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.


The 27th Birthday Post: When You Stop Writing And Start Living


It was the year of finally getting out of your own way. Of surrendering the search for validation. Of throwing your hands up and letting your hair down. It was the year of stepping off the treadmill and seeking solace in the stillness. It was the year of finding refuge in the whims of the wind while you built a sanctuary out of your beautiful disasters.

It was the year of not knowing what was next. Of no longer cramming your planner with dates and reminders and minutiae, but understanding the beauty of blank canvases. It was the year you sometimes forgot to answer emails. The year of prioritizing private writing over public work. It was the year you finally learned that the words don’t move until the writer begins to dance. The words don’t sing until the writer hears the sound of her voice. The words mean little until the life is lived well.

It was the year of ombre weave and loud laughter and very few you-know-whats to give. The year of shamelessly sharing your number with men you didn’t text back. It was the year of whiskey over wine and yes over no.

It was the year of Tinder. My God, it was the year of Tinder.

It was the year of DMX’s How’s It Goin Down and Drake’s Too Good and Bey’s Don’t Hurt Yourself. It was the year of Ella Eyre’s We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off and Q-Tip’s Breathe and Stop and Adele’s Send My Love (To Your New Lover). It was the year of new music for old feelings and old music for new feelings and all of the music for all of the feelings.

It was the year of transformation. Of uprooting and undoing and upending. It was the year of your seventh apartment-this time only a few miles from DC, this time a place you finally knew you would call home.

It was the year of youth, of vibrancy, of concerts, of trap music, of turning up, of letting go.

It was the year of love. Of wedding vows and babies in bellies and that guy who finally kept a smile on your sister’s face. It was the year you told the Universe you were open to love and the year the Universe held you accountable for every single word you said.

It was the year you seriously considered what happens after Twenties Unscripted.

It was the year you knew everything would be more than OK when you chose to pack your bags, say goodbye to this Internet home, and begin the next voyage.

It was the year of leaning on others and offering shoulders for them to lean on you. It was the year of trust. Of transparency. Of real-life problems and true friendship without training wheels. It was the year of tears. Of breakthroughs. Of sunshine after storm clouds. It was the year you learned to celebrate other people’s victories just as much as your own.

It was the year you became the writer. Not the award-winning blogger. Not the author. Not the editor-in-chief. No, it was the year you became the writer – the woman behind the words, the soul at the center of the sentences.

Because it was the year you spent less time pushing the pen and more time surveying your spirit. Savoring the silence. Sinking your teeth into the morsels of your honeyed and moonlit life.

It was the year you lived. And not the kind of life you spent more than three years writing about, but the kind of life you relegated to the sidelines. The kind of colorful life you didn’t know was yours for the taking. The kind of life buzzing with feel-good vibrations. The kind of life you never caught your breath long enough to inhale.

It was the year you put the living before the writing.

And now that you know how sweet this wickedly beautiful life of yours can taste, you’ll never order the same things. You’ll never crave the same menu.

You, my love, will now always putting the life before the words.

Happy Birthday to you.



The 26th Birthday Post: What I Know Now


The year in review.

I don’t want a life of empty promises for coffee dates. I did not sign up for that. I did not sign up for “Let’s keep in touch” only to forget your name three months later. And I did not sign up for “OMG, miss your face” without you ever trying to see my face. I don’t want hollow and I don’t want empty and I don’t want fake. I want authentic and rock solid and a phone picked up at 2 a.m. when the world yanked me somewhere I never wanted to go.

The validation from strangers on the Internet felt good for awhile. Fueled me. Haloed me. Filled me up with bubble gum and rainbows. But it did not last. Because the validation from strangers on the Internet didn’t furnish the gaping holes in my spirit. It didn’t undo the terrible things. It did not cancel out the hideous memories. So I had to do the work. Because validation from strangers on the Internet does not do the work.

I bid farewell to a friend a few years ago who I thought I would grow old. I recently sat on the porch with his mother recently fighting to remember him, while gripping every inch of sanity I had so I did not disintegrate in the process. I’ve gotten my heart shredded. Loved men who could never fathom loving me back. I’ve written a book. Built my dreams from nothing but dust and tenacity. I’ve started over and over and over again. And in that time, I’ve realized few things in this life are ever entirely bitter or completely sweet. Everything comes with its teaspoon of sour. But, if you’re lucky and patient and introspective enough, there is usually a tablespoon of sweet. Usually.

I do not know about your parents. I don’t know if you talk to them every day or every week or every month. I don’t know if you love them or hate them. I hope it’s the former. But, a few months ago my parents hinted at retiring far away from our East coast roots, and suddenly, they became my priority. Seeing them. Calling them. Letting them in and hearing them out. Making an effort. A conscious, concerted and die hard effort. See, I do not know about your parents. But, I do know they will not be here forever. Like everything else in this life, that time with them is finite, a precious but forgotten stream that we often times let slip through our fingers.

