A Glimpse Into My Life

See it through my eyes & understand me a little more

Monthly Archives: August 2009

Tired of Being Strong

On days like this, really bad days, I’m reminded of equally bad days from my youth. One in particular came to mind:

I was 9. At any rate, I was too old and too experienced to have done the extremely stupid thing that I had done today: lost my bus tickets (which were equal to exactly $3.00 in bus fare). The thing that made me most angry though (at myself) was that I would have to tell my younger brothers we were going to have to walk over two miles to our second bus stop, the one that dropped us off at the necessary stop that placed us on our bus to take us home. I could easily make the walk in an hour, but those two, being six and all, would not want to do it. I had managed to finagle an extra bus ticket from a classmate, so I could use 50 cents to buy them snacks. Too bad I didn’t know how long that was going to last. So, I asked my teacher for another dollar (and got an overwhelming lecture about responsibility) so I could afford at least another juice for them halfway between point A and point B.

3:15 (the time that we were let out) got to us just a little faster than I would have liked to. At that point, I had $4.95 cents. A classmate had given me a bunch of her “emergency” change (the change she saved up in case she and mom had to run from her dad) and I promised I would pay her back little by little with interest. At nine, I already understood how to play that game. I figured, I could give her $2.00 and that would be fine (which would take about 4 weeks to pay off). So, I went downstairs. I collected my brothers. We walked to our first bus stop which was conveniently located by a corner store and did what we did every other NORMAL day. We got snacks. Well, they did. The little busy bodies noticed, but I just said I wasn’t hungry. We paid our money and then we went outside. Except this time, I took one of their hands and we walked started to walk towards our Gentilly neighborhood from Uptown New Orleans. For the first 4 blocks, I just told them that this would put us closer to the Broad Express, at an easier stop, so that we could probably actually get on (I felt bad for lying). Four blocks later, the first brother was pissed off and rightfully so. Here he was at 6 having to walk because I couldn’t remember where a bus ticket was.

Blocks 7 and 8 (they trusted me enough to keep walking), both started to complain that they were sleepy. So we took a break. By this time, we were at another busy street, and like a panhandler, I started to ask for spare change. I explained to people that we lived in Gentilly and I couldn’t find my bus tickets. One man looked at me like I was scum of the Earth and made a quip about welfare babies and unemployed moms. It stung. We were on welfare, but my Mom had to work to keep us there. I told him that and that he was a mean old man, collected my brothers, and continued walking. I’m not going to lie. I distinctly remember that this was the time that I started to cry. I had to figure out a way to keep them wanting to walk and they weren’t having it. So, we waited at a bus stop and I had three buses close doors in our faces. By now, it was 4:30, my little digital watch told me this, and we should have been walking in our door and my Mother should have been getting a call at work about our safe arrival.

But we kept walking. I had to carry one brother who almost as big as I was in height, but not in weight, because he was starting to look a little weak (turns out he was too hot and he wasn’t getting enough water) and he was flushing. I’m trying not to panic while holding him. I figure, we have maybe 6 more blocks to go. I counted wrong.

At block 14, I realized we were just a little over halfway there. So, we stopped. I sat them on a bench and asked another lady for two dollars to buy them water. I explained to her that we were walking home and I’d lost the bus tickets. She asked how much would it cost for bus fare. $3.00 the first leg. She didn’t have three dollars. So, she gave me the two I asked for and I bought them water and we kept moving. By the time we got to our needed bus stop, it was 5:45 pm. No doubt I was in for THE ass whooping of my life.

We got on the bus and I realized that like a dummy, I miscalculated the amount of money that was needed to get home. I counted the transfer money as the amount and not the base bus fare. Panic set in pretty quickly. My brothers had already sat down and the bus driver made a move like he was going to put them off. I started to scream. Seriously. At nine, I wasn’t sure what to do in this situation. So, I started to scream and cry. My Mom, who’d waited at work until they put her out, was sitting in the middle of the bus and realized it was her kids who were being put off (this mean ass bus driver was really gonna put us off?!?!?) and paid our fare. She asked what happened and I hurriedly told her the same story that I’ve written out. I also asked that she not whoop me because it was an honest mistake and I wasn’t sure how I did it.

I wasn’t.

__

So, people. I’m now 23 years old. I’m attempting a graduate program at a University with very little help (financially) from the school. I want to go home. I want to give up.

The thing is, people keep telling me to be strong. I don’t want to be strong. I’m tired now. I don’t think it’s the bone-tiredness that women who’ve worked all of their lives talk about. It feels pretty damn close though. I just want to go home and sleep. I feel like I’ve always been strong and once, just this once, I’ve managed to dream a big that was finally bigger than me. You all can pray, just don’t tell me to pray. I’ve prayed every day. Maybe, I’m praying for the wrong thing. Maybe, I’m not praying hard enough. But the fact remains, I pray. So, if your advice is to pray, then you pray for me.

