With all the news of hate, death, racism, police brutality, hate crimes, and the like happening, one is forced to ask their self, “Where do I stand with all of this? What place do I hold in this one-track lane of the world? WHO AM I amongst such things?”
Hi, my name is AD. It’s easier to go by that than my first name which is Endrale (On-Drawl-Lee) — no accent on the e. For the longest time, I found myself asking the same series of questions listed above, searching for my identity. I could easily give you the common story that, “I found myself while hopping from clique to clique in middle and high school,” but that’s not really what I am aiming for here, nor is that how I actually found myself.
My biggest struggle, to me, was being black (mainly because I had been imbued with the idea that the darker the skin, the badder you are). For 21 — now 22 — years of my life, I just didn’t like the skin color I was given, the way I looked, and certainly not my personality.
Remember when the iPhone update came out releasing the different emoji skin colors? I was that guy that specifically chose the skin color one shade lighter than the darkest black on there. Different life situations brought me to that point of self-hate, but there’s two that I particularly recall as the most “damaging”.
- The time that I experienced my first “N-word” on a playground.
Picture the classic group of white kids, chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool, and naturally, I wanted to join them. Little young me decided I had nothing to lose, so why not? I asked their “head honcho” if i could join them. The words that came out of his mouth next are what really shook me. He said “No, you can’t because you’re black.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking, that wasn’t technically the “N-word” but still, where else could he make the association? There I was: a black kid with messed up shorts, a semi-bald head, and little black marks and scars all over his legs. The only “plausible” assumption he could have made was that I must’ve been trouble.
It wasn’t until years later (and subliminally) that I told myself: if being black is bad, then I’ll be white.
I wanted so badly to . . .
have benefitslike the white man,
be acceptedlike the white man,
livelike the white man,
be LOVEDlike the white man
. . . and I was willing to give up my entire being just to reach the white man’s life.
It wasn’t till recently that I was able to truly enjoy who I am and how I operate in this world, without the white man’s approval, which leads me to my second story.
2. Recently my world was ROCKED. I lost a friendship & “crush”.
Because of this situation, I questioned my entire being. It was the typical love triangle type of deal . . . I liked her; she liked him and he liked her back, BUT he was my good friend. What I attempted to accomplish in a 7 month period of time, he somehow succeeded at in a shorter time-span. (Now, if that doesn’t make you compare yourself to anyone, then you are a VERY strong person.)
I will be FRANK (see what I did there?) and let you know that I was very weak. I started to ask myself questions like:
- What do I like about myself?
- Who am I really in my own skin?
- What am I actually good at?
- What are legit reasons someone would like me?
It was a never-ending stream of doubts. I found myself spiraling down to that “shut down” mode we all know inevitably comes when one gets crushed. I had no idea what I could do to get myself out, so my last option (as any other face-down-in-the-dirt-Christian would do), was to look to God for that answer (shouldn’t be the last option, by the way).
I can’t tell you that God gave me an answer, or guided me towards a certain location or someone specific. I just did what I thought would heal me, and that’s DOING what I love to do. I love youth ministry, caring for less-privileged people, and just helping out teens in general. Throughout the past month, I have gotten to do just that: love teenagers.
- I got to create a space where each of them can just unapologetically be their self, without the pressures of the world weighing them down.
- I got to preach some really fun, and silly, messages about myself.
- And I got to write spoken words, which I almost gave up months before.
In doing those things, I found healing. I felt like I was restoring the image God gave me by being active in the calling He placed on my life. As I told stories of myself to make these kids laugh and relate to me, I found myself smiling at who I was and I had now become. As I wrote spoken words, I felt a sense of happiness in the semi-poetic side of me because I was being expressive, emotionally. As I looked into myself, I felt that BOTH the skin and the personality given to me were an extension of God, who also enjoyed who I was.
I’m currently working at a camp (shout out to Camp Sonshine) where I get to be a part in giving teenagers the safe space of enjoying who they are, no matter what ANYONE tells them. If this is something you can relate to, I can’t tell you what your healing process looks like OR what you must do to gain the ultimate self-awareness. I’m still figuring that out but if there is one major thing that I learned, it is this:
“Everything that is GOOD comes from HONESTY.”
This lyric is by Childish Gambino/Donald Glover in “The Last” when he was looking for himself. (It’s a good song, I promise. Look it up like right now. Just minimize the page, go on YouTube, and find that song.)
Ultimately, I hope that those of you that are healing from the past hurt, recent events, or current stress, can truly learn to enjoy what you love and how you operate in it. If need be, simply take the time to write down what you love to do and operate in that for a whole month (and then some). Start pointing out the differences that living intentionally makes throughout your day and document what you like about yourself while doing it.
Find yourself, Forgive yourself, Love yourself.