The greatest gift I've given myself was the permission to surpass the barriers that were put in my way.
It's still an ongoing gift that I have to reopen every single day; it comes in the form of self care - writing notes on the mirror to remind myself exactly who I am, re-affirming my power, asserting myself in the spaces that water my soul but set my spirit on fire.
For a while, I settled with the idea of painting the walls and making home of the boxes I was placed in by others. People have told me that I'll never be able to accomplish all my goals because there were just too many; being a writer is all I'll ever amount to; I should take the easy route to my dreams if I really want to make it.
I moved in to the box they put me in and began to get comfortable with the small, suffocating room of others' projected opinions. I put on the wardrobes they created for me and it was only so long before I lost my own sense of self in the mass assortment of misplaced identities. Finding who I was through the eyes of others came at the cost of losing myself. Now, I am able to look outside of these cages and sing the song of my truth:
I know who I am and I do not fit inside of the cage of your limited vision.
They say that those around you that you can relate to are the mirrors you need to look into.
I see so much of myself in Cardi B's story - a woman who has consistently proven her abilities to break out of molds, and is still constantly being held down by others' tongues because they hold the chains to her past in their hands. At every turn, someone on the internet is holding up the paraphernalia of Cardi's past and trying to deceive her of her worth.
Cardi B just broke Beyonce's record for top singles in the charts - in the first year of her career - and yet, we can find an article or a comment trying to tear her down because of who she was on the early journey.
In little to no time, the rapper has also solidified herself as an entertainer, an influencer, and she is now breaking into the fashion industry with brand collaborations that are unheard of in the first year of someone's career.
Cardi's own rise has influenced my reflection of my own career and artistry. She's continued to break every mold that others have tried to shape her in. The way she rises to the occasion and still is herself is the true art of two-stepping out of the marginalizations that are created for you. Though still Cardi from the block, as her genuine essence remains true, it's not worth the disservice to discredit everything she has accomplished.
I am learning that the world will want to clothe you with their own perceptions of you, from their limited understanding of you or from the pieces of your past.
However, if we fill our closet with only the wardrobe of our own self-expression and self-affirming armor, then there will be no room for the fast-fashion of feeble opinions.
I am not only a writer, not someone who will be defined by my past, and definitely not a person who will take the easy way out because I'm a woman. On my journey, I've found that in the simple act of creating ourselves, on our own terms, we find ourselves simultaneously.
I've been able to forge my own signature on my journey by taking back the power of knowing exactly who I am and what I have to offer - and not watering down these things to fit the taste level of those around me. Deciding who you are for yourself is the only explaining you have to do.
As ever-evolving beings, as artists painting the picture of our own life, we are much more than meets the eye, and if we have to re-introduce ourselves each time we step into a room, that is the responsibility of the artist. To express who we are, and all of our multitudes, at the very core of our being, and in everything we do.
We are never our pasts, we are exactly always who we are now.