Kierra Johnson

Cliff Jumping, Not For Sport, But Survival

There is a new future ahead of us, a new way of operating. A collective force is propelling us to navigate the uncertainty of this time. For once, we don't feel alone. The last couple of years have been cliff jumping, not for sport, but survival.

I know this feeling all too well.

As a Black, Muslim, woman my entire life has been cliff diving into an ocean of uncertainty, never familiarizing the qualities of waves for they don't stay too long, and befriending the corners of walls where my intersects never fail to comfort me. I feel I've mastered the art of transitions, but I've come to realize that I'm desensitized and can chameleon my way into a new environment without assessing my mental wellbeing. This “in-between" moment has been a home of mine for as long as I remember. 

I was forced to move into a new apartment amidst the pandemic, moved back and forth between SLC and NYC, transitioned to teach remotely, prepared Cirri to host online events, tried to find the heartbeat of my aunt's soulless body, dealt with a lot of personal and familial grievances, and actively participated in a global movement to fight police brutality against bodies like mine. It has been a cyclical and introspective journey that encouraged me to put words on the emotions I felt. It prompted me to unpack a lot about my identity, my relationships, and to realize I can no longer be a sanctuary that harbors distress.

I can no longer normalize tolerating uncertainty, pain, and anxiety alone. I shouldn't have the endurance to jump off cliffs because the ground should be safe enough to hold me. 


As Black women, we are never encouraged to stop and reflect, to stop and re-energize, to refuel. We are only encouraged to keep going. This type of merciless action towards our own bodies is self-betrayal and most of the time, we aren’t even consciously aware of the internalized deceit we have. 

With support from friends, I finally was able to articulate that I have gone through many life transitions and have been carrying a load of each one into the next phase of my life. Like a cascade of misfortunes, everything I touched burned, everything I created crumbled, and my emotional breakdown wouldn't let me jump off this cliff. I knew that if I tried, I wouldn't survive. It took a lot of backpedaling and putting a name for every time I was going through a transition.

The first one I remember was when I lost a friend and learned very quickly that I cant convince someone to stay, understand, or empathize with me. The life transition of imaging living without someone, so I bought myself roses to reclaim the lost love. Second, the transformation of disrupting the normalcy of our entire lives to live in fear and uncertainty because of COVID-19. To sadly admit, my conscious mind didn't stress or feel uncertain about it. There was something oddly familiar with having to adapt to change very quickly with little time to process its impact. I bought myself pink lilies to sit on my desk as I began to teach remotely. When my aunt died, I tried to search for her soul in every interaction, every silent moment, and every conversation and realized that sometimes grief takes the form of everything beautiful. I bought myself a pothos plant because they propagate so freely. I filled my apartment with flowers and plants and realized that I've endured many transitions and haven't coped with any of them. Buying myself things was a way for me to name the life transitions that were happening and symbolizing them. Now I am not saying go buy yourself a lot of things, but find what works for you. Maybe you like to paint and release the energy stored within transitions onto a creative outlet. 

These warm tips are what I’ve spun out of the harsh experiences I’ve endured within the last few years. Each reminded me of the importance of rest, self-awareness, and the power of a support group. 

I share with you because when you win, our entire community does: 

  1. Do not belittle the impact of change. Change is the only thing certain in our lives, but it can still have an emotional effect on us. Make it a part of your everyday conversations with friends and family. When you talk about it, you'll be better prepared to go through them when change arrives.
  2. Be prepared to let something go. Prioritize time to find the courage to deal with change, because every life transition means that something is left behind. Engage in conversations that normalize letting go of environments, people, and things that don't have a purpose in your life. Letting go of people doesn't mean you forget them, you just move forward. 
  3. Please learn that all change prepares you to become better, resilient, and more mindful if processed correctly.
  4. Rest, give yourself time to sit idly with yourself. Unlearn that your value is attached to how much you produce. You are worthy of sitting still for however long you need to process something that has happened to you. 
  5. Find a support circle from your friends and family members or find available resources, because you are most certainly not alone. 
  6. Practice the art of acceptance. If you are incapable of accepting people and things the way they are, then change will be difficult for you. Make space to understand that change is inevitable and give yourself grace as learning to accept it.

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