Orlando (Pt. 1)

When I moved to Orlando, there were no preconceived notions about who I was or who I was supposed to be. In the city of Magic, there was no box waiting for me. Only…

…freedom.

On August 7th, it will be a year since I have been living in Orlando, Florida. This past year has been one of the hardest years of my life. I have been pushed by life’s circumstances to endure things I never thought I could endure. Everything I thought I was so sure of was called into question. All the masks fell off. All the acts stopped. And all I was left with was…

…me.

The real me. The me I had never really met before. Or maybe I have…I just tried to ignore her. All the unanswered questions about the mysteries of life. All of the doubt when asked to have faith. All of the anger. All of the sadness. All of the depression. The mental health I thought was getting better. The ignorance on important topics. The addictions. The lusts.

All of my wounds finally had the time and space to get fresh air. I can finally see them. At first, it was overwhelming to see the brokenness in myself. Now, I see the possibilities. Now, I see the importance of facing uncomfortable topics and scars in oder to bring about healing.

But not only that…

I saw who I wasn’t. I have been able to recognize what habits were mirrors of the people around me, and what was really me. Turns out, I don’t like to sound excited in my texts all of the time. Excessive exclamation marks just seem kind of fake to me. Turns out, I don’t want to be nice to every guy who gives me attention I did not ask for. Turns out, I don’t like sports, but I love live bands.

In a year’s time, the robot that was created by southern and religious cultural norms was dismantled. Now, I stare at the pieces of what was and throw away what wasn’t really me in the first place.

I am still in the middle of this journey, but in a year’s time, I began to find Juaquina. But it’s only because God led me to this city…where I knew no one…where I had no safety net…where it was just Him and I.

Orlando is the city I experienced both great loss and great gain.

I lost everything in order to find the most important thing in my world:

Me. 

It’s Time I wrote About My Grieving Process, but…

I don’t want to talk about it.

I don’t want to put words to what I feel, because I am scared of what those words will form. The outline they would create of the monster living inside of my nightmares, or my reality. They both seem to melt together these days.

I don’t want to talk about depression anymore. I have said that word so many times, it is starting to become a piece of my identity, and I can’t let that happen. I am me without the sadness, right?

I don’t want to describe the all encompassing fear. That ties my feet together, and puts a noose around my neck. It shackles my heart in the past, so that it cannot reach the hope for tomorrow. I can’t talk about it, because then it would be real.

Parts of me would unravel, and I’m not sure if I would ever come back together. The ocean inside of me is made of black acid, and there is a tsunami brewing under the surface. If I speak too soon, everything would come tumbling out.

I can’t speak on this, because I would morph into a burden to the unfortunate person listening to my story. Their inability to help “fix” me would result in a counterproductive response. They would search their hearts and rack their brain with what to say, and the taped together condolences they offer would only irritate me. I don’t want the perfect response, only an open heart.

I can’t write about this.

But I guess I just did.

And I still am…typing. Because there is more to say.

Like…

I’m scared I won’t ever be the same; that the girl with stars in her eyes died. Hope doesn’t live here anymore, and it’s not even allowed to step on my welcome mat outside. I have taken off my rose colored glasses and refuse to put them on again. I am different. And no one has even noticed. They talk to me as if I am the same Juaquina, but I’m not.

But I’m not. 

Today I Chose Myself Over My Job

I have been working at this same job with the same people for almost 10 months now.

Only two people bothered to learn my name, Juaquina.

I come in on my days off, I work overtime almost every single day, I work hard.

When a family member died suddenly, no one bothered to check on me. Once I returned to work after the funeral, they worked me seven days straight.

I smile at everyone, and I make sure to provide a pleasant work experience with everyone who comes into contact with me.

Yesterday, my boss told (not asked) me to cancel two very important doctor’s appointments in order to come into work on my day off. That’s right, the day I was scheduled to be off and therefore decided to care for my own being was the day he told me that I had no choice but to come into work.

I did not argue. I did not respond. I simply made a decision to choose myself over a job that would replace me within a few days if I dropped dead tomorrow. These people don’t even respect me as a human enough to learn my name (which is unique but only three syllables). They want me to be available 24/7, 365 days a year, but is that even humanly possible? It is not.

I write this, because two weeks ago I said a prayer.

God, if you don’t want me to remain here don’t let me get comfortable at this job.

Well, stuff has been hitting the fan ever since, but this was truly a moment to remember. The day my supervisor told me to put my health and well-being second. If he would have asked me to come in, if he would have asked me to reschedule my appointments, I would have said yes. But he TOLD me to put my health second. He was mistaken to think my kindness meant I did not have the capability to advocate for myself.

Today I chose myself over my job. Tomorrow, I might not even have a job.

I believe in self-care. How can I preach that to ya’ll, if I wasn’t making myself a priority? I have to stand up for what I believe. I believe in hard work. However, I believe that before one can work hard, they must make sure their cup is full. They must care for their mental and physical well-being before they can efficiently pour their dedication into anything or anyone.

So, today I chose myself over my job. Today, I heard the response to the prayer mentioned above. Today, I was reaffirmed that I was made to do something different. My answer to God’s answer is…yes. I will be an entrepreneur. I will put self-care as a priority. I will take those frightening steps that will ultimately lead to me leaving the work force, and forging my own path.

