Something About Turning 27

January 12, 2017

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My feet are on a different sidewalk of solid ground. I don’t know when it happened. It seems foolish to say that there was something about turning 27 a few months ago that picked me up from the rubble of earlier days and dropped me in this newfound place. Because there is hardly anything special or magical or definitive about turning 27. I am still new. Green. Young. Impressionable. Prone to making mistakes. I’m still following a compass that sometimes sends me into deep seas and dark oceans.

So, yes. It seems foolish to say there was something about turning 27 that reshaped the world and my precious place in it.

And, yet, there was something about turning 27.

There was something about driving up to the sunset of this first decade of adulthood, something that has pushed me to trim the fat, face the facts, and apologize less for the spaces I inhabit. There was something about this age that yanked the curtain up on the woman I am instead of the woman I spent one too many years trying to be.

There comes a point where you can’t run away from yourself; that point both liberates and elevates you. Maybe that is the something about turning 27.

I’m through with running away from myself. I am through with sitting under dim lights as I lean coyly over the table, saying one thing to a man while my spirit screams another. I am through with barricading myself behind walls and praying they won’t crumble. I am through cutting emotional deals with the devil or pouring gasoline on my wildfire heart just to keep up appearances. My portrayal of the cool girl while I was in my early twenties deserves a standing ovation, but she has performed her final act.

Sometimes knowing what you’re not is just as important as knowing who you are.

I am dense and intense, fragile and flammable, a woman with her heart turned up two volumes higher than recommended. I am the sum of all of the goodbyes I ever said and all of the scars they ever left. I am equal parts concrete and shattered glass, whole and broken, complete and wildly unfinished.

And, yet, here I am. Because there was something about turning 27 that summoned me to start singing all of the notes on my staff.

I want to fall hard. I want to dig deep. I want to dive under. I want to taste love on my lips. I want to live big. I want to apologize less. I want to take up all of the space the Universe already carved out for me. I want to stop wanting and instead start soaking up the distance in between then and now, before and after, the things that were and the things that will be.

Maybe therein lies the sweet something about turning 27.


Growth You Can’t See, Height You Can’t Measure

December 29, 2016


There is not a yardstick for this.

There are not rulers or scales or levers to measure the woman I’ve become. I can’t assess her according to numbers, can’t spit her out on the other side of an equation, can’t plot her on a graph where x marks the spot. I would be doing the woman I’ve become a disservice if I crammed her into the box of digits we so often and mistakenly appraise people by: salaries or weight or age or likes or karats.

All I know is that things are different now. Something is different now. The woman I am is different now.

Maybe I became this woman sometime in early spring, donning a flower crown and shedding inhibitions while drinking smuggled-in whiskey at a music festival. Or maybe I became her one balmy summer night on U street, flirting with a man who was once a much-needed jolt of electricity and now resides in the archive of my other fond memories. Maybe I became her some time in autumn when I gave my heart permission to grow five inches wider and let someone in. Maybe I became her sometime right before winter when I gathered all of the courage in my body and said goodbye.

Or maybe I became this woman during the more motionless moments–on the Sundays I sat with my cat folded next to me; on the weeknights when I lied on the couch contemplating all of the things that could be next; in the hours when I welcomed silence as an answer and not a threat; in the minutes when I chose to bid farewell to the things and people and feelings that no longer served me.

Or maybe I have always been this woman, this web of complexities, this yin and yang of free-spirited and committed, creative and corporate, spontaneous and forward-thinking, lost and somehow still found. Maybe this woman has always brewed beneath the surface and I spent too many years foolishly trying to measure her by arbitrary markers, force fitting her into the box of digits. Maybe this year I finally just let her be and live and dance and twist and shout.

Maybe she is better off that way.

So, at a time of the year when many people’s declarations tingle with the hope of everything they want to leave behind in the year ahead, I want to take the woman who always brewed beneath the surface with me. I am bringing her moxie and her newfound comfort with not always knowing what’s next. I am bringing her resolve and her familiarity with letting go. I am bringing her unpainted fingernails, her beloved neon pink sweater with the hole in it, and her inability to keep flowers alive. I am bringing her yin just as much as I am bringing her yang. I am bringing her heart, one that I know will expand again whenever the time is right and the person on the other end is ready for a heavyweight kind of love. I am bringing her spring and her summer, her autumn and her winter. I am bringing all of her seasons and all of the tides that turned within them.

