There's always that one girl that tries too hard. She's nice and and she might even be kind of cute with a glowing personality, but she oozes desperation. She walks around with a huge smile on her face trying to butt into your conversations, trying to be included. Say something cool, say something smart, say something funny, but somehow, her punchline always falls flat and this makes her a target. She is the unfortunate butt of a joke she's always starting. That girl used to be me. I used to walk around all the time trying to please others; always trying to be someone I was not. So uncomfortable in my own skin. Did you know that people can feel that? Even if you don't say anything, they can feel you trying to blend in. Sometimes I think that this, this trying to be this figment of what I believed I should be, was what made it so hard for me in those difficult adolescent years.
The struggle started for me when it does for most people...in middle school. Middle school was the first place I was taught that I didn't meet the standards of my peers. It was the first time I attempted to tweak myself. "You talk white," they would say, "you must want to be white, because you talk like them". It's only recently that I began to realize the impact their words had on me. During the years of my early education I was often one of very few African American children in my class, but if you would have explained this too me as a child I would have been confused. I was never the black kid to my friends, I was just...Jazmin. So when my black 6th grade classmates told me that my vernacular wasn't up to par for them it confused me. I had never been berated for how I spoke, and up until those days, my speech was something I took great pride in. My uncle Alvin always told me that I spoke like the people in California or that my tone always reminded him of Tyra Banks. I loved that. I relished in the idea that I spoke like people from the land of the rich and beautiful. Up until the 6th grade I was proud of who I was, or if I couldn't say proud I could at least say that I had no major complaints about being me. So why was it that a few ignorant classmates got under my skin so badly. So badly, that I changed my behavior to try and fit in with them. Its why I talked back to teachers and picked on that girl, I think her name was Kaylee (Kaylee if you're reading this, I do apologize). So why am I telling you this? I'm telling you this because I cared way too much about what others thought of me, and you know what, that got me nowhere. No matter how "black" I spoke, no matter how many last words I got against my teachers, no matter how many designer clothes I bought, no matter how I wore my hair, no matter what, it was never good enough. I was never good enough...for them.
It wasn't until my junior year that I began my journey of listening to myself. That was the year I decided to cut off all of my hair and begin my natural hair journey (which is certainly a story in its own if you want to hear about it). The long story short, is that I received a lot of backlash from doing that. People called me a lesbian, told me they would like it better if I dyed it some crazy color, and constantly questioned why I would do something as crazy as shaving my head. I even had a teacher tell me that she thought my mini-afro was better suited for some place like Trinidad. TRINIDAD! What!? Those opinions hurt me, they hurt me even deeper than the words of those mindless middle school kids because for once, I was being me, and I was someone I didn't have to try to be, and it still wasn't good enough.
One day, I was at a nail salon with my mom, and I was telling her about the latest going ons of my life and a woman overheard me complaining about being teased. I don't even remember what I was saying, but I remember what she said to me, because I still think about it all the time. She said "life gets better when your give-a-damn meter stops working." That phrase, helped me through my transition from being a teenager to a young adult. It wasn't easy, learning to run out of F@#ks to give, but eventually I did, and you know what, my life did get a lot easier. Now, I wake up in the morning and I put on 3 lbs of make-up because I like the way it looks on me, not because I'm wondering what you think of my acne scars. Now when I'm hanging with friends, I don't worry about whether or not they think I'm cool, because I know, I'm cooler than Iced Tea on a hot summer day. Now when I speak in public, I swell with pride as people hang on my every word. And the entire time, I'm not giving a damn. So thank you, random nail salon patron, for your kind words. I'm sure you had no idea that they would impact that young black girl sitting a few seats down from you so much. I'm sure you didn't know that by teaching me that, you helped me learn the importance of the one opinion of me that matters, my own.
Care about what YOU think of you. You is kind, You is Smart, and baby You is Important.
Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to write anymore. It's 2:30am and I've had a long day at work your girl is tired.
Until Next Time,