Velvet and Leather: The 28th Birthday Post

 

There is something magical about the way women can morph and expand, retract and reinvent. It’s a different sort of evolution than that of men. Because there is something unique and exquisite that happens to a woman’s insides when she falls in love or witnesses her heart shatter, gives birth or confronts death, reaches ground zero or rises to Mount Rushmore.

Most of the women you know have had one million lives in a single lifetime. They have danced at their weddings. They have fallen for the wrong men. They have won big and lost hard. They have started over. They have buried their husbands. Sometimes they buried their babies. They have walked away from six-figure salaries and started businesses. They have recovered and they have prevailed. Yes, there is something so magical about the way women move through this world. The way their feet touch the floor. The way their hearts float outside of their bodies.

It is only now as you’re on the cusp of your thirties that you have started stepping into your own magic. Morphing. Expanding. Retracting. Reinventing. It is only now as you’re on the cusp of your thirties that you identify first and foremost with being a black woman, an identity that’s dripping in equal parts splendor and struggle.

You have been so many different women during these past eight years. You’ve been a machine. A crop-top-wearing, soul-baring feminist. A hermit. A voyager across a tightrope without a net. A shrill voice on the Internet. A bundle of insecurities. A wild child. A fledgling. A fireball. A girl dying to be loved. A woman ready to be loved. A human being unsure of how to be loved. A terrible person. A good person. A halfway decent person. You have been one man’s sins and another man’s sunrise. A wino. A wannabe. And a writer, through and through.

Traces of each of these women are still somewhere inside of you, particles that compose the atoms of whomever you will become. Even now as you write this post, you feel rumblings of the woman you were in your early twenties beating ever so softly in the middle of your chest. You can’t always quell her as much as you crave. Sometimes you are just as bewildered and lovelorn as that girl you were at 23, bewitched from the ghosts of lovers gone by.

And yet, there are a multitude of differences between that woman and the one now staring at the sunset of her twenties. You think much more now about who you want to be and how you want to show up in the world. Bold intention has replaced blind ambition. You blog less because you cradle your words more. You don’t say the things you do not mean, let alone give voice to them on the Internet. You no longer yearn to be funny or cool or aloof. Instead, you want to be poetic and warm and affected. You consider the tapestry of both good and bad karma you’ve knitted for yourself over the years, so you try harder to do right by people. You try even harder to do right by yourself. Most days, you manage to get through and keep your soul in tact. Some days, you still blow everything up and watch it burn to ash.

You still love deeply. You still cry hard. You still screw up. You still want things and experiences that feel out of range. You still wonder when it will all make any sort of sense. You still wear your tough exterior with battle scars hiding underneath.

But, nowadays, you are both velvet and leather, a woman who has decided her softness and severity are allowed to coexist. You’ve relinquished that gnawing desire to be just one person or trot along just one path. You are beginning to understand the richness of being a mosaic. You lust after a life with countless textures.

I hope you will read this a year or ten from now, and rest assured knowing that this was only the first line of your life’s love ballad. I hope you will read this and realize just how much you were already well on your way. I hope you will read this and know that there is beauty on the other side of battle.  I hope you will read this and be that much closer to both the things that seem so near and those that still feel beyond your reach.

Happy 28th Birthday.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Arms Outstretched

I almost pass her by. I am on my way back from lunch scurrying up Wilson Blvd. as a pool of sweat begins to form in my cleavage. It is not until I’m right up on her that she catches my periphery. I do not read her sign. But, something about her posture punches me in the gut. She is not making eye contact with anyone. She is not asking for money. Instead, she is crouched low to the ground with her head bowed and her arms outstretched.

My mind instantly recalls the $10 dollar bill my coworker handed me less than an hour before so I could also grab her lunch. I remember how that bill is still balled up in my wallet because I paid for everything on my card, assuming the $10 dollar bill would be an unexpected treat I’d forget about and find in my wallet a few days later. But, there is something about her. There is something about this black woman who is crouched low to the ground with her head bowed and her arms outstretched that compels me to unzip my wallet.

I’d love to say this is something I do often. I’d love to tell you that I always find my heartstrings being yanked on as I pass paupers on metropolitan streets. But, I am not always a good human being or even a decent one. I, like so many others, can grow numb to the way the world chews people up and spits them up.

