You read that right, kid! In today’s post I’ll be explaining the process and what comes next for me. I hope you’ll stick around!
I used to imagine myself living all sorts of lives: a doctor, an adventurer, a journalist, maybe an astronaut? Little by little, those dreams transformed into this nebulous thing, a sort of hovering cloud of possibilities that enlivened me as they frightened. There was too much, you see. Too much to do, too much time, too little time to become the right version of future me.
Eventually, I realized all I really wanted – needed – was to dream. There would never be a life for me that would be fulfilling if I had to be the same person every single day. Sure, the outfits might change, but I would still be doing the same things, learning the same lessons, and wondering the same thing: what if?
If you haven’t rolled your eyes yet, here comes the kicker! I realized a few years ago that I needed to create. I needed to learn from other people and put those lessons into practice so that I would be brave enough to go after the seemingly impossible. I worked with my friend Jesse Kadjo to write for her food blog, I branched out into freelancing, and settled into writing full-time with the end goal being providing for myself as an artist. To put it mildly, it was agonizing!
What no one tells you about creative endeavors is that once you start putting your imagination into practical practice (i.e. to survive) it becomes a job rather than an escape. You start to overthink it and second-guess your worth. Thankfully, I had help along the way in the form of interviewees on this blog, and outside of it, who reminded me that to truly create you have to forfeit some control. So, I accepted what I could not change – artistic limitations, access to influence, style limitations – and focused on what I could expand. I read more than I had since college and listened to hear. I went to conferences, I made friends who write, and I did my best to stay true to myself. When I heard no after no, I realized I would have to get tough if I wanted to see it through.
Here’s the good thing about rejection, though: it forces you to re-evaluate your intentions. I had to consider who I was writing for, why I was writing, what I wanted, and where I wanted to be. With those answers in mind, I was connected with Chelsea Lockhart, the founder of Written In Melanin Publishing. Chelsea began her company in 2019 to work primarily with Black authors to spread stories featuring diverse characters. We connected on Twitter, and instantly bonded (thank you social media!!). With my answers in mind, we spoke at length about working together. The decision to join was an easy one once I realized Chelsea wanted me as ME. That has been the best lesson thus far: those you’re meant to work with won’t want to change what makes you special. They’ll honor it. Even better, Chelsea asked me to come aboard as a co-host of her Melanin Chat show on YouTube where we talk to authors and artists about their endeavors.
The journey has been long and winding, but it isn’t over yet. I’ve secured a piece of the future and that feels wonderful. But, that nebulous cloud is still hovering, urging me to take another step in an uncharted direction. For what it’s worth, I’m no longer afraid to walk blindly. I hope you’ll stick around to see what comes next as this space continues on as a place for me to share not only my journey, but the inspirational stories of others.
Wherever you are, whatever you do, may you do it with joy!
I remember turning sixteen – way back when you had the dial-up tone on your internet – and thinking: “This is it. I’m about to turn into who I’m supposed to be.” Well, perhaps it wasn’t that direct, but I vividly recall feeling like I was on the cusp, right at the edge, of jumping into LaKase-dom. Various adventures lay before me, I was beginning my exploration of different universities, and I had finally grown out of that early teenage awkwardness. What was most exciting about that time was the intersection of certainty and chance; I knew what had to be done, but was excited by what could happen. I could love the journey, or hate it. I could fall in love with a place, person, experience, or face despair. My English Gothic Romance tendencies were in full swing back then! I imagine it was a bit like being a leaf on the breeze, or a dislodged seed – you know from the moment you come into being that you must dislodge, transform and move on, but where you land us up to the winds.
I find myself returned to that sixteen-year-old excitement, a little over sixteen years later. This is when I’ll turn thirty-three, as the leaves change, and other young people are beginning their own adventures, whatever they may be. In the past I believed life would be settled and certain at this stage, but I am so thankful to have been incorrect. Life, like a leaf on the breeze, is full of twists and turns, and opportunities to land where the soil needs it most. This month, my mood is turning toward reverie. I look forward to once again becoming lost in the enchantment of the unknown, even if I know it so well. Won’t you join me?
And last, but far from least, the song I’ve been listening to on repeat for the bulk of my thirty-second year: “Help Me Lose My Mind” by Disclosure featuring London Grammar
Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire.
– Jennifer Lee
I still remember the first video I ever watched by Maya, seven years ago, and how it made me feel. She was going to cut her lustrous curls to start over and learn to love herself without the mane, which was something I had just done for myself not long before. However, unlike Maya, I was feeling, well, terrible. It wasn’t just that I looked like a slightly more feminine version of my younger brother, nor that headbands just kept slipping off; rather, it was the fact that I felt like I had no idea what to do with my life. In many ways I transferred my emotional anxiety about forward movement and maturity onto my hair. I was feeling stuck, scared, and destructive. In my mind at the time, if I could change my hair then I would feel better about everything else. When I watched Maya go through the cutting process, even though I was already done with my own, I felt re-invigorated. I wanted to re-visit myself with kinder eyes and wade through the muck of my fears to arrive at a new appreciation for how beautiful the future can be if we allow ourselves to meet it shamelessly. I would cut my hair several more times (not a fast learner), but now I’m in a place where I don’t have to use my hair to force an emotional change.
