At present, I’m finding my millennial brethren life-crisising all over the place. Words like: manifest, envision, vision board, freedom, financial freedom, dreams, passion, unpack, travel, enlightment, peace, etc. are recirculating through conversations between us with as much frequency as “um”, “uh” and “like” when we were teens.

What’s got me all riled up today over my cuppa peppermint tea is some early morning contemplation on historical trends in black history with white-supremacist beat-downs back into the sunken place. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but William Lynch and Jim Crow did conspire to make us the permanent underclass in America.

I’m weaving my literacy of historical propagandist ploys at manipulating the masses, and especially black people and youth, and I’m getting wafts of a stew that smells something like a rude awakening for us all. I’m suspicious about how Wakanda Forever, Black Lives Matter, the Bitcoin craze, soring numbers in black sole proprietorship businesses a’ bustling, and black middle-class flight from America (I’m for all of this by the way) all pans out for Black America when things inevitably get hard again.

I’m fucking scared. Too many of my black friends are quitting their pension yielding jobs in exchange for dream chasing, private business ventures, all to explore freedom and self -fulfillment. Black millennials, are still millennials. We are equally bombarded with the same level of propaganda that is telling us, the future is uncertain, live for now, life has no purpose so go find it kittens. We are all made to suckle at the pursuit of happiness, dig deep into our yogic selves and fill our hearts with light, as we embrace up-cycling our old clothes and living with our parents until it’s just ridiculous.

Here’s a broadly accepted theory about the millennial generation: We are projected to be less happier, and less fulfilled, because we are relentlessly in search of instant gratification. And since the air we pump back into our own feeding tubes on a daily basis to pursue the fill-in-the-blank of our dreams, nobody dare say to us, look guys:

 You’re getting older.

 

Let’s examine what it means to get older.

-You wrinkle.

-Your parents get old, need your help, and die.

-You start a family, who needs you to provide time, energy, and money.

-You need money for retirement because most of you will not be physically able to work through health complications or until you die.

 

So I acknowledge today:

Happiness does not come without tests of boredom, pain, suffering, discomfort, even anxiety. In other words, freedom ain’t free. And if you ain’t happy now with yourself, there is no “out there” that will MAKE you happy. If it’s the journey you crave, hop to it. But the journey still won’t make you happy. Feeling happy comes with contentment with ones own accomplishments, which literally could be ANYTHING. I’ve met too many travelers collecting visas like rings, never to learn much, never to gain any new substantive insight on life, love, culture, etc. What their unhappy asses get instead is a different variety of the same old shiny new thing to floss, meriting them coveted Instagram and Facebook attention.

In other words, today I say, Self:

Be honest with yourself, set a goal, ANY GOAL, and then work your pants off to achieve it. = Happy!

Fill yourself with the endorphins, serotonin, and adrenaline by feeling the gains of achievement. Then, oh Impatient One, watch your ego glow. Endure the wear and tear of perseverance.

I’m not 100% sold on capitalistic notions of success. I do not subscribe to the belief that we must work hard every second of the day, or even every hour in order to feel accomplished. However, I’ve noticed a few patterns of behavior across cultures. Without social purpose, which requires individuals to be regularly challenged with responsibility, individual humans don’t do so well. Look at my students out here in the Gulf who don’t have a worry in the world and can afford themselves with modern day slaves. By their own idle hands, they are killing themselves with sugar addiction and crashing their cars for the sport of it. Human existence without the arduous trials of obstacles= “Hmmmm, how do I turn up the Will I die if I… dial just a little bit?”

Furthermore, purchasing a new pair of red-bottoms or a new watch is the equivalent of eating glazed donuts in the morning to start your day off feeling right. That high doesn’t last very long if you’re goal is substantive nutrition, and before you know it, you need a new sugar fix.

Me. I’m ruminating:

At least three times we’ve seen Black America thrive and then have had the carpet snatched out from under us. First, Emancipation. We thought we was free until white wrath employed KKK bands to relentlessly terrorize us without penalty. Second, Black Artistic Renaissance of the 1920s. Heck! Everyone was Renaissancing. The Great Depression wiped that out. Third, the Civil Rights Movement. The narcotic infestation era of the 70s and 80s annihilated us by flooding black and urban neighborhoods with drugs, which ultimately authorized America to legally incarnate nearly our whole race. Too many of us are slaves all over again.