But, today, the emotional Novocaine wore off. And I saw this black woman who suddenly didn’t seem or feel or look so far away from me. I saw her more than likely praying to the same God who I’ve been trying to find my way back to as of late. I saw her on a sunny Friday afternoon fighting to live and smile and survive in a world that decided it would be fine to bypass her or, at best, keep her in its periphery.

Our eyes lock when I hand her the bill. And something about the way her voice bounces one note higher when she said “Bless your heart, sis” leaves me in tears both times I reminisce on the exchange.

I want to make some resounding statement about black women, but the truth is the way an encounter like that brings me to my knees is still brand new. I am still making sense of the way my passion for black women bubbles over. I am still finding outlets for anger that swells when I witness the inequities we experience. I am still figuring out how to keep my feet on solid ground when it seems as though the world just keeps spinning.

But, all I can do is fight to keep my heart wide open and my arms outstretched.

The Girl On Her Knees: An Undefining Moment [By Roconia Price]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

The series rounds out today with Roconia Price.

Roconia is the quiet storm. When we first got together for a dinner at Founding Farmers in 2015, she spent a good fraction of the time just listening to me chat about everything and nothing. It wasn’t until the end of dinner when she peeled open a notebook to reveal a host of ideas for her upcoming event, each concept bubbling over with her signature sense of thoughtfulness and brilliance. Roconia’s creative genius often times speaks for itself; it doesn’t require pretense or pomp and circumstance. You don’t always see it coming, but when it does, it whips, roars and downpours. I’m so excited to close out the transformation and Turning Tides series with her piece, “The Girl On Her Knees: An Undefining Moment.” 


I can see you now. Telling the woman beneath you that your nana was Chippewa and that “Roconia” is Ojibwe for “honor.” I can see you tracing her lips with your thumb, telling her that’s why the word was inked on your left pec. Kissing her. For your nana. Kissing her. For honor.

Maybe you wouldn’t think twice about that day, your narrative feeling so natural it could replace the truth. Or maybe you would, diving deep into her neck to chase away that image of me before you on my knees, imploring you not to tattoo my name on your heart.

I might have been 20 then, maybe 21. I had only come back to haunt you. To give you just enough of me that you might thirst for more. To keep you close, clinging to the idea of my forgiveness so I could sting you like a scorpion, over and over again. I sat before you on my knees, giving you elevation over my eyes, but never again over my heart. I blinked calmly, coldly, as your declaration of love passed through me like air.

“Don’t,” I said.

I told you that day that your actions would not be reciprocated. That ink is not the AED for defiled trust, that it can’t undo disappointment, that under no circumstances would your name be permanently endorsed on my skin. You took it like a wounded soldier, valiantly limping to your next resolution. You didn’t care, you said. I could do what I wanted. But you would get that tattoo. And you’d tell anyone who asked that Roconia was your first love, that Roconia would always be the name in, and above, your heart.  

But I can see you now, using that same synthetic sincerity to reel in a new catch, spewing that guff about your Native grandma. And your lady would lap it up, believing that when she traced the writing on your chest, she was coming in contact with your honor.

I’ve tied a piece of my transformation to that moment on my knees. It was an undefining moment for me. One that had no direct correlation to the growth I’ve experienced since then, but one that still flares up when I think of the woman on the brink of a new me. There wasn’t any revelation that day. My heart and mind still tripped over each other like two left feet. After I refused your tattoo I fell back into your arms and we rocked to our own played out rhythm all afternoon.

This is me admitting to myself, to God, to the internet, that in some ways, I have not grown much since then. I can still be Petty Price, laughing at the woman you cheated on me with, and the baby that surprised us both. Letting you access me on social media so you can eat your heart out, tattoo and all. But in other ways I’ve matured like a 1994 Bordeaux. I only give the kindness and forgiveness I want to receive, and never say it’s okay when I truly don’t mean it.  No longer hold anyone close with the hope of getting the knife in a little deeper.

My life seems to be a series of these undefining moments and I’ve named them like art in my autobiographical  gallery.  The Girl on Her Knees; The Girl in the Basement; The Girl at the Book Fair; The Girl in the Principal’s Office; The Cool Girl; The Girl in the Law Office; The Girl in Church; and my latest, The Woman.

I want to believe that as I grow I become all around better. But I’m more like the silt at the bed of a river, being sifted and settled in an array of areas by the undetected tides of time. I am not a better woman today, just a different one. And the tides keep turning.

Roconia Price is a storyteller and creative spirit, running on sunlight and sisterhood. She writes at eversoroco.com. She is very tall.

