The day before yesterday, news came that the actor Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of forty-three after a four-year battle with colon cancer. No one other than his family knew of his cancer diagnosis and in the last four years of his life, he made eight films, including the highest-grossing superhero film, ‘Black Panther’. Knowing he was battling cancer while making movies makes me think of him as a real-life superhero, and not just because of his strength and determination to perform so well, but not to let his illness define him. Because if he had gone public with his diagnosis, he probably wouldn’t have worked at all.
Now of course there are idiots in this world who are saying he should have been able to work and be public with his illness. We don’t live in a perfect world where people with illnesses are allowed to live a life while battling their illness. We have a seriously-misguided and totally fucked-up idea that someone who is ill is supposed to be defined by that and devote all their attention to it. This is why people keep their illnesses quiet and continue to live until the end. Chadwick Boseman was one of these people, and there have been others – David Bowie and Raul Julia are two people who come to mind as both worked through their illnesses until they passed away.
Twenty-plus years ago I was with my mother throughout her seven-year battle with cancer. I saw the horror of the surgeries, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, and it was why I tried to not let her live by that alone. One time I was outside on the back patio with her as she fussed with her plants and she asked me why I was outside with her instead of off doing something on my own. I in turn asked her, “Do I have to tell you why I’m out here with you?” She said no and we went back to our conversation and her plants. There was no need to for me to say I was spending time with her because I knew I wouldn’t have the time I wanted to with her, but also I wanted to treat her as she was, not defined by her damned illness.
This morning I’m thinking of how it feels to be defined by one thing when each and every one of us is so much more. I feel like we’re put into a box and told to stay there and that if we leave that box we’re either too fragile to be outside or that we’re breaking some rule that’s not a law.
To that I say: fuck that shit.
If you define people in this world by one thing and try to box them up, I don’t give a flying-fuck how good your intentions are. Take those good intentions and go to Hell and get roasted by Satan for an eternity.
We all have our good and bad days, some more than others. But that’s called life and we don’t have to be all or one way all the damn time. I don’t have to define myself as one thing, or to act a certain way all the time. And most of all, I’m allowed to fuck up, slip up, and even crack up once in a while. This feeling that you have to be one thing all the damn time is fucking hell, and totally fucking wrong. Yet this is what drives people into silence, and trust me, keeping shit to yourself isn’t easy. Because when you do, you take a lot of shit from people who are either just thoughtless assholes or casually cruel. Yet in order not to capsize your boat and go under, you stay silent and take their shit.
Most people don’t want to talk about the hard shit in life such as mortality and realizing to the core of your soul that your time on Earth is limited. You have to deal with huge waves of regret and guilt, most of which are total bullshit.
Chadwick Boseman knew he was on borrowed time, and he also knew the huge risks he was taking in working like he did because his illness could have taken a sudden turn for the worse. Yet he made the most of the time he was given, shared his gifts with the world, and will be remembered for those performances and for the life he led. He didn’t let one thing define him, and he sure as hell didn’t let anyone put him in a box. He shined, and always will even as he is with the Ancestors now.
Don’t define yourself by one thing, and don’t let anyone put you in a box and keep you there. Stay silent if you choose to, but know this: we are all so much stronger than some motherfucking assholes may say. Don’t listen to anyone who says you are weak and fragile, and don’t let that define you.
Don’t let anyone define your or your life. Live your life to the fullest no matter how much time you have on this Earth. Be strong.