I tried really hard to do the “right” thing. To put blogging on the back burner so I could devote myself more fully to searching for a full-time job.
I locked up this blog, started another anonymous one, and began combing the employment sites. I reworked then re-reworked my resume. I reached out to the few contacts I have. I applied to every job that sounded even halfway workable. I mean – I really did try to be good.
But I couldn’t stop missing this space. I couldn’t stop longing to write here again. I couldn’t stop feeling as if I had abandoned something that I shouldn’t have abandoned or stopped doing something I should be doing.
So, I’m back. The blog is public again, and I am re-committed to posting on a regular basis. And extremely excited about the prospect of writing more, reconnecting with “old” readers, and possibly gaining some new ones.
In the meantime, I put up some stuff of which I am really proud on that anonymous site – First Name Basis.
Check it out.
The last three links are poems. Yes, I write poems. I have a book of poems, actually. I’ve mentioned it here a time or two. You can buy it here: https://blackgirlpoet.wixsite.com/michellesmith/publications.
(All purchases go to my broke-ass pockets because I didn’t get any of those full-time jobs for which I applied, if that isn’t already apparent.
I think it might be a combination of my patchy work history, age, degree area, and/or advanced vocabulary, which probably runs the gamut from making it difficult for your standard HR officer to fully comprehend my cover letters to making him or her think I am an insufferable intellectual snob. Whatever. I like my words, and I like to use them.)
It’s funny. Over these last few months, in which I have been doing more agonizing than either job searching or writing, I found myself fixing on my book – on its introduction – on what I wrote about my inspiration, Sylvia Plath, and my process as an artist, which I am, even though I shrink from owning the title because I am still too strung up in wanting and seeking middle class “stability” to summarily fuck the rat race and try to write professionally.
In that intro, I wrote – and I still cannot believe these words came from me –
Blackness is a really complicated thing for a hetero woman in America.
It has enough rules to put the US Code to shame.
You are not allowed to sad because so many that came before you suffered so much more than you, and they were never sad; they were strong.
You are not allowed to be crazy because so many that came before you suffered so much more than you, and they never escaped into madness; they were strong.
You are not allowed to be ambivalent because there are only two acceptable things to do as a black woman – you can stand or you can fight.
You are not allowed to have any problems that weren’t doled out by your history or anatomy.
You cannot cry except at death, and it is the only sort of loss that you can linger on.
You cannot despair, no matter how desperate you are.
You cannot lament your blackness, no matter how it blinds you to your beauty or blocks the sun from you.
You have to love black men when they spurn you.
You have to love black women when they spurn you.
You have to love every black person you meet, whether their greeting is happy or hateful. Whether they want to join your parade or piss on it.
You have to keep secrets that claw at the insides of your guts and throat to be told.
You have to swallow complaints that going down can rip your insides like a rusty nail or screw.
You are not allowed to be honest at the cost of being dignified.
You can only tell your story as a myth or legend, fable or fairy tale.
There are not rules, for the record. They are The Rules. Spelled out for me by my respectable mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother that came before me.
I grew up with the demands for strength, goodness, decency, and solidity hanging over my crib like a mobile.
I understood by six that I had very few acceptable choices for my future beyond getting an education and forging a successful career.
I could marry if I wanted to, and have children if I wanted to, but being a certain type of woman wasn’t an option.
I was a talky, antsy, moody, sassy, nasty girl that was expected to grow into a stoic, stable, suitable woman.
I felt suffocated by that expectation, too. Like it would kill all the joy, wonder, curiosity, humor, and needful angst inside of me.
Until I found Sylvia.
She showed me what to do.
Write it out.
Write it all out.
And fuck what anybody has to say about it . . .
I write to free myself, I know. And when it doesn’t work . . . I write more. I write harder. I write bloodier.
I am too much of a black woman to surrender such a hard-fought thing as my life to something as common as pain.*
But then I am too much of a thin-skinned girl to pretend that pain doesn’t act like a slow poison on my heart and mind.*
It was painful for me to shut up this blog. It shut down my heart and mind, to an extent. I was following The Rules when I made the decision, and following The Rules doesn’t suit me any more now than it did when I was younger or back in 2015, when I wrote that intro.
So I’ve decided to stop, once and for all.
So I’ve opened this blog up again. I’ve opened myself up again.
Michelle is back, bluer, and i-er than ever – on a first name basis with the truth that I am a writer, that is all I’ve ever wanted to be, and that’s exactly what I should be.
I have to say, too.
It feels fucking good to be back.
* I substituted “sadness” in the original text with “pain” in this iteration.