A few nights ago I watched the film Brother to Brother, which came out (no pun intended) a few years ago. The film is about a young black gay art student who encounters an older black gay "nobody" who turns out to have been a member of the Harlem Renaissance. The movie is entirely fiction, but the artist and writer—Richard Bruce Nugent—is a real persona. He kicked it with Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston among others back in the day. It's not brilliant filmmaking, but it's a very sweet-hearted film. It also impacted me in an unexpected way: having lived in SF for nearly 7 years now, I'd forgotten that I'm Black, and I'm gay.
I am dark,
Black on the face of the moon.
A shadow am I
Growing in the light,
Not understood as is the day,
But more easily seen
Because I am a shadow in the light.
excerpt from "Shadow"
That's a bit inaccurate. I'd forgotten that it matters to other people that I'm Black and gay (and a woman and a first-generation African American to boot). These societal "deficiencies" or "handicaps" aren't any less identified as such in "we're all liberals" Northern California—but it's not as "in your face" as it is in the midwest or out east or in the south, I'm sure. So without getting into the whyfores and wherefores, suffice it say that the film gave me pause. In the process of taking stock of my present, I realized that instead of applauding myself for having made it this far and viewing the sum of my experiences as the basis of the strength that will carry me forward, I've been judging myself quite harshly, as of late, for all the things that I haven't accomplished in this lifetime so far.
In summarizng that all so nicely for myself, I also gave myself the opportunity to take stock of my values and how my life has played out against those values—the choices I've made (regardless of whether or not they have all felt voluntary) and the outcomes to which I've complicitly agreed (simply by virtue of having decided on "a" as opposed to "b" or "none of the above" or "c" only if "d" etc.). So while it's true that I don't have my own family, a real home, a career (let alone a job at the moment), it's also true that I have known since I was five years old that I didn't want kids; it's only in recent months that I've had thoughts of having a "real home," however I define it; and career notwithstanding, I have a "great resume" and work is likely right around the corner. These are very big realizations for me.
Something else I don't have is a partner—either in the romantic sense or in a collaborative, creative sense. (This is one of those instances in which I would opt for "a" and "b," if at all possible.) So many great duos and collectives from Gamble & Huff to ... the denizens of the so-called "Niggerati Manor" to ... I dunno maybe Obama & Clinton—chuckle—have been greater together than alone. I have wondered time and again why I don't have that sort of community or single partner. And again, I look back upon the whole of my life and see how that has never been a realistic part of the picture for me—at least not as a child. I was always too much other, and if I wasn't treated that way directly, I was conditioned by my environment in such a way that it ceased to matter if my outsider experience was imposed or self-imposed. But now I'm solidly an adult. Not a kiddie adult of 20-something, or a reluctant adult of 30-something, but I'm poised for the next decade of my own time on Earth and now, for real, anything that's held me back in the past, has held me back in the past. If it holds me back in the future, it's because of what I make happen in my present—not because of the past.
I know this is all heady, but somehow it's taken a great weight off my shoulders. It's all made me realize that the "problem" isn't how to make my life right, but how to rightly view my life. I want to do so much, and I have the freedom to do it, and that freedom is gold. It's not all the gold I need because I need cash, I need an uninterupted flow of ideas, I need to take action on those ideas not just sit around and lament what hasn't happened in the past. But I see now that I can do it. I know also that it won't be easy, but hell, none of it's been easy.