With the world now on its third attempt at 2020, I decided to try a different approach to the usual festivities. I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, but an article I recently came across led me to what seemed like the perfect solution: an anti-resolution. In the Refinery 29 oped titled Why Black Women Are Divesting From Excellence & Embracing Mediocrity, the author makes the case for relaxing our relentless ambitious routines that only repress our true feelings for the sake of our sanity.
Kathleen Newman-Bremang posits that because it’s now an expectation, being strong all the time no longer feels like a badge of honor, and her ‘exodus from excellence’ has become necessary in light of burnout and its lingering effects (also a major contributor in America’s Great Resignation).
The Toronto-based writer and producer identifies many influences including her Ghanaian heritage that led to this epiphany, abandoning the “need to overachieve that’s been instilled in [her] from birth”. Exceptionalism was supposed to have been an armor against racism, sexism, unfairness and negativity, but Kathleen quickly learned the limits of good intentions.
“It didn’t work. The bullets still pierced my skin, the very skin that I hustled so hard to make obsolete in the minds of racist gatekeepers. I was excellent. I am excellent. I’m also exhausted,” she explained.
Exceptionalism can feel akin to toxic positivity, especially in the context of a ravaging pandemic with no end or ease in sight. No longer validated by the performance, Kathleen gave herself a ‘permission slip to be mediocre’.
“This is the point of…giving ourselves the freedom to rest, to play, to fail, to take a break, and to just be fine,” she wrote. “Because the reality is that if we hustle hard to be extraordinary — the most excellent of all Black Excellents — we’re still going to be paid less, judged harsher for being human, and left wishing we’d taken that nap.”
On some days, this simply means that it’s okay to not be okay. Heeding Kathleen’s advice, I’ve given myself permission to chill out (read: gentle midweek buzz) on two of my toughest days so far (and found my new favorite milkshake in the process). And while I’m in no way endorsing alcohol as a sustained way of coping during COVID, booze is one way to create a cozy ambience or as Kathleen describes it, a state where one is not “chasing or pushing or pursuing.”
I found it curious that around that right around this time, Southwest Airlines announced plans to resume serving alcohol (in addition to cold and hot non-alcoholic drinks) on flights. Set to take place on February 16, the restored on-board beverage options will include everything from basic booze (Miller Lite, Blue Moon, Lagunitas) through to the more exotic: Chenin Blanc Chardonnay, Deep Eddy Lime Vodka and Cazadores Tequila.
Far from a binge or bottle situation, however, my happy excursions kept me humming as I checked out some of the more unique highballs around town. The Rum Punch (fresh island fruit blended with ice and white rum) is a hit at one of my favorite lunchtime spots, Tamarind Indian Cuisine. Tamarind’s knack for great meals is second only to their craft cocktails — from the classic (Tequila Sunrise) to the creative (Blackberry Mule) — all with intricate flavor profiles.
Located at the historical Devon House near Kingston’s capital, The Steak House on the Verandah serves premium local steaks and succulent specialties, one of which is the Baileys Strawberry Milkshake. According to their Facebook page, the restaurant is a “true gastronomical explosion”, and they nailed this variation on the classic, from the frothy pink swirls to the last icy sip.
So here’s to more heartfelt moments, GOOD health against variants (hiss) and redefining excellence on your own terms.
Here’s to you, 2022.
P. S. PUHLEASEEE Act Right!
And finally, some Jamaican vibes for your playlists. Both these tracks, “Cool As The Breeze” by Chronixx and “Pull Up” by Koffee are all about drinking in the good times sans shady players and unrealistic standards, be it contagious, festive weekend energy, (“Welcome to Kingston, everyday is a summer”) or lofty lines for a love interest (“Pull up inna the Audi, yeah/ I nah watch nobody but you). These young Reggae stars deserve all the praise (in Black History month no less!) for their efforts to elevate the island’s musical flavour.
Sasha Lee is a Jamaican writer who has too many interests, and credits in both journalism and fiction. Her work has appeared in DancehallMag.com, Ellipsis Zine, Sublunary Review and LEON Literary Review, among others. Among her creative endeavors is a monthly column entitled “The Last Bite” – where she shares a slice of paradise in food and music reviews – for MixedMag.co. She can be found on Twitter @ohsashalee.