When You Really Are A Gem

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Adapted from Sunday Kind of Love, July 17 edition

I came to know those walls the same way my fingertips knew the maze of muscles in your back–familiar and foreign, all at once. There was the Tracy Chapman poster. The coffee table from West Elm. The drawing your ex-girlfriend sketched using only ink pens. I knew exactly where you kept the ice trays; I popped three cubes out once and dropped them into a drink you made for me–lemon juice, Jameson, and a touch of water to even it out.

Your father died when you were young. Your mother is still in Sierra Leone. Your favorite beer is Stella Artois. See, my romantic life is laced with half-baked histories about men who no longer matter. I’ve only recently discovered that I’m not proud of this, I’m not proud of how I’ve never been able to embody Lauryn Hill’s advice not to be a hard rock when you really are a gem.

That night was stale with the scent of familiarity. The loss of novelty. The final flicker of the spark. It didn’t feel like the first night I came over and we joked with our Uber driver on the way from the bar or that time we split a bottle of wine and listened to Kid Cudi. No, that night was our default, our convenient place, our skin-deep status quo.

And when we found ourselves on separate sides of the couch, only ankle deep in a debate about whether or not people are happiest when they’re in love, I stopped you. I casually said, “Well none of this really matters because we’re just kicking it, right?” And in some crevice of my heart, the part of me that acknowledged I am a gem trying so fiercely to be a hard rock, I hoped that you wouldn’t agree. I hoped that you would stop me and tell me that I was wrong; I shouldn’t say things like that.

But, you didn’t. You fell silent and when I asked again if you agreed, you softly said that you did.

It has been some time now since you answered with that stroke of silence. We no longer stitch ourselves into the threads of each other’s Friday nights. To say I miss you would be an overstatement, but to say I don’t think of you would be a myth. Except I think of you now the way that women in the autumn of their twenties think of men from their past, with fewer floods of nostalgia and more trickles of appreciation. Because in some strange and contorted way, I needed you. I needed you to remind me that I am not a woman who ever “just kicks it.” I needed you to show me my heart grew two sizes too large to have maintained a charade of indifference. I needed you to be there during a season simmering with young, wild, and free whims of the twenty-something kind. I needed you to carry me just far enough away to feel fire, but not so far away that I couldn’t find my path back home.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

 

Thirty

 

Life has taught me that’s its completely possible to love, and not be loved, or to offer truth, only to have it withheld from you.

A Guest Writers’ Week post by Austin Weatherington

Even on my best days I’m teetering on the verge of hypocrisy, which makes me wonder why I bother taking a stance on anything at all. As each hour ticks off the clock, the personal tie which so dependently binds action to truth becomes less and less secure. That’s why I knew I had to write this in the morning when I knew I’d be inspired, clear, and prepared. I don’t know much, but there are two things which cause little confusion: I know what I am, and I certainly know what I’m not.

My responsibility to love? To truth? That’s the shit which is really beginning to fuck with me nowadays. Undoubtedly those two realities are the most fulfilling experiences this life has to offer, however it’s the painful, sacrificial mystery which surround them that is the source of my torment. Life has taught me that it’s completely possible to love, and not be loved, or to offer truth, only to have it withheld from you. The stakes get raised even higher when you realize your incumbency to love is boundless, and veers far beyond the equitable participation of others. The fundamental pursuit of both love and truth is like being asked to box your own shadow.

Just last night I established a pillow-top deal with the devil, we shook on it and everything. In exchange for my truth, I was given ponderous guilt. The type of guilt you feel when the information needed to triangulate the truth, gets manipulated into a binary understanding. This was far from my first rodeo, much like a savvy businessman I deliberated the terms; pokerfaced and stern, my involvement signaling my agreement.

An endearing kiss on the neck, and an amorous squeeze of the thigh started things off. Stares, words, and the white noise of the moment began to fill the room—and others. We eagerly begin to transition our bodies from one position to the next. I was amazed by how such harmony stemmed from something so selfish. I begin to thrust deeper and deeper as if I was looking for something, and the truth is, I was. As beautiful as she was, I knew what I was looking for could not be found inside of her. Yet I wanted my search to be remembered.

