Quit looking for excuses. Stop looking for an out, a reason to cancel, a watered down way of telling him that you don’t usually make it this far with anyone and you’re starting to get nervous. See, you are a master at building up walls and ducking behind bricks. But, not tonight. Tonight is not about building one more wall nor ducking behind one more brick. Tonight is not about throwing banter across your Twitter timeline during the latest episode of Love and Hip Hop Hollywood. You can catch the show on demand; if there’s anything 2016 has taught you it’s that true and lasting experiences happen outside of the comfort zone you’ve built in apartment 404.
When you wake up in the middle of the night approximately 16 hours before the open mic starts, stand firm in your decision to go to Busboys and Poets. Surrender the opportunity to go to yet another forgettable bar with overpriced drinks. Invite him to your turf. Show him how you soak up the world, how you “Yasss” and “Mmmm” at the lines that tug on you. Show him your idea of a good time and let go of all that trying-to-be-cool shit.
Toss all of the clothes around your room an hour before you head out as the cat watches you with her eyes half-shut. Try on four crop tops and decide you are way too bloated. Flip Mother Nature the bird. Throw on a pair of boyfriend jeans and a tank top that says “Don’t be basic.” Feel absolutely and utterly basic in a shirt instructing you not to be basic. Settle on your favorite black pants, a tank top, and your denim jacket. Throw on your fedora for good measure.
Step outside. Catch your breath. Graze your fingers across the brick wall when you stride down the sidewalk. Leave all of the nerves upstairs where they belong, sprinkled among the dresses and jeans you didn’t hang back up.
Blast the music on your way there, Joe Budden’s Touch & Go. Roll the windows down. Soak up one of the last summer sixteen nights.
Order the French fries. Forego the alcohol.
Do not glance over at him when the featured poet says “You’ve got lips and I’ve got lips…” Instead feel the temperature between you two rise 4.5 degrees. Then blink back tears when she says the line that stings and sucker punches you all at once: “We haven’t done all this surviving not to dance.”
You, my dear, have certainly not done all this surviving over the past few years not to at least tango a few times with him. If nothing else, you deserve this dance. You and your skeletons, your shadows, and your sins all deserve this dance.
So, let it feel good. Let it pick you up, twirl you around, and take you wherever you are meant to be. That narrative of resistance no longer serves you. There is not anything resilient or beautiful about a heart that stays tucked away in its cage.
Relinquish the grip you’ve had on that heart. Understand that when the Universe brings a certain alchemy of human connection into your life, it’s no longer your choice whether the guard stays up or not. The guard will crash and crumble; bid it adieu while you watch it burn in the blaze of every time you said love doesn’t live here anymore.
And when your fingers sting with the temptation to write about this unexpected unraveling of experiences, let them. Censorship and shields aren’t what make you a writer. People will try to piece you and the details of your life together whether you give them permission to or not, so write what you feel and say what you mean and do as you please. Let your fingers yield the stories your heart never knew it was ready to tell.
I like to burn buildings before the blueprint’s even finished. A friend of mine tells me that I “kill shit before it’s even had a chance to breathe.” And by shit he means the prospect of romantic love. He means mild flirtations and swelling possibilities and school girl crushes and pitter patters of the heart. I like to cradle these fledglings of love in my hand and then crush them before they reach adolescence.
I don’t trust men’s emotions just as much as I don’t trust my own. I don’t trust the woman I melt and mold myself into when someone captures my attention and I cling on for dear life. I don’t trust the woman I become when that all or nothing side of me very quickly snaps into “all.” She is such a diluted and second-rate version of the woman I’m trying to be. She makes me roll my eyes and suck my teeth. That woman gets imprisoned in her own fragility and becomes a puppet to someone else’s evanescence. She makes lifelines out of mixed signs and laughs at jokes that aren’t funny. She bites her tongue for fear of seeming too brash. Too insecure. Too boisterous. Too much.
She is why I burn buildings before the blueprint is finished. She is why my mind does not weigh any of the possibilities, but instead demolishes them all. One by one. I sit behind the wheel of a bulldozer, shift the gear into drive, and wreck all of the promises love wants to let blossom.
That woman I melt and mold myself into is why I have a litany of jokes bundled in my back pocket about how I will be single forever with 40 cats or how “You know I always crush on one artsy guy every year and it doesn’t go anywhere; it’s just par for the course.” She is why I brush off my sister when the potential of me with someone else dances off her tongue in dead seriousness. This woman is the reason why swelling romantic possibilities always only seem to suffocate me. So, instead, I shrink myself into a ball of cynicism and declare that things won’t ever work. I’m being silly. He “definitely does not like me like that.” Because there is some sort of sweet and sick satisfaction in letting my skepticism call the shots.
