IMPETUS FOR GROWTH

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Self-love is a funny word.

It was not us alone who helped mold our sense of self. It took years of turmoil and tribulations to realize healing could not be done without acknowledging the hurt that existed. Chips on shoulders exist because something eroded their surface with something heavy. Attitudes are not always bad ones — until they are.

As young children, we are resilient. We fall in gravel, get stitches on our foreheads and lips, and wear our band-aids proudly like badges — until we don’t. We begin pointing fingers at those still with band-aids, or the scars that lie beneath. we expect a young child to develop into an emotionally-aware, mentally developed adult without discussing dates or developmental milestones. We never got to speak about what hurts, because maybe, at the time, it didn’t. Nothing did. Those bright bandaids looked badass on you. You just wanted to match with your friends.

Once you rip those bandages off, you sometimes find out your wounds are raw. The skin underneath is broken. This time, you need adult bandages, but are afraid of fingers being pointed at you. You allow your wounds to grow infected, and you allow the hurt to grow. The infection worsens, and you are faced with the option to completely sever the source.

These wounds are made silently, slowly, seductively. Hurt feels therapeutic when we are angry at the world we were born into. Hurt is hurt, after all — it is not supposed to feel like anything other than pain and discomfort. Anything that hurts at extremes can throw our bodies into shock, and we may never recover.

We must ask ourselves questions periodically, and frequently, about what we are doing to actively heal our wounds; check in on your scars, reflect on your battles. That is the hardest part — admitting to ourselves that we were bent, worn thin, hurting. We do not want to be perceived as weak, but resilient; but, who bounces back better than a woman who has shed fresh tears? Who redeems more than a man on his knees trying for a new chance?

Am I really hurting right now? Yes. I am still living yes. Are my thoughts still mine? Yes. Is this heart still mine? Yes. I assure you, you will be fine as long as you check in with yourself. Daily, weekly, monthly. Set up time to just reflect on what hurts, why, for how long, and what you are doing to make yourself “ not sad.” Of course, I wanted to stray away from that word choice, but ultimately we are all battling different enemies — External, internal, perpetual, temporary.

Self-love. Such a word which places so much emphasis on the “self” part, without realizing sometimes it takes a village. Sometimes it takes talking to others to realize what you do not like or want to change. It takes help to establish healthy patterns and make changes to self-help techniques of coping. We are not alone on this earth, no matter how friendless we are. There is someone feeling what you are feeling (or pretty damn close) based on their tribulations and experiences. When you realize how human hurting is, you may be able to realize how human it is to experiences periods of self-hate and utter dissatisfaction with the self, and life.

Hurt is as human as growth, with physical growth coming naturally and easily. What do we do to accelerate the growth within ourselves? We find a catalyst for growth and we cling to it.

Here is a short poem to wrap it up:

how often we plant seeds

and expect them to grow with no nutrients.

it is not the sun that we need, we are not nearly plants —

we are vessels of this earth. we need light.

knowledge, insight, and epiphanies.

epiphanies based on new knowledge.

only then, can we grow?

“NOT MY TYPE”

The physical attractiveness of a woman is important. I learned that simply, and rather quickly through shared opinions of peers. I had learned that beauty matters before I truly learned to define it by my own standards.

Ever since puberty crept in, I understood and delved into the world of sexual attraction between men and women. This understanding of romantic and sexual relationships expanded with age. With each year, friends, family, and nameless faces provided an example of what beauty cannot be — beautiful women did not typically look like me. I know this because beautiful women made it to front covers of magazines and fronts of lines when some faint-hearted man notices her. When I finally noticed boys, I noticed how they hardly noticed me. Like many other preteen girls, I wanted to know why the boys did not like me. I wanted to know why they sat starry-eyed with my friends but sat stank-faced when speaking with me. I needed to know.

I was eleven. I began my sixth-grade year in a primarily Latino/Hispanic school where the majority of the students learned English as their second language. Along with learning a new language, I began learning a new world. This new world was one dictated by physical attributes and the ability to use them as an advantage in order to succeed. In middle school, physical attributes helped with achieving certain friendships and “first crushes.” I remember my first crush being a short Latin boy (called “M” for the sake of the story) who attended middle school with me. And although I spent what felt like decades chasing after him, I came to realize early on that first crushes and physical attributes had little to do with my ability to land my first kiss.

As I looked at my surroundings and the pale faces that stared back, I realized the reason for (much of) my social anxiety was simple: I was black — and I definitely knew it.