What I know though is that I’m tired of being strong.

Advertisements

Not Having Or Not Having What You Want

I’ve noticed something. It happens with me sometimes, and I’ve definitely seen it in a lot of my friends/associates. There is a bad habit that we have developed and I have my own theory behind why:

We say, “I don’t have [something],” instead of being honest with ourselves and saying, “I don’t have [something] because I can’t get what I want.”

There is a difference.

After a recent conversation with an associate of mine, I was asked what type of phone I had and I immediately thought of this issue. My reply was, “The one that calls people” (I used to say that I had a pre-paid phone, but everyone has an opinion on that subject, so I’ve changed my answer). I don’t need a device that takes pictures; I already own a digital camera (excess, I just “need” a camera). I don’t need a device that accesses the Internet; I already own a laptop with wireless capabilities (excess, I own a Mac). I don’t need a device that makes ringtones; I keep my phone on vibrate. I don’t need a device that also happens to play music; I already own an mp3 player (excess, I own an iTouch).

It would be nice to have a phone that did all of those things, but it is not necessary.

I thought I would start off with my own experience in “not having” something. I was angered when I was forced to get a pre-paid phone because I could no longer afford a contract with a cell phone provider. I mean, who has pre-paid anything?

That’s so poor.

Now, it’s been close to two years since I have the phone and it’s done its job. I have nothing to complain about really.

But back to my friends. I notice that we (my generation) have a habit of saying, “I don’t have something” or that “I can’t get something” when what we truly mean to say is that “I don’t have the ability to get the something that I want.” I think we stop short of speaking the truth because it does two things:

(1)    It reveals just how selfish we are as a person. Selfish! Other words that mean the same thing are self-centered, self-seeking, self-interested, egotistical, and egocentric.
(2)    It reveals how ungrateful we are as a person. Ungrateful! Other meanings include unappreciative, showing no gratitude, or unthankful.

These are two very dangerous things, especially if you have a belief in a Higher Power. It’s also very dangerous because it shows our true character, or rather that we lack character. And while it mirrors the selfish and materialistic society that we live in, it shows that we are unwilling to live a simple life as we are all called to do.

What I really want to ask my friends when they say things like this is, “When did it become more important to have a brand/model/make than to have that bare necessity taken care of” (Or is it really more important to have no phone versus that hot new phone? What happens if you are in a car accident and they reach for something to possibly notify your relatives?* You have nothing. You are unnamed and cannot be claimed)?

After all, these are things that we deem important, whether it be a phone, a computer, a car, clothing, etc.

But this has all led me to think about my childhood (and this is where the belief in a Higher Power ties in) and when I would shop someplace with my Mom. We were poor. We couldn’t afford much. Most times, it was just the bare necessities, but my Mom made things work. One year, I was going to the 6th grade and I wanted a NEW uniform. My Mom would purchase our uniforms slightly larger and then hem them to make them fit and since I’d always been short/small for my age and we’d always been strapped for cash, this worked for us. Well, I didn’t have a growth spurt of any kind from 4th to 6th grade, and I knew that this year my uniform jumper (which I’d had since the 4th grade) was just going to be turned into a skirt.

But being ungrateful, I knowingly asked my Mom if I could get a new skirt. Every other girl, I reasoned, would have a new skirt for school. My Mom explained to me that I already knew the rule and that since my uniform still fit, I would not be getting a new skirt. Besides, my brothers NEEDED new uniform pants (they always grew like weeds) and those were expensive as well. So, I sulked. I mean, I sulked! And being the parent that she is (she doesn’t like seeing her children upset), she caved and got me a new skirt.

I was excited. I had already made plans for the ribbons that I would wear in my hair on that first day, whether I’d wear the white socks with the ruffles or just the plain white socks, and how I would make sure my shoes were absolutely gorgeous (no scuffs whatsoever). I did this all before we left that store.

However, upon leaving the store, I quickly realized that I had no new school shoes. My Mom told me that she would get me a new pair when she got her next paycheck (that was after school started) and that I would have to wait and simply wear my shoes from the year before. Now, the shoes were in great condition (seriously, my Mom made us take our uniforms off immediately when we got home…so that made things last), but they were too small. I NEEDED new shoes. It didn’t take long to realize that I would have to make a “big girl” decision. I told her (5 minutes after leaving the store and while waiting on the public bus) that I would be okay with wearing my “mended” halter uniform because I needed the shoes and requested that we return the skirt.

