I’ve never considered myself an real artist. As a person who’s father and grandfather are classically trained and practiced most of their lives to produce great work in varied mediums, I’m sure as hell not qualified enough to be one. But still, I silent hoped that one day I could be able to produce anything that would could stand next to real art. My definition of an artist has always been someone who saw life in colorful spectrum that made them capable of pulling the beauty out of the mundane things. They are pretty much magical creatures. In world so full of ordinary, artist create the extraordinary. And I’d never quite seen my ability to do so.
Prior to starting this blog, I was advised by a friend that I should really learn all the different parts I share or want to share with everyone. Whether being my writing or photography, it was imperative that I practice. I got the opportunity to practice my photograph on a gorgeous model named Maryse and the result is something I never thought I could have produced. Moody and beautiful, Maryse brought to life my vision in a way that I could only imagine.
Now, I look forward to creating more images and maybe earning my place as a “real” artist. Check out more of this beautiful woman here.
As a child, when I’d come home to my mom complaining about being teased about my body, she’d tell me I was “big boned. And it made more sense because I was eight and literally bigger than everyone else. I was the weird African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch, but I was also the big African girl who brought rice and stew for lunch. As I transitioned through elementary, middle, and then on to high school, my size and height became far less interesting. It was my over-developing teenage hips and ass that caught stares.
As confident as I am with my current body size, it’s simply rooted in the fact that I’ve maintained it since I was fourteen. I’m grateful that I fill out the clothes when I wear them now, but at fourteen I wanted nothing more than blend in. I didn’t look like all the Lilly Pulitzer’s wearing lacrosse playing Mattie’s and Skylar’s of my high school. Sure, you could put both of us in the same gym uniform of Sophie’s and school t-shirt but we unquestionably weren’t going to get the same reaction from the administration.
SN: I like to think I’m responsible for the ban of soffee shorts of 2011 at Northview High. I take pride in knowing that my ass lead to the substitute for longer and uglier basketball shorts.
In those moments, often brief and uneasy, my shape brought about disgust from guys my age and disturbing admiration from older men that no one should endure. All the new attention to my body made me more self conscious and it manifested many insecurities I had no business having at 15. I took the stares and inappropriate comments of others as facts rather than short sighted opinions. I held on to them and made them my own.
Oh, maybe I do need lose a bit of weight…
Should I really wear that dress? Nah, my legs are too pudgy for it.
Of course, I passed each insecurity as a stage. My alternative emo look turned into a clever t-shirt phase which turned into faux feminist “no shorts” phase. I’d be lying if I said I can now completely ignore people’s lingering stares. My mind immediately goes to times I was ridiculed by my classmates or gawked at by super creepy adults. But people will either love you for loving yourself or hate you for doing so. It’s impossible to constantly feed into the newest fads for ‘bigger this’ and ‘smaller that’. Beauty and body standards of society are fickle. Those that I followed always left me feeling bad or feeling hungry but never better about me. I was the only one who could look at me and love or change what I see. Okay, I got a little fat. But who told you I don’t like it like that?
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
Make sure to check out the JOYday Movement at joyday.org , on Instagram, and Twitter.
I have always been surrounded by the guys. As mini Maame, I quickly became the trailer to my cousins. They found me annoying but I got to tag along one way or the other. I spent most of my afternoons playing wall ball on my street and trading my older brother’s “vintage toys” for whatever I found useful that day. Most of the girls that lived nearby were just out of my age limit, either too young or too old. I knew I had my mom for girly conversation but every time I saw a moving truck on my street, I always prayed they had a girl just my age.
