Soft, Beautiful, Bright Black Girl

I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you laugh hard and often, loud and unapologetically, with all of the might that your chest can withstand. I hope you cock your head back and kiss the sky with your cackles.

I hope you smile. I hope you smile not because some semblance of a man on a street corner has insisted that you turn your lips upward, but instead because there is something about this life that feels good and wonderful and brilliant. I hope you smile because you still uncover treasures in dark corners and find pennies in the holes of your pockets. I hope you smile because there is someone, some thing, some energy in your orbit that makes this life worth smiling about.

I hope you wear marigold and neon pink and fire engine red. I hope you fill the world with color and passion and spirit and vibrancy. I hope you radiate every shade of the spectrum and splatter your paint on life’s blank canvases. I hope you buzz and skip and hop and dance and strut. I hope that when other people see you, they instantly feel you, and that when their eyes meet yours, something inside of them wakes up from hibernation. I hope you never leave any place or any person the same way they were when you met them.

I hope you keep poems on your nightstand and bible verses in your heart. I hope you always have words to anchor you and quotes to carry you and sentences that rock you to sleep when the waves start rising. I hope you find solace in bell and Nayyirah and Nikki and Audre. I hope you are armored with all of the wisdom and solidity you need to build bridges over choppy waters and claw your way up crumbling mountains.

I hope you love without pretense. I hope you love in a boundless, unlimited, the-world-is-wide-open kind of way. I hope you love even after your heart has shattered. After your window panes have been broken. After you have bloodied your knees praying to God that some sort of change will come. I hope you still love without pretense. I hope you give of your wild love without reservation.

I hope you choose every day of this beloved life to remain soft and bright in a world that would rather have you be hard and darkened. I hope you let sunlight smooch your cheeks and moonlight brush your lips. I hope you never let the deck of cards stacked unfavorably against you keep you from giving this world all of the goodness you’ve got.

See, I’ve learned that this existence is full of contradictions and injustices and untidy truths. I’ve learned that black women hardly ever become angry in the blink of an eye, but instead stitch together bullet proof vests with the thread of every heartbreak and transgression they’ve ever survived. I have learned that remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is a choice. It is an intention. It is a battle and it is a risk. Remaining soft and bright as a black woman in this world is increasingly more difficult than just wearing your armor and moving on through.

But, still, I hope you slap your knee when you laugh. I hope you wear neon pink and keep poems on your nightstand. I hope you love with reckless abandon and let the sunlight smooch your cheeks. I hope you pen words and stir souls and enkindle the people around you with your undeniable rays. I hope you remain soft and bright. I pray you remain soft and bright. There is no greater rebellion for a black woman in today’s world than to forego the armor and elect to remain soft and bright.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Guest Writers Week | A New Kind of Journey

jame quote

By Jamé Jackson

I remember waking up the day after graduation feeling nauseous, a type of nausea that usually accompanies me on job interviews, exam days, or even the first time my boyfriend took me out on a date. It was a feeling I wasn’t really excited for, but I thought to myself, “Self, you just graduated college. You’re probably still worked up over that intense feeling. Don’t fret though, here’s to the rest of your life!”

Instead of being like many of my friends who found themselves popping bottles and partying into the wee hours of the morning to celebrate the biggest day thus far of our young lives, I found myself pacing the floors of my house wondering what was my next step. Contrary to the vision I had had for myself even four years prior, I wasn’t graduating with honors, with a deluxe new apartment in the sky, or even with a job based on salary and benefits. I remembered sitting in my room, tears flowing from my face as I sat and realized that I, truly, didn’t have the answers to the questions of my life.

“Well Jamé, what do you want to do, you know, as a career?” The unbearable question I felt tugged at my heartstrings. I felt I died a little inside every time the question was asked. It felt like I couldn’t just breathe for a second as a student. It felt like being a musician, being a writer, being a worker in a restaurant chain weren’t worthy of any proper acknowledgement. The worst thing, however, is that I didn’t have an answer to that question. I still don’t. And that haunts me everyday.

