Dear White People. (Netflix)

Today I started watching the new season of ‘Dear White People’ and I am already obsessed. I love the concept, the wittiness, the ‘uncomfortable’
conversations and the beautiful diverse black people portrait on the show.

Growing up I have watched black shows. But I often could not fully connect to one of the characters, since they were all more extroverted than introverted. I felt like with age I would learn how to be loud and would learn how to love constantly being around a lot of people (wow typing this even made me lose some energy #introvertedproblems). Maybe I just watched the wrong shows… But let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on ‘Dear White People’.

I think the show hit the mark beautifully. Showing diversity within the black community. The pain, the anger, the love, the journey of self-discovery and straight up being confused by it all. I feel mostly connected to Lionel. He reminds me of my younger self, when I was a freshman in college. Lionel seems fragile, shy and unsure of himself . I was the exact same. I did not feel confident or proud of who I was. It took me years to find my confidence and my ‘happy place’ I guess. Watching Lionel’s journey is fascinating to me.

This show is something that we all needed. A voice, a clear voice, a well-spoken voice, and now we have it. I can understand how some (people who are not black) might feel uncomfortable with the tittle. But watch the show, try to do this with an open mind. I know it’s hard. But take a deep breath and watch one episode. And if you still feel the same or even worse than before, just stop watching it. You are allowed to dislike it and/or be offended by it. Just try to be respectful when you express your opinion.

Much love.

A letter by an introverted black woman.

There is a lot I want to say, so let’s just get started. First of all I would like to acknowledge the fact that we are finally being heard and seen (a little) more than before. This is a step in the right direction, yet we are far from where we need to be.

You see I am awkward, so it could be that this has been going on for a while, but as of lately I have noticed that other black girls smile at me. I am not one to make eye contact or show any emotion when I do (accidentally) make eye contact. But I have noticed that other black girls have been seeking this contact. And since I am so used to having an emotionless expression, I find myself reacting a little too late. So it turns into an awkward thing where I smile back when they have already broken the eye contact. There are also nodding involved, I kid you not, girls nod at me, correction, black girls nod at me. We have entered an era where we are not afraid to show the world that we love ourselves, our cultures, our skin, our brothers and our sisters.

The image is shifting. Africa is slowly being seen as a beautiful continent filled with history, culture and therefor basically something to be proud of. I remember going to see Black Panther in the theater for the first time (Wakanda forever) and I saw this beautiful black woman with an African headscarf. I had eye contact with the girl she was there with and this beautiful individual smiled at me. My heart felt full.

Today another awkward introverted black girls thing happened to me. I was traveling by public transportation, and as I was entering the tram I saw two beautiful black girls around my age. It was rush hour so people were pushing and shoving trying to get into this tram. One of the girls said something about dry lips and immediately I thought they were talking about me. I froze, even though ‘I never freeze’ and though about my lips and whether they were looking crusty or not. Then I remembered I had put on some chap stick  minutes before. So they could not be talking about me, right? The other girl said ‘Ah, I love her hair’ a minute after. Now I was convinced they were talking about me. I looked around for other black girls who they could be talking about. Because yes, we have reached that point where you know that when a sister says she loves someone’s hair, she is talking about black hair. But there was only me, so I guess they were talking about me. I had mixed emotions, a got a jab but a compliment as well. So overall that’s a healthy balance, I guess.

So I guess what I am trying to say by this letter is the following: beautiful black girls I see you, I hear you, and just because I might not respond in public to your smile or nod. My introverted awkward ways are just getting in the way of showing it.

Bike rides in Amsterdam.

Recently I have been riding my bike to work. This started out of necessity; one of my colleagues and I had a meeting somewhere in the city and we had planned to travel together. And well, he was going by bike, so… yeah. I reluctantly agreed to come to work by bike. But something happened to me that morning, something I did not expect; I actually enjoyed it.

You see in The Netherlands it’s quite normal to go places by bike. But for years now I have been gladly using public transportation. Public transportation in Amsterdam is quite well connected, there is hardly a place in Amsterdam where there is no bus, tram, train or subway station. I had gotten used to the customs of public transportation. I knew how everything worked, I felt like this was my comfort zone. And now I was kindly asked to step out of it.

As I was riding my bike to work, I felt a sense of freedom. I was in charge of the speed, whether or not I would avoid the bumps in the road, the time I would start my journey and whether I would arrive at my destination on time. I did not have to wait for the bus, sit next to a stranger, who God forbid wanted to start a conversation about something like the weather. I was alone. Me and my bike. Yet I was also surrounded by so many people who were doing the same thing; going to work by bike. So, somehow we were all alone together.

It feels like I have time and room to think, before and after work. I stepped out of my comfort zone and let me tell you. It was worth it.

The lesson I can take from this is simple, small changes in your routine can bring exciting experiences. My advice therefore would be: change something in your routine and see if you like it. If it was not what you expected or wanted out of it, you can always go back. Live your life, have fun and stay introverted and black.

