I wish I was a normal girl...
SZA must've taken a nosedive into my mind when she recorded that song.
I always feel like the lyrics are the beginning sentences to every chapter of my life thus far.
Growing up I remember constantly thinking something was wrong with me; never really felt like I belonged anywhere. I've just felt different in a way I could never pinpoint until now.I remember never really being into the same things everyone around me was into. White suburban TV, soft pop, journaling my hopes for the future and the complete choreography to High School Musical... those were my interests at a time where black culture was thriving and it became less cool to be yourself within the community. Being everything the world expected you to be was the latest trend. "Black girls don't do this, black people don't listen to that". Unfortunately for me, what I related to ultimately othered me. I felt like a weirdo when expressing myself to my peers because would they really get it or get me? I knew who I was very early on but was judged so harshly based on the 'Black Girl Guide to Being Down' that I held my own but was still so anxious when presenting myself as me. A constant struggle between self and society.
Am I making sense yet?
Now don't get me wrong, making friends always came easily for me. Mostly because I knew how to connect with people on their level. I made them feel seen. My problem is that no one really knew how to do the same with me. I annunciated far too hard for comfort so conversation was short lived. After feeling this more than a few times, the attempts to let people in came to a crashing halt. From then on, my friendships thrived on the interests of others and it remained that way for years, spilling over into my adult life. My relationships never truly included myself, even when I believed to have found my tribe. I'd expose a bit of myself only to be told that I don't fit into the mold everyone thought I was supposed to. I know now that I wasn't the only one going through this; struggling to be yourself in a community that told you you're doing it wrong is something black girls have struggled with for ages. Unfortunately we were all stuck in a similar space and expressing these thoughts weren't the norm so essentially I went through this alone.
The point to all of this isn't to bum you out but to tell you that I'm so proud of the space we're currently in. Over the course of just a week, I've found more stories of young black women that went through similar struggles as myself, never really feeling quite black enough based on how they were raised or what they were interested in. Coming from a community of people that once told me there was a short list of things I could be, things I could see, and things I can feel... I'm looking around and seeing so many of us breaking the shitty mold and it feels amazing. We're coming into a space created by ourselves where we're allowed to be every part of ourselves that the world previously told us was impossible. We're creating, we're building, we're teaching, hell we're leading countries! We are becoming everything our younger selves could ever imagine. The way we support each other and the very things that make us different is astonishing.
So as I look back now, I wish I could've told that young black girl that she'd have a chance at being herself openly and freely. After feeling alone and strange for all of these years, I've finally figured out that I was just a normal girl after all.
So to all of my art freaks, my anime nerds, my bookworms, contemporary rock fans... to all of us that have ever felt too different for our own skin... we made it. With every good day we prove how many forms we truly come in, we're not just the world's expectations but every ounce of the world's wonders.