Friday, March 14, 2008

Independence Day

"After I broke up with my boyfriend, I decided to be single and celibate for a year. Who would I be without a companion, sex partner or suitor? I didn't know. But I did know that, although friends and lovers are important, I'm the only person who is guaranteed to be around for my whole life, so it would be smart to get comfortable with myself."
-- Aya de Leon, Deciding to Marry Myself.

I'ma be real: my past few relationships have crashed and burned faster than an overpriced home in the middle of the San Diego desert in October. Some have been ugly, while others have just ended up being stagnant and dissapointing. What started out as exciting and full of promise ended, in one way or another, with me deleting someone from my phone or IM buddy list (some call it immature, I call it momentary therapy). There was the multi-year relationship with a former best friend that went from disappointing to dramatic to downright ridiculous in a matter of months. Then there was the "we're-so-deep-no-one-else-can-understand" on again, off again romance with another close friend. Then there was the one I like to call pure seduction. We had great chemistry and could cut the sexual tension with a chainsaw, but I wasn't down for committment, much less with someone two hours away. I've blamed myself, my partners, my family and our fucked up society for my love's demise. Sometimes if I'm in a good mood, I'll mumble something about it being a test of fate, that I'm being challenged by our higher being, blah, blah, blah.

Lately, I've been shying away -- and sometimes running -- from anything that smells even slightly romantic. My excuse? I want time to myself. I want to deal with my shit. I want to stop looking for someone to be my perfect shield. I know that everyone has their baggage, and some of us have a lot more than others. And while I've grown to accept that the baggage will always be there, I want to figure out how I can carry it more effectively. Instead of spilling my shit in the middle of some busy intersection while trying to run for a bus to take me anywhere but my past, I want to be organized about it, put my pain and insecurities on a granny cart and strut my way down the block with the confident swag of someone who's mistake-prone but life-savvy.

So I've come up with a new version of my Campaign '08. Something geared more toward self actualization. Something that if put on a mixtape might have the title of the "Re-education of Jamilah King". I've decided to do the most dangerous thing a person can do in our society: learn to love myself. It's kinda like my own little independence day, every day.

I say self love is dangerous because our society is stanchily opposed to anything that doesn't include at least two friends and an unlimited text message plan. Especially for younger folks who grew up on the internet -- what do we have if we don't have Facebook, Myspace, cell phones, sneaker conventions, digital cameras (usually to take myspace and facebook pictures with), iChat, gChat and AOL Instant Messenger? We live in every moment but the present and want everything but what we have. This consumer-driven mentality has inevitably trickled down into our love lives. We're always marketing ourselves for the next available suitor, even if we say that we don't give a damn about outward appearances. We always want someone's stamp of approval, whether it's a date, a picture comment or a wall post. Whatever the cost, we can't be alone.

I'm not immune from this. I have Facebook, Myspace, (ill-fuctioning) digital camera. I still care about what people think. I don't want to be alone. But I guess I just want to learn how to meet genuinely amazing people build relationships that aren't predicated on sex and romance.

This self love talk might sound nice, but what does it look like? To be honest, I have no idea. I signed up for salsa class to tackle my rhythmic handicaps -- does that count? I meet up with a group of friends every Monday night to have dinner. I devote entire weekends to hanging out with my mom and my dog, watching episodes of The WIre and eating boxes of eggo waffles. I can't say that I've learned myself any better. I honestly have no idea what an independent, self-loving person might look like. I'm also afraid that the goal itself might be circular and misinformed -- what if I just waste a bunch of time trying to be more independent than I was yesterday? If love is limitless, how will I know if I've actually gotten there? And where the hell am I trying to go anyway?

Some of my friends disagree. They think that I'm punishing myself. Why not just find someone to build with instead of being alone? And what do I know about life or love? I'm only 22.

I'm still figuring it out.


Colin said...

You are such a gifted writer. I'm not sure if we've met, (prolly in passing at UCSC) but I hear an earlier version of myself in your writing.

Love is super confusing, and while I have found my life partner (I am engaged and will be married this summer), my partner and I continue to work our arses off to stay focused on uplifting ourselves and each other. Its never as simple as it looks, even for those of us who have "found somebody."

judging solely on what i see on your blog, you are a brilliant/resilient young adult woman of color who is able to use her mind to find the righteous path. i know we don't know each other but you seem to have a grasp on this stuff, that i dont see many other folks come close to touching. keep writing. ill keep reading.

peace and blessings,

Jay said...

thanks so much for your kind words, colin.

it seems like you're in a good relationship -- maybe the key is admitting that we'll never really know what to do, but be honest in the journey? who knows. but congrats on the engagement! even though it aint easy, i wish you two all the best.

Phoenix Rising said...

I think it's good that you are taking this time for yourself. An ex of mine once told me "you can't truly love me, until you learn to love yourself." Three relationships later, I am just now to the point of understanding what she was trying to say. It IS important to acknowledge your baggage and to comprehend how it may affect your relationships. I know, for me, my adoption issues have played a huge role in my (destructive) relationship patterns. While it may sound like a cop out, it has played out in a very real way in every relationship I have been in. I wish I would have done years ago what you are doing for yourself now. When I WAS between relationships, I either worked obsessively or played the field. I never gave myself time to reflect on my transgressions. In never learning how to deal with my sh*t, the patterns continued.

I am now with someone who, thankfully, has withstood my incredible ability to sabotage relationships. Meanwhile, I have acknowledged the pain that I have inflicted upon her. All the while, realizing that if I had taken the time to reflect upon how things deteriorated in the past and what my part was in those relationships, I could have saved us both a lot of tears and therapy dollars. She understands how my baggage affects me, and I understand that I have to accept where I come from and the associated constraints. I have to stop "testing" the people I love the most. More importantly, I have to learn to love myself. That is some hard stuff.

Jay, what you are doing takes some strength. Really. While you are only 22, your post demonstrates that you probably have more wisdom regarding these issues than a lot of people your age (and probably mine).

I wish you the best, and I hope we can get together when you are out this way in a couple weeks.