After I got back from Vegas and New York in early June, I decided that I wouldn’t wait until next year before I went again. There were too many good people to see, too much pulled pork to eat and too much good shit to soak up. And, thanks to some careful planning and the woefulness of the dollar, I was able to take another trip earlier this month. I spent nine days having basking in the company of friends and eating my way through Brooklyn and have been observing a period of intense mourning since I got back.
Here are a few snaps.
Last year during my birthday week, I wrote a letter to my 17 year-old self. Now that my birthday week has rolled around once again and reflection is required, I think it’s time I add to that letter and offer some advice to Past Me (this also doubles as a post in my 50 Things series.)
- Contrary to popular and staunch belief, wearing a school uniform does not and will not stifle your creativity. In fact, when you are older and have to think about what to wear, there will be days you long for the mindless drudgery of a school uniform. The sweet, mindless, comforting drudgery.
- Your real friends are not the ones that are around when it’s convenient. Nope. Your real friends are the ones that around when it is not.
- Perfection is a myth.
- Save every coin you get your underage hands on. Trust me on this one. Soon, depositing money into your savings account will excite you. Thrill you, even.
- Being an adult doesn’t mean being able to buy anything you want. It means being able to buy a ton of things you want and choosing not to because bills. Also responsibility. And debtors prison.
- That 350 page novel you wrote? Keep it. Yes, it sucks hot, swollen donkey nuts, but keep it anyway. You’re 15. 350 pages means something.
- Blue eyes and blonde hair are not the only attributes that make a person beautiful. I can’t stress this enough.
- You can choose happiness in the same way you can choose to have a speedy metabolism i.e. you cannot. Do things that contribute to your happiness but don’t let anyone shit on you because you aren’t the embodiment of joy all the time.
- When you’re older, people are going to tell you all the time that you should do what you love and the money will come. This is not true for everyone. AND SHIT, THAT IS OKAY. Besides, bills don’t take a break while you’re waiting for the money to come. Work towards your dreams and if you can stack some dubloons doing what you love, go for it. Just don’t feel like a failure because you haven’t yet found a way to monetise watching films in your Old Navy pyjama bottoms.
- Red lipstick is the shit. Don’t let anyone tell you different.
- Stand up for yourself. Don’t let people take you for granted. This is applicable to all areas of life: work (especially work), friendships (especially friendships) and romantic relationships (but really, especially romantic relationships.)
- Coffee is overrated.
- Your natural hair is beautiful. Ease up on the relaxer.
- Your parents are everything. Listen to them. No, shut up, I’m serious. Listen to them.
- Read everything you can get your hands on. Ok, perhaps not everything but enough that it keeps the writing fire inside you lit.
- The word “no” is your friend. But it is also like the killing curse in Harry Potter – it should be used sparingly and very wisely.
- When your Dad says “everything in moderation,” he is 6,000% correct.
- Write for the love of it. Listen, girl, this is important. Never lose sight of why you write. In the future there will be such a thing as blogging for profit and there will be a bit of a formula to best-selling novels (they usually involve vampires and/or some kind of explicit account of fornication.) All this is great. But it is not why you started writing. When you stop loving it, stop writing.
Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.Let it be known that boys are just as confusing as we are. That’s fine. The one for you is out there. And it’s not the one who told you he got shot in the rural midlands and then could not produce any evidence of said shooting.
Every time I meet up with Will, he always sees me before I see him. Inevitably, he will loop his arms around my shoulders from behind and I will experience a brief moment of abject terror during which I prepare myself to throw an elbow as low as possible for maximum damage. Will always says “it’s me” and I always say “why can’t you behave like a normal human being?” all the while with his arms around my shoulders. We stand like this a little longer than perhaps is necessary and then I turn around and give him a proper hug.
I always note amendments to Will’s appearance. This time, he has a new scar on his left hand (“my brother got drunk and brave,” he says by way of explanation, with a shrug that tells me it bothers him more than he is willing to disclose right now), he looks a little thinner and he has something that might be a beard if Will’s facial hair wasn’t as artfully lackadaisical as its owner. He invariably comments on what I am wearing and asks me about the shoes I am wearing which he has never seen before. They’re not new, I tell him and explain about my self-imposed austerity measures. He eyes me for a second, trying to detect sarcasm and then grins, You’ve willingly stopped buying shoes? Are you alright? He keeps an arm around my shoulders.
