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The year 2020 was one of the most challenging, exhilarating, surprisingly incongruous, heartbreaking, memorable years of our lives, mine included. We faced a global viral pandemic head-on that changed the way we travel and communicate — shuttering jobs, schools and our favorite places for the sake of public health and safety. And we were confronted with the effects of sustained erosions to the great American democratic experiment. Though we are still wondering what relief looks and feels like, we all remain optimistic for a better tomorrow. What a time to be a citizen of this world; we’ve endured so much!

Though the arduous year 2020 came to a rolling end and the new year is out the gate with similar momentum, it is so important to remember what we learned in “getting through” it all: Not only is change inevitable, but crisis will not wait for us to be “ready” to receive it. The secret to controlling the narratives of our lives is to evolve in-step with the change and crisis we experience, in real time. Quite literally anticipating the evolution! Doing this successfully is the paradigm-shift difference between a year happening *to us, versus a year happening *for us. “If you stay ready, you don’t have to get ready” — a beloved Pan-African colloquialism. Yes, y’all, it’s really like that.

That shift, as you expected, must start with us, first. We set our vibration; We conduct our energy. Therefore, the change we desire to experience externally must be catalyzed internally within us. This becomes particularly impactful as we melanated people envision what a life free from the harm inflicted both by ourselves and historically oppressive/suppressive forces looks and feels like. After revisiting one of my favorite authors, Audre Lorde, my first step was made pretty plain to me.

I’ll always remember where I was when I re-read Audre’s words, “caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” It was July of 2017, I was standing in my beachside loft, at (what I thought was) the height of my career, weighing an astounding 330+ pounds and was severely depressed. While working as a political strategist and fundraiser, I found myself engulfed in my clients and workload so much that I neglected to acknowledge the deteriorating toll it was taking on my health. In my attempts to experience the change I desperately knew I needed, I sought to facilitate change externally instead of being the change. My reality eventually would converge into a supreme ultimatum: work or live. Thankfully, I chose to live — and living for me meant first unplugging from everything, and everyone whose inertia I was attached to. I stepped away from the spotlight and stepped into myself, to confront, assess, un-learn, re-learn and nurture. This decision is what permits me to type these words to you today, and is exactly what tethered me closely to the life I once thought, but now know, is mine for the living.

Simple, me-centered acts of self-care were my first step, as it has been and will be for many of you. Implementing self-care into my daily routine made profound and immediately positive impacts on my mood, my hustle, my experiences and ultimately the trajectory of my life. My daily walk became a game of congruency — walking what I was talking and vice versa, in the most literal terms:

I wanted to feel alive, so I committed to consuming the nourishment of life. 

The Result: (decolonized) Veganism. 

I intentioned to emit the joy I sought out, so I committed to creating space and time for joyful experiences (especially on “work days”).

The Result: Less fatigue, fresh ideas and enhanced creativity. 

I was desperate to be happy, so I committed to unearthing past and present traumas, without judgement, forgiving myself and others of inflictions and harms. 

The Result: A fail-proof process of releasing all that did not serve me.

I needed to feel like my mind and my body were on the same page, so I committed to daily movement, versus “exercise,” and meditation. 

The Result: I rediscovered my inner athlete, shed over 100 pounds and am no longer afraid of my own thoughts. 

I desired to have a reciprocal exchange between who I am and what I do. 

The Result: I rebirthed my businesses into innovative and thriving entities by valuing and transferring my skill set into marketplaces and arenas void of the toxicity that previously made me love what I did but not how I had to do it.

And so, I applied this model over and over, for nearly three years, until I felt whole enough to emerge in the Spring of 2020, with an internal infrastructure that has proven to weather the storms of change and crisis as we’ve experienced them collectively. I’m now a woman who understands first hand the significant impacts of a daily commitment to self-care and giving yourself the grace to evolve in-step.

When we feel good about ourselves, we absolutely behave differently; we work differently, we speak differently and we carry ourselves differently too. Synergy in wellness and self-care produces peace and assurance in self. We are more confident in our abilities, how we show up in the world, and our motives. I’ve found that optimism is much more accessible when we operate from a space of spiritual, mental and physical congruence. 

For me, self-care looked a lot different than sage smudging and bubble baths. Taking the time to recalibrate, a privilege that I give thanks for every day, not only saved my life, but it also sharpened my skills, increased my energy and ignited my passion and purpose ablaze. I think often about where I would be and how I would be processing the now, had I not heeded the warnings of 2017.

At the root, self-care practices are deeply personal, infinite in option and should be customized to who we are as individuals. Even with our varying routines and remedies, the foundation of self-care will always be built on this: love. Love of self, love of this day, love of each other, love of this life we co-exist in.

So, while we pray for this world to change and you scramble to figure out what your own personal revolution looks like, I encourage you to take a moment to reflect on your power to co-create the life you experience, as I did. What would happen if, in the crisis and chaos of it all, you took a moment — or five — to respond instead of react? What would happen if you anticipated your evolution and started becoming today who you envision yourself being tomorrow?