Be Careful What You Wish For.

February 2, 2016

The idea is notto live forever,but to createsomethingthat will.-2

Second grade. Ms. Donaldson’s class. I waved my hand ferociously for her to call on me so I could answer the question. I wanted nothing more than for Ms. Donaldson to call on me so that I could share the answer with the rest of my seven-year-old compatriots. She called on me. I proudly, boldly, and unabashedly said the wrong answer. Joseph Lee laughed at me. I didn’t raise my hand for awhile after that.

See, sometimes it feels like I’m still waving my hand ferociously for the Universe to call on me, and many days I reply with the wrong answer. Some days, I get called on and then I suddenly don’t have an answer. I draw a blank. I fall silent. But, even by raising my hand, I make it easier for others. In a classroom of people waiting to hear the answer, some days I am still audacious enough to offer one–even if it’s completely and utterly wrong. Most days, I am comfortable blazing that trail. Some days, however, I wish someone would unroll the blueprint for me.

Recently, My sister told me she doesn’t read my blog that much anymore. I told her, “Yeah, most people I know (like close friends and family) don’t read my blog anymore.” She said that’s sad. I replied that it’s not; it’s exactly what I wanted. The minute I saw and felt my words reaching women I’d never met, I knew that was the path I wanted to hike. And, while accolades and attention from my closest tribe always mean something special, it’s more important to me to reach the right people in the right places.

This is what I wanted.

But, with that comes great responsibility. Great scrutiny. A bevy of people who stay on my jock.

Yet, this is what I wanted. It’s not a question. Not a second thought. I don’t stumble over those words. Yes, this is what I wanted.

However, if there’s any lesson to extract from growth, it’s that you do not get a bed of roses without a few prickly thorns. Sacrifice is the price of admission for success. That is a ticket that you can’t bootleg or knock off, as much as some people will try. Pay it or move away from the gate so someone else gets a chance to step up. If you want greatness or influence or simply for someone else to give a damn about what you say, you will reap both the benefits and the consequences. The benefits are usually apparent upfront; those are the things you fervently pray for. The consequences are typically the lessons that don’t come until much later, when you are already knee deep in the blessing and 20 miles down the path.  We don’t usually know or realize the full scope of what we ask God for. How could we? This life is best experienced in the moment, but only ever understood in hindsight.

I’m knee deep in the blessing. I’m at least 10 miles down the path. God has already called on me, so I can’t put my hand down now.


The Doubt That Still Lingers

January 27, 2016


When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.-2

The doubt doesn’t sit in my stomach the way it once did. It doesn’t swallow me whole or render me helpless for days on end the way it used to back in 2014. Success and I have this history now–that complicated, love/hate sort of history. We’re familiar with one another. We’ve learned how to handle each other in ways that are graceful and careful and far less codependent than they once were. I do not parade her around like I once did. I’m a bit more overprotective of her than I should be. Yet, somehow, I still don’t trust my success enough. Success and I still don’t stand closely enough to one another. So, there’s this sliver of space left between us. That’s where doubt closes in.

For weeks, I’ve been thumbing through the Twenties Unscripted strategic plan, this wonderful and daunting behemoth of a document that my talented friend Jazz and I worked on together late last year. It’s filled with objectives and charts and quotes from my fellow bloggers. It is also the closest thing to a mirror I’ve ever had held up to my work in the past three and a half years. It’s more than my own opinions or assessments. It’s rooted in stats and interviews; it holds a much more objective lens up to the past few years. The first night I plopped down to read it, I got stuck on page 17.

“Twenties Unscripted, while appreciated within its circle of long-time readers and by other writers, is putting forth events and promotion efforts that are not garnering adequate local awareness, media coverage, or engagement. Without a growth in recognition and engagement both on and offline, the blog and brand will begin to cost more money than it makes and runs the risk of being pushed to the side by Wilkins for more tangible career goals–which would mean the loss of yet another important voice for Black women in a culture–and city–that needs every strong, intelligent, and unflinchingly honest Black woman willing to share her truth.”

