Beads of sweat dripped down my neck as I fought the urge to scratch at the feverish mosquito bites being rubbed raw between the skin of my feet and my tennis shoes. I winced. With my backpack protectively clutched against my chest, I traced the shape of my camera lens and its cap with my fingertips, as if that would somehow protect it from being stolen from the locals keeping a close eye on me. I took a deep breath. Warm evening air hugged the inside of my lungs as I sprawled out on the powdery white sand. Clouds the color of Tang and pink lemonade littered the sky of my fourth Koh Samui sunset in a row. My camera never left my backpack.
Dear 16-year-old me,
Oh, Jamakea. I wish I could reach back in time, grab you firmly by the shoulders, and let you know that everything is going to be okay.
You have been feeling abandoned this last year. Grandma fled to Mexico without a trace or any type of warning. Dad entered a serious relationship for the first time in 15 years — nevermind that his new girlfriend is only 10 years older than you. Times are changing and your relationships, the very anchors that give you stability, are not what they used to be. Especially the one that you have with yourself.
Before I had kids, hell, before I even WANTED kids, I imagined that the diapers, sleep deprivation, lack of “me” and romantic time, and the overall 24/7 responsibility of caring for another person would be nearly impossible.
Surprisingly, those ended up being the easier parts. Yes, I am tired. Yes, I could use a moment to comb my hair and get out of the sweatpants I’ve been wearing for 4 days straight. But these incredibly exhausting things are bearable — for me at least.
No one warned me about what would truly be the hardest part about parenthood:
In 2013, an article by National Geographic was published featuring a visual portfolio of what they expected humans to look like by 2050. I remember the awe I felt in the pit of my stomach when I realized that a lot of those future humans — looked like me.
I am “mixed”. White, black, and Asian with a sprinkle of Native American. When I was a little girl with tightly coiled curls and large almond eyes I was called a “mutt” by other kids, and yes, sometimes their parents.
If you’re mixed too, you’ve probably heard a few, if not all, the following:
I’ve been working for 7 years.
Most of those years were spent at a desk in a cubicle. I spent my time shooting the shit with my coworkers at the coffee pot and browsing the internet. I shuffled papers. Ate snacks out of the company pantry. I did what was expected out of me (and more if I had a great boss) and waited for 5PM. I had some fantastic jobs and I had some not so fantastic jobs. All of them, however, didn’t feel important.
At 23, I got offered the job that would change my entire life.
I’ve always known that life was fragile.
When I was seven-years-old, I attempted to draft my first will. “My beanie babies went to my mom. My hot wheel collection went to my grandpa. Oh and please play the Pocahontas song at my funeral — you know, the obvious requests.”
I wasn’t sad about it. I just knew that death was a part of life. It scared me, yes, but I knew there was no escaping it. As I got older, I noticed that no one liked to discuss, let alone acknowledge, this inevitable end. In our American culture, we are obsessed with avoiding old age and death. We nip and tuck every wrinkle. We drain life savings on months of life support for those who’d rather be on the other side already. We shun our elderly and deem them useless. We’ve had it all wrong.
I want to acknowledge, out loud, that today could be my last day on Earth. I’d be lucky to someday have smile wrinkles and a sagging bosom. I’d be blessed to have achy joints and sun spots. Those are the evidence of having made it. Of having lived. Not everyone lives long enough to see a wrinkly face smiling back at them in the mirror.
1. Family isn’t always blood – blood isn’t always family.
2. Micro-expressions >
3. A firm handshake goes a long way.
4. 99% of the time, it isn’t personal.
5. Relationships are bank accounts: you must deposit to withdrawal.
6. Love isn’t all you need.
7. The gift of life is the greatest gift of all.
8. You’ve only one set of teeth: take care of them.
9. Tomorrow isn’t promised.
10. Good nutrition doesn’t require killing animals.
11. Your parents are human, too.
12. No one has it figured out.
13. Nature is the best form of entertainment.
14. It’s not about what happens, it’s about how you react.
15. Being in control is an illusion.
16. There is no such thing as “too dry” when it comes to wine.
17. Kindness has no ulterior motive.
18. Retail therapy is never worth it.
19. People are generally good.
20. Love languages.
21. How you treat people that you don’t have to treat well is a true testament to your character.
22. Listening > giving advice.
23. We are all the same all over the world.
24. Intelligence is knowing you know nothing.
25. Happiness is a choice.