Law school bestie and I were studying ethical rules when a New York Times update hit my phone. Nelson Mandela died. A powerful human and reminder to us all: Do better. Then, a family friend died.
I was transported back to spring. A peer was fatally shot during a college graduation celebration, while out of state with friends. Someone contacted me to speak with a reporter from the incident state about him. After reading sensational and othering coverage of a young man whose side we’d never hear, whose family was in mourning, and whose down-south chuckle is no distant memory, I declined.
Respecting the dead honors lives. This is especially true when people fulfill their purpose. We exist. We expand. We expire. But, choices sprout throughout the journey. My mama says that life can happen to us or we can happen to life.
I try to happen to life. Sometimes I succeed. A friend said I “make love to life.” Sometimes colors drip with vibrance, flavors float on my tongue, and ideas take form in a viable medium. Days become transcendental and universal moments of humanity recur.
Other times things get routine and mundane or bureaucratic. It is fascinating how much ego is involved. Newsflash: Accomplished people should still be kind people. Exercising restraint doesn’t make you a sucker. Likewise, bossing up doesn’t have to mean bullying.
And sometimes thinking about thinking is the default. We can do word dances all day. It’s fun. And yes, intellect is magnetic. However, some truths are simple. Folks want to be happy.
They want to be whole and have society affirm their existence through just policies and practices. They want lives of dignity, without systemic humiliation for points of challenge. They want their nuances appreciated and stories told without becoming a default statistic or trope for lazy people who don’t feel like reconciling institutional issues and individuality. They want living wages because they’re living, and having such isn’t just for people randomly born into privilege.
Maybe I need more coffee.
Then, there are those creatures called men. Foolishness crosses regional, color, cultural, class and political lines. I see it. Friends see it. A world of binaries. Good guy. Villain. Dweeb. Hot guy. Hermit. Snob. Slacker. Oedipus. Absentee. Thug. Scholar. Prince. Pauper.
The guy thing goes with modern equivocation on the adult thing. Too often, society tries to standardize our lives. Aren’t they meant to be dynamic? Or am I confined to options 1-3 in some socially acceptable time frame?
Option 1. Be a “real” adult. Spouse, kids, job and house.
Option 2. Meander like the rest of that godforsaken generation.
Option 3. Upset paradigms.
And everybody knows so much about everything, yet so few have what they want. And some people answer questions I never asked, or offer comments to people close to me. Because they know enough to care and judge, but are too fearful to align their faces with their philosophies.
As the urban inquiry goes, “where they do that at?” Also, apparently I’m a nonconformist who’s also mature for my age, so [insert reasons for things to be really bad]. Apparently, guys my age will fail to meet expectation.
Then there’s bit about getting a girl who’s smart enough to function, but not so witty that it’s emasculating. Also, the black race is going extinct. So, I should be compliant and limit my options to my race because loyalty.
But, back to age. A real man is an older man because old souls do not belong with quarter-lifing hashtag Millennials. Relocate to Soccer Dad City. A minivan with spinners awaits.
Words, my escape, are sometimes triggers. People could Google more and assume less. Why did a woman email after reading my blog and ask for free contributions? Freelance does not equal free. My bills exist regardless of if they’re paperless or snail mail. Exposure doesn’t scan fresh chicken at Super Target or keep WiFi in my humble abode. The appropriate exposure in exchange for my intellectual property is to these checks.
The list could go on: from life-altering issues to Imani’s undisclosed idiosyncrasies. But, no. Breathe, Imani. So, I do because I’m alive. And that’s a blessing, not an entitlement.
I’m not more inherently worthy than anyone else. Lord knows I have my quirks and shortcomings. However, the Big Homie (BH) is giving me time to work toward this law-related, artsy, journalistic, interdisciplinary calling that doesn’t have a tidy title like corporate noun, model, housewife or auditor, but will bring joy and help marginalized communities carve out their piece of the pie. Or build new bakeries, whatev.
It’s big. BH, Universe, God, All Knowing Entity, Higher Self is a master intervener. Plans do come together. We have to be willing to see cohesion amidst chaos. Sometimes things are funny, and life really is full.
A professor emailed me a positive message, which included the words “Imani”, “your legal scholarship” and “mission.” A girlfriend visited. We giggled, gossiped and pondered the pervasiveness of DMX’s “Party Up” in seedy bars, before she and my classmates spoke Football somewhere over my head. Milky Way Galaxy, is that you?
I wrote again for a publication in the mountains that I interned for in 2009. I performed spoken word during a legal presentation, and have ideas about returning to spoken word communities.
A close family friend recently opened up about her academic chops (two Ph.Ds, one from Howard University and the second from the University of Florida). She was Howard’s first fellow awarded funds from Princeton for dissertation work. She shared so much wisdom, and said it’s ok to be wrong. She said we must ask for our ignorance to be forgiven while we work to correct missteps.
When my ID fell out of my pocket downtown, a stranger with a 1913 in her screen name appeared on Instagram. A Soror, not some creep in pajamas, had it. Immediately I relaxed. Her husband, a FAMU Rattler, returned it to me the next day. Tiny connected world. Then, there’s always family. They remind me that I’m weird, but not alone. Peaks and valleys.
It’s all part of the narrative, Mama says. Challenges aren’t forever. Keep plowing. And leaning on faith does help. Far more good days come than bad. I am appreciative.
With three semesters of law school under my belt, that’s halfway to JD. With 24.5 years and far more questions than answers, I continue. And the glass, gripped by glittery fingernails and holding red wine, is full.