It felt like ouch. It felt like that minute you realize your finger touched the oven, but the blister already started to form. And, yet, when reading that paragraph over and over again, I knew how much icy hot truth ran through those words. I wondered and worried that there would be this doomsday where reality pushes my dreams to the passenger seat. I wondered and worried that if this blog does not grow, it will undoubtedly begin to cost more money than it makes. I wondered and worried that I might let my voice grow quiet and dim in a world that evidences just how much it needs my truth. Of all the things that could happen–a collision with reality, losing money, or silencing my voice–silencing my voice is the one that would eat me alive.


The things I still want feel like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. The life I see for myself still feels like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. Some days there aren’t enough positive affirmations to quell the villains that shout into my ear. I wish there were. I wish there were enough Twiter chats, Periscope videos, and Instagram images to shut down the doubting devil in my head whose favorite question is, “Is this all worth it?”

But, there’s also something oddly comforting about the doubt. It reminds me that I am not all I want to be nor all I can be just yet. It pushes me to prove it wrong. It encourages me not to stand too closely to success, and to find something a bit sunnier to fill that space. It inspires me to look hard at every single one of the footprints I’ve already stamped on the mountain in my uphill battle toward that life I crave.

I almost didn’t want to say write these things, like I’ve reached this point where shining such a bright light on my doubt is a bad creative decision. Or like I couldn’t package these scattered and spread out thoughts in a way symbolic of my writing style. But, then I remembered I’m human. We aren’t ever above our own humanity, complex and messy as it might be. And humanity is not always about sunshine, nor is it always about rain. Sometimes, it’s just about the clouds that you can’t quite see your way through.


Can’t Tame Your Heart.

January 21, 2016

Nayyirah Waheed, "Salt"

Nayyirah Waheed, “Salt”

I cried in public twice last week. They weren’t the kind of cries that only required you to pat a few tears dry. They were ugly cries that turned heads and scared off the waiter at Corner Bakery. I wasn’t sad either time, at least not in that black and white way. One time my heart grew heavy and helpless, sort of like this dead weight sinking in my center. When someone you care about hurts and you realize there isn’t anything you can do to fix it, it seems like you forfeit your place as an anchor. It feels like you disappear to the bottom of the ocean.

The other time, it was the kind of cry I’ve had more as an adult. If you’re lucky, you receive these rare moments of reflection, a few minutes when you witness how far you’ve come. You get a glimpse into the gravity of your purpose. It doesn’t happen often. We usually just grind. Run. Some days we sink, and most days we swim. But, we hardly ever come up for air to see just how far that wild ride has taken us. That day at Corner Bakery, I got that chance to come up for air.

These are simple stories that represent a much broader narrative, one where I let my heart bleed on my sleeve. There are times I wish I weren’t the woman who just cries in public. The lines in the book written for me by all of the strong black women in my life before me would read: “Crying in public is no-no number 1.” Some of them would argue that crying at all is a sin from the devil himself. So from ages 18 to 21, just when my spirit was beginning to take on a softer and more sensitive shape, I tried to tame it. Disconnect from the tender heart. Stuff the emotions at the bottom of the box. But, that doesn’t work for long when you’re an artist. That doesn’t work for long when you learn that your heart is the vessel you have to rely on most.

My sensitivity often times puts me in this unnecessary emotional pressure cooker. It means I have to teach myself over and over again how to dodge the same bullets that others just seem to walk on by. It means discerning when to gather myself in situations that demand more poise than emotion. It means never being able to say a proper goodbye when someone uproots for grad school or leaves work for a new gig. It means a lot of men who have rolled their eyes and declared that I’m irrational. Because somehow rationale and emotion couldn’t possibly inhabit the same woman’s body.

