My birthday is coming up this weekend and birthdays often make us reflective. They open up a space where we can find ourselves reviewing and evaluating our lives so far. Many times we find that the life we imagined and the life we’re living look very different. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes we wind up feeling as if we’re behind. We see others meeting goals and having experiences we wish we’d had. Other people are getting great jobs and promotions, getting married and building families and traveling and having wonderful experiences. When our ideals and realities don’t match up, we can experience difficult feelings about it. But here are some things to keep in mind…
When we scan over our lives and notice those potholes, it’s helpful to also look at the circumstances that may have impeded our ability to achieve certain objectives. One of the biggest areas of concern for many people is not having enough wealth. I definitely feel as if I should have more to show for my hard work by now. And sometimes I ask myself, “Have I worked hard enough?” But after getting out of self-blame mode, I realized that’s not an accurate question. I’ve worked hard my whole life in one way or another, but unfortunately hard work doesn’t guarantee stability and mobility. That’s an American lie because it doesn’t take into account the socioeconomic inequities that make it exponentially more difficult for black people to attain wealth.
According to the Brookings Institute, “Within the top 1% of households, less than 1% identify as Black. Even the wealthiest Black households, moreover, are less wealthy than the wealthiest white households”. There are factors out of our control that impact the ability to achieve financial stability, especially for black women. For instance attaining and maintaining good jobs and professional mobility can be a challenge for the black community due to a host of issues that revolve around bias and systemic racism. It’s important to recognize circumstances and situations that no matter how hard we tried, we just couldn’t overcome. And though our disappointment and sadness may be absolutely valid, it’s important to balance those emotions with the acknowledgement of our efforts. It’s paramount to also remember that we tried. We gave it our all…and, to not give up hope. Because at least some of the things we wanted out of life can still happen.
And that may mean we have to work even harder. (I know, how much more can we give, right? But we can do it.) Or maybe it’s not about working harder but being more strategic and changing up our plan. Whatever our dreams require, we are capable of realizing at least a portion of them.
So when we find ourselves reviewing our lives and becoming disappointed about things not happening on our timeline and what didn’t work out, we have the choice to leave space to realize that we can still reach other stars in the sky.