Sometimes, I look in the mirror and feel nothing. I see myself and I think that I don’t look like anyone or anything; there’s nothing that comes to mind when I see my face. It makes me think that that’s how other people feel too, that when I’m walking down the streets of Brooklyn with hundreds of other faces, no one notices me. I don’t walk past someone and make them stop and look at me and go “wow, she’s beautiful.” At least, not unless I’m wearing something nice and my hair’s done and I’m really putting the effort in.
But there are girls who make me think “wow, she’s beautiful” when they’re wearing sweats and a t-shirt, when they’re not putting any effort into their appearance and are just being. I don’t think other people see me as ugly, but I don’t think they see me as pretty either. I don’t think they see me at all.
But when I’m not thinking about that—because, there are times when I’m distracted from it—I do creative things. I write, I read and learn, I run a mystery school, I try to come up with ideas for Jaded. When I’m not thinking about my appearance, when something I’m passionate about momentarily steals my attention long enough to make me forget about my insecurities, I’m productive. I flourish.
Sometimes, I wish I could go back to the seventh grade. I wish I could return to being way more naive and immature than I thought I was. I wish I could go back to when the whole world was in my hands, when I had the opportunity to really focus. It comes to mind a lot when I look at my report card and the numbers I see don’t reflect who I know I am. They don’t reflect my intellect, the intelligent that people always compliment me on, the ideas I have and the goals that I aspire to achieve. It feels like I’m cheating myself, like there’s something I should be doing but can’t. I look at some of my old friends, friends who are among the top ten in my grade and friends that have become more distant now, and I wish I could be with them. I wish I was still close to them, still doing as well as them.
But when I’m not thinking about that, I’m doing research on the Black Panthers. I’m watching documentaries on Cuba’s integrity with socialism or trying to understand Marxism. I’m breaking down complicated sacred geometry or developing ideas about feminism. When I’m not worrying about how “smart” my grades in school make me look, I’m actually learning. Growing.
Question: what do you do when you’re not thinking about it? When your mind is free from whatever it is that makes you cry some nights, whatever it is that makes you feel less than, whatever it is that makes you forget how infinitely powerful you are, what do you do? What do you learn or create? Who are you in that moment of pure presence?
Better question: if slavery never happened, if America (and the world) never worked toward stagnating the progression of black people and trying to take away our self-love, economic literacy, academic intelligence, and more, where would we be as a people? Where would people of color, women, LGBTQ+ people, disabled people, or poor people be if we were allowed our freedom? Or if we were given the tools to take it?
Jaded’s July issue is going to attempt to answer these questions. We’re going to have uncomfortable (necessary) discussions. We’re going to write poetry. We’re going to cry, we’re going to laugh, we’re going to come together. For this issue, we’re going to recreate that moment when I’m distracted by my passions and I forget the illusion of limitation, and we’re going to see if we can turn it into forever. We’re going to try to—through radicalness and vulnerability and unity and power—be free.