Inspired by Eavonka’s NEA award acceptance speech

As a pre-adolescent, I used to wish for a major illness or injury. Something that would demand the attention of others. I blindly went about coping with these tragedies in my mind without realizing that the tragedy was my need to be near-death to get affirmation of my life’s value. It didn’t matter and I wasn’t enough…that’s what I believed. In the midst of my reflections, I realized that this core belief inspired my desire to dance with death and despair.
The self-work that is very present in my life today continues to erect a mirror in my face. Oftentimes, the reflection is grisly. I see myself tearing myself down and ripping myself apart in the name of mattering in the larger context. I didn’t know—or refused to acknowledge—that I mattered and that I have so many invaluable things to contribute to the world.
It’s not up to me to recite and renumerate these gifts that I share. I’m intended to give with humility rather than take or receive with my ego. Are shock and surprise appropriate responses to the gratitude that those I touch share with me? My mind used to go blank at these times. And before those times I experienced incredible discomfort. Now, I strive to be present and mindful in these moments, make eye contact, smile, and say, “Thank you.” I wonder when I will summon the courage to engage them in discussion about how the co-mingling of our narratives impacted them.
Memorializing these memories on paper feels odd. Once upon a time, I avoided these introspective discussions because my shame was too intense. Responding to Eavonka’s shared writing this morning feels necessary and cathartic now. My ability to recognize this reflects my growth.
I endeavor to go about life with authenticity. To live for myself rather than be overly concerned with how I’m perceived or experienced by others. Doing this means that I alone—without the veneer and attempts to please—am enough. I don’t have to earn my space or make sure that people see my value and my worth.