Retrograde 81818


Photos — Paris Williford
Creative Direction + Hair/Prop Styling — 
Edits + Creative Direction —Anj



Retrograde: having or being in motion in a direction contrary to that of the general motion of similar bodies and especially east to west among the stars.

Retrograde motion is an apparent change in the movement of the planet through the sky. It is not real in that the planet does not physically start moving backwards in its orbit. It just appears to do so because of the relative positions of the planet and Earth and how they are moving around the Sun. An optical illusion. -  NASA


It’s 2:36 a.m. on my birthday and I’m laying naked across my bed in the dark.

I hear the bugs outside my windows chirping in the deep green. I see a sliver of the lamp I keep on in the living room at night. From the dimness of my backlight, where I’m writing this entry on an iCloud Note in my phone, I see my glasses folded beside me.  Everything is a blur.  I’m used to it. I’ll go to bed with the glasses under my pillow the way I do every night and find them on the floor in the morning. Edie isn’t in bed yet but she will be soon, and I’m waiting for her.. subconsciously. I think about how I don’t want to wash dishes on my birthday, but there’s a pile by the sink..props from my show. There’s a travel bag by my bed from a wedding I attended two weeks ago that I still haven’t unpacked. I can't stop thinking about the device on my keys hanging in the hallway to help me find them when they're lost. To help me find me.


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For an entire week I’ve wondered why I’ve felt contrary to all that I’ve achieved; in the wake of all the ways I’m growing professionally and creatively, I feel as though I myself, my entire life is in a holding pattern—in retrograde: moving against a current.

One of the most important pieces of advice I’ve ever heard is “feelings are not facts” (Myliek Teele). So I comfort myself in knowing that this feeling of moving against myself and feeling stunted isn’t forever. Yesterday in a flower shop I was told that that your 30s are for figuring out what kind of person you want to be—what kind of partner you want to be.

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I’m in my 30s—not deep, but I’m in it. And I'm trying to figure out what kind of person I’m meant to be, what I’m pushing toward. I've always been the type of person who sets goals for the year, but I’d never felt the need to think further than 12 months of my life at a time. But realities have a scary way of greeting you, and its usually around the time of self-reflection and birthdays that they appear more sharp than usual. Exaggerated. Dramatic.

Somehow you scroll past a fertility testing advertisement and spiral into an existential crisis asking yourself all the questions you’ve screened from parents and fearful women for the past 10 years who don’t understand your version of fulfillment. And you wonder things like, "Well, how are my eggs? How old will I be when my hypothetical child is 16? Do I even want children? Am I going to take this test? Will my life and the choices I make hinge on the results? Why is it motherhood OR success? Why can’t I do both? Do I even want to do both? I’m told that I'm so good at so many things but have I failed at this portion of my life?

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I have failed.

Call it a planetary shift or a general self-exploration, but for the past two weeks that’s what I’ve felt, that I failed. And that this failure eclipses all the good things I’ve achieved. I know it’s not true, and that I'm being mean to myself because this is all emotion, and feelings are only facts for so long so we can’t trust them. But for some reason, as much as we strong women choose not to compare our realms to others there is a piece that wants even just a short sentence in the oldest fairy tale. 

As a woman you are measured by your ability or inability to attract and adapt to a man. And when you are Southern for some reason this expectation is amplified. But no one talks about how difficult is to be a black woman trying to find a black man ready to love. Or what it's  like to love a black man. How he must be convinced that good love can also be success. That good love is also something he deserves. That good love can also be a right of passage. That good love is not a prison. 

I’m 31 today. And here are some truths: The body I’m in is not my favorite version, but I still love me. I have moles around my eyes like my mom and aunts and they feel like wise constellations. I look like my dad all the time but I look like my mom when she was a teen. I am incredibly happy and then I have weeks like these where I question everything. And I don’t want to hear ,“well you don’t need to worry about it now” but honestly, when is the right time to think about your forever?

I get the hunch that my 30s will be about balance and questions. Consequence and awakening. Heaps of self-work—which is never ever easy. But all things considered, I’m bracing for impact, open to change, and willing to do the work. This isn’t about finding someone, but about paralleling my life with the most popular versions of life and seeing if I care to align. And about questioning my surroundings and choices and making peace with my own reality without fear or influence.

I never want to be the person who even appears to have it all figured out. I am both creative and human; No great work is made without great pain.

I believe that if you talk to just about any woman and I can bet you they’ve all asked themselves some of these same questions at one point—and whether or not they arrived at swift choices that felt organic and sure, settled out of fear, or remain resilient in their autonomy, they've—we've all at the very least asked. I just want to write honestly about it. 

Retrograde, after all, is just an optical illusion that stirs us. It’s not the fact. But we all are in orbit. Some of us revolving faster than others, some balancing many moons in our gravity, some of us distant and cold with everyone trying to decide if we’re a mass of ice or an actual planet.

The point is, regardless, time is always forward. 

- anj