Thanks to Black Excellence boosterism, it feels like we are finally free. Free to come on up to the Penthouse, as John Legend sings it. But, because we are young, of course it feels like FINALLY we are free. We don’t have the longevity on earth nor the hindsight to see that: Nah, we’ve been free before. That we, once upon a few times, have been led to believe that we were all finally free to do, create, believe, dream, imagine ourselves able and entitled to live unencumbered lives. Then… many blacks and poor people were suddenly not! Pensions, Social Security, unions, welfare, job security, all those safe guards for which our parents fought were inspired on the way up out of living through and beating back the blues of a being stuck between a rock and broke ass place.

So what do we do? What does the millennial do? What does the black millennial do?

We foreit our packages, our way into the great white world (THERE IS NO ESCAPE! ALL OF IT WHITE YALL!!!!) on the hypothesis of being financially free.

Huh?!?

Can we at least agree that freedom is subjective…an illusion? My homie driving Uber speaks about being free to do what he pleases, but he drives all day while he believes himself the captain of his own ship. He’s free. He’s free! He’s free?

Even the business owner needs to kiss the behinds of investors, customers and sometimes employees. Think there’s no business owner gallivanting without worries? Yes, they may exist but they’re certainly the unicorns of business owners.

We take our degrees and make bold attempts to do right for our selves, drinking the individualist attitude Koolaid. We say no to job security or career paths, and expand our minds with more education. Black women hold the most degrees by ratio of any ethnic group in the USA. Have we noticed at all how that educational status is becoming less important with the rise of power yielded by social capital? And by the way, we have racked in quite a bit of debt paying for expanding our minds and not lining our actual pockets with cash rendering investments too. Who would’ve seen that a’coming? Sounds like another trip through Slavery Lane, don’t it???

Also, we talk big ideas about aligning ourselves and building the bond we’ve envied in immigrant groups. Why can’t we be like the Jews of New York City, we say? Here’s some facts:

  1. We’re not immigrants! We’ve never had the systemic institution of relying on each other (beyond our families—whatever was left of it post being sold away from each other once, plucked off for slaughter for generations, experimented on, sent to war, shot down, feed drugs, and incarcerated) to support a greater community of people black like us. Hell, we can’t even figure out who is “us” since we’ve also inherited white-supremacist thought patterns that has divided us by skin color, dialect, class-status, and now curl-pattern and nutritional classism. (I went there! I see a future where black vegan children aren’t allowed to play with the black neighbors who serve collard greens flavored with smoked neck bones. Do you?) Yes! We can build together. We can employ each other. We can work together. However, we can’t expect this to be easy, and need to develop a culture of loyalty. And that shit ain’t built in a day. Between Amazon Prime, Upwork and the countless other few-click agencies we can exhaust to fulfill our instant-gratification proclivities, building loyalty in the black community is fighting up hill, with no gloves and weights on. We need to activate patience! This means hold fast to hope, hold each other accountable and lift up our brothers and sisters WHEN they fall short, and have faith in our basic humanness to improve over time.
  1. For those of us who are immigrants, all it apparently takes is one American born generation for the homeland culture to take a back-seat to the individualistic thinking that’s got America’s children lost and on antidepressants. When your kids lose the village, what they pick up instead is the imposed white-supremacist projections of what they should be and how they should act. And you can try to keep your kids away from Black Americans all you want. I’ll advise you then to not send them to school or let them consume media at all. Black Americans haven’t found a means to escape being fed hostility about ourselves after 400 hundred years, and neither will you. Yes, I’m hype. Wakanda Forever! But Wakanda is a fictional place, and Trump America is REAL!
  2. Without a long-lived cultural institution that has effectively stood the test of time (like the Jewish experience of being persecuted and tried for 10,000 years) to teach us how to rely on each other, how to trust each other, how to be loyal to each other, we must acknowledge that while we are building, we are not there YET? Our families and communities did not all have the means to build itself up from poverty, and to develop a systemic netting to buffer losses experienced by the individual household. This means we do not have the trust funds our white millennial friends have (because it was a trendy status item for all the families in the neighborhood back then) to fall back on when they wake up to a chaotic adult reality. This also means that when my white friends say “So What?” when we talk about the responsibilities of taking care of elders, they can rest assured that their elders will be just fine, and I can’t. Black elders still need us to be well enough to take care of them in old age and ourselves and provide for our next generation.

