What if I were to set her free? What if I were to allow her to become all that she could be? While yet in the grown-up, adult body, what if I allowed the inner child to be brave, be bold, be heard and be free?
Thinking back of the time before I knew trauma, before I knew of institutionalized and familial systems of oppression and pain, takes a while. It all began so early. I can remember glimpses of my younger self, peering up into the sun-kissed cloud formations in the middle of the day with awe and wonderment. Daily, I would look out of the window and smile as I felt the warmth of the sun kiss my face. An inner smile in my heart seemed to expand as well, as I reveled about who I could be up “there” and who put all of this together. I, a kindergartener and clearly a junior philosopher of sorts, would follow my mother around the house insisting on answers. “So if God is God, then exactly who made God? Like if He made everything, who are His parents and where did they come from?”
She would often look at me with bewilderment, with an expression that seemed to say, “Shouldn’t you be doing something else other than questioning me about esoteric concepts for which I do not have the answers?” My mother was a pragmatist. Less is more. Not much, if any, room for laughter, lightheartedness or fun. Her modus operandi was: etiquette is essential, there is work to be done, diplomacy to be had and manners to cultivate. In fact, she would often catch me laughing and warn me, “Junice, you don’t want to appear uncouth.” This was mother—structured, articulate, critical and whether intentional or not, quite cold.
I suppose, in part, her immigrant roots from a couple of generations back informed her disposition. Present well, work hard, remain impeccably groomed, articulate every word, use good English and, by all means—be tough. One of her mottos she would often repeat as a mantra: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Therefore, I learned pretty early on that there wasn’t much room for being “untough,” that uncertainty, emotion, fragility, sensitivity and curiosity needed to be put into its place, so to speak; and by all means, that it was not okay to display joy.
After all, having Nigerian, Native American and Irish roots and what it took to interweave that genealogical framework was in large part anything but joyous. There were many generations of trauma, frankly many atrocities witnessed that had to occur for me to arrive on this planet, for us to arrive in this place in our American history. My own grandfather explained to me that he remembered his grandfather talking with him about being a boy slave on this very soil that we now call home. The effects of being born into these multicultural, multiethnic, systemic traumas and all that it comes with is beyond heavy. It’s wired into our very beings at a cellular level.
So whimsical, light-hearted joy was not something we often passed down. Toughness, tact and the ability to make it through nearly “anything,” that was the gift given to me from my mother, grandmother, and foremothers. However, it didn’t mean those experiences of bliss, emotion or adventure were removed from my childhood experience; they were just removed from a space I felt safe to share at home. Which means I held them in.
I never stopped longing for a space where I could be the whole of who I was, not just in parts—and certainly not just the very composed, structured parts.
After all, as a child and even today, there is something whimsical and amusing about coming undone, keeping messy hair for the day (on purpose), enjoying a bellyful of laughter without regard, recklessly abandoning the expectations of others, gazing into the clouds or giving myself “permission” to be moved to tears of pain or tears of joy—without apology or explanation.
There was beauty in not knowing the answers. There was strength in the humility of asking questions. There was an inner fire in my soul for adventure and freedom of expression. That fire seemed to burn away all of the fears of the opinions of others, the fear of not being enough and the fear of disappointing my foremothers and forefathers by failing to be the dutiful daughter they had raised.
That kind of fire rekindles the freedom of my inner child. It reminds me that I am one with the Universe, that I co-exist as part of Creation, not as an afterthought. When I am being boldly, whimsically, lovingly, adventurously, unapologetically me, I am truly free, and that freedom is a Divine birthright and one that no one needs to validate or see, but Me.
Michigan born, Texan at heart, Global Citizen, Junice (J-Rock) Rockman enjoys delving into the deep waters of conversations that invite authenticity, healing and connection. Lover of yoga, nature, libraries and studying abroad, she embraces each day and new person she meets with wonderment and curiosity. Her passion for facilitating conversations that help humanity heal is expanded through her work as a Journalist, Media Correspondent, Neurophychotherapist (LPC) and Public Policy Advocate. While out in nature, she often remembers lessons learned growing up from her Nigerian-Native-Irish American grandmother who would tell her, “Put your feet in the earth’s soil, feel God’s creation. Look to the plants to nourish and find healing for yourself through God’s creation. Quiet your anxious heart, listen to the sound of the wind—hear God’s creation. You are one with Creation, you are one with GOD.