I Am Not My Hair

Today I’m starting my loc journey. After almost 10 years of being natural, I’m trying something new. And I’m terrified.

Nowadays it isn’t uncommon to see Black women with various natural and protective styles. Fros, locs, twist, braids—we rock them all. For my wedding, I wore crochet braids and never felt more beautiful!

But still, I worry.

I worry my coworkers will treat me like an animal in a petting zoo when they see it. I dread the questions I’ll have to answer from my in-laws. My stomach turns when I think about showing my grandmother (who was very vocal about her dislike of my cousin’s locs).

But I can’t worry about them. I need to focus on me.

That’s part of the reason I wanted to loc my hair in the first place. Growing up, I was a “creamy crack” girl through and through. My hair was constantly in a some kind of ponytail—straight back, low with a side part, maybe some bangs if I was feeling fancy—because I didn’t know what else to do with it. I’ve been in a battle with my hair since I went natural.

For so long, I tried to force my hair into shapes I found “acceptable” and cursed how “difficult” it was to maintain my kinky coils. I called my hair texture “4Z” (‘cause 4C just didn’t seem descriptive enough) and lamented on how the lord didn’t give me the patience to deal with all this hair. I bought every natural hair product out there, thinking some magical elixir would give me the Traces Ellis Ross curls I craved.

Spoiler alert—it didn’t work.

No combination of products, techniques, or gadgets gave me the “right” natural hair. Because there is no such thing as “right” natural hair. It’s called natural for Pete’s sake—that should have clued me in right there!

But society has a lot of expectations for Black women. If we’re going to have natural hair, it needs to be the “professional” kind. Not too kinky, or coily, or wild. My natural hair is all those things, so I never felt like I could let my hair just be.

That changes today.

Today, I’m making a choice for myself. Today, I’m embracing the “4Z” and allowing my hair to transform into what it wants to be (not what I want it to be). Today, I’m taking the first step in what will *hopefully* be a long, beautiful journey.

For me.

peace

Every morning, my husband and I do about 15 minutes of yoga together. A quarantine habit that stuck, we lay our mats in the living room floor and start our day with a short practice. Our YouTube yogi, Kassandra, always encourages us to come up with an intention–a word or phrase for how we want the day to go.

It’s been 21 years since my daddy died. Today, on the anniversary of his death, Today, my intention was “peaceful.” Peaceful for him, wherever he is.

Peaceful for me as I continue to exist without him.

I’m so thankful to have a stepdad who’s exactly the kind of father you want to have–attentive, funny, supportive, always there with a word of advice when you need it. My stepdad (who I just call “Dad”) is like the dads I saw on TV growing up. He’s what I always hoped to have, and I’m grateful he stepped into that role in my life.

But my daddy is always present, even in absentia.

My daddy suffered from alcoholism; that’s ultimately what took his life. Even though I know he was sick, I can’t help but feel like he gave up on our family. He didn’t try to get better for us (at least that’s what my my 9-year-old perspective gathered). I’ll never know what he thought, or felt, or hoped for in those last few years he was alive.

I wish I could come to peace with that, the not knowing.

Would my parents have stayed married? Would my daddy and I have a close relationship? I have so many questions I’ll never know the answers to. I’ll never know how things would have been had he gotten treatment, and it tears me apart inside.

I try to comfort myself with the thought that maybe someday we’ll be reunited. Maybe my daddy will be waiting for me, ready to take my hand and lead me into wherever we go when our lives end. Maybe we’ll finally get to sit, and talk, and cry, and he’ll answer the questions that have run through my mind since he died 21 years ago today.

Until then, I’ll think of him and ask the universe to keep things peaceful…for both of us.

Dream On

Somehow, I lost my ability to dream.

I’m not talking about the dreams we have when we sleep—I still have plenty of those. (Honestly, my nighttime dreams are so active sometimes I wake up still tired.) I’m talking about dreams for myself, my life, the person I want to be.

When I was a kid, I used to dream I’d be a famous actress making movies in Hollywood.

As a young adult, I dreamed of becoming an executive at my company helping to make change for sick people around the world.

I even had dreams for this blog, that it would blow up into my own lifestyle brand where I inspired all sorts of people to be the best versions of themselves.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped dreaming. You know what?That’s actually not true at all. I didn’t stop dreaming…

…I just stopped believing my dreams could actually come true.

How do you find the courage to dream again? How do you find the hope when you’ve lost it? How do you dare imagine a better future when the present day beats you down so thoroughly?

