(No one) knows what you go through because you portray to have it all together on the outside, that’s all (they) see.

Being vulnerable? Never that.

Lol even to our closest people…

Behind closed doors and alone only.

But I️ also think those are the pressures we’ve been put under.

From family and living up to certain expectations with so many people watching us closely.

This was a series of texts from my Sister (who, in real life, is very close family friend that I️ grew up with… who also happens to be a “Smith”).

They all immediately hit home.

The more I️ read them the more they explained the way I️ am now. I never felt that I was “allowed” to have problems or insecurities or any other mood than content/happy (in public), and that has since followed me into adulthood as the standard I️ feel I️ must keep at times.

I️ met my Sister in the lobby of an affluent black church in Minnesota (which I️ immediately thought of while reading those texts and therefore became my example for this post). Before I️ knew her well, I️ admired how she managed to balance “her world” and the world she made public in our church lobby. I️t was somewhat effortless. But, why would she (or anyone) need two worlds? Let me paint the picture of this church a little better. Imagine a place where the scene after every service was any networkers fantasy and the parking lot was a fashion/expensive car show. No pressure at all, right?

I️ always hated being there (sorry, Dad).

I️ felt like everyone was wearing a mask. I️ know I️ was never really myself. I kinda just played my part. I️ was surround by so much “excellence”, I️ felt there wasn’t room for anything else… and, I️ had a ton of “everything else”.

Nevertheless, head up, shoulders back, and smile.

I️t was the ideal environment to produce some of the finest debutantes (and beaus). We knew how to make an entrance and most of us could small talk better than our Lawyer, Doctor, and Engineer parents… but we were all secretly carrying the weight of our own private worlds under our white gowns (and tuxes).

I️ remember one day in that lobby my Dad was sharing that my AP US History project went to State and that I️ got a 33 on my ACT. However, all I️ could think of was the breakdown I️ had a few days earlier in a school bathroom. You see, I️ had also gotten my period that week for the first time (at 16). This wouldn’t normally be an issue, but little Loni had no idea what was going on because no one really had that conversation with her.

My stomach hurt so bad, I truly thought I️ was dying. After some time I️ tried to use one of those cardboard applicator tampons that they had in the bathrooms (and nearly passed out)… I️ cried for at least an hour in that stall… It seemed like everyone who was showing me how to be an intelligent, well put together, respectable lady conveniently skipped some of the most important parts.

(The how to be an actual adult parts.)

This created a decent amount of pressure… trying to (as a teenager) find the answers a mother-figure would typically provide. But, I️ would deal with the pressure and find the answers because I️ could never allow myself to feel that vulnerable again. So, it became another weight to carry with me. Another thing to smile through. Along with my anxieties, insecurities, and failures.

I️ taught myself a lot of things (let’s be real, I️ still teach myself a lot of things), messed up a lot, picked myself back up, and got a little strongerTo the point that I️ knew how to look at my best even when I️ felt at my worst. I️ mastered the nonchalant in times of distress… The problem now is that it’s a part of who I️ am and how I️ operate, and therefore people think I must have it all figured out because I’m so well “put together”. Which was why I️ was texting my Sister in the first place. Because I don’t.

Life has happened to everyone. We all have problems. We all have insecurities. We handle them differently. I️ don’t wear mine on my sleeve. I️ honestly don’t think I️ would even know how to at this point outside of the text on this page (Which is why this blog is important for me). I️ don’t have the world figured out and I️ am making the same stupid mistakes as the next 25 year old… you just wouldn’t know that if you weren’t reading this.

I mean, obviously I get angry, I can be sad, I have joy… There’s just few people who I️ tell my feelings to and/or who know what scares me the most or keeps me up at night.

I️ don’t know where I’m going here… I️ just know we all do life differently. And, I️ probably will struggle to understand those who need to be coddled or are super upfront with their emotions… and, they definitely won’t understand me at first.

I’m not sure how to end this, and my flight is landing… Don’t believe what you see on IG, kiddos.

– Loni

Law & Order 

You would think since I had a sister only “2 years 2 days and 2 hours” older than me, we’d be super inseparable. Not necessarily true. Growing up we weren’t actually that close. During my early life she was always the girl who was responsible for my missing front tooth in every school picture until 3rd grade due to a fateful game of Ring Around the Rosie, or the girl who caused me to split my head open on the kitchen counter in an effort to avoid the microwave door she swung at my face. Looking back now I think these were all secret plots to get rid of me.

We just didn’t get along. Not that it was really a problem… All siblings go through their ups, downs, and moments of “torture” from the bigger/older sibling. We were just two very different girls. She was a bubbly extrovert who always had a smile ready for anyone passing by. She always had more friends than me and had a date to all the school dances – both our school and those she didn’t attend. The only thing we had in common was playing on the same Varsity Tennis team my freshman and sophomore year of high school (the years we overlapped in school).

(Taking a slight detour here, but we could have been a dream team in all honesty. The Smith Girls. A dynamic duo. Imagine the things they would say! “Who all the girls wanted to be friends with and all the guys wanted to date.” Sorry girl, I kinda ruined that considering I only got attractive 30 minutes ago. Ha. Ok… back to the post.)

Despite all of this, she became a rock for me when our Mom died. How did that happen? I’m not really sure, considering she wanted to return me to the hospital years earlier. I’ve never said this publicly in an attempt to be as nice to those who tried to help me as possible, but I just appreciate (unlike most people) that she never tried to forcefully fill the void in my life. She never tried to be “a mom”. She just kept the law and order.

Imagine all the things your mom does or has done for you and your family. Now, take it all away. Crazy to think about right? It’s like a black hole appears in the middle of your household. Thank goodness that while I was mid-downward spiral into the nothingness, my Sister was calming the chaos for herself, for me, for our Brother, for our Dad… for all of us really. She was always doing the dishes or laundry, kindly suggesting (yelling at) us kids to pick up after ourselves, and reminding us of all the family events and birthdays. Her goal was simply to restore the closest feeling of “normal” as possible.

Everyone always talks about how much my Mom is seen in me. From her looks to her mannerisms, it’s all there. But, they don’t give enough credit to what she left behind with my Sister. She got my Mom’s law (it only makes sense that she’s a lawyer now). It’s like she wrote everything down on her little kid heart; detailing the instructions on how to keep things running. To be the same big sister she always was (I also appreciate that we never got “fake close” because “that’s what should happen”… News flash, that’s not how it works people!), to constantly be thinking of our dad and his happiness when the rest of us may not have been, to maybe worry a little too much, and to keep things in order. So, she did.

Why is this even on my mind? 

It’s random, I’ll admit. But, I was thinking that sometimes I forget you’re only in your mid-twenties… I actually think sometimes you forget it too. I find myself holding you to this super adult standard, which isn’t fair. Even though you may have been a person who grew up fast and spent years holding things together for others, doesn’t mean that you should have everything in your life figured out. There’s still time to grow towards all of your goals. You’ll get there. Don’t give up on them.

I also think we get caught up in measuring ourselves by our degrees and salaries that we forget to look at the other parts… The parts that matter. The impact we’ve had on the world around us. The example we’ve set for others. The care we have shown. I’m pretty sure you have me beat on all of that.

…Well, now you do. For a minute there I was questioning if I’d make it to college without some permanent reminder of your dominance.

– Loni