Trusting Where I Belong

I’ve always felt like I’ve never quite fit in. Besides being (slightly) socially awkward, that sense of belonging in cultural groups has often been fuzzy for me.

You see, my mom is black and from Portland, Oregon and my dad is Latino and from Panamá City, Panamá.

I can remember how confusing it was to fill in those bubbles on those state tests. First question – Spell your name. Second question – Put in the date. Third question – Choose your ethnicity (ONLY CHOOSE ONE) and the choices would be “Black, non-Hispanic” or “Hispanic or Latino”. *Slaps forehead* As a kid that was confusing. I always felt forced to choose where I belonged or just shoved into a category.

I didn’t get to choose my dad passing tho 😦

He passed when I was three. That left my mom to raise us on her own. So I guess you could say, I grew up “black.” We weren’t super close to my dad’s side of the family unfortunately (I can count on one hand how many times I spent quality time with them as a child). Like my grandpas funeral in Miami. I remember walking into a room and seeing a bunch of people who looked like me (our genes are SO strong!). I remember thinking that was so cool – long lost family easily identified me (so clearly I belonged there).

And the summer I spent a week in New York with mi abuela, mis tios and mis primos (Krystle, Kevin, Jackie, Melanie and Eric). Man. That trip meant so much to me, foreal. It’s probably a faded memory for everyone else, but I remember Jackie teaching me how to make sugar/cinnamon toast.  Sneaking around uncle Alfredo’s house with Krystle & Kevin lmao! Predicting my future with Melanie playing M.A.S.H (y’all remember that game!????) and Eric and I riding bikes around the neighborhood and him leaving me on some random Brooklyn street to find my way back to their house (Dude left me for like 15 minutes and it felt like a lifetime).

I know my oldest sister remembers that summer too tho – it was my first time seeing her since I was a toddler. I got to hold my oldest niece when she was just a wittle baby! ❤

At times, I felt like I was on an island. Kind of isolated from everyone (it didn’t help we lived so far away too – from both my mom & dad’s side). With that, I definitely developed a deep longing to know family and my cultures.

I felt this the most when we were living in Kentucky. That was a really uncomfortable place to live for awhile. When we first moved there I was in middle school and I had never been reminded so many times in my life that I was black. There weren’t a lot of black people in the area (unless we went to Cincinnati – we’d see WAY more). But the kids at school reminded me alot. I didn’t remember ever feeling that way living in Seattle. Everything seemed more diverse…the people, the viewpoints, the food, the things to do…just everything! I was told “you talk funny” (because I enunciate all of syllables in words). People would ask if I was mixed with white. I’d say “No. I’m black and latina” then they’d assume I was Black and Mexican…like people just didn’t get me. I remember being TOO excited to graduate because I didn’t really feel like I belonged there either.

Looking back, I don’t hate our move to Kentucky. I wouldn’t be who I am, married to the person I’m married to and doing what I do without that move.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t ever wonder what life would be like if my dad was alive tho.

I’ve had so many questions for years and as an adult I’ve begun to branch out and reach out to family (slowly, but surely). But I feel like I’m in a constant state of “catch-up.” Like I have to make up for all the years of not knowing them and having a relationship with them. Because I grew up with what I’d call predominately “black” experiences, I sometimes feel like a “fake latina” too (especially since I don’t speak Spanish fluently).

However, if I’m trusting my truth, I must admit  that although I would have loved to grow up in a Black and Panamanian household; Knowing both sides of my family well; Having Latin experiences and Black experiences, that’s just not my story. My experience is my experience. If I continue to look at it as if all those things made me less than or I’m lacking in experience, then I’ll always have that feeling like I missed out on something. My story and background is unique to me, and It doesn’t make me any less Black nor any less Panameña. That’s my truth.

So I won’t condemn myself or let those little thoughts that I’m not _______ enough, control how I feel about myself and where I belong. My mother is who she is. My father was who he was. And I am who I am.

I am proudly Black.

Proudly Panameña.

Proudly Latina.

Proudly Black Latina.

Proudly Lauren.

Proudly Laurena.

Proudly Me.

 

-Lauren ❤

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Birthday 27. #TheseAreMyTruths

It’s so interesting to me that I felt so internally focused this birthday. I had no desire for a gathering with lots of people nor did I feel like I needed to get all dressed up. I didn’t feel sad nor did I finish 26 badly, it’s just my focus was not on celebrating outwardly this year. I love my friends and community and I am so appreciative of all the birthday messages, calls and thoughtful gifts from everyone (I needed that), but for #27, I needed some unadulterated time with me.

I admitted to a friend not too long ago that I felt myself avoiding alone time. It’s like I didn’t want to spend time with me because I was afraid to. I’ve been feeling some things churning over the last couple of months, but as usual, it’s easier to avoid than to spend that time with oneself. So I’ve been watching a lot more movies and shows, but I think I’m all tapped out on avoiding myself. In fact, right now my vision is clear like a freshly cleaned mirror and I can see my reflection perfectly. I can see that I need Lauren…and ALL of her.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of years operating between 60-85% of myself. Now, there’s no exact science to how I came up with that number, but it’s my best guess considering I often quiet my voice and reduce my light in situations.

Can I tell y’all a secret?