In my only 22 years of young living on this Earth, I’ve had to learn and prioritize what is important to me and what I could only hope to procure out of life. Through trial and error, I have learned that my own personal truth is the only thing in which I have to answer to. I had to learn, as I continue to everyday, that my own personal journey is unique in that it is MY OWN. Despite the love and affection I may receive from others who try to push me into their light, I can only create my own for myself. The thing I have learned is that I can only be the best me possible, regardless of who she looks like to anyone else.

Life is a strange thing. We’re taught from a young age what milestones we have to hit by a certain age. We’re taught to have our lives together by the beginning of college, intern, work and produce amazing grades during college, and then enter into the workforce right after college knowing exactly what we will do the rest of our lives. For an out-of-the-box thinker such as myself, I learned I was doing myself more harm than good trying to keep up with the Jones’.

I couldn’t, and still cannot, conceptualize me doing one thing for the rest of my life. I have always loved being multifaceted, but where are the people encouraging young people to pursue ALL of their dreams? Who is to say I have to only have a 9-5 job? I can’t also have a 5-9, or a weekend-only, or a contractual type of job? Why is society so warped around this perception of happiness that we don’t discuss the real issues of life? While I can’t count how many times I’ve been bombarded with the “So, what are you doing now that you’re out of school?” questions, I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been asked am I happy, am I learning a new craft, or am I exploring aspects of me that I never could in school. Where I used to give others power over my life and actions, I’ve learned to take it back and happily bask in my personal journey. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

While my situation may not be the most ideal, I have learned that things will come in due time if I just patiently wait and open myself to the experience. I won’t lie, I do still have doubts at times and find myself being a hardass for not being where I want to be. However, I’ve learned that I am content in where I am and I am doing just fine. I’ve learned that the process of the journey is to teach you something, and that you should never be apologetic of who you are simply because you’re not living up to other’s expectations of you. At the end of the day, when the lights are out, and the city is silent, and all are in their beds, the only thing you will have are your thoughts that will loudly remind you if you are happy or not. Honestly, as long as my bills are paid, I am learning to care less about what others push on me, and more on what energies I pull to myself. It’s a journey. Enjoy it.

Jamé Jackson is a recent graduate of Howard University, where she graduated Cum Laude with a double major in English and Classics. A writer and classical pianist, Jamé loves traveling the D.C. area, performing in music halls and poetry ciphers. She has performed at Studio Theatre, Signature Theatre, the Kennedy Center as well as Broadway. In the near future, she plans to travel overseas to continue humanitarian work in Haiti.

A Parisian Dose of Peace

Guest Post by Nneka Okona

I almost didnt make it here,”I thought to myself as I stood in a trance, frozen in the moment, in disbelief and glee and amazement that I was standing within meters of The Louvre. It was a beautifully magical day in Paris, an azure blue sky with sparse, fluffy clouds listlessly floating. The sun sparkled through the trees, illuminated the buildings and refracted off the glass pyramid.

Just 24 hours before, I had completed my last day at the high school where I had been teaching English since February. I had embraced my colleagues and managed to submerge from a tearful goodbye with grace, choosing to let the emotion fall from my eyes after I’d exited through the front door of the school for the last time and rounded the corner on the street.

I held my last payment in my sweaty hands, the perspiration causing the check to feel like a sprinkling of dew on blades of grass, lingering from the wee morning hours. I was half morose, half panicked because in a frenzy, a week before, I had opened a new bank account. I’d misunderstood the process for getting my monthly salary transferred into my account and realized, just hours before, there’d be a delay in the receipt of funds, which meant no monies for Paris. All I had left to my name was a 20 Euro bill.

But I’d made inauthentic peace with not going to Paris. I was exhausted, after a busy month of travel, packing up my flat, readying myself to say goodbye to the city of Madrid which had become home for the last nine months and returning to life in the United States…

The sweaty check. The sweaty check I clasped in my hands exonerated all my worries. The secretary at my school emphasized with my concern and wrote me a check on the spot. After the bus ride back into Madrid from Torrejón de Ardoz and then a ride on the Metro back to my barrio of Quevedo, I walked the check into the bank who issued it and had my salary in my hands. And just like that, Paris was calling.

