Throughout many stages of my life, I was teased a lot for the way I speak. I was told I spoke too proper. I was often accused of ‘not sounding black enough’. I say it was accusations because it made me eventually open my eyes to the ludicrous statement that really makes. How I read that when I was young was “I’m different. I stand out but this is who I am so I just won’t fit in.” How I read it now makes me believe such small mindedness was introduced to box me up. Good thing I hate boxes. I don’t want to fit in and do only what is expected. Live beyond the stereotype. Once I got older I thought about how those words used to hurt my feelings and was like wait, so I read books and sounded educated so was being smart and sophisticated not acceptable in my community?? Well of course not but that was how I felt. How dare anybody try to tell me that who I am is not enough.
I could launch into how I was raised in tough neighborhoods and even though my family made many sacrifices for me to have opportunities, we struggled at times. I’m grateful for how I was raised and where I come from. Yet It’s unnecessary to launch into those stories because my struggles and triumphs should mean nothing if the reason I am bringing them up is to prove who I am. I’ll pass, thanks.
For me and where I’m from, I made a lot of choices different than the norm. I played golf and made friends with many beautiful diverse human beings and lived abroad and kept choosing less traveled roads.
I accepted myself instead of trying to change who I was. I march to the beat of my own drummer and that’s okay. People can adapt.
I could have forced myself to conform when I was growing up but instead I chose the road less traveled in those days. I chose me over other people’s opinions of who I should be. I have been happy being me ever since. I found empowerment in my voice. I am skilled at knowing what behavior is appropriate in different situations because I have been in all those different situations. Now I hear all the time how people love my voice and how intelligent and mature I sound when I speak. I have been requested as a speaker on many occasions. I did nothing different. It reminds me of a quote by supermodel Iman “I don’t change the way I think; I change the environment.”
Along the way in this life I have taken wrong turns and u-turns but that is the beauty of this life’s journey. The hurtful words I used to hear in my youth don’t serve me. What they taught me was how being uniquely who I am – a beautiful mess at times – was how I would bring impact.
I have been called brave by many people’s definition for the roads I have chosen. To me, I’m just living my life and I’ve got a long way to go in figuring out even more things but I’m glad to live a life that serves me. I have no apology for that.
One of my goals is to poke holes in the boxes we place others/ourselves in. There is no ‘one way’ to speak, dress, travel, work, love or live that dictates who you are or should be. Be You.
It is amazing. I went to the Pride Parade for the first time today and the running theme through much of it was just that — Be You. Tonight I watched the BET Awards and the 3.5 hour show was filled with various entertainers, educators, business people and everything in between. Any award show provides a good examples of those who stand out amongst the crowd as unique. You have something to bring to the table that no one else does. No one has your story. May no one rob you of the confidence to live your story just as you need to.
I heard a young girl say something last week in London that really resonated with me. She said “You’re the person you have to live with your whole life. Make it count.”
So it turns out I know exactly where I am. I am opening up new doors. I am figuring out new paths. I am blazing new trails. There is no formula for life. There is no ‘one way’ to live it either.
Have you ever struggled with being yourself or finding your own voice? How did that impact you?