Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka's recent decisions are a great place to start.
Mature for my age.
How do you do it?
These are the comments I receive between grateful or impressed smiles for finished projects, long nights, and milestones achieved. Usually, I return with a chuckle or deny that I’ve worked within an inch of my mental, physical, and spiritual health and put that compliment in my pocket. It worked for a while. I was able to feed off of every milestone with less to give and all the pride. I held the fatigue like a badge of honor. Why?
Black women work hard.
Black women are so resilient.
Black women will do whatever it takes!
But what if I don’t want to?
After the last year and a half of uncertainty, death, shifts, epiphanies, and the pause felt worldwide; I decided that I wanted to follow my heart and be happy in my calling. That’s it. I quickly learned that being happy and following my heart did not have to mean more work, more effort, less sleep, more struggle. It was the opposite, and I didn’t know how to do it. Keep it simple, invest in my needs, be happy, and leave the details to God (Universe, whatever you want to call her). How do you do that as a Black woman? When the world applauds you for not dying and persevering anyway; when they are killing us and our kin regularly; when it is not safe to run to the bodega and back? When I decided I would choose happiness and peace in my calling as a Black woman, I didn’t know how much of an anomaly that would be.
Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka choosing their peace over performance is only a piece of the puzzle for Black women choosing themselves first. Issa Rae's decision to enjoy her relationship and her life first before sharing it with the world is yet another example of a conscious choice. For me, saying no to anything that doesn't serve me, move me, or inspire me is only a part of it. I get to make room to release/heal the fear of embracing peace and happiness for myself. I get to accept that I deserve to be at peace, no matter what the outside world is doing or believes. I get to admit that I do not need to be responsible for everything. But if I stopped trying to take care of everyone and their expectations of me, what will happen? Will the world explode? Will my world fall apart? If I followed my heart, will I be disappointed? No, probably not. But your faith muscles will need to be put to work.
What Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka did was way bigger than walking away from a lucrative sporting event. They chose themselves, and as Black women, that is revolutionary and a reflection of what I and probably many Black women are working towards in this new age. We are slowly but surely releasing the ripped and tattered cloaks of the weight that was not ours from the start. We are standing in the light. We are saying no when we feel like it, and we are saying yes to the things we want. We are saying yes to the things that bring us joy and pleasure. Yes, I said pleasure. If you are in the process of finding your yes and your no and indulging in your happiness, you are not alone. We are not alone, and yes, we deserve to be happy.