I am Black. I am female. I am a single mother. I am a Haitian-American. These labels make me beautiful. Each and every one of them make me the woman that I am today. Such a powerful mix… and yet each one of these labels contributes to my feelings of bondage. Have you ever felt caged? Like you don’t have control over your own path or destiny? That feeling of restriction, I know it too well. I spent most of my life fighting all sorts of stereotypes and overcoming all sorts of obstacles. I learned how to fight for what I wanted and needed. I thought I was fighting the good fight. One that was leading me to freedom. I thought I was winning. But in reality, I had been fighting for was this perceived sense of freedom.  I was not fighting the good fight, I was fighting the wrong fight. I was fighting for the wrong cause, I was fighting the wrong opponent… My opponent was not society, my true opponent was me….

The internal struggles of worthiness, self-acceptance, shame, guilt…. I should have been dealing with these issues, confronting them head-on, staring them in the face.  Instead, I let them consume me. We became one. As time went on it became harder and harder to live without them. They secretly defined me. I say secretly because unless you were a soothsayer or a prophet, you would have never been able to see them living inside of me. You would have never been able to see them peering in the back of my eyes.

Freedom. To be free, to be liberated, to live with no fear, to live a life with no restrictions, no encumbrances… What would you give to truly be free? The concept of freedom surpasses all things physical. It is a mental state. When you take a look at your life do you consider yourself to be free? Are you free from conventional thinking, conventional living? Are you living your life in the way you envisioned it? Or are you living someone else’s life? Are you fulfilled? Are you satisfied? Are you feeling empty? And if so, do you feel pressured to fill the void?

I am not free. Correction, I am becoming free. Each day poses its own challenges but each day has promise. I was living in the dark and I knew it. I accepted it. But then God brought a positive influence in my life that changed me. I was challenged to be the best person that I could be, but that meant facing my issues and saying to them, you do not define me! It meant going back to my past and uncovering what I had buried alive. I didn’t know how this self incarceration was affecting my personal growth. I was at a point where I became stagnant but had no clue why.  I was a professional woman, who seemingly had my life together. I went to church, I was God-fearing. Why was I stuck?

It all became clear when my dear friend called it out. His words to me were “you are stuck because you are not free”.  I didn’t understand him at first and quite frankly, my thought was you don’t really know me anyways. But he did and he was speaking the truth.  I realized that I had not been truly living. I thought that I could bury my past, bury my issues, and move forward in living a happy and meaningful life.  But the reality is that nothing can be buried alive. If you do not deal with your issues, they will spill out and make their appearances whether you like it or not. It may not be today, but at some point, they will.

Sometimes your fight is not with the world, but with yourself. You need to wrestle with your demons in order to be truly liberated. When you are truly free, people’s opinions and these social constructs will not matter so much. You will be able to define yourself and choose your own destiny, your own path. I am learning to dare greatly each and every day and it feels great. Sure there are days where I regress and fall back to my old ways of thinking and feeling, but then I think about my goals, my future, and my potential and I recalibrate. I reach out to my support systems and reaffirm myself. Life is full of twists and turns, disappointments, heartaches but as long as you believe in yourself and have an idea of where you are going, you will be ok. I know it sounds easier said than done. But what do you really have to lose?

I have made a lot of mistakes in my life but I have learned that it is not about what you have done, but instead, it is about where you are going. I encourage you all to work on YOU. Fight with YOU. Fight for YOUR freedom and be the best version of YOU that YOU can be. This is one fight worth fighting for and I promise you it will all be worth it in the end.

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