This day last year, SZA’s long-anticipated debut album Ctrl dropped. I related to it instantly because it takes us so honestly and beautifully through situations and emotions twenty-somethings deal with on the daily. Love Galore? Why you bother me when you know you don’t want me? But really, why haven’t I blocked you yet? SZA sings about being the weekend girl but wanting more time, troubles with money, who does and doesn’t deserve pussy, struggles with her self-worth and so much more. She sings about things twenty-somethings understand. I think that’s what makes it the last album I can recall listening to without skipping a track.
That is my greatest fear
That if, if I lost control
Or did not have control
Things would just, you know
I, it would be fatal.
– Supermodel by SZA off Ctrl
I’ve felt out of control a lot in the last year. When I first listened to the album I had just arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, probably jet-lagged, confused over pivot tables, and trying to make sense of all Philly was and wasn’t. I was trying to make sense of all I was and wasn’t, along with all I wanted to be. Armed with a fresh degree I wasn’t sure I had any right to use there and broken spirit I now know I caused myself, I lost control and it felt fatal, but wasn’t.
They say you can’t know what you don’t or didn’t know until you learn it. Well, I believe you can’t have control until you lose it; until you’ve hit whatever rock bottom looks like for you and have to somehow figure out how to piece yourself and your dignity back together. “Calmness is not the same as solitude.” – Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves. But no one ever told me that solitude is uncomfortable and until I learned to sit with myself I wouldn’t know myself or be able to maintain peace. That was only lesson one.
When you lose control, when I lost control, all I wanted was to have it back. I grasped at accolades old and new, men I didn’t really want or time had already shown I couldn’t have, and the pursuit of projects to occupy my time. I was obsessive about keeping up with myself – this need for my life to look and be prestigious on all sides. Except, I eventually ran out of energy for keeping up appearances and got tired of sabotaging any semblance of joy I found. The only way to regain control would be to release my need for it. To somehow hold steadfastly to Plan A while creating contingencies for Plan B even though I wanted so desperately for Plan A to pan out.
It’s what led me here. It’s what leads us all there, wherever there is of course.
It’s hard to accept the party is over. It’s easy to forget what you’re worth. Am I, woman enough? Warm enough was the real question. I promised to do better, but the living isn’t easy and better is hard. Satisfied through the weekend, I haven’t been satisfied in a long time. Always learning on the low key but still uncomfortable with the shining part. I needed to remind myself of my gravity and remember where I came from.
Plan A was come back from ZA, get a job for a year then move to Spain. I’d stay on the East Coast until January because that was all the time I could give myself and I needed to get over my fear of moving home. I was going to do it my way.
What a farce.
I got a job, but not until January and it was only temporary. I’d resolved myself with moving home but then ended up staying. Applied for Spain, but made sure I had a backup plan ready just in case. Life was very day-by-day and the “nothing but love” was hard to come by. Which isn’t to say people didn’t love me, they did and they do. But I’m still not sure if I really loved myself or was just pretending to. I’d chosen the sun but still had a lot of gray days.
The thing about doing it your own way is that it’s hard and we don’t talk enough about that because the valleys are seemingly less interesting than the peaks. But, I’ve always believed in being well-rounded and want to know it all. The petri dish of media social makes you wonder if anyone knows you’re alive while also deeply caring that they do. Did they watch my story? Bet.
I been in the dugout
Lookin’ for a way out
You know just takin’ it slow
Now I’m feeling’ one out
Lookin’ for a way out
Somebody show me the door
…Somebody show me the ropes, babe
– Wavy, SZA ft. James Fauntleroy, Ctrl
The thing about pain is, we’ll always remember it. I’ll always remember it. But I don’t want to be a normal girl. No longer need anyone to be proud of me but me. Understanding for one, please. I’m not sure what my capacity to love and live looks like anymore. I’m not afraid of any heights but, my wings don’t spread like they used to. And that’s the fun part, figuring out what I want to give to, pursue. I still never plan to stay, but only ever mean a fake “separate.”
I still pray the twenty-somethings don’t kill me.
The difference being, this year, I know they won’t.
Always been a supermodel, never needed you to believe.
And remember, without darkness, there can be no light.
Old things pass away, all becomes new. The sun always comes out tomorrow.