The fear of nudity.

What does nudity mean to you?

To me it means baring all of you. Not just your body. But to me it includes every single part of yourself: your mind, your ideas, your ideals, your fears, your thoughts, your honesty and unveiling all of your lies. Sharing every little part of you.

You see, I do not think I have ever bared it all out for anyone. To me that is a very scary thought. This blog post was actually inspired by a video I saw on Instagram, where a group of beautiful young black girls were dancing in a circle and one by one they would step forward and chant something about loving their skin and their soul within. I watched the video with admiration, thinking about how I would not have been able to do that at their age. Unapologetically singing about how much I love myself, that is. As I am writing this I am also not sure if I could do that now. I want to blame that on my introversion, or is it just because I am shy? What is scaring me so much? I know there is deep rooting fear of not feeling accept amongst others. I like to think that I have accepted myself completely and do not live for others. Yet again, that would be a lie.

One of my biggest fears is being completely honest with others and dealing with the consequences. I absolutely hate confrontations, therefore I try my best to avoid these at all cost. This has caused me to be not so honest with others and sometimes even with myself. I think that if I did not have this fear of judgement by others, my life could have been very different.

Let’s work on being comfortable with our nudity, including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Silent train rides.

I have always liked long rides on the train. The calmness, the steady speed, listening in to peoples conversations and the luxury of deciding to listen to music instead. I often plug in my earphones and start daydreaming. I would think about what my life would be like, if I was a performer. Hit the stage, sing and dance to the music that I was currently listening to (probably Beyoncé songs). I would also see myself running alongside the train. Hopping over all the obstacles (like a ninja mixed with a bunny) and somehow keeping up with the fast train.

I recently went on the train to go to a meeting. This was around rush hour, so the train was crowded. Tired and grumpy people all around, and all trying to find a seat. I found a spot in the ‘silence compartment’. This the part of the train where it is not allowed to make noise, this includes speaking. So during this 30 minute train ride my mind could completely relax. I chose to not listen to music and just enjoy the silence.

I could hear other people getting on and off of the train. People were politely asking one another to remove their bags off the seats so they could sit there. The people who had put their bag on the seats, politely responded by removing their bag. There was a harmony, a mutual understanding, everyone respected the fact that they were in the ‘silence compartment’ and making no unnecessary sounds. I thought about how this compartment was representing the perfect world.

I felt like I had not appreciated these silence compartment before. But in that moment, I really did. I had time to read and I felt content.

The perfect place for introverts, no unnecessarily stimulations, just silence and mutual understanding.

Glad winter is over.

There was a time I dreaded winter, not for the obvious cold Dutch weather. I actually did not mind the cold weather that much. There are even days in the middle of summer when I long for those cold icy days. No, my dislike for winter came from the many birthday parties this particular season brought. It seemed like every one of my acquaintances, friends and family members decided to have children or be born themselves, in this specific season. Small gatherings and one on one celebrations with friends or family I could handle.

My dislike for the season came from the big parties. The children parties, the parties where I would only know the host well and the rest of the guests were all people I was obliged to see (at least) once a year. I would dread going. I actually can feel my heart pound a little faster whilst writing this post. Every now and then I would get out of going to these parties, because I was genuinely busy with schoolwork. There were also occasions where I was conveniently not feeling so well. But when I ended up not going, this would make me feel guilty. So either way, I would be uncomfortable. There were also quite a few times I would go to a birthday party very early, before the other guest arrive and I would actually leave before too many people (A.K.A. ANYONE) would show up.

I recently sucked it up and went to a birthday party. The plan was get in, say my greetings, congratulate the birthday person in question, stay for a little and then bounce. Yet my partner in crime did not stick to the plan. No, this person decided to stick around for a little longer. And then it happened, the first guest arrived…
Which I could easily handle. But then slowly but surely the room started to fill up. I realized I actually did not mind it that much. I felt like I had the upper hand somehow. While I am writing this I remember reading a tip like this in a book I read on introversion.

I observed people walking in, and them deciding whether they would greet everyone at once with a loud ‘hi everyone’ or greet everyone individually. Some did a combination of both. Many were visibly uncomfortable when they were entering the room. And even more so when they had made the commitment to greet everyone individually. It became the awkward greeting dance spectacle. Should I go in for a kiss on the cheek? Oh we are going for a hug? One or two kisses? Or three? What are we doing?

After watching this all happen. I felt better. But most of all, I felt like other people might go through that same thing. So there was no need to feel singled out. Because just like me, there are people awkwardly making their ways through birthday parties.

Remedies for the frustrated introvert.

From my experience I know that being an introvert can be extremely frustrating. We tend to feel more guilt than extroverts. We get overstimulated and can feel misunderstood. Now this blog post is not going to be a pity party for introverts. This is going to be an encouraging post. The hug you need, when the world has been mean to you.

