Excuses

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[Image description: A person holds burning sage. They have long, black fingernails and many rings]

[Recorded from my car. Bad, bad for not being an attentive driver. Kudos for being a very good oral writer, tho.] Hold onto your butts, y’all. It’s a long one!

I’ve been thinking about excuses a lot lately, and for a lot of reasons. I feel like I’ve gotten into something of a rut when it comes to, I guess, just myself. I’ve spent a lot of time prioritizing other people and what their wants are for me, rather than thinking about what it is that I actually want and in turn, what I want from the same people. So, one thing that I was kind of beating myself up for, but not really, was that I didn’t apply to an opportunity recently. I had planned to apply to something after traveling for a week and then working almost the full week after that. And for a second there, I was upset at myself. I think I need to get out of the college mentality that, you know, if I have free time, I need to use it towards furthering myself somehow, professionally.

What I wish that I had done last week, rather that stressing about this application, was actually intensively take care of myself and recuperate because I’m a very…I don’t know what the descriptor would be, but I love stability, and therefore I don’t actually like traveling a whole lot. I’m a homebody. That’s the word I’m looking for. I love being at home, in my own space, and more often than not, by myself. So being away for a week wasn’t great. And then, I was like, “Oh, of course it makes sense for me to try to apply to something after being gone for a week.” Simultaneously, my partner’s car got totaled last week. So I was trying to attend to that. And I’ve been on the topic of excuses, mentally, because now I’m at the point where me saying, “I don’t feel like it,” isn’t even an excuse. I don’t feel bad when I say that to myself.

Recently, I talked to one of my students about, kind of the same thing because I’ve been thinking about excuses (and I guess that’ll be the refrain for this post), and we were talking about how oftentimes, especially going to college, you’re socialized to take up every single opportunity. You can’t say no to things. And that often means that we’re not still in being able to say, “This isn’t the right time.” We’re taught that those things are excuses, so “It’s not the right time for me to apply to this, I don’t think that um, this is the best decision for me, et cetera et cetera et cetera.” We’re told that that’s an excuse. And it’s not.

Well, I guess the next thing that I’ve been thinking about is, is talking about excuses therefore an excuse for not doing things? You know, in that, as I was not applying to this thing, I had started to put something together, you know, made my resume, started to outline my personal statement and then it was due Sunday and Friday night rolled around and I was like, “I’m not feeling it.” You know? I spent all of Friday working on this thing and I was like, “I’m not feeling it. The timing isn’t right. And plus, I’m not in college anymore, you know? I don’t want to be procrastinating.” And that’s a very luxurious thing to say right? I don’t wanna be doing two days before they’re due. But it’s true. So, like I already mentioned, I didn’t apply to the thing. And I don’t feel bad about it. I think this is only probably the second time in my life that I’ve decided to turn down an opportunity in the application phase. The other time that that happened was when I was applying to a major national scholarship my junior year of college. And I had that shit. On. Lock. Like, I had my recommenders, I knew what they were gonna say. It was a scholarship where the recommenders needed to be in different fields. I had everybody picked out, like, well before the deadline, like, I was really taking my time on this. I wasn’t trying to procrastinate. And even though I felt like I was doing everything right, I still decided not to apply because in me applying, around that same time, one of my friends from high school died. And that’s major, obviously, but it kind of put into perspective for me, that the timing isn’t always right on things. And even if an opportunity seems perfect, timing is still a detail in that. If the timing isn’t right, it’s not perfect.

So I have this Nayyirah Waheed quote bookmarked, not bookmarked, archived on my Instagram. And it says in more poetic language, even if somebody’s perfect for you, if there’s something about them that you want to change or there’s something about yourself that you wanna change to be with that person, then they’re not right for you. And I guess I’m trying to make a comparison between that and opportunities in that timing is often a component that we lose sight of. We think to ourselves, you know, “This is perfect. This is the opportunity in my field that I’ve been waiting for. It’s in the city that I wanna be in!” But there’s something. Like, it doesn’t pay or I would have to move too many things around in my life to make this thing fit and if that’s the case then it isn’t the best opportunity. But we’re so stuck on thinking that we have to be doing everything all the time and we can’t actually take time for ourselves.

So, on the point of timing being an excuse, how often do we act like self-care is an excuse for something, you know? I’m gonna stop all of this hustling that I’m doing, all of this work, and just concentrate on myself. And I can say, safely and humbly, that I have completely fucked myself this week – I completely fucked myself over this week, rather, because my to do list has more things than it does time to do the things on it. So, I’m supposed to write an article this week, I’m supposed to do my job, and then I forgot that I signed up for a leadership academy two days out of the week from 9-4. So I have to do a bunch of stuff for work but I didn’t account for two days out of my week are missing. And so, lately…lately as in like, the last forty-eight hours, I’m trying to prioritize taking care of myself. I’m trying to reassure myself that doing that isn’t an excuse. I’ve kind of – I had this attitude in college, but I don’t actually think I stuck to it, especially because I was an RA, I feel like I was kind of more talk in this sense than I was like, action, but um, I used to always say to people, other students when I was in college, “If you’re not doing well, you won’t do good work.” And I meant that insofar as actual academic work but I think that that applies across the board like if you’re not well, you aren’t doing the best you can be.

