Self-love is a concept that I never understood until two years ago. I always thought it was a conversation held between women who listened to Mary J. Blige or memorized the script for Waiting To Exhale. With that being said, experience is the greatest teacher and I've been a student of self-love since 2015. Here is part one of my story of self-care, told using ten songs that serve as a soundtrack.
1. All Falls Down - Kanye West ft. Syleena Johnson
"Tell me that ain't insecure. The concept of school seems so secure"
I was a 20-year-old transfer student, ecstatic to embark on my first fall semester of a University that held a population of 27,000 people. I was offered a much-needed marching band scholarship after a fiasco that caused me to quit my summer job two weeks into June.
A week before band camp began, I got an email from the Band director, saying that he received notice of a hold on my student account. Thinking it was an overdue library fee, I went to the Student Accounts office with a wrinkled twenty dollar bill, ready to resolve the issue. I gave the cashier my information and reached for the twenty when she told me that the total for the bill was three thousand, three hundred, thirty-eight dollars and forty-seven cents. She also said that my classes for the fall semester would be dropped if I couldn't clear the bill before school started. I also would be denied housing for band camp. At this moment, I lost my balance and the security of being in school had been stripped away.
2. FEAR. - Kendrick Lamar
"My biggest fear was being judged: how they look at me reflect on myself, my family, my city. What they said 'bout me revealed if my reputation had missed me"
The fear that took over my body was numbing. I had nothing. My comfort was cradled in the fact that I was in school. That was now gone. I already told my parents about how excited I was to experience my new environment and I broadcasted my academic accomplishments to my church family prior to leaving. Now I had to carry that shame back home and wear it like a uniform. My greatest fear became my own reflection.
3. Mad - Solange ft. Lil Wayne
"You've got the right to be mad, but when you carry it alone you find it only gettin' it in the way...gotta let it go"
So, there I was: back home with my parents, working a job that had nothing to with music, and going to church every Sunday just to play for the choir and leave before anyone asked me how school was going. I was angry. The flame of my fury only grew stronger when I found out that the bill on my student account stemmed from a miscalculation on the University's behalf. I went from living my dream as an emerging saxophonist to scrubbing toilets for nine dollars an hour. I would sleep for 12 hours per day and only woke up to go to work. I eventually stopped going to church just to take more shifts. I was running from my own reality. I was hiding from honesty.
4. 20 Something - SZA
"How could it be -- 20 something, all alone, still not a thing to my name?"
After living in fear, then in anger, the next stage that I embraced was remorse. My untamed ambition as a twenty-year-old had been stunted by reality. I was now subscribed to the religion of 'playing it safe' because of the fear that I had of being caught off guard again. Being exposed caused me to hide behind the same wings that I was born with so that I could fly. My imagination that once gave me the courage to be an eagle was now damaged by a reality that persuaded me to be an ostrich.
5. FIND YOUR WINGS - Tyler, The Creator ft. Roy Ayers, Syd, and Kali Uchis
"Hey you, whatcha doin' and why you runnin'? [You're] supposed to fly and take control 'cause you're the pilot."
On December 12th, 2015, my older sister graduated from college. It hadn't been an easy road for her, but she never gave up. She did it. I was ready to be the family member that you didn't want to sit next to at a graduation. I was proud. When I got up that morning to iron my clothes, I got called into work. They didn't care about my sister or her graduation and even threatened to fire me if I didn't come in. My greatest regret is missing her graduation for a shift that paid me sixty dollars. I decided that day that I had to take control of my situation. I had enough.