I banged and battled my way through life like a ping-pong ball sometimes cascading gently downward only to get kicked up again to a different bell and whistle. Sometimes propelling myself high enough to have no other choice but to land in the gutter and lose my dignity and my confidence.
Fear provided the energy that I needed most of the time. Fear of not being good enough in school, fear of being taken advantage of. Fear of being hurt. Fear quickly turns into anger, which cycles back to fear.
Anger that no matter how hard I worked I still had to carry my student ID at all times, just in case the campus police demanded I (we) prove that we actually were students at the Ivy League school right in the middle of Morningside Heights.
I was angry that I had to evoke a relative’s lineage to be accepted in the Dominican hair salon, thus putting an end to ‘you MUST be Hispanic’ topic of conversation. Angrier still that my dreams of being a part of the fabric of Africa were quickly exposed when kids cried at the sight of me and I was admonished to learn the words, “I am not white” and “I am not from Mali” in order to preserve my safety and my sanity.
As a young teacher, I was angry at the experiences of students in my small progressive school and I was finally told, “Hollee, you are saying the right things but in a way that no one can hear them.”
Fear was also a mainstay of my relationships with men. Fear of being used. Fear of finally having something good led me to angry tirades which no one in their right mind would put up with. Fear led into anger which led to walking in the snow without shoes after an argument, throwing objects (including phones), hurling hateful words, choosing badly and discarding all that was loving.
My fear is still there. Fear of not being good enough. Fear of being too good. Fear of losing what is good.
Yet, instead of banging and battling through life being tossed around hoping for a gentle landing; I make a daily choice to dig deep, gather my momentum and walk confidently with a light foot.