The Autobiography of the Lioness
I was given a name at the time of my rebirth… Amber.
It is a name that’s meaning still escapes me; a name that I am still trying to find purpose with and for.
Any search will yield that it’s derived from a translucent yellowish red-brown stone created from fossilized resin produced by ancient evergreen trees and shrubs during the last 65 million years. Well, technically, it isn’t a stone but it’s often classified with stones and crystals because of its use in making jewelry. Together, but still different…
That’s basically the ongoing theme of my life for the past 26 years. I have always been surrounded by a lot of people but somehow still managed to feel alone.
As a young Southern girl, my grandmother reared me to be “mannerable” no matter the situation and value my education. She would bask in the compliments of others as they commented on how smart and behaved I was. It was stifling… but it made my granny proud. So I stuck to it and I danced the jig on the outside while dying slowly on the inside.
My rebellious spirit wasn’t created. It existed in the depths of my ancient soul long before I took my first breath. She somehow knew this, because my life lessons began early. However, my love and respect for my grandmother and her misplaced idealism of the best way to protect me led me to become a liar. I don’t blame her… but from the moment she taught me that there were answers that were acceptable but not necessarily right everything went downhill. I had to bite my tongue with a smile no matter how much my words and actions clashed with my feelings… Therefore, lies spewed from my lips more often than the truth.
And my strange way of coping with the lying was the understanding that God would forgive me. My grandmother is deeply religious. And I had always felt a connection with God, so to speak.
I feel the need to explain in detail, because I don’t want anyone to think ill of my granny. She was doing what she thought best, and I appreciate her for it. She grew up in a racist America when it was more dangerous than ever to be melanin rich. Her idea of protecting me was to make me a polite, smart, ladylike doll that didn’t offend and would be safe because I would be liked by all.
I went to a predominately white elementary school in Memphis, Tennessee and even though I was together with the other students, I knew I was different. I knew my skin did not match theirs, but I wasn’t aware of the consequences of something like race. The teachers seemed to want to dote on me like all the rest of the little girls and boys, but I was exceptionally independent and fiercely competitive in my thirst for knowledge. It made me a favorite and an enemy in all of my classes to each person involved; which role I played simply depended on the day.
As I look back now, I figure I was something like a novelty. The parents wanted their kids to get to befriend me and the teachers each wanted totake credit for my accomplishments. The truth is: I did that shit on my owndriven purely by my mother and grandmothers will.
I realize I haven’t talked about my mother much yet. Now even though my grandmother did majority of the work for my upbringing, my mother was definitely around. She worked hard to provide for me, but because she was usually busy I spent a lot of time at granny’s house. That means all of the things instilled in me came from her.
Due to circumstances, I had to leave this school after third grade. I transferred to an optional school in Midtown, a complete 180 from what I was used to on the east side of town. This school had a higher enrollment rate of “African-Americans”, the minority made up of other nationalities other than white. On my first day, I remember a classmate looking down her nose at me in disgust, wringing her neck with hand on hip asking why I “talked white.”
I was officially labeled in 4th grade. White Girl. Smart Ass. Weirdo. Wanna Be. Bougie Bitch.
My mom, during this time, was getting in touch with her roots. She had cut all of her perm off, started locking her hair and wearing dashikis. She would listen to Bob Marley, Floetry, and Erykah Badu like they werepreaching the gospel. She stopped eating pork and started burning incense and oils. I was confused, but she seemed happy. I listened and learned, but granny’s values were more deeply rooted in me. Granny’s confusion prevailed.
As school days passed, my identity crisis got worse as years went on. I learned to blend, but never good enough to really belong. It wasn’t until I got in high school that I finally said fuck it and embraced being “different”. Nothing and no one mattered. I didn’t have friends, I had people that followed me around because I was an anomaly, a walking contradiction. I was a bad mouthed flirty virgin with a 4.0 GPA that never went to class. I was free of the “white straight jacket”.
But I still wasn’t happy.
I started battling a form of depression at this time. I would pull away from everyone, only to pop back up making rash, yet fun, decisions. YOLO (you only live once) became the phrase that dictated my life. I was living to die. No, that’s not right. I was alive, but I wasn’t living.
I often times found comfort in my imagination by willing myself tofaraway lands, both real and conceived by various authors, following through with an epic journey of love or strength. I could always be the hero,no matter how tragic.
But as I grew older, being the villain somehow started to make more sense.
The problem with being the villain, however, is that it’s tiring when you have the soul of a hopeless romantic. I mean this in a sense not just of falling in love, but of wanting the good to shine through in everyone and everything.
I tried to kill myself.
I was a 21 year old college drop out that saw a future of the continued struggles and I was tired. I failed, obviously, but things started falling into perspective for me. My thirst for knowledge grew.
The blinders of religion were the first to go. I stopped believing in the “Christian God”. The Holy book of contradictions didn’t help me. In fact, the verses thrown at me tended to hinder me even more. Plus, how was I made in the image of God but looked nothing like the wavy haired deity they call his son. There were too many questions and not enough viable answers.
I started becoming deeply spiritual, feeling that there was a design to the universe and nothing happened by chance. You are placed right where you need to be to experience what you need to because it was how things were meant. Nothing is coincidence. EVERYTHING has PURPOSE. I stayed away from my fiction books and started communing with nature. That is when I learned what beauty really meant.
But life happened and old habits die hard. I ended up back in the mental institution for a “tune up” so to speak, where I was prescribed some medication and labeled Bi-Polar. I didn’t like the way the medication made me feel… So I stopped taking it.
This led me to do a lot of soul searching, but I wasn’t as serious about it as I am at the time of this post. I started dabbling in eating correctly, and meditation, and exercise, and art. This brought me to the conclusion thattaking care of my mind, body, and soul was the best kind of self medication. I remembered the time when my mother seemed to be so happy and it started to make sense. I realized that in order to become who I am meant to be I need to find out who I was and who I am now.
This is my story.
This is not the end.