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Gabrielle's World

Exhuming and Exalting: A Sisterhood Soiree Review [?]

Gabrielle Hickmon

It's been two months since Exhuming and Exalting: A Sisterhood Soiree happened. Two months since The Reign XY's first event. Two months since Roco and I created an amazing space for women of all ages and vocations to come together and just be whoever they were that night, that moment in time. 

It's taken me two months to write this post because me, my authentic self has been ripping and running all across, over and around the world. But wow. The first event. 

It still feels like it happened yesterday. To be quite honest, there is a part of me that still can't believe it happened. Believe I played a role in doing that. Believe women I knew and women I had never met before would come to an event that I helped dream up and put both together and on. Do you know what a responsibility that is? To be entrusted with people's time? With people's stories? With the parts of themselves or their life that they haven't yet processed or don't know how to make sense of? The good, the "bad," the "ugly?" The disappointment and more importantly, the joy?

It is both a high and an incredible reminder of why I got into this writing for a blog game in the first place. Of what I hope The Reign XY has been, is and will continue to be. A space for femmes of all shapes, sizes, colors, income brackets, locations, religions, abilities, sexualities and whatever other demographic marker I missed to come to(get)her to get some inspiration, encouragement, a laugh - to get whatever they need. 

It was an honor to work with one of my favorite writers, Roconia Price of Moredinary and EverSoRoco, to create the event. Thanks for venturing out into the deep end with me and for all the texts at 2, 3 am. I guess we both can't sleep. 

Thank you to my personal OGs in the game for attending. Y'all know who you are. And I hope you know how much it meant to me to have you there. 

Thank you to every woman who wanted to show up, to everyone women who did show up, and to every woman who will show up in the future for just being yourself and sharing the space. For taking the conversation where it went and being along for the ride of the experience we created. It's funny, because we didn't plan everything down to a tee, but we somehow looked up, and the night was over. 

And thank you to The Reign XY for being my baby, my outlet, my saving grace, the place where I can show up as me always, all ways. May you continue to be a site of love, laughter, healing, and whatever else anyone who graces your presence may need. 

Until the next one, 
Gab.

Photos: Jusna

the reclamation of my name

Gabrielle Hickmon

 Give your daughters difficult names. Give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. My name makes you want to tell me the truth. My name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.  - Warsan Shire

Gabrielle
Ga(bri)L.
the a is soft, like apple if you're from the Midwest. 
and it isn't Gay(bri)L. It's Ga[aaaaaa](bri)L. 
It like my mother's maiden name is French. 
Gabrielle, meaning Woman of God or God is my Strength. 

I didn't realize I had a difficult name. Gabrielle. It's long, but simple enough I figured. My parent's have called me Gabby since I was a kid, unless I was in trouble and then it was always Gabrielle Ione (a middle name kids teased me over that I'm not even going to try to break down right now). So, for a while I associated my full name with being in trouble. But, I had this teacher in elementary school, Karen Donolan, who always insisted on calling me Gabrielle because it was "such a pretty name." Thank God for her. 

I never minded being called Gabby by the people close to me, the people I loved, the people who loved me. I didn't even mind it from teachers or classmates, it just felt like my name. But times were different in the late 90s and early 2000s before the true advent of social media. In Michigan, I was and still am just Gabby. Michigan is and always will be home, so I'm fine with that. It's the place of my birth. It's the place where I am the most myself. It's fitting that there is some intimacy around what I am called there. Gabby.  

Going to Cornell was the first time I was really confronted with what I should be called. I always introduced myself as Gabrielle, but with time, whether because they asked, overheard, or just assumed, I became Gabby there too. At various points in my Cornell career it bothered me a little bit. "Gabrielle is just so long." "You seem like more of a Gabby to me." Reasons I could not or would not be called by my name, my full name, the one on my birth certificate. 

It seemed a bit strange that people, some I knew or got to know and others that I didn't would call me by my Michigan name, but Cornell was and is home too, albeit in a different way, so it became okay. Then there was Philly, and I somehow became Gab/Gabs. There was another Gabby and to have us both be that would be too confusing so I, ever accommodating, shortened my name. 

They say that by making our names easier for people we dim who we are. Except, I don't feel dimmed by having been or being Gab in Philly. Because I got to choose who did and did not call me that, it is and has become a name for myself that I associate with one of the best years of my life (not including anything Penn related except Fisher-Hassenfield). Gab was and is fun. She found two other friends with three letter names. She explored. She lived. She loved. She had the time of her life. 

So, you'll understand why I lost my shit when someone I don't know called me Gab on Instagram. I get it. My handle is GabGotti, but the name said Gabby (now Gabrielle) so please put some respeck on it. 

Here's the thing, we have to stop being lazy with other people's names and stop letting people be lazy with our names as they quite literally encompass who we are. Carry meaning. Tell our story. My name is not too long or difficult. It is not even hard to pronounce and I don't understand why anyone would add a 'Y' where there clearly isn't one. 

Gabrielle. I could break down all the ways that I feel I am a Woman of God or times when God has been my strength, but you don't get to know that information right now. 

Names have meaning. They matter. Especially in African/Black/African American culture. So,  I've decided that Gabrielle is what I'm going to go by. Both because it is my name and because if you don't know me like that, you don't and shouldn't get to address me like that. I know social media makes us feel like we're all friends in real life, but we've got to be careful about just assuming intimacy and comfort with people. You can't call me Gab just because you saw Maura call me Gab in a tweet (we're friends in real life fam). No, I will not be Gabs because you overheard Des call me that. You don't get to call me Gabby just because that's who I am to Jakira and Kada. And you for certain better not call me Ione because that name is only reserved for Keith and Jackie, or whoever is reading my next diploma. 

It's Gabrielle. I will be correcting people. 

Love and war, Love Galore

Gabrielle Hickmon

In her latest single, ‘Love Galore,” SZA and Travis Scott sing about what they need from love. In the process, SZA poses the question of the summer – year really. The lyrics are simple, yet they encapsulate a sentiment I have often felt.

"Why you bother me if you know you don’t want me?"

Why you bother me if you know you don’t want me?
Snapping. Liking photos. Facetiming. Calling. Texting.

"Why you bother me if you know you don’t want me?" Better yet, why haven’t I blocked you yet?

Well, because I’d be lying if I said the attention didn’t feel good. Feel victorious. Make me feel like I won in the end. Even though we both know you’re probably only hitting me up because you’re still after that one thing, that one thing I always gave hoping it would get me more even though it never got me enough. That thing. That thing.

What is it about us humans and not recognizing when its just a little too late, a little too gone, and past the time when we can wait? I’ll never understand how someone who I would’ve given the world to could’ve missed all the signs but still decides that after the fact would be a good time to try.

