By Chelsea M. Frazier
If you’re the kind of person that never forgets to take their vitamins, I truly salute you. If you are anything like me, however, actually buying and then taking daily vitamins feels like a mundane chore that gets executed sporadically at best. I cannot count how many times an enthusiastic doctor, or a doting parent, or a friend that has their life together, goes on for hours preaching at me about how vitamins are crucial for the prevention of an array of illnesses and diseases and how magically beneficial their multivitamin has been to the improvement of their lives. Some of these well-meaning folks have even gone so far as to help me figure out which nutrients will work for me. Unfortunately, the same process always happens: I get the bottle of vitamins; I take it for a few days—thrilled about my increased energy, razor-sharp focus, and Kelly Rowland-like skin. Then the bottle eventually starts to collect dust in my cabinet, shaming me every time I glance at it and forget to take it as I’m rushing out of the door. I believe I’ll get it one day. God’s still working on me, smh.
Despite my tragic inconsistency with b12, vitamin C, zinc, etc.—it dawned on me the other day that there are some vitamins that I would never dare neglect. In my work and studies as a PhD student in an extremely demanding academic setting, there are long periods of time when I need super-human energy and focus. That said, skipping out on my “vitamin-practices” becomes the difference between sinking or swimming when I am asked to argue a point in class, getting the ‘A’ I need or not, and making the 17th deadline in a row or missing it. My vitamin-practices take many shapes: consistent and honest accountability chats with my mentors and friends, reading stacks and stacks of all kinds of books, creating art of some kind, and of course, intensive natural hair-care rituals.
When I set demanding, long-term goals for myself, the execution of those plans depend very heavily on how well and how early I recognize and use my talents and strengths. Equally important to goal-setting however, is also how well and how early I can identify my limitations. This pre-emptive self-analysis helps me to be ready when self-doubt, limited knowledge, mental fatigue, or ambition-induced self-neglect begins to threaten my ability to perform and achieve the goals I have set.
Before self-doubt bubbles up to the surface, I check in with my (trusted) friends, family and mentors. Before my ignorance of a certain topic threatens to confine me, I try to read everything I can in order to gain much-needed familiarity. Before mental fatigue sets in, writing poems and making collages gives me balance. And certainly, before ambition-induced self-neglect rears its dusty, knotted, flaky head—I spend hours, gently massaging, moisturizing and styling the mass of kinks that is my ‘fro. These are some of the vitamin-practices that keep me moving when I don’t want to and the activities that keep my pace steady when it would be easier to slow down or stop. I find it important to mention, that these vitamin-practices are not the same as merely eating or sleeping—you need to do those things to survive. Vitamin-practices go beyond survival strategies to ensure that you stay on the path to thriving!
As people of color, whenever we reach out to thrive, to do something that not many do, to be something that not many are, or to take more space in the world than seems readily available to us, the challenges are inevitable and can often feel overwhelming. The trick is to be honest with yourself about the limitations you seek to overcome. Investigate the vitamin-practices that help you through your most trying times and then put them to work. On the road to all that we are working toward, we must keep in mind that while our limitations and struggles are inescapable, they do not have to be our downfall. Be steady, stay ready, and don’t forget to take your vitamins!
Chelsea M. Frazier is a Phd Candidate in the Department of African American studies at Northwestern University. When she's not buried in an Octavia Butler novel she can be found waxing poetic about the endless foolery that the Love and Hip-Hop franchise provides for us all. Her hobbies include reading, writing, and little-to-no forms of arithmetic. She can be reached at @CMikaelFrazier.