Life Happens In The Ampersand

FullSizeRender-8Nayyirah 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.


INCYoutubeCover1This 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. 


I Burn Buildings, I Wreck Promises.


I like to burn buildings before the blueprint’s even finished. A friend of mine tells me that I “kill shit before it’s even had a chance to breathe.” And by shit he means the prospect of romantic love. He means mild flirtations and swelling possibilities and school girl crushes and pitter patters of the heart. I like to cradle these fledglings of love in my hand and then crush them before they reach adolescence.

I don’t trust men’s emotions just as much as I don’t trust my own. I don’t trust the woman I melt and mold myself into when someone captures my attention and I cling on for dear life. I don’t trust the woman I become when that all or nothing side of me very quickly snaps into “all.” She is such a diluted and second-rate version of the woman I’m trying to be. She makes me roll my eyes and suck my teeth. That woman gets imprisoned in her own fragility and becomes a puppet to someone else’s evanescence. She makes lifelines out of mixed signs and laughs at jokes that aren’t funny. She bites her tongue for fear of seeming too brash. Too insecure. Too boisterous. Too much.

She is why I burn buildings before the blueprint is finished. She is why my mind does not weigh any of the possibilities, but instead demolishes them all. One by one. I sit behind the wheel of a bulldozer, shift the gear into drive, and wreck all of the promises love wants to let blossom.

That woman I melt and mold myself into is why I have a litany of jokes bundled in my back pocket about how I will be single forever with 40 cats or how “You know I always crush on one artsy guy every year and it doesn’t go anywhere; it’s just par for the course.” She is why I brush off my sister when the potential of me with someone else dances off her tongue in dead seriousness. This woman is the reason why swelling romantic possibilities always only seem to suffocate me. So, instead, I shrink myself into a ball of cynicism and declare that things won’t ever work. I’m being silly. He “definitely does not like me like that.” Because there is some sort of sweet and sick satisfaction in letting my skepticism call the shots.

See, it’s not the men who frighten me. It’s the woman I’ve witnessed myself become when I’m with them.

But, maybe I am only fooling myself. Because that woman, flooded by her own insecurities, is still present. She is the punchline in my cynical jokes and the period in my doubtful declarations. That woman has only undressed herself, replacing her former veil of hypersensitivity with an armor of sarcasm and suspicion. But, that woman is still very much here–unsure of how to love and even more unsure of who to love in this new courageous, confident, and purpose-centric skin she’s in. She is afraid that she’ll mess it all up and fight to bounce back. She is afraid it will become 2010 all over again, and she will sob when a man berates her and walks out the door with his suitcase behind him. That woman is still somewhere inside of me, scared to death to let it all go and trust someone wholly to hold her heart.


WYAO April general promoThis post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Ready to do this thing? Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril. 

An Open Letter to the Perfectionist in My Head



Today I found myself staring at a page on Amazon, wondering if Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are would finally cure me. I want a cure.

You are the reason I almost didn’t publish the book. The only thing that stopped me from pulling the plug on the entire operation was the amazing partnership I’ve developed with my graphic designer. I did not want her to divorce me creatively or bust a cap on my ass if I told her that all of our hard work would be for naught. But, you spoke. In that eleventh hour, you told me that I should wait to publish this thing until I could ensure that it would be perfect.

You always speak.

Sometimes you shout.

And sometimes you make it difficult to hear the drumbeat of the successes and accomplishments. Because you always know that one thing. You always see that one thing. There could be 1,549 things right, but you will always find the one thing that is wrong.

So, I need a cure. Because we can’t go on together like this. And I can’t keep reacting to you. I can’t keep heeding to your voice. I can’t keep wanting to mark up the book and make edits, even though there are 120 hard copies sitting in my house, some in a box and some in packages already waiting to be mailed. You can’t keep driving me crazy. You can’t keep snatching my joy. You can’t keep stealing my sleep. You can’t keep shitting on my accomplishments.

So, I need a cure.

I used to confuse you with excellence. I used to honor you because I believed that you were the reason I paid attention to the details. I used to believe that you kept me dotting my i’s and crossing my t’s. Now I realize that was only a reflection of excellence. You are not the same as excellence. You should not be revered the way it should. Excellence is a value; perfectionism is an insecurity.

