Flex Mitchell as Michael Jackson, Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.
I would like to play Dolly Parton some day.
I worked SO hard on this.
(Note: I realize this post has been posted a few places out of context, but it refers to behavior that has taken place in my personal life and online primarily during the years of 2007-2010.)
There is often a marked difference between our self-perception and our reality. Who we think we are and who we really are. And who we want to be is often times caught in between the two.
Until recently, if someone asked me to describe myself, I would have included the words sweet, kind, nurturing, sensitive, thoughtful and nice. Though I am quite aware of my razor sharp wit and slick tongue, I would have hesitated to include mean, self-involved, selfish, bullying and cold.
The first list of adjectives describes who I am. The second, things about myself that I like to ignore. The truth? Somewhere in the middle.
While I have received affirmation from loved ones and others about the former, I have always been quick to downplay the latter. “I talk slick when people deserve it,” “I’m not mean, I’m just not a punk,” “I didn’t mean to be so harsh, I’m just stressed out,” “I’m impatient, I don’t suffer fools lightly,” etc, etc, etc.
I have long since made excuses for the fact that I sometimes talk to people in ways that YOU SHOULD NOT TALK TO PEOPLE. This has been an issue since childhood. While it has often been something that I (bizarrely) reserved for the people I love most, since the internet has given me the access to communicate with so many people beyond what I could take in on a face-to-face basis, there have been others who have had the experience of getting an unnecessary tongue lashing from me.
I sat in my therapist’s office the other day sobbing as I recounted the terrible ways in which I spoke to a loved one. I cannot understand how I can became someone who was such a nasty, entitled, self-righteous diva. My therapist is helping me to understand my own behavior and what issues it spoke to and how I can never be that person again.
And while much of my time with her is centering around issues I have had with friends and family and issues I have with myself, that particular conversation made me think about the folks who came across me online during my “Sister Toldja” days and had the unfortunate luck of getting dissed or chided for something as small as asking me to explain something more clearly or for commenting on an article they hadn’t read or for presenting what I deemed to be some sort of small-minded view on something I take seriously.
Who in the hell did I think I was to be mean to strangers without ever considering that someone could be mourning, hurting, suffering outside of our petty internet conversation? What would it have cost me to be more patient? Or to simply ignore someone who wracked my nerves terribly? The world is often a dark and cold place and the only reason I have not succumbed to that is because I have always been surrounded and supported by people who provided warmth and light. I owe it to humanity to radiate the same.
What’s interesting is that after a number of my nasty interactions with people, where I had dressed someone down for something small, is that I would go and CRY. I felt guilty for talking that way. But yet, it took me years to stop.
I’m sure that of the few of you who made it this far in this letter, most of you are confused about what I am talking about. But someone may remember when I had a couple thousand Twitter followers and a notorious attitude. If I ever barked on you, talked to you sideways or anything of the like, I am truly sorry.
For anyone who I was dismissive or flippant towards in high school, college or even in my early New York years, I’m sorry. I’ll maintain that I was typically more nice than nasty in my younger days, but that nasty was something else when it came out. If you ever had to deal with it, I am so, so sorry.
There are people who played a much more significant role in my life and, thus, endured a more significant level of poor treatment. If you are part of that number and happen to be reading this: I love you deeply and I am so, so sorry. Of course, there is more to say to you guys and I will share those words with you when I can.
I want to be a better person, y’all. For me, for those around me, and for the entire world. I will always be “a thorn in the side of the beast,” as my father says. I will continue to rally against sexism, patriarchy, racism and oppression. But I will not hurt people unnecessarily in the process.
I am hanging up the 28 Days of Awesome challenge. I am sad and a little bit embarrassed, but I have to be honest with myself: I am not in the right place to take something like this on right now. This is still a period of deep introspecton for me, but I no longer feel emboldened to do so publicly. Furthermore, the daily task of trying to do something Awesome for myself or others isn’t something I’m really equipped to do right now.
Anyway, thanks to those of you who supported this project while it lasted. Maybe I’ll try again in the future.
Edit: I’m trying to get out of NY for a bit and I set this up in hopes that I can get by with a little help from my friends: http://jamilah.chipin.com/a-much-needed-escape
There are so many days where I feel tremendous pressure. I feel it physically. My breath and heart rate change, there is a tightening in my chest. My entire body tenses. A frantic email from a publicist who is dying to know when her client will be featured on our site. A reminder about a story I forgot about. A writer texting or Tweeting me to get more attention for their work. A phone call from someone who could have sent an email. A bill. Another bill. A to-do list that never shrinks. An email from someone who started blogging last week and wants me to tell them how to make it into a career.
Never in my life have I felt needed by so many people. I’m grateful. I have my dream job (minus the dream salary, but such is the industry I chose). Unfortunately, I am lacking joy, support and a feeling of connectedness. And I don’t ever feel like I have the space to be selfish and put myself first.
Don’t get me wrong, I have great friends, a great family and great sorors who love me. But I just feel very alone in the world for some reason and that coupled with the pressure I feel professionally is taking me to a very isolated and miserable place. One I want to leave sooner than later. It doesn’t matter how many ‘likes’ my articles get on Facebook or how many people tell me I do good work, I do not feel special. I feel like I am more often than not a mere conduit for the needs and goals of others. I feel disposable, replaceable and so unimportant. Kind of an ironic thing considering how many people seem to need me these days, but emotions are not intelligent beings.
