Oh, my girlhood.
From the Midwest to South Dakota, from Alaska to Virginia, I have explored. From Rome to Scotland, from my parent’s basement to a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and finally to my beloved New Orleans, how I journeyed. But this, more than any other, has been a year of resettling..
Exactly a year ago, I left the debris behind. Together with my lovely girl, we forged out on our own in a tiny, awkward apartment, and carried ourselves through the past year by the skin of our teeth. And now, one sun cycle later, we find ourselves at a new doorstep. Sinking back into myself and seeking comfort into the real, radical, rawness of self. And I’ve come to learn that I don’t suppose I know exactly who I am. I can feel my body stepping into the light, ever moving forward into healing from heartache and walking through the steps of empowerment, but what of my heart and spirit? Adrift in love and then lost in brokenness for a time, I awoke this week far from the shores of myself. Reflecting on passion and the rippling waters of time has been I collected myself, and paddled through the rubble. Surveying our surroundings, I heard my mother’s voice in my ear: you have too much, and you need to let this all go. And so, arriving on the shore of now, I looked about and asked, "where do I see myself?"
When I was a girl, it was books. The impossible feats and stubborn passion of clever girls from around the world carried me softly to sleep and through each day. I longed to be in their worlds of magic and love stories, of hardship and triumph. I yearned to pass through the White Way of Delight or journey to Bath. I was desperate to shout at overseers, evil stepmothers, annoying boys, and terrible gossips. I wanted to attend dances and escape in the night with the young women I had come to love. I wanted to live their stories, to breathe into the them the life I felt within me. I longed to make them real. I carried those stories in my pocket as I grew, as if the words would one day slip from the page into my skin and I would gently become those I had grown to know.
Rowing past them now, I scooped up the beautiful new edition of Anne of Green Gables from Rifle Paper Co., a part of the gorgeous Puffin in Bloom collection, with perfectly illustrate covers by Anna Bond.
As I moved beyond adolescence, into womanhood, now an actor and a city-dweller, far from the comforts of home and the binds of appearances, the stuff of my girlhood seemed distant. A tucked away memory. I began to consider the women I could ‘play’ and less the woman I was in reality. This fractured, perhaps typical sense of self left me searching, and I came into hip hop peeking around the corner. Common, Tupac, Talib, Outkast, Pharcyde, Mos Def.. they spoke of women with a consideration and gentle loveliness that resonated my heart. They spoke of blackness and struggle and authenticity. I fell in love with metaphor and positivity in demanding change, growth. I unabashedly integrated prints and patterns, awoken and fearless. Navigating through the songs of this time in my life, I paused to add a bit of flavor to my boat. Le Noir Home, a lifestyle concept store in Jersey City, NJ offers chic yet bold items for the home.
I see myself in the lyrics of Nina Simone. In the haunting, warbled melodies which drip of knowledge, heartache, sincerity, and brave truth-telling. So I’ve played her version of Here Comes the Sun on repeat for a week, the vinyl spinning away my confused mood. It’s alright, she croons, as much to herself as to me.
I see myself in The Autobiography of Red, a gorgeous novel in verse. Anne Carson is stunning. The story, based on remaining fragments of a Greek poem of the tenth task of Herakles – the killing of the red-winged monster Geryon, is unwavering, essential, and deeply affecting. Desire is no light thing, she writes, etching the perfection into my heart.
I see myself in the costumes I hand-stitch for our Mardi Gras excursions. I see myself in the wreaths I’m learning to create. I see myself in my daughter’s cheeks and silly faces. I see myself in the journals I’ve carted full of skipped pages and years, which line my shelves now, holding my dreams in their binding. I see myself in the walks I share with my girl as she tests her strong legs at running while my soul breathes a bit. I see myself in the vulnerable living of each day. I see myself in the stolen kisses I gave away and the stolen cookies I could’ve skipped. I see myself in the unfinished projects and baking fails. I see myself in the tear-filled, rushing mornings and the early nights falling asleep covered in paperwork on the couch. I see myself curled about my daughter in our bed and endlessly fighting to be the best version of me.
I think I used to believe that passion came from a central something, a driving force which anchored a being, and I suppose I clung to this. Even now, at times, I feel an urgency to choose a direction, a passion which drives me. This has muddied my waters, for it allowed me to be swept away in the singular passions of others – mothers, lovers, friends, peers, women I saw, and women I wanted to be. Dancing to Nina with my baby girl this morning, I feel so hopeful.
I hope I can allow for her passions to shift and grow and alter as mine have. I hope I can continue to seek myself and know that each of my little love creates in me a passionate spirit. For I am passionate about living my best life, offering my daughter the widest world, loving all my fractured elements, and cobbling together magic from the pieces which wash upon my shores.