Nayyirah Waheed, Karen Civil, and Hannah Brencher. If you were to ask whose Instagram accounts intoxicate me with that poisonous brew of admiration and envy, I would list those women for you, in no particular order. Those are the first names I’d offer when someone tells me comparison is the thief of joy and I have to fess up to why my spirit’s house has been ransacked.
There’s Nayyirah who never needs to adorn the words with anything, who has what so many female writers, self included, struggle to attain: esteem unattached to how she looks and reverence based entirely on her words. There’s Karen who I saw at St. Louis International Airport once as we were both on our way to the same speaking engagement. Her travel attire struck me as effortless and chic as she glided up to the gate, making me all too aware of the hole in my leggings and the pretzel crumbs in my lap. There’s Hannah who seems to thrive in a life I’ve only dreamed of, living off of her writing, teaching, and speaking. It’s the kind of life I relegated to an alley in my boulevard of broken dreams, the kind of life I somehow convinced myself I won’t ever have because of student loan debt and a fear of the unknown.
Nayyirah. Karen. Hannah. See, it’s easy to paint the story of my insecurities in broad strokes. It’s much more gut-punching to fill in the final details and tell you the names of the women whose Instagram accounts sometimes become land mines for my sense of self. It’s more gut-punching, but it’s also necessary. It’s necessary to reveal dark truths just as evenly as beautiful ones, to undress the most fragile parts of our humanity and face them head on.
It’s necessary to tell you that this year I’m treading water instead of competing in the 3M springboard competition. It’s necessary to tell you that I am starving for permanence, for something in my life that feels lasting and true, but no matter how much I attempt to enjoy the fruit of my labor, nothing ever seems to fill me quite enough. It’s necessary to tell you that I’ve never done well with silence, and right now there seems to be a blaring amount of it. It’s necessary to tell you that these days everything I want feels like a moving target, and I just can’t seem to position myself properly to fire.
Maybe it’s because this is the first year I stopped dressing my voids in designer brands of denial. It’s the first year I am not buying boom boxes of distraction. This year I am trying in earnest to let the silence speak, even though many days I’m unsure of what she’s hoping to say.
So, these are the days I crave summer sun, Cheryl Strayed, and Cabernet Sauvignon. These are the days that Brave Enough becomes a religious text for me and I find God in between quotation marks. These are the days I have to be most gentle with myself, looking less at how much the road ahead spans and more at how far the one behind me stretches. These are the days I assure myself it’s not a sin if I forget to sweep up cat food crumbs or if I save that pile of laundry for another day. These are the days life points out that self-love is not a seasonal kind of sport, but instead it is perennial–every minute, all the time, 365 days a year, especially when your feet are stuck in the shit. These are the moments I’m reminded that some of the most beautiful and pivotal morsels of a woman’s life happen in the ampersand, in the undefined place, in the bridge between the life she knew then and the life she’ll know soon enough–if she would only give the life she has now its fair chance.
This post was written with love and chutzpah as part of Yetti’s Certified Words campaign, an initiative that aims to show society how women absorb negative words spoken upon us, how these words manifest themselves within our everyday lives, and how we’re working to reverse the harmful impact of these words.
You can learn more about Certified Words here, and be sure to check out the first episode of the Certified Words web series. Thank you, Yetti, for having the courage to live out your purpose and the resolve to see this vision through.