I’ve been thinking about gratitude and this idea that, as a woman, I’m supposed to be grateful for every little thing. I think that can be dangerous, actually. Having gratitude is a wonderful mindfulness practice. Feeling like I have to just take what I can get in life is not so great.
As I have been reflecting lately on what I want to do, adjusting to this new place and exploring what I want to create and manifest, I realize how long I have struggled with being at the center of my own life. I am becoming more aware of how much this was affecting me when I lived in New York. Living in a city where everyone was scrambling for the same job, the same apartment, the same men, I often felt like I had to just take what presented itself and not expect too much. I’m not sure if that was fatigue or a deeper issue about my worth and what I believed I deserve. I think as women we are often discouraged from dreaming – not just in the hoping sense, but really imagining and creating with our minds what it is we want in life. In a city where it seems like everyone is an artist, an entrepreneur, and has a master’s degree, I often felt small, minimized, like I shouldn’t expand and try to reach for something beyond what was available. It surprises me because I was raised to be smart, to speak up, to believe that I could be whatever I wanted to be. But I wonder if, just under the surface, there was also a message about my limitations as a woman, about when it is best to just get by and not want or ask for too much.
For years I avoided being in charge, saying I didn’t want to run anyone’s organization. In my twenties I had fantasies of one day running my own, but somewhere along the way – between graduate school, trying to earn a living, and trying to figure out what my higher purpose was – that fell by the wayside and I found myself shying away from professional opportunities which would put me in a position of leadership. That also impacted me as an artist and creative person; with the exception of my one-woman show, I avoided doing my own thing more often than not, gravitating toward collaboration. I think on some level I have avoided being a leader because of the responsibility and commitment required to sustain that position.
At the same time, I’m not very good at submitting or doing what I’m told. I talk back. I resist when I am feeling forced in any way. I prefer to work and live at my own pace, and this is also true of my relationships. As a black woman, I am likely to assert myself when entering a professional space especially because I am expected to defer. For as long as I can remember, people have sought my counsel and advice, and have looked to me for guidance. Often, I have been the designated leader in group situations, whether professionally or socially. And yet, it has been difficult to embrace this role as part of my identity.
I left New York and moved to Belize because I want to live a more expansive life. I grew tired of feeling boxed in, literally and figuratively – always being faced with what I couldn’t afford or didn’t have, feeling like I wasn’t working hard enough, the constant striving. As I approach 40, it is becoming more important to be completely empowered in every way possible – from how I look, to how I earn, to what I consume. Moving to Belize was a dream for many years, and actually following through and doing it is showing me what I am capable of, that I am bolder than I think. That I am more powerful than I believed. That I am taking charge of my life and doing what I want and need to thrive. Even with all the wonderful things about being here, that has been the biggest reward so far.
As I settle into living here and navigate the transition of figuring out what kind of work I want to do and which opportunities to respond to, I am aware of how empowered I feel and how it only makes sense that I put my needs and wants first. I feel a definite shift in my perceptions of myself and what is possible. I am choosing every day how I want to live, in spite of things not always working out as planned. Moving to Belize is one of the gutsiest things I have ever done. And I’m The Boss.