She gladly obliged my request and as a treat, we stopped at Baskin Robbins for ice cream (granted we had to walk the rest of the way home…but who cares, we had ice cream!).

I said all of that to say this, if you are a believer in any Higher Power, then in that relationship, you probably look to your deity as a parent. Do you understand how a selfish, ungrateful, and materialistic child hurts them? That’s not what they teach you. We are not taught to only want the best or the most expensive at the cost of anything. No, we are taught to meet our basic needs and to live a life that is humble. We are taught that if we do these things, then all of our needs will be met and we would be able to enjoy the treats (extra goodies that are often surprises) that they have in store for us.

But we don’t do these things. We live a life of excess. In church and in the streets, we flash our cell phones, our vehicles, and other personal possessions and we say that this is a testament of the goodness of our God. Then we go home and we’re wondering why we can’t pay all of our bills on time. We send our kids off to school for their first day in new “kicks” (do people say that still?), and then we’re having candlelit family dinners because the lights suddenly got cut off. Or we have the newest (insert lavish vehicle here), but we’re in church wanting to be put on the prayer list because of potential repossession of the house we live in.

We are selfish. We think of our outer image more than we think of our inner spirit. We are ungrateful. We want everything better than our neighbor and we’ll do anything to get it.

So reader, pause.

Then think, “When was the last time you let your selfish character show without realizing it?” Then, you should think about the way that you can change this. Now is not the time to live a lavish lifestyle. Now is the time to live the life that you are called to live. The one that is written for you. The one that shows humility. This is especially important if you believe in a Higher Power. If not, then just do it because you’ll feel better knowing your bills are paid and you don’t have to want for anything.

Besides, you can’t take it (any material thing of this world) with you anyway.

I wrote this note because many of my friends are often my sources of support when I feel I need help with a situation. However, there have been many times that I’ve talked to them and some remark was made about how they couldn’t “live” a certain way or have a certain thing. These things are phones with contracts, cars, vacations that they should postpone but choose not to because they “deserve” it, or other things. What they don’t understand is that “words are some of the strongest tools we possess” (thank you L. G. Hawkins III for that quote). When they say these things to me, those tools then become devices that hurt. And they cut deep. My life may not be good enough to you but it’s the one that I have and if your asking for my advice, you don’t get how you’ve just insulted my hard work AND how far I have come.

Thanks but no thanks.

In the future, I ask that you keep all comments such as these to yourself.

Notes:
*Make sure you I.C.E. the people in your Contacts/Phone book that are important to you or that you would have officials notify in an Emergency. I.C.E. means In Case of Emergency and they will know what to do.

Confession: My Mom Has PTSD

*Note: This post will deal with three separate issues simultaneously that are often overlooked by communities of color.

When I was younger, I knew there was something different about my Mother. Most times, I loved her but there were those times that something in me wanted to just leave or disown her. I never did.

Growing up, there were times that we (my brothers and I) would be “disciplined” by our Mom and there was something seriously wrong with the method that she might employ. One time, I remember telling an Aunt about what happened and her response was simply, “She was just disciplining you.” There was also a time that I remember telling a friend about what had happened and her response was, “Girl, you know Black mommas don’t play. You want to live with a white family or something?”

This bothered me for a few reasons. The first being that Black parents sometimes went overboard with the methods of discipline that they employed and no one thought anything was wrong with it. The second being that other people would offer excuses for what was going on in my home, when I needed to know that there were people that cared about me and my well-being.

I didn’t feel that way until I was almost in my 20s (by this time, I was in college and going to Counseling for issues that I had with my family).

In the times that my Mom would discipline me, she would literally become another person. She became paranoid and would constantly question you. Nothing you said (in defense of yourself) was right to her or made sense. She might also start the punishment at 3:00 in the afternoon and not be done until close to dinnertime. If that happened, we were sometimes left to fend for ourselves (in terms of things to eat if there weren’t leftovers); or we went to sleep with nothing to eat. But even in all of this, I knew deep down inside that something was wrong with my Mom and I just wanted her to get help.

It was also on these nights that I would hear her cry and pray (sometimes while drinking) because she couldn’t control what would come over her. These were the nights that I helped my Mom. I would make her something to eat or make sure she was comfortable for bed. I would check on her to make sure that she was okay if she’d already “fallen asleep” by the time I went to check on her.

In my mind, she was possessed by something that she couldn’t control and the times that these things would happen were not her fault. Too bad we didn’t understand what it was that she was fighting with.