But, I will take all of that–public tears, dismissive exes, and the fight to find the perfect poker face–becauseI know my heart is my art. My heart is both why and how I am able to share my shadows and my sunshine on the page. It’s why I love truly, madly, and deeply. It’s why I see the world in color and urge others not to settle for a bone dry black and white existence. It’s why there is the fire inside me that does not die and a well of creativity that does not dry.

I am done trying to tame this heart of mine. I hope you’ll let yours run a little wild too.


Why I Have To Believe In #BlackGirlMagic

January 14, 2016

#BlackGirlMagic NYE 2015

NYE 2015, photo credit: Kevin

I don’t typically drink appletinis. But, it’s Wednesday night and the martinis at Friday’s on Pennsylvania Avenue are $3 dollars, so I’m on my second appletini. The DJ’s set has the worst case of a musical identity crisis I’ve ever heard. He goes from Mary J. Blige to Mystikal, but then he lands on Meek’s Dreams and Nightmares. I’m a sucker for long intros that lead up to a sick beat. Aren’t we all? Something about delayed gratification. So, one minute and 37 seconds in, the beat shifts and my hands start to push the air. My face is all scrunched up as I look over at my two friends and they’re mouthing the lyrics. The woman next to me, whose name I don’t know and never will, is dancing too. Her shoulders are hitting mine as we laugh and keep rapping with our scrunched up faces. It is Wednesday night. At Friday’s. On Pennsylvania Avenue. And, it’s one of the few times this week that I have felt completely, utterly, and unflinchingly like myself.

Because that, my beauties, is #BlackGirlMagic. That’s what it looks like and tastes like and feels like and smells like.

I do not know what song was on Linda Chavers’ heart or what string of experiences led her to pen the recent Elle article “I Have a Problem With #BlackGirlMagic.” I cannot speak to what unrest stirred up in her soul and spilled through her fingertips. She is a writer. So, she wrote. She believed in something and shared it through words, which is exactly what writers do. At our lowest common denominator, we have opinions and we share them through words. I’m not here to mock Linda or cheapen her or throw names. I’m here because she wrote something and it did this thing to me. It did that thing where it sucker punched me in the worst way and dared me to respond.

I don’t remember the moment I realized that because I did not look like Emily or Jessica or Sarah, my version of this American life would not be filtered through the same amount of sunshine they had. Emily. Sarah. Jessica. These were my elementary school friends. Buddies. Ace boon coons. Emily always had gel pens and Lisa Frank folders. Jessica lived down the street and left real school after first grade for home school. Sarah had a sleepover once that I had to leave early because I had church the next day. Emily. Sarah. Jessica. Those were my girls. And surely I didn’t look like them, but we still had a shared set of experiences. We had N’Sync CDs and American Girl dolls and parties where we bobbed for apples. We had the same things, but we were not quite the same.

I did not learn this until much later. See, now I know, my sunshine is not quite the same.

I did not learn this all at once. I did not wake up one morning and suddenly understand what melanin-infused skin would mean for me going forward. Some days I still don’t. Some days I struggle to read the cashier’s eyes when he smiles at the woman in front of me and then frowns when I approach. Some days I get tired of explaining what going natural means. Some days I scoffwhen the guy walking out the door pushes past without saying “excuse me.” There are all these things and all these thoughts and all these realities that simmer. Some days those realities attempt to eat me alive.

So, no, my sunshine is not quite the same. But, my sunshine is that #BlackGirlMagic.

I wish from the trenches of my heart that Linda Chavers did not believe #BlackGirlMagic implied that we are, indeed, magical. I wish she didn’t liken it to rabbits pulled out of hats and grand disappearing acts. I wish she didn’t believe it meant that we were superhuman. I wish she didn’t contort the phrase, take it so literally, and single-handedly pull apart this mantra that is sometimes one of the few things us black girls have have left to believe in.

