I cried a lot in elementary school when I was being made fun of in class. Being highly sensitive is one of my most profound memories of myself as a kid. I was also a voracious reader. At my sixth grade graduation, the school librarian presented me with a $100 savings bond for reading the most books in the school library. It was an incredible honor for me. Reading saved me from feeling lonely and unloved as a child in my household because being ambitious was not encouraged. Although I learned strength and perseverance by watching my mom raise us, her inability to be emotionally and academically supportive has affected my ability to love and believe in myself as an adult.
My mom did not finish high school; therefore, her primary focus was to get her three daughters-4 years apart in age, through school, with me being the middle child. Throughout my childhood, my mom was not an affectionate or emotionally available person. She appeared tough, blocked, and a Natural Lights beer drinker through and through-from wake to sleep. She was chiefly a provider and became my example for what it means to be an independent woman. But with that came her physical and verbal abuse. My sisters and I would get punched in our backs, and hit with the belt buckle whenever she was too angry or if we had done something stupid.
I distinctly remember this one moment of peace while we lived in Houston post-Hurricane Katrina when she stopped drinking for a brief period. Me and my little sister were invited to play cards with her in her bedroom, which was a place I never voluntarily went into, and it was nice. The white light from the open blinds created a coolness throughout the room that I will never forget. Her moments of serenity seemed to be when she was drinking beer in the living room alone, with the lights dimmed or with her friends, while listening to Maze & Frankie Beverly or cleaning the house. She also loves to dance.
My favorite childhood memory of my mom is when she attended my 3rd grade Spelling Bee in the school cafeteria, and I won from the word ‘watermelon.’ I almost got it wrong, but then I corrected myself! She rewarded me with $1.00 to show she was proud of me. Her gift to me was highlighted by the fact that someone had decided to pitch a rock right underneath my eye at recess, causing me to bleed. (I did not find out who did this to me until 10th grade, and it was because I had beaten his sister in the spelling bee.) Shortly after, I learned my mom knowing my interests wasn’t always safe. One night while reading she came into my room and said, “Turn my f**king lights off. You don’t pay no bills here.”
My mom refused to allow me to attend a better high school to encourage and improve my academic abilities when we lived in New Orleans. She preferred I go to the high school she attended. So when I got the opportunity to attend a more diverse high school in Houston after Hurricane Katrina, I bravely enrolled in English 3 AP, but spent most of my energy crying with my arms encircling my head because I didn’t feel smart enough to be among my classmates.
With the support of my teachers and Upward Bound, I did gain more confidence. I deeply cared about the environment and wanted to improve littering and recycling, but my mom found the recycled items I was saving in the closet, including the plastic rings from her beer cans and old cereal boxes. She had me throw it all in the trash. Still determined, I created an environmental club at my high school, and my science teacher was our sponsor. Our group members completed an outside school clean-up one Saturday. We showed Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ in the school library after school, and several people attended which made me really excited. We also held a few after-school meetings.
At the end of my 11th grade year, I wrote a one-act-play for the Alley Theater about my mom’s drinking, which I only submitted as the final assignment to pass my English 3 AP class. Amazingly, my play was selected and performed at least 3 times in front of a live audience in downtown Houston with professional actors and actresses, but not before going through an unforgettable playwriting program and revision process. I also performed my poetry about my Hurricane Katrina experience at DiverseWorks along with other students one night. My mom was not aware of any of these accomplishments.
My dreams were to attend Barnard College, in New York, NY like Atoosa Rubenstein and become a magazine editor, and then an editor-in-chief. My mom stood in the doorway of my bedroom watching me cry as I read my rejection letter from Barnard College and said, “That’s what you get for trying to be more than what you are.”
Now I am an adult who desires real love, and it is so much harder to find because I have been too willing to shape-shift for others, so that they would think I was special. Instead of believing in myself, I have chosen to go on other people’s journeys and escape my own. Although I am a Playwright, a Writer, a Reader, an Environmentalist, a Highly Sensitive Person- a Feeler, I’ve spent most of my adult life downplaying these inherent qualities just to be loved by others, and by my mother subconsciously. I’ve been afraid of being more successful and too smart, and have been scared to share what my gifts are. I’ve been afraid of being “too much,” while keeping my own idea of success in another city, away from New Orleans, just to say I made it out- not fully realizing that my inherent qualities are my superpowers. It is only now when I have stopped looking for love that I see clearer the people who love me the way I deserve to be loved and have not left my side along my journey. More so, I understand that I have to believe in my own abilities more than anyone else does. I have to love myself enough to know that I hold my own magic, and I possess the power to create more of it.