My Mom started to get psychiatric help when I was around 14 years old. I remember reading something in the library about PTSD and thinking about how it fit my Mom, so I brought a pamphlet home to her. That was when she broke down in front of me (y’all don’t know how scared I was because I was afraid that at any moment she would hit me) and cried. She knew that something was wrong…she just didn’t have anyone else in her corner. So, she started going to counseling. This was right around the time that other health issues started to present themselves (and this happens often). In this time, I was there to help her (most folks would characterize this as a “dependent relationship”) and I made up in my mind that I was going to help her get better. What I didn’t know was what went on in her counseling sessions (her first therapist was garbage in my opinion), but I knew that she wasn’t getting any better when one day she decided that we up and move to another state.

I went with it anyway. We moved, we slept on couches or we shared a full-sized bed that wasn’t being used by a relative. During this time, we made plans and I thought that things were going to work. Until my Dad showed up with a court order for temporary custody. In that instance, I saw the paranoia and the fear in my Mom once again. Looking back, I almost wished that I had made the decision to stay with my Mom, but I was so unhappy that I chose to go (at some point, I went back to live with my Mom until the decision was made that I would be best off with Dad).

When I moved to live with my Dad (the final time), that’s when I noticed a change in my Mom. At that time, she went into recovery. She saw that it would be the only way to get her kids back. She started a program for her problem with Alcohol Dependency (which up until that time had been characterized as a “Good Time” by relatives during holiday gatherings). She gave up smoking because it was also considered an addiction and she finally got help for all of her mental issues (which were not just quirks in her personality). By the time she finished her program and was adjusting well, I was already getting ready to enroll as a freshman in college. Sometimes, I still feel like I lost out on a lot, but I realize that I’m more fortunate than a lot of people who have parents that dealt with any kind of addiction, mental disorder, or a combination.

I have so much respect my Mom for seeking help. She’s been in recovery from her Alcoholism since 2003 and she’s been taking anti-depressants and other medications to help control her having been diagnosed as PTSD and bi-polar. I also respect the fact that my Mom recently apologized to me for the things that she’d done to me when I was younger. After having her share her story of growing up, I can understand why she lived the way she did and she raised us the way that she did.

She honestly did the best with what she had. She grew up in a community that was secretive and you couldn’t trust very many people. She grew up in a community that was “ruled” by an iron fist and children just had to take it. She grew up in a place where things were chaotic and after listening to her story, our life was pretty damn stable compared to some of her early years.

My Mom, she is the strongest woman that I know.

**

I said all of that to say this:

It’s time that our communities stop looking negatively upon people who seek treatment for possible mental disorders. It is not something that anyone should ever have to go along. If you have a loved one who may be suffering from a mental disorder, let them know that you support them. Do not judge them and don’t approach them in a malicious manner. Help them! They need it. They really do.

If you expect someone is abusing their child, then speak up or offer that child a safe place. You can do this in many ways without saying that you think the parent is abusing them. Simply invite them over to spend the night at your house and offer the custodial parent a break. However, be careful should you offer help and there is more than one child in the home. There is nothing more heartbreaking (to a child) than watching one child leave a turbulent life (if even for a few hours) and knowing that you are stuck there. So, help the children and help the parents.

If you expect that a person has an addiction, gently talk to them about it. Don’t be sneaky and ask the kids because whether or not you believe it, kids are going to say that things are “okay” at home, especially if you’ve never given them a reason to believe that you are there to help.

There are hotlines for all of these issues and they aren’t something that just affects “white” people. No! They affect everyone.

Finally, don’t just look at these things as “veteran” issues (my parents are both veterans). If you see these things in veterans, then you definitely need to help. Don’t stand by idly. Help! Lend a hand or just listen without a judging ear. People appreciate it.

We really do.

**If I could acknowledge all of the people that have helped my Mom and me get to where we are today, I would. But I can’t recall everyone. But my thanks could never be expressed enough.

Militant…Something I’m Not

A thought hit me last night while I prepared for bed; “I wasn’t a militant [person] until I came to college.”

Militant. A word synonymous with words like “aggressive, radical, revolutionary, combative, rebellious, belligerent, and confrontational.” For some, this may be approached with joy. As for myself, this label disgusts me.

I am neither of those terms. I don’t consider myself aggressive, combative, rebellious, belligerent, or confrontational when I take a stance on issues. I also do not consider my ideas to be radical or revolutionary and I will readily tell you those that have inspired me, as well as who I “follow.”

My issue with being militant is that Black people are too often placed in this category if we do, say, or act in a way that suggests we are for BLACK emPOWERment. Many times, we’re simply for Black empowerment. But I digress.

The thought that came to mind last night after I realized that I wasn’t a “militant” person until I got to college was why do people classify my thinking as militant, separatist, and exclusivist when I’m only thinking, saying, promoting the same things that the Majority has been? Is it that I generally believe that people who look like me deserve the opportunity to succeed (better schools, jobs, grocery stores, etc)? Or is it because I feel deep within myself that we are capable of it and we don’t need the help of the Majority?