Yes, you read that right - given the world to. World to give. Given. Giving. Sorta receiving? On Tuesday's. I have this thing where I give when I shouldn't, before it is time to, and way past when I should've stopped. I give because I think it will save me, you, we, us, together. Together. I give because I think it will lead to us together. And on its face there's nothing wrong with that. Relationships are comprised of give and take. Take. Taking. Always, all ways being taken. 

"Why you bother me if you know you don’t want me?" Know you still can’t communicate how you feel or what you felt? Know you don’t know what you want?

What you want. What do you want? I always knew. Known. Knowing.  

"I need, I need, I need, I need, I need, I need.... love."

I was proud of myself for not crying, publicly anyway. Goodbye's that on one end of the exchange felt more like see you later's. Moving forward only to be dragged backwards. 

"Why you bother me? Why you bother me? Why you bother me? Last time I checked you were the one that left me in a wreck, me in a mess."

Expiration dates, real, imagined, or created give us the chance to recognize game. Become the captain. Except, the attention from someone once desired feels good until you, me, we, us, together remember that our giving got us no where and everything went to shit.

It's easy to know better, hard to be better. Easy to peep game once one's been put on, harder to adjust accordingly. Hardest because maybe, there's still a part of you, piece of me, we, us that wants them to want you, me, we, us for real, even though you, me, we, us know in our heart of hearts they never did or really will. 

That's why the exchanges leave you, me, we, us with more questions than answers. Because, if the desire was real, it would go beyond the lust and lean towards love. Be followed up by real action. Conversation. Movement. Moments. Electricity. Gibberish. 

Only, instead of getting all of thee above, we get heartbroken. Heart broken. Breaking. Leaking. Smelling in the street. Except, we don't get to be mad at you anymore. Because we're doing it to ourselves. Masochist. Masochism. The pain becomes the only way to stay connected and we somehow convinced ourselves that cutting the ties would hurt more than continuing to run into the wall that is you, me, we, us, attempting to be together. 

"If you don't say something, speak up for yourself, they think you stupid!"

Why are we so afraid of losing things, people, sentiments that have already left? Keeping people, even after they have gone. Being kept. 

I wish I could keep people without them keeping me. 

"Why you bother me when you know you don't want me?" 
Better yet, why haven't I blocked you yet?

Disposable. "I didn't mean to." Weekends in darkness and tears all over the room. I'd say you have to let me, we, us, together go, but if we're being honest, you never had me, we us to begin with. So, in this game of love and war, love galore, it is me, we, us who must do the leaving. 

Unlearning. Unmeaning. Forgiving. 
Adjusting. Being. Becoming. 

"Love, love love, 
Long as we got love..."

...love. I think I finally found some. That thing. That thing I wanted from you, me, we, us, together, but never got. Love. Love and war. Love galore. 
I need, I need, I need, I need, I need, love - 
just, not from you, me, we, us, together, anymore. 

Image: Fuse TV
 

up and out: two years a natural.

Gabrielle Hickmon

I used to wish my hair grew down instead of up and out. 

When I was a little girl, I grew tired of braids, beads, plats, and sweating out my press. So, I begged my mom to "relax" my hair. I should have known then that something was wrong. 

Relax. Relaxer. 
To tame. calm down. subdue.
Grow down, not up and out. 

She resisted my requests for two years. Forced me to continue wearing braids, just without the beads.
I thought I was grown.
I hated looking like a child. 

Relax. Relaxer. 
I got my wish. My hair grew down, instead of up and out. 
Except. 
It was shorter. I was shorter. 
Not physically. Spiritually? 
Shorter in that space that speaks to who you are. 
Being comfortable in your own skin. 
My hair, when it grew, if it grew, 
Grew down. Never up. And definitely not out. 

No one told me that relaxing my hair would relax other parts of me. 
Silence my mouth.
Weaken my spine. 
Make my skin crawl. 
I don't know when I learned to hate myself. 

I wanted relaxed hair because I wanted to be older than I was. 
Wanted to stop sweating out my hair during basketball, volleyball, and everyday in gym class. 
Was tired of explaining why my hair looked different from week to week. 
Was tired of not fitting the world's mold. 
In 8th grade, all you want to do is fit in. 
I couldn't bear standing out. 

I used to wish my hair grew down, instead of up and out.. 
From 8th grade to my junior year of college, I got my wish. 
Until, 

Chop. Big. Cut. No transition. 
It. Had. To. Go. 
Weight. Gone. 
Free. 

I used to wish my hair grew down, instead of up and out until I realized, 
I want to grow up and out, not down. 


It's been two years since I chopped all my hair off on a whim and I've never felt more myself, more comfortable with my body/appearance, and more in tune with my spirit. 

Up and out. Never down. 

Happy Naturalaversary to me. 
Here's to more inches - of hair, and woman. 
Up and out. Never down. 

Image: PopCrush

Limits & Comfort Zones. #ExhumingExalting

Gabrielle Hickmon

Nothing good ever came from comfort zones.

Or at least that's what I feel like I've heard my entire life. "Everything you want is on the other side of fear." "You've got to break out of your comfort zone to experience life." "Comfort zones are just another form of settling." 

Now, that's all good and great, but what happens when everything feels comfortable but isn't? When the second things start to feel comfortable, alarms start ringing in my head that scream SABOTAGE THIS! WHAT YOU FEEL CANNOT BE REAL. What happens when ease, or comfort is the scary thing and being uncomfortable isn't? When ease is what makes you want to run away? Running towards the comfort you've found in ambiguity. Comfort that probably shouldn't be comfortable. 

I used to be a control freak. I had a Type A personality and maybe a tiny bout of OCD. I never felt comfortable because I never felt there yet and I was terrified that if I took a break, if i stopped to smell the roses, I would fall into the flower bed and turn into a weed. Comfort was what I wanted most, but couldn't let myself have. 

Now, I'm a lot less of a control freak and way more comfortable going with the flow. Maybe a little too comfortable. A huge part of my approach to life is saying yes to whatever opportunities come my way that make sense for me and trusting that it will all workout in the end - that I'll be okay. I've learned to find and feel comfort in the space in-between, so that the extremes terrify me a little bit less. 

Extremes. I have always been a person of extremes. Really happy or really sad. In love or in hate. In control or out of it. Extremes make sense to me. So learning to live in the middle was a challenge, getting comfortable there even more so. Only, now I am and I've got to figure out how to do life this way. How to stop being afraid of the middle so that I can let myself experience joy. How to be still and settle in, not down. To look for comfort in the right places, instead of failing to find it in all the wrong ones. 

What do I do now that being uncomfortable is my comfort zone? When nothing scares me so I've got no other side of fear to step to? How do I settle in here? When I'd rather be heartbroken than not feel at all? Or not get the job instead of never applying in the first place? Or move to the city of my dreams, fail miserably and move back home, but be able to say I tried? What does that comfort zone look like? 