How do we end the crisising? What comfort can be offered to the black millennial soul?

Let’s acknowledge that crisising is part of the human experience. Studies of adolescent development will confirm this. And since we can’t agree when adolescence ends, what we do believe right now is that the frontal lobe, presumably the part of the brain that allows us to grasp who we are beyond our own self-gratifying needs, starts to finish up the development process closer to our 30’s than when we turned age 20. No surprise that when we live in a society that doesn’t have clear roles or purpose for the individual, humans tussle in the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Just compare the dependency of western-modeled societies on drugs and pharmaceuticals to nonwestern-modeled societies.

And for goodness sake, drop the “happiness” talk. Happiness is relative and experienced differently by all. We can’t prevent crisising. What we can do is accept that it is not avoidable and at best manageable while we live in constant pursuit of the happy experiences we seek out and collect along our life journey.

Black millennials, we need to start with the end in mind. And not just the feel-good end, but a serious look at the end of our lives and the lives of all those who count on us. We are a diverse bunch, and many of us are privileged to have families with legacies of success and wealth. My rant pertains to those of us who don’t have the provisions of an Aunt Oprah or Uncle Tyler to pick up the slack if ever needed.

For me, I’m realizing that some variance of “struggle” finds me everywhere I go. So why do I intimidate so easily at the thought of jumping out of the pan and into the fire? With all of my miles, and merit badges, how is fear still part of my story? Can I relish in my confidence to take care of myself no matter what direction I go from here yet?

 

 

Got a teaching degree or biting travel bug? Consider teaching overseas for the following advantages:

  1. Tax FREE Income!

This has to be the number one perk for overseas teachering. Just to be clear, the income you earn overseas is free of US income tax up until you gross upwards of $90,000 a year as stipulated by the Tax Reform Act of 1986 (readjusted by later legislation). This means that you take home everything you earn, unless you decide to make investments for retirement. I earned one-third more in salary working as a certified NYC public school teacher with a master’s degree than I currently do now as an international teacher in South Africa, but I save almost three times a much per year despite travelling like an wanderlust nomad over school breaks. Look up Foreign Earned Income Exclusion on the IRS website for more information.

Retention Incentives

Some schools choose to express appreciation for the teacher who stays past the end of their contracted time for another year in the form of retention incentives. These schools are usually in countries that are considered hardship posts (Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraqi, etc.). Incentives bonuses are tacked on around contract renewal time and may vary, ranging between $1,000-$2,000 US.

Settling In Stipend

Here’s a lovely way to get settled in to your new home. Some schools may offer you a lovely stash of cash to settle in, as it may be the case that accessing your US bank account might present a challenge with theft alerts and foreign withdrawal blocks, and le struggle to simply finding a non-sketchy ATM. Stipends may vary, ranging between $1,000-$4,000 US.

 

  1. Meet Dynamic People

Expatriates, by sheer virtue of being bold enough to venture from their homebase for an extended period of time, are dynamic human beings. Before I decided to leave NYC, I was feeling suffocated by the routine of hanging out with the same people. And though I loved and adored my NYC family and friend circle, I couldn’t manage another conversation that started with: “You remember when we…” What’s different about being an expatriate amongst expatriates is that we all eagerly seek to build new relationships. Expats make friends a LOT faster than folks back home. Some say this is because we know we’re short on time and don’t approach people we meet out in the world with the same defenses we activate when we meet strangers on the homefront. Others theorize that expats live with social vulnerability that comes with the territory of being foreign, humbling us to be more accepting, inviting, and even entertaining. We empathize with each other: dishing humorous stories about the frustrations of being lost, confused, and misled. We enthusiastically want to build a community to supplement for the support systems we surrendered by leaving home. Furthermore, expats are exceptional people who live dynamic lives. Everyone has a story to share, bejewelled with rare life finds, and a thirst for the unexplored. And for some of us who just want to let our social fears go, the rejection and shame that sometimes come with not conforming to the fit of the communities we call home, it’s nice to invite new inspiring people (sometimes also nonconformists) in to our lives.

