There is a meme circulating that asks, “Without saying your name or profession, who are you?” On the scale of deep shit; that’s an elephant manure-sized question. Pause for a moment and think about it. Who are you? Did the answers stream easily through your mind or did they seem to be playing hide and seek with you—causing you to dash here and there inside your head for answers?
Let’s make the question more difficult; because if you are like me, many of my self-descriptors referenced my relationship to someone else. For instance, I am a mother. Try now, to answer the question: who am I without it being connected to anyone or anything. Who are you stripped of titles and relationships? If suddenly, like in a thriller movie the world was essentially destroyed, and you were in the middle of ruins walking alone, who is that person?
Readily accessible in our minds is who we think we should be. Social media fuels this line of thinking. “My girlfriend is a Senior VP at a Fortune 1000 company, runs marathons, and is her daughter’s basketball coach. I’ve got to do better.” “I should be a married woman by now.” “I should be a member of (fill in the blank) organization.” Similarly, we often focus on who we want to be. “Why can’t I be more of an extrovert?”
Those thought processes erase the belief that we entered this world fully being who we are authentically. It’s there. Ignoring it and focusing on what others, society, or our insecurities tell us we should be creates a soul-conflict. Your job is only to listen to your gut (intuition, inner-voice) and continuously discover the magnificent, unique being who is you.
Then trust it.
I am inconsistent with listening to and trusting my voice; consequently, as with any relationship, me and me got issues! Trusting myself, quieting the voices of doubt has caused me great stress and has cost me opportunities.
Last Monday night provides a good example of when my inability to silence my fears and trust my voice caused me to lose a good opportunity to at minimum meet people whom I admire and even perhaps lose an opportunity to grow. I attended an event at Stanford University where Panama J. Jackson and Damon Young from my absolute favorite blog, Very Smart Brothas gave a talk. No Monday is a great day for me to go out; but this Monday was particularly bad because I was catching a flight the next morning, so spent the day doing laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, paying bills, and anything else so that my home and business would run smoothly while I was out of the country. By the time I had to drive the hour and a half to attend the talk I was more tired than Cupid on Valentine’s Day; but I was determined to be there. Very Smart Brothas for me is what Taylor Swift is to White tween girls.
The talk was interesting. At the end of it, Panama J. Jackson shared what was for me, the most profound thought of the evening: I get paid to be Black—what could be better? That got me thinking: are the rest of us paid to assimilate with the White culture? If so, does that dynamic cause even more static and interference for us, Black people, to listen and trust our voices? Do we not even recognize the sound of our own voices because we spend so much time in character?
Immediately after the talk, millennials, cameras in hand, rushed to meet with Panama and Damon to capture their latest cool picture for Instagram and to garner some advice. I was one of the oldest people in the audience; but felt young as I was feeling straight-up-groupie-like butterflies. I wanted to meet and talk with them badly; but I stayed in my seat. Then I got up and stood in the back of the room. Then I decided that I would be ready after I had a chance to pee and to reapply my lipstick. I came back from the bathroom and stood in the spot I was standing before. My friend tried to encourage me, but I couldn’t do it.
The question of how I should introduce myself paralyzed me. How would I tell them who I was? In my drive up to the event I imagined giving them my Beatnik24 card and telling them that I was a writer. But once I got there, I couldn’t say those words, “I am a writer.” The Very Smart Brothas are writers: Damon is a writer. Panama is a writer. You are writing, girlfriend, but I sure as hell wouldn’t call you a writer, my self-doubt asserted.
But I am a writer. I am a writer even if I write for no one but myself. I am a writer if my words permanently reside in journals or forgotten files on my computer. I am a writer even when my audience tells me I suck. That’s one of the truths I discovered about me. I finally listened to it a couple of years ago (though I was a raised in a family that considered writing a silly hobby, at best). I finally listened to me—that voice. I don’t know all of who I am, but I know that my purpose is to write.
Now, I must continue to work on trusting that voice consistently. I must ignore those detracting voices who push me to focus on who I think I should be or who I want to be; and rather trust the voice that speaks for the unique soul and spirit that has always been me. In the meantime, I will write, even on days when I don’t feel brave enough to consider myself a writer.