This year has been a particularly turbulent one. I think it’s safe to say that a lot of us, including myself, have gone through an emotional rollercoaster – perhaps due to mental health, the current political climate, relationships, coursework and so on. As this academic year comes to a close and we are saying our last goodbyes to the Class of 2017, I have lately been very nostalgic. I am looking at my past and seeing how I have grown from the trials and obstacles that I have overcome. I have grown so much within this past year that, in a way, I feel like my life has just begun. But there are some things I still need to work on, that I think a lot of folks, especially femmes, can relate to.
A couple of weeks ago, I came across a blog post on saintdyana.com by the mononymous Erin entitled What We Not Finna Do. There’s a lot that femmes/female-identifying folks do for men, and there is a lot that we not finna do in order to break the vicious cycle and preserve our own mental well-being and self-esteem. Erin crafts a comprehensive list of what we not finna do, including (but not limited to): “performing emotional labor for men,” “projecting our expectations, goals and goodness onto men” and “prioritize men, period.” I felt inspired and invigorated by this blog post. I felt as though this was a sign from the universe not to give men who aren’t worth my time any more attention from me than they deserve. A week later, I set off the fire alarm at ABLE House due to the heat from the smoke of my hair straightener. You could say I straighten my hair because I want a different hairstyle. That’s what I keep telling myself. But I wonder if it’s because, subconsciously, I’m trying to alter my appearance in order to be perceived as more attractive – particularly to men.
While I enjoyed Erin’s piece, my one problem with it was that it was very reactionary. It was talking to femme people in response to men. I’m more interested in what femmes/women can do without inserting men into the conversation. I like to think of myself as an optimist – no matter how many times I want to crawl in a hole and bury myself for the rest of my days here on this Earth, I’m going to make a list of what we, as femmes and female identifying folk, finna do instead of what we NOT finna do. To keep our sanity. To take care of ourselves. To prosper in a world that wants to see us falter.
What we finna do is prioritize our femme relationships. There was a study that I read on Facebook about a year ago that said that women who have mostly femme friends or are in romantic relationships with other femmes are more likely to live happier, longer lives. I’m not sure if that’s entirely true, but the sentiment seems sincere. I’m proud to say that most of my friendships belong to femmes and women just because I feel safer and at my most comfortable with them. And, in my humble opinion, there is nothing more magical than a group of femme friends laughing and dancing together.
What we finna do is prioritize our friendships. We live in a culture that believes romantic and monogamous relationships are a sign of maturity and desirability. Media and ideologies perpetuate this idea that this kind of relationship “completes” you and makes your life fulfilling and full of happiness and love. Let’s be real, though – how many romantic relationships last? How many are successful? How many people in romantic relationships are actually happy? This isn’t to say that relationships aren’t a source of happiness and fulfillment all the time, but the idea that these relationships have a higher social capital than other types of relationships (like friendships!) is wildly inaccurate. Look, I’ve never been in a romantic relationship, but there’s no way in hell that there is actually something wrong with me. My most important relationships that have taught me more about myself, others and the world around me have been my friendships. And no one should be able to take that away from me. Period.
What we finna do is take care of ourselves and our bodies. Listen. I’ve been trying to be vegan for a hot minute and it is difficult. I have to refuse a lot of food that is handed to me and that’s not always fun. I’ve been fully vegan for about a week now and I can tell you that I feel 100 times better than before. Now when I exercise, it doesn’t feel like I’m going to die. I feel lighter and happier. My skin is clearing up. I’m not trying to convince folks to become vegan, all I’m saying is to find something that makes you feel good and is good for you and your body. If that happens through meditation, yoga, staying at home and catching up on sleep instead of going out, or going out and having a good time with your friends and engaging in recreational substances responsibly, you do you. I’ve come to realize that taking care of my health brings out the best version of me. Find what works for you.
What we finna do is acknowledge our pain. There’s a lot of talk in our society that we must get over our pain in order to keep moving on. I’m still alive and my life is progressing, but my traumas will always be with me no matter how hard I try to distance myself from them. No one ever tells you how difficult it is to heal. But I think one way to the path of restoration is to embrace the heartache we feel instead of hiding it. Soak in your anger, frustration, sadness or anxiety and realize these are all valid emotions to feel. Negative emotions aren’t as glamorous as happiness and tranquility but life ain’t supposed to be glamourous. There is no such thing as perpetual happiness. Recognize that you may feel broken at times – and that’s okay.
What we finna do is take up space. Use our voice and project them as much as possible. Be loud. Louder. Know our worth and be able to protect ourselves from external obstacles and internal conflicts. Make music. Write poetry. Create art. Educate ourselves about politics and current events so we are prepared to stand up and fight. Support one another in our collective road to self-actualization. Because we are all we have.