We’re Still Here, We Haven’t Failed Yet

Aaminah Shakur
9 min readDec 29, 2017
“Do The Work” print by Sarah Sun. Royal blue frame with sky blue background, black and white hand-pulled print with rectangle, sun, and text.

In preparing for the new year, where does one even start? New years seem arbitrary as a force for “change” and resolutions seem trite (no one keeps them anyway, right?) 2017 has been rough though. For almost everyone. For me, for sure. For others, even worse than for me.

Last year at this time I was so much more hopeful, despite the horrendous presidential elections, than I feel now after a year of being ground down under the reality of those elections and other things life has thrown my way. Last year I offered my readers some ideas on things that should be left in 2016 — and I wish I had taken the time to re-read that list many times in 2017 because now I realize I failed to live up to it. I also offered ten “rules” to bring into 2017 — and once again, I wish I had reviewed them periodically because not only did I fail to remember and live them, but they are exactly what I need for 2018 as well.

“Don’t waste energy trying to fit into anyone else’s vision of you.”

Ok, so I fucked up and didn’t live up to my ideals in 2017, and I’m ending the year in a major crisis and massive depression. That’s the truth. That’s my truth. Maybe it’s your truth too, and maybe you feel like a total failure right now. Let me tell you the most obvious “secret”: We’re still here, so we haven’t failed yet.

You heard me. I said what I said. Deal with it.

I don’t know how much longer I will be here, sure… Shit happens. I don’t even, in this moment, know that I want to still be here, if I’m gonna be truly honest with you. Maybe you can relate to that too. It’s ok. The point is, we’re still here right now. You and I. We’re here now, so what are we going to do?

So, earlier in the month I started to think about how to move forward, and I started asking the Universe for signs and listening for the messages of my ancestors and trying to imagine how I could even go on living.

Screenshot from Facebook, 12/14/17 — “Last year at this time when that meme was going around to offer a one-word wish for 2017, I wished y’all abundance. Well, apparently that wasn’t specific enough because we got an abundance of nonsense but not the kind of abundance I was really wishing for you all to have. So, for 2018… I wish you/us Altruism. We are all in this together and have to figure out how to survive, so may we all have altruism in our own hearts and find it returned to us as well.”

This was one of the messages I received. That altruism, generosity, and gratitude were absolutely necessary for me to survive to even see 2018 and to make it through what is to come. It was a challenge to myself to keep giving, and to graciously accept.

Back up to that first image of the “Do The Work” print by my tattoo artist and friend (Yes, I call her my tattoo artist… not like ownership, but like, that’s how important she is to me. Tattooing is an intimate art, and my relationship with her is sacred. She and I have some big art-making plans for 2018 too.) Sarah posted that print up as one of several she was selling at a discount for the end of the year. The others were excellent too, great reminders like “Rest,” “Seek Comfort,” and “Power is in Everyone,” but this one was the one that called so hard to me it was like being thumped in the chest repeatedly. I painted the frame myself and it hangs over one of my altars. It’s an important reminder to myself for 2018. I’m trying not to get caught up in all the distractions, depressions, demands that make no sense, expectations that may not be fulfillable, etc. It’s my path to do the work. That’s all. I know what my work is, I just need to DO IT. That was my second clear message for the next year.

This week I did something I rarely do: I clicked on a TMZ link on Twitter. It’s not actually TMZ, that’s just who had shared the link. You should read this. And while it’s got some eye-roll worthy moments (like, why is Obama meeting with that Prince anyway? You know, the one who thought it was funny to wear a Nazi uniform to a costume party.), there are a few gems. And that’s where I got my third message for how to move forward into 2018:

“If we take responsibility for being involved in our own fate, if we participate, if we engage, if we speak out, if we work in our communities, if we volunteer, if we see the joy that comes from our service to others then all of the problems that we face are solvable despite all of the terrible news that you see.” (Barack Obama)

I know, I know, Obama is no saint either. Ok. But that message punched me in the gut. It told me something I needed to be reminded of. It’s the long version of “Do the Work”. “Do the Work” is the mantra, that quote is the long form guiding principle. Really, not just for 2018, but for life. But since I don’t even know how I can make it to 2018 much less through it, we’ll start there. This is the message I needed for 2018.

