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  • Writer's pictureAshley Gray

10 Things I Think... 2022 was ummm...

If I had to describe 2022, it'd be like trying to describe the unpredictability of water. I really couldn't have made this year up even if I tried. It's been filled with lot of questions and only a few answers. Don't get me wrong- it wasn't all bad. It's definitely been rough though. Where to begin? Oh, yes... here. In the year of our Lord... maybe too far back. Let's start in January. I left a full-time position at an employer I had been with for 4 years. I felt like it was never going to pop the question. Seaux. I had found what I believed to be a role that could make great positive impact. I had left years of being heavy from doing a great deal of the work to make the organization less racist and sexist. I left looking forward to an opportunity to try something new. Here's what happened from there.

  1. All water ain't created equal. You definitely know this firsthand if you still drink Dasani. Drinking Dasani is like gargling earring backs steeped in hatred. I learned within the first day of working at this new organization that all money ain't good money and abusive work environments abound. On my first day of work, I was told that the women who did the work before me were placed there because they were "of color" and... I immediately knew I had also been hired because of my qualifications and because I speak fluent kneegrow. By the end of the first week, I had a spreadsheet of equity concerns. I knew I wasn't going last there for long by the first Friday.

  2. Water doesn't apologize. I stayed and prayed and called and sought out colleagues and others for advice on how to make it work. I tried everything I could until I realized I couldn't maintain any sense of mental wellness being there. I was miserable. My anxiety peaked and panic attacks were frequent. I had scaled the walls of Howard, segregation in St. Louis and survived a few failed relationships with some of y'all's dusty sons but THIS... I just couldn't manage.

  3. Water sometimes requires a new filter. I learned that as much as folks will give you bad theology about God taking pleasure in your suffering, that's not who I knew God to be. I asked a few times what I should do and the answer was clear- "I didn't ask you to become ok with abuse." I'm sure I've written about how harmful the Black un-nuanced church perspective has been in pushing long-suffering theology but I didn't realize the roots of it still existed in me. Furthermore, the copious amounts of messages passed down to Black women with their purpose tied to suffering didn't help either.

  4. Water protects. So... I did what any grown ass person does- I called my mama. "Mama, can I quit because these folks are WILDIN'..." It's really true. I'm grateful for a mama and sisters that encouraged me to walk by faith.

  5. Water is undpredictable. Water, much like faith is one of the most beautiful and deadly elements. It can provide gentle waves or weave itself into tsunami force and cause mass destruction. My faith has felt like both ends of that extreme. I have had days where I knew something was happening and I believed it was working for my good. And then there were the days of lamenting. Tears- sometimes enough to drown myself in. Wondering if God had forgotten about me. Or if I had gotten the instructions wrong. Me: So like, when you said leave, I took that literally. God: (probably just holding my hand fully knowing this ain't a forever chapter in my story). Sometimes God's silence will make you think you did something wrong- again problematic theology.

  6. Water can inspire. One of the highlights of my year was starting my consulting business. I remember the feelings of inadequacy as people did the DC transplant thing where they unnecessarily talk about their careers when no one even asked. I remember designing my website with the fear that it would look unprofessional. I remember taking my website headshots on my phone with a tripod down the street. I started a business and got a few contracts and clients because my gift made room for me. Now... let's be clear- you don't typically get rich year one. You're luck if you break even.

  7. Water sustains. I can't tell you how I've managed to cover all my expenses in one of the most ridiculously inflated cities in the country. Every time I thought I wouldn't have it, a project or a promise came through. As a person whose mind has always been fixated on not feeling scarcity ever again, I came face to face with it. There were folks who looked out. I've been kept. And I learned how to make much out of little. Never been a more thoughtful giver until I had little. This is one of my biggest testaments that your instructions from God will come with provision.

  8. Water when introduced to heat can burn. I've experienced quite a bit of pain this year. I've talked about the mental and emotional pain but few people know I suffered a neck/shoulder injury this year that limited my mobility to move and kept me in consistent pain from April- October. 6 months of mind boggling pain. 6 months of being uninsured then underinsured while navigating pain. 6 months of chiropractic visits out of pocket. 6 months of my partner driving me to appointments, applying enough bio freeze to restore the glaciers and supporting me through utter discomfort. 6 months of pretending not to be in pain so I could show up to the important moments for others. 6 months of watching my body change as my mobility decreased. I started physical therapy in September (after waiting from July to Sept to get in with a primary care who would then give me a referral to PT) with a Black woman doctor who has changed my life. Howard graduate. That's why when we talk about HBCUs, you understand that a good percentage of the physicians that look like me, have attended and or been supported by docs from HBCUs. Her kindness, challenge, sessions of twisting me like a pretzel and more- I now have about 95% of normal mobility back. AND... I have experienced my first full month of pain free days.

  9. Water can be hard. One of the toughest yet most rewarding things I've had to sit with is being truly happy for people when it's their season of pour-down blessing even when I feel like I'm in a drought. I watched as folks got new jobs, opportunities, loves, children, degrees, houses, cars, trip, bodies- because all the girls got new bodies this year. In 2021, I just knew this was going to be the year my cup was running over. I was getting the Audi I wanted, taking a few trips and living a very instagrammable life. Let's be honest, a lot of folks want IG sexy lives. And then reality hit. How do I capture this? How do I tell folks my lowlights so they know I'm real? Why do I even care what they think? So, I disappeared for a while. I crawled up into myself because I didn't have to perform there. I only had a few drops of water left. Some days, I felt like I was borrowing from next year's emergency supply. AND. I learned that two things can be true- I can be ecstatically happy for you and still sit with this being a hard season. The sign of maturation in adulthood is understanding there are multiple experiences of things I think are finite.

  10. Water can run dry. This year taught me that I need to be thoughtful and selective with what I water. One of the hardest things for me to do is walk away from people and things I thought would be here for a lifetime. Learning to stop watering spaces that don't need my water anymore. Assuming they've dried is foolish. Their water source changed. Friendships, habits, etc. It’s not that I’ve given up hope that growth can occur- it’s just that my water has been in such limited supply this year. I have to learn to reserve some so I don’t dry up. Dr. Blue (Rahman Uhuru) said it best, "Only invest as much as I am willing to lose." Losing me in trying to keep folks around is not worth it.

On a serious note, water can wash clean. I honestly release this year. I don't know that 2023 will be different but I know I'm different going in. And. While I'd love to give you all the pleasantries and resolutions for 2023, I just plan to show up. That's all I got. Being here has always proven more than enough. I don't have to excel at anything, achieve every goal, hold on to every person. And. That's more than enough. May your water flow in the ways that bring you growth, joy and hope.

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