Honoring the Space In Between

The feeling of a pen in my hand dressing a blank page is foreign to me.

It is perhaps the greatest irony and embarrassment for a woman who identifies as a writer. But, it is also the reality of a woman who identifies as a blogger. A woman who has told the Internet a lot of her secrets. A woman more comfortable typing within the four walls of a WordPress frame than penning on a piece of loose leaf. A woman who hasn’t kept a steady diary of her inner thoughts since freshmen year of college. A woman who just recently took up a self-discovery course, hungry for it to catapult her back into journaling. A woman who now knows that public wounds still require private healing. A woman trying to find her way back to writing off the record.

Woman.

A woman who has been transforming and watching her tides turn for some time now. A woman at the juncture of who she shared with the online world and who she became when they weren’t watching. When they weren’t reading. When they weren’t there to bear witness.

Five years after breaking ground on this blog, I am less wedded to the trademark of being in my twenties. I have foregone impassioned rants about rent and the relentlessness of adult responsibilities. I feel less compelled to preach and pontificate, all too aware of how that approach diluted so much of what I wrote early on. I do not need to shout from the mountaintops that I am a feminist or a millennial or any of the other labels I once wore so proudly. I simply need to live the life I am convinced is mine for the taking. Some times, I need to write about it. Other times, I just need to walk in it.

Tyece – 2014 [photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams]
Nowadays, I am more wrapped up in my womanhood and all of its complexity, fragility, and multiple dimensions. What started as a coming-of-age outlet brimming with angst has transformed into a sea of thoughts and ideas about what it means to shape one’s place in the universe. What it means to feel lost and found in the same body.What it means to experience life in a way that often times feels different and unconventional from the way those around me live it. What it means to honor the past without allowing it permission to dismantle the present. What it means to be a woman who aims to thrive with intention, substance and self-possession.

I also crave a more private life now. A more full-bodied life. A life that takes shape off the screen. A life that doesn’t beg for documentation. A life and a set of memories that can stand on their own two feet. There are times when I thumb through my book or scroll through my blog archives, cringing at how I made parts of my personal life so public. But, perhaps all I can do is appreciate that version of myself from afar, a girl who gave the digital world all of the fearlessness and chutzpah she had. She is the reason I now know how important it is to snatch some of that fearlessness and chutzpah back from online airwaves and return it to myself.

So, this blog anniversary is not like the others. It’s a milestone that arrives with the most bittersweet blend of celebration, reflection, nostalgia and vision. I always knew I would not wait until I turned thirty to answer the question, “What happens to the blog when you’re not in your twenties anymore?” I would not wait for the arrival of a new decade to force my hand; I would only wait until the Universe whispered that it was time to begin again.

Tyece – 2017 [photo by Jazzmin Awa-Williams]
The Universe started to whisper a few years ago, prompting me to register a domain that’s been waiting in the wings. There is still a bit more left here at Twenties Unscripted to do. But, I’m assured that when I move out of this Internet home, I will be ready to start construction on a new place. A place that will evolve over time. A place that will give me new layers of purpose and meaning. A place that I will pour parts of myself into. A place that will come alive with my signature blend of poetry, prose and power. Another place that I can call my own.

Five years feel right. They feel round. I feel ready for a new leg of the marathon.

But, for now and the balance of the year, I will honor the space in between. Between Twenties Unscripted and her successor. Between being a woman well on her way while still a work in progress. The space in between a shrill life on the Internet and a rich existence outside of it. The space in between the vastness of the ocean and the stable sand of the shore. The space in between then and now, past and future, yesteryear and everything that’s still to come.

Here I am, at the space in between, prepared to honor it with my whole heart.

Happy 5th Birthday, Twenties Unscripted.

Xoxo,
Tyece

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

growth-you-cant-see

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.

Xoxo,
Tyece

On Writing: The Year I Left It All On The Page

 

Book Launch 5

The words don’t arrive as quickly as they once did. For awhile, that troubles you. It leaves you wondering if maybe one day you will just run out of words to write and stories to tell. Yet, somehow, they keep coming. You keep proving writer’s block wrong. And you realize the words aren’t arriving as quickly because you have started reaching to the bottom of your heart and the pit of your belly. The essays that strike others as so effortless take you hours to brainstorm, write and revise. See, writing that appears effortless takes a whole lot of effort. The words don’t arrive as quickly because you care about them more now. You tinker with them more now. You switch them around more now. It’s not enough to just publish something now. You abandon things in the Drafts folder more now. You delete sentences more now. As they say in writer speak, you’re willing to kill your darlings more now.

