If you’ve seen me in person within the last four weeks or you’ve seen my audition tapes, you know I am wearing my hair naturally curly. Sometimes it’s in twists. Other times it’s in some variation of a curly fro. Most of my friends still do a double take, even after seeing me like this for weeks. I look different. And I don’t know if I like it…
Sometimes I feel like an adolescent from my hairline up. Sometimes I feel like a rebel. Sometimes I feel strong and confident. Sometimes I want to throw a hat on and hide, but I can’t. I would just look like my hair is trying to escape the hat. Too many kinks and curls.
Just seven months ago, I told a friend I would never wear my hair natural. He laughs at that now.
If I don’t know how I feel about how I look, why am I doing this? Simple. My hair was a business decision. My manager suggested that I give it a try. Apparently, the industry trend for black women is that we wear our hair natural now. I completely missed the memo.
For the last two years, I’ve worn my hair braided up under units (aka wigs). Four years before that, I wore my hair braided up under sew ins (aka weaves). Before that I relaxed (aka permed) my hair off and on for years.
I did the extensions because they were EASY. Purchase hair. Schedule an appointment. Someone else does all the maintenance. If you wear a unit, take that bad boy off at night and sleep like a baby. Sidebar: My mom used to say “bad boy” all the time. That made me smile.
I’ve technically been growing natural hair for six years under extensions, and my man has been begging me to wear my natural hair. I laughed at him. I thought he liked the idea of me wearing my natural hair out but didn’t know for sure if he would like it because he’d never seen it. Also, he doesn’t do hair, so he’s useless if I’m in a bind and need help with my hair. By the way, I know A LOT of black men that have strong opinions about black female hair and know very little about what it takes to take care of it . . . I digress. He got over it.
So here we are now. My kinks and curls are free, and I’m…. Who knows? I’ve been acting for about eight years, and I always thought the industry thought twists, braids, locks, and curls were considered too ethnic. To avoid getting the “hood” black girl character auditions, I went in the opposite direction. I wore my hair in a safe straight bob. To a certain extent I succeeded. I typically get auditions for the non-threatening negro.
Can you blame me? The women I looked up to as a kid got a fresh relaxer before every job interview or big moment. My sister and I got our hair pressed as a part of our Easter Sunday ritual. Hair bone straight. Edges laid. Over time, I think I developed a disconnect with my own hair.
When people compliment my natural hair, I typically question it. When someone says, “I love your hair,” I’m secretly wondering if they’re just saying that because I caught them staring. People do all sorts of things when they’re uncomfortable. Actually, I'll take in a compliment from a black woman. If she's lying, I at least know she understands.
Getting to know my hair and my personal style is going to take some time. If you see me running into the hair store to get 30 inches, this experiment is failing, and I’m relapsing. On the other hand, if I grow a messy mane of curls, I'm getting the hang of this. Either way, pray for your girl.
I started this blog because I’ve struggled with mental health issues for years, and I finally decided to do something about it in 2018. My self-care became a priority for the first time in my life, and I wanted to document the journey. When I started dealing with my mental health, I realized a lot of my black female friends were dealing with anxiety and depression but putting their self-care on the backburner, like a did for years. So, I’m hoping my vulnerability will help folks deal with their issues head on. I’m hoping my journey makes the mental health thing less scary. AND I’m hoping that sharing my failures and triumphs will hold me accountable to what I believe… I am responsible for my self-care and mental health. If something is off, it is my responsibility to take action.
I named this blog, “My Black Can Crack” because African American women have been fed the lie that we have superhero strength. I was taught by example how to push past pain, ignore my needs, and take care of others at the expense of myself. The phrase “Black Don’t Crack” normally means we age well. And we do! We can’t help it. Being fine is in the genes. But I used to believe that statement meant I could handle large amounts of pressure without breaking. Life can suck, but you’ll never see me sweat. I won’t crack.
Well, I’ve learned from experience that I’m not superhuman. I’ve cracked a couple of times under the pressure I’ve put on myself. I cracked privately, but there were seasons when I was so stressed, I started losing my hair. I suffered depression and anxiety in silence, having breakdowns at home. I put on the game face when I walked out of the door and outperformed my peers at work and in school. I was looking good on the outside and miserable on the inside. So… “My Black Can Crack.”
I’ve officially been on my self-care journey for six months now, and we’ve talked about a ton. This week, I want to give you a progress report. What have I been doing over the last six months regarding my self-care?
I play no games with my morning routine. I get up at 5 am, pray, spend some time reading (the Bible and a book on an area I need to grow in.) I work out at 6am for 30 minutes. I don’t drink coffee, so this is the way I wake up my body. No matter how I feel when I start, I always feel refreshed and alert when I’m done. Recently, I’ve made my morning routine non-negotiable. I’m not perfect. There are days that I’m exhausted, and I let myself sleep a little longer. But more often than not, I’m up at 5 am. There’s nothing like having two hours of peace, quiet and self-improvement.
