My summation of the first day had been, “Jesus, this is bleak.” On the second day, by the time I read the final line in the final chapter, I thought, “Jesus, this is me.” Writing has a way of revealing things to you in stages, I find. When I finished writing the book, I mostly felt relief. Now, having completed an entire reading of it, what I felt was exposed. I had hoped that by writing candidly about my pain, I could heal it. And I thought healing would mean feeling no connection to the words I read out loud. I thought healing would mean being able to say, “And she lived happily ever after, and she let go of the sadness, and she truly became carefree.” I wanted, so badly, to not be the person I was when I wrote the book.
On the third and final day, I entered the recording booth to do pickups for a handful of lines that I had messed up. I felt, somehow, different. I still flubbed sentences, still cringed at certain lines, still felt the acute anxiety that comes with sharing your heart so publicly. But I also felt compassion for myself, compassion for the fact that in order to write about joy, I had to write about sadness.
I recently got a chance to hear a snippet of the audiobook. I think I sound weird, anxious, and kind of miserable. But I also think I sound like myself. I’m not sure what else to call that but acceptance.
Zeba Blay is a culture and film critic born in Ghana and based in NYC. Formerly Senior Culture Writer at HuffPost, her words have also appeared in Allure, Film Comment, ESSENCE, The New York Times, Shadow and Act, The Village Voice, Indiewire, and the Webby Award-winning MTV digital series Decoded. In 2013, she was the first person to coin the hashtag #carefreeblackgirl on Twitter. Her forthcoming book of pop culture essays, Carefree Black Girls, is set for release on October 19 2021 by St. Martin’s Press in the US, and October 21 2021 by Vintage/Square Peg in the UK.