Updated: Aug 15
I am turning 30 this month. To be honest, I don’t feel great about it. I don’t feel horrible, but I don’t feel great. I would like to affirm that I have been struggling with feelings of belonging, and I would like to affirm that I am grateful for… being alive. This past year, every aspect of my life and livelihood has been challenged. Here’s a little taste of what I’ve been going through:
My dog Sophie died. She was nine.
My family went through a challenging grieving period.
I was threatened after I removed a hostile student from a learning space.
I left my position at Johns Hopkins after my boss told me to “tone down the advocacy” in my lesson plans.
My mom had reconstructive foot surgery and the surgeon botched it.
A dear and beloved friend, Caiya, died after a long battle with colon cancer.
I got high and drunk a lot.
I experienced a break up with a person I’ve loved for the past eight years.
I took space from friends to process my pain, protect my hurt, and ground my anger.
A friend and longtime collaborator took space from me after I said something hurtful.
My suicidal ideation returned with venom.
I lost weight. I struggled eating. I injured my knee.
My grandmother got cancer and recovered quickly.
My mom got cancer and is still recovering. (She will be okay.)
My car was totaled, I’m struggling to pay rent, and I have applied for government assistance that has yet to appear.
After writing this, I notice that I am holding my breath. My neck feels electric and my hands tingle. That’s where I’m at right now: continually returning to my breath.
Meanwhile, of course, the world is on fire. Everytime I turn on the news I see a story about white supremacy, fascism, and global warming. The Supreme Court has stripped women and people capable of birth of their right to bodily autonomy. I’m definitely of the mind that I should get married quick because I know it’s only a matter of time before they ban gay marriage too. Any takers? And I know I am not alone in my suffering. That feels both consoling and defeating at the same time. Now, here’s the part where I say, “it’s not all bad.” And truly, it is not all bad. In my solitude, I have immersed myself in poetry, divination, and comparative mythology. My spiritual practice has reached new dimensions. I’ve meditated, yoga’d, and talked to God. Like mythical heroes from my teenage years, Arcade Fire and Florence Welch returned with albums - deeply resonant - to lift my spirit. Some friends, family, and collaborators buoyed me when I felt lost.
It’s not all bad, but it has not been easy. Not at all. It's been a lonely, lonely year. Many days I woke up and wished that I was not here anymore. I have been so tired, I have felt so hurt, and worst of all - helpless. And now, I am turning 30.
Despite my better judgment, 30 was always a big deal for me. I know it’s just a number, but I remember when my Mom turned 30. I remember when my Aunt Becky turned 30. I remember that it was a big deal.
A few of my friends have turned 30 already. My friend Chris turned 30 in March. Most of my friends are turning 30 soon. No matter how you slice it, how you celebrate, or how you feel, 30 is a big deal. I guess because we live in a culture that makes it so. When I was 18, I chose to study film because I realized the power of story as a path towards self-realization and change. I knew I would have to work hard, and that the odds were not in my favor. Medical professionals, engineers, and programmers have an almost guaranteed path to financial stability. Artists do not. When I was 18, I told myself that I have until 30 to “make it.” If I failed, then I would get a “real job.” And now, 30 is on the horizon and by the standards of 18 year old Tavish, I am a failure.
Fortunately, I no longer judge myself by the standards that I set when I was a child. My work as a queer artist is a real job, and I recognize that success, as I understood it in high school, is a capitalist construct rooted in the idea that monetary value is an indicator of self-worth and purpose. It is not. I know it is not. My worth, your worth, our purpose is a matter of fact. Period. But I still feel the shadow, the imprint of my conditioning. I still hear the voice of my younger self and he is not happy with who I have become. Inner child work is never ending. We are always children of yesterday and our yesterdays keep growing in number. Inner child work involves recognizing the ways in which we are self-disappointed. Our past selves had expectations about who we could be and who we should be. When who we could have been fails to align with who we actually are… that’s an identity crisis, and where my child work begins. All my yesterdays are crying out for who I could have been. All my yesterdays are panicked by what the world is becoming. It’s not just my teenage self. My 20 something selves are the loudest. They do not understand. They do not think it is fair that this is the life we have been working towards. This month I am turning 30. I thought I would be a full time professor. I thought I would be in love. I hoped that I would be married. I thought we would have a dog. I thought I would have a big party. I thought I would travel to a cabin in the woods; or to an island in the ocean; or rent a dance hall; or have an unbelievably expensive dinner. I thought I would be surrounded by my chosen family and maybe there would be speeches or a surprise that would make me cry tears of joy. (And lots of sex.) Alas. This month I am turning 30 and I will likely spend it alone. And that is okay because that is where I am and perhaps it is where I need to be. Amidst the struggle, I am grateful. I shed tears of joy to breathe freely. I get goosebumps to think upon the luck that I’ve found and the love I’ve received. I smile so big when I think about the friendships that I’ve made. Like the moon, I love every one of them in all their phases. Cycles, seasons, and reasons: I am grateful to be alive.
Inner child work is about self-care. It’s about speaking kindly to your yesterdays. It’s about telling the child within that you are proud of them. That you will never be disappointed in them, even if they are disappointed in you. It’s about becoming your mother, your father, your family and all the ancestors at their best and brightest to say, “It’s okay, Tavish, you got this. We are so proud of everything that you’ve done so far, who you are today, and what you will become tomorrow.” I am turning 30 this month. And I am giving myself the gift of gratitude. I will be writing a blog series on the people, places, and things that I am grateful for, that carried me to this moment. There is nothing more that I want than to move forward with grace, dignity, and hope for the emerging world. There are so many experiences that have shaped me, and I choose to see the beauty in all of them. I would like to affirm that I am grateful. I would like to affirm that I have returned. Once more around the sun, happy birthday to me.