 

  1. Shipping Allowances

When living the transient teacher lifestyle, you may find that you can’t let go of your pretty little things as easily as you could the first time you packed your bags. Fortunately, as your collection of worldly possessions accumulate, your next school may offer a shipping allowance. Shipping allowances vary depending on the school and location. The best I’ve heard come from schools in the Middle East, India & Indonesia. A set dollar amount may be offered, averaging $3,500 US per teaching adult, and range up to $15,000 US for a family of 4. Pretty cool!

 

  1. Travel Opportunities

Overseas teaching comes with the advantages of being a foreigner in a new land. Obviously, you went overseas to discover a new world. Expect that your travel inertia will accelerate with each conversation. You’ll be burning to venture off to local cities, towns, sites as well as nearby and accessible neighboring countries. Vacations are typically frequent and may vary depending on the home country you work in. Keep in mind that American International Schools follow the American academic calendar year. This means that you typically get off for every American national holiday and the national holidays of your host country.

 

  1. Access to Professional Development

Since overseas schools, private schools namely, do not have to worry so much about the high stakes testing that dominates professional talk in the US, teachers can focus on craft. International schools serve transient multinational expatriate family communities. These schools want to keep curriculums aligned and student performance expectations at a similar standard from school to school, country to country. Moreover, diplomatic, embassadorial and business families want quality and consistent education for their children. International teachers at top tier schools are expected to be up on the latest research and practices employed in the world that are highly acclaimed as effective and meaninful. Teachers, as the top priority, are encouraged to teach well, and receive access to all the world’s teaching resources.

 

  1. Learn a New Language

I don’t think I understood the importance of a greeting until I travelled Tanzania. And it wasn’t until I studied poetry in Spanish that I discovered the my inner romantic.

Living in a new environment usually comes with the need to acquire a new language or a new dialect at least. Enjoy the challenge of expanding your communication skills by picking up a new language, perhaps even to discover a new you.

 

  1. Reinvent Yourself

Enough said. Chances are that if you are reading this, you’re looking for a big change. Nothing changes life like new scenery. Relocating to a different world allows you all the exploratory space to try new things, learn new perspectives, be creative with your look and expand your interests. Even if the world you pick to move to isn’t so different from the one you currently live in, you still need to figure out where to find a reliable source for…everything. You have to find a new favorite spot for breakfast on Saturdays, and new go-to for Friday Happy Hour. Maybe you discover that highwaist pants aren’t as comfortable or as necessary as full length skirts from Big Blue, like I did.

 

  1. Good-bye High Stakes Testing

This may not apply to you if you teach International Baccalaureate or Advance Place courses for transparent reasons. Teaching in the international academic school setting generally means that you are free from the pressures of teaching to the test. Instead, units of study are generally based on school designed curriculum, and usually this leaves room for you to explore your craft and learn from the expertise of your colleagues.

 

It felt like the whole world had something to say about these books this past year. Maybe it was just me talking them up, which wouldn’t be too far from probable since I talk so much about every new thing I learn.

You’ll be certain to find at least one person everywhere you go who’ll have deep epic conversation with a stranger over something on this list. What do you have to say about…?

