This is not an op-ed or a traditional news article. This is a reflection, and right now, I am sitting on the floor of my room. Door locked. Phone away. Thinking. The biggest thing I am thinking about, the most important thing I am thinking about is how to be a human activist. How do I fight while maintaining my humanity? How do I fight while remembering my roots and how those roots can be wrong just as they can be right? How do I fight knowing that I could be hurting people I care about in the process?
It’s hard. Trying to find answers and meaning in a world of ambiguity is hard. Finding answers to those questions stated above is hard. But it’s supposed to be. Fighting for your body, your voice, and your being is hard. Activism is hard. If it weren’t hard everyone would be doing it. If it weren’t hard then you wouldn’t be growing, you wouldn’t be healing, you wouldn’t be fighting.
In this time of conflicted contemplation, I turned to my dear friend Taylor Morgan ’19, and she said something that I have carried with me, since then, every single day. She quoted Dr. Phyllis Hubbard who is the director of The Campaign For Black Male Achievements. According to CBMA’s website, she is the director of the campaign, which is a “wellness program that seeks to improve the health and well-being outcomes of cross-sector leaders working on behalf of Black men and boys. Dr. Phyllis specializes in therapeutic nutrition and movement, clinical aromatherapy, herbology and self-empowerment”.
It was these words of Taylor’s mixed with Dr. Hubbard’s quote that made me reevaluate my humanity and my activism: “Lauren, you need to give from your excess, not your essence. And you need to overflow your essence in order to give your excess.”
We were sitting at a table in Hobbs when she expressed these words to me and I felt like I was, for lack of a better phrase, having an intellectual orgasm. The advice on essence and excess was not one that I could just run with and is advice that I need to reflect on. Taylor expressed this to me on March 21, and I still am grappling with it, and will always grapple with it because if I knew how to fill my essence so much that it overflows and if I could do this constantly, then I wouldn’t be human.
Essence is my foundation. Essence is not the clothes on my body, the piercing in my nose, or the curl of my hair. Essence is what makes me get out of bed every day. It is what makes me want to breathe and what gives me life. Essence is me and I am essence.
How do I fill my essence?
How do I gain the strength, courage, and bravery to put myself first in times when I so desperately need to?
How do I fill my essence?
How do I maintain my humanity in the midst of activism?
How do I fill my essence?
The first thing that comes to my mind is feeling my emotions and feeling my strengths. But that is not enough. It is not enough because I have learned that you must not only feel your own emotions and strength, but the emotions and strengths of your peers, your friends, and your fellow activists.
Feeling your pain, feeling their pain, your bravery, their bravery, your struggle, their struggle, your humanity, and their humanity is the only way to foster change while being human.
Essence is humanity, and essence is the relationship I have with myself and my relationship with others. I fill my essence by doing everything I can to feel how they feel, to learn how they learn, and to dream how they dream because that is connection, that is community, and that is my essence. My essence is learning to grow with individuals, and that is why community is so important to me. But that is my essence; you have to find yours.
With this, however, comes the struggle of how to maintain my essence and my humanity. The struggle is, in other words, how do I center myself when my mind, body, and heart are in three different places? How do I become grounded within myself? For me, that is Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Andrea Bocelli, Claude Debussy, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, and Billie Holliday. For me, that is the Spotify playlist “Jazz Vibes,” which is a collection of chill instrumental hip-hop with a dash of jazz. For me, that is writing poetry. For me, that is performing on stage with my friend Claire, in our band, Underboob. For me, that is watching a movie with my friends or playing the infamous game of Sorry. For me, that is getting a London Fog at Hobbs and reading a feminist fiction book. For me, that is playing with my dog Cooper, who is 2,711 miles away from me. For me, that is coming home at the end of the day and having the privilege and opportunity to fall into my mother’s arms. For me, that is sitting here crying, writing this line, because some of my humanity and essence can only be found at home, and I am very, very far from home just as most everyone at this school is as well.
In the last week, I have discovered that finding my essence is a process that hurts, but finding my essence makes me appreciate life and the people in my life so much more. I have not had the time to reflect on the excess portion of Taylor and Hubbard’s mixed quote, but I do think that essence and excess go hand in hand with one another. And I do know that I need to get some sleep in order to activate my excess, and for me, finding time to sleep is hard and not a priority of mine, which is something I need to work on.
I am grateful for those who have challenged my essence, my humanity, my flaws, my strengths, my being. I am grateful for those who love my essence, my humanity, my flaws, my strengths, my being. I am grateful for my essence, my humanity, my flaws, my strengths, my being. It is important to write reflections because reflecting is how to build and strengthen one’s essence. Reflecting is how I build and strengthen my essence, and I have decided to share my reflection with all of you in hopes of strengthening your being as Taylor and Hubbard have strengthened mine.