I am still going to therapy. Last October I started going to therapy. I had a one-hour session every week. After a few months, I made progress. We’ve gone from a weekly session to a bi-weekly session. It’s going well. My therapist helped me identify some of my unhealthy thought patterns that led to unhealthy habits, and I’ve successfully made some changes. Overall, I feel more emotionally balanced. At moments, I’m even happy. This is huge improvement from where I was just six months ago.
I attend a small group for young marrieds. My church sponsors small groups to help build community. My husband and I joined one for young married couples. We regularly read books on marriage with the group. We talk out our issues in a safe group setting. We have a small community of couples that we can count on for support, and we are there for them as well. When I started my self-care journey, I really wanted to have a better relationship with myself. My relationship with others is improving too!
Overall, how am I feeling? My emotional health has been stable. I’m not over the moon excited. I’m not down either. Most of the time, I’m good. That’s the best way I can describe it. My soul is quiet. Peaceful. Six months ago, my insides were all over the place, but I’m currently pretty stable. I unknowingly got off the emotional roller coaster.
I have the tools to know when a depressive thought is trying to take root in my mind. I can feel it. I can now talk it through and let it pass. It takes me a matter of hours to work through something that used to take me months. Now that I think about it, I need to take myself out for some ice cream or something. I’ve made some positive progress. I’m proud of myself!
What do I need to work on now? Now that I have the tools to deal with depression and anxiety in a healthy way, I have a new challenge to deal with: boredom. I’m so used to a chaotic emotional life, I don’t always know what to do with peace. So, I’m working on it.
I’m the same way with down time in my schedule. If I’m not working on a project, I get antsy. I have a play coming up, but a couple weeks ago, I almost got a part time job at a smoothie shop because I had some free time. I almost forgot that I would only have the job for a couple weeks before having to quit! I have commitments in the coming months. I just felt like I needed to fill my free time with something. Anything. As long as it was legal and ethical. Your girl needs to work on not always having a million things going on at once.
Over the next six months, hopefully I’ll handle peace better. For now, I’ll just keeping walking it out and sharing my progress with you. Thank you for being here with me and making this experience a rich one.
When I wrote my last post For the Girl With No Game, I had the nagging feeling that I was hiding a part of my identity. I said that sex is a healthy, positive, human experience that should be celebrated. I was essentially saying that there’s no way to have game if you have a negative view of sex. I agree with that wholeheartedly, but what I didn’t say is that I was abstinent before marrying my husband.
In this self-care journey, I’m “Marie Kondoing” my beliefs: figuring out what needs to be chucked and what is worth keeping. I’m a devout follower of Christ. Most of my life, I’ve had a clearly defined world view, but I have to admit that most of my choices growing up were more about church pressure than wisdom. Being abstinent was no exception.
As a grown woman, I’ve evolved. I refuse to blindly follow anyone or anything. I want to have a deep sense of understanding why I do what I do, and I desire the kind of faith that comes from the gut instead of the culture. So, that leaves me here… Sitting in the middle of my thought life, deciding what to make of my pre-marriage abstinence.
Sex has such an icky stigma in church. When I was a teen, the messaging I got was, “Wait until you’re married, or your life will be ruined.” When I got married, the conversation was, “Make sure you have lots of it, or you won’t to keep your husband.” There was so much fear around it that it took a while for me to enjoy it. If nothing else, I just wish the vibe around the conversation was different in church.
On the other hand, I would say that I’m proud of myself for having a counter-culture conviction in America and sticking to it. As a teen, I believed that God wanted me to save sex for marriage. I didn’t know much more than that, but it was enough for me to make a decision about what was important for me at the time. I had friends that were sexually active, and I think I was fine with that. But I didn’t allow anyone to pressure me into doing something I didn’t want to do. At sixteen, I was a person of conviction. That’s boss! I struggled with a lot of other issues, but peer pressure wasn’t really one of them. That has served me well as an adult.
Looking back, I wish I had a stronger “why” at the time. I don’t think “because God said it” is a good enough reason for anyone to choose abstinence. Not that statement alone anyway. Ultimately, that’s why I choose it, but there was so much more value to that particular choice that I didn’t see.
I should have been using that time to make decisions about what I wanted out of my relationships, out of sex and (for me) out of marriage. There were so many questions I could have answered for myself during that time, but I didn’t ask because I didn’t know to ask.
If I could do it all over again, I would have dated to find someone with an aligning purpose in life. And I would only tie my soul to that person after we were clear on our vision as a couple. In retrospect, I think I needed to be abstinent to have that clarity of mind, the time, and the emotional space to define what I wanted. I also needed the ability to make a clean break with someone with a conflicting vision.
Abstinence simplifies things. I have a few friends now that were also abstinent before marriage, and we all had the gift of discovering sex with one dude. I’m not saying that won’t change because… well… life happens. But I think there’s something beautiful about simplicity. One could argue I’ve missed out on some adventures, but if I’m sexually satisfied with what I have at home, is that missing out? Or is that contentment? If I’m happy, I think that’s the point.
