“I Don’t Have To Be Your Joy”: How This Holiday Season Taught Me To Be My Joy, And My Joy Only
By: Deveney Marshall
When people are asked to describe me, they normally use a bunch of positive adjectives. Then go on to elaborate on how I motivate them and put smiles on their faces, etc. In the past, I took pride in that, but for the first time last year, I found myself side-eying that aspect of myself. This past year hasn't been a very joyous one. There were a lot of days I found myself lost in a sea of sadness. I was depressed about all of the horrible things taking place in this country, and I was even more upset that I couldn't adequately express that sadness without it being misconstrued as me being the angry black girl. A label most expressive black women have heard to describe them at least once.
It's no secret that Black women are expected to take on this superhero persona, and be all things to all people. Or that when we don't we’re often labeled as "angry" or "abrasive.” Us experiencing a bad moment can turn into us having a bad personality very quickly and because of that stereotyping, most black girls find themselves having to be “on” all of the time. Unfortunately, this learned behavior places black women into one of two categories: the black girl that you can always emotionally depend on or the black girl that's ”careless” and "selfish."
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This holiday season, I made a conscientious decision I wasn't going to be the first one. I refused to be the go-to girl to put a smile on everyone's face. I was not in a festive mood, and I wasn't going to fake being happy just to not be labeled. This world comes with enough emotional trauma and the last thing we as Black women should have to worry about is being emotional waste bins for everyone else. Especially since when it is our turn to be supported usually no one can be found, or we're met with words like "you're strong, you'll be fine."
When the year began I made a promise to myself I was going to live a more authentic life. I promised myself that I would fully embrace whatever emotion I was feeling in any moment and if that made those around me feel uncomfortable that was not my problem. I had fulfilled that promise to myself for 11 long months and I was not going to break it just because it's Christmas time and I’m supposed to be in a happy mood. To some, it may not be that serious, but to me it was. Sticking to your guns is not something people expect from Black women and doing so helped me free myself in ways I didn't know I could.
As I write this now, I'm fully in the Christmas spirit. I'm excited to give gifts to my loved ones, and decorate my Christmas tree, but I didn't get to this place until I was darn good and ready. Let this post always serve as a reminder that you don't have to be what you don't want to be. If you're not feeling a positive emotion in a moment that's okay. Your life is for you, your feelings are for you, and if that upsets the people around you then they were never about you or your peace in the first place.
Remember this holiday to tis the season however you like.
*Deveney Marshall is a New Orleans-based filmmaker, actress, and freelance writer. She runs the lifestyle & beauty website thedevandthecity.com. Follow her thoughts & life on twitter and IG: @devandthecity
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