Written by Savannah Parker, CD Forum Intern
Life is an experience that is forever changing; nothing is ever the same. There is a common belief that the only thing inevitable in life is death, but I disagree. There are two things that are indefinite about life; death, and the matter of discomfort. Many encounter this feeling when they cannot see the outcome of a challenging situation; they become so enthralled in valuing the physical fruits of an experience rather than its lessons; when often the greatest value of an experience is the lesson you've learned, the knowledge you've gained, or the experience itself. I am a living testament to such behavior.
Naa Akua is an accomplished queer African American, writer, poet, actor, and teacher of performing arts. They were featured in CD Forum's 2018-2019 season of performers, and they help develop and participate in CD Forum’s FagGod event. Their work is versatile but holds a general purpose of shedding light on marginalized perspectives. Recently they took part in a series of live interviews hosted by CD Forum, titled Physical Distancing: Intimate Conversations with CD Forum's Curator Dani Tirrell. The interview was centered around Naa Akua's mental and physical experience during COVID-19, as well as how it's affected their artistry. Out of the many things discussed, Naa Akua's ability to maintain a positive outlook on a devastating reality was most intriguing to me.
During this time, many of us feel surrounded by sadness, negativity, and confusion. It's easy to focus on what we don't have, or what's no longer here, rather than what remains. Why is that? Negativity is a convenient emotion. It's always there for us to fall back on when we can't see past the unfortunate circumstances of life. It's there when we don't have the patience to work through hardships, and when we want to sulk in an emotion, negativity is our go-to. Why can't we sulk in happiness? What's so difficult about putting aside what isn't working and focusing on what is? Maybe it's the fact that we feel we have nothing to be happy about?
Despite the massive effect that this pandemic has had on my life, it's the last thing that I want to think or talk about. Now, my ignorance towards this situation can be seen as an act of immaturity and negligence towards the reality that I'm living in, or it can be seen as an act of optimism. While I'd very much rather be on the optimistic sides of things, the truth is I'm struggling to let go of what this pandemic has taken from me. It's like, I've acknowledged the situation, but I haven't confronted it. I'm afraid that I've become numb to the situation as a whole. And to top it all off, as if a pandemic isn’t traumatic enough, the Black community has been experiencing a multitude of losses.
How do we confront the reality we live in, knowing there's nothing we can change? Naa Akua says that what's been helping them to stay grounded amid chaos is focusing on what is living, acknowledging the things and people that have remained during this storm. Let's try this! I think the most important thing to recognize for starters is the fact that I am living. Ok. My neighbors are living. The plants outside are living, the birds that fly, and the bees that buzz are living. What next? Naa Aku says that they also keep a "Gratitude Journal" a device that reminds them of things to be grateful for.
If you are still wavering around the significance of what I am trying to say, I'd like you to imagine a sunflower. A sunflower feeds off of sunlight without it; the flower will not grow. Of course, a sunflower that has already blossomed can survive in the dark. Still, it's only a matter of time until the flowers stem begins to weaken, causing it to break. Soon the roots become dry and malnourished, and the flower becomes completely unrooted and loses it's grounding. If you haven't caught on yet, the sunflower is you. The sunlight represents positivity, and the shade is negativity. The stem is your physical well being, and the root is your mental stability. Now you might be wondering, what if my stem has already been broken? What if I've already become entirely unrooted? There comes a time when even a stable flower dries up and has to let go of its seeds and relocate, reroot itself. This may be a time for you to move into a new mindset, root yourself in fresh soil, and start over. Change is never comfortable, and it's not always wanted, but it is often needed.
We often look past the simple aspects of life, thinking that there must be more, but at the end of the day, essentials are all we need; and sometimes all we have. In this instance, I have the essentials, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, clothes on my back, shoes on my feet, life, health, and strength. Most importantly I have a family and community that is here to get through this with me. For that, I show gratitude, because the aspects of life that I miss most are wants and not needs.