When You’re Tired Of Who You’ve Been [By Ashley Coleman]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

Next up is Ashley Coleman.

Ashley is the mover and shaker. Whether she’s penning books, hosting workshops or standing at the helm of Permission to Write, her boundless energy never ceases to amaze me. It’s no surprise that she was the first person to send her guest post in for this series! But, aside from her unwavering discipline, Ashley intimately understands the DNA of her dreams. She is unafraid to take risks, innovate, improvise and do what’s necessary to translate her aspirations into action. I’m beyond inspired by her hustle, and I’m grateful for all the ways she roots for me and encourages me to push forward. I hope you enjoy her piece “When You’re Tired Of Who You’ve Been.”


It’s getting harder to remember who I was in my twenties. The things that I did, the jobs that I worked, the people I was around are all vivid. But the mindset evades me.

I think I’ve become so enveloped in who I want to be that the memories of who I was seem to be fading. All things become new right? But I try. I try to pull her up. I try to look back through those eyes. The girl who spewed anti-religious rhetoric before she knew who God was for real. The one who wasn’t sure she would ever love anyone the way she loved him. The budding songwriter. She’s peculiar to me now.

I see my higher self. Almost like she’s trapped and if I keep banging hard enough eventually the glass will shatter. I have laid myself on the altar because trying to do it all on my own has just left me tired and frustrated. I am learning the depth of what it means to be easy. Of what it means to be scarily focused yet extremely flexible all at the same time. I am learning what it means to have peace. Real, from the inside peace that is not easily shaken by outside stimuli.

I don’t want to be who I’ve been.

Ambitious yet doubting in my spirit because it’s just not moving fast enough. Wanting more money to have options but being afraid of who that makes me. Being grateful but wanting more. Wanting to send the card on time and be thoughtful, but constantly missing the mark.

The constant warring is unhealthy and to take a note from Nayyirah Waheed, “all the women in me are tired.”

I read the other day in the Bible that I am light and that a house built on a hill can’t be hidden. But can I be honest and say that sometimes I do feel hidden? Sometimes I feel like there is this huge life on the inside of me that for some reason just can’t get out. Recently, I have felt like I am in the way. Like I am the obstacle and the barrier for that life to escape and if I just could move. If I could just change and it’s both encouraging and maddening all at the same time.

See, because if it’s just me that’s in the way, that’s the one thing that I can control. But there is a pruning that needs to take place. A refinement. I need to be ushered into my best and highest self, which is no easy feat.

So much of this life has been about chasing things. About materialism and achievements and accolades. But in this space, I realize how much of my life needs to be about chasing me. Making the best decisions for myself, believing in myself, letting go of the nagging voices that just try to tell me I’m not good enough. Or that make me take for granted all that I do have, all that I am.

There is no more time to play small. There is no more time to simply react to life instead of setting the tone. This is your life, what will you do with it, Ashley? This is what I have asked myself on multiple occasions.

I can’t afford to wait for the tide to turn, I’m turning it.

I don’t want to exist in a life that feels stuck and unresolved and full of maybe ifs. I don’t want to exist in a life where I am plagued by the memories of good times instead of creating new ones. I will live assured, fulfilled, and with unmatched confidence.

The reality is I am not who I’ve been. Who I was would not even be able to see this clearly. I’m wedged in between who I was and the woman that I want to be, and I see her so clearly. I am the bud on the brink of blooming.

“I’m in charge,” to be read like Taryn Manning in Hustle & Flow. I am in charge of the transformation. I am at the helm of the ship. My thinking, my mind. That’s where it starts. The steering. Our lives will go in the direction of our thoughts. What have you been thinking?

I know for me, it has not been that I am fully capable and worthy of every great thing. But it is changing. It is morphing. It is transforming.

The girl in my twenties, I am okay with letting her go and realizing that the journey I am on may leave me unrecognizable on the other side.

Ashley Coleman is a writer and entrepreneur based in Philadelphia. The cultivator of the online space WriteLaughDream.com, she writes about life, love, and pursuing goals as a writer. She splits her work between helping other writers develop their voice and writing habits through one-on-one sessions, courses, and workshops and her own work in books like “Dear Love” and “Love on Purpose.” Ashley has been a guest lecturer at Temple University and a guest speaker at Blogalicious 8 in Atlanta. Her work has been published in GRAMMY.com, Essence.com, JUMP Magazine and more. 

Reflection [by GG Renee Hill]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

First up is GG Renee Hill. 

