Essay: Life In My Truth / by Tabbytha Janeen

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I walked into the third floor of my apartment for the first time in September of 2015 and words cannot begin to describe the overwhelming bliss I have felt since that day. After years of trying to obtain independence, I finally found a place suitable enough for me to develop my creativity, relax, and begin to learn about myself on a different level. My bedroom, which also doubles as my studio, is minimal in style, but full of things that keep me calm and motivated. The keys to my apartment hold an amethyst stone that is known for welcoming peace, happiness and contentment and has the qualities to help heal personal loss and grief. The plants in my room purify the air and have taught me a lot when it comes to cultivating. Like withering leaves, I have learned cutting off some parts of your life that inhibit your growth and add negativity to your life is a healthy practice. I have a vision board above my desk and on my closet mirror that is constantly evolving. Every day I’m in my room I see inspirational quotes like “The best is yet to come” or “Always put yourself first” or “The real you is sexy”. These quotes are just a few motivators that keep me going everyday because in a world where at the end of the day, all you have is yourself, what better way to keep your spirits lifted than to remind yourself, you made it this far, and you will be okay. 

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I am Black American, and was born and raised in the city of Boston. I’ve lived in two homes with my family. The second house my family moved into was a beautiful Victorian with mahogany furnishings and enough space for my family to live comfortably. Soon after moving in, the house was hit by unfortunate weather conditions that resulted in subfreezing of our pipe system, leaving my family with no running water, making it difficult for us to do the simplest of routines. For years we didn’t complain and made due with what we had, which at the beginning wasn’t much, but each experience where we had to struggle and go without, ultimately led me to appreciate the little things I have in life.

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I grew up in a strict Christian household that made it difficult for me to articulate myself creatively and stifled my growth as an individual. My parents were controlling to the point where it became a hassle to experience a real social life outside of church or school. My life was a routine of solely home, school and church, which left me little room for self-expression and the proper emotional development I needed as a young woman. It seemed the more I tried to become an individual, the tighter the reigns on my life became. During my sophomore year of college I was given a curfew, if I missed my curfew by even one minute, my keys to the house would be taken away and I would be forced to sleep outside or to find somewhere else to stay for the night, sometimes multiple nights. Whenever this happened I sought refuge and jumped around between different friends houses just to find somewhere to lay my head, and I would be right back to school or work the next day as if nothing happened the night before. Growing up I always wondered if I suffered from depression but this particular year I realized depression definitely surfaced in my life. I began to lose self-esteem and was emotionally unavailable. I was twenty years old when I became involved in a toxic relationship that resulted in the unfortunate circumstance of me terminating a two-month pregnancy. After my decision I thought I could muster up enough strength to bounce back and continue to go about my life as if everything was okay, and for months it worked. I picked up multiple jobs just to keep myself busy and to keep my mind off the physical and emotional pain I continued to feel. I thought I had so much to prove to the people around me that I didn’t take the time to grieve my loss and to make matters worse, I received guilt and judgment from my family. Despite this, I didn’t want to lose hope. This was no way to continue in my life, so I made the decision to change.

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I packed a bag and left home the day before my 21st birthday. This was a hard decision for me because I had no stable income, was emotionally unstable and I definitely was not prepared to properly sustain myself in the real world all while being a full-time student. After leaving home a friend of mine took me in and I lived on his couch for almost two months. Around this time I had to prepare to start my junior year in college. Unfortunately for me, I had an outstanding balance that prohibited me from registering for classes and ultimately threatened my chances of starting my junior year. On top of all this, I was technically homeless, so getting back into school and finding a stable place to live for the year seemed almost unobtainable.  In pursuit of trying to stay in school an opportunity came my way based off my situation. The administrators of my school saw my drive and work ethic despite everything I had been through this past year and blessed me with a scholarship to live in the newest dorm on campus on the seventeenth floor of a twenty-one floors building. Even though this was a humbling experience, being in a room where I could overlook the city and be in awe at every sunrise and sunset, I felt on top of the world. As time progressed, I found love, which resulted in allowing more laughter and openness in my life, something that wasn’t so easy for me growing up. I applied myself twice as hard in school. I was nominated for and awarded scholarships based on my fashion design and artwork, I created a collection for the annual RAW Artist Showcase and won the title of RAW Boston’s Fashion Designer of the Year. My senior year I applied myself greater than ever before and upon graduating college I was awarded honors in my major.

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Since then I have motivated myself to convey my new found individuality through art and fashion photography. Fashion imagery expresses a lifestyle or a fantasy and I felt if I put myself in these scenes I could have the best of both worlds. A lot of people don’t realize some of the most influential artists create some of their best work based off a history of trauma or pain. Growing up, painting allowed me to manifest myself in a surreal way without literally putting myself into the painting. Now, photography is my outlet to express I am one who has endured many difficult experiences and overcome many obstacles.

For a while I thought the only accomplishment for a woman was to be a wife and a mother. Now that I am in my own apartment and pursuing my passion, my eyes are opened to so many doors and opportunities and I’ve grown to love challenging myself. Once I finish working on one project I strive to make the next one even greater than before. I'll be 25 this year and although I can’t say my greatest accomplishment is money or fame, I can say I’m now financially independent, I am living in a beautiful home and I’ve developed a confidence I never imagined could be possible when I was a younger. Instead of victimizing my situation I am choosing to allow my journey to be an inspiration to my future children, who will know that they are my gifts, and to anyone who can empathize with my story to know they are not alone, and that the best is yet to come.

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Photography by Yohansy Garcia