From xoNecole to Ain’t I Latina Nominations…

I promise I’m alive! It’s been a while since I’ve logged on and updated you all about what’s going on in my my world, but if you follow me on social media, you can see life has been keeping me busy. I know, I know, I said my hiatus would be up in September, and well, September is here, but I’m still trying to find that motherhood/significant other/friend/work balance. I don’t have it down pat just yet, but I am making progress and my anxiety hasn’t kicked my ass too much. Pray for meh y’all…

In the meantime, reading goodies! (See, I have been writing!) Here’s some of my latest work on xoNecole where I am the Love & Relationship Editor:

Terrance Howard Reminds Us Why Childhood Traumas Can Affect Adult Relationships

Why I Care That Tyga and Kylie Are ‘Stimulated’

Having Your Own vs. Depending On Your Significant Other: 5 Women Weigh In

Plus!


I am proud to announce, Ain’t I Latina has selected me as a “People’s Choice” nominee for their #AfroLatinasWhoRock Awards! Say what?! Ain’t I Latina is hosting their annual brunch on October 3rd at Taj Lounge in New York City and I’ll be there, along with some dope Afro-Latinas who are doing undeniably incredible work in their respective industries and communities. I would love to see you, so if you’re in the area and would like to chop it up and be in the midst of other Afro-Latinas who are putting in work, RSVP here.

If you can’t make it but would like to root me on and show your support, vote for me here! From the Black Weblog Award nomination last year, to being a nominee for Ain’t I Latina‘s award, I am humbled and truly thankful just to be in the company of women I admire and can learn from.

I promise I’ll be back. None of this (the editor opportunity, AIL nomination) would be if it weren’t for this space. I’ll be back home in a little bit…

xx E.

W is for Worth | The Layers Of Beauty Tour

There’s a quote I come across often from Plutarch that reads:

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

My favorite picture of myself this year was a selfie I took for my 28th birthday. It was simply a close-up of me and my sons, laughing at something silly one of us had said or maybe a standout line we heard from the TV that got us to laugh simultaneously before the flash went off. My hair wasn’t done and from the back, I had patches of my tresses falling out. My eyebrows looked a mess. I was bold enough to take a photo inches away to expose the chipping in my nails that a filter couldn’t hide. I didn’t realize I had captured one of my best candids on my worst side until after the fact.

But I decided to ditch the photos of my face adorned in MAC products and my hair pressed well enough to pass for a perm, for the picture of my self-love shining through. This was me at my happiness. This was me at home, in my comfortable zone where I am no one spectacular and yet everything to myself. I am not an award-winning blogger here. I am not the writer. There are no mentions of social media recognitions and followers. In this space, I am just Erica; just Mommy. I wanted the photo for my new year of life to represent me in free form.

Because for years, I kept myself caged in the confines of people’s thoughts and opinions of me. The boys I called men dictated what was beautiful and picked apart the very flaws I’ve grown to accept or love like scabs. I let them play with my hair and their suggestions of what would be better for me, what was more fitting to bring out my features, what was best for my crown, was determined by someone who treated me far from royalty. I let them touch me in places I dared not touch myself. Other people knew my body better, and the fingers that traced my curves left an outline I did not draw for myself. I was accustomed to letting other people determine my worth.

My mother made me feel uncomfortable about my hips and my breasts, leaving me in an affair of confusion when I saw young women my age embrace who they were and what they had. I couldn’t wear clothing that would accentuate my figure, and drowning my body in fabric that didn’t fit followed me well into my adulthood. My partner questioned if I was ashamed of what I had. After years of being touched by other people, we experienced years of my skin wanting to be both left alone and held. I still had not learned to make contact with myself and fought with falling into the recurring pattern of letting other people do for me what I should do on my own.

So when I watched other women come into themselves, it was a lot of “who am I?” and “how dare they?”

How dare a woman define herself? The audacity of a woman to love who she is wholly. What kind of courage did it take for a woman to stand firm in her identity and exude confidence on her own, even with a man by her side? I wanted that.

