I turned 32 this past Saturday.
I've stared at that sentence for a few minutes before writing this one, unsure of what the hell to say beyond that. I didn't get Blacker. My dick didn't grow. Pretty similar thus far. I have spent most of the year trying to keep it the fuck together, doing my favoritest dance, the New York City Hustle, and I'm elated to see 31 go. Hopefully, 32 is much smoother. Here are a few thoughts as I make my way onto the shores of Thirty-Twoland.
1. This time last year, I was free-falling. I was leaping from setback to setback, sinking in quicksand, alienating friends at every turn, self-medicating with lackluster sex with undeserving nobodies, bending my standards just to feel something, anything, spiraling out of control, not writing, not smiling much, and so forth. I was bugging the fuck out. After a few forgotten Zoloft dosages, when my prescription ran out, I reasoned, “I mean, I’m functioning. I’m doing stuff here in New York. I’m fine, right?” and just stopped taking it one day. I didn't know until six months later how bad of a move that was. My support system was there, but my pride blocked countless SOS calls. And so: Woe Fest 2015. By December, I was drowning in hopelessness, self-loathing, and misery. But because I was still in it, I couldn’t quite see how fucked up shit was. Buuuut my homies could and did. For example,
2. One time, in the midst of a panic attack, when I called a friend, frantic for a hug from somebody who’s seen me at my worst (post-lupus) already, she told me over lunch (during which I rambled and immediately felt horrible for struggling), after reminding me how she got it together that one time, “You look unraveled.” But she was right. I was losing it. I had been a burden to a great many people. My self-care was a mess. My clothes were late. I had a bunch of addresses and I overstayed many welcomes. Fear of imposing produces a special kind of anxiety. And I caused several good friends (and likely my parents) a great deal of worry with my madness and routinely disconnected phone.
3. And my skin was so, so terrible.
4. And I was hungry a lot but so very proud. In retrospect, last Fall and Winter was The Age of Unintentional Bustedness. It was the worst of times. But, like Miss Celie, I’m here.
5. This year, the struggliest struggle year that ever struggled, has largely been a shit show. Well, not everything. Just emotionally, romantically, mentally, interpersonally, and sexually. And the hard work is in not looking as craptastic as I've felt. But professionally? POPPING. The year truly has been a steady climb from January to now. I did a bunch of cool things, and gained clarity on the path I should take career-wise. I launched a growing podcast and website (this one) with my homie Jay Connor. I got back into ballet (and wasn’t as terrible as I thought I’d be). I had my fourth Colored Boy and Friends event this spring. I completed another copywriting campaign for Esquire/Jim Beam Black (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6th is ??). I taught my mental health writing workshop, Literary Therapy: Writing (for) Your Life, at Columbia University. I got in the damn December Ebony magazine. I was on NPR. Did some other stuff, too. And ate like hell. All without running myself ragged being Mr. Reactionary Outrage on the page as in yesteryear. The goal for next year is to have things even out a bit.
6. My fatherhood itch is stronger than ever. I can’t wait to be somebody’s pappy. Thankfully, there will be no accidental chirren.
7. Forgoing sex for a few months has shown me just how much of my identity and worth I had tied to my sexuality and all that comes with it. Removing sex as a crutch and deprioritizing it has been mighty clarifying. Being pressed to hump is not productive for me. The urgency is gone. Sure, there’s some depressiony stuff mixed in there, but ultimately, I’m maxin’ and relaxin’. The difference, thankfully, is that I don’t feel like I’m missing out on something by not getting down with the get down on the regular. Or that I'm less-than without sex in the picture. In the interim: lots of MyVidster.
8. A great motivator to get my shit together has been the desire to make life easier for my parents. I know money isn’t everything, but it helps. Even if it’s just keeping the freezer stocked with chicken thighs and grits pon the pantry and paying the cable bill so the Iyanla stays flowing and the On Demand stays popping. I'll work up to covering the mortgage and such.
9. Okay, so maybe I do suck at texting. I get distracted easily and my mind just...
10. Avoidance is among my favorite tools in my toolbox. Like Young Thug and his self-hate-hued Maybelline foundation, I need to put that shit down for good. Deadlines. Emails. Difficult conversations. Men. Projects. Texts. Apologies. Avoidance is brought to you by the letter A for anxiety, overwhelm, and in terms of work, a ridiculous reliance on the knowledge that great pressure often produces fantastic writing in the absence of Time For Self-Doubt. So: the words, they cometh with force. Of course, avoiding solves nothing, and winds up intensifying pressure. Acknowledging the problem is the first step. And I can't unknow that I know this about myself.