 

  1. Oh The Places You Will Go, Dr. Seuss
  2. The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho
  3. The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor
  4. All About Love, bell hooks
  5. Women Who Run with Wolves, Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes
  6. Blink, Malcolm Gladwell
  7. Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
  8. Freakonomics, Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner
  9. Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, Susan Jeffers
  10. Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill
  11. The 4 Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss
  12. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
  13. Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain, David Eagleman
  14. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari, Robin Sharma
  15. The 5 Love Languages, Gary Chapman

Ode

This is for all the ghetto girls who spent afternoons gazing out barred windows and who dreamed to be somewhere anywhere else. This is for all the kids who took sanctuary in their closet to escape the dysfunction of their habitat. This is for all the big foot, thick thigh mama’s who were made to feel ashamed of their bodies, to cover up, to wear oversized t-shirts, and who grieved their differences from the girls on t.v. This is for all the Cosby Kid Wanna-Be’s. (Aren’t we angry at the man but so grateful for his art, for it helped save our lives from the cycle of poverty.) For the latchkey kids who wanted their mom home instead of at work… until they discovered call waiting and three way. This is for every free spirited wild woman who wants to live without borders, except the ones she chooses. This is for every girl who refuses to say ‘yes’ because it’s cool for everybody else, and who says ‘no’ because someone has to ‘Goddamn it!’ This is for the “Too Much” women, the “Rainbow Is Enuf” women, and every woman who is part wolf as much as she is wind and water. This if for every black woman who has lost a brother to gun violence and continues to lose others to the prison industrial complex and other social injustices. This is for every woman who has ever loved another woman so much she learned to see the world contrary to her own self and with newer more compassionate eyes. This is for every woman who knows she deserves a furious love, and couldn’t find it, so she stopped looking and then ooops… found it. This is for every human who has reached the end of her limits and discovered a whole new self that was pretty fucking super hero-fantastic. 

Note 1

Don’t expect to find normal. Being different means realizing your true self. What makes your cells come alive and your toes curl specifically belongs to you. Let go of the expectation that other people SHOULD relate, and be grateful when someone does.

Note 2

Hold fast to old friends. Maintaining old relationships helps us honor our past, our commitments, our most sincerest selves. Old friends remember who you were, what trials you’ve lived through, and can help keep you grounded when we become too aloof. Our new friends aren’t equipped with the tools to rescue us from ourselves. 

Note 3

Let every step we take be to maximize opportunity. Since most of us can’t figure out what we want, we ought to make consistent choices that allow more room for opportunity.

Note 4

The older generations don’t get us! They are caught somewhere between envy and disgust with the whole lot of us. So stop telling them things. Just show them. 

Note 5

Rituals (Not to be confused with routine) bring inner stability. No need to be faux-Buddhist. My chant: “No toilet. 12. Toe!” (I’ll explain later.) Just make it something that empowers you to feel good, to help you find your happy place, to make you laugh. It’s okay. You can keep it a secret. Rituals = structure. And the brain loves structure.

Note 6

Practice makes perfect. When learning something new, everybody thinks they suck. And if you’re the unfortunate person who has to practice in front of others who are amazing at what you’re trying to do, just tell yourself that they are too absorbed with criticizing they’re own image; they can’t possibly notice how much you suck. Sucking is a rite of passage. (Keep it clean fokes.) Learn to love sucking. Smile at it. Laugh at it! And schedule a point in the not so near future to stop and reflect on how far you will have come.

Note 7

Challenging the self is its own reward. Try something new. Pick something. Anything. And challenge yourself to do it every day, just to nurture the spirit of success in the self. Success is an excellent addiction.

Note 8

Consume less! Make it a mantra. Make it sport you enjoy. Ask: Can I have one less…or, a little less…? For, if I’m not prepared to carry it on my back for a few hours or between travel destinations, I’m not buying it. Furthermore, a mentality committed to consuming less not only help save money, it can help you lose weight. I lost 15 pounds (slowly) just by fixating on consuming (with my mouth) less than what I would have before in my splurge by urge days.

Note 9

Consume positive media! Oh god! Music, pictures, videos, and tv. series alike have the power to influence your mood. If you choose the happier stuff, you’ll feel happier. Same goes for blood wrenching, corrupt, and violent stuff. Alls I’m saying is that Game of Thrones has certainly taken something away from my spirit that took dozens of TED Talks for me to get back.

