When I was a kid, I was the little girl who lived in the projects. I was one of many who stood in the free lunch line at school. I was a fatherless child being raised by a teenage mom.
When I was a teenager, I was the smart, geeky girl with Coke bottle glasses. I was the one all the boys made fun of. I was the teacher’s pet. I was the student all the popular girls wanted to cheat off of. Later on, I ditched the glasses for contacts and became the leggy hoochie mama wearing mini-skirts to class, ignoring all the boys. Payback!
When I was in college, I was the writer. I was the poet. I was the President of the English Club. I was a girlfriend and a future wife. I was a young black woman on her way UP.
After grad school, I was the nonprofit professional extraordinaire, on track to becoming a CEO of an organization sooner than I thought. I was an expert fundraiser, helping to raise over $1 million every year for the nonprofit I worked for. Then I left my job and became a consultant, working for myself.
There have been many things that have defined me over my short 28 years – or rather, that I have LET define me. My poverty, my pain, my relationships, my education, my clothes, my body, my salary, my job title.
Now, I am entering into a new stage of my life where none of those boxes are big enough or sufficient enough to hold the person I am becoming. None of those things are able to truly define me. Not anymore.
Getting Rid of the Boxes
Sometimes, when you’re unsure of your next step in life, boxes can be useful. Following all the rules that have been laid out for you is often easier than figuring out your own path. But after a while, a sort of disappointment sinks in. Is this it? Is this really the “good” life? Going to school, getting a job, then working my ass off my whole life just to wait for my freedom when I retire at 70? Being pressured by society to hurry up and get married by 30 and have kids before my eggs dry up? Postponing my dreams of travel and adventure for a more “secure” lifestyle?
Evolution is Terrifying
Over the past two years, I’ve learned a lot about myself and the possibilities for a different life. And the more I learn, the more I end up living outside of all the boxes that have been set up for me as a young black woman in America. Every time I stop playing small, I end up feeling alienated from many of the people in my life. Most do not understand. They find it difficult to support you in your new journey. That is the terrifying part. Feeling alone. But the more I embrace my true gifts, the more I see the importance of focusing on my own personal growth. I see opportunities for living location independent and taking my business on the road. Right now, I’m in the process of researching my options for extended world travel next year. One of the items on my bucket list is to travel around the world, starting with Europe and Asia. As it turns out, the planning is not as complex as I thought. What was I waiting for?
My own evolution.
I am evolving into someone who is madly in love with herself and the world around her. I am growing into a person who is letting go of fear and living a life of happiness and purpose. I am a sister in the fierce pursuit of freedom.
And maybe, what I’m really experiencing right now is the gift of realization that I am no longer bound to a box. I have finally given myself permission to shed the shallow definitions of the past and become who I really am: a woman open to love.
What boxes have you let define you in your life? Which ones have been necessary for you to shed in your personal growth journey?