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DejYAH's Story

I never felt like I was enough. But as an only child, my parents did all that they could to ensure that I never felt lonely or unimportant. I was super involved as a child. From the age of five, I was involved in dance classes. I loved dance and I enjoyed making new friends at dance outside of my friends at church and school.  At around the age of 10, I started competition dance. It was also my dream to audition for the competition team and compete in several dances at these competitions. At my dance academy, there were levels to the competition team that you could make. For the first two years of my competition dance experience, I was on the pre-competition team which was a tier below the competition team. I liked how I was still able to enhance my skills while still being able to compete on the local and regional levels.


But once I became a teenager, I felt that I had exemplified great work ethic and drive to be able to make the official competition team. Each year, every one had to re-audition to make certain teams so I just knew that all of my hard work and dedication to my craft would pay off. I had also been a shining star at everything I set my mind to. I was the token black girl at my conservative, private, Christian school. I was everybody’s favorite at church; there’s no way that I would not achieve greatness at my dance academy too. But this was my first experience dealing with rejection. Feeling like I had given my all to something and yet, I still wasn’t good enough. Thus beginning my journey of wondering if I was always  destined to just be good, and not great.


So I gave it my all. My last year auditioning for competition team I put in the extra work. I attended all of the conditioning sessions. I linked up and rehearsed with the more tenured girls who had been on competition teams for years. I even attended extra practice sessions to ensure my spot on the sought after competition team. So much time and effort I put in just to be denied once again for the spot I thought I deserved. Why was I never good enough?


I told my mom that if I didn’t make the competition team that I was done. I was tired of being denied what I thought was my rightful place on the competition team. I thought maybe I would never achieve what I thought I could so I should try something else. Dance became my life. Dance had taken up all of my free time. Dance had consumed the life of my family. All passive income went towards tuition, costumes, dance shoes, and travel. It didn’t feel worth it to me to continue throwing money towards somewhere I didn’t feel valued. So I quit. After 8 years of dancing, I threw in the towel and tried other things.


For once, I would be able to play sports at school. Participate in plays. Actually spend time with my friends. I was super excited for this new chapter for my last year of middle school. Being the token did come with its perks. Everything I tried to do, I excelled at just because the bar was set so low for little black girls at this time. So I auditioned for the school play. Usually middle schoolers don’t make the high school play, but I did. You could say that this was the boost of confidence I needed. I started playing school sports. You could say I brought life to the track program for the girls. It was only three of us at the time, and I was the only girl sprinter, and the only black girl on the team. It excited me to know that I had potential that could be enhanced on the high school level at my middle school age. I was happy to see that someone other than my family saw the potential I had to be great.


But of course being a young middle school girl came with its distractions. Boys. How many boys like you? You haven’t had your first kiss? Why don’t you have a boyfriend? And all of the awkwardness and insecurities that encompassed that subject. My school was small. And it was even smaller for the black community within the school. So realistically, there were only a handful of boys to choose from. And of course everyone liked the same ones. Who was he going to pick? It introduced the concept of competing for male attention. It also introduced the concept of wondering what was wrong with you if you weren’t picked. That ended up being the norm for me. Placing me in a state of comparison. I knew I was pretty, but was I pretty enough? Somebody always ended up having the upper hand over me. Someone always ended up getting what I wanted. And I was left feeling like last week’s leftovers. If you’re hungry enough, you’ll go for it; but you’ll never be the first choice or even considered.


So I decided to focus on what mattered - my sports and my grades. Getting on Honor Roll was never a huge accomplishment for me. Of course I received the praise for it, but I always felt like why should I receive praise for doing what I was supposed to do. It never felt like a huge win for me. Excelling in sports was cool too, finally I was receiving the recognition I had wanted all of those years at dance. But still, I wondered was I excelling because there was no real competition, or because I really was that good? That was a question that haunted me for many, many years. As I moved into high school I started appreciating my talents more. I still had a ways to go, but I was starting to understand more of what I had to offer.  I wasn’t afraid of trying new things. By this time, I had been in school plays, choir, track, basketball, cheerleading, and volleyball. I figured if I tried many different things, there would be no way there wouldn’t be at least one thing I could be the best at. I was still trying to ensure my place at the top to prove to myself that I was better than just good.