**

Late nights alone leave me reflecting on life as I thumb through scripture. I have loose thoughts of getting married and buying acres of land with a Jim Crow dollar. My mind can’t seem to escape a recent conversation I had with a wise black man who challenged by understanding of my condition given the most recent homicides of unarmed black men by the hands of law enforcement. As we watched little black and brown children innocently play on the basketball court, with a thick Boston accent he stated “It’s true that we’re all crazy (human beings), but the better question is who’s winning the race?” He later explained “Let me ask you a question. Who’s crazier, the killer? Or the one who witnessed the killing and believes things may somehow be different for them?
My 30 years of life have seem to go by in all of 30 minutes, leaving in their wake an honest and sensitive disposition. Things that once didn’t seem to matter now rattle the truest parts of me. I blame the countless conversations on intersectionality and afro-pessimism, or the exhausted facial expression held by the tattered black woman in handcuffs outside of the grocery store who was being detained by police for attempting to quiet her hunger.

I’m maturing into a place where decisions–and not settlements–are the defining parameters of my life, yet I know that process will require some time which I’m still walking myself through. However, what I do know is that I want to write beautifully; with confidence and command. What I do know is that I want to love, and be loved to life, not death. What I do know is that I’ve never felt more human, or more alive.

Austin Weatherington
Austin Weatherington

Austin Weatherington is a writer and multi-media communications professional with a true passion for content creation and story development. He’s always, always, always looking to collaborate with people on things. Whenever, whatever, however; as long as its positive. 

Connect with Austin on IG and Twitter: @A4aus

Like It Or Not

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My life’s story is chock full of unpopular truths. Raw truth. Stark truth. The kind of truth that does not fill people with the warm and fuzzies or always leave them coming back for more. Perhaps I’ve always known this, but I didn’t realize it fully until Sunday night.

During the first episode of Startup Is The New Black it was my job, alongside cohosts Briana and GG, to discuss the business of writing. I prefaced something I said with, “I don’t think a lot of people like to hear this, but…” My suspicions were confirmed because in real-time, people had the ability to like what I was saying, or more accurately click a button to give me “props.” As I spoke, my eyes couldn’t help but dart to the props emoji and notice if something I said received a flurry of likes or not.

We’re typically affirmed or invalidated via likes in retrospect–an old photo we post, a status update we publish. But, we’re rarely substantiated by those insatiable and intoxicating likes real-time, where every little word escaping our lips is on the chopping block. It’s like the jury deciding the verdict before the prosecution has had a chance to rest its case.

I walked away from that evening feeling out of sorts and disjointed from my purpose. What was a new and exciting opportunity so graciously offered to me dissolved into my own internal battle for a social media stamp of approval. For the first time in a long time, I questioned my own story and how I chose to tell it.

I closed the laptop and called one of my friends.

“I told people that I still work full time. That none of this happened overnight. I told them that it took five years before I made my first dollar from writing. And I don’t know if they liked any of it,” I said.

“But, that’s the truth, isn’t it?” he asked.

Of course it’s the truth, albeit not a resoundingly resonant one. And how could I blame the audience? Anytime I learn someone is an entrepreneur, artist or anything outside of the 9 to 5 mold, I’m instantly drawn to them. I want to pitch a tent in their mind, stay awhile, and learn the lay of their land. I want to ask questions and extract every single ounce of advice. People who thrive outside of the mold intrigue and inspire me, simple as that.

At the same time, life outside the mold is not my current reality. Not now, anyway. My truth is that I still have 20k+ in student loans and $1300 dollars a month to pay in rent. My truth is that I am solely responsible for keeping the lights on in apartment 202 and keeping a feisty feline named Roxy fed. My truth is there are these silent moments when I thank God for stability and the chance to build my dream without it hinging on a dollar.

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There are other unpopular truths. The things that have happened for me have taken a lot of work, patience, sacrifice, juggling, resilience, and lost sleep. They didn’t appear overnight. I never went viral. No one aside from my mama gave a shit about what I so freely wrote online for an entire year. I’ve burned bridges; I’ve lost battles. I’ve cried over emails lexically ripping me a new one. I’ve kicked myself for words I wish I would have garnered the guts to say.