Today, I am going to do something nice for myself like buy some shoes or some shiny shit I don’t need. And maybe I’ll find a Groupon for a massage or some self-imporantance.
You may be wondering where today’s Awesome is. It is in owning up to these very damaging and painful emotions so that I may destroy them. Amen.
(Upon reading Ocean’s letter) my mind went briefly to the dozens of male singers and rappers who have been dogged by gay rumors over the years. How hard it must be for some of them to sing songs to and about women and if they feel, as Ocean did, that their own lyrics were “written in a language [they] didn’t speak yet.” I then thought about the many brothers I have known from high school and beyond who were also the subject of constant speculation (some of which was confirmed) about their sexuality. Rumor mongers love to focus on who may have put a hand, a mouth, a body part on whom…but what about love? What about the fact that these men were managing the complications of deception, fear and confusion as their hearts and bodies defied what they thought was to be their identities? And all of this while still having to cope with the beauty and trauma that accompanies young love?
To say my feelings about Odd Future are complicated would be an understatement, but that’s an essay for another day. However, I am heartend by the decision of Frank Ocean to boldly come forward and disclose information about his sexuality. Not sure if he identifies as gay or bisexual as some are claiming (his open letter, to me, implied the former due to the suggestion that he hadn’t known romantic love until he knew it with a man), but either way, this is a big moment for Black popular culture.
I was inspired to write an essay about Frank’s disclosure today and I definitely tip my hat to him in the name of Awesome. Being free, being yourself openly and being honest when those things can all cause tremendous loss professionally and personally? That is Awesome.
On a personal note, I began a much overdue conversation with a friend last night. My talks with people in my life have been so rich lately and I am filled with love for them. There is much work to be done in healing my relationships with others and to myself, but I feel that I am walking in the right path.
Today is about no work, no pain and good times with the people who love me. I am choosing joy.
Today started out rough and kept getting worse, but I decided not to let the challenges and the hurt get the best of me. Woo. Sah.
I got a Tweet from a classmate who I didn’t know well saying that she was fundraising to go teach film in Kenya and today was the last day to donate. Now, because of who I am by nature and the fact that I got a lot of much needed support in a certain national contest last year, I am quick to vote for people for things and to share word of their efforts with my networks when they need cash donations. I wish I was in a position to give more often, but truth is…I’m broke, more often than not. One of my challenges for this month is also to spend some time trying to figure that condition out, real talk. Little comes in, but far too much goes out, ya dig?
Anyway, I figured the least I could do was donate $10 towards the $490 she needed and to share the donation link with people on Facebook and Twitter. Well, in the 20 minutes that followed, I watched her go from needing $490, to just $99 dollars and to being over her goal. That was AWESOME! I am so happy for this girl and so happy to see the power of the internet working for someone trying to do a good thing.
In other Awesome (if not fun) news, I called a bill company that I had been avoiding and made an arrangement that I can handle. Yay. And I’m gonna hit the streets and happy hour it up. Also Awesome.
I can name 100 things I want right now that I don’t have, some of which I can’t have now and others, probably never. Today, I am going to focus on that I do.
Yesterday was not Awesome and I did not create Awesome in my life or the lives of any others. Yesterday was okay, but yesterday night was very, very hard.
What most of you wouldn’t know is that I am going through one of the most difficult times of my life right now and that fact has much to do with why I have started this project. I am hurting to my core these days…shattered in ways I did not think possible…and in many ways, I have no one but myself to blame.
What do you do when you have hurt someone? What do you do when you have been ‘the bad guy?’ That’s not an easy space to navigate. While guilt is important to living in ways that are truly human, it can also be cancerous. Regret can help you to alter your actions in a positive way, but it can also stymie your growth if you can’t heal from wounds that you have caused.
There are days I don’t want to get out of bed and moments where I feel like I wish I’d never been born, or that I have destroyed my future in ways I cannot fix. While I have never given suicide any serious thought, I sometimes feel that I don’t care if I live or die.
This is depression to even someone who has a casual understanding of the illness’ symptoms. And this isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with it. Truth be told, I’m not sure that I can pinpoint a time in recent history in which I wasn’t at least moderately depressed.
As I have travelled toward a healing space, I’ve had a number of conversations with friends, only to be surprised at how many of them have dealt with their own issues with depression. While I certainly wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone, there is a level of comfort that comes from knowing that I am not hardly alone out here. Sigh.
Today is “No Shame Day,” an initiative that was developed by scribe Bassey Ikpi as part of her efforts in de-stigmatizing mental illness. When I was initially asked by a friend to blog today, I ignored the request because I just didn’t want to talk about it. Alas, I don’t think I could have talked about anything else until I did.
The good news: I am in therapy, which I am sharing because I think its important that we encourage each other to take that step and also, because I don’t want anyone to read this and be afraid for me (or to call me—-I hate talking on the phone, sorry). I hope that anyone who needs a little support in getting to/back to Awesome considers doing the same.
So, today’s Awesome is about making peace with my lack of peace and keeping along the road to find it.