A friend and mentor of mine told me that you will not shut up. You will always be there sitting on my shoulder, yap yap yapping away. You will always think I should have put a comma there or a different word here. You will always tell me that I am not good enough and my work is not good enough. You will always have something to say.

But, it’s my choice whether I react. It’s my choice whether I listen. It’s my choice whether I heed to your whines and whims or whether I continue to march along a path of confidence in the work I have created.

Maybe that confident voice is the cure.

I wrote “I will choose confidence over perfectionism” on a sheet of paper last week and taped it to the bathroom mirror. I have been saying that phrase each morning during my daily meditation. I have been struggling and fighting to embrace the beauty, strength and excellence of the work I have created. Because it’s not enough for others to say it. It’s not enough for others to believe it. I have to say it. I have to believe it.

I will believe it. I vow to believe it. I vow to stop believing you.

You do not get the opportunity to infringe upon this season of success and good fortune. You do not get to shit on my accomplishments. You do not get to detract from all that God and the Universe have promised to me. You do not get a say and you do not get a seat at this table anymore.

I have let you do that for 25 years, and enough is fucking enough. Goodbye and good riddance.


Meet the Devils on My Shoulders

devil on my shoulders

Let me introduce you to devil #1. I call her inadequacy.

She likes to sit back and remain quiet for a long time. She likes to watch me work and build and create and produce. She likes to watch me accomplish the things I set out to do. And the minute I’ve traversed some ridiculous mountain, inadequacy likes to beckon me to look at Facebook. Then Instagram. She urges me to digest a lot of status updates about other people’s engagements and blooming love lives. Then she gets really close and whispers that everything I have done, everything I want to do and everything I will do are all diluted by my lack of a partner. Devil #1 doesn’t think my success is enough without someone to share it with. Devil #1 ignores the fact that I have family and friends–a community so close knit, bundled and bound around me that I am already sharing my success with a cavalry of supporters.

I tell devil #1 to stop whispering. I tell her that her whispers can’t ever get louder than the stomps of my cavalry.

Meet devil #2. I call her fear.

She’s not as aggressive as devil #1, but her passivity and silence are probably worse. She’s always there putting doubts in my head and delusions in my heart. She never knows shit about what’s coming next, but that doesn’t stop her from thinking that whatever comes next is going to destroy me. She doesn’t know rainbows, only storms. She doesn’t acknowledge triumphs, only trials. She doesn’t put faith in the future; she gives power to the past.

I tell devil #2 what I heard recently during one of my rare appearances in church: fear is only an illusion. Devil #2 is not even real.

Meet devil #3. I call her insecurity.

Devil #3 has always believed I’m an impostor. She has given in to the notion that I won’t ever truly make it as a writer without a journalism degree or bylines for major publications. Devil #3 doesn’t believe in creating my own legitimacy or carving my own path or establishing my own value. Devil #3 just thinks there is one way to do this thing, and she doesn’t think I’m doing it the right way.

I ask devil #3 to look closely at Twenties Unscripted. I invite her to see everything I have done without the resources she is so convinced that I need. I tell her that the bricks holding up this platform are those of self-discipline, resilience and raw talent.

The devils on my shoulders signify that I am flawed, fragile and fucked up. I introduced you to them so that you remember I am human. And when you are human, confidence is not always a natural asset. Confidence is learned. Built. Eradicated. Rebuilt. I brought you on this journey so that you can watch my confidence get built. Eradicated. And rebuilt. Again and again. I invited you in so that you could watch me quiet and quell every single devil on my shoulder.


The Insecurities We All Carry

“There are some things you can’t understand yet. Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding.” 
― Cheryl StrayedTiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar

“I think that outward confidence is just a projection of his insecurities,” I said to a friend the other day. It was the kind of sentence that rolled off my tongue a little too quickly after years of therapy and self-analysis. It was also the kind of sentence that made me feel like a little shit, aware that I am in no place to assume how someone else’s insecurities manifest themselves when I have a difficult time managing my own.

