At the risk of falling into the potentially dangerous pattern of asking and attempting to answer incredibly big questions, on the eve of 2020, I’m writing about who I am. In preparation for this new year, which I expect to bring lots of love, joy, and good practices, I spent the day doing things that I want to continue on tomorrow, the next day, and hopefully for the rest of my life. I began outlining a pilot script; I worked out; I did errands; I FaceTimed friends and family- all practices that I could happily carry out for the rest of my days.
It’s possible my most important moments of today came at the beginning. Following my mom’s suggestion, I read and finished Michael Singer’s The Untethered Soul. Before continuing, I want to offer my whole-hearted endorsement and say that I absolutely think it’s a book worth reading. I mention it here because the text begins and essentially ends with my title, stating that transcendance lies in recognizing that we are all a consciousness through which energy flows and if we can accept that life is change and allow changing energies to move freely through us, then we can achieve a never ending, unqualified state of happiness.
I agree with everything I read and at times while reading, I experienced a euphoria that brought me to tears. But while the book encourages us to relax into our consciousness, and question this “I am” if we must question anything at all, I found myself cleaving to a conversation from yesterday. I didn’t know how to feel about cleaving to this past exchange if the goal is to open and effectively let go of everything and every moment as a temporary element of the present that is constantly fleeting.
The conversation I’m referencing was with my Lyft driver, Tigist, as I left LAX. A lot has changed for me this year in the sense that I moved from DC to LA to pursue tv writing with no real leads and all of my friends heading in the opposite direction across the country. I graduated from college knowing that I needed to do something and I wanted it to be something that mattered, but I didn’t have much clarity beyond that.
In the four months since I first touched down, a year to the day that my brother moved here from San Francisco, I’ve had a lot of high and low moments relative to my confidence and even my faith that things would be “okay.” I now know that according to Michael Singer and my mom, those low moments were encounters with “closed energy” and I feel comfortable letting them go, but the fact remains that I’ve had lots of reasons to question who I am in the last year.
Before recognizing myself as a consciousness, I saw a collection of ideas and identities, which have mostly fallen away with routine life changes and the release of long held feelings. The two identities I find most fascinating and which take up a lot of my thoughts when I’m actively thinking are those having to do with sexuality and race.
In my conversation with Tigist, I got to ruminate on race a bit more than I already had having seen Slave Play over the break. Soon after I got into her car, she asked if I was Ethiopian because of my name and my features. Although none of my Habesha friends see it, according to more than one Lyft driver, I look like I could be from Ethiopia.
We had a sprawling conversation about why I moved here and her daughter’s desire to go to Howard, study law, and help empower black people. For my part, I gave my enthusiastic support for this plan along with a list of reasons why an HBCU, and Howard more specifically, is a great choice for a black student- especially one who’s smart and motivated to help Black people.
By the end of our ride, I seemed to have made some progress on behalf of Tigist’s daughter although she worries there’s no money in serving your people. Still beyond my potential contribution to Howard’s community by some kind of funky transitive property, I was mostly taken with the affirmations that Tigist offered me- that I have a bright future here, that my parents should be proud(they are!), and that she would be happy to have me as her daughter.
I’ve been struggling for some time with how invested I am in the affirmations that I received. Even though I think it’s a part of the human condition- to relish in affirmation, I feel a level of guilt that I’m sometimes a little bit proud of my tears, like the depth of my feeling makes me any more human or that I like when people recognize me for completely subjective traits and achievements. I hoped to finish this by midnight but see that the time has arrived, and I don’t know exactly where I was going with this.
Sometimes my only hope is for my writing to be a vehicle for me to ask a question. Sometimes I know my answer and sometimes I don’t. I also wanted to memorialize a conversation that felt big for a moment but might not feel the same later on. Tigist kept telling me that I should learn Amharic and visit Ethiopia so that during my visit, I could pretend to be from there. The only words that I remember saying to her verbatim are, “there’s so much to learn.” This is where I’ll end, as I think it’s a fitting summary of my title question. I am, and we are, everything and everyone and there’s so much to learn and that is very good. Happy 2020! I’m looking forward to all of the beginnings that the future holds.