My Biggest Fear

crop sad black woman crying at home

I’m following the #dosummerwrite 2021 prompts from the Instagram account Well-Read Black Girl (@wellreadblackgirl) to bring a more mindful approach to my writing practice, both personally and professionally. Since I’m working primarily on writing my upcoming book Guardians of Magic and Myth, this is a refreshing change of pace and I hope to learn things about myself, my flavors of creativity, and how I want to write. The prompt I’m following is to answer the following question: What are my biggest fears and how do they hold me back?

I usually say that my biggest fear is turning into a narcissist who insists on making others believe that my presence is a present. Now that I sit back and think about that, I wonder why I usually harp on that as my biggest fear. I’ve definitely been around people who have directly and indirectly given me that energy, but I actually think that fear may be a bodyguard for another fear. A fear of being seen and I think that digs into being seen for who I truly am. Now, self-discovery is a constant journey, so who you are is constantly changing, but bear with me. As a kid in school, I was used to doing as best as I could, but then when my family and I learned about higher classes and I started doing them, I think became used to trying to be the best for the best’s sake and I also think it was because of the validation. On top of that, you get to enter a self-righteous league of suffering by comparing how many sleepless nights you had with your classmates’ when you were trying to do high word count essays that required citations and footnotes. I got so used to the ceremonies and people seeing me earn things that I viewed my external academic success as my worth. I followed the flow of society’s expectations of if you don’t feel like you’re metaphorically killing yourself because you’ve got so much going on, you don’t have value. Now as I work on my business, I also have a part-time job, which is chill and way less stressful than my previous job. However, I essentially started to feel like I wasn’t enough because I wasn’t suffering. I was so used to suffering, am so used to it, that being at peace and honestly a little bored feels like whiplash and I’m waiting for a shoe to drop. I think this fear is particularly interesting when I look at this as from my identity as a black woman. My mom loves digging on Ancestry.com and after thousands of hours, she has found the name of a man who first was dragged to America as an enslaved African man, who would essentially be a grandfather of mine, by I don’t even know how many greats. When I think about how messed up it is that I don’t feel like I have value because I’m not working myself to death, I know that he’s looking at me like I’m crazy from the ancestral plain.

I’ve indulged in running from my fear of running from who I am, by buying into doing unreasonable amounts of work because other people were more likely to praise and accept someone whose accomplishments were a struggle to reduce into a one-page resume. It even makes me think of another habit that I’ve had. I don’t like having all my awards hanging about on the walls. As a matter of fact, I don’t even really like to look at them. The only awards that I’ve chosen to have on display are my medals that I earned from college and a marathon I completed in 2021. When I think of a why, I honestly don’t know. It just is a subconscious irk, but then I heard Shaq talk about a time his father said that he didn’t stay stuck on Shaq’s awards because then he would get stuck there at that milestone. Time would essentially move on and he would still be stuck on those awards. In regards to working myself to death and getting awards and getting recognized for it, I think that I got further away from knowing who I am.

I vaguely remember a version of me that wasn’t always tired whether that be physically or emotionally or spiritually. I vaguely remember someone who was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I vaguely remember someone who was confident in who she was and didn’t care about what other people thought. I remember a conversation I had with my mom when teenage me previously wanted to be a fashion designer and I was also interested in taking higher-level honors classes. She basically asked me what the point of the classes was because fashion designers didn’t need to be educated like that. She said that I should just go to vocational school and stop looking at colleges. Teenage me was really hurt and wanted approval so I internally decided to pivot to something that would be more accepted in an honors class environment. Now, don’t come for my mom y’all. She was working from what she knew, fears of how her child would be perceived by others, and the traditional idea of what required…intelligence I guess. Now, I didn’t think and still don’t think that prerogative is true. Having a Ph.D. doesn’t mean you have to be working on the cure for cancer. You can totally be a fashion designer, an artist, or what have you. Someone out there has a degree in Electrical Engineering and is now studying Modern Art. Some people may have judgments about that and how that does/doesn’t align with their current career, but guess what? It’s what they wanted to do and it works for them, so that’s really all they need. If I continued down the fashion designer path and still took my honors classes, I could have worked on research for making sustainable clothing, fiber research, working on the code necessary to make Zendaya’s dress bloom and light up at the Met Gala, etc. The point is I changed what I was doing and how I was presenting myself so that I could be approved of because I prioritized safety over authenticity. The thing is, not everybody is gonna like you and on top of that someone somewhere will always have a problem with what you do. I remember when I was talking to another black lady about the book I was writing (Guardians) and she immediately shut me down when I told her it was fantasy. She lectured me on how I needed to talk about real history instead. However, I just “yes ma’amed” the conversation, went about the rest of my college day, and continued to write my fantasy novel. Now, it’s published and sitting on my bookshelf. That event brings me to my next point and that is I can’t wait for someone to give me permission to follow my dreams or pursue my goals. I also can’t wait for someone to approve of the dream I’m dreaming. On top of that, I can’t confuse people’s good intentions for hard fast instruction. What I mean by that last bit is, if you’re creating an illustration for example and your friend is convinced that you should draw Mickey Mouse when you are working on a realistic landscape, respectfully, you shouldn’t listen to their advice. Now, that’s a pretty base example, but the point is you know your destination and you need to stick to the road and alter your route as necessary, not completely change the whole bloody location. Essentially, through this journey, what I’ve learned is that if I want to feel any kind of fulfilled or satisfied, I have to prioritize being who I am even if that means there aren’t other people who agree with me or back me up. I’ve actively been trying to work on this as well. Not only have I published my book, but I’ve decided to dive back into the arts stuff that I didn’t really get to take with me into adulthood, like performing arts. I’ve started an Improv class and am looking to take a dance class soon, as well. I honestly think the best way for me to move past my fear of people seeing who I truly am is to get back into performing arts because I will be seen and there is no hiding. I used to love when people could see me in that light but as I had some honestly discouraging and traumatic experiences, I decided the best thing to do was to hide, vow to not be arrogant like some of those who discouraged me, and essentially be quiet, agreeable, be liked, and be approved of. However, in all those layers of masks I put on, I got further away from myself and I got frustrated whenever someone didn’t seem to like me no matter how meek I was. So now, I’m trying to be unabashedly myself, pursue my vision, lift other people up, and be kind. Not everyone will be in love with my vision and that’s ok, but the only thing I need is to finally get to the point where I am back to that person who is comfortable in her own skin, no matter who likes it or doesn’t and through letting my own light shine I will find the people that connect with it.

In essence, don’t let societal approval tempt you into forgetting who you are and what you want. At the end of the day, you’ll be looking in the mirror and you’ll have to determine if you like what you’re doing and who you’re becoming.

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