from normalizing pain.
I wish you knew then that your value is not exclusively. dictated by your ability to persevere.
I wish now that you'd have been brave enough to seek help.
In all my wishes tho, I still say thank you because you kept us alive, even if it's only because you didn't know any better.