Last week in a video interview with Chasity Cooper, we stumbled upon the topic of #BlackGirlMagic. There we were, two black girls in front of a camera. With a black woman behind the camera directing our shoot. Inside of a coffee shop owned by a black woman. Without even having to answer her question, that was #BlackGirlMagic. Four black women doing what they love. Sharing something they believe in. Reaching out to each other to make shit happen.

#BlackGirlMagic with Chasity Cooper

#BlackGirlMagic with Chasity Cooper

It’s more than a hashtag. It’s more than this phrase I see and roll my eyes at, the way I do with #RelationshipGoals. No, #BlackGirlMagic is Friday lunch with Roconia with my head cocked back laughing far too loudly. #BlackGirlMagic is my hoop earrings on the weekend and my emphatic head nods during the sermon. #BlackGirlMagic is never having to translate anything I say when I am with my girlfriends and emitting my truest self. #BlackGirlMagic is the smile I give the woman at the security desk every day when I wave my badge as everyone else scurries past her. #BlackGirlMagic is when she smiles right back.

#BlackGirlMagic is the dust that settles after you rise and rise again. #BlackGirlMagic is a tribe around you and a community behind you. #BlackGirlMagic is Sade’s By Your Side and Beyoncé’s Love on Top. #BlackGirlMagic is knowing that your sunshine is not quite the same, but every time that sun beats, she is beyond beautiful. #BlackGirlMagic is that oh-so-sweet feeling that dances inside of you when you see another black woman push past naysayers or climb above mountains or find lasting love. #BlackGirlMagic is not at all about being superhuman. It is about being as human as we can get, and knowing that maybe there is another black girl out there who gets us. Hears us. Feels us. Sees us for exactly who we are–flawed, troubled, hurt, stifled, confused, complicated, layered.

And magical.


On Her Own Terms, In Her Own Time

January 12, 2016

on her own terms post

Her heart is a rebel wrapped in a leather jacket. So she does not float along with the motions. The status quo smothers her because she never wanted the things this world dictated ever since she was a little girl with pig tails and a crinoline slip. She never feels those hunger pangs to be someone’s wife, the kind that seem to leave such a hollow pit in the center of other women’s stomachs. She wants the kind of love written outside of those lines. She is not wired quite like the rest.

Her fingertips bear the stories the world craves. And every time she sits down to write, she sprinkles a tiny bit of her soul onto the page. She leaves things a little better than how they were before she arrived. She fights to leave the world a little softer than it how it was before she was here. More heart. More laughter. More words that bleed truth. And some days that undertaking feels far too enormous and immense to wrap her arms and mind around. Some days she would rather rest than revolt. Some days she wishes she could fold her hands and plop them into her lap. Some days she wishes she could just smile and swim along with the current. But, she knows that the rumble inside of her would not relax. The vision entrusted to her would not vanish.

Her skin is a temple with stained glass windows from the past. She never quite learned how to disjoint her heart and her body, so every lover’s fingertips became tattoos. Some are inked on her thighs, others on the corner of her neck where he used to nuzzle his chin. There is one she can’t forget etched on the small of her back. She is the sum of many complicated parts and unfinished stories.

Her voice is a hurricane with record high winds. It booms and bellows and roars. It is the kind of voice that sends men running if they only started the day expecting an afternoon drizzle. Her words huff and puff and blow the whole house down. She is a storm you won’t soon forget.

Her mind is a bolt of lightning and her spirit is the last wave before the tsunami. She is hard and soft, dark and light, gentle at her core, but jagged around her edges. Serious, serene, and silly, all in one breath. You can’t figure her out. You can’t stick a label on her or add her to just one column. She is some wild and rare blend of John Legend’s Maxine, Michael Jackson’s Bille Jean and that woman who left her shoes in Maxwell’s urban hang suite.

All she wants to do is speed down the highway in a world of brake lights and stop signs. All she wants to do is toss the umbrella and two step in the rain. And with everything she creates, with every ray of light she emits, she has to do it on her own terms and in her own time. She has to do it in her own way.