To say that 2018 was a year of change for me would be an understatement bordering on fabrication. As my first calendar as a full-time freelancer, it has been one of the most emotionally and financially trying times of my life, and yet also one of the most professionally rewarding. I began the year depressed, lonely and in despair about my future. I’m ending the year in much the same place, but with additional bylines, professional contacts and irreplaceable experiences under my belt.
It is the curse of the millennial generation that we always feel that we’re running in place. The reality of our lives is that most of us will never achieve the quality of life we were promised. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, especially if you’re the only one in your social circle to not find a way around these very real economic limitations. I have spent a lot of time lamenting that I feel like I’m moving backwards as my friends and loved ones build their lives; buying homes, getting married, having children. These are all life “goals” that feel inaccessible to me. Instead I’ve retreated into my plants and my Netflix account and the digital homes I have made online. One of the unique challenges of my life is that I’ve chosen a career with little to no long term viability where I am. I will likely never support myself doing what I love for as long as I live in this country. But I am good at what I do. I am excellent at what I do. And I’m not going to give it up just because it is difficult.
But the fact of the matter is that I did a lot that I’m proud of this year. I got into grad school. I was accepted into the New York Film Festival Critics Academy. I covered the Toronto International Film Festival as a freelancer. I was accredited for Sundance. I met other journalists I have admired from afar. I was invited to apply for a dream job I didn’t even know I wanted. I wrote for publications I didn’t think I’d ever crack. I watched my beautiful cousin get married. This year had many, many, many pitfalls, but there were also many peaks that made them worth it.
Part of the struggle of writing cultural criticism for a primarily US audience while living in Trinidad is that I am literally and figuratively on an island. I am far away from where the things that concern me are happening, and there is no one where I am who cares in the way that I do. But this year has taught me that space can be conquered. Distance can be traversed. Money will always limit me, but there is always a way. I’m slowly learning that I can stop being surprised and flattered to be given access to spaces I deserve to be in. I am learning to be bold.
It’s still hard not to feel as though I am in the middle of an extended period of arrested development. I do not want for anything more than a job I do not hate and place to call my own that I can fill with massive indoor plants and the art of black women. That dream is quite a ways off though, even as I make incremental steps in the right direction. But just as I am bold, I’m also realistic; 2019 is for renewal, perpetual motion and small achievable goals. I have big dreams, and as I get closer to the last year of my 20s, I’m learning that the only thing that will get me there is to do the work. Do it well, do it consistently, and make it count.
At the end of 2017, I bought myself a new planner. I chose it because I thought it was pretty, I love making lists, and I missed writing things by hand. It came with stickers and rulers and tape and was covered in plants. On the front cover it read “This Is Your Year.” In hindsight it feels prophetic, but at the time it was merely a wish.
This year I have purchased another. The front reads “Enjoy The Wild Ride.” I intend to do just that.