I’ve been absent from the blogsphere for a while since I’ve decided to go back to school and pick up a new profession (teaching) and during that time I saw it as an opportunity to really give back to an audience I’m truly passionate about: adolescent girls of color. I wanted to create a brand and organization that would allow them to fully understand that they are in complete control of the direction of their lives. As women, we are often told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and where to do it so much that there are times when we stop and wonder if anything we are doing is because we genuinely want to do it. So on January 28, 2017 I launched Curate Your Life, a girl’s empowerment and enrichment organization that focuses on sisterhood, leadership, social justice, wellness, and media literacy for teen girls of color, but the idea was birthed in June 2016 and there were a number of lessons learned along the way.

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Community is SO Important

I knew that this wasn’t something that I could do on my own and be effective at the same time, so I built a community of professional women and organizations who would see and understand my vision. The day of the launch, I didn’t realize I would be doing so much running around and improvising when things were absent, but the community that I built was there every single step of the way. I just asked them to show up and facilitate workshops, but they’ve become family with every “You got this Deja.” or “I’m proud of you Deja” or “Tell me where I can help Deja.” Even my mother came and catered the event with my grandmother. I say all of that to say, you are as strong as the tribe you build and God blessed me with an amazing one. (more…)

Let’s rewind to about…two weeks ago…I’m on Thanksgiving Break spending the week in South Jersey with my family (I think Trenton is Central Jersey, but it’s debatable). I’ve just finished my third month of being a full time teacher and goodness knows I could use this break. As we (teachers) clocked out and say our good byes and engaged in small talk about what we had planned for the holiday to which we all agreed on “sleep” being the highlight, we set out…going our separate ways, closing the doors to our classrooms and checking out mentally.

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Yes! I thought to a mental break…a break away from teaching AND being a grad students. On Thanksgiving Break, I didn’t eat myself into multiple food comas, in fact, I barely ate (I had a Mexican food craving rather than Thanksgiving food..so what…fight me if you don’t like it) because I barely got up from my cozy bed at my parent’s house. I turned off work emails, but not my personal email account because you know…sometimes in the midst of all the junk mail, I actually find some cool shit in there somewhere. WHAT WASN’T COOL however was an email that I had gotten from an ex. YUP, you read that right…this year makes THREE years since we’d gone our separate ways so WHY IN THE NAME OF THE GOOD LORD WAS HE SENDING ME AN EMAIL?!?!?!?!? In summary, it was an email “seeking atonement” for his wrongdoing and telling me how proud he is of the woman I’ve become…and for a second, the old Dej that would’ve replied back in anger with some snappy and petty comments ALMOST surfaced, but then I realized how much I didn’t need that apology. The past three years in his absence have been about me reclaiming myself and my identity. It was about examining those six years and reflecting on the person I WAS when I was there, what I liked about myself when I was with him and what I didn’t like and during those reflections I realized that the things I didn’t like about myself when I was with him heavily outweighed the things that I did like about myself.

So I kindly responded telling him not to contact me again (I mean if I changed my number and blocked you on social media sites, why did you think email was the next best route?) and added his email to block sender with the help of several tweets and emails to the person behind the Google gmail social media account (I’m tech savvy, but sometimes I have a slow moment..sue me).

Point of the story is there is a purpose behind every. single. thing. that. happens. to. you. in. this. life. GOT THAT?! Every. single. thing. It’s an opportunity for you to RECLAIM YOURSELF!!! Even when you’ve fallen off, just experienced a horrible break up, got laid off from a job, or found yourself deep in the muddy swamps of unemployment…it’s an opportunity for you to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix (channeling my inner Dumbledore) and that’s exactly what the hell I did and you betta ZOO IT TOO BOO BOO.

xoxo

I’ve always been a fan of Rupi Kaur since “Milk and Honey,” but I had only seen clips here and there of her work. I immediately appreciated her vulnerability and transparency. It’s something that I too, strive for in my writings. So I allowed myself quiet time this past weekend to treat myself to brunch, and splurges on some books and decided to add “Milk and Honey” to my library to be read in it’s entirety. A week later, through tear-stained eyes, I’ve finally finished her first chapter, “The Hurting.” I found myself having to put it down often, not being able to fully digest her words as they were triggering to my own life. 41 pages. 2 years. 

An empath, failing at ignoring the amount of empathy her words caused me. I could feel and hear and see the hurt seeping through the pages of that chapter. I could see the beginning of healing, the letting go of pain and the nasty scars left behind. I thought about my own hurting. How I never spoke of that period in my life. How it became a repressed and almost mythical event in my life. I never thought about it, therefore it never happened. I never shared about it, therefore it never happened. It never happened. 

I thought about that period in the young and innocent lives of two nine year old girls and how one closed up so tight that she became shut off, mute, and ashamed. I thought about how the other opened up so wide until she busted into a million pieces sprinkling bits of herself asking to be made whole again. Wanting to be made whole again, but never finding the glue that stuck around long enough for her pieces to dry.

I thought about how “it wasn’t our fault,” but why did I still feel guilty all those years ago? I thought about the terror and the vulnerability I felt when being left alone for even a second with the monster from the neighborhood. I thought about all those times those two nine year old girls would scramble to get away from the monster who rode in the backseat with us on the way home from school.

A 17 year old boy from the neighborhood experimenting with his own sexual curiosities, I thought about those two nine year old girls who fell victim as his test dummies. I thought about how for the first time in my innocent life I became aware of parts of myself that were attached to myself.

I thought about that day being pulled into my mother’s room and being questioned about the monster who’d latched on to my family. Sharing family dinners with us, hanging on my family’s house stoop, chilling just because. He was my cousin’s best friend.

I thought about years later, riding the city bus home from high school seeing his face standing on the street corner in front of the bodega and feeling a heavy ball of disgust brewing in the pit of my stomach and his audacity to even say hi to me as if we cool peoples.

I read those chapters of Kaur and thought about all of these things and realized it was the first time I had thought of these things since I was one of those nine year old girls on the cusp of my tenth year.

Some days I wonder had this affected me in any way in my now adult years. Is this the reason I have a hard time committing? Am I non-committal? Am I too picky? Why do I get bored easily? Why do I often find myself extremely underwhelmed by men? I mean, I’m not interested in women, but I’m extremely cautious with men. 

Now in the later half of my twenties, I find myself thinking about these things often. I think about my desire to establish roots, build and create a family of my own and I see how easy it comes for some, but it’s such a difficult process for me because no one seems to add up.

Are the affects of my silent hurting and repression subconscious?