#FBOMBSEvent: A Conversation With Erica Nichole About Fearlessness

In addition to being my writing soulmate, Erica Nichole of EverythingEnJ will facilitate the discussion about fearlessness at “FBOMBS: Feminism, Failure and Fearlessness” on Oct. 25. In this Q&A, Erica discusses the role fearlessness has played in her own life and writing.

The overall objective of FBOMBS is to bring women together and create a space for them to share their voices. Tell us more about your “What Binds Us Together” series and how that has created space for women’s stories. 
What Binds Us Together: Our Stories came about after hosting my first event of the same name with a slight variation back in August. I got fourteen of my closest friends and some new faces together to talk all things blogging and what happened exceeded my expectations. The women in attendance and I started discussing things that our audiences don’t usually get to read on our platforms and the overall feel of that event showed me that as women, we’re bound together by so much more than what we write on our blogs. It’s not that we don’t want to share these experiences with the world, it’s just that Internet can be such a scary place and feeling safe in sharing these stories that are necessary can often be difficult.

So I wanted to create What Binds Us Together in hopes these same women I was fortunate enough to dine with and know personally off of social media, would share these moments that others feel uncomfortable talking about, but have been through themselves. I opened up the series with my own story about abortion and I was so overwhelmed with the amount of feedback I received after posting it. I should be used to it by now, but it still amazes me how many people are going through these same situations, feeling these same emotions, and hiding these same truths. The series serves as a safe haven for women to candidly write about those moments that mold us, in hopes that other women know, despite our differences, we’re bound together by these experiences that would normally break us, but instead built us up.

You’ll be facilitating a discussion around fearlessness. How has fear propelled you? How has fear held you back?
I was recently asked the question at a mentoring event, what are your personal goals, to which I answered, to stop hesitating and just do and just be. For years, fear was the common denominator in why I kept missing out on opportunities because I felt like I wasn’t good enough or worthy of all of the doors that kept opening in front of me. Fear kept me in an unhealthy relationship, feeling like I didn’t deserve better. Fear kept me at a job I wasn’t happy at because I was unaware of how beautiful and powerful and crucial change is. Fear permeated my psyche in a sense and I grew comfortable in it, until I started lashing out on my children because of that job I outgrew, until I went to work with bruises on me because of that unhealthy relationship that I needed out of.

Fear made me look at myself in a different light. I didn’t know who I was after a while and I lost sight of my values so when I got tired of my situation and got sick of how I was treating myself, it was then that I saw the flip-side of fear. It drove me to test the unknown and I saw the positives in taking chances and how much we need to welcome risks in our lives. Leaving that unhealthy relationship, gave me a fresh start. Finding a new job, provided me with more. I didn’t know where I would be after I left both but just throwing my hands up and using the other f-bomb contributed to something bigger and better and I’m grateful for that.

How does fearlessness influence your writing?
Wow, well fearlessness definitely contributes the most to my style of writing. Fearlessness pushed me to blog about the things only my journal knew or the secrets I swore I would be buried with. I sort of equate it to freedom when I write – I feel liberated when telling these stories, if not while writing it, definitely after publishing it and it’s out in the world. I think embodying that sense of fearlessness makes the process of sharing some of those painful accounts a little easier and it has really helped other women open up and want to embrace that side of them as well. Being fearless in my writing serves as the catalyst in where I am with my work today.

Arianna Huffington has said that being fearless doesn’t mean living a life that’s completely without fear, but living a life in which we don’t let our fears stop us from pursing our dreams. What are some ways you’ve learned to master your own fear?
Great question and great point from Arianna. Well, I wouldn’t say I’ve mastered it, but I would say that I’ve learned how to deal with it when that feeling arises by remembering the possibilities that were birthed from fear. A lot of my good fortune derived from those initial feelings of apprehension and simply not giving into them. I love that part of living a life in which we don’t let our fears stop us because that’s something I have to remind myself of everyday. I know firsthand what living in fear and letting it consume you will do to you. I’ve gotten to that point of feeling confident in who I am and what I do and it’s not about arrogance, but I have to continually tell myself, no one can stop me, except me. I don’t give fear that power over my decisions and my life anymore.