Once again it feels like Maya has put out the content I needed before I even knew I needed it. Like Maya, I am on the cusp of a life change. And like Maya, I will have to work harder than ever before to see it through. While I’ve already planned with my husband how to make the changes, figured out where I hope to be – five year plans are underrated!- and gotten all the nuts and bolts arranged, I still find myself feeling unsure about the decision to go forth after my dreams. Thankfully, I’ve got an internet friend (in my head) who is skilled at giving permission. Below is Maya’s video on how to live victoriously. I hope it inspires you as much as it has me!
Cover Image by American Ghoul
The fall months are when I feel most alive. To say that feels ironic as my corner of the world descends into a misty hibernation, replete with sepia-colored leaves and graying skies. Everything is turning inward as the veil between day and night becomes thinner and thinner, but I can’t help but feel this October season is an opportunity to discover new things about ourselves. We’re out of the warmth of summer, when we can brush aside duties in the pursuit of rest, and far enough past the beginning of the school year to have settled into a routine. Fall is our opportunity to confront ourselves in the most sedate of states to determine where to go next. Inward, it seems, is the answer I turn to most.
Now, why have I labeled this post as “ghoulish”? A ghoul is defined as an undead creature which torments the living with its flesh-eating and haunting. It comes from the Arabic word “ghul”, meaning “to seize”, but it has been expanded to include anyone who loves the macabre, dark, unseemly side of life. They are terrifying in tales of blood and night, but I think there’s something to be said for letting the ghoul out when need be. In modern terms, a ghoul can be defined as someone who stands beyond the boundaries of our normal lives. A ghoul is a little bit weird, a little dark, and a whole lot of unafraid. They straddle the line between acceptable and unacceptable in a way that is – dare I say – inspiring.
Therefore, this month’s mood is dedicated to the ghoulish tendencies in us all. Here’s to many days spent exploring the parts of ourselves that are bizarre, and to never giving into the temptation to be perfect. Enjoy!
Farts will never not be funny to me. Perhaps it’s juvenile and uncouth, but when I hear the sound of flatulence and look to see the perpetrator turning red in indignation my heart warms. It’s as if we are bonded in the reality of the situation, that through bodily functions they are communicating to me their humanity. Also? It’s just plain hilarious that we can make sounds and smells that send people running as though they were going to be destroyed by funk. It’s preposterous to me that we would shy from something so natural; if everyone poops, then, by logic, everyone farts, too. I say all of this while also acknowledging that I feel ashamed when a toot escapes me in the company of strangers, or in public, or – worse – when I think I’m alone and release something so disturbingly loud that it elicits a gasp. Still, even those moments of horror are laughable once I’ve escaped them.
My parents are undoubtedly to blame for my affinity toward a loud, healthy fart. We used to compete to see whose could be the stinkiest and most impressive. If it made the room rumble? Double the points. We were safe in our green-tinged house to be as ridiculous and rank as possible. I used to imagine my parents at work, swelling up due to the unreleased gas, only to come home and blow the roof off, finally free.
I was back in my childhood home last week, which was a strange yet calming experience. It feels odd even now to write about it as the home that was rather than the home that is. However, any distance I felt when I was there was instantly eradicated when my father walked by and farted on me. He hadn’t done it on purpose, but the effect was no less shocking. We all laughed about it and I felt like my childhood self all over again. For a sliver of time I was no longer adult LaKase doing very adult-like things, but the LaKase who always will be there just below the surface. If only just for a moment, I was home in two places at once.
What I love about farts is that they are proof of our imperfect humanity. They’re a grounding force that evens the playing field between us all. However, after being with my parents again after a long time apart, I started to think that maybe farts are a symbol of something deeper – maybe they’re the marker of what home really means.
Can we even truly define home? Is it a place, a feeling, a knowing? Is it where we rest, or a place where we are without calm, or can it be everywhere at once? Do we carry it with us, or must we leave it behind? Does it change based on culture? If there is no clear way to define home, then why not let it be a place where you can sit in the hazy mist of your stench and be at peace with yourself? There’s no pretension there. No fear.
Maybe – if you’re willing to grant me this – everywhere has the potential to be home. Perhaps when we cease delineating where we stop and others begin, we won’t have to walk around stuffed to bursting with the parts of us that make us feel ashamed. I think letting it all hang out, even the uncomfortable parts of ourselves, offers the opportunity to discover we are not in fact so far removed from where we belong. Loneliness comes when we take ourselves too seriously and when we forget that a little humility mixed with laughter goes a long way.
Did I just use farts as a very clunky (if not gross) metaphor for acceptance, home, and life? Yes, I did. But! I hope you’ll consider the logic behind it when you’re struggling to define home for yourself. We belong everywhere and should make sure others feel just as welcome, especially if they are predisposed to flatulence.