The Mid-Twenties Battle Cry

mid twenties battle cry

You’re waiting for the day when it doesn’t feel like you’re fighting to keep your head above water. You thought by this time you would have things figured out. Or at least you would have something figured out. You would be more settled. Happier. Freer from the bullshit of your early twenties. But, you’re creeping past the mid-twenties mark and some days, it doesn’t feel that different from 21. It still feels so uncertain and you still feel like you’re walking across this rickety drawbridge bound to break at any second.

You want to stop being such an emotional ass all the time. You see older people who remain unruffled by most situations, and you wonder why your fuse always seems to blow before you can will it to do the opposite. You wonder how much energy, time and emotion you’ve wasted mustering up all of the exasperation you have and releasing it. Over and over and over again. You know you’re not as much of a whiny prick as you used to be, but some days you still have the propensity to be an unabashed and self-absorbed asshole. Hey, at least you recognize it.

Every now and again, you let yourself tumble down the rabbit hole of social media that says you should be on some sort of path to marriage and babies by now. You see the same people you threw back shots with only a few years ago bringing home little Baby Chelsea with a giant bow adorning her bald head. And all you can think is that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to stop hooking up with that guy you never loved and never will. Maybe, just maybe, you should stop texting your ex. Maybe, just maybe, every friend with benefits has his expiration date. Maybe, just maybe, emotional masochism is ruining you. Maybe, just maybe, there is this hidden and tender part of you that’s ready for the alchemy of love.

If it’s not happy hour or brunch, it ain’t happening. Why on God’s green earth are people still inviting you to things that start past 9 p.m.? Sleep is manna from the gods and people need to start treating it as such.

If you believed in clichés, you would say this is that awkward metamorphosis when you go from a caterpillar to a butterfly. Except you don’t believe in clichés, so you just feel all out of sorts in situations and relationships where you were once comfortable. You are watching things change. You’re watching the layers of your early twenties shed. You are having a head-on collision with the reality that this is the point where everyone’s paths start to diverge and friendship is not as effortless as living three doors down. So, you fight to forge common ground. And you reluctantly begin to grasp the truth that you can’t nourish relationships from the vestiges of good old memories. You know now, more than ever, who is in it for the long haul. Even if things change. Even if the layers shed. Even after you’ve had a head-on collision with the reality that paths are beginning to diverge.

You’re impatient and antsy and never quite satisfied when it comes to your dreams. And like so many other aspects of life, you feel like it’s time to shit or get off the pot. Stop talking about it and be about it. Take some sort of step or giant leap toward the dream that you just keep talking about when the conversation turns all philosophical at happy hour. Now you’ve gotten hungry for it, and you realize that this is the time to cement the foundation. This is the time to put in the work.

You’d like to stop being such a nimrod when it comes to your money. You recognize that money is simply a tool, a means to an end. Money is not the weekend treasure you have squandered for years. Money is a huge part of how that dream you talk about when the conversation turns all philosophical at happy hour becomes a reality.

You wish someone would have told you that your mid-twenties are still your twenties. The drawbridge is still shaky and the wine is still cheap. The tunnel is still dim and the progress is still concealed. The music is still blaring and the men are still buffoons.

But, now you know. You know that adulthood sucks on some level and blesses you on another. You know the double edged sword of independence. You know that Sallie Mae is really not playing with you. You know who you once were and, if even on a small scale, you know who you would like to become. You know when you’ve tested your limits or when you have royally fucked something up. You know when you owe someone an apology, even if it still takes you some time to utter it. You know you need to stop taking shots. Period. End of story. You know when you want to say yes and when you want to say no. You know that keeping $30 dollars in your pocket usually beats agreeing to go out. You know that he doesn’t love you. You know that you’ll always love him. You know that it’s just the natural order of things.

You know yourself and the world around you an iota better than you did five years ago. And that counts for something. My God, in the grand scheme of this rocky and roller coaster existence, that counts for a hell of a lot.