This is what I do when I am frustrated (overstimulated/tired of the world and myself):

  1. I take a few deep breaths. Take three seconds to breath in, hold for three and then take three seconds to breath out. Repeat this at least five times, you can close your eyes and just focus on your breathing. This really does wonders. Some people call it meditation, some call it ‘taking a breather’, use (or don’t use) whatever label works for you! There are also various apps that can help you do on a regular basis. Headspace is one I have used and enjoyed very much (not sponsored, I wish). Try it, you might like it.
  2. I ask myself the following question: ‘I am going to care about this in five years?’. I honestly can feel the weight fall off my shoulders. When I realize that the thing that frustrated me so much, is a minor thing. I also think about what frustrated me five years back and realize that these were all temporary problem.
  3. I count my blessings. I have so much. People who love me unconditionally. I am talented. I have a roof above my head. I have enough money (I am definitely not rich, but I have enough). I have a particular set of skills, like watching ‘taken’ 100 times. (If you have never seen it, I must encourage you to watch Liam Neeson shine in that movie).
  4. I listen to classical music. I go on Spotify (again not sponsored) and look for a playlist that has something like ‘focus’ or ‘concentration’ or anything in those lines in the title and I listen to that while I read or write.
    • 4.1 I read. I have a very divers taste in books, I like fiction, non-fiction, autobiographies, women empowerment books and books on different personalities. The only genre I don’t like is horror.
    • 4.2 I write. I am not one to talk about my feelings with, well, anyone to be honest. As I am aware that this is a learning point, I do vent by writing down how I feel.
    • 4.3 I also listen to ‘Here’ by Alessia Cara. This song perfectly describes how I feel at parties and basically at every social gathering.
  5. I watch one my favorite shows on Netflix, like Black-ish, Grown-ish, How to Get Away with Murder, Blacklist, just to name a few or a movie. This keeps me distracted for the moment and helps me relax.

Hope this helps.

Feeling different.

If there is anything I hear a lot about myself it’s that I’m quiet.

I think it doesn’t really fit in the perception that people have of black girls, or black people in general. This confuses them. They give me the ‘you are different’ look and some even say it out loud.

On a particular occasion my shy awkward teenage self was standing with my (girl) friends and some guys we had just met. After a while the two guys started talking amongst each other, in a language my friends and I did not understand. But as a black person who had been around people who spoke that particular language I had heard the N-word in that language before. At a certain point it was clear that one guy was talking about me, mind you these are not black people. I understood the ‘N-word’ and ‘beautiful’ in the sentence. I instantly became furious. Looking away and then angrily smiling at the guys, I think I was trying to give them a ‘I know what you are saying’ look. My friends, two of them white one of them mixed, asked what was wrong. I told them what I had heard and one of my friends confronted the guys, who denied using that word and even talking about me. My friends didn’t believe him and we all walked away.

Somehow then things got worse… My friends started talking about how I was definitely not an N-word. Saying things like ‘N-words are dumb and fat and you are not like that’. Continuing with things like ‘N-words have a big mouth, but you are so sweet. So you are nothing like them’. Now I honestly think that in their eyes they were giving me compliments, but obviously these are extremely insulting and awful things to say. Especially by white people. As the night when on I kept thinking about what they had said and how I did not react in a way I wanted to. I actually had not really reacted. I was so confused at their words. Where my friends racist? Was I a bad black person for letting them say the N-word? They were trying to reassure me that I was not like other black people, no no no I was different. Different how? More like white people? Because I was not loud? Really? So what exactly am I? Where is my box? Where do I fall?

All I knew for certain at that time was that I was different, and that I did not like that.

The beginning.

To be or not to be… an introvert. What does that even mean? Am I an introvert? Or am I just shy? Or are those considered the same thing? These questions have been in the back of my mind for a very long time.

I am an 23 year old Ethiopian girl who grew up in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. And if you have ever met the average Dutch man or woman you could probably tell me that they were quite direct, assertive and well, also very tall. I am the complete opposite, as I am not so tall and as I hope the readers of this blog realize; Ethiopians are black, and so yes I am the complete opposite. My whole life people have given me the feeling that being quiet and shy is a negative thing. So I grew up believing that this was something I needed to fix. In my younger years I believed time would be on my side, after all, I would grow out of my shy and awkward ways. But when I started college and I was still that same shy and awkward girl, I started to get worried. This worrying did not stop after I graduated.

Until one day I stumbled upon the book ‘Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. Growing Up as an Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain. The title caught my eye while I was scouring through a beautiful bookstore in the center of Amsterdam (Scheltema). I was looking for anything interesting to read. So when I spotted this book I knew that it was meant for me. I grabbed it and read the back, which gave a short description of the book followed by some positive reviews on the book. I quickly bought it and started reading the book every second I got. Everywhere I went, the book came with me. And the more I read, the more I felt a weight, that I did not even know was there, fall off of my shoulders. It opened my eyes and made me realize that I was not weird for dreading social events and not rude for getting exhausted after socially engaging, with even friends and family for too long.

I was simply an introvert.