Later that evening after landing at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I hopped on the Metro and proceeded to the hostel I had reserved earlier in the week. I was nervous about my second hostel experience because my first one had been a night full of me cringing—as I slept in dingy, thin bed sheets and felt unclean from the two second shower in the community bathroom.

36 hours. I only had 36 hours in Paris, but as I walked the streets, smiled at the beautiful men who threw flirty utterances in French and lingering stares to me, I felt relieved. Back in my zone. The week prior I’d had a weekend in Spanish paradise in Mallorca, but as a repeat solo traveler, it was hard for me to resolve the distress I felt juggling the desperate need for alone time with interacting and staying in the same space with two other friends—whose idea of travel and navigating the time we had differed from mine.

Bright and early the next morning, I set out to see as many things as I could, and in addition to the Louvre, saw The Notre Dame, ate an orgasmic meal of short ribs and mashed potatoes on an outdoor cafe lining the street, bought “Half of a Yellow Sun,”in English, in a Parisian bookstore and saw the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and of course, The Eiffel Tower, in all her crowning glory, more stunning in person.

After collapsing onto my bunk bed at the end of the day, I sent a Gchat message to a friend declaring it a “Top 10 life day.”Moments later I was sprawled on the floor outside the room in the hostel I was sharing with 10 other girls from all over the U.S. (and Sydney, Australia) gushing to them on the phone about how amazing the day had felt. During that conversation, I conveniently left out a sudden realization I’d unexpectedly had while being lost in my thoughts while tourist-ing.

My thoughts on love. My eternal truth on what love meant to me and would mean to me. My concept of love and how it feels and what it should mean and the manner in which it manifests. I had such clarity on it, peace, which I’d never had before.

We often think of love, its affections and all its iterations, in absolutes. Sweeping and absolute as waves moving in fastidiously on the shore, taking with it what was there before and leaving nothing to remain. It’s overpowering, sometimes overbearing, suffocating, even. It takes you over completely. Leaves you powerless, thoughtless, rendering you useless except just to love. All love, Everything love. Love is left for you to ponder. And only love is what consumes. You meditate on love. How to keep that love. How to make it better. More lasting.

But yet, here I am, years after first falling heels over head, stupidly enamored with my love and countless loves to follow him. So many loves. Loves which I thought were it but were only a facade. They weren’t real. They shattered into thousands of minuscule, unrecognizable shards, never to be recovered or reimagined into something whole.

I don’t think love is really about the absolutes anymore. I don’t think it’s so big that it makes you crazy. Spins you completely out of control. I don’t think that love is really something which can be reduced to a sort of psychosis, a feeling that leaves you questioning and wondering and unsettled.

I think love is sure. It’s tranquil. it’s calm and peaceful. It’s soothing. It’s strong but not overpowering. It’s big but not suffocating. It’s balanced.

And well, it was in Paris, the city of love and lovers, as I sat cross-legged on a bunk bed, shoving a flaky, buttery croissant, raspberry macaroons filled with a raspberry chocolate ganache and a strawberry tart in my mouth, that I equated love with a sort of peace.

Love is peace.

Nneka M. Okona is a writer and former expat who recently relocated from Madrid, Spain to Washington, DC. Visit her blog, www.afrosypaella.com, her website, about.me/nnekaokona or follow her tweets, @NisforNneka.

The Chase

Guest Post by Yetti 

There’s something about the average twenty-something year old woman that makes us want to chase perfection. I know it’s not just me and my slight addiction to to-do-lists, posts-its and planners. I see it in others too. We want that life. The life we have pieced together in our minds consisting of overwhelming success, both unpredictable and undeniable love, and blissful happiness. The life where we wake up flawless, debt-free and embrace the mere fact that every aspect of ourselves is fucking phenomenal. The life where we are thankful for our now instead of desperately needing the future to happen. The life where we can spend till our heart is content, vacation like royalty, yet still change the world in some drastic yet beneficial way. That life.

Most of the time, we don’t even know where to begin to secure this life, but we all know that we want it, some version of it. So we put our foot to the pedal, draw out some bullshit map we force ourselves to see as the perfect route and then speed towards this ideal, “perfect”life. Oh, and GOD FORBID something or someone obstructs our path to greatness, because it needs to be this way or we are sure to fail.