I am bringing this woman I’ve become with me. She is my greatest compass for wherever the road weaves and however the wind blows. And when I survey this woman, I will know that there is not a yardstick or a scale or ruler on this planet that can measure her coming of age. Evolution is simply not a numbers game.

So if I could offer you anything in my last post of the year, among the chorus of feel-goodness you’ll consume in the coming days, maybe it’s this: a wish that we’ll put the measuring tape down in 2017. It’s a yearning that we won’t wedge the many ways in which we blossom into that box of digits that don’t matter. Instead, let the seasons come and let the tides turn. Let the moments bloom and let the mountains crumble. Let the messes spill and let the waves crash. Let the life happen and let the words follow. Be and live and dance and twist and shout. Grow in the directions not everyone can see. Stand tall in the ways that simply can’t be measured.


Not Getting Over, But Moving Through

December 22, 2016

Photo by GG Renee Hill

Photo by GG Renee Hill

There is something about 6:47 a.m. that my emotions can’t hide behind. They can hide behind 1:23 p.m. when I’m at my desk gulping down a cup of afternoon coffee. And they can hide behind 10:12 p.m. when the day’s events have finally worn me out and I doze off to Hey Arnold! while lying on the couch. But my emotions can’t hide behind 6:47 a.m. when I am 17 minutes into the day and all too aware of what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. At 6:47 a.m., I am in tune with the stitches of my heart that are coming undone.

Mornings are both beautiful and unforgiving in that way.

In the time since I’ve substituted my essays with other people’s love stories on this space, I wrote and concluded a love story of my own. The country imploded overnight. I danced at a friend’s wedding and shouted “Surprise!” at another friend’s going away party. I’ve watched some of my closest friends move up north and out west in a short span of time. I dug my feet into the hole I feel from not busying myself with plans for a showcase next year. I traded in publicly pouring out my heart for doing it semi-privately in other places. Some nights I told myself that I would write, only to end up opting for MSNBC viewing and 9 p.m. naps instead.

That is the thing about your twenties, and maybe that is the thing about life. You have to ride the waves when they’re high, but you owe it to yourself to ride them when they’re crashing, too.

These days, and particularly some of these recent moments, are less about getting over things and more about moving through them. Feeling them. Letting the reality bite and allowing the truth to sting. I am detached from quotable inspiration plastered to Instagram feeds, urging me to bounce back in less than 60 seconds. These days I am most drawn to letting my emotions breathe and take shape.

So, I am reeling and dealing and fighting to hold fast to faith. I am laughing and crying and feeling it out as I go. I am thinking and contemplating and sometimes only coming up with blanks. I am reminiscing and reflecting and missing summer sunsets from early September. I am craving what once was, flinching at what it became, and grappling with what will be. I am reconfiguring all of my jagged jigsaw pieces in hopes of remaining whole. I am certainly not getting over, but I am absolutely moving through.



Love Me Well: Tamm and Yalabe

December 13, 2016

Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.

I can’t think of a better couple to conclude Love Me Well with than Tamm and Yalabe. I have a special tie to each of the couples that have been featured in one way or another, but my connection to these two spans a good fraction of their relationship. From Yalabe pulling me aside back in February to tell me he was going to propose to sharing in their love by reading a poem at their wedding last month, it has been an honor to be their friend and watch them evolve. In the final installment of Love Me Well, Tamm and Yalabe bring us back to a core element of this series and its love stories – vulnerability.

Photo by Erika Layne

Photo by Erika Layne


When were you first truly vulnerable with one another? What did that feel like? What was most challenging about it and what was most freeing?

Yalabe: I was first vulnerable with her when I admitted that I was depressed and needed to seek professional help. For me it was very difficult to admit that being as I hadn’t even fully accepted it myself. I was very ashamed at first, but over time I believe our relationship has become a safe place to express such sentiments. Nobody wants to admit that they need help. For me it was getting past my ego and perhaps how I thought she may perceive me. All in all, it was more of a mental obstacle that I had to overcome.