I truly don’t know. I wake up every day and go to sleep every night and just continue through the motions. I tell myself I’m stuck, there’s nothing else than what is now. Be grateful for what I have and never wish for anything more.

I am grateful for what I have, no doubt about it. But I want to allow myself to dream of more again. I want to rediscover that version of me who was convinced she’d make an impact on the world.

So I’m back on the blog after almost a year of inactivity. Maybe this blog won’t turn into anything at all. Maybe nobody cares a rip about what I have to say.

But hey, a girl can dream.

No Air

Living as a Black woman in America means rarely breathing freely.

My struggle to breathe has nothing to do with COVID-19. This lack of air is a result of a different illness, one that has lingered in the air since the beginning of America. This illness ruined families, ruined health, ruined lives. This illness has changed forms through the years, but is just as prevalent and deadly today as it it was when it started.

My breath catches when I see a police officer, even if I’m doing nothing wrong.

Air leaves my lungs in a sick rush at the sight of a confederate flag.

At each microaggression, dog whistle, and ignorant comment I heave a hefty sigh of exasperation.

Racism is a disease infecting every area of this country. Sadly, too many among us don’t recognize how sick this country is. We need to open the windows and release the stale, sour air of this country’s racist past and present if we ever want to eliminate the disease in the future.

Acknowledge the original sin of slavery and its negative impact on Black Americans, then and now.

Apologize through words and actions. Try to right the egregious wrongs. Nothing can ever truly pay what is owed to those who worked this land for nothing, those who were seen and treated as nothing.

But we can try.

As I wait to see the results of this presidential election, I hold my breath. With each passing day I pray we are closing in on the final days of this disease. I hope I live long enough to see racism draw its final breath so we can all breathe freely.

Dear Future Husband

You’ve got your work cut out for you, my darling.

I promise I will not try to make your life difficult. In fact, I’ll do whatever I can to help you, to ease your spirit and give you comfort. But I’d be lying if I acted like I didn’t know I’m a bit of a handful, and I think you deserve to know why.

Men have abandoned me my entire life.

The first was my father. When it was time to choose between alcohol or me, his addiction made the choice for him. He left our family. He died a few years later.

The second was my first love. He took all he could from me, then threw me aside. He decided I was good enough to cook and clean and coddle him, but not good enough to be his girlfriend.

The third was the boyfriend who assaulted me. He didn’t ask for my consent. Maybe he didn’t think he needed to. Or maybe he felt like I wasn’t worth asking.

The fourth was the fiancé who tokenized me. He wanted all I had to offer, but not me as a person. His true feelings showed when I ended our engagement; he told me just how terrible he thought I was.

The fifth was the fiancé who abused me. He hurt me mentally, emotionally, and physically. He gaslit me. He expected me to do all the housework, pay all the bills, and raise all of his children. He spent all of my money. He tried to strangle me.

That cruel man was the last to break my heart before I met you.

In spite of all the negative, I still believe in love. And when I love, I love HARD. It may take time for me to give you my heart, but if and when I do, you get all of it.

I’ve decided to give my heart to you, future husband. I expect few things in return.

I expect you will treat me gently and with kindness.

I expect you will defend me and protect me from anyone or anything that attempts to do me harm.

I expect you will listen to me. Pay attention to my words and actions. I say what I mean and mean what I say—all you have to do is listen.

I expect you will be there for me when I need you.

All of these expectations are ones I have for myself also. I will be kind. I will defend you. I will listen to you. I will be there for you whenever or whatever the circumstance.

I will treat you how I want to be treated.

Because even though men have abandoned me and broken my heart, the strong women in my life taught me to always treat others with the respect and dignity I want to receive. And I will. You will have my full, never-ending adoration, respect, and love until you treat me like you no longer deserve it.

Marriage is something I plan to do once and only once. Choosing a husband is not a choice I make lightly. It means a lot to me.

It means I’ve found the man who will treat me the way all the other men didn’t…

…like someone worthy of love.

Black Parade

I’ve been trying to think of just the right words to summarize my experience at the Commitment March in Washington. D.C.

(That’s why it’s been so long since my last post.)

And I do apologize, for all my delay has been for nothing. I still haven’t found the precise wording for what I saw…what I felt.

“Inspired” is truly an understatement for the fire that was lit within me.

Waiting in line next to a white woman and her tween daughter, listening to stories from a man who marched with Dr. King the first time, I felt the spark.

“Look at this,” I thought.

“We all know this is a historic moment, when we draw the line in the sand.”

Listening to speaker after another, each from different walks of life, stoked the flame.

