Cunning Linguist

Despite what junior high humor got you to click on this post, it is (sadly, for some) actually about my way with words. I was meditating this morning, as I do nearly every morning, usually to the tune of Beyonce but today it was Toni Braxton, when it hit me. 



The reason I was having such a hard time using writing as a form of true reflection was because I had honestly gotten a bit too good at it. I don't mean that in an "I'm the best writer in the world" kind of way. I mean that in an...I had learned words so intimately I knew how to dress up pain so it didn't hurt as much. It was the way I'd connected with so many people through my blog. I told my truth but in a poetic way. That wasn't the issue, the issue was that I was beginning to blog post my own thoughts. Editing reflection for readership and somehow losing my way entirely doing the dance that teeters the line between audience and authenticity. 

When I first started blogging, and for most of the time I DID blog (including right now) I did so with my eyes closed. I hardly ever went back to edit or proofread unless the errors were big and glaring but mostly, I didn't care about grammar. (This is precisely why I changed my whole life goal of being a magazine editor in college because I just do not give a shit about grammar and mechanics if they don't get in the way of readability). Anyway, I digress, blogging was therapy for me. I could close my eyes and compose a post like I imagine John Legend or Stevie Wonder can sit down at a piano and write music. I learned how to play words. And in my proficiency I somehow lost my way. 

More and more I started to have unfinished drafts. Pieces I would begin and then edit to death, literally because by the time I was done you couldn't hear my voice in it anywhere. I couldn't get back to that place of true flow where it was just me tickling the keyboard and somehow winding up with Ordinary People. 

So I started to use my voice more. Some people might remember how I carried a microphone in my bag for most of my 1st year of my PhD program so that I would remember to use my voice. Yall, I was in a LEADERSHIP program. And I believed them when they said they wanted to hear from me. That they were interested in my feedback. So, I gave it to them. I put myself out there so much that I wound up working in outreach and kind of falling in love. Why? Because in admissions, I got to talk to people all day long. Yeah we talked about degrees and jobs, but mostly we talked about their dreams. And I helped them to see whether or not their next best step was going to be with our school. I loved it. 

Remember back in elementary school when you got those progress reports with grades but also conduct scores? Well my progress reports my ENTIRE LIFE and Della can vouch always were straight A's with a "NI" needs improvement in the conduct area of "Controls Talking". I couldn't shut up. My whole life. My dad used to take me to his hometown of Jackson, TN when I was younger so I could spend time during the summer with my Grandmother, cousins and aunties on his side of the family. I would talk from the time we left Atlanta, over the river in Chattanooga and through the woods of Nashville. Most of the time, my dad had smooth jazz playing and I can distinguish Miles from Coltrane. ( Holla at me, John! Mayer that is...that last line was an allusion to a lyric in his song Comfortable. Stay with me, yall). I think my dad genuinely LOVES jazz music but I also think he was trying to lull his baby girl to SLEEP so she would shut up. 

My mama thought I had such a presence she got me a test read for CNN's pilot spin-off KNN (kids news network). Somewhere out there is the most horrible news reel ever in existence because on air? I was a dud. Me and mom laughed about this recently because she said "I just couldn't understand how you could talk to everyone in the newsroom but then put you in front of a camera and you were terrible." She was right. I was. And I continued to be terrible in front of cameras for many years until my admissions days. Now looking back, I can see it's because THEN I was fostering conversation and most of all, I was being myself. I didn't know how to deliver the news as myself. I don't even watch the news! That wasn't my lane, and in my youthful ignorance I threw out the baby with the bathwater thinking my VOICE had to be limited to writing because I was no good in front of the camera. Turns out, I was just going about it the wrong way. 

These truth bombs about myself just kept coming. I even remembered how I used to get terrible stage fright which only served to get on my FUCKING nerves because I love to perform. It would take all I had to push through that quivering lip and shaky voice but it wasn't until I was listening to Tyra's book Perfect is Boring yesterday that something clicked. I was meant to be holding a mic, but I was NOT meant to be singing songs or acting out soliloquies. If anything, I was a master of ceremonies. I set the mood, baby! And I do this in my home, too! I coordinate lighting, scents, fabrics, flowers, drinks, and music all according to the mood. I have always been the hostess, even when my house is far away or I don't have food or I'm out of booze. And I guess I never looked at any of it as my gift, rather just who I was. But now it was all making sense to me. 

In college, I would skip class if it meant sitting and having a deep conversation with a friend. And by "deep" I mean, we could be kiki-ing at Olive Garden, Soccer Taco or Chili's getting 3-4-1s and talking about nothing, but I just couldn't bear the thought of missing out on REAL conversation just to sit in some bullshit lecture hall with 300 other students. My favorite parts of college are the nights after the parties when my friends and I would stay up all hours laughing and recapping the night. Or the times we did photoshoots together rummaging through each others closets for just the right prop or accessory that would nail my very specific vision. I was relentless with "my vision" but somehow they all played along with me. I would have them dress up as boys. Frolick in fountains, go jump on random UT colored golf carts, ANYTHING for the shot. My photos were the ones people chose for their PROFILE PICTURES--you couldn't tell me shit in college. I was cool because I was totally me and I had a gang of people who LOVED me for it. If only that had translated to academics. If twitter had been a thing when I was in college, I might have done better because it would've satiated my need to be in conversation and dialogue pretty much all the time. 

So all of this comes flooding back to me this morning during my meditation and I realized 


I couldn't believe it didn't come to me sooner. So little-by-little I've been using my voice more instead of writing. I've been thinking about how to do a podcast but still be in conversation with people (if you have ideas for that, holla at ya girl!) I've been recording videos for YouTube and playing with both raw point and post as well as more produced and stylized content. My best friend, who happens to be a career coach, called me the other day and flippantly said "Ugh, I'm just so ready for you to be a social media celebrity". What she doesn't know is, she's gonna be a part of that. 

All that to say, I'm going to be writing less frequently. You can always find me writing. It was and always will be my truest, deepest love. But I am going to also pursue stepping forward up to the mic. I think it's time to be more than just a cunning linguist. I had to be honest with myself. I'm a ham. I might not be the one busting out an 8-count in the middle of the dance floor, but when I speak, I want people to listen. I feel plugged in when I'm talking, speaking, candidly in front of an audience. It's the same flow I get from writing only stronger. It's straight up intoxicating. And I don't have to be in front of 20,000 people. It could be just 2, but I know how to captivate an audience. And more than that, I'm ready to captivate an audience. 

Who I am IS my gift and that CALLING to be more myself, was the same one telling me to SPEAK UP and SPEAK OUT. It was like everything clicked. And there was a peace. Like all the moving waters inside me were stilled and I could see my reflection staring back at me just glowing with divine light. You got it, now trust it. So here I go. Well no, here I am.