You know, the comfort that comes from knowing you've got to make it so you will. 
Comfort that is daring, bold, and unafraid to take risks. 
A comfort zone that knows the limit does not exist. 
 

the only comfort zone I want to occupy, is one that believes in the power of putting down roots while also trusting in the magic of tearing them all up from the earth. a comfort that knows nothing is guaranteed and the only chance I've got is my dogged faith to see it through. a comfort zone that can't see the staircase but steps out anyway. one that never hesitates to buy the flight or say yes. one that stays true to creating a life - my way. 

One that knows, the only real way to live, is without having a comfort zone.


This piece was written as a lead up to The Reign XY's event with Moredinary, Exhuming and Exalting: A Sisterhood Soirée. If you're interested in exploring what comfort zones mean to you or desire to connect with likeminded women creatives around notions of authenticity in our crafts and being, I hope you'll join Roconia Price of EverSoRoco and Moredinary  and I at our Sisterhood Soirée THIS SATURDAY, April 22nd, 2017 in Washington D.C. Join us as we get past the business card bullshit so that we can connect and encourage each other in a genuine way. No pretenses. No judgement. No masks. Tickets are $25 and we would really love to see you there.

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Sisterhood. #ExhumingExalting

Gabrielle Hickmon

I wasn't born with any sisters, yet somehow ended up with some. 
More than I can count. Some who chose me, and others who were chosen. 
Ultimately, we choose each other. 

My childhood bestfriend had three sisters and I wanted so badly to be her fourth. It seemed so nice to have a friend, companion, person, that would be there for you for life. I didn't yet understand that sometimes water is thicker than blood and that sisterhood, was one of the most powerful loves known to (wo)man. 

See, I came to know sisterhood while laying on a twin XL in Uj crying in Jakira's lap about a boy who broke my heart. Coming home, finding Kada in my bed, and just going to sleep too. "I'm so glad you guys are here," in a text from Des. Ashley laying clear every thought that was ever in my head. Nadia's random catch up calls. When Makeeta and I finally thawed. The way Dom and I just get it each other. And in a Taylor who never judges. Lauren who always helps me out. Maura who always lifts me up. Morgan who's sure to leave a smile on. My dear Trisha who paved the way. And Mattie Mae, who was the path herself. Jackie who became a friend. Wow, this list could never end. 

They say that Black Girls Are Magic, and I would never dream of disputing that fact. But I also know, as a magical Black girl, that our power lies in a pact. A pact we made to see each other, when no else is paying attention. To listen to each other, when it seems the world can't or won't hear us. To uplift each other, because there's so much out there that tries to tear us down. To call each other Queen and wear our crowns. 

I used to pray for a sibling. A little sister or a brother. 

Lucky enough for me, life brought me both in spades. Aunts and Uncles for my kids. Godparents. People to share my life with. And though I love my brothers, I do. It's my sisters, I'll be sure to always hold on to.

For they see me in a way that no one else can. 
And as long as I'm reflecting their light? 

(Wo)maaaannnnnn. 


My sisters, sisterhood, it's the only magic I've ever known and magic I will forever be willing to place every bet on. To every woman, that has shown up for me, shows up for me, and will show up for me, thank you. If you tell me how to show up for you too, I promise, I'll do my best to be there. 

I see you. I love you. We gone be alright. 


This piece was written as a lead up to The Reign XY's event with Moredinary, Exhuming and Exalting: A Sisterhood Soirée. If you're interested in exploring what exhuming and exalting means to you or desire to connect with likeminded women creatives around notions of authenticity in our crafts and storytelling, I hope you'll join me and Roconia Price of EverSoRoco and Moredinary at our Sisterhood Soirée April 22nd, 2017 in Washington D.C. Join us as we get past the business card bullshit so that we can connect and encourage each other in a genuine way. No pretenses. No judgement. No masks. Tickets are $25 and we would really love to see you there. 

Exhuming and Exalting

Gabrielle Hickmon

The world offers itself to my imagination and is vast enough to handle anything I dare to dream.
— Gabrielle Hickmon

I wrote that to myself August 5, 2011. I was still in high school in 2011. High school. Matter of fact, it was the summer before my senior year and I had no clue what affirmations meant, let alone how my life would change over the course of my senior year and through my college career. I just believed that the world offered itself to my imagination and was vast enough to handle anything I dared to dream."

Fast forward six years and the affirmation held true. I didn't recite it everyday. Didn't put it on a post-it note and hang it up somewhere on my wall. It just sat in my drawer until I found it two weeks ago. Yet, the Universe had been conspiring for my good since the day I wrote that down. Had been literally bringing things I only dreamt of to past. Feeding my imagination. Creating a life that sometimes I'm surprised I have the privilege of leading. A life I hope is extraordinary in its ordinariness. 

After accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Fences, Viola Davis said the following: “You know, there is one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time—what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories—the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. I became an artist and thank God I did, because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”

...we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life. 
...exhume those stories - the stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost. 

People spend a lot of time asking us what we want to do with our lives. Who we want to be. What value we can add. What we bring to the table. What we hope, wish, dream, plan for. 

When I was four, I wanted to be President. At fourteen, I wanted to be an engineer. At eighteen, I wanted to be a lawyer. At twenty-two, I have no clue. 

I don't know what I want to do, but I do know who I want to be. 

I want to be happy. I want to be an artist. I want to be a writer. I want to use my potential before I get to the graveyard. I want to continue to believe that the world offers itself to my imagination and is vast enough to handle whatever it is that I dare to dream. And then, I want to be a person that does whatever it takes to make my dreams come true. 

I guess ultimately, for me, exhuming and exalting means daring to dream and doing the work, along with trusting the Universe, of making those dreams come true. It's being vulnerable in my wishes and faithful in my practice. Asking for the things that scare me and telling stories I'm not sure anyone wants to hear. Using my voice in service of my vision because that is where my power lays. 

Exhuming and Exalting.
Or in other words, having strength to believe and follow through... 
Because, the world needs my(our) potential, offerings - gifts. 

The courage to grow before the graveyard. Bloom baby. Bloom. 

If you're interested in exploring what exhuming and exalting means to you or desire to connect with likeminded women creatives around notions of authenticity in our crafts and storytelling, I hope you'll join me and Roconia Price of EverSoRoco and Moredinary at our Sisterhood Soirée April 22nd, 2017 in Washington D.C. Join us as we get past the business card bullshit so that we can connect and encourage each other in a genuine way. No pretenses. No judgement. No masks. Tickets are $25 and we would really love to see you there. 

Three Years of Reigning.

Gabrielle Hickmon

Freedom feels funny at first. Options. Everything being wide open. 

