Thoughts about a New Year by Paula G. Akinwole
I’m currently sitting in Vagabond’s Rabbit Hole. It’s a small underground Jazz Club that I frequented often in my 20s but haven’t been here in about 5 years. Tonight though, my husband is around the corner doing a comedy show, night one of five and while I plan to be at night 5, I won’t be at night 1. We’ve done this the last few year, 5 shows for New Years. This year, my mother in law is watching the baby and I have these free nights to myself, Thursday – Monday. So when I learned my old homie Bri Luv was in town from Atlanta and doing a set with Local Legends The Marvin Taylor Experience… Well, I walked the 5 blocks to The Rabbit Hole from Sandman Comedy Club and planted myself in a corner seat by the back of the bar. I can see the show and everyone else. I’ve already hugged and loved on Bri and other of my friends. Now, I’m just sitting and watching.
I wish I was dressed differently. I have on black bell bottoms, a brown turtle neck and a plaid vest. I’m cute but not Jazz Club chic. That would have been my preference for tonight. But, I was 30 mins from home when I learned about this event so my choices were to go somewhere and buy a new outfit or learn to not care. I chose the latter.
I’ve spent the last hour chatting up strangers, ordering drinks, and hugging old friends while waiting for the show to start. I have a Bold Rock Apple in my hands and it probably looks like I’m texting to onlookers but I have to not care about that too. I’ve had a moscato already and the elder gentlemen beside me got one too. He’s here with a large group of friends. He ask about my night. I hope his wife doesn’t think I’m flirting. I’ve enjoyed the free Buffett of chicken wings, meatballs, and seafood salad. This spot is black owned, this space is full of black people, and the band is black. There room is dark with mirrors everywhere. It could easily be a time capsule without pictures or artifacts, just vibes that have been here since the 20’s maybe. It’s overall lovely and damn do I feel good. Maybe it’s the drinks but I feel reflective. The show has started.
My life is often filled with not good feelings. Physical pains from health complications, uneasiness in my skin when regretting my hair choice or clothes, panic that my nails are chipped or my teeth too yellow. Maybe I’ll say something stupid or do something uncomfortable. I think that happens a lot. I’m afraid the people around me will see my secrets, like there is a sign on my back: Anxiety filled traumatic & dramatic bitch who’s on her period and forgot to put on deodorant. Kick me.
I don’t feel that way right now… Though I did forget to put on deodorant. It’s a flaw. One of many that evidently make me as human as everyone around me. I used to imagine that I’d go somewhere like a bank and mid transaction, thugs would show up guns blazing. They’d tell us to take off our clothes and in the midst of getting robbed, someone would notice I have on holey draws and yesterday’s dirty socks. Eww! Are you wearing Wednesday draws on Saturday? Take all my money but leave me my gosh dang pride! And that fear is rewarded with not feeling good about myself even when everything is just fine. But tonight, I don’t feel that way. I could if I think on it hard enough but again, I’m choosing not to care. Because I think the real truth, the secret is that everyone is always trying to fit comfortably in their skin. As if our existence is an oversized t-shirt and you have two options: to let it hang on your body and swallow you up or rock that thang.
This is me learning so much about myself. Twenty twenty two has been doing that, making me look deeply and intensely. The why… The who.. the how. Learning to let people go and others in. Recognizing that anything can be learned. That people won’t make room for you but you have every right to take up space.
The things are changing. And I have a list of things I want to change in the upcoming year. I wanna feel healthy, capable and culpable, and free. Whew… To feel free. (Realizations while listening to a band play Stevie Wonder in a hole-in-the-wall.) It took me recognizing just how trapped I’ve felt to know freedom is the goal. I feel freest with my husband. I feel most trapped by myself when I’m analyzing and comparing. That means there are restraints I’ve accepted right? Religious, a little. Cultural, even more. Societal, Absolutely. America will do that to a fat black woman. So many overwhelming feelings of inadequacy and many expectations. Impossible to meet them, it feels. But things are changing.
Even now, I sit here knowing there are confessions and challenges coming my way. But I feel so ready. So ready. Like college, I’m doing that in 2023. And I’ve started the process of getting my teeth fixed… they have been my biggest insecurity. I’m taking a break from performance to work on writing. I’m taking big swings at getting my health right. Things are changing I tell you. Starting with how I feel about me. But here this .. I love me so much more today then I ever have. That’s what this is. I recognize things need to get better but they never would until I learned to love the me who is here right now. I see that so clearly.
There is a singer on the stage now. He’s singing “I don’t wanna bore you with it oh but I love you, I love you, I love you ” How fitting.
Wishing you and yours a Happy new year full of limitless potential, pleasant surprises, and adventure.
Thank you for sharing this, Paula. I loved reading your reflections, and I hope 2023 is full of good things for you! Your writing means a lot to me – you have such a beautiful rich voice full of sensitivity and honesty and your joy and bravery as you try to seize your full self really resonates.
Sending you and your boys love and hugs!