Too many of my peers overrate building a brand while overlook building themselves up. I got that wrong for so long. Too long. I tethered my whole heart to an entity that could be gone tomorrow if the WordPress messiahs up and leave. I threw myself into work thinking “workaholic” was a moniker to be worshipped, not avoided. But, it is not. It is not OK when you can’t sleep or eat or breathe without thinking about your work. Passion doesn’t mean broken friendships. Passion doesn’t mean blowing off your sister when she calls and passion doesn’t mean you can’t throw a drink back and just enjoy life. I didn’t see that. Because people would pat me on the back and everything looked good, I let myself crash and burn. I fell hard and I fell into flames. More than once. But, the finishes don’t mean a thing if the house isn’t built on a firm foundation.

People will be shitty and people will be good. They will pull the rug from under you and they will lift you up when you least expect it. Few people in this life are entirely warm or cold blooded. Fragile, yes. Fucked up, yes. Beautiful, yes. But hardly ever just a good cop or bad cop.

There aren’t any traffic lights when it comes to your evolution. There is not any flashing red telling you to stop nor is there an inviting green summoning you to fly full speed ahead. Your gut is your guide. Listen when she speaks. She will speak softly, but if you ignore her, that’s when the Universe will boom.

Better to be a burst of energy than a loose canon. People want you to light up a room. They do not, however, want you to set it on fire. Emotions have been my greatest compass, but they have also led to many downfalls. Because somewhere in between our emotions and the moment the shit hits the fan is the opportunity to channel and process. I forfeited that opportunity for way too long.

If you can find one solid friend with benefits in this life, you’re good. If you can find one best friend in this life, you’re great. And if you can find lasting love in this life, you will always find your way back home.

We can spend an ungodly amount of time hungry for inspiration when most days it’s closer than the skin underneath our fingertips. I call that so-close-I-didn’t-even-realize-it inspiration my sister. My sister who ran a half-marathon. My sister who did a complete 180 in every aspect of her life. My sister who answers the phone for me every day. My sister who made choices for herself, independent of seeking approval. My sister whose bravado and resilience are two of the most prominent reasons I have been able to evolve and grow at all. I’m always digging around for quotes or anticipating a revelation when I read someone else’s blog post. But the real inspiration has been right under my nose this entire time.

I don’t confuse speaking my truth with being an asshole. Speaking my truth means liberation of self without demolition of others. It does not mean hurting feelings or shredding hearts. That is not speaking your truth; that is insecurity running rampant and throwing a temper tantrum. They say if everyone loves you, something is wrong. But if everyone hates you, something sure isn’t right. Delivery and timing. Delivery and timing. Delivery and timing.

This life is short and this life is long. So I believe in good people and cheap wine and keeping a blank page within arm’s reach. I believe in best friends and bare feet on green lawns. I believe in hard work and a hunger to see what the end will be. And I know that everything I know now is simply a bunch of chicken scratch that I will someday revisit, revise and maybe erase completely.

Happy Birthday to me.


The 25th Birthday Post: Ready For My Breakthrough

“Stay the course–and stay ready for your breakthrough.” –Michael Jones

Sometimes, I want to go back.

I want to go back to age four. I want to go back to only eating the icing off my birthday cake.

Or, maybe I want to go back to age six, to my mom bringing a ballerina cake to my first grade class and to seeing a brand new Barbie doll on my bed when I got home from school.

I want to go back to that sweet ass 16. I want to go back to Darius taking me to a dinner that I’m sure his mother paid for and handing me a bouquet a flowers that I know she picked out. I want to go back to wearing pink Converses and making out in our parents’ basements.

I want to go back to 21. I want to go back to my breasts propped up in a leopard print dress, absolutely sure that the world and its endless flow of liquor were ready and waiting for me.

I want to go back.

But, I don’t.

Because, I can’t.


Because, I am here. And, this is now. And, all I have is this compass I’ve been given. If 50 Cent were nearby, he’d be shouting, “Go, shawty. It’s ya birthday.” I am here. And, this is now. And, good, bad, or indifferent, I own every last one of these jagged jigsaw pieces called My Life.

I’m supposed to have some wise shit to say today. I’m supposed to go all Yoda on you and tell you Everything I Know About Life.

But, instead, I should tell you that I am afraid. I am uncertain. I am anxious. Last year for my 24th birthday post, I wrote “Step one is to know yourself.” If that’s step one, then step two is to lose yourself a la Eminem. Lose yourself. Lose your shit. Lose your sanity. Lose your last goddamn mind. Because, that is precisely what I have done this past year. I now understand the pandemonium, the panic, the sheer terror that accompany turning 25 and wondering what in the entire fuck you are doing with your life. I now understand feeling as though you’ve failed yourself, feeling as though your life is not quite where you want it to be. I now understand looking at the pie chart of your existence and wondering why, oh why, can’t it just add up to 100 percent?

It isn’t my job to sit perched atop the Holy Grail and pretend I’m rocking the shit out of life on my 25th birthday. You turn 25 and you’re ready to jump off the ship. You’re fed up. You’ve fucked up. Nothing has gone as planned. So, it’s not my job to feign that I have it all together. It is, however, my job, to own every last one of my jagged jigsaw pieces. It is my job to channel Sheryl Sandberg and lean the hell in to this path. It is my job to steer this ship, not to request that the waters rock the boat any less.