There is an untold beauty in knowing that you can do, be, pursue, whatever you want. At least, I think so. 

I turn 23 next month and I graduate from Penn in two months. And honestly, I have no clue what comes next. No clue where I'll be living or working. No clue if I'll have an income. No clue if my relationships will last past their current point. No clue what the future will bring. 

I never planned for this part of my life. I always figured you go to school (elementary - college/professional) and then get married and have kids. Except, I have no earthly desire to be married or have kids right now. 

I have no plans. At least, not plans the Type A side of me can get with. I know I want to start a PhD program at 25 but the hell am I supposed to do in the meantime? Who I am supposed to be? What do I want to pursue? 

I have recently realized a few things: 

1) I'm not special. Anything done to someone else can be done/happen to me. 
2) Twenty-two has been for learning the things, people, places, and experiences that I want to say no to, so that I can say yes to more of what makes my soul soar. 
3) Most seemingly bad situations are actually blessings in disguise. 

Here's the gag. There are going to be changes in my life. There are going to be changes in this space. I'll hope you'll come along for the ride with me. And I'd love to hear what you hope to see, read, and get from The Reign XY moving forward. What content do you love? What wouldn't you mind seeing less of? What perspective is missing and how can it be added? 

I've been writing on this here site for three years. Three years. The Reign XY saw me through Cornell, is seeing me through Penn and will see me through whatever comes next. 

I hope you'll continue to allow me to see you through and that we'll figure out how to get over together. Respond in the comments or shoot an email and let me know what you love and what you hate. What to keep and what to change.

I'm looking forward to hearing from you... 
 

for when it is "over" #ForFebruary

Gabrielle Hickmon

It will come like a thief in the night and catch you by surprise. 

Come via phone. Text. Or maybe it won't come at all. Will simply be, over. 
You will be shocked because you didn't think that forever had an end date in mind. Forever is supposed to mean mating for life. Except, when it only means mating for a time. 

Courses. Running. When did we get on a track? Somehow, I missed that. 
Forever can't last too long if we give up on it. Stop trying. Mis-understand. Fail to communicate. 

You will be depressed. Shed some tears. Realize that it was for the best or that things aren't really over. You know, maybe they just need to settle down? You'll worry though that it's not possible to come back. Because, how do you come back from that?

Losing a friend always hurts worse than any other breakup. Friends see it all. They're in. In the thick of it. In the know. In your heart and on your mind. So, not being able to get on the same page hurts a bit more than normal and a whole lot more than expected. 

You'll be surprised. Wish them the best. Know that some people are meant for reasons, seasons, or all time. But mostly, you'll wonder, what you could've done differently and how you ever reached a place where you're left pondering, what happens when the friendship is "over?" 

for when the friendship is "over." 

Image: Insecure HBO

 

for when you have no one to blame but yourself #ForFebruary

Gabrielle Hickmon

10 times out of 9 i know you're lying

you knew better. or someone told you, better. 
either way. you knew. 
were aware. made cognizant. 
chose differently. 
maybe out of a belief that you could change them
or that time would change things on its own. 
did they? things. change? 

you told yourself that its not coming easily didn't mean you shouldn't try. 

you're my lifeline and you're tryna kill me

justification. confusion. 
confusing yourself. 
actions that don't match words.
befuddled expressions. 
conversations that go no where. 
anger. daggers. tears. joy. smiles. laughter. 
working yourself into whatever state of being necessary. 
contorting and contouring yourself. 

seen this before. thought it could never happen to you. 
my, my, my, how the right aphrodisiac can make the tables turn. 
charm that was once charming now feels more like a choking. 
lost. a little dazed. a lot confused. 

i know i promised, that i couldn't stay...
but, every promise don't work out that way. 

a light bulb will go off one day. 
everything will become crystal clear. 
you. them. your place together. place in everything. 
things will stop being done to you, for you have now become an actor too. 
claimed your seat at the decision making table and decided to engage anyway. 
at which point, you lost any, and all right to blame. 
how very adult of you. 

it's crazy how what's wrong for you can feel so right. 
how bad can feel so good,
and enjoying the moment, can spiral into something else entirely. 
a beast, moment to movement, of its own. 

my torturer became my remedy. 

and hey, it's not settling if you're happy. 
right? 

for when you have no one to blame but yourself.

Image: GIPHY

for when you're remembering what good feels like #ForFebruary

Gabrielle Hickmon

It happens to the best of us. The turning on ourselves. Forgetting who we are. Accepting less than what we deserve. Neglecting to wholeheartedly pursue what we want. Until one day, something happens and we're woken up. Reminded. Not only of who we are, but of what good feels like. Of how good feels better than bad.

Problem is, the bad can be so addicting and what is one to do then? When your heart knows better but your brain is addicted to the person/place/behavior it knows just isn't right. When good isn't bad enough? When good doesn't feel right anymore?

Wrong only feels right because you stopped believing there could be good in your life. Stopped trusting that better is always out there and that the universe has got your back.

Good feels like cruising with the windows down on a 72 degree day. Your music is playing. There's no one else on the road and no clouds in the sky - the sky God hand painted blue, just for you. 

Good feels like putting your favorite playlist on shuffle and not having to skip any of the songs that come on. It's finding a lyric that speaks to your state of mind and a song that eternally lifts your mood.

Good feels like getting the job you wanted and having someone special to celebrate with. It's your family being proud of you and knowing you're entering a space that will enable you to put yourself on.

Good feels like the nap on Sunday, after church. You came home, opened all your windows, put on that playlist we talked about, and fell tf out. Woke up disoriented. Confused, but aware. Disjointed. But safe. Good is the second before you remember where you are or what day it is.

Good feels like getting in your bag and never coming out. It's walking in your purpose and focusing on yourself. Celebrating your joy and the joys of others without losing sight of who you are in the process.  

Good feels like looking at your best friend across the room and communicating everything you both need to know without saying a word. It feels like friends that are more like family. Being understood. Seen. Chosen. Day by day. Again and again.  

Good feels like when they start to act right. Or canceling them when they act wrong so that space can open up for right to come along.  

Good feels like knowing that things will not always be perfect, but that the experience, the lesson will always be worth it. Giving yourself some grace. Grace to grow through.  

Good is the reminder that love is always out there, the Universe is always in the mix, and there will always be a perfect manifestation of all your hopes and dreams if you only dare to believe.

Good takes work.
The work of reminding yourself that you're worthy.
The work of remembering that you deserve the best - your best and the best of those around you.
The work of believing again, in-spite of all in your life that would try to stop you from having faith.
The work of opening yourself up, to all the good the universe wants to bring your way.
The work of not punishing anyone for the mistakes of your past.
The work of trusting - God, yourself, your dreams. 
The work of implementing. Following through. 

