For as long as I can remember, I've never been great at lying. Sure, I have managed to skate telling a fib or two, and arguably have considered myself an intermediate "storyteller" of sorts, but never an expert at the craft. Now, I'm sure we all know that person that could sell you on the sky being pink and boiling water being ice cold, but me, nah. I've always been a straight shooter with my face telling on me or just not being able to fully commit to the lie itself (like the times boys used to get my real name and number because I could not see myself as being anyone else but "Joy." lol). Now, some of you may be wondering, why would anyone ever want to be considered as such? And to that point, perhaps I would agree. But I guess the point I am trying to make here is that honesty has always been the thing that pulled and tugged at my heart. It's that burning sensation that flares up and unctions me to speak, revealing the "elephants in the room." You see, for me, honesty and social justice is a combination that is powerful and codependent on one another for real social change, which brings me to the reason of my post.
Today I had the opportunity to participate in a self-care workshop designed to unearth ways to recenter ourselves through identifying our barriers and their impacts on our lived experiences. Being the "go-getter" I am, I decided to participate in a group exercise identifying my biggest barrier originally as overthinking. Now, those that know me, know that I can think myself in and out of almost anything, and so seeing this as my biggest barrier made the most sense until I started to think a little more. I started to wonder about the reasons why I over think and eventually settled on the biggest barrier to my progress as stigma. Well, more like stigmas, since being Black, fat, and a woman all come with their own set of hurdles to leap. But I realized these are the things I so often try to avoid through my thinking and so I stepped to the podium (really there was no podium, just a line) to give my explanation.
The first volunteer stepped up and gave her synopsis. Short and sweet. She was on and off the floor in about 4 minutes. Everyone clapped and applauded her bravery and contribution to the session. And of course, I'm thinking for me this will be the same. 4 minutes, I'm in and I'm out, right? Nooot exactly.
As I begin to speak, I propose that it is overthinking that is my biggest barrier, and just like the work I did in my seat, the leader of the workshop starts to dig deeper into my reasoning. Now, I should note that the leader of the workshop is a Brown person, so there was no White gaze or any of that stuff involved. He seemed to be asking me questions pretty intently about why I overthink which only took me back to my original argument for stigmas being the biggest barrier I faced. And then, he asked the mothership of all questions... He asked me to elaborate on my experiences of being Black. Of course, I didn't have a speech or anything put together to give a cohesive synopsis, but baby when I opened my mouth!! The words begin to flow smoother than a large mocha iced coffee from Dunkin Donuts would down my throat!
In a room full of different ethnicities and races, I shared my story. I explained the extra time it takes to make myself "presentable" to a world that takes issue with my existence from the tone I speak in, to the hairstyles I wear. I explained that even if I had a smaller body, critiques of it would still exist due to curves I cannot hide. I explained the feeling of relief that a larger person feels when they enter a room and see there are no arms on chairs. I shared the reality that despite me obtaining a PhD through my own blood (paper cuts lol), sweat and tears, my knowledge will still be questioned. Yes, someone will STILL wonder if I was admitted to school due to affirmative action, disregarding the work I completed to obtain my degree. I concluded in my natural bubbly personality that living with all these requirements is exhausting and picking my battles come with wisdom as one can't fight everything and still expect to get to their destination in a timely manner. Y'all I was honest! I made it plain! No sugar coating, no fibs.
Though I was put on the spot, sharing my experiences is nothing new. There was no shame or embarrassment. Shoot! I'm pretty sure I could've kept going (that burning sensation goes hard!) if they would've let me. But something profound happened after I shared. As I was thanked for sharing my story and was returning back to my seat, one person stood up and hugged me. Another gave me a high-five. As I sat down, a man behind me leaned forward and told me I "killed it." He continued his remarks with, "and now she has to follow you," speaking of the next volunteer. I had no idea I'd spent maybe 10 or 15 minutes commanding the room. I had no idea my truth mattered so much.
As the workshop ended, I wrestled within myself to wrap my mind around what had just taken place. See, I grew up in the church. If I had to explain this in "Jesus" terms, I would say something to the effect that the Spirit was in the room! I would say that the Lord came in and used me for His glory. But what I witnessed today was that my life, my honesty, TRUTH, resonated and spoke to hearts. Those individuals that needed to say something after were drawn to the honesty of my lived experience. I found that even in my struggle, there is a light that shines brightly to inspire and encourage others. This would not be possible if I sugar coat what I've lived. It would not be beneficial to anyone (including myself) if I were not honest about the ways that little chairs with arms squeeze my hips.
And so I stand (ok, sit cause I'm typing) here today to remind us that there is power in transparency. There is power in YOUR truth. Never stop telling the world! My day concluded with the exchanging of several contacts and "thank yous." Healing was in the room today for others and strength to continue my journey was in it for me.