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.

Xoxo,
Tyece

When You’re Tired Of Who You’ve Been [By Ashley Coleman]

For the Twenties Unscripted fifth anniversary, I’ve invited five writers who have been anchors throughout my journey to contribute guest posts during the month. I asked each writer to pen whatever they’d like relative to the theme of transformation and turning tides.

Next up is Ashley Coleman.

Ashley is the mover and shaker. Whether she’s penning books, hosting workshops or standing at the helm of Permission to Write, her boundless energy never ceases to amaze me. It’s no surprise that she was the first person to send her guest post in for this series! But, aside from her unwavering discipline, Ashley intimately understands the DNA of her dreams. She is unafraid to take risks, innovate, improvise and do what’s necessary to translate her aspirations into action. I’m beyond inspired by her hustle, and I’m grateful for all the ways she roots for me and encourages me to push forward. I hope you enjoy her piece “When You’re Tired Of Who You’ve Been.”


It’s getting harder to remember who I was in my twenties. The things that I did, the jobs that I worked, the people I was around are all vivid. But the mindset evades me.

I think I’ve become so enveloped in who I want to be that the memories of who I was seem to be fading. All things become new right? But I try. I try to pull her up. I try to look back through those eyes. The girl who spewed anti-religious rhetoric before she knew who God was for real. The one who wasn’t sure she would ever love anyone the way she loved him. The budding songwriter. She’s peculiar to me now.

I see my higher self. Almost like she’s trapped and if I keep banging hard enough eventually the glass will shatter. I have laid myself on the altar because trying to do it all on my own has just left me tired and frustrated. I am learning the depth of what it means to be easy. Of what it means to be scarily focused yet extremely flexible all at the same time. I am learning what it means to have peace. Real, from the inside peace that is not easily shaken by outside stimuli.

I don’t want to be who I’ve been.

Ambitious yet doubting in my spirit because it’s just not moving fast enough. Wanting more money to have options but being afraid of who that makes me. Being grateful but wanting more. Wanting to send the card on time and be thoughtful, but constantly missing the mark.

The constant warring is unhealthy and to take a note from Nayyirah Waheed, “all the women in me are tired.”

I read the other day in the Bible that I am light and that a house built on a hill can’t be hidden. But can I be honest and say that sometimes I do feel hidden? Sometimes I feel like there is this huge life on the inside of me that for some reason just can’t get out. Recently, I have felt like I am in the way. Like I am the obstacle and the barrier for that life to escape and if I just could move. If I could just change and it’s both encouraging and maddening all at the same time.

See, because if it’s just me that’s in the way, that’s the one thing that I can control. But there is a pruning that needs to take place. A refinement. I need to be ushered into my best and highest self, which is no easy feat.

So much of this life has been about chasing things. About materialism and achievements and accolades. But in this space, I realize how much of my life needs to be about chasing me. Making the best decisions for myself, believing in myself, letting go of the nagging voices that just try to tell me I’m not good enough. Or that make me take for granted all that I do have, all that I am.

There is no more time to play small. There is no more time to simply react to life instead of setting the tone. This is your life, what will you do with it, Ashley? This is what I have asked myself on multiple occasions.

I can’t afford to wait for the tide to turn, I’m turning it.

I don’t want to exist in a life that feels stuck and unresolved and full of maybe ifs. I don’t want to exist in a life where I am plagued by the memories of good times instead of creating new ones. I will live assured, fulfilled, and with unmatched confidence.

The reality is I am not who I’ve been. Who I was would not even be able to see this clearly. I’m wedged in between who I was and the woman that I want to be, and I see her so clearly. I am the bud on the brink of blooming.

“I’m in charge,” to be read like Taryn Manning in Hustle & Flow. I am in charge of the transformation. I am at the helm of the ship. My thinking, my mind. That’s where it starts. The steering. Our lives will go in the direction of our thoughts. What have you been thinking?

I know for me, it has not been that I am fully capable and worthy of every great thing. But it is changing. It is morphing. It is transforming.

The girl in my twenties, I am okay with letting her go and realizing that the journey I am on may leave me unrecognizable on the other side.