I’ve always been a little afraid of my shine. At times, I fear it’ll make others feel uncomfortable. I’ve also been self conscious of my voice and influence and scared of what others will think. But, the crazy thing is I get this gnawing feeling in my gut whenever I’m not being fully myself. For instance, there may be something I’m good at that gets me quite a bit of attention. I’ll counter the attention with a meekness or act as if I don’t notice or say things like “I’m just o.k.” But if I know I’m the shit, it’s perfectly fine for me to know it and continue to deliver that excellence (no apologies necessary). Instead, I shrink myself and it hurts because it’s not my natural form. I can’t even walk in the greatness because I’m too busy being double-minded.

I diminish myself so often, that I’ve confused my truths. And honestly, I’m growing quite tired of that. Again, I need ALL of Lauren this year…not just pieces nor a percentage of her.

I’m embarking on a journey where I’m telling, being and showing my TRUTH no matter what (#TheseAreMyTruths). I’m a private person so I’m often going through things behind the scenes, but won’t share out-loud either because I’m shy, shrinking, feel it’s dumb or just hiding. So I wanna try something a little different. I’m going to share my truths publicly because I need for them to be out. Because it’s not right for me, not to be all of me. (I think I’ve operated as if its a crime to be all of me, for a long time.) What a pity, right? Have you ever felt this way too??

For the rest of January, My goal is to share my truths through various actions and posts using the hashtag #TheseAreMyTruths on both @LaurenRelinquished and @RelinquishWear because there’s some truths I’ve failed to share with you all on my business too (and for that, I’m sorry).

But, I don’t want to do this alone y’all. Join me – what truths do you need to share out loud? Please share using the hashtag on social medial #TheseAreMyTruths too! We’ve got some things to work through, and what better time than now??

Lauren Relinquished ❤

Hiding. 

I’m not so sure life was meant to be lived in a bubble, however at times I’ve found myself trying to create that type of atmosphere. It started off as a lifestyle change…

When you’re changing, there are certain things you don’t want nor need to indulge in anymore. Much of my change was mental, so there was a huge need for me to separate myself from certain things and turn off others. Due to the fact I’m kind of an all or nothing type of gal, I can often take things to the extremes.

However, I’ve observed a lot of those extremes become not so rigid with time and reality checks. But there are times that I still find myself unable to cash out those checks…

In my mind, there are constructs of what certain things should look like, how certain things should be done, etc. When those things don’t play out how I think they should/supposed to, I judge them as – good or bad; wrong or right. I find myself doing this a lot in my walk as a Christian…

When I found myself at a low place, it seemed God was the only one who could help me…and He did. But in order to receive help, I had to help myself too. So over a long period there was a lot of giving up and giving in that took place. After some time, I became super serious about wanting change and newness in my life, and out went everything that I felt conviction in my spirit about (It wasn’t quite that simple, but roll with me for a second). As I began to walk in this new-found lifestyle, I found a lot more peace and clarity. I needed the time of separation to meet myself and God. (As hard as those times were at times, I wouldn’t change any of it.)

Naturally, I grew and matured and started to truly become. I had peace about decisions I made and I was unapologetic in a lot of ways. I had happiness and joy in my life and I thought “The weather so breezy, man, why can’t life always be this easy?” (yes, that’s a Kanye reference). My point is, for the most part, everything felt safe. But looking back, I realize I still missed the unpredictability of weather in the outside world. I was living in somewhat of a protective, climate-controlled bubble because of all the rules and constructs I had set up during my time of separation.

Separation is needed, but when we become comfortable with separation as an excuse for not doing what we know we need to do – then separation just becomes an excuse to hide.

Hiding is definitely a defense mechanism. Staying out of harm’s way, often times sounds like the best plan. And I’ve watched myself set up boundaries in order to stay away from harm. However, I’m learning that more times than not, I am the harm I’m fighting so hard to get away from.

 

I become convinced and content in my little bubble while I ignore every reason why I need to take a different approach. Hiding becomes my excuse to be blind, stand-offish, judgmental, unloving, irrational, ignorant, intolerant, etc.

It’s so easy to assess right and wrong outside your bubble while completely ignoring your own right and wrongness inside the bubble.

And in all of this, I had a deep fear of exposing myself to outside elements. I had made up in my mind what I would and would not do. But if you’re really trying to do life with the people God places in your life, you’ll soon find that a limited mindset leaves you in a limited space with limited growth. 

And if I’m truly trusting God as much as I proclaim, then I’ll trust him when He pushes me to take the training wheels off or remove parts of my climate-controlled bubble.

If there’s one thing I am trying to communicate in this – it’s for lovers and followers of God to not hide behind rules, religion, their expectations, judgement, etc. as a means to live. In Ephesians 4:1, Paul urges the people of Ephesus to “Live a life worthy of your calling.” A call may come for us to separate ourselves from things of old, but living a calling cannot be done in the confines of something we’re hiding behind.

I know I’ve been hiding; scared to live out in the open; Scared of finding out how weak or strong I am; scared of failing or succeeding; scared of not fitting a stereotype or the construct in my mind…

But, I can’t hide forever. I really can’t. My spirit won’t let me, nor will God. Some great people God’s placed in my life won’t let me either!

We’re just not meant to live in a bubble forever. Sure, it serves its purpose for a time, but eventually you have to emerge. Like the dope poet Propaganda said: “Caterpillars who fall in love with their cocoons…lose.”

Stop hiding.