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Celebrate Self-Reflection: 7 Questions To Ask Yourself On Your Birthday

Birthdays are unavoidable. The right answers can make you glad that they are.

Inspiration

Thankfully, I don't have an issue with aging. With all that goes on in the course of one year, I personally find it a true blessing to be able to make it to another birthday in my right mind, in good health and with my needs met. That doesn't mean that I don't trip by how fast birthdays seem to roll around the older that I get, though. Shoot, back when I was an adolescent, it seemed like becoming a year older took FOR-E-VER. Now? Lawd. It's more like after three months tops, I'm trying to get used to saying that I'm a whole 'nother age. Yet, like they say, "If you're not living, you're dying" and you know what—if you're not aging, the same sentiment basically applies.

That said, although there are so many things that make us one of us different people, there are several things that we each have in common too. One of them is we each have a birthday. One that rolls around every 12 months. Whether you're someone who is totally stoked about your big day, no matter how many candles are on your cake, or you're someone who close to hyperventilates at the mere thought of getting older, here are seven questions that would be a good idea to ask yourself (and journal the answers to), every year, just so you can gain even more clarity about how special birthdays actually are—and why it's such a good thing that you've reached a brand spanking new year.

1. What Did the Past 12 Months Teach You?

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If I've got a personal motto about birthdays, it's if you've been making the absolute most of the time between your last birthday and the one that is coming up, by the time your official day arrives, you should be more than happy to move on to another year. Yep, I definitely believe that a part of the reason why so many folks struggle with their birthdays is because they don't value their time as much as they should have. Take this year, for me, for example. I spent quite a bit of time learning how to embrace my femininity more, how to make peace with my decision to not conceive children and how to make plans that will prepare me for the next 10 years or so. Adding that to getting some of my financial areas in order and doing some inventory in a few of my relationships, chile, this year was well spent. So much so that by the time June 17 (my birthday) comes around, I'll be more than ready to be on some new ish. This year taught me a lot and I've grown. It's time for a shift.

So yeah, let's start there. Whether your birthday is next week or six months from now, a few days prior to its arrival, pull out a journal and do some writing about what the past 12 months have taught you and, in some ways, even prepared you for. Once you're done, you too might realize that turning a new age is very similar to turning over a new leaf so that you can fully embrace what is to come.

2. If Getting Older Bothers You, Why Is That?

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Not sharing your age—your real age—is most certainly your business and your right. What I will say is the women I know who have an issue with it also seem to carry a certain burden of low self-esteem because they seem to be consumed with still looking—and sometimes even acting—like they are 15-20 years younger than they actually are. Listen, as a Black woman with the gift of melanin that you have, you already know that you are on your way to literally aging like fine wine, so if getting older really bothers you…why is that? Is it because your mama (and grandmas and aunties) didn't set a good example? Is it because you don't have some older women in your life who you look up to? Is it because you're not simply entertained by the media (including social media), you are consumed by it, so you think you've gotta keep up with celebrities, IG models and picture filters? What really is the deal?

When it comes to aging, there's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained by living a godly life." (Proverbs 16:31—NLT) Did you catch the part that comes before the semicolon? Gray hair is a crown. Not just a crown but a crown of glory! A crown is a symbol of sovereignty and glory is all about bestowing great praise, honor and distinction to someone. Gray hair does this. Gray hair does this.

I know that society oftentimes seems obsessed with staying young forever. That's not only pretty ridiculous, it's also super unrealistic. And so, if aging bothers you, ask yourself why? I promise you that it's not "just because" and the sooner you get to the root of it all, the easier it will be to make peace with shifting…upwards.

3. In What Ways, Have You Personally Evolved and Matured?

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Oprah Winfrey once said, "We can't become what we need to be by remaining what we are." Ain't that the truth. Honestly, if you're someone who is all about personal evolution rather than just simply getting older (because there is indeed a huge difference between maturing and simply aging), each day should be about becoming a smarter, wiser and better version of yourself, right? Well, if you're super intentional about holistically advancing in this way, 365 days should add up to a lot of internal—and quite possibly external—change in your life.

And what are some telling signs that you have definitely evolved and matured as an individual? You're clearer than you were last year about who you are, what you want, what it will take to get it, along with who and what you need to release in order to make "it" happen. You've also gotten better when it comes to how to take care of yourself during the "meantime" moments. Personally, when I think about personal evolution, the stages that a caterpillar goes through to become a butterfly come to mind. It ain't easy for the caterpillar to transform and yet man—after all of that waiting, wiggling and struggling, not one butterfly wants to go back to who they used to be. It's time to see and do some new things. Same thing applies to us as we continue to…evolve.