So high school comes, more opportunities arise for me to be seen and I go for them. But now there’s more competition to face. More black girls to compete against. More boys attention to fight for. And still, I find myself fighting for the best spot on the team, in the school, in some boy’s heart. Even though I was never chosen last, why was I never chosen first? This is something that continued to bother me throughout my high school years. Whomever I liked usually liked my friends. But would show a slight interest in me as well. But why couldn’t I just be the one whom was the most desired? It kept me in a subconscious state of competition and ultimately defeat. I didn’t like this feeling. I would ask The Most High why I wasn’t good enough? Why did I have to be mediocre. How come everyone could see my worth except the ones I wanted? How come I couldn’t see my own worth.


My best friends saw this battle I was having with myself. I had never had a sister friend who cared enough to lift me up. Who cared enough to speak light into me. Who cared enough to get me to see what she saw. Until I met Zhateyah. I never understood how someone I just met would be so kind, so loyal, and so honest with me. I had had friends for years who never lifted me up the way she did. I knew that The Most High brought her in my life for a reason. But even with her words of affirmation and encouragement, I still couldn’t see what she was telling me. I was so stuck in my head about the superficial. I truly wondered if I would ever feel the value that she said I had.


Throughout high school I tried to ignore the comparisons people made. I didn’t understand why because I was bettering myself, people assumed it was because  I was pretending to be someone else. Why couldn’t I have just been doing the work and seeing the results. It sent me on an internal quest. Was I not being myself? Did I even know who I was? Luckily I had my poetry to hash all of these feelings out. Finally a safe space where I didn’t feel the need for continuous competition. I wasn’t in any type of race to be the best. I was just able to fully be myself.


By the time college came around, I was used to my status of being runner up. Being the first to lose but still holding a title. A twisted form of defeat where you’re still above most, but never first place. I could never understand it. What did I have to do to achieve number one? Why did I always have to come in last to someone? What was I doing wrong? Or rather what was wrong with me? College fed into all of these insecurities. Arriving on a campus where still, the black population has its own community and everyone is fighting for their place. By this time I had had my first boyfriend. But I never felt valued. Always felt like there were others who could provide what I couldn’t. I just always felt like the convenience store. You know it’s always going to be there when you need it, but there will always be other options. I was tired of feeling like the safety net. I wanted to be the prize. The sad part of it all was that I couldn’t recognize that I had been the prize the whole time.


During this time I had put myself in compromising situations that added fuel to the fire of inadequacy and vulnerability. Dealing with boys who didn’t value me put me in spaces to be taken advantage of. Continuing to entertain people who treated me like a little play thing that they would eventually grow tired of. I felt like Woody when Buzz Lightyear came into the mix. Of course I’m old faithful, but once a shinier and newer toy came, I was easily forgotten until that new toy couldn’t stand the test of time. And where was I? So low that I allowed them to return even when they were undeserving. What would it take for me to realize who I was and whose I was?


It took being used and abused. It took not protecting my body or my energy from invaders. It took being disrespected and neglected by someone who I thought cared about me much more. But enough was enough. I was tired of feeling empty. I was tired of wondering why I’d never be enough. I had to be enough for myself. I had to return to my Father, the person who intentionally created me this way. I was over the woe as me attitude. And I was over feeling second place. Coming into the knowledge of being a child of The Most High gave me the boost of confidence I needed. How could I allow people who were unaware of their inheritance to diminish my light? Never again.


The Most High woke me up out of my slumber and reminded me of my purpose. I felt so ungrateful for not appreciating the masterpiece He had created. My purpose is so much greater than me. Why would I be ashamed at how YAH crafted me. Why would I look to the left and the right on some comparison vibes when He’s given me everything I need to succeed and accomplish this mission. The seed was planted way back in the ninth grade, when my sister came into my life and reminded me of who I was. YAH restored my confidence. He restored my strength. I was no longer trying to fit into a box that  I thought society was trying to put me in. Those were all gaslit attempts by my own mind. Feeding into the false pretense that I’d never be great. That I’d always just be okay. That there would always be someone better than me. That’s why AHOI is so important to me. We have to remind each other that there is no one greater than us other than The Most High. We are His treasure. And until we understand the power that we possess as His daughters, we’ll continue to allow people to mistreat and try to defeat us. We are our sisters’ keepers. And if it had not been for my sister, I may have completely missed what The Most High was showing me. You are enough. The voids you think you have, fill them with The Most High. You will always be perfect in His eyes. I already knew that YAH makes no mistakes. So why would I think He had made a mistake with me?

Dejyah Yisra'El
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