She gets on my nerves really—this chick who’s spent a lifetime making me feel wholly inadequate. Even when we were little, she made a point of showing me up—donning her fancy dresses and holding my Mom’s hand while Mommy marched down the church aisle, bragging to anyone who would listen about that girl’s straight A’s and her Honor Society kudos and her first chair flute status in the school band. She was cute. Never got into any trouble. Did exactly as she was told.
And that perfect girl grew up into the perfect teenager—went to college on scholarship and started her own magazine and focused on becoming a journalist instead of boys and partying and all the scary, ridiculous, fun experimenting college students do. And, of course, then she became the perfect woman—at least according to society’s standards: A dutiful wife, a loving, attentive, doting-but-firm mom, and a career woman who excelled at her craft, holding down gigs as a political and then entertainment reporter before becoming a senior magazine editor and then national columnist and then the best-selling author of 22 books.
In public, I’m proud of her for all she’s accomplished and make a point of saying such, especially when everyone else is piling on, singing her praises—telling her she’s fierce and fly and inspirational and sheer awesome.
But in private, she scares me. Her success is intimidating; no matter how hard I try, I find it hard to keep up with her frenetic pace. Her successes. And other peoples’ expectations of her.
I am inspired by the best—the playwright, August Wilson, the collagist Romare Bearden, the songstresses Jill Scott and Erykah Badu, the writers Dorothy West and J. California Cooper—all amazing artists who dedicated their talent to staying true to their culture and their people. They, I admire. But she? She makes me put my dukes up.
And I battle her everyday.
She does make me stronger, you know. My fear of her success is a fantastic motivator. With her—and for her—I rise to the occasion, no matter how tired, no matter how insecure, no matter that my inner-critic is constantly telling me, “Against her, you can’t win.”
Failure, you see, is not an option.
It never has been for this perfect child who became a perfect teenager who became the perfect woman.
See, I am her.
She is me.
And I consider me to be the biggest competition I know.
Not because I think I’m the best around—by any stretch.
But because I don’t ever want to go backward—or to disappoint me, my biggest critic.
One of these days, maybe, I’ll cut myself a break. But until that day comes, I’ll keep on pushing, keep on striving, keep on achieving.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.