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. 


If You’ve Mastered It, You’re In The Wrong Place.

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What the fuck am I doing?

That’s the thought that went through my head this weekend. After we celebrated and tweeted and you all purchased the book on presale at a rate far beyond what I anticipated.

What in the entire fuck am I doing?

That was the resounding scream that shot through my mind and in between my ears. See, this one is not like the other ones. This one is not the showcase or a brunch or a Twitter chat. This one is not The War on Black Women’s Bodies. This one is the book. This one is one that I’ve never undertaken before. This one is the one that jolted me awake one morning at 2 a.m. and kept me up until 6 a.m., even though I thought I abandoned all-nighters after college. This one is the one that had me going off the grid and not blogging for two weeks straight. This one is the one I’ve dreamed of, worked toward and worked for. This is the one that has me wondering what in the entire fuck am I doing?

The words I needed to hear didn’t come to me until I said them to someone else. About something else.

“When you feel like you don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, it means you’re doing the right thing. The minute you’ve mastered it, you are in the wrong place.”

I wondered why the passion started to wane. I wondered why I was dragging myself to my laptop each night instead of galloping to it like I once did. I wondered why I was waking up feeling like a sack of shit and going to bed feeling like a pile of bricks. I wondered why it didn’t feel good anymore. It didn’t feel fun anymore. It didn’t feel exhilarating anymore.

It’s because I was in the wrong place.

I had mastered it. I was doing the things I knew how to do. I was executing work that was only a staple of Twenties Unscripted, not a new addition to it. I was playing it safe. I was doing what I knew would work. After F-BOMBS crashed and burned last autumn, I got scared and went back to my sure things.

But, sure things do not erect dreams. Sure things do not build character. Sure things do not require courage. Sure things do not test boundaries. Sure things do not show you what you are made of. Sure things just allow you to sit smugly and execute flawlessly. Sure things are benches in broken and unfulfilled places. Sure things are accessories of complacency and the assumption that you have somehow done something in this life.

I was in the wrong place.

And I probably would have stayed in the wrong place if it weren’t for the words of my sister. “You should be proud; this is your first book.”

It was only supposed to be a compilation of essays. It was only supposed to be this marketing tool for the blog’s third anniversary. It was only supposed to be this limited edition thing that I kinda, sorta promoted and used to anchor the month. But, her words rattled me into reality. They reminded me that spending months upon months combing through essays and compiling a body of work is not “just a marketing tool.” It’s not just this thing I pulled out of my ass. It’s not  a limited edition item. It is a book. And I will treat, promote and honor it as such.

But, it means that I am back in the right place. I am nervous and scared and uncertain. But those nerves and that fear and that uncertainty remind me that I am doing the right thing. I am taking the right leap. Because I am excited. My heart’s racing again. The blood’s pumping again. And I am sitting up at 11:46 p.m. writing this post when I thought I was going to head to bed.

If you’ve mastered it, you are in the wrong place.

And if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re in the right place.

So, if you are in the right place, choose confidence over perfectionism. Faith over fear. Excitement over uncertainty. Lessons over mastery. Growth over expertise. The precariousness of being in the right place over the stability of being in the wrong one.


The Beautiful Plans We Made

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I can’t be the only blogger struggling with what to say for my first post of the new year. I can’t be the only blogger contemplating sucking down a second glass of wine just to help some words flow, just so I can muster up something slightly insightful to pen. I can’t be the only blogger who feels crushed under the pressure of all the New Year’s hoopla, feeling forced to capitalize on the fact that everyone is still embodying the “New Year, New Me” mantra five days in.

This New Year’s season was the first time I thought, “It kind of sucks to have a blog during New Year’s.” There is the surmounting weight of your year-end post, a post that squeezes your brain and sucks the life out of you as you attempt to contain the waves of a year in 1000 or so words. Then there are all of the blog relaunches, launches, new projects and other things to keep track of from everyone else. It seems so logical to roll out new plans at the beginning of the year (something I have already done and will continue to do throughout this week–consider it Twenties Unscripted Premiere Week) until you realize it’s tough to cut through the noise of everyone else’s new plans. And, of course, there is the mass of your first post of the new year. So, here we are.

Many of my plans for 2015 are currently housed in my tiny beating heart, taking up space in my brain. I have socialized some of those plans with a few trusted people in my tribe, electing to do as I said in my year-end post and “protect the vision.” Some of those plans, however, are things I will gladly share with readers. For instance, I’m writing less this year to free up room for bigger projects. There were times last year when I was writing four original pieces a week and while I love y’all, I love my sanity much more. This blog will always be my first love, but I am also at a point where I’m grateful that this space has given me the runway to work on larger-scale projects. So the plan is to write two posts a week as well as publish a guest post or feature once a week.

Some of my plans are the kind of plans that scare the living shit out of me, which are really the only plans I pursue nowadays. If it’s not bigger than life, if it’s not scary as shit, if it doesn’t give you chills, then it’s not outside of your comfort zone. It’s not forcing you to grow. And you should leave it the fuck alone.

And, finally, there is the uncertainty of the year ahead. The uncertainty we all have to accept, no matter how many mantras we post on our whiteboards or how many inspirational words we cut out from magazines. There is the grand, immense and inevitable unpredictability of these days that now sit so dreamily in front of us. There are the forks in the road we never saw, the events that will send us in a different direction, the moments in life that will shift all of the beautiful plans we made. There are better plans that will manifest, better ideas that will pop into our heads, new thoughts that will guide the old plans we made. There are new friends who will become a part of our old plans and old friends who will become a part of our new plans. There are people who will stay and people who will go and people who may re-enter. There will be revelations, resolutions, evolution. There will be bullshit, pain and battles that weren’t ever worth fighting. There will be beauty, love and happiness that’s simply unspeakable. It won’t necessarily be a good year or a shitty year, but it will be a year. And any year is filled with loveliness and shit.

So what else is there to do but stand firm and dream still? Believe still. Plan still. Hope still. Know that some days you’ll cry and other days you’ll laugh and some days you will just let the world quiet down so you can remain still. Some days you’ll fight and some days you’ll write and some days you’ll curl up with a glass of wine and shut everything else down. Some days you’ll soar, some days you’ll dip and some days you will be happy just to walk on solid ground. So stand. Believe. Plan. Hope. Love. Do the work. Do it some more. Embrace the uncertainty, soak it up and believe in its magic. You can’t plan for the uncertainty and you sure as hell can’t resist it when it appears. So let the road wind and let the rain pour. Happy 2015.


Embrace The Question Marks.

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.


There aren’t many things in this life of which I’m sure. The only thing I ever feel I know for certain is that I’m supposed to write. Aside from my core relationships, everything else just feels like ephemeral mush. And, it gets even muddier when you talk about my dating life. There are certainly times where I’ve worried that maybe a part of me has become dormant or closed-off from love. There are times when I’m on my take-over-the-world shit and I really don’t care about being paired off. And, then, there are times when I want nothing more than someone to nuzzle their face into my neck and whisper that I’m beautiful. There are times when I strip off the superwoman cape and see that I am as human and vulnerable as it gets.

And, while there are times that I would love nothing more than to erase the question marks in life and transform them into periods, I know that I have to embrace them. Wrap my arms around them and let the uncertainty melt into me. Let the uncertainty leave its imprints on me for a time when I am old and gray, a time when the stories already have endings.