I began writing this essay in 2014, but I couldn’t finish it. Then once I finished it, I just couldn’t publish it. So I’ve decided that I would abridge one of the most personal essays I have ever written. It is 2,000 words long in its entirety, and exposes parts of me that perhaps some of my closest friends have yet to see.
For the past five years I have encountered an incredible journey of discovery, honesty and faith. One that has given me many causes, and many battles. When I look at my younger self I see a young woman, lost, angry and confused. I felt illegitimate, unwanted and voiceless. I was constantly quietened, made fun of and told my opinion did not matter. In a number of spheres I was discredited and looked over. I felt faceless, unnoticed and often times helpless. I was given neither context, comfort nor armor for the various assaults or abuses I faced, or encountered second hand. Not to mention that my family did not discuss or entertain certain social or ethical issues. I don’t recall discussing anything of consequence. Perhaps out of politeness we avoided hard conversations about religion, politics, race and sexuality. Instead my education was confined to the halls and classrooms of my semi-private Catholic girls school. So in a lot of ways, and for a long time I was sheltered and micromanaged.I spent years feeling caged, boxed in and misunderstood. Now I understand why. Of course I’ve only obtained this window of clarity after encountering numerous struggles, experiences and people —outside of my comfort zone.
You see, often our identities will write a narrative that we assume we must follow. We gather information about ourselves based on labels asserted upon us by the world around us, and many times it is either difficult/ next to impossible to see ourselves beyond those labels. Until one day you decide to define your own personhood.
I admire those who begin to look critically at their place in the world at an early age, but I was not one of them. For me, losing my mother, leaving home, traveling and living abroad and confronting various forms of xenophobia have redefined my narrative. I now better understand what it means to be me.
This journey of discovery has been a lot like learning to read again, in a different language. Bear with me a bit as I form the analogy:
1. It takes time.
2. You’ve learned that specific words mean/signify specific things in one language. You must now relearn words to have a full grasp of meanings.
3. You’ll probably make others uncomfortable. They’ll either long to help you, or be irritated by your process.
4. No one can learn/understand/interpret for you.
5. You get better with practice.
6. Being able to read in a foreign language relies on a unique set of skills that go beyond simply knowing how to speak the language.
7. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can, not only understand and better articulate the nuances of your experience, you can connect with the experiences of others.
Each of us needs to sincerely approach our realities, and take stock of the elements that are most important to us.
My identities not only intersect, but appear and influence different things in my life. Yet, I believe that they only inform you of parts of my lived experience. Each identity holding a meaning that goes far beyond my measly 25 years (I am 26 now), and each and every day I make peace with each. I’ve had to disassemble my expectations of myself, and what it means to be: Female. Woman. Black. Jamaican. Christian. etc and choosing to present only some of these things to those around me.
Some of these identities are more obvious than others, and yet they are all important to me. My relationships, my choices, my opinions, my politics, my spirituality and my view of purpose revolve around these words. It hasn’t always been easy to navigate around these identities, but I am so happy to be closer to resolution.
I resolve to be a woman of character and integrity. Resolved to oppose misogyny, bigotry and hatred. I resolve to acknowledge all of the people I have loved, and cared for intimately. Resolved to live and believe 1 Corinthians 13. I resolve to be a woman of faith, hope and love. After years of mindlessly taking on roles and ignoring my own questions about life, love and spirituality I am here to affirm all of these things. I want to recognize this personal journey, and its part in my story. Above all else I want to honor the woman I am becoming, complex, whole and fearless.