the wound is the place

I have had a sorrowful week. Yes, this week I have accepted myself as a wildly Sad Black Girl, as for me to be pretend to be anything else would take too much energy.

I have cried twice this week, and probably will again. I have lived in various iterations of pajamas, and have only left my bed to eat, bathe, and use the toilet.

Literally, everything feels like too much of an effort. Even in writing, in coming to the page, I want to close my laptop and lay down and sleep forever. I am tired. Past tired, I am weary and emotionally exhausted. My head hurts. My body feels the weight of itself, the weight of reckoning with the world we live in.

I had already accepted that I was a Sad Black Girl on Wednesday afternoon. After months and months of pretending my numbness was normal, I got tired of the façade. I admitted to myself that I was indeed depressed—as I’m quite familiar with my depression by now—and was coping through food, which only adds to my feelings of sadness and shame.

I wrote a long journal entry about it, laid down all my burdens. It was very much so cathartic, and a little bit healing. It was wholly necessary. And then when I was done, it was nighttime and I was ready to go to bed. But being the pseudo-cyborg Millennial that I am—always connected to the Matrix, always attached to a screen—I decided to check my social media. I spend a lot of time on Twitter these days. I love and hate Twitter, but that’s not the point.

And there it was. Stories and stories and tweets and tweets about a shooting in a Charleston church. And because this is the world we live in, one I’ve grown accustomed to, I didn’t really engage with the story. I scrolled, then I closed the Twitter app on my phone and went to sleep. When I woke up and logged back onto Twitter and began reading messages from my boss, I understood the weight of what had happened. I engaged with the details. A white man had gone into a Bible study group at a historically black church—Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church—in Charlotte, South Carolina and killed nine people, all of them black.

Beyond the normal, generalized aggression and hatred and violence that I’ve accepted as a hallmark of American culture and society, this was something else entirely. This was a racially motivated hate crime. This was homegrown terrorism. This was 1950s and 1960s Jim Crow flavored brutality, alive and thriving in 2015.

And since then, I haven’t been “right.” I’ve felt hurt and heavy and distant. I’ve felt a profound sadness for the world we live in, for the skin I live in. I have been traumatized, truly, in a way that I am still learning how to name. And then I feel guilty, because is it my right to feel this hurt, by people I don’t know, whose black experience differs so vastly from mine, who lived their lives thousands of miles away?

I am not religious. I didn’t grow up in the church, black or otherwise. I don’t pray much anymore. I view God as a distant friend more than a living presence in my life. I’ve spent my whole life being a progressive, liberal Californian, save for the few family visits to Texas and my college years in New York.

And yet still, beyond being “affected” by the shooting. Beyond being hurt by it. Beyond understanding how horrible and heinous it is, I also feel triggered by it.

The work I currently do, and The Work I feel called to do, mean I often have to be present with these stories. I work for a website that documents and shares the experiences of Black women in America and in the world. So when a white man walks into a church and kills nine Black churchgoers—six of them women—I have to know this story, and its details. I have to read the essays and op-eds and journalistic pieces written by others. I have to read pitches and submissions. I have to be submerged in the trauma, in the violence.

And this week, I was already a Sad Black Girl, wholly consumed by my own pain and emotional afflictions. I was already feeling some type of way about being a Black woman in America. I was already feeling some type of way about being alive, about my own mortality.

And then Charleston. And then the 24-hours news and social media cycle. And then all the times I’ve failed to heal myself completely of old traumas, of the way my body and heart holds onto pain in a very real way. And sometimes, I’m able to keep all these traumas, all this hurt, buried deep in the water. And then other times, it comes bubbling up to the surface. And the wounds open up.

And then I am a Sad Black Girl eating her feelings, who can’t get out of bed, who is barely functioning, who is so mad at the world we live in, and at herself for living in it.

This is where I am now. The wound is the place, but there is no light yet.

Showing Up for Myself

I am trying to re-teach myself accountability. It’s hard, to say the least.

I think the hardest thing about pursuing a career in the arts / working from home / adulthood in general is developing an internal sense of accountability. My whole life, I’ve gauged “how I was going” by the reactions of others. And more than anything, I did things because I wanted affirmation. I did good work, not for the sake of doing good work, but because I wanted someone else to sing my praises.

