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  • Nicole (Johnson) Williams

16. Who Am I Not to Be?

For the most part, I get along with pretty much everyone that I meet. Depth and longevity of relationships vary, but I can usually connect with pretty much anyone to some degree. In college, there was one girl whom I absolutely despised. We didn't even attend the same university, but she was always involved romantically with my non-boyfriend/but-we-kickin-it-though/baby-daddy at the time, therefore the connection between us was.... spicey. Throughout college, we traded a litany of sub-tweets and backhanded Facebook posts, but there was one status update in particular (having nothing to do with me, I assume) which always stuck with me. It was a quote by Marianne Williamson (or a portion of it anyway), which read:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I've struggled with writer's block, dancer's block, choreographer's block... artist's block... for the past few months. Life has been a series of tumultuous events for a while now, and I've asked myself time and time again, "Who am I to speak about such personal things?" Especially when other people's truths are also involved. I am mindful and considerate of the feelings of others. I am aware of the fact that everyone lives life through their own perspective and responds to things according to their lived experiences. I try not to become personally offended when others act in a way with which I may not agree. I try not to label others as "good" or "bad" based on the decisions they make or how those decisions affect me.

I am also starting to understand that I am smack dab in the middle of one of Life's wisest and most unrelenting teachers... Grief. I'm grieving the end of a substantial relationship: a marriage. A family. An ideal. In leaving my husband, I also have to unattach myself from others who have grown to be my family. Years of traditions, memories, conversations, normalities all seemed to change with one afternoon. Nothing is the same. And everyone has a side. Everyone has a perspective. So who am I to speak about mine? For some reason, I feel that if I tell my experience from my perspective, it will devalue the experience of others. Maybe that's because I've felt that my experience has been, and is being, devalued by the constant prioritization of others'. Who am I to write, or dance, or speak about my own lived experience? If art imitates life, isn't that how great works are made? And if I am to identify myself as an artist, isn't it my obligation to tell my story in my own words? Has not the vulnerability and bravery of others to tell their own stories through their own mediums been my primary saving grace throughout this entire process? Who am I to claim myself among those brilliant, brave, wise, and courageous women who have ministered so accurately to my development?

The real question.... who am I not to be?

So thanks to the girl who gave me HELL in my 20's. Perhaps we're not so different after all.

"As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Who really knows what your experience was? But, JNE, for this quote and for your presence in that moment (whether or not you were aware of it's impact), I am liberated. Thank you and I owe ya one, Sweets!

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