At the start of the decade, I graduated from high school. At my graduation prayer meeting, my then almost roommate and I made a vow that we would “blossom in college.”
And genuinely, I thought I would.
I was ready to become the “me” I always wanted to be – free of restraints, things, and people holding me back. I was tired of being ashamed of my identity – the sound of my voice and the bold I carried. I had been so restricted, heard no too many times, and was ready to break free.
So, I swam into the “real world” of dirty college dorms, meal plans, independence, and new ideas and pursuits.
College exposed me to the people who saw and taught me to be myself with freedom. Life would always be about the family I choose. The people I am willing to fight for, stand up for, and make time for.
I left this precious, safe “minority corner” with a sense of what family could feel like. From college, I entered the “real world” of jobs, money, and the world of grown-ups.
That’s when I learned grown-ups don’t get a manual to live life well. It happens at your own pace, in your own way, and often in the least unexpected way.
Grown-ups – like kids – are scared, confused, and just trying to keep it together.
These years gave me an appreciation for my parent’s humanity. In a country unknown to them, they learned out the complexities of a broken, inaccessible system, especially to immigrants. They learned what insurance plan to pick, how to buy a house, and essentially – to survive.
I gained empathy for the complexity of black and white. So much of the world was grey – it isn’t easy to put people or places or things into a box.
I had so much fun. I asked my co-worker to help me pick out my insurance plan. I cried often in the parking lot of my first job at a giant mega-corporation. My best friends and I went on coffee dates when we should have been working. I went on dates with cute and silly boys who weren’t good for me. I danced in bars and drank way too much alcohol.
I struggled with my Christian identity because I loved the fun I had outside of the walls of church much more.
I felt that my Christian identity restricted me and kept me from the fun I wanted to have.
In this time, I un-learned the bounds of grace and restriction that I had placed on God’s grace for me. I sat in the back of City Church, often crying because I couldn’t believe that the God I had known my whole life, wanted me.
When I finally found my place in Seattle – a community I felt safe in, God finally plucked me out.
Moving to New York was a dream deferred at the beginning of this decade. I had been accepted to multiple schools in the Northeast. My parents had the wisdom to keep me close, though at the time, felt unfair and defeating.
When God finally gave me the okay, I took a leap of faith, knowing my family didn’t believe I could make it on my own. God made me take an unconventional step of faith – to believe in myself and what I could accomplish with Him.
I was – completely free, on my own, and doing everything I wanted to do.
New York was timeless, precious, and extravagant. I met incredible warriors of faith, who gave me pieces of my God identity to put together. I learned that I could be passionate, inspiring, and overwhelmed by the Father’s Love.
I became a Christian who realized that all of me – no matter what it looked like – was everything Jesus ever wanted.
I learned that trusting in God’s laws and rules kept me safe. Trusting in His sovereignty brought me more hope, joy, and conviction that I was exactly where I needed to be.
I found that I carried a voice that was relatable and connective. I wrote to you – despite what it meant for the people I loved the most. It overflowed me – to share our collective story. To share the words I knew I wasn’t alone in.
To say the words that sometimes we don’t feel comfortable saying.
I took myself to the place God asked me to be. He made me uncomfortable, feeling like I was risking it all.
Through this risk, I found the man who fell in love with my voice. Who loved me without conditions. It was rapid-fire – intense, a little crazy, but it felt so right.
And in finding him, I found myself amidst into a 1,000 piece puzzle that I’ve only put 1/20th together.
Charles was the first and only man I have ever fought for. I learned that the best love is worth digging your heels into the ground for.
And I dug, deep.
This abrupt life transition rattled, changed, and engulfed me. We settled into a beautiful apartment in Harlem and I began to reel from all the change.
I realized the most important relationship you have is with yourself. That relationship – the one you have with you – either strengthens or breaks the others. I learned that healing yourself sometimes is for the people you love the most. So you, and them can have a better relationship with you.
God took away a job in our life. It left me totally wrecked. It felt like setback after setback.
I have often blamed external forces. The things and people I couldn’t control.
But at the end of the decade, I see that the internal forces or the battle in your mind can leave you lost, and often stuck.
2019 taught me the most important lesson I could ever learn – grieve. Grieve of what wasn’t, grieve of what should have been, but just give yourself space to grieve.
By grieving, I’ve created more capacity for joy that I never could have managed. I made space for a healthy pursuit of the dreams I have. It’s not moving on, putting it on the back burner, or even shoving it under the rug.
You might have been the guinea pig kid.
Injustice may have been real for you.
Your relationship with your family may not be fulfilling.
The door might close, abruptly and unexpectedly.
You might not get what you deserve.
It may never feel like what you thought it would.
You may never receive the closure you’ve been waiting for.
You may never get that apology you wish for.
That pain may never feel better.
You might not understand why he/she did it.
You might feel like your heart’s desire is completely out of reach.
The world will make you believe that your feelings don’t matter. It doesn’t want you to be everything you are.
My word for 2020 is grief. Recognize the setbacks matter. Revel in them. Release them. God cares for them.
I’ve found by doing so – it has given me space to be more of me in the way God sees me. By releasing, I’ve lightened my load.
In the next ten years of my life, I want my burden to be heavy, but my yoke to be light.