And really, if I am telling you the truth, which I always try my best to do, that hit me as hard as it did because I’m going through some specific shit right now. Some real “fuck with your life and livelihood and who the fuck even is you” kind of shit. But I know who the fuck I even is. I know because I’ve been doing the work and I’ve been living that principle, even if I sometimes get sidetracked and bogged down in hurt feelings and ego and fear. I know who I am and what I’m about whether other people see me or believe in me or not. Because that principle, that entire sentence that Obama dropped, has really and truly been the guiding principle of my life. Again, whether anyone else sees it or not. I mean, there’s always people who just do. not. like. you. No matter what you do. Who are committed to misrepresenting who you are, what you do, how you do it, and what your motivations must be. But if you’re doing the work, when you know you’re doing the work — which includes admitting that sometimes you did it wrong or you let your ego get in the way or you thought you could take a break from the work or you thought you were doing the work but were really doing something else that hurt someone you didn’t mean to hurt — you know who you are and you know what really matters.

Me, sitting on my pretty carpet in my pretty pajamas and a sweater (cuz it’s cold as fuck!), meditating with a chunk of rose quartz in my hand.

In the wee hours of the late night/early morning time, a friend, a heart sibling, told me “I’m trying to learn how to turn away and refocus my energy into places, projects, and people that are really worth my investment.” Shit, that was message number four. I hope you see how all of these things are interconnected. How altruism is about doing the work, and doing the work is about getting actively involved in change and hope, and getting actively involved means having to make some choices about where to invest that energy.

I woke up this morning dragging. I mean, this “fucking up your life and livelihood” shit is real and it’s doing a number on, well, my life and livelihood, but also on my health. And today I want to work on letting it go. So this morning I was dragging, but I had been meaning to take a photo to go with this essay — I didn’t know what this essay was really gonna be, just that I would be writing something about how the hell to go into 2018 and honor that we are still here and have not yet failed. I’ve spent two weeks with this photo in my head, switching out whether I should do it in my pajamas or in bright patterned leggings that clash with the carpet or in a that really pretty green skirt I have that would complement the carpet so well. For real. I’m a Virgo sun, Scorpio ascending, and Cancer moon. You may have noticed I do A LOT of self-introspection and analysis. I am constantly questioning my own methods, motives, intentions, goals, and yes, I’m that person who is still thinking at 4am on an average Thursday about that time I spoke out of turn a year ago or the unnecessary snarky response I made two weeks ago in a conversation, and beating myself up for it. So you can imagine that a lot of thought also goes into my writing, my art, and yes, even into my mediocre photographs.

So I took the damn photo. Knowing these particular pajama pants definitely clashed with the carpet. Knowing I probably look ridiculous, and certainly don’t look sexy or clever or inspiring in the way so many other people who I admire look when they take photos with their crystals, candles, and other metaphysical/spiritual stuff. I can’t compete with them, and I know who I am, so I’m not going to try. This is the photo I took, and shared it to Instagram with the following caption:

Today as I prepare for 2018 I am meditating on bringing love into my life. I’m tired of being angry all the time, tired of answering to hate, tired of being disrespected. I’m also asking myself hard questions about who have I invested in out of anger, hate, and disrespect rather than investing in people and work out of love. I am recommitting to the love, and wishing to receive love as well — even if the only person who can offer me love is my own self. I am taking a message from my sibling who shared with me “I’m trying to learn how to turn away and refocus my energy into places, projects, and people that are really worth my investment.” I am going to continue my path, doing the work, helping to create a new future. I accept those who wish to journey that path with me, and I bid farewell to those who are forging their own paths and don’t want to walk with me for whatever reason.

This is where I’m at. I’m good. I know what my path is, I know the work ahead of me, and I am committed to doing it. I know who I am, including all the ugly failure fuck up ain’t shit about me, but I also know what I am not. I am not wrong. I am not the things other people impose upon me. Even right now, when I’m so thoroughly disposable to people that I don’t even warrant the opportunity to see the charges against me or the evidence that is being put forth. Fine. Let me be disposable and move forward with my life without that baggage then. Because I am doing the work, whether they agree or recognize it or not.

I’m not a failure because I’m still here, still doing the work. You’re still here, we are still here. It’s not over. Maybe we are on this path together — great! Maybe our paths need to diverge now; if so, I wish you well on your journey.

I’m going to go back and review those still-relevant “rules” I made for 2017 because I’m carrying them over into 2018 with me. I’m going to keep reading Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, which I bought last January but only started two days ago. I highly recommend this book, and whether you have the book on hand or not (if you do, see chapter 5), I highly recommend reading/watching her 2014 commencement speech to Dartmouth graduates as well.

And finally, I want to leave you with this last message for heading into 2018:

“Thank you, Universe, for helping me see beyond the limits of fear. Thank you for expanding my perceptions so that I can see what is of the Highest Good.” — card from Gabrielle Bernstein’s inspiration deck “The Universe Has Your Back”