A Letter to My Younger Self (Reclaiming & Affirmation)
September 23, 2020. 5:28PM.
You’ve had quite the year. Everyone has, but I think I’ve written to everyone but you. Life has been so crazy lately with the pandemic and a whirlwind of a year.
I just wanted to tell you that I love you. I see you. I hear you. Your feelings and emotions are valid. You are courageous, strong, and extremely brave.
You are power and you are strength.
I want to tell you how incredibly proud I am of you. You reached deep down and shared something that is still so raw. The vulnerability in your voice, pen, story, and blog is heartbreaking but still so unbelievably fearless.
You’ve sat with your trauma, been on the receiving end of so many other horror stories, received over a thousand emails, comments, and messages of support, written for your blog more than you ever have in your life, written featured first-person articles and op-eds, talked to journalists, editors, and supporters, and exposed an organization that never deserved you to begin with.
You’ve paved the way for others to speak truth to power. I know that you sometimes doubt that someone has heard you, that you have made a difference. I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that you have. You made a change. Over 150,000 people read your blog. People heard you and are listening. You have been so courageous in your vulnerability, grief, and trauma. You started a movement.
You can rest now.
I can only imagine the loss you feel. When former colleagues speak of their careers, of their new assignments and posts, the visa line, there lies a lost dream. It is not a dream deferred because deferment means you would have to return. You know better. With that, you will continue onward. You have lost and gained so much that it feels like insanity. I know you are still coming down from feeling unsafe, unheard, unloved, and unwanted. We know that any place you live will forever need an alarm system. And even though your therapist is amazing, you will deal with mental illness for the rest of your life.
In a few weeks, you were supposed to move to your new assignment in Latin America, in a field that you just obtained your master’s degree, with financial stability and career growth. This dream is dead and to you, the field of international relations is both a trigger and a paradox because there is work to do at home.
There may be no justice because there damn sure isn’t any peace.
And at the end of the day, Tianna, it just isn’t fair.
I know you still think of the visa applicant who was your age, waited five years for the interview, and told you that one day they will tell their daughter of your smile. You think of the visa applicant who said that he worked at a nonprofit promoting change in Black and Brown communities in Austin. “I’m a social activist,” he said. The girl headed to the Girl Scouts Jamboree. The grandfather from the countryside who smiled and said that you were the first Black person he’d met. All the little kids who time and time again waved at you through that glass interview window.
You think of the dinners in Juarez with old friends, the pozole from the cafeteria, pink and blue hue of the desert sunset in El Paso at dusk, avocado toast from your favorite coffee shop in Mexico City, and the cool breeze of a long walk on a Saturday morning. Hiyoko at noon on a Wednesday and your friends Danielle and Rafael. Coffee and laughter with Carlos all throughout the city. How can one take the good with the bad, when the bad feels like a lifetime of trauma and the good is fleeting but necessary?
Oh, the paradox that is your experience. You are still grieving. Rest.
What a traumatic experience from beginning to now. What a year. You grieved and continue to grieve in such a vulnerable way in front of the public. You can rest now.
My love, the thing about America, is that she loves your trauma. Black trauma. I know it has been difficult to accept that the country that you love so much does not love you back.
You can continue to write about trauma, but you know that it is time to move on. This acceptance is tragedy and also freedom.
My love, you are not your trauma. You are not your defeats. You are not your losses. Yes, you are a collection of your experiences, but this is a reminder that you are also joy and laugher and oceans and friendship and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. You are brightly painted walls and the sunrise in Lisbon at 7:04am. Write about this instead. You do not only have to write about trauma to be heard. It’s time for something new.
You are an excellent writer. People will read your words.
As Octavia Butler wrote in her affirmations– “This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months (at least two). Each of my novels does this. I will find the way to do this. So be it! See to it!”
So, in this letter to my younger self, my dearest Tianna- “So be it, see to it.”
You do not owe anybody anything, so for yourself, take the world.
For you have grieved loss in such a personal, excruciating manner, of grief that is personal because you are both Black and a Woman in a country founded on white supremacy and patriarchy. America was not built for people like you so you will tear it down. While you insist on absolute obliteration of the system, you are still American. What an affliction. Your experience is equally personal, institutional, and systemic, and in that is pure devastation.
While you dream of a better world, it will not come overnight and you need your sleep.
The world has spit on you and handed you crumbs and you take the world in your hands anyway. The world has beaten you down and given you nothing, yet you still know your worth, your power, and you still rock yourself to sleep at night, always to overcome in the morning. You speak truth to yourself in the mirror and in counseling. You feel broken and you will heal.
I know you do not feel like it but you will rise again.
You are both empty and full and you still pour lifetimes into yourself and others.
This country will toss you scraps, yet, you come from ancestors that taught you everything you need to cook an eight-course meal and invite others to the table. This is in your blood.
Your table is titanic and even though your people were not allowed, you have already built impenetrable arks and bridges and doors. Tell me why would you need their boat when you have your own?
Your ancestors are architects. There is a guide in your breath and in your hair.
And if you ever need a map to freedom, just braid your hair.
You are magic.
As Solange’s song states- “First, I’m tryna get the woman to understand the dynamic power and the spiritual energy. Do you realize how magnificent you are? The god that created you is a divine architect that created the moon, the sun, the stars, Jupiter, Mars, Pluto, Venus. We are not only sexual beings. We are the walking embodiment of God consciousness.”
I see you.
As someone told you the other day -and I quote- “You can still have a beautiful life, Tianna.” In this tragedy of the last two years, you found your voice. You have grown in ways that you could not have imagined. You have become more of yourself in ways that you could never have dreamed.
You are a damn good writer. You are an activist. There is an essence and power to you that will propel you forward, sideways, backwards, and in-between. Someone doesn’t like your art? Publish it anyway. Someone denies your work? You already have your own platform. Design it how you see fit.
How could you fit in a box when you cannot be confined? How could you expect someone to call your name when you own the pronunciation? You do not have to fit anyone’s expectations but your own.
This is your life.
And first, you must look inward to go onward. Make your own vision board. Write in your own journal. Write down your own affirmations. Post your own affirmations on your mirror and repeat. One more time. Repeat.
You will learn to not waste time on others that do not deserve your being. Please remember, no one can validate you but yourself. You have to do the work first. You will go where you are welcomed, embraced, and valued. If that space does not exist, remember that you are already a vessel. Build it.
And if someone says that you do not belong, build your own fucking table.
You cannot be bought. You cannot be told what to do. You do not belong to anyone but yourself. You know who you are and that is your power.
You are no longer overextending yourself to squeeze into places that do not deserve you. You’ve outgrown that old version of yourself. Let it go. You are no longer playing small. You will nurture yourself, take back your power, and build your community. You will take up space and you will never apologize for this. Grab a blanket, your journal, and a hot cup of tea. Rest.
You are only 28 years old and you are just getting started.
I know that you have no idea what is ahead of you. Truth be told, this is your life and it will be everything that you have ever imagined. You can do whatever you want. The career will come- who is to say it hasn’t already? The rest of your desires will come- who is to say it hasn’t already? You have a beautiful life ahead of you- who is to say that it hasn’t arrived already?
If you want to be a writer, you already are. Be that. You already know what you want to do. Do that. Be that.
One day you will look back at this time and it will make sense. Who knows what will come from this. You have created something so beautiful in the midst of all of this pain. You are better for it. We are better for it.
Grieve. As your new friend said it’s okay to only focus on healing.
Rest. Take care of yourself. I love you. You have done well. You will live a beautiful life.
“So be it! See to it!”