Someone told me once that I speak in clichés and I have been reflecting on that ever since.
Was it the way I curled my tongue when I told them that some of these words that I’m repeating have kept me alive for years?
Was it how I played with my lip when I stated that if I didn’t speak like this, my resilience would have trembled at the sight of the next mountain?
Was it how my teeth chattered when I explained that if I did not speak with what they qualified as cliché, if I did not voice my concerns through words that they felt were insincere, or if I had spent my whole entire life rewriting the narratives everyone has been wanting to put in my mouth for what feels like centuries – that I wouldn’t be here right now.
Because although what I say you might not fully believe, my words are not for you.
My words are for me. However, they are also for everyone who has ever felt less than, shrunken, and forgotten. It’s for the people who have felt pushed off to the side, meant to be seen as small, and removed.
My words are meant to pull myself and all of the others out from under the ground and realize that the light they thought had been stolen or lost had been in them all along.
And if you cannot relate with my words, if you feel the necessity to try to figure me out, and if you crave to understand me just to say you accomplished something and you’ve conquered an activity: my words are not for you.
I am not something you can conquer; I am not something you defeat.
It is defined as “the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills.”
This feeling resonated with me throughout college but has completely unraveled itself over me since August 2018 when I entered Canisius College as an official graduate student. It has been a while since I’ve posted on here. I did not want to write entirely about something I have been experiencing since entering graduate school without the proper introduction as to how I even got here (and trust me, on most days, I’m not sure how I got here either).
It was February of 2018 when the panic had set in. Was I getting a full-time job after undergrad or do I make the choice to further my education?Through constant chats with my professors, advisors, mentors, my friends, and of course, my family, graduate school ended up being my path. However, I had to put in the work to get to that decision. Through resume checks at the career center, signing up for mock interviews, talking to those whose positions inspired me ever since I received the position as a resident assistant- I made sure I spoke to anybody and everybody about what I was considering. I wanted to hear their perspectives, ask questions about their path, learn what empowers them, and draw my inspirations from those conversations. I knew I wanted something familiar but something different. I could not put my finger on it until learning about Canisius College—A small, private, Jesuit-Catholic institution located in Western New York. Something that pushes me is my passion for social justice activism. I had studied gender, became fascinated with the social constructs that guide our society, wanted to have discussions revolving around queer identity, and craved to have a space where I could talk about the intersectionality of it all. However, something I had never truly considered as even part of my path was attending a religiously affiliated institution, but something told me I should.
When I had first arrived, I was greeted with a warm welcome. Hugs came my way, conversations were started, and experiencing Buffalo was just over the horizon. Since I was with my family, I wanted to make sure they were able to check some things off of their bucket lists as well. Therefore, after I checked in, saw my (very first!) apartment, learned a little bit more about what I would be doing—it was time to adventure.
We picked up our things and traveled to the Buffalo zoo, Niagara Falls, and dinner at a French restaurant in downtown Buffalo. When we returned to my apartment, we continued to unpack, shop for necessities, and reality slowly began to set in. I was officially beginning my career within Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. I hugged my family goodbye, watched them drive off, and began my life at Canisius College.
Hall Director training was both nerve-racking and exciting. Although I was constantly being called on to answer questions, there was something enriching about that. Something had told me when I was sitting, listening to presentations, and eagerly waiting to meet my first ever RA staff that I was in the right place, doing the right thing, and going through the right path. I was smiling, I was excited, but more importantly, I was ready.
RA training began and I could feel the shakiness in my voice when I had to hold my very first staff meeting. Although none of the RAs had made me feel like I was not capable, I was extremely focused on not messing anything up. However, as the year progressed—my team became my family. Just like any family, hiccups happened, team dynamics shifted, and life got in the way sometimes—but at the end of the day, I am proud of who my team became and everything we conquered throughout the year.
Academics was a whole other notion that was extremely daunting, uncomfortable, but riveting. Sitting in another classroom feeling as though I do not belong, but also understanding the hard work I put in every single day got me to this very place: I felt an extreme amount of dissonance. I was walking on the edge of “I’m confident I am meant to be here and am capable of doing this work,”and “How did you even get here? Who let you squeeze through the education system to sit in this very seat?”The constant back and forth of wanting to believe in myself and understanding the world around me, how academia was not meant for women like me, how this classroom wasn’t built to advance me, and how this knowledge wasn’t created for me tore me into several pieces every single day. Nevertheless, just like I did in college, I won my first year of graduate school. I stayed motivated, I stayed focused, and I stayed determined to not only prove to myself that I am capable, but to show other Black girls and Black women that they can do this too.
