Every year, shortly after midnight on my birthday, I take a self-portrait. I don’t remember exactly which year I started doing this, maybe when I turned 27? 28? Somewhere in there. (I could count, I suppose, but that would require counting.) I think I thought it would be an interesting project somehow, to have some sort of consistent record of myself as I age, though I know the interestingness level resides somewhere around “only really interesting to you, Jamelah.” In any case, above is my annual birthday self-portrait. I was too lazy to dig out my camera, so I used my phone. Do I look exhausted? It’s been a hell of a week.
I also figured I’d better come here and write my annual blog post, even though my blog has been effectively dead for quite some time. Is blogging even a thing anymore? I don’t know, but here we are.
I’m 36 now. That doesn’t really invite too much reflection on my part. It’s one of those getting-through-a-decade, non-milestone ages. I do realize the proximity of 40 now, however, which seems like an age when I should probably have my shit together, though I also thought that about 30, and HA. I don’t have much to say about the year that was. I had a lot of fun, though I also had a lot of complete not-fun, and probably cumulatively, I spent about a month driving a car. (I-94, I hate you. With or without a sniper.) Got a new job, went to some concerts, performed in some plays, swam in the ocean, drove through some mountains, and spent more time than I ever thought was possible talking about really exciting things like data warehouses. Five years ago, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a data warehouse, but life is surprising, in that you never get to stop learning about stuff you never thought existed in the first place. A data warehouse: kind of like Costco, except instead of aisles upon aisles of stuff to buy in bulk, there are tables upon tables of information waiting to be queried. Though maybe if I could work out a way to get data and 6 boxes of Froot Loops for $26 all in one place, I could probably be a billionaire.
Note to self.
I started working out with a personal trainer this year, which, if you know me, seems like a terribly incongruous thing. I doubt anybody looks at me and thinks, “I bet that girl works out with a personal trainer,” largely due to the fact that while I do work out, I also am never giving up pizza and beer. I started this because I wanted to make a deliberate choice to schedule time to take care of myself, because it turns out that it’s so easy to let everything else get in the way. And the added bonus is that now I bet I can bench more than you.
Of course, this birthday is also the 14th anniversary of the 9/11, and I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I remember that day really clearly, my 22nd birthday landing in a stretch of post-college-graduation unemployment, turning on the TV in the morning and not being able to process what I saw. I remember listening to the Radiohead album my friend Wes had sent me, crying at Pyramid Song. Nothing to fear and nothing to doubt.
The thing I also remember is that we were all Americans that day. Sort of. It wore off pretty fast, at least for me, when I stood in the grocery store and heard someone opining that all the Arabs should be put into camps, and realizing that meant me. But for a little while at least, it was true that something happened and it shifted all of us toward each other. And the reason I’ve been thinking about this so much lately is that I wonder how we got so far away from that, where I can scroll through my Facebook news feed and see shit like this:
And I think about my father, an Arab, a Muslim, an immigrant, who came to this country because he had an American dream, too. Fuck.
And I think about us all being Americans, and we can’t let black lives matter, because god forbid anybody gets left off of the mattering train, even if, for the folks who feel the need to point out that all lives matter, IT GOES WITHOUT SAYING, which, incidentally, is why nobody had to point it out before the Black Lives Matter movement.
And we’re all Americans and Kim Davis is a fucking hero for denying a basic civil right to human beings because she thinks they’re squicky and God said so. So she went to jail for not doing her job, which means she can be compared to Martin Luther King, Jr., who fought for civil rights and people honestly and with a straight face bring up King’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” wherein he wrote, “Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider,” and think these two people are even remotely on the same page.
And we’re all Americans, but the poor are a problem because they’re poor and they’re not pulling themselves up by their bootstraps enough (they’re probably too busy spending their welfare checks on crack and getting their nails done).
And in our current world where it’s so easy to click Like and Share, we can talk shit about people and tear them down without even saying a word. My favorite is when in one second it’s a meme about taking America back from all those people who don’t do America right, and in the next it’s a meme about Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus Jesus. You know what Jesus said? “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” But then, I’m pretty sure that literally translates to “Fuck those weirdos who don’t look and act just like us, but let’s keep those corporate subsidies coming. Trump 2016! Mmmmm, bacon.”
Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.
It’s a nice thought, isn’t it?