It was too long ago to even remember what I had done, that caused me to have to stare aimlessly at the dried noodles stuck to the multi-colored construction paper hanging from the ceiling. Left with only the thoughts of what I was going to do after I was released from the classroom turned timeout corner, I sat there. I sat there until the class came back—until the last kid got nice and comfortable in his seat. I sat there until the teacher started to resume the lesson she had probably prepared the night or a week before. I waited until everyone had forgotten that they had went to recess with out me, and thats when I made my exit to the playground. I had somehow decided that since I was robbed of my recess, I would rob them of my presence during class. Without giving it a second thought, I swung on the monkey bars, and the swings. I played on the merry-go-round. I ran, and jumped in dead silence. This was new to me. I had never been on a playground where the presence of other kids didn’t exist. But still, it wasn’t about the play. It was about the fact that my teacher thought she could rob me, Teneisha Ta’shae Franklin, of having fun! Yes, my father was in the military, and yes my mother was as meanest mama I knew. Frankly, she scared the shit out of me. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to receive an ass whoppin’. I gladly accepted it, and continued to play in silence.
With the exception of my mother and father, I was the master of my universe. Despite the fact that when I was born my legs bowed so badly, I was prescribed braces to straighten them. It never deterred me. As a nine year old girl, I was fearless. I ran fast, jumped high and spoke loudly. I was confident, bold and daring. I danced, and I laughed with ease. I loved who I was, and never gave a second thought to who I would become.
Somewhere down the line—through the transition of puberty, adolescence, self-esteem, boyfriends, and womanhood—I lost myself. I was no longer that daring child I used to be. The once loud voice had been turned down almost to the point of silence. My speed had crept to a saunter and my confidence had dissipated. What had happened to me, is what I would assume happens to most people—life. But instead of moving on, it scared me enough to run, hide, and barricade myself, inside of myself. Leaving the potency of who I was trapped and unable to escape. I lost myself and lost sight of my own value. Essentially, my fight was gone, and I had died.
My state of being rested far from that which I had grown up with. I come from a family of women—at the top of the family tree were grand aunts, the HNIC’s—who had an abounding love for themselves. Dark skin, big-boned women flourished in our family—the anti-commercialism of the black woman—Gaps, gold teeth, flashy clothes, long, sharp colorful nails, coupled with slick tongues and foul language. And when they all came together they laughed with such guffaw. Ask any seven of them and they would proudly tell you, with their eyes lowered and their necks wound ready to roll, that they were the finest, sexiest beings on the planet earth. Looking at the shell of the person that I was, It was hard to believe that I somehow descended from this group of women.
Once I had lost sight of who I was, it took me too many years to get that sense of self worth back. To do that, I had to pull out boxes and boxes of shit I just didn’t need. I dug through boxes that still had grudges in them. I had a box that had that bad relationship straight out of high school, and that horrifically depressing pregnancy that lead me to have to fight single parenthood as if it were the cancer of my life. That box with anger, unforgiveness, and brick walls…that shit had to go. The sadder I became, the more these things were like anchors to my soul and in my life. So, what did I do? I followed Jay-Z’s advice. I built a bridge and I got over it. It was only after I had done so, was I able to begin to travel the road that would eventually lead me to reclaim what I had lost.
Looking for yourself is no easy feat—battles must take place inside the mind for sure. It’s like that old philosophical question: How does something as small as the mind control something as big as the body? Shit, I still don’t know the answer to that question—It’s kind of like putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. Sometimes you only have to walk a couple of feet to find the next piece, sometime you have to walk several miles, and sometimes you may never find it again. Its just gone. Thankfully, so far, I’ve found the laughter and joy she used to give me.