We chase perfection and it’s crippling.

In February, I began to partake in the Twenties Unscripted / From A Wildflower writer’s challenge ((late of course, true to Yetti fashion). It was smooth sailings till I got to the day where I was asked to write about where I saw myself in my 20s. Disappointment settled in, and then came the negative self-talk filled with a whole lot of, “Yetti, you fucked up!”and “You were supposed to be here by now, you little failure!”It took four days and seven different drafts before I said, “Fuck it,”and did away with the rest of the challenge. But it did force me to reflect on my “path”and why in God’s name did I need for my life to be a certain way, to be perfect with no grey areas or reservations.

My want for perfection and a solid plan at all times came from my need to please those that surround me. My need to please those that surround me came from my desperate need to feel loved by my father, a traditional Nigerian man. Yes, I am the girl that does not have divorced parents, and has a father that is incredibly active within her life, yet still managed to have daddy issues. This desperate need and people pleaser behavior lead to years of cutting, suicide attempts and full-blown mental breakdowns. And though I now understand my father has always loved me and we have one of the greatest relationships a woman could ever be blessed with, the foundation for this perfectionist behavior had already been laid.

I know you’re all thinking, why is she sharing this? but I wanted to explain the basis of why I used to chase perfection and the importance of knowing why in order to stop doing so. If I didn’t evaluate where this behavior came from, I would have no way of resolving it. I would never truly know why failure and other people’s disappointment was borderline debilitating to me. Most importantly I probably would have never truly understood where perfection as whole comes from.

Let me enlighten you really quickly.

One.

per·fec·tion (pərˈfekSHən) noun – The condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

Perfection is what you set it to be. That’s all you, boo. You set the standard for perfection, you delineate what you’re aiming for, and you also outline what you deem as unreachable. Only you can truly do this since both failure and perfection are a matter of opinion. If you change your view on it all, you may possibly be closer to perfection than you think. I now understand that I could very much be behind on a few aspects of my life, career, love life, etc. but I am also in a place I never thought was achievable: I’ve discovered happiness.

Two.

Embrace uncertainty. Love the fuck out of it. Because the very same uncertainty that may throw you off your route may detour you toward something better. Sometimes your plan is not for you. The very first time I took on uncertainty was when I allowed myself to fall in love. Three years later, I had an incredible relationship, a painful ass break-up but I came out with a whole new perspective on my life and its purpose. Not to mention, I learned that I am indeed one of the greatest girlfriends of ALL time. If I stuck to my plan of being a spinster, I’d be on cat number 4 with a cobwebbed nether region.

Simply put, do yourself the favor of evaluating what you’re striving for.  Analyze it and fix it from the root. Then after that? Live your fucking life, crooked path, bullshit and all. The chase may not be a chase after all.

Yetti, of yettisays.com, provides the average twenty-something-year old with their daily dose of vitamin-y: the uncensored truth sometimes served with a side of wit, sarcasm, and a few curse words. You can follow her on twitter @yettisays.

For Single Women In 2014

This post is an excerpt from Twenties Unscripted: A Journey of Womanhood, Writing, and Relativity. The full essay is available in the book, which is currently available for pre-sale here.

What I am going to tell you is to live your life. Don’t let anyone devalue you based on the status of one of your 10 fingers; you have nine other equally important fingers. I am going to tell you to get the fuck off Facebook. Because, unless you announce that you reincarnated Michael Jackson and he’s coming back for a farewell tour, your status will never get the 142 likes of an engagement ring photo. I am going to tell you to figure yourself and your shit out. I am going to tell you that welcoming another person into your life means naught if you don’t actually, well, have a life.

I am going to tell you that being single is a choice, and you should never lament that decision. I am going to tell you to take this juncture of your single status, whether it’s another year or another decade or just another day, and soak that shit up. Lie down in it and make snow angels. Dance in the mirror naked and blast the music as loudly as you want. Watch all of the ratchet TV shows you want without having to share the remote. Be selfish and indulgent and wild and all of the other adjectives you will one day miss. And, when that is said and done, silence the screams of society long enough to learn who you are, what you want, and why the hell you were put here. Being single is great for just that.