Discovering that I was an introvert and all the intricacies of my own vividly complex, mental space was the most eye-opening of self-awareness to ever happen to me. Everything became clear: I’m an odd child and it feels good to be that than to be anything else.

 

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God added some flavor when he had me mind. I was the imaginative little kid with an old soul or, as my mother put it, “a grown woman shrunk in a little girl’s body” at age four. I wrote on every piece of paper in the house and could recite the lyrics to “The Lady In The Casino” by Johnnie Taylor to the delight of adults. As a teen I’d get lost in the soulful funk and sweet lyrics of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott as a teenager as I wrote poetry. I was just wired differently with heart, soul and flavor.

I looked at my past self with a full heart and the present me became content to just be. Authentic, carefree, unusual, creative and in tune with my inner voice that became louder. I looked at myself with new eyes I called “human kaleidoscope.” To me that means looking inside of you to discover, embrace and then fiercely channel the colorfully unique facets of your personality and spirit. That’s how I felt that moment when everything I felt so disconnected about became crystal clear and every little shape that made up the entire picture of who I am as I sparkled. I’ve never felt so liberated than I did at that moment.

I realized that when I’ve often kept what’s interesting about me in the privacy of my mind or piles of notebooks and papers I’ve scribbled ideas and stories. My greatest struggle is letting parts of myself free to float in the universe to be admired.

Toni Morrison, author and my literary hero said it truthfully, “Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”  

The greatest lesson from the universe I’ve received was realizing that who I am has value and is for a purpose. I knew that early on in life; but it took years for me to finally grasp the meaning.

As I’m quickly approaching age 25 and time is picking up the pace, I’m still learning to fully embrace who I am with every pure quirk and I can finally breathe. My greatest mistake was letting others’ thoughts shape how I felt about myself and it took years to deprogram that mental enslavement well into my adulthood.

My life in my mid-twenties has pushed me to grow and evolve into who I am and not give a damn if no one understands. That was something I use to long for in others who were in my life for a season. I remember wanting to fit in and trying to be something I wasn’t. Pleasing people while sacrificing your identity is a fruitless and pointless task.

I’ve been called “weird” on two different occasions by Black men to my annoyance because of how I express myself and what makes me tick that not many people my age relate to.

I love soul music from the 1960s and I should’ve been born in that era. I laugh and make faces to myself when I’m in thought, something my grandma did also. I express my emotions online with April Ludgate gifs (I’m a huge Parks and Recreation fan). I sometimes secretly wish to bump into Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy and they say, “Oh my God, let’s get this girl in the next Bridesmaids movie.” Humor has helped me in ways I didn’t imagine and Amber Nash from Archer reminded me that during an interview. I love conversations where I can show off my Old Hollywood knowledge. When I’m bored or alone to my thoughts, I create characters in my head for story ideas, a driving force of my desire to write for television. I might as well get paid for the voices in my head. I always displayed my die-hard fandom of The Lion King with a tattoo but named my dog “Simba” instead.

We live in a time when the stereotype of a Black woman being all body and no substance, loud without saying anything worthwhile, is entirely cliché and tired. We’re all magical, eclectic and boundless beings draped in melanin. We come in all forms and express ourselves differently, weirdly, confidently, boldly, soulfully; lovely…any other idea of us fails in comparison. My qualities as a woman and moving spirit amplify what’s already special about my blackness.

Here’s to the declaration of standing out one quirk at a time.

Ashley is a writer and creator of the “ashlemonade” blog, detailing her experiences of adulthood and learning to take the lemons in her life to make lemonade along the way to her dreams. She’s written for xoJane.com. Follow her on Twitter: @ashlemonade

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