Letter to a Knucklehead

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Hey girl,

You think you know, but you have no idea. Your world will be rocked. Colors will transform. Feelings will transcend. They will evaporate. Trickle.

You will read. You will write. You will want to assimilate. You will want to rage. You will step ahead.

You will connect with brilliant people. Always appreciate them, but don’t lose yourself in them.

You will be right. You will be wrong. You will be anxious. You will be strong. You will outgrow your perceptions of yourself and people too bound to moments passed.

You will want to draw parallels between yourself and others, but they’re fruitless comparisons. A path walked a million times is only yours once your footsteps meet it. And as hard as it was for your cousin to teach you the one-two-step, you should know that other people’s strides are none of your business.

Speaking of walking, walk tall. Wear heels. And colors. And conversation piece accessories. And blue, shimmery eye shadow with rouge. And then only Chapstick for days, if you feel like it.

Walk with your shoulders back. Keep a grin on your face. Not the perfected smile of an adolescent who complied with the orthodontist’s requests. Do the real one.

The one where your top lip disappears and shows the pinkish purple gums you freaked out about. The one with your eyes all squinted and cheeks reaching for the sun’s rays.

Be eloquent. Be ratchet. Be rowdy. Be patient. Be effortlessly you because it is not about names. It is about truth. So do your thing. And know that that thing changes. And that’s ok.

Boys are weird. But, they always have been, so illuminate yourself because when you stop trippin’ they start falling.

Be good to your siblings. They’ll be your soldiers. Appreciate your parents. They made unfathomable sacrifices for you.

Embrace your southern roots and charm. Don’t worry if regionalism affects people’s perceptions of who belongs at the table—because you stay eating, regardless.

Flip phrases til your eyes glaze and conjure connections you believe are amazing. And then top that.

Oh yeah. You will see your social media comments from yesteryear and ridiculous Grinch-like photos. Laugh and delete. And then engage teenagers with patience. Because you were a glittery snow globe with hydraulics not too long ago.

Be grateful. Be great. Keep writing. Expand this letter.

Ciao.

Count your blessings, yo!

I dwell in abundant grace. It is not always transparent. But, if I refocus, it is always apparent. It is not always as accessible as I would prefer. But, I accept my role in reclaiming it.

So much of the world is what we create it to be, and for that I am grateful. Again, for my perception I am responsible.

People tend to think I have rose-tinted glasses, perpetual peace signs, and rechargeable Zen. Boylookaheeeere.

The older I become the less it is about what people perceive and what I perceive about myself. What I want. What I go for. When I succeed. When I falter. Humble pie a la mode.

When I bandage bruised knees and sprint against Father Time. Or Mother Time. No phallocentrism.

During my freshman year of college a journalist whom I admire told me that I write well, and have potential, but need my “ass kicked by life.” He told me that he could tell that I grew up in an environment where I was nurtured and, essentially, allowed to be a happy, observant hippie type. He told me that trying experiences would improve my work.

That was a trigger. My work is integral to my worth. And while I  am unopposed to juggling tasks, my words are the work I most enjoy.

Yet I wonder how much will happen? In what time frame? *turns around, looks at donk, files for it’s-been-kicked documentation to send to verification office that will reverse the odds*

On a cognitive level I know to acknowledge that which is empirical and experiential, but the overlap of sensory stuff and emotionalism are real in the field.

At first the expression “in my feelings” was irksome, but mid-issue it is beautifully simple and profound.

This is the part where open-book-painfully-honest-Imani makes an allusion to trials and tribulations without naming them. She summons wisdom, meditates on some Proverbs, and backstrokes into optimism as if her soul needs buoyancy.

Because it does. And that’s ok.

When I was 14 I confronted a life changing decision to go forward with spinal fusion surgery to correct my scoliosis. I grew like a sunflower. From 5’5 at age ten to 5’10 at 13.

I am now 6 feet tall.

I did not become a world-traveled model, glorified for height and opted out of awkwardness and alienation. (I have interviewed them for stories, though!) Instead, a doctor told me that if my spine were not corrected, my organs could fail in the future.

Think about it. A straight back keeps everything in its proper spot. A sideways curve, which I had, could wreak internal havoc.

I told my parents that I wanted it corrected. And so it was. Roses. Carnations. A hot, cocoa haired nurse. I still cannot determine if he were real or an intravenously induced halleluj–oops, hallucination. Excruciating recovery. Appetite loss. Ringing a bell for family members to bring me food.

What sounded royal in nature sucked for an independent spirit that would rather fight the power than say pretty please.

But, God was with me. I came out of the surgery with a scar that did not keloid (a very real fear for people of color). I am in good health.

I met several people who either had or need the surgery through the years.

In a teen club near the beach, I spotted the telltale mark on a girl’s back in a restroom. I snatched off the fishnet shirt over my bikini top to show her my solidarity mark.

At first she looked weirded out. Then it was a really cool, random, human moment of frailty and understanding. We complimented each other’s scar, exchanged anecdotes, and rejoined the foam partiers.

(Judge not, y’all.)

My cousin went to school with a girl who fell into the small percentage of people who were paralyzed by the surgery. I thank God and my cousin’s discretion that I never heard the story until I healed.

My sister was a toddler when it all unfolded, so she was not aware of my difference until she became older. A year or two ago she asked me why I have a faint mark from between my shoulders to above my tailbone.

I told her that I have sexy back, and proceeded to gyrate and serenade her off-key dinnamug in my best Justin Timberlake impression.

One day I was boring. I told her the grown-up version, a clinical story of rapid growth, S-curvation, and why I told my mom that she could not send me to school with an Afro and back brace with headgear.

I bring this up not to have more eyes on my back, although I don’t mind my scar, but to remind myself and someone else who might need it, that we are built for survival.

It does not take a huge risk to realize our potential, although it can help.

Sometimes we find our resilience in  painful, trying and inopportune ways. Sometimes people can bring about discomfort.

If we let too much outside noise reverberate, we lose the safe space to dare, dream and do. If we lose our technicolor dreams and improvement themes, the world falls flat.

So I write this as a promise to improve my gratitude and attitude. Stuff sucks, but so much more does not. I will do my best to pop-and-lock during what my mom calls “but, God” moments.

Go ‘head. Be gone with it.