Guest Writers Week | The Older You Get…

jelisa quote

High school was chock full of daunting college applications, fleeting friendships, and hype pep rallies. For most, it was exciting, but I was always counting down the days until college happened. In high school, I cared too much about what others thought of me and I longed to go to a place where I would be accepted. My days were spent (in between studying of course) feeling badly about sitting at the lunch table alone, working tirelessly to impress a guy or following the path laid out for me to the letter. I was afraid to speak up in class for fear that I would be called a nerd, so I spent most of my time hiding so that others could be comfortable with me.

Sure, I was a star student, involved in many student groups and poised to head to a top college. But on the inside, I let what my peers thought of me or what I thought they thought of me rob me of the freedom of being unapologetically me.

That “dull your own shine” attitude followed me into my college years.

I’d miss interesting events and speakers because I was afraid I’d be the only Black person there or worse that I’d have no one to go with. I didn’t join certain student groups for fear of being ridiculed. I didn’t pursue my dream of writing because of the people who told me that it was not a substantial career. When you tell people that you are a Theatre and Latin American Studies major, their blank stares, piercing disappointment, confusion and replies of “Oh” can dim your spirit.

I wanted to impress. I wanted a “You go, girl!”

Instead replies went something like this…

“Why do you want to do that?”

“What are you going to do with that?”

“Why didn’t you study business?”

“You will never make it.”

Because I didn’t get the affirmation I sought, I forced myself to pursue other interests. I focused on my backup plan so much that I didn’t get anywhere near my dream.

It took conversations with my mother during my last year of college to realize that what others say or feel about your path should not matter. The infinite “Oh” that I receive when talking about my purpose is just a result of other people’s fear. It should not be mine. You would think that the revelation would have happened sooner, but you can’t rush progress.

And that has been my goal: to stop basing my life and decisions on other people’s expectations.

Every day, I ask myself the questions:
What do you want to do?
What is your purpose?

And I follow that with my whole heart.

The older you get, the less you care. Or maybe you just come into your own. No need for “Amen” and “You go, girl” to compliment your dreams (unless they are praying for you, then you need all of that you can get). You live everyday so that you can look back on it in fifty years with few regrets. You don’t need a co-signer. You don’t need to explain or give everyone a play-by-play of how it is going to happen. The older you get, the more experiences you have and the more you realize that you don’t care what people think about you. You begin to live life to please your Creator and yourself. You follow your dreams with a gusto and magic that is contagious. That magic inspires others to do the same.

Jelisa Jay Robinson is a writer and playwright from Houston, Texas. She enjoys traveling, singing 90’s pop music, belting out Enrique Iglesias songs with friends, and reading a good Junot Diaz novel. You can find her musings on being a bilingual Black American on her website Black Girl, Latin World. Feel free to follow her on twitter @jelisathewriter.

Do Not Surrender Your Twenties: 2015 Commencement Edition

Me, my best friend and the infamous side eye
Me, my best friend and the infamous side eye

I’m at the point where it’s hard to remember the person I was in college. Old Facebook albums are the only vestiges left of the girl who stuck her tongue out too much in photos, dealt with a lot of bullshit from her older boyfriend and assumed she would now be a successful writer in NYC.

I don’t know that girl anymore. But, I know that girl is somewhere in the shadows of the woman I am now–a woman smack dab in the middle of her twenties reflecting, freaking out and fucking up.

Reflecting. Freaking out. Fucking up. And somewhere in between all of that, trying to steer my ship the best way I know how.

“Do Not Surrender Your Twenties” has become an emblem of Twenties Unscripted, as has my annual commencement post. Both provide me with a chance to pause and ruminate on the lessons that have jilted me, jolted me, jaded me, jabbed me and jarred me. Both provide me with an opportunity to funnel the lessons that have rocked and refined me into something better than just scars and battle wounds. This year I decided to combine the two missives. Class of 2015 (and everyone else) here it goes. These are the lessons that have made me half of who I am and 1/10th of who I will become.

Do not surrender your twenties to being a jackass. Tact goes a long way. Kindness goes a long way. Niceties go a long way. The world would have you believe that everything is about the bottom line. The world would have you believe that you can and should sacrifice feelings in favor of business, emotions in favor of paychecks and relationships in favor of results.

Sometimes the world is frighteningly, madly and immensely wrong.