See, it’s not the men who frighten me. It’s the woman I’ve witnessed myself become when I’m with them.
But, maybe I am only fooling myself. Because that woman, flooded by her own insecurities, is still present. She is the punchline in my cynical jokes and the period in my doubtful declarations. That woman has only undressed herself, replacing her former veil of hypersensitivity with an armor of sarcasm and suspicion. But, that woman is still very much here–unsure of how to love and even more unsure of who to love in this new courageous, confident, and purpose-centric skin she’s in. She is afraid that she’ll mess it all up and fight to bounce back. She is afraid it will become 2010 all over again, and she will sob when a man berates her and walks out the door with his suitcase behind him. That woman is still somewhere inside of me, scared to death to let it all go and trust someone wholly to hold her heart.
This post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Ready to do this thing? Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril.
You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love & affection. ~Buddha
You can Google self-love and find a wealth of quotes. But loving yourself is a concept that takes years, guts, and next-level courage to truly harness in everyday life. There are two women leading the charge when it comes to empowering other women to love themselves, accept their flaws, and bask bravely in their true selves. Those two women are Roconia, founder of Moredinary, and Yetti, founder of Certified 10. In a few weeks, the pair will team up for their first joint event, Think This Way, a workshop that will equip women with ways to reshape negative thoughts and transform them into something much more positive. In this Q&A, they each discuss what sparked them to create their organizations, what they hope attendees get out of Think This Way, and why it’s so important for women to come together in person for these sorts of events.
1) Tell us a little bit about your own self-love journey.
Roconia: I wouldn’t exactly call it a self-love journey. 1. Because I don’t really use that term and 2. because I didn’t wake up one day and decide to embark on any kind of journey. But in recent years I kind of realized I was alive and decided I should treat myself as such.
Yetti: Well it’s pretty short, and a tad a bit cliché. I learned to berate myself at a fairly young age. Berating turned into self-mutilation. Self-mutilation turned into a stint at the hospital, and after realizing that years of being shitty to myself wasn’t working out so well, I figured I’d try something new. I’ve been experimenting with this self-love thing ever since.
2) What sparked you to create Certified 10 and Moredinary?
Roconia: In a way both you and Yetti helped spark the beginning of Moredinary. Moredinary is something that I’ve always wanted to do, I just didn’t have the words to describe it because it wasn’t an occupation I could find in a career handbook. With Moredinary, I get to utilize every single one of my best skills from writing to event planning to creativity to building genuine connections. I’d say the idea for Moredinary was officially sparked at your event last spring, Mimosas & Men. With the help of Yetti, and her passing all of her Mimosas to me, I’d officially decided, then and there, that I was going to get started on my organization. I’ve been in a frenzy ever since.
Yetti: February 16, 2016. I didn’t want another woman to feel as lost, or as sad, or as empty as I did that day. I didn’t want this to be something my little sister ever felt. We learn how to add and subtract in school, but we’re not taught to take care of our self-esteem, or our mental health. We go to doctor offices or the hospital when we are physically wounded, but what about the wounds you can’t see?
That’s pretty much it. That’s why I created Certified 10. To fill a void the world refuses to acknowledge.
3) Roconia, Moredinary envisions a world where every woman is exactly who she wants to be–mentally, physically, and professionally. What do you think that will look like for our society and what is the top way women can get to that state on a personal level?
I think it looks like women getting up every morning and putting on whatever they want–be it a bowtie, a skirt, a dress, or pants–and going about their day without regard to societal norms and the pressure they place on women to be a certain way.
On a personal level, I think it starts with belief. If a woman believes she can, God help the (wo)man who stands in her way.
3) Yetti–Part of the Certified 10 vision is for every woman to celebrate, own, and love her individuality. Of those three actions (celebrate, own, and love), which do you feel is the most difficult to do and why?
Oh, boy. They’re all hard to do because they all pretty much go hand in hand. To love yourself, and I mean to truly love yourself, it also mean you own and accept bits and pieces of yourself that others do not understand, that society has taught you to hate, or that you have neglected for whatever reason. Owning what you bring to the table and what you are worth means you celebrate your existence and things about you that are different, or stick out like a sore thumb. It’s you practicing self-care, which brings you right back to loving yourself because that is the ultimate way to self-care. They all go together, and are all very much difficult to do, but not because they’re daunting tasks, but because if you fail at one, you will eventually fail at them all.