The other two discussions taking place at FBOMBS are about feminism and failure. How, if at all, does fearlessness intersect with those two topics?
Today there is no “set example” of who is a feminist and yet, there are millions of women who identify as such for varying reasons and I believe there’s that feeling of fearlessness rooted in that. We saw it when Beyoncé stood in front of a screen with the word while wearing a bejeweled bodysuit, knowing that people would be pissed about that, knowing that there would be thousands of think pieces about her using that f-word again. She stood there confidently and that was bold. That was badass. That moment was an evident sign of ***fearlessness while flawless and I think that more people, especially women against feminism, should be accepting of those who are audacious enough to debunk the myth that feminism equates to “eff” men and are fighting to rewrite what the world believes it to be. We don’t have enough daring people in this world, let’s applaud those who are. Let’s applaud the Lena Dunham’s, the Emma Watson’s, the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, the Audre Lorde’s and their journey in fighting for gender equality even with backlash.

Being fearful can lead to failure. Being fearless can also lead to failure, but it’s in being fearless that you’re able to deal with not achieving something a little easier. I think when you’ve encompassed that sense of courageousness, it’s not as hard to get back up and get back on track. You got this drive, this fortitude in you to keep on going regardless of how many times you know you’ll mess up because of that passion in you to fight for what you want. So are failure and fearlessness intertwined in a sense? Absolutely.

What can attendees expect from you at FBOMBS?
Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m an open book so expect the same times ten, in person. Attendees can expect 25 minutes of a personal story that revolves around my relationship with fearlessness, questions directed at them to consider and reflect on their own lives and that classic feeling of “girl-talk” in an intimate setting. We’re going to talk about stepping it up after you’ve been setback, we’re going to touch on the notion that being confident in what you do makes you a bitch and we’re definitely going to discuss how we need to be unapologetic about the fearlessness that we all possess.

What do you hope to take away from the event as a facilitator?
This will by my first time facilitating a discussion of this capacity and so I know I’ll learn and grow from this experience. In sharing my own story, I hope that I can spark something in an attendee to live a life of fearlessness of her own. I’m bringing an each one, teach one attitude with me to D.C.

The event will close with a panel discussing, “The Final F: Fallouts and Forgiveness.” How have you learned to forgive? 
Forgiveness is something that I have embraced and found the true definition of this year so it’s great that as 2014 comes to an end, the event closes with this topic. My biggest fallout was actually with my mother and I mustered up the strength to write a piece this past Mother’s Day called Finding Forgiveness. The liberating part of that post was letting her know that I forgive her because I forgave myself and it was something that I needed to do for me. I found holding on to hurtful memories and ill feelings doesn’t do us as the individual any good, so it’s in learning how to forgive that we find ourselves freed from those experiences and finally at a peace.

Erica Nichole photo for FBOMBS
Erica Nichole is an Afro-Latina from NYC, a mother of two, and the sole writer behind her blog, Everything EnJ, a Best Personal Blog nominee for the 2014 Black Weblog Awards. Known for writing the nitty-gritty and keeping the art of storytelling alive, Erica uses her platform to document both the highs and lows of her life, while the blog also showcases the untold stories of various women for the What Binds Us Together: Our Stories series. She serves as a main writer for From A Wildflower and proudly exemplifies fearlessness with a glass of wine in her hand. Find her on Twitter @KaeNdKamsMom / @everythingEnJ.
F Bombs SM Piece FINAL
FBOMBS: Feminism, Failure and Fearlessness is a roundtable discussion and networking event that will invite women to share their stories, opinions and truth. The event will take place Saturday, Oct. 25 from 3:30-6:30 p.m. at THEARC DC. Purchase your tickets here.

Decide What People Will And Will Not Speak Into Your Life.