Maybe that’s what it is.

I’m militant because I want what the Majority wants for us…I just don’t want their help (this is an entirely different blog, stay tuned for that).

Or could it be that I’m militant for obvious reasons? I’m of a darker complexion (this makes it easier to believe that I’m inherently more sinister than my lighter brethren). No, better yet, I wear my hair in its natural state (why is it that women of color catch more slack for this than Majority women, especially when our hair is courser than cute?). Or, my all time favorite, I like to bring up the fact that race (whether we acknowledge it or not) places a role in interactions between different people?

However, I’ll go back to my initial point: “I was NOT considered or called militant until I went to college” and here is where my contention lies with being labeled as such. It’s Black people who have chosen to do this. My peers have chosen to label me in a fashion that causes the Majority concern. This troubles me deeply. I often wonder, “What’s different about the Black people here from the ones that live in my neighborhood?”

No, I prefer the definition given to me by those in my community. They recognize me for what I am. I’m passionate about issues that revolve around my community. I work to educate myself about those leaders before me who worked towards liberating the masses. I also engage in critical discussions about a range of topics with other intellectual [Black] people.

See, I wasn’t seen as rebellious when I decided that educational success was for me. I was seen as smart. I wasn’t seen as aggressive or combative for speaking up about issues that folks talk about in their kitchens when they come home from work. I was seen as socially conscious and responsible. I wasn’t seen as rebellious for choosing to educate myself about previous leaders of my community. It was looked at as something that HAD to be done. Something was necessary. And the ONLY time I’ve ever been looked at confrontational by those who know me was when I actually had to fight…as in fistfight. Never was I looked at as confrontational when I decided to point out or question why my treatment (or the treatment of those around me) was different. Never was I considered militant, but I was being a responsible person.

So whatever your reason for thinking I’m militant, I’ll ask that you stop.

Because whether or not you believe it, one way to surely cause me to become aggravated is to call me a Militant.

The Childishness of Others…

On yesterday, I was called, of all things, “childish.” To this I laughed! No really, I laughed. Truth be told, I am sort of childish. What made it even funnier was that I told the offending party that I was 16, just to see his reaction (that’s how I know I’m childish). His face was priceless…he had nothing to say. Then I laughed harder and said that I was 23 and admitted that there was some streak of childishness left in me.

I hope this is not a precursor to some mental illness that will strike me later on in life (makes mental note to look up all disorders associated with “childishness” or any other attribute of said “crime”).

Anyway, I then had a small conversation with the guy and I asked him two questions, (1) “What’s wrong with being childish?” and (2) “What would he say if I told him that his favorite musical artist was childish?”

Now, I bring music into the highlight because that’s what actually led to him calling me childish (go freaking figure). Picture this: I was walking down the street minding my business (because that’s what I do) and I just started laughing. The dude was like, “What’s funny?” I said, “Have you heard the remix to Mariah’s song Obsessed?” He said, “Yeah, I have.” Then I said, “Have you paid attention to the adlibs?” He was like, “Nah, not really why.” Then I finished with, “Well, I’m laughing because at the end of the song, she goes, ‘Did you like me? You liked me? You really, really liked me!’” and proceeded to laugh.

He said that wasn’t funny and for me to think so was childish.

So, pause! Those of you that know me can imagine what my facial expression looked like in that moment. Okay, since you don’t know me, here’s a mental: I looked slightly confused, then I raised an eyebrow, then I looked offended and responded with, “But I’m 16.” (I’m little and tiny and 5’2” when I wear my tall sneakers…so he bought it). However, after laughing and telling him how old I REALLY was, I asked him the two questions stated before. Which led to an interesting conversation. Oh, he wasn’t so serious after it either.

But anyway, I wanted to bring to you all’s (did I do that right?) attention that there is nothing wrong with being childish sometimes (I can see it being a problem if that’s how you were 24/7/365, but I would not have a problem with you…we could probably shoot the breeze if you were more carefree lol). Seriously though, I’m slightly childish (I prefer this word to childlike because being called childlike suggests I don’t have the mental capacity of an adult and therefore, I do not regularly make decisions that adults are capable of making)…

Oh, wait, I forgot, this is NOT about me…but your favorite artist.

