Last month, I finished up my official tenure working at Youth Speaks. This coming weekend, I will meet my partner under the chuppah and, with a big-ass smile on face, marry her. Together, these events mark a beautiful transition in my life, one that I call: Getting Grown.
For a lot of my folks, “growing up” is not something they look forward to. Youth poets who think they’ve maxed out their artistic potential when they hit 20, friends getting their third Master’s Degree in Multicultural Musicology because they’re afraid of life-after-grad-school, even myself whose favorite TV shows are still The Simpsons and Animaniacs. This is America — everything we eat, buy, and teach is an eternal quest to stay young.
Not me, though. Ever since I was 15 and would quote Camus and Tupac while swaying in my favorite rocking chair (still the greatest chair I’ve ever had), I’ve been known as “Old Man Healey.” Now I’m just making it official.
I love Youth Speaks, and the work I’ve done in the youth spoken word movement for seven-plus years. From Madison to the Bay to all over the country, I’ve had the privilege to create art, curriculum, and political action alongside literally some of the greatest minds of my generation. I came into spoken word as an organizer first, an artist second, an educator only in the loosest sense of the word. Now I proudly claim all those titles and continue to push the edges of what they each can be, especially when cross-polinated with each other.
Being a cultural activist in America is a marathon, and now is the time for me to stretch my legs. Just as a poet, I’ve long pushed to expand my art beyond the slam format — now as an organizer, I want to do more than organize those same poetry slams for other people. Spoken word is a great starting place for radically democratizing art and education, but it shouldn’t be anyone’s finishing line. What the finish line looks like for me I’m not sure, but I’m excited to find my new lane on the track.
So what’s next? Well, I’m either going to become a world-famous stand-up comedian — or I’m going to do serious grassroots political organizing. Or both.
Before then, I’m going to live in Guatemala and travel through Central America this fall. It’s time to see what life is like outside the empire for a while, to re-learn Spanish, and to kiss my wife in as many different countries as possible. Hopefully, I’ll come back with a greater energy and cross-border analysis for making change. That, and a strong bilingual comedy game.
But before all of that, I’m getting married. This weekend, to be exact. For me, the wedding both is and isn’t a big deal. I’ve been with my lady for over seven years, we’ve lived together for three, so we’re basically married already. I don’t expect anything to change in terms of the day-to-day of our relationship. We’ll keep loving each other, clowning each other, cleaning up after each other, all in increasing proportions. A marriage certificate won’t affect that.
All that said…I am hella excited about the wedding. All my family’s coming to town, her family, good friends, all coming to party and celebrate with me and the wifey. We’ve put a lot of intention into the ceremony, creating a mix of tradition and reinvention — let’s just say it will be a socialist, Jewish, pagan, fun-ass family wedding. And then there’s the party. Don’t even get me started on that.
It’s only one day, but something tells me it’s going to be one damn good day. And after that, it’s the rest of my life. I’m getting grown, my friends. And loving it.