4) Why is it important to move beyond the online world and host live events for women?
Roconia: There’s a certain connection that you can only get in person. You can’t feel the electricity in a room through Google Hangout.
Yetti: Because everything is better in person, let’s be honest here. Writing about it doesn’t have the same impact as watching someone be about it. Not to mention with the live events Certified 10 and Moredinary put together, one of our major goals is to foster a community women feel comfortable in. I think it was you who actually said it best in a “snail mail” letter, that you appreciated the intimate setting of the first Back 2 Basics event. You can’t create that kind of setting on the Internet. You just can’t.
5) What do you hope attendees gain from Think This Way?
Roconia: I hope that women gain a new appreciation for their thought life. I hope they find the activities that we do at Think This Way to be applicable in their everyday lives. And I really hope they gain a new friend. I know some amazing women coming to the event.
Yetti: Honestly, I hope we can help them see the beauty and the benefits in a positive mind. After this event, I want our attendees to feel absolutely in the wrong when they have a negative thought about themselves. I want that thought to feel uncomfortable. I want them to continue questioning negative thinking and then correct it. Out with the self-deprecating, in with the celebrating. I’m also hoping they leave feeling like they have a close-knit community they can always count on.
Roconia: I see Think This Way building on women’s betterment in one of the most important areas of their lives: their minds. I think this will help women get on their way to being as Moredinary as possible.
Yetti: I never really thought about it, but I do hope this won’t be last time we see these beautiful women. Like mentioned before, we’re a community. I hope they see this and come back for more.
Yetti, of yettisays.com, provides the average twenty-something-year old with the uncensored truth sometimes served with a side of wit, sarcasm, and a few curse words. She’s also founder of Certified 10, the organization and movement teaching women to fall madly and deeply in love with themselves. Twitter |@yettisays + @thecertified10 Roconia \ruhCONNuh\ (n.) a beautiful balance between blessed and broken. Founder of Moredinary. Creator of Ever So Roco. Storyteller. Revolutionary. Twitter:@eversoroco Website: Ever So Roco
Love what you’ve read from these ladies today? Enter below to win a free ticket to the Think This Way event taking place on Saturday, March 19 at noon in DC!
And, don’t forget to chime in during the Think This Way Twitter chat tomorrow, March 2, at 9 p.m. EST using the hashtag #ThinkThisWay.
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.
You were in rare form that night. And for two minutes and 37 seconds, I saw you.
See, I’ve seen you at least four dozen times. Crawled under your comforter. Used my fingertips as brushes and painted broad strokes on your back. Asked you the best way to negotiate a salary. Sat on your couch and watched YouTube videos. Mixed jack with ginger and benefits with friendship. Wished you a Happy Birthday and texted you Merry Christmas.
Oh, I have seen you. And up until that moment, I always just assumed I knew you. Because isn’t that how it works? We know people for years, so we must know them. We laugh with them and drink with them and call them up for advice. We start to equate years with knowledge. We start to connect dots of familiarity with other dots of assumption until we decide that we’ve completed the sketch.
Except I didn’t know you. I did not know you until we stood there in the wee hours of the morning, clothed in a lack of inhibition and not much else. I didn’t know you until those two minutes and 37 seconds when you looked at me and clawed your guard down. Told me your story. Revealed your humanity. Undressed your masculinity. Unveiled your scars.
I did not know you until then. All these years and I did not know you until then.
I want another two minutes and 37 seconds. And another. And another. See, I think I could want a lifetime of two minutes and 37 seconds. I want more stories we never told blended with sins we always commit. Maybe that’s what I never knew–that I wanted more. Maybe that’s what’s been hiding underneath my layers for all these years. You clawed your guard down. So here I am, clawing mine down too. Except I am the cowardly lion, roaring my truth and knowing you’ll never hear it.
Something tells me that I will not get another two minutes and 37 seconds. These years will pass. Time and adulthood and sheer distance will pull us apart. I will fall in love or you will fall in love, but not with one another. We will move on. Things will change. We’ll outgrow the invincibility of our twenties. The hunger of our twenties. The we-fall-hard-and-pretend-we-don’t-give-a-fuck recklessness of our twenties.
But, for now, we have those two minutes and 37 seconds. I know I won’t forget them. I hope you don’t regret them.