You’re never a good writer. Because even when you believe you have gotten good, you know you’ll revisit your work three or four or five years from now and cringe at the sheer awfulness of it all. Except you aren’t really cringing at the awfulness. You’re cringing at an undeveloped spirit, untapped talent and uncharted waters.

Maybe you’re never good. But you become more confident. More faithful in your audience. More sure of your voice. Less concerned with hits and retweets. Less focused on hitting 500 words or 700 words or 1,000 words. More concerned with conviction and connection. You become more consistent in how you make your words tango and sashay. You get acquainted with your writing weapons of choice, whether those are stories or similes, satire or stream of consciousness. You get a signature style. People immediately know what they will digest when they arrive at your page. They don’t even have to look at the menu. Maybe that’s what good writing tastes like.

You get brave. You grow wings. You surprise yourself. You harness a fearlessness you never knew you had. And every time you sit down to spill, you summon that fearlessness. That fearlessness peeks out from behind the corners it is conditioned to hide in.

You tell the same story in 12 different ways because it’s not about the topic, it is about the lens. It is not about the concert, it is about the exact view from section 500, row H, seat 10. No one knows your view from your section. No one can do your story justice in the ways you can. So you stop tallying how many times you’ve written about the ugly and jagged pieces of your life. You begin to honor the ugly and jagged pieces, and just how much they transformed you into the writer you are.

You give up the self-righteousness. You check yourself. You don’t try to sound like a know-it-all. You stop taking pride in side eyes and entire posts dedicated to telling people about themselves. Instead, life has humbled you enough to know that you do not know it all. The vestiges of assholery that used to pepper your work start to fade away. You decide that f-bombs aren’t as much the mark of a signature style as they are a way to punctuate your sentences and underpin your point. The work gets sweeter. The paragraphs taste better. You remember a writer’s greatest asset is her heart on her sleeve.

You revisit a blog post you wrote in the first inning of 2015: “I know my biggest challenge this year as a writer will be to balance strength with vulnerability. Temper privacy with transparency.” You read that line and you smile proudly, less because you intentionally did that and more because the Universe knew your trajectory even back then. It’s uncanny how much people prophesize through a pen.

You publish a book. You win an award. You feel and peel the fruits of your labor. You thumb through the pages of your memoir so far. And some bittersweet part of you whispers that this wild and gargantuan year represents both an end and a beginning. You know you are bidding farewell to the days where you sat down just to get something on the screen. You know you are filling trash bags with every moment you hid behind your purpose, in a rush to simply click “publish.” You know you are going out back to the big dumpster and chucking every time you could just skate by or walk away from a page without leaving your soul on it. You know the Universe will require you to pour out so much more of your heart while gingerly deciding which parts to protect. You know you are stepping into a new era, one with big shoes and high stakes.

And you’re scared. You know even though we all step into new eras, we often times stumble through them early on. You know you will mess up and probably destroy it all. You know you will have to once again wrap your arms around the uncertainty and hug it with all your might. But you know that in this new era, just like every one before, you will commit to the kind of writing that rises from the rock bottom places. Heart on paper. Mind spilling through the pen. Soul stretched in between the lines.

All you ever knew was how to be a writer. All you ever knew was how to leave it all on the page.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Lover and The Nurturer

“If someone does not want me it is not the end of the world. But if I do not want me, the world is nothing but endings.” ― Nayyirah Waheed

Alexis: The Lover

Alexis_06
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

One of my guilty pleasures is reality TV…well, more so an obsession rather than a guilty pleasure. And one of the more ridiculous shows that I love to indulge in is RuPaul’s Drag Race. What could be better than watching 10 drag queens vie for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar”? I’ve watched it for a few seasons now and yes, the crazy costumes and drag queen drama sessions are entertaining, but there is one part of the show that resonates with me no matter what season I am watching. At the end of each episode, Ru’s tagline to the queens is “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anyone else?”

