Well, hello there. Those who know me well call me Anni. You can call me Anni, if you want. I don’t mind. I love myself enough to know that I am not defined by the variations of my name. I love myself, I do. I love myself unashamedly and unapologetically. I embrace all aspects of me, the imperfections, the flaws and the bits I believe are absolutely fabulous. But it wasn’t always this way. Let me take you on a journey.
Two years ago, I made a huge decision. I had been in a relationship for some time but I was unhappy, with him, with us, but mostly myself. I decided that this dream I had of had of happy-ever after, I had to give it up. I had to love me more, and as strange a concept that was back then, I broke up with the father of my children. I was literally at a point where I had loved and given love to such an extent that I almost had nothing left, and the last that I had I gave to myself. I decided that I wasn’t a bad person, I deserved to be happy, I had worked hard to be happy and it was becoming increasingly apparent that it was down to me to make that happen. I could barely look in the mirror. Barely think for myself. I felt like I was playing a role and becoming increasingly suffocated in the need to fulfil it. So, I took that step, took the risk of releasing myself from the familiar and stepping into the unknown. I decided that if I was going to be true to myself, then this had to apply to all aspects of my life. This included my sexuality.
This was one of the most difficult things to do because I was so rigid and set in my ways. I had no issue in accepting others, sexuality or otherwise, but I found it difficult to accept myself. It felt like such a big deal but I felt like I had to get used to the L in LGBT because it was applicable to me. I started to tell friends and eventually it got easier for me to accept. Nobody treated me differently. Nobody acted differently towards me – wait, tell a lie. I remember complimenting a friend on her outfit and she shifted uncomfortably as she said thank you. I remember wondering if all my friends would think I was trying it on when I was actually paying them a genuine compliment. I began to wonder if people would read into my friendliness and make assumptions based on what they knew about my new label: Lesbian. I was overcoming my own internal battles, but didn’t feel entirely happy still. I began attending new events and meeting people, but I didn’t see how I would fit into the gay scene; my love of all things culture and RnB music didn’t seem to match up with what I had immediate access to.
Then I attended one particular event and found my life transformed. Never had I seen so many black women-loving-women in one place before. I felt so comfortable and so at home with a community of people I never knew existed. I realised my assumptions were not at all representative of reality at all and I worked even harder on accepting myself. I met somebody, a woman, and our relationship brought about a side of me I hadn’t seen before. I felt good about me, I felt good when I looked in the mirror, I was able to make eye contact with the reflection and began to like what I saw. I had always felt quite frumpy and old, but she brought about the youth in me, and soon physical age didn’t matter at all because my soul is young. It’s hard to explain, as such. But the addition of somebody who accepted me for me completely had been quite a transition from my feeling of suffocation and living a life of limits. I discovered exactly who the authentic Annika was and I decided to embrace that journey. I decided I had experienced enough heartbreak and unhappiness, that it was time to make a change.
Surrounding myself with unique individuals who were unafraid to express themselves, I suddenly felt like I belonged somewhere. And my spirit flourished. My confidence grew immensely. I had gone from being unable to look in the mirror, to taking selfies and actually liking them. I began to challenge negative thoughts that served only to support my anxieties, and instead I wrote affirmations on post-its and stuck them to my bedroom wall. Having had such a strong network of support from new and old friends around me, I became more open about how I was feeling, especially when I wasn’t feeling too great. I learned to know that I mattered. I was and still am important. I have greatness to achieve and greatness to contribute to this world. It began to seem absurd that I would believe anything but that. On who’s watch? Who authorised that? Not me. I realised that I am an adult and therefore should take full responsibility for my life. I focused on my love of writing, and in the space of 12 months I self published 3 books and began to write for an online magazine. I networked; this bubbly and outgoing personality that had formerly been suppressed began to feel at ease armed with business cards in a room full of strangers.
Whilst sometimes claiming the title of “Lesbian” I found myself having to explain why I had come to this so late in age, after so many years of heterosexual life and two children. It appeared that it wasn’t good enough that I claimed this title, I had to prove my credentials also. I didn’t like this. I didn’t like feeling I had to fit somewhere, fit into a box, fit into somebody else’s stereotype. My love of nail varnish and glitter seemed to go against people’s assumptions and I felt no need to change it. As I continue my journey of self love and self awareness, I realise that while I am physically attracted to women, if I have a mental connection with somebody, gender then becomes irrelevant. So, now what? Another title to search and claim? No, I will not. I choose my existence to be limitless. I have also used this time to explore and learn about a part of my heritage that I hadn’t previously. It wasn’t until I began to accept myself, that I learned to embrace my ethnicity in it’s true form. I believe mixed race, dual heritage, or however you may identify, is a complex thing indeed. I know that I am not white, and would never ever be considered white. But I don’t claim black either, although I would say I feel more comfortable under that label than I would any other. However, I don’t want to focus too much on labels because it might hinder my growth. I want my self development to be as organic as possible. It is so easy to get sucked into conforming and fitting in; I want to define me for myself. I have found so much acceptance and love from the friends I have made on this journey, I feel confident enough in knowing that it doesn’t matter where I place myself. I love me. I validate me. I am enough. And that, my friend, is all that matters to me.