Recently, Wifey and I went on a double date with another black lesbian couple I deeply admire. One of them is an über-talented writer, artist and teacher, while the other is a nationally recognized food-justice consultant. After we’d been out of touch for a while, the theme of the night was about catching up and supporting one another in next steps.
Trouble is, I’ve never been good at celebrating any of my accomplishments, so I sort of hemmed and hawed while trying to recount what’s been going on with me. Later, in bed, I told Wifey that I felt uncomfortable talking about myself; it felt like bragging, and I just wanted to wait six months before I began celebrating some of these good moments in my life. As usual, she was ready—we’ve been together 18 years, and she knows me. She said to me, “One thing we have got to do is to stop putting our lives on layaway and start saying yes. Stop waiting for the future to celebrate ourselves, when we can celebrate now.”
That got me thinking: What are the top five things we should say yes to in 2018?
I’ve always had a hard time making friends. Call me an adorable masculine-of-center dork, but making friends is hard, y’all. I’m socially awkward—except online—and I’m also a homebody, so it complicates things when folks want to get to know me but also want to go kick it. Give me some Netflix, popcorn and a good glass of Baileys, and I’m pretty much done for the night.
You don’t need to say yes to everyone, but when you find people you vibe with, say yes. Get out of your comfort zone and go hang out. That said, you should make your boundaries known. For instance, I’m not a club person. I only go to a club once or twice a year because I hate the scene. If your blossoming friendships favor a scene that’s not ideal for you, set a boundary, then offer an alternative and find a compromise. I live in a place that has a big literary/art scene; on any given night, there’s music (not in clubs), readings, spoken word, art openings. Find a spot where you can get to know your new friends offline.
I’ve been with Wifey for nearly 18 years, and as with any relationship, we have busy lives outside of each other, as well as up-and-down moments. In the past few years, we’ve been challenged by a lot of change—some pretty difficult moments, and some worth celebrating. Our love endures because we’re best friends, but that’s not the sexy part of who we are as a couple, and sometimes even the best relationships need a little shot in the arm.
As 2017 wound down, Wifey and I agreed that we needed to step up our dating game. We’ve always loved dating each other, but this new year will be a year of relationship renewal. We’re both in a place where we want to challenge each other more; she is beautiful, intelligent and the kind of woman you don’t want to disappoint, so I’m excited to do it. Besides, we’ve got the ride-or-die friendship on lock, so I look forward to trying new things—both inside and outside the bedroom—that kick up the spark in our romance department. It’s a reboot that all relationships can benefit from. And though I haven’t been single for a long time, I encourage single folks looking for excitement to say yes to exploring new love and relationships.
In November of 2015, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It was a pretty difficult time for Wifey and me. The emergency room doctor told me that if I hadn’t come in that weekend, I would’ve had a stroke. It was a wake-up call, and for the first six months, I was really attentive to what I was eating, my exercise routine and lowering my stress. Then I lost my job and didn’t keep up my routine. I’ve been fat for a long time, and though I didn’t look at adjusting my routine as an opportunity to lose weight, I do want to be around a little longer.
This year, I’m recommitting to that routine. Again, this isn’t a resolution to lose weight. We know that shit does not work. But it is a “yes” to just eating a little better, going bowling a little more (particularly during the winter) and, when the weather’s nice, getting out in the sunshine. It also means saying yes to managing stress and anxiety, which means keeping up with therapy, finding healthy outlets like writing, and removing as many toxic people, things and unhealthy patterns from my life.
I am a writer. It has taken me a long time to say that. I’m working on my second novel and have a lot of other irons in the fire. And as much as writing creates some level of stress in my life, it’s the good kind of stress: It gets my mind moving and makes me feel excited and creative. I’m easier to live with when I write, I’m less depressed and anxious when I write, and I’m simply happier when I write.
Maybe writing isn’t your thing—maybe it’s painting, sculpture, graphic design or cosplay. Whatever your particular artistic endeavor is, say yes to it. Find like-minded people who share your artistic interests and begin to make those connections: Take a class, or just go to your local craft store and start crafting. And don’t let folks tell you that your particular artistic endeavor “isn’t really art.” If it makes you smile and gives you a little pep in your step, then do it!
Creating art is not about making money (though that can be a great outcome); it’s about getting what’s inside you out into the world so that you can reflect and imagine. Black folk, we have wonderful imaginations but are often told to suppress our creativity. Not this year! Say yes to imagination and creativity. In a society that seeks to rob us of our joy, we need to do this.
In March 2016, I lost a job I’d held for close to 13 years. Even though the environment was toxic and problematic, I was devastated. Like many of us, I grounded my identity in my job. Who was I without the job?
When I got a new job in August 2016, I worked hard to keep my identity separate from the gig. No matter how much I love my gig (and I do), the gig is not me and I am not the gig. I also know that—as with most things—jobs come to an end. Your end date may be this year, or in the next couple of years. But you should definitely say yes to crafting your exit strategy.
There’s a saying that you should always walk—never run—away from a job. Leave on a high note, with your integrity and legacy intact. Maybe you’re starting a new job in 2018; from your first day, begin to think about what you want your legacy to be when you leave, and begin to plan your exit strategy.
In a writing fellowship I was in this past year, one of the mentors had us map out our writing careers for the next five to 10 years. It was a great challenge because she asked us to dream big and then map out how we were going to get where we wanted to go.
The same goes for other careers. Ask yourself: What’s next for you? What kinds of skills can you gain from this gig that can take you to the next thing? Maybe you’re already in your dream job; what’s your next step in the position you’re in? Do you want to move up? Are you looking to start your own consulting firm, or maybe move on to another company?
I also know some of us can’t leave our gigs. That’s a fact of life. But I encourage you not only to find inspiration in your artistic endeavors (see No. 4) but also to think about what you can do to keep yourself sane in a job you may be stuck in. Are there new projects to tackle? Are there new things to learn in your field? What is your edge in the work that you’re doing? Find your niche.
Saying yes to your exit strategy doesn’t mean you’re leaving the job tomorrow. It means you’re creating a plan for happiness and success, however you define it. Don’t narrow your exit strategy; be bold in your creativity, map and plan—ask a couple of friends to join in, and do vision boards or bullet journaling. Figure out your next steps, and you might find yourself well on your way to your next big thing!
None of what I’m telling you here is new. I mean, Shonda Rhimes told us about her Year of Yes in 2015. But maybe you were like me and didn’t hear her. This year I’m saying yes to these five areas of my life because I want to say yes to me. I encourage you to say yes to you, too! Happy New Year!