The doubt doesn’t sit in my stomach the way it once did. It doesn’t swallow me whole or render me helpless for days on end the way it used to back in 2014. Success and I have this history now–that complicated, love/hate sort of history. We’re familiar with one another. We’ve learned how to handle each other in ways that are graceful and careful and far less codependent than they once were. I do not parade her around like I once did. I’m a bit more overprotective of her than I should be. Yet, somehow, I still don’t trust my success enough. Success and I still don’t stand closely enough to one another. So, there’s this sliver of space left between us. That’s where doubt closes in.
For weeks, I’ve been thumbing through the Twenties Unscripted strategic plan, this wonderful and daunting behemoth of a document that my talented friend Jazz and I worked on together late last year. It’s filled with objectives and charts and quotes from my fellow bloggers. It is also the closest thing to a mirror I’ve ever had held up to my work in the past three and a half years. It’s more than my own opinions or assessments. It’s rooted in stats and interviews; it holds a much more objective lens up to the past few years. The first night I plopped down to read it, I got stuck on page 17.
“Twenties Unscripted, while appreciated within its circle of long-time readers and by other writers, is putting forth events and promotion efforts that are not garnering adequate local awareness, media coverage, or engagement. Without a growth in recognition and engagement both on and offline, the blog and brand will begin to cost more money than it makes and runs the risk of being pushed to the side by Wilkins for more tangible career goals–which would mean the loss of yet another important voice for Black women in a culture–and city–that needs every strong, intelligent, and unflinchingly honest Black woman willing to share her truth.”
It felt like ouch. It felt like that minute you realize your finger touched the oven, but the blister already started to form. And, yet, when reading that paragraph over and over again, I knew how much icy hot truth ran through those words. I wondered and worried that there would be this doomsday where reality pushes my dreams to the passenger seat. I wondered and worried that if this blog does not grow, it will undoubtedly begin to cost more money than it makes. I wondered and worried that I might let my voice grow quiet and dim in a world that evidences just how much it needs my truth. Of all the things that could happen–a collision with reality, losing money, or silencing my voice–silencing my voice is the one that would eat me alive.
The things I still want feel like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. The life I see for myself still feels like airplanes and trains and spaceships away. Some days there aren’t enough positive affirmations to quell the villains that shout into my ear. I wish there were. I wish there were enough Twiter chats, Periscope videos, and Instagram images to shut down the doubting devil in my head whose favorite question is, “Is this all worth it?”
But, there’s also something oddly comforting about the doubt. It reminds me that I am not all I want to be nor all I can be just yet. It pushes me to prove it wrong. It encourages me not to stand too closely to success, and to find something a bit sunnier to fill that space. It inspires me to look hard at every single one of the footprints I’ve already stamped on the mountain in my uphill battle toward that life I crave.
I almost didn’t want to say write these things, like I’ve reached this point where shining such a bright light on my doubt is a bad creative decision. Or like I couldn’t package these scattered and spread out thoughts in a way symbolic of my writing style. But, then I remembered I’m human. We aren’t ever above our own humanity, complex and messy as it might be. And humanity is not always about sunshine, nor is it always about rain. Sometimes, it’s just about the clouds that you can’t quite see your way through.