I dressed in ways the women I envisioned as beautiful would dress and I found a stranger in every glance in the mirror. I read self-help books, chicken soup for the soul-style, until I regurgitated what I was feeding myself because it didn’t taste right. I needed something with more substance. I needed to talk to myself, drop the beauty standards of society, axe away the people who had the power to stamp a label on me, and figure out myself in order to find my worth.

I cut my hair to start over. I didn’t want the residue of someone’s fingers in the past to come with me on this journey. I threw out the same clothes that hide who I was. In the morning, I had conversations with myself in the mirror and told the woman I saw it was going to be okay. The beginning was the hardest. A girl was still holding on and she didn’t believe things would get better; didn’t think she could move on on her own. But the more the words seeped into her spirit, the more she looked at her reflection and saw a light.

Something a man couldn’t create. Something her mother couldn’t deter. Something magazines couldn’t teach. Something makeup couldn’t enhance. Something that was buried underneath the expectations and the rules of society, but was always there.

Someone asked me when did I fall in love, and in a cycle of putting myself in the forefront for the first time in life, I asked them in return, “with myself?” It wasn’t until recently and I’m not ashamed of that. It took my sons looking at me and telling me I was beautiful when I was dolled up or dressed down. It came after my partner rubbed his fingers through thick, Black girl hair and gently buried his face in it–a sign that I was okay as I was. It took other women of color finding their magic in their melanin and exuding a strength that can only come from rising above a state of oppression. It took me realizing that everything I had ever wanted–the best, love, happiness, security, comfort–already lied in God’s creation. Myself.

 

This post is part of The Layers of Beauty Tour created by GG Renee of All the Many Layers.  Follow the tour through the blogs of 26 women exploring the complexities of womanhood and beauty from A to Z.  Click here to keep up with each post and enter to win a giveaway package of goodies for your mind, body and soul.  #LayersAtoZTour

I Remember You Was Conflicted: On Six Years of Blogging

I remember you was conflicted

Misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power, full of resentment

Resentment that turned into a deep depression

Found myself screaming in the hotel room

I didn’t wanna self destruct

The evils of Lucy was all around me

So I went running for answers

Until I came home…

– Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly

The concept of K.Dot’s third LP best illustrates how this last year has been for me and Everything EnJ. If you didn’t hear the album or get the gist of it, here it is in short: a caterpillar is imprisoned by its environment thanks in part to its fetishization of success and exploitation. It goes through a phase in which it cocoons itself in internal struggle and ultimately finds the answers its been searching for in its roots, later emerging as a butterfly. Here’s the intersection between K.Dot’s third and my six years of blogging:

Phase One

Everything EnJ has been my playground. I have climbed to the top of the slide with the process of ascension feeling like both an agonizing journey at times and a pleasurable experience of reaching what feels like the top. You get to that place–the personal apex–and you take the aerial view in, like a high, before realizing it’s a shorter trip back to the bottom than it is the top. You think, “I did ‘it’ and now, I have to hold on to ‘that.’”

So when the content in my work really deviated from what became the norm of this space, things happened–great shit, really–and it was a continual climb, soak in, slide back down and do over again-sort of process. That thrill of seeing everyone around me in the park, busy at hand kept me going, kept me rushing to the top full of adrenaline, hungry for more. Hungry for the sight of what it feels like at the highest point in the playing field; a ravenous kind of desire to feel like you’re the someone, even if for a second because you know there’s people behind you waiting, for the same turn, the same temporary fix before the reality kicks in. Before the trip back down and around.

Climb, soak in, slide back down, do over again.

A very hungry caterpillar, indeed.

Every trek up and down awarded me with bragging rights, a hidden sense of power and control, and a feeling of euphoria, every time. I was a hard worker. Everyone wants to be seen as the hard worker. Blogging became more of an adventure for me than a challenge and the Black Weblog Award win solidified that feeling. I never wanted to come down from that slide after a while. I built an imaginary fort at the top with people telling me I inspire them as the foundation. I forgot my why.