Ironically, I am learning — as an artist and as a human — that this is actually counterproductive to “doing good work.” Because when the praise stops, as it often does, so does my motivation to not only produce good work, but to produce much of anything.

And guess what? Life doesn’t care about my feelings. Life wants me to work, because that’s what a majority of life is: putting in the work, showing up.

I don’t know why these lessons — about work, discipline, accountability — have been the hardest for me to learn, but they are. And now, about to enter my 26th year, I’m coming to accept that these are my lessons to learn and I have to show up for the education.

Black Girl Dreamin’

This week has been such an important one for trying to get a plan together for my life over the next few years, as I get ready to go to grad school and get even more serious about living and succeeding as a writer.

After years of being confused about what I want to do and how I’m going to make it happen, I finally have a clear vision and intention about both. I’m exciting for what it on the horizon. And I’m excited for what feels like me finally coming into my own, my grown, my sexy.

I’m not sure when I last wrote on this blog — or what I wrote — so I’m not sure if I made the official announcement yet. But yeah… I was accepted to USC’s School of Cinematic Arts for the MFA program in Writing for Screen and Television. It’s probably the most exciting news I’ve received in a really long time. USC was my first choice school, so the fact that they wanted and chose me feels really good. I begin my classes in August, Lawd and financial aid be willing.

I think my acceptance into USC has really affirmed that I’m on the “right” path. I’ve spent a lot of time doubting myself and if I have what it takes to be the kind of creative I dream of being. When you’re living to paycheck to paycheck — and voluntarily about to take out thousands of dollars in debt — it can be very hard to feel confident and self-assured about the decision to be a writer, artist, and creative entrepreneur. It seems “silly” to most people.

But in those seemingly never-ending moments of self-doubt, I have to remember weeks like this — where intellectually and spiritually, everything is just coming together in ways that make sense. Yes, what I want to do is hella ambitious and very risky, but I honestly believe I’m doing the things and pursuing the path that God intended for me. And who am I to tell God that He/She/They is/are wrong? The Universe has been working this kind of stuff out for a lot longer than I have, so I’m just gonna keep working towards my goals.

I’ve been working with a life coach and spiritual mentor on and off for the past few years. And she’s amazing, because she never hesitates to bolster my ego, by reminding me that she believes I can do awesome things in my life. This week it has been easier to agree with her.

And it’s not even just about career or long-term goals either.

Even with more personal things, like my body and my romantic life (or non-romantic life, should I say?), I can feel shifts occurring. I’ve recommitted myself to healthy eating and lifestyle changes. With the pressures and responsibilities of grad school, it’s important that I have a routine and system in place for self-care. I want to be present with my studies, present in the journey I’m about to take. I don’t want to have to worry about not being able to handle my classes and the experience, because I’m always sick or tired or physically exhausted/burnt out.

And so, I decided that now is the time to get this shit on lock. I’ve been eating more fruits and vegetables and whole foods. I’ve been drinking more tea and water. I’ve tried very hard to cut out processed foods and refined sugars. I’ve had a couple of slip-ups with Mexican food, cake, and ice cream, but overall I’m doing good. I have more energy, my mood is more balanced, and my skin has cleared up. And in general, I’m more clear about things — desires, needs, goals, relationships, etc.

After I have the healthy eating part down, I want to focus on my fitness and activity levels. Working from home for the last two years, I’ve gotten really lazy and really content with just sitting at home on my ass for days on end. I have even more of a pancake booty than I did before, and my fitness ability is probably atrocious. But I’m going to work on getting fit and just being more active period. In my dream of dreams, I want to be the kind of Carefree Black Girl who wakes up at 6am and drinks tea and does yoga and then goes out and conquers the world while looking fabulous and getting shit done all day long. This is not currently my reality, but I have faith that I’ll get there soon enough.

I always forget how returning to my body and making sure it’s taken care of has such a huge impact on how I feel in general. I spent so many years disconnected from my body, hating and wanting to erase it. Adulthood has largely been a battle in learning to accept and love my body, and exist in it unapologetically. I’m not 100% comfortable at my current size and activity level, but I no longer yearn to be skinny anymore. Yes, I want to be healthy. Yes, I want to be fit. But if I’m a “big girl” for the rest of my life — and I most likely will be — I’m perfectly OK with that, as long as I look and feel my best. And looking/feeling my best does not mean I have to be model thin.