Do not surrender your twenties to him. Yes, him. That him. The italicized him. The romanticized him. The overly sensationalized him. The you-aren’t-going-to-change-his-mind-so-do-not-try him. Your heart will play tricks on you that your mind can see straight through. Sometimes it’s more fun to listen to your heart because then you can blast Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, think about him and feel completely justified in your tortured feelings. But, days become weeks and weeks become months. And then years will pass. And when you look at the long and short of it, nothing has changed. Not a damn thing. He is always going to be that overly sensationalized him–beautiful in your mind, reckless in your reality.

Do not surrender your twenties to working too hard, too long or too much. It’s graduation so everyone is telling you just how much you are going to take over the world. Except even world conquerors require rest, recuperation and reflection. All engines need fuel, and you can’t gas up when you’re flying 80 miles per hour. It’s cute to run around believing you can do it all, handle it all and conquer it all. But you can’t and you won’t. Listen to your body. Heed to your spirit. Lean on your friends. Tomorrow is not promised, but if you run yourself ragged, neither is today.

Do not surrender your twenties to listening to everyone else but yourself. Your gut is your greatest, strongest, smartest and most pointed guide…unless it’s speaking about the italicized him. Then that’s not your gut, it’s your vagina.

It’s OK to listen to her every now and again, too.

Do not surrender your twenties to believing the hype. Likes never paid bills and retweets never kept the lights on. Take everything you see on social media with an enormous grain of salt. I know social media superstars who can’t make rent and people living comfortably who don’t even know what Twitter is. Some people are hype masters and some people are hard workers.

Do not surrender your twenties to a dying need to be coddled, comforted, validated or loved. Sometimes it will just be you in the middle of the ocean, forced to swim without a life jacket. Swim. Paddle. Splash. Tread. Stay afloat. Stay alive. You can because you have to.

Do not surrender your twenties to a chase for perfection. You are imperfect, fragile, dynamic and complex. You are a blindingly beautiful mess. It takes too much of your energy, time and sanity to pretend your shit is always together when it is absolutely, unequivocally and undoubtedly NOT together. So, be a mess. Cry. Be ugly. Wear flats sometimes. Go without a pedicure. Contrary to what Beyoncé said, no one ever woke up like “this.”

Do not surrender your twenties to your past. Let go. Forgive. Build the bridges. Mend the fences. Say sorry and really mean it. Don’t say sorry and deal with the repercussions of your absent apology. Stop pretending your bad childhood or that really awful thing that happened to you are excuses to treat people like garbage. They’re not. Yes, they sucked and they will always suck, but you have to summon the spirit to be a good person.

Do not surrender your twenties to the future. Calm down. Breathe. Have a drink. Do the work. Find a force beyond yourself to believe in, a force beyond yourself to trust in, a force beyond yourself to anchor you when waters are choppy and friends are few.

Do not surrender your twenties to wanting to have it all. “It all” is a subjective, amorphous and potentially unattainable acquisition. There is no “all.” There is only what you want and what you do not want. Decide and carry on.

Do not surrender your twenties to tradition, convention or a framework for your life that simply doesn’t fit.

Do not surrender your twenties to bad people, bad vibes, bad relationships, bad jobs, bad sex, bad weaves, bad jokes or bad television. Some things are just awful and shouldn’t be allowed.

Do not surrender your twenties to self-pity, self-deprecation or self-hate. Stop despising yourself in photos. Quit always asking to see the picture one millisecond after it’s taken and then requiring another one because you think your eyes look weird or your ass is small. Listen, your eyes do look weird and your ass is small. And it’s perfectly OK because you’re beautiful. Except I’m not the one who has to believe that, you do.

Do not surrender your twenties to the people who don’t respect you, the relationships that don’t ignite you and the careers that don’t excite you. This decade is where you’ll ripen. This decade is the motherfucking metamorphosis. And you will still have time after this, but you’ll never again have this time. Do not surrender it.


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.


The 25th Birthday Post: Ready For My Breakthrough

“Stay the course–and stay ready for your breakthrough.” –Michael Jones

Sometimes, I want to go back.

I want to go back to age four. I want to go back to only eating the icing off my birthday cake.

