Turning 30 for me has meant change.
Arrogance to humility
From living in black and white to gray areas of living
From hiding from myself to facing myself
A focus from material growth to spiritual growth
From living unconsciously to higher levels of awareness
Turning 30 has meant changing perspective.
Let me explain more.
In my mid 20s I thought I had it all figured out. I had a family, my career as a teacher, well traveled, my ambition and will to succeed. I felt like I had triumphed over a lot and that I deserved all good that would come to me. I exercised frequently and my health and my son’s health were great. I had a house, a car and all the material things that are supposed to make an individual feel secure and successful. I felt self-important because I was accepted into a Ph.D. program to be trained in my dream vocation as an applied anthropologist. At times I was extremely self righteous and arrogant. My attitude was nasty and I recognize this now.
In my late 20s I decided I didn’t want to be with my son’s father and moved out with my son. I felt I was missing something in my life and also felt bored being in a relationship. Because I was able to survive on my own I had little patience for others who would come up with excuses for why they couldn’t. To this day I am appalled at my treatment of my son’s father. He did everything he was supposed to do as a father and a man and I was not satisfied. Though I do not wish to be with him I feel my words and behaviors could have been more compassionate towards him.
In retrospect, during this time I believed I deserved better and would quickly leave anyone behind who I thought was beneath me. In the end, I wasn’t honest about my weakness but would grab hold of any chance to flaunt my achievements.
All of a sudden at the age of 29, life happened. I was in a car accident, became involved in some legal trouble, and my home was burglarized by a close friend all in a three-year time frame. My income also declined dramatically as my expenses began to increase. I began to feel sorry for myself and wallow in the pain. Even worse, I began to drink alcohol daily.
Every day I would question where did all of this come from? Why me? What did I do to deserve this? I thought I had done everything right. Even worse, I couldn’t even focus on my research. I grew anxious and would spend the majority of my day worrying. My thoughts controlled everything. My thoughts were holding me still. It was a vicious cycle. I would feel sorry for myself, feel bad because I thought I wasn’t focusing on my son like I was supposed to and because I broke up the family, doubted my research and my capabilities, and then would feel even worse once I realized that I had these pitiful psychological problems while others in the world have real, tangible and concrete problems they are trying to overcome. My main question to myself is how can I help others with my anthropology if I cant even help myself? Every day I thought like this, from the time I woke up to when I went to sleep. It was exhausting and extremely unproductive.
Now at the age of 32, I am slowly getting over myself by learning how to tame my mind. I have come to recognize some things about my being. In my 20s I was deeply insecure, fearful and angry about many things, which is why I responded to the world with arrogance. The arrogance hid what I was not willing to face. I knew the first step I needed to take was to be honest about my weaknesses. I did not know it all. In fact I knew nothing at all. My tone and body language needed improvement. My time management and financial management needed to be budgeting wisely. All of the advice I was so quick to offer to my former students I knew I had to apply to myself. In other words I needed to practice what I taught.
Next, I needed to stop feeling guilty about breaking up the “family”. Western society does a great job of promoting the nuclear family as the foundation for a child’s success. As a black male in the United States I was constantly worried about my son becoming a statistic because he didn’t have the “nuclear family”. I had to forgive myself and realize that individuals do create their own reality and this is okay.
Most importantly I realize that I need to develop genuine compassion. The only way I could do this is by having self-compassion. In my 20s I always felt like I had compassion while working with students and members in the community. I offered time and money to causes but in retrospect I realize this was not done in vain. I did these things to make myself feel better and important while at the same time showing others that I was the best. This is what I learned: in order to have compassion for others an individual must first have compassion for self. This is genuine compassion. I cannot offer the world what I am not able to offer myself.
As I write this I am having a revelation. If I want to contribute to this world through anthropology before I die then I need to do the work on myself first. I need to keep my promises to myself and most importantly I need to forgive myself and keep moving. I thank the Universe for presenting these challenges to me because I needed to grow.
Whenever I heard this quote in the past I would often roll my eyes because it sounded too idealistic. At this present moment I understand what it means. “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I am a work in progress.
New York born, New England educated. Based in Tampa, FL where she teaches Gifted and Learning Disabled students at the secondary level. Tampa is also where Deneia Yanique has received training to become a social scientist. She is current a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on the educational experiences of Black males in the United States and the Caribbean. In her personal life, Deneia Yanique is a life long learner, a mother, and a part time yogi who enjoys stimulating conversations, good drinks, and a great meal.