About a year and a half ago, before I even had a year under my belt living in the Bay, I went to a conference held by the National Association for Adventurous Black Women. The keynote speaker that day spoke on a message that I still return to and meditate on, and it recently came up for me again in a conversation with a friend during our day-long writing retreat. Her message was about how as young black girls, we learned to put aside and hide certain parts of ourselves or certain dreams. That someone had said the things or set in motion the events that made those parts of ourselves retreat, and we learned to continue life without them. And now we are adults living ‘whole’ lives, but they are lives that are lived in absence. So the speaker challenged us to reach back for that girl and the things she was, the things she wanted, that others told her to let go/to hide/to minimize, to even destroy, because they were convinced she had to for her to be sitting in that room today. But they weren’t things that were killing or hurting us –they were just the things that society did not want to see or honor. She challenged us to reach back and remember that girl, and to begin the hard work of loving and wanting those things again.
Who were we before the world said no?
I don’t think it’s ever too late to find out. I always loved the stories of people who went back to school, or who started new hobbies. One of the best advice I ever got was to never let anyone tell me I could only be one thing.
My friend’s word of the year was ‘truth,’ and if I were to choose one it would have to be ‘revisiting.’ I spent a good part of the holidays thinking about my ancestry and reading stories from my mother’s childhood. In this revisiting, I hope to tell myself the types of stories that make up who we are because they’re in our very blood; the types of stories that continue to reach back and pull out the pieces that bridge the divides to now.