Or, maybe I want to go back to age six, to my mom bringing a ballerina cake to my first grade class and to seeing a brand new Barbie doll on my bed when I got home from school.

I want to go back to that sweet ass 16. I want to go back to Darius taking me to a dinner that I’m sure his mother paid for and handing me a bouquet a flowers that I know she picked out. I want to go back to wearing pink Converses and making out in our parents’ basements.

I want to go back to 21. I want to go back to my breasts propped up in a leopard print dress, absolutely sure that the world and its endless flow of liquor were ready and waiting for me.

I want to go back.

But, I don’t.

Because, I can’t.


Because, I am here. And, this is now. And, all I have is this compass I’ve been given. If 50 Cent were nearby, he’d be shouting, “Go, shawty. It’s ya birthday.” I am here. And, this is now. And, good, bad, or indifferent, I own every last one of these jagged jigsaw pieces called My Life.

I’m supposed to have some wise shit to say today. I’m supposed to go all Yoda on you and tell you Everything I Know About Life.

But, instead, I should tell you that I am afraid. I am uncertain. I am anxious. Last year for my 24th birthday post, I wrote “Step one is to know yourself.” If that’s step one, then step two is to lose yourself a la Eminem. Lose yourself. Lose your shit. Lose your sanity. Lose your last goddamn mind. Because, that is precisely what I have done this past year. I now understand the pandemonium, the panic, the sheer terror that accompany turning 25 and wondering what in the entire fuck you are doing with your life. I now understand feeling as though you’ve failed yourself, feeling as though your life is not quite where you want it to be. I now understand looking at the pie chart of your existence and wondering why, oh why, can’t it just add up to 100 percent?

It isn’t my job to sit perched atop the Holy Grail and pretend I’m rocking the shit out of life on my 25th birthday. You turn 25 and you’re ready to jump off the ship. You’re fed up. You’ve fucked up. Nothing has gone as planned. So, it’s not my job to feign that I have it all together. It is, however, my job, to own every last one of my jagged jigsaw pieces. It is my job to channel Sheryl Sandberg and lean the hell in to this path. It is my job to steer this ship, not to request that the waters rock the boat any less.

Last week when I solicited advice from my 25 year old (or older) friends, so much of what they said resonated with me. But, if there is anything that convicted me the most, it is what Michael said: “Stay the course–and stay ready for your breakthrough.” I first titled this post, “Ready For The Breakthrough” but I changed “the” to “my” because there is a very specific and unique breakthrough I believe is on its way for me. And, if that sounds overly prophetic and slightly nutso, I’ll take it.

Google told me that a breakthrough is “a sudden, dramatic and important discovery or development” or “an instance of achieving success in a particular sphere or activity.” My breakthrough is going to be all of the above. That breakthrough is all mine. That breakthrough is well-versed in the trenches I’ve walked through, the bridges I’ve crossed over and the flames that have burned me. That breakthrough has my full government written all over it. That breakthrough wasn’t winning a Black Weblog Award. That breakthrough wasn’t producing a showcase. That breakthrough wasn’t attending BlogHer2014. No, that breakthrough is so much bigger than I could ever imagine. Bigger than anyone else could predict. That breakthrough is going to shake the core of this Earth. I will leave that breakthrough forever changed. Of that I am sure.

I do not know what is on the other side of my twenties, and I finally am starting to settle into that uncertainty. All I can do is adhere to Michael’s advice and stay the course. It might feel great to jump off now, to stop risking my money, stop risking my time, stop risking my heart. But, you don’t get the breakthrough without staying the course. I don’t know what’s waiting for me in the second half of being a snotty-nosed twenty-something. But, I know that the first half has been setting me up for the breakthrough.

I know that July 24, 2011 and August 18, 2011 were just preparing me for the breakthrough. I know that the pockets of lost faith in 2014 were just preparing me for the breakthrough. I know that living in Framingham, MA and Plano, TX for eight months at a time, pulled away from my roots, were necessary for the breakthrough. I know that you are not deserving of the breakthrough until life has broken you, until it has forced you to fall to your knees and cock your head to the sky. I know that my breakthrough is well on its way. You couldn’t tell me any differently, not even on your best day. And, it is that assurance that will make for a happy birthday.