Last week when I solicited advice from my 25 year old (or older) friends, so much of what they said resonated with me. But, if there is anything that convicted me the most, it is what Michael said: “Stay the course–and stay ready for your breakthrough.” I first titled this post, “Ready For The Breakthrough” but I changed “the” to “my” because there is a very specific and unique breakthrough I believe is on its way for me. And, if that sounds overly prophetic and slightly nutso, I’ll take it.

Google told me that a breakthrough is “a sudden, dramatic and important discovery or development” or “an instance of achieving success in a particular sphere or activity.” My breakthrough is going to be all of the above. That breakthrough is all mine. That breakthrough is well-versed in the trenches I’ve walked through, the bridges I’ve crossed over and the flames that have burned me. That breakthrough has my full government written all over it. That breakthrough wasn’t winning a Black Weblog Award. That breakthrough wasn’t producing a showcase. That breakthrough wasn’t attending BlogHer2014. No, that breakthrough is so much bigger than I could ever imagine. Bigger than anyone else could predict. That breakthrough is going to shake the core of this Earth. I will leave that breakthrough forever changed. Of that I am sure.

I do not know what is on the other side of my twenties, and I finally am starting to settle into that uncertainty. All I can do is adhere to Michael’s advice and stay the course. It might feel great to jump off now, to stop risking my money, stop risking my time, stop risking my heart. But, you don’t get the breakthrough without staying the course. I don’t know what’s waiting for me in the second half of being a snotty-nosed twenty-something. But, I know that the first half has been setting me up for the breakthrough.

I know that July 24, 2011 and August 18, 2011 were just preparing me for the breakthrough. I know that the pockets of lost faith in 2014 were just preparing me for the breakthrough. I know that living in Framingham, MA and Plano, TX for eight months at a time, pulled away from my roots, were necessary for the breakthrough. I know that you are not deserving of the breakthrough until life has broken you, until it has forced you to fall to your knees and cock your head to the sky. I know that my breakthrough is well on its way. You couldn’t tell me any differently, not even on your best day. And, it is that assurance that will make for a happy birthday.


Do Not Lament The Love Missing From Your Life; Soak Up The Love You Have.

A photo montage from a great day.
A photo montage from a great day.

It is 11:00 p.m. on my 24th birthday. Everyone has left. My cat has crawled out from under the bed where she hid for the past five hours, afraid of my guests. I finished cleaning the apartment and doing the dishes. I’ve blown out the candles, both the “2” and “4” that sat atop my cake as well as the various scented ones I had lit throughout the apartment. I’ve slipped out of my festive polka-dotted dress into an “I Love NYC” t-shirt. This is the last hour of my 24th birthday. I’m staring at the birthday cards lining my fireplace mantel. I’m recalling all of the texts and Facebook posts from the day. I’m remembering the emails, the tweets and the phone calls. The friends who came from miles away and the friend who surprised me, all to celebrate the day. The special drink another friend made, affectionately named after my blog. The countless bottles of Chardonnay in my fridge that people gave me, well-aware of how much I love a glass of wine.

I am 24. It doesn’t feel much different, yet I feel damn good.
A common expression I heard growing up, typically in church, was “People don’t have to be nice.” It’s a simple phrase, but it carries a lot of weight and truth. Kindness is becoming extinct in our world, a place where it seems much easier to avert our eyes from strangers and let doors shut behind us. I’m guilty of those things and some others. But, Saturday reminded me just how good it feels to be loved and appreciated. Saturday reminded me how good it feels when people elect to be kind.
I’ve had birthdays with boyfriends and boyfriend-less birthdays. Trust me when I say that this year was as boyfriend-less as it could get. But, for once, I wasn’t perturbed by that fact. I was not waiting around hoping that every time my phone buzzed, it was some bum of a dude wishing me a Happy Birthday. I’ve had birthdays where I casually dialed my ex at the end of the night, my heart clenched in the middle of my body and my mind hoping he remembered. I’ve had birthdays where I outlined all of the things I wanted to do that day to fastly-fading hook-up, only for him to ignore my request and come up with his own half-ass plan. I’ve had birthdays where I tethered all of my happiness for that day to people who really didn’t give a shit. This year was not one of those birthdays.
This year I had a good time with good people. I enjoyed the people who have been there for me during the past year, the people who have had my back, the people who have supported me, my blog and my ever-changing aspirations. The people who have listened to me bitch and moan when things aren’t going well and who have said “Congrats!” when the tide turned in my favor. The people who have made me laugh and smile. The people who have shown me love.
It’s easy, almost perfunctory, to fixate on the people or things that may be missing from our lives. But, it’s much harder to soak up the things we do have. The people who do love us. The success we have attained and the goals we have accomplished. We are so quick to pull the terrible things off the shelf, the mementos of when life did not treat us quite right. But, we never pull the good things off the shelf. We let the good times sit there and collect dust. It is easy to lament what you don’t have. It’s so much harder to appreciate the gems. But, it feels so much better when you do.