Here’s the biggest lessons I’ve learned during my 25th year, and will carry with me into Year 26.
I do not get to tell anyone else what should or should not matter to them.
This is kind of an abstract idea that is hard for me to articulate. I think the very divisive political climate brought this epiphany onto me. Actually, the political climate brought a lot of these ideas to my forefront. I saw a lot of “groups” (That I would consider myself a member of. Political groups, race groups, gender groups, religious groups, etc.) clinging to causes/ideas that they saw as THE most important– or at minimum, more important than others. Obviously, moving through the world as a black woman, the sexism and racism happening in the world were paramount issues to me. But to others, those were not important issues at all. Do I get to run into their face and tell these people that they need to start caring about something because it is negatively impacting me? No. I can hope that they would see my struggle and empathize, but I cannot make someone, or even be angry with someone, for not walking through the world the same way that I do. Further, I would be livid if someone demanded I adopt their worldview.
It seems silly and simple, but it’s about identifying someone’s capacity to empathize. And vice versa. And recognizing that I cannot argue or force someone to empathize with me. (And vice versa.) I will continue to be as vulnerable as possible, so that you all can understand my worldview as much as possible (if you want to). And I would implore you to do the same.
We all have a choice in this, is what I’m saying. Which is what is so beautiful about it all. About our country, about our world, about this period of time. We all get to decide which hills we’re going to die on, for which causes. Freedom to decide. Freedom to investigate. Freedom to be vulnerable. Freedom to empathize.
Choosing to live an unhealthy lifestyle is a selfish delusion.
This is a new revelation. I’m not a healthy person, at all. I’m lazy. I’m often tired. I eat out for every single meal. I’ve often saw this as “my” thing, and actually kind of funny. (Oh, I eat baconators everyday and I’m still skinny! Tehehe!) But here’s the reality of the situation.
- There are a TON of diseases that I am genetically predisposed to that a healthy lifestyle will protect me from.
- One day, in the distant future, I am going to have to pay for all of these baconators and drunken nights, and lack of exercise.
- That same day, in the distant future, someone else is going to have to take care of me. Whether its my future kids, future grandkids, Derek, or whomever. It’s not going to be me.
So, making some lifestyle changes today, (I’m not committing to anything here. Like, minimal stuff. Like actually cooking my food sometimes, yoga a couple of days a week, drinking water, not drinking as much, not smoking, etc.) is an act of love to a bunch of people that don’t even exist yet.
Mental Illness is crazy.
I don’t think I’m like swimming in the waters of a mental illness, let me be frank about that. I do believe I’ve put on the bathing suit and taken a dip, though. And I hated it. But I also now understand how freezing cold that water is and can empathize better. Which is all i want to do in this life: empathize. Now, when someone openly admits to me about their depression, or their ongoing struggle with anxiety, my mind does not shut an imaginary garage door and say “Oh well idk bruh, sorry. Take a nap or something.” Now my brain flashes back to crying on our sofa, and Derek trying as hard as he can to make me feel better and it just ultimately making me feel worse, and this seemingly endless cycle of darkness and sadness and crying– and I kinda know what they’re going through. And I can say something a little more meaningful or offer a tiny sliver of advice or comfort. Now, I can empathize!
Saying “I’m sorry” is more important than being right, 99.9% of the time.
I haven’t learned this fully, yet. I’m aware. Derek has been involuntarily beating this into my head our entire relationship. I’m realizing that being in a relationship with me is a sacrificial, thankless job. He swallows his pride a lot, apologizes a lot, bends over backwards, etc., just for me to be pissed about watching The Cavs for the 18th night in a row. But, legitimately, every time we find ourselves disagreeing about something, every time my mind is going through the maze of how RIGHT I am and how WRONG he is… his mind is already on “I just want to not fight anymore” street. He apologizes first. I feel like an asshole, first. We get over it and that’s that.
As I’m trying to peel back my stubbornness to be more like Derek and less like my father, I’m wondering what other areas of my life would benefit from saying sorry first. And to tie into the above lessons, perhaps to those who see the world differently than I do, to those I’m quick to judge for their lifestyle choices, and to those who are suffering from illnesses that none of us can see.
My identity shouldn’t be wrapped up in this exterior.
I was taught a lot of important lessons without my parents or teachers actually plainly laying them out. I don’t think my mother every explicitly told me “Go out into the world and knock it on its ass and be independent.” But the way she lived her life said that to me, everyday. In the same way, when I came home from 4th or 5th or whatever grade, crying my eyeballs out, because I realized I was ugly– she taught me that there was nothing ugly about me. That the things I hated about myself, I should be proud of– even if no one in my life looked like me.
This lesson isn’t to say that I should ignore the above lessons, or not be proud of my exterior. This is just to say that they shouldn’t define who Kelsea is. I am proud of being black and of being a woman and of being an American and of being a Christian. But I am more proud of my creativity and spontaneity and integrity and compassion. And if I focus, too closely, on the outside, the inside falls away.
So how do I combat that? Vulnerability. Empathy. Trying to see every person I encounter for the things I’m not supposed to see them for. What is this person’s intent behind what they’re saying? Why does this person like me? Why does this person not like me? What makes this person unique? How can I help this person? What’s the best way to love this person?
All of those answers will never come from anything on their outside.
Columbus, OH is the greatest city in the world, and my forever home.
I spent some time in Santa Monica, CA, Austin, TX and New Orleans, LA this year. All wonderful cities. All cities that made me wonder a lot of stuff. Questions like:
- Should I have moved away from Columbus at some point in my life?
- Will I regret having never lived somewhere else?
- What have I missed out on by staying in the same city for my entire life?
Let me clarify that I lived in Lexington, KY for a year– but that kind of doesn’t count because I spent the entire time on UK’s campus. But, outside of that, this city has been my home for 25 years. I know it like I know the back of my hand. I remember what it used to look like, I remember desperately wanting to leave, and I remember falling in love with it again when I turned 21. Most of my family is here, my memories are here, and I believe my future is here.
How did I come to this conclusion/decision?
At the end of the day, Columbus, OH is a lot of things: inclusive, optimistic, gorgeous, exciting, thriving, fun. But it is one thing that no other city is: it’s mine. I drive past the hospital I was born in, weekly. I have memories from every stage of my life in this city. This city made me. It’s woven into the fabric of my DNA. And no other city could ever beat home.
What’s life if you aren’t learning?