Cowardly Woman, Phenomenal Woman
As a lover of words, choosing an adjective to highlight an aspect of my experience was a careful process. I didn’t want to choose the “wrong” word, and, funny enough, this fear of getting or doing something “wrong” is exactly why learning from the trait of being ‘cowardly’ has been essential to my personal experience.
Introverted, nice, and sweet are all words that can be used to describe me, particularly during my childhood. These are the traits that I was taught would help me grow into a “respectable” and “successful” woman; being “strong” is something that could be left up to my future husband.
I distinctly remember that my first grade teacher called me “conscientious,”—I was a nerd from early on, so I was enamored with this vocabulary delight—and later teachers would call me “polite” and “respectful.” I did as I was told, when I was told, by whomever I was told. Gold stars, both literally, and in the form of approval, were much preferable to arguments and the prospect of being a disappointment.
Like it or not, in order to become as brave as all the female friends and iconic women I admired, I had to build up the courage to be a disappointment, to grow up to be the proverbial black sheep of my social and familial flock, although I had always been a such a well-behaved little lamb.
I didn’t like it, so I remained a coward. I continued to do what was expected of me, while breaking my own heart in the process.
I didn’t apply to art school. I didn’t take a dance class. I didn’t take creative writing class. I didn’t write poetry. I continued to do what I thought I was supposed to do, and I locked all of my passions—all the things I love about myself—in a treasure chest where no one would find it. All because I was cowardly.
The truth is, I am unusual; I am the Awkward Black Girl type Issa Rae so hilariously depicted in her YouTube series. How I love is unusual too.
A couple months after graduating from college, I met a beautiful person who by no means fits into the idyllic husband, baby, dog, and white picket fence story. She’s unusual, just like me. Falling in love with her forced me to have more courage than I’ve ever had. Actually, no matter who you love, loving is not for the faint-hearted.
I had to come face my fear, being a disappointment. I had to learn that for every person who rejects me because I can’t fit into his or her box, there is someone outside of these stupid boxes who accepts me and likes being awkward and unusual too.
I realized that if I have the courage to love, I can have the courage to dig up that treasure chest of passions—all those should-haves, could-haves, and would-haves—to live a truly prosperous life.
Courage is, “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear. . .” Each day I let go of more cowardice and become more courageous.
‘Cause I am a cowardly woman. Phenomenally. Phenomenal woman, That’s me.’