Michelle Elizabeth

The universe works in mysterious ways.

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Photo by Brendan Church on Unsplash

I’m in a stalemate with myself. I don’t know where I’m going or what I want to be when I grow up. At forty-one, you’d have figured that I would have decided that by now. But like most people, I did what I had to do. I got a job to pay the bills, and I never stopped to think about it. I did what I had to do.

When I heard that saying for the first time, I felt it deep within my soul. All of my unfulfilled dreams had made me miserable. I couldn’t get past what I thought should have been to live happily in what I have. …

It’s easy to look at all of the bad things that happened this past year, but in doing so, we don’t acknowledge the good.

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Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

The year 2020 has been described most eloquently as a dumpster fire, but I would argue that this year has pushed every single one of us out of our comfort zones, and that is a good thing. If I were to pick three words to describe 2020, they would be resilience, introspection, and gratitude.

For me, 2020 started like any other year. We took down the holiday decorations and got back to work. I began planning our upcoming yearly vacation and travel to see loved ones. But I started the year feeling burnt out. I didn’t rest enough over winter break because I spent most of it sick with a “nasty virus,” as my doctor called it. …

This isn’t your typical end of year prose.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

The year 2020 will be cataloged in the annals of history as many things. The Great Pause, the year when life stood still. A pause that lasted long enough for us to shine a light on all that ails humanity. We saw the worst in us. We watched the best in us broadcast over a million miles of fiber optic cable only to be swiped away.

It was the year Beyonce declared Black is King, and yet I have no aspirations to be royalty. I want to live with the freedom to be mediocre. And in that mediocrity, I get just as much or as little as my counterparts that make up the majority. …

Everything you think about while waiting for a diagnosis.

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Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

I’ve been waiting twenty years for this, the point where it becomes my turn. You don’t have ninety-five percent of your family succumb to cancer without counting the moments until their fate becomes yours. Yet, here I sit, watching the wind blow through freshly cut grass. Marveling at the various hues of green as the late afternoon sun travels across the blades. And I wonder, why haven’t I ever stopped long enough to notice it before?

But don’t worry, this isn’t my magnum opus or some Last Lecture. It’s just me at a turning point in my life waiting to find out which way the road will take me. Nothing prepares you for this moment. There’s no book to tell you how to appreciate your life more while you still have it. No, How To article to help me navigate the in-between time where I’m still healthy and ignorant. I have two choices, false alarm or the uncertainty of illness, but no matter which it turns out to be, I don’t want to squander these moments. …

The dreams you wish you didn’t have to wake up from.

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Photo by Cody Black on Unsplash

The dearest of dreams
Bring you back to me
Even asleep my mind registers
The effect you’ve always had
Over me
Over the way my heart stops
Then restarts in staggered rhythms

The moment my eyes open
I’m left with the remnants
Those pieces of the past
I refuse to part with
The cadence in your voice
The feel of your hand
All the things that make you

My life went on
In spite of you
Because of you
The cloud that hangs over me
The dark spot on the photograph
On the life I enjoy

The reflection halted
Just as errantly as you entered
My subconscious leaves you behind
With a future self
Not yet known
But close enough
That if our hands were to touch
Just briefly
That contrived hallucination
Might become the reality I always wanted
But in the end
Would leave…

Death is the burden of the living.

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Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Unsplash

After the funeral, after life reschedules itself around your grief and you have no choice but to move along with the passage of time. That’s when grief finds you. The initial shock wears off. The Band-Aid of loss ripped clean from raw flesh so that all that’s left is just you, laid bare for everyone to see. That’s when the real grieving begins.

I never had the chance to grieve properly. My grandmother’s passing was followed two scant weeks later by her son’s. …

The people have spoken, and they’re always right, right?

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Photo by Alex on Unsplash

Seven months and the people are tired. They want their lives back. You know the ones they always complained about on Facebook. They want to be able to go back to the gyms that they only go to the first month of the year because they resolved to lose weight and get healthy. But mostly they want to be able to do whatever they want when they want. I never thought I could be embarrassed by my fellow countrymen and women, but I am.

But I’ve got a newsflash for you. The Pandemic is not over.

As of the writing of this piece, we’ve had almost one hundred and eighty-five thousand (185,000) deaths, according to Johns Hopkins. Since everyone likes to tout comparisons to the flu, according to the CDC, there were sixty-two thousand (62,000) deaths last year. If you were sick with the flu on that day, your teacher taught you what number is bigger. It’s 185,000. …

A poem of lost memories

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

What is it like to lose your memories?
To wake up each day knowing
That a piece of myself from the day before
Is no longer
But not knowing that it was lost
Like a toy from childhood tossed away
Forgotten because it’s out of sight

My thoughts drip like water through uncupped hands
Leaking into the void
To that part of my brain where
Nothing sticks
Nothing stays put long enough to turn into
A thought process that leads to anywhere
My train runs out of steam
And all those great ideas

I became old too young
My vocabulary of words learned
Throughout one lifetime
Lost just as easily
Upon its decline
The mere distraction of a sound
And another something is…

Being Black right now is exhausting

Closeup of frustrated Black woman’s face.
Closeup of frustrated Black woman’s face.
Photo: electravk/Getty Images

A version of this essay previously appeared in Assemblage.

I’m bombarded. It doesn’t matter if it’s TikTok, Facebook, Hulu, Amazon Prime, or even my neighborhood, there is always something to remind me about the social unrest in this country. As if I needed a reminder. I’ve been Black for 41 years and have been dealing with racism since I was 10. It’s not a new thing, it’s been my life, so please excuse me, but I’d like to tap out. I don’t want to be the spokesperson for the entire Black community. …

Hint: It all has to do with self-esteem.

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Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

It took turning forty to get fed up with my life. It was slowly brewing for years. I had watched my friends graduate, add on more degrees, and have fantastic careers. During that time, I started raising a family and memorized the words to all the songs from The Backyardigans. As my little people grew up, I became more dissatisfied with my life and often felt myself wondering what might have been if I had made different decisions.

But you can’t change the past, no matter how much I wish I could.

I often feel guilty for not loving my life because I’ve been so blessed. My children are healthy and my spouse makes a comfortable living. But I want to do something with my life other than raise children. If that’s the sum of my existence, then what was the point of going to college or getting a Master’s degree? …


Michelle Elizabeth

MFA|Essayist| Author| IG: michelle_elizabeth_writer| Email: writer.michelle.elizabeth@gmail.com

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