Allow me to reintroduce myself

My name is HOV…no, actually, my name is Ayrïd and I suffer from inconsistency. And it’s bad. I struggle to keep going, with basically anything I do. I get inspired, I get started, I do the thing for a while and then, I give up. I’ve been this way since I was a child. It’s probably why I’ve done literally every extra-curricular activity but never excelled at any. The only thing I managed to consistently stick with is choir, and design. And it’s been a struggle. I need time away, I need breaks, and if I’m committed enough to it, I’ll return after. And it’s taken me thirty-two years to finally figure out that this is a trait I have, separate and apart from depression, or any other “negative” traits, this is the way I am and have always been.

As I try to do more things, as my creativity grows, as I aspire to grow my business and my life, realising this trait of mine is step one on the cheat code to this life thing. I have beat myself up about this trait ad nauseum for years. The guilt, the disappointment, the failure were all crippling elements that have further contributed to the lack of flow. This takes commitment issues to a whole other level.

So step two has to be, how can I use this information and yet be more consistent in my life? Do I continuously apologise for disappearing, giving up, running away, being inconsistent or do I plan for it? Can I structure my life in such a way where I pause right before I am about to give up, and then plan to start again? And is this all easier said than done?

Even the act of writing on this blog has been something I beat myself up about not being consistent enough with, but as we survive through this current time, I am getting fed up of beating myself up, the world is doing enough of that for me already. So in this long winded self discovery, I’m sharing to hopefully inspire someone else to use your shortcoming to your advantage, figure out what’s that thing you’re not so great at, and then figure out how to do what you want to do, in spite of it. Easier said than done, I know, but let’s give it a try!

Excuse me while I go be consistently inconsistent.

Photo by Varvara Grabova on Unsplash

Out Loud

Tuesday 22 December, 2020, 9:49am

I feel a tingling vibration radiating through my body as I sit here cloaked in my boyfriend’s hoodie, a leopard print tights inherited (*stolen) from my aunt, staring out at mist, trees and what small bit of the Caribbean Sea I can see through the foliage and clouds. (checks Google maps to confirm that’s the correct sea). So this tingling…what is it? Anxiety? Guilt? Exhaustion? Confusion? Stimulation? All of these things? Context: I planned on wrapping up work for the year on Friday gone. I did not in fact finish everything on my to do list and planned a 4-day staycation at La Vapeur Estate in Paramin to reset, rest, take stock and recharge for the rest of 2020 and more importantly, everything that’s coming in 2021. So here I am in this wonderful wooden cabin, surrounded by nature, vibrating, not from the frigid temperatures, but my mind. All the thoughts consuming me, all the things I forgot, or didn’t do, unfulfilled promises, unfinished business. And the sun peeps through. A sip of my coffee and I feel better, but the thoughts push through, preventing me from fully being able to enjoy this. And as I sit in this discomfort, I try to think of what it can teach me, what can I learn from this so next year, I don’t return to this metaphorical place (because this physical location is breathtaking and I must return). Be more realistic, don’t say yes when you want to say no? That’s not it. I thought that was the lesson before but I did that, and yet still, here I am…What happened to my word? What happened to commitment and responsibility and the honour in all of that? I feel like I’ve been corrupted by the complacency of my surroundings and allowed myself to settle. Be less than I am capable. I stopped caring. Is this a side effect of not travelling for the year? Is this me becoming more “Trini”? I’ve always held myself at a higher standard and I feel like I’m slowly slipping away into mediocrity, knowing that my bare minimum is still way better than the norm, why bother to make an effort? Where is my competition? Where is my inspiration? Why bother? There’s an internal drive that’s missing, that’s slowly slipped away and I’d love to get it back. I used to always be 30 minutes to 15 minutes early, now I’m always running 5 to 30 minutes late, and I don’t care anymore. Something switched and it might not seem like a big deal to anyone else, but a part of who I am is missing and I want it back.