Being Black “Kicked In”

When I was a young girl, around age 7 and 8, I remember growing cautious of the amount of time I spent baking in the sun. The phrase “too dark” was already eerily familiar, although I had often forgot the exchanges that mentioned it. Remember the joke, “god left you in the oven for too long”? Let us not forget being compared to primates! Beyond the name-calling, I had this desperate voice directing me to retreat towards a shaded area. The older I grew, the more my aware I became of the comments others made about the color of my skin. I actually because hypersensitive towards it; I began to believe much reason for my failure to integrate into the social bodies is due to my fear that others are negatively stereotyping me.

Vivid memories of rejection fill my head when I think of middle school. Before sex was even a topic of discussion or fleeting thought, my value was lowered based on my lack of sex appeal to the vast majority. Certain phrases emerged in my head on a daily basis as I walk passed large groups of men, especially when I am a racially homogenous area. I am not sure how a young preteen could pick up on such implicit racial biases, but somehow I found myself crying on bathroom floors because some boys compared my lady parts to purple curtains. They would ask me why my vagina is purple, and not pink. It is a shame that I would ask myself the same thing. At twelve years old, I did not find much fault in their thinking; instead, I found myself flawed and faulted. I wanted to be pink. I wanted to be light. I wanted so badly to be beautiful. Instead, I was an ugly cocoa puff in a bowl of milk. Trapped in suburbia, born in some “hood” of Las Vegas where the men try to sell you something at every corner store.

More time elapses, and I am not smack dab in the middle of my ‘maturing process’ as a young woman. High school threw me into a whirlpool of insecurities as I found myself amongst people who knew nothing of me. For the first time in my life, I realized what it meant to be a black woman in a primarily white surround. As I am coming into myself, learning of my own weakness and growing awareness of my own desires and fears, I begin to understand the impacts of racial prejudice and racial preferences on little brown girls (just like me), and within communities.

Is It All in My Head?

My friends were always very racially and culturally diverse. From elementary to high school. My closest friends were Asian, white, and Latina. Regardless of what school I attended, I found myself mingling amongst different racial groups with ease. Everything would be laughs and fun until the boys got involved and decided what was fun, who was fun, and why. If my friends and I were going to hang out with another group of young boys, I was generally the girl left out (without realization). There were times I had my friends ask why a certain boy did not like me, and his response more often than not would sound something like this:

“I don’t like black girls”

“She is too dark”

“She is pretty, but not my type”

“I only see her as a friend”

and the best yet,

“She is so pretty for a black girl.”

At the time, I would have never known the terminology for the feelings I experienced. Some may just see the rejection. It was never that simple for me. My girlfriends would tell me, “well, maybe he has a preference.” The rejection was normal, they explained.

How could I explain to them, that preference purely on the basis of skin tone sounds a bit odd to me? And how is it that majority of people find the need to announce their dissatisfaction with those they do not prefer? And, why is it that that people are typically least satisfied with those of darker skin tone? Questions such as those swarmed my head repeatedly. I couldn’t swallow rejection well, especially based on something as simple as skin color.

Do I Make Them Feel Secure?

Fast forward to today. I am now 22 years-old and am still struggling with the same rejection while trying to distinguish a man’s ‘preference’ between society. The line between an individual’s preference and societal preference seems to blur often. My understanding of racial prejudice and sexual attraction grows as I do, and as I grow more knowledge of its origins.

I still struggle with men approaching me with negative racial stereotypes or automated rejections due to my skin color. What I have come to realize, also, with having multiracial friendships, is that they may feel safe being your friend. You are not going to take away attention from them, well, because you are only a black woman after all. Often times, nonblack girlfriends will place themselves in separate categories and create different scales of attraction between me and them.

Last week, I had a close friend tell me that she doesn’t feel threatened going out with me, but she feels threatened going out with another white woman. She exclaims, “men will have different preferences and it makes it easier for them when they can easily choose which one is their type.”

“Their type”

I cannot help but think that is just code for “you are not their type because you are black.” At the end of the day, I have never been automatically rejected on the basis of my figure, opinions, or specific physical characteristics (other than skin color). I find that ironic because my opinions would fairly be something to reject me based on!

Now, I am not sure if white women truly believe they are more beautiful, or simply take note of the negative attitudes majority of men have towards black women. Either way, they know that darker skinned women (particularly AA) may very well be the least desirable “kind” of a woman. Perhaps it is just an inference I drew based on experiences.

I am constantly working on understanding how social images of women like me are painted, constantly trying to undo the implicit hurt I experienced younger. We are all bullied, you might say. Absolutely correct. What I cannot understand, is why blackness is synonymous with bullying? Why should it ever be? As I continue to curb my social anxiety and step out into the world again, I know am not their type.

