By BASSEY IKPI
I love birthdays; mine especially. Every year for the last decade, I've thrown a party called a Basstravaganza! Yes, I am a Leo. Why do you ask? I feel like birthdays are the only holiday that everyone can celebrate regardless of religion or country or culture. You were born! Yay! (Unless you're Jehovah's Witness. Then *whispers* you were born. yay.) I'm always looking forward to my birthday and start talking about it at least a month in advance.
This year, my birthday is in less than two weeks and for the first time in as long as I can remember, I'd really like the day to come and go with no acknowledgement. Don't get me wrong: this isn't an age thing in that way that only the most youthful amongst us are celebrated. It's nothing like that. It is the number though. I’m turning 35. I'm no longer under 35. I’m now 35-40. And I feel like I have nothing to show for it. Nothing that feels 35-40, anyway.
I never really pictured 35, so I can't say it didn't turn out like I expected. I do know that I didn't expect this. After living as an artist in New York for seven years, I'm back in my parents' basement, this time with a soon-to-be kindergartner who insists on calling me Mommy hanging around. I'm single. I'm not the jetsetting 20-something with the world at her feet and a career most would kill for anymore.
I've made my mistakes. I can tell you exactly where I went left when I should have gone right. I can tell you when I should have stood still instead of careening off the side of the cliff. This birthday anxiety isn't about regret though. It's about, as Janet Jackson once cabbage patched into our heads, What have you done for me lately?
I'm proud of my life and I'm happy and content, but there are some things that I need to change. I've settled into this comfortable, unchallenged existence. Outside of writing and speaking on mental health issues, I'm playing it pretty safe these days.
So when one afternoon, after I picked up Boogie from school, he went from hyperactive toddler boy to baby Buddha in about four sentences, I had to pay attention. I recounted the conversation on his blog, Boogie Chronicles, but in short, he was talking about a bad dream he had about a giant and how in the dream, he learned that he can't be scared of anything anymore because the things he's afraid of could probably help him. No, seriously. I was really floored by what he was saying because I thought of all the things that I've been afraid of. Bills, boys, bank accounts, brazilian waxes (not really, but I liked the alliteration.).
I've taken all kinds of huge risks my entire life but it’s the small things that shake me. I'm often rattled. I'm the girl who places her hand over the screen at the ATM so I won't know just how much money isn’t in my checking account. The dude I've had a crush on since March? I haven't even spoken to him. The bill from the hospital and the subsequent letters from lawyers remain unopened and stuffed in a drawer in my bedroom. I have over 10,000 emails dating back to 2003 that I'm afraid to delete. I mean, what if someone asks me for something? I need the references!
Sad? Pathetic? True.
It's time to grow up. So, in honor of my new status as a 35-40 year old, I've decided that rather than lamenting what has or hasn't happened or burying my head in the sand, I would devote one week for the next year conquering an anxiety-inducing fear rather, making friends with giants. I'm turning over a new leaf. The buck stops here! The early bird gets the worm! If Mohammaed can't get to the mountain then we didn't land on Plymoth Rock! Or other cliches about conquering shit.
I'm choosing to document this journey so I don't chicken out but also because I'm pretty sure I'm not the only scaredy cat out there. Right? Right. So starting next week, I'll be debuting a new column for www.xojane.com called Making Friends With Giants.
I've been absent from this space for reasons that I'll reveal as we get back into this Bringing Up Boogie groove. I hope you forgive me for the silence. I'll try and make it up to you. Boogie starts private school at the end of August and we're in an epic “What do you mean I have to wear the same thing every day?! What about my Spiderman shirt?? battle. I'll let you know if I win.
We're in this together. Let's go!
Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic who is also the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi, a.k.a., Boogie. A strong advocate of mental health awareness, Bassey is writing a memoir about living with mental illness and producing Basseyworld Live, a stage show that infuses poetry and interactive panel discussions about everything from politics to pop culture. Find more Bassey on her site, Bassey's World.