Because he lives close to it, I have coaxed him into meeting me at IKEA. There are a few things I want to pick up and he, finding himself free on a Saturday evening and wishing to see me, agrees. Inside, we do the requisite tour of the shop floor and he makes the sort of comments that make me love him:
- “I can’t fathom why anyone would buy this. It looks like the pain of all Harry Styles’ exes combined in one ugly piece of furniture.”
- When we are looking at kitchens: “If you buy this kitchen, I won’t respect you anymore. Well, I will but I’ll secretly think you wasted everyone’s time with this shit.”
- “Part of you wants to buy this TV bench but the smart part of you that wants to remain my friend will leave it where the fuck it is.”
- “Are you expecting me to wheel this desk to your car? I ain’t ’bout this life of servitude.”
- When we are standing in line and I point out the adorableness of the man in front of us: “He looks like he has 8-12 people underneath his floorboards.”
This morning, I woke up and my skin looked like I’d been locked in a room of mosquitoes, high on life and marijuana and experiencing a severe case of the munchies. The rash – angry, bright red and clumped together in places to make a hilly landscape of gross – stretched across my wrists, up my arms and over my shoulders before gleefully spiralling down my chest and stomach and fanning out over my legs. I screamed. And then I gagged. And then I ran to my sister, convinced I had leprosy, thrust my wrists under her nose and yelled “unclean! Unclean! What is this?”
What it is, is the latest knock in a bout of fuckery that began a few weeks ago. But here I sit, slathered in calamine cream; antihistamines surging through my bloodstream and I feel…happy. Not just happy but the happiest I have been in a long, long time. It’s like I have finally broken the shackles of shite that 2012 brought with it and have started experiencing the type of joy I previously considered out of my reach and when I think about how this came about; what it is I’m doing differently, I realise that I am happy because I have been scaring the shit out of myself.
Yesterday morning, I woke up, read the verdict and walked out of my house.
It was the beginning of another stunning, sunny day; one of London’s few and the mercury was already climbing skywards. I sat on the grass in shorts and a t-shirt and cried. I was crying when my parents called me and talked me down. I was crying when I sloped back into the house and up the stairs before any of my housemates could clock my wet face. I was probably crying when I stepped into the shower, but by then, I couldn’t tell.
It’s not like I hadn’t seen it coming; like most of us hadn’t called it from the get-go. But it’s still like a well-aimed punch – you brace yourself for the impact and it floors you anyway.
Shortly after we moved here for good and before I was old enough to fully understand the veracity of their words, my parents sat me and my siblings down and explained that here, we were different. Different in a way that shouldn’t matter but did to a lot of people. They tried to prepare us for the hardships we’d face at the hands of peers and from those in positions of power. We might not have understood then but we certainly get it now.
I talked things over with a friend yesterday and sage that he is, he reminded me of the valid yet disheartening truth that if you are a minority, there is no way to teach white people what it means not to be white; that there’s no way to understand that perspective if you can’t experience it. So after hours of irate tweeting, doing my best not to unleash torrents of abuse at people who waxed lyrical about how “this wasn’t about race,” I threw in the towel and rallied with the others who are carrying the implications of what this means on their shoulders.
I’ve been asked a number of times why this verdict feels so personal to black people the world over but especially in America. It’s because these are our kids, our siblings and our parents. It’s because we can be walking home with a bag of Skittles and be shot dead by overzealous, gun-toting “concerned citizens.” It’s because jury verdicts demonstrate that our lives aren’t worth a damn. It’s because we can fire warning shots as an abusive spouse advances and be jailed for 20 years. It’s because I could shoot a deer without a license and get more jail time than a man that profiled, stalked and killed a black boy. It’s because even after that that same boy is the one put on trial for his own murder.
The system is broken.
Amadou Diallo, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Rodney King, Rekia Boyd, Aiyana Stanley, Emmett Till. Trayvon Martin. These people are the reason this
feels is personal to black people. These people are the reason we won’t be silent.
Stereo. 20-something aspiring bon vivant. London based. Exceptionally Nigerian. Partial to snark. My default setting is "wry". Jeans and blazers are my uniform. Landlady. Speed reader, tuneless singer, hoarder of words, drinker of Schloer; I am suspicious of most people, have zero tolerance for tomfoolery, have a vast DVD collection, worship at the altar of Al Green, own too many bottles of nail polish, have small eyes, small ears and giant hair and owe approximately 86% of my awesome to the Parents Typewriter.
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