In college, I learnt who I could be. I have had sisters all my life, but I had never experienced sisterhood. My first day of classes, I think in my first class too, I met her. Krystal Jackson is the sister I never had. I learnt the differences between sisters and sisterhood.
I learnt that I could step outside of my comfort zone. I began to learn to redefine friendship and relationships. I learnt that friendship is a relationship. A lesson that many people still do not understand. I began to evaluate the friendships in my life. As time went on, I realized I started cutting people out because we no longer had similar interests or values, and frankly because for some, I no longer needed to hold on to them. I think that’s another issue we experience. We have friendships or other relationships that have served us but we can’t let go when it’s time to move on. I learnt that relationships have a role. They are either moving you forward or moving you backward. They do not standstill. I became a woman in my friendship with Krystal. True sisterhood challenges you, protects you, gives you space to grow, mirrors yourself back to you, helps you to build character, and teaches you how to love and support unselfishly. We learn that we can succeed together through honest communication. This is not to say, it’s not difficult, because of course it is extremely uncomfortable and can hurt sometimes, but when you experience the joys that comes after, you rest assured knowing that you are becoming the woman that you want to be.
Black women are known for their strength. I think this is both a gift and a curse. When I was younger, I watched my mom raise 5 kids on her own. I desperately wanted to develop that kind of strength. To persevere in the face of immense odds and to be fearless in the face of adversity. Candid conversation is something that doesn’t seem to happen very often in our community. I do not remember many honest and deep conversations with my mom about her own cultural and racial experiences.
I also I learnt three things in college and adulthood. As black women, we spend so much time trying to be strong and ensuring that the world knows that we are strong, that we start to believe our own hype and start to think that we are invincible and do not need help from anyone. I witnessed my mother go through that and in my own quest to be strong like her, I started drinking the kool aid too. We do not recognize how much this isolates us.
To be human is to need connection.
No matter, what race, gender, color, ability, sexual preference, creed or whatever else you are, this is a proven fact. We isolate ourselves in our relationships with ourselves, our partners, our friends and families, and even our children. Secondly, I do not need to settle. I do not have to accept a mediocre me, mediocre relationships, mediocre partners, mediocre health, and a mediocre life. I learnt that I had a choice in creating the life that I wanted and not only that, I had a right to that life. I learnt that I do not need to apologize to anyone who did not see my vision or my goal for myself. I could outgrow people and I did not need to apologize for that. Many of us have friends that we have had for years, but we are so fearful of being judged by others that we hold ourselves back so that we can please others. But think about this, we came here alone and we will leave alone. Where will those friends be then?
Lastly, I finally began to understand that fearlessness was not the absence of fear. It is despite the fear. Being fearless means that I act despite my fear.
By about age 9, I met a therapist for the first time and I learnt what therapy was and from then, I decided that was my career path. In my teenage years when I started sharing with others, outside of my mom, about my career path, they were critical and comical because no one felt that mental health was important. Everyone felt that therapy was for ‘crazy people’ as I was always told. For me, it had changed my life. I had found a space that was not judgmental, that did not constantly remind me that my worth was not good enough, and that had allowed me vulnerability not rooted in weakness. My life’s goal has been to offer those things to others in my work.
As a therapist, I have seen how underrepresented the black community is on both sides of the couch. And as a therapist, with all that’s happening in the world, I can’t understand how our community can feel that mental health is unimportant. I look at black men who face daily struggles, who turn the television on only to be reminded how negatively others view them, and sometimes even black women. As a black woman, I see how undervalued we are by our men, by other races and cultures, and how appropriated we are by other cultures. Is it that we do not understand how deeply these issues live in our psyche?
Through these two posts, I am hoping that you will have the courage to reflect on your life with new eyes and see the parts that you want to change, and have the courage to try. One day at a time. We do not have to overwhelm ourselves with enormous goals. We just have to realize that we can change our lives one decision at a time. We form habits by making small choices one choice at a time; those choices build practices which can form habits; habits then create lifestyles.