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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

“All the women in me are tired”


How Nayyirah Waheed and Ella Mai are my therapists after hours

Lately, I feel so numb, out-of-it and exhausted. Not just the physical kind of exhaustion. The kind of exhaustion where you can sleep all day, but wake up feeling like your soul and mind still need another eight hours of rest.

Before former Assistant Provost of Inclusion and Diversity, Dr. Nixon’s departure from St. Joe’s, she gifted me with a collection of poems by Nayyirah Waheed called “Salt.”

The feelings I could not put into words for quite some time, Waheed was able to describe in 7 simple, but profound words:

“All the women in me are tired.”

The plurality of women in this phrase which clearly refers to an individual, seems peculiar. However, Waheed was on to something that resonates with many women, including me.

Every ounce of the women in me are so tired.

The daughter, the friend, the sister, the student, the cousin, the niece, the granddaughter, the Resident Assistant, the intern, the Assistant Opinions Editor, the “star,” the “one who has it together,” the role model, the young woman, the black woman. The list goes on.

“We” are tired.

It took me a while, but Waheed’s words made me recognize that I ignored my exhaustion. I used fuel I barely had to be more and do more in hopes that people would notice, care and be proud of me.

Subconsciously, I was driven by what felt innate. I felt I had to be strong, work hard and sacrifice for the sake of everyone and everything. However I now know that these things are not innate but acquired.

I grew up around some of the strongest women I know.  My grandma, mom and aunts never expressed exhaustion nor tiredness or at least I never got to see it.

“Met fanm sou ou,” a Haitian saying which roughly translates “woman up”  became my mantra at a young age.

When I watched TV, I never saw women express fatigue. They were either hardworking moms like Tisha from “My Wife and Kids” or hard working career women like Mary Jane from “Being Mary Jane.” 

Over time that expectation was translated to me and I believed I ought be the same. I felt like the world was forcing us into a corner where the only option was to be strong.

These feelings made me wait and hope for someone to give me permission to not be okay, but I never received it.

So, for once, I gave myself the permission to not be fine, to feel and to cry. Now, I spend most of my time in my room naked, alone and in my element. I ignore phone calls, text messages and emails that require me to be everywhere and do everything.

Instead, I take time to be here, present with myself, my thoughts and my feelings.

Waheed helped me acknowledge how I feel, but I could never put into words what I want from the the world, my surroundings and myself. It wasn’t until 4 a.m., as I stared at this blank document for almost three hours, that something inside told me to play Ella Mai’s song, “Naked.”

I’ve listened to this song so many times, but in this moment I heard the lyrics clearer than ever.

She opens singing about stripping herself of clothes and make-up and says “But what if I told you. There’s nothing I want more in this world than somebody who loves me naked.”

Nakedness in this song has a dual meaning, a physical one and a metaphorical one. I understand the desire to just be loved no matter how you look.

On the other hand, metaphorically, if I stripped myself of all my titles, achievements, extracurriculars, intellect, if I was vulnerable and imperfect, just simply Taicha, would people love me? Would they see me?

I ask myself these questions all the time. 

Most of the time, I feel like a means to end, surrounded by so many people, but at the same time so alone and invisible.

Even when I outwardly say I’m not fine, I’m graced with invalidating responses like: “Get it together,” “You’ll be fine,” “Get out of your head.” These are all not so gentle reminders of my childhood mantra to “woman up.”

Once again, I find myself forced by the world into a corner in which my only option is to be strong. But this time I can’t be. I don’t have the energy to be okay for others. It’s suffocating.

Today, I find myself fighting to let go of the idea that my strength is found in my perfection, while learning to embrace myself “naked.”

I acknowledge that “All the women in me are tired” but find hope as I turned the page to another of Waheed’s poems which states, “ It is being honest about my pain that makes me invincible.”

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  • N

    NicoleSep 19, 2018 at 6:15 pm

    Wow so relatable, raw & real. Thank you for being so transparent. I send you love & peace✨

  • M

    MochaSep 19, 2018 at 6:02 am

    I love this Taicha! I too am learning to embrace ALL of me through life’s journey. As a mom and wife I feel I have to be “strong” 24/7 because when mommy panics, we all panic. But slowly but surely I’m learning to enjoy “me” days. I’m learning to enjoy my thoughts alone. I’m embracing that my children love my imperfections. This was a nice read!