Anyway, if we look at music through the years, we can see the childish moments of our favorite artists in their music. With singers, you gotta listen to the adlibs (cuz you know, a lot of times, they don’t write their own music that’s released). With rappers, just listen and I’ll bet you’ll have plenty of WTF moments. Here are some “Childish @$$ Musical Moments” for you to think about:

So you lied awake just singing the blues all night? Goody goody! So you think that love’s a ball of dynamite? Hurray and hallelujah, you had it coming to you! Goody goody for him, goody goody for me, and I hope you’re satisfied you rascal you.” – Goody, Goody (Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers)

Now this one is like the ultimate form of childishness. Boy meets and falls in love with girl, girl meets another boy and leaves Boy One for Boy Two, then her heart is broken by Boy Two. Apparently, it gets back to Boy One (Lyman…or his friend) and he has a ball. Just so you know, this entire song is sung to a very up-tempo beat. The first time I heard it, I was like, “Hey…I like this.” Then I listened to the words and now every time it plays in my iTunes library, I crack up! Seriously, it has me rolling right now. lol

Now for something a little more contemporary (and one of my favorite songs to demonstrate childishness):

Fresh on campus it’s the Birdman Jr., money too long teachers put away your rulers (yeah)…No shirt, tattoos, and some war wounds (sexy); I’m hot but the car cool (insert some animalistic scream or something here); She wet, that’s a carpool (yeah); Been in that water since a youngin’, you just shark food (yum, yum)…You new girlfriend is old news (Man); You ain’t got enough green, and she so blue (awww)” – Fireman (Lil’ Wayne)

Okay, I could have gone on with that idiot, but I decided to stop there (if you aren’t laughing…find a damn sense of humor). Anyway, he says YUM YUM! Like he’s four or something. Then he proceeds to “feel sorry” for the guy who is broke and now dating his ex-chick (why did I think of Nivea and The Dream? Low, yes, I know). lol. That has me laughing every time I hear it (see what I mean about the adlibs though?). Let’s see if I can find another one:

Speaking of The Dream:

“Lil momma so hood (I love yo girl)…I’m sorry I got in for your new girlfriend. She run her fingers through her hair and he trying to call her over there (she like f*** that n-word); she drop it down to the floor, I’m like Shawty you should go (she like f*** that n-word) Call it envy, I want her on me…
AND MY FAVORITE LINE OF ALL TIME IN THIS SONG: And I heard that y’all ain’t serious…cuz seriously…” – I Luv Your Girl (The Dream)

This dude done went to the club and is taunting (cuz that’s what childish people do) another dude about his girl not wanting to be with him. I bet you find that song a lot funnier now, don’t you?

That’s all I have for ya’ll. WAIT! I lied.

Lol 🙂 (or LOL; Smiley Face)! That song starts off with, “I love Fischer-Price!”

CASE CLOSED!

Seriously, are you laughing yet?!?! I hope you are. If not, find a damn sense of humor!

But this takes me back to my point that I was attempting to make (before I fell into a fit of giggles over song lyrics), what is wrong with being childish sometimes? I get tired of being an adult all the time. Hell that’s probably why so many folks are stressed out now. I mean, with us being in a “recession” and all…we need to chuckle every now and then. So, why don’t we?

Oh, and I bet you didn’t know your favorite artist was childish…AND I bet you’ll go back, listen to their music and think differently, won’t you? Yeah you will!

And in the words of my Main Man, The Joker (see, I’ve always been childish) as played by (the Late and Great) Heath Ledger,

“Why so serious?”

LOL 🙂

By Any Means Necessary…

August 10, 2009. My room is literally sweltering. I’m not sure if the transformation that I can feel begin to take place within myself is due to the heat or a renewed sense of spirit.

My “Book of the Moment” is the literary work, “Young, Gifted, and Black” (Perry, Steele, and Hilliard III, 2003). In this work, Perry crafts a picture of the importance of literacy for African-Americans. What, exactly, does being literate have to do with the existence of an African (descendant) in America? This is the guiding question, or rather a piece of the guiding question, of this literary work as the authors attempt to explain African-American academic achievement.

But wait! That’s not what this “piece” of work is about (and by this piece, I mean the work that you are reading by yours truly).

NO!

On that sweltering night, I may have had an epiphany or a slight heat stroke. But, in just a few moments, I went from asking “Why me?” to asking “Why not me?”

This book resonated with me (yes, I read it in one night) because I was reminded of my educational experience while being a Black (person, maybe) in America.

I went through my elementary schooling where the fact that I could read at the age of 3 ½ was cute to my pre-school teachers, as though I was some circus freak. I continued through elementary school where teachers didn’t expect me to do well, but once I did, it wasn’t ever really praised (no, my Mother did that at home…along with my Aunts, Uncles, and other relatives). Finally, the mental journey that I took through elementary school ended with my stint in the Gifted and Talented Program (y’all know? The Special Ed. class for Black kids who did much better than they should be doing in the broken down schools). I was brought back to my feeling as though I was a fraud or a “race-traitor” because I managed to make it into a class where many of my peers didn’t, even though they were just as qualified (I know that my Mother pushing for more advanced work had something to do with my placement in this supplemental class).