Wednesday 23 December, 2020, 6:12pm

Blue turns to grey, the sun sets and the sky changes hue. The lack of natural light forced me to close A Promised Land and contemplate dinner, or work, or both. What now? Tomorrow, I check out at noon, and make my descent back into the madness that is Christmas Eve in Trinidad…the last minuteness of it all. Realising that these 4 days away were really just 48 hours (plus) but feeling ever so grateful for them nonetheless. I missed solitude. At home I have neighbours and friends and dogs and the “other” to consider. Here, just for a moment, I was alone and happy. Here, it also finally registered in my brain that I am no longer single, I am in a relationship, that life did change in 2020, and I got a thing I wanted, and I have something (someone) to be grateful for, as superficial as it may seem. Life seems so different through this lense. Possibilities and hopes grow each day and the future is exciting. I keep thinking about the descension into metaphorical and maybe even literal madness and how I could capture this present moment, and make it last a bit longer: the stillness, the various sounds of nature, bugs, frogs, the dog barking in the distance, the winds rustling the leaves on the trees sounding like rain approaching, the waves crashing, the sea calling, the night loudly silent and chilled, my pores raised as I type, the glow of the screen reflected on my glasses, the wind growing into a roar, distant sounds of vehicles whether it’s cars or boats or planes, people moving about while I sit still.

My Vagina is Angry

I’m stealing the first line from one of Eve Ensler’s monologues. In 2018, I performed this monologue in a local production of The Vagina Monologues and this opening line has been ringing in my head all day.

MY VAGINA IS ANGRY!

In the monologue, the woman describes all the annoying things vaginas have to deal with like tampons and cold duck lips and thong underwear, but my “vagina” is angry for other reasons. My vagina is angry that her identity makes her vulnerable, fragile, a target, less than, weak, and somehow invalid.

I’ve been avoiding the local news, the media, the reports of women missing or found dead. I’ve been ignoring the male comments, the “warnings” to stay out of harm’s way, the “not all men are bad” war cries, the “she look for that” comments, the questions of whose story to believe, which side is telling the truth…

I am tired. I am tired of seeing my face missing every week. I am tired of having to justify my words. I am tired of having to prove that I did not deserve to be abused, raped, murdered, abandoned, mistreated, touched or spoken to inappropriately. I am tired. I want to be loved, not for who you think I am nor who you want me to be. Could you love me for me?

Men, elders, strangers, could you love a black girl, woman, child like me?

My vagina is angry.

Cotton

I’ve developed a tradition of vulnerability and sharing every year, in celebration of registering as a business. This year, the tradition continued with a 6-part post series on Instagram, and my opening up about my struggles with mental health. I have internally debated for months whether being open about my state is good for business or not. For a long time I chose not to talk about it because I didn’t want to use it as an excuse, or a crutch, I was not allowing it to affect my work and didn’t see the need for anyone to know. I was very ashamed. The reality is, it did start to affect my work and I was tired of being ashamed. There is a catharsis in sharing, a release that allows you to move forward, lighter.

1.

I’ve been on a journey to be more human, more real, which means more emotional, all of which do not typically belong in the world of business where things are more logical, professional and to be honest, boring. Most days, I think I’m making a huge mistake and will regret this decision but I don’t know how to be any other way. I am Ayrïd. A graphic designer, a daughter, a mentor, a student, a creative, an artist (as much as I deny it), a black, Caribbean woman and an entrepreneur. And it’s scary.

I feel like there aren’t enough stories about the shitty days. About the days you can’t get out of bed, the days the client didn’t approve the artwork, the days you messed up…the realities of life. So on this mini journey to TWO, I’ll once again be vulnerable with you and say the things we’re not supposed to say. I do not have it all together, but I’m working on it.