Totally fine.

RESTART

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“It was a Monday night when you told me it was over, babe, and by the Friday night, I knew that I would be okay.” You heard it from Sam Smith first, and you will not stop hearing it until you are truly okay. Of course, he was speaking about a relationship with a lover, but surely I can extrapolate the lyric to the relationship I have with myself.

I lay in bed. It is 4:10 in the morning and my mind is awake for the day. In actuality, my mind decided to skip slumber overall and focus on much more pressing issues – impending doom. My mind conjures up the most (seemingly) irrational thoughts and hurls them towards itself. If there wasn’t an image of myself at my worst already in my head – it I’d there now. Tears, tears, tears, and more tears come pouring down from tear ducts. To tell you the truth, I do not know where they come from. My mind whispers, “girl, you ain’t shit!” and somehow my eyes know what to do next. Cue the downpour. Cue the storms. Cut off the lights, because this is going to be an episode.

A few hours later, the episode ends. The credits play, and catchy gameshow tunes come on. You are okay. You survived yet another epic night (at the expense of your sleep), and now you are on edge. The sun shines and you just want to say “fuck you, sun.” Even though you know this is (also) irrational, your mind says “Nah sis, you’re straight. the sun is a bitch. fuck the sun, it ain’t ever shined when you needed it!”

For the rest of your day, your eyes remain squinted and your patience splinted. These invisible monsters are intruding on my life. Sitting on my shoulders during my political science courses. Whispering while I am attempting to hear how to construct lesson plans. In the midst of class, my textbook begins chanting,

“You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator. You will never be a great educator!”

Inside I begin drowning. I feel tears welling up inside of me (again, I am not sure how or why I feel like balling my eyes out), and I begin to rhythmically tap my foot. Beats, melodies, crescendo, rifts, bass floods my head. I sway my body to the music playing in my head and tune back into the lesson for the day. For the moment being, I am not cloudy. I hear nothing but the instruments and the vibrations of artistic voice. Lyrics fall upon my lips, uplifting thoughts finally penetrate.

I smile.

My classmate leans over and asks, “are you okay? I’ve noticed you shaking your leg for the past thirty minutes.” I want to tell him, “no I am not okay, but I am okay for right now”, but instead I reply softly, “Yes, I am just fine.”

It was Monday night and Friday night every day, sometimes. But I would be okay, I assured myself. Just let me restart.

SHE DOES NOT WANT YOUR SORRY

Friendships are difficult and downright draining when you are a ‘bleeding heart.’ people come your way for comfort, advice, insight, but often find it draining to be around someone who feels “too much” of everything. you are a vessel for others, as well as yourself, which keeps your mind and heart on edge, a day on end. your ability to feel cannot be shut off (until the day you transcend to a different place). you are the embodiment of empathy, and you spill your insides in hopes someone will look at the heap and be able to dissect it. they poke at all that is you and see one thing – pity.

These are people you have grown to know quite well, and you figure they would be able to understand where you are coming from (at least, to an extent). you begin spilling all kinds of beans, and you are slipping on them right in front of company. now, they know your business. they simply reply,

“I’m sorry!”

as if that is what you were looking for. As if you searched for anything, at all. You knew you were not searching for an apology or an automated reply out of pity. all you knew is that you hurt, everywhere. all the time. and you needed someone there. As more of these bodies come and go, you meet the same person dozens of times. your hurt heightens and subsidies, but never disappears. You begin to wonder how many others have the ability to see through different eyes. how many others place a hand on the heart without ever touching. many feel pity, some are compassionate, and rarely any are empathic.

With pity, comes an uneasy feeling. pity makes people feel a burden has been placed on them by making them uncomfortable. this is the response of “I feel for you.” pity is less connection, and far more shallow than that of compassion or empathy.

With compassion, comes the ability to care about others. people who will come help you if you call them without any understanding or questions – simply because they care. caring people are common, and they usually put a smile on your face during the toughest days when you are stuck in the worst of situations.

With empathy, you are able to place yourself in “uncomfortable” perspectives (through nature). you are able to sense emotions thoroughly and are usually able to understand your own extraordinarily well. these people are seen as heaven-sent or hell-bent due to their ability to hone in on expressing emotion. people who lose empathy are sponges and show compassion and understand. these people will never feel sorry for you.

Well? I am sorry, but – I suppose you need to hone your emotions and energies in again. Pull the gate back in. attract those who feel you, better, thoroughly, wholly.