Trying to Do a Thing

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I did a thing. A huge thing that let everyone know (including myself) big existential things like, how I’m using my gifts and why I’m here on this earth doing the work of design, health equity, and justice. It happened. I felt a lot of things. And then, for awhile, I felt nothing.

It started inside of a Google Doc. I created a detailed framework outlining what to share on each page along with its images, quotes, links, every little idea that came along. I changed it more times than I can remember but I do remember returning to the essence of what felt and sounded like “me.” This was, very simply, just a website. But it was also an opportunity for me to reintroduce myself by sharing the details of the ideas culminating in my mind and revealing itself in work (and life) for the past two years. I saw it as a platform to finally rewrite my narrative and to create space for reflection, collaboration and possibility—in my own words, in my own time.

Words and time became moments that showed up just before setting the alarm to go to sleep, in the shower with a rush of inspiration and no pen, or while walking to take a much-needed brain break when ideas suddenly began to flow with each step.

It was all I could think about.

I was deep in the process of creating something so personally meaningful and also felt a wave of emotions pulling me into an anticlimactic ending that barely recognized joy.

I became anxious. Anxious because I hear real stories from other Black women who are hesitant to share their concepts for projects, movements, and businesses, afraid that our creativity and even our stories will be taken. I’ve seen what can happen when Black women go public with their ideas: co-opted, appropriated, and stolen without proper credit or value placed on our collective genius that continues to fuel the success of others. When there’s a build-up of creative vision stirring within our minds and bodies without feeling safe (or worthy) enough to release, anxiety arrives. It arrived within me. I began to question not only how much I should comfortably share but if what I was sharing even mattered to anyone other than me, and if it did, to who?

That’s my intimate conversation with self-doubt: Does this matter to anyone other than me? Why am I doing this? The framework was in place, but my inner structure felt like it may not be able to withstand the questions. I allowed myself to feel the anxiety and doubt, but I allowed myself to feel it while continuing to do the work anyway. I wish I would have videotaped myself during the first two weeks of April, writing late into the night on pieces of paper, playing YouTube Deep Healing playlists on repeat, burning sage— anything to counteract the loud inner critic by acting in resistance.

It was a slow (and somewhat mentally exhausting) progression to determination. And yet, it came.

The date was set. Friday, April 13th. I told anyone who asked what I was up to (and even those who hadn’t) just to hold myself accountable. To add more accountability, this was the date of my late father’s birthday. A day that I could celebrate his life and his connection to the presence of something new forming for me. But I hit ‘Save & Publish’ on the last item on the list to complete and was left with the absence of all things celebratory.

I was tired.

While sitting in silence during the Quaker meeting that Sunday morning, my eyes closed and body trying its best to be present, I realized that implementing a part of life’s work, something so connected to my heart and a sense of purpose, was a laborious endeavor.  I was feeling mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted. To recognize the magnitude and importance of what I'd just completed, I needed to rest.

Joy eventually came but not before an intentional step back. Days without looking at the site or rereading all of the content to double check any errors or make additional edits. Sleeping until my body wanted to start moving throughout the day. Sitting in the awareness of knowing that I did a thing. That just happened. And the thing was brave because sharing parts of who we are and what we imagine involves risk and requires courage.

I have to continue designing, sharing, re-imagining because choosing to hold it in, trying so hard to protect it, without the freedom to express what’s possible feels like a slow death; a silence that will eat away at my soul and do a disservice to the meaningful impact the work can have.

Throughout these journal entries, I hope that creative and emotional freedom can flourish. I hope that my ideas and stories, and the ideas and stories of other Black women, will be valued. And I hope that the space created here, between process & possibility, will cultivate a safe and brave space for anyone else who’s out there trying to do a thing.