A few weeks ago, I was putting together a small sampling of some of my best editorial work for a presentation. As I was sifting through piles of magazines, books, and articles, I stumbled across the last magazine I managed at my first job. It was a glorious, 80-page opus, filled with more than 15 features, 11 departments and columns, and two original series of articles that I created and wrote. During the time when I was working on this issue, I knew it was going to be my swan song at this association, so I put my heart, my soul, and both of my baby toes into it. I’m going to go on record and say that it is the best, damn back-to-school issue in the history of mankind.
Interestingly enough, when I finished flipping through this issue, I became really angry with myself. At age 26, I let my imagination soar and I had no fear in creating and shaping more than 100,000+ words of copy, finding 20 unique and FREE images to flesh out the stories, and did I mention that I completed this issue ALL BY MYSELF (???). Yet at age 33, I allowed people to make me question and doubt my ideas, my creativity, my ability, and my editorial judgment for work that was 1/3 of this size. What the heck was wrong with me? Why was I letting other people define who I was? Why was I allowing ANYBODY to make me question my God-given abilities? Why did take their word as the truth and not my own?
Quite simply, I forgot who I am.
I forgot that I am Howard and Ida Mae’s last masterpiece.
I forgot that I am Brenda, Buddy, Donna, Diane, Wanda, Karen, Raymond, and Thomas’ SENSATIONAL little sister.
I forgot that I am Tank, Chris, Karin, Melia, Manny, Howard, Kezia, Tyler, Thomas Jr., Taylor, and Joshua’s AMAZING auntie.
I forgot that I am Dana, Jamel, Laura, Adriane, and Jessica’s pretty freakin’ awesome FRIEND.
I forgot that I am a PROUD Baltimorean with an entire city full of FANTASTIC folks who’ve got my back, my front, and my sides, too
I forgot that I am a PROUD alumni of two of the greatest educational institutions on the planet, Western Sr. High and Morgan State University
I forgot that not only am I a wickedly awesome writer, I am a pretty good singer, great cook, emerging life coach, part-time comedienne, and quite frankly the best sunshine you could ever receive on a cloudy day
And most tragic of all? I forgot that I am A CHILD OF GOD.
I forgot that somewhere in the Spring of 1978, God stepped between eternity and reality and decided that he needed Howard and Ida Mae to add just one more Lakins child to the bunch (because apparently eight children was not enough!)
I forgot that he stirred together this unique pot of DNA that includes Howard’s eyes, smile, photographic memory, and a love for God that rivaled David’s; and Ida’s thick thighs and skinny calves (I still have issues about that lower-body combination, God, but we’ll talk about that later), infectious charm and hospitality, and voice that will take you straight to Jesus
I forgot that he decided that February 23, 1979 would be the grand debut of the loudest, bright-coloring wearing, fashion-obsessed, Stevie-Wonder worshipping, tender-hearted, passionate Lakins of them all
Ultimately, I forgot that I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made. I forgot that in between my moments of pure stupidity and sheer tomfoolery he will love and forgive me at ANY MOMENT. I forgot that God was, is, and will always be the definitive source of my AWESOMENESS, not ANY man’s opinion or judgments.
Now, that I remembered EXACTLY who I am, I knew that it was about HIGH time that I got over my amnesia. In the immortal words of the Prophet Jay-Z, it was time for me to re-introduce myself to, well, MYSELF. My goal for Year 34 is to create, define, and stand firmly on my own definition of AWESOME. I’m determined not to spend another second measuring myself on anyone else’s standards but my own.
Not that Year 34 won’t be filled with it’s own unique set of battles, challenges, and struggles, but if the previous 33 years are any indication, I know that I serve an AMAZING God who gives me the ability to TRIUMPH over anything.
Today, I am kicking off Year 34 with a mandatory family birthday celebration hosted by Howard and Ida Mae’s other eight masterpieces (cuz’ even at 34 I will ALWAYS be the BABY Picasso!). I’m excited to begin this new year of re-discovery in my life with the very people who made me who I am and will never let me forget just how much God loves the unique and incredible gift that is Leah Lynette Lakins.
[Thank you, God, and my fellow wordsmiths, the late poet and author, Audre Lorde, and the greatest rapper alive, Jay-Z, for inspiring this post.]