2.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (in Trinidad), I was in limbo. On March 13th, when we got our first confirmed case, I was on the phone cancelling my first travel plans for the year. I use travel, not so much as vacation (since some of you know that I go everywhere with my laptop and have worked on your projects while outside the country), I use travel as a giant reset. As an empath and creative, I feed off of my environment and surroundings, and travel helps reset my creative juices, my mood, my perspective on life…everything. I had been struggling (more than usual) with my mental health for about 7 months, I was in-between therapists and I really needed this trip. The plan was to find a new therapist when I returned, refreshed and reenergised. Instead, the world was slowly sinking and I was out of all of my life saving apparatus. No vacation, no therapist, no outdoors. 

But design. Work did not stop for me. While some projects got cancelled and put on hold, I was still getting emails and calls weekly. And everyone I spoke to would say “That’s great! Especially in these times.”

*cue my feeling guilty for not feeling grateful for the opportunities being presented to me.

I was burnt out. Not the trending, fashionably acceptable version, but the straight up, I no longer want to live in this world burnt out. The crippling kind. The kind that holds you captive in your bed when all you want to do is go respond to an email. The kind that tells you not to bathe for days. The kind that watches the phone ring and won’t let you reach your arm out to answer. The kind that keeps up appearances, even virtually on social media, while also grasping for a reason to keep living. I suffer daily with depressive disorder and at the start of COVID-19, I had one of my biggest episodes.

3.

It took me 2 months to find a doctor. Everyone was focused on the pandemic, understandably, and as a result, was only taking on emergency cases. I wasn’t considered an emergency. Meanwhile, my inbox was filled with unread emails from clients and potential clients, my to-do list remained undone and the additional anxiety of the #ronas did not help one bit. I was unable to work. I was unable to open my laptop and be productive. And you may be tempted to think “You were just tired” or “You were being lazy AF.” The only way I can describe it, is my brain was shutting down completely and crippling my body, preventing me from doing anything that was remotely helpful or productive.

So what did I do? Well, thank goodness I had an assistant, Fabiola (the ever amazing @fgartistryy). Having someone else to worry about how you were going to pay them is a powerful motivator. I honestly would not have made it through those months without her! And I signed up for a virtual Unsettled Mastermind connecting with over 200 people from all over the world talking about Managing Uncertainty and setting goals daily. Baby steps.

4.

After talking to or trying to see 3 different doctors, I finally found someone I connected with who could officially diagnose me (again) and provide solutions.

Introducing:
Antidepressants!
(Goodbye alcohol!)

I am going to be extremely open here because I think it’s important. A session with my doctor cost $800TTD per hour and I had to try 3 antidepressants before finding one that worked. I’m saying this because I think it’s important to note that even when you decide to finally get help, it’s not always easy. Sometimes, personalities clash, or sometimes the medication that’s supposed to make you better, makes you suicidal (true story bro!). And while I wish desperately that the medication available for free via CDAP worked for me, the reality is the one that finally worked costs $27-29 for ONE tablet. This one tablet that I have to take daily. This is probably a good time to mention that I did not have health insurance. I could not afford to be sick let alone have a mental illness that required expensive treatment. Let’s recap. I am sick, so sick that I can’t get out of bed to work to make money. I need money in order to get treatment and get better so I can get out of bed to work to make money.

This year has taught me that accepting help from others is the only way to survive in this world. This year, independent woman me, had to stop and acknowledge that I cannot in fact do it all alone. I needed help and I had to learn very quickly how to 1. Ask for help, 2. Accept a “no” when someone cannot help, and even more importantly, 3. Accept the help I needed.

5.

Rituals. Wendell Manwarren once advised me on the importance of a morning routine. I have never been a morning person, ever. But in this time I found comfort in the mornings, the control, the ability to have time set aside to do things. Every morning I would get out of bed (no alarm), shower, play with my dog, water the plants and wash down the “yard”, sweep, make coffee, drink said coffee and write in my journal, all before looking at my phone. Having that dedicated time to do things outside of work, and take care of myself was CRUCIAL.

