I will never forget the first time I planned a vacation with my closest friend, Deje. I was 22, and we had a travel agent book us a trip to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, Mexico. We were so excited to afford this trip now that we had “big girl jobs.” It was one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever been on. Maybe it was the day we spent sailing and snorkeling in the ocean, or the ATVs, or the jet ski I drove and almost tipped over—whatever it was, I felt like I was living on my terms. No one decided what I would do. I got to choose.
As a young Black woman and new graduate, people tried to define what was suitable for me or not, where I should or shouldn’t be in life. Most of the advice about adulthood centered on relationships and how I should approach them. Well-meaning divorced people told me to wait on marriage. Married people told me to hurry and find “the right person,” or to “live it up now” because it all changes when you get married and have kids. Single people told me to live alone and enjoy my life before marrying.
I listened to many people try to prepare me for life as a young Black professional, but I couldn’t shake the sense of freedom I’d felt in Mexico. I knew I had many years of hard work ahead of me, but I had a choice to make: I could either focus on their advice, or I could dig deep and decide what path in life I wanted to choose. I decided to apply the advice that made sense to me and to deviate when it didn’t resonate. I couldn’t discover my own identity in the shadows of others’ opinions and expectations of me.
I chose to live my twenties to the fullest and embrace my need for adventure. I wanted autonomy and freedom. So, I traveled to 19 countries, lived in 5 cities and four states, and had adventures with my roommates. I wanted my own money, my own apartment, and my own agency. So, I earned my master’s degree and built a career I was proud of.
As a Black woman, the right to choose is sacred. Historically, we did not have agency, financial independence, or body autonomy. I get to have those things because of the women who went before me and paved the way. While making decisions for my day-to-day life can get “old” as the years go by, it’s a privilege and honor to have the capability to do what my ancestors could not.
On that first trip to Cancun, I snorkeled for the very first time in my life. It was such a tranquil experience—somehow swimming among the schools of fish made me feel both free and grounded. Maybe that was a nod from God that the freedom I experienced then could be felt throughout my adulthood if I trusted my gut and made decisions on my own terms.
To be young, free, and Black is a gift. To be a free Black woman feels even more sacred. It is my duty to live freely, so I too can open doors for my sisters coming behind me. What a great gift to pass on, freedom. Even more so, what a great legacy we leave for young Black women when we remind them of their power to choose and celebrate them when they do choose—their own path, on their terms.
The time of self-discovery is crucial for every young Black woman because we must find ourselves before we allow society to define us. We must know our opinions have value. We need to understand our worth.
When was the last time you felt free and confident in your decision to choose your own path?Leave a Comment