After a while, I got older and started to venture into activities that were meant to breed sisterhood like the Girl Scouts. It was an experience I detested at the time but it first sparked my desire for an organic group of girlfriends. Feeling let down by my troop to have the true American sense of sisterhood, I opted out of Girl Scouts and took the streets to find my own clique. I tried a few times in middle school and high school but saw how jealousy could quickly turn best friends into each other’s victims. I made mental decisions to leave the gabbing and clothes sharing to Joan and gals. The crazy part was that every part of my being still longed to have the right group of girlfriends. I had seen my mother build a group that laughed and cried together, as if they had been born to be in each other’s lives. With no biological sisters and uninterested extended family, I initially struggled to find women who felt like home to me. Many times insecurities and inability to communicate cost me the chance to build and grow with certain women. I thought I had been cursed by the Girl Scout gods to roam the rest of my life without my Miranda, Charlotte, and Sam. It wasn’t until I was completely myself that I was blessed with some of the most beautiful relationships of my life. Women change your life. And the women in my life do nothing short of that.
I could write for days about the impact that each one has had, starting with my mother but my words could fully never express any of it. The women in my life are the smartest, most stunning, witty, ambitious, rude, petty, and selfless people I know. Dressed in grace, humor, and wisdom, I’ve gained the honor watching their brilliance while being in their corner. As overly emotionally as it comes off, it’s completely necessary and overdue. It takes very special people to pour into others without searching for anything but friendship in return. It sounds simple but it’s something a lot of people, including myself, forget to do. But when someone or something betters a life, the right thing to do is to pay homage.
A week is honestly too long. It’s seven whole days, which equals 168 hours or 10,800 minutes. It’s exhausting. I was quite used to finding myself so worn out by Friday that I would choose to spend my weekends locked away, trying to regain the energy that had been sucked out during the week. And then I would turn right back around and have to do it all again Monday. It made me miserable and even more annoyed when Sunday came around.
One day, while sitting with my dad, I mentioned being over the week before it even started. He asked me how I spent my special day, Thursday. I simply stated that I tried to power through them so I could really deal with the expectations of Friday. He laughed and asked me why was I always in a rush.
“You will always get to Friday Maame, but why put that much pressure on it?”
I knew that I was mentally and physically exhausted by the end of the week and that needed to change. So I came up with Thursday’s are for Yaa’s. Every Thursday is set aside as a personal day. Thursday’s are the days I do exactly what I want, no matter that obligations. It sounds extremely risky but it’s beautiful to have one day that I get to control to the best of my abilities. Depending on the way I feel, the activities may vary but in an ideal world, this is how my Thursday would look.
I wake up in my pure white sheets whatever time I see fit, usually before 10:30AM. I sit and contemplate whether I would like to be around people. If yes, I try set up an activity that I really enjoy, like enjoying a meal with good friends. That makes the experience that less stressful. I find myself a meal for breakfast that I haven’t enjoyed in a very long time and I eat in my beautiful bed before jumping into the shower or taking another nap. My Thursday can be used as a ‘Get it Right Get it Right’ day or to just veggie out in front of my TV or laptop and write about my feelings. But the day is mostly about me. I pour into myself so much of what is stripped out of me during the week. All the early wake up calls, long nights, and disappointments of the week don’t matter because Thursday’s are for me.
I tried to write this for Thursday but my day told me take a break and rebuild from brokenness that I had suffered during the week. Nothing hurts and everything is beautiful on my Thursday’s.
The funny thing about falling in love with someone is that it never seems to be at the right time. It’s never rehearsed, never calculated. We don’t sit and consciously plan and scheme ourselves into falling deeply and utterly in love with someone who just popped into our lives – but yet it happens.
I could never explain what it feels like to fall in love to someone – I really can’t. The only thing that comes to mind are terrible clichés about stars aligning and butterflies that flutter in the pit of one’s stomach. Though I’m sure all those things and more happened, no one cares to explain what happens after the fairytale feelings pass. Cinderella and Snow White never quite explored the possibility of the passing of love or even unrequited love.
No one explains how to manage holding his or her tongue to feelings that can’t help but leak out. There isn’t a book on how to maintain a friendship with someone you can’t help but hate and love at the same time. People will never understand how a person could possibly run one situation over and over in their mind until it becomes so vivid that they don’t even have to close their eyes to imagine it.
No, no one explains anything. A person is forced to deal, to take each day as it is handed to them and figure out their problems in private. No one begs anyone to fall in love so no one can help him or her out of it.