I write this as I sit in Rohnert Park, California for a summer internship. High school me would be so damn shocked at where I am sitting right now, what I am doing, and how far I have come. I am breaking the status quo. By being a Black woman, by existing as a Black woman, by fighting as a Black woman—that is power in and of itself. I’m 23 years old and still fighting to recognize that but acknowledging it has gotten so much easier. Here’s to the things I’ve done, the things I’m doing, and to the things I will do. To those Black girls and all Black womxn and beyond reading this, I cannot wait to see what we conquer together and how the world will try to silo and keep us out. We were meant for this, we were made for this, and this is just the beginning.
I think everything just hit me all at once. I am leaving. I am no longer an undergraduate student, I am officially a graduate student paving my way to my success whichever way I measure it. Although I can completely look back and see all of the hard parts of my past four years, those hard parts wouldn’t have toughened me up for the rest of the world that I have been begging to see since I was a Black girl unable to really understand why some parts of the United States really just aren’t safe for someone who wears this color on their skin. Creating myself has been one of the most rewarding but completely tiring things I have done and it simply is not over yet. I have so much more to do, so much more to offer, and so much more to change… and not only for other people, but for myself as well.
Something valuable about self-reflection is the ability to know when you have checked off something huge in your life. If you can recognize the hurdles you have jumped, the wounds that you thought were never going away healed, and even though there are some days where it feels like you maybe took 15 steps back in your journey to recovery or happiness—those are just days. You have the ability to make it farther, you have made it this far.
I took the world around me for granted. And although I am speaking about the items I have, the roof over my head, and the clothes on my back, I am also speaking about those who have taken the time out of their day to show me they care. Whether that was through a small gesture, an “I hope you feel better!” text, a “do you need help with…?” question, those were all small moments of pure love.
I just got back from dinner with two amazing people in my life. People that I can honestly say I would never want anything to happen to our friendships moving forward. After they had left, I began to really think about those who I allow into my life and how I could not understand what I had done in my past life to have gotten so lucky. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would walk you through a breathing exercise on the day of closing when your anxiety decided to flare up. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would offer to drive to your school and help you move things home then pick up your belongings and drive to your new home that is 6+ hours away. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would remind you what you deserve when you come crashing into their room at 1:00AM and don’t know what to do with yourself. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who wipe your tears and allow you to take a moment on the days you know you have far too much to do but you’re stability shakes and cracks whenever you pick up your pen and pack your bag. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who speak highly of you to the friends they made at their institution. Not everyone has the chance to meet people who would let you just vent about anything and everything—even if you did feel as though it was a stupid thing to vent about. What matters is that they listen. These people make you feel as though you are listened to, you are understood, your feelings are valid, you are more than capable, and you are enough. These are the people who I want to be surrounded by every single day. These are the people I want to thank.
I spent the last blog reaching out to those who tried to fold me back into myself. The people who ached for my weakness and grinned when they learned what would hurt me. But this is for the ones who remind me on my darkest days that the light will return shortly. That even though it is dark now, I have always fought and climbed my way out of it and that I should be proud of that. That I am more than I thought I ever would be and I need to start owning that. That people who truly care for you will always make sure that they show you they do.
This one is for you.
I want to say thank you to those who allowed me to be completely vulnerable. Who chose to support me while I put myself back together which, on some days, felt almost impossible. Those who chose to deny the hatred that floods the media for “people like me,” and created their own sparkling views to envision me as someone who deserves to speak, who deserves to smile, who deserves to learn, and who deserves to live. I want to say thank you because although we are all busy, tending to our lives, hopefully taking moments of rest to reassure ourselves that that too is an essential part of progress towards success and happiness—you are the people who I want to spend the rest of my life with. You have no idea what you all have done for me and a blog post won’t show that, nor will any amount of thank you’s come close to the amount of gratitude and immense amount of tear jerking love I have for everything you are. The type of love you have given me in these past four years (and some of you reading this, my whole entire life) I hope I am giving it back to you. And if I have failed in doing that in one way or another, this is me taking the moment to let you know that I love you, that I care for you, and I appreciate you. The type of support, love, care, and positive energy is what I want to give to others for the rest of my life—if I can help people feel how I feel right now: loved, empowered, appreciated, cared for, understood, and at ease— at least one person, I will know I have done enough. Thank you for helping me understand that the days I feel as though I have shrunk to the last drop of resilience I have left, that there is a whole glass waiting for me tomorrow. Those are just days and I have the ability to try again.
I am fine with awards. Those show that people are recognizing the work you have put in, the amount of yourself you have given to a cause, and ensure that you are being appreciated for all that you have done. Certainly, it is about time that Women of Color start being recognized for all that they have actually been doing for years.
