This post is the first of many to come in a series of letters to our younger selves, sending them hope, courage, and the love it takes to grow older and wiser. My hope is that this series will encourage others, young and old, to be a better version of themselves starting right now, today!
One of the challenges I faced growing up was being a dark skinned chick in a world where dark skin wasn’t in. I remember sitting on my bed and staring at my body for long periods of time, wishing it was lighter.
You know how people say kids can be cruel? Well, I know first hand. I heard it all:
- “Your momma left you in the oven too long” (I actually laughed at this one because I really was in the “oven” longer. I was a 10 month baby. Moms says I didn’t wanna come out! LOL).
- “You’re so dark, you’re purple.”
- My nickname from other kids was Darkie.
- “You’re so black, at night school the teacher counted you absent.”
- “If you wear all black, you’ll disappear.”
- “You’re cute to be dark skinned” (supposed to be a compliment).
- and on and on…
And although my friends and adult family members would tell me how beautiful I was, it wasn’t enough. That external ridicule spoke louder to me than what my family said. As a kid, it’s all about what your peers think about you, at least that’s what I thought then.
To help lighten the load (literally 🙂 ), I remember not wearing black tops, dresses, jewelry, or socks in fear that it would incite more jokes. I didn’t want anymore attention than I was already getting.
I focused my attention on my school work, was more of a homebody, a bookworm, and journaler (I had to have somewhere to spill my thoughts!).
It wasn’t until high school when I saw a girl with the same skin color as me walk elegantly down the school’s hall with a black dress on and I thought, “Wow, she looks good!”
She was only at our school for a short time, so quick that I don’t remember much else about her. To this day, I have always thought this girl to be some sort of “angel” or messenger dressed in black to send me a positive message to start looking at my skin color with love instead of hate.
After that, I started adding black to my wardrobe little by little. I became a little more confident in myself. My self-image started slowly but surely becoming better where I didn’t hate my skin color so much.
Around 12th grade and on into college, I started to get a lot of light skinned brothers trying to holla at me. Say whaaaaaa? I was told that “dark skin was in.” Really? Skin color – something you are born with – can be in or out?
How confusing we humans can be! So I was being approached, courted, and desired and heard “the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice” phrase more during those years than I ever had in my whole life! Yes, it felt good but too bad being dark wasn’t always “in” for maybe I wouldn’t have had such a love/hate relationship with myself as a child…
Note: I won’t go into black history, slavery, or the discussion of biases and attitudes about skin color within the black community (as that’s a whole ‘notha loooong topic), but just wanted to tell you a bit about my story to help you understand my letter to my younger self.
So with that said, here’s my letter to my 12 year old self letting her know that her dark skin and her quirky ways are to be cherished, loved, and appreciated.
Dear 12 year old me,
Look at that picture above.
Isn’t that girl a beaut?
She’s you in a few months
when you get selected to be Queen of Dunbar.
Go ahead and cheer. I’ll wait.
Who am I, you ask?
You don’t know me but I’m you…
from the future.
Somehow I managed to curve the time-space continuum (because, heck we’re smart like that!)
so that I can visit you at this very impressionable time in OUR lives
to share with you some words of wisdom that
I want you to know, understand, memorize, and internalize.
First and foremost, you ARE beautiful in every way, really
From your sandy brown hair
to the whites of your teeth (and oh so white do they shine)
to the shapely and sexy legs you’ve inherited from Granny.
Secondly, you look at your skin color and see evil, hatred, and ugliness.
You will soon learn that though it may seem like that now,
people, especially kids, are clueless about what beauty is.
So they can’t be trusted and will soon be outed in their lies and agenda.
I wish you knew that you don’t have to pay attention to what they say about you
because those girls and boys are dealing with their own insecurities.
Remember those times you’ve looked in the mirror and thought yourself cute?
That’s because you ARE!
You know all those bright colors you would love to wear but don’t?
Do it and wear it bright and proud!
Wear ANY color you want girl, you rock them ALL, especially with eye shadows!
Bright colors really pop with your black shades.
And yes your body is supposed to be different shades of black.;-)
Love the skin you’re in Boo because, guess what?
The partner and best friend you’ll meet in a few years absolutely ADORES your skin color,
loves you for you and he lets you know it all the time!
You already know you’re smart and intelligent so
I’ll just say…
Don’t change anything in this area
as it will pay off VERY handsomely!
And keep playing school with your crazy brother who keeps getting sent to the ‘principal’s office’;
however, unfortunately, that is a foreshadow into how he will behave in school later
but you can’t change that.
Give him a hug for me, will ya?
He really needs it…
You also worry about being different.
It’s okay to not be like everyone else and
it’s okay to be weird.
Trust me, doing what everybody else is doing won’t get you far in life!
Hey listen, I love you…
You are strong, compassionate, and more courageous than you think.
Hold your head up (high) and
keep laughing (loudly) and
show those pearly whites and smile (often) and
most importantly, love (unconditionally)…
P.S. You are simply amazing!
Over to you…
If you would like to write a letter to your younger self to be featured in this series, contact me. The more the merrier! 🙂