The work of making wrong feel wrong again, so that good, feels right.
for when you're remembering what good feels like.

for when the love teaches you to love yourself. #ForFebruary

Gabrielle Hickmon

They'll tell you that self-love is the best love because no one can love you like you love yourself. The problem is, for all our talk about self-love, no one is teaching us how to do it. There is no e-book on how to learn to love yourself. How to view yourself as beautiful. How to see yourself as worthy. How to be gentle with your very being. No, they don't teach you that. And if they did, I'd be a little wary anyway. Seems to me like something you've just got to learn to do. Shoes you learn to fill. A feeling you grow into. 

So, sometimes, instead of loving yourself for yourself by yourself, the love of someone else for you, teaches you what love looks like. What loving you has the capacity to do. What loving you should feel like.

I know you're not supposed to make homes out of human beings. But how could I not fall in love with the glint in his eyes and way he held me at night? A blip in time. Fresh start. Rebirth. Renewal. Reset. Pheonix, arising. Awakening? Him allowing me to see myself through his eyes is what made me whole again.

How was I supposed to stop myself from engaging? How come no one ever taught me how to love myself without looking for myself in the eyes of those I love(d)? Taught me to recognize how I feel outside of their touch? I never learned to laugh at my own jokes. Always needed them to laugh first so I knew they were funny.

Except, eventually, the laughter faded, touch went away, and eyes closed, leaving me with no one but myself. No reflection to interrogate myself through. No image of myself to emulate. Just left with a blueprint for love I thought we were building together. Except, the house collapsed when he left and somehow brought me down with it. Dazed. Confused. Something I didn't think love would do. 

How the hell was I supposed to detach from you?

I still cry sometimes. For me, you, we, us, her, the girl I was when we were still us. I cry because I love her. Cry because I know she knew no better. Hadn't yet learned how to be always hers - both when, and when not, someone else's.

for when the love teaches you to love yourself.
teaches you you're worthy. 
teaches you what good feels, looks, smells, tastes, IS like. 
teaches you how to see the light in your eyes and curves of your hips. 
teaches you not only the power of your intellect, but that you are an experience.
teaches you how to be careful with yourself - to give yourself some grace. 
teaches you that it's okay to make a home WITH a human being, instead of making a home OUT of one. and reminds you, to always keep a room in the house as a space just for you. a bunker of sorts. place for you to go when it rains or if it all comes crashing down. sharing keys, but no longer giving yourself away. 

because sometimes, the only path to self-love that you can figure out, just happens to pass through someone else.  

this is for them 20-somethings

Gabrielle Hickmon

"You're twenty. Oh if I had twenty back, what a mess I'd make.
Twenty is for you.
Twenty is for growth. 
Twenty is for the pursuit of a tomorrow that is better than today.
Twenty is for options.  
Twenty is for passion. 
 ... and knowledge.
 ... and enjoyment.
It is not for continuous compromise. It is not a time to say, 'This is the guy I gotta make it with because this is the guy that I have. No matter what compromises, no matter what he does, I have to put up with it because he's my man.'
Twenty is for firing dudes when they don't act right. 
Twenty is for figuring out what you like in certain men and for figuring what different kind of men are out there - which ones you wanna keep and which ones you wanna discard. 
It's not for picking up other people's clothes. It's not for sticking it out when you're not enjoying it anymore. 
Twenty is an opportunity to move onward, upward, forward. 
Get a large life so even if a dude doesn't end up in it you still enjoy it. 
Twenty is for creating all of that potential and not just compromising your way into the corner of a closet somewhere and then wondering what the heck happened. 
You don't have any children. You're beautiful. You're working. You're working at a gas station - ain't nothing wrong with it. But at your time off, don't be looking to spend time with him, go look and spend time with some books and your brain to get a new degree so that you can put the gas station in your rear view mirror as you step forward into some kind of existence that won't include him."

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2017. A year I never thought would come. I spent most of my life waiting for 2012 because that was when I would go to college and finally be grown. Then, when I got to Cornell, I was waiting for 2016 because that was when I would graduate and truly be an adult. At this point, both of those years have come and gone bringing with them good and bad. Bringing with them just exactly what was meant to be. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've had many a conversation with the women above about my "year in review." Things I liked. Things I didn't enjoy so much. Things I need to work on. Triumphs. Tribulations. Blessings and blessings in disguise. 

Through a conversation with another friend (not pictured) I came across the above video again and it stuck with me this time because it speaks directly to where I'm at in life. The stuff about men, while relevant and a great reminder, was not the focal point of what I took away from the video though. 

Eighteen was for first loves. 
Nineteen was for heartbreak. 
Twenty was for being a hot mess. 
Twenty-one was for recovery. 
Twenty-two has been for joy, separation, and elevation. 
Twenty-three will be for young??? womanhood. 

I'm turning twenty-three this year. I will also be getting my Master's degree in May. Neither of which even sound right! Beyond that and some goals for myself, I have no clue the professional and academic shape that this year will take. And honestly, truly, I'm not at all concerned about it. That's not what I want this year to be about. 

No, I want twenty-three and 2017 to be for writing. For exploration of self, love, God, my limits and lessons. I want this year to be for options. I want this year to be for keeping men around that make me happy even if they and I are going no where at all because maybe for the moment that gets to be enough. Gets to be all I want. I want this year to be for reading. For voraciously devouring any and all information I come across that intrigues me, challenges me, scares me, feeds me. I want this year to be about being a bit more self-serving and moving with more confidence in my inter-personal relationships. For recognizing that anyone I fall back from that doesn't come back isn't someone I should want around in the first place. For being a bit more cynical and a lot less willing to share myself with others. For traveling to more corners of the earth for the lesson and not as a performance. For crossing over. For taking up all the space I choose to and getting over my fear of being alone. For figuring out who is worthy of the gifts I have to bring and learning to be a little less forthcoming. For practicing detachment because anything I truly have won't require a death grip to keep it intact. For continuing to love and live with all the energy I can muster. For never shying away from an experience, person, or moment because it might be painful or not work out the way I hope. I want this year to be about acceptance and self-celebration. Fiscal responsibility and laying a strong foundation for the future. For businesses and manifesting my dreams with discipline and passion. 

I want this year to be about "doing my 20s wrong" and LOVING every moment of it. 
For twenty-three and 2017 to be about becoming the person, the woman I've always wanted to be and living as presently as possible in her moment. No waiting. No praying for years to come. No tying my self-worth up in a man or diploma. 

Just me. 
Authentic.
It might not be my year, but it damn sure will be for me.  

intrigue: how to "love" her

Gabrielle Hickmon

She is intrigue.
Simply complicated.
Confident and insecure.
Magical, but forgetful.
Wanderer, secretly longing to plant roots.


