Identity has always been a power for me; it has been self-care to carve out my identity, take that out into the world, and find a balance between what I want from it and what it has given to me. A strong identity has carried me through a lot.
Once, a therapist told me that my father had no identity. That was powerful to me because I hadn’t yet figured him out—his actions, his motivations, his unwillingness to see my point or the bigger picture. But in that moment, I understood that he lived second-to-second to identify himself, oscillating in the pursuit. I appreciated my father’s lessons, though he didn't mean to give them; I saw him as a version of myself if I didn't identify with, no matter how ugly or brutal the process or revelations would be. Funny enough, the revelations weren't that bad. I was queer. Femme. Non-binary. All words I pushed for access to, but didn't have before then.
As a child on the cusp of adulthood, I felt depleted, and I focused on survival while being ushered into this new stage of my life. Now, this Teflon Don I had become was pretty fun— strong, sensitive at times to others, but not so much to myself. I was fighting to win the battleground of hands and body. I had to fight to be myself and have space in this world, so I couldn't go around crying or putting myself in situations that would lead to tears. I thought if I started crying, I'd never stop.
It had been years of protecting myself from being unloved, unheard, and unseen. I had to keep seeing myself, not getting lost amongst the others or becoming codependent, because people leave, they change, and I had to be prepared emotionally for that. I didn't give myself permission to change to grow and leave, rather I had to be solid and loyal, to be genuine and never block my blessings... but maybe I was codependent to what I was trying to be as a part of the little life I had. But my life didn't stay little for long.
Part of my growth was ambition, self-protection, and constantly quietly letting go of things that reminded me of the toxicity of my past. I looked to connect with other artists and free thinkers—real luminaries. San Francisco screamed out to me and I followed her call. My first job amongst those luminaries began 11/11/11. I was young, gifted, and Black.
I knew I wanted to be loved for myself, so I danced on stage every Friday night and drove back home after the gig, so I barely drank with everyone. I would daydream, though, at my day job in the Bay. My managers would always be like, “Why don't you just quit and pursue your music life full time?” I wasn’t used to that kind of uncertainty, but over time it felt safer, and eventually my managers fired me so I could follow my dreams. I had become a little sensation. I had fallen in love, and I had new best friends. Life was good. I felt like I could finally be reckless because I had people who I protected and who protected me—people with identities that I could trust. We had the best times, so many great times. And then I left.
I moved to Los Angeles, and I found more friends, and the good times and glow up continued—but they only glowed on the outside. I was no longer genuine with myself. I wanted all these things, to reach these goals, but I just kind of got there without intending to. I was at a crossroads of losing my identity as traumas resurfaced and faced me in my newfound life in the nightclub, on the stage, in the studio. II had created what should have been a beautiful life for myself, but I wasn't present. Then I met the biggest demon of all, a man who, like my father, lacked identity.
This man hurt me and brought me right back to being a kid, wondering where I was and what was going on. But this encounter challenged me to not only be present, but to be the highest version of myself. It challenged me to purify my mind, body, and spirit. And up first were mind and body. I practiced something called monitored sobriety, which meant I could have some drinks every couple of months—that was a nice change, but I needed more: a practice, a way to become attuned to myself, to hear myself, to love myself, and to finally have compassion for myself.
I’m still on that journey, and I may always be, but self-compassion is the highest goal. I've chased the feather aloft on the winds of my life forever, sometimes ever-so-cautiously and sometimes more wildly, and now it's a combo.
Self-care is honoring your identity. For me, it's about mastering all my ways of being to purify, to be at peace, and to practice with who and how I am. At the moment, that means sobriety, waking up at 5:45 in the morning, a nighttime skincare routine, journaling. These are daily practices. I have to practice being disciplined with those, but I know how they positively impact how I show up for myself in other areas of my life. So for that purpose and that connection to my identity, I will do anything. Self-care is self worth.
Written by Saturn for Youth To The People
Image courtesy of Caleb Eutsler