I’m going to tell you a few things you probably already know. In 2013, Beyoncé’s eponymous album sold 430,000 digital copies within 24 hours. On December 16, Apple announced that Beyoncé was the fastest selling album in the history of the iTunes store. As of a few weeks ago, Beyoncé has sold more than 2 million albums and been declared double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Now I’m going to tell you something you may not know. Because, I did not know this until a friend brought it to my attention a few weeks ago.

In 2003, former New York Times journalist Kelefa Sanneh reviewed Beyoncé’s debut album “Dangerously In Love” under the headline: “The Solo Beyoncé: She’s No Ashanti.”

Sanneh’s review said that, “If Beyoncé has a mirror-image rival, it’s Ashanti.” I dropped $130 dollars on a ticket to Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s “On The Run” tour this summer. The last I saw Ashanti, she was doing a quick show on Good Morning America, belting out a song that has not yet seen the light of an airwave’s day.

Mirror-image rival.

The most holy shit moment in the piece is when Sanneh writes:

“Maybe this album is merely a misstep, and maybe Beyoncé has yet to record the brilliant solo album that people expected. Or maybe it’s proof that she isn’t quite as versatile as she seemed. She’s a strong and independent singer, no doubt, but maybe she seems strongest and most independent when she’s got a posse behind her.”

In that assumption, the former is clearly more accurate than the later. In 2003, Beyoncé had not yet recorded the brilliant solo album people expected. But, by 2013, Beyoncé was recording brilliant solo albums that people could not even begin to expect. By 2013, Beyoncé was single-handedly changing the way albums were unveiled, demanding that album releases remain hallmarks in a music artist’s history. By 2013, no one was thinking about Beyoncé’s posse and whether or not she needed them behind her. Destiny’s Who?

This is not another Beyoncé think piece. But, when I poured through that 2003 NYT review a few Fridays ago while waiting for my sister at dinner, I just thought “What if Beyoncé read that review and stopped there? What if she took these words to heart and truly believed that she could not be as strong or independent without a posse behind her? What would that mean for her, for music, for entertainment?” I read that piece and immediately realized everyone in life has their version of a Kelefa Sanneh.

I don’t write any of this to discredit Kelefa Sanneh’s journalistic prowess. After all, reviews are reviews. We can only write the present, not the future. In 2003, Kelefa Sanneh wrote what he knew. But, I’m a writer, and, you know…metaphors. We like them. Even Kelefa Sanneh has some Kelefa Sannehs in his life.

The Kelefa Sanneh in your life is that person who tries to short-circuit your future. It’s the person who tries to speak something into existence without the full understanding of your vision. It’s the naysayer. The cynic. The non-believer. The person who just can’t see it. The person who knew you way back when and tries to use that knowledge of your former self against you. The person who scoffs that you’ve become “brand new”. The person who wants to pull you back down into the mud with them. The person who can’t stomach that your world is bursting and bright and full of promise.

Who is your Kelefa Sanneh?

Every day, people speak things into our existence. It’s our choice what stays and what goes. When people say, “One day when you hit it big…” I let that stay. When people tell me I’m a naive fuck, I let that go. When people say they’re proud of me, I let that stay. When people say I’ll never feasibly make a living from writing, I let that go. When people say, “I can’t wait to read your book,” I let that stay. When people smile patronizingly if I mention that I have a blog, I let that go. When people say my words pushed them to keep writing, I let that stay. When people say writing about feminism isn’t original, I let that go.

I’ve learned I have to deliberately decide what stays and goes. Because what goes is often what’s most memorable and what stays is often what I want to laugh off. What stays is often times what I want to retreat from, my knee-jerk response being a self-deprecating comment as I cower away from stepping into my own strength. I’ve learned that deciding what energy stays and goes often times means deciding who stays and who goes. Positive people and positive vibes are rarely independent of one another. It’s hard to keep assholes around hoping they will wish you well. I’ve learned that I can’t let the words of my Kelefa Sannehs drive or wreck my journey. Barns don’t get to determine how high skyscrapers can rise. And, I’m the Rockefeller Center in this bitch.

So, I’ll ask again: Who is your Kelefa Sanneh?