Love her, but do not leave her wild. For that will do her no good as her goal is not to roam aimlessly. No, she likes to have direction. So, love her and settle in - not down. Never down. For she will only ever want to go up, out, over, in, or around. 

One day, you will think that you have her figured out. This is where you will be wrong. Wrong because people are never done, learned, sorted, or figured. But you will feel that she is and so you will leave her. 

That is the problem with love rooted in intrigue. Intrigue for you, often, never always ends in devastation for me. 

You will leave her because you feel that your curiosity has been satisfied. The enigma that she is and appeared to be has been solved for you. Solved only in your tiny, little mind. Except one day, down the line, you will see her or hear her name and realize that she went and changed again. Because that it was nuance does - always, in all ways goes deeper. 

You see, she is breadth and depth and must be loved in both directions. Your wingspan must be both long enough to reach around her and tall enough to cover her when it rains. Rains. Because she will not always be sunshine. Often, but not always, will she be down, dark, or "in a mood" and to love her is to give her the space to bring herself back to herself. To trust that she will always be coming home to herself and you by default because you are the chosen one. 

So, make sure you choose her back. Especially on the rainy days I mentioned before, because she will be easy to choose on her good days. 

Love all of her shapes and sizes. Love the dreams she hasn't even dreamt yet. Love her past your curiosities and even when her spirit makes no sense. Do not love her simply because she intrigues you - for that will not end well, for either of you. And, do not ever make her feel that she is being punished for her character, her way of being in the world. 

Intriguing girls are just that because the layers of their worlds are hard to decipher. One day she makes sense and the next even she does not know what she is talking about. She might not be sure of exactly what her gifts are and what she is meant to do with them, but she knows that her destiny is something big. She will do her best to be love in its purest form both for, to, and with you. Always offering pieces of herself. Scattering them around. Leaving them behind. For she is unafraid of destruction because of her boundless faith in her ever present ability to rebuild. She may run a little wild and feel a little unstable. But no matter where she is in the world, know that if she has chosen you, then you will be her true North - the way home. 

Intriguing girls are just that because they are hard to figure out. However, your curiosity alone is not reason enough to engage. 

Love her for her complexity. Or do not love her at all. And most of all, please, please, leave your intrigue at the door. 


"I'm intrigued by you. You should let me get to know you." 
Thanks, but no thanks.

2016: An Obituary of Sorts

Gabrielle Hickmon

As I thought back on this year, so I could write this blog post, I wondered, "What have I accomplished? Did I do anything worthwhile?" I worried that I had wasted a year because I didn't "achieve" many of the lofty, high level goals I set for myself sometime on or before January 1st, 2016. And then I reminded myself that 2016 was a doozy. For everyone, not just me. 

And so, I reframed how I approached my definition of success. 2016 wasn't about the flashiness of being on a plane every four months, getting published, or attending banquets at the UN. No, 2015 took care of that. 

So often, 2016 was about the pragmatic work of getting shit done and dealing with the shit not only going on in my head and heart, but also with the physical ramifications and manifestations of those happenings. It was about learning how to be in places and spaces when I had no desire to. Figuring out how to be here when all I wanted was to be there. Doing the work of clawing myself back to some joy and finally being able to take down my "out to lunch" sign. The work of learning how to let go or at least compartmentalize the pain I felt. Because, even though I'm a feeler, there's some shit that just hurts too much. The depression that comes when you're wondering what could have been done differently and how reaching out sooner might have changed things.

January to July was pretty dark and dim. But, around August, things started to truly lighten up. And through it all, there were these glimmering moments of light.

There was returning home, to the US, Cornell, and friends left behind to find things better than I left them. Discovering, no, being invited to, no, creating my TRIBE - a group of women who have lifted me up, checked me, and seen me through it all this year. There were articles that took off and got picked up by other entities, as well as, pieces only I and 10 other people wrote - that still mattered all the same. Neos. Leaving a strong legacy behind. Graduation. The growing of spines. Being accepted to every Master's degree program I applied to, and ultimately deciding on one that is mighty, mighty fine. Dreams coming true on Capitol Hill. Roaming the halls. Seeing history with my own eyes. Playing some small part in our government - something I still believe in despite, or in-spite of all its flaws. Moving to Philadelphia. My own space for a fresh start. A whole city for my taking. Saying no, then showing up anyway. Because, that is what I do. Always, all ways, showing up for you. Graduate school. The load breaking me down so changing how I carry it. New friends. Old friends. In-between friends. Road trips. Home trips. Bal-an-cing it all trips. Applications. Waiting. Lives saved. Impact made. No more 'all I'm asking for is ifs.' No more asking. Getting. Getting exactly what I always wanted, though in a shape I wasn't prepared for. Never prepared for. Always, prepared for. Strong like. Surprises. Escalations. Lessons in always getting it done. Lessons in being here, when and because here is where I have to be, since love is always the why. 

2016 was one of those years that left me on the surface underwhelmed and feeling like maybe I didn't do enough. Which is true, I probably didn't. I'm sure I could've done more. But, darkness has this way of eating away at you. It's something you think you can push through but often can't. So, please be sure to keep me where the light is. Keep me where the light is, and I promise I'll do more. Be the great I know I can be. Create the things I really want to see. 


Thanks for the lessons 2016. The lessons, the push, the learning of this new model of me. I figured out how to find my way back to some JOY, created my own space and carved out my voice in the process. Got a degree, and am halfway to another one. Managed to still travel, present some papers and have some fun. Merge academic Gabby with Gabby outside the ivory tower, towards a version of this Gabby girl I'm really starting to like. One that's always ready to give this academic work, but also never afraid to break it down and make it plain. One who knows that credentials and degrees mean nothing if they're not ultimately useful and accessible - and not just to and for my personal gain.

I ran from a lot this year. But, I also found my way home- to a new home, a new joy, a new peace, a new glo - one unlike any I've ever known. Dreams of a life&love I call my own...

Maybe next time I'll remember to leave a bread crumb or two, just in case I get lost again. But, let's be honest, I'll probably forget to. Instead, I'll just remain "a series of my best work, recipes, road maps, and doodles from the front lines," meaning I'll keeping making it up and figuring it all out as I go along. 

2016, here's to you. All that you are, were, and will be. 

2017, welcome. We've got some living, some loving, and some major work to do. It's so, so very nice to meet you. 

 

for when you're not a carefree black girl

Gabrielle Hickmon

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it they said. Say?

Regardless of who said what, what happens when the load gets to be too much and you can't find a position that helps? When switching from shoulder to shoulder, back to front, side to side, no longer helps? When you can't escape the fear, the pain, the weight of it all? What happens then? What am I to do then?

