13 days before 33

Last night, 13 days before my 33rd birthday I was reflecting - reflecting on how as a young person you envision your life a certain way, shoot...how even last year or last week you envision your life in particular ways. With some sudden changes in my life these last few weeks, it reminded me is how quickly life can change and how you never really know what is going to happen or what journey we are meant to walk on. As I step into my 33rd year around the sun, my life is nothing like any of my previous visions and for that I have so much gratitude. Gratitude for all of the lessons and growth. One of my dear friends gifted me with Rupi Kaur's the sun and her flowers - and her poems touched me in ways that inspired a lot of insight and reflection. As I come to the close of my 32nd year below are 13 reflections inspired by 13 of her poems. 

-irreplaceable

"the universe took its time on you crafted you to offer the world something different from everyone else when you doubt how you were created you doubt an energy greater than us both"

With the way social media has infiltrated our world and our perceptions of others, its hard to not compare our lives to others. There were times where I sought validation and insight within these spaces. Most often times than not, it made me feel worse - feeling unfulfilled or envious of things I thought I wanted or I should be doing in life; as if I would be happier or I would find my purpose by ingesting other people's narratives on social media. These last few years and more significantly this last year, I feel like I have developed a strong sense of self, honoring my originality - believing that the creator made me uniquely so that I could walk the path that has been already set for me. 

acceptance

"if i am the longest relationship of my life isn't it time to nurture intimacy and love with the person i lie in bed with each night"  

Over that past two years or so, I have often told people that I am in a really good relationship with myself, having a good sense of self love. Offering that "I treat my self really well and that my partner needs to be able to treat me as well or better" - (my sis even wrote a piece about this for the Root "#MeCrushMonday: The Audacity of Loving Yourself"). Having to be able to come to a better understanding of my relationship with myself, has not gone without its challenges or growing pains. A large part of overcoming those challenges was 1) breaking down the socially constructed ideas of what it means to be a Native women, to be educated, to be a "good" person, to be in a relationship, to be single, to be a mom, to not be a mom, to be successful (really the list could go on for days)...2) to accept that I am me and no one else can or will ever be me...3) that I am a human being, always constantly evolving and growing.  

- growth is a process

"you do not just wake up and become the butterfly"

Growth and evolution is hard, it takes work and its always constant. Learning to accept my growth and growing pains has humbled me and helped me to feel gratitude for all of my life experiences. Its hard to take every experience as a lesson, because some of the greatest lessons are the hardest ones to experience. 

-it is speaking to you

"trust your body it reacts to right and wrong better than your mind does" 

In the last few months I have been challenging myself to be courageous enough to feel my feelings, speak my truths, and be at peace with my journey. A part of feeling my feelings is trusting my intuition, you know the gut feeling that we can't explain how or why it came but we know its there, yeah that thing. I have always said I have a strong intuition, I think that is a bit of a misrepresentation. I think we all have strong intuitive capacities, we just have to stop and listen to them. For a long time, I have provided space to stop and listen to my intuition, sometimes listening to it and sometimes ignoring it. Most recently I have been trying to listen more closely, so I can sit with my feelings and feel.

(soul sisters - my title - not Rupi's)

"it isn't blood that makes you my sister it's how you understand my heart as though you carry it in your body"

I have and continue to be surrounded by amazing women in my life. From coming from a long line of strong women in my family and my community to the universe placing my amazing soul sisters in my life, I have always had the great fortune to be in community and learn from strong women. I am who I am because of these women, they love me, protect me, ride for me, support me, challenge me, and grow with me in ways that I could never ever have imagined. They have helped to build the strong durable fabric that is me and for that I am forever indebted.  

community

"when the world comes crashing at your feet its's okay to let others help pick up the pieces if we're present to take part in your happiness when your circumstances are great we are more than capable of sharing your pain" 

Often times as women of color and Native women we feel the need to be strong and take care of other people as well as ourselves. That can be a heavy weight to carry, there were times when that weight would get heavy for me, and I would get overwhelmed and exclaim "I know I am strong but I am human too!" For the fear of not "being strong" I would choose to "figure" things out by myself and just get through it, because that is what "we" do. Most recently, as I was allowing myself to feel my feelings - I opened up to my community. I  was met with overwhelming support and love (not that I expected anything different), it was so beautiful to know that they were there for me to "help pick up the pieces" when I let them. Growth.  

- family 

"what good am I if I do not fill the plates of the ones who fed me but fill the plates of strangers" 

Family and community have always been super important to me and I am grateful for all of the community that I have in my life. In my 20's I feel like I was more self-centered, focused on my "goals" and on this "crafted" future I had for myself. But as I shifted my focus to being more attentive to the "process" and the "journey," being closer to my family became very important to me. I joke and tell people that I don't want to be out in "streets" like that anymore, instead I want to be around my nieces, nephews, god-children, cousins, friends, etc. Its been 15 years since I have been "away" and it is time for me to come home. 

- honor your roots

"remember the body of your community breathe in the people who sewed you whole it is you who became yourself but those before you are a part of your fabric" 

While I am always very proud to be a Menominee women, I think these last few years I have been trying to be more intentional on understanding what that truly means. I want to be able to pass down Menominee teachings and language to my children, so they can pass it down to their children, and their children pass it down to their children, etc. Having a more comprehensive understanding of the impact and continued effects of colonialism, I believe its my responsibility to carry on those traditions. These next 30 years I want to dedicate myself to learning as much as I can.

-progress

"Our work should equip the next generation of women to outdo us in every field this is the legacy we'll leave behind" 

I have often said that I did not get this Ph.D. to be called doctor - I did it to serve my community, I did it to uplift and set a foundation for the next generation to come. I could not have gotten where I am without the hard work of those before me and I feel like its my responsibility to walk in a good way, to uphold and pass on the legacy of my ancestors. While I don't know what lies ahead of me in my journey, I am hopeful that in whatever path that comes before me that I can lay or add to the foundation already set by those before me. 

 - this will free you both

"wish pure love and soft peace upon ones who've been unkind to you and keep moving forward"

This lesson has been a hard one to actualize. It's hard not to get wrapped up and consumed by negativity. A few years ago, I came across this quote "how people treat other people is a direct reflection of how they feel about themselves." This really stuck with me and helped me to be more compassionate of people and their circumstances, trying not to take things too personally and offer as much grace as I am able to. 

-pace yourself

"the road to changing the world is never-ending" 

Often times I try to take on the world and try to be super woman - juggling a million things at once.  We live in such a fast pace world and for me, at times, I felt like if I slowed down, I was going to miss out on something or fall behind. However in these last few months I have tried to slow down a bit. Slowing down enough to be present to enjoy and taken in as much I can around me. 

"what is the greatest lesson a woman should learn"

"that since day one she's already had everything she needs within herself its the world that convinced her she did not"

This most certainly has been one of the greatest lessons that I have been blessed to learn thus far and I feel like it actually encompasses a lot of the insights above. I am all I need. 

the sun and her flowers

"this is the recipe of life said my mother as she held me in her arms as i wept think of those flowers you plant in the garden each year they will teach you that people too must wilt fall root rise in order to bloom"

As I enter into 33, I look forward to wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming.