Last Saturday I left my best friend in Ohio, Ruby. My four-legged daughter/best friend/life-companion. One week without her has taught me a lot about myself. Starting with I’m a dog person. That’s just who I am. As exhausting
and expensive as having a pet can be, I’ll likely always find myself snuggled up next to a furry friend. This week has also shown me how humbling and freeing it is to have time with just you. I’ve been transitioning into a new job, yes, but what’s been the most shocking is the complete unveiling of self. My self.
No TV. No social life. No distractions….just me. I tried deflecting and my human best friend (not Ruby) reminded me that my inaugural California frustrations had everything to do with me. Things I’ve been able to pack down deep inside and put on a mask and hide behind in lieu of being well-received and liked. For years my priorities have been all jacked up. I’ve been silencing myself in order to people please. To be the brilliantly successful kid I hear my parents telling all their friends about. I buried the brokenness and took the ‘high’ road. Acting. I’ll just pretend everything is fine and maybe eventually everything will….be fine.
Faking it until you make it isn’t working for me. 28 years later…end scene. Camera fades.
Pans screen to reality.
No TV. No social life. No distractions….just me. This strange space of realizing, feeling and being. This first week has been a great training ground for authenticity. For the first time in my life, I’m being honest with myself. Telling folks what I need to be successful, openly identifying my intentions of working style and saying no. Do you know how hard it is to say “No” in your first week of work?
And here I am…saying No. Not because it feels great or because it’s liberating. I said ‘No’ because I ultimately know who I am or at least I’m beginning to– I’m just un-burying everything I’ve hidden in order to fit in, but I know, that I cannot afford to hide anymore. My mental health and self-love has taken too many hits on the back of others’ happiness. No. More. I have to say No to anything that threatens my ability to be my best me.
So what does that mean? How do you transition into a new role–into the trenches saying No? Let me tell you– I’m no genius, but I’m learning that no isn’t the problem. People don’t freak out about no– it’s how you say it and how your provide a solution to what you are saying no to. No requires solution-oriented thinking and a commitment to proactive versus reactive work-flow. That’s a true art that I’m embracing. It’s also about letting people know who you are up front. Setting clear expectations and recognizing that although those expectations may be challenged– you have to be honest with yourself and and only YOU can truly take YOUR best interest at heart (please re-read that Cierra, that line is from you and for you!).
I love being in a work environment that respects that. That respects me being me, and my being honest about it, and I’m grateful that God continuously places me in environments that are a training ground for helping me to become everything He designed me to be.
Aside from work, this week has been quite profound in reminding me of the color of my skin. In Ohio, I rarely took notice to my differences. Primarily due to the privilege of growing up around forward thinking families and continuously being in an environment where my name proceeded my identity. Small town privilege or something of the sort. I could have it all wrong. Maybe it’s just that I was truly a color blind kid until the world reminded that I couldn’t afford to be. That my skin was too dark and my hair was too tight to not be aware of how my melanin and crunchy coils would impact my interactions in the world–outside of my comfort zones or pockets of “safe”ish spaces in Ohio.
Being pretty alone in a new environment brings to life a constant reminder of a statement I’d regularly hear from my mom, “It’s okay that you are comfortable, Cierra; just know that you must always be aware.” My mom use to say that to me all the time and I’d roll my eyes. I’d say “Okay, but Mom it’s not like that anymore!”
My bubble burst when I looked myself in the mirror one day and said, damn.
Not the good kind but the deep reality kind of ‘damn’. It literally doesn’t matter how nice I am, how qualified I am, how insightful I am– fill in the blank– I will always have to be aware in a way that non-brown people may never understand. And then I felt dumb. Naive for being such a late bloomer….dreamer maybe, I don’t know. I’m still working through everything; I’ve always had culturally sound and profound people in my life, and somehow I just so resisted my blackness as something that could work against me and as something I truly needed to understand.
It’s a strange feeling– looking yourself in the mirror and feeling all the bubbles you’ve been allowed to live in, burst. Not because someone popped them. Not because anyone has called me out of my name (to my face anyway); but just because for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing people treating me different due to the color of my skin. Looking at me a little longer, being off-put from my smile and genuine exuding of goodness. People giving me advice on different communities to be in touch with out here, or neighborhoods where I’m most inclined to be comfortable– based on my brown skin. Oh mom. Yes. I must always be aware.
I went to see Hidden Figures today so I’m not sure if that’s what’s triggered such a level of awareness. I also watched President Obama’s Farewell Address– the first presidential address I’ve watched in entirety. I also, for the first time, took some time today (MLK holiday) took some time researching how and why we have this holiday. I think all of these experiences combined helped me feel comfortable writing or talking about everything I’m processing. I’ve always hid behind my blackness– hoping that my Cierra-ness would be enough to take the color component away. I wanted that so badly, but as I entrench myself in truly knowing myself, I have to be honest in acknowledging the blackness I carry and all that comes with it.
So. A heavy first week, but an enlightening one nonetheless. Here’s to more self-discovery, honesty– authenticity, and self-love.
I use my powers of faith and strength to face and overcome difficult situations. I use my powers of love and understanding as I pray for myself and others. I use my powers of wisdom and guidance when I question my life’s direction.
I am a spiritual being, gifted with unlimited power and potential.
‘When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.’—1 Corinthians 13:11-12
-Daily Word 1/17/17