Abstinence also helped me learn the value of boundaries. Through my journey, I learned how important it is to state what I’m comfortable with up front. Clearly defined lines. Crossing that line or even trying to see how close one can get to the line tells me a ton about that person’s regard for my desires. There were times when I wasn’t up front about my boundaries (for fear that I’d scare a guy off), and that blew up in my face. I couldn’t be mad that someone tried my boundaries because I never stated what they were in the first place. My personal and professional relationships are now healthier because I know how to communicate my intentions up front. Sidebar: Boundaries by Henry Cloud is an excellent read if you’re struggling with this by the way.
All in all, I wouldn’t change my decision to be abstinent before marriage. Today, I thoroughly enjoy sex and have a life partner with similar life values. If I could, I would change the energy around the conversation about sex in church and empower people who want to be abstinent with the information to maximize their time and energy.
I’m going out on a limb here and talking about yet another thing I’m not an expert on… The art of seduction. As a matter of fact, I had NO game when I was growing up. No game and no resources to help me get game.
I was raised in a strict Christian home, and the only conversation we had about sex was, “Don’t do it.” So, I never really explored flirtation or any of that. The expectation was that I would stay focused on my studies in school, build a career and get married when I was old enough. How I was supposed to magically know how to attract someone when I was old enough to get hitched is beyond me, but my point is that I didn’t know how to engage with men without making it purely platonic.
Funny thing… I ended up getting hitched to my best friend before I figured out how to flirt, so I guess my parents have the last laugh there.
However, I did get over my seduction issues in a surprising way. In all the time I’ve been an actor, I’ve been asked to audition for love interest roles. My initial reaction getting these auditions was to laugh! I thought I was the girl you should call in to play the victim or the criminal or the superhero (sensing a pattern here), but I couldn’t see myself playing someone’s girlfriend without being awkward.
One day I decided to boss up and take on the challenge. Clearly, the industry saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. So, I practiced. I worked on scenes about relationships in acting class for at least a year to try to figure this thing out, and something broke when I worked on a scene from a play called Five Women Wearing the Same Dress by Alan Ball. It’s a great read, so if you ever have the time to read it, please do.
I decided to play the smart, provocative character named Trisha. Everything she believed about herself and love was the opposite of what I believed, which was perfect. I needed to explore a completely different way of doing things in order to break my old habits. While working on this scene, I focused on listening to and internalizing Trisha’s lines instead of trying to memorize them. Over time, I understood her point of view and could say the lines without faking it. I figuratively stepped into her shoes and learned a ton about what it means to have game.
Here’s what I learned:
What are your thoughts? Do you feel like you have game? If so, share some of your tips below.
If you read my post on celebrating strengths, you already know I don’t believe we need to focus all of our attention and energy on our weaknesses. BUT all of us at least need to know what they are, and this week my weakness was glaringly apparent...
I am impatient.
I’m working on it, but…
I am impatient.
As I’m writing this, I’m waiting to get the official email that I was hired for a job that I already know I got. The powers that be congratulated me in person for booking the role but told me I couldn’t share it yet. This happens all the time in the business, but your girl is BOTHERED that I can’t share the news with my inner circle.
Can you see how crazy this is? I got the job, a good job, and I can’t even celebrate it with a good attitude because I want to share the news with my people NOW. Pure crazy.
This is the life I live. Atlanta traffic doesn’t bother me. Why? Because I schedule my travel around high traffic times at all costs. I go to restaurants around town that have great food but no hype, so I never wait in line. I structure my life, so things keep moving, and I never have to wait.
But God has a way of teaching me the lessons I don’t want to learn, and I think He finds it funny. Over the last couple years, before booking a job, I’ve had to wait for some reason or other. I’ve been hired for a job then the start date gets pushed back… a MONTH. I’ve been told I’m being seriously considered for a job and had to wait for weeks to just get a yes or no. To be honest, I deal with rejection better than I deal with the wait. Just put me out of my misery already! Did I get it or not? I’m ready to move on.
Obviously, I’m still working out the kinks, but I see a pattern.
I’m told to wait.
I get stressed out.
I get the news or the result.
I move on with my life.
I’m always fine when the wait is over, no matter the result. So, if waiting is a part of life, I think I need to remove the stress associated with waiting and repurpose that energy. Maybe I can make it a game. I can see how long I can wait without complaining! Or if I want to be productive, I can see what I can create between being told to wait and getting the result. Either way, I’m going to at least approach the next wait with a game plan, so I don’t keep falling into the same pattern of behavior.
Okay, now that I’ve told you what I need to work on and my plan of action, what’s your thing? What could you stand to see differently? What’s your weakness, and what’s your plan of action to be better the next time?
About me . . .
I'm Cyrah Hill. I'm a woman of faith, an actor and an everyday black girl.