In the coming months, I hope to begin blogging regularly (for real). I’d love to write 3-4 times per week on this blog, and maybe once or twice a week on my health and fitness based blog. But you know, we’ll see about that…

Something About a Little Bit of Nothing

Being a “grown-up” is an interesting-ass journey. I say journey deliberately, because there’s nothing static about being an adult. And it’s taken me almost four years since graduating from college to come to a regular acceptance of this (but I still forget sometimes).

I used to believe that adulthood was this final destination of having-your-shit-together-ness. Like, once I hit a certain age, then all of the blocks would go in their right place and everything would be set. I would just kind of live. There would be no more lessons. There would be no more change. I would pretty much feel the same everyday.

You know, I’d settle in and settle down. My life would be “settled.”

But that shit just doesn’t exist. In a way, adulthood is way more fucked up than adolescence. The stakes are higher. There’s a lot more going on. Things are in a constant state of flux. But the gift of adulthood is that you’re old enough to know who you are (mostly) and you’re more or less independent, so no one can tell you shit.

In the past few years, I’ve achieved the “I know who I am” part of adulthood, but I’m still working on not giving a shit what others think or have to say. I look at how much things have changed in the last four years, and I get why people would have certain opinions. When I graduated from college, I was more or less on the “right track,” according to others. I had a full-time job. I was doing community-based work on the side. I was saving money and being responsible.

I was well on my way to having a “normal” life. And then I realized: That’s not what I want.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a normal life. Working full-time and paying your bills and doing what you need to do to get by and make a living. That shit is real, and I don’t have any uppity-ass feelings about people who deal with the realities and responsibilities and obligations of real world adult life in this way. In some ways, my lifestyle is very Disneyland-ish to the “normal” way.

But it didn’t feel authentic. It didn’t feel like something I fit into. It didn’t feel like something I would regret in a few years. And so, I made a change. I quit my full-time, well-paying job. I got a part-time job working from home. I set out to do less community-based work and focus more on my writing and creative dreams.

And then I spent a long time being confused and scared and complacent. I kind of failed at it. I was lazy. I was self-pitying. I was a hot mess. And then I got over myself.

I was able to get an editorial internship, which became a part-time job with a media company and website I admire and respect. I was able to get some of my work published online. I was able to pursue other creative projects in the meantime. I was able to get folks to understand, “Hey, this isn’t me fucking around. This is me trying to do the slow, maddening work of building a life and a career as an artist.”

And now, I have this life that not very many people comprehend, but I know folks accept the fact that writing and telling stories and producing media is what I plan on doing with my life. That’s a great feeling. Being able to say, “Hey, I’ve been putting in the work and it’s slowly paying off,” is a great feeling.

I feel proud that I was able to make this change and be this self-determined adult, even though there are plenty of ways I still don’t have it figured out and I’m not where I want to be. I still live at home with a parent. I still don’t pay rent or have a place that is completely my own. My finances and savings aren’t where I want them to be. I don’t have a retirement plan. I spend more time sleeping and fucking around on the Internet than I should. I still don’t know how to treat my body right. I’m still single. I still dress and look like a teenage boy most days.

But these are the things I do have: I have a vision for my life that honors my passions, talents, and purpose. I have my own money. I have my own car. I know exactly who I am and who I am not. I have no misgivings about how the world works. I have family and friends and a whole tribe of people whom I love deeply. I have a job that allows me to put into daily practice all the things I believe about writing and storytelling and media and community. I have the time and space to figure things out, which is a luxury not afforded to many people. I have parents who love and support me.

I have so much, so much, so much.

Oh, Nice of You to Show Up Again…

Well, I’ve been absent from this blog for a minute!

I say that at the beginning of every post. I think I just need to accept that I can’t keep up a blog worth shit.

