Over the last several months I’ve been forced to grow in ways that I haven’t been able to begin naming until today. It started with the loss of close friendships and ended in a pile of social intricacies that I mishandled in some way or another. Fissures grew in my relationships with family members, my attention to things and people that mattered deeply to me faltered, communication seemed to stall in my partnership, on my end. I felt like I was losing myself amongst all the chaos and, as a result, drowning in my anxieties.
At some point, I began unintentionally sewing seeds of change. I wrote in my journal when I was utterly compelled to—depressive episodes left me fatigued and unproductive on most days. Most impactful yet were the two personal healing writing classes I enrolled in my last semester. (Thank goodness for Black feminist scholars at NCCU!)
In one class, I found healing in our semester-long short story assignment. Mine ended with my main character establishing boundaries and being intentional in clearly communicating her needs. In my other course—which I designed from the ground up—I researched Black feminist themes popular in Black American women’s poetry and wrote responses to the poems, which involved digging into some painful memories, reflecting on past relationships, and really looking at myself as a Black woman, with other Black women.
By no means is this the end to my healing, and it has taken me since the day I finished those assignments (May 3rd-ish), til today to specifically name what I’d been soaking up. I imagine the epiphany I had is only the first step to creating boundaries with other people. As if by a strike of lightning, today it occurred to me that I cannot let people argue me out of how I feel.
Over the last three months, in particular, I have been intentional in making myself heard regardless of the anxiety I feel in the moment. As I’m writing this, I am reminded of Audre Lorde’s essay on the transformation of silence—an essay I’ve read countless times for three or more classes, and at my own leisure. Why it has taken me this long to personalize this message, I do not know. But she was so right.
My silence does nothing to protect me when the day is done. My reservations will choke me even if I don’t speak over them, so why die at the hands of my own fears if speaking may allow me even the slightest chance at freedom? Personal freedom, general liberation, whatever it may be.
I’m thinking also of my mother who, eight years ago, chose freedom over silence in a much more grave circumstance—risking far more than I am now—and has soared to heights none of us could have imagined.
My intention in writing this was simply to name this breathtaking surge of energy I felt at stepping just a little closer to what I want. Essentially, that’s comfort and ease of self. In the end, as at the end of all things, I am comforted by Black women and femmes: ones who’ve had the biggest hand in my growth, ones whom I’ve only just met in the last three years, ones with whom I crossed paths for a mere season, ones who write to, for, with, and about us. Artwork by @mollycrabapple © Ama Akoto (2018)