By: Bianca Salvant Photography by: Deun Ivory
It never fails: the closer we get to the end of any year, everyone is reflecting and taking inventory. Something is certainly in the air around this time, like a smell that creeps up from underneath the bed the moment the calendar strikes twelve. For me, December is a time of many things: for one, it is the month my mother gave birth to me nearly 29 years ago. In addition, I am also infected with the notion that I must think a little deeper, feel a little more and solidify decisions that I’ve hesitated on for the past year.
Not only do I contemplate what I’ve been able to accomplish and what I hope to, I examine the relationships in my life: the people who participate in an exchange of energy. How are they nurturing me? How are they not? How am I nurturing those I love? How am I not? I’ve realized that as living organisms on this planet, we’ve evolved to spend majority of our time participating in social interaction and chasing fictional realities* in hopes of giving meaning to the life we live. We’ve created emotional seasons, like for example: “new year, new you” and holidays that are supported by decorations of pumpkins or trees. And while I am aware of our make-believe tales, I am still intrigued by taking the moment to slow down. Is it unavoidable? After reading The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, I’ve realized that our way of coping with the world and taking inventory every year is a survival tactic.
Darwin writes that “it is human nature to value any novelty, however slight, in one’s own possession.” In attempting to navigate the large unknown that is the future, I’ve submitted myself to the clock of our society: finding comfort in the sentiment of sharing thanks on Thanksgiving; giving gifts on Christmas; partying for birthdays or the New Year. Although holidays like Thanksgiving are rooted in anti-blackness, colonization and genocide, it has evolved into meaning that a family should stop working for a moment and spend time together. Eat dinner at the table and share more of each other. If not for holidays, how often do we do this?
This year, for reasons I can not place, went by quickly. It has made me more conscious of time. In addition to that, I’ve pushed back against my loathing of celebrations to praise small victories and forward movement. In 2017, I experienced death and ones close to me being diagnosed with terminal illnesses that could mean I’d never see them again. Naturally, I’ve been spiritually alerted about how I spend my days here and with who. Many terms have been coined as clichés: You Only Live Once, YOLO or Life is Short. If we contemplated this just a tad bit more, would we be more present in our day-to-day lives versus perpetually worried about the future? Surely we must know that whatever we create in our generation will not be around for infinity. So, why stress?
“How fleeting are the wishes and efforts of man! how short his time! and consequently how poor will his products be, compared with those accumulated by nature during whole geological periods,” Darwin wrote in 1859.
The concept rings out to me as a reminder to exist where I currently stand, rather than to live in a moment that has yet to come, if at all.
In the past, I struggled to breath in my own thoughts, drowning in thoughts of goals and the future. I obsessed over planning ahead, setting intentions and attempting to predict what would happen next. Because of this, I left home at seventeen and never looked back. Sure, I’ve come a long way, but how much of my 20’s did I genuinely enjoy? The longer I remain in this dimension, the more I learn about myself; growing with the ability to be a witness in my own evolution. Would I have changed in this way had I not experienced loneliness, struggle and loss? I am reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes words: “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” It leads me into believing that I am here today, writing this, precisely as a result of my past
Today is yesterday’s answer.
I am curious about how much we truly are allowing ourselves to expand if we remain stuck within an experience of worry and stress? Although I am curious, I am not seeking that answer. My lack of interest in crumbling within that headspace leaves room for me to pause and breathe deeply.
With gratitude, mother nature has emerged as a special teacher. Through millions of years, she has transformed and created beings that tend to every part of her. From the smallest animal to the largest, from the most complex brain to the most simple, everything is connected and reserves a singular purpose for her. Extinction is the result of her cleanse, and not even humans can escape this.
Mother nature has built and destroyed, all for the betterment of the collective. She has accomplished so much by pacing herself, steadily and without hurrying, taking it one day at a time. Who am I to defy this strategy?
“For natural selection can act only by taking advantage of slight successive variations; she can never take a leap, but must advance by the shortest and slowest steps,” says The Origin of Species. “All that we can do, is to keep steadily in mind that each organic being is striving to increase at a geometrical ratio; that each at some period of its life, during some season of the year, during each generation or at intervals, has to struggle for life, and to suffer great destruction. When we reflect on this struggle, we may console ourselves with the full belief, that the war of nature is not incessant, that no fear is felt, that death is generally prompt, and that the vigorous, the healthy and the happy survive and multiply.”
As we inch closer to 2018, I am reminded of everything I accomplished in 2017: landing a gig with my dream company (and getting promoted in six months!), getting published and building with the smartest people in the book publishing and entertainment industry. What I want for myself in the New Year is arriving at more stepping stones that assist in my growth, but without the stress and worry about whether the stones will be there when I move forward.
I want to be kinder to myself, trust my heart more and live this one life until the wheels fall off.
* Fictional realities is a term I discovered in Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Noah Yuval Harari.
Bianca Salvant is a nocturnal writer who enjoys trying new things and challenging myself. Her words have appeared in VIBE, BET, storySouth, The Miami Times, Tallahassee magazine and Haute Living. She is the founder and curator of the virtual book club, Books for the Soul; an editor and producer at Sejoe Entertainment. While the sun is out, you can find Bianca at Atria Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, working on adult literature titles. She loves outdoor activities, reading, writing, watching movies and listening to music.