Anyways…

I got into grad school about three or so weeks ago. In the fall, I’ll be studying at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. Yes, that’s right, bitches! I not only got into film school, but I got into THE BEST FILM SCHOOL IN THE WORLD! I was pretty high on myself for about a week after I found out. And then monotony and bullshit set back in. I’m still excited, but it’s a more turned down, conservative version. I’ll be back on my you-can’t-tell-me-shit-right-now, Beyoncé-ish vibes in the summer as registration and the first day of classes get closer.

My web series is also coming along. We’ve finally wrapped production — except for one tiny, pesky thing that needs to be reshot. We’re promoting the shit out of it through social media, so if you’d like updates on this labor of love, you can visit the Facebook page and the Tumblr for GIRL, GET YO’ LIFE!. 

I can’t believe we’re already in the middle of March. Like, where the fuck does time go?

I low-key began another healthy living journey this week. Right now, I’m focusing on the diet and nutrition part of it. Or trying to anyway. (It’s hard, but not as hard as I make it seem.) And I remember to the last time I was seriously trying to get my health together at the beginning of 2013, when I vowed to lose 100+ lbs. and wrote a blog about it. And oh, look… THAT NEVER HAPPENED! I punked out after less than three months. I did lose like, 25 lbs. though! But then I gained them all back… and then some.

Anyways… When did this become about my weight/health issues and major life failures? This is getting way heavier than it was meant to.

I just brought all of that up because all of that happened TWO YEARS AGO, and I can’t believe it. Time just moves by so fucking fast the older you get. Like, it’s been four years since I was in college. FOUR YEARS. OK, I will stop typing things in all caps now, but that’s how flabbergasted I am by how fast life literally moves.

With transitioning from youth work to online media work and getting into grad school and producing this web series, I’ve just come to realize how important it is to spend your time invested in doing things you’re wildly passionate about. And not only that, but to also make sure you’re spending time dong things that are meaningful and keep you engaged.

Basically, do what you love and don’t waste time doing lots of other dumb shit. This is easier said than done.

I still spend a lot of time doing a lot of dumb shit. And I don’t do enough of the things I want to do. I spend so much time on social media, attached to a computer or phone screen — which is somewhat valid, because of work — that I don’t do much living anymore, it feels like at times. As much as I love media and the Internet and technology and the fact that my lifestyle allows me to stay in yoga pants pretty much all day, that shit’s not healthy and it doesn’t make me feel like a good human. But it’s so easy to confuse being active online with having a real, full life. And I feel like I kind of do that now.

It’s such a huge distraction, and it keeps me from focusing on real shit. You know, like writing regularly. And applying for freelance positions. And finding other small creative projects to pursue. Or leaving the house to absorb fresh air and sunlight. Or maintaing legitimate friendships with other people that are not facilitated by screens and “likes” and surface interactions.

I’m just reminded sometimes that there’s so much more I could be doing with my time than being online all day, hoping something I post is noticed… or figuring out what the latest celebrity “news” is… or binge-watching some TV show on Netflix.

I think I’ve been doing a little bit better. I decided to give up all video streaming services for Lent. No Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, or Showtime Anytime. I’ve cheated twice now, by watching The Wire On Demand through my AT&T U-Verse app. (Does that even really count?) But it’s not exactly the same. When I’m streaming shows, I can do it for like, twelve hours straight. But if I’m actually watching a physical television, I can do it for a couple of hours tops. I thought I would miss it more than I do, but I think I just really needed a break.

I don’t really have much else to say. I always feel like I’m bullshitting my three subscribers when I blog, because I “don’t be talkin’ about nothin’.” But I felt compelled tonight, so here it is…

Now I’m either going to fall asleep or Facebook creep on people I don’t actually care about that much. I’m so good at Friday nights…

Doing Like a Motherf***er

Tonight, I am exhausted. The down-in-your-bones, swirling-around-your-head kind of exhausted. I feel like I’ve lived many lives in a single day.

Tonight, I went to visit a very close friend. She’s been in the hospital since before Christmas. She’s fighting for her life in all of the ways. (And she’d probably be really annoyed that I used that language to describe her situation. But in a very real way, it’s true.) She is a remarkable. And the hospital can be a very lonely, very unremarkable place. As much as I hate the hospital and driving to the Westside in rush hour traffic and the fact that UCLA Medical Center makes you pay $12 for parking, visiting her was the best part of my day.

