Long before social media, the cloud of celebrity confused us into believing that anyone in front of the flash bulbs didn’t “live like us.” And now that social media has taken hold of our lives, and constructed ‘influencers,’ we, stupidly, are playing a similar game of believing only influencers can influence.
The two-hundredth-and-forty-fourth anniversary of America dredged up some pretty powerful feelings about my own independence…or lack thereof. Days after, it dawned on me that my obsession with the latter (or the former, errr), could be tied to the impending arrival of my two-year LA-versary.
Thanks to Hollywood (one small neighborhood in LA), Los Angeles has been likened to some other world (true), where sunshine beats on you constantly (false). So much so that you might be wondering, “Tahira, what about sunshine makes you uneasy?” And the answer to that is: living in Los Angeles is the hardest thing I’ve done thus far. In two short years, I’ve learned a disturbing amount about myself and being on my own.
What that really means, and what that really looks like.
And for some reason, learning these things has been seemingly more uncomfortable than my learning in other seasons in my life. Perhaps because I can no longer bullshit myself about who I am and why I am that way, but to make a long story short, I’ll say that I’m still trying to figure it out. One can only suspect that it has a lot to do with how good I’ve gotten at ‘picking and choosing my battles’–a practice so subjective by nature that another wave of discomfort is rolling in as we speak.
And perhaps that's the thing that really gets me about this town...
It makes you realize that nothing is good or bad. The only thing that makes it such is your perspective. What a beautifully hellish thing to be responsible for…. :’) And ultimately, that’s why I’ve come to see self-preservation as my best friend.
Merriam-Webster defines self-preservation as, “preservation of self from destruction or harm,” a biological reaction that boils down to survival of the fittest. But in my even simpler, zen-brain terms, self-preservation is what I do to not completely lose my shit. If life is an ocean of emotional triggers, self-preservation is your lifeboat. Not your mother, or your best friend, or your significant other. Love and fear of God is great too, but for good measure, pray for self-preservation.
I liken self-preservation to the duvet cover I pull over myself at night knowing that it won’t protect me from the ax murderer, should they arrive in the middle of the night, yet that cream, linen duvet helps me get in those Zzzs.
Self-preservation isn't false security.
I’m fully accepting of the fact that two locked doors are the actual barriers between me and this imaginary murderer, and even more privy to how ridiculous this analogy is, yet I don’t allow either of those facts to keep me up at night. If I’m being even less ridiculous, SP is any action that helps you to cope with the reality that a lot of sad, scary things happen in life, without diminishing life’s beauty. It’s the mediator that helps to balance you out after all goes left.
For me, that mediator comes in the form of mantras that I hold up against pretty much anything that happens in my life, including, but not limited to….
1. Love all, but give your energy to few.
Energy is expensive and we have to learn how to spend it. To my horror (and yours, I’m guessing), turning off your giving-a-damn-o-meter completely is impossible, but if you learn where to invest your energy, and how in what quantities, your life gains an under-rated calm.
2. See it and say less.
A ghost from dating’s past once taught me life’s biggest lesson: not everything needs a response–that includes people’s actions. Sometimes they have no idea that what they’re doing affects you big time; other times, they know what they’re doing, can ‘imagine how you feel’, and they just don’t care.
3. Relationships must be a two-way street.
Call me crazy, but whether familial, platonic, or romantic, I want the people in my life to do the work to maintain the connection we have. This may not look like a steady stream of communication, or time spent together, but if the answer to why we haven’t enjoyed quality time in 5ever is poor communication…I will happily remove you from my life.
Ciao. Poof. Finito.
I take all of my relationships very seriously, and if you don’t, well…please keep your ‘pick-up-where-we-left-off’ mess away from me. Everyone has their preference, and mine is to unapologetically connect with the people I love as often as I can.
4. Cherish the people who show up for you.
You don’t have to search for your cheerleaders. Or buy some device on the black market to decipher their energy. You will know who is there for you and who is not. Celebrate those who are, they did not stumble into your life by accident.
5. Not all of your relationships will pass this sniff test.
That’s the whole point…not all of them are supposed to, and that’s perfectly ok. Even the relationships that pass the sniff test today, may not pass it fifteen years from now. That’s why self-preservation should be our best friend.
And why not? Self-preservation is having the audacity to celebrate your life regardless of the circumstances. It’s the defiant act of celebrating who you are today and who you have in your life today, of loving all that you have for what it is, and of seeing the magic in this very moment.
Self-preservation allows us to see the beauty in all things, by helping us to reconcile the hurt we feel from the bad that occurs in our lives, without attaching it to the good. It’s the freedom to just be and let be. And you deserve it.
“It’s crucial to have an active fantasy life”
“Abstraction is a form of decadence”
“You are responsible for constituting the meaning of things”
“You get the face you deserve”
“The most profound things are inexpressible”
“You don’t know what’s what until you support yourself”
“Self-awareness can be crippling”
“You should raise boys and girls in the same way”
“Sacrificing yourself for a bad cause is not a moral act”
“It’s crucial to have an active fantasy life”
Television told me to like pink and trivial things, but my dad exposed me to CNBC and Bloomberg. Teen Vogue told me to make myself small enough for the sample sizes, and whiter than I was. Strange men told me to smile more, a TSA officer called me his fiancé as I walked through security –I was 13. Back then, my mother told me that gentlemen don’t like “fast women,” my aunts bemoaned our family-wide love curse. Female celebrities told me, “the sluttier the better,” my father told me I could share my body with whoever I wanted, but only if I truly wanted to. No really, it’s ok to say “no.”
It’s ok to live with ‘man-like’ assertiveness.
He made me a student to argument early on, sometimes for sport, other times, out of insatiable curiosity. He made me play soccer with boys, and nodded when I quit ballet because I felt like it, unconcerned with outside parties’ opinions of my decisions. My dad, my feminist icon, didn’t care to control that kind of shit. He cared about my awareness. He taught me that women are not 77 cents to a dollar. They are CEOs, Senators, philanthropists, and analysts. Hell, they were madams and strippers too, but they were always assertive.
“Working for yourself is imperative,” he’d tell me.
But, most importantly, he told me that God is a woman. God was inside of me, negative energy and bad mindedness be gone. He said attachment was for the unsuccessful, rich people have better things to do. Mom ensured I was self-sufficient in the kitchen, women who can cook make men happier. Yet still, dad made the best stuffed chicken. Nonetheless, he frowned upon gluttony –unhealthiness is disdainfully wasteful of taxpayers’ money.
The lessons I learned were intimately related to economics.
My dad, my feminist icon, forced me to believe in my relevance in the workplace and beyond because my life depends on it. He said that women are much more than walking cavities reserved for newborns, or the answers to men’s needs, sex symbols, damsels in distress, angry and black, or man-hating feminists, prudes, or welfare queens. You never let me forget that as a woman, I am free to be who I please to be, and not out of a desire to please others, just to be. Thanks to you I don’t feel obliged to force a smile and look approachable, I don’t hesitate to use words for decoration that most people have forgotten, I don’t apologize for prioritizing my sexual needs because I prioritize myself.