I WAS THE GIRL IN HIGH SCHOOL WEARING THE HOODIES 3X HER SIZE.
I did the whole, messy-bun-slicked-back-tight thing. Always had a headband on and my hair sprayed hard and still. I had hand-me-down makeup from the boxes of Mary Kay in my mother’s closet—wore Etnies one day and Nike Air Force 1 the next.
I strived to be preppy and perfect, punk rock and straight hood all in the same week, when really, the truth is that I was just a confused mess hiding away beneath the layers.
I WAS A PILE OF SAGGY CLOTHES THAT NEEDED TO BE WASHED, DRIED AND IRONED OUT.
I was insecure & lost. I was every bit of the high school stereotype.
And my life was nothing but one big desperate plea—not to fit in, but to find myself because, there really is a difference between the two.
AND MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING THE GIRL THAT WAS NEVER REALLY JUST WHITE OR BLACK. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH THE CONFUSION THAT SEEPED INTO MY MIND ABOUT HAVING LIGHT SKIN AND POOFY HAIR. MAYBE SOME OF IT HAD TO DO WITH BEING AFRICAN AMERICAN AND NATIVE AMERICAN AND DUTCH AND IRISH AND GUYANESE, ALL IN THE SAME BREATH. BEING ALL THINGS AT ONCE AND YET FEELING LIKE I WAS NEVER REALLY ANYTHING AT ALL.
The confusion followed, basically paved the way for me in college. Along with the trend of trying to be everything all at once, never really being anyone ever. Never really being me. Just wearing and saying and doing whatever everyone else did. Until…
That is what broke me out of the mold. Real, deep, gut-honest conversations.
With people that looked like me. And people that didn’t.
People that had light skin and poofy hair. And people that didn’t.
People with red hair and people with gray hair.
People colored in shades of ebony and people colored in porcelain hues.
People who listened to Hip Hop and R&B and metal heads who listened to rock.
EVEN NOW, THE CONVERSATIONS CONTINUE. WITH PEOPLE AND FRIENDS I’VE SCOOPED UP ALONG THE WAY.
People from Atlanta and people from Maine.
People from the sticks in North Carolina and people from LA.
My sisters from New York and my sisters from Germany.
People from places I’ve never set foot on—virtual friends that I’ve yet to embrace.
People like my husband, who looks nothing like me. His darkest black hair, those thin Korean eyes.
Conversations that cut right down deep to the heart of me, curing me—beyond the outside layer of cotton, that flesh we call skin.
Conversations posed as questions that ask who are you?
WHO ARE YOU?
Yeah—as in, what makes your heart dance like raindrops on pavemnt?
What makes your gray brain dream in color?
What makes you sing in highest falsettos?
When we can answer those questions, that kind of conversation—that is when we wear the Etnies, not because we’re trying to find out what fits but because they fit what we’ve already found out about ourselves. That is when we embrace the hair that we’ve been given, the skin that we live it. Be it white, black, purple or green. That is when we find the grace to be grunge and rock and boho-chic, all in one breath.
Without the comparison, the competition, the self-hate, the insecurity. Without apology and without hesitation.
That is when we find and embrace and own who we are.