A young lady who survived one of the most tragic events in recent history.

An older man who reminded us that the gay rights movement began with a brick and a Black woman.

Finally, and most tragically, the family members and friends of so many of our martyrs.

Ahmaud Arbery.

Breonna Taylor.

Jacob Blake.

I was on fire. Flames roared across the crowd.

We all burned.

“Black Lives Matter!”

“Black Lives Matter!”

“Black Lives Matter!”

We marched and chanted to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, a fireball.

I haven’t felt the same sense. I feel…alive.

Like a phoenix from the ashes, reborn.

Bad Guy

Whenever I make a choice for myself, I always feel like the bad guy.

Don’t want to go to an event and say so? Bad guy.

Don’t want to be touched and move away? Bad guy.

Don’t want to do something for someone else and mention it? Reallyyyyy bad guy.

Black women in America have been seen as community property for so long that people take offense when we say no. For hundreds of years, we were expected to do everything for everyone. Unfortunately things haven’t changed much. Black women are expected to solve the world’s problems, all while little is being done to solve the problems Black women face.

I’ve known my whole life that “No,” is a complete sentence. (I got a perfect score on the English section of the ACT. #humblebrag) However, I’ve only recently started living it. Some people may be surprised or even offended by the change.

Do I care?

…No. 😉

Speak Now

One of the things I’m trying to work on is speaking up.

Now, if you’ve ever met me you know I’m not afraid to talk. According to my mama, I’ve been talking since I figured out how to string two words together. My elementary school teachers tried to keep me quiet by moving my seat—that did NOT work. Long story short, I’ll talk to anybody.

But talking and speaking up are two different things.

Speaking up means voicing your opinions. Speaking up means sharing your feelings. Speaking up means calling out people or behaviors that are wrong.

I haven’t always done that.

As a kid, I was expected to stay in a child’s place and not question the adults in my life. In middle school, I told a boy that I liked him and he humiliated me in from of my entire class. In high school, after an emotionally abusive boyfriend hurt himself right in front of me, I was told not to say anything about it. Instances like these occurred in college and my adult life too. Honestly, there were many times I silenced myself because I was worried people wouldn’t like me.

But no more.

We only have one life to live, and I’m tired of not speaking my truth. This newfound desire to speak out has made me uncomfortable—especially at work. But these are just growing pains.

My opinions and feelings are valid. My voice is important. It’s time to speak.

Now.

Under Pressure

Next week, my company will start bringing people back into the office. I’m part of “phase 1,” meaning that I’m expected to return to my office on campus on Monday.

I am terrified.

Coronavirus is still very real. The number of cases is increasing, (particularly in the county I live in). I do my best to wash my hands frequently, observe social distancing, and wear a mask in public. I’ve barely left the house in the past few months.

There is immense pressure to return to the office, but I’m torn. I could leave this company, or take a leave of absence and come back when things are safer. But then I’d be leaving a job I truly love and scrambling to find a way to keep the bills paid. Or I can return to the office (as I plan to on Monday) and put my health and the health of the people I love at risk. It’s a rock and a hard place indeed.

I don’t want to make it seem like I’m being thrown to the wolves. My company is requiring masks in community areas, and we are getting a solo office if we want one. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about the HVAC system we used—the company is improving the air filtration system and shared details about it with us. All of these things are great for sure.

But what about the elevators?

The break rooms?

The copy areas?

All it takes is one person.

One person being careless or showing up to work sick and all hell breaks loose. I understand that people want things to get back to “normal.” But unfortunately things probably won’t be “normal” for quite some time.

Honestly, things may never go back to the way they were.

When I return to work, I won’t be going to in-person meetings. I’ll be calling into meetings from my office, with the door closed and the window open.

When I return to work, I won’t be in a classroom teaching groups of 20-40 people. I’ll be in my office, training those exact same people virtually. I won’t be able to see their faces, but I can still educate them and support them.

When I return to work, I won’t drop by someone else’s office to troubleshoot an issue, or ask a question, or just say “hi.” I’ll be calling people, or using video conferencing—all with a sign on my office door telling people to call me instead of stopping by.

When I return to work, there will be no lunchtime gatherings with coworkers as we enjoy delicious food from the cafeteria buffet lines. I’m bringing my lunch every single day, and my own silverware too. I’m currently trying to figure out how I can bring enough water for the day so I don’t have to go to the water fountain or the break room for a drink.

When I return to work, it won’t be “normal” in many ways. As I think about it, there is one way in particular that will make going to work completely abnormal for me.

I’ll be scared to do it.