I’m sure many people would agree that 2020 was catalytic for them. For me, it was the year I finally achieved 20/20 vision, and my eyes opened up to a world of reality. Up until this point in time, I had tried so hard to believe in hope. I found myself making excuses for other people’s behavior by doing too much compassion work on their behalf instead of taking care of my own needs first, which left me exhausted mentally and physically. I felt that I could no longer take on other people’s issues, and they needed to be accountable for their actions.
I was dismayed by the persistent patterns I had been noticing for years. Seeing communities consistently receiving subpar treatment is frustrating. So are hateful statements of overt racism, discrimination, or sexism blasted over social media- that’s something we can’t ignore anymore. Basic human rights should never be politicized – not in this country where equality has always been a fundamental right! Leadership doing things blatantly wrong, morally ethically legally, needs to stop now more than ever because they’re making it difficult for everyone who wants to do well in life.
I was tired of constantly doing my best but feeling more frustrated and exhausted with each passing. At this point, I felt that many of the “worst things” that could happen to me had already happened, so it seemed like there were not much else to lose by speaking up. Then along came the Coronavirus 19 pandemic, which added a constant sense of stress on top of everything else in life – as if we are living in some pressure cooker now!
Lip service bothers me, and sadly I have witnessed so much with all the societal challenges and events. To remember an event with a hashtag or a day of remembrance, with protests, with signs, but no real, system-wide change, frankly is hypocrisy. I was tired of this. As a society, it was easy to show some level of support for a few days, but to actually make the support relevant in everyday life consistently was another thing entirely.
I am a woman of history, and I paid close attention to past and current events. In 2020, I felt as if my forefathers cheered me on; each one had left an indelible mark on my life. At this point, I couldn’t remain true to myself and stay quiet and let the world continue on its current path of destruction.
I remember MLK telling us: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skins but by the content of their character. I have a dream today.”
I remember the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I remember the words of the late John Lewis, an awe-inspiring civil rights leader.
I remember the words of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “The Notorious R.B.G.”
I remember the words of a mother begging that nurses take her 4-day old daughter seriously, saying, “she can’t breath” for over 10 hours while the baby lay in a hospital bed seizing.
I remember the words of George Floyd, ” I can’t breathe.”
Each of the above individuals had challenges in their lives and did their best to rise above them. All but one of the speakers above have passed, and I had the opportunity to talk to that one.
I had the opportunity to meet with the woman mentioned above, with the 4-day old baby that wasn’t breathing. I got to listen to the pain she felt and see her tears, and anger, and frustration on her face. However, she had an inner strength, despite her obvious physical weakness. She decided that she would renew her promise to the universe to be an advocate for the voiceless. That woman was me. She finally was able to get a clear 20/20 vision, and she decided to live life for herself and her values.
We are in control of how we respond to situations. It is up to us whether or not to give up, and it doesn’t have to be that way. The world has never been perfect-it will never be either, but the point is, don’t let difficulties keep you from striving for a little bit of heaven on Earth.
Tomi Mitchell is a family physician.
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