Categories
Art Identity Politic me.

I almost scrapped this post but Tigray wouldn’t let me…

As a disclaimer this is NOT part 3 of the “Never Needed Permission” Series. Part 3 is in the tuck because this is truly much more pressing. If you are curious as to what would make me temporarily pause on a series that essentially revitalized my love for writing on this raggedy website than please, by all means, keep reading.


This pandemic is a never ending loop of FaceTime calls, Zoom chats, WhatsApp messages, etc. I promise I’m not “complaining” but gahhh damn.

In one of those calls I caught up with a friend of a friend who I’d been meaning to talk to for awhile now and of course Ethiopia came up. (I’m slowly turning into my dad it’s amazing.) I told her I wanted to write about what was happening back home and her knee-jerk reaction/advice was to not throw myself into the fire. So here I am, doing it anyway, throwing myself into the pit because ya girl will risk it all for a crumb of identity talk *shrugs*

For those who are reading this and not aware of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Ethiopia please see article here. Let the ramble begin.


“Her personal experience was completely analogous with the restlessness and confusion of her beloved homeland.”

I came across this quote while reading an art history critique on Frida Kahlo. (Fancy right?! Lmao I know. I have to be honest, though, I was on ASOS looking at matching joggers and somehow ended up ten tabs deep into Frida’s life. So this whole post was partly inspired by my undiagnosed ADD and online shopping habit.) If you’re not familiar with Frida, the bad ass, then I definitely recommend doing your googles or watching Salma Hayek’s rendition of “Frida.” For the purposes of this post you just need to know that she was Mestiza (of mixed race), her father was German and her mother was an indigenous Mexican. (She was what Americans like to call a melting pot or salad, or whatever the hell the saying is…)

Anyway, back to the critique – the critic was critiquing Frida’s very public identity crisis and how her 1940’s pieces were strongly tied to a post-revolutionary Mexico. The author walked readers through Frida’s attempt to reconcile her “Mexican self with her European self.” Frida’s early portraits showed a balance between her two worlds. She understood how both “parts of herself” contributed to her wholeness but over time she went from being balanced, to a die-hard patriot, I’m talking complete nationalistic association, tat that shit on my forearm, cue the national anthem- to a clear and distinct “I don’t fuck with youuu.”

You’re probably like ok girl, Frida was clearly having a mid-life crisis what’s your point? Well my point is, right now, many of my/your friends, my/your loved ones and hell even myself are having that exact same breakdown. We are trying to put into words how the bloodshed, the displacement and quite frankly the sheer lack of compassion towards ALL Ethiopians, and I do mean ALL, is impacting our psyche and identity.

I personally have struggled to vocalize my thoughts/feelings/etc. as the conflict is extremely personal. The only way I can even begin to describe my feelings is to say I am restless and at times I am confused – oh and numb.

It does not matter where you stand on the current events of the country because a Diaspora's life, much like Frida's life, is tied to the restlessness of his or her "home." It is tied to the restlessness/confusion that some argue may or may not exist (I'm not about to get into that), the restlessness/confusion prompting ethnic groups to disassociate completely from the greater nation and the restlessness/confusion that is chipping away at the core concepts of what it means to identify as an Ethiopian.  

It is a lot. That’s the price of having two homes…right?

I mean between the race wars in the US, the many factions back home, the pandemic and then you add on the fact that we are on a floating rock paying taxes – it is just a lot. It is a lot. With all of that said I am not here to push some kind of kumbaya agenda. HELL I’m not even sure I know where I am going with this particular article anymore but I do want to make it abundantly clear that I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora. I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora who are trying to show up everyday but watching their mothers and fathers get calls in the middle of the night letting them know the status of our grandmothers. I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora who are stuck in the middle of living their best lives here in America but are also having this looming paralyzing feeling over them that their privilege is too real, to the kids who are hitting the streets raising awareness but feeling unheard and lastly to the kids of the Diaspora who come from mixed ethnic group homes where you are constantly trying to find your footing. I see you. I feel you and I’m here for you. (I’m on a flight to LA right now and typing like that one cat that has so much to say, so please disregard my long ass run-on sentences.)