I’ve been having a tough year and I haven’t felt that great about myself or my life for awhile. I keep thinking that the tide will turn and I’ll quit feeling so shitty. I keep thinking maybe it’s a bad dose of PMS every month and next month, the anxiety won’t settle in my veins like cement. I ran into someone the other night at the bar as we all reunited for Homecoming Weekend and she said, “I love your blog. You be going through some shit.” I laughed and thanked her, but I wondered and worried that maybe that is what this blog has become, just me going through some shit. I wondered and worried that maybe that’s who I’ve become, just a woman going through some shit without any productive place to store all of her insecurities.

Insecure [adj.]  subject to fears, doubts, etc.; not self-confident or assured: an insecure person 

2. not confident or certain; uneasy; anxious: He was insecure about the examination.

3.not secure; exposed or liable to risk, loss, or danger: an insecure stock portfolio.

4. not firmly or reliably placed or fastened: an insecure ladder.

When I look at all of the aforementioned definitions of the word “insecure”, they each resonate with some aspect of my current state. I don’t know if people consider me to be confident. On good days, I believe I am. But on not-so-good days, of which there have been plenty lately, I worry. I stress. I doubt. I don’t believe. I watched an interview where Vivica A. Fox told Oprah she once was not in a place to receive praise because she was on a “treadmill of success.” Or, maybe it was a treadmill to success. Either way, I thought, “Wow, yes. Finally someone putting my thoughts into words.” I haven’t been able to fully receive other people’s encouragement lately because the ground I stand on sometimes feels so damn rocky. I want to hear them. I want to believe them. Some days, I just don’t.

Some days, I get caught up in the highlight reel of other people’s lives via Instagram and Twitter. Some days, I see people’s dreams manifesting themselves in real, true, lasting ways and I fret that maybe I will always just be that girl who has that blog. I worry that I want this blog to be more than what it is. I want this blog to be a gateway to other things, but I worry that maybe I’m not working hard enough to make those other things happen. I worry that all I am are likes. Retweets. Social currency that has started to feel so fleeting it nauseates me to even pay attention to those numbers. I worry that my breakthrough happened a long time ago and that this is all there is.

Some days, I’m insecure about the little things. The rapid pace at which I speak and how easy it is for people to miss what I’m saying. The way my lips dry out like clock work. Using the word “like” too much in my sentences. Sweating more than the law should allow.

Other days, I’m insecure about the big things. The trajectory of my career. The outlook of my love life. How and when the stars plan to align for me, if that is indeed a part of their plan.

Some days, I’m insecure about the monumental things. The scars. The healing I have yet to do. When I will be able to love fully, healthily, wholly, despite all of my fuckedupness. Some days I’m insecure about how loudly the beast inside of me roars anytime I’m triggered and how idiotic I feel anytime I assume that beast was long dead.

Some days, I don’t want to reach the end of a blog post. I don’t want to stop hearing the pitter patter of the keys because it means the alternative is hearing the beating drum of incessant thoughts inside my head. I want to just keep writing. Pitter patter instead of thudfuckingthud.

But, on the better days, I remember that my insecurities are my hidden gems. I remember what my sister tells me every so often– “You’re not Tyunscripted. You’re Tyece. You’re a person.” I remember that without insecurities, I couldn’t be vulnerable, and without vulnerability, I could not be a writer. I remember that I am not who or what people think I am just as a result of pouring my life on a screen year after year, whether those perceptions are for better or worse. But, I remember that I am everything that happens in between the blog posts, in between the paragraphs, in between the filled pages. I am the moments late at night, awake with only my thoughts and the dark sky. I am the moments early in the morning, before my feet hit the floor to scurry through another day. My life isn’t happening on the page. The filled page is merely a reflection. A way to process. But, my life is happening in the footnotes. It’s happening in the margins. It’s happening in the hidden spaces that nobody else gets to see or read or feel or touch.

When I said “his outward confidence is just a projection of his insecurities” I could have been talking about myself. I could have been talking about anyone. Because, some days, that is all we have. Feign confidence in hopes that maybe soon enough we’ll actually be confident. But, our insecurities make us real. They make us raw. They make us open and susceptible to emotion. They make us human. As much as I would love to be superwoman, my insecurities will always remind me I am skin and bones, guts and heart. The insecurities force me to slow down, to meet myself with more grace and compassion, forgiveness and understanding. Grace and compassion. Forgiveness and understanding. Grace and compassion. Forgiveness and understanding. The only ways to manage the insecurities we all carry.