Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reflections: Erica Versus Riva.

This might be one of the hardest posts I’ll ever have to write. Hopefully, it’s also therapeutic.
Bloggers adorn their posts with perfect pictures, pretty words and half-truths. We snip the negative from our lives, lending smiles and good company to our readers. It’s a sacrifice of sorts, keeping the lament in our personal diaries. For those of you who bare it all, I adore your courage.

Today I’ve decided to be courageous:

I’m not comfortable in my own skin. In fact, for a few years, I’ve been wearing someone else’s. Erica gets up every morning, pats on Riva’s makeup, slips on Riva’s heels and borrows her words for the day. Erica even delves in her habits; eyebrows, nails, and organization.

The truth is, Erica was a skater girl. A kick loving, curse slinging and over analytical extrovert. A nerd with a zest for journaling and Harry Potter. A romantic with a gossip and drama loving spirit.

High school and college stifled me. Girls in higher heels and upper echelon begged me for tact. They caressed the underlying notions that I’d never be good enough. Everyday, as I face the mirror, I realize that I am an imposter.

I am a shell of my former self.

I’m 5’11, with size twelve feet, big hands, an awkward smile and a stomach that kind of spills. To the stores; I am TALL, LONG and find-it-online. To the bullies, I was sasquatch, goofy and nerd. To the men who failed to assess internal beauty parallel to external, I was “alright”or “okay.” To myself, I am undeserving.

That’s where it starts, doesn’t it? With yourself?

I find it hard to take compliments. I often cringe at the utterance of beautiful or pretty directed towards me, suppressing the urge to look behind me and search for the woman they’re truly talking about. Defense mechanisms are my forte:

1) In social settings, when the men are more adoring of your friends instead of you, twiddle with your phone. It shows you don’t care.
2) If anyone asks what’s wrong, nod and smile. Never let on too much. Insecurity is not attractive.
3) Stay clear of things you used to love to wear, before anyone pointed out their flaws. Bright colors, horizontal stripes and tighter things only emphasize your thickness.
4) Talk fast and quick. Perhaps if they know you are a celebrated poet, scholar and writer; your looks won’t matter too much.
…and, go.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to confront my insecurity. I stood on my first well-known stage surrounded by people who actually had requests. Fans of sorts. I could have dropped my bitter cloak there. I should’ve swallowed the attention whole and relished in the fact that I was a great writer, performer and someone who deserved everything.

I didn’t.

Instead, I blacked out. I let a pretend confident spirit envelop me and tear the stage apart. A train car voice cascaded from my lips and took charge of her surroundings. No microphone needed, I’d placed my morale, in rhyme, on the ears of many. It was beautiful. However, the instance the clapping faded and I cascaded down the stage’s steps; I was hunch shoulder, smirk-never-smile and nervous-wreck, shell of Erica, all over again.

I never took the time to rectify this.

After leaving college, I immersed myself in work. Between juggling three jobs, writing and delving into your first serious relationship; it’s easy to forget how you feel inside.  It’s the quiet spaces that get you though. The long drive home and the train rides poke at the unsettled things:
  • What’s next Erica?
  • Will you ever be good enough?
  • What does he think?
  • What does she think?
Lately these thoughts have started to stir again. They’re not as potent as before, but they’re strong enough to alert me.

What happens to a girl deferred? Does she fiddle with spanx, nip and tuck her figure where it’s unpleasing to the eye? Does she close her lips in pictures, pretend as if her slightly corrected teeth don’t exist? Does she revel in her emotional and academic depth, attributing it to be the only thing anyone values about her?

She shouldn’t have to do any of these things.

I’m no demi-god, but damn it I’m gorgeously flawed. I am temperamental and emotional and I’m quiet and calm. I’m bitter and broken, but I’m great at putting my loved ones pieces together. I’m loud and an extrovert, but I’m serene to those who need a listening ear. I’m unfocused and stubborn, but I lug a bag filled with everything to make sure my students have ANYTHING they need.

I will write these words until I believe them. Even if I never get my book off the ground, if this blog never takes off and if I never become the writer I want to be; I will write to be whole. This alone, will justify my pen’s purpose. My purpose.

Upon initiation of insecurity, a woman faces the mirror and feels as if she’s alone. In fact, these quieted feelings push the birth of our neglected diaries. Soon, we grow and abandon those tales as our new found confidence blooms.

What about those who never find their confidence?
What happens to the girls whose petals fall before they spread their arms out to the sun?
Are they a lost cause?


I’m twenty-four and still searching for my respire. These underlying notions sit deep beneath my brown skin. No fingernail or scream can shake/scratch them loose. I know now, that it’s the power within our affirmations that make us believers. It’s our ability to understand our disproportionateness from our reflections that make us stronger. We are so much more than societal norms and media gloss. We are abundant.

What happens to a girl deferred? A remarkable spirit tarnished by her peers. A lone fiddle, waiting for her strum. What happens to a girl deferred?

Answer: Well, I’ll tell you one thing is for sure. I ain’t no damn raisin. I am no longer living a shriveled existence. I’ve got time to bloom.

Watch me grow.


Erika D. Coldman said...

Dammit if this post isn't synonymous to my LIFE!!! I swear I felt as if I was reading about myself!

I think I'm just coming to grips with the fact that I may be slightly socially awkward. Just a tad.

I used to be the shy girl who hated being the center of attention (and still am today) but I'm sooo ready to rid myself of that shell and be sociable!

Just tonight, I was at this swanky event full of young black professionals and I knew that the enviornment I was in fit my personality to a tee. I also told myself that if I was to be in the company of these people all the time, I need to leave the shy Erika (I'm an Erika too lol) at home, or kill her off altogether lol.

I too am ready for the change!

As always, loved reading this =)

Unknown said...

i'm ready for change also.

this is by far my favorite of anything i've read of yours before. so many lines i could quote and relate to. as i grow older, it's people like you who make me feel less alone in how i've always felt.


Christina said...

You are my hero. That's all I can really say. Your writing and experiences inspire me to take a chance and grow.

Toi said...

Sometimes I think you inhabit my mind and write my thoughts on this blog.

I could sit here and write all the similarities but I won't.. I'll just say this. I just turned 22, I moved away from everyone I know (with the exception of my roommate) and am truly figuring out who I want to be. For myself. Letting myself grow. In any way you can, get away from people's perceptions of you and focus on who you want to be...for yourself! It's hard, but it's possible.

Best wishes in your growth Erica.

UrbanTalker said...

Great Post Riv

For only a confident woman let's the world see her weakness. I swear, you should have been a science major. "Cause you have described to a tee, a Butterfly's transformation from Larvae to winged beauty.

Take flight my baby.

Raven said...

This post excites and invigorates me. I don't even have words for my emotions right now. It makes me so proud and so happy that you've come as far as you have as a woman and a writer and a professional. You are everything. Know that. Accept that. Live in that truth. I love you infinitely.

riva. said...

These were beautiful comments guys. I appreciate them so much. It touches me that so many of you relate. Even my dad is here. Hello Urbantalker!


Janine Simon said...



GO GO more more phahaha!!!

Nikieta said...

awww, yay for dads! :) Oh college girls and higher heels....and abandoning clothes you like. *sigh* haha I can relate. I love to watch your journey. Don't forget to hit me up if you ever need a low-key place to lay your head a while. *hug*hug*

Ciara said...

"Even if I never get my book off the ground, if this blog never takes off and if I never become the writer I want to be; I will write to be whole. This alone, will justify my pen’s purpose. My purpose." This statement reminds me so much of my relationship with art. Don't know how I missed this post, must have been right around final time, but I love it. Nothing is more beautiful than transparency.