The scariest thing about writing about yourself, is leaving you, your decisions, and your life open to criticism. Praise feels good. Who doesn’t want to be told that you are doing a good job? However, I am willing to risk leaving myself open to both the praise and the critique in order to grow, in the hopes of serving as many people as possible with the gift of connection.
With my article titled, “What is up with Black women and their hair?”, I received a tremendous response. I heard from both women and men. I was both praised and critiqued. My grammar was not up to par for some. While others focused on how the message resonated with them. For those that may not understand, part of my writing style is that I stretch and bend the conﬁnes of traditional grammar. I make metaphorical puns. Words are the music and the story is the dance. I believe it can be the dissonance in the music that makes all the difference in the song. I take that to heart, when I write. I am sharing this with you, because it reﬂects to me how much I have grown. I must say that hearing from men, regarding a piece that referenced an experience amongst Black women, was so moving and inspiring. Such responses opened my mind and broadened my scope. My experience is a human experience. That means it can resonate with anyone.
Amongst that response, I received a very interesting question, from a man, no less. He asked me about how I approached setting my goals, mapping out my path, and balancing what I do with what I want to do. Honestly, I told him it was a combination of critical thinking and dreaming. I told him that as a girl, like most young children, I was more of a dreamer, and less of a critical thinker. I remember picturing myself in a beautiful suit going to my ofﬁce in a tall skyscraper in the city. If you saw it, imagine the young blonde woman that played opposite Michael J. Fox in “The Secret of my Success”, but Black. Unfortunately, as I grew up, I focused more on critical thinking than my dreams. Basically, the dreamer went to sleep. There were circumstances in my childhood, that made this dreamer stay asleep for a while.
I was 12 years old and attending a summer day camp. I can recall the details of two boys, but not their names. One boy, I had a crush on. He had straight brown hair in a bowl cut, tawny brown skin, and dark big, brown eyes. I can also recall his short-sleeved red shirt, with white stripes on the shoulders. The other boy had short blonde wavy hair, fair freckled skin, and a dark blue shirt. I will never forget the moment that he came up to me and said, “I would “like” you, if you were not Black!” You would imagine that I would be devastated by such a comment. On the contrary, I took his statement quite differently! I interpreted his statement as, “I’d like you as a girlfriend” and did not hear the “if you were not Black” part. I only focused on the “like” and completely disregarded the reference to race. Believe it or not, I took what he said as a compliment. Yes, a compliment! I could not fathom that he was stating that he could not “like” me, because I am Black. Later that evening at home, I told my father what the young blonde boy had said. My father was so angry. I could not understand why. I kept asking, “Why are you upset? He said that he would “like” me, as in a girlfriend. Taata (Daddy in Luganda), Isn’t that a good thing?” My father sat me down and said, “Birungi, what the boy said was racist. He was saying that he could not “like” you, because you were Black! That is not a good thing at all!” That is when it clicked to me! There are people out there that would not “like” or not like me, because of the color of my skin. There were people that would treat me differently, because I was Black. In that moment, the way I viewed my place in this world completely warped.
The dreamer did not stay asleep forever. The dreamer would rub her eyes and squint in the light from time to time. However, it seemed that there was always a circumstance or event that put the dreamer back to bed and the critical thinker took over. Problem is, the critical thinker overthinks in crisis. That left me exhausted. So, in adulthood, the dreamer would take over. The dreamer could always ﬁnd her way to a solution, because in her world there were no limitations.
I told the man, whom reached out to me in response to my article, that I found real momentum and focus, when the dreamer and critical thinker worked together. As a duo, there was no stopping me! I set out my goals, large and small. I did my due diligence. I researched. I honed my ability to connect with others as a ﬁne craft. I maximized my critical thinking skills. Then, I dreamed big and bigger. I felt scared every step of the way, but the dreamer kept coaxing me on. When the opportunities that the dreamer created presented themselves, the critical thinker, with all her research and due diligence, was prepared. It was a beautiful combination!
You may ask when this duo decided to dance? Well, it was at the dawn of hope, when I had made it through the darkness of crisis. In those moments, I knew that on their own, the dreamer and the critical thinker did not serve me in the best possible way. However, together, the dreamer and the critical thinker made the impossible possible.
Thirty years later after that incident at the summer day camp, I have hit a point in my life, where I will not allow the opinions of others dictate how I feel about myself, my sense of self-worth, what I deserve or how I should be treated. It was a long journey to get here. The critical thinker and dreamer were there every step of the way, whether I knew it or not. However, working in symbiosis, they are a force to be reckoned with, as you can read here.