11. The end of both Teen Summit and the original run of PBS' Ghostwriter remain among the greatest tragedies of my youth. Gone are the literacy advocating selfless, ultra-nosey multicultural teenage crime fighters. Gone are the hippity hopping Hillman graduates clad in Cross Colours who "[kicked] the truth to the young Black youth." There is a whole generation of beings out here who know nothing of Max Mouse, Ananda Lewis, or Gooey Gus The Slime Monster. And dammit, it makes me nervous about bringing children into the world someday.
12. Was 8701 Usher's peak?
13. I have made peace with the fact that Family Feud Steve Harvey is the only Steve Harvey I can tolerate. Here, he manages to go from a judgmental seventeen-button jacket to a more worldly two-button situation and tuck in the rigid and antiquated churchy patriarchal nonsense enough to be entertaining and less off-putting. Just wild gesticulating, big teeth, and cackles. All other Steve Harvey iterations are abrasive and insufferable.
14. It turns out, cats aren’t all the devil. Imagine my surprise. Spending time my homies and their cats lately has shown me that, yes, those shits are still largely unpredictable, secretly dark-sided, and prone to jerk-like behavior. But despite shedding all over every fucking thing all the time, they can be sweet, playful, and less demonic when they want to be.
15. I recently met someone who knows and had an ongoing situation an ex of mine once upon a time. The one I dated upon arrival to New York in 2006 until about 2008. The one my friends didn’t really see it for. The one I moved in with way too quickly with and put dance aside for. The once who welcomed and encouraged the weight gain. The one who caused what I now know to be my first panic attacks. (At the time I knew they were heart attacks.) Damn Caribbean men. Anyhow, in a laughable twist of fate, our timelines with him overlap, and over laughs and guffaws on my part, he helped fill in all kinds of gaps, clarify the vagueness that drove me crazy, and explain the questionable behavior we argued so fiercely about. Turns out, after the manipulation, the yelling, a scuffle, and a mountain of guilt, steadfast denials, and hysteria launched my way ages ago, my suspicions of aintshitness were right after all. this. fucking. time. When someone argues with you, driving their denial home by yelling and laying hands, insisting that things are not as you see and say, and convinces you that you’re mistaken but even if you weren’t, you’d still be deserving? And you carry guilt over a fucked up relationship for a decade, thinking you fucked someone up but you were in fact being played? That.
16. Last week, after struggling for years to find a direction, I sat down on the train, opened a Google Doc in my phone, and spit out the outline for my memoir. I have known for a while that writing a memoir was something I had to do, but I could not wrap my mind around how to frame it, or how to approach it. Or what the hell I wanted to say. Initially, I planned to focus on my lupus diagnosis, but my lupus story is still ongoing and I didn’t know how to wrap that up. But there I was, en route to therapy on the 1 train, typing out the chapters of my life. Then came bullet points for each chapter and a potential title. That rush of ideas and nostalgia felt like busting a nut over and over and over. New York. Falling in love. Dancing. Moving to Los Angeles and falling out of love with dance. Panama. Depression. Suicidal thoughts. My first Guatemalan. New Orleans. Therapy. All that jazz. Having a blueprint and finally being able to connect these dots and flesh this baby out is both encouraging and calming. And terrifying because now I have to actually do the work. And sit the fuck down and write. And keep the avoidance and bad skin at bay. Having the framework is significant, though. And I’m mentioning this publicly so you hold me accountable to keep writing and quit being a ho-ass and get this book proposal cracking. Baby steps.
New York City-based food-lover Alexander Hardy is the dance captain for Saint Damita Jo Jackson’s royal army and co-host of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. He is an essayist, freelance copywriter, cultural critic, chicken enthusiast, lupus survivor, mental health advocate and educator who has written for EBONY.com, Eater, Courvoisier, Esquire, The Root, CNN, Gawker, The Huffington Post, Saint Heron, and Very Smart Brothas, among other wonderful outlets. When not writing on TheColoredBoy.com, he enjoys cheese grits, power naps, sweet tea, and all things chicken-related. Alexander does not believe in snow or Delaware. More Alex: The Colored Boy | Twitter | Instagram | Writing Portfolio | Mental Health Work