4. What Toxic Habits/Patterns Have You Broken?

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On the heels of what I just said, if there's one reason why I get that you wouldn't be looking forward to your birthday, it's if you are still caught up in the same cyclic patterns that you've been in for, shoot, who knows how long? I remember when I turned 45 and I wrote the article on this site about it (check out "What My 45-Year-Old Self Would Tell My 25-Year-Old Self"). When I did some podcast interviews about how I felt about turning the "Big 45", I honestly was pretty excited about it because I had gotten rid of some draining relationships, had created some healthier work patterns for myself and had learned to be more fearless when it came to certain people in my life who I, quite frankly, used to be kind of scared of (adulthood is surviving childhood; that can't be said enough). And because so much of that happened over the course of 44, I was ecstatic to be able to say that I was in a new year where, in many ways, I was a new person.

Remember that your birthday isn't "just a day". It's a totally new year. It's a time to wipe your slate clean and live your life in a way that you may have never done before. If by the time your next birthday rolls around, you've gotten rid of some toxic habits and patterns, awesome. If you haven't, look at your upcoming birthday as an opportunity to use your new year to break some. Once and for all.

5. How Much Closer Are You to Achieving Your Goals?

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Motivational author Les Brown once said, "Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible in your life." That said, something that I think super ambitious people have in common is time literally flies in their world because they know how to make the absolute most of each and every moment. So much, in fact, that there is no time to sulk over getting older because each birthday reminds them that there are more short- and long-term goals that need to be reached. As a result, they are more about using their birthday as milestones rather than as reminders that they are one year older than they were last year.

Keeping all of this in mind, as it relates to your next birthday if:

  • You're single and want to be married. What are you doing to get closer to your goal?
  • You hate your job and want to switch gigs. What are you doing to get closer to your goal?
  • You feel like your clock is ticking and you want some babies. What are you doing to get closer to your goal?
  • You're ready to own a home, buy a car and/or travel the world. What are you doing to get closer to your goals?
  • You want to change your life completely. What are you doing to get closer to your goal?

If no matter what you've read thus far, you still just can't get yourself to feel hype about reaching another year, perhaps look at your birthday as an "official goal marker" more than anything else. Each birthday represents 12 months of goals reached and 12 months' worth of goals to set. Goals are a huge part of what drives us. How can you not get hyped about that?

6. Do Your Personal Relationships Currently Complement You?

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A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for the site entitled, "10 Questions To Ask Your Close Friends Before The New Year Begins". One of the things that I recommended is that you take, what I call, "friendship inventory". Personally, I think it's a little crazy that we'll take out to the time to clean out our closets or upgrade our bedroom every year and yet we don't think it's necessary to reflect on our relationships to see if we're getting what we need and if we're providing what others need from us. When it comes to both romantic and platonic relationships, a word that I'm super fond of is "complement". Something or someone that complements us completes us to some degree. Some synonyms for complement include balance, enhance and add.

As we grow and mature every year, it's not a given that the people who complemented us in the past will also complement us in our present. Making the time to think about what you need—and what you have the ability to offer—in your relationships and then to have that conversation with the people you care about most can help everyone to see if they are on the same page.

I'm telling you from personal experience, sometimes the baggage that comes directly from counterproductive relationships can hold us down. Taking inventory on your connections with others is another way to go into a new year right.

7. How Are You Choosing to Celebrate?

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I've got some people in my world who make fun of me because I'm so big on celebrating my birthday. They say it's a "Gemini thing". Whatever. I don't observe holidays, so the way I see it, the folks in my life are getting off pretty easy since I'm only semi-high-maintenance once a year. And yes, with all that I've been through—and sometimes even sent myself through—you can best believe that I'm gonna celebrate making it to another year. Since I'm an ambivert, for me, that's not by throwing some big party. I actually have themes each year of different things that I collect. That's how I do my birthday.

We're each unique, so no one is saying that you have to buy a birthday cake, blow up balloons and go the traditional route. Maybe celebrating your birthday consists of taking a day off and binge-watching shows all day. Perhaps it's having a spa day. Maybe it's going out of town for the weekend prior to or the weekend following your day. Perhaps it's spending an insane amount of money on random stuff based on what you've saved in order to do just that. The way YOU celebrate YOUR day is totally up to you. All I'm saying is, because you've made it to another year, please avoid the blasé attitude of "it's just a day". No it's freakin' not. It's the day that you officially made your entrance into this world and since you bring things to this space in a way that no one else ever has or ever will—how is that not something to celebrate? Every year of your entire life!

Join our xoTribe, an exclusive community dedicated to YOU and your stories and all things xoNecole. Be a part of a growing community of women from all over the world who come together to uplift, inspire, and inform each other on all things related to the glow up.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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