you exist in a dream, an imagination, a conjuring. i write to you in preparation: for myself and for you. i do not think my own mother was ready for a woman like me. she did not write to me the way i am writing to you. i think that when she imagined a little girl, my image did not cross her mind. she did not prepare herself for the fire that was brimming in her bones. she did not prepare herself for the brash, overly contemplative, coarse, and uncouth woman i would grow to be. the only thing she could give me was a temporary place of residence inside of her being. if only giving birth were the only requirement for motherhood. i think she is disappointed that i am not more quiet. i think it breaks her heart that my footfalls echo loudly as i confidently walk away from her. i think it enrages her that i require more than an incidence of birth to claim her as my own.
so i want to prepare for a daughter who resembles me. i want to be ready for the kind of woman my mother feared in me. and i want to prepare you for the world a woman like you will have to reckon with. i want to give you more than an incidence of birth. i want to be more than the one who carried you inside of me. i want to be the one who carries you always.
1. when i was a little girl i was quiet. there was so much i would have liked to say, but i was not convinced that anybody was listening. i moved from the only home i knew to someone else's. and everyone around me spent so much time trying to convince me that this was "home home" as opposed to, i guess, the temporary one i had just come from. when you're 6, you ask a lot of the really important questions, the ones that evolve, but never go away with age. and because you're 6, nobody really has answers. it isn't until you're older that you understand that the reason nobody gave you answers wasn't to protect you, but because they never had the answers at all. nobody could explain to me what made a home. and why the place i'd been born and spent the first 5 years of my life couldn't be home anymore. and so i was quiet. i crept around corners and i barely spoke above a whisper. and this persisted. i grew into quietness. i grew into timidity. i learned how to fall into myself. i learned how to shrink. and in some ways, this was a gift. i am intimately aware of what i am made of. i know my moving parts. i'd been inside myself so long i knew where everything was, where everything belonged, what it all felt like. i learned myself. but descartes was wrong. it is not enough to think. to be, to exist takes far more than the mind. invisibility is a half life. and in my silence i hid myself from being fully alive. i don't want that for you. i want you to learn yourself, yes, but i so desperately want you to do it out loud. say every single thought that comes into that mind of yours. even if it offends. even if it is in the realm of the absurd or the eccentric. even if people stare. even if you are convinced that nobody is listening. i am no longer half alive. your mother figured it out. i've mastered the art of speech. in more ways than one. and i hope you take after me in that way.
2. never close your heart. it's already being protected by so many things. in ways that are mechanical and that function without our say so. the rib cage does not ask the brain permission to guard the heart. it just does. it performs a function that has been predetermined. the heart has enough walls without us adding even more. i'm aware that what i'm asking of you seems almost unreasonable. because when the body feels threatened, it recoils, it shuts down, it preserves that which it has deemed necessary for survival. i'm asking you to act against instinct. to instead, be soft. to love as a mechanism of your being. to love without being asked. to leave your heart unguarded. to let people handle it. i know. their hands might be dirty. they probably will be filthy. their shoes will have mud caked on them and they won't even have the decency to take them off because they walk all over your heart. they might leave fingerprints everywhere. they'll probably leave a record of themselves etched someplace. they may break off some pieces. they may leave those pieces there or brazenly take them during their exit. they may be way too rough. they may be downright cruel. i do not want the fear of this to make you recoil. i do not want the fear of this to paralyze you. i want you to be soft and to expect devastation. because in all my years, i have not lived one day with a hardened heart. i have left myself unguarded, unmasked, and i have been devastated. i have had my heart mishandled. i have learned how to heal myself because the state of brokenness has been a constant friend. but i tell you this because the joys of my life have come from living a soft and open bordered life. the damages are painful, yes. and even more so when all you have to protect your heart are things you cannot control. devastation will threaten to ruin you. but the joy, oh the joy of living your life like this is unmatched. i don't want you to be afraid of the hurt. because if you clench your fists instead of holding them out, palms facing upward, you miss all the good that comes raining down too.
3. wear whatever the fuck you want.
4. i don't know anything about you yet, except for one thing. you're black. and if you choose to be a daughter, to traverse this earth as woman, you will be forced to live an unnecessarily strenuous life. i hope that by the time you get here, the world we live in is a little bit more like the one that lives in my imagination. but if it is not, i want you to keep a few things in mind. never let anybody convince you that it is your job to spend any amount of time justifying your life. it is. you are. never dilute your feelings for anybody. if anger is what you feel, let it bubble out of you. if it is sadness, write it across your face. and i promise to give you space for this. i promise to never hold your feelings hostage, to demand a change of heart when you vehemently oppose. your body is your own. do with it what you will. oh my love, people will try so hard to regulate it. to pull it this way and that. to label it. to reconstruct it. to distort it. to own it. but it is yours. to care for, to love, to change if that 's what you want, to let decay if that's what you want. your mind is not the most important thing. all of you is the most important thing. we've been saying that black women are magic for so long that we forgot to let them live. i want you to live. to confuse the shit out of people every time you enter a room. to reimagine what rooms even look like. to design new things. to have confounding and mystifying dreams. to be so free that you're a marvel. i want you to be a black woman that is both magic and alive.
5. know that you get to choose. your life, your friends, your partners, your dreams, your aspirations, your fears, me. you get to decide to choose me as your mother. people made me feel like i didn't have a choice. that i had to take what i was given and that i was lesser if i chose wrong. but the person who gave birth to me fell short. she did not deserve to be chosen by me. i pray that i measure up. that i deserve the kind of woman you will become. i pray that i am not afraid of you. that i do not let your brilliance, your reckless abandon, your joy, threaten me or force me to arm myself against you. that i am the kind of person you would choose over and over again. because here's the thing: even if you don't choose me, i will always choose you. i'll never let you fall. god i hope that this life is kinder to you than it has been to me. i'm already begging the universe for this.
the woman who looks the most like you.