The year was 2015, and I had just finished business school in Atlanta. Having just secured my ‘dream job’ in Baltimore, Maryland, I had about 6 months of unfilled time to kill before I went on to live out of state for the first time. Having moved away (to another part of Georgia) for college and grad school, I decided to pack up my apartment and move back in with my parents in Macon for some much needed quality time. Those 6 months changed my life. I distinctly remember waking up every day (with very limited obligations), having tea with my mom, cooking us breakfast, then retreating to the garage to nurture my newfound love for painting while she worked from home. My dad would come home from work, and we would all talk and laugh and eat dinner together. It was so blissful, so calming, so freeing—I felt like I finally had the time and space to come into my own. Another “plus” was that the guy I was dating at the time was in military training, so I had very limited distractions. I created enough pieces in those few months to host my very first art show, which doubled as my going away party and tripled as my ‘coming out’ as an artist. I had no formal training, and somewhat stumbled upon painting about a year prior to cope with stress. Childhood friends and family members were shocked to learn that I had created respectable artwork seemingly out of nowhere. Granting myself time and space during those 6 months was like giving myself permission to be seen and heard. I was on Cloud 9, and still elevating.
As planned, I moved to Baltimore that summer with a newfound sense of self. Coincidentally, moving to Maryland brought me closer (geographically) to military bae aka ‘the bully.’ Outside of the first few months of dating, we had not spent much time physically in the same location, so I was excited to nurture the relationship in person. Welp…let’s just say that things did not quite go as planned. I almost immediately found myself in unfamiliar and unsafe territory with a combative narcissist. I had never encountered anyone so hellbent on proving to me how imperfect and inadequate I was. His words often cut like a knife. His actions made me question my own sanity. Away from any friends or family, I suffered in silence. Initially, I attempted to defend myself, but I soon reckoned that fighting back was not worth the hours of tears and argument. A month into ‘living the dream’ in my new city, I found myself in a complete nightmare. The memories of joyful days spent blooming in my parents’ garage quickly began to fade as I found myself perpetually silenced, lonely, and feeling mostly invisible in a place far away from family and friends. My confidence began to dwindle, and I struggled to hold onto who I was. Then I had the rude awakening: I actually had NO IDEA who I was! Up until then, I had been a product of my Nigerian-American upbringing in the Deep South, owning my parents’ views and embracing, to an extent, the world’s narratives around love, success, pain, joy, ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ Almost immediately after that jarring epiphany, ‘the bully’ and I had a major fallout. I ended everything and promised myself, “no backsies.” I hadn’t been that sure of myself in a very long time, and let me tell you—it felt good to bust that move.
With ‘the bully’ and the familiarity of home removed from my purview, I was able to get to know myself and my new city on my own terms. I realized that my experience with ‘the bully’ was not solely his to own. It was also the culmination of years of learned shrinking on my part. I had been mastering the skill of ‘blending in’ since I was a teenager, moving only with the flow of traffic, and rarely disagreeing, let alone saying no—out of fear of rejection. I had learned to carve off and present only the ‘best’ pieces of myself in hopes that that would keep others happy and comfortable. I had conditioned and suppressed myself to be barely seen and seldomly heard. My (thankfully short-lived) experience with ‘the bully’ simply shined a light on the existing issue. The drama and stress of the situation made it clear that I needed to change—immediately. I embraced my solitude, and began to envision the woman I knew I could be. Solitude taught me to listen to myself before anyone else, encouraging hesitant whispers to “say it with my chest,” until they became resounding roars. It made me okay with saying “no,” and prioritizing myself. Solitude also gave me the time and space to self-soothe through creating. Immersed in Baltimore’s lush cultural arts scene, I gave myself permission to explore visual arts, spoken and written word, music and all the things that filled me up. In search of a safe space to continue nurturing myself, but still raw from my experience with ‘the bully,’ I opted to create my own space. Hence, Resolute Rose was born.
Resolute Rose represents my journey back home to myself. Resolute Rose is simultaneously who I am today and who I want to be tomorrow. She’s the process and the destination. The definition of “resolute” is: marked by firm determination; bold, steady, bound, decisive, do-or-die, hell bent, purposeful…you get the point. To me, a resolute woman embodies all of these traits by showing up fully and authentically, regardless of the circumstance and in spite of others’ comfort level. She says her “yes” and her “no” with the same fervor. She loves fiercely, and defines success, joy, right and wrong in such a way that still allows her to show up as the highest version of herself. At the same time, she recognizes that these things require gratitude, mindfulness, clear boundaries, and radical candor. After that period of psychological abuse, I knew that evolving into a resolute woman was going to take hard work—it would require pruning, watering, learning and unlearning in order to fully bloom. Therefore, Resolute Rose is an aspiration, but moreso than that—Resolute Rose a declaration. I, like a rose, am ever growing, blooming, and evolving into the resolute woman I know shines from within. I am expansive, and it is my birthright to take up as much space as I please.
Maya Angelou stated, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Taking up space as the Resolute Rose looks like being adequately seen, unequivocally heard and intensely felt. My Nigerian roots lend to my affinity for storytelling as my method of delivery and connection. Resolute Rose was created as a literal and figurative space for my and other stories to thrive. The stories aim to present the multifaceted dimensions of blackness and womanhood in a way that is authentic, illustrative, and provocative. My goal is for Resolute Rose to be so pervasive that it incites action, ultimately to the point that it becomes a way of life. My hope is that through my process of sharing, healing and creating, and evolving, I can inspire you to elevate to a higher version of yourself, too.
Imagine: A world where everybody showed up fully, as their highest, most authentic selves.
Affirm: I am expansive, and it is my birthright to take up as much space as I please.
Mantra: Don’t spoon feed these heauxs. Let ‘em choke.
All my love,
Yewande K. Davis