For two hours, she let me bitch and moan and tell stories and ruminate and laugh (at the expense of other people). She’s in the hospital, and yet she is selfless enough with her time and energy—still—that she lets me talk about my very non-life-or-death problems. That is grace. That is compassion. That is some good motherf***ing friendship.

This has been a tough week, for no particular reason other than there was just never enough time for me to accomplish all the things I wanted to. Or money. Or patience. Or energy. And this, I’m coming to find out, is just the simple truth about adult life. I have a running joke with a few friends that adulthood is just being broke and tired until you die. That’s a morbid way of looking at things, maybe. And I only partially believe it. But today, both were completely true.

It’s the ninth day of the year 2015, and I haven’t really gotten to do any of the normal new year rituals I enjoy doing. There was no reflective writing about the gifts and lessons and heartbreaks that 2014 brought me. There was no writing and clarifying of my intentions for this brand new year. No dreaming, no planning. Instead, I’ve been in a constant mode of doing. This is the first time I’ve sat down to write something real at all so far.

It’s taken me nine whole days. Nine days!

I met with my therapist/life coach/spiritual living guru/mentor yesterday. She asked me about my intentions for the year, about my intentions for the work we do together. And I was honest with her, I told her hadn’t had time to make any. That was the first time that I had realized I’ve been in a constant state of doing—moving, working, action action action. It was an “A-ha!” moment.

Constant doing is exhausting.

My whole life, I have been a planner. I take a very passive approach to life. I enjoy being occupied, being engaged. But man, I fucking hate being busy. And it’s not like I’ve never been busy before… or that I don’t often have multiple projects and commitments I’m working on. I do. Consistently. But busy-ness? Nah, I can’t fux with it. This doing for doing’s sake, without the space or time to reflect or catch your breath, just seems so excessive. I mean, how am I to appreciate the things that I do or the moments in which they happen?

I don’t know. It’s hard to articulate. But I’ve just never been a doer. A thinker and dreamer and planner, yes. But not a doer.

Maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe that’s the gift this year is trying to offer me. Instead of the planning and mental masturbation, maybe the Universe has intended for me to just get shit done this year. Fuck my feelings about the doing. Fuck my thought process around the doing. Maybe I’m just supposed to do, to learn a new way of being me.

But I’m still exhausted. And even though I have a shot list to compose and pieces to edit and queue… It’s a very real possibility that not everything that needs to be done tonight will get done. Because I do need rest.

Resting is still a type of doing, right?

Coming Together & Falling Apart

I haven’t posted on my own blog in over three weeks. That’s triflin’ and I apologize to the three people who read it. Every week, I start a new damn blog post and then I never finish it. It’s funny — now that I’m like, actually about the life of being a “professional” writer, I feel like I have very little time to write.

In the past few weeks, I have just been trying to hold my shit together as best as I possibly can. And so far, I’m doing OK. At this time last year, I was in the midst of deep depression and simultaneously preparing for a two-week trip to Italy and France. (Yes, the latter made helped a great amount with my depression.) It’s crazy to think how much of a difference 12 months make. Now, I’ve started a new job. I am applying to graduate programs in screenwriting. I’m co-producing a web series. And I’m trying to look for as many money-making freelance writing opportunities as possible. Oh, and I’m also back in therapy, trying to also get a handle on all my emotional/spiritual baggage.

The past few weeks have been beautiful, in that incredibly humbling and exhausting way. I am appreciative that I had an entire year to be lazy and selfish and depressed and basically lost in my own shit-storm. At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, I think it allowed me to build up a spiritual energy reserve. These days, I’m doing a lot. I’m working a lot, but I’m not nearly as exhausted as I would normally be. My sleep schedule has changed drastically, though. My new schedule currently looks like this: sleep from 2:00am to 6:30am (if that), get work done from 6:30am through 11am, do some necessary shit like eat or shower or go to the bank from 11am to 1pm, take a nap in the afternoon, and then work from 10pm to 2am. It’s chaotic and not at all sustainable, but it’s working for now.

It is just nice to feel excited about things again, because I spent nearly an entire year not being excited about much of anything. Resigned to apathy and general malaise is no way to live. But these days, I have lots and lots to be excited about.

