I struggle with vulnerability. The word itself makes me uncomfortable. The idea of having to subscribe to “the state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally” is not a comfortable feeling. I always believed I spent enough time with someone or in place, it would ease my customary anxiety but just a comment, an action, or even a location can send me back to a space where I felt nothing but vulnerable. I have seen how the distance I create causes others to feel weary of me . It causes distrust, resentment, and ultimately avoidance. I may try to explain all but it never seems quite enough. I write this at a time where I feel more exposed than I have in years but I lend these words to images that made me feel seen positively. Hopefully, they balance each other out.
Photography by: Tatyanna Chamere
I looked up from my phone completely unaware of what I’ve been going on for the past two minutes only to catch the last bit of a conversation from two very chic women.
“I mean her life looks interesting but we all know that can’t be true she’s probably just super unhappy and super miserable. I mean look at her? Nobody can look that amazing and be that happy all the — wait, she’s coming up. She said she’s here.”
The two quickly adjusted their faces just before an equally elegant woman, LV’d down to the socks sauntered up and embraced them with an excited giggle and a big smile. They mirrored her with the same enthusiasm before they both linked arms and walked up to the café like a scene from the Sex And The City movie
In my mind, I immediately began to criticize. How could these women have been so terrible? And then just smile in her face like they had not just come for her entire life? Firmly perched on my pedestal, I turned my attention back to my phone and started scrolling casually through Instagram. Before I knew it, I had fallen off my holy than thou art throne into my own shallow pool of hypocrisy.
“Wow, must be nice to be rich when daddy is footing the bill.”
“Her Loubs aren’t even all that. I know them sh*ts hurt.”
“He ain’t even that cute to be shirtless like that all the time.”
All while double tapping to show my social sign of approval and acceptance
From my days in college, the idea of being fake friendly was not foreign to me. My alma mater is known for people showering each other with praises and graces, only to turn around and slander each others names. To say that I didn’t participate would be a lie. It was extremely easy to get caught up in the mess. I would often sit in a corner with some friends, drink some wine in “kiki” about people on social media before turning around to collaborate with them on group projects about the dangers of sexual miseducation. **nervously clears throat**
My slight wake up call happened during a particularly difficult time in my life. Brooding over a bad break up and on going school stress, I posted a picture with a cryptic caption about being happy when things weren’t going well. The picture had been taken weeks prior, when I was happier and much more “in love”. I saw my notifications ring with words of affirmations and love. With an uplifted mood but head still down, I entered my apartment elevator and moved to the back. I barely lifted my head to see two girls enter the elevator, glued to their phones as well. I could hear their cackles through my Afrobeats blasting through my earphones and decided to be nosy.
“Sis, look at her brows. They look like enemies.”
“Flat chested ass. She thinks she cute because she cut her hair. Who cares?”
The picture was mine and the two girls were people I thought to be friendly acquaintances . It hurt and broke my already fragile state into pieces.
I’m much more aware these days of how critical people can be of what they see on social media. The likes and comments, though I like to think come from a place of genuine love and respect, can also just be nothing more than a socially normative routine done to hide indifference, envy, or simple distaste. The problem with this fake reality is that getting caught up in the mess of it has become normalized. What we don’t quantify is the toll it can take on people. Sometimes it’s better to go ahead and unfollow, unlike, and log off.
When I started this blog, I really thought it would save me from myself. And in a way, it has. It’s made me more inclined to put myself into creative situations. As thankful as I am that I’ve been able to come out of myself, the idea that I would magically transform into a happy go lucky character from this outlet was naive and a bit pretentious. I’ve stuck to the typical blog recipe of antidote, revelation, and the all important give away lesson in the end. I was really comfortable with that. I’ve seen it work very well for many writers and people seem to respond well to my usual posts. But sometimes, I have no antidotes. The revelations are nonexistent and there is no magical perspective that I can share. I’m simply unable see the good in my situation. My days are simple and I’m doing my best just to exists. I cannot write because I have simply been living the simplest life I can possibly fathom right now.
I truly wish I could say I have all the answers. It would be so convenient if everything I have figured out was well thought out into 500 words that I can post once week. But I can’t. I struggle to write. I struggle to see my situation in positive light more times than I would like to share. So I don’t. I’m not comfortable with it. I feel like I’m failing people who are rooting for me or even myself by keeping my thoughts to myself. It feels selfishly blue.
I’m not sure the true purpose of this post. I suppose it’s an effort to be truthful to myself and to everyone who finds anything I write someone what relatable. My blues are real. My blues can get dressed up and dance all night. They can close themselves off to everyone. They can decided to write from morning to even. They don’t make sense to me all the time but they exists.
I’m a self proclaimed realist. I’ve created an image and life for myself in which I can give a graceful yet realistic take to almost anything. Of course, people rarely asked for my particularly harsh outlook on anything. It’s not exactly what anyone wants to hear when dealing with a difficult situation. But the line between realism and cynicism is extremely thin and paved with a few less-than pleasant encounters. One can easily slip into constant thoughts of misfortune and impending doom. And soon a mentality that was developed to help navigate in a sensible and logical manner can sour to expecting the worst from everything and everyone. It can seep into every part of oneself, only to be excreted out in shady comments, unexpressive stares, and an altogether unimpressed attitude.
Of course, I never noticed how toxic my energy became. I could hear the little comments and digs friends would make when I lend my particular style of truth but it wasn’t until I saw how my negative mindset began to manifest in my life. It wasn’t just advice that I was giving but the advice I gave to myself. I may have been real with others but I had been cruel to myself. From talking myself out of taking chances with jobs, school, friends, and relationships, I “cock-blocked” myself in every possible space and form. When I did allow positive things into my life, it took very little for me to “realistically” usher them out, allowing myself to believe that they would leave anyway. It wasn’t until I saw how nothing seemed to be going my way. Relationships seemed to dwindle and I found myself spending more time alone with my cynical thoughts.
I’d always heard statements like ‘Just be happy.” but I didn’t think it could be a choice. The greatest gift I have given myself in the last few weeks is creating my own joy. With the help of a journal, some patient friends, and one of my favorite new platforms, The JOYday Movement, I have begun to reclaim my positive energy. Positive energy is addicting and attractive. It brings people from all backgrounds into a space because they can sense the peace and joy that is in a person’s life. It’s hard to get out of the negative mind set but The JOYday Movement has been such a monumental space for me to rediscover my joy.
Aimed at helping people, especially of color, to really dissect mental health issues, the JOYday Movement creates safe space for people to share their stories and find their JOY throughout their journey. Their belief that choosing joy is choosing to know that no matter what may happen life, it will be okay has helped me to be able to project the kind of joy that I wish to put back into my life.
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves