Birthday Reflections

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For a few years now just before my birthday I’ve written down what I’ve learned, or thought about quite a bit, over the past year . They are not necessarily new lessons but they are often thoughts that come up often enough in the past year that they have led me to evaluate things.

This past year for me has been a real juggling act, trying to juggle school, work, family and social life, and also embarking on what will be a huge project. This has led me to overcome fears related to vulnerability, and to become bolder. This has led me to  realize that not all my thoughts and opinions will be popular, that not everybody will get what I have to say, but that sticking to my values and maintaining my integrity is more important.

Some of the things I’ve learned/thought about in some detail:

  • The importance of  self- care

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” – Audre Lorde

  • The importance of finding one’s voice (and being prepared to be called histrionic, neurotic, hysterical and so on).

Below follows a long quote from Audre Lorde which sums up my thoughts perfectly:

“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”

I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.”– Audre Lorde

 

  • Looking or acting “respectable” doesn’t always help people treat me like a decent human being

As a black woman it really doesn’t matter how I present myself. I could be in a library in full winter gear with a pile of Russian lit under my arm and I will still be propositioned for sex (yes, this exact situation has happened to me before). It doesn’t matter that the majority of my interests include literature, sociology, culture, the arts and history, which are considered quite academic, that  I am a quiet woman, some people will still judge me fairly negatively based on my skin tone. So when I insist on speaking up about race, this is one of the many reasons why. As much as I would love to not consider race so often, it is a privilege I do not have. I don’t have many positive options as to how to deal with racial microaggressions except to speak up about them,  and to write about them, and I will continue to do so.

Source: https://i1.wp.com/kora.matrix.msu.edu/files/50/305/32-131-1FB-98-african_activist_archive-a0a9q8-a_14380.jpg
Source: http://kora.matrix.msu.edu/files/50/305/32-131-1FB-98-african_activist_archive-a0a9q8-a_14380.jpg

 

  • Respecting worldviews

We all have different perspectives of the world, depending on things like religion, place of birth,  class, upbringing etc, so things we take  as assumptions might not be the case for other people. I’m learning that all the time. Our reality is not their reality.  Surely we can respect each other’s opinions without resorting to name-calling and bullying tactics?

 

  • The value (and importance) of listening.

“Listening is political.”– Cynthia Enloe

For me, life is a learning experience. I myself have made numerous assumptions about people who are different from me. One thing I’ve learned is to keep quiet and let others speak.  I find the internet a wonderful medium for connecting with people outside my usual circles, from different groups. I have learned so much and I’m so glad I’m getting rid of my prejudices. There’s still a lot of work still to do, I warrant you that, but I’m pleased with my progress.

  • The power of stories and solidarity.

The strength of the collective to actualize change is something that comforts me every time I think of it. The strength that people get when they share what they have been taught to keep quiet or suppress is something that can’t be taken lightly. Having read so much by people of colour, women, and immigrants in the past year, stories that weren’t sugarcoated to spare other people’s feelings or sensibilities, I became bolder with my own stories and experiences.

Just a few thoughts that have been on my mind these past months. Thanks all so much for reading my blog. And a happy belated birthday to Heather at Between the Covers

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4 thoughts on “Birthday Reflections

  1. Wonderful, just fantastic. Rowena you are a force, a force to empower not just yourself, but many others. The profound insights you have reached, the ability to listen and share, finding your inner voice coming forth, all are the signs of a true leader. I absolutely adore you! I’ve always loved the quote ” Do one thing every day that scares you.” You seem to embody this. Much love to you on your Birthday!

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