34th year crisis-

I thought long and hard about writing this piece because it felt like whining, but then I thought, it’s my life, I can whine if I want to. It does seem a bit selfish to have so much else going on around me, and to focus on me. I have come to think of it more as a way to keep my sanity, to finally let it all hang out.
I feel as if I am having that mid-late twenties crisis that occurred seven years ago when I didn’t have a job after graduate school and nothing I applied for called for an interview or went past the first interview. I am right back there again, only this time with more debt and in a city where everything costs twice as much. I was talking to a friend of mine over the weekend and we shared with each other. What she had to say resounded loudly for me as well. It was something I’d been thinking, but not voicing. “I never thought I’d be where I am at this point in my life. At 32, I thought for sure I’d have it together.” Same here, I whispered.
At 24, I had planned to be married with at least one child, a girl. By 27, two more children, twins preferably, bringing my total to three. A good number, I thought. At this point in time, my partner was always male. A choice in partner genders had never been presented to me. Racially conscious in a negative way, I knew I would never marry a man from Ghana, and since I wanted mixed-race children with “good hair,” he would most likely not be Black. Ironically, this partner was never a fully-fleshed character in all these plans. I would have at least one book published and working on another, juggling motherhood and career so well, people were jealous. I would be living in California. At 16, this is what the book jacket I wrote for my first book stated. No connections to anything exotic, all roads led to renouncing my roots and moving “beyond race.” I couldn’t wait to change my last name to something easy to pronounce, and common, like Johnson! Never mind that some of these names belonged to slave masters. I was proud of the brainwashing that left my name at Melody-Ann D. Yomekpe instead of Kuukua Dzigbordi Yomekpe, and had me surrounded by white friends and avoiding all conversations related to race.
At 34, none of this is true, nor does it even seem to be on the horizon. Of course I have tweaked the book jacket along the way, and it currently rests on no children, even vehemently opposed to marriage, and claiming of all my various identities in an effort to stop compartmentalizing myself. Living in the interstices and on the “Borderlands,” embracing hybridity, joining the struggle for racial justice and equity, and just plain trying to take care of me and my path vs. doing what we are “supposed” to do as Black women, as daughters of ambitiously-hopeful immigrant mothers. Moving “consciously” to the rhythms of The Continent, cooking African food and sharing it with others, writing the truth that frees my heart, wearing African garb whenever I get a chance, proclaiming mental dis-ease, and discovering queer identity.
The California part I seem to have right! Everything else has been turned upside down on its head. Ok, so perhaps tweaking is not the verb I need; it’s more like scrapping! I guess it is no wonder I am having a mid-life crisis earlier than I’m supposed to.
Sure being in The Bay has enabled me to spread my wings and fly. I would never have made the move of finishing this memoir, showing my work to strangers, and enrolling in an MFA program had I not been here. Sure I have more close friends than I made in both my undergrad and first graduate program combined and they fly to my aid whenever I call, yet I still feel alone when it comes to making this decision about my future path.
I can’t keep going to school on the government’s money and I can’t be homeless so where does that leave me? I have thought long and hard this past week about going back to Ohio because everything is so much cheaper there. Maybe I could return to dancing and cheffing. There is less of the “exotic” there so I wouldn’t have competition. But then again, people are not as widely exposed to even want some of these services. Above all, housing is half what it costs here. My sister has an apartment twice the size of my studio for half the cost!
School has left much to be desired for most of the two semesters I’ve been in it. I’ve made a great posse of friends and supportive instructors that I hope I can stay connected to, but the program itself, now that’s a whole different story. No one is accountable to anyone and in a cohort model, this is not very efficient. I have struggled with having so many people in class, a few of whom feel it their duty to speak all the time and sometimes seem intent on derailing conversations just for the heck of it. I have politely voiced my opinion to the instructors but nothing seems to have changed in the last semester. Sadly, it is my money that is being wasted listening to these folks for 8 hours every other weekend and not receiving important critique from them.
My job has eliminated my position. The atmosphere around campus is no longer as carefree and loving as I first experienced it in 2007 when I visited. There is a sense of hidden meanings, and a few communications that are neither timely nor clear. I am very saddened by this shift. I love this place that Bishop Flunder led me to 6 years ago. In a few weeks I will be jobless and homeless and on break from school. I am applying for jobs in frenzy but I wonder if that is what I should be doing. There will be nothing dutifully holding me back from taking flight unless I find that dream job. The Continent calls. I am freaked out by the idea of spending an entire summer in the country I lived for 19 years. This new identity does not have a place in the culture I grew up in. How will I navigate this culture now that my 24 year old self is nowhere to be found? Will I make up a husband and kids who had to stay in America because my “American in-laws” didn’t want their grandchildren in a third world country? Or will I stand firm as an alternative to the prescribed life?
My memoir can’t be written without the full presence of its protagonist. I feel more strongly than ever that I cannot move on much longer without heeding the call of The Motherland to return and collect all the pieces I left behind. To stay awhile this time. Beyond my usual three weeks. I feel that the task from here on out is to trust that the universe will take care of me. This task begins with allowing the 34th year crisis room to express itself and run its course. Here’s to her! Cheers!

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6 comments

    • Thanks Sloan. I’m truly on that precipice.
      I feel like someone’s gonna have to say boo when I’m least expecting and then I’ll jump in probably kicking and screaming.

  1. I agree with Willona — this is important stuff to think about. It’s not selfish at all. To me it speaks of a lot of growth and turbulence that you’ve changed so much between 24 and 34, and I’m proud of you for being all these ways you’ve been, and still looking forward. You are at a crossroads, and whatever way you move will bring you something. Love to you. 🙂

  2. Thank u for so candidly and beautifully sharing. You give other people permission to live life boldly in the matrices that a fulfilled life presents. I have no doubt that your memoir is absolutely profound, and that it will touch many who find themselves in the lonely and isolated spaces in life.

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