Tamm: Early on in our relationship, I had to be vulnerable with him. I was already invested in him emotionally, but I needed him to know all of me. It was freeing in the moment, but when it came back up, that was where the challenge came. It’s challenging to let anyone into you in your truest rawest form for the first time, but it is even more challenging getting the feedback.

How has your perception of black masculinity changed because of your relationship?

Yalabe: My perception of black masculinity has changed because when you share such an intimate space with someone, you are forced to be vulnerable. You have to willingly show your scars, your hurt, your sorrow and even your insecurities. I grew up feeling like men in general had to always be strong. We always had to carry the world on our backs and no matter how heavy that burden was, we had to keep pushing through. So, to be in a relationship where you can be “weak” and those qualities are not accompanied with a negative stigma is refreshing. It allowed me as a black man to be me, in a holistic way.

Tamm: Honestly, I don’t think my perception of black masculinity has changed. I’ve always been around different types of black men – intellectuals, pastors, goons, hoteps, athletes, etc. They are not monolithic, and it would be a disservice to them for me to ever think they are. Because I’ve always had the mindset, I think my perception of black masculinity has been reinforced. There are different types of masculinity in our culture, even when the experience is shared because life molds all of us in varying ways.

Photo by Erika Layne

Photo by Erika Layne

What is one myth about black men you believed coming into your relationship that you no longer do? How has your love helped dismantle that myth?

Tamm: I can’t say this is a myth I believed, but it’s a common myth…they don’t know how to love in a healthy manner. I truly believe our love is healthy and balanced. Relationships are give and take; and, I realize and appreciate he’s done as much as I have to make our love, not just work, but flourish. I’ve seen men say they love you and dog you (not me, per se) over and over again, and then get passes for their behavior so much so that I understand some think this is normal. Fighting against this norm can be daunting, but you do not have to settle. Our relationship cemented the necessity of not settling because the love you want and deserve is out there. Maybe that’s more a myth about men than black men but in these situation sometimes the black version is more worldstarhiphop than others which adds another level of dramatics.

What’s one thing that’s special to you about black love?

Yalabe: Black Love is timeless. It is rooted and deeply seeded in a rich history. It shares so much culture and not just from the Americas. It can truly be the ultimate test of time, but for me it knows no end.

Tamm: Black people are regal, extraordinary and exceptional; therefore, our love is all of the above as well. We are people that have been put down and forced to struggle simply because of the color of our skin, but that has only made us resilient. As I said in the previous question, sometimes the black version of relationship discourse can be so dramatic, it seems like we cannot love without it. But, just like how we crush other stereotypes, we can do the same with our love. Our love is king, just like our people are royalty.

Tamm is an event planner by trade, still waiting on her “calling” (whatever that is). She loves to acquire new things, not necessarily shop, and eat, not necessarily cook – but she’s damn good at it. You can reach her on the twitterwebs, for now, @puregr8nesss, and Facebook, T S Fitzgerald. 

Yalabe is just a typical fun-loving nerdy bald black guy. A bit of an artist, a bit of a writer.

Love Me Well: Kelly and Andrés

December 9, 2016

Love Me Well is a limited edition multimedia series that aims to celebrate and elevate black love through the stories of 10 different couples. Each couple has showcased their love story through photography and either a written Q&A or podcast interview. This series was made possible thanks to photographer Jazzmin Awa-Williams, podcast producer Austin Weatherington, and 32 incredible crowdfunding campaign backers who invested in the production of the project.

As the idea for Love Me Well crystallized in late summer, I sat across from Kelly at the Digital Media in Social Justice Symposium where we were both slated to speak. We had met earlier in the year at a writing workshop and instantly clicked, so it was natural to spend the time before the conference catching up on what we were both working on. And, just like that, Kelly and Andrés joined Love Me Well.

Kelly and Andrés were wildly interesting to interview. They gave me a lot to think about and filled me with a-ha moments during the time we spent together. In this final episode of the Love Me Well podcast, Kelly and Andrés’ love story demonstrates the broad diversity of black love. Tune in to learn how they have traversed the challenges of intercultural love to stand as a united front.