Some days, I feel like the world’s most confident person. With that confidence, it is sometimes difficult for me to admit my mistakes or to show my insecurities; yet, in peeling away the scabs of hurt and doubt, I discovered a core that is rich and ready to be awakened. For so long, observing the power and accomplishments of those around me ruled my life. I never wanted to be viewed as weaker or lesser; thus, I sort of hid myself in an attempt to avoid the judgment. Now, I am feeling rebellious…not so much trying to rebel from the “normal” or clichés that may govern other people but more so from my creeping, lingering, seemingly omnipresent thoughts: thoughts of isolation, being overworked and underpaid, or just living a life where nothing and no one is able to save me from my own perfectionism. I was a bit anxious before writing this article for fear of my own thoughts. However, now, as I write, I am more comfortable and at a very interesting place in my life.
As I fly from Shanghai to Kunming, I am listening to Lauryn Hill’s “I Find It Hard to Say” from her MTV Unplugged show. The theme of rebellion found throughout the lyrics is so compelling and moving. In the interlude, she speaks about people dealing with the same old problems and the same old things. As she’s speaking, I am reminded of the countless individuals who, too, have struggled with their artistry and have held themselves hostage to their own lofty dreams. Lauryn’s “solution” to these issues, whatever they may be, is to confront your self head-on instead of running away. While her intent or own personal dilemma may have been different from mine, I used her words to confront my own issue. Thus, being as “emotionally unstable” as she was in this song, here goes.
When I first envisioned CrookedT, my initial intent was either to find or to spark a voice within people and even within myself. I wanted to help others through sharing my own struggles and experiences, hopeful that we all could use them to grow and mature as young adults together, ready to face the world just a little bit stronger. For so long, I wanted to do something like this, but time and time again, my dream was deferred. Nevertheless, with the help of a friend, I fashioned a logo, established a pitch, and even created my own website, but out of fear, the website never saw the light of day. I wrote several entries of CrookedencounTers, a column for The Maroon Tiger, the school newspaper at Morehouse. However, I had not done my photo shoots nor could I get the right artwork. I was getting so caught up in the beauty of my brand that I began to lose sight of the purpose and reason for even doing it. Pretty soon, I had CrookeduniversiTy, an online portfolio for my class assignments, but CrookedT.me remained a figment of my imagination.
Ultimately, I allowed the thoughts of my end result to stifle my creative process. What originally began as a movement for self-empowerment and vulnerability was now a shield. CrookedT was no longer a representation of my family or our mojo; it had become a façade, a fictitious image I created trying to live up to the hype of my own potential. While I found it extremely “hard to say,” I had to kill CrookedT. No more “crooked” this or “crooked” that! In liberating myself from my conscience, I was able to remove the cloak of CrookedT and showcase my truest self, Jonathan Jamell Thibeaux. Truth is, I am still fearful – fearful of failure, fearful of my art being received negatively or misinterpreted, and even more fearful of falling short of my own expectations. To this self, I say, “Rebel!” Turn off that voice and be you. Jump. Dive. Try. Commit. WORK. Work some more. Try again. Fall. “Destroy.” “Wake Up.”