I then began my mental journey through Middle school. No matter where I went (because boy did I travel), people were astounded at my academic ability! It became funny to me. I struggled at home while doing my Math homework probably more than any other kid in my class. It was to the point that I would ask my two younger brothers if they could explain my problems to me in a way that made sense…because obviously the damn writers didn’t know what age group they were targeting! It (my academic prowess) became even funnier when sports coaches realized, that not only was I “talented” in academics, but I was pretty damn swift when it came to some sports (but not the Black ones, i.e., basketball).

Oh, shit! She’s a double threat!

High school opened up a new arena for me. Since I’d gone to a high school where everyone (or mostly everyone, and by everyone, I mean all of the Black kids there) was Gifted and Talented, I had to distinguish myself in some kind of way (and according to Lea, my Mother, mediocrity was not an option). What they (my Mom, school, and advisors) didn’t know what that I was pretty fucking happy being mediocre (shoot me now – just kidding, wait ‘til the end). However, I took a Visual Arts (drawing, for those of use who speak plain English) test and found that I was “talented” at yet ANOTHER thing. Can we say triple threat?!?! Even though I moved, I was still expected to be great at all of the talents that people had discovered in this Little Black Girl during her lifetime.

Thank God college came along! Seriously.

In college, I had the chance to exercise my abilities in whatever way I saw fit. On those grounds, I found my voice. I became active (granted, most of it was behind the scenes) with issues that seriously disturbed my soul. I was able to work on issues that dealt with discriminatory practices, students of color feeling out of place on an almost all-white campus, mental illness among college students, low-income youth (through traveling with my school’s Alternative Breaks program), and ANY other injustice that jumped out to me.

It was also during this time that I realized I wanted to fight educational inequality, and if I couldn’t fix the system, then I would for damn sure fix the way Black youth looked at and thought of themselves. Anyway, that’s why I started off with talking about the book, “Young, Gifted, and Black.”

On the sweltering day (or maybe it just felt that way because I had no air conditioning in my unit) of August 10, 2009, I was feeling so down on myself. I began to think of myself as undeserving of what I’d accomplished through my life (all because my requests for educational loans are repeatedly being denied!). I began to think that the only reason I was where I had made it to was because someone wanted to go against the “status quo” and allow another Black child to exercise their academic ability while tackling more challenging work in school (silly me). But that book reminded me something that my mother instilled in me long before I set foot on a college campus (although college attendance was a regular topic for discussion in my family):

“Academic achievement, doing well in school, and pursuing learning, in all of these narratives, is always accomplished in the face of considerable constraints, whether the impoverished condition of the school, the absence of a local high school, laws that made it a crime to teach slaves to read and write, or a teacher’s or school’s ideology of African-American intellectual inferiority. These constraints were tied to the social identity and the political location of African Americans as African Americans.” (Perry and them).

Or in other words,

“People are going to think that you can’t do it. But know that you can. And you will. You’ll be better (than them) because they think you are inferior.” (My Momma Lea)

So, I’m no longer thinking why am I here (in the Northeast with little family around me) working on a Master’s (and incurring so much debt that no job is gonna free me from the bondage of paying that shit back)? Nope!

Instead, my thought process has become, “Why aren’t more of me here!”

And while (I think) I have an answer to this, I’ll continue to strive for educational excellence by any means necessary.

After all, I am Young, Gifted, and (I just happen to be) Black!

Dream.Hope.Believe.

In My Desperation…

I CUT OFF MY HAIR!

Just kidding. Anyway, I wrote a status that read:

“Hey Facebook! Here’s an announcement for you all (especially guys). Women who have natural hair are NOT desperate for any kind of affection. Some may be…but I’m NOT one of them. There’s a story behind this and I may even write a note lol”

Okay. It’s NOT a laughing matter. I’m NOT desperate. My decision to cut off my hair was not one of desperation. Nope, it was a conscious decision to do something that would ultimately make me a better person.

1 – I’m learning to love myself the way that I was created.
2 – I’m not losing my hair (some of you know that my decision to cut my hair was due to the fact that I was losing my hair from the relaxers).
3 – I’m saving money that I don’t have to begin with (go ahead and laugh at that one).

Now, back to the status. A guy, who was probably a nice person somewhere inside his soul, asked for my phone number. In my haste to apply for a job, I told him that I was in a hurry and that I wasn’t comfortable with giving out my number (BOTH true).