I remember you was conflicted

Misusing your influence

Sometimes I did the same

Abusing my power, full of resentment…

Second Segment

I came across a quote from Audre Lorde:

I have come to believe over and over again, that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal, and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.

I had to do it. Write it. Speak it. But there is inconspicuous bruising. I noticed sometimes spilling the authenticity of your reality leaves stains that take time to go away, if ever. You’ll always be remembered for this. The words that left you in your bed, hiding under a comforter and finding none, but had twenty-something women shooting you emails about how they’ll always remember your words because they were abused, too; left, too; were tired, too; experienced loss, too. Those words linger on, leaving a faint scarring smeared across the HTML coding in this space from living in truth. I’ve thought about deleting posts, but the sentences I strung together about abuse and abortion, would’ve wavered around. It would always be there, even when it wasn’t visibly there.

Early 2015, I wanted to stop. I fought myself a lot which factored into not being able to produce content as often as the months prior. I thought maybe I was “glorifying the struggle too much;” I read that a lot. It haunted me often.

I sat up at night and wondered how much was too much, drawing imaginary lines at various intervals that would resonate with women and cause resentment and regrets within myself. More on the relationship, but that was almost non-existent when things took off. More on my children, but I barely saw my boys and couldn’t find a balance between passion and parenthood.

I did a lot of self-reflection and guilt trippin’. I saw the effects of blogging long-term.

Sacrifice and an expensive price to pay for personal liberation.

Purpose looks a lot like the layout to the board game Candy Land for most people–a colorful highway to your life’s calling–but when you’ve been doing it for six years, you realize it’s more resemblant to that of Chutes and Ladders.

If you’re going to be at the top of the slide with all eyes on you, you better be prepared for the pressure. The pressure to keep cranking out posts and inspiring people when you don’t feel inspired yourself.

People will tell you everything about blogging except that it gets tiring. It is exhausting and often ugly. It isn’t wrapped in hearts and people always rooting you on. Some people are on the sideline with their foot out, waiting to trip you up. Falling is inevitable. People watching your next move to copy and pass off as their own is inevitable. Feeling like you don’t want to do this anymore happens. You’re not always going to knock out posts effortlessly. You won’t always feel inspired regardless of who’s in your circle. A lot of bloggers want to tell you everything except this. But I believe you can’t walk in the truth if you don’t want to tell the truth.

So I went running for answers

Until I came home…

The Last. The Present. 

I don’t believe in the calm without the chaos. I should’ve known I was going to be in my feelings post-BWA, VIBE, Cosmo. But emotions elevate as we do. Pressures, evils, temptations, desires; there disguised as lessons.

In six years, I’ve learned that being at the top is not my desire. I’m not built for it. I don’t want people kissing my ass–there’s enough of that in blogging. I, contrary to belief, am not successful. I am blessed, but in that state of having “arrived,”, I am not. I wonder if I’m enough. My household somehow manages to just get by month after month. I don’t pay my bills on time. My cable is actually cut off at this moment–five days in. I’m not happy with what I do. I want to move because the cost of living in New York City is too damn high, but my finances aren’t in order to up and move. I’m still a regular girl. And in my solitude, my cocoon, I realized I’m not glorifying a struggle, but instead acknowledging and living my truth.

You see a lot when you’re at your ‘top.’

But I saw that where I belong is back on the ground–with the people playing alone, in the grass, free. My kind of people are the ones on the other side of the fence, looking in. What Binds Us Together is for the women who don’t mind getting dirty and getting real. I am most proud of that this year than anything else on this space because every story came from a place of sincerity. The series served as a true testament to liberation.

When I really wanted to let Everything EnJ go, those stories kept me holding on, so if nothing else, I have to thank the women who contributed stories this last year and the ones who are next up. You brought me back home, redirected my attention to the bigger picture behind this blogging thing, and reminded me the cost of freedom involves some bruising and humility. I’m so ready for September…

Biggest lesson learned in six years of blogging? Going back home keeps you humble.

Remember your way…remember your why.

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