Celebrating My Black Girl Magic: 10 Lessons I've Learned in My (Almost) 30 Years

by Raina J. Johnson

I am getting ready to turn 30, and I'm in love. I have a beautiful son, a host of great friends, a wonderful man, and a growing career as a writer that I never would have dreamed of. As the day draws nearer, I have discovered for the first time in my life, I can unapologetically declare that I am in love with all of me.

This revelation did not come over night. I have been beat up, separated from the pack, and pushed around by the larger forces that surround me. But this year, I am declaring that I am taking it all back. I, like a drop of water, am powerful and necessary to the larger ocean. I have found ways to adapt—sometimes riding the wave, other times creating it.

For the past 30 years—and especially in the last decade—I have had to undergo the growing process, much like a caterpillar. This gradual evolution of loving me has come from the inside out. Major personal work has gone into me healing from trauma, discovering my divine self-love, and self-determination. All of this finally led to celebrating the real Black Girl Magic inside of me.

I believe we can all grow and learn to celebrate this Black Girl Magic. In anticipation of this new decade in my life, here are 10 lessons I have discovered about life, love, career and everything in between.

1. You don't owe anyone anything.

Growing up in a predominantly white school district, I felt that I owed people an explanation for everything—from why my daddy never showed up, to how I wear my hair, to why I pursued a degree in English, to how I defined my family. I've come to adopt an non-apologist attitude for my life and my life's decisions, which are often followed by judgement and ridicule anyway. I finally decided that haters were gonna hate, so I just needed to live for my own satisfaction.

2. Turn your failures into favor.

Whether you didn't get "that" job or into "that" school—or maybe you broke up with the love of your life—you can not allow your failures to define your destiny. It's often said—and I've found it to be true—that when you take ownership of your failures, that's when you will find favor.

3. You can't force relationships.

Need I say more?

4. Your parents are actually pretty dope.

It's been a real process of acknowledgement for this one. My mom and I are so much alike that sometimes, we just don't mix. The teenage years were tough. And my father wasn't active in my life as a child. Coming into adulthood and then bearing a child, I realized I needed my parents more than ever. We all had to acknowledge, accept, and forgive each other for the past, in order to consciously move to the present and build a future.

5. Accept all of you.

The good, bad, and the ugly. I had to evolve to love my dark skin, my scars, my teeny-weeny 'fro, my queerness, my awkwardness in social settings, my need for strawberry cheesecake, my skinny arms, and so much more. Even the pain and hurt have had a role in shaping who I am today. This acceptance of self is the highest form of love.

6. Black women are not enemies.

I know the comparisons can run deep. She's prettier, smarter, thinner, lighter, richer… and so on. Too many times I found myself getting caught up in the details of the differences between black women instead of appreciating the beauty of our similarities. I've gleaned from my experiences in sisterhood that we aren't enemies. We need to be allies, lifting each other up as we rise.

7. Asking for help doesn't make you weak.

I have had to learn this difficult lesson many, many times. I often didn't ask for help, because I didn't want to be perceived as weak. But the saying, "Every superhero needs a sidekick," is true. Honor your strength and capabilities by asking for what you need. That's the measure of true strength.

8. Your "no" means "no." 

Life, kids, career, family—we're all pulled in a million different directions to do and be many things for others. It can be exhausting. Command from yourself and from others that your "no" be "no" and your "yes" be "yes." People will respect you for taking care of yourself when you need to.

9. Stop asking permission.

Go look in the mirror and repeat the following: "I am worthy, good, capable, and beautiful. Therefore, I give myself permission to go out and purposefully live my best life." Do you and do what makes you happy, satisfied, and full.

10. Maintain your spirituality.

For me, maintaining my spirituality has been life saving. It's kept me grounded and given me hope. Having a basis by which you see yourself in the world and how you interact with it is a beautiful thing. Namaste. Amen. Ashe.

Blowing out the candles on my 30th birthday will truly be an act of exhaling and opening myself up to the Black Girl Magic inside of me. Not only on my birthday, but for the rest of my days.

Photo: Shutterstock

Raina J. Johnson is a freelance writer, determined to find her way in the world with her superhero son. She details her hilarious experiences in co-parenting on I SAID YES!, her blog via Metroparent Magazine. Her work has recently been featured on MyBrownBaby. She lives in Milwaukee, WI with her collection of books. She consumes ridiculous amounts of coffee and tweets @RainaWrites.

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