Self-love is the best love, only second to God’s love.

 

No More Begging

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

Submit query letter.

Wait four weeks for reply.

Receive nicely written rejection letter.

Repeat. 

I can’t do this anymore.

I have to break this cycle of discouragement

I’m not sure why they call creative vocations dream jobs. The process of pursuing your calling is the most challenging process a person will ever have to go through. Jumping over hurdles of rejection and low self-esteem is not for the weak of heart. It takes a certain level of strength to still believe in yourself when no one else seems to.

Well, after years of jumping hurdles and countless rejection letters, I’m done.

…with query letters that is.

I have composed a total of three books that has yet to see the light of day. Why? Because everyone who has the opportunity to read it seems to think it is not worthy of being birthed into the world. Every time I finish something and feel so proud, that confidence is brutally murdered by the slightest negative comment. And you know what I have come to realize? It’s not everyone else…

It’s me.

It’s me. I’m the problem. The only person stopping my books from seeing the light of day is me. Every time I receive a rejection letter or hear disapproval on the topics I choose to write about, I walk away from my babies (my projects). After carrying around the idea for nine months and watching it grow, I abort my efforts suddenly. I lose hope. I eventually stop looking over them and praying for them. I look for something else to nurture. As if those aborted ideas were not worth the effort. But…they are.

Each of the three books I have written is amazing. The words in those manuscripts has the potential to save a life and change the world. And you know what else? I have decided I’m no longer going to beg big name publishers to give me a chance. If they can’t see the greatness and potential in what I have written. They will see once they catch wind of it on the other side of the publishing process.

No more query letters. No more pouring my heart out to agents who only listen when you have 50000000000 followers on social media. No more setting my hopes up only to get politely rejected. No more. No more begging. No more persuading. No more proving the worth of my work.

So, what am I saying?

I’m saying,

I have decided…

…to self publish.

Unanswered Knocks

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My friend,

You push me away when you need me most

Why does tragedy make you hide from love?

I want to give you what most don’t have

Support

But your isolated grief closes the door

Bolts the lock

So outside of your house

I stand

Clutching the flower I bought

To remind you of new life

I watch the raindrops fall

Hitting your window

Now rolling down my heart

When you lock yourself away

We both lose out on friendship

Your pain goes untended;

My knocks go unanswered

-Juaquina She

Identity

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Source: Unknown

The balance of humility and confidence is what I struggle to achieve. It seems like a constant compromise to either self-deprecate or walk with arrogance. I am learning that having a solid knowledge of who I am will keep me from wandering to either extremes. So, where does my identity come from? It comes from the Lord. I am His child. I am loved. and I am royalty. Everything else is a small detail. This is the foundation I build upon on this lifelong journey of discovery. 

-Juaquina She

 

Always Remember…

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Photocred: Me. Juaquina Carter

I am like this plant.

Growing where they told me I couldn’t

Through the darkness

Flourishing where there is no soil

Where there was once concrete ceilings

I must have saw opportunity

My existence is a miracle

Not to be taken for granted

For where there is life

There is a purpose

Do you hear that, self?

Where there is breath

There is life

And where there is life

There is purpose.

So don’t forget that you are

Something rare

Something phenomenal

Alive.

 

Last night I tried to stop breathing, but the beat in my soul would not let me. I wanted permission to escape from the prison I don’t belong in. This confinement was starting to feel like home, and that disturbed me. I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to break down the walls and free myself from oppression.

Suicidal thoughts…

…begin to sound like freedom when you have lived your life in chains. I was desperate enough to answer a call from the devil. I wanted to be happy again. But how can I use satan’s plan to get to God’s glory?

I cannot.

So, I fell into a hole not meant for living. And it is in here, I find what heals me.

The darkness is so deep, it swallows my thoughts and never spits them back out. I am afraid to even move my arm, because I do not know what surrounds me. The light came on, and all I see is blackness. A mysterious hue blocking all ambition and energy. God exposed what I was creating, what I was living. And I realize, I cannot use my own strength to get out of a castle made of sand.

“Be still.”

The duality of the moment is perplexing. Here I am, in my own sin, in my own healing. I quietly wait in the darkness while God does things I cannot see. I thought I had run out of faith, but I guess this is what it practically looks like to obtain it. Running to the ends of yourself, and having nothing to rely on except…..Jesus.

He said all I needed was a mustard seed, but I didn’t have that. So, I prayed for it. He wants all of my heart, my mind, and my soul, but I lost those down here in this pit. So, I asked him to help me find them.

He is taking me through a process that will not be over in a night. I will not bounce back in a week. Nor will I be ready for relationship in a month. No, this takes a commitment so strong, I have to give it a new name.

Covenant.

Something so powerful, it uses time its tool. God will not be rushed. And I will not be moved. We will sit here together.

I, in the mysterious shadows, will be still. I will slowly realize the the chains I could not see. I will hear them rattle every time I try to solve my own problems by ignoring them. Then I will be reminded I am still in the process.

And God? He will be faithful. He will be present. He will be working. For where I cannot see, he knows perfectly. He will bring me what I need. I must only rest. He will give me the key. He will remove the chains I placed on myself. He will teach me to stand again. He will teach me to walk again. He will teach me to live again. In truth. And as a result, I will know that…

He is God. 

And through Him,

I am alive.