thirty won: a reflection on 13 goals

for me

This morning, I woke up.
In the middle of a pandemic.
I am thirty-one.
Healthy, well and loved.
No candles needed — i am living my wish.

One year ago, I made a list of 13 goals for my 30th year. Like most of my dreams, the list was overly ambitious and ridiculous. It represented a combination of things I loved, missed, and thought were good for me — a resolutions list on steroids. I posted the list publicly. I told friends and family to hold me accountable. My friends sent me cash to buy plane tickets and cookbooks. My sister screenshotted the list and shared it with me.

This is where I landed.

1. Lose 30 pounds.

I didn’t lose 30 pounds, but I was vegan for 13 days. In those 13 days, I discovered that Oreos are vegan and that I love Oreos.

2. Read 30 books.

Throughout the year, I qualified this goal with the caveat that the reading had to be “for pleasure.” My friends said that was bullshit. I read all of the time. I teach English. I am in graduate school. I am a member of #CleartheAir, which is basically the dopest learning experience. I read longform essays for fun. I listen to podcasts. I consume more words on Twitter each year than I’d like to admit. And yet, I was adamant about reading 30 books for “fun.” I failed.

I did not read 30 books for fun, but the books I read changed my life. Like Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath that literally takes your breath away. I have been breathing differently since reading it. Like How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones which helped me continue to heal from my mama’s death. Bettina Love’s We Want to Do More than Survive pushed me to dream bigger than equity and inclusion in our schools. Toni Morrison’s God Help the Child, Kiese Laymon’s Heavy, and Tommy Orange’s There There made me fall in love with words again. Adrienee Marie Brown’s Pleasure Activism helped me wholly love myself in the way the grown folx do.

3. Wade in the Pacific Ocean.

This was a ridiculous goal. I am afraid of large bodies of water. I will never willingly swim in the ocean, but this goal wasn’t about wading in water. It was about fearlessness. It was about pushing myself beyond my comfort zone and seeing the world from a different perspective. I flew to Oregon in February to visit a middle-aged white woman I’d never met before. She drove me to the ocean. We took off our socks and shoes and let the water run over our feet. It was fucking cold and just writing about it makes my toes chilly. But, it was some Julia Roberts, cutesy “Eat, Pray, Love” shit. And when I left, we were family.*

4. Get a Passport and backpack through another country.

I took my fat black ass to Iceland in December. It was dark for 20 hours each day. It was cold. Much of the ground was covered in ice. In the dark, I walked more than 50 miles. I spent an afternoon with wild ponies. I chased waterfalls. I read Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage on my bottom bunk in a hostel. I played Crazy 8s at a hip hop concert while blonde-haired Icelandic boys wrapped 50 Cent and Post Malone. I ate more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can count. I fell in love with my wife all over again. I watched the sunrise in a hot spring. I breathed.

5. Run/Walk 5k.

I walked 50 miles on ice in a foreign county. Someone send me my damn medal.

6. Cook 30 new recipes.

I still can’t cook. I still order out too much, but the pandemic has forced me to cook more at home. I am no longer limited to spaghetti and scrambled eggs. Now I make veggie burgers, french fries, pancakes, and baked beans. So, I am considering auditioning for Top Chef next month.

7. Go on a family vacation with my dad, sister, and wife.

‘Rona derailed these plans. The last time we were together was Christmas 2018. I miss them.

8. Commute using a bicycle.

Thanks to Boston’s Blue Bike program, my thunder thighs have peddled through the streets on more than one occasion. I am currently considering buying my own bicycle to begin training for the 2021 Tour de France.

9. Snow Tube down a mountain in Vermont.

Jane and I went to Vermont in August. Vermont’s August is the perfect in-between — too cold to enjoy the pool and too hot to snow. I spent most of my days in our AirBnB reading Kiese Laymon’s Heavy and Erica Sanchez’s I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. I ate a lot of maple syrup. The day we planned a gondola ride up a mountain, it stormed. Perhaps, I am just meant to chill in the valleys. I am okay with that. I never liked heights anyway.

10. Publish my writing through a reputable outlet.

I still don’t call myself a writer. I don’t know what reputable even means, but I wrote more in the past year than I’ve written in the previous five. Some people said yes to publishing it. Like this short essay through Heinemann about coming out. And this essay about radical rest in Identity, Education, and Power and this essay on black trauma in All Y’all. I also have learned to say no. I committed to writing what I want to write and when I want to write. I got tired of looking for the stories I wanted to read so I’m starting to write them. It scares me, but I am doing it.

11. Form community with other QTPOC in Boston.

I searched for queer black folx and found them making art and music and change. We danced and sang and cried together. We traded war stories. We laughed hysterically. We lived.

12. Hike a trail in a National Park.

Some of the postcards I bought featured beautiful images of national parks.

13. Send at least 30 postcards to friends and family.

I forgot to count, but I sent my friends, family, and students postcards from an island covered in ice. I wrote reviews of my meals on restaurant postcards and sent them to my sister. I mailed my historian friend a copy of Forrest Gump because I knew she’d hate it; her kid made her watch it and I am still cackling about it. I sent my favorite queer kid a copy of Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath. She had just dropped out of school. She told me the book was everything she had been looking for in a book. She started to write. I bought postcards for myself because I liked the pictures. I visited friends instead of sending them rectangles of paper. I drove to New Hampshire to meet Corn. That day, we started a rap group which means we are the best thing to come out of New Hampshire. My kid, Izaiah and I got tattoos together in Jacksonville after Malachi died. I ate french fries in a Hell’s Kitchen eatery while Dulce drew a map of NYC for me on the bottom of a burger box. The last day of my first semester of grad school, I took the train to central Massachusetts to eat vegan food with my friend and sleep on her couch. I answered the phone more. I responded to texts. I said yes to shit that scared me — like letting people love me, like loving myself.

I failed at my list.
I [thirty] won though.

*We were definitely family before the beach, but it sounds better if I make it seem like the ocean brought us together, right?

boston-based lit educator, researcher, and mixtape maker raised at the intersections of gospel and go-go. find [them] dreaming and working toward liberation.

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