None of us this has come easy. All of it has been a fight. And even four years in, I feel like I’m in the most nascent stages of my creative career. See, my truth is that I still battle inadequacy, doubt, and the temptation to give up on a routine basis. But, somehow, my passion pushes me out of the cave and back into the sun every single time.

These aren’t statements or stories that people immediately gravitate toward. They do not feel good and they certainly don’t paint a rosy, easy-to-come-by portrait of success. My pursuit of the American Dream, obtained by way of balancing gigs while pulling myself up from the boot straps, is a narrative people hardly want to hear, let alone live. Nonetheless, if you want anything remotely worthwhile in this life, you have to both put up and shut up. You have to do the work. If you want it overnight, you clearly do not want it badly enough.

So, that is the story I have to stand by. It is the only success story I can tell. And maybe I have to remind myself to tell that story unwaveringly, like it or not.

Xoxo,
Tyece

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

 

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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

On Writing: Tearing Down Walls, Digging Up Wells

To write well is to kiss the same bullet that tried to wipe you out.

You must be willing to go there. Yes, there. All the way there. Deep sea diving to the dead sea of your story.

If it sounds too daunting or too morbid or simply too absurd, then you are not ready. You are not ready to do this thing called writing. I do not blame you. We’re not taught to tell the stories of our skeletons. No, we’re taught and told to bury them deep in the closet, all the way in the back with highwater jeans and prom gowns we’ll never wear again. We forget that our skeletons are still somehow the foundation upon which everything else is built and the one thing left when everything else turns to dust. We aren’t ever reminded that there is something beautiful in those bones we bury.

So, you’ve got to go there. You’ve got to show the world the beauty in your buried bones.

Then you’ve got to tear down the walls. The red bricks you’ve been ducking behind. The red bricks are Instagram, and the red bricks are that strong Black woman bullshit, and the red bricks are every time you say you’re fine when you are absolutely not fine. The red bricks are the lies you tell yourself so you can sleep easily at night. You’re over him. Or you don’t care. Or you’re happy with the way things are. The red bricks are what make you seem impenetrable, but turn your soul ice cold.

You have got to cut the bullshit. Once and for all, now and forever.

You have to crack away at the red bricks. Brick by brick. You’ve got to spend a few nights sprawled across the floor with tears in your eyes and a roaring lion in your heart. You’ve got to rub the makeup off of your scars and see them for what they truly are.

Then you have to dig up the wells. You’ve got to drink a full glass of your own well water. You can’t filter it, and you can’t dump it into a Brita container. People will tell you that the well water of your story is unfit for human consumption. They’ll convince you it’s gross and unhealthy, and that you should only provide others with a filtered version of that narrative. But, that’s your story. Your best work and your bravest words are hidden in that glass of well water. Sip. Chug. Gargle. Spit it back out in paragraphs and iambic pentameter. Someone else is eager to lap it up. Someone else needs to drink it down. Someone else is parched, living in a desert of their own deceit and waiting for a sip of someone else’s truth.

The best writing comes from our wombs and our wounds, our broken walls and our dug up wells. It’s born from the temples in the pit of our bellies. The smoke from the wildfire. The blood behind the bruises. The grit at the bottom of the glass. To write well is to have survived hell. To write well is to face your demons head on. To write well is to declare that you don’t have a damn thing to be ashamed of. To write well is to undress your flaws and uncork the emotions you kept bottled up. To write well is to think less and feel more. To write well is to kiss the same bullet that tried to wipe you out.

To write well is to be willing to go there. Yes, there. All the way there.

Xoxo,
Tyece

2015 Black weblog awards final round promoShameless plug while we’re on this note about writing: Twenties Unscripted has advanced to the final round in the Best Writing category for the Black Weblog Awards! Thanks to everyone who voted in the first round. I would be over the moon if you could head over to www.blackweblogawards.com and show your love by voting one more time! Final round voting ends Nov. 17. Thank you!!