Why did this “man” proceed to call me a “Nappy Headed Bitch”?

In that statement, I found that I wasn’t in as much of a rush as I initially thought. I mentally ran through my arsenal of “Strip You of Your Manhood” comebacks and I chose to do something that totally kept his self-esteem in tact.

I walked away.

Why did this fool start to follow me and taunt me?

Now, I will never know why he followed me and continued to hurl insults at my back. But I did get to thinking:

Why is it that women who have naturals (that are not curly, “cute”, or exotic) are looked at as desperate? Why are we the ones who are asked if wearing our hair that way is a “cry for help”?

IT’S NOT!

In cutting my hair, there was something both nostalgic and freeing about doing so. I was reminded of times (Sundays mostly) when my Mom would sit me between her knees and painstakingly comb my hair (Lord knows what kind of process it was). I was reminded of watching Apollo and other Sunday favorites on T.V. after she cooked the food (for up until Wednesday) that our family would eat. I was reminded of simply having to tie on a head scarf and NOT worrying about sweating my hiar out. I was reminded that I didn’t have to “assimilate” until major holidays when the pressing combs were brought out. I was reminded of the “Lady Down the Street” who braided my hair (I rocked the Williams’ sisters style, Beads and Braids, til I was like 9). I was reminded of sitting out on the steps and eating frozen cups with my friends. I was reminded of better times!

You know what I think of when I walk by relaxers in the store? $70, 8 hour sessions in hot ass salons with some random folks just walking in and out of the door letting all the air conditioning out. I was reminded of the greasy foreheads and the headaches that I got when I would go. I was reminded of having to sleep “pretty” because I didn’t want my style to fall. I was reminded of hair being pulled “too tight” because it would need to hold. I was reminded of NOT being able to swim, play outside for too long, go too near water, take a too long shower or bath, or just in general how much upkeep really came along with a relaxer.

But now that I think about it, maybe cutting my hair was an act of desperation. I wanted the freedom I enjoyed when I was younger.

And I got that with the help of some shears.

You know what else I happened to get?

A new found confidence. I have “Brothas” on the street corner refer to me as “Sista” and that makes me smile. I have cousins who don’t mind being natural because they see someone older who is and likes their hair despite what others may try to say. I have 30 extra minutes in the morning and I use them to sleep! I have saved $70+ a month and I’m paying things off. I have freedom and I’m cool with it.

You should be too!

It All Comes Crashing Down…

…in the end.

I’m tired of being strong. Here’s something I wrote last night. Maybe it makes sense, maybe it doesn’t. But yeah, this is where I am.

“Tonight, I am not happy. I just really want to go home. I want to hug my brothers. I want to hug my mother. I want to hug my father. I want to hug my sister. I want to look at the people that I KNOW love me. I want to hug the people that I know love me.

I’m sick of being here. I mean, I like the people that are here, but at the end of the day, they get to go home. They get to hug the people that they care about.

This past week, I lost my Aunt. I had to tell my brothers the news because they don’t really talk to my Dad. I come home to an empty place. There’s nothing in my room but a bed, a microwave, a “stove”, and a mini fridge. Let me not forget that I have a bathroom. But there are no pictures of my loved ones and nothing that reminds me of home. Nothing.

In my room, there is just me. And when you are alone and lonely in a place that is unfamiliar to you, it’s really hard to be happy. I just want to go home. I want to see the people that I know. I want to smell their scents. I want to hear their laughter. I want to touch them. I want to reach out and hug them and know that I’ll be hugged in return.

I want my family. Not whole. Maybe in pieces. I’ll take them in pieces. I just want to know that everything that I am doing is not in vain. I want to understand the purpose and right now I  don’t.

I’m lonely.

I’m isolated.

There is no one like me and of me. No one like me and of my parents. No person who understands when I just want to be left alone. No one who understands when I really need a hug but I’m too afraid to ask for it.

No.

I want home. I want the things that I know.”

Handle With Care

In life this week, I learned just how fragile everything truly is.

A friend of mine found out her father has a debilitating disease. A friend of mine experienced a miscarriage. An aunt of mine passed away.

Fragility. Fragile. Delicate.

That’s what we are. Those words characterize our existence. In these moments, the ones that we have, we need to learn to do more than exist. Not only that, but we must understand the importance of life. We need to understand that we need to experience life.

Take home lesson:

Enjoy those around you. Celebrate your successes. Cry when you are hurt. But never let anyone diminish your relationship to those you ARE connected to. Don’t let a grudge keep you from speaking to the important people in your life. You never know when your cord will be cut.

You are that fragile…and so is everyone else around you.

Live and Love! That, my friends, is life!

Dream.Hope.Believe.