Randi Gill-Sadler is one of the most intelligent and driven people that I know. She has challenged me time and time again to push my boundaries and continue striving for more. We have a long history together starting in college. This includes our years in a poetry group called “The Dirty-Conservative Poets.” The love that I found with her and the other lovely women in the group has changed my life forever. I hope that you take the time to read this, really read it.
By: Randi Gill-Sadler
Change yourself from the inside out.Whether it’s how we are assessing ourselves, others or the various circumstances life presents us with, we are constantly told that changing the inner elements of ourselves–our attitudes, emotions and perspectives–will ultimately change how we react to the world around us. And while that sounds nice, and we all love a clever sounding cliche, I am coming to learn that that cliche may have more value in its catchiness than in its content. Granted,I am not advocating that we can completely disregard the phrase. On the contrary, I want to illuminate some of the hidden politics of the cliche and use my own experience to offer an alternative.
Changing oneself’s inwardly is not an easy process nor is it a cheap one. Working on yourself requires perhaps our most valuable resource: time. I seriously doubt that any of us can pull a Thoreau, retreat to the wilderness, and spend all of our time trying to make heads or tails of this life thing. And the more I ponder on that image of Thoreau, I have to think about all the privilege that Thoreau must have to even embark on such a task. As a man, he is not expected to seek fulfillment within the four walls of his home. He is not taught to address the needs of his loved ones first and foremost before he can even consider his own. As a white male, he would not be stereotyped as lazy for not working. He would not have to worry about his movement being under government surveillance or encountering racial profile. Thus, it is clear to me that even something so personal as fortifying yourself from within is often heavily influenced by the politics of one’s identity.
Even if your method of changing yourself within is not a nature retreat–trust me, mine wouldn’t be that either–I have found that so many of us don’t have the time to invest in inward makeovers. Sadly, between emails, tweets,texts, work, relationships, and family, some of us barely have time to, as my mamma would, even “piss in peace,” let alone transform yourself. Life has a way of picking you up, taking you on wild rides and not giving a damn when you are ready to get off. I think about going into foster care at 16. There was no amount of time that could have prepared me for that displacement. There was no amount of positive thinking that could make that shitty situation not shitty. I was forever changed from the outside in in that situation. On a more recent and lighter note, there was no amount of time or positive thinking that could prepare me for the fear and discomfort I felt after NOT seeing Halle Berry in my reflection after I cut off all my relaxed hair and wearing my hair natural two years ago. (And while that may seem silly, being a Black woman who wears her hair the way it naturally grows out of her scalp is not always treated with a celebratory attitude in 2014) Both of those situations changed me from the outside in. I did not have the inner fortitude nor could I muster up the emotional strength to temper my reactions to these experiences.
But these experiences did change me. I never knew what I could endure or how strong I was until I was in the foster care system without any easy, foreseeable way out. I didn’t know the confidence I had until I had to walk out everyday with an inch of coily, kinky hair on my head. I didn’t have that strength or confidence before them. Hell, I had never even fathomed either situation happening to me. But they did, and they changed. I learned so much about myself from being in a situation where I couldn’t run and I couldn’t hide; I learned I could survive.
So what am I saying? I am in no way advocating that people should be displaced from their home to identify their inner strength. (I will advocate that people go natural though lol). I am suggesting that our reactions to everything around us should not be controlled by a predetermined outlook. I am suggesting that when our emotional and physical health are not at risk, we engage with the unpredictably of life and not run from it. Why am I suggesting that? I am suggesting that because we never know when the things outside of us can inspire us.