“You can’t blend in when you’re born to stand out,” sure sounds like an inspirational, beautiful quote when you aren’t the one doing the standing out, huh? And when you are, you learn how messy, tiring, and lonely “standing out” eventually gets—but what can you do to cope?
For me, writing was my way of dealing with everything. Being a Black Muslim girl in a predominantly white and Asian school, I felt isolated from a young age. I felt the anger of being misunderstood and alone. Even though I couldn’t properly understand what I felt, I wrote pages and pages of it, releasing everything I felt inside of me.
I first wrote about how I wished I was like everyone else, how I wished I had long, flowing, straight hair cascading down my back, and how I wished my blonde porcelain dolls looked like me. I wrote about my skin being called muddy and dirty. I never realized that it made me feel better, and I never understood why, either. I can only describe it as having an extra hard workout at the gym after a bad day, and the satisfaction you feel afterwards, almost watching your anger evaporate. I never realized writing was a talent or skill someone could have, because it didn’t really seem difficult to pick up a pen and put everything that was bothering me into words that sounded nice.
As my mental health spiraled out of control and PTSD slowly took over my life, writing was one of the only things that would make me feel at ease. I would write about how every flashback would knock the breath out of my body, how feeling safe felt like a luxury. On the good days, I wrote about how much better everything would be soon, how amazing my future would be, and how good healing would finally feel.
On the not-so-good days, I wrote about my secret fears of never being able to be “normal” again, and how my trauma might be something that would haunt me forever. I’m not an open person, and being able to confide in my journal brought me the same comfort as talking to another person would. I found that writing about something you truly felt strongly about, or something that had a significant effect on your life, makes your writing ten times better.
Watching how my writing evolved truly brings me a lot of hope for the future. I used to write about how I wished I was a freckled, pale-skinned girl. Now I write about how my skin and eyes look like honey in the sunshine, and how I wear my curly hair like a crown atop my head. My creativity has brought me immense self-acceptance, and I sincerely hope my confidence will continue to grow.
I’m very pleased to say that I have come far, and that a poem I wrote for a competition was selected to be published in a book. In the future, I would hope to write and illustrate a children’s book full of poems about black history to bring them closer to their beautiful culture and heritage, and to teach them the strength of their ancestors. I want to use my creativity to inspire, much as I have been inspired.