life curation · writing

The Key to Living Well

(This is the first of several reposted essays from my previous blog. I’m not sure if the hyperlinks still work, but I’ve kept them so that the essay makes sense. Also, this entry was initially written to encourage Black women to enhance their lives in any way possible, but I anticipate that some of these points will resonate even if you’re not a Black woman. Enjoy!)

Recently, I was brainstorming over ways to get my degree done faster during my morning drive to work. Well, somehow I started thinking about other people’s blogs, then I started thinking about Evia’s blog specifically, and how she implored black women to “increase their value.  I started thinking: How does a woman increase her value? How does she go from average to above average to excellent? Why is it important to increase your value? As I continued driving, it occurred to me: I have the answer! Eureka!

This woman looks like she knows how to reach her goals!

The short answer is this: figure out what is important to you, then plan on how to excel in that area. There’s more, of course, to this, and I plan to go into it fully throughout my blog. “How to increase your value” is going to be the main theme here on this blog. That’s what I’ve always wanted my writing to be about: becoming a better version of ourselves. I’m going to give you a little teaser for what’s to come:

Why is it important to increase your value?

Value is both objective and subjective: value can be recognized in almost anything, but what is valuable to each person is an individual choice. Value is an awesome thing, in that it can be added and not easily taken away. We all want to be valued and to have valuable people in our most intimate circle. It’s easy to see why value is important.

However, increasing our value is a different thing, and can be very confusing. Black women, in particular, have an interesting history and shared culture when it comes to increasing our value: many of us come from communities that tell us to become more valuable in very specific ways: go to school, have a great career, and give generously to the church and community of origin. However, when we attain a certain amount of value markers, we can find ourselves feeling very lonesome. We hope and expect those in our circle of friends and family to be attaining greater value as well, but oftentimes this journey to higher value is a solo mission. In our community, there is a sad conditioning going on: this very community encourages Black women to be as valuable as we can, but to simultaneously lower our expectations and standards when interacting with others in the community.

We are encouraged to marry any ol’ man, even if he isn’t high quality, just for the sake of procreating and “building up the community”. We are expected to “upgrade” everyone that we meet, while never expected anyone to pour back into us (talk about non-reciprocity!). We are encouraged to live in dangerous physical settings around “our” people, because moving to a safer neighborhood makes us “snobs”. We discouraged from speaking intelligibly because we “sound White” when we do. We’re given the greenlight to have children even if we are woefully unprepared for them (religiosity is a huge factor in this) and we are criticized when we expect our coparents to contribute financially to the care of the children. We are encouraged to make spectacles of ourselves for the sake of “keeping it real”, and we are told that unhealthy eating habits are fine since being “thick” should be our goal (I have slim friends who were teased mercilessly for not having curves, despite being healthy and normal in all other aspects).

Confusing, huh? How can one expect a valuable person to keep their expectations and standards low? Unfortunately, some have fallen victim to this trap and did everything to become valuable yet squander their resources on a community that doesn’t not provide anything in return – not even safety and a measure of unity. (This comes to an important point: VALUE SHOULD NOT BE WASTED. Not on an individual, not on a community, not within a society. Even after becoming our most valuable, Black women should use their value where it is appreciated and can benefit them. More about this in an upcoming post.)

The good news? Once a person is valuable, the individual can escape whatever toxic or nonreciprocal environment she is in. The most important point is: VALUE IS FREEDOM. Valuable individuals can leave harmful situations and select/create healthier environments. Valuable individuals are welcome additions in most communities: it won’t be hard for a valuable person to be welcomed into a social construct, so long as the person holds value for those within that construct. Increased value is increased freedom: the ability to choose from more environments and more favorable circumstances. That is why increasing one’s value is so important.

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