And we live in this society, I’m sure this is rooted in capitalism and white supremacy and patriarchy et cetera et cetera that tells us that we need to be sleeping five hours a night and spending thirty hours in a day working on some shit for us to be valuable. And that’s how people completely burn out, graduate from college with like, no sense of self, feeling completely depleted, having people feel like unless they hit xyz benchmark by xyz age that they’re not doing enough. And that’s not an excuse. You know, feeling like – feeling like you just can’t isn’t an excuse. I guess I’m wondering the whole definition of an excuse, what falls into that? Because there are so many times in life that I felt like I wasn’t trying hard enough. I had people tell me that I wasn’t trying hard enough and that’s not something that you can say for someone else. And I’m thinking about this especially, I know I talk a lot about my depression, and that’s because it’s something that’s new in my life insofar as having a name for it. But there are so many times that I was literally going through a depressive episode, at times like a debilitating one, and I felt like, “Oh, I’m not trying hard enough, you know, blah blah blah.” And telling myself that inherently knowing that feeling, like, intuiting if that’s a word [Editor’s note: It is. What’s up], but, knowing myself well enough to feel bad in a way I can’t work around. I know I can’t change this. But still like, I feel like that’s an excuse. And I feel like we sell people short in doing that, in that we make people feel like they’re performing at this unrealistic level, then they’re not enough.

I forgot to mention at the beginning of this, because I’m pretty focused, Happy Black History Month! And February is my favorite month of the year because Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday, and my birthday is the week after. I’ve contemplating putting up an Amazon wish list either on my social media or here, you know, to get some gifts. But, you know, in it being Black History Month, Blackness is always at the center of my mind. You can read the about page on this website, and I’m pretty sure the first sentence says “love of all things Black” or something along those lines [Editor’s note: It does. What’s up]. But, how often do we tell Black people that they’re not trying hard enough, that they’re being lazy, that if only they could try and compare to people who will never have the same life circumstances as we do, then, you know, then we could have an actual excuse for something. But “you’re not working as hard as Johnny Whiteboy, well that’s just a shame. Whatever you’re saying is an excuse.” So, in thinking about Blackness and excuses and you know, myself as a nonbinary Black person, like, when do we ever just get to fucking chill? Like, when do we ever just get to like, take care of ourselves and not be teaching somebody something, be helping somebody with something, be figuring something out for somebody, you know? To say, “I don’t wanna do that,” isn’t an excuse.

And I’d also like to add something that I’ve seen circulating a lot lately which is that no is a complete sentence. Like, explaining your rationale for not doing something, that’s what we call an excuse. It’s like when you say, “no, because” but you don’t even need to [laughs], I always thinking that I have a very monotone voice and then, you know, I do stuff like that. But, if I can replicate it, you don’t even need to [laughs] to explain your no to somebody. And I guess I should be saying this more in first person. Because I need to hear it. And I’m very good at saying things to other people and then not practicing them. Perhaps the best form of hypocrisy like telling people that they need to take care of themselves and then I don’t do it. But um, you know, you don’t – me saying, “I don’t want to,” is enough of a reason.

To circle back to the beginning, this opportunity that I wanted to apply to is for a company that I’ve always wanted to work for – well really, an organization, but it’s for an organization that I’ve always wanted to work for, it’s focusing on the exact field that I wanna be in, but it feels like, such a good opportunity. But what I need to remember is that it’s not a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Others will come, if not this exact one, next year, but something, you know? The timing isn’t right, so it’s not the right thing for me to do, right now. And that’s okay. That’s really okay. And I, of my own volition, am in a writing class that focuses very heavily on accountability, and I spent the morning before my class feeling sick because I said that my writing goal for the week was to apply for this thing and I’m not gonna have it done, and feeling so bad on myself. For what? You know?

As much as I post recordings on my website, I actually spend a lot more time just recording for myself. I find it helpful to speak things out and then listen back to them. So this [past] weekend I recorded myself for forty minutes and then played it back while I was in the shower and it felt like I was listening to a personalized podcast, but what I said to myself this weekend was, “No one cares.” Too, especially when it comes to matters of the self like whether you’re gonna apply to something for yourself or if you’re gonna do something that only affects you, then you really don’t have to explain yourself for those things if it only affects you. So what I was saying to myself is like, yeah I set this writing goal that I was gonna have this application done because it was like a creative opportunity and then I was like, you know fucking what? If anybody’s mad at me that I didn’t do this, which is not gonna be the case, there’s this tweet that I will link that says “social anxiety is conspiracy theories about yourself,” so to temper that I had to remind myself, if anybody gets mad at me for some shit that I said I was gonna do that doesn’t affect them, that’s on them, and no one’s upset. I would venture to say no one cares. Like, it’s so chill. It’s fine. And that’s not an excuse. Me, knowing – this opportunity starts before my current fellowship ends, so I couldn’t do it. Or like, I would have to make a lot of shit move for it to happen and I don’t feel all that bad for then not applying to it, right? That’s not an excuse. That’s a reason to not do something.

And so, that’s something that I’ve been ruminating on recently. So I didn’t make this, in part to reassure myself, but rather I’ve been talking to other folks, you know, about excuses and such, directly and indirectly and saying, “I might post this up” and stuff. And so, I just wanted to share that because hopefully it’ll make somebody feel better that, like, everything’s chill. And if it feels like it’s not, this is the external voice that you need saying that it’s chill.

Image from createherstock.com. 

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