I am fine with recognition. It is nice to know that people are seeing all that I have put my heart into, understand that I am not just doing this just to do it, but I am doing it to make the lives of those who look like me significantly better than what I have had, what my mother has had, what grandmother has had, and more. Continuing the work of my ancestors, gaining the courage to act against racial oppression in whichever way possible, and wholeheartedly understanding that people are always going to tell me that I can’t, but that only motivates me to show them that oh, in fact, I can. And I’ll do it significantly better than they assumed I would.
But for me, it’s not about the awards. It’s not about winning. Those aren’t important factors for me, although I am so grateful for the recognition of being able to represent girls of color and have them see me and realize they are able to do that as well. It’s about the individual lives I have learned that I have touched. It’s about seeing a student at the beginning of the year, learning about them, understanding their past, relating with their oppression, and challenging them to help them understand that the sky is not their limit. It’s about hearing at the end of the year, “Tasia, watching you has only made me want to do more. I did not think I would complete high school and I did, and seeing you has definitely made me want to push to complete college.”
That’s what I live for.
I graduated from Framingham State University. If you would have told me I would be graduating from a college that I became a Front Desk Attendant at the tutoring center, Orientation Leader, Foundations Peer Mentor, Resident Assistant, Administrative Resident Assistant, Student Admissions Representative, Supplemental Instructor, Sexual Harassment and Education Prevention Student Liaison Facilitator, Managing Editor and Public Affairs Intern for the Council on Contemporary Families with published work, a phenomenal woman nomination (Thank you, Bailey!), and left with two state awards, and a regional award later… I would have told you that you were the biggest liar in the world. I would have denied what you were saying, minimized my potential, and told you that you have the wrong girl. But now, looking back on all of my accomplishments, I can literally say, “girl, you did that.” That was all me. And of course, those who supported me along the way. Those who believed in me regardless of my skin color, disregarded the stereotypes forced upon me, dismissed the negative ideas related to being a Black woman, and allowed for me to shine in any way that I wanted to.
That’s what I live for.
I chose to surround myself with people who were fully aware of the issues I face, wanted to support me, and were entirely there for me throughout the entire process. Although not everyone was there for me since day one, like Marcie, or Amanda, Brandi, or even Virginia, and plenty more — the moments that they were there for me made all of the difference. It was about being able to go to them just to talk about my feelings, voice my concerns, when I needed reminders that I was capable, and being 100% and authentically myself with them. Finding people that I did not have to pretend in front of.
I was used to pretending… putting on my “professional” voice, sitting cross-legged, ensuring that my outfit was just the right bit loose and not too tight or revealing because the way people saw me cause of my skin color changed even how I dressed. I had to make sure that I looked professional every day, smiled lots so people wouldn’t be scared around me, and made sure I spoke with the most light-hearted voice I could. But when you find the right people, you do not have to pretend around them.
It took me a whole year to find my people, to move forward with my passions, and to fit where I felt I belonged.
It was my second year of college that had changed everything. After a break up, a few weeks of crying, and a few moments of “who the hell am I?” I battled with feeling confident on some days and ready to the crumble the next. Something about being extremely independent is that I never would allow people to help me. I wanted to take things on myself, handle every situation that brought me into emotional turmoil behind closed doors, and I never wanted to say no. Having six jobs during my second year of college, I felt as though it was time for me to say yes to help and no to things I could not do. With all of the twists that came my way in sophomore year, I still remained on top. I graduated, didn’t I? With a 3.7 overall GPA and 3.9 in my major.
The world does not want Black women to be confident, to share their successes, to be recognized, but I will repeat myself time and time again. With the amount of external forces trying to push me down, the negative words I was hearing about me from others or sometimes even directly, White men being angry and claiming that “I get everything,” when in fact I have worked tirelessly to get to where I am now, remaining calm in the face of injustices happening around me that I always took personally, balancing 6 jobs, academics, a social life, and wanting to be the biggest supporter for others: I did it. And I’m not finished yet.
I may have done this in the traditional four years. However, something that I want you all to take note of is the fact that it does not matter how you do it or how long it takes you to do it. If it takes you longer, that does not mean you failed. At least you did it. You had the support system to get you there, the mind-set to believe in yourself (and it is okay that on some days, you do not feel like you believe in yourself. Turn to your friends, your family, and those who are true to you on those days. Those who make you feel empowered and who remind you who you are. You are not weak when you get help, acknowledging your vulnerable moments and taking care of yourself is the strongest thing you can do), and you have had the resilience to keep persisting. When you feel like stopping, when you feel like you are doing everything wrong, when you feel tired, take a break, heal, and start over again.
Because even in this world full of injustice, full of systems that want you to fail, you are doing it.
And watching you, helping you rise, and supporting you throughout your success, however you measure it…