Now I don’t want to end this all sad, helpless and shit so here are three things you can do to support your friends and/or efforts on the ground in Ethiopia:

  1. Donate. This can be tricky people are literally profiting of the pain of others so do your homework when selecting an organization to donate too. I recommend this particular fund.
  2. Advocate/spread awareness in whatever way you feel comfortable…full stop.
  3. Lastly, “listen to listen” rather than “listen to respond.” Look…people are fighting silent battles and if they do end up opening up on how they feel just listen – this is not the time or place to offer up some twitter recap of a clubhouse discussion where your cousin who graduated from some political science program is spitting out his/her personal political views. It ain’t…it just ain’t so please just listen and if you can listen with empathy.

Fin. That is it. This Delta flight attendant just handed me my coke and I’m running out of wifi minutes – I’m out y’all. Oh and for anyone who wanted to know I did not end up purchasing that jogger set it was sold out :/. Le sigh another one bites the dust.

Article is written in dedication to my Eno Hago Mulu.

Stay Down,

Astu

Categories
Entrepreneur

I see me

If you haven’t watched Black Art: In the Absence of Light please do yourself a favor and watch today. It feels so good to see me and so many of us – enjoy.

Categories
Advice Me and Life.

“Aye God if you want me to be a nun…just say dat!” (2/3)

I have stopped and started this post at least 30 times over the past two…now three months. I’ve tried to come at it at different angles. I’ve talked to my friends about it. I’ve even tried to make it a generic post when in reality this is supposed to be a place where my writing is supposed to be one of kind; it’s supposed to be authentic.

The irony of it all is it sounds exactly like my dating/love life.


I first experienced love, an unapologetic love, from my parents and the second time would be with my girlfriends who I am 1000% sure are my soulmates. These relationships are unique, they are dynamic and some of the most sacred and beautiful relationships I have in my life. Things just click and I rarely have to review the terms and conditions (because they don’t exist) and they have given back to me tenfold LIKE THIS SHIT IS BETTER THAN BITCOIN. There’s no anxiety, “peace” is guaranteed and I never ever ever ever have to question whether I can text, call, zoom (whatever the hell we doing now in a panorama) because there is an understood/mutual agreement to access. So with these solid examples of reciprocated love and healthy relationships you would think that I would understand and know how to apply it to other types of relationships right?

Fam you couldn’t be more wrong.

When I think about how I’ve approached liking/loving, dating and relationships in the past I truly laugh (to keep from crying from embarrassment). At one point in my adult life I was completely oblivious to the communication required to maintain a relationship. Like I somehow understood how communication worked with my friends but not my romantic entanglements. I was so nonchalant that I made a guy feel like he was an afterthought…his words not mine. I mean I guess I just assumed everything was fine without checking in (mistake number one…I was doing the bare minimum but in my defense I didn’t have unlimited text messaging so really, my guy, what did you want me to do)?!

I went through another phase where I used my goals as an excuse for why I couldn’t commit. I was enthralled with my studies and blog at the time that I didn’t even take the guy seriously. This man fell in love with me and I was very much so unavailable. So much so that when he finally came to his senses he jokingly said “I think you were the man in this relationship” and I didn’t flinch (mistake number two I wasn’t present…he may or may not speak to me to this day).

Ok now if you thought I had range with those two examples here is a third one for you – me overcompensating because all of sudden I GOT TIME. I had done a complete 180 where I’m like “ok dating is important” lemme go figure out this vulnerability thing right quick, laugh at the mans jokes and get my shit together. HA!

Putting on my smarter than you glasses to spit this free game.

These phases and many other personal and professional life experiences have brought me to where I am now. So here I am to impart my wisdom upon you all because I, too, was one of Lori Harvey’s foot soldiers but enough is enough thou shall not run the streets for all of eternity. We are all here trying to figure it out (well actually some of you because the two friends I know reading this already got mans dem on lock *waves hi friends*).

Here is what I’ve learned and I am continuing to learn:

  1. Liking/loving/dating requires a decision. If you have ever hung out with me you know I am the most indecisive person on this planet. Nothing gives me more anxiety than deciding. If horoscopes are your thing I’m a Libra, so yeah, do with that what you will. What I have learned is that relationships just don’t happen and they don’t miraculously sustain themselves. Being with someone means actively choosing them day in and day out. Go figure! Another thing to keep in mind is that decisions are not permanent, decisions can change at anytime but if you don’t make a decision you will never know peace. Take it from me who struggles to decide on a nail polish color…now throw in a man holding the nail polish bish I might as well roll over and die.
  2. Unfiltered communication and active listening skills are key. You’re probably like “wow groundbreaking stuff Aster…say it again.” And I get it. There are a million and one Cosmopolitan articles on the internet about communication and guess what?! Here goes a million and two because we are still f’ing this part up. For example, I can callout my girlfriends on their BS anytime and anywhere but swap my girlfriends out for a guy and all of a sudden I’m overthinking, journaling, stating my affirmations and calling in my council on how to broach a subject. My best friend one time even pulled out the sage to smudge our apartment! LOL. It ain’t cute…stressed Aster just ain’t cute. So yeah speak up, speak up often and if you aren’t able to then that should be something you reassess because who wants to be in something where they don’t feel like they can say what they need to say when they need to say it. Right? (All this applies to listening as well).
  3. Trust your gut. You know you. That is it. If you feel something is off then it probably is…my gut is right 99.9% of the time (I would say 100% but I’m working on being humble). Now I don’t want you to confuse this with thoughts stemming from insecurities. This is more so that feeling that you can’t shake because you know what is in front of you truly isn’t adding up. The math ain’t mathing and you have every right to act, rationally (of course), on it.
  4. It should be easy. This is my favorite tid-bit and I’m willing to die on this hill. When I used to work for the Mayor’s office back in 2014 -ish I met this woman, who is now my mentor, and she unintentionally taught me everything I needed to know about a happy and healthy relationship. While working I had met her husband and hung out with them a couple times at art events around the city and every time I would catch myself starring in awe at how they just fit. Of course, I only saw what they showed me but my curiosity, during one of our coffee dates, led me to ask her how is it being married. She picked up her cup of coffee, smiled and said “It is easy Asteriye.” I sipped the rest of my coffee like damn sis is that all I get?! Is this what I’m supposed to run back and tell my constituents, village, my tribe aka my girlfriends?!?! I was stressed. But now that I am older I know exactly what she was getting at and I wholeheartedly agree it should be easy. I can also already see you all shaking your heads and before you get your panties in a bunch let me clarify. Relationships take effort yes, relationships require work yes BUT relationships should not leave you drained, tired and/or spent. Think about your friendships – they are relatively easy otherwise why the hell are you friends with them!? I don’t know what is it but something happens when we go into dating mode. It’s like this added pressure makes us think romantic relationships are supposed to have ups, downs, and drama when in reality you (I) want it to mimic some of your closest friendships but with a little extra fun so yeah it should be easy and if it isn’t, make it and if you can’t…leave it.

Whew that was a lot of free game. To unlock all 10 key elements of a successful relationship please pre-order my ebook that will be hitting Amazon this summer titled “Make it Last Forever and Ever: Suggestions From a Fine Ass Single Girl.” (Hehe for my premium content check out my onlyFans). LOL in all seriousness take my advice with a grain of salt because I am a hypocrite and because deciding on people whether romantic or platonic is a very important decision. I’ve had great experiences and met amazing people but bottom line is a person should bring you peace, make you feel good, challenge you and push you to be the best version of you and that’s on what? Mary had a little lamb.

Stay Down,

Astu

Categories
Advice Human Character Inspiration Me and Life.

where to start (1/3)…

Wow. I felt amazing after writing those 200+ words the other day – like really amazing. I also started to overthink about when I run for public office will they find my confessions or grammatically incorrect pieces and drag it into some sort of campaign slander.

Yeah that is how I think. I go from 0 to 100 real fast. Some call it anxiety I call it proper planning.

Anyway you may or may not be here because of my decision to overshare. I’m not sure where to start. I promised three things: my love life, how I reclaimed my personal power and what I am continuing to learn. So I guess I’ll start with how I reclaimed my personal power…


Do you know what its like to achieve your biggest GOAL at 24? I mean something you’ve said you will do in the future and plan and plan and structure your everyday to meet? I’ll tell you what it feels like…it is devastating. My biggest goal at one point was to live, work, and give back to Ethiopia. At 24, I was fresh out of graduate school and just landed a fellowship that would give me, little ole ME, just that the opportunity to serve my beloved Ethiopia but little did I know it would take so much more from me.