When the only thing that seems to help is hiding out in the house you grew up in, waiting for someone to check in. Praying that someone will hear the unspoken pain and fear behind your eyes that your voice can't hide.

Fear that your black excellence doesn't matter. Fear that they'll lynch you too. Fear that everything you were told to believe in is irrelevant. Fear that God, as you knew Her, doesn't exist anymore - was just a farce they made up to keep you enslaved. Fear that no one sees, feels, understands. Fear that the world doesn't, never did, and never will "get" you. But not just "get," love, understand, appreciate, value, all that your people do and have done.

The ancestors feel far away. And I'm not sure how to, or if I should sing in this strange land. This land that was built on the backs of my grand, great-grand, great-great, and great-great-greats. Because like it or not, this is the only home I've ever been unfortunate enough to know.

What is one to do when it feels like the whole world hates you? For nothing other than the color of your skin. For daring to exist outside the lines of what little colored girls like you are supposed to. When it hits you from all sides and everything feels like a battle. When you are no longer sure if dreams still matter, exist, come true.

It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it. Carried it?

I refuse to be another strong black woman that carries the weight of the world at the expense of herself, myself, ourselves.

I'm not carrying this load anymore. Not carrying anything I didn't pick up and fashion as my own.

"You can write me down in history, with your bitter twisted lies. But still, like dust, I'll rise."

a love letter to the girls who do, say, feel, give, and are TOO much.

Gabrielle Hickmon

I could write the book on how loving people too much and too soon works out. How loving people who lack the capacity to love you back works out. How actively trying to not behave in lifeloveandallthatotherstuff like in manners past works out. 

I could write the book because I am the girl that does, says, feels, and gives too much.
I'm dramatic and don't know what chill is or where to find it. I often take up an extended residence in my head because it's easier to overthink, trust, love, hate, feel, fear, and live that way. Safe. In my head. Where I am understood. 

I used to wear my heart on my sleeve, but time has taught me to stop doing that. So, now I wear a jacket and try to pretend that my natural way of being in the world is not what some would and have called crazy. I wear a jacket because instead of writing love on my arms, the world has taught me the necessity [?] of protecting myself - protecting both you and I from me. 

For, you see, I am a girl that does, says, feels, gives, and is too much. 
I don't know like, only love. Don't understand dislike, not meant to be and didn't work out.
There is only love and there is hate. Even though, as a person I'm always striving for indifference - a calm, cool, collectedness that always alludes me. 

I will give you the world, my world, your world, our world, before it is time and way before you have earned it. My love language is to give. Give my time, attention, money, affection, love, intelligence, friendship, laughter, service, soul, spine for and to you. Because, my way of existing in the world assumes that you will give me these things back. But, that is often, not always, never always, where I, where girls who are too much are wrong. 

Wrong because the world can sometimes, not all the time, be cruel to women like us. Wrong because people see our hearts and take advantage of them. Wrong because we give everything and did not think to leave a breadcrumb for ourselves. You know, so we could find our way home when our giving gets us nowhere and everything has gone to shit. Like it often, not always, never always does. 

But still, we persevere. Still, I persevere. Put myself back together again and remind myself to be more careful next time around. And we are. I am. More careful. At least, initially. The problem is that being guarded is not in my purview. It is not even a skill I can teach myself. Trust me. I have tried. So, all I know and probably ever will is my leaking heart. My heart leaking so strong they can smell it in the street. 

A manifesto of sorts, my leaking heart, dedicated to my way of being. Beckoning to both those I love and those I love to hate. Calling to those girls, those other girls that are like me. Offering myself as sacrifice. Because, I will always be a girl who does, says, feels, gives, and is too much. 

Which means I will be a giver until the day I die. Or, until the day I close my windows, lock my doors, and burn my storage houses. 

But, we all know that will never happen. Right?


I used to try not to be this way. To run it away. To work it away. To pray it away. Wish it away. 
Until one day it hit me, my ability to be so open, to give of myself and the world around me so freely, is my greatest strength. And I wouldn't want to be anyway, or anyone else. I realized that the trick is figuring out who and what are worthy of my gifts - cuz, it ain't and cannot be for everybody.

xoxo, 
Gabs

i'm leaving tomorrow and haven't even begun to pack

Gabrielle Hickmon

I never thought I’d be happy again.

I convinced myself that happiness for me only existed on that island, at that school, in that nook and cranny with pancakes and freezing walls. Because, somewhere between football, Beyond the Lights and train trips, I fell in happy again.

The problem being that you were there, I was here and those two places were not and could not be the same.

Crying. Tears. God laughing.
Wondering how I’d ever find my way home again and if I could truly go back.
If going back meant leaving my happy, would I ever find it again? Would happy ever exist for me again?

The answer is yes and the answer is no - because no two happys are ever the same and this one is markedly different because it lacks you, us, we together. Markedly different because it caught me by surprise, whereas you, us, we, together, I felt coming. Knew you were on your way to me before you arrived. Thought I’d already had it actually, before even truly reaching you, reaching us, reaching we, reaching together. Therefore…

I never thought I’d be happy again.
In fact, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be. Looking back, I’d describe my state as manic or euphoric and that scares me – scares me because it’s a kind of joy, a happy that isn’t stable and can’t last. I of course happened to come crashing down in an airport, seated at a gate full of people where I fought back tears and wondered if anything would ever feel sane again. If I would ever feel sane and the same again. If sameness and saneness were ways I wanted to feel again. Wondering how I’d be here when the only place I wanted to be was there with you, we, us, together – with happy.

I’m leaving tomorrow and I haven’t even begun to pack because how does one prepare for that? Bring themself back from that?

The other side of manic euphoria is depression. It’s hanging an out to lunch sign and hoping, praying, that someday you’ll return. It’s getting to know a new, another happy – a contented one – and waiting for the other shoe to drop because life can’t possibly stay this good for this long without something wicked this way coming.

It’s almost been a year and I’m happy again. No longer crying myself to sleep and searching for us in every snap. A happy that is for once rooted in myself – and not the presence of absence of a man, family, friend, or place. Although there are of course, always, all ways, ties to everything around us.

A happy that’s developed and sustainable. That knows here is where I have to, prayed to, and want to be. Thankful for to the past for gifts and lessons, while deeply rooted in the here and now, unconcerned and unafraid of whatever lies ahead.

A happy that knows deciding to be here is the key - even though, especially when, and always because, love will forever be the why. 

a journey of self-love and discovery through tattoos.

Gabrielle Hickmon

I have gotten a tattoo every year since fall 2014 when I was reeling from the end of a relationship. Funny, how things we never saw coming that caused us so much pain can be the impetus for our growth. I know the end of that situation was the beginning of the Gabby that exists today. I also know that while pain might have been the impetus behind my first tattoo, I ultimately always have and will get them for myself. I also know, that the cause behind my first tattoo, has nothing to do with why I got my last. Thank God for G R O W T H. 

