I think I live a double life. There’s Khayriyyah—this is me. The person that my friends know. The person that I get to slowly peel back the layers of when establishing relationships. I get the opportunity to share this person through anecdotes, history of my upbringing, my interests, my fears, etc.
Then there’s Riya, KK, Booty Riya, Magnolia shorty, and any other ridiculous things my family calls me. This is the person that’s frozen in time. This person doesn’t get the chance to provide her own story. Nor does she get to decide her vulnerability, share what makes her tick, or even what makes her who she is.
I come from a big family. Two parents, 6 siblings–5 of which are girls. I am number 6. By the time I came along the culture was already established. I had to assimilate and figure out how to be a part of this unit. My siblings are great. Each unique in their own way. But damn this makes things difficult.
Then there is the age gap. 17 years from start to finish. When the oldest of my siblings left home, I was a kid who was still in elementary school. That is who they know of me. But that girl, Riya, was quiet. She was an awkward introvert who let people make decisions for her. “I don’t know,” she would say. “It doesn’t matter.” And it really didn’t matter. She really didn’t know. It was hard for her to find her identity in a family with so many strong personalities. The other members of this family were vocal or should I say loud. They were filled with many different skills and talents to stand out and to be noticed–and I didn’t want any parts in any of that.
Khayriyyah was born when there was room for her to grow. When my older siblings left, I was able to become myself. It was almost as if I changed religions or moved to another city. Things were not as loud. I could talk and be heard. There was time for me to be still and get to know myself as an individual. I know now that I flourish the most in a quiet environment where I can go within. In fact, it takes me a long time to regroup after a family event or oh Lord let’s not even talk about Thanksgiving.
I think it would be safe to say, my siblings don’t know me very well and I don’t know them. I wish they knew that I am doing the best I can. That I am not ever judging and always think before I talk. Or that I can cook really well even though I pretending not to so I didn’t have to participate in long hours of Thanksgiving preparation. I am an overthinker but not a worrier. I hate talking on the phone. My mom is one of my best friends. My greatest accomplishment in life is my son. I don’t care what people think of me. I am still shy. I do care. It does matter.