2016 was a really difficult year for me, as it was for many.
While I had a few awesome events, the year was still a bit on the mean side. I’ve had to say goodbye to childhood heroes, a few friends died suddenly (one by suicide), there have been plenty of personal lows, and as a member of a global community, this year has been most heinous. I do share in the collective experience and sentiment of 2016 suckitude.
I’d like to say that I handled all the lows and pits with grace, but that would be a damn lie. I cried, shouted, kicked things, curled up in the fetal position resigned to wait patiently for a meteor, and when it didn’t come, I yelled obscenities to the Universe!
However, in all this, I feel really fortunate, and would rather reflect on what I enjoyed, what I’m leaving in 2016, and what is to come.
I married a really cool dude, met so many amazing academics in an effort to move my career forward and to apply for some PhD fellowships, picked up another anthropology degree, spent time with old friends, and saw almost all of my siblings (this is a big deal!). I got some much needed rest and spent time with myself. I engaged in more creative endeavors- not for school or work. I allowed my mind to wander and re-introduced my imagination to fun times.
On the subject of rest:
I was able to take a six week sabbatical from work. Since I’m in the limbo space between MA and PhD, I had no academic work to be done. I thought I would get more writing done or be a black female Jack Kerourac on the open road, but that didn’t happen.
I actually had a bit of a crisis because it had been many years since I did not have to schedule life around work and/ or school. In fact, I don’t think it had ever happened to me, so I didn’t know what to do with myself.
For a few days, I panicked. Laying in bed wondering what my purpose in life was turned out to be dope! My husband finally bribed to get out of bed by offering to watch the Harry Potter movies with me, so I finally made it to the living room.
Soon after, he suggested that we visit a museum. I walked into Brooklyn Museum of Art with no agenda and began to see things that I hadn’t noticed before. I was inspired again- by color, movement, human capacity, artistic expression and communication. I wasn’t trying to quantify everything or provide a hypothesis. I allowed myself to be in the moment.
For the next few weeks, I visited museum after museum, wandered through the photos of one my favorite photographer, Diane Arbus, got lost in Carravagio, read Angelou, Baldwin and Hughes as if I was reading them for the first time. I found the energy to meet with friends that I had not seen in years. I learned to cook elaborate meals, rolled sushi, took bikram yoga, played my guitar, practiced scales on my cello, danced, watched garbage TV, said ‘yes’ to parties and ‘no’ to free labor, and I had the most amazing, vivid dreams!
I suddenly understood the value of self-care in a way that I had never truly embraced. Not a single thing was perfect. I still had whatever concerns or issues that were vexing me, but it felt so good to feel like I wasn’t drowning in my worry; that the world would turn and finding ways to laugh and enjoy that time did not mean I didn’t take other issues seriously. I gained perspective, purpose and clarity.
Having six weeks to get reacquainted with myself seemed much more luxurious than any 5 star vacation- at least at this point in my life.
On what I will leave in 2016:
Self-doubt. That b**** has to go! No, I haven’t accomplished everything that I wish I would have by now, but so what?
It was difficult to juggle everything that I had taken on plus the crazy curve balls that were shot my way, but after getting through this year, the saying “You have already come through what you have come to” has never been more real.
I will do my best to not confuse my unfamiliarity with a new situation or challenge with a lack of confidence in my abilities. It’s not necessary. I got this.
Procrastination. This may be a part of self- doubt. I find that many times when I feel overwhelmed, rather than face a new challenge head on, I’ll do everything else around me until I can no longer avoid the tough stuff.
Well, I know I can handle it, so I need to stop the nonsense. I’m always proud of the work that I do, and love what I learn in the process. I may as well anticipate the enjoyment of a job well done rather than dread the unpleasant task.
On the future to come:
I didn’t write as much as I had hoped to in 2016 (meh), but I’m really excited to have lined up some great new posts, articles, and collaborations!
While the blog will be more focused on skeletal pathologies and burial practices, as those areas are my academic interests, I’m growing my public engagement efforts!
I’m expanding the Rockstar Anthro Mobile Labs to include really fun features for school aged kids and adult workshops! We are going beyond bones and really embracing the interdisciplinary beauty of anthropology! Bio-Diversity, media literacy, and so much more!
Also, I will be more direct and clear in discussing and engaging in issues of social justice and politics. In the times that we currently live, in the Age of Tr***, as a black woman, educator, communicator, and anthropologist, I can’t not afford to not engage in the conversations that are, and need to be, happening.
If there was ever a time for anthropologist to be doing public and science communication, this is it!
I really want to do a better job of forming relationships and strengthening my network within the anthropology and archaeology communities. I started to do this during my sabbatical and I want to get really real with it in 2017. It’s imperative.
Yes, I have some fears because things may not go my way, but I have never wanted to be defined by my fears.
In great epics written about legends and heroes, there is always a time when the hero will be tried and tested. They are stripped of all the things that they felt gave them strength and defined their character. Then with nothing else to lose, when everyone around them has given up, they tap into a reserve of power they had NO idea they possessed. The hero harnesses all the mentorship and experiences that have shaped their lives, and with intelligence, willpower and defiance, they raise up their fists/ swords/ lightsabers and say, “Not today, Devil!”
In that moment, battered, bruised, limping on one leg, head raised, the hero goes towards the beast, for they have “already come through what they’ve come to.”
As do I walk towards 2017- bloodied but unbowed.