Note 10

Free time should be free from self judgment. Doing whatever you want to do sometimes mean doing nothing at all, walking in circles, imagining, coloring, etc. Free time lets your own voice surface, unbridling your true desires and interests. It’s no surprise we in the US make no priority of vacation time. Heaven forbid we figure out that we don’t want to go shopping to make us feel better, and instead actually want to do something to BE better.

Note 11

No one else can define the experience of love in your body. That cliche romantic experience of a passionate love that renders you helpless, captivated by…–yeah that shit leads to self abuse for many of us. This is not reality, the norm, natural, nor necessary in order to have a fulfilling loving relationship. Your body and your mind determines the love experience for you. So don’t hold yourself or anyone else to the standards of French romantic propaganda.

Photo Credit : Vhdragoon Photography

It’s been easy to allow other people’s assumptions, opinions and narratives dictate how I respond to life in my body, in my skin, in this world. This gap year gave me the time to isolate my own thoughts and feelings from those of others, and to listen to my intuition. The following is a list of life lessons I’ve recorded along my journey this year. Despite how many of these are cliche, they are my personal truths. 

1. It takes me two weeks to warm-up to a place, especially new places.
2. I like walking on the sand with water shoes. I love the squishiness inside the shoes, and the resolve of freedom for prickling things like broken shells and sea urchin spines. Ouch!  
3. When I’m in a funk, a place of disenchantment, I must compel myself to look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. (Thank you Naomi!) I will sit my tail down, and log three things I witness (with intention) that demonstrate magic, humanity, or love each day.
4. I can make room for my attention deficiency even in leisure. LOL! I am a person who enjoys bouncing between activities. (Draw in the sand, play the ukulele, read, etc.) 
5. I instantly smile while playing the uke…even though I can barely play through a You Are My Sunshine).
6. The greatest sense of freedom I’ve ever felt is wanting for nothing. This is not to be confused with being able to get all I want. 
7. I do not want to know the measure of time, numbers, intervals, etc. it takes to get something done, I’ll just do it blindly and thrive. 
8. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” (African Proverb)
9. “Be intentional.” Apply this to love, life, and happiness. (Thanks Tiffany!)
10. I am a wild woman. (based on the publications of Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
11. To bleed also means to have flesh. (Women Who Run With Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes) Letting go, leaving friends and family, releasing experiences to memory hurts. But this body knows so much living, and I’ll honor every bruise.
12. I am content to stay in my room…as long as the door is open. 
13. My mantra: No toilet! Twelve! Toe!
14. I have my own rhythm. It doesn’t make sense to anyone else nor should it. Trust it! Respect it! 
15. “Do not make decisions out of fear, make them out of love” (Jim Carey)
16. I must nurture my “playful mind” forever and ever. (based on the lectures of Jim Carey)
17. Meditation occurs when I am learning something new. It is the only way I know how to quiet my mind. 
18. When I can’t stop thinking about something and want to, I must focus on something else.
19. Hapana kazi! (No work!) I never want to work again.
20. A home isn’t worth having if I can’t share it. 
21. The things I do when I don’t have to, are what I should be doing more of.
22. Visiting other people’s lives is nice, but only for just a moment. 
23. A healthy community offers purpose to all of it’s members. That’s what I want.
24. Black people–this obsession with personal space and lenience toward germaphobia are lesser known evils of white supremacy. How the hell did we get so afraid to touch each other? 
25. White supremacy hurts white people too. 
26. An easy way to restore my yen is to drink water. Who’d a thunk it?
27. Privacy. Eh. How much of it really is the desire to function without shame. 
28. I have a deathbed mentality.
29. Our birthright is to realize our “potential”. (Quotas from The Monk who sold his Ferrari)
30. Don’t take myself so seriously. Geeez!
31. Live in the now.
32. Happiness is a journey not a destination.
33. Vacation is an act of the mind. Disconnect. 
34. Friendship, like all things living, has a cycle. 
35. It’s good to be a part of something bigger than myself. 
36. Avatar was right! God lives in the hivemind.
37. “Real love” doesn’t make you lose your goddamn mind. Hollywood, please stop with your bologna. Sheeeez!