I remember my first day at Howard University like it was this morning. I sat in my African American Film class all bright eyed and bushy-tailed (and dressed to the nines of course), ready to conquer the new chapter of my life. After several minutes, the professor finally sashayed in the classroom and - before she could even introduce herself good - commence to throwing around ideologies and theories pertaining to the hegemonic structure and social construction. My right hand began to shake while attempting to take notes…..”hegemon-who?", I thought to myself as I frantically scribbled on my notebook paper. As the professor continued to inconsiderately regurgitate words that made absolutely no sense to me, I quickly scanned the room to see if I was the only one having a twilight zone experience. I was. My diplomatic peers, hailing from all over the world, began going toe to toe with the professor verbally - putting their two-cents on the topics at hand like they had taught a few college courses of their own in the past. I just sat there in shock and shrunk smaller with every foreign word that was being spoke around me. As soon as class was adjourned, I packed up my bag and ran straight to the nearest bathroom. I locked myself in a stall, called my mother, and before she could utter hello, I started balling my eyes out. Through uncontrollable sobs I managed to say, “Momma, I can’t do this! I don’t know enough to be at this school. My education didn’t prepare me for this! I want to leave!” After my Oscar-worthy, dramatic breakdown, I just knew my mother was about to send the first thing smoking to DC to rescue her youngest child. So I took a deep breath and patiently waited for her to spell out my exit plan. She didn’t. Instead she said, “You are just as capable as everyone in that classroom. So you have to decide if you’re going to face the challenge or run from it. Now put yourself back together, and go make the choice.” I mended eventually….and I ended up acing that class….and the other classes that followed. I just needed that “bathroom release” to jump start what turned out to be an amazing, worthwhile journey.
You know how we take some things apart and put them back together in order for them to function better? That works for us too. Sometimes we need to fall apart, detach, collapse, and come undone in order to come back strong. People often try to avoid a good cry or breakdown because it makes them feel defeated and/or vulnerable. But like a friend once told me (brace yourself, it’s a little graphic), “A good cry is like a good bowel movement….it cleans your system out.” It’s necessary to let your pinned up emotions flow freely (responsibly of course) so that you get all of those toxins and stress out of your body in preparation for rejuvenation. When you think about it, breaking down is a part of a process that a lot of systems go through in order to function properly. For example, you have to shut down computers every now and then for them to continue to work properly. Some electronics need to be taken apart and put back together to get them to act right. And it’s no different for us.
So take a moment, when necessary, and come all the way undone. Let go of all your inhibitions in order to rid your system of any pinned up stress. Then after your meltdown is over, take a deep breath, collect the pieces, and put yourself back together again. I’m sure you’ll get the boost you need to keep going.