Audre Lorde, a famed theorist and feminist activist wrote, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”
When Lorde transcended this life, I was three, but her statement of love, agency and discovering self within circumstance still has significant relevance. I assumed 23 would be a harvesting age, designed to assist me with transitioning from college to adulthood. Thus far, it’s been perplexing and much more turbulent than I ever imagined it could be.
I am a burdened soul, a definite contrast to the fearlessness that I have embodied since birth. Though I’ve always examined all experiences from all angles, which is credited to Libran inquisitiveness, these questions and dissecting and considering was done without presence of fear. Literally and figuratively, I’ve been traveling forever. From coast to coast, prayer to prayer, cloud to cloud, I was born a jetsetter. But suddenly, a frightening touch of flight anxiety has set in. I’m terrified of buckling that seatbelt and trusting a pilot and her crew to get me from point A to B without incident. One turbulent flight did it.
I reside in Carbondale, Illinois, a quick 45-minute air ride from St. Louis. Boarding a small, eight-passenger plane never intimidated me. After all, I’m accustomed to an elevated life. I’ve been the sole commuter at 8:30 p.m. after a violent rainstorm. No fear invaded. Tbj, the pilot beaux was petrified when we first ventured on the “baby plane” together. I rubbed his thumbs and kissed his cheeks, comforting him as he succumbed to the fear.
Our roles reversed when rogue jet streams tossed that plane through a cloudy, tempestuous flight. I began to hyperventilate as I imagined colliding with the forest moss below. A kind student, who I had never met, gripped my hand and whispered reassuring words as we hit cloud after tumultuous cloud. One 45-minute, short, eventful flight – and I have developed a ceaseless phobia.
Gone is the calm swagger, hidden behind chic glasses and the latest bestseller, which I transported from plane to plane, coast to coast, prayer to prayer. Upended and substituted with rampant anxiety. Every bump causes my palms to sweat. My heart thumps. I am requesting sickness bags and Sprite from flight attendants. Asking God for traveling mercies.
In one week, I am traveling to Florida for a Bahamian cruise and I am dreading that moment when the door closes and the jet-way is no longer visible. The fear refuses to be curbed.
But in absorbing Lorde’s quote, I’m realizing that this sudden flight phobia is emblematic of other occurrences happening.
For the first time in ages, the path is not visible. There is no conclusive purpose or clear motivation. It’s a strange, uncomfortable, turbulent position to be in. I was the confident student with an unyielding certainty where others harbored doubts. I knew that I was destined to scribe and edit into an amazing career that would eventually flourish into entrepreneurship. A substantial empire would be the ultimate reward and I would share in those victories with the world. I channeled and practiced the tunnel vision concept until I was an expert at focusing on the manifestation of the dream.
I still have those visions and I plan to manifest them into fruition, but what about these sudden interests in teaching creative writing and political reporting and working with NGOs and leading lectures on hip-hop’s relationship with womanism and consulting and owning boutiques and mentoring at historical black colleges and universities.
Even scribing is losing its allure. There was a time, months ago even, when I marveled at what a contortion of words could produce and I reveled in the distinctive writing voice that I was honing. As the freelance assignments roll in, I am assigned pieces that don’t inspire me, which has resulted in the loss of the hunger that fueled the work. My purpose has been muddled.
By no means am I ungrateful. Being featured on publications that have produced Jamilah Lemieux, Bene Viera, Arielle Loren and others is a blessing and it keeps Eloise’s tank full and my refrigerator bulging with fruits of the labor. My byline is reaching wider audiences and I’ve used social media to connect with other amazing scribes.
But is it enough to sustain? How can I chase passion when I no longer know what mine is?
I’m on a turbulent flight with no relieving announcement of descent. I wish there was an optimistic ending to this. A fairytale. A sign that soon this dilemma will be solved. No. Not this time. Until further notice, I’m in a violent, turbulent upending. When I land, I’ll share that too.