Ashley Coleman is a writer and entrepreneur based in Philadelphia. The cultivator of the online space WriteLaughDream.com, she writes about life, love, and pursuing goals as a writer. She splits her work between helping other writers develop their voice and writing habits through one-on-one sessions, courses, and workshops and her own work in books like “Dear Love” and “Love on Purpose.” Ashley has been a guest lecturer at Temple University and a guest speaker at Blogalicious 8 in Atlanta. Her work has been published in GRAMMY.com, Essence.com, JUMP Magazine and more. 

Some Days

Some days I’m cloaked in veils, hiding underneath 10 thin layers of dark lace and dim lies.

Some days I’m grasping for straws, looking for love from men who keep one hand open and one fist balled shut.

Some days I resent the very precious Internet sanctuary I built by hand. Because I now realize that writing about your downfalls doesn’t always kill your demons. Sometimes you dance for years with the exact same devils. Some days you write and write and write and still have the monsters underneath your bed.

Some days I wish that my storytelling abilities didn’t skyrocket when it was time to chronicle unrequited love and the ones who didn’t last. I want the good stories. I want the great love. I want to write outside the lines of heartache.

Some days I don’t feel like I’m living as honestly as I write, like I’m shouting from the mountaintop about authenticity while still digging through thorns to figure out who and what I am.

Some days I am both finished manuscripts and ripped out pages. Rich soil and wild weeds. Pitch black caves and one million beams of light. All of the things at the exact same time.

Some days I still worry when the question marks will become periods, and I won’t have to wonder anymore.

Some days are really most days–a coming-of-age cyclone, a hard peer into a smoky mirror, a fight to gain footing and trust this thing called the process.

Xoxo,
Tyece

To Honor Your Becoming and Unfolding

A letter to my 23-year-old self

The year is 2013 and you are starving for everything. Success. Connection. Authenticity. Love. A sense of belonging. A tribe you trust and treasure. Yes, right now you are starving for everything, and no matter how much you grab at the shelves, it feels like the cupboards are never stocked enough.

There is something about being 23 years old that makes your eyes bigger than your stomach.

You want all of the things, but there are only specific morsels and people and experiences that you can digest with ease. Your spirit will reject everything you crave that was never meant for you.

You are floating among three points of a triangle. One point is you shedding your old self, crawling out of a tunnel with walls built from tragedy and roads paved from despair. The second point is you finding yourself, learning what it means to stand tall in the rich soil of being a black woman.The last point is you holding steadfastly to the things you believe to be true, so steadfastly that sometimes you stunt your evolution.

You don’t yet know how resilient your heart is because you never give her a chance to bounce back. Instead you continue battle testing her, crushing her underneath the weight of unrequited love that breeds bloody slashes. It will take some years and some broken glass to master how to protect your most vital organ.

I can only write this letter to you now, four years later, as I bear witness to the way other women your age both break and blossom. When I see them, I see you, and I remember all of the tightropes you crossed and tug of wars you fought to get here. I remember all of the things you believed about yourself that no longer hold water. I remember your relaxed hair and your defiance about having children and all of your convictions that now feel like lost islands. When I see them, I decide that there are five beautiful and tangled lifetimes that occur between ages 23 and 27.

I write this now to honor your becoming and unfolding. Stay the course and discover the beauty in each of your cracks. That is the only way you will arrive here, four years later, dancing beneath moonlight and carrying your whole heart.

Xoxo,
Tyece

Salt

karen postA Guest Writers’ Week post by Karen Devigili

I still remember the way two of his lower eyelashes clung together as I saw the first palpable sign of sadness drop from them after hopelessly clinging on for a few seconds. The tear drop fell so violently, gravid with teeming despair. It fell past his remarkably high cheekbones and landed on his quivering chin, bending the rules of physics along with it. I watched it try to escape, unsuccessful, and ashamed of its existence as it lingered aside the corners of his lips.