GG is the lighthouse. Over the past five years, I’ve watched her emit the sort of glow that helps so many others, including myself, find their way back safely to shore. There is a grace about her that I have long admired. I always feel  like I’m getting access to some sacred and rare gift every few months when we get together in a nondescript coffee shop and catch up. There are few people in this world who understand you deeply and without explanation. For me, GG has grown to be one of those people. I’m thrilled to kick off the Transformation and Turning Tides guest post series with GG. Here’s her story Reflection. 

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He figured me out too quickly. He got me laughing and feeling comfortable, making me want him before I really knew him. I knew that he loved my hair messy and my face with no makeup. I knew that he was young and unpredictable and I was drawn to him. His lips, his hands, even his crazy felt like home. He took me to meet his family. He learned the weird language I spoke with my friends and he spoke it fluently. He was attentive then aloof then attentive then aloof. That was how he hypnotized me. I was convinced his attention could heal me and the withdrawal was worth the high. I couldn’t say no to him. I couldn’t explain myself. All I could do was come when he called.

Being loyal to a lying man means ignoring your heartbeat, silencing your voice and diminishing your spirit. Pretending you don’t want all of him so you can be content with what you get. It means that fighting becomes foreplay because the thin line between love and hate keeps moving. You stop seeing clearly and the difference between real and fake gets blurry. You find yourself trapped inside a bleak and repetitive story.

Twisted Love. That’s what I called our story. The good girl and the bad guy. He didn’t want to be with me, but he didn’t want me to be with anyone else. He would go away but wouldn’t stay away. I said we were done but never meant it. We carried on like we had no choice. Break-up sex, make-up sex, i-love-you sex, i-hate-you sex. I was endlessly patient, thinking that if I were worth it, he would change for me. But he didn’t change. So I decided I wasn’t worth it.

We get so used to feeding lack to ourselves that we begin to hunger for it, looking for ways to satisfy the craving and stay full with its emptiness. It’s a heavy, manipulative, clingy thing. It’ll have you believing that you are damaged, unlovable, unfavored and out of options and you don’t have the capacity to change.

Our twisted love story was a reflection of my life. Afraid of not being enough and afraid of being too much, I tried to fit in. My neediness disfigured me and I couldn’t see the shape of who I was made to be. I didn’t dare to dream of more. Living like this makes you weary. The words you don’t say. The pain you smile through. The dreams you suppress. The disconnection I felt kept my mind occupied for long periods of time. But it taught me what I didn’t want to do and who I couldn’t bear to be. I couldn’t go through life playing a role anymore. All the lies I told myself were making my life feel so frail, like it could fall apart any second. I knew from experience that lies pile up and attract more lies, but I learned that truth multiplies too.

Once you open the floodgates and start admitting real things to yourself, the truth starts to overflow from your heart, then it takes over your mind and starts pouring out of your mouth. Truth moves things around and makes things fall down and rise up. When you start telling the truth, your life changes.

My truth made he and I feel like strangers. He seemed incapable of being vulnerable with me. I thought that maybe, just maybe, we could have an enlightened conversation and move on with positive vibes between us. But there were places in his heart he kept closed and I was not willing to pry him open. The twisted love story was finally ending. But something remained. A pulse lingered that I ignored for months. He must have felt it too because one night he asked if he could come over and sleep on the floor next to my bed, something he used to do when I was mad at him. It was as if no time had passed. I was still hungry for his attention so I said yes.

From the floor, with a soft voice I’d never heard before, he said that I cry more than anyone he has ever known and it confuses him. Sad smiles, happy tears and everything in between– he said my up and down feelings make him dizzy. He said when I’m low, I pull him down, and when I’m high, he can’t reach me. To him, it seems that I walk through life looking for reasons to feel wounded. He apologized for running. He held me accountable for staying.

I sensed that he had more to say but he got quiet.

Some words float over your head. Some burn out before they can reach you. Some crash into you and leave a mark. His words created a clean slice that opened me. I didn’t think this man had an emotionally intelligent bone in his body, but his words gave me a peek into what it’s like to be with me. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t explain why his words gave me hope and humbled me. All I could do was lay there and listen as he started talking again.

photo by TraciElaine Photography (@TraciElaine)

GG Renee Hill is an author, speaker and advocate for self-discovery through writing. A candid voice for mental health and self-care, GG writes about the joys and challenges of living an authentic life and being a fully expressed woman. This passage is an excerpt from her upcoming book, Underneath.