I am in full-swing production mode for the web series I co-created, GIRL, GET YO’ LIFE!. We’re halfway through the process, and I’ve learned so much about myself, screenwriting, and film. More than anything, this experienced has confirmed that I do want to continue writing for the screen. I’ve flip-flopped for years now on whether or not I wanted to pursue a career in screenwriting. I just feel like I don’t have the “personality” to survive in the entertainment industry. But co-writing and co-producing this show has proved to me otherwise. I may not have the disposition or “chops” required to pursue acting. But I low-key believe I was born to write stories for other people to embody and portray.

On Friday, we shot half of the scenes for my favorite episode of the season, which satirizes what it’s like to go to an open mic. Beside the fact that the episode is just fucking hilarious, I think I enjoy it so much because it is the most collaborative episode. K. and I co-wrote it with an incredibly talented poet friend of ours. We recruited one of our homegirls—who happens to be a phenomenal writer/producer/director/performer herself—to guest direct and she knocked it out of the fucking park. And we recruited a bunch of our poet friends to portray the caricatures of stereotypical poets. It’s been a long time since I was so blown away by how talented and smart and entertaining my friends are. They delivered! But especially, to see good friends and talented performers bringing our characters and story to life? I just… I have no words, but if I did, they’d all be good ones.

In all of this floating on Cloud Nine, we have still faced challenges. The biggest challenge for me has been realizing how little I know about film production. And I think this is why I’ve hesitated with pursuing this path for so long. It’s a weird thing to be both “the boss” and “the novice” on set. Yes, I took a year of production in high school. And yes, I have a theatre background. But it has been years since I was involved in anyone’s full-length, traditional production. All of those dramatic muscles have atrophied, and all of that cinematic knowledge is ghost by now. And besides, doing this thing as a 25-year-old with a legitimate production and cast and crew is a whole different beast.

I have learned that in addition to acting, I also have no interest or passion for directing. For so long, I have wanted to be all things. But as I get older, I become more and more OK with staying in my lane. My lane is writing, producing, and coordinating. I’m not an actress. I’m not a director. I’m not a tech person. I like writing the script, so people can have a map to follow as they tell a good story and create what I hope will be entertaining, meaningful art. I like producing, so I can have final creative say-so. But by now, I realize I have no business playing anyone’s role… unless it’s a cameo or a spoof. And I ain’t got no type of vision or perspective when it comes to scene composition and how things read on camera.

In addition to all the lovely GGYL crazy-sexy-coolness, I started a new job in October. I went from writing for a popular Black women’s blog, to being the editorial assistant for a popular Black women’s blog. Whoa! I have learned—and am continuing to learn—so much in just the last month alone. Spending all of your time on the Internet is very different than working for the Internet, I’ve discovered. Like, drastically. And writing for the Internet is also very different than editing and curating content for the Internet. Again, like, drastically. As a writer, I am usually only ever presenting my own work, which represents my opinions, beliefs, and experiences. But when editing, it’s not just about me. It’s about the writer, the site/brand, and the readers. The stakes are high, and the margin for fuck-up-ability is narrow. I spend a lot of time anxious. I spend a lot of time puzzled by the way online readers react and interact with pieces. It’s both fascinating and terrifying at the same time.

But I welcome the anxiety and the terror, because the payoff is so much more rewarding than I could’ve imagined. I love my job, even if I feel like a fetus in this big new world online media and editorial. I spent all of last year trying to transition from non-profit youth development work, into online entertainment and media work. Y’all, I prayed so hard. And this July, when I was unemployed and sending out applications with no returned interest, I was doubting myself. Hard. But you know what they say about how God works… And whenever I tell folks about my new job, they’re like, “Oh, that’s perfect for you.” And that feels good, because I feel the same way.

I just keep saying it over and over again: I feel like I’m finally doing the things I’m supposed to be doing, and working towards the place where I ultimately want to be. I have the Internet. I have writing. I get to be involved in the creative process 24/7 these days. And only about 15% of the time does it actually feel creative. It mostly just feels like a lot of administrative tasks and organizing of information.

But man, it still feels good.