His lips, his lips, his lips, the ones that used to carry the happiness I fell in love with, were now so rich with heart-breaking futility. And his eyes, pointed in my direction, still could not see me. They looked through me like a torn veil, standing between him and the world he used to recognize, obscuring his view of that sense of independence he craved so strongly. The one I took away. I used to think it so beautiful when he covered himself in me, self-sacrificial, and euphoric in my scent. The utter elation between the molecules that composed our stories, as we lay in my bed, “three hours feeling like 5 minutes”, he used to say. But he sat there, eyes glossy, looking at me like a misguided memory, concealing the truths he wished he could have chased.

I could suddenly see the places he would have gone, the nights he would have had to himself, establishing his organic youth further, as opposed to letting his restless wanderlust accumulate into frantic boredom like a pestering insect. He tried to ignore it for so long, and I watched him do it. He let it land on his sighs, as he swallowed the frustration of not knowing how to rid himself of it. He couldn’t kill it; he loved it too much. That tiny pest was the last reminder of who he used to be. And he slowly began to realize it used to be a part of him, he shouldn’t need to swat it away. Those were the days when he looked at me less, understood me very little, and became increasingly absent. I would have done the same had I not sacrificed every part of me that didn’t find a place in our relationship.

He didn’t just wipe his tears, he sunk his face into his hands, the kind of tragic image that called for a soundtrack. Indulgence on top of indulgence. I took a serious moment to try to describe to myself the kind of pain that I was feeling. “I need to remember this,” I thought, “This is important.” After abandoning my obnoxiously ruthless and habitual tendency to objectify the situation by imagining what my dopamine levels probably looked like, I took a deep breath.

I suddenly saw myself floating, naked, out somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, between continents, surrounded by a black sky: I am freezing cold, floating on my back and the waves, indifferent to my existence, continue to thrash me underwater every now and then, whenever they please. I can feel the sharp, dreadful sting of the salt water on dozens of cuts, scrapes, and wounds on my bruised pale skin, and yet the only thing I seem preoccupied with is the vastness of everything. As I stare at the black sky full of stars-so deceitfully miniscule- like specks of dust deliberately sprinkled above humanity for purely aesthetic reasons, I am only reminded of how unfathomable the size of what’s under me is. The ocean, the creatures, the wholeness of their interactions as they create this vapid kingdom.

And I float there, slightly amused by how paralyzing the searing pain of the salt on all of my wounds is. I can feel it on my beat-up blue lips, my mouth half open, inviting the pain. I begin to see what might look like some sign of life on my peripheral, but by the time my eyes shift, I realize I’m chasing a hallucination of a life boat that moves accordingly, mocking me. It is only then that I suddenly realize, like a striking shock to my system, the reality of my situation. I can see myself, lifelessly floating in the crux of it all-so far from everything. My body, thousands of miles away from civilization, between the distant stars and the vast ocean. And this realization, awakens my long-lost ability to have a visceral, painful, human experience.

I start to feel a tear streaming down my face as I find myself floating back to significance. Although they loyally drift through my skin and into their salty, boundless, counterpart that is the sea, my tears feel bigger than anything I could imagine. And the stars, oh the stars. The stars that looked like simple decorations moments before now shone with their glimmering, incandescent light, enchanting me with their effortless beauty. The blackness of their surroundings, the vigor with which they shone, so far and resilient, as they covered the sky, made me feel a special kind of painful joy.

That’s when I felt the warm trickle of reality roll down my own cheek, on that painfully sunny day as I looked at him, now sobbing. Fully aware that he was just as lost as I was, I knew he was at least on dry land. I always resented him for that, but I suddenly felt a warm sense of acceptance. I reached out and took his hands away from his face. I kissed his salty tears, knowing that although the salty water on my wounds in the ample monster of the sea would be thought much less favorable than his despair on land by most, I disagreed. Even through the blistering pain, there’s nothing like that black sky, nothing like the sea, and I’m sure he’s never seen as many stars as I have.

IMG_6904Karen is a communications professional with a passion for words. On her time off she likes to overthink how to spend her time off while watching YouTube videos with her dog. She currently lives in the DC metro area. Connect with her on Twitter @Silvana_Dev.