February. Breakup. November. Still sad, but things were looking up. Tattoo. 

This Too Shall Pass

Fitting, because in the thick of it, I was a hot mess. Ask my friends. Look back at stuff I wrote then. Lurk my twitter. I was a wreck. Fitting because I hoped, believed that someday, the pain would pass. Appropriate because I was right. Also, apt because it's one of my favorite India.Arie songs. And well, it's true.

It did pass. Everything, always passes. 


Thailand. January. New Year. Coming home to self. Still kind of a mess. But, a hopeful mess. 

An Anchor. 

I got my second tattoo in Thailand. It's an anchor. It was New Year's Eve 2014 and I was finally starting to feel hopeful about myself, life, and love again. I wasn't thinking about him or it as much and was able to entertain the possibility that someday, somehow I might actually be happy again. Bangkok was bustling. Kao San Road was lit. I would enter the New Year before everyone back home in the U.S. and after sitting in the rain for so long, it was nice to feel the sun peeking out through the clouds. Plus, it was cheap. An anchor, because I finally had hope.
 

"We have this hope as an anchor for our souls..." (Hebrews 6:19)


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Fall. Study abroad. England. Second time around. Freedom. HAPPY. 

Attraversiamo. 
'Let's cross over.'


Flash forward to fall 2015. I was studying abroad in England and everything was singing bees and pear trees. Everything was love, innocence, and probably a little bit of naivety. But, more than that, I finally no longer cared. Indifference both is and was a beautiful thing, especially for me, a person of extremes. England was like coming up for air and realizing it was cleaner up here where the baggage can't reach you. It was freedom from who I was and empowerment to be who I always wanted to. It is amazing what crossing an ocean will do for a girl. It was the space I needed to just be - be me, be seen, be understood, be free. It was crossing over into another dimension of self love, worth, and confidence. It was venturing and wandering, both away from my world and deeper into myself at the same time. It was joy. It was coming home to myself and life.

It was attraversiamo. It was crossing over. 


Twenty-two. Graduation. Graduate school. Philadelphia. New beginnings. Fresh start. WHOLE. 

Silhouette of a Woman

And now, there is graduation, graduate school, and Philadelphia. There is fresh and new. There is pre-adulthood. (Does grad school count as adulthood)? There is a young woman who knows that she is the whole table and is growing the strength to claim her space by speaking up for herself. There is the watering of vocal cords and planting of spines. There are musicals, concerts, and art shows. Activities that feed my soul and nurture my creativity. There are bank accounts being monitored and budgets being adhered to. There is saying 'no' and doing for self - because to thine own self be true. There is love, friendship, and life, on my, mutually beneficial terms. There are my, meant for me, good people. Because, all the people in your life should be good, but not all good people can be in your life. There is faith and belief in God, myself, and love again. Always, in all ways, again. There is truth. There is no imposter here. Here, is where I prayed to be. Here is who I prayed to be. I am, who I worked to become. I am, who I needed when I was younger. 
Here she stands. Word to the woman. 

Tattoo's help me mark my progress. I never know I'm going to get them before I do. Each of these was in some ways a spontaneous decision to walk into a tattoo parlor and ink my body. But, they all bubbled up from somewhere deep inside of me that knows physical reminders matter, at least for me. Yes, I tell stories, mine and others, with my words. But, my body, through these tattoos, tells MY story as well. They are the physical representation of my spiritual and mental growth. They tell the story of becoming the woman I always prayed to be.

I have no clue what I'll get next, when, or where. But, I know I'll continue on this journey of self-love and discovery. Likely, with more ink to show for it. 

College wasn't the best four years of my life

Gabrielle Hickmon

Before you start your undergraduate career, everyone tells you to enjoy college because it is going to be the best four years of your life. You're going to make friends that will last a lifetime. You'll learn sort of for the sake of just learning and have space to figure out who you are. Well, I'm here to call BS on some of the stuff we were told before and during freshman year. 

College was not the best four years of my life. I know, because I'm a few months out and life is pretty great right now. While it's true that I did make some friends I'm sure will last a lifetime, I also lost some people I never thought I would. Yes, I learned a lot, but that doesn't mean those all-nighters, expensive books, and classes were all worth it. Did I figure out who I am? Sure. If nothing else, undergrad does allow you to explore who you are. Discover what you like and dislike. Learn what type of people you can and can't date or be friends with. Question what you were taught growing up and fashion your own worldview if you find that what you learned as a kid doesn't fit you anymore. 

But, college, those four years of undergrad should not be the best years of your life. 

To declare that they will be so early on in your lifetime is to disregard all that is to come before you even experience it. To declare that they were when you're older and have lived a bit more is to have done life wrong. 

I recently started graduate school at UPenn. My single, solitary job is to study what I love everyday and figure out ways to enjoy myself while I'm at it. I went back to Cornell this Labor Day weekend and was reminded that the time I spent there, as great as it was, was only the beginning - a stepping stone to all that is to come. In undergrad, I spent way too much time wondering what people thought about me, bending to what I thought I should be/do instead of just being the person that I wanted to be, doubting what I brought to the table, and stressing over where I belonged. And, it sucked while I was going through it, but I'm so immensely glad I did, because I do have a better idea of who I am, what I like, and what I have to offer now. However, Cornell wasn't and won't be the best four years of my life. That was never the goal.

When you operate in your purpose, there is no traffic.

I've only been adulting for a few months now, but already I can sense that the space I'm in now, albeit harder and full of responsibilities, is infinitely better than the space I left behind. And going back to Cornell did nothing but confirm this. If I'm being honest, I was dreading the trip. I did not want to go back because I did not want to get sucked back into old states of being. I did not want to be reminded of my mistakes and losses. And most of all, I didn't want relationships with those friends that I'm supposed to have for this lifetime to have changed to some unrecognizable degree. They didn't.

I think that college is only the best four years of your life if you squander all the rest of the time you're given. If after graduation, you waste what you learned, lose all your friends, and never pursue your dreams, then sure, those four years of undergrad probably were the best times you've ever had. But, if you've got the gall to go after what you want and create a life that you love, then those four years were fun but they weren't the end all be all. 

Because here's the thing, when you operate in your purpose, there is no traffic. 

When you are where you prayed to be, because you did your part and had faith, that, that space/place/time, is the best of your life. I hope you find your happy, your best space, like I have found mine. And, I hope that when it's time to move on, you'll charge forward, full speed ahead, thanking the past for its gifts, but walking into your future, with feet planted firmly on the ground, your mind open to whatever is to come, and your heart on your sleeve ready to embrace all the love the universe is about to throw your way. 

I know I did and it's paying off in leaps and bounds so far.