Occasionally I’m told I’m arrogant. That always makes me chuckle because I have literally no self confidence and it’s all a facade. That’s why it only takes a few tough days, some people’s anxiety causing me to feel imposter syndrome and being called names/misunderstood for me to totally collapse. I’m self conscious about my own writing, my own thoughts, and my ability to harm people. It’s so easy for me to switch from a proud academic to a worried child. I can’t find my strength in my own thoughts and beliefs, nor stand up for myself against people. I melt into a sad blob of scared human who only wants to hideout with a cat. These past few days have been really hard on my self esteem and I could no longer maintain the facade that I believe in myself.
That being said, I’ve decided to hand write a piece, about Obsidiantea’s author, Grey Armstrong, in hopes to refind my confidence.
For those who haven’t met me, my name is Grey Armstrong. I’m currently 24 years old, African-American, agnostic/atheist and from rural/suburban southern Ohio. I don’t care about the gender of the people I date. Depending on the culture I am within the choice of labeling myself is more or less important.
Mental health wise I have, depression/anxiety, PTSD, DID, Dissociative fugue, Panic disorder and am a CSAS. Physical health wise I am/have, Disabled, Endometriosis, Surgically menopausal , infertile, Chronic Pain. My sexuality is pan/bi sexual and demi sexual. Gender: (depending on who you ask) is transmale, (Grey as you know him is a trans guy with he/him pronouns.) DID means agender, non binary and female technically apply…Other relevant info for people to judge or hate me for I’m a fatherless bastard and not particularly monogamous or non monogamous. I detest writing things out, as though at the end of the day I’m just a list of adjectives. Does this list change who I am? No.
So, I come at things from a lot of different angles. I don’t joke about winning the minority lottery for nothing. As my relationship with myself has always been changing I’ve found two things to always be important. Education and trying to understand people through their life experiences. One day as a child I realized that people would never understand me, because I was so strange, unless I explained it. My experiences were just foreign to others and so I set off explaining my world to others.
When I was a child my soon to be step father brought a new thing into our household. Black history. At a young age while my friends were watching disney I was reading books like African American Inventors (https://goo.gl/4i3abn) and The Encyclopedia of African American Heritage (https://goo.gl/75wh8C) and watching movies like Glory and The Great Debaters. After, I would have to write a comprehensive book report and give a speech about it. Or re-write the chapter by hand, looking up any words I didn’t know. During this same time my school put me in hooked on phonics with all the other black children my age. My (white) schools trouble placing me in classes continued until I graduated. Mostly I would finish work early and leave to go read, in addition to reading at home.
In my household, my mother was fighting for her rights for employment as a black woman and received death threats as a part of this. She won (https://goo.gl/uwQVR7) but it was not the first or last time she would have problems. Throughout my life my mother stood up as a woman and as a black person who fought for what she believed was right. Watching her example, I started to have a strong sense of justice, but also compassion. I also formed relationships with people from all walks of life.
I was transferred to white schools for the opportunities they had. Suddenly I felt foreign and strange. To get along, I had much to learn about their culture. My library readings slowly switched from animals, and space to psychology, sociology, languages, other cultures, philosophy, science and fiction. Meanwhile my black education at home still continued. I would read between 10 and 30 books a week depending on the topics. I was too anxious and felt too isolated to talk to my peers, so I mostly spent time with adults at school. I would discuss what I read and they would challenge my ideas. These conversations were one of the most validating and enjoyable parts of my life. I hated class because it went too slow and homework seemed redundant. I was often found reading or drawing, while still listening to class. Or else musing about an idea, usually the curious pointlessness of life.
After some years of this I decided I was tired of playing the academic games, and had a sneaking suspicion that AP classes were useless and a scam. (I was right) I went to culinary school out of boredom. There I met more people from all walks of life, and learned real life skills, lost a bet and ended up at university for art. I hated the college and switched, I settled on a communication degree. I contemplated being a professor after befriending a Adjunct professor and chatting with him 3 times a week about life, education, thought, philosophy and more. I was told I couldn’t study what I wanted and had became ill and so focused on just graduating.
I moved to Denver, started teaching dance for real and found myself frustrated by feeling so unseen and misunderstood. I added culture to my dance classes to counteract this. There were so many questions from the community and so many misconceptions I created obsidian to take the pressure off of needing to answer the same questions over and over, and to take that pressure off the other black dancers. I created obsidiantea.com to discuss my research and give my understanding of black culture and post educational resources for people to gain understanding of blues and black culture. Some of that proto writing is on toskablues.com.
What I’ve realized by writing this all out is that, I’m proud of the work that I do. I’m comfortable with my style of research, managing things, business and more. I’m not going to let some harsh words stop me from doing what I believe is important work. I understand that I am not the foremost expert on blackness, and that black culture is not a monolith. I understand that I am not a speaker for all of black culture, or all of blues, that individuals may disagree with me, but that doesn’t nullify my understanding of the world. I hope to involve different voices on Obsidian, when I think their thoughts will supplement the site. I will always try to keep my understanding of topics current and relevant and well thought about or researched.