I have spent the good part of the last year finding out what that really means.

Read more of Alexis’ story here.


 

Raven: The Nurturer

Photo credit: @jazzthenoise
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

Society tells us to be nurturing is to be a woman. The caregiver, the school teacher, the consoler, the sacrificer, the advice giver, and the support system. Society places all of these roles under the command of women who are expected to fulfill them with grace and absolute consent.

My mother and grandmother are quintessential examples of the word “nurturer.” They seem to tirelessly give emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and financial support to their loved ones, all while raising their own families, working and maintaining their respective homes. And seeing how their actions were rewarded, I took pride in how caring they were. I saw how the family gravitated around them with love and admiration, turning to them for advice. My mother and my grandmother always seemed to know what to do or say for any situation. They are the rocks of the family.

Read more of Raven’s story here.

Dimensions of Black Womanhood: The Lover

Alexis_06
Photography by @jazzthenoise

By: Alexis Wilkins

One of my guilty pleasures is reality TV…well, more so an obsession rather than a guilty pleasure. And one of the more ridiculous shows that I love to indulge in is RuPaul’s Drag Race. What could be better than watching 10 drag queens vie for the title of “America’s Next Drag Superstar”? I’ve watched it for a few seasons now and yes, the crazy costumes and drag queen drama sessions are entertaining, but there is one part of the show that resonates with me no matter what season I am watching. At the end of each episode, Ru’s tagline to the queens is “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anyone else?”

I have spent the good part of the last year finding out what that really means.

My friends always joke about how “I love Love.” My mother has always described me as her most “lovable” child. All of my Barbies had a Ken for companionship, even if that meant dressing up the women dolls in men’s clothes so all of them could have a partner. I stop whatever I’m doing on a Saturday to watch The Titanic when I see it’s on TV. I’ve always seemed to have some kind of romantic interest. I can remember my first crush in first grade to my high school sweetheart, to my stream of college hookups to my stream of early twenties hookups. There always seemed to be some part of me that yearned for a love interest.

I’ve always heard people say your twenties are the time when you really start to learn about yourself. You learn the things you like and the things you totally despise. You learn that drinking an endless amount of sugary alcoholic drinks will indeed make you vomit. But, most importantly, you start to really learn about yourself. This was and is not some overnight process. I’m 27 going on 28, and every day I feel as though there is always something new I recognize about myself when I look in the mirror.

Alexis_08
Photo credit: @jazzthenoise

I hit the lowest point of my life in early 2014. In August 2013, after countless terrible financial and moral decisions, I had to move back home with my parents after less than a year of being on my own. By April 2014, there was no more faking it with my friends and with myself. I was finally being forced to lie in the proverbial bed I made. And I laid in it bed for months. I pulled away from my best friends. I pulled away from my family. I was fighting with my parents on a weekly basis. My weight seemed to be getting to a point that was uncontrollable. I was dating random guys from Plenty of Fish so I could feel some kind of love from the outside because I didn’t have any for myself on the inside. There were more nights than a few when I would cry so hard it hurt before I drifted off into some unconscious state.

As the New Year approached, I knew that something had to give in 2015. There was no way I could bear to go another 365 days feeling the way I had felt for the past 365. Laying in that hotel room bed with my resolutions still resounding in my ears and the Instagram meme I had posted about them, I made the conscious decision to take back control of my life. And since that moment things have changed for me.

I started working in a field I love where I get to be surrounded by love every day as a wedding planner. I trained for and successfully completed my first half marathon. I saved for and moved into my very own place in the city that I love. I got my relationships back on track with my family and friends. But the most important thing was that I could finally bear the sight of myself in the mirror. Not just because of a physical change but because of a spiritual one. My spirit is the most beautiful it has been in my 27 years on this earth. I have fallen truly, madly and deeply in love with myself and it’s the absolute best feeling in the world.

So I may not be one of Ru’s drag queens, but now more than ever, I know her words are true.

Alexis lives and loves according to the mantra that “if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re probably not big enough.” She loves people, pink, a good glass of (red or white) wine, weekend brunches, karaoke and all things Baltimore. Connect with Alexis @lex_wilk and learn more about her wedding planning work at birdofparadiseevents.com.