I started working outside so I can have a “change in environment” since being able to relocate and work from different places has always been a part of my process and what helps keep me inspired. I started exercising with @bodybybentt, I started eating more regularly and somehow I managed to do enough work to cover the meds and therapy and food and rent and bills and salaries (barely). A friend helped me to get health insurance! I got an intern! @aliyah.emmanuel was a godsend and helped tremendously. Things eventually started to get better, one day at a time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not now magically healed and free of depression and back to my efficient communicating self. I’m back to checking my phone as soon as I wake up in the morning. There are still unanswered emails. The to-do list is still long and growing weekly. And now I’m doing it all alone: My assistant got a job in her field, my intern went back to school and my roommate moved forward to her new home. There is no happy ending because nothing has ended…I’m just continuing, one day at a time.

6.

So what now? What the hell does this all have to do with 2 years as Ayrïd by Design? Well…everything. Do I close my business until I’m better equipped mentally to do it well? Do I set up an automated reply: “Thank you for your email. Please note there may be a delay in response from 2 days to 2 months depending on my current state. No, not COVID, just good old fashioned depression. Thanks for understanding.” What does running a business look like during a pandemic, in a time of #BlackLivesMatter, while dealing with mental illness, in a country that is not equipped for any of the realities we are currently facing? How do we hopefully move ahead?

The second anniversary gift is cotton, and it’s meant to symbolise comfort and the strength you’ve developed. And while I feel extremely uncomfortable, I do feel better equipped to do things I would not have been able to handle two years ago. So how to move forward? By continuing to reinvent, change/shake things up and with clichés of course, tried and tested:

Together. Collaborate. Share. Communicate. Try. Do. Daily. Keep at it. One day at a time. Be patient. Be real. Be realistic. Communicate. Get help. Figure shit out. No excuses. Keep going. Keep planning. Reorganize. Recreate. Restart. Push forward. Fight. Do not give up ever. Just keep swimming. Be the change. Do the thing. Just keep at it. Never stop. Never settle. Continue. Pause and continue. We got this!

How Do You Choose to Live?

I think I’ve always been the type of person who, when told I have to do something, especially in a specific way, asked why? This was often perceived as my being rude and even disrespectful, but I simply wanted to understand the reasoning behind things. This is probably why I like history so much, it clearly answers the “why”. This has led to my designing the life I want to live, at least the parts I have control over.

While I’m no longer a practising Catholic, I’d never forget the day the concept of CHOICE sunk into my brain. The priest was talking about free will, and God not forcing us to do anything, and the fact that, at the end of the day, we all had a choice to make. This was meant, I guess, to inspire us to freely choose God or whatever but it did the opposite for me, it showed me that I did not have to be there. You can’t speak about choice without speaking about consequences, but what if you called them something else: Results. All this random babbling is to say that a couple, many years ago I realised I could make a choice with the goal of a desired outcome and get results, and I can do this with every aspect of my life.

letranger copy

One of my favourite books from studying Literature is Albert Camus’ L’Étranger (The Stranger). I was always fascinated by how much Meursault’s straying from societal norms made people so uncomfortable. He didn’t cry when his mother died so this makes him a bad person. My young mind was fascinated. Since then I’ve been on a sort of personal mission where my actions are not to be driven by what is expected of me, or what I’m supposed to do, but rather by these one or all of these 3 things:

I want to do it.
It makes sense to me and I can justify it (logical or otherwise).
It is helping someone.

I’ve since thrown in additional factors like:

Does this make me happy?
Can I live without this?
How will this improve my or someone else’s life?

These factors guide things from what I wear, to how I speak, to what I post on social media. They also guide what jobs I say yes to, which relationships I allow or maintain in my life and what I consume. Some may see this as a selfish way to live, but at the end of the day, no one else can live my life for me. When all is said and done, I have to wake up every day and not just survive, but live, and hopefully enjoy moments in life and I refuse to let the opinions of “should” and “supposed to” dictate that.

I’ve noticed how much people act and do things based on societal norms and expected behaviour (and don’t seem too happy either) and it dawned on me that how I choose to live may be a new concept to someone, which inspired me to write this post. Even if it’s a lightbulb moment for one person, or something someone just needed to be reminded of, then I’m glad to help.

How will you choose to live today?