One day when I was a teenage girl, I disappointed my mama. I remember her asking me, “what is going on with you” and with a voice as soft as a kitten’s belly, I acknowledged, “I’m not happy”.
It was probably the most forthright thing a girl could ever whisper to her mama.
Caught off guard by my tears, mama, of course, asked me why I was not happy…
…and that’s all my near-forty-year-old mind can recall. I often think about this vague moment wondering how long that low-grade depression Michelle Obama talked about has towered over me. I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up in teen-me…
I teach at an upper high school, so I see how sorrow can live inside of our young people. It even seems that today’s youth are learning more and more how to function in spite of their lows. They suppress so they can re-parent themselves or parent their siblings. They regulate. They work hard to break emotional and cultural barriers every day. They are better champions than adults.
…Perhaps I’ve been in a battle for my mind as young as seventeen or eighteen. In all honesty, the pandemic, the hard realities, the losses, the racial injustices, and the grimy politics have me feeling more and more like that teary teenage girl: vulnerable, unguarded, and at-risk.
No, I am not at a hopeless edge, however, I feel the need to express that this year has kept many of us from experiencing hope, love, joy and freedom. It was the year that kept us inside, away, down-and-out… Full of near-highs and absolute lows; an accumulation of uncertainty, panic, and depressive relapses; it’s been a doozy.
We’re now in the final quarter of the year. I look back and I know that it is by some miracle that we are still here. That I have enough strength to write this and you enough to read it.
In this new season, I am reflecting on that moment I had with my mama back in the day. That time I opened up to an adult woman who I’m sure had struggles of her own. I’m remembering the barrier I broke with simple childlike vulnerability… “I’m not happy.” Pure and true, it solidified trustworthiness between my mother and me that exists to this very day. And yes, it is a vague memory, but I know somewhere in that moment she recited her most classic line, “you have to be strong,” before going to God in prayer for me.
The season has changed. We’re in the final quarter. If we haven’t turned over a new leaf, today is the day to initiate a radical kind of undoing that transforms the heart. Step outside around seven o’clock in the morning. It’s a new energy out there. The autumn air is revolutionary and offers clarity that might have been difficult to achieve in those humid summer months. Most folks don’t liken themselves to fall leaves– they will remain green and refuse to allow other beautiful colors to show through.
It’s October and nature is petitioning change. What if we return to childlike vulnerability? What if we all become very transparent about our faults and deficiencies in an effort to improve our relationships, our households, and the communities we lead.
What if in this new season, in the final quarter, we break barriers.
P.S. If a child tells you they are unhappy, ask why. ❤️
Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.