Ok I’m being a little dramatic but when I say this trip changed my life IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I’ll start with the good. I met brilliant people, I was finally doing it (whatever “it” was at the time) and working in a space that I thought was meant for me and of course the ego boost whew those “I’m proud” of you messages hit different when you about to leave the country. But the 6 months were difficult. During those months, I experienced imposter syndrome, I struggled with the idea of being the eldest in my family returning to my parents country with empty hands, partying in a city with some of the most privileged people merely because my passport said American, and I struggled with the language – oh the LANGUAGE – that left me mute and sometimes isolated. Some parts of me shrunk and I didn’t even know it. I even let others communicate for me…bish whet?! This fellowship put me face to face with some of my insecurities around identity and I had no idea.

It wasn’t just identity like cultural identity BUT identity as it related to my field of study and work. Up until fairly recently I associated my identity with employment and truth be told I am still processing my detachment from that mindset (because friend you are not your job…OKURTT). I landed an incredible opportunity with some of the most brightest people in Addis and I learned so much from them. I, also, came face to face with blurred boundaries, burn-out from late hours and quick turn arounds, and immature coping mechanisms. No one could have prepared me for this and I’m not blaming anyone I’m just pointing it out for what it is an experience that accelerated my personal growth.

Reading this may seem like I figured out God was testing me pretty quickly, or that I pivoted or that the road to personal development was immediate but the gag is sis I am just now facing the impact of the trip in year of our Lord 2020. For the three years after I romanticized the experience when in actuality my confidence took a blow partly from my own doing AND partly because I was unable to address the experience.

Anyway, now on to the part about reclaiming my personal power part because no one likes a pity party. Here are three things that I believe have played a role in me getting back right post fellowship:

  1. Journaling – My journal is that b****. Actually I meant to say my journals are* because I have three large journals that have every crush, achievement, moment of weakness recorded. Them pages know the real me. I say this to say it is where I truly unload. If you think this post is a bit much whew you don’t want to see what my pages have. My journals give me a safe space to truly reflect and that was how I began to notice patterns, behaviors, things that didn’t make sense and I needed to get a grip.
  2. Plan – Part of my freakout with Ethiopia was due to the fact that I had achieved a goal and didn’t have the next thing lined up. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a job lined up because obviously I did. I came back to the US and landed a position at one of the top firms in the world BUT I didn’t get real about my passions and plan for them until I was already working 60 + hrs doing something I didn’t intend to do. My career counselor once told me if you don’t decide/plan someone will decide/plan for you and it won’t always align to what you want for your future. That was the realist shit I ever heard. I mean I am just now letting that sink in BUT hey it is sinking in.
  3. Don’t give up your power, its yours!Whew child. The number of times I willingly let this happen. BISH I should be arrested. I’m trying not to sound like a self help book but everything I type sounds like a page out of 7 Effective Habits of Successful People or something lol. In all seriousness be mindful of your energy, who has access to you, how they transfer on to you and what you take from them. Stay true to you BUT stand your ground. I say this because everyone has this image of someone telling another person to back off when they feel disrespected but that’s not my personality so stay true to you but stand your ground gently and in a way that is YOU.

All in all I do not regret my fellowship experience but I do want folks especially children of immigrants who return to their parents home countries to really have a soul searching moment to understand how this experience will transform and impact a person. These moments and experiences are invaluable and I can honestly say I thank God for his grace and for his roadmap on my life because he has been patient with me and it is truly up to Him in the end. Now go out there friend and reclaim that power because it is already yours…God said so.

Part 2/3 to be continued…

#StayDown

Categories
Me and Life.

never needed permission…

I never needed permission. Hell I forged the majority of my permission slips in middle school. So why now?

My confidence, my self-worth, my self-esteem were built Ford tough. So what changed? What shifted?

I haven’t written a post or blog entry in nearly 3+ years. My writing whether it be good, correct, concise or clean was my own. It was and is my voice…the very tool I use to hold a mirror up to the denied parts of me. Somewhere along the line I stopped writing publicly and I essentially gave up a part of me that was tied unbeknownst to me – my confidence, my self-worth and self-esteem. (I mean I journal regularly but that is in the comfort of me and mine and not the innanets.)

This isn’t a I know everything post but rather an ah hah b**** I figured some things out post. I’ve figured some things out about myself that I want to share because 1) honestly life is wild 2) sharing helps with my vulnerability and 3) re-read 1&2. Now whether you care or not does not matter because remember my writing is for my enjoyment (me and mine)…you just happen to be at the party and I hope it makes you shake a tail feather or two.

A three part series on how Astu reclaimed her personal power, fell in love, and continues to figure it out.

To be continued…

#Staydown